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Category Archives: Your Say

Things are a little scary right now

By Bob Rafto

The US Defense Department’s $680 billion budget pays for over 3.1 million employees, both military and civilian. Another 3 million people are employed by the defense industry both directly, making things like weapons, and indirectly, such as working in local businesses supported by a contractor’s location in a town, according to various sources. It’s these big money and job figures that make lawmakers fight for defense contracts in their districts and defense contractors lobby for their contracts.

Then you have similar activities in Russia, China, UK and other nations.

Now if we cut this down to the bare bone, millions of people are employed to make weapons that have a sole purpose of killing millions of other people. We might have advanced technologically but primarily we are still savages in as much that when we can’t resolve our differences we resort to killing to get an outcome.

Corporate entities rely on growth, so that means more and more arms are manufactured every year and more wars have to be manufactured and hundreds of thousands of people have to die just to keep the arms industry in business and to deliver windfall profits year in year out.

The US have been up to their necks in regime change and have been involved in 100 armed conflict since the American revolution (Wiki). Has any any other country in history been involved in so many armed conflicts?

Now the arms industry is mainstream, they now have fairs, just like the auto industry where generals and dictators flock to and to be wined and dined over idle chatter of how many people can be exterminated from a $600,000 bomb and that’s the cost of the bombs we are supposedly dropping on the Syrians.

A little more research revealed an ad for a book ‘The Merchants of Death’ here’s the ad:

“Here is the archetype of all post–World War I revisionism of a particular variety: the hunt for the people who made the big bucks off the killing machine. The Merchants of Death was, in many ways, the manifesto of a generation of people who swore there would not be and could not be another such war.

But here is the kicker: it was co-authored by the founder of Human Events, the conservative weekly. So this is no left-wing screed against profiteering. It is a careful and subtle, but still passionate, attack on those who would use government to profit themselves at the expense of other people’s lives and property.

Here is a sample of the ideological orientation: “The arms industry did not create the war system. On the contrary, the war system created the arms industry … All constitutions in the world vest the war-making power in the government or in the representatives of the people. The root of the trouble, therefore, goes far deeper than the arms industry. It lies in the prevailing temper of peoples toward nationalism, militarism, and war, in the civilization which forms this temper and prevents any drastic and radical change. Only when this underlying basis of the war system is altered, will war and its concomitant, the arms industry, pass out of existence.

This book is a wonderful example of what Rothbard called the “Old Right” in its best form. The book not only makes the case against the war machine; it provides a scintillating history of war profiteering, one authoritative enough for citation and academic study. One can see how this book had such a powerful effect.

Why re-release this book now? The war profiteers are making money as never before. They are benefiting from conflict as never before. Everything in this book has not only come to pass but as been made worse by a million times. So this treatise is more necessary than ever.

This is the real heritage of the American Right.”

Should be a good read and reinforces what I wrote above.

The US military spend budget is more than the 7 highest spending countries (and that includes Russia and China) combined and now Trump is going to increase the budget by a few more hundred billions to probably a trillion dollars all up. The arms industry will live on forever thriving on death as long as there are neo-cons in this world.

The Donald

My take on Trump is from cursory observation on Social Media and some online rags.

The Donald is scary as is the future he is leading us to and Abbott was the same but a minnow compared to Trump.

The Donald is thinking and acting in big business mode and he won’t hesitate to destroy anyone who gets in his way. He has stacked his team with billionaires so it will be a business-run government looking after business interests.

He will have no hesitation in starting wars, he is not increasing the military budget without reason.

He is devoid of any compassion and empathy, it’s all about Donald and no one else.

The Donald is being consumed by a headiness of being the most powerful man on earth and here is the similarity with Abbott, who was also consumed by the power headiness. Abbott terrorised the Muslim community with 800 cops, helicopters and militarised swat teams, Donald bars Muslims from entering the US.

The Donald is 70 and obese and he won’t cope with the stress of office, and that can’t be good for his health.

The Donald will keep on alarming the horses – just like Abbott – but he won’t be around forever, but long enough to leave a great swathe of scar tissue on the planet.

 

More Letters from a Labor Activist: Dec 2016 – Jan 2017

By Dr Tristan Ewins

What follows are another series of letters I have written to the ‘Herald-Sun’ and ‘The Age’ during the December 2016 to January 2017 period. None were published. But I hope it sparks some thought and some debate amongst readers here.

Topics include ‘Cultural Marxism’, Labor Policy, Pensions, Green Energy and who pays?,  Islam and Education, Female Genital Mutilation, What to do about Poverty?, and ‘Bolt and Panahi need to Work Out Which Side they are On on Civil Liberties’.

Hysteria on ‘Cultural Marxism’

“P.Jones (Letters, 29/12/16) again raises the spectre of ‘cultural Marxism’ ; evoking the remnants of Cold War era fear of those movements bearing the name of Karl Marx. But ‘Critical Theory’ and the ‘Frankfurt School’ (the proper names of the traditions referred to as ‘cultural Marxism’) are radical intellectual traditions which have very little to do with the Totalitarianism and Stalinism which once prevailed in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.  Critical theorists promoted personal freedom, dignity and fulfilment; and they rejected attempts by Stalin and his successors to crush the independence of radical thought. Some critical theorists have also promoted the peaceful transition to a democratic socialist order through mutual engagement based on the powers of human reason. They also subjected past Marxism to criticism on the basis that radicals needed to be open-minded about confronting past errors. Considered in context, ‘cultural Marxism’ does not deserve ‘the bogey status’ imposed on it by Conservative intellectuals and others who either do not really understand its content; or otherwise want to distort perceptions in order to create fear and prevent change.”

Labor needs a Stronger Agenda; and not only Defensiveness on Company Tax

Responding to ‘The Age Letters 7/1/17’: While Labor’s opposition to Company Tax cuts is welcome, Australia needs a more robust reform agenda: improving our social wage and welfare state, and providing for vital infrastructure. Hence a National Aged Care Insurance Scheme to roll back regressive user pays; and improve quality of life for our most vulnerable. Superannuation tax concessions for the wealthy and the upper middle class could be cut, bringing in tens of billions. In addition to Capital Gains Tax and Negative Gearing reforms, Australia could also look to phased withdrawal of Dividend Imputation. Reversion to a 75% credit alone could save over $5 billion/year. Because of their progressive potential, reform of income and other progressive taxes (eg: Medicare-style Levies) should not be ‘taboo’. Presumed ‘pull factors’ regarding Corporate Taxation can neglect the impact of education and infrastructure in attracting investment. Infrastructure privatisation increases cost-structures. And there are economic and moral dilemmas associated with ‘corporate welfare’. Citizens and taxpayers effectively subsidize corporations benefitting from services and infrastructure ; because of a more regressive tax mix (flatter, and/or focusing on consumption) and also indirectly through austerity. Poverty and inequality also affect consumption power, damaging the broader economy.

The Problems with Tightening Pension Eligibility

Frank Stubbs (Herald-Sun Letters, 7/1/17) argues “the pension is not a right”; that it should only go to the most needy. But there are problems with this argument. In the 1980s Labor introduced superannuation while means-testing pensions. This enabled a focus on ‘targeted welfare’; where we could have both a regime of low taxation – and necessary supports for the genuinely vulnerable. Superannuation made all this possible. But before this the Aged Pension was considered a right. Primarily because people had paid their taxes their entire working lives – and had earned that security. But “rights” must also be a matter of human decency; such that we must not allow the vulnerable to struggle in poverty – even if they cannot work. The problem with superannuation is that it might increasingly see the marginalisation of the Aged Pension, and those dependent upon it. The consumption power of low income Australians is also affected, harming the economy. In the future conservatives may demand further tightening of pension eligibility; and that would marginalise pensioners, giving rise to further self-interested cries from business, the middle classes, the wealthy –  for pension cuts. There’s a potential future social cost to cutting pension eligibility.

An Important Question on Green Energy: Who Pays?

In response to Matt Johnston (13/1): It is necessary to take action on renewable energy to respond to global warming. But an additional concern is “who pays?” Currently, renewable energy is more expensive. And while many households are taking up ‘micro-renewable energy’, a great many others are ‘locked out’ because they simply cannot afford the investment. But as middle class families opt for micro-renewable energy, this damages the ‘economies of scale’ of the legacy centralised energy industry. The cost of ‘poles and wires’ and other infrastructure is divided amongst a smaller consumer base.  So consumers on low incomes are forced to pay more. This is worsened by privatisation: which means providers will pursue profits and avoid cross subsidies for the financially disadvantaged. “Micro-renewables’ are probably the way of the future: but in the meantime governments need to take stronger action to ensure financially disadvantaged customers don’t bear the cost. Subsidies of various kinds need to negate the entire effect on affordability for low income customers during this transitional period (until technology improves and prices fall). The timeframe depends on the priorities of government and the progress of research and development.

Responding to Kevin Donnelly on Islam and Education

Kevin Donnelly (Herald Sun, 2/1/17) criticises Islam as ‘inherently violent’ while defending ‘the Western tradition’ against its apparent detractors on ‘the Left’. Some things need to be stated in response to this.  Firstly, it is partly a matter of convenience. The ‘West’ supported the Mujahedeen (Islamic fundamentalists) against the Soviets during the Cold War, despite what this meant for women in Afghanistan. Further, Islam is diverse – and potentially open to reform – perhaps like Christianity and Judaism have been (partly because of the historic intersection of Christianity with liberalism). In some places ‘a (liberal) Islamic reformation’ may actually be a good thing (further reform of the Roman Catholic Church would also be good). But in the meantime we should not promote notions of ‘cultural superiority’ to justify interventions which are really geo-political in nature. Also when we defend ‘the Western tradition’ and ‘the Enlightenment’ we should be clear what that means. It means supporting free and critical enquiry. The consequence of this also must be that education is not only for ‘fundamentals’ of numeracy and literacy. There is a crucial place for the Humanities and Social Sciences – in combination with a progressive civics agenda – which promotes political literacy and active citizenship. Authoritarian responses to protest and civil disobedience are counter to the freedoms we celebrate which originated with the Enlightenment – and the liberal and democratic revolutions that followed.

Responding to FGM: How Prevalent is it in Australia?

Rita Panahi (16/1) makes some points about the most reactionary practices in Islam, mentioning child brides, ‘honour killings’, and female genital mutilation. Despite allusions to a so-called ‘regressive Left’ any Leftist worth their salt could not help but oppose those practices. Of course we must support women and girls who oppose and fight against these practices. But there are other complications. Firstly it is unclear how widespread  FGM is in Australia. In 2010 the ABC reported that 700 cases were presented to the Melbourne Royal Women’s Hospital. But in 2011 the total Australian Islamic population (all creeds considered) was nearing half a million. So its important to keep perspective: to support the rights of women and girls ; but also to be aware of possible ulterior motives. Strong cultural differences can be exploited to justify geo-political and strategic objectives. We need to keep cultural difference and strategic/geo-political issues separate so as to avoid confusion and remain clear about the real motivations and interests behind our foreign policy.

References:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-02-06/female-circumcision-happening-in-australia/2594496

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Australia

What Must we actually Do in Response to Poverty?

In the Herald-Sun letters section recently there has been some good discussion of poverty. But the problem is on such a scale that it will never be overcome through charity ; and we need action – not only talk. Only government can provide the resources for a definitive solution. That calls for a stronger, fairer welfare system for disadvantaged groups, the elderly and the unemployed; a fairer, progressive tax mix; and labour market re-regulation at the lower end. It also calls for a stronger social wage; including more funding for public health and education; as well as for public housing and emergency accommodation, and energy and water subsidies. It might also include better-subsidised public transport and internet access (these are now essentials – for instance it is virtually impossible to search effectively for work now without them). It could include an active industry policy which offers ‘flexible’ work favourable to employees’ needs ; preventing those such as retrenched auto workers being relegated permanently to unemployment. And it could involve greater flexibility for pensioners to take on casual or part-time work without foregoing their pensions ; hence avoiding poverty traps.

Bolt and Panahi Need to work out where they Stand on Civil Rights

Andrew Bolt claims “Leftists hate our freedoms” while Rita Panahi gives thanks for liberal freedoms she enjoys in Australia compared with theocratic Iran. But at the same time Rita Panahi has dismissed civil libertarians as ‘do-gooders’. And for all his talk, Andrew Bolt has never had anything to say against anti-protest laws introduced by past Liberal governments in New South Wales and Victoria. That includes ‘move on’ laws that criminalised freedom of assembly; and laws in NSW which could see protestors jailed for several years for civil disobedience. As well as Federal laws criminalising ‘whistle-blowers’ who reveal details on the treatment of refugees. Journalists like Panahi and Bolt need to decide what side they are on when it comes to liberal and democratic rights. It is true that parts of the Left qualify freedom of speech where they believe that speech could be socially harmful. Other Leftists are nonetheless concerned at possible precedents which could help result in a far more general retreat of liberties. And the ‘pressure cooker’ effect of suppressed (and sometimes manufactured) grievances which can explode with the rise of populist, far-right-wing movements. Reality is more complex than you would think reading Panahi and Bolt.

This article was originally published on ALP Socialist Left Forum.

 

Day to Day Politics: Stand up to the groper.

 

The first glimpse of the diplomatic style of Donald Trump reveals the well known ugliness of the President of the United States. Not that his offensive personality is unknown. However, this time he has chosen a friend of long standing to spray his vitriolic abuse at.

I imagine the full text of what was said will never be known however, according to Turnbull, Trump agreed to the deal arranged with the Obama administration. This is hard to follow given Trumps stance on immigration.

Naturally Turnbull wanted a deal given his dilemma at domestic level. He will be in crisis mode if he doesn’t cut the it.
There can be no excuse for Trump to treat a friend as he has and every Australian should feel affronted. Equally though every Australian should feel let down by the fact that Turnbull allowed him to do so.

America has never enjoyed a good international reputation and needs every friend she can get. Trump should behave accordingly. They have always been the only country in the world to believe in their own bullshit. Stand up to the groper Malcolm.

 

Day to Day Politics: And another thought … his elitist arrogance is bewildering.

In our political history I don’t think I have ever witnessed an act of political arrogance to match that delivered by the Prime Minister at the National Press Club. At a time of societal dissatisfaction with the political process. The way in which governance is delivered. A time in which political donations have come under public scrutiny. A time when 82% of the population mistrust our politicians.

In the full knowledge of this our Prime Minister chose to use a loophole in the law to delay by another year, the disclosure of the amount he personally gave to his election campaign. And he did so with his customary gotcha charm. Grinning from ear to ear.

The effrontery of that decision shows that he has no idea why the mistrust exists. How could you honestly trust him to change the rules on MPs entitlements or indeed, donations.

All he really needs to do if he is to cling to any hope of credibility is to open his mouth and let the figure flow from his elitist tongue.

 

It’s not your fault you are filled with hate

Got up this morning with one thing in mind, and that’s getting our young boy Noah ready for his first day at high school.In the process of going through this memorable day, I was reminiscing on the day when older son Max was going through the same thing. I was overwhelmed with pride and honour in the quality of kids that my wife and I have been blessed with.

Eventually, we managed to get into the car and make our way to school. Whilst on the way there, I was telling him about bullying. Basically warning him about being a bully and being bullied. He said to me, “Dad, I will never be a bully. You’ve raised me better than that. And if someone tries to bully me, I will go straight to the teachers or my big brother”. With a little chuckle, I said “the teachers will do just fine”. That made me feel extremely proud of him. On the radio, the ABC reporter was talking about Donald Trump and Noah said “he’s a big bully”. I responded with “that sums him up spot on boy”.

Anyway, as I drop him off, he gives me a fist pump followed by a Shaka hand wave. I took that as ‘Go now before you embarrass me’. LOL.

On my way to work, and thinking about my wife and my boys, I was entrenched with a euphoric feeling of love, pride and happiness. A sense of belonging, if that makes sense. To retain this feeling, I turned on the music that my eldest son had been playing in the car. It was Lebanese Dabkeh music (traditional Lebanese music which people perform the cultural dance too in the Middle-East). Admittedly I had the volume up but not high enough to disturb anyone.

I get to set of lights only to be blasted with these words (please excuse the language);
“Oi… Oi… Oi you f*ckwit.” I turned to him and put the volume down and said “sorry mate”… He said “don’t f*cken call me mate you Mossy. Turn that f*cken Quran shit off. This is Australia and you’re not welcomed here you piece of f*cken Arab Muslim shit. Pauline Hanson will f*cken get rid of all of you soon – camel jockeys”.

I was silent and stunned. Couldn’t answer him. It was as though my tongue was knotted up in a twist that couldn’t be undone. All the sense of joy and happiness had vanished within seconds. I burst into tears as I momentarily lost the sentimental value of today and the day Max started high school. Couldn’t move and couldn’t drive. Just shocked at the level of hostility thrown at me.

I managed to drive off and pulled over at the next service station to gather myself. I reflected on the situation and said, “this is how effing stupid these people are”. I was playing a song and not the Quran. It’s like the opposite ends of a spectrum. I remembered what my late father told me only to find solace in it.

He said; “Stay true to yourself. Remain the impeccable human that you are. Love everyone unconditionally. Never allow hate into your heart. Always remember your heritage and culture. Keep your faith strong. Keep your friends close but keep yourself closer to those who hate you so you can change them. Keep your heart and arms wide open. There’s plenty of room for everyone.”

So before I took off, I wrote a text message to both my boys and sent them the same lessons my father taught me.

I am certain that they will keep his legacy moving forward.

I turned off the music and put the Quran on. And I played it loudly too. Played it with pride as this experience increased my faith even more.

To the person that showed his true colours, if you ever come across this post, know that I will gladly and happily meet with you to talk to you. Share myself with you. Show you who I am. Share my stories with you, especially on my upbringing both in Lebanon and Australia. Show you a glimpse of the hardship that I’ve endured back home and how this great country has changed things for me. Demonstrate to you that I am more patriotic than you will ever be. I am certain that I will be able to change you to become a gentleman. One that prefers love over hate. One that will believe in and live a life of coexistence with others. Give me the chance and I will fulfil.

I forgive you for tarnishing my blessed experience pertaining to my kids. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

 

Taxing consumerism (it’s better than taxing the poor)

By R D Wood

Although we can hope for a more democratic economy through redistribution, we must also acknowledge our own personal role in being responsible citizens. As others have called for, we need taxes on multinational corporations; taxes on currency exchange markets; and taxes on those who inherit a golden goose sized nest egg. It is also about taxing what is negative, which might be carbon pollution or cigarettes or sugary drinks, and levelling these taxes against corporations with gross profits regardless of whether or not they pass that cost on to the consumer. In that way, the government, which means the people, can derive an income and encourage the betterment of society for all of us. This is what the focus of economic policy could be. It must lead towards non-violence in a broad definition and a good life as one of positive behavioural affirmation.

That we need to work smarter in order to live fulfilling lives means we need leadership that says it is OK to take a day off; it is OK not to lust after the latest consumer goods; it is OK to have a hobby. It is OK to realise that we are here for the long run. That this needs to go hand in hand with a service economy means we can combat climate change through economic means other than a simple tax on carbon. In other words, the greatest action we can take for saving the planet is providing economic conditions that support human labour, which is an inexhaustible resource. This is opposed to the commodity fetishism based on rare materials. Why should a massage be taxed at the same rate as a packet of chips when the former does not need plastic to exist? Like any other economic activity, they both are options for how we spend our time, but one costs less of the physical earth than the other. We need to think quite seriously about natural capital accounting and what is good for each of us as members of a connected community.

In that way, we need to raise a tax on ‘unsustainable goods’, which is to say goods that are not sustainable, which might mean local or Australian products depending on jurisdiction. Why should Chinese paper made from old growth forests be cheaper than recycled product owned by Australian businesses? In other words, our taxation system needs to be somewhat protectionist precisely because we need to protect our natural assets, which are in our national interests. For many, protectionism is a dirty word but in the messy application of theories one realises that trade is always reliant on lobbied interests. Free trade is only for beautiful idiots. To deny this because of some ahistorical abstract idea is as naïve as it is dangerous.

This is where craft and local economies need our support, from milk to art and beyond. Taxes could be raised in three levels. From the lowest to the highest they are:

  • services
  • local goods
  • imported goods

This is because taxes deter behaviour and we need to realise that our behaviours have to change so we are better off and can chart our own course as a society working together. It is a good thing to have a service economy precisely because it minimises the overconsumption of goods, which is to say, it enables a more sustainable practice for spending one’s time meaningfully.

With a reformed and enlarged taxation system we need to save for the rainy days and shift the way in which people spend their time. Politicians need to inspire people when the sea gets rough and direct the boat at the same time. That means taxing bad behaviour by all of us, and, when it comes to new industries, providing leadership and redistribution to those most in need.

We need, then, to redirect economic activity into good commerce. This is not an out-dated twentieth century argument advocating irresponsible tax and spending in a simple welfare state. It is about how to re-route the activity of one’s life. This can be done through economic re-engagement. It is also to simply observe that people are willing to pay taxes when they are given a project they believe in. We must believe in Australia again as part of a climate-changing world. We must say that Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands have got it right when it comes to taxation, which is at the upper end of the global scale. One might also be tempted to suggest that high taxation encourages social cohesion and not only because one must have the idea of belonging. It does this because it also gives the water-cooler people something to complain about. Sometimes a force to negate is not always a bad thing. The task for Australia though is making our economic basis more sustainable so we can all manage what is a rapidly changing ecosystem.

 

Dear Chris Kenny. When you lose your reproductive rights, then you can call us petulant.

There are people who should know better who seem to be unclear about the nature of democracy.

I’m thinking of The Australian’s star turn Chris Kenny, who today tweeted that the US women’s march was “undemocratic” and an act of “mass petulance.”

(I’m sorry I can’t re-post his tweet. Kenny and I entered into an exchange of views and he blocked me. Gutted.)

Kenny appears to claiming that in a democracy an elected leader is owed unquestioning allegiance from those who did not vote for him or her. He also seems to be arguing that protest is undemocratic. Both these assumptions demonstrate an appalling ignorance as to the nature and purpose of democracy, whose definition Kenny and his ilk are apparently attempting to renegotiate.

In pre -Trump times I would have largely ignored Kenny, except in relation to canines, however, in the new world order alternate facts, post truths and just plain old lies have to be challenged, otherwise we’ll all end up being ruled by giant babies excreting giant piles of reeking faecal matter.

I’m not a woman who is inclined to identify with other women just because we all have vaginas. Neither am I likely to exult that I am proud to be a woman, because I can’t see any merit in an accident of birth. However, President Trump’s attitude to women and the Republican Party’s determination to strip women of hard-won reproductive rights stirs in me a profound identification with my sex, and the difficulties that are peculiar to us because of our sex, and I’ll wear a pussy hat in a march any time as an indicator of where my loyalties lie.

Kenny’s dismissal of the global protests of millions of women as “mass petulance” encapsulates the reasons we march. Kenny does not have to fear enduring a backyard abortion because Roe v Wade is overturned. Kenny does not have to fear the lack of resources to see him through a pregnancy because his health care has been terminated. Kenny does not have to tolerate being paid significantly less than his female counterpart for doing the same job.

Kenny cannot deal with being the subject of  television satirists, so quite how he would cope with the myriad daily insults and abuses heaped on women just because we have vaginas, I can’t begin to imagine.

Kenny apparently believes he is justified in “standing up for [his] rights” when he feels abused, but women are not. It’s undemocratic when we do it. It’s a human right when he does it.

Sorry Chris. You won’t be remembered as the journalist called the dog f**ker who stood up for his rights. We’ll just remember you as the dog f**ker, with a big serve of petulance on the side.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Colin Barnett on a road to nowhere

By Tracie Aylmer

On Thursday 12 January 2017 I went to a protest in order to protect the Beeliar Wetlands. There were around 1000 of us, all acting peacefully and inclusively. We all welcomed each other, no matter what background we came from.

There were nurses, doctors, lawyers, lecturers, elderly, children, mothers, fathers, truck drivers, Indigenous protectors and advocates from far and wide. We had no gripe against the police that aggressively attacked us. We did not fight back against them, other than to pull down a temporary fence. I very much doubt the fence would have felt anything.

The media has us as rabid, raving lunatics. If the media only understood all of the reasons why we were there in our own time for free, then perhaps this farce of a ‘development’ would not go ahead. In fact, most of the community are against the Roe 8 project, but many would not know it if they only saw what the media showed them.

Colin Barnett keeps saying that trucks would get off the road if a road was built. How? This is not even logically possible. In fact, more trucks would go on the road as the road would be available. Once the toll was on the road, then obviously the trucks would use back streets, similar to what happened when the M4 in Sydney was built.  I remember being in traffic for one and a half hours going to work and one and a half hours come back home from work, just to miss the tollways. My work was around 45 minutes away without peak hour traffic to slow me down. This is what Colin Barnett is advocating for – all streets outside of the tollways being clogged up during peak hour traffic. Since Perth already has a traffic problem, creating more traffic problems obviously does not make any sense whatsoever.

He says there is no other option, than destroying the only Wetlands that Western Australia has. He has targeted the Wetlands first, in order to demolish the wildlife. He has gone over and above his own policies, thereby negating all policies within all departments, in order to try to destroy the community.

This road was supposed to stop quite a distance away from Fremantle Port, which he has decided must be privatised. It doesn’t even get to the Port, and Colin Barnett has no idea even now how it is to reach the Port. The $1.8 billion price ticket doesn’t even include how this road is meant to get to the Port. Obviously, there is going to be an incredible budget blowout, similarly to the Sydney M4 and the Brisbane Clem 7. This budget blowout has not been allocated for by any authority whatsoever. It will happen, and it will put WA in even further debt than Barnett’s complete recent mismanagement of our mining boom.

Not only is this a road to nowhere, it is a road without vision. The only real winners are Barnett’s development mates, and possibly Barnett himself. There are rumours that he has a philosophy of ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch yours’. While I cannot comment further on this, it appears obvious that he is profiting somehow from WA’s dilemmas.

There is also another option. Not only will it be more efficient, but it will provide for thousands more jobs and give us more desperately needed trade. Since Fremantle Port is already nearing capacity, having another port will give WA the kickstart it needs to create a different type of boom. It will put more trucks on the road in a different area, thereby ensuring the trucking industry remains alive and well. It will save our Wetlands. It will give vision to a state that desperately needs it.

The community near the Outer Harbour have advised that they are desperate for Kwinana to open up. There is high unemployment in the area, and the tens of thousands of jobs in that area are much more needed than the over capacity Fremantle Port. Both communities want the Outer Harbour to exist. Much of the framework has already been completed for the Outer Harbour. All sides of politics knows it’s only a matter of time before it does exist.

Why is Colin Barnett wasting so much money on something that highly likely won’t occur anyway? His fanaticism simply does not make any sense whatsoever.

If he thinks behaving in this manner is going to give him a name that will last in his final months as Premier, he is sadly mistaken. We will make absolute sure that what has already been lost of the Wetlands can be reinstated, and that the whole project will not in its majority occur. We are very determined to keep our Wetlands. We will also be determined to make sure that his name is relegated to a footnote in our history books as one of the worst Premiers that WA has ever had.

There is an election in less than two months. As Colin Barnett is illogical, he is also unfit to remain as our Premier. Let’s kick him out. He deserves nothing less for this fiasco.

TracieTracie Aylmer – Tracie is an advocate who enjoys writing about social justice issues. From working in most facets of office work as a professional temporary for several years, to completing a postgraduate law degree and then to researching and writing about social justice, she has been a Jill of many trades. She is the most well known for writing a submission as well as the Immigration Department manuals and guidelines to the International Criminal Court, calling for the arrest of several politicians due to their crimes against humanity, as well as getting some pretty great results from the ICC.

Hold our politicians to account? We can only try.

By Neil Hogan

I think the time has finally arrived where we call all politicians for what they have become: parasites.

They will not change their ways until we ‘force’ them to change their ways, so I suggest we all become active players in the game of politics. Namely, as many people as possible should turn up whenever a politician is going to make a public announcement or simply appear in public – no matter which party they represent – and we make our presence seen and our voices heard. Call them for what they have become, as in ‘self-interested parasites’ until they prove otherwise. And to do this we expect they advocate for a Federal ICAC, and politician’s entitlements and expenses in line with standard business practices.

Why should they be able to:

a) be paid $270 per night to stay away from home in a house that is family owned (and probably negatively geared)

b) retire from politics (or not be re-elected) and claim their superannuation while being in other paid employment

c) retire from politics leave and immediately take up a position as a political adviser or political lobbyist. There should be at least a 5 year gap before that can happen

d) claim expenses to attend sporting events. If various sporting bodies want them to attend events, then either let the sporting body pay for it or they pay for it themselves

e) claim expenses to attend an event as a speaker. If the event wants them as a speaker, again, either let the event pay for it or they pay for it themselves

f) use anything apart from normal economy travel to attend duties in their line of work as a politician. Most businesses expect their employees to take the ‘best flight of the day’, which means they take the cheapest flight available, and no preference for a particular airline.

These are just a few of the perks that politicians abuse and I’m sure there are many more that could be added to the list, and it’s up to us to highlight them all.

This form of protest really needs to be an organised attack and maybe the Australian Unemployed Workers Union is just the right organisation to handle it. I would imagine that anyone on Newstart – which is very topical at the moment – should only be too happy to be a voice in this protest for change.

We do have a voice and we all should use it to bring about change that is fair and acceptable.

At the moment it is not fair. And it is certainly not acceptable.

 

Dear Malcolm, will we ever see the courage of your convictions?

By Kyran O’Dwyer

Dear Prime Minister.

Bearing in mind it’s the ‘silly season’, I thought I would drop you a quick note of sympathy.
Whilst I understand you are no more a prime minister than I am the Queen of Sheba, I must ask a question. At what time does your impotence to effect change outweigh your privilege of being referred to as Prime Minister?

Just have a look at your last few days. The ‘new’ Minister of Health is pursuing the history of her predecessor, in terms of property acquisition. She is likely to be adjudged the next ‘worst health minister’ in terms of performance and one of the upcoming ministers in terms of property owned. Just like her predecessor.

I can only sympathise with you. These incompetents are accumulating wealth by stealth. You had to accumulate yours through privilege. And your undeniable brilliance, of course. Whilst the sources of the accumulation of wealth are slightly different, one can’t help but note that none of the accumulation was due to ability. It’s a tribute to all of you that your disability of wealth and privilege is carried so well.

Having pissed in your pathetic pocket for three paragraphs, I thought that might ‘entitle’ me to ask a few questions about this ‘porter’ bloke. Apparently that’s his name. Defined as “a person employed to carry luggage and other loads” … it’s apparently his nature, as well.
Did you know he was with the WA government before you ‘inherited’ him? I know you have been busy. You may have missed that in your avoidance of ‘spot fires’. Funnily enough, he was both AG and Treasurer of the wonderful state of Western Australia. There seems to be some question as to his ability as Treasurer. According to his ‘Register of Members’ Interests, he and his wife only own two properties. He has, by many accounts, left the state bankrupt. Notwithstanding that scummo can’t bankrupt Australia, how is it that porter is touted as either scummo’s replacement, or yours?

It beggars belief.

At least porter has two properties. By way of recollection, scummo only has one. All are subject to mortgage. Our treasurer and our potential treasurer (or Prime Minister) appear to be worse with money than health ministers. How could you possibly expect either of them to treasure anything else than your faux entitlement?

I don’t know porter’s salary. I know he grabbed at least $400k in expenses between Jan 1 and June 30, 2015, in addition to his salary. How can he possibly have mortgages? It’s not like he pays his own expenses, is it?

Whilst I understand porter ‘changed the rules’ (without reference to parliament) in July, 2016, he did not enunciate the change until his address to the NPC in September. Remember that?

Here’s the thing. This ‘thing’, like most of your ministry, is a nonsense. As a previous state AG he should know about Sect 60 of the Trade Practices Act. That’s the overarching national debt collection guideline, supervised by the ACCC and ASIC. If he doesn’t, you really should dispense of the porter’s services. Debt collectors, as he should know, are regulated by state authoritys.

Part of the ACCC guidelines state, categorically, that you cannot issue a ‘letter of demand’ that replicates a ‘legal document’. Whilst the inclusion of the AFP on the letterhead implies it is a legal document, your government is exempt from any such legislation. The problem is that they send a debt collector after you if you don’t respond to the letter.

Dunn & Bradstreet are the second largest ‘credit reporting agency’, just behind Veda, in Australia. Do you think, Mr P M, for a second, that the porter knows what luggage he is bearing? Did he sign a waiver under the Privacy Act that allows D&B to publish unfounded allegations?

With ‘Probe’, do you think, for a second, Mr P M, that he wasn’t aware that that group of companies are the process servers, by way of contract, to the ATO?

With regard to ARL, do you think, for a second, Mr P M , he was unaware that they were the process servers, by way of contract, prior to ‘Probe’, for the ATO?

Whilst us ‘serf’s’ need to understand your massive intellect, wealth, ability, courage, conviction, et cetera, can I ask a simple question?

We have seen your wealth. We have seen your intellect. We have seen your ability.

Capacities you parade on a regular cycle.

Will we ever see the courage of your convictions?

Please, pass your baggage to the porter. Let us be done with your nonsense.

Have a wonderful New Year. If you no longer want to take a piss, just get off the pot.
It’s not like you need the money. If you get off quick enough, your brilliant ‘career’ can be salvaged by your abdication. Let the porter carry your baggage. It worked for one of your predecessors, Little Johnnie. His porter was tiny.

Have a wonderful New Year. As ‘leader’ of the country you have denied most or your constituents any prospect of a new year. And deprived them of any aspiration for a new year.

Rest assured, you are a ‘grate’ man.

Enjoy your legacy. Remember, there are no pockets in a shroud.

 

On politicians and the age of cruelty

Last night for bedtime reading I was flicking through the philosopher Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic.

Seneca was born in Roman Spain about the same time as Christ fetched up in a stable, and for balance, on the back of the book cover there’s this:

Seneca may well be history’s most notable example of a man who failed to live up to his principles.

Be that as it may, Letter XC in part considers the character or lack thereof of politicians. It’s striking that Seneca refers to a “Golden Age” in which politicians were chosen for their character, and in which government was in the hands of the wise:

They kept the peace, protected the weaker from the stronger, urged and dissuaded, pointed out what was advantageous and what was not. Their ability to look ahead ensured their peoples never went short of anything…To govern was to serve, not to rule. No one used to try out the extent of his power over those to whom he owed that power in the first place.

But with the gradual infiltration of the vices and the resultant transformation of kingships into tyrannies, the need arose for laws…

Reading this gives me some perspective on our current political plight: we are by no means in a unique political situation, though its manner of expression is peculiar to its context. Seneca didn’t have social media, for example from which platform heads of state threaten one another and life on earth with extinction. But the same moral dilemmas are in play. Abuse of power, tyranny, self-interest, contempt, greed, arrogance, stupidity, cruelty and all the vices. Was it ever thus? Is Seneca’s description of a Golden Age nothing more than a doomed attempt at wish fulfilment? It does read like a fairly tale, or a child’s dream of fairness and justice.

It’s difficult to choose, but if I had to single out one dominant characteristic of the Turnbull government, I think it would be cruelty. I was going to write intentional cruelty, then I realised that cruelty is by its very nature intentional, whether that intention is acknowledged or not. I think we have had governments of which this could not be said, and perhaps that was a relatively Golden Age.

Governments such as ours are not only cruel to individuals and groups, they are cruel to the earth in their exploitation of her resources, and their indifference to the catastrophic consequences of this exploitation.

Each new cruelty is justified by the government as an economic necessity, necessary, that is, for the furtherance of the interests of the already comfortable.

For the Turnbull government, power is cruelty. Its members have no other understanding of power, such as that favoured by Seneca and likely regarded by most of us as, after decades of desensitization, as a laughably unattainable ideal. Cruelty has largely become normalised. There are scattered groups who continue to hold out for kindness, but obviously not enough to ensure a government that performs according to those ideals.

I have no idea how we get out of this most ungolden age, this age of cruelty, but I do think the first step is calling it what it is, consistently and unflinchingly. The cruel rarely enjoy being named as such. As Malcolm Turnbull once complained, it hurts when mean things are said about them.

Cruelty isn’t strength, and it is born of weakness. The Turnbull government is synonymous with cruelty. Let’s not call it, or the politicians in it, anything less than weak and cruel.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Happy 4th birthday

4,600 posts, 13 million hits, over 150,000 comments.

In their raw nakedness these figures probably don’t mean a lot to the person reading them. To the writers and administration team at The AIMN they are of significant importance. The figures in their own way are a stamp of approval given by the readers of The AIMN.

The fact that people return every day to have a read of the articles we produce further indicates that there is a role for blogs like ours who are independent of the mainstream media.

“Why am I writing this?”, you might ask. Well you see the main editor, Michael Taylor, is so flat-chat doing all the editorial things that editors do so I took it upon myself to tell you all that yesterday was our 4th birthday. I was a little disappointed that we weren’t making a fuss because the important work we post is worthy of a little kudos as is the support we get from our readers, and those who take the time to comment. But I suspect Michael didn’t want to make a big fuss about it, preferring to quietly build on our growing reputation.

We are apt to forget at times the work Michael and his wife Carol put in and the nonsense they have to put up with from some commentators or the occasional aggressive person who send emails to The AIMN.

Mind you, the writers never shy away from authentic criticism, in fact we welcome it. It’s just that some of the comments they have to read and reject are beyond belief.

It’s hard to believe it is was almost four years ago when Michael saw a piece I had written titled “An Abbott in the Lodge. Never” and he invited me to write for The AIMN.

The AIMN was originally established by Michael, Carol, Kevin Rennie, Alex Schlotzer and Barry Tucker. Victoria Rollison joined a few days later.

One of our prolific writers, Kaye Lee, was a regular commentator and Michael and I knew from her comments that she had a rare talent for citizen journalism, and she was asked if she would like to be an author on The AIMN. Look at the success she has had. Later the blog was opened to other writers and more success came with a culture of the grassroots variety. Thanks to all our readers too who also play a major part in making us the success we are.

We look forward to continuing our high standard of citizen journalism into 2017.

For all the writers and in appreciation of the editor.

John Lord

 

Tainted love?

The allegations that Russia may have interfered with the recent US election has stung Republicans into springing to the defence of their ‘new best friend’ Russian President Vladimir Putin. This timeline by Alabama resident Ben Williamson would suggest that this friendship is not only new, but perhaps also feigned.

1999 – Vladimir V. Putin, former KGB operative, is appointed prime minister of Russia. Four months later, the president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, abruptly and mysteriously resigns, naming Putin acting president pending elections.

2000 – Putin is elected by a little over 50%. He campaigns as a cool dude, and has all kinds of big talk about how he’s going to “make Russia great again”. Sound familiar? Everyone has high hopes. President Clinton says he thinks Putin has potential. After the election, he pulls a Castro and turns into a quasi-communist dictator, ramps up the war in Chechnya and is accused of trying to rebuild the Soviet Union … bombs the crap out of everyone … human rights violations abound. Republicans call him a monster, and call Clinton a communist for ever considering this tyrant had potential.

2001 – Russia and the U.S. expel 50 of each other’s diplomats over alleged espionage. The Russian government takes control of the press, and then, after a year and a half in office, Putin gives his first press conference. Sound familiar? Republicans called him a commie bastard, and praised Bush for being “tough” on him.

2002 – Russia begins a program to offer Russian passports to citizens of South Ossentia, spitting in the face of the lawful government of Georgia. This “passportization” process is an effort to legitimize Russian occupations in the future. Putin is accused of trying to rebuild the Soviet Union again. Republicans say … well, they don’t say anything because they’re still so worked up about terrorists. Obama does apparently time travel back to this time though and have something to do with this, as I’ve seen him blamed for the later war with Georgia.

2003 – U.S. invasion of Iraq begins. Putin praises the move. Republicans cry, “yeah! Putin knows what he’s talkin’ about! Let’s kill some Muslims!”

2004 – Personal relations between Putin and the Bush administration deteriorate. Putin gets caught trying to interfere in Georgian elections. In Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych narrowly loses his bid for the presidency amid allegations of Putin’s involvement in the election. Putin is accused of trying to rebuild the Soviet Union … AGAIN. Most Republicans are oblivious because they’re still focused on the war.

2006 – Russian financed separatists in South Ossentia begin minor skirmishes against the Georgian government. The Georgian government puts them down, and removes from power the officials that started the coup. Putin calls it a “puppet government”, and vows to do everything he can to put pro-Russian officials back in power. Putin is accused of trying to rebuild the Soviet Union … AGAIN. Republicans are starting to catch on, and thanks to military-minded (though addled) Republicans like John McCain, they’re starting to see just how horrible Putin is.

2008 – Russia begins a full-scale invasion under the guise of humanitarian effort (sound familiar?) into Georgia. Putin swears those tanks and heavily armed troops are there only to deliver supplies to the poor Russian separatists! The U.N. condemns Russia for once gain laying waste to innocent civilian populations. President Bush proposes a missile defense shield to protect us all from Iran and North Korea. Putin says it’s an act of war, and promises to destroy anything we build. Republicans call Putin a monster again, and whine that Obama, campaigning for president, is too weak on Russia to be president, and his talk of “trying to reach common ground with Russia” is just liberal socialist-communist propaganda. Lol, Repubs actually accused OBAMA of being “pro-Putin”.

2010 – Viktor Yanukovych was elected president in Ukraine. This time, he campaigned as an anti-Russian, pro-EU candidate, and he actually won. There were allegations of Putin’s influence (sound familiar?), but no one could ever prove anything. Of course, as soon as he was in office, he pulled a Castro too, and instantly became pro-Russia, anti-EU.

2012 – A year of protest erupts in Russia over massive election fraud during their 2011 elections, which basically elected all of Vladimir Putin’s buddies to completely take over the government. Putin blamed Obama. Republicans blamed Obama. Republicans claim Russia is our greatest geopolitical enemy, and Putin is a tyrant and dictator.

2014 – Ukraine exiles pro-Putin president Yanukovych, and Russia unofficially declares war because of it, financially and militarily backing pro-Russian separatists. Seizes control of Crimea, which had very few Russian sympathizers, and just happens to be the bread basket of the old USSR. Republicans are outraged that Obama is so “weak” against the vile monster that is Putin. They cry and cry that sanctions aren’t enough.

2016 – Seventeen intelligence agencies tell us there is no doubt Putin directed his cyber warfare department to topple our elections in the effort to elect Trump. Republicans now say Putin is a “strong leader” and Russia is our new BFF. They cry and cry that these new sanctions are too much.

“Now if you begin to feel an intense and crushing feeling of religious terror at the concept (of what I just wrote), don’t be alarmed. That indicates only that you are still sane”.

 

New Year’s Eve in Ostraylia

By Jennifer Meyer-Smith

It’s now 10pm and there’s only two hours left of 2016. Thank goodness for that! At midnight, it will be 2017 and I’m willing to hope that there will be more to thank for in 2017. I know, I know; it might be just wishful thinking but if we don’t have hope, we don’t have much else.

So this is what I hope will happen.

I hope the Greens and Labor do what comes naturally and see that electoral survival means that different parties must come together to form the strongest force in order to win back government from the current bunch of traitors that Australia has even seen. I like to call them the LNP Degenerates.

I want the Greens and Labor to kiss and make up because it is the best chance for the Australian People and our Environmental responsibilities to have both parties in control. What one party lacks in policy prioritisation and philosophical principles, the other party makes up for in strategic numbers and political advocacy.

This means The ALLiance will be something to support and not fear by the Labor and/or Greens faithful determined to stay insular and non-collaborative with political allies. Those party faithful in either party must come to see that forming a working alliance between both parties and any other collaborative progressive party and independent, will be the best result for the Australian People and for their own political survival despite what political apparatchiks in either party might be attempting to build into party guidelines.

Once we have a Political Force working for us within Parliament and going in the same direction, we will see further cracks open wide in the LNP Degenerates in 2017, as they continue to panic as they see their political power diminish.

But before we allow the Greens and Labor to hope for our support, we must expect that all policies they choose, prioritise and then design represent a staunch opposition and reversal to any neoliberalist elements that have been allowed to creep into our socio-economic-political culture for 30 plus years under the Lib/Lab duopoly.

It’s Time for an Australian renaissance of renewed hope and progressive reform. I want a true socialist democracy again which is what we had for a brief but beautiful time under Gough.

Therefore, I want the following (in no particular order of importance) from my government which will be The ALLiance of independent and collaborative parties, namely the Greens, Labor, assorted upcoming progressive parties and sane independents:

• Universal education with better than Gonski expectations, so that all students are equitably equipped and all teachers are fully recognised and paid respectably according to their highly important input;

• Universal healthcare so that Medicare is reinstated to its best ever status (including dental care) without any cuts implemented by this LNP Degenerate government;

• Free university education for all students from no, low and middle income families (and high income families on a case by case basis);

• Microfinance incentives of Micro Finance Grants (MFGs) and Micro Credit Loans (MCLs) to unemployed and under-employed people on Newstart or Disability Benefits so they can escape unemployment and poverty by developing their own self-employment in their micro businesses based on their ingenuity, skills, experience and qualifications. The MFGs ($10-15k) and MCLs ($20-30k) must be government-backed, fully accessible, and over and above Newstart or the DSP so that recipients can establish their small enterprises AND feed and house themselves at the same time;

• Climate Change is a growing danger and any appropriate policy must reflect heightened priority to combat it, which includes active and immediate fading out of traditional dirty energy sources. Renewable energy industries throughout Australia need promotion and financial resources to become immediately operational, so their emphasis is on saving the environment and providing many, diverse local employment opportunities for Australians. The Adani project proposed in Queensland is a baptism of fire for the fledgling ALLiance and must be seen to be a false prophet to the People of Queensland and a poor choice by Queensland Labor for which they will come to repent;

• Environment Protections must also be fully supported by The ALLiance. Such protections that come to my mind immediately are the old growth forests of Victoria and Tasmania; the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland; the Great Australian Bight; farmlands throughout Australia needing protection from coal seam gas companies wanting to exploit it; fisheries throughout Australian waters threatened by deep dredging and over-fishing; our river systems such as the great Murray which are hostage to nutcases like Barnaby Joyce and his constituents to the detriment of others downstream; and the list goes on;

• New industry innovations that will provide regional, rural and remote industry incentives that will meet the needs of diverse people in outlying areas where dissatisfaction has grown because of the sense of disenfranchisement which of course has helped Pauline Hanson to rise to stardom as the false prophet for disillusioned people.

The ALLiance in 2017 can start to provide the conversations that will get constituents believing again. When such party collaboration changes become apparent, I guarantee that there will be a groundswell of hope that will lift us out of these desperate times under the LNP Degenerates and into a renaissance time of greater political expectations with The ALLiance.

Our prison system is a broken, that is why so many people are in it

By Tracie Aylmer

At one point in our understanding and knowledge of our way of life, it should have been understood that prison was meant to incur shame upon those that have done wrong according to our social way of life. If prison is used for any other type of method, then there will be no shame and prison will not have the impact that it should. Instead, it will be treated as a source of resentment, particularly among those that are wrongly caught up in it. It won’t have the impact that it should.

I have been reading about Ancient Greece. Pericles gave a very long speech to Athenians going to the Peloponnesian War that makes sense even today.[1] The law is supposed to be to do right by oneself, as well as to others. Neighbours are happy with what others are doing, as long as they are also happy within themselves.

This makes total, logical sense.

If the law is unjust and shame is delivered on those in an illogical manner, then the concept of the prison system does not bring shame upon those being caught up in it, nor does it have the impact that it should. There will be no rehabilitation to those that come out of it.

If the prison system was used appropriately then there wouldn’t be quite as many people incarcerated. If one looks at today’s statistics, many of the people caught in our prison system are there due to racial intolerance. Ms Dhu’s case is a perfect example of how the prison system has gone so horribly wrong. If she had not been caught up in the prison system then she would still be alive today. (Ms Dhu died in custody). There are many that have been similarly caught within this racially motivated method of keeping our Indigenous locked up for no real good reason.

Considering this same issue was commented upon so concisely by a man speaking around 2500 years ago, one can see that not only has history repeated itself yet again, but the concept of prison and shame has suffered. Prisons cannot be taken to be for the reason they are open. They cannot be treated as serious entities with the intent on teaching people that what they did was wrong. This is because many that are caught up have not really done wrong things, other than not paying fines brought on by a government that only has intent on making money.

Perhaps when the racism has stopped, then we can deal with those that have socially done wrong in a much better way. At this period of time, the concept of prison is far from what it should be. It is time that we reconsider what prison is meant to represent.

[1] Thucydides ‘History of the Peloponnesian War’, Book II, Paragraph 37.