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Category Archives: News and Politics

CLIVE HAMILTON’S Book “SILENT INVASION” Is “Yellow Peril” And Sinophobia To The Extreme

I must admit, Australia is entering a very volatile time in terms of how it perceives Mainland China and subsequently how they treat Chinese Australians or any Asian who remotely looks Chinese. The air of sinophobia has been sniffing around and now it seems that targeting and discriminating anyone Chinese in Australia is becoming a norm. The worst part is, there is a certain level of acceptability by mainstream Australia for this sinophobia to occur. I will even go a level further and say that they are enabling this environment of hate and false racial accusations to occur.

Now one must remember that “yellow peril” in Australia is not a new thing. Really, it has just morphed and returned in a different form. During the 1800s Gold Rush period, the Chinese gold miners were physically attacked, arrested, racially vilified, killed and humiliated for being Chinese. There were many posters and propaganda put up by the Australian Government and media at the time to fear monger about the Chinese.

Back then China was a very poor and a weak nation, and is a reason why so many Chinese (particularly men) left their families to travel abroad (Australia being one of the destinations) to forge a better life for themselves and their family. Now it is 2018, and over the last few years we have seen the creeping up of the “yellow peril” in Australia.

The difference between the “yellow peril” of back then to the one of now is that China is rich and powerful and the Western mainstream or in this case Australian mainstream is unable to dominate this growth and rise. So they do what they do best and that is to make any Mainland Chinese and Chinese Australians into racial collateral.

Found in the toilets of the international student area at University of Sydney in 2017

The reason I am writing about this is because over the past few months, this “yellow peril” has just become worse than it has been exacerbated with accusations and allegations being thrown around that Australia has been subject to spying operations coming from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Chinese international students have been the subject of the mainstream media’s interest and they have been accused of acting as spies for the Chinese Government. Of course we can’t deny that there maybe some who are spies, but let’s face it every country spies on each other. American student groups also have spies, so do the British, German, Canadian etc. Why are the Chinese being sidelined? This has really got out of hand.

Of late, an academic from Australia’s Charles Sturt University – Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics, wrote a 350 page book titled:  Silent Invasion: How China Is Turning Australia into a Puppet State.

Here is the premise of the book via (ABC News):

In it, he alleges that a systematic Chinese government campaign of espionage and influence peddling is leading to “the erosion of Australian sovereignty”.
That erosion is caused, in part, by a recent wave of Chinese migration to Australia including “billionaires with shady histories and tight links to the [Chinese Communist] party, media owners creating Beijing mouthpieces, ‘patriotic’ students brainwashed from birth, and professionals marshalled into pro-Beijing associations set up by the Chinese embassy,” Professor Hamilton writes.
It also alleges that Chinese international student groups are complicit in this “spying”. 

Now Hamilton’s book was refused for publishing by 2 well known publishers, and you can imagine when a privileged man doesn’t get his way, how he would behave. To cut a long story short, his book has been published, but the damage is done, and the noise he and many others in Australia has made with regards to the Chinese Government’s intervention in this situation has caused so much angst and hate within Australian society. I have read the book, and it makes a lot of unsubstantiated claims backed by weak facts, and I conclude that it will perpetuate sinophobia and hate in Australia.

I am not denying that what Hamilton highlights is a legitimate concern, but my major issue with it is how these allegations will impact on the Chinese in Australia and more broadly how it will impact on the wider Chinese diaspora in Australia. Those Australians who have intellect will read it and take it as it is without being racist or prejudice. But we got to face the facts and realise that the majority of Australians are not intellectual in this way and will conflate their fear of the Chinese Government and its influence and hating on ALL Chinese people. This is where the racism and sinophobia occurs.

Image via Sydney Morning Herald

One must remember that no one has issues if you are opposed to a regime or a Government but the anger and hate needs to stop there. Alt right and white supremacist groups in Australia have embraced Hamilton’s book as an opportunity to go racist and tell all Chinese Australians to leave this country. It has literally been a field day for racists in Australia. Secondly, Hamilton will never understand the racial collateral he has created, nor will he ever face this racism and hate. I get he wrote this out of his own genuine concerns but he and others who support this book have failed to understand the impacts it has on the Chinese Australian community.

Another point, I wish to highlight is that these impacts are mostly felt among Chinese international students. I have spoken to many across Australia and they are feeling the fear and they are feeling targeted. This is felt the most among those who are studying at Universities in regional areas, where racism is a daily thing. My concern is about their safety and about the racism and targeting they will receive and experience. Where is their protection and where is their agency? A sad part of all this is that there are some Chinese who have a desire to be accepted by the mainstream Australian society who also behave in this manner. They will conflate their hate towards the PRC and support those who want to end Chinese migration into Australia. They are so consumed by their own political agendas to even be reasoned with when discussing the broader impacts. I get it, and I get their concerns about the Government, particularly those who have had negative experiences. But they need to learn how to articulate their opposition and stop siding with the white racists/supremacist groups who are using this as an opportunity to spread hate and sinophobia.

So back to Clive Hamilton – how has he been complicit in perpetuating racism and sinophobia? Well it is all the reasons mentioned above, but it is extremely ironic that an esteemed academic such as himself who upholds progressive and left wing views is also trying to oppress and silence those of us Chinese Australians who are critics of his book. As a privileged, Caucasian man he will never know how it feels to be discriminated and belittled by the mainstream society who really sees you as different and will get “yellow peril” alerts in their heads every time they see you. This is because Australia like all countries in the West are still majority Caucasian and when you belong to the majority you don’t ever need to be scared or fearful about being racially attacked and discriminated.  I have been avidly calling him out and seeking that he addresses the sinophobia coming out from his book. Instead of acting like an esteemed Professor ( who is very left wing thinking) he goes on the defensive and is very reactionary. Among others, I have been accused of being a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece by him and his supporters all because I am expressing my concerns over the racism Chinese Australians will face from his book as well as how he has made Chinese international students in Australia a target for racially motivated attacks.

But I am a peon. And he still attempted to silence me, when the point of his book was to talk about why the censoring by the Chinese Government in Australia is dangerous. He has also attacked Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner – Dr Tim Soutphommasane who is of Laotian Australian background about his criticisms of the book. Do you see a pattern here? Yes he is basically trying to oppress and silence fellow Asian Australians who call out why his book does not help the cause of eradicating racism. Here is Hamilton publicly accusing me of being a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece:

Tweet link:

Hamilton wrote an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald recently claiming victimhood against Dr Tim Soutphommasane as well, here is an excerpt of what he said:

In this light, Soutphommasane’s knee-jerk accusation that my book “smacks of the Yellow Peril revisited” is offensive to all of those whose views and professional judgments are reflected in the book.

His smearing of the book (the most cynical exercise in cherry-picking I have ever seen) aimed to poison the minds of his readers without engaging with the book’s arguments or the 100,000 words of accumulated fact.

Tweet source:

In addition he has written a letter to NSW Greens representative David Shoebridge MLC expressing his disappointment in Shoebridge pulling out of hosting the launch of his book at NSW Parliament House a week before it was scheduled to happen. Shoebridge showed a lot of integrity in pulling out after I made a Facebook post expressing my concerns about racism and sinophobia and that this is not something I would ever expect the Greens to support. Both Asian and non Asian Australians who are members of the Greens alerted Shoebridge who listened to this feedback and confirmed the launch will no longer proceed for March 14. Unfortunately, His Parliamentary colleague Justin Field MLC decided to pick this up and host the launch with the support of former Greens leader Christine Milne. Here is the letter which Hamilton sent to Shoebridge.

It is sad that the debate on foreign influence has become one which has divided the Australian community. One must remember not to conflate hating a regime with being racist towards Chinese people and more specifically Chinese Australians. We know that unfortunately many people in the mainstream will conflate the two, and with an extremely biased book like “Silent Invasion”, there is no end to the racism and sinophobia that the Chinese in Australia will face. Hamilton needs to stand up and address these concerns, but for now in my eyes and in the eyes of many Asian Australians he is just tone deaf.

Will Pauline be bullied into changing her mind?

The government is going to try to push through its company tax cuts in the next two weeks and requires the support of One Nation to do it.

To date, Pauline had said no, but she has been subjected to a concentrated campaign by the business community.

A few days ago, Simon Benson reported that five-minute video petitions from the Business Council of Australia and the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia, shot in Townsville, and clearly aimed at One Nation, have been sent to all Senate crossbenchers.

The business lobby also held three days of talks with local businesses in Cairns and Townsville to localise the impact on jobs.

So will Pauline cave-in?

Who can ever tell.

On her facebook page, Pauline has gone into overdrive about Labor’s planned changes to excess franking credits refunds.


Yet in 2016, she sang a different tune.

Hansen said successive governments, in a bid to win votes, had allowed welfare to become a way of life rather than a helping hand and “tough decisions” were needed.

“If we are going to be able to, in the future, support those who are truly in need, like the sick or the aged, we’ve got to do something about it now,” she said.

“I want the money to be put into hospital waiting lists and schools. Infrastructure in this country is ridiculous.”

This was in explanation to the budget cuts proposed by the government and supported by One Nation.

They included: $2.9 billion in Family Tax Benefit end-of-year supplements; $1.3 billion carbon tax compensation for future welfare recipients; $1.2 billion by stopping the “double dipping” of paid parental leave; and $600 million in assorted measures including freezing eligibility thresholds, ending a pensioners education supplement and making dole recipients wait a period before receiving payments.

Senator Hansen said the government should go even harder, suggesting the wait period for the dole should be 3 months, and there should be a tougher approach to the disability support pension, including biennial reviews of all recipients by government-certified doctors to ensure the pension was warranted.

For Pauline, it was all about budget repair.

“Right across the board, not only in welfare, I see a big waste of money and we actually have to rein it back in.”

Perhaps Pauline doesn’t quite understand the proposed changes to franking credit refunds or perhaps she has changed her mind about welfare going to those that needed it.

But if she still cares about budget repair, will she accept Matthias Cormann’s sales pitch, or will she see a cost of $65 billion for no assured gain?

Cormann is really pushing hard.

“Families around Australia wanting to get ahead need their Senate to pass our business tax cuts for all businesses in full,” Senator Cormann said. “Their future job opportunities, job security and wage increases depend on more businesses being more successful and more profitable into the future.

“We can’t put our businesses at a competitive disadvantage compared to the businesses from other parts of the world. This is commonsense, plain and simple. Bill Shorten has been blinded by his adoption of socialist ideology and is putting his extreme and reckless views ahead of what is in the best interests of our economy.”

Why does no-one ever stop him to say our average rate is 17% and our effective rate is 10.7%, making us already very competitive.  Our overly generous allowable deductions and ‘legal’ tax loopholes result in many companies paying no tax.

It isn’t the tax rate that attracts investment here, as foreign companies keep explaining, with much of our foreign investment coming from countries who already have lower company tax rates than ours.

Unless companies raise dividends, it will only be foreign shareholders who benefit from a cut in our company tax as Australian shareholders will have to make up the difference in income tax.  And if companies raise dividends, then how can they afford to raise wages as well?

So how much of this can Pauline absorb?  Will she be strong enough to resist the very concentrated pressure?  Will they win her support by promising to only let white Christians migrate here?

My guess?  White South African farmers should book their tickets.

Day to Day Politics: Please don’t call me biased, I’m not.

Tuesday. March 20. 2018

As the analysis of the weekend’s elections continues and the bias of all the contributions expose themselves to further scrutiny, any number of conclusions will be reached.

But first, what is bias?

“I would say it is either an inability or unwillingness to want to understand an opposing point of view.”

If you, as I do, converse with people who won’t even read what you have written yet still put forward a point of view on it, then they are assuredly biased. If you post a text version because they won’t click to The AIMN and they won’t read it, then beyond doubt, they are biased.

In fact, they are worse than biased, they are anti-democratic because you cannot possibly believe in democracy if you believe that your party is the only one who should win, ever.

Put to me a factual evidence-based policy or narrative and I will examine it and judge it in good faith. Therefore I am not biased. I am willing to consider the other point of view to see if it fits the framework of my personal world view and the ideology of the party I follow. If it doesn’t, then I reject it on that basis. If I reject it without due consideration, then I am biased.

Now let me analyse the weekend based on what I know. In South Australia, Labor had been in power for 16 years. Longevity is considered to be the first enemy of any incumbent government. However, given they started with a deficit of four seats due to redistribution, they performed remarkably well and are well-placed to win the next election in four years.

The Liberal Party, who managed to win with a 7% swing against them, was ably assisted by a politician who believed his personal popularity was enough to break the duopoly of the major partyies. Xenophon gained almost 20% of the vote but came over as an ill-prepared hillbilly with no policies, but a huge sense of humour. However, 20% should guarantee you a seat or two. All these anomalies might even suggest the Liberals were lucky to get across the line.

In the Senate he was good at identifying a problem, selling his vote for nothing, and then claiming the credit for the brokerage. He now is an example of why minimalist parties don’t have an extended lifespan. In more recent times we have seen minor parties from both sides of the political divide try to break our two party duopoly. They come and go but always the people come back to the left or right of their original political attitude.

The Democrats tried to keep the bastards honest. Pauline Hanson has come and gone and come again. Next time she might go forever. She bombed out in Queensland. Clive Palmer put some weight behind his Palmer United party and is said to be considering another go.

Australian Conservatives under Cory Bernardi face an uphill battle. There may be a place for a conservative, but not with Bernardi as leader. They are more likely to have short-term success under the likes of former PM Tony Abbott, but would face the same long-term problems as the others.

So, it seems that we are prepared to give minor parties a go when we are upset with the two majors but then revert back to the majors when we realise the minors cannot achieve much. Former ACTU president Ged Kearney proved to be a formidable campaigner in Batman and the Greens are unlikely, with the benefit of incumbency unlikely to take it from her.

All the infighting said to the electorate was that minor parties suffer the same human emotional inadequacies as the majors over time.

The weekend – if it has proven anything – is that minor parties are just as vulnerable as the majors. Labor has learn’t, or has already realised, that good candidates and good policies, even if risky, are more to the electorates liking. I’m not sure what the Liberals have learnt. It was a clayton’s victory at best in SA.

As for the Greens, well, they have been around for a long time and seem to be jumping up and down on the one spot. With a 7% swing in SA, 5% in Bennelong, 12 % in WA , 6% in Tasmania and 5% in Queensland.

Clearly the Greens have to reconsider their strategy if not their future. Maybe the end is nigh and the electoral cycle will continue as all before them which leaves us with the thought that maybe the minor parties have done their dash until the next protest party comes along.

My thought for the day

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

What can be done about President Trump?

By Ad astra

As you ponder the machinations of the White House administration, do you sometimes imagine that you must be in some creaky old theatre in a disused warehouse watching a weird drama by an avant-garde playwright hell bent on surprising, shocking, and revolting his audience with bizarre narrative, unpredictable twists and turns, unbelievable scenarios, and a crazy central character whose every move takes your breath away? Do you then try to comfort yourself by pretending that after all this is not reality, and that when you walk outside into the daylight, the nightmare will be gone?

Does the horror then descend upon you that it’s not a nightmare you’ve been having after all – it’s the frightening reality of living in a Trumpian world, a real world as bizarre as any far-out playwright could conjure up?

Donald Trump, President of the United States, so-called leader of the free world, is no laughing matter. Guffaw as we so often do at his behaviour, his demeanour, his words, his tweets, and his actions; this man has to be taken seriously.

Every day something Trump does bursts into the headlines, so often unexpectedly, inexplicably. And the very next day he may do the opposite!

This man is a menace, a threat to us all. We live in a global community. In the West we cherish our democratic way of life. The actions of the most powerful person in the world affect us all, for good or for bad. As Thomas L Friedman, a CNN columnist, wrote in Whatever Trump is hiding is hurting all of us now: ‘The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy is in the Oval Office’.

Something needs to be done to bring this unstable, ignorant, arrogant, brash, foolish man under control. But what can be done? Who can do it?

I’ll canvass some options later.

I’ve already described Trump’s extraordinary behaviour in Can political honesty be resurrected? In that piece I canvassed the proposition that Trump is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder since he exhibits all the characteristics of that malady. His demeanour when signing executive orders is an apt metaphor for rampant narcissism.

Trump formally orders tariffs on steel and aluminium imports (image from WUWM)

In another TPS piece: Is Donald Trump mad a number of pointers to Trump’s mental state were listed, and I cited an article in The New Yorker by Evan Osnos who quoted a February 2009 article in the British medical journal Brain titled Hubris Syndrome: An Acquired Personality Disorder?. The authors, David Owen, the former British Foreign Secretary, who is also a physician and neuroscientist, and Jonathan Davidson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University, who studied the mental health of politicians, proposed the creation of a psychiatric disorder Hubris Syndrome for leaders who exhibited, among other qualities, “impetuosity, a refusal to listen to or take advice, and a particular form of incompetence when impulsivity, recklessness and frequent inattention to detail predominate.”

Trump is a classic case of Hubris Syndrome.

His recent dramatic firing of his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, by way of a Tweet before the official dismissal reached Tillerson, is hubris writ large.

Readers of this blog site will not need too many examples of Trump’s dangerous behaviour to be convinced of the hazard of the Trump presidency, so let’s begin with last week’s story – his imposition of a 25% trade tariff on imports of steel to the US, and 10% on aluminium imports – ‘to protect American jobs’.

If any reader can find anyone, anyone at all, who applauds such a move, please tell us all who he is.

The consensus among world leaders, economists, and politicians of all persuasions, is that this move is dangerous, ill thought-through, and certain to cause major disruption on world markets and hardship for many nations, including our own. It was calculated that the tariffs would have resulted in the loss of 20,000 manufacturing jobs here in Australia.

Our Reserve Bank Governor, Philip Lowe, insisted: ‘the proposed tariffs would be “highly regrettable” and “bad policy”…“History is very clear here… Protectionism is costly. It’s costly to the country that implements the protectionism and it’s costly to everyone else…It’s just not the right thing to do.”’

Lowe’s advice: ‘..the best thing for everyone to do – perhaps the hardest thing to do, but the best thing to do – is just to sit still and do nothing,’

Turnbull soon voiced his opposition, and condemned such protectionism as a recipe for a disaster in which everyone loses. His scarcely concealed astonishment and anger was heightened by the fact that Trump, in the presence of our trade and other ministers recently promised that Australia would be exempted from these tariffs. We can only hope that Turnbull will finally realize that Trump is a habitual liar and only too ready to renege on any promise he makes.

Trump in his former life did whatever he liked, unconstrained by a higher authority. He has never come to grips with the fact that as president he is responsible to his electorate, his party, and indeed to the entire globe, occupying as he does the most powerful position in the world. He has never left the world of the all-powerful billionaire tycoon, the reality show host and star, whose word reigned supreme at all times.

The immediate fallout of the tariff decision for Trump was that his chief advisor on economics, Gary Cohn, resigned and left the White House. Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs president, a free marketeer, had strongly opposed the tariffs.

Unperturbed, Trump continued on his own destructive way. He tweeted: ‘When a country [USA] is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down [$129 billion] with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore – we win big. It’s easy!’

Can you believe such arrogance, such ignorance, such recklessness? We had better get used to it. He won’t behave any better.

Fears of an escalating trade war triggered selloffs on Wall Street and in Asia and Europe, hitting the share prices of steelmakers and manufacturers supplying US markets particularly hard.

Although Trump believes the tariffs will safeguard American jobs, many economists say the impact of price increases for users of steel and aluminium, such as the auto and oil industries, will destroy more jobs than the tariff curbs on imports create.

Even members of the Republican Party are angry at Trump. Majority leader Paul Ryan and fellow Republicans want to stop the tariffs and already are floating legislation to reverse them.

Trump quickly heralded exemptions for Canada and Mexico, ‘for security reasons’. Although Foreign Minister Julie Bishop initially said that she has ‘no expectation that Australia would be exempted’, Trump soon announced that Australia indeed would be. We are yet to see what the ‘world’s greatest deal-maker’ will demand in return! Behaving like a schoolyard bully he threatens to smash your face in. But as you recoil in shock he smiles, says he won’t smash your face in after all, but that you ‘owe him’!

Let me detail just one other example of Trump’s dangerous incompetence – his attitude to global warming, the most pressing existential threat to all who live on this planet.

He is an entrenched ‘climate denier’. He has insisted, via his preferred mode of communication – Twitter – that ‘climate change is a hoax that China has devised to secure an unfair trade advantage’. Such an utterance is so excessive that it beggars belief. Sadly, this is classic Trump.

He ignores the evidence that affirms that global temperatures are rising inexorably; he ignores all the data accumulated by thousands of climate scientists over many decades that verify dangerous global warming; and he ignores the increasing number of adverse weather events that we have experienced in recent years, which climate scientists attribute to climate change.

Trump not only ignores this compelling evidence of global warming, he actively supports the very industries that create the greenhouses gases that cause it. He promotes coal and other fossil fuels, and reverses measures introduced by the previous administration to curb pollution.

Writing in POLITICO in an article titled: Climate change skeptics run the Trump administration, Emily Holden describes in detail Trump’s alarming assault on climate science. Here is the initial paragraph:
‘President Donald Trump is filling the upper ranks of his administration with appointees who share his disbelief in the scientific evidence for climate change – giving them an opportunity to impose their views on policies ranging from disaster planning to national security to housing standards.’

To read the rest of this frightening article, click here.

So there you have two examples of an irresponsible, reckless, incompetent POTUS whose actions dangerously threaten both the global economy and the global environment.

Let’s now return to the question in the title: What can be done about President Trump?

Let me address this in two ways: ‘What can be done to change Trump’s entrenched beliefs, his worldview?’ And ‘What can be done to change Trump’s intentions?’ They are very different questions.

What can be done to change Trump’s entrenched beliefs, his worldview?

In my opinion – nothing at all! Trump, like everyone else with entrenched beliefs, will not, indeed cannot, change. For example, his beliefs about climate change cannot be changed by facts, figures, events, logic or reason. This is the nature of entrenched belief as described in the TPS piece: We need to understand entrenched belief.

If you need any further convincing of this unnerving fact, take a look at the video below: George Lakoff on Trump’s moral challenge to liberals. It’s 24 minutes long, so you may not set out to listen to it all, but if you listen to the first few minutes, you may find it hard to turn off.

Lakoff is Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, a world-renowned thought-leader about the political process. By way of background, his underlying thesis about what drives political ideology and discourse is based on his central metaphor: ‘Nation as Family’, which he elaborates as follows: the Nation is a Family; the Government is a Parent; the Citizens are the Children. From this he derives the ‘Strict Father’ and ‘Nurturant Parent’ models, which he uses to explain conservative and progressive thought and action. The myth of political sameness, explains Lakoff’s thesis.

Lakoff has also written extensively about the use of ‘framing’ in political discourse; he mentions this in the video. For your information, there are three articles on framing written in 2016 on The Political Sword that are derived from Lakoff’s work. After you view the video, you may care to quickly glance through them to refresh your understanding of this strategy: Framing the political debate – the key to winningMore on framing the political debate – the key to winning, and Still more on framing the political debate – the key to winning.

In the video you will have noted that Lakoff acknowledges that Trump, being a super salesman, is able to change people’s brains. He emphasises the power of repetition to achieve such change. He gives examples of repetition used by George W. Bush and Trump. He points out that such repetition rewires our neural networks. A neural filter is created that sifts out anything that doesn’t fit, until the message is entrenched. He insists that this will occur unless it is actively resisted. Because entrenched beliefs are hard-wired into our brains, and since our brain is inextricably connected to our body, our whole being embraces such beliefs.

Given then that it is not possible to change Trump’s entrenched beliefs, we are left with the second question:

What can be done to change Trump’s intentions?
Or put another way:
What can be done to change his behaviour?

While there’s no point in trying change his entrenched beliefs, it is possible to change his behaviour through linguistic devices such as reframing.

Trump intuitively uses linguistic strategies to brainwash his public. He picked as his positive election theme: ‘Let’s Make America Great Again’. His negative themes were: ‘Crooked Hillary’ and ‘Fake News’. He repeated them ad nauseam, until these slogans were hardwired into the brains of his supporters, who then ‘believed’ them. Many, if not most, still do!

To counter Trump, it is pointless trying to counter his wild assertions, most of which are based on his entrenched beliefs, such as his contemporary belief in the benefit to America of tariff impositions. All that does is to reinforce them in his and his supporters’ minds, most of whom have already been hard wired to believe whatever he says.

A more fruitful strategy is to bring about change in his behaviour by reframing. This is what Australian officials did in response to his imposition of tariffs that initially included Australia. Instead of reminding him of his promise to exempt Australia, or worse still reprimanding him, they reframed the issue by pointing out the historic connections between the two countries: trade and military relationships, as the reason for exempting Australia. Trump responded favourably to this language and repeated it as his rationale for making the exemption.

In the video you will hear Lakoff’s advice in these situations. He stresses that language matters. He suggests we use language that focuses on the real issues, shifts the viewpoint towards the public good, tells the truth, and shows care towards others. His mantra as a progressive is that ‘Without care there is no democracy.’

That brings us back to the beginning: ‘What can be done about President Trump?’

Anyone who deals with someone as narcissistic and volatile as Trump should understand that confrontation needs to be avoided as that serves only to reinforce his entrenched beliefs, and heighten the devotion of his supporters.

Reframing each situation in a way that massages his huge ego and his voracious appetite for acknowledgement is much more likely to change his demeanour towards more appropriate behaviour. The frame needs to be congruent with his way of thinking, while avoiding obsequiousness. Anyone negotiating with Trump needs an ego less in need of reinforcement than his, and linguistic skills that only a few accomplished politicians possess. It’s not easy, but it is possible.

Who can carry out the reframing that might change Trump’s behaviour? The Australian contingent successfully reframed the tariff issue. Whether this was simply a slice of good fortune, only time will tell. Let’s hope they learned something from it.

Can other world leaders accomplish similar reframing, or will they, as usual, resort to criticism and condemnation and threaten retaliation, thereby reinforcing Trump’s entrenched beliefs? Linguistic scholars could help them to do better, but would they listen? Time will tell. Don’t hold your breath! Sadly, many are no different from Trump – they too are egocentric and arrogant, and incapable of learning how to deal with him using the niceties of linguistics.

Don’t we live in a depressing world!

This piece is based on my observations and research. Your opinion of the arguments and propositions I have advanced would be welcome.

This article by was originally published on The Political Sword.

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There’s No Joker In The Way The Cards Fell In Batman!

The trouble is – I’ve often remarked – is that we only get one vote. Ok, ok, preferential voting means that we can vote for one candidate that we think is unlikely to win, safe in the knowledge that our vote will be counted if it’s a close contest between two of the others. This isn’t really getting a second vote. This is like a presidential election where they vote once and then have a run-off between the top two candidates; the difference is that we record what our vote would be in the event of a run-off so we don’t have to waste our time going back a couple of weeks later.

So when I have a choice between someone who wants to open a nuclear waste dump in my suburb but who opposes expanding our coal-fired power stations and someone who’s totally opposed to the waste dump because he thinks that coal is the way of the future, you can probably understand why I’m not happy to vote for either of them. Neither am I happy to write obscenities on my ballot paper because – on a certain level – I want to vote AGAINST both of them.

Now it’s interesting to consider the washup from the Batman by-election. The general consensus was that the Liberals had pulled a master stroke by not fielding a candidate, because then their preferences wouldn’t help elect Labor. Of course, it never occured to them that their supporters might just vote Labor anyhow. And it certainly never occured to them that they may have been really able to Kill Bill by running a candidate who preferenced The Greens.

But, like I said, we only get one vote. And one chance to run a candidate. Strangely, while all the talk was about how The Greens hadn’t done as well as the previous election, nobody pointed out that the Liberals support was down 100%!

Of course, Richard Di Natale quickly decided to put the blame on the leakers which is an interesting strategy. “No,” he seems to be saying, “it’s nothing to do with what we did. It’s all the fault of those disloyal people who aren’t supporting me and if I just had unquestioned support then we could’ve make sure that Labor couldn’t go ahead with their Adani mine.”

This sounds fine until one considers that wedging Labor on Adani actually suits the Liberals. Shorten has ruled out using government money to finance the loan and no sane lending institution wants to throw its money away, so that only leaves two ways for the mine to go ahead. If the Federal Government uses our money in the hope that the mine will employ a handful of people leading up to the federal election OR Adani decides to waste his own money on a project that makes no commercial sense.

By blaming the “traitors” who leaked a report that they were trying to cover up, Di Natale also deflects attention away from the fact that he tried to make capital out of Bill Shorten’s announcement on the cash refund for franking credits.

Let’s be quite clear here. There may need to be some tweaking to the policy to ensure that it doesn’t hit people who only own a handful of shares. Notwithstandng that, some of the complaints are patently absurd.

A letter in the paper today complained about the “double taxation” when the money wasn’t refunded. Of course, this is nonsense. When you have a situation where the company pays the tax and you’re taxed on it again when it’s added to your income, that’s double taxation. When the company pays the tax and you get the tax refunded to you because you’re below the tax-free threshold, that means that the income isn’t taxed at all.

Of course, one interesting point in all the crocodile tears that we’re hearing from the conservative side of politics is the effect of the company tax cuts. The franking credit is thrity percent because that’s the company tax rate. We didn’t hear any howls of outrage about how these people couldn’t afford to lose that five percent from their cash rebate. And we certainly didn’t hear any concern about suggestions that we may need to follow Trump and reduce it all the way down to fifteen percent.

Yes, it’s true. These people may get higher dividends. But that’s not guaranteed. After all, it’s the Coalition who are suggesting that these tax cuts will lead to more investment. The company executives will have the choice to use the extra money to pay higher dividends, to give themselves bonuses, or to invest in other companies.

They might even lend it to Adani.

Day to Day Politics: Does this make him a master political tactician?

Monday 19 March 2018

Yesterday I posed the question; “Why in God’s name did Bill Shorten pick last Tuesday to announce a rather contentious policy? And in the full light of day knowing that there was a must win by-election the next week end, and a South Australian State election.”

The question of course referred to the dividend imputation benefits enjoyed by many retirees were a Howard-Costello largesse and are now unsustainable.

So we have a tax system that can no longer pay for all the services that older people have been accustomed to all their lives.

Well, Kaye Lee seems to have found an answer that sounds perfectly reasonable in the circumstances. It comes via an article by Guardian journalist Katherine Murphy:

“Katherine Murphy had a few ideas on the timing. In an article written before the election results were known, she suggested Labor needs to get these savings booked before the May budget so they can fund their policies and maybe match income tax cuts.”

Murphy assumed Labor would lose both elections and pondered how, after a poor result like that, the announcement of a contentious policy would look.

“So in this scenario Batman is lost, and the pontification complex is already off and racing, and then Shorten unveils the cash rebates policy, which triggers the public backlash we’ve seen this week. This would be written up as a colossal misjudgment, potentially as some kind of panicked response to events, and that wouldn’t give Shorten’s internal critics an inch.”

Of course Labor held Batman giving Shorten a trifold victory. Labor won the seat, have the policy, and the war chest. Does this make him a master political tactician? Well, I’m not sure about that but he certainly has a good mind for it. Murphy’s theory certainly explains the haste with which the policy was announced.

It is a policy not without risk but despite the criticism most commentators think it’s sensible political policy. Even the IPA. As with negative gearing, his timing has been impeccable.

Given that he and Labor can survive what will be a full on $250 leg of lamb scare campaign he will have a war chest of dollars easily matching that of the Coalition. With that sort of money to throw around Shorten should be able to minimise the fallout. And I might add that the public has had enough of scare campaigns.

I am also indebted to Kaye Lee for this short summary:

“For too long government policy has focused on wealth creation instead of the provision of essential services, equal opportunity, and protection of the vulnerable. Australians have become used to it and it has led to a selfish society where people only consider themselves. They are happy to invest in shares, but ask them to contribute $10 a week to save the planet from climate change and they will vote the government out. Ask them to give up an unreasonable unsustainable unnecessary rort and they scream blue murder. Yet these are often the same people who castigate politicians for rorting entitlements.”

After winning Batman I think the “Kill Bill” campaign still has a long way to go.

All the Murdoch media outlets, since Labor’s policy announcement, went in hard against Shorten and Bowen saying they were politically stupid for being so honest before the by-election. No doubt they will continue to throw more mud at this politically astute policy because they could never bring themselves to admit that Labor was right.

What else can you say about Ged Kearney other than “You can’t beat a good candidate”? Her victory gives women a 48% representation in the parliament leaving the Coalition on 20%.

The Greens go back to the drawing board yet again proving that minor parties in Australia have an abysmal record.

In South Australia, after 16 gruelling years Labor found that longevity of tenure and a four seat redistribution too much to overcome but nonetheless congratulations must go to the Liberals. But it was far from a disaster and they will be well placed to win the next election.

Nick Xenophon proved that you need more than a self-belief in your own ego to stand up as a truely third party candidate, and Cory Bernardi proved that a touch of charisma helps, as does being less judgmental of ordinary folk. The polls performed even worse.

In a doorstop interview yesterday Malcolm Turnbull, the hypocrite that he is, spoke as if we were meeting our Paris climate commitments and that SA was responsible for all of Australia’s energy problems. In a former life he would have been praising them.

On a personal note the Prime Minister looks hagged and drawn as though he is stressed out of his mind. I do hope he is looking after his health because he looks decidedly unwell at the moment.

My thought for the day

“Life is about perception, not what is but what we perceive it to be.”

From SA election conundrum to the riddle of the ASEAN Way.

Could Adelaide, or “Adders”, as Jeffrey Smart loved to call the Athens of the South, the staid city of churches and canon law, now be under Marshall law? How dare Labor lose when it was electric light years ahead of everyone in Tesla batteries; renewable energy?

Cue our ABC. The national broadcaster is a staunch SA regime change supporter when it’s not gunning for soft-on-crime Dan Andrews and his African gang crisis in lawless Victoria.

Chris Uhlmann led the charge; blaming renewable energy for SA’s blackouts caused by natural disaster but there has been some solid pro-Liberal teamwork from our state broadcaster, including Fran Kelly’s trifecta of power-crisis, the demise of the car industry and rising regional unemployment, all of which are Labor’s fault, Thursday, on RN Breakfast.

Labor is howled down for its “ideologically driven” embrace of “aggressive” targets for wind and solar energy; an “experiment” in a clean and sustainable source of electricity which can never be as affordable or reliable as good old coal. Or coal industry Liberal Party donations. Or a Liberal plug from the IPA with its secret list of big mining, big Rupert donors.

Labor’s SA was a plucky little state, of 1.2 million, the scapegoat in a cynical attack on behalf of big coal and gas. It stood up to Canberra’s bullying over the federal government’s National Energy Guarantee, (NEG), a thought-bubble masquerading as an energy policy.  

What energy policy? Jay Weatherill was never afraid to let everyone know the emperor wears no clothes. Renew Economy’s Giles Parkinson reports growing ranks of critics who argue that the NEG is all negative. It will do nothing to address Turnbull’s “energy trilemma” of emissions, prices, and reliability. In fact, it is more likely to make each of them worse.

It has the capacity to kill investment in storage and to leave businesses with stranded assets.

Utilities, analysts, and activists have already criticised the NEG for doing little on emissions, putting an effective freeze on renewable investment, and creating a scheme of such complexity it would likely push up prices and reinforce the power of incumbent utilities.

Jay Weatherill quickly resigns as SA Labor leader, Sunday, soon after he concedes victory to Steven Marshall, leader of a Liberal Party whose inscrutable win was founded upon an extensive redrawing of electoral boundaries which psephologist, William Bowe and other experts predicted would help its chances in four seats.

Context matters. As do key actors. The SA Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission was chaired by Supreme Court Judge Ann Vanstone, sister-in-law of former federal Liberal minister Amanda Vanstone, appointed in October 2015 under state laws requiring the chair to be the court’s most senior judge. Labor appealed against the redistribution and lost.

A unique, “electoral fairness”, a clause in SA’s constitution requires the commission to attempt to set new boundaries so that a group of candidates which receives more than 50 percent of the popular vote “will be elected in sufficient numbers to enable a government to be formed”.

On ABC Insiders, Sunday, a guest recalls an ABC 2016 report that The Liberal Party’s chances of winning the 2018 South Australian election were greatly improved by a boundary redistribution which “notionally handed the party up to four additional seats”.

398,000 voters were affected by the changes and our ABC predicted Labor would need to secure a 3.2 % swing to stay in Government at the 2018 election.

Was it time for a change? Our ABC repeats a slogan which evokes Whitlamesque reform to misreport the state’s reversion to rule by the coal and gas barons; the oligarchy of corporate captains of industry and finance which commands the ear of our federal government.

Can the barons trash our national conversation? Is our democracy in peril?  Certainly SA’s Liberals ride a wave of industry-sponsored nostalgia for the good old days of paternalistic government delivering mythic certainty for investors with lashings of energy security, all guaranteed free of sovereign risk, as SA 2.0 hops aboard the Coalition’s flight from reason.

Business and mining interests are, nevertheless delighted to see little SA come to its senses; elect a government keen to take it back into the 1950s. A roar of approbation follows from the right, boosted by what Richard Denniss warns is “econobabble bullshit”.

Not so noisy, now, however, are those at Aunty such as Leah MacLennan who, but six weeks ago predicted a premiership for Nick Xenophon and a majority for his SA Best, a party which fails to win a single seat. Was it a bold call? Or relaying a shrewd Liberal spin unit scare-tactic to panic voters into sticking with the devil they fondly imagine they know?   

Yet MacLennan is not the only pundit undone. Many a News Corp scribe confidently forecast a swing to “the minor parties” or on ABC’s The Drum beat up a bold showing for the tirelessly self-promoting, reactionary, throwback, Cory Bernardi and his atavistic Conservatives.

One social good is achieved. Hardening into orthodoxy is speculation that disaffection with the major parties’ snake oil salesmen causes voters to flock to more overt shonks; even wackier, crackpot candidates. SA’s result offers no evidence to help such theorising.

But let’s not get too warm and fuzzy about South Australia’s former government. Wind and solar aside. Labor has less of a lead on Liberals in nature conservation.  The Liberals’ ten-year moratorium on unconventional gas extraction, includes fracking, in the rich farmland of the state’s south-east while Labor supports an expanded gas industry there.

And when it comes to letting multinational corporations drill for oil in the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight, the two parties are neck and neck in their rush to wreck the precious ecosystems of a unique environment. Liberals are gung-ho, while Labor merely insists that companies “follow regulations”, an approach which does nothing to avert an oil spill accident.

Oil spilled, experts caution could wash up on the shores of NSW. BP and Chevron may have shelved their plans but international oil giants Statoil and Murphy, still hold exploration titles. Expect a lot of propaganda about jobs but don’t expect either to pay company tax.

South Australia’s election result is the week in politics’ riddle wrapped inside a mystery inside an enigma; rivalling the inky, darkness at the heart of ASEAN, ten Southeast Asian supremos in search of a soul attending Turnbull’s monster mash in Sydney this weekend.

The result is also a black hole which sucks energy out of ALP candidate, former ACTU President, Ged Kearney’s winning 54.2% of the primary vote and a 3.2% swing to Labor in Batman, Victoria, a by-election, Labor was widely tipped to lose to The Greens’ Alex Bhathal, who receives 45.3% – with 80% of the vote counted, late Sunday afternoon.

Sabotage, fumes browned off Greens’ leader, Richard di Natale. He blames “internal sabotage”, presumably referring to the leaking of bullying complaints against Bhathal.

Less paranoid, party strategists attribute the Green’s loss to their candidate’s focus on national issues such as the proposed Adani coal mine project and refugee policy while conceding that they were up against Ged Kearney’s popularity. Nor were they helped, they mutter, by Labor’s Faustian preference deal with the Conservative candidate, Kevin Bailey.

But look over there. Shifty Bill Shorten is picking pensioners’ pockets. Rolling old grannies for their savings. Howl down, the scoundrel. Howl him down. Labor’s aim to reform dividend imputation becomes the mother of all scare campaigns.

Raving Scott Morrison is a froth of confected outrage. As always, parliament’s worst ham actor, he lampoons his own case, forfeits any credibility by over-egging his hyperbole.

“It is unfair to steal someone’s tax refund, I wouldn’t do it on your tax refund as a normal income tax payer and I’m not going to do it for pensioners and retirees who are simply making smart decisions in an environment like this where they can get a better return on buying shares,” Morrison rants, conveniently overlooking these investors don’t pay tax.

Only Morrison can turn a cash handout rort costing taxpayers $6bn into a tax return.

Not only is Labor out to sabotage SA’s power grid, then, it is intent on stealing pensioners’ nest eggs.  Reform dividend imputation? Labor is mad, bad and dangerous to know.

In fact, Labor proposes a change which the Parliamentary Budget office calculates “will have a minor impact” on 10% of our 2.5 million age pensioners who receive a part pension and only 1% of those receiving a full pension. But facts don’t matter to Morrison. Labor’s reform, something which the Liberals themselves considered in 2015 is demonised in mainstream media (MSM) as “Shorten’s cash grab”.

The servants have been nicking the silverware again; you just can’t trust Labor, is the major MSM theme. Yet Treasury estimates the average cash refund for age pensioners holding shares to be $900 a year per person. Any cash grab came in 2015 when The Greens sided with the Coalition to deprive all pensioners of up to $12,000 PA by changing the assets test.

In Tasmania, however, the prospect of a Greens alliance with even Labor is held to deter swing voters from voting Labor, explains The Guardian’s Ben Raue, arguing that Labor is destined to struggle to win elections until this dilemma is resolved. Yet for your average mug punter, in all other respects, Tassie, aka Woolworth’s Island Inc., is thriving.  

The post-Vandemonian pandemonium over Big Gambling’s buying of last week’s Tasmania’s election is quickly drowned out as souped-up chainsaws rev up to tear into Tarkine timber whilst the staccato rattle of automated fire destroys the natural tranquility as cockies, graziers and sporting shooters get bigger, quicker guns in their war on nature.  

But let’s be fair. Lethal, rapid-fire assault rifles are vital if farmers are to have a sporting chance against the lethal, feral fauna threatening their livelihood, or, if they just lust, lawfully, to enjoy the thrill of the kill, like any other normal, red-blooded, responsible sporting shooter who never had a rifle stolen. Or had to lend or even sell one or two to a mate.

Tassie’s battle with the bush and the irksome dictates of democracy are upstaged by Home Affairs Supremo, Scipio Africanus Dutton, who tears himself away from sacking former Queensland Drug Squad colleague, Roman Quaedvlieg, six months’ too late.

Roman, it seems, has been sold down the (Murray Darling) River, lock, stock, and barrel, in Turnbull’s open season on bosses who bonk. He’s dismissed over allegations he got his girlfriend a job at Sydney airport. If only he’d been more discreet; asked Matt Canavan or Damian Drum.  It is all part of an adult soap opera entitled Barnaby’s Choice.

Unlike Sophie’s Choice (1982) which stars Meryl Streep, Barnaby’s Choice involves impaling yourself on the horns of a dilemma by pretending your paramour is not your partner even if you do promote her to a series of well-paid posts in your government, said to involve teaching staff about email even though she, herself doesn’t merit an email account.

In another shotgun marriage, Peter Dutton springs a firearms advisory council proposal, a move to allow our burgeoning gun lobby to bypass tedious democratic process and buy itself “a seat at the table” of government. All’s fair in love and war. What could possibly go wrong?

A proposal to allow white South African farmers, a persecuted minority, special Visas to enter Australia? Our Home Affairs supremo jumps the shark, given the dispossession of white farmers is part of a proposed amendment, as barrister Greg Barns explains in Crikey.

Worse Dutton makes a case for preferential treatment in a statement which has clear, racist overtones. Not only does he claim the farmers share our values, he tells 2GB listeners.

“We want people who want to come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare. And I think these people deserve special attention and we’re certainly applying that special attention now.”

Dutton’s misunderstood that the brutal dispossession is, in reality, a recent move by the South African Parliament to recommend an amendment to that nation’s constitution to allow for expropriation of agricultural land without compensation.

Yet, as Barns points out, had Dutton bothered with any research, the resolution provides ways around the proposed change in a law which is a long way from being enacted.

Farmers and big agribusiness stakeholders can cut a deal with the Ramaphosa administration. Dutton’s act of clemency is in effect a calculated dog-whistle to right wing racists at home. It is the Home Affairs Minister’s White Australia Policy 2.0.

Late Sunday, Julie Bishop disputes Dutton’s claim that the white farmers merit special treatment and their alleged persecution. She pretends that the Home Affairs Minister was referring to Humanitarian Visas which she says anyone can apply for at any time.

Above the chatter of the automatically weaponised, dog-whistling ruling classes, all eyes turn to Sydney by the weekend. The city of bread and circus, is abuzz with fuzz this weekend as it plays host to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, (ASEAN), another fabulous gabfest about business opportunities just waiting on our doorstep and how more state power and secrecy will keep us all safe from ISIS in a “Special ASEAN-Australia summit”, a diversionary circus called by a Coalition which, so far, can’t win a trick.

Shunting aside a hapless ABC News 24 presenter, Friday afternoon, Turnbull mugs on camera with old pal, Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong in an impromptu infomercial where our PM prompts his guest to mouth incoherent platitudes about the great regional leadership Australia is showing already. It’s an inspired vignette of The ASEAN Way.

A big-noting, do-nothing club, ASEAN is an outfit where nine out of ten members are tyrants whose mutual contempt for human rights is protected by a mind your own business pact.

Like the fabulous Kray brothers who terrorised London, ASEAN’s strong men are harsh but fair. Cambodian PM Hung Sen obligingly warns any would-be protesters that,

“If they burn my effigy … I will pursue them to their houses and beat them up”.

The ASEAN Way means members vow not to meddle in any other member’s internal affairs. These include Myanmar’s genocide, or the 12,000 plus, Human Rights Watch calculates to be the current tally of victims of Duterte’s “war on drugs”, in reality, a war on the poor.

Sadly, psychopath, Duterte is unable to be with us this weekend because he’s busy pulling The Philippines out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) by withdrawing from The Rome Statute, the treaty which established the ICC. He’s furious with ICC criticism of his ways.

It’s inspiring leadership. Our own tin-pot government, a front for big mining, banking and other multinational business interests is already well along The ASEAN Way as Julie Bishop and her funky DFAT backing group refuse to condemn Myanmar’s genocide of Rohingya or utter a peep at China’s Xi becoming President for life.

Still, it’s hard to claim the high moral ground. We have glaring human rights violations of our own, in our offshore detention regime and in our treatment of Australia’s indigenous peoples while our Coalition government increases state surveillance and secrecy.

The ASEAN club fondly imagines itself to be the hub of Asia Pacific regionalism which could  put a spoke in China’s wheel, in an airy grand design that provide a beaut opportunity for our government’s foreign policy wonks to compose carefully worded statements pious intent that lack all specificity; an archly non-committal commitment, the epitome of postmodern politics.

“Australia places high priority on our bilateral relationships in Southeast Asia and on our support for ASEAN. The Government is enhancing engagement with the region to support an increasingly prosperous, outwardly-focused, stable and resilient Southeast Asia.”  

The statement, like ASEAN itself, defies parsing. Just think of APEC without the silly shirts. But it’s a ripper of an opportunity for “Little” Malcolm Turnbull to pose as a regional statesman amongst a bunch of crony capitalists, nepotists, despots and thugs -(strong men is the favoured euphemism) -who preside over governments that deny basic liberties and fundamental freedoms to their citizens. Especially in Myanmar.

Human Rights Watch reports,

Since late August 2017, more than 688,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Burma’s Rakhine State to escape the military’s large-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing. The atrocities committed by Burmese security forces, including mass killings, sexual violence, and widespread arson, amount to crimes against humanity.

Those who expect to hear a statement from the Australian government censuring Myanmar for its policy of genocide towards The Rohingya come away from the weekend sadly disappointed.

It is left to a group of local lawyers to file a private case against Aung San Suu Kyi, state counsellor and de facto leader of the Myanmar government.  

Ron Merkel QC, a Melbourne barrister and former federal court judge, international lawyers Marion Isobel and Raelene Sharp, and Sydney human rights lawyers Alison Battisson and Daniel Taylor file the private prosecution application in the Melbourne magistrates court late on Friday reports The Guardian’s Ben Doherty

The lawyers’ application, which faces many barriers, including the approval of the attorney general, Christian Porter, accuses Aung San Suu Kyi of crimes against humanity for the deportation or forcible transfer of a population in relation to widespread and ongoing human rights abuses inside Myanmar.

May the applicants be blessed with miraculous success. Their action is inspiring as much as it shows up the Turnbull government’s reluctance to assert any real leadership at all.

The last word for the week could be a motto for the ASEAN Way and our own ruling elite’s self-interested, cynical – often amoral but high-handed behaviour. It comes from Trump’s new economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, who takes the spirit of neoliberalism to a whole new level:

The wealthy, he claims, “have no need to steal or engage in corruption” because “they know how to achieve goals and convince skeptics that good deals can be made to the benefit of both sides.”

Our nation abounds this week, with examples of great deals made by those whose wealth has made them virtuous or whose virtue has made them wealthy.


Is Barnaby auditioning for a new band?

On Friday, Barnaby Joyce posted the following on his Facebook page:

The fastest growing sector of our economy is agriculture where farmers are doing the heavy lifting to keep the standard of living we take for granted. At the same time in South Africa, farmers are under attack, being murdered, raped and assaulted on their own property – something we would never accept in Australia. You are three to four times more likely to be murdered as a South African farmer than the average South African, with an average of two farm murders a week. After representations to my electorate office and at the Local Land Services farming seminar in Tamworth yesterday, I support Minister Peter Dutton’s push to give these people refuge in our nation because not only can we help them, they can also help us by moving into regional areas and helping grow our agricultural economy.

Dear oh dear, where to begin.

Let’s start with Barnaby’s claims about the agriculture industry’s contribution to the economy.

In 2015-16, output from the Services industry was $1,051.1 billion which represented a 61.1% share of GDP and 79.2% of all industry, employing 9.4 million people.  Agriculture’s output was $36.7 billion, which was a 2.2% share of GDP and 2.7% of all industry, employing about 300,000 people.

Whilst minerals and fuels still dominate exports, in FY2017, services exports were worth about A$81.6 billion. That was much larger than the value of exports of manufactures (about A$44 billion) or of exports of food (about A$43 billion).

As far as being the fastest growing industry is concerned, according to the March 2018 update from the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, in 2017-18, the gross value of farm production is forecast to decline by 5 per cent, the gross value of livestock production to increase by 2 per cent, and the gross value of crop production to decline by 11 per cent.

Barnaby’s ode to agriculture then somehow morphs into support for Peter Dutton’s shout out to persecuted white South African farmers.

I am sure there are problems in South Africa.  It was kind of inevitable when 95% of the country’s wealth is held by 10% of the population, when 73% of farmland is owned by white people even though less than 9% of the population is white, when the wage for a farm worker is less than $15 for a 9 hour day.

But the point is, they didn’t ask for our help, they don’t want to abandon their farms and, far more importantly, there are genuine refugees who desperately need help.  What happened to the concern for the people who have been languishing in camps for years?  Do two farm murders a week outweigh the deaths in Myanmar, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan?  Do they outweigh the millions facing famine?

There is something odd about this sudden, and unwanted, focus on white South African farmers.  It seems to have been a clarion call for the far right.  A predictable lineup of suspects have been quick to express their support for Peter Dutton – Steve Ciobo, Barnaby Joyce, Andrew Hastie, Ian Goodenough, Andrew Laming, George Christensen, with David Leyonhjelm joining in as well.

Is the band considering a new line up?  Is that Peter humming in the wings?  Is anyone game to tell him that he’s tone deaf?

As Arte Johnson on Laugh In would say … very interesting.

Racial Preferences: Peter Dutton and White South African Farmers

It has been the great misfit Australian policy since the 1990s: a refugee and immigration policy that shows itself to be scrupulously fair, calculable and clean. Nothing shall be permitted to sully this presumption. Even as refugees and asylum seekers gather dampness, decay and depression in Pacific camps, the Australian immigration policy shall remain, like Caesar’s wife, above reproach.

The comments of Australia’s Peter Dutton who resembles, with each passing day, a plumed and emboldened commissar, have given political figures pause for thought. Openly, and without reservation, the Home Affairs Minister decided to bank for a particular racial group in the immigration stakes, namely those poor oppressed white farmers of South Africa.

This goes against the policy of ethnic caution and racial neutrality, albeit ensconced behind the customary prejudices typical of all stances on immigration. Here was the most direct expression of race and culture as twin categories.

Dutton preferred the language of “special attention” for specifically white South African farmers suffering what he deemed to be “horrific circumstances”. He spoke of damning footage and lurid stories. They, he explained, needed protection from a “civilised country”. South African farmers would be a good fit in Australia, integrating (note the stab against certain refugees) and avoiding the welfare rolls. Perversely enough, the mantle of guardianship – that of Afrikaners overseeing the civilising mission in South Africa – seemed to have moved to the confused Dutton.

As a key proponent of apartheid, the South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd, would enunciate in February 1960, it was the white men who were “the people … who brought civilisation here, who made possible the present development of black nationalisation by bringing the natives education, by showing them the Western way of life, by bringing Africa industry and development, by inspiring them with the ideals which Western civilisation has developed for itself.”

Dutton’s remarks fell on the ears of the furious. Ian Rijsdijk of the University of Cape Town’s Media Studies Centre found the remarks “incredibly retrograde.” “The majority African population regard a reference to civilisation,” piped South African advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, “as an insult.”

Spokesman for South Africa’s Foreign Ministry, Ndivhuwo Mabaya, claimed in a statement that, “There was no reason for any Government anywhere in the world to suspect that any South African is in danger from their own democratically elected Government. That threat simply does not exist.”

In fairness, the minister’s intervention had already been forecast by party machinations at the state level some months prior. The West Australian Liberal Party had chewed over the issue of those colonial hangovers in South Africa and Zimbabwe in discussions in 2017. A resolution at the party’s state council meeting last year called upon the federal government to “resettle persecuted European minorities” from those benighted states.

Not far from such considerations was the influence of South African expatriates in various seats, making their defenders sound much like advertisers pushing a flawed product. Ian Goodenough, a WA Liberal representing the federal seat of Moore, opined to the ABC that, “Violence and suffering affects all people universally.” (This affected nonsense only extends to particular communities in such racial politics – violence is universal, but politics is particular). “Given our close connections to the South African community, consideration should be given to providing a quota of places.”

On March 15, the MP tweeted that “favourable consideration” be granted to “South Africans fleeing persecution who share our values and will integrate into Australian society.” This was humanitarianism, washed marble and cultural white, with a handy number of additions to Australia’s conservative voting bloc.

Other conservatives decided to vent their fury at reports about violence against white farmers, sometimes careful to avoid racial tags and labels. The sense behind such anger was undeniably strategic: the Coalition government is stuttering in the polls, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is looking for easy fodder. To that end, Andrew Hastie expressed “outrage” and pressed Alan Tudge, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, to visit his own seat of Canning.

The reasoning there, like that of a calculating Goodenough, was placating, keeping and even gathering more conservative South African votes, a hoovering exercise of a local member thinking of the next election and whether he will survive the voter’s chop. Dutton, claimed Hastie, was “going to hear from concerned citizens and expats about what is happening in South Africa.”

Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming has also gotten on the electoral stage to claim that he “called out South African politicians for their do-nothing approach to vicious attacks on farmers”. He suggested that Dutton was merely asking his department “to monitor and consider our offshore humanitarian program”.

This is not to suggest that the world of South Africa, in its post-apartheid torment, is not afflicted. Crime and land redistribution remain enduring social headaches, though the new South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has told Parliament that “land grabs” would be intolerable, instancing moments of “anarchy”. That said, the ownership of agricultural land in South Africa – with white South Africans having 72 per cent of the portion despite making up some 8 percent of the country’s population, is an invidious formula.

The country’s politics is troubled, best exemplified by the presidential strife of the now departed Jacob Zuma. But the hot-and-bothered gamesmanship of Dutton also ignores the role played by invigorated democratic health in South Africa itself – the movement against Zuma being evidence of it. A civil society collective of investigative journalists, judicial officers, even police, were vital in showing that the Republic of South Africa, far being sworn enemies of civilisation, are its vigilant defenders.

Dutton’s ploy is preferential, cultural and obvious, an embrace of colonial, property owning elites who have fallen on hard times. His idea of civilisation, quite literally coloured, is inimical to democracy. His adoration for the South African farmer has also had a confessional effect: behind the veneer of decent immigration policies will always be indecent preferences.

Day to Day Politics: Why did he do it?

Sunday 18 March 2018

I sit before my computer, fingers poised, well two of them anyway, searching for a beginning and I cannot find one. By the time people are reading this the Batman by-election and the South Australian Election will be done and dusted. Or perhaps we will have to wait and see. Both are filled with there own political complexities, intrigues even.

What effect will Bill Shorten’s controversial decision to announce cuts to Franking Dividends make in the Batman by-election?

If longevity of tenure was a measure by which you judge a government then Labor in South Australia, with 16 years consecutive years of governance must surely be applauded.

I shall come back to this later but first, there are a few matters to clear up.

1 Some tweets.

Wayne Swan Verified account @SwannyQLD

“Excessive executive pay drives a further wedge into Australia’s deepening economic inequality. Bank CEOs received 100 times more than average Australians in 2017. We ignore these gross distortions in distribution at our peril,”

Craig Emerson

“Howard-Costello buy votes with unsustainable spending – middle-class welfare, Baby Bonus, imputation refunds. Falls to Labor to unwind it against trenchant opposition from LNP & NewsLtd. #HandsOffOurLurks”

Bill Shorten Verified account @billshortenmp

“You either think Australians deserve a pay rise, or you don’t. I believe Australians deserve a pay rise.” #realPM

This tweet came to me via Geof Mason. I am an admirer of brevity in writing. This one is impressive.

Tweet by “Queen Victoria”:

So let me get this straight: Dutton wants to bring white South African farmers to Australia who aren’t refugees and don’t want to come, but he won’t let any actual refugees who aren’t white, who want to come, come at all? Makes perfect sense.

Tweet by “Edo Voloder”:

Under Labor’s policy a wealthy person who currently pays $0 tax, won’t get a franking credit refund..for tax they never paid saving the federal budget around $8billion dollars a year, which can be spent on vital services instead.

How is this bad Turnbull and Morrison?”

2 Some other thoughts.

The Tasmanian election is clearing the air and what do we find? Well, it’s certainly historical but who will notice? Tasmania has become the first Australian state to return a female-majority parliament.

Thirteen women and 12 men have been elected to the House Of Assembly as counting is finalised in the state election which was held on March 3. It should have received more media space but you know how it is with women.

3 Peter Dutton’s undoubtedly racist comments about the white South African farmers was totally unnecessary, but as usual, he couldn’t help but take the opportunity to express his white superiority. Most racists tend to want to hide the fact, but not our Peter.

As I thought about it, the plight of the remaining Asylum Seekers on Manus and Nauru came to mind. This Immigration Minister – who delights in showing his toughness – still hasn’t found places for them, meaning he has condemned them to a lifetime of incarceration without ever having committed a crime. What sort of man would do that?

4 On the Franking Credits, it must be remembered that of the $10 billion of franking credits, the overwhelming majority flow to high-income households, 75% going to the top 10%”!

5 I had a thought about those school kids protesting the ridiculous USA gun laws. “It is the children of the USA who lead the need for gun reform. You would think it is the adults who should know better.”

6 The conspiracy theorists are out again with the killing of the two Russians in England. The question is, is it mere coincidence that two weeks prior to the Russian Presidential elections and after Mr Putin says “We are under attack from the West” that these uncanny events take place?

7 It’s rather like if you were Prime Minister of Australia and your deputy had a voice louder than your own, what would you do? The sequence of events surrounding Barnaby Joyce’s resignation were also a touch conspiratorial. What do you think? Notice how there is only one voice speaking for the Coalition now?

8 I have had a bad week on Facebook, being attacked for my perceived bias. After giving it much consideration I thought the best way to describe a biased person is thus …

“I would say it is either an inability or unwillingness to want to understand an opposing point of view.”

9 Now back to where I started; “Why did he do it?”

Why in God’s name did Bill Shorten pick last Tuesday to announce a rather contentious policy? In the full light of day knowing that there was a must-win by-election the next weekend, and a South Australian State election? What sort of basic political thinking was going on in the head of Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen that on the surface at least sounds incredulous?

Was there thinking that a large section of the community would see Labor as progressive on tax reform, even courageous taking on problems that the Coalition didn’t have the guts to? But did it meet the fairness test? Fundamentally, yes.

Was it a risky proposal that they thought worth it, given they were well in front in the polls? Only time will tell if they were right or wrong.

Conversely, why wouldn’t they see the traffic jam of dissatisfaction that would confront them? Sure there would only be a small number of people affected but they would react like kids being stung by a bee’s nest.

Putting aside the fact that this initiative, political speaking, is a good one what really did they have to gain. It could have waited until a better time. People are intuitively wary of change. Even beneficial change. Tinkering with a policy where the goal posts seem to be moved every week puts people on edge.

But however, you look at it something has to be done. Caitlin Fitzsimmons is the Money editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. She sums it up this way:

“The Howard-Costello largesse is now unsustainable. We have a tax system that can no longer pay for all the services that older people have been accustomed to all their lives.

The deficit in 2017-18 is estimated to be $24 billion. It’s unreasonable to expect working people – many of whom can’t afford their own home – to shoulder the entire burden of budget repair.
It’s also about intragenerational fairness, since it overwhelmingly affects well-off retirees, not all older people.
The fact we have so many retirees chasing fully franked dividends – where there’s a full credit because the company has paid the full rate of tax – is a huge distortion for the sharemarket. It means an excessive amount of money flows into the stocks of the big banks and Telstra.
There are many vested interests who cry foul over the proposals, but there are those in the investment world who acknowledge the status quo is far too generous.

Interestingly the Labor proposal doesn’t really affect pooled super funds – that is, the big industry and retail funds most people are members of. They have enough members paying tax to make the full use of all franking credits.

While the measure is aimed at well-off retirees, it catches some part pensioners and a very small number of full pensioners. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten hinted at some sort of compensation scheme for pensioners, before concluding that “we will make sure that pensioners are OK, full stop”.

My sources suggest a specific scheme is off the mark but there’ll be further announcements closer to the election to make sure pensioners are better off overall under a Labor government than a Coalition one


Time alone will tell just what if any this announcement will make to peoples voting. Given the hole the Government is in it may not make any difference.

Whether we have the results for these two important elections we will continue to debate the merits of Shorten’s decision.

The Batman by-election will determine the structure of the current Parliament. Will the Greens pick up another seat or will the status quo prevail?

In South Australia will the Government hang onto power after 16 years or will the Nick Xenophon experiment against the major parties work? Or can the Libs form a Government?

Whatever happens, how will we judge Bill Shorten’s decision?

My thought for the day.

“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.”

Near Neighbours – PNG: New Fault-lines in the Tropics

By Denis Bright

With its surging population growth, economic volatility and internal income divide, many of our neighbours in Papua-New Guinea (PNG) are having difficulty coping with the everyday challenges of globalization.

Official economic growth rates are artificially elevated by the commercial export sectors in oil, natural gas, minerals, timber products as well as traditional plantation crops like coffee from small and middle-sized holdings. This volatility is reflected in data for economic growth from Trading Economics.

The Lowy Institute highlights the negative outcomes of this volatility:

On three occasions since independence, the PNG Government has sought external assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to address unsustainable pressures on the external accounts fuelled by budget deficits … Under an IMF Standby Facility, the Fund stands ready to directly lend foreign currency to PNG’s Central Bank to bolster its holdings of external reserves, thereby enabling the Bank to manage the imbalance in foreign exchange demand and supply in a more orderly fashion.

PNG Treasury has extended economic growth projections to 2022 to assist with preparations for the 2018 National Budget. No major growth spikes are expected soon.

Historically, PNG Coalition Governments were vulnerable to compromising financial and strategic offers from developed countries. Some offers were irresistible in the short-term.

To its credit, PNG has stuck to its membership of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

The stability of the centre-right government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has increased PNG’s independence and confidence. However, there are some inherited policy ghosts from previous national administrations.

Vulnerability to Developed Countries Being Gifts to Neighbours in Our Near North

In 2001, the under-utilized PNG naval base at Los Negros just off Manus Island became a new dark industry for a struggling PNG economy. The establishment of the detention centre carried a message about Australia’s preferred economic model of development. Management of Manus Island Detention Centre was awarded to Transfield Services and then the Spanish multinational company, Ferrovial. Eventually, both the PNG Government and High Court intervened to demand the closure of the Detention Facility.

Without any assistance from that Mythical Crystal Ball, it is highly likely that more interference with the sovereignty of PNG will continue. PNG is a prized asset with the diversity of its resources and a strategic geopolitical location.

The Australian assisted in talking up interest in Manus Island both as a detention centre of asylum seekers and the possible site for a re-activated US Defence and communication installation:

The RAN and foreign navies, including the US Navy, used HMAS Tarangau extensively as a fuelling stop for ships transiting between east Asia, Australia and elsewhere in the South Pacific.

Australia should increase its maritime presence in the archipelagic arc to our north. RAN’s use of Manus would greatly facilitate that presence.

As well as naval facilities, its Momote airfield would be a valuable base for Australian and allied maritime surveillance aircraft.

The US is interested in new bases in the Pacific. At the same time, the island countries are looking to the US to demonstrate that it appreciates the importance of the Pacific islands region in Washington’s rebalance policy towards Asia. Manus could be an option.

PNG is now assuming a South Pacific regional leadership role. Trilateral negotiations could be opened now between Australia, the US and PNG regarding access to Manus as a forward operating base for maritime forces.

Strategic interest in PNG extends far beyond conventional military installations. The SMH noted the importance of the Near North to Australia’s global intelligence priorities:

Australian intelligence sources recently confirmed to Fairfax Media that Australia’s electronic espionage agency, the Defence Signals Directorate, is a “full partner” in the program, which they said, “overwhelmingly harvests diplomatic, political and economic intelligence, not just information relating to terrorism and security”.

Fairfax Media revealed in August that Singaporean intelligence is in partnership with the Defence Signals Directorate in operations to tap undersea fibre optic telecommunications cables that link Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

The government of Peter O’Neill is outspoken against this unauthorized surveillance of domestic communications which can be used to compromise sensitive negotiations between PNG and multinational companies involved in negotiations over the use of local resources.

PNG displayed its spark of independence by joining with New Zealand to endorse the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Unlike Australia, most NAM Countries in Asia and the Pacific also made this commitment to opt out of the excesses of the global arms race.

When sensitive international issues like recognition of Palestine or clearance for vessels carrying nuclear weapons close to PNG and its neighbours are being discussed, it is important of global intelligence agencies to sound out local political opinion in NAM states or countries which are flexible to international lobbying towards the attainment of favourable pro-western voting patterns.

Developed countries are less concerned about the alarming social indicators in PNG society.

This country is in no position to integrate asylum seekers as part of the Pacific Solution. Our veto of immigration offers from the Ardern Labour Government is callous to say the least.

Social Indicators in Australia’s Near North

Some of the presenting social indicators from PNG and other countries to our Near North are appalling (Asian Development Bank Online (ADB) 2017). From poverty levels to infant mortality and even access to electricity, PNG is no regional beacon of social justice. The data will shock most readers. It would be trite to summarise the grim social statistics selectively. They are readily available online from the ADB site.

Demanding tropical ecosystems make higher level of self-sufficiency in food production an ongoing challenge. Food production must compete with export crops for a current population of around 8.4 million which would double every 35 years at current rates of net annual population growth (+2.1 per cent).

In the PNG Highlands, droughts or unseasonably cold weather can ruin staple crops. Hunger is commonplace with medieval levels of associated health scourges like influenza, tuberculosis and measles.

To this unsavoury brew has come the latest earthquakes in the PNG Highlands:

Papua New Guinea faces a long road to recovery after the powerful earthquake that hit the nation’s rugged highlands more than 10 days ago, with the death toll now believed to have climbed to more than 100, its leader said.

Australia and New Zealand sent more helicopters and planes to help deliver food, water and medicine to the remote region, where the Government and aid agencies have been scrambling to reach villages stranded by landslides and collapsed roads.

“Tragically, the Highlands earthquake has already claimed the lives of an estimated more than 100 Papua New Guineans, with many more still missing and thousands of people injured,” Mr O’Neill said in comments published by his office.

The quake forced oil giant ExxonMobil Corp to shut all its gas facilities in the country, which it expects will be down for about eight weeks while it carries out inspections and repairs.

Despatching enthusiastic Australian defence personnel to such crises is highly appropriate.

Agencies say access to the affected areas remains an enormous challenge. Initial reports and aerial assessments reveal that 65 per cent of health facilities are closed and schools have been damaged to such an extent that authorities are considering cancelling the entire school year.

According to United Nations’ indicative estimates, of the 211,000 people who live in the area, about 143,000 need urgent humanitarian assistance.

The area has been wracked by tribal conflict, and most of the earthquake-affected areas are also in drought, reducing crop production and the resilience of communities.

Agencies such as the PNG government, UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and UN Women, are focusing on treating children with severe acute malnutrition, as well as focusing on children’s safety, hygiene and medical supplies.

Foreign minister Julie Bishop said on Wednesday the Australian Government was increasing its humanitarian support to the stricken country.

Three Army CH-47F Chinook helicopters will deploy to PNG this week, Ms Bishop said, with additional defence personnel and supplies to support the relief effort.

“This contribution adds to the existing presence of 80 ADF and 75 AFP personnel in PNG,” she said in a statement.

Management of the humanitarian crisis has been complicated by local perceptions that oil and gas exploration has contributed to the historical frequency of earthquakes in Hela Province of PNG (SMH Online 7 March 2018):

Reuters made this assessment of crisis:

A deadly earthquake that struck ExxonMobil’s $19 billion gas project in the mountains of Papua New Guinea is sparking a backlash against the U.S. energy giant that could prove harder to fix than buried roads and broken pipes.

Some spooked locals blame Exxon (XOM.N) and its project partners of causing, or at least magnifying, the 7.5 magnitude quake on Feb. 26 and a series of intense aftershocks that continue to pound the impoverished and isolated region.

While firmly denied by Exxon and debunked by geologists, the accusations suggest that the project known as PNG LNG, one of the most successful liquefied natural gas (LNG) developments in the world, is sorely lacking goodwill from at least parts of the local population.

The concerns about the project – the country’s biggest revenue earner – are even being expressed at senior levels in the Papua New Guinea government.

PNG’s Vice Minister for Petroleum and Energy, Manasseh Makiba, told Reuters in a phone interview there should be an inquiry to respond to local concerns that Mother Nature had reacted after the ground was disturbed by drilling.

Official assistance from Australia’s AusAId is on its way but PNG could benefit from a refocusing of Australia’s defence and foreign policies towards our immediate Near North.

As the federal LNP talks up a higher profile for Australia in international affairs, a new executive office in the air is being assembled in Spain for Prime Minister Turnbull for those cosy diplomatic visits and occasional inspections of Australia’s overseas defence training programmes.

The cost of the plane and its refit amount to $248 million with work being completed in Spain before the aircraft joins the RAAF’s VIP fleet (ABC Online 5 March 2018). Cheers to Labor’s Senator Kimberley Kitching for her responsible questions at the Senate Estimates Committee about the costs of refitting of a KC-30 tanker for service as a mobile office. The costs of this aggrandisement exercise should be compared with the AusAid Budget for PNG.

Future generations must decide if Australia needs to aspire to strategic geopolitical greatness by assisting the US Global Military Alliance in applying balance of power strategies across the entire Indo-Pacific Basin. Too much partisan military hardware in Australia’s Near North threatens a half-century of reasonable strategic stability since the formation of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).  PNG, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu aspire to join this non-aligned ASEAN Bloc.

Encouraging PNG and other Northern Neighbours to move in more militarized directions with potential new defence and communication bases are likely to be counter-productive moves. A high level of historical underdevelopment is the key regional destabiliser with its embedded future security risks. This problem is not tackled by the acquisition of more regional military hardware to the glee of global military industrial complexes with scant interest in improving PNG’s social justice indicators.

Denis Bright is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in advancing pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization.


We need to talk about Jean

This week, in response to Labor’s announcement that shareholders who pay no tax will no longer be getting cash back from the government, the Herald Sun introduced us to Jean.

Case Study 1: Jean is retired with a large self-managed super fund. She receives $29,810 in dividends from bank shares and $130,000 from other assets. As the fund is in the pension phase, and pays $0 tax. Jean is currently entitled to a $12,775 rebate. Under Labor, Jean would lose that.

Now, let’s just get something straight right up front. Jean only ever got this cash back in the first place because Howard and Costello wanted to sure up her vote in case she was tempted by racism to vote for Pauline Hanson. This is not a usual way for governments to manage shareholders and company tax – Australia is only one of four countries that offers such a scheme and the original dividend imputation policy designed by the Keating government had no such rort, I mean perk. I meant rort actually.

But, now that we know about Jean, who ‘would lose that’, I think this is the perfect time for us to talk about Jean. We should thank the Herald Sun for kicking off this healthy discussion.

Let’s start at the beginning. We knew the Liberals, in concert with their media arm, the Murdoch press, would launch a propaganda scare campaign against Labor’s very sensible, fiscally responsible, wealth-inequality battling policy to no longer give self-funded retirees cash they don’t need. How did we know? Because that’s what the Liberals and their media arm, the Murdoch press, exist to do. The sky is falling. Everyone is ruined. The economy will rise up like an angry god and smite us all for hurting those who have bestowed trickle-down wealth upon us. And so on and so forth.

I must admit, it’s a sad turn of events that the likes of Leigh Sales on ABC’s 730 is also playing this game, seeking out Lyle-we need those dividends to live-Essery, to show their sad sad faces on TV, to tell Labor how naughty and mean they are for hurting Jean and Lyle, who did nothing to deserve this. But that’s the thing. Jean and Lyle did do nothing to deserve this magical cash-back bribe from Howard and Costello, other than possibly considering voting for Pauline Hanson, and no one should be rewarded for that dirty idea.

But, now that the likes of Jean, and the ABC’s Lyle, are all over the media sharing their suffering, and being given a national audience to urge people not to even consider voting for the possibly-Communist Labor Party who want to spend Jean and Lyle’s cash-back on evil things like schools, healthcare, income tax cuts for workers who haven’t had a pay rise in years, and have the highest house prices and power bills of any generation ever, I have three questions:

1) Why am I meant to be sympathetic to Jean and her poor share portfolio, but I’m not being asked to be sympathetic to people with disabilities and the unemployed who are constantly being bullied and threatened by the Turnbull government who is working as hard as they can to pull their social safety net out from under them, leaving them destitute and possibly homeless? Could they possibly move in with Jean?

2) Related to the above, why is cutting welfare spending framed as a perfectly legitimate government policy, responsible in fact, in order to do the ‘heavy lifting’ job of ‘budget repair’ in response to a supposed ‘debt and deficit disaster’, but saving billions by not giving people with share portfolios most of us could never dream of owning, nor the tax accountants to minimise our tax to zero to help fund it, is apparently bad bad bad?

3) Why does Lyle get to tell his sad ‘my share portfolio might need to be rearranged’ story on TV, but we don’t get to hear the stories of workers who are locked out of their work for asking for a pay rise, or the people being villainised for being unemployed, or the families of children who attend underfunded schools, or the single-mother who can’t afford to take her child to the doctor because of Liberal cuts to Medicare? Why do the Liberals and the media, not just Murdoch-run, but Fairfax and the ABC as well, give Jean and Lyle a run, but don’t tell the other side of the story?

I would like to talk about this please. Because, the problem is not just this story. This same situation happens time and time again, political story after political story, the frame is always the same. I think Jean is just the wakeup call this country’s political landscape needs. What is the society we really want, and how are the Liberals, their media-arm and their rusted-on self-entitled Liberal voting Jeans and Lyle’s stopping us getting that? And if we’re really serious about doing something about wealth inequality, how are we going to get there with this tsunami of elite and powerful opposition against positive change? Answers can be posted below, cheers.

A big day for a little man

It was a big day yesterday for our newly minted Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton.

Firstly, Dutton’s hand-picked choice to head his paramilitary Border Force, a colleague from his days as a Queensland copper, was finally sacked for using his position to get his girlfriend a job and for not disclosing the relationship.  Roman Quaedvlieg is obviously held to a higher standard than Barnaby Joyce who just took a self-imposed temporary demotion for the same thing.

Then we hear that, after meeting with Bob Katter’s son-in-law, who happens to be one of the largest gun importers in the country, Dutton is considering forming an advisory board where the gun lobbyists decide on the suitability of legislation.

That’s like letting the aluminium smelters advise us on emissions reduction or the cotton farmers advise us on water management.  Or letting the mining companies devise a mining tax that costs them nothing.

But this is about more guns in our society – a move that could change Australia forever because once the dam is broken, there is no going back.

And then to round off a big day for a little man, we witnessed the ridiculous farce of the Minister, purely on the basis of a television show he watched, offering to rescue “white” South African farmers from the “horrific circumstances” and “persecution” they are facing in their country.

“I do think, on the information that I’ve seen, people do need help and they need help from a civilised country like ours,” Mr Dutton said.

Except no-one asked for his help.  The farmers responded by saying that, surprisingly, they don’t want to walk away from their homes and livelihoods.

The South African government were furious.  Who are you calling uncivilised?

They hauled in Canberra’s High Commissioner for a diplomatic ticking off, demanding that Dutton retract his comments.

And that doesn’t even address the blatant racism in Dutton’s stupid comments.

Dutton was voted worst health minister ever by people in the industry.  As Immigration Minister, he has been singularly unable to find a solution for the resettlement of refugees trapped on Manus and Nauru.  The deal with the US was negotiated by Turnbull, not Dutton.

He is a proven liar, telling us that a disturbance on Manus Island was caused by locals reacting to asylum seekers luring their children away for evil purposes, when, in fact, the asylum seekers gave the child some fruit and it was drunken military arguing over a football pitch who started shooting at the refugees.

There have been countless scathing reports and reviews on the dysfunction in the DIBP detailing the lack of management and due process.

Dutton walked out on Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generation.  He has made innumerable gaffes – joking about islands in the Pacific being inundated, calling a journalist a mad fucking witch in a text in support of a sexual harasser, which he then sent to the journalist by mistake.

The list of ineptitude is long.  In fact, I cannot think of one achievement, one positive contribution, that Dutton has made in over 16 years suckling on the public teat, other than expanding his property portfolio.

So why has this inadequate politician been made the most powerful man in the country?  Why is he touted as a future leader for the Liberal Party?

It’s got me beat.

Day to Day Politics: What I write and why

Friday 16 March 2018

For most of my working life I worked in marketing and advertising, so I know how people are influenced, persuaded or swayed by such things as branding and repetitive advertising. Companies spend millions of dollars to subtly brainwash you, to align you with a certain brand or product.

They will use all manner of persuasive techniques, including sex and deceptive packaging to solicit your good will and loyalty. They even measure the eye blink rate of women from hidden cameras in supermarkets to test colour reaction. Yes, it’s that sophisticated. And brand loyalty is what they want.

There are more psychologists employed in advertising in America than in the health industry. It is all calculated to take power over your decision-making. And it works.

The same can be said for Australian mainstream media. It also wants your brand loyalty and the power to coerce you into its way of thinking. It uses similar techniques to the advertising industry and the main ingredients are untruth and the creation of perceptions with subliminal messages.

In the media it is easy to apply. It can be a headline, a one liner slogan like “stop the boats” or a photoshopped photograph and on television the way you lead a story or conduct an interview.

We are almost manipulated beyond our free will. But of course the often repeated blatant lie takes precedence and is the best tool to use for an audience that is uninformed and in a malaise and thus susceptible to this sort of propaganda.

Now of course they have another tool, “Opinion Journalism” – it’s true because Andrew said …

Now let me add that there is nothing wrong with opinions  (we all have them) so long as there is a diversity of them. But the fact is we don’t have a diversity and we would be a much better society if we took the risk of thinking for ourselves unhindered by the unadulterated crap served up by a media who controls a large percentage of news in our major cities. We can also add self-interest groups and lobbyists.

The less-informed voters unfortunately greatly outnumber the more politically aware and therefore are the obvious victims of mainstream media deception where everything is reduced to simplistic slogans.

Where the opinion makers use all manner of tantalising, seductive and provocative words and imagery to win you over to what they want you to believe. Media is no longer about reporting news. It is about persuasion by opinion.

So it must have occurred to you by now that with a background like mine it would seem unremarkable if I didn’t use some of my learnt techniques to persuade you.

I don’t. The nearest I come is with the use of my fiction writing skills. But then it is only to make an article more interesting to the enquiring minds who appreciate my work and those who let me know when I get the slightest fact wrong.

Unlike Andrew Bolt who has to write for an average age of 13 to suit the demographic of the publication he writes for, I as do the other writers for The AIMN, seem to attract people of a higher level of thinking with a greater sensitivity for the things that matter.

As is often the case I get responses to my writing from a vast array of people – 99% of them are interested in explaining why they agree or disagree or fall somewhere in the middle.

Then there are those who use the platform as a means of letting off steam, expressing anger, looking for a fight, just wanting to be sarcastic, wanting to change the subject to suit their own argument and many more.

For the main part they all have something important to say. The last cohort however, for all their buffoonery require patience and kindness because they are seriously ill with mental problems that I’m not qualified to expand on other than to say one has to wonder about their upbringing.

So with all that said I hope I have explained that the origin of my writing stems from a long-held interest in social justice and inequality: of those who are deprived of a decent education, as I was, the environment and an urgent desire to repair and improve the standard of governance our politicians deliver.

Despite the laboriousness of writing everyday, at my age I am grateful that I have a megaphone by which I can express my opinions and await the comments that will adjudicate their worth. Being independent of mainstream media makes this possible. It is my fervent hope that in some small way my words might help to make the world a better place.

None of the things I believe in can be changed without a change in government. The AIMN is a blog that can influence that possibility.

My thought for the day.

“Finding the truth and reporting it is more important than creating a narrative where controversy matters more.”

If the government really cared about our kids, they would listen to them

The government talks a lot about our children when they don’t want to pay for something, but do they really actually give a toss about them?

The World Economic Forum surveys people every year about the biggest problems facing the world and, for the third year in a row, climate change is the millennial generation’s top concern.

The top ten challenges identified by the 18-35 year old age bracket were as follows:

  1. Climate change / destruction of nature (48.8%)
  2. Large scale conflict / wars (38.9%)
  3. Inequality (income, discrimination) (30.8%)
  4. Poverty (29.2%)
  5. Religious conflicts (23.9%)
  6. Government accountability and transparency / corruption (22.7%)
  7. Food and water security (18.2%)
  8. Lack of education (15.9%)
  9. Safety / security / well being (14.1%)
  10. Lack of economic opportunity and unemployment (12.1%)

So how is our government faring in addressing the things that are of most concern to the young people of the world?

Since the Federal government repealed carbon pricing in 2014, emissions have been increasing.  There has been a surge in land-clearing in Queensland since the Newman government relaxed restrictions.  Unscrupulous irrigators have changed the flow of the Murray-Darling.  Coal-mining is actively promoted and old coal-fired power stations asked to stay on in service past their use-by date.  Renewable energy targets have been lowered (but not yet abolished as the government wanted) and renewable subsidies have been opposed or removed whilst fossil fuel subsidies have been protected.  Several members of parliament are actively agitating for a withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

In fact, climate change, which is already impacting our food and water security, has all but disappeared from the government’s reasoning .

The government has also decided that war and conflict present a great business opportunity, investing billions in an attempt to make us one of the world’s leading arms manufacturers.  And in the meantime, they have a lazy $400 billion themselves to spend on weapons of war over the next twenty years to keep those conflicts, or should I say industries, going.

Far from policies designed to address poverty and inequality, this government’s whole raison d’etre is to protect and increase the wealth of the few.

Instead of increasing payments to the most disadvantaged, they crack down on welfare and impose punitive measures for non-compliance.  It’s only businesses that need ‘red tape’ reduced.  Try applying for a disability pension, or keeping up with all the requirements to receive Newstart, or fighting a Robodebt bill.

They oppose any increase to the minimum wage, they wound back penalty rates, and they want us to work until we are 70.  And they have declared war on the only group strong enough to give a collective voice and some bargaining power to workers – our trade unions.

Instead of our secular government allowing religion to be a private matter, they have invested a great deal into promoting Christianity whilst insidiously and deliberately sowing mistrust against Muslims.

We allow churches to make, and break, laws.  We pay for school chaplains in public schools.  We pay for children to attend religious schools.  We manipulate the curriculum to emphasise our Judeo-Christian heritage (whatever that means).  We chant a prayer to open Parliament.  We put our hands on a bible to swear we are telling the truth.

But watch out for those Muslims who are just waiting to cut your head off and rape your daughters.  We’ll even go to their countries to stop them with our bright new shiny bombs.

As for government accountability and transparency, I have never seen an Australian government so determined to hide the truth.

They fight freedom of information requests, they won’t speak about operational or “onwater” matters, contracts are secret “commercial-in-confidence” deals.  Commissioned reports are “to government not by government” and are not released.  Advice from government departments is buried if it doesn’t fit the current rhetoric.  Modelling?  Cost-benefit analysis?  Opportunity cost comparisons?  Who needs that crap when you’ve got a whiteboard to hide behind.

On education, we could talk for hours.  It has become an industry where we fund boutique colleges but not TAFE, where we fund elite private schools, where the Catholics cry poor despite being one of the richest organisations in the world, where early childhood teachers are paid less than babysitters, where our graduates start their lives with a huge debt, where university places are bought by wealthy international students as a backdoor to citizenship, where the curriculum is determined by two old white guys who seem to think phonics is all we need to teach, and where we employ truancy officers instead of teacher’s aides.

At the moment, Australia is a comparatively safe and secure place but how long will that last with the gun lobby buying political support.  Just this morning it was reported that, after meeting Bob Katter’s gun-importing son-in-law, Peter Dutton is considering establishing a committee to allow gun importers to review proposed changes to firearm regulations for “appropriateness and intent”.

It would also be good to know what Donald Trump asked for in return for not hitting us with tariffs on steel and aluminium.  We have given China a 99 year lease on Darwin Port and hosted a US marine base there as well.  And just what are the CIA, NSA and NRO doing at Pine Gap?  I thought it was supposed to be a “space research” station?  Why are we buying 12 long range subs?  Why are we investing so much in missile defence capability?  Do we plan on making ourselves a target by meddling in other countries’ affairs?

At number ten, we finally get to Malcolm’s mantra of opportunity and jobs.

Instead of trying to flog a dying coal industry and using our skills, resources and finances to add to the global pool of weapons, see to the things that really matter to our children and the rest will follow.

Give them a real NBN.  Lift them out of poverty.  Make education accessible and relevant.  Instead of giving out fossil fuel subsidies and tax concessions for the wealthy, instead of importing labour, give out scholarships and incentives for training to fill skills shortages.  Instead of sacking scientists and cutting university funding, facilitate research.  Become a world leader in sustainability and adaptation.  Build affordable housing and public transport.  Invest in early intervention and support for mental health.  Assist developing nations to evolve.

If you really cared about our kids, you would listen to them.

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