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No wonder business confidence is rising

As the government does everything in its power to distract the nation, ably assisted by Hanson and her motley crew, they are quietly going about the business of protecting their donors from scrutiny.

The Abbott government announced plans in the 2015-16 budget to undertake a competitive tender process to sell off ASIC’s corporate registry to a private company.

ASIC’s corporate registry is a critical database of information on more than 2m companies in Australia, including business names, histories, financial records, and backgrounds of directors.

The Australian Council of Social Service, the Tax Justice Network, the Uniting church, and GetUp!, among other groups, have sent a joint letter to the treasurer, Scott Morrison, asking him to stop the sale of the registry.

“We are writing to seek your assurance that the Asic corporate register will not be privatised to become a private monopoly. The Asic corporate register is currently relied upon by law enforcement agencies, such as the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Tax Office, in identifying company ownership and location. Placing this register in private hands risks undermining a range of law enforcement activities as well as Australia’s attempts to curb money laundering and the financing of terrorism.”

Investigative journalist, Michael West, has joined with 84 other journalists to send an open letter to Malcolm Turnbull asking him to stop the sale. He sent the following email via GetUp!

I’ve been a business journalist for over 20 years. During that time, I’ve uncovered many egregious cases of corporate misconduct – from Australia’s largest coal company who paid next to no tax on billions in revenue, to the $4.5 billion siphoned offshore by Murdoch’s Newscorp.

Without the ASIC corporate database, none of this would have been possible. If the government goes ahead with its plans to sell the register, it will create a monopoly over public information. This will make it much harder for journalists like me to conduct investigations into corporate financial affairs.

That’s why I’ve been left with no choice but to speak out against this Government’s efforts to put Australia’s corporate database under corporate control.

The ASIC database contains more than ten million records on Australian businesses. It’s the best paper trail we have to track corporate financial affairs, including tax dodging, money laundering and human trafficking.

Already, the charges levied by ASIC for this supposedly public information are believed to be the highest of any country in the world, at $38 a pop. Now, this Government wants to sell the ASIC database to a private operator. What are they thinking?

How could anyone believe that delivering the nation’s corporate database into the hands of a private monopoly operator could possibly serve the public interest?

If all my years investigating corporate affairs has taught me anything, it’s that we need more corporate scrutiny, not less.

Michael West
Investigative Journalist

The Coalition outlined a funding cut of more than $120 million to ASIC over five years in its 2014-15 budget. This led to ASIC shedding over 230 jobs in two years. The Northern Territory now has just one ASIC staffer.

In trying to deflect Labor’s call for a Royal Commission into the banking and financial sector, Scott Morrison came up with the idea of having the banks, super funds, insurance companies and publicly listed companies cover ASIC’s budget, something the financial sector quickly agreed to.

In response to the concern that this cost would just be passed on to customers, Morrison said he “would be furious if I thought this was being sought to be passed on”.

CPA Australia chief Alex Malley warned that costs could be be passed on to consumers under the funding changes to ASIC.

“Apart from risking the wrath of the Treasurer, there is no rock-solid guarantee that the banks will not pass these costs on to customers by way of higher account fees and charges,” he said.

Australian Bankers’ Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg conceded that the costs could be passed on, but said the extra impost, “while significant for ASIC … I don’t think it makes a terrible difference”.

ASIC warned the Turnbull government its plan to introduce a “public register of beneficial ownership” – which will reveal the identities of the beneficial owners of shell companies in an effort to stamp out tax avoidance by multinational companies – will be undermined by the registry sale.

“The obvious starting point for a register of beneficial ownership would be the existing Asic corporate register, so selling off the register into private hands closes off important options in the consideration of a register of beneficial ownership.

There are already problems with Asic not having the resources to ensure the accuracy of the database, as the Fair Work Ombudsman has encountered labour hire companies on the register that are registered at false addresses with front people as directors.

It is difficult to believe that a private owner of the database will be able to put in the same level of resources as Asic to ensure the accuracy of the database, making it even easier for criminals to register businesses with front people as directors and registered at false addresses.”

So as we express our outrage over political donations, discrimination against gays, climate change denial, inequality, attacks on welfare, cuts to health and education, and the resurgence of Hansonism, the real agenda carries on largely unnoticed.

Less scrutiny, less tax, less regulation, lower wages, unions taken care of – no wonder business confidence is rising.


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  1. johnlward010

    Misleading and deceptive representations, leading right up to election day 2nd July 2016,

    There is now clear evidence of fraud, misleading and deceptive conduct by members of Cabinet. This crookedness needs to be exposed. The sectional interests of our Government Ministers’ Corporate donors are taking precedence over the national interest, and the sustainability of financing for the Renewable Energy Industry.

    In 2015,Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann directed the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to exclude investments in household and small-scale solar from the $10 billion fund in the future.The draft investment mandate called for “mature and established clean energy technologies … including wind technology and household small-scale solar” to be excluded from the Corporation’s activities.

    Fortunately, the authority for any amendments comes from the Parliament not the Executive.
    The Executive cannot change an Act of Parliament. The Parliament also authorises the Executive Government to spend public money (not the other way around).
    Any change such as the revocation of a part and/or a new investment mandate to the CEFC Act 2012 may only be modified by amendments made, requested or agreed to by the Senate. Stephen Keim QC has provided advice to environmental groups about the Government’s ability to direct the CEFC. He said the Government had the power to put in place an investment mandate but it had to “tread a fairly thin line”.

    During 1998, American Petroleum Institute (API), the USA’s largest oil trade association (member companies include BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Exxon-Mobil and Shell) planned a “roadmap” for a climate of deception, including a plan to have “average citizens” believe that the realities of climate science were vague and uncertain.

    Australians have been subject to half-truths and deceitful, fraudulent and misleading representations, secrecy and outright lies regarding climate change over the past ten years by the people we elected to represent our wishes. We have seen the power of the mining industry (super profit mining tax) and those who represents their interests in our Parliament. The same dynamics operate around the coal, oil & gas sectors.

    The direct effect of the CEFC ‘Responsible Ministers’ acting as de facto or shadow directors of the CEFC has been to create the perception that Australian policy support for clean energy is uncertain or diminished.
    These are the same negative outcomes envisaged by the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) 1998 campaign.
    A third entity involved in this deception is the pressure group, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). The IPA was founded by a conglomerate of like-minded groups at the same time as the Liberal Party formed in 1943-44 after the break-up of the United Australia Party. The policy agenda of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has been linked directly to LNP policy ever since.

    To put these linkages in context: The law frowns on abuse of the authority of elected office i.e. to act with the intention to dishonestly gain a benefit for another person and/or cause detriment to another. This behaviour is defined in law as ‘Misfeasance’ In most cases, the essentials to bring an action of misfeasance in public office are; that the office-holder acted illegally, knew he/she was doing so, and knew or should reasonably have known that third parties would suffer loss as a result.

    The last Parliament (2013-2016) twice declined to allow the Executive’s Bill to Abolish the CEFC to become law. Subsequently, the Executive arm of Government had tried for two years to change the CEFC
    investment mandate.

    Recently, while in caretaker mode, the LNP created a different investment mandate directive (in order to appear to the electors to have authority) to modify the intent of the CEFC Act, without returning to the Parliament (which BTW no longer existed). So apparently they were preparing to seek such an alteration to the CEFC Act in (the next) the 45th Parliament.

    During the election campaign Prime Minister Turnbull purported to have the authority to
    redistribute $1billion from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to fund his new Clean Energy Innovation Fund (CEIF).
    $1 billion was also set aside to finance a ‘Better Cities Fund’ announced two thirds of the way through the campaign.

    And a further $1 billion ‘drawn ‘ from the “Green Bank ” to clean up the Barrier Reef ($0.6 Billion) is mentioned in an advertisement in the Australian newspaper for jobs to deliver higher water quality in farm runoff in what looks like a subsidy to sugar / ethanol industry.
    $100 million was set aside to prevent the closure of the Steelworks in Whyalla SA, and the University of Tasmania’s Northern Campus in Launceston received a pledge of $150 million to be extracted from the CEFC.

    These monies from ARENA are part of the proposed omnibus legislation meant to wedge the ALP. Prime Minister Turnbull is fundamentally saying to Tasmanians “you can have an expanded Northern Campus or a renewable energy industry, but you cannot have not both”.
    Malcolm prromised money he cannot access, total pledged so far is $5.6 billion.

    Cabinet Ministers have conspired to remove all funds from the CEFC by pledging the total amount left in the CEFC account to other ‘good LNP causes’.
    At the same time Malcolm Turnbull is subsidising the fossil fuel industry with $24 billion of taxpayer funds. This includes exploration funding for Geoscience Australia and tax deductions for mining and petroleum exploration.
    Prime Minister Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Joyce, Former Prime Minister Abbott, Ministers Pyne, Hockey, Cormann and Hunt are attempting to falsely convince the public that the Cabinet can “re-purpose and re-direct the Act” without going back through the Parliament. These changes to the CEFC Act 2012 are still to be legislated.

    Let’s consider the limits the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012 imposes on the responsible Minister’s mandate.
    Section 65: The responsible Ministers must not give a direction under subsection 64(1):
    (a) that has the purpose, or has or is likely to have the effect, of directly or indirectly requiring the Board to, or not to, make a particular investment; or
    (b) that is inconsistent with this Act (including the object of this Act).
    The object of The Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act (2012) is to facilitate increased flows of finance into the clean energy sector.

    Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann attempted to skirt around the law. If this gross ideological interference had not happened, the growth and jobs in the clean energy industry might have delivered some real balance to the downturns in other parts of the economy.
    The LNP Cabinet is in contempt of Parliament. Its Ministers have betrayed our trust.
    The LNP and the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) are still using the same script, still following the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) line of climate deception.
    In a move away from API policy, in September 2014, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden in an interview with the Washington Post said: “Let me be very, very clear. For us, climate change is real and it’s a threat that we want to act on. We’re not aligning with sceptics” (Mufson 2014), Mufson is a director of Shell USA.

    Fraudulent representation means making of a false statement about a material fact, with the knowledge that such statement is false, to another person with an intention that such other person to whom that statement is made must believe it as true and must act upon it resulting in an injury to the person to whom such false representation is made.


    There are strong connections between the API and the IPA’s disinformation and the LNP campaign aims.
    The links are there. The wrongs have been done. Let us join together to promote public debate on this matter.

    AUDIO: CEFC seeks legal advice over Government mandates on wind and solar (Breakfast)
    http://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/fight-misinformation/climate-deception-dossiers-fossil-fuel-industry-memos – .V9fkLmURqEI
    http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/jun/20/how the coalition-is-using-clean-energy-financing-as-an-election-slush-fund-australia


  2. Matters Not

    Already, the charges levied by ASIC for this supposedly public information are believed to be the highest of any country in the world, at $38 a pop

    Been on to Swan (the local member) about this ‘rumoured’ sale and although his staff respond, they are being very cautious about providing a direct answer as to where they stand re this ‘sale’. They claim they are seeking further info. It’s an answer that rings alarm bells.

    One wonders how long the proposal has been in the pipeline and in whose term the notion was first floated. This info should be readily available and be ‘free” as it is in other countries. Put it on the net and let people do their own searches. What’s there to hide?

  3. Kaye Lee


    The Government announced in the 2014-15 Budget that it would commission a scoping study into future ownership options for the operation and ownership of the registry functions of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Registry.

    Following careful consideration of the scoping study, the Government announced in the 2015-16 Budget that it will undertake a competitive tender process to market test the capacity of a private sector operator to upgrade and operate the ASIC Registry and to develop value added products.

    From 29 June 2015 to 27 July 2015, the Government sought Registrations of Interest from parties interested in participating in the Tender Process for the right to upgrade and operate the Registry and to develop and sell value added products and services.

    The EOI phase commenced on Tuesday, 8 September 2015.

    EOI proposals were due from interested parties on 4pm, Sydney (Australia) Time, 19 October 2015.

    Final Bids are due by 4pm, Sydney (Australia) time, 29 August 2016.


  4. Kaye Lee

    The reason being given for the sale is that ASIC’s IT is aged and inadequate. And these are the corporate watchdogs? How about we just buy them some new equipment? They are supposed to be the tough cop on the beat, the corporate watchdog, but their computer system is ancient?

    How many jobs will be lost if this sale gores through. The link to finance says “One of the tender process objectives is that registry employees will be treated in a fair and equitable manner, including through the preservation of accrued entitlements. ASIC Registry staff will be kept informed throughout the process of market testing and during any subsequent separation process. It will be business as usual for the ASIC Registry during the competitive tender process.” Gee that’s good of them. But will the jobs go offshore?

    “The Registry’s capacity is currently significantly limited due to its existing IT solution. The current IT solution is ‘fit for purpose’ but some systems lack the functionality to make significant or quick improvements to user experience.

    The Registry’s existing technology has certain systems, some of which are over 25 years old and which creates limitations on service levels. This is due to some registrations being paper based, and particular data cannot be linked across registers. Currently there is limited ability to develop value added products/services under the existing IT solution.

    The Government believes that the involvement of the private sector has the capacity to unlock significant value within the Registry and deliver considerable benefits to the economy.”

  5. Matters Not

    KL, thanks for the link. First there were 30, then 10 and later 6 in the race. One wonders who will win the prize?

    Maybe the Chinese will win the day? Perhaps we should inform Pauline that the Black, Asian, Muslims from Africa have a particular interest in this area? That would give her a consolidated platform to pursue for years.

    And that should be enough to cause a reconsideration.

  6. Kaye Lee

    Or let Malcolm Roberts know, and suggest there are some climate scientists fronting for Jewish bankers via the UN bidding for the register.

  7. Douglas Pye

    Oh Kaye Lee ! … I’ve at last risen from the floor after laughing about your One N offerings … :-)) …..

    On a more serious note one wonders just why previous Governments ( pre GST & more recently) have simply allowed tech systems to become so behind the times? ….. just thinking of the Mining Boom and the senseless squandering that prevailed …. dare I mention Pork Barrel ? ….. and now the “Responsible” word is trashed again ! …..

  8. Kaye Lee

    A very large part of the growth we have seen in the last year is due to government spending. They proudly say they are spending $195 billion on defence materiel over the next ten years and this will be good for the economy – except they didn’t mean OUR economy.

    One would think that a $9 million contract to provide dress uniforms for the ADF would mean jobs in Australia and sure enough, it did go to an Australian firm who quoted low.

    “The $9 million contract awarded to Australian Defence Apparel (ADA) to produce the “non combat clothing” involves the use of “established sub-contractor arrangements” overseas.”

    They will be made in China.

    “Minister Payne told the Senate that the Government had signed the contract on the 30th of April 2015 with Australian Defence Apparel to ship the work to manufacture the dress uniform to China,” Senator Carr said in statement.

    “Just 20 days later Minister Payne had the front to visit Australian Defence Apparel in Bendigo speaking to workers about their high skill work with the full knowledge that the work for the new dress uniform would be sent offshore.”

  9. lawrencewinder

    Well, one thing is certain, this rancid Ruling Rabble are not ruling for the nation!

  10. Max Gross

    The only difference between Morrison and a junkyard dog is a brain… and it ain’t Morrison’s

  11. Sam

    That smug look is right up there with Abbott in speedos for nightmare material.

  12. LOVO

    I love the talk…here @ the aimn……and I love the walk @ johnlward010 @ 11.23am….just say’n. 🙂

  13. David

    When you look closer, you will see a link between this proposed sale of ASIC, and Australia’s participation in the “secret” Trans Pacific Partnership. With the database owned by a private corporation, other corporations can “pay for play” to cover their tracks. Australian taxpayers will be reduced to serfs on land they used to own. Wake up Australians!

  14. Kyran

    “The reason being given for the sale is that ASIC’s IT is aged and inadequate.”
    Hmmmm. Seems to be a common problem with government databases. Outsourcing government functions due to this malady has become de rigueur, and always undertaken when the wailing banshee’s are at their most strident.
    Does anyone know how the census is going? You know, that thingy we had this year with much of the function outsourced to IBM ’cause the ABS database was aged and inadequate. The last post I read from the ABS was ‘60% complete’ in mid August. It’s not like IBM would win a government contract with a $10mil bid, only to walk away with over $1bil and still leave health employees with a troubled payroll system.
    Are we still outsourcing ‘medicare’ payments, due to their aged and inadequate IT systems?
    Is the parliament still looking at outsourcing the federal intranet, due to their aged and inadequate IT systems?
    Is the Centrelink payment system still up for grabs due to their aged and inadequate IT system?
    Seems to me there aren’t any government departments left with modern, adequate IT systems.
    The idea of outsourcing the ‘corporate watchdog’ to the very corporates it is meant to be watching is an absurdity so preposterous, it defies any rational response.
    In an historical sense, we have evolved from privatisation, to PPP’s, to outsourcing. All because the ‘private sector’ can do it better and cheaper than the ‘public sector’ can. Not just ‘back room’ functions, but the very services government traditionally provided. Health, education, policing, prison systems, warehousing refugee’s, etcetera. Heck, we have even outsourced the military.
    There was a paper produced by the Office of the Information Commissioner (Queensland) and the ANZ School of Government in 2015, which breaks down much of the historical trends in terms of privatising and/or outsourcing government functions. It uses really silly words, like transparency, compliance, accountability, oversight, privacy principles, etcetera.
    Some of its observations about the fundamental differences between the operations of the ‘public’ and ‘private’ sectors pertain to the level of transparency and accountability afforded the two sectors.
    For example, the ‘public’ sector is subject to FOI provisions, independent audit, public reporting and ministerial accountability. Well, they used to be, anyway.
    The ‘private’ sector is far more easily veiled in secrecy, with the exercise of three words I loathe and detest.
    Commercial in confidence.
    Those three words enable the ‘public’ sector to pass its function to the ‘private’ sector and avoid scrutiny, audit, reporting and accountability.
    The full report is over 30 pages, but well worth a read.


    There was an article on this site, some months ago (from recollection) that pointed out the most basic of truths. A government exists to provide services. A business exists to make profit. I have yet to read anything that can justify the notion that they are anything other than mutually exclusive.

    As it seems I am destined for an ‘Eeyore’ day, it is only fair to finish by questioning the suggestion that business confidence is rising. Both NAB and Morgan disagree.



    Even the parasites have worked out they are feeding on a poisoned corpse.
    Thank you, Ms Lee. Take care

  15. townsvilleblog

    If we had a stronger opposition in the federal parliament, given all the facts that have been exposed in this again brilliant article from Kaye Lee, the federal opposition should be screaming for treason charges to be laid against the government. Allowing IT systems to run down to save money with the side benefit to privatize government responsibilities seems to me to be a case for treason.

    The taxes-not’s (corporations) who will gain access to the corporate watchdog role are not likely to punish themselves or their corporate mates, leaving this nation short of revenue, and needing a really strong Labor government to bring in harsh new laws to be able to monitor and collect a fair share of taxation to keep our country afloat. A real champion is required, a clone of the great Whitlam, who would have stared them down, yet who do we have meek and mild Bill.

  16. Andreas Bimba

    Either the Liberals and Nationals lose next federal election or it is time to prepare the guillotines.

  17. Matters Not

    Just received a message from Get Up. The Greens are speaking out re the proposed data bank sale and the government is in now ‘bunker down’ mode.

    It would seem another missed opportunity for the ALP to make some political mileage.

  18. Kaye Lee


    When you say the NAB disagree, this was their August statement.

    The business confidence index rose slightly to +6 index points in August (from +4), which is consistent with the long-term average of +6. Solid outcomes for business conditions have likely underpinned business confidence in recent months, but the RBA’s 25bp cut to the cash rate may have further bolstered sentiment in August

    Business conditions (which is a combination of trading, profitability and employment conditions) eased back further in August, to +7 index points (from a revised +9). While this is the lowest level of business conditions since the start of the year, the index is still above its long-run average level (+5) – having consistently remained above this level since early 2015.

    The strength in business conditions remains largely confined to the major services and construction industries, while relatively subdued conditions in wholesale and retail warrant close monitoring – particularly in light of disappointing consumption growth in the Q2 National Accounts. Trading conditions and profitability have been the main drivers of elevated business conditions, but while both of these eased in August, employment conditions held steady – pointing to ongoing employment growth. Inflation measures in the Survey generally stayed soft, with retail prices pulling back sharply.

    Beyond the near-term, as the effects of previous AUD depreciation, higher commodity exports and the housing construction cycle begin to wane, the outlook becomes more uncertain. All of these factors are expected to come to a head around 2018, and the economy will likely require additional policy support from the RBA ahead of this to firm up growth and stabilise the unemployment rate. NAB economics currently expect two more 25bp cuts by the RBA in mid-2017.

    In other words, the banks and property developers are doing quite well.

  19. Kaye Lee

    I should add Kyran, that post should be written up into an article. Malcolm Turnbull waffles on about being the smart country, how innovation will save us, as he dismantles the NBN and outsources government departments to competitor nations because our IT is so crap.

    Adding to your list of groups who have failing IT put the ABS and the BoM.

    Not sure if the BoM have completed upgrade?


    “One of the more obvious problems is that the ABS has computer systems so outdated as to warrant the description of antiquated.’


    Would you like to write an article and send it to Michael?

  20. wam

    tears to my eyes kaye(3.10) the thought of a couple of hundred billion spend in countries that were 5/6 times worse off economically than labor when most of that money would provide jobs and security for Australians with the flow on boost to our economy. A loose economy that will still be blamed on gillard in 2019 and it will be believed.
    boots to indo and uniforms to china undies to india and socks knitted by the CWA???

  21. Kyran

    Funny story, Ms Lee (regrettably, not the ha-ha funny). There was an article on this site at the time of the census, pointing out the high farce that was the census. From memory, Florenceneefedup made reference to the 2006 census in the comments section, being the first to be largely completed ‘on-line’. It wasn’t too hard to find some of the ‘technical’ results. One of the more curious is that it was conducted ‘in-house’ by the ABS and had an ‘on-line’ completion rate of 80% on the night. The next census was 2011, which retreated from ‘on-line’ preference to a mix of the old and new. The results, in terms of both completion and accuracy, were less laudable. The current census was farcical, in the organisational sense, in that there was an absence of a commissioner for a year; there were serious concerns about privacy (in terms of the retaining of identifying data (name and address)); the sheer stupidity of many questions; etcetera.
    We seem to have an odd situation at the moment. The ABS, the repository of information and, importantly, disseminator of information, has ‘gone dark’ since mid August. I cannot find any posts from the ABS as to completion rates or compliance policy (in terms of numbers of people to be prosecuted for non compliance). By their own previous comments, in past censuses, it would ‘normally’ be about 100 prosecutions.
    That was a long winded explanation to justify a notion, easily applied to all of the government departments nominated in your article, and many more.
    For many decades now, successive governments (through sock puppet politicians) have minimised their own responsibilities by destroying the oversight that would make them accountable. A compliant media has distracted the conversation by discussing personalities, rather than policy.
    The end result? We now have a broken system, IMO.
    The question is, can it be fixed, or should it be replaced?
    If the conversation goes back to really basic issues, it’s not that hard, IMO. Predicated by some realities. We are an island continent, populated by 24mil people. We are a wealthy nation, with sovereign independence.
    If we start from there, the conversation becomes more realistic.
    If we start from there (and make the underlying qualification ‘equality’) subject to an overlaying qualification of ‘accountability’, we get a reasonable foundation to build on.
    Just a few random thoughts.
    If ‘infrastructure Australia’ had to sign off on any government expenditure over $100k (including defence), would it get rid of pork barreling?
    If we had an ‘independent’ panel to assess pension rates (ALL of them), would it stop politicians from making the recipients scapegoats? For the record, the exorbitant rates we pay to our politicians are justified as an ‘independent panel’ decides.
    The prospect of a UBI is as likely as our current crop of ‘politicians’ accepting MMT. An interim proposal could be that we raise the minimum tax threshold from $18.2k to $50k. Easily funded, if we limit the income of CEO’s, CFO’s, etcetera, to no more than 100% increase on their ‘average employee’ income.
    I’d like to be good enough to write an article for this site. I think I have a derivative of ‘talcum’s disease’. When the wrong is so wrong, addressing it is not right.
    Take care

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