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The facets of Australian fascism: the Abbott Government experiment (Part 3)

By Dr George Venturini*

‘Is the Abbott Government Fascist?’ (continued)

When [Prime Minister Robert James Lee] ‘Bob’ Hawke came to power in 1983, the government set the level of interest rates, the Australian dollar and tariffs, and wages were set centrally by the Industrial Relations Commission. When Labor left office in 1996 the government had virtually abolished tariffs, had ceded control over interest rates to an independent Reserve Bank, the value of the dollar and wages to market forces and had privatised the Commonwealth Bank [founded in December 1911 by the Commonwealth Bank Act, introduced by the Andrew Fisher Labor Government, which favoured bank nationalisation] and QANTAS [which began life in November 1920 and is now held with a 51 per cent share by the Australian Government]. The Hawke-Keating government reduced corporate taxes from 49 to 33 cents in the dollar, and the personal tax rate from 60 cents to 47 cents. The wages share of GDP fell from around 61.5 per cent of GDP to less than 55 per cent, which amounted to a transfer of $50 billion from workers to the already very rich. These changes, by a Labor government, in fact did more than the Fraser [the co-conspirator and beneficiary of the 1975 Royal coup] or Howard Liberal governments to increase inequality, decimate union strength and erode Labor’s own support-base in the working class.”

This transformation, the biggest in the Australian economy since the second world war, was achieved by deregulating controls over business and letting market forces settle prices. Inevitably, corporate profits rose more than did wages. The distribution of this new wealth relied not on taxes so much as on the ’trickle-down effect’: rich people buying more things meant more employment for the less privileged.

“When [Prime Minister Paul John] Keating brought in compulsory superannuation, people’s super funds were locked into the stock market, forcing them to be party to preserving the neoliberal desideratum of annual growth. While the middle class are in real terms wealthier today than they ever were, an underclass of unemployed and under-privileged people are much poorer. By its nature, neoliberalism forces the gap between rich and poor wider and wider.”

The new experiment with Prime Minister Kevin Michael Rudd (December 2007 to June 2010), later with Prime Minister Julia Eileen Gillard (June 2010 to June 2013) and again with Rudd (June to September 2013) did not depart from the accepted Neo-Liberal order of things.

Towards the end of that tormented period of government/s, a distracted populace had not noticed the solemn commitment undertaken on 4 April 2013 by the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott at the 70th anniversary of the Institute of Public Affairs, the leading free-market think-tank. The venue was the great stone-and-glass National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne; tickets to the gala dinner cost a minimum of AU$ 500 per head, and an auction to raise funds for the I.P.A. featured prizes including a guided tour of the Reagan Ranch in California and a behind the scenes Fox News ‘experience’ in New York City, including a meeting with host Bill O’Reilly. In attendance at the Dinner were – amongst others: Mrs Gina Rinehart, who received the I.P.A.’s prestigious ‘Free Enterprise Leadership Award’, Cardinal George Pell, Mr. Rupert Murdoch, who delivered the event’s keynote address, and Tony Abbott in his official capacity. In Abbott’s speech there were many references to God, The Bible, and of course faith, freedom – as ‘sung’ by Tennyson, capitalism with a social conscience, western civilisation, John Howard and Murdoch of whom Abbott said that he is “probably the Australian who most shaped the world”, “a corporate citizen of many countries”.

Abbott had previously rejected the suggestion made in an August 2012 in the I.P.A. Review that he should “Be like Gough [Whitlam]: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia”, but he accepted to leave a lasting impact – and secure his place in history – by implementing as many as possible of a long agenda for action.

Here is the list:

  1. Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it
  2. Abolish the Department of Climate Change
  3. Abolish the Clean Energy Fund
  4. Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act
  5. Abandon Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council
  6. Repeal the renewable energy target
  7. Return income taxing powers to the states
  8. Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission
  9. Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
  10. Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol
  11. Introduce fee competition to Australian universities
  12. Repeal the National Curriculum
  13. Introduce competing private secondary school curriculums
  14. Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
  15. Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’
  16. Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law
  17. End local content requirements for Australian television stations
  18. Eliminate family tax benefits
  19. Abandon the paid parental leave scheme
  20. Means-test Medicare
  21. End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
  22. Introduce voluntary voting
  23. End mandatory disclosures on political donations
  24. End media blackout in final days of election campaigns
  25. End public funding to political parties
  26. Remove anti-dumping laws
  27. Eliminate media ownership restrictions
  28. Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board
  29. Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency
  30. Cease subsidising the car industry
  31. Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction
  32. Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games
  33. Deregulate the parallel importation of books
  34. End preferences for Industry Super Funds in workplace relations laws
  35. Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a percentage of GDP
  36. Legislate a balanced budget amendment which strictly limits the size of budget deficits and the period the federal government can be in deficit
  37. Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database
  38. Repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food
  39. Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities
  40. Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools
  41. Repeal the alcopops tax
  42. Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:
    a) Lower personal income tax for residents
    b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers
    c) Encourage the construction of dams
  43. Repeal the mining tax
  44. Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states
  45. Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold
  46. Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent
  47. Cease funding the Australia Network
  48. Privatise Australia Post
  49. Privatise Medibank
  50. Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function
  51. Privatise SBS
  52. Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784
  53. Repeal the Fair Work Act
  54. Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them
  55. Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors
  56. Abolish the Baby Bonus
  57. Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant
  58. Allow the Northern Territory to become a state
  59. Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16
  60. Remove all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade
  61. Slash top public servant salaries to much lower international standards, like in the United States
  62. End all public subsidies to sport and the arts
  63. Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport
  64. End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering
  65. Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification
  66. Rule out any government-supported or mandated internet censorship
  67. Means test tertiary student loans
  68. Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement
  69. Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built
  70. End all government funded Nanny State advertising
  71. Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling
  72. Privatise the CSIRO
  73. Defund Harmony Day
  74. Close the Office for Youth
  75. Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme

At the I.P.A. Dinner in April 2013, five months before the election which brought him to office, Abbott declared: “I want to assure you that the Coalition will indeed repeal the carbon tax, abolish the Department of Climate Change, abolish the Clean Energy Fund. We will repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, at least in its current form. We will abolish new health and environmental bureaucracies. We will deliver one billion dollars in red-tape savings every year. We will develop northern Australia. We will repeal the mining tax. We will create a one-stop shop for environmental approvals. We will privatise Medibank Private. We will trim the public service and we will stop throwing good money after bad on the NBN. So, ladies and gentlemen, that is a big ‘yes’ to many of the seventy-five specific polices you urged upon me in that particular issue of the magazine – but Gough Whitlam I will never be !”

Yet, for several days before Polling Day, 7 September 2013, Abbott used all available media repeatedly to reassure the populace that under his own government there would have been “No cuts to health, no cuts to education, no changes to pensions, no changes to the G.S.T. and no cuts to the A.B.C. or S.B.S.”

It was a blatant, conscious, premeditated lie: by April 2015 every one of those promises had been broken.

Out of the list of 75 points, nos. 1, 2, 30, 43, 44, 47 and 49 were enacted. Several promises made at the I.P.A. Dinner were kept in part only. Difficulties with The Greens and some of the other senators partially affected nos. 3, 18, 23, 50, 52, 53, 60, 64 and 69.

Other proposals were tried but failed. This concerned nos. 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 29 and 72.

Only points 1) for the repeal of the carbon tax and 43) for the repeal of the mining tax had been mentioned during the electoral campaign.

By the time Tony Abbott lost his prime ministership to Malcolm Turnbull on 14 September 2015 he had left behind 478 breaches of promise to the Australian electorate, at least as calculated by a very diligent Sally McManus. (‘Tracking Abbott’s Wreckage’, accessible at www.facebook.com).

Private correspondence indicates that Professor Biggs still has some reservations on an affirmative answer to the question whether Fascism is creeping into Australia.

In early April 2014 Paul Cannon was observing that “In the current federal government there is:- a complete disdain for human rights (treatment of indigenous communities, gay people, people who need welfare support payments, disability pensioners, refugees); – they have manipulated the population by identifying an enemy and scapegoats (“terrorists”, Muslims, refugees); – the military is not supreme but it is being utilised for civilian purposes, therefore it has been elevated (customs and border control, the indigenous intervention); there is sexism (as demonstrated by Abbott, Pyne and Bernardi among others), and to add – Umberto Eco writes that fascism thrives on creating fear over difference; – there is a sense of control by cronyism with media, and there is censorship in regard to the refugees coming by boat; – there is an obsession (pathological) with national security; – religion is not intertwined but members of the government use their religious affiliation as a bargaining point and they use religious rhetoric to push agendas (Bernardi on the traditional family – whatever that was or is); – corporate power is definitely protected, even exclusively with environmental considerations, workers rights, and community needs overlooked; – the corollary is that labour power is suppressed by legislative means; – there is an unmitigated obsession with crime and punishment (this would be more true of State rather than Federal government but it is present in both).”

Umberto Eco had already made the point that the very first appeal of a Fascist movement is the appeal against the intruders (find a scapegoat and you control a large portion of the voting public).

So – asked Cannon – is Australia Fascist? Well no – he said – not in the historical sense of 1920 or 1933, “but there is an alarming trend towards fascist methodology (whether overtly or otherwise) and there is a trend towards corporate control, which is a move away from the rights of groups and individuals, and there is a disregard for our international treaty obligations.

The government clearly uses manipulation of the population as to be judged by the government rhetoric that is parroted back on talk back radio by the public often couched in fear ( the refugees would be the clear issue here). There is a disdain for the environment too. And in the proposed education review there is a desire by the education minister to go back in time in terms of how we present contemporary history, labour history, indigenous history, international history (it was Herman Goering who liked the phrase “when I hear the word culture I reach for my gun”).

The fourteen points demonstrate that what is at stake is freedom, language, history, culture, national identity, and human rights. Fascism is an attitude, albeit a political one, but one that pervades the way governments think and behave.”

Cannon concluded:

“With seven of the fourteen points by Britt recognisable in current government action and rhetoric there should be more concern in the community about our identity as a nation and therefore our future as a nation. Umberto Eco puts it well when he says “Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plain clothes.”

Tomorrow: Corporatocracy?

GeorgeVenturini * In memory of my friends, Professor Bertram Gross and Justice Lionel Murphy.

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975 he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.

⬅️ Part 2

➡️ Part 4

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12 comments

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  1. roddy666

    And don’t forget, fascism is a slow, insidious creep. Hitler said:
    “The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.”
    So it’s not like you wake up one morning and the streets are suddenly full of brown shirts hording anyone they don’t like into concentration camps.

  2. stephentardrew

    Great article. Thank you George.

  3. Möbius Ecko

    Another good piece, please keep them coming.

    Never been impressed with Shorten, but his current speech at the Malthouse Theatre on the arts is very good and as anti-fascist as you can get. Also a nice sense of humour I didn’t know he had.

    This speech will have the IPA and Murdoch in conniptions.

    Shorten also pre-empted the Libs attack on where will the money come from, though I have no doubt the MSM will ignore that and attack the money angle in lock-step with the Libs.

  4. Michael Taylor

    They’ll be coming, Mobius. For the next 47 days. 🙂

  5. mark delmege

    Hawke allied us with Israel and Zionism and dodgy US policies in the MiddleEast – as a way point for arms transfers into Iraq AND Iran during that manipulated conflict and later into Iraq invasion 1 and the ten years of hot cold war against Iraq which also had us in the driving seat when sanctions killed up to a million Iraqi’s. And if Mark Latham is to be believed Bomber Beasley would have had the ALP backing the Iraq invasion – so strongly supported by Howard.
    I’m sure there was even a time when the ABC was less of a lap dog on reportage of foreign affairs. These days you can guarantee a weekly episode from the Holocaust Industry on events of 70 years ago but rarely a word of truth on what is happening today. Most people don’t understand what is happening beyond our borders and are generally disinterested in any meaningful discussion. It makes a mockery of the so called globalisation and that blindness makes it easier to manipulate and spread fear and to blame the victims rather than the aggressors – and to erode our civil rights. These days its all form and no content. Its why a ‘coolman’ in Washington gets such a good press when in reality his external policies have been far more devastating than even Bush.

  6. John Lord

    I’m looking forward to the remainder of an exceptional work.

  7. michael lacey

    Demonstrates how pervasive and destructive neoliberalism is and has been; it has successfully pitted workers against one another and in short has been the greatest promoter in the revival of fascism!

  8. Florence nee Fedup

    Now it it was Labor setting out to bring such change, all we would be hearing from rooftops, screams social engineering,

  9. diannaart

    I am time poor at present, but will not miss a word George Venturini writes.

  10. johnlward010

    We are not an electorate. Together we constitute the sovereign nation of Australia.

    The time is now to hold the members of parliament to account for the quickening levels of abuse of the intelligence of their constituency, by treating us all at the level, of the lowest common denominator.

    We, the people of Australia, have been subject to lies and half-truths and deceitful, fraudulent and misleading representations, secrecy and outright lies over the past ten years, all the while our concern for yet unborn generations, becomes more evident in conversations on the street.

    I for one, am not prepared to go to my grave, leaving the political masters of lies, to run our nation down, in service of their corporate mates.

    I now stand to defy this trend, which is too serious an issue, to fail to hold the Government and each scoundrel, personally responsible for the harm or damage they are doing to our children’s future.

    I seek an Interlocutory injunction pending the final determination of this prosecution. I do so to counter actions and language of aspirants in this election that is deceptive and misleading and unable to be substantiated.

    To prevent Ministerial improper exercise of power, i.e., exercising power unreasonably or in bad faith, to benefit the election campaign donor industries, corporations, and individuals who paid for access to and the ability of those industries to influence ministers; to remove carbon taxes and reduce carbon emission targets.

    The reason for the Interlocutory injunction is; the decision requires review under the ADJR Act, include breach of the law of natural justice, the procedures required by law for the making of the decision, were not observed, the decision involved an error in law, the decision was affected by fraud. http://www.monash.edu/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/141097/emily-nance-adjr-judiciary-act-paper.pdf

    The Policy Agenda of the IPA (below)and the correlations to the LNP policy outcomes establishes clear links between the organisations.
    The IPA was founded in 1943United Australia Party. The IPA was one of some groups which formed the Liberal Party of Australia.
    In 2013 before he won the prime ministership, at the dinner celebrating the Institute of Public Affair’s 70th anniversary, former Prime Minister Abbott took the opportunity to commit to a raft of big promises, with Mrs. Rinehart, Mr. Rupert Murdoch, and Cardinal George Pell as his witnesses.
    “I want to assure you,” he said, “that the Coalition will indeed repeal the carbon tax, abolish the Department of Climate Change, abolish the Clean Energy Fund. We will privatise Medibank Private.”

    This promise to the Institute of Public Affairs is significant because of its link to the Fossil Fuels Industries, which is clearly made evident from a memo from the American Petroleum Institute’s 1998 roadmap to victory.

    The IPA funded by both private individuals and businesses. Among these businesses are ExxonMobil, WMC Resources, BHP Billiton, Phillip Morris, Caltex, Shell, and Esso. Electricity and mining companies, as well as British American Tobacco.

    The facets of Australian fascism: the Abbott Government experiment (Part 3)

    At a dinner celebrating the Institute of Public Affairs 70th anniversary, former Prime Minister Abbott made public commitments to adopt large parts of the IPA agenda before witnesses. History records he was true to his promise.
    The following are Policies encompassed in Mr. Abbott’s promise:
    Limiting the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. Abolish the Department of Climate Change. Abolish the Clean Energy Fund. Repeal the renewable energy target. Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states. Privatise the CSIRO.

    Ibid.

    I turn to the Judiciary and the rule of law, to consider the following charges under the Criminal Code 1899 –

    92A Misconduct in relation to public office
    (1) A public officer who, with intent to dishonestly gain a benefit for the officer or another person or to dishonestly cause a detriment to another person‚
    (a) deals with information gained because of office; or
    (b) performs or fails to perform a function of office; or
    (c) without limiting paragraphs (a) and (b), does an act or makes an omission in abuse of the authority of office; is guilty of a crime.

    The offence of fraud against the Criminal Code, i.e. directing misapplication of monies. Section 49(2) (a) of the crimes and misconduct Act 20001.
    http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/qld/consol_act/cc189994/s92a.html

    Misconduct of Public Officers.
    Section 92A(1)(c) of the Criminal Code. To act in abuse of Authority of office, with the intention to dishonestly gain a benefit for another person or cause a detriment to another.

    I charge the Former Prime Minister, Anthony John Abbott, Minister Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Joyce, Ministers Pyne, Former Treasurer Hockey, Cormann, Treasurer Morrison, and Hunt with collusion to forward the interest of the Institute of Public Affairs and Directors of Rio Tito, BHP Billiton and others in the Fossil Fuel Industry, to the detriment of the clean energy industry and the climate in general.

    Section 92A(1)(c) of the Criminal Code. To act in abuse of Authority of office, with the intention to dishonestly gain a benefit for another person or cause a detriment to another.

    Deception Dossiers.
    The Union of Concerned Scientists of the USA has published ‘The Climate deception Dossiers.’
    Internal fossil fuel industry memos reveal decades of disinformation—a deliberate campaign to deceive the public that continues even today.
    http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/qld/consol_act/cc189994/s92a.html

    The American Petroleum Institute’s 1998 Memo Presents a Roadmap for Climate Deception.

    A team convened in 1998 by the American Petroleum Institute—the country’s largest oil trade association whose member companies include BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell—outlined a “roadmap” for climate deception including a plan to cultivate purportedly independent scientists as climate misinformers. The campaign would achieve “victory,” according to the memo when “average citizens” believed that the realities of climate science were uncertain.
    http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/qld/consol_act/cc189994/s92a.html
    http://www.slideshare.net/GisellePiantedosi1/theclimatedeceptiondossiers-51170459

    “Victory Will Be Achieved When” average citizens “understand” (recognize) uncertainties in climate science, recognition of uncertainties becomes part of “conventional wisdom.”

    http://climatechangeeducation.org/climate_education_watch/action_plan/index.htmlMediah

    Media coverage reflects balance on climate science and recognition of the validity of viewpoints that challenge the current “conventional wisdom.”

    “understands”(recognizes) uncertainties in climate science.

    Industry senior leadership understands uncertainties in climate science, making them stronger ambassadors to those that shape climate policies.
    IbidThose promoting the Kyoto treaty by extant science appear to be out of touch with reality.
    http://www.desmogblog.com/american-petroleum-institute

    Unless “climate change” becomes a non-issue, meaning that the Kyoto proposal is defeated, and there are no further initiatives to thwart the threat of climate change, there may be no moment when we can declare victory for our efforts. It is necessary to establish measurements for the science effort to track progress toward achieving the goal and strategic success.
    http://climatechangeeducation.org/climate_education_watch/action_plan/index.htmlThat 1998 APIh

    Memo explains how the IPA constantly appears as the “balance” on ABC and Sky News television debates.

    The recent parliament had declined to allow the Executive to’ Abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.’ The Cabinet have tried for two years to change the CEFC investment mandate and now attempting to create a different mandate, a phantom mandate, to appear to have authority to change the intent of the CEFC Act without returning to the parliament to seek such a change.

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Global_Climate_Science_Communications_Plan_(1998)
    The Investment Mandate issued 17 February 2015 is an attempt to alter or marginalise the operation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, without obtaining amendments which have been made, suggested and passed by the Senate, to which the House of Representatives agrees.http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r5549h

    The tactical effect of the responsible ministers (February 17th directive), acting as de facto or shadow directors caused the required confusion, flux, hesitancy and uncertainties envisaged by the American Petroleum Institute in 1998. http://www.api.org/
    Pages ten and twenty in The-Climate-Deception-Dossiers.pdf

  11. johnlward010

    Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican to be President also had plenty to say about corporations…
    “The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. The banking powers are more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. They denounce as public enemies all who question their methods or throw light upon their crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.”
    “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.”
    Unfortunately, Lincoln’s suspicions were anything but groundless. They were in fact, prophetic. After the Civil War, corporations began aligning themselves with Republican politicians, who proved themselves to be up to the task of helping corporations gain more power. Corporations had free reign and total power over its workforce and could sell virtually anything they wanted even if the product was a bad one. Corporations treated workers like slaves. Wages were extremely low. Workers received no benefits, no vacation days, no health insurance, no workers compensation. President Grover Cleveland witnessed how corporations treated its labour force and had this to say in 1888,
    “As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear, or is trampled beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.”
    And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
    Thomas Jefferson, November 13, 1787, letter to William S. Smith.

  12. The AIM Network

    John LW, apologies but your first comment had been caught up in our spam folder. This can happen when a comment has a certain number of links. Again, we apologise.

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