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Category Archives: News and Politics

Avoiding the lunatic fringe

By 2353NM

The Australian political system is far from perfect. We have made an art form out of humiliation and ill treatment of refugees that choose to come to Australia. We have sat on our hands for over a decade and chosen to have an argument about emissions reduction while observing that we seem to be having more ‘one off’ climatic events than ever. We have a number of examples of ‘pork barrelling’ when politicians have chosen to ignore the aspirations and rights of the majority while promoting the minority – who will in turn probably vote for the political party that ‘assisted’ them.

It’s all pretty depressing really. It’s still the case that Prime Minister Albanese can’t fix everything overnight – although he seems to be working hard to reverse the absolute contempt other countries and their leaders had for Morrison and by implication Australia. It’s also a sad reflection on the state of the federal government in Australia that Albanese won’t be able to rectify all the problems he inherited in a short timeframe.

Not that the LNP have understood the mood of the Australian voters yet. We have a Liberal Party Senator, delivering a speech that is theoretically discussing why the LNP lost the election claiming

one of the issues … [is] we’ve got an education system that’s basically run by Marxists”.
“When kids are at school and they’re being taught all this absolute leftwing rubbish, that’s where they’re leaving school and that’s where they’re landing,

Given there is a significant number of Australians that earn their salary by teaching, it’s likely that one or two of them do subscribe to a Marxist view of how society should be run. But it is also likely that the majority of teachers are more worried about how to fit the latest edict from head office into the overloaded curriculum while paying attention to the student in the classroom that is failing due to circumstances external to the school, while getting all the marking done, the lesson planning for next term, paying the mortgage or rent and having some form of family and social life, than worrying about how to fit a particular ideology into their teaching time. Name-calling, such as ‘Marxist’ or ‘woke’ is a common ultra-conservative rallying cry with absolutely no definition of what the term means or evidence produced by those who participate.

 

 

If the last election taught us anything, it was that most Australians wanted a more realistic response on transparency and emissions reduction. The ALP, Greens and most independents campaigned on this and between them won around two thirds of the first preference vote. Opposition Leader Dutton decides that doubling down on the former government’s policy is the correct response by throwing the nuclear energy ‘dead cat’ into the discussion to attempt to divert attention from the former government’s decade of inaction. While Dutton seems to be at least considering a ‘federal ICAC’ with teeth, it seems it’s difficult for Dutton and his fellow conservatives to connect the dots between their ideology on a number of issues and their failure at the election.

While it may be depressing, it could be worse. Fortunately in Australia, those that drafted the Constitution put something in the document that has saved us from the lunacy in the USA where the legal protection for abortions has recently been removed, even in the case of rape or incest. Apparently the problem is abortion breaches ‘Thou shalt not kill’, a biblical commandment, at least in the minds of predominately conservative white male Christians. Yet it seems to be perfectly reasonable that someone in the US can have the status symbol of a military grade assault rifle capable of killing a considerable number of people in seconds should the owner use the weapon as intended.

It’s just as crazy on the other side of the Atlantic where a group of politicians can derail the prosperity of an entire nation by using the conservatives ‘small government’ agenda as reported by The Guardian

Sectors from fishing to aviation, farming to science report being bogged down in red tape, struggling to recruit staff and racking up losses for the first time.

“Brexit’ was so unsuccessful that the Scottish Parliament is calling for a second Independence Referendum partly based on the fundamental change in the UK from the last referendum in 2014. The ‘small government’ agenda has been a failure from the days of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – Morrison was heading down the same path with his ‘deskilling’ of the Australian Public Service.

Arguably there are just as many nutcases in Australia that hold lunatic fringe values on certain subjects as anywhere else in the world. The Senator who claims teachers are Marxists (when the Australian school curriculum is actually set by the state and federal governments) could be considered one of them. So could Dutton as it is clearly evident that the Australian population of voting age have told him the agenda being promoted by the Coalition parties is not acceptable. The Australian Constitution is different to the USA or the UK as we have compulsory voting, and the risk of a fine for ‘giving it a miss’ is incentive for to most to at least ‘go through the motions’.

While we go through the motions, we also make our opinions known. In the USA and UK, campaigns are run to bring out the voters – those that feel they can’t affect the result are likely to stay away, which skews the result. Next time around after the election of, say a divisive President or a Prime Minister that doesn’t follow his own laws, the level of distrust and disaffection grows, making it easier for those with agendas to further skew the vote. You can fool some of the people some of the time – but it is far easier to fool a majority of the voters when those that feel disenfranchised choose not to have a say, something that doesn’t happen in Australia.

We might really be at the Polling Booth to get it out of the way on the way to the Democracy Sausage stand or beating the rest of the local population to Mrs Brown’s rather excellent chocolate fudge at the cake stall outside, but at least most of us have a say. If nothing else, it ensures fringe opinions of the lunatics from both the progressive and conservative sides stay on the fringe. Our system is not perfect, but there are certainly advantages in compulsory voting.

What do you think?

 

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Why An Emissions Target Is The Work Of Satan…

Now when someone posted a comment about Scott Morrison saying that anxiety was the work of Satan, I misread it and thought that he’d said Santa, which given all those anxious moments I’d spent on Christmas Eve trying to assemble something on Santa’s behalf when all I really wanted to do was sample some Christmas cheer and go to bed, the idea had a certain appeal to me.

At this point, I am wondering how many people are arguing that Santa doesn’t exist and whether they are greater in number than those who argue that Satan doesn’t exist. Both Satan and Santa can cause a lot of disagreement and it’s hard to argue that this does cause more anxiety than Santana.

Whatever, I’m actually writing about the 43% emissions target and how it’s going to cause an enormous amount of anxiety and there will be people who believe that Labor is Satan, while there are others who’ll argue that The Greens are Santa, and then you’ll have various Liberals who’ll argue that none of them should exist at all.

That’s Labor, The Greens and emissions target. They have no problem with Satan having elected one of his chief disciples in the creation of anxiety as the leader… which one? Well, the fact that you need to ask that says something in itself.

Anyway, now that the Liberals have largely announced that they feel that the reason they lost the election was because they’d strayed from their core principles of having only one core principle and that is, if it’s profitable, it should be privatised and if it’s not then it shouldn’t exist, and if it does exist and is necessary then we should still privatise it and pay someone to run it even if that costs more than when the government used to be in charge…

I mean, remember when Qantas was an inefficient government-owned enterprise which charged too much for getting you and your bags on the one flight.

But back to the emissions target and the looming showdown between Labor and The Greens. I must say that I’m in two minds about this because I can certainly see both sides of the argument.

  1. The first argument: We’re better off doing something rather than nothing and 43% is better than nothing.
  2. The second argument: 43% is not enough because this is an emergency and we’ve already left it too late so we really need to start taking it seriously.

There is some appeal to the idea of legislating a target because the very fact that you’ve set a target gives industry some direction, as well as ensuring the government has to actually take some action on things like modernising the grid and ruining the weekend by getting us all to drive electric cars. And it’s true that if you set any target, then you don’t have to stop at that. If a government decides that it’s going to introduce measures to cut the road toll such as more speed cameras in dangerous areas, it doesn’t decide to switch them off because they’ve hit their target and we can afford to lose a few more this month.

On the other hand, 43% may not drive the sort of changes we should be making and it may not lead to any significant action. Various projections have suggested that we’ll hit that target with action already being taken, so we could easily do more.

Whatever happens over the next few weeks, I think it’s important to remember a number of points:

  • However the media choose to emphasise the disagreements between Labor, The Greens and the so-called Teal MPs, it’s worth remembering that they’re all in some sort of agreement about taking action to save the planet because unlike Hollie Hughes and Matt Canavan, they’re all still on it.
  • Setting a target is all well and good, but it’s the path to get that target and the action that one actually takes that matters. I could set a target to lose five kilos by 2023, but unless I have an action plan to go with it, nothing will change. And while my action plan of going to the nearby gym twice a week may seem like a good start, the fact that they won’t let me in because I’m not a member may mean that I don’t get anywhere near my goal.
  • It’s wrong to compare Rupert Murdoch to Satan because there’s no evidence that he’s responsible for all the evil that exists in the world and in fact, even many religious people don’t even accept that Satan exists at all.
  • Unemployment is now so low that even Josh Frydenberg was able to get a job.
  • Numbers can be manipulated to make anything appear true. In particular, political polling is always suspect. However, most people want some sort of action on climate change. This has been clear from both the polling and the recent election where seats that normally be a walkover for Liberals went to independents because the electors got sick of voting for people who sounded stupider than Uncle Barry after too many glasses of port.

Finally, I’d just like everyone to remember the basic strategy that the Coalition will adopt over the next few weeks. If Labor and The Greens reach any sort of compromise, then it’ll be because they’re a coalition and if you vote for one it’s the same as voting for the other, but if they can’t agree, then Peter Dutton will move a motion of no confidence in the government because they can’t get their legislation through the Senate.

Ok, an Opposition leader would have to be pretty stupid to do that. So how long do you think it will be before he does?

 

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Scott Morrison awaits the Apocalypse

The minds of defeated prime ministers are rarely pretty. In some cases, they are damnably awful places, where ruins accumulate and dust gathers in wretchedness. Such figures can become, by the admission of former Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, miserable ghosts, cantankerous, bitter and resentful. Then come some, such as Malcolm Fraser, who have healthy revelations. Others just go to seed.

This may well have been the case with Scott Morrison, the accidental of Australia’s prime ministers. In 2019, he won an election deemed unwinnable. In 2022, he lost in the formidable face of a third of voters who preferred to go for alternative parties. Refusing to read the smoke signals from a Liberal heartland worried about political integrity, climate change and violence against women, his party was carved by the stormy arrival of independents and minor parties.

Put out to lean, undernourished pasture, there was little reason to expect him to slide into respectable obscurity. The lecture circuit beckoned, and his debut came in his July 14 address to the Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul. In it, he emerges enlightened, quoting from yet another pop-historical tract from historian Niall Ferguson, this time on pandemics. His account is free of failures and full of praise, much of it for achievements not his own.

On the matter of pandemics, he can only cause others to raise an eyebrow and crease the forehead. An assessment by John Hopkins University is cited, ranking “Australia second in the world in pandemic preparedness.” There is also Bloomberg, ranking Australia as the “world’s fifth most COVID resilient nation.”

He ignores the enormous, unmatched role played by the States and territories, and the half-botched stuttering of his government in the face of crisis, from pandemics to environmental catastrophe. The Commonwealth’s own conspicuous role, throughout the pandemic, was to frustrate the arrival of Australian citizens left stranded overseas and yearning to return to their homeland. Morrison’s famous contribution to the issue of climate change and violence against women was to absent himself from the debate or seek advice from his wife.

One remark stands out. “You must be able to trust and delegate.” Reading between these chosen words is the sense that you must abdicate and defer responsibility as a leader when your role most demands a purpose.

Then came a sermon at the Victory Life Centre, a Pentecostal Church where former Australian tennis champion Margaret Court presides in occasional, reactionary majesty. In his 50-minute address, Morrison did much to express those regressive tendencies that betrayed him as a visionless plodder whose understanding of politics was always confined to snarls and bruising rather than foresight and understanding.

Australians, he suggested, should forget governments and forsake the United Nations in favour of a vengeful Sky God’s blessings. It was almost refreshing to have such deluded frankness, given that, as prime minister, he was always keen to lecture the Chinese on the “rules based international order” and good government.

“We trust in Him,” Morrison stated, after promising with eschatological creepiness that “God’s kingdom will come”. “We don’t trust in governments. We don’t trust in the United Nations, thank goodness.” With such a sentiment, he would have kept company with any aged theocrat sniffing the glue of imminent apocalypse. “We don’t trust in all of these things,” he went on to say, “fine as they might be and as important as the role that they play. Believe me, I’ve worked in it, and they are important.” So, dear voter and citizen, “if you are putting your faith in those things like I put my faith in the Lord, you are making a mistake.”

A few days later, it was confirmed that this man, full of contrived principle and love for the ultimate deity above, had also tried to convince the Australian Border Force to draft and release a media statement about the interception of a boat filled with asylum seekers. The timing was crucial: election day, May 21.

That same day, the New South Wales Liberal Party took advantage of the occasion to bombard thousands of voters with text messages, encouraging them to “keep our borders secure by voting Liberal today.” Bad habits die hard, and in Morrison’s case, they do not die harder than exploiting refugees and asylum seekers for political gain.

A report subsequently prepared by Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo took the scrubbing to ABF personnel and Australian Defence Force by exonerating them. It would have come as no surprise that a self-investigation of public servants by public servants was bound to be sympathetic. The entities concerned had, apparently, acted with “integrity” in refusing to release the statement – at least when initially asked. Labor’s Home Affairs Minister, Clare O’Neil, suggested that the Coalition government had “sabotaged the protocols that protect Operation Sovereign Borders for political gain.”

To the last, even a beastly creation such as Operation Sovereign Borders, very much Morrison’s grotesque political contribution when Immigration Minister, might well be sacrificed if the needs required it.

As a program of secrecy in intercepting vessels on the high seas laden with asylum seekers, it remains Australia’s military grade approach to coping with humanitarian desperation, one lacking accountability and transparency. The fact that O’Neill, now a Labor government minister, is defending it, is no doubt something Australia’s Pentecostal former prime minister will draw much satisfaction from. The rest will be left to the good Lord of his persuasion.

 

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We have a conundrum: The Greens want to flex a bit of muscle, and Labor wants to exercise its authority

In his interview with David Speers last week, the leader of the Greens in the Australian Parliament, Adam Bandt, came over as a contemptuous young man of little diplomacy.

He would do well to read the now old book by Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People. One would have thought his party had won the election; such was his obnoxious manner.

They indeed increased their position in the House of Representatives and have a healthy presence in the Senate, but they are not the Government.

Whilst not for one moment do I doubt his sincerity for the beliefs he holds; he needs to tone down how he demands his right to them.

In the interview with Speers, he outlined these demands and the conditions under which he would negotiate climate and energy policy.

Speers: “Will the Greens support a 43% target?”

Bandt: “It’s too early to tell yet.”

On the draft legislation:

“It doesn’t compel the Government to do anything.”

“We have seen the Legislation, and there are a number of problems with it, but we are willing to talk about it.”

“The 43% becomes stuck in law, and the parliament would have to come back to change it.”

Referring to new Gas and coal power stations:

“You don’t put the fire out while you’re pouring petrol on it.”

“You can’t even have this discussion if the Government is saying. It’s my way or the highway.”

Speers: “If they can fix the wording or amend the wording to give you some sort of assurance about coal and Gas in the future. Would that be enough?”

Bandt: There are four issues: 1) There can’t be a ceiling, 2) There must be a genuine floor so that we can’t go back to it, 3) Is it just symbolic, and 4) What about Coal and Gas?

“We will put them on the table in a good faith way, but there has to be an end to the “It’s my way or the highway” or else it’s going to be a very long three years.”

This sounds at worst like a man demanding he gets his way, or at best demanding he gets it even when he isn’t in Government. A man with an attitude that grates.

Note: I have taken these quotes from a video of the interview. For complete accuracy, I’d recommend viewing it.

Also critical was David Wu from Sky News:

“Greens leader Adam Bandt hopes he can sit down with the government to improve the wording on the climate legislation – but only once Prime Minister Anthony Albanese drops the ‘take it or leave it’ approach.”

After more than 10 years of debate, Anthony Albanese wins Government for the Labor Party. After being thwarted by the Liberals, the National and the Greens from implementing their policy, it now has the Greens telling it in no uncertain way what it can and cannot do by a disagreeable leader who needs to learn some political manners. You can explain your grievances without demanding their implementation.

By precisely submitting the policy, they took to the election. Labor intends to introduce its legislation when Parliament resumes on 26 July. It will lock in the emissions reduction target of 43 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen met with independents and representatives from the Greens on Thursday, 21 July, to introduce Labor’s draft of the bill.

If Adam Bandt wants to change it, he won’t be doing so in the Lower House and in the Senate. Newly elected ACT former Rugby star David Pocock has indicated he will support the legislation.

Staying too far from what the government desires would invoke memories of 2009 when the Greens voted against a bill that would have promoted action but voted against it because it couldn’t get its way. The Greens wouldn’t want to do it again. Labor has never forgiven them.

Labor legitimately claimed that if the Greens hadn’t voted against its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), Australia’s carbon emissions would have been more than 200 million tonnes lower, and electricity would have cost less.

The Prime Minister has said that:

“If the Greens Party haven’t learned from what they did in 2009 – that was something that led to a decade of inaction and delay and denial – then that will be a matter for them.”

Having said that, Labor doesn’t have to do anything it doesn’t want to. It can proceed with its policy without any legislation.

The Prime Minister promised a new politic. It would be better, however, if it did agree with the Greens where it can. Here is an opportunity to rise above their natural dislike of them and demonstrate it.

But if Labor isn’t willing:

“… to negotiate on even this minor tweak from the Greens, who now seem resigned to accepting the 43 per cent target, what kind of sensible, good faith amendments will it listen to? Surely not the minor party’s demands for a moratorium on new coal and gas projects, an essential part of the Greens platform that doesn’t particularly gel with Labor’s position.

And so we have a conundrum. The Greens want to flex a bit of muscle, and Labor wants to exercise its authority.

Labor should be flexible enough to concede a little to the Greens by finding a way to prove that its 43 per cent target is just a minimum commitment. And the Greens should take whatever they can get in “sensible’ good faith” (their words) or be “crucified” as a spoiler.

Who knows, the Independents might have some viable suggestions.

As reported in The Guardian, they have had briefings with the climate and energy minister, Chris Bowen, late last week and have outlined some things they want to be included in the legislation.

They also want to include what they describe as a “Dutton insurance” policy. A clause that would make it difficult for future governments to ease up on action for climate change.

I have often written that the world won’t act on climate change until something really catastrophic happens. On that, we are edging closer.

My thought for the day

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

(Often repeated since 2013)

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AUKUS, Technology and Militarising Australia

Thinktanks across Australia, tanked with cash from US sources and keen to think in furious agreement, are all showing how delighted they are with the AUKUS security pact and what potential it has for local, if subordinated industry. The United States Studies Centre, a loudspeaker for Washington’s opinions based at the University of Sydney, has added its bit to the militarising fun with a report on what AUKUS will be able to do.

The author of the report, non-resident fellow of the US Centre’s Foreign Policy and Defence program Jennifer Jackett gushes about the “more consequential” nature of various “technological developments in quantum, cyber, artificial intelligence, undersea, hypersonics and electronic warfare” than nuclear-powered submarines. The latter are, after all, slated to appear much later on the horizon. In the meantime, warring potential could be harnessed in other realms.

Jackett stresses the urgency of appreciating these fields, given that Australia faces “a more hostile Indo-Pacific.” No ironic reflection follows that such hostility has been aided, in no small part, by the AUKUS security pact that has put countries in the region, with China being the primary target, on military notice.

In dealing with such threats, the AUKUS partners – the US, UK and Australia – had to “understand areas of comparative advantage, complementarity, and potential gaps or overlaps, between the three industrial bases.”

Reading, at points, like an intelligence comb through of local assets and wealth resources by a future colonising power, the report is revealing about what Vince Scappatura called that “loose networks of elites and institutional relationships” that nourish Australia’s umbilical cord to Freedom Land.

Australia’s population is described in glowing terms, with some nose-turning suggestions for improvement for the happily compliant subjects. “Australia stands out for the quality of its educational institutions and skilled workforce. Australian scientists are renowned for the global impact of their research in fields such as quantum physics and artificial intelligence.” There is, however, a belated admission that Australia’s STEM workforce, with 16 per cent of qualifications in the field, come behind that of the United States, “where around 23 per cent of the total workforce has a university-level or below STEM qualification.”

Then comes a mild rebuke in terms of Australian approaches to venture capital. One can see Jackett shaking her head in disapproval in writing this: “Australia remains an attractive destination for foreign direct investment, but the venture capital industry – the sort of financial entities willing to make riskier investments on unproven technology – remains small, less than half of the OECD average.” (Come on, Aussies, whole frontiers of lethal technology await your dosh.)

This is not a meditation about peace, about miracle responses to climate change, poverty or wretched disease. It has nothing to do with harnessing the technological potential to aid good causes. This is the paid-up chit-chat of imperial militarisation, and how “innovation” aids it.

Similar remarks have been made by Admiral Mike Rogers, former chief of the US National Security Agency, who has given a stirring performance on his visit to Australia in praising his hosts. “I applaud Australia’s willingness to make that sort of commitment [to acquiring nuclear-powered submarines] and to speak about it so frankly,” he told Australia’s premier Murdoch rag, The Australian (paywalled)

What troubles Rogers, as with those at the US Studies Centre and similar groupies, is a concern about what to do before those white elephants of the sea make their ponderous appearance. He cites various other weapons capabilities as “alternatives in the interim.” There are, for instance, options in “autonomous vehicles, robotics, sensors, situational awareness technologies.” AUKUS was, and here, the warning is clear to us all, “much more than submarines.” AUKUS needed to be used “to drive change.”

The disconcerting blindness to local security elites in turning Australia into something even more of a fortress for foreign military operations is palpable. Its corollary is the idea that the United States does not get into the empire business. The mechanism of kitting out Canberra as yet another appendage of US strategic operations and interests was already well underway with such fora as the Australian American Leadership Dialogue, which makes it very clear who the leaders are.

As things stand, the current makeup of the AALD features appropriately qualified vassals for the US mission. There is Tony Smith, former Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives, who is the CEO of the group. On being appointed to the position, he claimed it would “enable me to continue my service to our democracy and our nation in this vitally important, unique, bipartisan, private sector diplomatic endeavour.” Grovelling journalists wondered if Smith got along with his future masters. “Pretty good, I think,” came his response.

The newly appointed Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Glyn Davis, also appears as a prominent member on the advisory board, linking one of the most important civil service roles in Canberra to the US administration. The grouping is secretive and observes non-disclosure rules that would make any official in Beijing proud.

From the Australian Strategic Policy Institute to the US Studies Centre, we are meant to celebrate the prospect of Australia as a military annexe to US power in the Asia-Pacific, its sovereignty status subsumed under the ghastly guff of freedom lovers supposedly facing oriental barbarians. The analysis is then crowned by the praise of former US defence and security officials who ingratiatingly speak of Australian potential as they would mineral deposits. The lie, packaged and ribboned, is duly sold for public consumption. Australian sovereign capability becomes the supreme fiction, while its subservience is hidden, only to be exposed by heretics.

 

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Australia’s Orban Sycophants

Australians welcoming the defeat of our nascent religious right in the May election need to pay attention to the echoes of the American right-wing strategies looming ahead of their 2024 election, and the faction in Australia that shares those goals.

The religious right has looked to Putin for leadership for years now. More quietly, the ideas and strategies of Hungary’s Viktor Orban have pervaded the sphere.

In America, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson has been an outlier speculated as a post-Trump Republican candidate. Florida’s Ron DeSantis looks much more likely to win the nomination at this stage. Both men have worked to promote Hungary’s Viktor Orban’s ideas in America.

Rod Dreher, ultra-conservative American intellectual, persuaded Carlson to broadcast for a week from Budapest in 2021, celebrating Orban’s achievements and his proudly illiberal democracy to the Fox base. This year Carlson released a documentary promoting Orban’s strategies as the ideal Republican model. These apparently led into the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), America’s key radical “conservative” event, being hosted in Budapest in May 2022, where Orban told the crowd that the right must have its own media and that it should broadcast the Murdochs’ favoured performer, Carlson, to the nation 24/7.

Orban continued that his latest election had “completely healed” Hungary of its “progressive dominance” and that the authoritarian right factions of the world should unite and coordinate to “take back” all the key institutions of the West.

It has just been announced that Orban is to return to speak to the CPAC audience again in Dallas in August.

DeSantis does not so much promote Orban as create what has been described as “American Orbanism.” His people admit, behind the scenes to following and echoing Orban’s strategies. Florida’s “Don’t say gay” bill which depicted any mention of anything to do with LGBTQI identity in schools as “grooming” echoed Orban’s 2021 bill focused on the same issue. DeSantis’s press secretary told Dreher that, “Oh yeah, we were watching the Hungarians, so yay Hungary.”

Orban targets minorities as a supposed threat to Hungarians and then devises laws that push Hungary further into authoritarianism to address the non-existent threat. LGBTQI people are the latest target after bigoted attacks on refugees, Romani, and non-Christians. Florida punishing Disney for its tepid pushback against anti-LGBTQI legislation echoes Orban’s strategies for punishing opponents. The primary institutional enemies are educational, media and social media. Control of the message is central.

The key appeal of Orban’s ideology, as well as Putin’s, is that they posit a white Christian – Western – Civilisation as the world’s great treasure and one that is under attack. Progressive “elites” or globalists – usually embodied in Jewish figures like the loathed George Soros – are depicted as executing a “Great Replacement” of the white embodiments of the west with black and brown non-Christians. The key appeal of his strategy is that he rejects liberalism in the existential battle to preserve the mythologised heritage.

This alliance of culture warriors is apparent in the Australian right. Morrison’s defeated government contained both the traditionalist defenders of a beleaguered Western Civilisation that Tony Abbott drew to prominence, alongside the American-style Evangelicals who are more theocratic in goal, aiming to impose national purity through government action.

Tony Abbott’s international advisor from 2010 to 2014 was Mark Higgie. His years as Australian ambassador to Hungary from 1998-2001 (before becoming our “senior spy” in London) seem to have made Orban’s career a focus for the ideologue. He echoes the same “Hungarians are free” line as Rod Dreher, but the latter when asked about the dark underbelly of living in an illiberal democracy tends to reply, I dont know much, to be honest. Like Dreher, in 2019 Higgie moved to Budapest. He writes for The Australian Spectator.

The main intellectual conduit of Orban’s ideas to the West is the Danube Institute. Brian Loughnane, Peta Credlin’s husband and former Liberal Party federal director is on its international advisory board. Tony Abbott appeared with Higgie there before the pandemic conversing about immigrants “swarming” over the borders. Alexander Downer spoke in Budapest about immigrant Bantustans. Kevin Andrews spoke about reversing declining birth rates in the west at the Budapest Demographic Summit, a “biennial gathering of ultra-conservative and highly influential decision-makers, politicians and individuals actively working to curb the rights of sexual minorities and women.”

John O’Sullivan is the president of the Orban-funded Danube Institute. He has edited Quadrant and serves as its international editor with Keith Windshuttle. O’Sullivan too has written about how the left exaggerates the discomforts of living in an illiberal democracy.

One early event that aimed to foster Danube Institute immigration phobia for a broader Australian audience was a Conversazione in Melbourne in 2016. In fact, it fostered Great Replacement fears in a local audience of the rich and powerful albeit without using the term. Orchestrated by a Quadrant writing LaTrobe academic, with O’Sullivan as a speaker and featuring a Windshuttle essay on Quadrant in the program, it highlighted the connection between that publication and the Orban-booster spirit.

Loughnane also spoke at the event, although Credlin was not present. One of the nations leading News Corp journalists appeared, presenting a speech that expressed lurid objection to Muslim immigration. (That journalist has been a guest of the Orban-funded Mathias Corvinus Collegium in Hungary, which hosted another migration talkfest in 2019.)

Fresh from the January Islamic Radicalism and the Westconference held at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Brits Daniel Pryce-Jones and Daniel Johnson also spoke at the Melbourne Club that day alongside Geza Jeszensky, former Hungarian foreign minister and noted eugenicist.

Tucker Carlson is now watched by Murdoch’s Australian print editors as a guide to the beliefs of Rupert and Lachlan. Carlson’s show is pervaded with incitement to violence over the existential attacks on white Christian civilisation by the elites and their immigrant hordes; over the threat to (white) American children posed by progressive groomers particularly their teachers; over the existential threat posed by any liberal who embraces diversity and acceptance.

Dutton and News Corp’s new focus of a war on teachers in Australia has been picked up by the IPA in its “Class Action” program to stop teachers “dominating our children’s schools” with “woke ideology.” There they aim to gather “concerned parents and teachers” in a reproduction of American Christopher Rufo’s cynical moral panic about Critical Race Theory. In America, teachers are leaving the profession, exhausted partly by poor funding and the pandemic, but also by being barraged with conspiracy-fuelled hate by parents and outside groups attending school board meetings in threatening mode.

We saw Morrison fighting hard for his religious discrimination bill while neglecting crucial work, aiming to provide a tool of backlash for marriage equality. The trans sports issue was deployed in the election as an echo of the bitter American attacks on trans youth and LGBTQI people in general. The religious right here has begun to echo the fight against reproductive rights.

After the recent release of census data noted the decline in Christianity, Peta Credlin wrote in The Australian (paywalled) in full Orban mode warning of “the centrality of Christian inspiration to Western civilization.” She defined an Indigenous Voice to parliament as “anathema to the fundamentals of Christian faith” and obliquely blamed Chinese and Indian immigration for the crisis.

The combined forces of the radical right – whether Christian Nationalist in intent, or in bigoted fear of a Great Replacement, or cynically deploying culture wars – all have the capacity to distort our civic debates as they are doing at all levels of government in America. The outcome in America is catastrophic.

It is critical for Australians to watch the international right forces filtered through to our democratic project, directly from the opponents of democracy, or filtered through the American role models so central to our “conservatives.” They are not defeated here, but regrouping.

This was first published in Pearls and Irritations.

 

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A new beginning for the Left and good riddance to the Right

1 The right of politics has, for some time now, imposed its thuggish propaganda and intimidatory behaviour on democracies worldwide. As far back as Reagan and Thatcher, the right has had its way. Other than a few exceptions, they have chalked up many more years in power than governments of the left. In Australia the extreme right-wing has primarily been in power. Since 1910, non-Labor governments have governed for two-thirds of the time and Labor for one-third.

In their governance, the right has attracted a proliferation of odd xenophobic people who have sought to plaster their thoughts on every parliament wall, from religious extremism to coal is good.

The true Liberalism of Menzies is now dead and buried and has been replaced by a brand of Conservatism unique to American politics. The Liberal party exists in name only.

In an article for The Conversation, Frank Bongiorno points out that:

“Labor’s two-party-preferred vote in 2022 is only slightly behind Gough Whitlam’s in 1972… an argument can be made that the 2022 election discloses an electoral shift to the left. It is perhaps the most significant since the combined momentum of the elections of 1969 and 1972 that brought the Whitlam government to office.

Changes of government in federal politics don’t happen often. There have been eight since the second world war, and three of those were in a turbulent decade between late 1972 and early 1983.”

Australian voters are a laconic bunch who have wrongly interpreted the quote “she’ll be right.”

It was never meant to have a lazy terse meaning but an optimistic one. So, we have, for the most part, clung tightly to antagonistic non-Labor governments.

Because Australian voters regularly return governments, tending not to discard the incumbent, we can reasonably assume that the last election signals a broader shift in voter attitudes and leanings.

This Government I speak of was a false democracy. It looked harmless to the voting population, but as time progressed, all the interaction with everyday people, the pretending to be a hairdresser or whatever, was only a perception of Morrison’s creation. In the beginning, people were fooled by his acting, but when you see it every day for years, you eventually must wake up from your vacation.

It was peculiar to all governments that the conservatives held power over, from Howard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

Although Albanese started his leadership in times unsuited to massive change, it may be that he was chosen for just that reason. Therefore, we can reasonably be assured that an Albanese Government will receive two terms of Government if they fulfil their commitments. All going well, perhaps another three.

The start of his tenure demonstrates that he comfortably fills the shoes of the office. He looks the part, listens with dignity, and speaks with understanding.

No one would dare suggest that Albo has the charisma of John Curtin, Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke or Kevin Rudd. Still, he does display sincerity, warmth, integrity and authenticity.

In comparison, the newly elected Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, decided to go on holiday not long after being elected. I would have thought he would immediately start mending the many things that needed fixing, but he has continued as though nothing happened.

On Albanese’s travel, the Opposition has proven that they have taken nothing from their loss. The cynicism coming from it about Albanese being out of the country is nothing more than what the Prime Minister himself described as nothing more than “beyond contempt.”

We seem to learn more about governments and their leadership when they have died (much the same as ordinary people) than when they are in Government.

Climate change, anti-corruption, gender equality and competent Government – are now the domain of the progressive left and hopefully will remain so for some time.

Whom should the Coalition blame? Well, Howard and Abbott are front and centre. Scott Morrison, his lying, and the Coalition support for fossil fuels and, of course, the rogue irrational MPs for their climate denial.

The Murdoch media defended their stupidity but couldn’t recognise its own. And let’s not forget their attitude toward women and the party infighting. And, of course, their questionable values and governance.

And yet they still seem to be at peace with their party’s relationship with the fossil fuel industry.

But the Coalition stars will always be John Howard, who took the party to the right. Tony Abbott may have been a better liar than Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull, who traded the leadership for well-worn beliefs and Barnaby Joyce, who proved himself to be the Leader of the many nut cases that formed the National Party.

Morrison believed that success, for whatever reason, depended on being seen doing everyone’s job but their own. Albanese is allowing his ministers to do their jobs.

How many guises did you see Scott Morrison in, ambo, hairdresser, test pilot or poultry boner and many more?

He put on hard hats, high-vis vests and gauze caps and propelled himself into the lives of the average working citizens who have been identified as politically advantageous. All these images were implanted in us, on TV, in hotels and in gymnasiums.

Do you know why? Well I don’t, either. I guess that about sums it up. Now let’s move on.

2 Together with the Prime Minister’s promise of a new politic comes a commitment to implement an influential Integrity Commission. The Greens and the independents will reject loose ends that allow for an escape route for corrupt politicians.

Furthermore, if this promise is to have some bite, it must also have adequate freedom of information process.

The independent auditor-general must be “independent” with a reasonable budget. The same goes for the Ombudsman.

The Government must create an impartial, professional and effective public service resembling that of yesteryear.

3 Something we can all agree on:

“Former Attorney-General Gareth Evans has called for Witness K’s conviction to be reversed following the decision to abandon the prosecution of the whistle-blower’s lawyer Bernard Collaery.

And Evans states that:

“Decency would also demand that the Witness K conviction be effectively reversed, but that’s probably a bridge too far.”

4 The Monthly reported that:

“The gap between male and female Coalition voters: only 28 per cent of women now say they would vote for the Coalition, compared to 38 per cent of male voters. The gap has widened since the federal election, with women continuing to drift from the Coalition under Peter Dutton.”

Who could blame them?

5 They are not mucking about, this Albanese Government. They have announced details on:

“… its promised jobs summit, to be held in Parliament House in early September. Treasurer Jim Chalmers says workplace reforms agreed to as part of the summit may be introduced as early as this year.”

6 In yet another example of Labor’s intention to make change a priority:

“Politicians will have to declare political donations over $1000 in real-time as part of a sweeping package of integrity measures.”

7 Special Minister of State Don Farrell wants to introduce the changes by mid-2023. “Truth in political advertising” laws will also accompany this legislation.

8 Another change will “potentially double the number of senators allocated to the Northern Territory and the ACT, from two to four.” The joint standing committee will examine the proposals on electoral matters.

My thought for the day

Change sometimes disregards opinion and becomes a phenomenon of its own making.

 

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Improving Productivity OR “Thanks And Would You Like A Survey With That?”

Perhaps I’ve just become a grumpy old man but I’m starting to become really annoyed by follow-up surveys every time I do something. Maybe with the removal of Morrison and Frydenberg, I have less to be annoyed about so I’m finding surveys more irritating or maybe it’s just the fact that – rather than a simple tick, awesome service, five stars – so many of them ask me if could spare five minutes of my time…

Five minutes of my time, eh? Look, even if I were on the minimum wage that’s about $2 worth. I don’t want to spend five whole minutes talking about a transaction that didn’t last that long as the experience they’re asking about. While that may be reminiscent of my early sexual experiences, but it gives me no sense of nostalgia.

Of course, the probability that nobody actually reads the surveys and that it’s simple a way of crunching numbers to beat the employees over the head with, doesn’t improve my mood. Is the girl who was so helpful going to lose her job because I only gave her a nine for knowledge of the product? Or is the fact that I didn’t do the survey going to result in the guy who carried the heavy box all the way to car going to lead his pay being docked?

I think that I particularly resent the box that some surveys have where you’re asked the reason you gave that score. It may be because I’m a teacher and that means I AM obliged to have reasons for why I gave Justin an “Excellent” but only gave Eugene “Barely Acceptable”. It’s simple, Eugene, Justin got an Excellent because he wrote in complete sentences on the topic and he managed more than two hundred words and didn’t feel the need to draw a penis on his essay!

So when I’ve given a score on a survey without too much thought, I don’t like the idea that I have to find some reason and because I resent having to think of one after explaining to Eugene that just writing words, even complicated words like ‘juxtapose”, isn’t enough if they aren’t on the topic, so I’ve resorted to writing things such as:

  • “I gave this score because the person who served me reminded me of a nurse who once saved my life.”
  • “This score was the result of balancing the time I spent waiting against the fact that this store is clearly understaffed as a result of the greedy capitalists who are going to be the first lined up and shot when the revolution comes. I tried to interest the girl in attending a meeting of the revolutionaries but she’d been brainwashed by her parents.”
  • “I have no idea why I gave this score but I couldn’t move on to the next page until I did and I find that I have a compulsive need to finish things otherwise I would have stopped doing this ridiculous survey ages ago.”
  • “I gave this score because the shop assistant has my address and he looked like he was a vindictive sort of person, so I didn’t want to cross him by not giving him a ten.”
  • “Do you get paid to create these surveys and, if so, are you paid by the number of questions you create? That would seem to be the only explanation for the pointlessness of this whole exercise.”
  • “Help I’m being held captive by a group that forces people to do surveys in order to inflate the numbers. Please call A Current Affair and get them to investigate. I think Harvey Norman is behind it. They’re coming. I may not finish this survey but if I don’t it’s bec…”
  • “I’m appalled and unless someone contacts me, I’ll never buy your products again!”

Yes, it’s true I could just not do the survey, but then some places just keep sending you reminders saying that you’ve forgotten to do the survey and there doesn’t seem a way I can reply and say that the tennis balls I bought were just fine and that I didn’t have any problem and it doesn’t seem worth me filling out fifteen pages of my experience in order for you to improve because I doubt that anybody reads things based on my lack of a response no matter what I write, do or say!

My biggest fear is that the surveys won’t be enough and some corporate genius will get the idea of doing something like this:

Thank you for completing a survey on your recent purchase at Acme INC. In order to improve your survey experience, we’d like to ask you a few simple questions.

  1. Was the survey everything you hoped it would be?
  2. Did it ask the right questions?
  3. Were the spelling, grammar and other language conventions all correct?
  4. On a scale of one to eleven how would you rate the length of the survey?
  5. In no more than nine hundred words explain the reason for that score.
  6. Have you nothing better to do with your life and is that why you shop non-stop?
  7. Did you find the font easy to read?
  8. Would you be interested in doing followup surveys?
  9. Could you give a reason for your previous answer?
  10. If you said no to the previous question, would it help if we rephrased it?
  11. May we contact you about your lack of cooperation?
  12. Do you have as much trouble justifying your existence or is it just us?

Perhaps, I should be careful. I might give them ideas.

 

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Privatise the profits

By 2353NM

Despite concerns, there were no electricity shortages – load shedding – on Australia’s east coast during May or June. The outcome was managed by Australia’s Australian Electricity Market Operator (AEMO), the body responsible for maintaining the apparent delicate balance between supply and demand in a network that doesn’t have enough off-line storage to keep any surplus electricity produced until needed. AEMO effectively threw the electricity generation rule book out the window and along with the Government, demanded that various companies that own generation plant to run, averting the potential crisis, however they were paid extra to do so.

Even though a number of the so called ‘reliable’ coal powered generators were out of service due to breakdowns, other generation units were apparently taken off line because it was uneconomic to operate according to the rules. The price of the coal and gas used to generate power across most of Australia has increased due to international factors including the lack of fossil fuel supply to western Europe from Russia. While anger was directed at the companies that operate the power generators, predominately in New South Wales and Victoria, the real reason for the apparent attitude of profit at all costs goes way further back in history.

From the 1970s until fairly recently, in the name of ‘competition’, Australian Governments at state and federal level sold off a lot of their ‘essential services’ business endeavours. The list is extensive and includes Telstra, Qantas, Medibank, some power generators and a number of other household names including the Commonwealth Bank. Other government businesses including public transport operations and ports were leased to corporate entities for various periods of time. The governments did receive a ‘return’ from the sales or leases which was spent on all sorts of things in the eternal mirage of aiming for the ‘balanced budget’.

The claims at the time suggested that governments in general were inefficient business proprietors and there would be a suitable return to the taxpayer and members of the public if household names like Qantas, Telstra, railways, the power generators and power retailers were freed from their yoke of government interference, regulation and overly complicated decision making.

The reality has been quite different. We now have power generators who could be accused of gaming the system to maximise their income, large trucks owned by private concerns chewing up publicly funded roads (while formerly state owned rail lines that could easily carry the loads fall into disrepair because the cost of running a train includes full maintenance to the infrastructure – unlike a road) and our ‘National airline’ cutting domestic flights due to fuel costs and self-inflicted staff shortages.

As one of the ‘big 4’ banks, the formerly government-owned Commonwealth Bank has acted in a similar way to most competitors by closing branches, reducing services to the public and charging (at times) unreasonable fees or selling useless products through its banking and insurance arms. In fact, the Commonwealth Bank usually ‘wins’ the competition for the most complained about bank in recent years, although it’s questionable if the win should be celebrated.

The Saturday Paper recently suggested it is a wonder that Qantas ever gets a plane off the ground. In the hunt for profit maximisation apparently most ‘below the wing’ services such as luggage handling have been outsourced and the service providers’ pay those who put the luggage on a plane around $22 an hour. At a recent senate hearing

Labor’s Tony Sheldon asked Qantas general counsel Andrew Finch if the corporation requires that contractors engaged by the airline pay their employees a living wage.
Finch was deadpan in his response: “What’s a living wage?”

If you or your contractors pay peanuts, you engender a culture where some will only do what is necessary as there is no incentive to build a career. Most contractor employees will quickly work out that the service contractor and the owner of the business are only interested in cost minimisation. If someone comes along at the contract renewal period that is cheaper – the business owner will choose the cheaper supplier. In this case, the cost cutting has apparently resulted in Qantas flying plane loads of baggage around the country without passengers to try and reunite them and their possessions.

To be fair, Qantas’ General Counsel who doesn’t know what a living wage is and the Commonwealth Bank management that were charging unreasonable fees or selling junk insurance aren’t solely to blame – the political system that attempts to privatise the profits and socialise the losses has a part to play. And as the privatised power generators and gas producers have recently shown us, they have the right, as well as a legal obligation, to maximise the profits they earn for their shareholders. They are good at their job.

While profit in itself is not a bad concept, you have to ask the question if it is right and proper to withhold supply to maximise profit on a product necessary for our society. If things are as bad at Qantas as The Saturday Paper suggests, and recent reports of stranding a plane load of passengers in Dallas Fort Worth Airport for an entire day suggests they might be, the publicity will encourage people to try another airline. At the end of the day it’s Qantas’ loss, not ours as other airlines will happily take your money and fly you from Dallas to Australia. But there has to be a social contract with the owners of privatised government assets that are essential such as power, water, communications and freight transport to provide the service regardless of the immediate cost.

Past governments owned and managed banks, telecommunications. power and transport providers to provide a social good to the community. While, according to the detractors, management by government department may not be as efficient as private equity, at least government services understand and respect the need to provide a service rather than always being profitable.

Private ownership of essential services has been proven to be worse than public ownership, as the owners’ real customers are their shareholders – not our society. The costs for the ultimate customer haven’t gone down, the service hasn’t improved and the management of the private companies are required by law to maximise the shareholder’s profit. And as we’ve recently seen with power generators, we subsidise the private owners of essential assets if economic conditions change! If we privatise the profits, why do we accept socialisation of the losses?

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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

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If you want an example of the Australian media’s ingrained toxicity…

If you want an example of the Australian media’s ingrained toxicity, the reporting of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s decision on Saturday to reinstate COVID payments to casual workers is a splendid one.

Mr Albanese had earlier and wrongly decided that the payments, mandated to end on June 30 by the previous LNP government, should not be renewed. This unwise decision, taken in the midst of surging infection around the country, provoked alarm from many quarters including some media. It was accompanied by startlingly ill-informed comments from the Prime Minister, suggesting that “good employers” ensure that their casual employees can work from home when unwell. A great deal of casual employment cannot be undertaken “from home,” a fact one hopes would not escape a Labor Prime Minister’s notice.

However, after taking the criticism on board Mr Albanese announced that the payments would be extended until September and backdated, so no one would suffer from his earlier error in judgement.

Media, including the Canberra Times ($), the Sydney Morning Herald the Australian, Sky News, the Guardian and 6 News Australia are among those who chose to report these events as a “backflip” by the Prime Minister. “Backflip” is a derogatory term only ever used by media to imply weakness and inconsistency. The use of that one word signified the negative nature of their narrative. Albanese had not “reconsidered after listening to critics.” Albanese had “caved under pressure.”

“Backflip” in this context is a failed metaphor. All backflips result in the performer facing the direction from which they began the action so are not a change at all, but rather an elaborate means of returning to the same point of view. Nonetheless, the word has become a fundamental component of the lexicon of political commentary. This in itself could be considered a metaphor for the state of the industry.

The message conveyed to politicians is toxic: You must change this decision but if you do we will attack you for your weakness and inconsistency.

If you continue to attack someone for making a change for the better you’re likely more invested in attack than you are in change. Regrettably, our media frequently create the impression that they are far more dedicated to furthering the former than the latter. So wedded are they to negativity they are unable or unwilling to acknowledge that a government capable of reversing its bad decisions is a democratic rather than an autocratic body, and the kind of government we so desperately need at this time.

The “backflip” narrative is an elaboration of the press conference “gotcha” moment so beloved by many Australian journalists. It’s nothing to do with speaking truth to power or responsibly informing the public, rather when it works it’s a “look at me” reporter’s power trip, an opportunity to momentarily grab the spotlight if a politician can be made to look foolish, inept, or ignorant.

The moment a journalist employs the term “backflip” they have fallen into editorialising. They have made a choice, perhaps unconsciously given the prevalent misuse of the term, to contaminate their reportage with biased language rather than simply reporting the facts. It is a fact that the former Morrison government mandated the termination of COVID payments on June 30th. It is a fact that Mr Albanese initially intended to uphold that termination. It is a fact that he reconsidered this decision and extended and backdated the payment. A choice is made by journalists as to how to present these facts to the public: as reconsideration, or backflip. There is a glaring difference in the impressions created by these two words.

While we have managed to elect a new government, we are still stuck with the same old media who cannot or will not imagine a non-toxic politics. This will likely not be the last time the Albanese government may have to change its position. Any government must be granted the space in which to reverse bad decisions without enduring toxic criticism from toxic media who are more interested in furthering discord than they are in facilitating positive change.

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Biden’s Response to Roe: An Analysis

As many are no doubt aware, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the 1973 decision Roe v Wade. Given how big of an issue this is for Democrats (they have run on it for decades), one would think they would have a response ready. Sadly no. The response, if one may call it that, has been anemic, to say the least. Extra damning is the fact that a draft of the opinion was leaked to the public. They knew this was coming and have done precisely nothing in response. Today I want to take a look at a recent Executive Order from President Joe Biden issued in response to the Dobbs ruling overturning Roe. I also want to use this to look at Mr Biden’s political philosophy more generally.

They’re Called The Classics for a Reason: Joe as Gaslighter in Chief

As part of his reading of the Executive Order, the President dragged out this classic from the hymn book

We need two more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice House to codify Roe as federal law. Your vote can make that a reality

The President would do well to remember that he currently has 51 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House. This gives the Democrats complete control of the Legislative and Executive Branches. The suggestion seems to be that not enough of the Democratic Senators are pro-choice. So the voters have to vote not just for Democrats, but for the right type of Democrats. The situation is never quite good enough to justify action, is it, Joe? There’s always a problem, for which the voters can be blamed, that gets in the way? Democrats have had super-majorities in the past and still not codified Roe.

Now you might be wondering: if this is such an issue for Democrats, why have they not codified Roe? The answer is in the question: the issue of abortion is just about the last issue the Democrats have left. If they actually solve the issue, then it is resolved. They can no longer run on the issue if it is dead. The big bad Republicans coming for your abortion rights (which was true – they were) was designed to get the Democratic base out to vote. The Democrats running on codifying Roe was only useful as long as it was not done. You codify into federal law the protections contained in Roe and the goose that laid the golden egg is depleted. This is why the Democrats, despite many opportunities, did not codify Roe. For this, eternal and unmitigated shame on them.

The Meat: What the Executive Order Does

Krystal Ball of Breaking Points provides a useful summary of what the Executive Order says

[The Order] largely finalises what has already been announced by the Administration. [This includes] instructions to the Justice Department to ensure women can travel out of state for abortion care. [The Order] addresses the elevated risk for patients, providers and clinics, which includes efforts to protect mobile clinics that have been deployed to state borders [for purposes of allowing women to go interstate for termination care]

It goes on, but you get the basic idea. Noteworthy here is that these actions are largely in response not to the Dobbs decision, but to state action taken in response. Many states had what were called trigger laws in place. These were laws that, once Roe was overturned, would move to severely restrict (or outright ban) abortion. The President is responding more to those actions than to the Court’s ruling. He side-stepped actually codifying Roe by blaming the voters for not giving him the political tools to do so. Cute, Mr President, but I for one see through it. You have options, but you are not willing to take any political risks to use them. Allow me to explain.

The President’s Options, Part One: The Senate

The Democrats have a majority in the Senate. They also control the House. This means they should be able to get their agenda through. The House is what we may call a tyranny of the majority. Basically, if you are in the majority, whatever you say goes: the minority has no power. This is not the case in the Senate. There is a piece of…parliamentary procedure in the Senate called the Filibuster. This is where the minority can require a sixty-vote super-majority to pass a bill.

Previously, this used to be the so-called ‘talky filibuster’. This required standing and talking for as long as possible without a break. This is no longer the case. Now all that is required is for a Senator to say ‘I filibuster’. No talking is needed and sixty votes are now required. To pass any legislation, you either require a super-majority or members from the other side to vote with the majority. How often does that happen these days?

What is left out of the discussion around the Senate is that so many of its rules are convention. All that would be required to carve out an exception to the filibuster is a majority vote. But the Democrats are reluctant to do this because they want to maintain the power of the minority for when they inevitably are back there. But this too is crap: an exception does not do away with the filibuster entirely.

Finally, for those who cite Manchin’s conservatism as an obstacle, there is a solution here too. Manchin’s daughter is a criminal. There are emails of her conspiring to price gouge epi-pen users. Threaten him with the AG or the DOJ going after her unless he changes his vote. This is called playing hardball politics.

The President’s Options, Part Two: Divide and Conquer the Opposition

Even if the Democrats could not get a full codification passed, you can still propose individual bills codifying parts of Roe. Examples here include well-known exceptions to abortion bans such as rape and incest. If the Republicans wish to vote against or filibuster these, let them do so at their own political peril. Democrats hold the majority position here. I believe I saw a poll that said abortion not being legal under any circumstances is supported by roughly 15% of the population. The Democrats then paint themselves as on the side of the people and the Republicans as the extremists that they are.

Now, of course, there are ‘pro-life’ members of the Democratic caucus, and this may explain why they do not take this path. The very exposure of the extreme Republicans I mentioned above would also expose any extreme Democrats. Evidently, the Democrats are unwilling to expose extremists in their own ranks: they value power more. So to hell with addressing this issue they have run on since Roe was decided in 1973. Power, with which Democrats do precisely nothing, is more valuable.

The President’s Options, Part Three: Abortion Clinics on Federal Land

Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez proposed building abortion clinics on federal land inside states where the procedure is severely restricted or banned. The central idea seems to be that state governments have no power on federal land, and so clinics could be built there if the federal government desired. Any state law restricting termination procedures would be null and void on federal land. It is noteworthy too that the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion, also does not provide a problem here. Since it would be the provider paying the government to lease the land, no federal money would go towards termination procedures. It is a clever workaround.

The President’s Options, Part Four: Court Reform

The final option that the President has that was notably absent from the statement, the Order itself, or general discussion, is Court packing. Since three seats were arguably stolen from the Democrats (Gorsuch, Coney-Barret and Kavanaugh), many have floated the idea of expanding the Court. This idea, if the Administration were ever considering it at all, has been, if you will pardon the expression, aborted. The Supreme Court has gone full rogue authoritarian and the Executive and Legislative Branches, nominally meant to be a check on the Court, are doing nothing.

Former President FDR similarly faced a rogue Court. All he had to do was threaten to reform/pack the Court and they saw the error of their ways. Joe Biden does not have the conviction to do that. He is, at his core, an institutionalist and a conservative. Rocking the boat is not in his nature, even if it is taken over by pirates.

Conclusion: Institutionalism as Death Knell

I hinted above at Mr Biden being an institutionalist. I should define what this means. It refers to someone who defers to established norms and conventions, seemingly for their own sake. The actual usefulness of the institution in practical terms is irrelevant. In Mr Biden’s mind, the Court ruled this way and so the best he can do is tweaks around the edges. This exposes the fundamental conservatism of Mr Biden’s approach to politics. He is unwilling to do anything that would be considered ‘uncivil’ or ‘lacking decorum, Good Sir’.

Mr President, asking people to depart in an orderly fashion and wait their turn while the theatre is on fire helps no-one. Institutions, like anything else, are ripe for reform if they no longer serve the interests of the people. The Republic is crumbling around you, Sir. Your unwillingness to do anything may be concisely summed up as an argumentum ad morem fallacy. This is the argument from tradition. In other words, something is correct not because of the substance of the argument, but because it comes from tradition. Basically, traditional equals correct. If this is your guiding principle, Sir, America should be very different than it is now. Slavery should still exist, along with prohibition and the infamous ‘three-fifths clause’. This is not an effective argument, Mr President.

Like any body-politic that hopes to survive, America must be adaptive. She cannot afford to become calcified. At this point, the incumbent President is not the man for the moment, and should be primaried.

 

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Hang on, help is on its way

If you are a 1970s music fan like me, you would remember these famous words from the chorus of the Little River Band (LRB) song.

Goodness knows how many times I have heard the above-mentioned LRB song, but with all the commentary taking place in the mainstream and social media outlets today about extending Covid payments to people who don’t have sick leave, and also about PM Albanese’s work travel, the chorus to the LRB song is ringing in my ears at 10.21pm tonight as I commence drafting my post.

Let me if I may dispose of this ridiculous sniping about Mr. Albanese’s travel, which save for France and Indonesia probably would have been the former PM Morrison’s travel schedule as well had he won the election.

The Quad Meeting had been scheduled to be held in Japan for the week immediately after the day of the election long before election day. Mr. Albanese’s next trip to Indonesia was essential for two reasons. Not only was the trip to conduct the usual diplomacy of a new Australian PM visiting our important northern neighbour, but also it was required to smooth over relations with Indonesia which the Morrison government had strained with them because of their failure to consult with them over the AUKUS pact.

Indeed, it was also because of the shambles Mr. Morrison had personally caused in the breakdown of relations with France (by the way, France are our most important Northern Hemisphere ally when it comes to the Pacific as it holds three territories in the South Pacific which are New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, and French Polynesia and those countries account for about one third of the Pacific Islands’ combined exclusive economic zone) that Mr. Albanese had to travel to that country after the NATO meeting (the first invitation ever extended to an Australian PM) to smooth over the relationship with President Macron before his secret trip into Ukraine.

The improvement of relations with France has further assisted Australia by regenerating the free trade deal with the European Union which had “essentially stalled” amid the tensions with France and international criticism of Australia’s climate change stance. Finally, the Pacific Nations forum had to be attended at by our PM, particularly in circumstances whereby China is expanding its influence in the region. By attending the Pacific Nations meeting Mr. Albanese was able to secure the Solomon Island’s agreement they would not allow China to establish a military base there, and that Australia remained their country of choice for security matters.

The urgent resetting of these afore-mentioned international relations were essential domestic issues for this country, as these relationships affect our trade and security. Even relations with China have thawed to a degree, and all this foreign affairs urgent work has been performed within seven weeks of the new Albanese government being sworn in. So when a half-smart journalist like Samantha Maiden makes some side of mouth comment about the PM wearing his floral shirt this week, send a note back to Sam on social media to say that it was for work and not for a secret holiday in Hawaii (and by the way, you can quote me if you like).

Now I move onto the more complex issue of extending Covid leave pay entitlements for people without sick leave. This problem is not easily resolved by signing a cheque, as our economic position is far worse than what we were told before the 2022 Federal Election was called.

First of all, the budget was not in the state the former treasurer Mr. Frydenberg had told us it was in on the night of the budget. Not long after the Federal Election, indeed on 25 May 2022 the treasurer Dr. Chalmers met with Treasury officials. What Dr. Chalmers discovered is the Albanese government has inherited a “dire” budget situation with a deficit that could blow out further due to soaring inflation, and Dr. Chalmers accused the Coalition of not disclosing pressures on the budget, revealed in Treasury briefings since Labor’s election win on Saturday, 21 May 2022. Dr. Chalmers told reporters on 25 May 2022 that:

“The defining challenges in our economy are skyrocketing inflation, rising interest rates, a fall in real wages and not having anywhere near enough to show for a budget which is absolutely heaving with a trillion dollars in Liberal party debt.”

The next issue about the large national debt the Morrison government has left behind raises the economic issue of concern of crowding. In 2018 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) working paper outlined the critical factors determining a country’s maximum sustainable debt level is the difference between its future nominal interest rate and its growth in economic activity. When the growth in cost of servicing debt (i.e. the interest) is higher than the rate of economic growth, then the debt will not be sustainable, as the economy is not growing faster than the debt servicing costs.

The RBA in May 2021 said about its 2021-22 and 2022-23 forecasts economic growth would be 4% in 2021-22 and 3% in the 2022-23. The RBA forecast in 2021 was that inflation would remain subdued in the medium term (Source: Australian Parliament House (APH) paper ‘Commonwealth debt’, written by Rob Dossor). I can hear the bells ringing on the famous gameshow as I type away here, “Knoll Knoll”. Forecasts by the RBA in May 2021 about economic growth in 2021-22 (4%) and 2022-23 (3%) were also wrong. In it’s February 2022 economic update the RBA stated:

“GDP is forecast to have grown by 5 per cent over 2021, and to grow by around 4¼ per cent over 2022 and 2 per cent over 2023. The unemployment rate is forecast to decline gradually over the forecast period, to 3¾ per cent by the end of 2023 (Table 5.1). Inflation picked up in the second half of 2021, by more than expected at the time of the November Statement (you’re not kidding), and the outlook for inflation has been revised higher. Consumer price inflation in the December quarter was 1.3 per cent and 3½ per cent over the year, led by increases in the prices of new dwellings, durable goods and fuel. Underlying inflation has also picked up in recent quarters and is forecast to increase further to 3¼ per cent in mid-2022, largely reflecting upstream cost pressures amid strong demand in housing construction and the durables goods sector. Further out, the drivers of inflation are anticipated to shift, with a steady pick-up in labour costs in response to strong labour market conditions forecast to sustain inflation in the top half of the 2 to 3 per cent target range.”

In its May 2002 economic update the RBA made the following statement about economic growth and inflation:

“A strong expansion in the Australian economy is underway. This is expected to continue over the forecast period, despite the slowdown in global growth. The domestic outlook is supported by the substantial boost to national income from high commodity prices and growth in private consumption and investment. After slowing in the March quarter in response to the Omicron outbreak, activity is forecast to regain momentum over 2022 as saving and spending patterns continue to normalise and a further tightening in the labour market supports real household income. Growth is then forecast to moderate in 2023 as extraordinary policy support is withdrawn, rising prices weigh on real income and consumption growth slows to more typical rates. GDP is forecast to grow by 4¼ per cent over 2022, and by 2 per cent over 2023. Consumer price inflation in Australia has picked up markedly since the middle of 2021 and the outlook for inflation has again been revised higher. Headline inflation is forecast to peak around 6 per cent in the second half of this year.

Underlying inflation has also risen strongly and is forecast to increase further to 4¾ per cent in the second half of 2022, largely reflecting further pass-through of upstream cost pressures. As some of the current cost pressures reflect supply bottlenecks domestically and abroad and are likely to moderate over time, headline and underlying inflation are forecast to return to the top of the 2 to 3 per cent target range by the end of the forecast period. Higher labour costs in response to a tight labour market are expected to become the primary driver of inflation outcomes later in the forecast period (which is up to June 2024). Key sources of uncertainty for the domestic outlook include the future evolution of COVID-19, changes in price- and wage-setting behaviour at historically low levels of unemployment, and the response of households, firms and asset prices to higher inflation and interest rates.”

Since getting inflation so horribly wrong, the RBA have gone to the no-no closet of economic management and pulled out its big bludgeoning and blunt monetary sword used to increase interest rates, quite escalated rises after almost a decade of dormant interest rates. Monetary policy should not be resorted to at the best of times, let alone when Australia, indeed much of the world, is facing supply side economic inflation. I wrote about our inflation problems in ‘The inflation we did not need to have‘, in which I not only identified how Australia’s inflation problems were foreseeable, but also how this inflation should be addressed.

Former IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld worries central banks are playing catch-up after delaying rate rises too long. The aggressive but uncoordinated action by central banks worries former IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld, who says there is a real risk that they take rates too high while trying to fight inflation. He warns excessively fast rate rises across the globe could trigger a major economic downturn like that seen in the 1980s:

“You’ve got a real cocktail of global monetary contraction that could go a bit too far because each central bank is looking only at its own domestic situation and not thinking about the global effects.”

Professor Obstfeld, who teaches economics at the University of California Berkeley, told the ABC’s The Business program:

“The dollar appreciated to stratospheric heights [and] depreciations that US trade partners experienced hampered their efforts to disinflation, so they raised interest rates probably more than they would have otherwise. And so we got a very deep global recession which spilled over to emerging markets in the form of the debt crisis of the 1980s and I think there is a risk of something similar now.” He believes central banks waited too long to lift interest rates and are now panicking, trying to catch up. “They have egg on their face from having been behind the curve, and there is a little bit of a sense of panic in the air,” he said. “A great example is your RBA: two back-to-back 50-basis-point increases when inflation is between 5 and 6 per cent. “Now, governor [Philip] Lowe is predicting that inflation, notwithstanding those rate increases, will reach the 7 per cent level. [Federal Reserve chair] Jay Powell would be very happy to have 7 per cent at this point.”

So that leads us all the way back to crowding caused by the cost of interest payments on national debt pushing out of the way other government funded schemes, such as Medicare. Indeed, Dr. Chalmers warned the country the immensely high national debt of $1T could result in crowding where interest rate payments would usurp the costs of Medicare. Now we are witnessing escalating inflation around the world, and declining GDP. An economic recession because of central banks trying to save face over the escalating inflation by increasing interest rates too much and too quickly may well pull the world into an economic recession, and if doesn’t economic growth may well decline considerably everywhere, including Australia.

The threat of Australia’s national debt (where did that money go to, Scott, Josh, Angus, Peter and Barnaby?) interest payments crowding out other government schemes like Medicare or even aged care are a risk the new Albanese government has to consider after it has just paid out further disaster relief compensation. Indeed, regarding the impact of the economic cost of climate change on Australia, the potential damages at current global emissions patterns are conservatively quantified as $584.5B by 2030. (Source: Melbourne University, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and Australian National University paper May 2021, ‘Australia’s Clean Economy Future: Costs and Benefits). So the bad news is between now and 2030 a conservative figure of $70B a year may be needed to be spent by our Federal Government in climate change compensation payments, and there still are the costs of the additional infrastructure to change to a clean economy.

So with all these economic pressures to contend with, you could forgive the Albanese government for wishing to restrain our national debt, fix the budget, and carefully consider the extension of the Covid leave payments. The Albanese government did not create these difficult economic challenges, and great care must be taken to improve our financial position as a country whilst we still look to restore funding to aged care, the NDIS, tertiary education, Medicare and the ABC. National Cabinet is meeting on 16 July 2022. What can be done will be done regarding leave payments. The mainstream and social media commentators just need to allow a government of seven weeks since being sworn in time to examine the big picture of all of Australia’s needs.

 

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Will the Opposition achieve relevancy? Only time will tell.

I’m trying this morning to get a feeling for the future of politics in our country. Not much critical analysis has been written about the aftermath of the May 21 election.

Probably the most substantive thing I noticed was that the young have finally caught up with the aged. Yes, the Millennials have caught up with the Baby Boomers. Let me explain: For many years the old have supported the right of politics, and the young have latched onto the left. Polls have consistently shown this. The seniors in an ageing population are dying quickly and taking the conservative vote with them.

The young left vote has been exposed in significant proportion. Labor, the Greens and the Independents obtained 75% of the total vote. The old card-carrying supporter of my vintage has gone, and the young with no natural allegiance have moved in.

Our national census tells multiple stories about a country experiencing considerable change. It doesn’t paint much of a picture of the chances of the right in the next election. Population shifts in Victoria and New South Wales will lead the Electoral Commission to eliminate what were three blue-ribbon Coalition seats. All now held by so-called Teal Independents.

Another ingredient in this recipe for a rapidly changing nation is its browning. And the focus on immigration has shifted from the end of the war, white Europeans and the 60s, Italians and Greeks, and the Asian influx that followed to the now Middle Easton, African and Indian persuasion.

In my thoughts on what might emerge in the aftermath of the election, I find it astonishing that no self-reflection has occurred. I mean, does the Coalition think they were just victims of being in office a tad long? Maybe they feel that being on the far right eliminates any circumspection.

We have heard not even a cry that the leader failed or that we should never have appointed him as our leader. It’s as if he is not to blame for anything – the young saw his deceit and cunning through his lies and voted with purpose. Why couldn’t more of the elderly see through him?

At this point in my writing, you are probably asking yourself, “didn’t he watch Four Corners?” on July 3. I did, but it only focused on branch stacking and pre-selection in NSW. There is more to it than that.

I want to know why Morrison had such a hold on the party. When it became apparent that they were going to lose, why was he not confronted? Why wasn’t he told to tone down his religiosity? Those and many other questions remain unanswered.

It leaves the conservative parties caught between a rock and a hard place. Just like when John Howard advised Tony Abbott against Royal Commissions into the Unions and Pink Batts, opining that they weren’t worth the trouble.

Labor hasn’t much choice. Having championed a Corruption Commission for so long, the Prime Minister is duty-bound to provide it with some work. They have enough investigative work to last a couple of years.

Here are but a few examples of alleged corruption:

The land they paid 30 times its value for, Sports rorts, misappropriation of water from Murray-Darling by coalition donors, $444m to Great Barrier Reef Foundation with no tendering, many of Angus Taylor’s questionable activities, $30 million to Foxtel for no apparent reason and there is a list as long as the Flemington straight.

On the one hand, voting against an Integrity Commission will cause much grief for the Opposition. On the other, they, the Coalition, have no choice but to vote for one in the knowledge that there are those in their party who will have to face the music for their sins.

What happened with Robodebt and who gave the order to proceed when it was illegal needs a Royal Commission.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will have to make a similar choice to Abbott’s. He can say that we must investigate all the allegations to return to a decent democracy or that he is not into vengeance politics. However, we may need a prick of spite to prove what can happen to democracies when corruption is allowed to flourish. I believe blood needs to flow now so that the governance we were forced to endure never happens again.

Of the many mountains the Coalition will have to climb to return to its once-held dominance, none will be more important than relevance. It will not be regaining lost seats or how far right it should go, but how relevant are they as political parties. By the next election, their base will be further eroded by the loss of more elderly voters, leaders unsuited to the times and two parties who have drifted away from each other. So much so that even talking to each other brings on conflicts.

You cannot buy relevancy. It doesn’t come in a box. It comes about with good policy, leaders of proven trust and saleability, and a capacity to overcome past errors.

At the moment, the leader of the National Party, David Littleproud, looks out of his depth. Peter Dutton has picked a rather odd time to go on leave (all expenses paid) after declaring that his party’s policy on climate won’t change and that he will fight the next election on education in the belief that communists are teaching our children.

Making it even harder is a Government quite the opposite of the previous one – a trustworthy leader backed by a team of competent ministers ready to put things right over time. An understanding electorate is glad of the truth even when difficult to swallow. This Coalition has none of these prerequisites.

Anthony Albanese exhibits leadership qualities the populace has been waiting a decade for. Of vast experience with a diplomatic manner and forceful tone. Comfortable on the global stage without a hint of self-importance.

Yes, inflation may rise to 7%. Yes, interest rates will continue to go up. Yes, climate change and energy will be costly, but the people will accept it if you tell them the truth. The same goes for our debt.

Relevance is a consistent reminder of how the electorate views its politicians. The Government is ready to do its job; the Greens are emboldened and Teals excited. This parliament starts its repair work on Tuesday, July 26 2022. The question is, though, will the Opposition have any relevancy? Only time will tell.

The independents and the Greens would do well to recognise that they are not in power. They, along with the Opposition, form part of the body politic and should behave maturely if they want to be seen as relevant.

My thought for the day

The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of reason never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rational explanation.

 

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Calling on the Straights

The overthrow of Roe v Wade in America is just the start. And Australia’s Right, from the political figures connected by think tanks to the conspiracy-radicalised internet subculture, draws its ideas and strategies from the American Right.

It is incumbent upon us to watch that nation’s collapse as a warning, not just as a prequel to a dystopian blockbuster trilogy.

It is critical to avoid dismissing shocking concepts as fringe. What begins as an outlier idea moves to the centre of mainstream discussion in America and beyond. The “norm cascade” that Trump enabled has meant that it is not just, say, the creep in the office uttering something previously unutterable. People with great cultural capital are making unthinkable ideas “normal.” State politicians are beginning to ask for the death penalty for women who access abortions, and senior Republicans have begun discussing making abortion illegal nationwide when they next hold power.

The Texas attorney general has signalled his willingness to take a law making homosexuality illegal through to the Supreme Court should he have the chance. A Republican candidate in South Carolina’s primaries recently called for LGBTQI Americans to be pursued for treason, and executed. He received a quarter of the vote.

The Texas Republican Party platform, launched this Pride Month, named LGBTQI lives “an abnormal lifestyle choice.” Approximately 340 bills targeting LGBTQI existence have been introduced across America this year. The leader of the Christian Fascist organisation Protect Texas Kids tweeted, “Let’s start rounding up people who participate in Pride events,” and other figures on the Right have begun imagining a world where it is legal to hunt LGBTQI people.

Blue states are reacting by offering safe haven for safe reproductive healthcare. California is in the process of passing a sanctuary bill to allow families of trans youth sanctuary. Should the bill be signed, their own deeply Republican state will be blocked from extraditing the parents to face life sentence felony charges. These sanctuaries would also block Republican states’ custody orders to remove children of trans families from their parents.

Vigilante activity and abuse of LGBTQI individuals have surged. People have begun working out how to leave their lives behind to move state or are making sure to keep passports current.

The grotesque Westboro “Baptist Church” used to protest gleefully at dead soldier’s funerals because the degeneracy of America meant that they deserved to die. Now Jordan Peterson, one of the “thought” leaders of the Right, has said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is justified by Ukraine’s connection with the degenerate US. Echoing Putin’s own bigoted justification is shocking enough; the fringe, this shows too, has become mainstream.

The patriarchal and “traditional role” passions of the radical Right make women and children lightening rods to channel “moral” panic. They generate disinformation to suggest cis women are endangered by having trans women in their spaces. They abhor trans men for making women unavailable to them. Above all, they depict LGBTQI existence as a threat to children, since “won’t someone think of the children” is the most primal emotive persuasive strategy.

For this reason, schools have been the focus of much of the legislation and protest. Teachers are depicted as “groomers” and “perverts” for accepting a non-binary student’s pronouns or mentioning the existence of people who aren’t vanilla.

Christopher Rufo, the American who invented the CRT panic, where he depicted schools as teaching Critical Race Theory, found a wellspring of emotional energy into which to tap. Critical Race Theory is a law school concept where academics study the impact of laws that were designed to disadvantage Black people. It was never a school study. Labelling any study of history that aims to represent the balanced truth – rather than bowdlerised pap – as CRT, however, has given the Right a tool to make teachers’ lives a nightmare.

One Texas committee recommended teaching slavery in elementary school as “involuntary relocation.” Now Ohio is introducing a law to require teaching “both sides” of the Holocaust.

Groups of disinformation-radicalised parents and outsiders appear at school board meetings in threatening fashion to intimidate staff. Issues about sexuality and gender are Rufo’s new target. This whips up further the Trump base’s QAnon radicalisation; they believe children are being abducted, raped, murdered and/or farmed for youth-extending hormones. Now they are targeting their teachers as the key threat. Tucker Carlson, for example, asked why fathers aren’t beating up teachers for discussing anything connected with LGBTQI existence.

State school teachers, already exhausted by the pandemic and extreme underfunding, are leaving the profession. This suits the Republicans fine because the dismantling of public education is a key project of a number of their main funders. Often emerging from fossil fuel wealth, they want a tame Christian education that does not teach critical thinking or any curriculum that isn’t a mythologised version of life that reinforces “tradition.”

Any curriculum that includes the hard facts about our settler colonial nations’ histories is anathema to the Right, as is acknowledgment of diversity. Any curriculum that includes recognition that people who are not straight exist is debauched. Any curriculum that includes the scientific facts of the unfolding climate emergency is, unsurprisingly given the money behind this campaign, disgracefully woke.

Schools that emerge beyond the campaigns will teach a curriculum that celebrates White Christian Patriarchal Civilisation. Christian charter schools, home schools and private schools will suffice. If children from disadvantaged areas miss out, the Republicans don’t care. Augmented by outlawing abortion, they will create a homegrown underclass to do the worst jobs for the worst wages without the need for migrant workforces.

America’s problems are not the same as our problems. These escalating campaigns that are right now stripping millions of Americans of equality and bodily autonomy are minority positions inflicted upon the majority after decades of strategising to break the flawed democratic processes underpinning the American republic.

In Australia, the Right faces different challenges to impose minority rule. It sees its best chance to regain power and reinstate the steps it had been taking to break our democracy in culture wars. These “moral” panics are distractions meant to disguise the fact that the Right can’t win on a platform of tax cuts for the rich and deregulation.

The new campaign to attack schools for being “woke” as signalled by Dutton, Sky News and the IPA’s Class Action campaign signal their intent to replicate the American crippling of schools and silencing of teachers. The IPA, like the American equivalents, is largely funded by fossil fuel figures who naturally do not want students taught to understand climate science. The harnessing of traditionalists scared of change, combined with radical Religious Right Christian Nationalist bodies, offers the LNP a new base that might offer electoral success.

Australian women and our allies have already marched on Australian streets to decry the Dobbs decision in the US Supreme Court. We must all be ready, particularly the straight majority, to stand up to any efforts to expand the attacks on our reproductive autonomy into the broader range of bodily autonomy.

Trans identity, weaponised by Morrison, is a wedge to expand into an extensive attack on LGBTQI Australians. Dutton has signalled his readiness to follow culture war politics as far as it will take him.

We must stand up alongside our targeted compatriots. We unite and defend, or we will all be trapped in the Right’s patriarchal nostalgia, and stripped of our equality.

 

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The Invaluable Contribution Of Tim Smith, Matt Canavan And Peter Dutton To The Conservative Movement…

Ok, now I know that some of you are going to presume that I’m just going to play with words and point out that the prefix “In” usually means “not”, so an invaluable contribution should be one that’s not very valuable. Sort of like when someone says something is “priceless”. I mean, if it’s worthless it also has no price but that’s not what they mean.

Anyway, I’ve been reading poor Timmy’s tweets and I must say that if ever I’ve seen someone suffering from Relevance Deprivation Syndrome, it’s me. I mean, I was going to suggest that it was young Timmy but why should I give him the attention he so richly craves. After all, it must be hard to go from someone who was considered a future leader of the party to your Jaguar when you’ve had to walk there without any help from your parents.

In case you haven’t been reading his pronouncements, Mr Smith, MLA, has been complaining about everything from the weather to being verballed by a 14-year-old to the wokeness of AFL football because we don’t have any masculine biffo anymore. His tweet was something along the lines of go Rugby because it’s a real man’s sport and AFL is just too easy…

Tim, I should remind you, was a rower and there’s nothing more masculine than a group of men all facing the one direction and moving together when somebody says “Stroke”… Ok, I guess line dancing could also be described in similar terms but if you can think of anything else, I don’t think you should add it in the comments in case you are giving away the reason that the Australia Club won’t allow female members.

I hope that didn’t sound homophobic… I mean, I have a lot of faults but I’m always striving to be more politically correct than the next guy… or woman… or non-gender specific.

Oh fuck, it’s just impossible for an old, white male these days… Ask Jeff Kennett who’ll surely tell you his opinion even after the whole state made it clear that nobody wants it…

Anyway, after Timmy’s tweet, he was all the rage on Twitter for a while and it was almost like he was back to the good old days when he could text journalists and they asked his questions to Dan Andrews at press conferences. He replied to one tweet with “Sorry petal if I offended you…”

It’s good to see Timmy mending fences instead of driving into them.

However, I digress…

Which is sort of the point of Tim Smith and Matt Canavan and Peter Dutton, isn’t it?

They’re just so bad.

Somebody commented that, about the worst of Peter Dutton being not much better than the best of him and I had to seriously think about the question: Is there a best of Peter Dutton?

I mean, some Canberra journalists will tell you that – in person – he’s the life of the party and his public persona is not the man that he actually is… And yes, when I say that Hitler used to love his dogs, there’s sure to be some arsehole who invokes Godwin’s Law even though I never tried to draw any link between Dutton and Nazis. As far as, He Who Should Not Be Named goes, well, I didn’t name him either. Whatever, Dutton is not as bad as the most evil people in the last century and he certainly isn’t as bad as J.K. Rowling who said something that I disagree with.

And that’s surely the point of Matt and Tim and Peter. They make the rest of them look so much more reasonable. I remember when we laughed at the “Joh for PM” campaign in the late 1980s. I was at Billy Bragg’s concert where he made jokes about it, but then left us with a warning that the problem was that after Joh someone would come along and – by comparison – they’d seem okay.

And thanks to Matt and Tim and Peter, then the moderates like Hollie Hughes and Dan Tehan and Angus Taylor and Alan Tudge and Alex Hawke…

Oh, I see…

Yeah, the days of looking good compared to the previous front bench may be over for the federal Coalition.

But at least, down here in Victoria, Tim Smith is making a concerted effort to make his leader look good by comparison with his praise of Rugby League over AFL.

If that doesn’t get him expelled from the Victorian Liberal Party then they might as well disband now.

 

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