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Category Archives: Your Say

Australia’s poor old women

By Jane Caro  

Despite women facing the wage gap, eventual poverty and possible homelessness, the government is quite happy to blame us for our fate.

As soon as the Federal Government understood that millions of Australians were likely to find themselves living on unemployment benefits for the foreseeable future, they realised just how politically untenable the previous rate actually was. They clearly couldn’t care less when it was just a bunch of old women and other marginalised people forced to eke out an existence on $40 a day, but millions more who had become unemployed through, as our politicians love to put it, ‘no fault of their own’ was a bridge too far.

So, in their self-interest and embarrassment (sorry, I can’t call it generosity), they added the $550 Coronavirus supplement to the usual Newstart rate, now called ‘JobSeeker’.

On the 25th of September, this supplement will drop to $250 a fortnight. This will be a blow for the newly unemployed – particularly as it is meant to drive them back into jobs that don’t exist. Nevertheless, even halved, the supplement remains a bonus for the long-term unemployed, most of whom are older and many of whom are women.

In that way, (as long as they don’t catch the virus and die, of course) the advent of COVID-19 has actually made the lives of many older women easier. The extraordinary dark irony of that fact seems to have passed most of our leaders and commentators by.

The terrible penalty we exact on women as they age in this wealthy country is horrifying. According to a report released in March this year by think tank Per Capita ‘Measure for Measure. Gender Equality in Australia’ 34% of single women (divorced, widowed or never married) are living in poverty by the age of 60. That number rises to 50% of them once they are living on the aged pension. These figures are pre-COVID.

The most galling part of these figures is the reasons why so many women in our society find themselves facing poverty as they age. There are too many to enumerate here, suffice to say it is directly a result of the sexist and misogynistic assumptions that dog women from the cradle to the grave. They include the fact that women – despite outperforming men and boys in all levels of education – are paid less from the minute they enter the workforce. They include the high cost of childcare, the tax disincentives deliberately designed to make it hard for mothers to return to full-time work, the gender-segregated nature of the Australian workforce, the assumption that women will do the lion’s share of unpaid work including domestic and caring duties, and the resulting over-representation of women in part-time, casual and low-paid jobs. And let’s not mention sexual harassment in the workplace or domestic violence and the thousand and one other things that can conspire to fling women into penury.

As a result of all this, women retire with an average of half the super of men (and men don’t have enough) and fully one-third of women retire with no super at all. (The same third who end up facing poverty at the age of 60, I wonder?)

Despite decades of feminism, all of these circumstances remain intractable, which is why me and my contemporaries (I am 63) are watching in horror as yet another generation of women race headlong towards the same abyss, especially if they remain or become single. For as long as I can remember, women have been told that a man is not a financial plan, but when I look at my contemporaries and who is secure and who is at risk, it seems that is a big fat lie.

The current generations of younger women – especially those just entering the workforce – are actually in the scariest place of all. We know this pandemic has disproportionately affected women. They have lost the most jobs, they have lost the most income and they have shouldered even more of the domestic, caring and home learning duties. Their super will be disproportionately affected. Our government in its infinite lack of wisdom has actually helped people access their super balances early to tide them through a contracting economy. The costs of this in later life will be huge, especially for women, who will never make good the loss.

The job stimulus packages offered by our government are so entirely focussed on male-dominated industries that it almost feels like they are trolling us. They even keep being referred to as ‘shovel-ready’ jobs. To absolutely rub women’s noses in it, the first group of workers removed from JobKeeper were childcare workers – overwhelmingly underpaid women. No one has been able to explain the logic of singling them out.

The confusion around childcare (ours is already one of the most expensive systems in the world) has forced many families to throw their hands up in despair and decide that – you guessed it – mum will have to give up her job. The message is clear: ‘go home ladies and help us make the unemployment stats look more politically palatable.’ At least, if they are young they may still have a home to go to. In a couple of decades, they may not. The fastest-growing group among homeless is women over 55, leaping up by a terrifying 31% between 2011 and 2016.

And what has been the Federal Government’s response to the pressure being brought to bear about the fate of half the Australian population – the best-educated half, by the way? Apart from some vague promises about plans to do something about the super gap, it’s all the stuff beloved by neo-liberals: an ‘economic security pack’ whatever that is, more parental leave flexibility, scholarships for women in economics and finance, specialist DV units (at least they mentioned it) and a female entrepreneur’s program. All well and good, if vague on detail, but where’s the social housing? Where’s the paying people’s super whenever they take time out of paid work to care for others? Where’s the free fucking childcare available to every family?

But the bit that really infuriated me about Assistant Minister for Financial Services Jane Hume’s package was the potted lecture she gave women and the super industry about the need to improve women’s financial literacy. The implied blame in that suggestion is at best tone-deaf and at worst utterly cynical. Once again, we blame women for their own fate. We turn our faces away from the very real barriers, biases and prejudices that hobble women at every turn and tell them they are poor because they are stupid and lazy about money.

In fact, women are poor as a direct result of doing what they are constantly told is their duty and putting the needs of others ahead of their own right to earn an income.

As I have said before, in today’s Australia we tell older women; ‘look, its lovely you put the needs of your kids, elderly relatives and anyone else in need of care ahead of yourself, thanks for that. Now, can you just go and live in your car?’

 

This article was originally published on The Big Smoke.

Jane Caro has a low boredom threshold and so wears many hats; including author, novelist, lecturer, mentor, social commentator, columnist, workshop facilitator, speaker, broadcaster and award winning advertising writer.

 

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The big lie

By Leonie Saunders  

A little over two weeks have passed since I listened intently to the presenter of the ABC’s Statewide Drive program, Nicole Chvastek interview the owner of a popular Kyneton restaurant to get his opinion of the COVID-19 Roadmap aimed at taking Victoria out of lockdown that Premier Andrews announced the previous day.

With an open mind, and my humanitarian instincts fully engaged, I listened to the restauranteur voice his understandable dismay at the toll COVID-19 has taken on his small business and his staff. However, when he expressed his displeasure with Daniel Andrews simply because he expected the Premier would announce on the day how much financial support business owners can expect to receive from the Victorian government, my critical faculties kicked in.

Perhaps the Premier may have been able to placate the restauranteur had he stipulated that the Roadmap he laid out was the public route, and all secondary roads on the map would be outlined in due course. Then again, bearing in mind no matter what size the business, good old hubris is rife in the mindset of the business community. That being said, I somehow doubt there would be any circumstances under which business owners would abide secondary status in the realm of political considerations.

To be fair, at the beginning of the interview as I listened to this restauranteur expressing not only his concerns for his business but also for the economic hardship his staff were under; I judged him to be somewhat empathetic. Nevertheless, as he went on about the Premier not announcing on the day any offer of financial support for business, his solicitude for his staffs’ financial stresses soon waned. In truth, there would need to be more than a soupçon of empathy to assuage my ire at his and all business owners hypocritical bleating for social handouts.

The question is, why should governments provide financial support to business in a capitalist free-market economy? From my perspective, this fundamental contradiction in terms warrants serious debate. Accordingly, as is my wont, living up to the integrity of the allegorical meaning of my name being Lioness. I thought it high-time to put the cat amongst the pigeons. It was on that basis that I decided to ring the ABC to express my views during the talkback segment.

While I cannot recall verbatim the entirety of what I said, I remember beginning with words to the effect that it is important to take stock of the fact that one of the main reasons people are motivated to go into business is to make lots more money while being top dog with no-one looking down on them telling them what to do. And that is fine. But in the process of making a profit off the skills, time, and labour of workers, to then expect the rest of society – the majority of whom are workers – to pick up the tab for the profit-takers in hard times is a bit rich. Especially coming from people who think themselves morally superior to their employees. These are the people who begrudge paying taxes, and who hate having to comply with red tape despite the social and environmental safeguards that red tape affords our society.

There are common threads in the discourse of business owners worth noting. For example, whenever anyone dares challenge people in business to justify the way they go about deriving profits, it is reasonable to assume by the mechanical uniformity of their responses that collectively, all have learnt the Capitalist Handbook 101 by rote. This is more than evident in the obvious lack of deviation in their language when they assert themselves to be deserving of lucrative returns because they work hard and take all the risk.

Incredible as it sounds, I am yet to hear any business owner say my employees work as hard as me, if not harder. And they also face any number of workplace risks. So they too deserve to profit just as handsomely from the product of their labour.

The resentment that runs through the veins of the filthy penny-pinching rich is echoed in the attitudes of all the wannabes (otherwise known as aspirationals) in the ranks of the upwardly mobile sole traders in small to medium businesses. United in their jaundiced view of humankind they are predictably hostile when it comes to debating questions relative to the equitable distribution of wealth. Likewise, they are typically vitriolic in their condemnation of socially-conscious empathetic lefties who argue strongly for increasing our nation’s social safety net that for too long has failed abysmally to provide reasonable financial support for the less well-off in our society.

That being the case, I thought the irony of the restauranteur’s expectation for a hand-out was particularly pertinent in context to the presupposed benefits to Australia as a profit-oriented free-market economy. Why the lie? If the material benefits of market economics were tangible and evenly spread, then there would be no need for governments to apply socialist interventions in markets whatsoever.

Paradoxically we have COVID-19 to thank for exposing to the air the lies that journalists in the employ of this country’s self-serving commercial news media outlets have been complicit in suppressing. While they leave misconceptions and blatant untruths to fester like a puss-filled carbuncle on the bum of our society, the pandemic has laid bare the inherent defects in capitalist economics and the copious flaws that exist in globalised market economics. Importantly, Rona has brought into public view just how much business owners expect the freedom to capitalise their profits while in the cycle of economic downturns. They are reliant on governments enabling them to socialise their losses. Ergo, one must ask the question; if businesses rely so heavily on governments to bail them out in a crisis, what is their risk?

Truth be known, other than failing in business arising from their own mismanagement, the risk to the restauranteur and other small business owners comes from the people they typically vote into government.

Behind closed doors, government ministers beholden to monopoly capitalists cherry-pick which industry sectors get the most hand-outs. Take for example the unscrupulous extraction industry receiving fuel subsidies and a raft of other tax-breaks designed to offset the operational costs of doing business. While the working class suffer the financial burden that comes from the inequity of a 10% regressive goods and services tax, rent-seekers and other capitalists benefit handsomely from government wilfully leaving gaping loopholes in the tax system.

 

 

What is it with our political class? Is it nest-feathering, seeking a soft landing post-politics? Is it political careerist geared only to serving their self-interest? Or is it sheer unadulterated venality?

Perhaps it is all of the above that holds leaders in government so captive to rent-seekers that they allow billions in profits from raping this country of its precious resources to be channelled offshore tax-free? The only thing that is free about trade in this country is how our nation’s government facilitates its donors in big business to unceremoniously screw Australians over freely by making billions in untaxed profits while we pay the price.

Which brings me to another lie lifted straight out of the capitalist handbook. Out of all the people who erroneously claim that taxing businesses cost jobs, it is the rent-seekers who take the most but return nothing of any value to society that rail the loudest against paying company tax. No matter how one looks at it, rent-seeking is a protection racket and the fact that our so-called elected representatives entertain these racketeers dressed up in thousand-dollar suits designed to convey a veneer of respectability, is beyond contempt.

Overall, monopoly capitalism predetermines who wins and who loses. Big business leverage governments with the prospect of more jobs and political donations shape government budgets. Corporate wholesale shareholders engineer movements in markets. And this goes to the lie of there being a hidden hand of competition in markets as it proves market systems are never impartial.

If we are invested intellectually in the 17th Century philosopher Adam Smith’s microeconomic theory on supply and demand, in which he warned that equilibrium in markets can only be achieved through the hidden hand of competition. And that competition is driven by demand. How can politicians call Australia a free market economy based on supply and demand when government intervenes to serve the interests of monopoly capitalists dominating the supply side of the ledger? This is but one of many questions that should be raised concerning the efficacy of capitalism and to the social and environmental probity of deregulated supply-side market economics.

Not to put to finer point on the fact that 48 years have passed since the last political leader was fearless enough to introduce meaningful socioeconomic policy changes for the betterment of our society. It is fair to say courage is not the forte of today’s political class. Nevertheless, I contend that at this juncture in time, with our international borders closed, dampening the power of outside economic forces. The pandemic provides the political class with the perfect opportunity to show some mettle and test my long-held view that business owners are analogous of shark’s teeth – when one fails another pops up immediately to replace it.

Of course, that is just my pie-in-the-sky idealism sneaking out. Sadly, they won’t take the risk because they truly are cowards. They fear not being able to rely on aspirational mercenary capitalists starting in a business having the moolah readily available to line the right pockets in time to fund their Party’s election campaign. That is absolutely the domain of well-established capitalist class elites, here and abroad.

The likes of Murdoch, Rinehart, Forrest, Triguboff et al, understand only too well the raison d’être of political parties is winning power for power’s sake, and as a consequence politicians will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their benefactors. The capitalist class also know that contrary to the core tenets of representative democracy, governments first and foremost govern for them. This is evidenced by the fact that whenever governing in their best interest clashes with governing in the best interest of the electorate. There is no question of who wins and who loses.

While it is certainly true that not all business owners exploit workers or the environment and the tax system by setting up family trusts to dodge paying their fair share of taxes, it is also true that not all business owners begrudge government red tape because they know that it is red tape that safeguards Australia’s high standards. They understand the added time it takes to meet those requirements is a cost-benefit they pay in the social good. On the other hand, given the capitalist system encourages greed, it is equally true that capitalists including aspirational capitalists in small business are inherently monopolistic. Thus, it is an inexorable truth albeit, in varying degrees, business owners who exploit workers, society, the natural environment and the tax system are most definitely in the majority.

Which brings me to the source of my disgust. Every time the dyed-in-the-wool marketing man Scott Morrison smugly gives voices to one of his favourite right-wing shibboleths; “if you have a go, you’ll get ago”, I am reminded of how slimy capitalist puppets operate. The lie is evident in the subtext of Morrison’s typically pious mantra that all men are created equal. When in truth, he knows all too well that monopoly capitalism guarantees all men and women are not born equal.

Despite being media savvy, the marketing man’s glib façade of aspirational “if you have a go, you’ll get ago” rhetoric, cannot conceal his smug countenance. Morrison’s smirk betrays his lies, including his particular penchant for proselytising the farcical idea that the self-made man is a common occurrence in capitalist economies. This is another lie he and his ilk use as a means of harnessing deference to capitalist ideals. Make no mistake, this nation’s Prime Minister invests a great deal of religious fervour in conveying the cock-and-bull narrative that life is conducted on a level playing field.

To that end, there are days when I despair over the wretched credulity of the great majority of Australians who in their apathy and ignorance give sustenance to the biggest lie of all. Contrary to the narrative propagated by the mainstream media, social media is not responsible for the great majority of Australians buying into the lie that capitalist growth must be allowed to flourish unfettered by taxation and regulations. Social media is not to blame for the level of political illiteracy in Australia. Indeed, social media is not to blame for the impediments to the democratic process that comes from political illiteracy and indifference. That failure must be laid at the feet of mediocre leadership.

The mean-spirited state of politics in this country is testament to the public sphere being dominated for more than 40 years by right-wing politicians in both Liberal and Labor. It is testament to the dominance of misanthropic right-wing neoliberal leadership that a media landscape was created that gave a select few monopolistic media owners more power to foster witless passivity to ensure a culture in which Australians would unthinkingly give deference to capital. And to that extent, the general public’s predisposition for self-sabotage evident in how economic artifices of debt and deficits that allow the government to shirk their responsibilities go unquestioned. Is to be expected.

Yet despite all the lies, as oxymoronic as it sounds, this melancholy optimist continues to live in hope that the penny will drop before Mother Earth’s patient indulgence of our stupidity that is already showing frightening signs of being worn thin, runs out completely. As a socialist, I fight on in the belief that the multitudes will soon wake up from their political slumber to discover there are no second chances.

Doubtless to say, my position is clear and that for the sake of my grandchildren and all living creatures on this planet; I and we have no other choice than to keep raising our voices to awareness in the public good the cavernous pitfalls that come from buying into the lies told by Morrison and his ministers. To be perfectly frank, I cannot conceive of any finer aspiration than being a valid contributor in the quest of safeguarding the future by sounding the alarm that if heeded will ensure Morrison and his capitalist cronies in politics and business will be listed as a breed on the threshold of extinction.

This article was originally published on Connecting the Dots.

Leonie Saunders is benevolent dictator of Connecting the Dots, proud lefty feminist. Adores children and animals. Despises greedy union-bashing, power-abusing corporate polluters.

 

 

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Will the pandemic force us to recognise how privileged we are?

By Claire Harris  

With a pandemic sweeping across the globe, I’m wondering if this is the moment when we finally realise how fortunate we are.

I think we can all agree that it has been an exhausting week. And month. And year. Australia was only just beginning to recover slowly from the horror show of the worst bushfire season in history, when we – as everywhere else – were struck with a global pandemic.

It happened gradually and then all at once. It’s hard to believe now, but just a fortnight ago I was in my hometown of Sydney planning two birthday events: one for myself and one for my mother who was turning 70. As I watched the spread of Coronavirus, I made the difficult decision to cancel both celebrations.

At the time, it seemed perhaps overly-cautious. How much could possibly change in the week that these parties were scheduled to occur?

The answer was… everything.

Within 24 hours of my birthday drinks that didn’t happen, a travel ban was imposed, “social distancing” became a common term, and non-essential businesses were slated for closure. I spent my first (and I hope only) quarantine birthday with just the few family members I was staying with. We all stopped leaving the house. For my mum’s birthday, we decided that her children and grandchildren shouldn’t even visit – it simply wasn’t worth the risk.

Cutting short my visit to return to Melbourne where I live, I said goodbye to my mother on the doorstep of her home, not knowing when I would see her again. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. We are fortunate that she can be isolated, but worried – as so many are – about the growing likelihood that she will spend months on her own.

A few days ago, a friend messaged me to ask whether I should come back to Sydney before the state borders close, so as not to be on the opposite side from my family for an indefinite period of time. The thought of this twists my stomach into knots, as I ask myself when I will see loved ones who are overseas and interstate again. I have a sister who lives in Prague and another in China (and currently in government quarantine following exposure to COVID-19).

With all international flights grounded, they suddenly seem the half-world away that they actually are. We used to be able to count on the fact that we could always get on a plane to visit each other – the only obstacle, of course, being money.

But as the walls come down indefinitely, it also occurred to me that this is the reality that most people in the world live with, pandemic or no pandemic – being separated from loved ones with the uncertainty of not knowing when a reunion will occur. For the first time in my life, I’ve actually felt the physicality of borders which have always, for me, been invisible lines in the dirt.

We are so used to being able to do pretty much what we want when we want it: swim at the beach, get on an aeroplane, have a haircut, buy toilet paper. It makes us furious that these privileges, one by one, are being taken away – so angry, in fact, that we fail to even recognise them as privileges. We believe this kind of freedom is our birth right.

The display of 20,000 Australians at Sydney’s Bondi Beach despite government warnings to stay home – like the thousands on spring break in Florida and flocking to seaside towns in Britain – demonstrates just how fiercely we cling to our sense of entitlement. It is evident in the Hollywood celebrity refusing to stay home, declaring “some people value freedom over their lives” and in the wealthy people returning from ski resorts and cruise ships infected with the virus and failing to self-isolate. As a result, they are being quarantined in luxury hotels and complaining of prison-like conditions.

While this is an unenviable situation to be in, I do wonder whether the people who have unexpectedly found themselves in it will discover empathy for the boatloads of desperate asylum seekers who have been languishing on Manus and Nauru for seven years – in actual prisons.

As we fought each other over toilet paper, I wondered whether we will emerge out the other end of this crisis with greater empathy for the people in the world who constantly struggle with access to toilet paper – along with other things we consider basic necessities. I’ll admit that the scenes of Australians filling their shopping trolleys to the brim and brawling in supermarkets don’t fill me with a lot of positivity.

But there are reasons to feel optimistic about how the world will be re-shaped after this is all over. People are connecting in ways that we haven’t for a long time: for example, the amount of time I’ve spent actually talking on the phone this week instead of texting, the number of messages I receive (and send) just “checking in”, and the fact that I now play virtual board games with my family.

Will this newfound connectivity continue as we grow used to self-isolation? (And will we finally work out how to solve the unceasing technical issues?) What about once life goes back to “normal”? And, most importantly, when we finally resume our lives, will we have a lasting appreciation for just how good we’ve always had it?

We can only hope that one positive outcome of this terrible experience is a brave new world where we hold a greater awareness of how lucky we are  – and a stronger sense of compassion for those who don’t have our privileges. That we will no longer take any of it for granted.

 

This article was originally published on The Big Smoke.

Claire Harris is a writer in exile who has spent the last decade travelling and working around the world. This is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds and usually involves scraping by on a diet of muesli and cheap wine. Occasionally together. You can find her at www.clairejharris.com.

 

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Pedantry and selfishness

For some of my readers I will undoubtedly come across as a snob, because I grew up in the UK at a time when how you spoke, dressed and presented yourself was important – particularly if you were looking for a job.

England is, traditionally, much more class conscious than Australia, and, in my youth, in order to get a white-collar job required your spoken and written English to be impeccably correct.

Even to get a job in the BBC, it was once also necessary to have a Southern Counties accent, but fortunately that is no longer true.

Marrying in 1931, my mother had to resign from a job as Personal Private Secretary to a very senior Civil Servant, for which she had required high level skills in shorthand and typing – from dictation.

So, long before we had school lessons in English Grammar, my mother had instilled into my siblings and me most of the finer points of spoken and written English (as soon as we could write, we had to pen, on Boxing Day, ‘thank you for my Christmas present’ letters to every relative, with spelling and grammar up to standard!) – and a few other subtleties as well, which are too often overlooked.

I still wince when I hear someone say something like “Me and John went out to dinner last night.”

I realise that saying ‘I and John went out to dinner last night” sounds both clumsy and just plain wrong, yet if she had gone alone, she would have said “I went out . . .” and sounded perfectly correct.

Now I am not trying to give a pedant’s grammar lesson, but pointing out a far more important point in my upbringing.

Always put other people first.

“John and I went out to dinner where we were joined by friends who gave John and me an anniversary present” embodies correct grammar – plus a modest degree of self-effacement.

But when it comes to politics – self-effacement flies out the window, and what is good for the politician in government is much more important than what is good for those governed.

Again, in England, the monarch was also head of the Church of England, Catholics were kept in the background and lip-service was paid to the idea that the United Kingdom was a Christian nation, which tolerated all other religions.

(Much may have changed, but I have only visited the UK on holiday twice in the last 50 years.)

And being Christian embodied the idea that we have a duty to help others and, when possible, put their needs and interests before our own.

Hard work, in truth, and failure to meet those obligations was not uncommon – but nowadays it seems to be completely forgotten!

The most important duty of any modern politician, it seems, is to himself and his party  – in ensuring re-election and a cushy retirement.

I have watched Morrison’s performance this year with dismay and disbelief.

Having used social distancing as an excuse, he has manufactured a situation which has enabled him to be transformed into a petty dictator.

He has cut himself off from the people he is supposed to support – the electors and their families – and curried favour with industry giants – no doubt in the hope that he will reap the benefits once he decides to leave politics.

He clearly – like many others in government – does not understand the meaning of a ‘conflict of interest’.

I personally believe that without the National Cabinet, we would now be in a much worse mess than we are.

Not only in terms of physical health, but also on financial grounds, because the Coalition’s continuing criticism of Labor’s hand-outs and policies in the GFC would not have allowed Morrison to follow a similar path unless forced to by the Premiers.

My personal opinion is that now is the perfect time to introduce a Universal Basic Income (UBI) and adjust the tax system so that the payment is taken away from those whose incomes have not been drastically affected.

Easily done, much more equitable than the current plethora of welfare payments, and it allows for the fact that the financial crisis will not be over in a matter of weeks!

But I have spent the past 7 or 8 months talking to people, face-to-face and through social media, about Global Warming, which, for most of them, is at least as great a crisis as is COVID-19, and they almost unanimously want to phase out of fossil fuels into renewable sources of energy NOW – not after months and years of pouring more fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere, thereby ensuring more and greater crises from extreme weather events.

Current discussions are already indicating that bush fire containment is not exclusively an issue for the states.

State borders are not respected by fire, and we need a national system which recognises that.

Planning now should be concentrated on dealing with the known consequences of fire, flood and drought while also developing every available weapon to ensure that power moves completely away from short term and long term dependence on fossil fuels.

Our politicians can, to our knowledge, work their butts off to ensure they pour money into the electorates which support them and to ingratiate themselves with business and industry which supports their party.

PLEASE PUT THE NEEDS OF THE ELECTORATES ABOVE YOUR OWN. POURING MONEY INTO YOUR FAVOURED ELECTORATES DOES NOT BENEFIT THE COUNTRY AS A WHOLE, AND THE RIDICULOUS IDEA OF USING GAS TO TRANSITION INTO RENEWABLES HAS TO BE KNOCKED ON THE HEAD HERE AND NOW.

I don’t apologise for shouting because people seem to have been distracted and deafened by misleading propaganda from the fossil fuel lobby.

We elect governments to satisfy OUR needs – we are not there for THEIR convenience or as a stepping stone to a bigger and better career!!

And before I am accused of bias – I think the Opposition has made a pitiable attempt to keep the government honest.

Forget about policy for the next election – you need to start convincing people NOW that you can offer anything worth voting for!

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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Problems demand solutions

It is one thing to criticise, when those in charge are failing to act in ways which seem likely to reduce existing problems.

It is another to be constructive and suggest possible solutions.

And then again – on the part of those whose failure is being criticised – refusal to listen to suggestions has to be dealt with in some effective way. And that may prove to be the biggest problem we face!

Since the start of February 2020, I have sat outside the NT Parliament House on 32 Wednesday afternoons from 1 to 3 pm, to remind people that global warming is a major issue, requiring urgent action, and it cannot be ignored because of COVID-19 taking priority!

It is worth explaining that the Northern Territory is the safest part of Australia as far as COVID-19 is concerned. We have had no community transmissions, we quarantine visitors effectively, and we rarely, if ever, have double digit numbers of active cases arising from those visitors.

We also have warm weather in the Top End, which includes Darwin, and I cannot remember when it last rained – possibly a sprinkle in May – so I use an umbrella as a parasol to be sun-safe!

We will get rain later in the year – so the umbrella will perform its proper function when that happens. At least it is warm rain!

Not unexpectedly, I am deliberately ignored by a few people, but many stop to chat. They generally agree on the need for action, and criticise the refusal of the national government to make appropriate plans.

I have permission from the Speaker of the House to repeat this exercise until Christmas and have every confidence that I shall continue to do so for as long after Christmas as I feel necessary.

Each week I wear my Extinction Rebellion T-shirt, and my expectation is that, once larger crowds are no longer a threat to public health, the XR organisers will be getting members out on to the streets to increase pressure on governments to take the action which is increasingly urgent.

This is being reported as already happening in other counties!

I am willing to be involved in civil disobedience, as long as it does not involve violence on my part, and also avoids damaging property.

The problems which we are facing are many-faceted, affect nearly everyone, and will not be solved by following any of the policies the current Coalition government is recommending.

The first thing that strikes me is that the government does not seem to realise it has a part in the process of recovering from the pandemic shut-down and the chaos it has created, apart from throwing financial support, mainly to business.

Talk of a ‘return to normal’ shows a total misapprehension of the current state of affairs.

We are in this mess because of the way governments were behaving before the pandemic!

I read this article today (09/09/20), in the New Daily and it sums up the government’s attitude to perfection.

The ECONOMY is the permanent centre of attention, followed by ensuring that business is enabled to ensure that it returns to a state of constant growth.

Increasingly, Scott Morrison has shown his true colours as a would-be petty dictator.

This was never more clearly shown than when he used his slim majority in the most recent session to try to ram legislation through the Lower House, cutting short ‘debate’ and denying the Opposition a chance to speak.

How much longer can we tolerate this refusal to act democratically?

To solve problems, we first have to identify them, then we have to consider possible solutions.

There are plenty who are far more expert than am I who can carry out this process but – if we really are a democracy – it must be done in a non-partisan way, so we are not ruled by an ideology which, for many of us, is an anathema! Again I refer to the article mentioned above.

We are all equal before the law and are entitled to equality of treatment.

If the government needs money, then perhaps it should consider ways in which those with the greatest wealth should make the greatest contribution! Staying good mates with millionaires while children sleep on the streets is not on!

Economics is not a science, but those who have studied it could still make a useful contribution to discussions.

All discussions have to both lead to solutions which will relieve people of poverty, brought about by necessary government actions, and also take account of the lifestyle changes needed to combat global warming.

As a member of the general public, I have a fair idea of the overall sources of anxiety – particularly for women – that need urgent attention.

We all need the security of a home.

The present rather shaky moratorium as regards mortgage payments, rental arrears, and accumulated debt that flows on from that, must be stabilised and clarified ASAP.

An initial step could be to stop putting financial assistance for individuals into a ‘welfare case’ situation, and introduce a Universal Basic Income.

It can be set up in ways that enable taxation to balance it out for those who really don’t need it, but ensure that everyone can afford to pay their housing costs and other essential basic expenses.

(Oh! And by the way – have all those defrauded by Robo-Debt been fully recompensed yet? And did they get paid interest on the money, just as they were expected to pay interest if they failed to pay a claimed debt on time?)

A top priority should be government funding for social affordable housing!

Many jobs have not only been lost, but disappeared for ever.

Many businesses are being propped up by government grants when it would have been better had the business owners gone into receivership.

That situation can be closely examined and decisions made on realistic grounds – not using across the board rules that businesses should not be allowed to fail.

Early Childhood Education is an essential that government has again ignored. By reducing or removing assistance for childcare centres, the government has damaged the most important stage in the lives of our children.

Free childcare must be reinstated, salaries of all employed in the caring sectors – childcare, aged care, nursing, etc, must all be significantly increased, and numbers employed could be among the first ways to enable the ‘economy’ to start to recover.

I can only assume that neither Scott Morrison nor Josh Frydenberg regularly helps with the weekly household shopping.

If they did, they might appreciate that shopping needs money, and many of the goods purchased carry GST. And where does GST go? And does the government need money? So is refusal to provide the needy with succour a sensible policy?

We are not mendicants at the knees of a ruler.

We are citizens who demand to be treated fairly and we should not sit back and allow inferior policies from a government which is clearly out of its depth.

For example, here is another source of investment which is being spurned because superannuation is, for some strange reason, not in favour with the Coalition!

Let’s see the necessary, multi-partisan bodies being established to ensure that everyone has a roof over their heads, sufficient food and clothing, a proper education – particularly for the very young – and equality of opportunity.

I haven’t heard any tales of politicians complaining of not having enough of the necessities of life so why would they not accept that we are also entitled to respect and opportunity for a viable life?

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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Trump doesn’t matter

By Kirsten Tona  

What’s happening in America has already happened and there’s no going back.

Donald Trump is one fucked-up individual. And he’s a problem. But he is not the problem.

He’s a symptom.

What’s the US going to do when they wake up after the election to find they’re still about to crash into the moon, even if that particular piece of trash is in jail?

All those good souls whose eyes have been opened and are still hoping you can close them again if you get rid of this particular Buffoon-In-Chief: you can’t finesse your way out of it this time by signing pro-choice petitions and saying you marched with Dr King. There are too many elements at play and too many lost souls in charge.

You should have listened when revolutionaries warned you against liberals, but you wanted a quiet life and it was too easy to not live in the dark ghettos.

It’s hard to see how Trump can win on the day. Even 21st century democratic republican elections require some degree of input from the voting public, and who will vote for him? His base, of course, but they’re insane, they’d vote for the Cookie Monster if he offered them cookies. Literally. I mean they literally would. They already have. They did with him. And they’re still saying the cookies are tasty even though they’re yet to bite a single one. They’re insane.

The working class vote he captured last time with his “I’m not a politician” spiel have been disillusioned, they know if they have jobs or not and they don’t.

The silence from the nasty evangelists with their nasty Shining City on the Hill agenda has been deafening; maybe they’re all too busy deleting videos they took of them themselves, Mrs Nasty Evangelist, and the 3 Mexican pool boys?

Mind you, the Democratic Party are so far up their own arseholes they are entirely capable of losing; they listen to each other on MSNBC and genuinely seem to believe it matters what is said, but they have no strategists capable of telling them what they need to hear about where the “flyover states”* get their news and information from.

*(What a disgusting term. No wonder the “coastal elites” are hated, they really are vile, arrogant little pos. Second up against the wall.)

Nobody who isn’t being paid comes to the Trump rallies anymore (because COVID-19? Really? The Trump base believe in COVID-19? Do me a favour…) except the absolute die-hard base and there’s not enough of them.

But the ones who jumped off the Trump bandwagon when they realised the ride was too expensive and it was heading for the cliff really, really don’t want to vote Dem. And I don’t blame them.

Some disillusioned ex-Trumpers will vote Dem anyway, they’ll hold their noses and do it. Some of them will hold their noses and vote Trump even though they know what he is now, because change is change and change is needed. It largely depends on what they believe about Portland and Kenosha, which largely depends on where they, their friends, their family and their church folk get their news.

How much longer he can keep the Megachurches, is an issue. They got their payoff for bringing him the numbers last time — the payoff being Mike Pence — but what good did it do them? Tax breaks can’t help you if you don’t pay taxes in the first place, they haven’t had any really major wins in the Supreme Court, a lot of them may be of the opinion that Ted Cruz would have been far better at pretending he’d read the Bible — Cruz probably has read it, the VeggiTales version of it.

And even the religious extremists must be thinking: if Trump-Pence win again Mike Pence may have to move his neck and I don’t know if the Earth’s gravitational field could cope.

For them it’s all about the Supreme Court. If Trump is the Promised One he has to deliver on that, and frankly, he hasn’t. Last month’s decision that Civil RIghts Act covered LQBTQI was a loss for conservatives, and the majority opinion was written by Neil Gorsuch—Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee! The evangelists want their rigid worldview supported by the people they backed into power if they’re expected to support them again. Last week’s decision supporting employers’ rights to religious exemptions from paying for contraception in health care plans was the result they wanted, but don’t even mention June Medical Services v. Russo to them, their narrow little hearts can’t take it. It means no movement on Roe v Wade, the white whale of the anti-choicers… And Ruth Bader Ginsberg keeps refusing to die. Trump has not really delivered.

Big Oil are haemorrhaging money. There’s a hole in their back pocket through which they’re losing a lot of the spare Senators they usually keep there, and Russia with its well-oiled Kompromat machine has been hoovering them up instead. So Big Dirty Energy is not going to be able to sway as much influence as it’s used to. Rats deserting sinking ships over in that quarter, the writings on the wall for US gas and oil companies. Look for a coming influx of female CEOs… it’s called the Glass Cliff.

The cat-and-mouse game between Russian and Chinese social media engineering and those Americans still left in the FBI who are smart and motivated enough to stop them (about 3) will be interesting to watch.

Zuckerberg almost broke a sweat last time he was congressional-hearing-questioned by AOC, and that’s pretty amazing for an actual android.

But however well foreign influencers can use Zuke’s Kompromat, kidnap people’s Chinese relatives, and cook vote-counting machines, they can only move a certain number of percentage points. It may not be enough to counter the anti-Trump feel. Which is pretty fervent. For good reason. The man’s a Russian asset for a start. You’d think that alone would be a fair reason to disqualify him.

I’m not suggesting evangelicals and conservatives will vote for Biden, who despite his Catholicism has firmed as pro-choice. Just that more of them may stay at home. Anti-Trumpers won’t stay at home, believe it.

There will be other factors, of course, but none of them on their own will be enough to control this particular election: the element of surprise has been lost. Now all the players are bunkered down spying on each other and launching counter-offensives to prevent the other side’s counter-offensives from being launched… it’s like a really boring game of chess where people don’t care about winning so much as they just really, really, really don’t want you to win. It makes one nostalgic for the Cold War.

From here, I can’t see the Trump ship people controlling enough of the game for a win, but strange things happen at the one-two point, as they say in the game Go. Nobody really believes Trump will lose, it just hasn’t been that kind of a year, decade, century. And nobody thinks he will go even if the poll numbers are clear. He knows he’s going to jail as soon as he does. He’ll play war games from the underground bunker before he’ll do that willingly.

But Trump doesn’t matter. What’s happening in America was built into its foundation. Genocide and the rape of an entire continent will never and should never end well for the rapist. The Declaration of Independence was a lot of pretty words, from wealthy white men. Hint: fellas, if you want a Constitution and a Declaration of Rights that will last, hand it over to old black women: they’ve got nothing to lose and they care more about their grandchildren’s futures. And they won’t be writing pretty words in pretty libraries while females and slaves cook, clean, and take out the trash. So they’ll remember to include who does those things as a core component. Because that’s what a society boils down to, in the end: who does the work no one wants?

* * * * *

What’s happening in America has already happened.

It happened when Isabella of Castile and her imbecile husband funded Columbus; it happened when that authoritarian compact was signed on the Mayflower, strangling the hope of an inclusive democracy before its birth; it happened when the Puritans massacred the Wampanoag and barbarously called their victory feast “Thanksgiving”; and it happened when Thomas Jefferson took Sally Hemings to France to wash his socks and warm up his bed while he sat in coffee bars planning the writing of the words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

It happened when slave-owners, hypocrites and control freaks ignored their own Bible and tried to build a lasting edifice on genocide and sand.

And it’ll keep happening until the world ends or power-hungry white men get the fuck out of the way, whichever comes first, and this year the smart money is on the former.

* * * * *

I admit I’ll enjoy my schadenfreude moments as much as the next sad, tired, person. I’ll enjoy seeing the Bad Orange Man in a good orange jumpsuit. I’ll especially enjoy seeing Incest Porn Barbie and the Overbite Twins go to jail, they are just horrible. Maybe they’ll finally let Tiffany talk to them then.

But I’m beyond thinking it will help.

If America wants to avoid utter catastrophe it is going to have to do a lot more than throw the First Family Lumpen-Trash in jail. It’s going to have to get rid of the jails, too, and the systems for keeping them full.

It’s going to have to not just re-fund the education system but completely reform it so their children learn not what to think but how.

It’s going to have to jail, exile, or guillotine a lot of billionaires and a lot of their running dogs with them, and those feckers will be slippery to catch.

And it’s going to have to do all that without simply setting up another system of power bases with a new set of tyrants at the top table, a new class of the-animals-that-are-more-equal-than-others.

It could be done, but it would require a lot of humility and I just don’t think there’s enough to go around, in that place.

Good luck, though. We’ll watch the American collapse from Australia with our hearts in our mouths, because it will be our turn next.

© Kirsten Tona

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“Alarmism” vs Denial

“We need an enquiry into climate alarmism,” wrote Chris Kenny in The Weekend Australian, 29/8/2020).

“When it comes to our bushfires, climate change is so close to being irrelevant, it should hardly warrant a passing reference – we have always faced disastrous bushfire conditions and always will. If climate change makes the worst conditions either marginally more or less common, it matters not, we still need to do the same things to protect ourselves.

“In previous articles I have detailed the leading scientific analysis showing the main preconditions for the NSW fires – a long drought – cannot be attributed to climate change. Unless climate activists want to argue Australia could do something to alter the global climate sufficiently to reduce our bushfire threat, they are exposed as cynical campaigners who have used the sure bet of bushfires to advance their political scare campaign.”

Already in this article Kenny has exposed his own cynical campaign to try to prove that large bushfires are not connected with climate change, but have always been “catastrophic” – which is alarmist in itself. He says he has checked with “leading scientific analysis,” but he does not say which.

This suggests another possible enquiry – into climate change denialism. Kenny’s claim is that climate activists are merely being alarmist, catastrophist and apocalyptic – the usual IPA head-in-the-sand anti-science.

“The NSW bushfire enquiry released this week took a dive into the climate science – as it was tasked to do – and found, predictably enough, that climate change ‘clearly played a role in the conditions’ that led up to the fires and helped spread them. But thankfully it did not spend much time in its recommendations, merely suggests that climate trends needed to be monitored and factored in.”

Kenny was quite happy not think about climate change too much – or even think about it at all.

“Apart from exercises in politically correct box ticking – Indigenous training for evacuation centre staff so they are ‘culturally competent’, wildfire rescue training for fire fighters, and signs to promote ABC radio stations – most of the recommendations were practical. Better equipment for firefighters, more water bombers, more communication, public education and most importantly, a range of suggestions on fuel reduction around settled areas and planning controls on building in fire prone areas.”

See how Kenny ignores the climate change aspect. “The bottom line,” he says, “has always been obvious: the one fire input we can control is fuel, so where we want to control blazes or protect properties, we must reduce fuel.”

Such a learned and knowledgeable fire chief. No mention of reducing carbon emissions.

So perhaps we need to have an enquiry into ‘climate alarmism.’ How does it work?

A lengthy article in Wikipedia; 2019-2020 Australian bushfire season, has numerous sections which explain aspects of the subject in a balanced and more detailed way. Aspects examined include: overviews, regions affected, precedents, environmental and ecological effects, causes including drought/temperatures/climate change/disputed causes, misinformation, political responses, controversy. It is essential reading. It has far more balanced information than Kenny has attempted over months. He seems to be restricted to just a few points which tend to exclude climate change.

One of the topics in Bushfires in Australia in Wikipedia is Official Inquiries, which says this in part:

“A parliamentary report from 2010 stated that between 1939 and 2010 there have been 18 major bushfire inquiries, including state and federal parliamentary inquiries, COAG reports, coronial inquiries and Royal Commissions.

Another report published in 2015 stated there had been 51 inquiries into wildfires and wildfire management since 1939. The authors noted that Royal Commissions were not the most effective way to learn from bushfire events. Many of the inquiries have recommended ‘hazard reduction burning’ intended to reduce the available fuel and have set targets to burn a certain percentage of forest each year to reduce risk. Planned burns are difficult to do safely and many of the investigations and Royal Commissions have found these targets are seldom met. At the same time, fire management experts disagree how effective planned burning is.

In January 2020 during the 2019-2020 bushfire season, Prime Minister Scott Morrison raised the prospect of establishing anther Royal Commission. In an interview on ABC-TV 7:30 Morrison stated that any inquiry would need to be comprehensive and investigate climate change as well as other possibilities.”

So Kenny has had his thunder stolen from him on hazard reduction burning and he has been contradicted by Morrison – on the ABC, like a climate catastrophist!

“The push for an enquiry into [the fires] was largely driven by the climate catastrophists…They will be at it again, this fire season. They love making political capital out of disasters, although they go as quiet as Tim Flannery when it comes to full dams and widespread snowflakes.”

Remember how the deniers claimed that Tim Flannery said it would never rain again in Perth? He didn’t say that (see Tim Flannery Did Not Say Australia’s Dams Would Never Fill Again). And deniers love to ask: If there is climate change and global warming, why is there snow? Pathetic.

Kenny goes on to play ecologist about animal and plant recovery. He is also an expert on California; more of which later.

And he is bold enough to bring Michael Shellenberger into the discussion, the nuclear power man, the one who apologised for speaking climate science in the past, widely debunked. Perhaps he could also bring in the IPA, The Spectator, or Benny Peiser and his ‘Global Warming Policy Foundation,’ etc, who will tell us climate change is wildly overstated and that we need to speak with them politely, with calm rationale, gently, gently. Are they serious? Are these the “leading scientific analysis” Kenny mentions early in this article?

He criticises Fran Kelly of the ABC for saying in November that “the fire warning had been increased to catastrophic for the first ever time in this country”- and he says “that was wrong, wildly wrong.” He goes on to list dates of bushfires in Australia back to 1851. “None of this was new,” says Kenny. He quotes dates from 1951 and 1936 when their “bushfire induced shrouds of smoke” blocked Sydney skies, but these fires are not listed by Wikipedia as important fires. In our 2019-2020 fires, smoke spread past New Zealand and beyond to South America.

Let us take up Kenny’s challenge and look at the dates and data for fires in Australia – and not only those, but also across the world. Let us challenge the denier softly, softly approach.

Kenny claims there is “nothing new” about this data.

Black Thursday 1851       Vic.      5mha          12 deaths

1974-75             widespread        117mha       6

Black Saturday   2009      Vic.      450,000      173

Ash Wednesday  1983  SA, Vic    418,000      75

Black Tuesday     1967      Tas.     264,000      62

Black Friday        1939       Vic.      2mha         71

Black Summer 2019-2020 widespread  18.6mha  34 deaths

“Greater areas were burnt in 1851 and 1974-5 and human devastation was either as bad or worse“ (during the fires listed above), Kenny says.

But the 2019-2020 fires, for many people, look clearly the most “unprecedented” by a country mile.

So let us look at the 1851 Black Thursday fire in a Wikipedia article by that name.

It certainly was a “devastating” fire, perhaps “catastrophic” or even “unprecedented” at the time in Australia, burning a quarter of the state of Victoria. “The primary cause,” says the Wiki article, “of the catastrophic fires during this period lies in the poor understanding of local fire regimes and in inappropriate landscape management by settlers.” Along with drought, high temperatures and strong, hot north winds, of course.

And let us look at the 1974-75 fires which burnt 117mha of northern Australia. Wiki again tells us:

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics attributes the extent of the fires to ‘exceptionally heavy rainfall in the previously two years.”

“Stephen J. Pyne qualifies the season as the most destructive in terms of hectares burned among historical fires in Australia but added that ‘the 1974-75 fires had almost no impact and much of the damage was found by satellite after the fact.’”

No impact; “found after the fact,” after it had finished burning; 117mha burnt?

So when we look at Kenny’s last paragraph he wants to point to an inquiry into “climate alarmism, political posturing and media reporting.” We would learn much more from that, he says, “than we have from learning age-old fire preparedness from yet another bushfire enquiry.”

So what is the message? That we have known about “age-old fire preparedness” forever. We do not need another inquiry. We have known about all this without making preparations, he tells us. Not enough back-burning and hazard reduction? Not enough water bombers? Just “politically correct box-ticking” in the latest report? “Wildfire rescue training for fire-fighters“? “Better equipment, more communication”? Nah. Just fuel reduction and better planning control on building in fire prone areas. She’ll be right. No attention to climate change. (That’s the Murdoch/IPA approach.)

Bill Shorten had more preparation planned for fire management than Murdoch and the IPA. For example, he planned to get our own water bombers because it is becoming more difficult when the Californian and the Australian fire seasons are overlapping. But people do not take much notice of those matters – more about tax reductions.

So let us look at some wild fires around the world, keeping in mind we have some of the hottest years in the last ten. Five of the hottest years have occurred since 2015. Nine of the hottest years have been since 2005. There have been 43 consecutive years with land and ocean temperatures at least nominally above average.

A List of Wildfires, from Wikipedia

India, Feb.2019:

Massive forest fires broke out in numerous places across the National Park of Karataka state.

Arctic, June 2019:

Arctic wildfires emitted 50 megatonnes of CO2 – between 2010 – 2018 combined. Most carbon released from Alaska and Siberia but also included other Arctic regions; eg. in Alberta. In Siberia temperature was about 10 degrees higher in June 2019 than the average. In Anchorage, Alaska, on the 4th of July the temperature was 32 degrees, setting an all-time high for the town.

Europe, July 2000:

Fire in Southern Europe consumed forests and buildings in southern France, Iberia, Corsica, and much of Italy including much of the south, caused by the heatwave dominating Southern Europe, with the temperatures at 40-45 degrees.

Croatia, summer 2017:

Croatian wildfires burning in Istria all the way down to Dalmatia, 1500k

Portugal: 2016, 2017, 2018

Sweden, summer 2018:

A large number of wildfires occurred through much of Sweden. According to the Swedish Contingencies Agency, they are the most serious in the country in modern history. The summer was unusually warm and dry, significantly raising the risk of fire.

United Kingdom, 2019:

The UK fires were a series of fires which began on 26 Feb 2019 and ended on 18 May 2019. The series of fires was considered unusual due to the fact they took place early in the year. Areas affected by the wildfires included those that had been already burnt by wildfires in the summer of 2018. The fires have created many air pollution problems for the UK. The causes of many of these fires have been attributed to much higher average temperatures and drought conditions that have prevailed since the spring of 2018.There there were 137 wildfires larger than 25 hectares recorded in the UK in 2019. This beats the previous record of 79 from 2018.

North America:

British Columbia, 2017: The fire season is notable for three reasons: first, for the largest total area burnt in a fire season in recorded history; second, for the largest number of evacuees in a fire season (estimated 65,000 evacuees); and third, for the largest single fire ever in British Columbia.

California, Thomas fire: Largest wildfire in Californian history at the time (1889 Santiago Canyon fire may have been bigger).

British Columbia, 2018: Initial estimates put 2018 as the largest total burn area in any BC wild fire season, surpassing the historic 2017 wildfire season.

California, 2018: California Camp Fire: 18, 804 structures destroyed, 85 confirmed deaths, 2 missing, 17 injured, deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California to date.

South America, 2019:

The 2019 Amazon rainforest wildfires season saw a year-to- year surge in fires occurring in the Amazon rainforest and Amazon bioma with Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru during that year’s Amazonian tropical dry season.

Chile, 2019: The worst in Chile’s history.

What we see here is a small selection of fires across the world. There are all kinds of points of discussion, including climate change, temperature rises, decline in rainfall, too much rain, drought, land care methods and others. Conditions are not all the same in every place.

A good place to start is looking a sites on Wikipedia, especially about our recent fires. One site looking at world wildfires is at carbonbrief.org; Explainer: How climate change is affecting wild fires around the world.

Among the descriptions of wildfires in the world can be seen not just data in terms of extent of the fires and damage done, but also claims that some of these figures represent records – and often occurring not long after the previous record made in recent years. Note also the frequent recurrence of wildfires in particular parts of the world. And how the incidence of fires and their extent often increase in parallel with the increase in temperature over time.

But it is about more than numbers. There is an old saying about lies, damn lies and then there are statistics. Take the 1851 fires mentioned by Kenny. What is not mentioned are the conditions at the time, not just the temperature and the wind direction, but also the firefighting conditions: the lack of motor vehicles to access the fires, roads, equipment, small population, no water bombers, land care.

The Black Summer 2019-2020 fires started in Queensland early in the season and continued down the east coast driven by strong wild winds from the west. Firefighters threw everything at it, but in the end they wished they had more. In a part of Australia with high population, we were lucky to lose only 34 tragic deaths in the midst of massive losses of property.

The Kenny solution rests heavily on the notion of hazard reduction, design of housing, and personal responsibility. Hazard reduction works in northern Australia in mid-year, the driest time of the year there, but not so easy in mid-winter or in the small windows of opportunity between winters and summers. There is controversy over that issue. We already have huge land-clearing which raises its own problems.

Kenny also downplays the role of climate change. For him it is irrelevant. But we know it is happening and its effects are visible and frightening. Even the latest Bushfire Commission Report warns that we can expect more frequent fires in the future.

So, what else is said by the sceptics? Jennifer Marohasy, editor of the Murdoch IPA publication; Climate Change: The Facts 2017, tells us that readers will find many unusual snippets in the range of sceptic authors – in fact, contradictions – which she hopes will be reconciled over time into a coherent explanation of what is happening with climate. How it might be possible to reconcile Ian Plimer’s claim that CO2 has nothing to do with climate change with Bob Carter’s assertion that CO2 is a powerful greenhouse gas is an idea not easily believable. There is no coherent science of denial.

What is plainly obvious is that far from an inquiry into “alarmism” – as Kenny calls IPPC science – what is needed is an inquiry into the miasma of misinformation which is sceptic denial.

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The traits of right-wing extremism

By Kathryn

There is so much hatred and violence in an ever-increasingly right-wing world mismanaged by totally corrupt, self-serving, profit-obsessed sociopaths like Donald Trump (USA), aided and abetted by the likes of Scott Morrison (Australia) and Johnson (UK); all of whom love to ramp up hate-speech, encourage turmoil and public disobedience (when it benefits them) and remain silent – even acquiescent – when their fascist police force start brutalising black people, or when minorities are victimised at the hands of right-wing white supremacists!

This is the type of thing happens – inevitably – following the rising amount of hate speech, intolerance, division and victimisation of vulnerable people and minorities under ultra conservative, right-wing extremism.

Right-wing extremists are, truly, the most dangerous and hateful of all forms of political leaders. Add the fact that so many of them are bible-thumping hypocrites into the bargain and it makes them even more offensive!

It doesn’t take much before the worst of them quickly degenerate into power-obsessive fascism, pushing through terrifying policies that whittle away the democratic freedoms of others to protest, to voice their condemnation of the stone cold neo-liberalism that thrives during their tyrannical mismanagement, the escalating nepotism, the increasing lies and staggering waste and misuse of taxpayer funds, the never-ending expenditure on war and weapons of war at the expense of the poor, the disadvantaged and their never-ending attacks and defundment of State education and health care.

Image from nbcnews.com

Hitler and Mussolini are examples of what can happen when right-wing extremism goes horribly wrong – doesn’t take much before it slides into fascism! Right now, we have this form of right-wing terrorism in Brazil under the fascist jackboot of Jair Bolsonaro. The fact that Trump has an increasingly similar style of megalomaniacal, narcissistic sociopathy cannot be ignored!

 

 

The contemptuous arrogance, the despicable declarations of “fake news”, the stubborn refusal to take any responsibility for their appalling recklessness, the increasing incidences of self-serving rorting of taxpayer-funds and blatant corruption that goes on and on without consequence, their total lack of foresight and zero integrity, the absolute determination to rule at any cost no matter how low they have to stoop to maintain their power – all of this is the common thread that seems to bind right-wing extremists around the world.

The only thing useless, non-achieving right-wing parasites are adept at is playing the relentless blame game of anyone and everyone for their own catastrophic ineptitude. Trump goes on and on and on blaming Obama (who was the best President the USA ever had); the lying, conniving LNP (in Australia) never stop blaming everyone but themselves – particularly the Labor government who have not been in government for over seven years; Boris Johnson and the smug Tories never seem to tire of pointing a finger at left-wing or environmentally-aware politicians in the UK (and around the world). The fact that these ruthless, ultra-conservative despots also have a tendency to take over and influence the media is a red flag warning as to their total disregard for our democracy and their contempt for our right to impartiality of the media! In Australia, we have the LNP forming a notorious – and totally undemocratic – alliance with Rupert Murdoch and his IPA (the Institute of Public Affairs). The IPA are a group of self-serving, unelected, multi-millionaire corporate predators who have undue, enormous influence and control over conservative politicians in the LNP in order to promote and encourage policies that will enrich and empower themselves at the expense of ordinary Australians.

The horrendous and unspeakable evil alliance the LNP have formed with the malevolent, non-Australian media overlord, Rupert Murdoch, has done so much damage to our democracy, freedom of the press and factual, fair reporting of our media – it is an unfolding tragedy. Ever since the disreputable John Howard changed the rules that once prohibited a single entity owning a huge majority of our media, Murdoch’s influence – and, by association – the influence of the LNP/IPA Alliance, has infiltrated, influenced and manipulated more than 70% of Australia’s media making it one of the most biased and contaminated forms of media in the free world.

Murdoch is now widely regarded throughout Australia as the totally biased Propaganda Minister to the LNP, doing everything they can to character-assassinate, denigrate and ridicule any opposition to the LNP/Murdoch/IPA Alliance of mutually benefiting multi-millionaire corporate predators. It is right-wing degeneracy at its worst!

Tragically, the above-named ‘traits’ are the modus operandi; what we now know to be the standard procedure of malevolent, self-obsessed, right-wing megalomaniacs who, once seizing power (through fair means and foul), hang on to it with bloodstained fingers, using their political power to openly favour their billionaire corporate donors over everyone else to ensure that they push through cruel, capitalistic policies that will vastly enhance their own personal wealth and power (and the wealth and power of their obscenely wealthy and powerful cronies).

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Being treated as pariahs – challenging the mental health of Victorians!

By Leonie Saunders  

Human beings are a social species. We are hard-wired to social interaction, cooperation and reciprocity. It is elemental to maintaining our mental health and our survival as a species.

As a Victorian, enduring the isolation of lockdown has so many challenges including keeping one’s mental health in check. This is particularly relevant given the uncharitable provincialism expressed daily on the mainstream media by the premiers of Queensland, N.S.W. et al. People living alone having to cope with with isolation is one thing, but trying daily not to internalise the fact that we Victorians are being treated as pariahs, alienated from our families due to imaginary lines on a map exposes the chinks in the armour of our Federation.

Unfortunately, Victorians in lockdown are captive to news reported by callow journalists employed to deliver news on the cheap by the owners of this country’s mainstream news media outlets. And if that isn’t bad enough, there is the pitiable reporting coming from the ABC’s News 24 department that construes balanced journalism as employing right-wing talking heads reporting news with a clear Liberal bias.

As it stands now, other than turning off the news completely, it is impossible to ignore the unchallenged snide comments and finger pointing emanating from Sydney’s other lethal spider, Scott Morrison.

It is much to my chagrin that press gallery journalists do not hold power to account. Perhaps it’s all in the name, because even in the face of obvious government corruption, they consistently allow Morrison to get off scot free.

Seeing the Prime Minister smirk in to the camera as he, without any compunction whatsoever, shoves the buck for his government’s failures safeguarding the health and well-being of the elderly on to the Victorian government is infuriating. Then on top of that trying to cope mentally with the sickening parochialism coming from the other State Premiers; the worst being Annastacia Palaszczuk. The disparaging subtext contained in their comments makes it more than evident to Victorians that contrary to the “we are all in this together” spin. We know that Australians are not all in this together.

On any assessment, it is the epitome of bloody-minded cynicism that with an election imminent, Palaszczuk is exploiting COVID-19 for her own political purposes. Following closely behind Palaszczuk in the ‘We are not really in this altogether stakes‘, is N.S.W. Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Vying for third place is the Northern Territory’s newly re-elected Chief Minister Michael Gunner and the Premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall. Coming close behind is Tasmania’s Peter Gutwein. And as for the W.A Premier Mark McGowan, well having lived in Perth for many years, it is not surprising to me that his political fortunes have skyrocketed. After all, COVID-19 provided him the opportunity to reassert the desire of the state’s Sandgropers to keep W.A. free of the rabble from the east.

While it is generally understood that as a federation, the greater good can only ever be achieved when we as a nation work together in the common good to improve the well-being of our whole society. Sadly, COVID-19 has shone a light on the soft underbelly of Australia’s federation. It challenges the very notion of social solidarity in the collective good of all Australians. We need only look at the water plundered in the north that is axiomatic of the appalling mismanagement of the Murray-Darling to know that State politicians do not consider the common good in terms of all Australians. To them the common good will always be defined by lines on a map, not as a whole.

Unfortunately, the law of the instrument governing the behaviour of state politicians does not bode well for the future of our nation, so long as the states view ‘the greater good’ only in parochial terms. Mark my words, if state politicians continue doubling down to act in their own self-interest, alienating Australians from Australians, when the horrors of human accelerated global warming that loom ominously come into full effect, no technological advancement will save us from Mother Nature’s wrath and the ensuing backlash of a nation divided will doubtless lead to the breakdown of civil society.

And therein lies the rub.

Is it any wonder people living outside of Australia reading and watching the news online as reported via this country’s mainstream news media outlets are justifiably disconcerted by what they are observing taking place in our country. The apparent dysfunction that exists within our federation sparks statements such as, “I thought Scott Morrison was the Prime Minister of the entire nation.” This is generally followed rhetorically with the question; “Isn’t Victoria an integral part of Australia’s federation?”

Then when seeing the arrogance of the Prime Minister smirking on the news, and knowing the history behind his ability to set the media’s daily agenda was made easier by Labor Party’s antipathy towards the establishment class owners of Fairfax newspapers, irks me no end. That during the late 1980s Bob Hawke and Paul Keating did a deal with the devil in the lead up to getting Labor’s Cross Media Ownership Legislation passed by the Parliament that gave the newspaper publisher the power to control the circulation of over 70% of the entire nation’s metropolitan and regional newspapers is indefensible.

And yet despite all the evidence that tells me otherwise, I still want to believe that had Hawke and his treasurer Keating had a skerrick of nous and forethought as to the ramifications of their legislative changes to Australia’s mainstream print and broadcast media outlets, they would not have willingly concentrated media power into the hands of two filthy rich bully’s. One being Kerry Packer, an overbearing self-confessed tax dodger, and the other Rupert Murdoch, a megalomaniacal puppet master.

Image from connectingthedotsblog.com

Sadly, Labor’s penchant for self-destruction as evident in the changes to media laws in the 1990s and the abolition of industry-wide bargaining opened the way for Howard to consolidate Murdoch’s power even further. All together, the decisions made by the Labor Government followed by Howard have dramatically undermined Australian democracy. To such an extent that non-unionised workplaces and self-censorship are commonplace for journalists in the employ of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp papers. The same goes for the commentariat employed by Murdoch and a like-minded coterie of right-wing owners of the country’s other broadcast news media outlets. For young ambitious journalists soft peddling where Scott Morrison and his ministers are concerned is a matter of survival.

There are copious ways broadcasters peddle their pernicious political influence. To be more specific, owners of newspapers hand-pick editors, likewise the producers in television and radio are hand-picked by CEOs who share the same political mindset as their company board of directors. This ensures the upper echelons of corporate Australia always control the narrative in the content of the copy written by journalists and the context in which opinions wrapped up and framed as questions are in keeping with their capitalist owners political agenda.

Notwithstanding the pressure to conform, journalists of quality and integrity understand that in a democracy their primary obligation is to the public. They know the public’s right to be fully informed accurately and without bias is a precondition of being granted privileged access to power. Whereas, sadly, for many young ambitious journalists succumbing to the pressure of operating in a concentrated media environment are destined to see the world through the lens of their proprietor’s right-wing bias. Tragically, the instant they succumb, they make themselves unworthy of those privileges as partisanship on the part of news journalists is the antithesis of their role and responsibilities in a democracy.

Of most significance to the undermining of democracy is the way in which the nation’s press gallery journos consistently fail to forensically examine the Prime Minister on the details contained in his government’s policy decisions. Not only during the pandemic, but overall. The lack of media scrutiny in a democracy contributes significantly to Australians never knowing the full extent to which their policies have a detrimental effect on the health and well-being of our society.

For intelligent, free thinking Victorians it is beyond reprehensible that in the midst of the pandemic the press gallery grant the Prime Minister enough unchallenged air time so as to allow him to shove the buck of his and his government’s mismanagement on to the broad shoulders of Victoria’s Daniel Andrews. To say the media’s reporting by young overly ambitious political neophytes is wearing thin, would be an understatement.

Under the circumstances, maintaining any semblance of sanity I have to trust that outside the borders of Australia’s most progressive state, there lives a multitude of socially conscious, politically literate Australians alert to Scott Morrison’s modus operandi. For the sake of my sanity, I have to trust that in spite of his best attempts to shift focus away from the fact that as the regulatory authority and bestower of public monies to private owners in the for profit aged care sector. COVID-19 has awakened the majority of my fellow Australians to the ruthless socio-economics of neoliberalIsm as implemented by Morrison and his ministers.

Of course, the Liberal Party’s biggest donors being business lobbies, it is not happenstance that Scott Morrison subscribes to the ideology of small government underpinning deregulation and privatisation as championed by the IPA’s monopoly capitalists. The federal government‘s overarching protection racket for the profit takers is directly responsible for the disgraceful neglect of essential safeguards to protect the health and well-being of the elderly in private aged care facilities. One can only hope, as a consequence of COVID-19 Australians are taking heed of the Prime Minister’s words and actions that reveal his deep-rooted mean-spiritedness. If there is any justice post-Rona, the lies told by him and his cabinet of freeloaders will be his government’s undoing.

Observing the pitiful inadequacy of Albanese and his Shadow Cabinet’s performance is adding to my general despondency. Watching Albanese put himself forward as the 2nd coming of Mr. Consensus, banking on the government’s fortunes changing so that Labor can win high office by default is lamentable. Notwithstanding the fact that seeing, hearing and reading the mainstream media’s right-wing attack dog journalists going for the Victorian Premiers jugular while simultaneously acting as accomplices in the Prime Minister efforts to hoodwink Australians is infuriating. It is indeed problematic for Labor that during this crisis coal-loving Joel Fitzgibbon can capture a minute of limelight by raising his ugly destabilising head. Yet Albanese has not be able to find a way to cut through to make his mark as a potential leader of the nation. Obviously Albanese is being ill-advised. Albanese thus far hasn’t had the mettle to show the same loyalty to Victoria’s Dan Andrews as Morrison has shown to his state’s Premier, Gladys Berejiklian.

Where Australia’s opaque Prime Minister is given a free ride in the media, Victoria’s Premier Dan Andrews fronts up to answer loaded questions from a baying pack of Murdoch’s News Corp journalists. He does not shirk the moral responsibility of his position as Premier, and it is to his credit that he takes responsibility where it is not his to take.

Which brings me to the fundamentals of our democracy.

Under the Westminster System representative democracy ministerial responsibility is a constitutional convention. However, inscrutable changes in our polity in recent history are clearly irreconcilable with these conventions consistent with the democratic precepts of open and accountable government.

 

 

Irrespective of the jurisdiction, one of the major causes for the public’s general distrust of this nation’s political class is due to neither Federal nor State Ministers having due respect for the Westminster System’s convention that behoves all in high office to take moral responsibility for failing to adequately discharge the duties. Ministerial mea culpas is not accountability, its lip service. The only way Cabinet Ministers can demonstrate accountability is by way of resigning from the Executive. Thus the system is now completely broken.

From a big picture perspective, the ultimate responsibility for global pandemic is capitalism and the systemic embrace of supply-side neo-liberalism. For this alone, the Prime Minister must held to account for his incautious push to open up the national economy driven by an unquestioning adherence to neo-liberalism and the capitalist tenets of unrestrained growth.

Let me be clear, profitability is the primary driver of Australia’s private sector aged-care homes. They are a federal government responsibility. The federal government’s Health Minister Greg Hunt and the Minister for Ageing, Richard Coldbeck ultimately bear responsibility for the tragic deaths of our elderly citizens in these ill-equiped, unwholesome institutions. If either of these men had a soupçon of morality and human decency they would resign post haste. Had these Ministers been less-concerned with adhering to their party’s economic doctrine and actually cared for the health and safety of the elderly many of these deaths could have been avoided.

The truth is we as a society have been hoodwinked into believing that private ownership is more efficient than public ownership, whereas years of evidence shows this couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, the sophistry of efficiency gains that slides like honey off the tongues of government ministers and business owners continues to hold sway in the general public’s mindset.

One of the primary reasons successive Coalition governments have cleared the way for corporations and churches in the aged care industry to employ an under-trained casual workforce is to curtail the labour cost of employing full-time qualified nurses to care for the elderly. Employing casuals acts as an impediment to unionism in workplaces, which of course is the neo-liberal orthodoxy central to the Coalition government’s much heralded cutting red tape narrative that allows profit takers to self-regulate.

Cutting red tape has enabled private security firms to adopt a skim off the top business model of employing sub-contractors who they know utilise untrained staff. It is not as if politicians and departmental bureaucrats don’t know sub-contracting to cut costs forms the basis of the business model adopted by large security firms. And this is why the ultimate responsibility for Victoria‘s hotel quarantine fiasco rests on the shoulders of Jenny Mikakos. Mikakos willingly took on the roles as Victoria’s Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services and Minister for the Coordination of Health and Human Services COVID-19 as well as Deputy Leader of the Government. And she has been shown to have failed significantly in performing her duties In her portfolios as Minister for Health and even more so in the Coordination of Health and Human Services COVID-19.

Like Hunt and Colbeck federally, as a Cabinet minister Mikakos bears the ultimate responsibility for the actions of her ministry’s oversight on the relative departments. If Mikakos had a modicum of integrity, rather than allow her leader to bear the burden of answering for her erroneous decisions; she would fall on her sword.

Considering the cautionary advice given by experts in the realm of psychology who warn that one of the prime causes of depression and anxiety is anger turned inward. We can view as inevitable that the sneering parochialism voiced by the Prime Minister and State Government Premiers will on a subliminal level have long term deleterious effects on the collective mental heath of my states citizenry.

 

Image from www.juliayellow.com

COVID-19 has certainly exposed the worst of Australia’s unsophisticated provincialism that has long had its political impetus in the right-wing ranks of Sydney’s smug ruling-class. I fear the chinks in the armour of Australia’s federation will need serious panel beating to repair the subliminal substructure in the psychology of a state that has been alienated from the rest of the nation to which it is suppose to belong.

This article was originally published on Connecting the Dots.

Leonie Saunders is benevolent dictator of Connecting the Dots, proud lefty feminist. Adores children and animals. Despises greedy union-bashing, power-abusing corporate polluters.

 

 

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Bias and balance

My parents only agreed on a very small number of issues. They both believed in god and followed a branch of the non-conformist Christian faith.

After a near disaster in my father’s mishandling of the mortgage payments, they agreed that my mother was the more competent money manager.

I had (intentional past tense) an older brother and sister, a year apart in age, with a nearly 3 year gap between my sister and me.

My father taught us all to ride a bike, to strip it down and service it (he was a mechanical engineer), to swim – a sport in which the 3 of us all later engaged at a competitive level –  and to drive the car – having first been required to get a good understanding of how an internal combustion engine worked!

My mother had held a driving licence pre-WWII, without actually learning to drive, but she held it for long enough that she was automatically regarded as qualified. She put the fear of god into the local lamp posts if she ever did get behind the steering wheel, and her brief efforts to learn did nothing positive to her relationship with my father!

The plus side was that later she could accompany us when we were on L-plates and we could then replace my father as driver whenever was convenient.

My mother was responsible for ensuring we all learned to play the piano, which was a passion of hers, and she played well, and my brother later went on to play the violin and any other musical instrument you put in his hands!

When he was at Cambridge (he won a State Scholarship), he got involved in Morris Dancing and played the piano accordion, for that and folk dancing as well.

Politics was also a bone of contention between my parents, so an important part of my social education was learning that there are always at least two points of view on anything which cannot be definitively described as fact!

Although they were poles apart – Tory mother vs card-carrying Labour father – their Christian faith did leave them with a drive to help others, although their methods might have varied.

My sister studied medicine at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, which was part of London University, as was the Imperial College of Science and Technology (now Imperial College, London) where I later studied maths. So while my brother effectively left home when he went to Cambridge, my sister and I travelled up to college, daily, via the London Underground.

My brother moved on to design aircraft engines for Rolls Royce, my sister became a surgeon and I went on to teach maths – and, much later, practice as a lawyer and mediator.

In my parent’s home, we listened to the BBC radio, and I left home to get married a year after graduating and before television was an established household necessity.

At times in later life I have listened to commercial broadcasts on radio and TV and found the breaks for advertisements unbelievably unacceptable.

While still in England and after we had a family, we still did not choose to get television, as we had family and friends nearby, spent our weekends working on the boat (a long story attaches to that) and later sailing it, so we were quite happy to confine our radio news to the BBC.

Not surprisingly, after coming to Darwin nearly 50 years ago, we kept the same pattern – in fact when we first arrived, we preceded TV to Darwin – but we did succumb to renting a back and white TV later in our first year. The ABC replaced the BBC – but then, many ABC offerings are from the BBC!

My dislike of being inundated by ads means I rarely watch commercial TV and never listen to commercial radio.

When I started work at the then Northern Territory University (NTU), in mid-1989, I was given an Apple Mac for my exclusive use (as were all education and maths lecturers) – it had graphics packages which were particularly important for maths, but not then available in DOS – and I have morphed through all the changes in following years.

So now  – years later – I can access news from a variety of sources and identify the extent to which bias distorts information.

Because the Murdoch media, which dominates the commercial media in Australia, is unashamedly hard right conservative, the ABC’s efforts to introduce balance in reporting is perceived, by conservatives as being left wing.

‘If you are not with us, you are against us’ is a typical attitude in a culture which, through its law and politics, encourages an antagonistic approach to contentious issues.

I have studied maths, which emphasises logic.

I have studied law, which highlights the adversarial approach.

I have trained as a mediator in Alternative Dispute Resolution –  which I am happy to say is an approach into which the Courts are now diverting some disputes, particularly ones in the area of civil law and, less successfully because of the emotions involved, Family Law.

Mediation has so much to recommend it, because it directs you away from conflict and insistence on getting what you want, and requires you to consider the other party’s needs and wants, and to reassess your important priorities.

The question is “What can you live with?” rather than “What do you want?”

I listen to the ABC news and comment programs and note that they employ an increasing number of conservatives including former politicians, like Amanda Vanstone.

Yet conservatives as a whole continue to accuse the ABC of left-wing bias!

And because it is so obvious that the ABC is not offering exclusively left wing opinions, those who are firmly left-wing in their personal beliefs, see the ABC now as becoming right-wing!

It is a crazy situation when each side of politics demands balance in their national broadcaster, and, when they get it, interpret it as bias!

It is worse than crazy, it is dangerous, when that results in the government effectively introducing strong right-wing bias into media, by cutting funds to the ABC and giving funds to blatantly right-wing Murdoch media outlets.

You have to ask yourself – how, in a democracy, can this be seen as legitimate? – particularly when that same government is passing increasingly dictatorial legislation which reduces our freedoms.

Not a good look from a government with so slim a majority!

No wonder they do not want Parliament to be sitting and discussing the government’s flawed program!

It is clear that the current Coalition government is living from moment to moment, with no clear understanding of the need for a flexible plan which will minimise harm to those who become infected, to those who care for them, or to those who have lost income – and many also the ability to find a source of income.

We do not want politicians who sit comfortably in their ivory towers, unaware of the extent of people’s traumatic situations, any more than we want ones who force a handshake on a victim of unprecedented bush fires for the sake of a photo op.

We need a leader with vision of positive outcomes, who can, with a like-minded team,  plan for a variety of potential situations and make rapid and appropriate adjustments as situations change.

I cannot see any in the Coalition who begin to measure up to what we need and they are not going to allow anyone else to step up, even though they clearly cannot cope.

Sadly, COVID-19 is their friend.

We ought to be out on the streets demonstrating but that might do more long-term harm than good!

At least we can be preparing for action as soon as it becomes less likely to put lives in danger.

What say you?

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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The toll taken by corrupt practices

Nearly 40 years ago, long before we fully realised the level of corruption in high places and in corporations, and when AMP was still a Mutual Provident Society, I worked for that organisation for 3 years.

For personal reasons, I needed to get back into full-time work, but the profession for which I was qualified – teaching maths –  involved working with teenagers – and I was living with three at the time!

The likely stress levels associated with that option were unacceptable – my own children and I survived their childhood only because I have a strong sense of responsibility, and children do become human – eventually.

Three years was enough to convince me that I was better occupied teaching maths than selling insurance and superannuation packages, and the legacy of that time was a Personal Superannuation Portfolio (PS) and a Whole of Life Insurance Plan -the latter of which is already fully paid up and will ensure I can have a great celebration in about a decade, as it pays out when I am 95!

The proceeds of the PS scheme was eventually rolled over into an Allocated Pension, with AMP (their reputation had not yet been shredded) accompanied by my compulsory contributions to a Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme, and I continued using the advice of a qualified Financial Adviser with AMP whom I knew personally – as youngsters, he and my younger son had both played cricket in local teams = and whose advice I found satisfactory.

Another legacy was shares in a now demutualised AMP, which are currently of little value, paying no dividends as a result of AMP having its reputation well and truly trashed in the Banking Royal Commission!

A whole lot of reorganisation has gone on with AMP, as a result of which they have dismissed a significant number of their former financial advisers, including mine, under massively unfair circumstances.

I wish to continue using my adviser but AMP denies him access to my account. In fact it appears that they have denied him accreditation as a financial adviser.

I so not know how long it will take for the courts or tribunals and regulatory bodies involved in this issue to rectify matters, so in the meantime I am managing my own portfolio, which essentially restricts me to AMP linked products.

I am familiar with spreadsheets, can work online, understand the concept of trends and long term growth, but would still value advice from time to time – particularly in today’s financial upheaval.

Organisations which manage money need much more oversight from government appointed regulators than seems to be the case.

The aversion displayed by the government, into accepting the need for the Banking RC, gives us no confidence that the Coalition has any respect for integrity, transparency, or, in fact, any values which are respected by Australian people – excluding Peter Dutton.

And now they are denying us a Parliament using specious arguments to which they daily give the lie by their own behaviour.

I find it sad – I actually am appalled by the fact – that so many voters do not understand that this Coalition government lies and cheats its way into power, is supported by the most corrupt media empire the world has ever known and uses Gestapo-like propaganda tactics to smear the Opposition – which, to be truthful, is not exactly helping itself.

Oh for a magic wand, which would enable us to see a Fact Check result in a cloud above the head of every politician who tells a blatant lie. The down side of that is that we might never see the sun again!

AMP appears to have acted in a way which has quite wrongly put former advisers into massive debt, denied their ability to continue working as advisers, and denied clients the right to employ an adviser whose integrity they can trust.

Part of the new normal should be putting these wrongs to right!

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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“You bastard,” I thought to myself

The question on Facebook was; “Do you know anyone with COVID-19?” And further reading gave every indication that the person behind the question was a conspiracy theorist.

I didn’t join in the conversation because, in my view, the initial response to any question should be good and thoughtful, and my mood wasn’t anywhere near considerate.

In any case there might be some theorists reading this and I couldn’t give a toss for any negative exchanges at the moment. I just want to tell you how I felt.

Why these people support theories (feelings) before facts is a process that I find unfathomable and it is very difficult to contend with those of inflexible opinion.

As I said, my mind at the time of reading this question was nowhere near calm and docile. It was more annoyance and frustration.

It’s rather like the death of a family member who has been ill for some time.

Even when the announcement of their death is made the suddenness envelops you and it still comes as a shock. So it was when l found out that my son had tested positive to the COVID-19 virus.

He immediately self-isolated. Having no idea where he might have picked it up his first thoughts were for his partner daughter and son who had visited a few days earlier. He was working from home and had, as he says, practices impeccable habits of hygiene.

We now had a wait over the weekend to find out if his partner and their talented and beautiful 10-year-old daughter were also infected.

The waiting itself is like a custodial, totality, excruciating sentence. Hour after hour ticks by as your thoughts imagine the worst. The tyranny of distance and a parental need to action is unbearable, overwhelming in its desire to help.

I hold hands with my wife as she too thinks the worst and I worry with unrelenting nervousness.

“Fuck you,” I think to myself, “you idiots of conspiracy theory.”

My son, at the time, is in hospital on oxygen.

I ring my own doctor and he has volumes of information. I tell him I have had the sniffles for a couple of days and he tells me to get tested. I do, and I’m negative. Results are taking too long though.

Then they came in for my grandchild and her mother. They are both positive and as parents and grandparents, we are isolated both in mind and body.

My son has returned home having escaped the pneumonia that besets he and I from time to time. It could have been fatal. I feel guilty for my powerlessness and my numerous worst thoughts of; “What if?”

A few more days pass and my son sends me a note containing words that make me think. They are short but long in thought. We are hopeful in time for a full recovery.

My thoughts for the day

The knowledge that the one and only life we are living is but short should make it all the more precious.

Presenting facts to people who have reasoned by virtue of their feelings that they are right is totally fucked.

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RIGHTS – AND ASSOCIATED RESPONSIBILITIES

I was gobsmacked when I read this Tweet today (19/07/20):

@VikGrujic
@DanielAndrewsMP I will not wear a mask. I will not pay a fine. I will not comply. I will not bow down to you. Whatever you’re [sic] next set of demands are, I will not comply to either. I’m a proud Australian. Born free. Nothing will take that away from me. No virus. No dictator.

Many years ago, in the mid-70s, I was part of a group which established a branch of the Family Planning Association in the Northern Territory. We had an education sub-committee which, successfully, encouraged the Education Department to introduce a Human Relationships program into the secondary education curriculum.

Part of our approach was to stress the fact that to claim a right, requires the claimant to accept a responsibility.

Governments are elected to make decisions for the population of their electorate as a whole, keeping in mind that some people need protection from others, while other people need protection from themselves!

COVID-19 has been shown to be a potentially very nasty beast.

It certainly does not kill everyone who contracts the infection.

In general, those most at risk are the elderly and those with a compromised immune system.

But, more, insidiously, among many, apparently healthy people, the disease can be completely debilitating – in fact some are already despairing of ever recovering completely.

Some people can become infected without displaying obvious symptoms.

We have no vaccine.

We are still unsure how long the incubation period is.

We do not yet know whether an infected person who recovers can be re-infected.

(With all the known unknowns, this becomes like shades of Donald Rumsfeld! – but it is no joking matter!)

“No man is an island … ” is a well known and important quotation.

Unless we live in total isolation, much of the time our actions impact on other people, and vice versa.

Government laws and regulations are largely designed to protect individuals and other entities from adverse consequences from the actions of others.

The person responsible for the Tweet above does not deserve to mix in society.

His total failure to see himself as other than in isolation, going by his statement, totally disregards the fact that his actions affect others, and his apparent refusal to accept that others, also, have the right to not be harmed by those around them, means he should not be allowed to be in society!

America under Trump has helped to support this sort of selfish attitude, which says ‘I will live by my rules and you can live by yours, but don’t tell me what to do!’, ignoring the fact that we are all citizens of one Earth.

We have developed a cult of individual rights and freedoms which threatens to destabilise society altogether.

It has long been evident in the context of global warming, where the ‘right’ of shareholders to demand that corporations carry out their duty to make profits for them, has drowned out the voices of those who say they have no right to destroy life on this planet by their actions!

So I hope that those who know the tweeter, but do not share his attitude, will make it very clear to him that he is a selfish git who does not deserve any help or support from a society for which he does not give a stuff!

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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Blue Steak on Lygon Street: The Mario Corniola Effect

“Is it blue enough?” he growled in affectionate inquiry, referring to the rib eye steak with pepper sauce. Suitably well, came the reply to Mario Corniola. The dish was a speciality that, till the coronavirus struck, made Il Cantuccio on Melbourne’s Lygon Street the most darling of places, a jewel on a stretch of restaurants famed for matters Italian. Mario, the proprietor, had been the chief of the kitchen, the garrulous owner who managed to charm patrons for decades. Aided by his formidable wife, Lori, and other members of the family clan, the restaurant became a Calabrian sanctuary on an island continent.

The impression one gets on entering Il Cantuccio is that of abundant generosity.  It enfolds you in warm brick ambiance or, if it involved Mario, takes you by the arm with bearish vigour. Suspended from the beams: pendulous, empty Chianti bottles. On the walls: rustic reminders in the form of agrarian tools, objet d’art. Never pretentious, always very much the family restaurant playing to its strengths: a set number of firm meat and pasta classics (the no cream in the carbonara, for instance) done to perfection, the occasional special for the adventurous. For the familiars, the special might be the sausages he had recently purchased from his favourite butcher, served with polenta. The dishes would be washed down by the aromatic, full wines of family name.

The meals, on arrival, would be enormous, with portions visible from space. Nothing of the rabbit-food one tends to find in restaurants paid to starve their customers and prize them of their wallets. You left sated, tipsy, stumbling, utterly satisfied and ready to be poured into bed.

As with any family, treats and culinary transgressions might be tolerated. Mario permitted culinary sins for the regulars as a benevolent parent would a sweet child seeking dispensations. Heretical ketchup might be procured at points. Unorthodox rice might be requested as a replacement for conventional potatoes. Lashings of chili might be asked as an additional ingredient to a dish. Gluten free options started to find their way into the traditional fare, chipping away at the resolute cliff face of tradition.

There was one, immutable exception to the food regime. With a famed tenacity, Mario policed his restaurant from the invasion of the pizza. The kitchen remained untainted by endeavours to make or serve it. Some inquiring customers taking a seat and gazing at the menu, only to find a complete absence of pizza options, would leave perplexed. They had little reason to: a sign displayed with some cheekiness at the entrance to the restaurant made the injunction clear. Mario would revel in pointed reminder, just as he would ordering a pizza after the patrons had left. That was his indulgence, his deviation from self-imposed convention.

Mario the man of the kitchen was also the man of the table. There was nattering about politics, the odd flourish of a conspiracy theory. To the last, he never quite bought the idea that humans had found their way to the moon. His pleasures were far earthier, his loves, terrestrial. He would hold court when not in the kitchen, perching like a regal bird with full plumage. Walking around the restaurant, he would teasingly charm, armed with his favourite Sambuca, to refill glasses for his favourites.

While the mythology of Lygon Street’s dining culture, with its various fripperies, proliferated, the reputation of Il Cantuccio, with Mario at the helm, held. His name, and that of his family, spread. Prominent visitors made their way to the restaurant. Guests from the United States making their annual visit to Melbourne would make a point of dining there. Photos on the wall leading up to the upper storey show Mario keeping company with the masterful West Indian cricketer, Sir Vivian Richards and that thespian of deep, rumbling voice, Telly Savalas.

During the course of the evening, familiar rituals unfolded. The tradition of bringing in the late edition papers was kept. The uniformed taxi driver was at hand to religiously drive Mario back. At times, exhaustion crept in: he would be found asleep, slumped over wine stained papers. When he was up to it, conversation would be sustained till early hours of the morning, his robust taking of stances political and ideological a source of enormous entertainment. His hands would be held up like gesticulating meat cleavers.

The arrival of the coronavirus, with its long and extending shadow, had its telling effects. It has taken life in various ways, and maimed others. A good number of businesses have been affected, but, like Tolstoy’s remark about unhappy families, they have affected each of them differently. For Il Cantuccio, magic is location; delight, enjoyed, in situ. Much like seeing an altarpiece yanked from its mountain church abode to find a spot in the British Museum or the Louvre, such restaurant experiences cannot be relocated or resituated. They are often best left in their place of sublime worship.

The Calabrian sanctuary flirted with takeaway options, knowing full well that one cannot put a restaurant atmosphere into a car or convey cosiness in a hot bag. It never went beyond that. Within a few days, the restaurant closed. It re-opened briefly, with seating restrictions, on the easing of the lockdown. The surge of coronavirus cases sent a panicked Victoria into another lockdown, with Australia looking on with consternation.

When news of his death came, the first reaction was that of having one’s leg yanked. Perhaps there was another gambit at play. He had cheated death, gathered the insurance, and rushed off to retire somewhere in the Americas, all along the way moving those hefty arms. But then reality set in. The laboured body that stopped. Somewhere, in the distance, the sound of a broken heart could be heard.

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Crisis, chaos, collapse

Serendipity has resulted in my living in the capital of the Northern Territory for most of my life, and all of the later part, which means I am in one of the safest parts of the world – at present – until the NT Government opens our borders on Friday, 17 July.

So during most of the COVID-19 crisis, I have had, both more freedom to move around and less stress in relation to community infection (as we have had none), than my peer group in other parts of Australia have enjoyed.

I live alone now, so when I am driving to shops or appointments, I am usually unaccompanied, and my mind wanders around in a fascinating way!

Today, my mind took me down memory lane along paths which reminded me of my childhood.

When my parents married in 1931, they bought a typical English semi-detached house in a dormitory suburb, west of London. Typically for that period, it had a kitchen/laundry, dining room and sitting room downstairs (we were not upmarket enough to have a drawing room!), with a master bedroom, a second double bedroom, with twin beds, and a smaller box room, plus bathroom and separate toilet. We also had a good-sized back garden and a smaller front garden, which provided greater privacy.

My sister and I, who were nearly 3 years apart, shared the second bedroom, and my memory today evoked the many times we used to talk in bed, and then try to retrace our steps to where the conversation started! We never could remember the order in which one thing had led to another!

Well – today was Week 24 as far as my Parliament House vigil is concerned, and I had a very interesting conversation with a younger man, probably now in his 40s, who had come to Australia from the UK when he was 3. So he had heard his parents talking about the UK during WWII, even though he had not, like me, experienced it at first hand.

We were in agreement on the facts, as we saw them, of current problems in relation to global affairs and the need for urgent government action.

Greed featured prominently, in analysing current problems and their causes, as did the fact that too many governments seem to regard the economy as our master, not our servant.

As I drove home, my mind was remembering school history, going back to the Greek and Roman Empires, and my first thought for a title for this article was Decadence, Disaster, Destruction. This sticks in my mind in relation to the Roman Empire, of which there are many reminders in the UK.

After WWII, when it was possible to get the car on the road again, we spent a series of summer holidays in North Wales, travelling on the A5, much of which follows the old Roman Road called Watling Street.

A significant part of the original road remains, running dead straight for kilometres, and including bridges which were built by the Romans, and still usable, even though they cannot accommodate even 2 lanes of modern traffic!

On the way, in the distance can be glimpsed remains of portions of aqueducts, still proudly standing after more than two thousand years!

But, having developed a vast empire, conquering many warlike nations in the process, the upper echelons of Roman society became decadent, offering ‘bread and circuses’ to entertain the plebs, while the nobles feasted and the borders were no longer properly patrolled.

Just as previous empires, Chinese, Syrian, Egyptian, Greek (not necessarily in that order!) came and went, mainly through decadence and failure to secure their defences, so too did the Roman Empire pass, even though it left a great legacy.

But the modern world ignores the lessons of the past.

I am no follower of Gaia, but there are times whether I wonder whether Mother Nature is not fighting back at man’s arrogance in believing that it can mold the world to suit its needs, with no attention paid to the damage being done on the way.

The environment relies on a balance.

Increasingly, mankind’s activity upsets that balance and we get a backlash.

The Great Plague, the Spanish Flu, HIV Aids, Global Warming, COVID-19 – probably others, but less major or well-known.

We interfere with Nature at our peril.

We are destroying biodiversity and abusing our resources.

Greed is the driver.

Every developed country at present seems more interested in getting back to ‘normal’ as soon as possible, regardless of the damage that COVID-19 will cause if not contained – but since ‘normal’ no longer exists, that is a futile exercise!

Yet government policies have, rightly, put people and businesses out of work in order to save lives.

Unless they provide substantial support for the people they have saved from the infection, they will have achieved nothing!

And looking at Victoria, but even more so, the USA, Brazil, India and Russia – do we deserve to survive?

We ignore expert advice on how we are most likely to avoid becoming infected, and many governments do not take the advice seriously, either!

Yet, paradoxically,while the Australian government has, in large part, accepted the advice from scientific experts, they refuse to do so in relation to the even more malignant elephant in the room – Global Warming.

Inkl has printed the prediction (Saturday 11/07/20):

20%

– In the next five years we have a one-in-five chance of the global temperature average being 1.5Cº hotter than in the pre-industrial era. Reaching that milestone so soon in the century would represent an utter failure of our species to address an existential threat.

And the significance of that detail is clear from the most recent IPCC Report.

So I chose the title above because I believe the current world order is truly in chaos, the COVID-19 crisis is not going away any time soon – even if we get a vaccine, as with flu, that does not guarantee no further infections – and failure, on the part of all governments, to implement effective strategies to reduce rising global temperatures, is likely to lead to a collapse of the world’s government systems.

We have choices.

We cannot afford to make the wrong ones.

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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