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Category Archives: Your Say

Corporate Malfeasance and its Control

By Andrew Klein

Making Shareholder Liable to the value of their Share Holding – an easy guide to encourage ethical investment.

Much has been written and said about the damage done to this Planet by Corporations that act solely to create profit for shareholders. The ugly reality is that those in charge of Corporations have a duty to ensure that shareholder profits are maximised at whatever they can get away with and shareholders are limited in their liability. Many a keen legal mind has made a personal fortune to ensure that this status quo remains as if these ideas were cast in stone or possibly represented the latest directions of the Almighty.

This all perversely goes back to the hay day of production and manufacturing in the United States, where the Ford Company sought to give some benefits to its employees.

The result is briefly and well summed up in Wikipedia;-

“Dodge v. Ford Motor Company, 170 NW 668 (Mich 1919)[1] is a case in which the Michigan Supreme Court held that Henry Ford had to operate the Ford Motor Company in the interests of its shareholders, rather than in a charitable manner for the benefit of his employees or customers. It is often cited as affirming the principle of “shareholder primacy” in corporate America. At the same time, the case affirmed the business judgment rule, leaving Ford an extremely wide latitude about how to run the company.

More recent cases such as AP Smith Manufacturing Co v. Barlow[2] or Shlensky v. Wrigley[3] suggest that the business judgment is very expansive, i.e., that management decisions will not be challenged under almost any circumstances where one can point to any rational link to shareholder benefits.

By 1916, the Ford Motor Company had accumulated a capital surplus of $60 million. The price of the Model T, Ford’s mainstay product, had been successively cut over the years while the cost of the workers had dramatically, and quite publicly, increased. The company’s president and majority stockholder, Henry Ford, sought to end special dividends for shareholders in favour of massive investments in new plants that would enable Ford to dramatically increase production, and the number of people employed at his plants, while continuing to cut the costs and prices of his cars. In public defence of this strategy, Ford declared, “My ambition is to employ still more men, to spread the benefits of this industrial system to the greatest possible number, to help them build up their lives and their homes. To do this we are putting the greatest share of our profits back in the business.”

This vision that Ford had to benefit both his company and its employees makes good business sense and has a touch of the humanitarian about it. Common sense approach that would have probably kept many people happy. The damage done to our world occurred just when Shareholder Benefits are impacted. The Michigan Supreme Court held that Henry Ford could not lower consumer prices and raise employee salaries. “A business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders. The powers of the directors are to be employed for that end. The discretion of directors is to be exercised in the choice of means to attain that end, and does not extend to a change, in the end, itself, to the reduction of profits, or to the non-distribution of profits among stockholders in order to devote them to other purposes…”

Well, it is time to re-organize the very culture that has delivered us into the hands of sociopathic directors reaping huge fortunes and in turn doing little for either their employees or the planet. Corporate greed is no more than a precedent-based behaviour that the west has bought into. Of course, it is possible that the parties involved at the time considered the world an infinite resource and that the impact of mindless conspicuous consumption had not even been considered.

Though the impacts of colonial rule and the control of assets had allowed Empire Builders to flourish and one major result of World War One was simply to shift the control of the competing interests of the Old World into those of the New.

I digress here. It would take a very simple Act of Federal Parliament to change the behaviours of Corporations in Australia. The current immunity that shareholders have from the damages done by directors and or companies should be removed.

I can hear economists whining about this, their theories much akin to astronomy and only seriously viable in hindsight to fill books to annoy students with. Shareholders should be jointly and individually liable to the level of the shareholding when a company they own shares is derelict in its duties, pollutes the planet, or allows other crimes against humanity to occur.

This is not rocket science and given the unstable nature of this world and the damage that has been done, such an ethical approach should be considered as soon as possible. Bad investment decisions would be punished by not only losses in financial distributions but possibly by fines imposed per share. As for the Capital Value of shares, greedy short-term planning will reap its own reward. No doubt our huge ‘Superannuation Industry’ would tremble at the thought that monies could no longer be apportioned to a plethora of companies and Financial Advisers would have to know what they are doing. On the other hand, such Superannuation Funds that have been built up by Australian Workers could in theory be lent to the Government to reduce the need for foreign borrowings for local infrastructure development.

All these transactions would have to be totally transparent and every cent accounted for. The other positive of this approach is that it would require top-class accountants and bean counters to see this done, people currently sitting in Parliament could be offered jobs in areas that suit them better and we might even have Political Leaders with a real vision rather than relying on the Thesaurus for ideas.

I have no doubt that this simple idea will be dismissed as a dream or simply too big to implement. I also have no doubt that there are plenty of fingers in the ever-shrinking pie that would not like to see such an approach taken.

It because it challenges the core values of any particular society but because greed and corruption do exist, short-sighted policymakers profit in their own ways, and many political leaders are beholden to the very system that is morally bankrupt.

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Spilt milk 10,000 miles away

My name is Nicole. I’m a scientist and a mother, but underneath all of that I am a woman. Not only this but like all women I have faced significant adversity because of my gender. I have stood in front of a man clutching my abdomen explaining I am bleeding heavily, at a hospital where I was told to ‘rough it’ because the then law made it illegal to transport me or for me to use public spaces or restrooms. As if a dog on heat, I have walked out of a hospital, walked 1.5km to my car in agony bleeding through my pants and squatted on the side of the road, hands resting on dried eucalyptus leaves, as the product of conception violently ejected itself from my body.

Upon making a complaint about this injustice, I have been told by the director (a man) of a hospital, that despite blood work indicating I was pregnant, I wasn’t bleeding enough and couldn’t have been having a miscarriage – because I didn’t bleed on cue. I have been ignored in both my professional and in public life, harassed, assaulted, and objectified and raped. All because of my biology. I have missed work, opportunities and taken countless sick days. All of this, simply for having a uterus, an organ that the opposite sex (men) don’t have. And before I even used her (my uterus) to the full extent of the activities she is capable of, I knew inequality in the deepest part of my soul. This is because I am a woman. This is what it means to be a woman even in my own country, Australia.

I have lived through all of that despite that abortion is now legal in every state and territory in my country. All of that, and I can still swallow and say what happened to me really could be much worse. For you see, I am absurdly privileged, I could have been charged with murder for miscarrying or forced to carry a pregnancy I didn’t want, to full term. Maybe it’s because I am now a mother and I know the challenges that carrying a (wanted) human to full term can bring, but I’ve never felt such despair and hopelessness as I do right now. But this is not because I feel my country (with all of its flaws) is somehow awash with even half of the worlds injustices towards women, but because an array of vast immeasurable and inconceivable inequality has suddenly struck my sisters in the United States – more than I ever thought possible or ever imagined could be thrown into reverse. For the last week, I have been lost for words. I want to tell you about the moment I finally found them.

My hands grip the pump, as I read about their stories. My eye’s glaze as I feel each click of the suction emptying my heavy, engorged breasts. I’m away from my 8 month old daughter and I’m collecting what would be her next feed. I make too much milk, a curse that I have learned to appreciate and accept by sharing my milk with others. My hands shake under the vibrations of the pump as I scroll through the newsfeed. Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, I’ve been searching for the right emotions. One of my best friends lives in the US and in fact many people I care about live in the US, intricately connected through our neurodiversity and or because we are likeminded. I try to gather my thoughts but still can’t find the words to bring them to life. A whole range of thoughts and feelings escape me, but I know one things for sure, I feel white hot guilt. I have never been more glad that I am not a US citizen.

Trying to make sense of it all, I finished pumping my milk and wander into my kitchen in a daze. Clasping the milk in one hand and reading stories of the US injustice in another, my hand suddenly slips and 160 ml of milk tuples onto the floor. I stop in silence as I watch it helplessly fall. There’s no use crying over spilt milk, unless of course it’s breastmilk and everybody knows that. Except, I didn’t cry because I know there is plenty more where it came from, my freezer is stacked sky high, in fact there’s 20 more litres of it neatly sandwiched in the freezer, taking up an entire freezer drawer. It was too poetic for words. So as the milk toppled off the bench onto the kitchen floor, I did not cry – I screamed. I stand and stare at it, a thick white puddle, but I’m enraged like I’ve never been before. I screamed because not a moment later it hit me all once-everything that I had been feeling. There on the floor in a thick white puddle was…my privilege. It was my privilege staring back at me from the milk soaked tiled floor. My cold ugly, white, brazened-Aussie (imperfect) yet universally sound-healthcare soaked privilege, on display for all. In perfect poetry I stood in my kitchen and screamed -160ml of milk 10,000 miles away from any injustice mothers face in the US today.

10,000 miles away, splattered on the floor, was a full meal for a baby the same age as mine. A full meal for a baby in a formula shortage, whose mother was unable to breastfeed, can’t access breastmilk and is also pregnant right now. A mother who already can barely afford to feed their current child and who will be forced – due to Roe v. Wade – to bring another one into the world. 10,000 miles away from any danger, a milk bottle pooling on the floor, in a place where spilt milk and unwanted pregnancies are two problems that for me can equally be solved. Right then and there was the ugly injustice of it all because no matter what I did, no matter how hard I screamed, I would never be able to share such rights that are so blatantly, unapologetically and rightfully mine.

My name is Nicole and whilst all of my pregnancies have been wanted, I have held the hands and felt the silence that an unwanted pregnancy can bring. These hands have guided and supported others who felt that it wasn’t the right time. These hands, the same hands (and feet) that pressed on the cold hard ground as a wanted pregnancy violently exited my uterus, have walked into a clinic, without being harassed and patiently waited as hard and easy decisions were safely and autonomously made. These hands have also guided as I typed from afar support for some of my US friends. In a heartbeat (a real heartbeat) if I ever found myself in a situation with a pregnancy I didn’t want, I would do the same. Without question if I ever found myself in a situation with a pregnancy that should not be, I would do the same. My name is Nicole and I love someone who has had an abortion, in fact many people that I love have had an abortion.

I have never felt such despair for women as I do right now, as those with a uterus have suddenly found their body is not their own. My heart, my mind, and my soul is bleeding from places I never knew before. Every inch of my body feels unhinged and desperate. I feel suffocated, distilled and broken, not because I am lost but because we are all so broken together. So broken because your rights are broken, so broken because your rights we lost. Without your rights, without the rights of all women, without equal rights for all, my rights and progress, mean nothing. Without your rights, my rights are milk soaked gluttony and a selfish affair.

I wish there was something I could say, I wish there was something I could do. I feel utterly useless, utterly helpless, and yet all I can do is stand on the side line with my milk soaked privileged stare. At the very least please know that your sisters in Australia will never stop listening to you, our ears and hearts are always open. We would stop at nothing to help you, in any way we can – however and where-ever possible; we will stop at nothing to see that the choice is yours, and if that’s not enough we will move the continents to get to you, and bring you safely to our arms. With all of our hearts, we are here for you and with all of our souls we will unapologetically bleed with you.

 

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Speed is of the essence – Prime Minister!

I think an element of caution in relation to political decisions – because of economic implications – has been impressed too firmly into the ALP.

We are now in a situation where wasting time in terms of climate change decisions is the worst possible error.

Anyone who understands exponential growth will appreciate that, not only are many parts of the world now experiencing climate change to an unprecedented extent, as far as human history in concerned, but indicators point to the rate and frequency increasing inexorably, UNLESS we take really intense and increasing efforts to slow and reduce the rising temperatures produced by climate change.

We do NOT need a gas-led program.

We need to stop using gas, oil and coal – ASAP.

It is our only hope.

We have got to stop manufacturing plastics, unless they are recyclable and recycling is genuinely practised.

We have been persuaded of the conveniences of modern machinery, yet those of my generation who lived through WWII in Europe will vouch for the fact that preservation through re-use and recycling is actually quite acceptable when it increases the likelihood of surviving a catastrophe!

So – PLEASE, Prime Minister – give strong support to rejecting fossil fuels as a danger to survival, rapidly encourage the use of electricity in all forms of transport, ensure that solar, storage batteries and all other readily available forms of renewable energy are installed as standard and as widely as possible.

We do not have rime for failing experiments like carbon capture and storage or nuclear power. We need to have made substantial changes before 2030 if we have even a faint hope of improving the hopes for our children.

I moved to Darwin at the beginning of 1971.

I know that temperatures are now significantly higher than when I arrived – not just 1˚C, either!

This is not an issue we can waste time discussing.

We have a multitude of scientists who are more than capable of developing plans that can be introduced as soon as possible.

We are surrounded by oceans, and any sailor will vouch for the power every wave can transmit.

Much of Australia enjoys many hours of sunshine.

Winds blow over the oceans as well as the land so, all told, we have an abundance of energy to harness.

And did we not want to create more jobs?

 

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Real Man at Lunch – George Clooney and the Blue Heeler

By Andrew Klein

There I was at Oakleigh. An area that has a mixed community of Greek, Maltese and Asian families with plenty of coffee shops and places to eat.

I had my faithful Labrador, Donna by my side and she really is a diplomat. If you ever want to break that superficial ice that seems to separate people from each other, have your dog along to act as interpreter. They make friends easier and make it possible to have some great talks with people that otherwise would not have happened.

Sitting in the ‘Souvlaki Restaurant’ with my Donna, relaxing, as we had covered some distance examining the many changes on the area that have occurred there since I was there last so many years ago attending a funeral.

Today had been another one of those days and I had driven a friend to a funeral and after making sure everything was organized, there was time to fill.

It was lunch time and I could see the surrounding places slowly fill with people. Office staff going for the more formal luncheons carrying their iPads and other communication equipment, hurried discussions about deals being done, deals pending and where to get good advice to achieve better deals.

Personally, I preferred the little Souvlaki place that had seats on the outside and was happy to serve both Donna and I.

Donna was delighted to have her own version of Souvlaki, but then there is little difference between a Labrador and food or a carpet and a vacuum cleaner. They go hand in hand.

Then an elderly couple sat a few tables away, a lovely old Greek couple. He was fussing over his wife as she seemed a little unsteady on her feet and, once she was seated, he ordered for both and glanced at the Greek newspapers that were freely supplied by the venue.

Then the ‘lads’ arrived. Five rather solid men that, according to the badges they wore, worked on motor cars. Greetings were exchanged and the largest of them, spiky haired and ear rings made friends with Donna straight away.

He laughed as I explained the reasons for Donna wearing a ‘pink collar ‘ (to make her appear less aggressive) and he burst out laughing, gently taking Donna’s head in his big hands and whilst rubbing behind her ears said, “That’s no killer, she is a Daddy’s girl, what a cutey.“

The other guys joined in and within minutes we were talking about dogs. Not hunting dogs, man eating guard dogs, but members of their families.

The skinny guy on the right laughed and said,”Fuck talking about the kids, here, look at this, she is mine. Her head is massive but you should see her with the kids .“ At the same time, he produced his iPhone and was passing it around showing pictures of what could have been ‘Cujo‘ but was a much-loved family dog. Within seconds of the iPhone where being passed around, each with a picture of the ‘dog’ in the life of that man and his family.

They talked about the problems presented by various toys, how balls were torn apart and how the cat was allowed to get away with murder.

So many men, each with a dog in his life. Each of them happily sharing the treasured shots of their beloved pet.

“My Mrs told me she was worried about my blue heeler cross because he was getting grey hairs and she says to me to take him to the vet. I said there is nothing wrong with Bluey, he is beginning to look distinguished. Just think about George Clooney and his grey hairs. Well, that calmed her concerns and Bluey was saved from a trip to the vet.”

Laughter filled the little café as the men discussed a dog looking like George Clooney and keeping the wife happy.

Their lunches arrived and in no time, Donna’s new friend offered to share his Souvlaki with her and you could see the others guys fishing for little treats to pass to her. I politely refused on her behalf because Labradors do get fat quickly if allowed to eat whenever the option arises.

It was time for us to leave and though it was really my problem to cause as little disturbance to their meal as possible, the ‘lads‘ were concerned about Donna being able to leave in comfort and so they moved their chairs, neglected their meals and said good bye to us both.

So, if you ever wonder what ‘real men‘ talk about whilst having lunch, think about George Clooney and his distinguished grey hairs and how that hair saved bluey, the blue heeler from a visit to the vet. Even a dog can look like George Clooney and his ‘Mum’ will love his grey hairs.

Wishing you and your much-loved pets a wonderful week.

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If you believe in God…

I saw the following words on Facebook and noted that the author was unidentified. However, further perusal revealed that they were highly sage in content. As my enquiring mind would dictate, I decided to digest the words and see if they were sympathetic to my journey. I separated their thoughts and married them to quotations from my writing. My thoughts are in quotes and I haven’t attempted to expand on the person’s writing; instead, I have allowed my quotes to speak for themselves.

A: If you believe in God, he is probably as real to you as if he were standing next to you. You sense his presence and his love. You can ask for advice and receive it. He can console you when you are distressed. He is a constant companion. You need him. He exists. And this is true, whatever religion or God you believe in.

Faith is the residue of things not understood and can never be a substitute for fact.

Imagine, if you will, a world where superstition runs rife, knowledge is circulated orally, and all sorts of beliefs and stories are propagated throughout Middle Eastern countries. Many Biblical stories have been passed down from earlier times. Thoughts grow and prosper; some survive and are even recycled.

If the Bible is the supposed literal (or inspired) word of God, why then did he stop dictating? So much of it is just outdated. Now that’s something to think about.

B: But if you cease believing in him, he goes away completely. You discover you do not need him. He no longer exists for you.

Religion does not have a monopoly on morality.” Or anything else in my experience.

Why does religion assume it has some bizarre ownership on people’s morality? Assuming that an atheist is any less moral than someone religious is absurd.

C: Today, hundreds of millions of ex-believers accept God as an imagination project. Utterly convincing at the time, but imagination all the same.

It is far better to form independent opinions relative to your life experience and reason than to allow yourself to be blindly led by others.

D: Perhaps this raises a question for every believer, why do some people lose their belief? Why do they let go of something so important and so real?

The ideas of today need to be honed with critical reason, factual evidence and scientific methods of enquiry so that they clearly articulate the currency of tomorrow.

Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, is the best way to solve human problems.”

E: Perhaps they were not genuine believers in the first place? But that seems unlikely given that some were lifelong pastors and some dedicated much time and money to helping the church and spreading the word.

America may be the most advanced technological nation on earth but its social progress on matters of great moral importance is still fighting its way out of the dark ages when mysticism was rampant.

F: When you talk to ex-believers, most do not say anything bad happened to them. Perhaps something terrible happened to them, and they blamed God? That doesn’t seem likely either. In any case, that would be a reason to believe God let you down; it does not mean God doesn’t exist when all your experience confirms that he does.

I think what atheists and others find most offensive with religion is not only that they reject theist belief, but also the injustice, immorality and hypocrisy that often comes with it.

What other reasons could there be?

G: One possibility is they started to think. Perhaps, when they looked seriously, they could find no objective evidence that God exists. Maybe they realised it was impossible to disprove the possibility that their God was made up.

Generally, people assume that a theory (for example, the theory of evolution) is something unproven. In the scientific world, a theory is something that has evolved to fit known facts.

My thinking took me in many different directions of discovery, torment and release, but I have never regretted the journey.

H: Perhaps they began reading scripture and found uncomfortable discrepancies that should have no place in sacred texts. Maybe they saw morality in scripture that would be normal in a brutal Iron Age society but should not exist in texts inspired by the breath of a perfectly moral God.

If you read the Bible with literalist intent, it becomes the only textbook on living never updated, but if you read it with logical reasoning and an exploratory mind, all manner of things are revealed.

The study of free will is an essential foundation of rational thinking and objective application of thoughts to actions. How many seriously take up the study of free will and the constraints of pre-determined facts that limit free will, and personal action?

The teaching of literalism in some churches holds back any worthwhile discussion about finding the truth.

On one hand do you shape the truth for the sake of literalism? On the other, do you tell the truth even if it may tear down the view people have of your faith.? Alternatively, do you use the contrivance of omission and create another lie. I can only conclude that there is always a pain in truth but there is no harm in it.

G: Perhaps they gradually allowed reason and logic to take priority over imagination. Maybe this led them to realise they could imagine God, and they could imagine no God. And the no-God scenario made much more sense.

Everyone can do this if they try.

Science has made in my lifetime, the most staggering achievements and they are embraced, recognised and enjoyed by all sections of society. The only areas that I can think of where science is questioned is in the religious fever of climate change doubters, conservative politics and religious belief.

Nothing has ever stood in the way of science and technology. Its advancement has been staggering. So why are the conservative political and religious forces so opposed to it?

Generally people assume that a theory (for example the theory of evolution) is something unproven. In the scientific world, a theory is something that has evolved to fit known facts.

We all have to make important decisions in our lives.” Nothing is more important than rejecting those things that tempt us into being somebody we are not.

There are three kinds of people. Those who know. Those who know when they are shown or listen, and those who have no interest in knowing.

Thank goodness, my children, in the early stage of their development, acquired independent minds. This rendered any attempt by me at indoctrination of any sort futile. Teach your children how to think. Not what to think.

My thoughts for the day

When asked as to my belief or otherwise in religion, or indeed my atheist thoughts, I can only say that I find myself in a perpetual state of observation which of course is the very basis of science or fact.

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

I have concluded that one of the nasty effects religion (any religion) has on people is “that it teaches that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.”

Sometimes I allow myself the indulgence of thinking I know a lot. Then I realise that in the totality of things, I know little. One thing I am certain of however is that there are known facts in the world because science proves them.

I am often staggered with the vigour American atheists use to confront religion. However, when one examines the conduct of religious institutions in that country I cannot say I am the least surprised.

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The Second Hand Car – Credit Card Sharks and the Ordinary Consumer

By Andrew Klein

Light reading from a rather miffed old fart

Buying a car is an expensive challenge at the best of times. These days one can use the internet to go forth and find a vehicle that is within the price range planned. Not that I am fond of wasting money on cars but there is a time in one’s life where the body says; “It’s time that you find some way of getting around without having to borrow your sister’s car, and given the pounding your body has had … difficult to access public transport and the cost of taxis and a desire to get around … well … Its time.“

So there I was. Looking for something in my price range and second-hand, a car that reflected many of my own character traits. Living within my price range and very much second hand at my age.

Now, dealers of used cars can be fun. We are all familiar with the jokes and the stories that are told about this particular trade. So here is my contribution to the adventures of buying a second-hand car.

The only reason I am sharing this one is because it was not just funny but maybe a sign of the times.

I had made an effort to save money for some time to be able to pay cash for my future means of transport. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t want to borrow money at high interest rates and be at the mercy of one or other finance company. The other reason being is that I don’t have a credit rating. I have never been bankrupt, always paid my bills and am financially secure. I have never had a credit card, preferring to save my cash and then make a purchase. This of course does not apply to business practices, where credit is used. But I am talking about the individual me. I discovered that I had no credit history when I tried to apply for a credit card some time ago. I thought it prudent to have access to credit when required for emergencies. I completed the forms proudly listing my assets, income and the usual things one is proud of and with some pride I also noted that I had no debts.

Now I would have thought that at my age, being debt-free would be something to be proud of. But apparently not. I received a rather curt note from the credit card service supplier – a subsidiary of one our major banks – informing me that as I had no record of debt and no liabilities, I was not able to go into debt.

I was stunned. Had I spent my life in debt, owed money and was barely managing to keep afloat financially as a private individual they would gladly not just provide me with a credit card but also offered to consolidate my existing debts which they would manage at a low rate of interest for a ‘honeymoon period‘.

Of course, after the honeymoon was over the interest rate would have shot through the roof and, given the many variables in life this approach to lending money could well have caused me problem. To me this indicates a major problem with the approach of banks and lending practices.

The more one has been in debt, the easier it is to acquire further debt and there is little incentive to save as amounts under a $100,000 attract very poor rates from the banks for borrowing money from the customer, but the same money lent out to borrowers comes at a high cost .

Money, like all things has to be bought and the Interest we way is the cost of that money.

I blame my mother; she taught me to be prudent in my financial dealings and to always try and pay cash or come to a mutually rewarding outcome avoiding banks, and now the banks were punishing me for not having borrowed money. Having once had a mortgage to buy a house did not count because that mortgage was discharged a long time ago (and no more funds being paid to the bank for that one).

Where does that leave the ordinary person that has no credit history or worse, a very bad credit history after having bought into the ‘credit scam’? After all, you are buying the use of money which belongs to other people that have put their money into banks to keep it safe (or so the story goes) and the bank acts as a ‘middle man’ selling you something it does not even own itself. I suppose one could argue that it is lending you the use of money that belongs to a third party and has some obligation to ensure that that money is safe for that third party. Given the history of banking, even this appears a myth, for in buying certain ‘bank products‘ and ‘bank services‘, the customer (lender to bank) is actually taking a huge risk. Banks are involved in superannuation schemes, retirement funds and all manner of ‘money-selling ventures‘ often using other names and identities. When things go terribly pear shaped as during the Global Financial Crisis, several of my friends lost large amounts of money that was meant to have been protected for their retirement.

One minute it was there, then next the New York Stock Market goes belly up and people get bitten in their financial arse in Australia. I remember at the time asking the financial advisors that had organized the monies belonging to friends as to what happened to these investments for retirement. The consensus comment was – “It is gone !” How can money just disappear? How can billions of dollars make a great escape, never to be seen again? The usual refrain was a referral to the stock market, where such funds had been applied to a vast assortment of companies (some superannuation funds would list over a hundred assorted companies, i.e. 1% of holdings to ‘Smelly Fish Pty Ltd’, 0.5 % of holdings to ‘Toe Rag Pty Ltd‘, ad nauseum. (Of course none of the 1% could even be found on the internet for verification but as part of an investment portfolio sold by a bank-related Fund had appeared all to very secure).

Money cannot disappear; it moves from one account to another. There is no money eating monster that digests huge amounts of liquid cash turning it into thin, bad smelling air. Indeed, no one can tell where these other accounts are but had I been in charge of financial policy and governance I would have applied the old saying “Follow the money trail” with vigour.

Where does this leave the person that requires cash at short notice and unable to buy such funds from a bank? Well, the answer is simple: being regarded as a higher risk, the borrower is forced to obtain funds from legal loan sharks in Australia. The cheerful franchises that offer money at incredibly high rates and would sell your children into prostitution or coal mines if the proponents of neoliberal free market trickledown theory had their way .

Next time I might carefully examine the many wonderful money laundering services that have become part of the Australian financial scene.

 

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The Flowers of Empire

(Author’s note: No doubt we all hope that this never comes to pass, and that wiser heads manage to prevail)

The Flowers of Empire

They’ll bloom those flowers will
If madness reckons ‘tis time to kill
Putin’s no great tiller of reason
As he blood-sniffs the air for start of season

Should it come the stems’ll roil high
They’ll rival the sun and rend-crack the sky
They’ll propagate and proliferate
And dog release waves of ripped-snarl hate

The winds of sigh will obliterate out
Whatever compulsive earth-heave leaves standing about
Never will become now and time will cleave
As bodies mound up, tindered and sheaved

The harvest of the Flowers of Empire
Power’s folly delivered entire
Our futures ended complete
Our shadows faintly etched onto crumbled concrete

 

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All Unions Should and Do Matter!

By Callen Sorensen Karklis

All Unions Should and Do Matter! Lessons from pandemic times

The Covid-19 pandemic, recession, and the Ukraine oil crisis caught us all by surprise. For many of us, expectations of a Roaring Twenties good times became another repeat of what felt like the 1930s and the GFC. With ever increasing cost of living prices at the grocery store, fuel pump, and stagnant wages, inflation and lockdowns forced many people out of dream jobs and many into old jobs.

For me, mostly I was working part-time in marketing while I was running a share house, and studying full-time in university on my way to gaining a promising post graduate entry level job I was running for city council, and I had a supportive partner and friends around me.

But when Covid hit I lost a great deal of all this, and I knew when my media advertising sales started to crash even before Covid that economic turbulence was on the way as I had a good track record of sales.

In 2020 I found myself losing a city council election during a bitter Labor Party split on overdevelopment issues locally in the Redlands, and half my family and friends losing their jobs (in many of their hospitality jobs) as soon as the lockdowns hit. We all became isolated from important relationships and meaning in our lives. For me, it strained a close relationship during a tough campaign I over committed myself towards … away from other things important in my own life. I found myself finding another campaign to help people in tough times away from city politics towards the politick of unionism. I had a brief history helping the United Voice and RTBU unions assisting employee bargaining notices and market research on election polling in 2011-2012, running Labor Party branches in the Redlands as a Secretary, Vice-President, and Chair/President, and helping the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) on anti-asset campaigns during the Newman era, and wharfie picket lines.

The Australian Unemployed Workers Union and IWW

I used this experience to help the huge sways of unemployed and underemployed workers sacked from bars, sports clubs locally, and cafes. Using the Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) as a platform to help those who were losing their livelihoods. In one case we helped people get their jobs back in a sports club. The AUWU is an association operating as a charity advocating for welfare protection. In the past, unemployed workers’ unions were successful in the Great Depression to advocate for full employment policies to all levels of government. I made comrades and repaired old friendships during my city council campaign that continued during the Covid crisis, and we did our best to help those losing a great deal around us. We set up branches in the union to help people doing it tough particularly as many were finding it hard to adjust just living off the state welfare system, some for the first time in their lives.

The AUWU – whilst not perfect in its structure prior to the crisis and riddled with small levels of infighting – set aside these issues when Covid overruled this as a common dominator. Some in the bigger left-wing unions like the Victorian branch of the UWU and CFMMEU supported the association financially and activist. Unfortunately, whilst the union had success in assisting people land on their feet and in some cases fought for jobs being reinstated in workplaces industrially with some help with the QCU. The union sadly became overwhelmed by bitter personality politics, Twitter celebrity wars, lapses in procedure, and infighting on policy direction.

Whilst a state, then national coordinator I observed that this overwhelmed the union and it also didn’t help that the ACTU didn’t take the union seriously enough, but in the end, it was also a double edge sword as the AUWU was filled with some who didn’t take themselves seriously enough regardless of their politics of the left. The AUWU has potential still, but it must follow procedural rules structures like any charity or association. These were the pros and cons of the organisation. The same could be said of the IWW as it was consumed by similar issues despite its strong historical in activism in tough economic times. As it was riddled with a failure in attending to people struggling only focused on turning away help from AUWU activist, and politicians who were anything but supportive like Cairns former state MP and incumbent Cr Rob Pyne (Labor turned socialist).

A lesson I learnt as the interim Secretary of the Qld IWW was that if stronger open-minded activists step up and set the differences these groups could reclaim their influence when times become tough again beyond Covid. Opening membership for input would be the best way forward for these unions to regain influence as they lack positive PR and tarnished as undemocratic by critics.

The Strength of Student Unionism

As I was finishing my undergraduate degree in Government and International Relations, I found the temperament to work for former Labor leader of Brisbane City Council (2016-2020) Cr Peter Cumming of the Wynnum Ward BCC during a work placement. While working for the Brisbane City Councillor during the pandemic I observed the office helping constituents. In doing so, I found myself doing something I never thought I’d be involved in: student politics.

Particularly at Griffith University where I studied. The Labor Club that I was involved in previously in 2011-2016 was filled with bitter infighting between the rivalries of Young Labor between the Left and Right/Forum groups backed by the UWU, AMWU, ETU in the Left and AWU, SDA, and TWU on the right. In fact, in earlier years in 2011 the Left and Right of the ALP at Griffith used to compete candidates against each other in the student representative council (SRC) while I made attempts on deaf ears to see unity among Young Labor on campus. Over the years there was a multitude of SRC reps from political parties be it LNP, Labor, Greens, or independents, some good, some bad. The infighting of earlier Young Labor years soured my interest in student unionism during my 20s. Particularly as I saw first-hand how bar tabs overruled decent discussions about ideas, and policy in the youth wings of the major parties.

That said, with the pandemic hitting students particularly hard with many losing their retail, fast food, or hospitality jobs, and from what I observed in the AUWU, I endured my resolve to put aside any personal issues I was having in my own life (relationship and family issues). I networked to become more involved in the Griffith Indigenous Student Association (GISA) among fellow Indigenous students and became its secretary; one of whom resigned from a vacant position on the SRC which Indigenous students nominated me to take. On the SRC and GISA I pushed for bursary funding for food vouchers which helped many students get through the lockdowns on little wages and welfare payments. Many of us on the SRC came from different ALP factions but put aside our differences for the students in a hard time. I did this also as the University hired me as a student ambassador … the only problem was the University was running low on financial backing for many of its domestic students with cuts to mental health and financial services. As everybody’s pay was delayed which the NTEU assisted in resolving, what I learnt during this period was the value of student unionism: Unity, cooperation, resilience in hard times.

The Successes of the Retail Fast Food Union

One thing I did notice from HR departments in one retailer was a large sway of recruitment which made it clear to me there was a great deal of high turnover rates. I also noticed managers being forced out over wage disputes, stress, and younger staff barely out of high school becoming department managers and supervisors with next to no training. There were also issues of workplace bullying and harassment, particularly from young staff towards older more experienced staff. Coincidentally while enjoying music with some friends on an evening, I was also king hit and physically assaulted where I had a head injury from a stranger I never met before. As horrible as this experience was and having to deal with paramedics and police. Whilst I was already towards the end of a 3-month probationary hired at a second retail store as an Assistant Dairy/Freezer manager and 2IC for an employer I can’t disclose for legal reasons. I was responsible for dairy orders, stock rotation, managing staff, and receiving invoices from product reps. Whilst working there after becoming ill after my head injury and assault and coming down with the flu during the Covid scare I was then sacked for “working too slow” … RAFFWU organizers assisted me by assisting in a general protection order notice to the former employer on grounds it was unfair considering they knew about my medical issues taking place at that time. The matter was resolved with Fair Work’s help in conciliation.

The union was filled with organisers of other bigger unions and experience such as the NTEU and managed things with greater improvement to what occurred in the SDA (Shop Distribution Union) which I was a member of from 2008-2015. In the SDA union I felt isolated in my interests as a worker in my earlier pay disputes and agreements and on social issues such as same-sex marriage as I struggled with coming to terms with my own sexuality in my late teens/early 20s. It’s little why RAFFWU have had success in organizing the first national union strike in the retail sector for Apple workers fighting for better working conditions amid the pandemic.

 

Lessons from the Pandemic

Important lessons for me (and most importantly others) now and beyond is that all unions help either workers, the unemployed, underemployed and students, as they all matter! They shouldn’t just be used as career jumping lily pads for recruiting future politicians albeit future and past politicians can come from these roots as a recruiting ground this much is true. But their heart and passion for helping the common person must be paramount. Unity teamwork, regardless of ideology is especially important for any organisation to function, without which, chaos ensues. Over a century ago my forefathers on both sides of my family were inspired by great ideas and policies in the union movement to do great things. Alfred Martin – an early Aboriginal rights activist who along with several relations of Quandamooka workers of the Benevolent Asylum – fought for fair days’ pay for First Nations people: the first won for Indigenous peoples anywhere in Australia at the time after working slave labour. And James Wilson Hughes of Gympie – a grocery store owner amongst the bustling mining working class town of Gympie – who took on notice to fight for better services in health care providing for ambulances and better roads by implementing full employment policies to help those less fortunate to work a fair day pay who came from very little and those who were unemployed as the Town Treasurer during the Great Depression while advocating for more services in Gympie.

Callen, who has Bachelor of Government and International Relations, is a Quandamooka Nunukul Aboriginal person from North Stradbroke Island. He has been the Secretary of the Qld Fabians in 2018, and the Assistant Secretary 2018-2019, 2016, and was more recently the Policy and Publications Officer 2020-2021. Callen previously was in Labor branch executives in the Oodgeroo (Cleveland areas), SEC and the Bowman FEC. He has also worked for Cr Peter Cumming, worked in market research, trade unions, media advertising, and worked in retail. He also ran for Redland City Council in 2020 on protecting the Toondah Ramsar wetlands. Callen is active in Redlands 2030, Labor LEAN, the Redlands Museum, and his local sports club at Victoria Pt Sharks Club. Callen also has a Diploma of Business and attained his tertiary education from Griffith University and QLD TAFE. Callen is a member of Workers Power radio program on 4ZZZ.

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Governments need to listen to community groups on climate change

By Keith Antonysen

Profit is of far more importance than the wellbeing of individuals, communities and countries it would seem, displayed by ignoring the need to transition away from existing fossil fuel mines and no new fossil fuel mines should be developed. We are constantly seeing extreme conditions amplified by greenhouse gases. Both major political parties are involved with not doing enough to ward off climate change. The LNP did little, the Labor government has sought to decrease national emissions but creates a huge carbon footprint through exporting large amounts of fossil fuels. The reason being cosy International agreements. Those agreements fit in nicely with the wishes of fossil fuel corporations.

Extinction Rebellion has been instrumental in the formation of a group of scientists taking the same kind of actions as Extinction Rebellion take. Other scientists have suggested that scientists go on strike by not involving themselves in the next IPCC Report. A number of scientists are extremely disappointed with what politicians are doing in relation to climate change policy; and so, are willing to place their positions on the line. Governments have acted by criminalising activists gluing themselves to buildings or chaining themselves to equipment. It provides a paradox; it’s not ok to be a nuisance but it is fine to support industries which cause death to humans and the biosphere along with other significant nasty occurrences which affect millions of people worldwide.

CAN-West, as with many other groups seeks to provide information about climate change. Councils have been contacted along with State and Federal politicians. CAN-West has been involved with stalls at community functions. A few years ago, CAN-West was involved with an information session organised in relation to a micro hydro plant. Some communities are centred around renewable energy obtained from micro hydro plants and solar energy.

Many Municipal Councils have policies in relation to climate change though how stringently those policies are enacted is open to question. But there have been some projects such as safeguarding shore lines that have displayed strong action. It depends on how much action is taken to reduce greenhouse gases which will determine the success or otherwise of policies and projects developed in slowing down climate change damage.

The greenhouse gases already expelled into the atmosphere do not dissipate for a number of decades in the case of methane, and many centuries in the case of CO2. Some CO2 is taken up by Oceans, though as Oceans warm the ability to take up CO2 is reduced. Deforestation is another factor which reduces the amount of CO2 stored.

Many citizens in communities are involved with practical enterprises such as community gardens, or micro hydro or solar schemes; other people are involved with promoting science; others are operating as political activists; some people might take on most of those activities. Within these groups there is a wide demographic distribution.

Keith Antonysen has been researching climate change for decades. Apart from reading about climate science, Keith also views pseudo-science presented by contrarians. It seems that the material referenced by contrarians is continually recycled. Immense problems will be created unless real efforts are made to thwart the worst climate can throw at us. Nature bats last.

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Hey, Albo: it is “Time To Fly” beyond LNP up and away from immigration mistakes

By Jane Salmon

Midnight Oil’s historic last gig was marked by the attendance of Anthony Albanese. Band member Rob Hirst chose a particular t-shirt to mark the event. This fabled band’s form is to be political to the last, bless them.

The t-shirt, easily seen on the drum dais, is illustrated with a bird and the words “Time To Fly”. It is a design by a refugee held by Australia on Manus Island in PNG.

When trapped on Manus for 6 years, songwriter, t-shirt designer and artist Farhad Bandesh did indeed dream of flying away to a safer place such as Australia, Canada or New Zealand.

Instead, he was used as a deterrent against “irregular” (bit never illegal) maritime arrivals. He was made a hostage in a tropical hell

The children of parents held in tents on sweltering Nauru became the focus of another campaign.

Medical chaos and human distress collided, often only alleviated by Panadol. Oddball contract staff came and went as did contractors and Immigration ministers. There was the raid by hyped up outsiders and local guards that caused the death of Reza Berati within the wire. Sometimes no-one was in charge as during the November 2017 siege when generators and water as well as food were denied.

During the forced move from the RPC to new, unfinished quarters run by PNG directly after the siege, men were hit with iron bars. This was under the eye of Australian Home Affairs staff and possibly at their actual behest. Thanush Selvarasa shared this on live video with the world.

Detainees like Farhad and his friend Moz managed to turn their pain into art and music. Farhad’s “Time to Fly” design became a t-shirt worn around the world. Back in Australia, producers helped with fatter harmonies, while cartoonists and dancers gave form to Farhad’s compositions. Flash mobs danced at railway stations. Farhad’s “Time to Fly” logo was frequently seen at protests in rural towns, at churches and of course rallies against Immigration cruelty in capital cities. Years were ticking by. It is now even on bottles of wine he has produced.

 

 

The shift of detainees to Port Moresby for more inadequate medical “treatment” under guard as defined by PNG immigration led to more challenges.

There was the political fight to retain mobile phones in detention. The injunctions won by George Newhouse to save phones were temporary and not binding on PNG-run hospitals or the Bomana immigration facility in Moresby.

The relentless greyness of the Preston Mantra hotel in Melbourne under lockdown was the next of Farhad’s ordeals. The windows barely opened an inch. All visits stopped.

Occasionally they were taken under guard to a doctor or dentist or to MITA. Protests outside the hotel continued.

Midnight Oil’s Jim Moginie used the lockdown and his extensive network to produce music and video for Moz.

To break up the daily selfie protest, Farhad was moved to MITA, Melbourne’s chilly Immigration transit accommodation. Many people in varying categories of indefinite immigration detention are separated by cyclone wire. Dawn deportations by masked men in riot gear are routine.

Repeal of the Medevac legislation, thanks to a “mistake” by Lambie, meant it was illegal to keep the guys indefinitely detained as Covid raged through quarantine hotels.

Refugee advocates and organisations lobbied for the New Zealand option and for sponsored migration of refugees to Canada as well as Finland.

And, finally, at the end of 2020, Farhad was freed. He walked straight out the gates of MITA and into the arms of supporters including Craig Foster, Arnold Zable and Jenelle Quinsee who were there to mark his birthday. David Bridie dropped over. The release gave hope to many left at the Preston Mantra and next the dank and completely airless Park Hotel. However, it was over another agonising year before all were freed in the run up to an election.

Since his release, Farhad’s friends have supported him with music, visits to concerts and even a donkey sanctuary. The family of Jimmy Barnes generously provided tickets and selfies to Farhad and Moz. A Midnight Oil concert soon followed.

 

 

His health is still not fully addressed. There is no compensation for the years lost. Court costs must still be met from wages or donations by an exhausted band of pensioner advocates. Worry about family left behind never ceases.

Moz has gone on to produce more music, friendships and art. He even works for a charity.

Having been uprooted from an area of Iran famous for its viticulture, Farhad began to harvest shiraz grapes to bottle own wine vintage. A gin was next.

Iranian 501s continue to be detained indefinitely, having no refoulment agreement. A slowly declining number of detainees still struggle in PNG and on Nauru. Medical need still brings many here.

With the election of a Labor Government, the rise of the Teals an part of an expanding clutch of pro refugee and pro-integrity independents, and the granting of permanent residency to the Muruguppan family in Biloela, there has been hope of a less reflexive Immigration regime.

However, concerning signs remain that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese still has not got the moral courage to face down redneck racists, to run a robust review Australia’s role in the global refugee situation or to resist the illogical Morrison/Dutton/Abbott/Downer stances based on xenophobia and an obsession with maritime security.

Labor has announced increased skilled workforce migration but not completely come to grips with the visa processing backlog. The head of a corrupt Home Affairs department, Michael Pezullo, remains in place.

The new Labor government has not renounced offshore detention, indefinite detention, the doctrine of Sovereign Borders, the policy of turnbacks.

The crowds of 13000 refugees stranded in Indonesia have not been processed.

More than 100 days since the appointment of the new Labor government, the offshore cohort are still in limbo. Their short-run visas are still being renewed piecemeal. Those working on SHEVs and transit visas are still affected by bans on study and by continuous uncertainty. Those on Community Detention visas are refused the right to work.

Worse, those on Bridging Visas include men like Farhad from the Medevac cohort.

In the past month, many have been given letters signed by Alana Sullivan (First Assistant Secretary of the People Smuggling Taskforce). These letters tell Farhad’s cohort that they will not be settled here, that it is in fact “Time To Fly” to New Zealand or the US or wherever. The New Zealand offer is generous and it may be a workable destination, as Behrouz Boochani’s career shows. However the offer comes after almost a decade of being being made an example, of being dragged in handcuffs from pillar to post. It is a policy based on a previous situation and one of our own making.

Had we established regional processing in 2007 there would have been no boats. Labor simply had to stare down the Islamophobic fear of inundation and they didn’t.

That is, after 9 bitter years, Farhad and friends are still being treated as unprocessed hostages and Hanson is still permitted to indulge in racial slurs against brown colleagues in the Senate. Enough is enough.

Molan, Abbott, Downer, Dutton and Morrison’s outdated and still apparently Islamophobic doctrine of Sovereign Borders still holds at a time of workforce shortages arising from the hiatus in migration during Covid.

Many of the Manus and Nauru workforce have settled into life here, held down frontline jobs during Covid, pay taxes, have leases and are looking forward to acquiring mortgages.

It is not time to flee or fly. It is time to stay.

It is to be hoped that when Albo was grooving to Midnight Oil’s last Sydney concert, he caught a glimpse of Hirst’s t shirt and the story it tells. It bear’s witness to one man’s ordeal and the struggle of a brave group of refugees who beg to be simply left to rebuild their lives in peace. They have been the playthings of politicians for too long.

One thing is for sure, Farhad will not be abandoning his partner, musical collaborators, colleagues or friends to rush back to Iran. Guns are not his thing and their prevalence in America makes the US a less than appealing destination, too.

He is part of a cohort of men who have been internationalised by their time together in detention. Their cultural wisdom, patience, resilience and tolerance has become an asset Australia should embrace.

This week has been significant for Iranian Kurds like Farhad. It was a Kurdish woman’s (Mahsa Amini) relaxed use of the headscarf that led to her death. The national uprising against repression of women by the patriarchal regime has drawn global support. Worry for family is exacerbated.

If Ukranian and Afghan refugees can be flown straight here to be settled, if the housing market is easing enough to reduce rents and sales, it is time to put aside the legacy of racist police, military, immigration and political institutions that are holding the 2013 boat cohort back. We need these workers. We need their culture. We need their contribution and we need their warmth in an increasingly troubled international context.

And thank you so much Midnight Oil. You have always pointed the way to a more compassionate Australia. And on so many levels.

We can do better. I sincerely hope Albo’s government can grasp the nettle and try. Or red will turn teal and flee.

 

 

 

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Racism and all its ugliness (Part 2)

Racism and all its ugliness: Murdoch’s and Bolt’s part in it

I first wrote about the literary work of Andrew Bolt in 2013. The convenor of a writing group I had joined asked us to give our opinions of his penmanship.

I cannot remember precisely what I verbalised then, but it would not have been pleasant. It might have gone something like this; Andrew Bolt neither challenges the mind nor his argument with a word or sentence. It’s obvious he writes for money.

I think I recall what our elderly convenor said, which went something like this:

“Read the work of popular columnist and leader of the conservative right writers Andrew Bolt. You will find that he is a writer of mediocre talent with a grammatical style attractive to the intellect of 13-year-olds.”

And this is true, and might I say it goes for most conservative writers in the press trying to radiate a right-wing agenda. It is they who promote a fair share of racial intolerance in our country,

In 2014 former Labor minister and intellect Craig Emmerson accused Bolt on (his then) programme The Bolt Report of satisfying his own benchmark for being racist in comments he made about Indigenous people.

“… you are a racist,” Emerson said, “because of your comments about Indigenous people. By your own criterion, and that’s what you did. You identified a group of people and went for them.”

Emerson’s remark relates to the legal case in which Bolt was found to have breached racial discrimination laws in articles that “implied light-skinned Indigenous people identified themselves as Aboriginal for personal gain.”

A few years ago Bolt wanted the law (section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act) changed so that he would be free in his column to abuse and defame. When the legislation was turfed because of its unpopularity, the then Prime Minister Tony Abbott felt obliged to phone this journalist of such little integrity and apologise.

People who still support Bolt and his questionable racism need to ask just why it is that he is fixated on the subjects of race, Muslims and climate change, but the answer is simple: Murdoch has built his news empire on smut and controversy.

In his book Hack Attack: How the truth caught up with Rupert Murdoch, Nick Davies said of the Murdoch media empire that:

“It is more specifically about the corrosive tabloid culture he has spawned over the years based on sex, sleaze and blackmail that has sustained his empire and made him a market leader. There is nothing that a Murdoch journalist cannot or does not do to keep his master’s media behemoth rolling.”

The formula has made him extremely wealthy. And there is no doubt that Bolt is paid extraordinary amounts of money to proliferate the Herald Sun’s pages and Sky News with this sort of gutter journalism.

Kaye Lee, in an excellent piece for The AIMN in 2018 titled Andrew Bolt is a threat to our social cohesion, quotes Bolt when she wrote:

“Immigration is becoming colonisation, turning this country from a home into a hotel. There is no ‘us’ any more, as a tidal wave of immigrants sweeps away what’s left of our national identity. Another 240,000 foreigners joined us last year alone, not just crowding our cities but changing our culture.”

And let us not forget what Justice Bromberg said about Bolt’s use of language in the racial discrimination case:

“His style and structure is highly suggestive and designed to excite. His style was not careful, precise or exact’ and the language not moderate or temperate but often strong and emphatic.

“There is a liberal use of sarcasm and mockery … language of that kind has a heightened capacity to convey implications beyond the literal meaning of the words utilised. It is Language, which invites the reader to not only read the lines, but to also read between the lines.”

Many words have been used to describe what Andrew Bolt does. Some describe him as a journalist – others a commentator. For me, he is a specialist “scandalist”. I believe Tony Abbott once declared him Australia’s premier intellect. Wow, that’s amazing.

A scandal – for the sake of this piece, means:

“… a publicised incident that brings about disgrace or offends the moral sensibilities of society: Damage to reputation or character caused by public disclosure of immoral or grossly improper behaviour; Talk damaging to one’s personality; malicious gossip.”

Bolt is a person who specialises in all of the above. Scandals are developed for whatever reason, or you can make them up.

And what of Bolt’s attacks on Adam Goodes? In this review from ABC News Breakfast, the author points out that an integral part of Goode’s documentary in question is the Bolt account of what took place.

“Another part of Goodes’s exit story explored by the documentary is a 2013 incident in which a 13-year-old girl called him an “ape” during a game against Collingwood at the MCG. Goodes pointed to the girl after she made a comment and was escorted from the grounds.

In his press conference the next morning, about 17 times, he said It’s not her fault, please don’t go after her.

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire supported Goodes in the wake of the taunt, but only days later, McGuire apologised after suggesting the dual-Brownlow medallist promote the musical King Kong.”

Newspapers worldwide are fighting for survival. Locally, the Murdoch newspapers are speculated to be among them. One could easily assume that his flagship newspaper, The Australian is propped up by Murdoch because of its political influence. It is, after all, the go-to newspaper for conservatives. So how do you prop up circulation? You have writers like Bolt write inflammatory titillating nonsense to a largely disengaged, uninformed audience with journalism that appeals to society’s lowest values.

He is probably paid loads of money to do just that.

In 2002, Magistrate Jelena Popovic was awarded $246,000 damages for defamation after suing Bolt and the publishers of the Herald Sun over a December 13, 2000, column in which he claimed she had “Hugged two drug traffickers she let walk free.”

Popovic asserted she had only:

“… shaken their hands to congratulate them on completing a rehabilitation program. The jury found that what Bolt wrote was untrue, unfair and inaccurate.

The Court of Appeal later reversed the $25,000 punitive damages, though it upheld the defamation finding, describing Bolt’s conduct as “at worst, dishonest and misleading and at best, grossly careless.”

Then there was his spat with Robert Manne about the Stolen Generation. (If you had followed that ongoing argument you could not but have been impressed with the clarity of Robert Manne’s writings compared with Andrew Bolt’s simple meanderings.)

It is astonishing. You have to be impressed by Manne’s research. The way he takes you on a believable journey full of insight and truth. Manne also, some time ago, analysed the poisonous influence of Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited in this country, mainly through the extremist editorial policy of The Australian, where the truth is distorted and contrary views vilified.

Manne followed up with a brilliantly written and researched Quarterly Essay about – among other things – the Stolen Generation, concluding that The Australian is more a propaganda sheet than a newspaper.

Australians have had to put up with the ranting and ravings of populist mainstream media for far too long, where extremist views are regularly presented on TV, radio, and mainly via the monopolistic media empire of Rupert Murdoch.

Remember, Murdoch was ultimately responsible for the despicable phone tapping scandal in Britain, which earned him worldwide humiliation.

This new Australian racism began many years ago when opinion speakers began demonising those who are different. It continues today. From Philip Ruddock’s description of asylum seekers as illegals to Alan Jones’s involvement in the Cronulla riots, the thousands of pieces written by racist journalists, and the hundreds of tabloid pages depicting difference as subhuman.

I end where I started with my observation of that gregarious dark-skinned boy playing joyfully in fellowship with his light-skinned mates. That each was different in colour; one to the other didn’t enter the unblemished purity of their companionship. And I prayed silently; it never would.

Link to Part 1.

My thought for the day

Why do we, as a supposedly enlightened society, need to enshrine in legislation the right to hate each other? That isn’t enlightenment at all.

 

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The land of the long weekend : mostly !

If you are anything like me you will be confused as to whether you actually have a public holiday on Monday so I’ve looked into it and can help you out.

First, you have to turn your clock back (or is it forwards?). Or, if you’re in Queensland, leave the bloody clock alone.

On Monday October 3, ACT, NSW and SA have a public holiday for Labour Day – see the irony?

If you live in Victoria you don’t get the holiday but remember, you had AFL Grand Final Friday as a holiday so you don’t get another one.

In WA and the NT, there are no scheduled public holidays in October – sorry about that.

In Tasmania I have no idea what’s going on as there seem to be random public holidays popping up all over the place. Tasmania does not have a holiday tomorrow but has a variety of local show public holidays across the state, as follows:

Thursday October 6: Royal Launceston Show
Friday October 14: Flinders Island Show
Thursday October 20: Royal Hobart Show

In Queensland – wait for it – there will also be a public holiday on October 3, but it will be for the Queen’s Birthday: could somebody in Tweed Heads please pass a note across the border to let them know that the Queen is no more and that we had a public holiday a week ago to mourn her passing.

That’s it! Enjoy your public holiday wherever you are – or not as the case may be.


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Racism and all its ugliness (Part 1)

From an early age, I became a keen observer who developed a dislike for racism and using free speech to promote it. With minimal formal education, the word ‘observation’ became integral to my private classroom. I examined and considered everything. Nothing escaped my scrutiny or sensory surveillance as I watched people, nature, and life. On occasion, I observed racism, and it saddened me.

The recent accusations of racism against the Hawthorn Football Club had the same effect on me as it has on many other occasions. I have experienced it in numerous forms. I love my country, but the truth of it is that racists walk among us.

It is alleged that a member of the club’s coaching panel told an Indigenous player to leave his partner and see that she had an abortion. The player in question said he was also manipulated into removing his phone’s SIM card (so that he could not contact his partner).

The same player also alleges that the officials made him leave his home and move in with an assistant coach. The persons involved were seniors in the club hierarchy. “He told me to kill my unborn kid,” the player said.

How is it possible, if the truth of these allegations is proven, that people can unscrupulously abuse the lives of others and the great game itself?

One weekend in 2018, I was watching my grandsons playing basketball. One of the boys in our team was born in Somalia, and I observed how well he got on with his teammates.

At the time, a few families with African heritage had settled in our area. I observed the mateship of their winning endeavours and the generous enthusiasm of their frivolity between matches.

The connectedness of their fun, friendship and silliness was a delight. The dark lad is of enormous talent with a generous smile, a face as black as night and gregarious nature.

I observed that children make mature judgments unhindered by the prejudicial ignorance of adults.

As a small boy, I recalled being told what side of the street to walk to school because Jews lived on the other side.

How people became racist eluded me until, at around 10 or 12 years of age, I observed that people were called racists if they displayed characteristics of thinking that people with darker skin were inferior to those with white. As I became older, I learnt that it wasn’t just the equivalent of the sun tan we white kids tried to get during the summer. There was more to racism than just one’s skin colour.

I lived through the post-war era of immigration when Australians belittled and sneered at Italians and Greeks.

Then later, with a bi-partisan agreement, we accepted the Vietnamese who came by boat. But not before debasing them with the worst parts of our uniquely Australian prejudice.

Memories now come back to me of a pub I used to have a few drinks at on my way home from work. The beer garden attracted a cohort of Aussie builders who subcontracted concreting work to a group of Italians.

I would observe how the Aussie fellows would run them down with the foulest language behind their backs and then drink with them without a hint of rebuke when they arrived.

There was a time when a relation travelling by caravan around Australia rang me from some remote area highly populated by Indigenous people; after the usual greeting, my relation conveyed the following words.

“I’m not a racist but … ” (When you hear someone say those words, they generally are.) A tirade of critical commentary followed about every aspect of Aboriginal culture and living. I do not doubt that some of her experiences were true.

However, there wasn’t any situation she described that I hadn’t seen in city society. Her comments were, therefore, racist. The singling out of any group for the reason of drawing attention to their colour is disgusting. to me.

At a junior football final, a couple of years ago, a teenage boy stood behind me, verbalising a young aboriginal player of immense talent. I allowed his insults to insinuate themselves into the minds around me before they became too much for me.

The Aboriginal lad had heard the remarks and was somewhat distressed. I turned to the boy with the uncouth mouth and said; “So yours is what a racist face looks like.”

The teenager slunk away, probably not used to having his racism confronted. I find all forms of racism abhorrent and believe it needs to be confronted when encountered.

It was a little brave of me to do what I did because I am getting on in years, but still, we must face it head-on.

In watching the antics of children of different races in their play, we can bear witness to the absence of hate.

But also, the sins of those who, in their ignorance, would abuse our decency.

And those who cannot concede that we were all black once.

Children celebrate differences and prove that racism is not a part of the human condition. It is taught or acquired. You have to learn it; those who tutor it and preach it are to be pitied for their ignorance and foolishness. No one is born a racist, but we are born into racist societies.

What is racism?

It is best described in two parts. Firstly, it is the belief that one race is superior to another. It demonstrates differences in human characteristics and abilities, one being superior to another.

Secondly, it is discrimination or intolerance based on race. Racism is preserved in many and various ways. Even Christian art propagates the myth of Jesus being white when he would have been dark-skinned and of Middle Eastern appearance. But art depicts him as white with European features and, more often than not, as effeminate.

Christians also cannot accept that dark-skinned people were responsible for introducing religion into society.

Even the law disproportionally targets people of colour, increasing the incarceration of indigenous groups.

The worst perpetrators of racism are those who do it through the guise of free speech.

 

 

And speaking of Pauline Hanson, Senator Jordan Steele-John tweeted:

@MehreenFaruqi powerfully spoke in the chamber about the heinously racist remarks made against her by Pauline Hanson last week. Here is an opportunity for this government to sincerely condemn racism and hold those who spew hatred accountable.

I hope they take it.

 

Link to Part 2

My thought for the day

It says something about the moral sickness in a supposedly enlightened society when the right to abuse each other, in the name of free speech, needs to be enshrined in law.

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“I’m Sorry, Your Majesty…”

A Tribute to our Late Queen Liz, with Post-Colonial Afterthoughts

By Loz Lawrey

As my tremulous fingers tickle my laptop keyboard, late this night in my campervan (currently parked on Wiradjuri land), my mind travels back, back to another time…

‘Twas 1967. I was sixteen, incarcerated in one of those most conservative institutions: an Anglican (or “Church of England”, as we said back then) boarding school.

Uniquely white-bread Australian, it was the colonial emulation of its British educational avatar: the boarding school, always a convenient place to park the kids during their teenage years when the conventional wisdom of the day dictated that career obligations and overseas postings mattered more than keeping the family together.

These private religious schools, whether Anglican, Catholic or otherwise would do their level best to indoctrinate their hapless students with religious dogma and ultra-conservative values, as well as an entrenched and inalienable belief in a class system that would always maintain the social status quo, with the rich (ie “successful” and “entitled”) on top and others (“poor”, “other” and “lesser”) way, way down below.

All this overlaid with that ghastly pompous veneer of religious justification plastered over its ungodly (dare I say it?) agenda…

Ah, white-bread religion (white Christians only, please)… always justifying that implication of colonial mastery and white supremacy that permeates our “Australian culture” to this day, as the current exposure of entrenched historic racism within Australian Rules Football exemplifies.

I’m amazed that I and a few friends from that time didn’t completely succumb to the conservative brainwashing, although I’m not sure we came through completely untainted.

Silly young boys we were, but our eyes, meanwhile, were on world affairs: What on earth was happening in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco? Who were the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers? Would man actually walk on the moon? Had you heard “Purple Haze” yet? The new Beatles’ album? What were those Israelis doing to those poor Palestinians? And what was this “civil rights” movement in America about?

The history we were being taught at the time ignored the true custodians of Australian culture, the native Australians who had occupied this island continent for over 60,000 years.

“Australian history” in the 1960s was a celebration of colonial occupation. The frontier wars? Never mentioned.

At the time, the attempted genocide and cultural demolition of Aboriginal people was in full swing, as stolen generations victims can testify.

At white-bred boarding school, however, we had no idea.

The arrogance, self-entitlement and ingrained racism of those invading white colonialists, who regarded all “foreign” natives and their cultures as inferior, has imbued our Australian society for over two hundred years and it remains in clear evidence today.

To myself and my fellow boarding school detainees, the Australian society that surrounded us in the mid-sixties seemed irrelevant and out of touch.

Locked up in boarding school, some of us were subscribing to Time Magazine in our mid-teens as our own assertion of independence, our way of embracing and trying to comprehend the affairs of the wider world beyond Australian conservatism…

I learned that politics can be the tool of oppressors and exploiters.

But life’s for learning, right? And at the age of seventy-one I understand much more than I did then.

But I digress… This is about our late queen.

Drowning as we all are in the apparently endless, bottomless ocean of public grieving and media squawking that “tradition demands” following the passing of a monarch, it occurred to me that rather than taking refuge from all news channels and retreating to Netflix and YouTube while Royalty dominates the airwaves, I might humbly add my own tribute to our late Queen Liz (that’s if I can reach up high enough to add it to the by now very high pile of obituaries and reminiscences).

Because, let’s admit it: She was the very exemplar of public service, and the absolute embodiment of the very model of a modern monarch.

And yes, she was there, a “presence” throughout my time on this planet: “The Queen”.

To most Australians, she was a fixture, our overarching monarch. After all, from 1954 to 2011, she visited us sixteen times!

Hey, that was her job, wasn’t it? To be Queen of the Empire, overseer, promoter and maintainer of that relic of British imperialism that is the “Commonwealth”.

It could be said that British church/state imperialism, with its overtones of invasion and occupation, of native suppression and eradication, was nothing more than fascism and authoritarian control dressed up as a congenial collaboration of disparate cultures and ethnicities.

A now-forgotten Australian PM (as recently as 2013-2015) venerated as “western civilisation” that unrequested imposition of English “culture” upon native populations.

Yes, the role of the Queen of England was always to maintain the appearance of a “commonwealth” of nations happy to be dominated, exploited and controlled by Mother England.

It was a role she inherited and one which she inarguably did her very best to fulfill.

And yet, and yet… preserving British dominance was the mission she inherited and to which she gave her all, and within the parameters of her own upbringing and understanding, it always seemed a noble cause, I’m sure.

Over the years, despite our familiarity with her image, she remained a remote figure to many of us, the titular head of the Church of England and… oh yes, that’s right… the Queen of the United Kingdom and the “Commonwealth of Nations” also known as the “many conquered lands of empire”, of which our own Land of Oz is but one among many.

No one with open eyes could argue that she didn’t do her absolute best, however, within the parameters of her own understanding and the worldview and title she inherited.

So here it is: my own tribute to our late Queen Liz:

Point one: You rock, and always did, your Majesty!

Anyone who really watched you over the years knows that your life was a masterclass in public service.

Point two: And then, as I said previously, ’twas 1967…

Picture it:

On this particular day, as was customary, we convened in the boarding school dining room for lunch. The headmaster and his teacher minions sat at the high table, students submissively subservient at the lower tables, Hogwarts style.

Teenage hormones rampant (scientists understand this stuff), brain in neutral, uninspired by the meatloaf (which we called “elephant turd”) and mash offering (my vegetarianism was incubated here), I flick a spoonful of mashed potato over my shoulder in an act of misguided irreverence.

Behind me, on the wall above, that classic photographic portrait of Queen Elizabeth (young, beautiful and wearing the crown) that permeated my younger years…

The flung mash landed squarely upon Her Majesty’s left cheek, much to the amusement of my tablemates.

Fearfully, I glanced at the occupants of the high table, those who had the power to punish and suppress me.

None of them had even noticed!

Chuckles and nervous giggles all around… I’d got away with it!

After the many failures of various kinds I’ve had to endure in my life journey, this is one success I cling to this day.

No disrespect, Your Majesty.

At the time, Queen Elizabeth was a remote yet familiar figure to me, part of the Australian/colonial architecture, if you like.

Yes, I flung a little mash and it landed by chance upon the Queen’s portrait.

You know the one, that timeless image of a beautiful woman in her prime, wearing the royal crown and exuding that superiority and wisdom we commoners expect to perceive in the monarchs we accept.

I assure you all, there was neither malice nor republican nor anti-royalist sentiment involved.

I was, quite simply, young, stupid and sometimes out of control.

That is my pathetic defense.

And now I lay my tribute down:

I’m sorry, Your Majesty.

Thank you for your sincere service.

I know you did your very best, and who could ever do more?

 

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More of the same

1 Here are a few jaw-droppers that are guaranteed to shock you. They are not of my pen, although I have written about many of them. So, if you thought you knew it all, you didn’t. Indeed, their unworthiness may surprise you to the point of embarrassment. I know the list surprised me, and I like to think I’m on top of this stuff.

Revelation is but one step away. Click this link: Achievements of the Coalition Government.

2 Since the death of Queen Elizabeth, much commentary has emerged as to whether Australia should become a Republic. I, for one, supported a referendum and said so in a piece for The AIMN on September 14: The inevitable question arises: Should we have an Australian as head of state and become a republic?

Polling taken amid emotional sorrow must be considered unreliable. As Australians digest the terms King Charles and Queen Camilla, I’m sure we will reconsider our nationhood.

Here is something on the subject I have been saying since 2015:

“So, the country lost interest in the matter. It is generally accepted that our apathy shall continue until the current Monarch retires or dies.

Malcolm Turnbull believes this will be the catalyst for action and is, in all probability, correct. The way forward is through a non-binding plebiscite with a simple question. For example.” Do you think Australia should become a republic with its own head of state?” A majority of us would support this, and it would pave the way for the exploration and development of various models.

And with consensus, the final model would evolve, as I said earlier. I found nothing wrong with the original model. From a shortlist, the Prime Minister puts forward a person approved by a two-thirds majority in a joint sitting of both houses.

I would argue that the people elect the parliament and then entrust their representatives to appoint a President on their behalf. After all, they entrust them to run the country.

Suitable candidates may not be willing to stand in an election and would decline. They would not be interested in a popular contest. I would simply warn those open to a direct election that this method would politicise the appointment.

Conversely, many unsuitable people would and could win based on popularity.

To my way of thinking, the British Monarchy is undemocratic and inequitable in that it goes against commonly accepted Australian values such as fairness and egalitarianism.

Currently, our head of state is selected not on merit but by the principle of hereditary male primogeniture (right of succession) (although that has since changed) and, of course, Catholics being specifically ineligible. This is discriminatory and unfair and wouldn’t be allowed under the anti-discrimination provisions of Australian law. Yet, it is still the method of selection for the Australian head of state.

Given people were fully informed and educated on the proposals for the Australian Republic with an Aussie as head of state and a consensus agreed upon, we could proceed to a referendum.

If successful, we would then be able to move forward as an entirely free, united and confident nation. After 110 years of federation, we have grown up, and if we are to take our place in the world, we must break our last constitutional links with England.

It is utterly preposterous that we don’t have an Australian head of state. Imagine if, during a hung parliament, we had a President of the calibre of Sir William Deane. Although a ceremonial head of state, his quiet calm would have reduced the toxicity of public debate that has insinuated itself on the Australian public during the Luddite period of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

I recall after the referendum reading Malcolm Turnbull’s book “The Reluctant Republic”, where he accused John Howard (the ‘lying rodent’ – thanks, George) of breaking the hearts of Australians. He was, in fact, correct. He deluded us, and this Australian shed a tear.”

The survey found that 54 per cent said “no” and 46 per cent said “yes” to the question: “Even if it’s just a slight leaning or a guess right now, would you vote yes or no to Australia becoming a republic?”

Note: Polls have varied widely.

3 Scott Morrison is considered by many to be our worst Prime Minister ever. I agree, but he must also be regarded as the most remarkable. Freedom of information suggests that he conducted hundreds of meetings with himself as a committee of one. This committee, called COPC, was considered a sub-committee of the National Cabinet and was therefore immune from any enquiries.

There were copious minutes, but it’s unknown who wrote them. It became the “slippery slope” of secrecy that Morrison used to appoint himself to multiple ministries. Former deputy Prime ministers Barnaby Joyce and Michael McCormack often attended meetings in the Prime Minister’s office without knowing what they were there for or if they were official meetings. Brilliant but unlawful, I think. No, yes, Minister.

4 Another thing that caught my eye was a commitment by the Morrison Government of almost two billion dollars for fossil fuel subsidies. Given that it is yet to be allocated, The Greens are urging the Government to:

“… reallocate the funding to renewable investments in next month’s Budget. Adam Bandt suggested, “Public money should not fund coal and gas.” He said, “If money is as tight as the treasurer says it is, then Morrison-era handouts to coal and gas should be the first to get the chop.”

5 Alan Austin writing for Michael West Media, tells us that:

“Pressure is growing for Labor to abandon the third stage of the tax cuts, due in 2024, because of pressure on the Budget. The tax cuts overwhelmingly favour high-income-earning men. They are at peace with the tilt against ordinary workers under the Morrison government.

However, the Treasurer appears not to have changed his mind.

We haven’t changed our view on that, as you know … But also, they [the tax cuts] come in in a couple of years’ time and we’ve got some far more pressing issues to deal with.”

6 Ken Starr, the man who investigated Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, has died. Read more here.

7 Parliament resumes this coming week, and front and centre will be the introduction of The National Anti-Corruption Commission. Labor has said it will have all the independence, resources and powers of a standing Royal Commission. Let’s hope this is the case and that it is functional before Christmas.

8 Question Time will resume, but there doesn’t appear to be a question the Opposition can ask of the Government that in some way doesn’t rebound on them most negatively.

My thought for the day

Character is a combination of traits that etch the outlines of a life, governing moral choices and infusing personal and professional conduct. It’s an elusive thing, easily cloaked or submerged by the theatrics of politics. But unexpected moments can sometimes reveal the fibres from which it is woven.

 

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