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Category Archives: Your Say

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

By R D Wood

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

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

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

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

  • services
  • local goods
  • imported goods

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Colin Barnett on a road to nowhere

By Tracie Aylmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hold our politicians to account? We can only try.

By Neil Hogan

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

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

Why should they be able to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

By Kyran O’Dwyer

Dear Prime Minister.

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

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

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

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

It beggars belief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capacities you parade on a regular cycle.

Will we ever see the courage of your convictions?

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

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

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

Rest assured, you are a ‘grate’ man.

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

 

On politicians and the age of cruelty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Happy 4th birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For all the writers and in appreciation of the editor.

John Lord

 

Tainted love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Year’s Eve in Ostraylia

By Jennifer Meyer-Smith

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

So this is what I hope will happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Tracie Aylmer

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

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

This makes total, logical sense.

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

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

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

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

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

 

In defence of Santa

By Hugh Harris

By now, the elves are wrapping the toys. The reindeers are running test flights. Santa is busy double-checking Xmas lists, and plotting the logistics of the world’s greatest overnight delivery.

But a new UK board game, Santa vs Jesus, has blighted the festive season with unwelcome sectarian dissension, presenting Xmas as a pitched battle between Jesus and Santa. Cries of “insult, blasphemy” ensue: the satirical board game is accused of falsely equating belief in Jesus with belief in Santa Claus.

My blood boils at this sacrilege. Yet another example of politically correctness gone mad, and elitist intellectuals tainting our most cherished institutions. How dare they demean the good name of Santa Claus? On behalf of children everywhere, let us rise up and defend Santa’s honour. If not for own sake, for the sake of our culture, of our civilization, and by God, for the real meaning of Christmas.

That is, what Christmas really is: an end-of-year celebration, retail bonanza, and family reunion. A shop-til-you-drop procession of tinselled shopping malls, parking rage, office parties, Kris Kringles, twinkling streetscapes, Die-Hard and Love Actually re-runs, culminating in the once-a-year family get-together with the usual disputes and rows – all of the above made tolerable, joyous even, by stupefying quantities of sugar and alcohol.

Arrogantly, anti-Christmas-carol activists poke fun at the Santa story. How could anyone believe a jolly fat man at risk of early-onset-diabetes has the stamina and wherewithal to deliver gifts to every child in the world? Claiming that Santa is only Coca-Cola’s amalgamation of the yuletide characters of various traditions, these immoral, believe-in-nothings only demonstrate their blindness to the value of culture and tradition. Can they prove Santa isn’t real? No.

Frankly, I’m agnostic about the existence of Santa. But just because infrared technology fails to find any trace of an enormous toy shop at the North Pole, doesn’t mean I should rule him out altogether. Sure, I’m sceptical about Santa even fitting into most chimneys and I’ve never seen a flying reindeer. But “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”, as they say.

And, since when must omniscient beings lower themselves to mere terrestrial standards of empirical proof? Why should the lowly and common measures of evidence be applied to Santa alone? Indeed, using the arguments applied to other contemporary deities, belief in Santa is more than reasonable.

As St Anselm argued: given we can conceive of the greatest possible being – and, we accept that a being which exists, is greater than one purely imagined – then, that greatest being must exist. Thus, if we accept the premise that Santa is the greatest gift-giver, then, by irrefutable logic he must exist. Never mind that this also applies to the greatest sophist, the greatest idiot and the greatest obscurantist. They exist also, and often employ St Anselm’s argument in favour of their own articles of faith.

And, as we know, faith is an element of proof in itself. Have faith and ye shall be rewarded. Where a deficit of proof exists one can legitimately insert “faith” to bridge the gap. Then – Poof! – the object of faith reliably appears!

Behold, every year, millions of children put their faith in Santa and the Christmas team dutifully delivers. After days and days of breathless anticipation the big day comes… Then, hurrah! Squeals of delight, and yelps of excitement attend the feverish unwrapping of real, actual gifts. Ask any child how convincing this is.

Further, Santa is ubiquitous during the festive season, appearing on television screens constantly. News services track his progress from the North Pole. Parents everywhere use the supervising presence of Santa to wring some good behaviour out of their otherwise insolent offspring. Either Santa exists, or most of the adults in the world are complicit in a global Santa hoax conspiracy.

If this still fails to satisfy, allow me to borrow one of the planks of Biblical scholarship. The “criterion of embarrassment” states that if historical accounts are embarrassing to their author they can be assumed to be true. Now, consider the story of a ridiculously attired and morbidly obese man who supposedly travels all around the world on flying reindeers delivering presents to children he somehow divines as good. Embarrassment galore! Increasingly, scholars dispute the validity of this criterion – justifiably so, considering debate in the Australian Senate.

Austere scientific thinkers may have trouble accepting the Santa narrative. But remember, this is a moral tale not a scientific one, not meant to be taken literally. It’s about favouring “nice” over “naughty”, “good” over “bad”, by rewarding the good children with presents and lumbering the rest with smelly coal.

But, as all parents of young children know, this begs the question as to how children actually behave. The problem of evil. Given Santa’s omniscience and superpowers, how do we explain the continued reign of terror by these frightening midgets? Free will hardly suffices to explain temper tantrums, impudence and addiction to video games, rivalling that of present-day Australian tennis stars. Seeing as the promise of gifts has conspicuously failed, and since global warming has curtailed Santa’s access to coal, a more interventionist policy is warranted. It’s unsurprising that the world’s major religions moved to slightly harsher penalties such as roasting and re-roasting in the flame-pits of hell. Likewise, it’s easy to see how the religions of Abraham condemned the whole of humanity as corrupt and fallen, requisite of salvation.

And so, a radical new plan emerges. A new prophet will arise – Santa Junior – an elfin messiah of the children. He will be seized by secular powers and gruesomely tortured to death, signifying Santa’s gift of redemption to horrid little monsters everywhere. And then, showcasing Santa’s full repertoire of magical powers, Santa Junior will be sensationally brought back to life. Although this somewhat negates the supposed sacrifice, it caps off the story nicely. And, if this doesn’t work, Santa will equip his sleigh with intercontinental ballistic missiles and commence laying waste to play centres and schools. So please, give Santa some respect. And kids, if you don’t like the sound of apocalyptic Santa, you had better actually be good from now on.

About the author: Hugh Harris is a Brisbane architect, part-time writer, and board member of the Rationalist Society of Australia..

Hugh contributes to various publications including ABC’s The Drum, The Age, The Brisbane Times, The Huffington Post Australia, New Matilda, and The Daily Banter (US) and blogs at The Rational Razor.

 

It’s beginning to look at lot like …

Here we are already. Christmas is but one day away.

For sure it was only yesterday that we had the last one!

Every year it seems to sneak up on us a little bit faster than the year before. Maybe that’s because life is just one mad rush these days and we barely have time to draw breath.

But here we are! So from The AIMN we extend the warmest of Christmas wishes to all who are part of The AIMN family: the authors, the commenters, the readers, the admin team, the moderators, our web developers and our Facebook team.

Whether you will be spending Christmas with family, friends, or just enjoying a reclusive day alone, we wish you good health and happiness.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

 

This ‘thing’ Dutton

By Kyran O’Dwyer

Based on his ability to amass wealth, he would be judged by many to be successful. His most recent parliamentary declaration suggests he ‘owns’ six properties, the value of which seems to vary on the news source, somewhere between $5 and $10 million. Naturally, his entitlement to privacy means that it is unreasonable to ask if any of the properties are subject to mortgage, or if he claims negative gearing concessions, or if he rents them out.

Such issues could only be considered relevant if he was indebted, by way of mortgage, to any particular bank and had to perform his job as a parliamentarian and vote on any financial institutions related matters. Or if he was a beneficiary of the very generous negative gearing provisions (and, by extension, the CGT concessions) and had to deliberate on the effects of such legislation to the Australian people. Or if the properties were predominantly rental properties and he had to deliberate on housing availability/affordability.

Such conflicts of interest could only be the musings of those jealous of his success. The new world order decrees that, if you are wealthy, you are an exemplar of all things great. You are the epitome of what everyone should be aspiring to. If others cannot accrue the trinkets, it can only be due to their lack of resolve, their fear of ‘hard work’. Their lack of education, their health, their circumstances, their ethnicity, their religion, their skin pigmentation, is their fault. In his world, they are just lazy.

The foregoing is one definition of success.

Now for the ‘whinge’. If this ‘thing’ is to be measured by any other standard, he is an abject failure. Think of the qualities you would ordinarily or reasonably ascribe to a ‘leader’. He is, after all, being touted as one of talcum’s potential replacements. Qualities such as integrity, intelligence, vision, conviction, compassion, decency. Feel free to add your own.

This ‘thing’ was a minister for health. The doctor’s union, the AMA, voted him the worst health minister ever. Admittedly, that was before they got well and truly ‘Ley’d’. Their criticism seemed to revolve around the notion that he had NFI (No Idea, with an expletive in between) as to his portfolio. He was ignorant of its content and lazy in addressing his ignorance.

It seems only fair and reasonable that Tiny would, therefore, promote him in 2014, just before Christmas, to his current portfolio. His predecessor was destined for greater things. Treasury.

The only success of the last few years has been the promotion of miscreants just to prove that we, the people, were delusional in our belief that we had just survived the worst ‘minister’ ever. Whenever we think ‘this is the worst ever’, they find a worse one. Whether it be Tiny to Talcum, Hockey to Scummo, Pyne to Birmingham, Talcum to Fifield. Pick a portfolio. Lulled into a false sense of security, we, the people, can only be impressed by their ability to find a worse one. Of course, there are a few portfolios where they got the worst pick right in the first instance. Think Attorney General or Foreign Affairs.

My bad, back to this ‘thing’ and his current portfolio (ass distinct from his ‘property’ portfolio). One can’t help but note that he is a tad annoyed about Christmas carols. He is more concerned that we are not singing ‘Silent Night’, whilst focussing on his abuse of a silent night for the refoulement of those seeking his protection.

Back in October the ABC’s Four Corners did a program on Nauru. This ‘thing’, and his Nauruan counterpart, ‘adeang’, were insistent that the ABC had an agenda other than reporting the truth. Since then there have been reports from the UN, Save the Children, Amnesty International, ASRC, etcetera, stating nothing more than the truth. As their truth contradicts his truth, it cannot be considered truth.

Just on Friday the federal government released a report from the Child Protection Board. The Immigration Minister, unsurprisingly, blamed Labor. What was a surprise was that the Board recommended its report be sent for consideration to the RC into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which the government agreed to do. This was reported in The Guardian. Not one mention on the ABC news site.

Also just on Friday, Justice Bromberg, of the Federal Court, dismissed Mr Dutton’s submission that he deny two men relief, opening the potential that 10,000 refugees may now seek the protections we once afforded them when Doc Evatt helped to frame the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was reported on Sydney Morning Herald. Not one mention on the ABC news site.

The last report on those annoying asylum seekers, those annoying refugees, on the ABC, was about US officials going to Nauru to assess their validity to seek asylum in America. The ABC hasn’t reported on whether the US officials ever got there, let alone the prospect of the transference of those in our care.

The ABC charter was once similar to the public service charter. Frank and fearless. The charters of the ABC and the Public Service are now but a distant reminiscence. Once frank and fearless, now cowering before ‘this thing’, the epitome of success.

Now that we have gutted both, we are left with ‘this thing’. To the good people of Dickson, please rid us of ‘this thing’. You were once represented by Lavarch (Labor). Then you went to Smith. Once Liberal, then independent. Then Kernot, Labor, having defected from the Democrats. Then you got ‘this thing’. Once described as Liberal, now Liberal National.

Silent Night
Holy Night
All is calm
All is bright

This ‘thing’ was more concerned about his demonic photograph, than his demonic presence.

Sort of say’s it all, doesn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Kapos

By Noah Wilderbeest

The new Kapos like chocolate cake, Krispy-Kreem doughnuts, crystal therapy healing, Reiki sessions and Tarot readings. The new kapos take all friggin’ manner of pop-psych self improvement courses (“7 Highly Effective Ways To Unleash the Inner YOU!”), read the Murdoch press, and use expressions such as; “…that’s because you’re a nurturer!” to one another.

These nurturing qualities do not extend to their charges, in fact it’s actively discouraged.

The new kapos similarly to their twentieth century counterparts, are drawn from the lower end of the socio-economic scale. In the main they’re from unskilled or semi-skilled occupations. In the 90s, the new kapos delivered spare parts to automotive repair shops, drove delivery vans, mowed lawns, worked as kitchen hands or hairdressers, hospital porters or receptionists and maintenance men but that was then and this is now.

The job of the new kapos is to enforce government policy on the payment of unemployment benefits.

Unlike their twentieth century counterparts, the new kapos do not need clubs, whips, dogs or electrified fences to keep their charges in line. They don’t need them. They have effective financial control over each and every ‘client’ they case manage.

The kapos, male and female, are given inordinate power over their clientele.

“Case officers”, “Employment Consultants”, or “Labour Market Specialists” are able to suspend clients unemployment benefit payments for eight weeks – on the spot – for “infringements of their mutual obligation contract” leaving the client to either appeal the decision, a process that can take weeks, and whose outcome is far from certain, or to try to find some means of supporting themselves.

The kapos oversee around 120 clients at any given time and the pressure is on. New inductees are told to; ‘‘get em off the dole anyway you can. Work for the dole, voluntary work, or just breach ‘em for the slightest excuse”.  And they have the authority to do so. Most recently, they were given the added powers of being able to breach a client for “not providing a satisfactory outcome” when interviewed by their ‘Labour Management Specialist’.

A satisfactory outcome being total acquiescence to the dictates of someone whose horoscope has told them “best to deal firmly with people who have a negative outlook today.”

Like their mid twentieth century counterparts, the new kapos never question their role, it’s all very straight forward; enforce the rules whether or not there are any jobs for their clients to apply for. Otherwise, it’s the dole queue for the Labour Management Specialist, and in my time at the DS provider, I saw almost a complete staff turnover (approximately 20 staff) within the space of nine months.

During a conversation, a case officer told me that there were plenty of jobs available but most were down to networking, “All the jobs that I’ve had came through networking, they weren’t advertised” she said smugly.

When the topic shifted to a whinge about pay and conditions at the JNS, and I asked her why she didn’t leave if she had such good a network and there were plenty of jobs available.

“I’ve been looking”, she said, “but there hasn’t been anything advertised that’s worthwhile”. I mean, most of them are only casual or part-time and the pay is really shit. I’m really worried what I’ll do when my contract expires”.

Do tell…

Last week it was Paul Farrell’s piece in the Guardian on the entrenched bullying practices of the Jobactive/Disability Service Providers reported by the Australian Unemployed Workers Union National Hot-line.

This week it’s ACOSS remonstrating the government over the use of threats of jail made to welfare recipients.

The fact that 170 people lodged complaints should be reason enough to raise alarm bells about a government funded system which enables private enterprise to seek profit from the curse of unemployment, and it’s a mark of the draconian structure of the system that only 170 complainants had the courage to report their treatment; in all likelihood, the rest were either too cowered or too apathetic. Anyone who has become unemployed quickly learns that they have little or no power and that their fate is in the hands of the new kapos.

Fear and apathy is how the system works. Exploitation through entrenched bullying is how it is carried out…

 

Indigenising Education

By R D Wood

In today’s public discourse education is often instrumentalised. That is to say, many of the debates see it as an investment that needs to come good in order to be worthwhile. And indeed it is. As Fabrizio Carmignani writes, ‘an extra $1 of education expenditure increases Australian GDP by $21’. If that is not a good investment I do not know what is. Generally though, when politicians and commentators speak about education it is often merely a stepping-stone rather than a place to dwell in for its own sake. It is a qualification for something else, hence an instrument. The reason for being educated however might not be primarily because it will get you a better job and more money or because there will be some payoff down the road. We need to change this idea of education because the reason for being educated is that it is good in and of itself. It doesn’t have to offer more than what it already does.

One way in which this is particularly acute is in regards to people who live in remote communities. There is, of course, a growing Indigenous middle class in Australia and this form of social mobility is to be encouraged. But there also exists a sizeable gap between educational outcomes in suburbs and cities, and, remote and regional communities. This is one gap that is spoken of when ‘we’ aim to close it. There is an expectation that remote Indigenous people assimilate to an Australian standard, which is a contested ideal in and of itself, and one that many non-Aboriginal people have difficulty with also. But, if your community has been changing and growing in its own way for a very long time, why would you respond to a confused educational system that does not listen properly? In other words, English and its lessons have to make a case for themself precisely because many people already speak Tiwi or Kriol or any other such language that is more fitting for their own lives.

Rather than problematize Aboriginal communities a priori and see them as something needing to change, we could realise that this is a dialogue, that ‘we’ stand to gain as much as ‘them’ when that dialogue is open. In that way there is an awful lot of teaching that needs to happen cross-culturally, and the government’s role might not be about forcing communities to reach some goal they deem to be worthy. If you simply want to learn how to catch a fish then maybe NAPLAN is not a good use of your time. Why wait until retirement for a truly reconciled life?

This means engaging with people on the ground so that they can live good lives as they meaningfully define them. For me, that involves reading because I think reading helps make a good life. For others, that might involve accounting because knowing how much money you are owed gives you a sense of responsibility and engagement. The fundamental philosophical point however is that we need to listen to people and recognise their actions as expressions of themselves that might best serve them. Truancy is only a problem if you expect forcing people to come to school will make them better people. Lore and law systems are strong in a great many places and people could feel proud not only of resisting colonial influences but for also maintaining their traditions in an autonomous sense.

One area though that needs to be firmly engaged with is bilingual teaching. In that way, we need to encourage care for and engagement with Indigenous languages, which is something Victoria and New South Wales are struggling towards with revitalisation and teaching efforts. This is not only for students who learn Marra or Ngarla in their family home. It is also about teaching community teachers, mainly white, about how to interact in a specific and appropriate way. We need then a ‘hybrid education system’ that can speak both kinds of languages. And not as a shallow attempt to engage with both in a half-hearted way, but as a thorough teaching praxis and methodology that shows us reinvigorated ways of conceiving relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.

At the level of content, we need to promote local knowledge within a national framework at every level of education. Australian children need to learn Australian history, Australian languages, Australian literature. We might need to ask then: what is Australian? Turnbull and his conservatives might like to claim that Edmund Barton is a great Australian, and of course he is. The black armband brigade might propose that we need to learn about Jandamarra, and well we should. We can study them both. In both cases, the emphasis needs to be on local content within a cohesive national framework. We have to get the balance right. That might mean Yolngu language on Yolngu country or Vietnamese in Cabramatta. Indeed, the Schools First initiative talks at length about the virtues of school autonomy but this needs to be better reflected in curriculum. For example, of the fifteen possible texts for the Victorian Certificate of Education ‘English Literature’ subject in 2016, only four are Australian. It is not much better in each of the other states either. That proportion needs to be reversed so we can support local publishers and authors too, so we can recognise our Indigenous roots and resist the bland importation of multinational educational tools. That way we might come to a better, higher form of education that is suitable to the country itself.