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Conspiracy of silence

Image by thethingswesay.com

Image by thethingswesay.com

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

[Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States, August 8, 1950]”
― Harry S Truman

If you think that Scott Morrison is justified in keeping “on-water” operations secret for safety and security reasons, perhaps you can explain to me why this secrecy extends to onshore activities like detention camps and gagging people who work with asylum seekers.  Perhaps you can explain why the carers of the two boys, recently disappeared by Immigration officials, are too scared to speak out for fear of losing their job which is to make a home for these kids.

There is a concerted campaign going on to remove accountability, avoid questioning, and silence dissent and it is not just in the area of border protection.  Advocacy groups for anyone other than industry are being systematically dismantled.

If you visit the government Office for the Not-for-Profit Sector website you will be greeted by the following message:

“Thank you for visiting the Office for the Not-for-Profit Sector website.

On 18 September 2013 the Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbott MP, was sworn in by the Governor-General. On this day, the Governor General signed the Administrative Arrangements Order and the Social Inclusion Unit and the Office for the Not-for-Profit Sector was disbanded.

The Minister for Social Services, the Hon Kevin Andrews MP, will have responsibility for the community sector, volunteering and philanthropy. The Minister for Human Services, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, will have responsibility for service delivery policy.”

We might have got a clue when Abbott announced his Cabinet.  No Youth Ministry, No Early Childhood Ministry, No Science Ministry, No Climate Change Ministry, No Disability Ministry, No Aged Care Ministry, No Workplace Relations Ministry, No Multiculturalism Ministry, BUT there’s a Minister for ANZAC Day!

Another red flag was raised when the community sector was not represented on the Commission of Audit and it has not been invited to make a submission to the McClure Welfare Review being conducted by former Mission Australia chief executive Patrick McClure.

“As far as we know no one was invited to make a submission. The review has no terms of reference, has held no public meetings and has issued no interim discussion paper. We have had discussions behind closed doors but there’s been nothing in the open,” Ms Goldie, head of ACOSS, said.

And if any further proof was needed, there was the inexplicable decision to sack Graeme Innes, Disability Commissioner, and replace him with an IPA sock puppet.

Two weeks after the budget, Mr Morrison withdrew funding for the Refugee Council of Australia, which had been allocated in the budget papers, saying he and the government did not believe that “taxpayer funding should be there to support what is effectively an advocacy group”.

Government funding for a wide range of community organisations including ACOSS expires on December 31 after a budget decision to extend it for only six months while new long-term arrangements are developed.

The organisations have been told their grants might be put out to tender.

A vital component of Non Government Organisations (NGOs), as the name suggests, is that they remain independent of the government.  Such independence is needed in order to effectively advocate for the marginalised, the environment and for those who can’t speak up for themselves. But because of a heavy reliance on government funding, and increasing use of gag clauses, NGOs are at risk of losing their vital independence.

Governments, at both the state and federal level, are increasingly contracting out services to independent providers, which is typically seen as a cost-cutting measure. As a result, more NGOs and community groups are providing services on behalf of government, in essence becoming contractors for government programs. As Browen Dalton noted recently in The Conversation, “Australia has a higher proportion of human services provided by [not for profits] than almost any other country, with the sector turning over $100 billion a year.”

However, this outsourcing means that NGOs are more reliant on government funding. And increasingly, government funding has come with heavy restrictions that threaten to jeopardise the indispensable independence of Australia’s NGOs.

The community sector plays a vital part in a democratic political system. These organisations are pivotal in shaping public advocacy and in representing those who fall through the cracks. They ensure that every person is considered in the democratic process. They also fill in the gaps where government services and programs fail. Community groups provide much needed services in homelessness support, education, refugee resettlement, disability care, arts, and many other community programs.

In a 1991 report, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Community Affairs stated:

An integral part of the consultative and lobbying role of these organisations is to disagree with government policy where this is necessary in order to represent the interests of their constituents.”

The nature of government funding is a threat to this independence.  As funding for some of the most vital services comes from government rather than through the public, it is the government decides which services are more important and inevitably controls the direction and delivery of such services. This model undermines the independence of NGOs, and ignores the expertise of those working on the ground to decide where services and funds need to be allocated.

Last year, the Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, stated that “to benefit civil society as a whole, the Government has committed to abolishing the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, with repeal legislation to be introduced into Parliament next year”.  He introduced a late amendment to the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 to delay the introduction of the Charities Act2013 from 1 January 2014 to September 2014.  This was referred to a Senate Committee.

In February, the Centre for Independent Studies advised the Federal Government to act on its pre-election promise to abolish the ACNC it “is not achieving its main objectives, which were to improve public trust in the not-for-profit sector, reduce red tape, and police fraud and wrongdoing”.  The vast majority of the sector disagrees.

In June we read that

The Senate Committee report into the abolition of the charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC), has failed to break the deadlock between the Government and other parties, and if the majority report is implemented it would be retrograde step for public trust and confidence in sector, the ACNC Advisory Board Chairman Robert Fitzgerald has warned.

Fitzgerald said despite 80 per cent of submissions received by the Senate Committee supporting the retention of the ACNC, the majority senate report recommended the ACNC Act be repealed.

“This recommendation was saying the Australian community had no right to information about a sector that receives substantial tax concessions and benefits every year.   The charity and Not for Profit sector is one of Australia’s fastest growing and important sectors. It has taken 17 years, at least six inquiries, 2000 submissions and volumes of evidence to get an effective national regulatory model. And now the effect of the majority opinion is would be to undermine basic transparency, the tackling of duplicative reporting and proven and effective regulation.

By moving to abolish the ACNC, the Government is going against the tide: England and Wales has had an independent charity regulator for more than 160 years; Scotland and Singapore established regulators and a public charity register following charity scandals; New Zealand has had a charity regulator since 2005.  In the last 12 months Ireland, Jamaica and now Jersey have moved to establish independent charity regulatory bodies and public registers. Hong Kong has also recommended establishing a public charity register.

Since the ACNC’s inception, three separate surveys have each found an 80 per cent satisfaction rate with respondents supporting the ACNC.

In a relative short period of time, the ACNC has created Australia’s first free, publicly available national charity register, provided sound education and advice services to support charities in their governance, and implemented the Charity Portal and Charity Passport, which is critical to reducing duplicative reporting across government.

It is now a matter for the Parliament to determine if it wishes to have an efficient and effective regulator, or return to a regulatory regime that will ultimately increase compliance burdens on the sector and fail to deliver transparency to the Australian public.”

Since the 2013 election

AXED

Social Inclusion Board

National Housing Supply Council

Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness

National Policy Commission on Indigenous Housing

National Children and Family Roundtable

Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing

Immigration Health Advisory Group

DEFUNDED

Refugee Council of Australia

Australian Youth Affairs Council

Alcohol and Drug Council of Australia

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services

ADDED

Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council

Australian Treasury Advisory Council

Not for Profit Advisory Group to the ATO

Innovation and Technology Working Group

Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership

Indigenous Advisory Council

Aged Care Sector Committee

 

Note:  Two groups who argued vehemently for the abolition of a watchdog were the Catholic Church through Cardinal Pell’s office and the IPA.  The ATO will now be asked to take over the duties of watchdog even though they will be shedding about 900 staff over the next six months.  Happy days for tax cheats.

29 comments

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  1. lawrencewinder

    Horst Wessel sheet music is still available…..

  2. Terry2

    ……….until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

    We could add ‘ a country where everyone lives in ignorance ‘

    I heard Question Time today and realized that these guys are going to be very hard to shift, they are constantly fighting an election and whilst their spin is very cynical it is also very shrewd keeping the Opposition constantly on the back foot.

    At a time when the government’s poorly targeted and poorly calibrated budget should be embarrassing them, we have the Treasurer getting away with threatening the electorate that he can be even more diabolical in cuts if his budget isn’t passed. Sadly, Labor are not asking the questions and seem unable to expose the torrent of lies dished up by Abbott on a daily basis.

    For instance, is anybody asking why this government has no nation building policies and so far has only used their legislative power, not in the interests of the electorate, but as a sledge hammer to repeal and dismantle good social policy.

    It’s not looking good folks !

  3. Kaye Lee

    We’ve got ROADS I tell you…or we will have sometime in the distant future….just when everyone else moves to public transport.

  4. Bob Rafto

    When did the electorate give these aholes the mandate to screw this country and our National Living Treasure, Palmer (it’s true), is getting in for his chop as well, he didn’t support the FOFA amendments for nothing.

    It’s time for an uprising, a revolt against these UNAUSTRALIANS.

  5. Mike

    Why can’t the unions unite and give this “excuse of a government” a taste of righteousness

  6. Keith

    Tim Wilson showed his colours today in supporting a lurid message on the rear of a camper van. Mr Innes was a man of dignity and good judgement; Tim Wilson is the opposite. Coming from the obnoxious IPA it is not surprising that Wilson is completely unsuited to the position he now holds.

    We had Donnelly today suggest that corporal punishment should be introduced to schools; that would now be seen to be child abuse. Donnelly being another abbott appointment with a known neocon view of the world.
    Hockey today trying to blackmail the Senate into passing a cruel budget shows how debate is thought to be a contemptible process by the abbott gang..

    The sheer stupidity of the abbott gang is being noticed overseas. We now have a group we are meant to call a “government” who bring us great shame.

  7. corvus boreus

    Nought but bitter words,
    bereft, depressed, choked with rage.
    My country is buggered.

    I shall not post prolifically tonight. I am wanting to type nothing but abuse and expletives, and have a serious desire to improve the collective intelligence of the population by the frenzied application of a ball-pein hammer(starting with the scowling, fat, fish-mouthed trash I saw buying a Murdoch slime-sheet this morning and ending in a blow between a pair of cauliflower ears belonging to a certain, um, shall we say, um, king-hitting, lying turd.)

  8. Jason

    Thanks for this information. Abbott’s unrelenting assaults on fairness, decency and equality is truly nauseating and utterly infuriating.

  9. Audioio

    If I ever meet the Minister for Anzac Day, I’ll be telling him to bloody we’ll get a job.

  10. mars08

    Look over there!!! Australian “jihadists” returning from Syria!!! SCREEEECH!

  11. Kaye Lee

    And we thought it could only happen in Egypt……

    Australian journalists could face prosecution and jail for reporting Snowden-style revelations about certain spy operations, in an “outrageous” expansion of the government’s national security powers, leading criminal lawyers have warned.

    A bill presented to parliament on Wednesday by the attorney general, George Brandis, would expand the powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio), including creation of a new offence punishable by five years in jail for “any person” who disclosed information relating to “special intelligence operations”.

    The person would be liable for a 10-year term if the disclosure would “endanger the health or safety of any person or prejudice the effective conduct of a special intelligence operation”.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/16/journalists-face-jail-leaks-security-laws?CMP=soc_568

  12. Terry2

    Hmmm ! would this have anything to do with Operation Sovereign Borders…………….?

    Oh dear, a van has just pulled up outside, it has antenna and a satellite dish – quick, I need a people smuggler .

  13. Möbius Ecko

    Gotta love Brandis’s hypocrisy on radio in response to increasing of spy powers and suppressing freedom of the press. Paraphrasing. I’m a Liberal so I am philosophically opposed to big government and an overarching State. So I am reluctant to bring in laws like these unless I believed they were absolutely necessary.

    Brandis was front and centre in the the Howard government, the biggest government and most overarching State in Australian history.

  14. stephentardrew

    God if Brandis was to bend over any further for his oligarchic mates he would disappear up his own sphincter in a puff of hypocrisy.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Stephen, we need to tell Joe Hockey…..budget crisis solved in one fell swoop

    July 9 2014

    “Just days before its international debut at an airshow in the United Kingdom, the entire fleet of the Pentagon’s next generation fighter plane — known as the F-35 II Lightning, or the Joint Strike Fighter — has been grounded, highlighting just what a boondoggle the project has been. With the vast amounts spent so far on the aircraft, the United States could have worked wonders, including providing every homeless person in the U.S. a $600,000 home.”

  16. Möbius Ecko

    That latest grounding because of a major engine failure, just before the Farnborough Air Show and a real embarrassment, has come on the back of one a month or so earlier because of fluid leaks that came after an earlier one because of a wiring problem, and it goes on.

  17. Kaye Lee

    “the Joint Strike Fighter program has been a mess almost since its inception, with massive cost overruns leading to its current acquisition price-tag of $398.6 billion — an increase of $7.4 billion since last year. That breaks down to costing about $49 billion per year since work began in 2006 and the project is seven years behind schedule. Over its life-cycle, estimated at about 55 years, operating and maintaining the F-35 fleet will cost the U.S. a little over $1 trillion.”

  18. mars08

    Quite apart from the development hiccups, unit price, maint costs, and reliability issues… there are questions to be asked about the suitability of the F35 in it’s intended role.

  19. Kaye Lee

    With the repealing of action on climate change we are going to need cargo aircraft far more to assist with disaster relief and evacuations.

  20. Roswell

    Repealing the carbon tax might eventually lead to Abbott’s undoing. The masses won’t be happy if they don’t get their promised $550. They’ll feel duped.

    Personally, I don’t care about the $550 (only because I didn’t believe it). I care about the environment instead.

    Take photos of it while you can.

  21. Möbius Ecko

    Roswell they have already backtracked from the $550, which was a well established bullshit figure, as I’ve posted previously with source. Now it’s around $200. I haven’t got my finger on the sources for that new figure but it’s been mentioned a couple of times now in the media. It’s not hard to see the $550 figure is hardly mentioned anymore outside of online media.

    What will occur is the old Liberal chestnut that can never be proven of; “The prices would have been much higher if we hadn’t repealed the carbon tax.”

    One commentator has hit this nail on the head in that it’s all about Abbott’s popularity, or more accurately lack of it. He and his minders are banking on this repeal improving his woeful polling numbers, and they might do that in the short term, but unless the cost of living comes appreciably down, as he’s promised for years now under a government he leads, then he’s sunk.

  22. Keith

    Möbius Ecko, we will have to keep reminding people about the $550. But, I guess it has always been a fabrication.

  23. Möbius Ecko

    Channel 7 News promo in upcoming news. “What the repeal of the carbon tax means to your household and surprisingly how you may save in the shops.”

    And the snow job begins, as it has online.

    The RWNJ’s, there is no other word/acronym for them, have flooded #auspol and other social media with attacks on Labor and the Greens by bringing up old polls and Rudd attacks going back several years. They cannot defend Abbott so need to resort to this tactic, just as they have here and in the old blog.

  24. iggy648

    Could ASIO declare the kidnapping of people on the high seas and holding them against their will on “border security” boats “special intelligence operations”? This means it could be a crime to report knowledge of the whereabouts of the boats, and asylum seekers could be “disappeared” with impunity.

  25. Keitha Granville

    they read from Orwell’s 1984 for ideas.

  26. Pingback: A year in Abbottland | Precarious Climate

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