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How the political world operates

Three stories from the last day or two bring home very forcibly how our political sphere operates.

“A Chinese government-backed propaganda unit and a swag of companies that stand to gain from the China Australia Free Trade Agreement have made more than half a million dollars of political donations in Victoria, raising concerns about the influence of foreign donors.

Companies linked to Chinese conglomerate Yuhu Group made a donation to then trade minister Andrew Robb’s fundraising entity the day the trade deal was clinched.

Mr Robb also endorsed Yuhu’s $2 billion investment in Australian agriculture in a joint-venture with a Chinese state-owned enterprise at its launch on September 15, 2014.”


Slain gangland lawyer and Mafia associate Joe Acquaro spent two decades cultivating, and donating to, senior Liberal politicians on behalf of alleged crime figures, even having a meeting with Malcolm Turnbull.

Leaked documents and photos tell the inside story of the political activities of Mr Acquaro, who considered himself the long-standing legal, business and political adviser for Melbourne’s alleged Calabrian Mafia cell, and whose political access raises serious questions about Australia’s donations regime.

Mr Acquaro’s lunch meeting with Mr Turnbull occurred after the now Prime Minister became opposition leader in 2008.


One of the Liberal Party’s most senior former fundraisers has revealed that when allegedly prohibited donations were made to the party, he knew it was happening.

Up to now, no senior federal Liberal Party official has admitted their knowledge of this practice.

Michael Yabsley, who served as the party’s honorary federal treasurer from 2008 to 2010, is calling for root-and-branch reform of Australia’s current system of electoral funding.

“I believe this is now crunch time. You have the damage that has been done to the reputations of many, many individuals, to the reputations of many companies and the reputations of the major political parties,” he told Four Corners in an exclusive interview that will air tonight.

“It all points to the absolute case to do away with the system of political fundraising that we currently have.”

In 2010, allegedly prohibited donations from property developers were channelled through a federal entity, the Free Enterprise Foundation (FEF), back to the Liberal Party in New South Wales. Mr Yabsley was the party’s federal treasurer at the time.

He said at the time, he was “sanguine” about what the FEF was doing.

“Now looking back on it … those practices are not acceptable and should not have been acceptable in the past,” he said.”


Soon after his election in October 2004, in an email to a Greens Woollahra councillor in February 2005, Malcolm Turnbull wrote that he believes “no political donations should be allowed unless they are: from citizens and/or persons on the electoral roll (ie, no companies, unions, associations etc); subject to a cap; and donors should certify that the donation is either their own or their spouse’s money and has not been given to them by a third party”.

After the Liberals lost the NSW and Federal elections in 2007, then shadow federal treasurer, Malcolm Turnbull, joined the NSW Opposition Leader, Barry O’Farrell, in calling for changes to the laws on political donations, and a ban on corporations or unions donating money to parties.

Yet another area where Malcolm’s fine words of the past are shown up for what they were – not a statement of principle but empty rhetoric to be discarded when expedient.

 

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57 comments

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  1. Jaquix

    Thanks Kaye. This sort of information needs to be disseminated to the public by every means possible. Im amazed at how little some people know or care about “politics”, yet are shocked when I draw their attention to things like this. The isdue of “politucalvdonations” is a national disgrace.

  2. mark delmege

    even that would not be equitable – with rich aussies more likely to donate to the big end of town – or whoever was likely to win the front benches.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Four Corners is airing this like it is something new but Yabsley has been saying the same thing since 2011. He did an interview with the Power Index which was reported on in Crikey saying the exact same thing but nothing happens.

    The Power Index: Yabsley says ‘ban political donations’

  4. Matters Not

    Re Donations. An important reform would be ‘real time’ disclosure. Let’s say within 60 minutes on their website(s).

    And also on the AEC website within 24 hours.

    Only involves a few keystrokes.

    Also – company details. Transparency here, there and everywhere.

  5. Klaus

    Your statement “Yet another area where Malcolm’s fine words of the past are shown up for what they were – not a statement of principle but empty rhetoric to be discarded when expedient.” describes that empty, void of principles shell completely. A strong summary Labor or some investigative journalism should pick up on.

    I fear this will be forgotten just as Malcolm’s involvement in the Panama Papers, Cayman islands, now Mafia via the dead Lawyer and illegal donations round him up. Plus Add the AFP raids into his opponents and the little tidbit from Clive Palmer (not that I take that idiot serious) wanting Conroy off the NBN Senate Committee.

    When does the MSM wake up??? Thanks Kaye

  6. Jexpat

    Well, thanks to Jeff McCloy (a laothesomelitigant if there ever was one) we now have a High Court decision backing up state and federal parliaments’ ability to pass strict limits on political donations. Whether the major parties would ever allow that is another matter.

  7. Kaye Lee

    Former Liberal Party Treasurer, Michael Yabsley, was instrumental in setting up both the Millenium Forum and the Wentworth Forum

  8. Matters Not

    The there’s Stuart Robert and the Fadden Forum making donations to supposed ‘Independent’ local government candidates on the Gold Coast who just happen to work for Stuart Robert.

    ‘Deceit’ in plague proportions.

    http://faddenforum.com/pages/about-us.php

  9. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    In the new world of cheap mass communications (i.e. the internet), there is no longer any need for the big slush funds that political parties need for getting their message across. Give each candidate a blog and some guidelines, and let them get on with it. Advertising is largely about disseminating perceptions rather than facts, and actually undermines the political process.

    Better still, just get rid of the party system altogether. http://www.makeourvoiceheard.com It is entirely possible, and is far less disruptive that people might think.

  10. diannaart

    @Steve Laing

    It is doable – but not wanted by a binary system that has much to lose in terms of money and power.

  11. z

    no donation for really free, especially for political donation, international donation or domestic donation, whatever, all have secret goal to achieve, need a sort of donation reform to make our political system more transparent and honest, upright.

  12. Athena

    This is why we need to get rid of corporate donations and limit the size of the private ones.

  13. my say

    We will never know the damage the Liberals have done to our country until we kick them out they are not fit to govern

  14. Jack Russell

    Just watched the A.L.E.C link. Thanks bobrafto.

    OMG!

    …and they’ve exported it here…we call it IPA. Our LNP politicians have swallowed this horrific agenda holus-bolus and it’s been relentlessly inserted over time into the very fabric of our country under our noses.

    I think I could face my own death more easily than I can accept this!

  15. John Lord

    The revelation on donations must surely condemn the evidence of Sonodinos at ICAC as lies.

  16. Kaye Lee

    One would think John, but NSW ICAC has been stopped from releasing their findings by ongoing court cases. Expecting the AFP to rush in at any moment, unless they are still busy hunting down child advocates or people who expose gifts to politicians or people who think the public has a right to know how the NBN they are paying for is going.

  17. z

    “trade power for money” is a word describes black gold politics in some countries, Australian style political donation should avoid this.
    how? need reform to make it under supervisory control from society

  18. jim

    Liberals have ripped another $650m out for diagnostic imaging and pathology services – services on which another $650m cut from Medicare by slashing bulk billing cancer patients rely;
    axing radiation and oncology programs; shame on you Turnball.
    slashing $420m in aged care support for seniors with complex needs; and
    cuts to child care before the government’s reforms have even started……….Under the Abbott-Turnbull government, there has been a consistent fall in living standards; it has fallen by 3 per cent, whereas it increased 6 per cent under Labor.

    “MYEFO shows that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have presided over a Budget deficit blowing out at the rate of $120m per day,” Shorten said.

    “The government’s promised surplus has been junked for good.” not a murmur of budget emergency in the news.

    The shadow treasurer said the Coalition’s fiscal strategy was now in ruins…………….

    Growth is down: GDP has been downgraded from 2.75% to 2.5% this year, and from 3.25% to 2.75%
    Investment is down: Business investment fell 6.3 % in 2014-15, and the forecast investment has decreased from -7 % to -9.5 % in 2015-16
    Spending is up: At PEFO, spending for this financial year was estimated by Treasury and Finance at 24.9% of GDP, it’s now 25.9% under the Liberals
    Deficit is up: In the 2014-15 Budget, the deficit for this year was $17.1b, in MYEFO it’s now $37.4b WHAT
    Debt is up: At PEFO, net debt for the next financial year was 12% of GDP for this year, in MYEFO it’s now 18.3%.

  19. Michael

    Vote for the candidate who will instantly (or very soon thereafter) declare details of all donations accepted on their website and not accept any more than $5 per donation.

  20. Athena

    “…and they’ve exported it here…we call it IPA. Our LNP politicians have swallowed this horrific agenda holus-bolus and it’s been relentlessly inserted over time into the very fabric of our country under our noses.”

    Jack Russell, the ALP has been drinking that neo-con koolaid too unfortunately.

  21. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I second Athena @ 8.45pm last night.

    It’s Time to purge our socio-economic system of ALL neoliberalist Trickle Down economist entanglements to allow for Reformed and Progressive Economics such as is expounded by MMT, Stiglitz and other enlightened economists to bring everything to a level playing field.

    Labor must show that they are good socio-economic managers without their dependence on this false and misrepresentative elitist economic Trickle Down theory that destabilises and restricts the lives of the 99% while destroying the environment.

  22. Athena

    The ALP has backed itself into a corner because it is lying to the public. They’ve continued the lie that our taxes are used for funding services, etc, so whenever they try to invest in social services, the LNP has an opening to criticise about taxes being raised or say that a project is not costed properly. The ALP then finds itself trapped in the lie, drifting further to the right in order to attract funding from big business and lessen the heat they are getting from the LNP. If they were honest and acted with some moral integrity, then the LNP lies would be easily recognised by the public and would be shot down quickly. The public would be able to see that politicians are taking us all for a ride. We get the standard that we accept.

  23. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I would like to see Sam Dastayari and Andrew Leigh take the lead in explaining the lies of Trickle Down economics and how Australia’s sovereign currency is strong protection which helps to support their “fully costed” explanations of their policy proposals.

    If I can start to understand Australia’s unique position of sovereign currency and the benefits it can provide for a more equitable socio-economic system, then most other people will too.

    Labor needs to read http://neweconomicperspectives.org/modern-monetary-theory-primer.html and have Steven Hail explain Modern Monetary Theory.

    What’s keeping Labor from showing some stinking backbone on this front?

  24. Athena

    “What’s keeping Labor from showing some stinking backbone on this front?”

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  25. Michael

    A backbone needs feet to stand on, common sense and courage, to do so without fear or favour and not follow LNP down dark alleys.

  26. jimhaz

    IMO, promoting the MMT free money theory on this site so frequently makes this site look WORSE than any Greens economic proposal.

  27. Athena

    Jimhaz, no one is preventing you from sitting in the dark and consuming a steady diet of BS from the MSM if you prefer.

  28. diannaart

    If Labor lacks the cojones to tackle our entire monetary system just prior to an election, it is a big ask and one I get.

    What I don’t get is why doesn’t Labor challenge the LNP of the cost of tax cuts for the rich? How can we, Australia, afford that instead of investing in our nation?

  29. Athena

    “What I don’t get is why doesn’t Labor challenge the LNP of the cost of tax cuts for the rich?”

    Because the ALP gets millions of dollars in donations from these people. They don’t get as much as the Libs but they still receive a huge amount and the donors expect a return on their money. I won’t hold my breath waiting for the ALP to address the issue of the big end of town not paying its fair share of tax if they win the election. The reality is, they’ve had years to do something about it when they were in government but didn’t. They cannot serve two masters so they choose to serve the one that pays best.

  30. diannaart

    Athena

    All depends on how you spin it:

    Sure, Labor receives SOME donations from the 1% – some of the rich donate to the Greens as well – just not nearly anywhere near as much as the LNP receives; the better part of the pie will always go to the LNP, whereas Labor uses its money FOR the people… blah, blah, blah.

  31. jimhaz

    [“What I don’t get is why doesn’t Labor challenge the LNP of the cost of tax cuts for the rich?”]

    They enjoy the power involved in dealing with the lobbying of the wealthy. Dealing with them is more specific, more solid, more entertaining and indeed more rewarding, as compared to the endless conflicting complaints of ordinary voters.

    There is also habit, which we underestimate.

    There is also the big problem of there being no chance of bipartisanship, so it becomes too hard for motivation and the drive for the change to develop into actual change.

    Due at least partly to the rise of the Greens, the ALP has shifted to the right and no longer attracts sufficient left based active members to balance the right.

    There has been a decline in respect for authority. We no longer respect politicians and most other authorities to the same degree and this is outside of whether they deserve it or not. If we do not respect them then opportunists with little honour will take their places. The reward for being honourable is far less now than before.

  32. Athena

    I take that as sarcasm, which is cool. 🙂

    The Greens don’t accept corporate donations, whereas the major two do. Then we also need to take into account that lobby groups donate on behalf of their clients. The bulk of those donations are going to go to the parties with the majority of votes and the Greens’ policies are diametrically opposed to the aims of big business, so there really isn’t any reason why the 1% and their companies would donate to them. Those donations aren’t going to the people either. They’re being used for party business, such as election advertising, running fundraisers, and chopper hire. On second thought … probably not chopper hire within the Liberal Party. 😛

  33. Anomander

    Our pollies have all watched the US and have turned our entire political sphere into a massive circus, with launches, roadshows, buses filled with media, press conferences, announcements, flag waving, attack ads in print, radio and TV. All this requires huge amounts of cash, and the easiest way to get it is by asking people to donate.

    And as we all know, the price of such costly support is that those donating will expect favours in return – policies designed to favour the sponsors, subsidies and undue influence, which distorts and degrades our democracy.

    If we can’t do away with donations, then all of them should go firstly to the AEC, where they are entered into a publicly accessible register BEFORE being forwarded onto the parties.

  34. Athena

    “They enjoy the power involved in dealing with the lobbying of the wealthy. Dealing with them is more specific, more solid, more entertaining and indeed more rewarding, as compared to the endless conflicting complaints of ordinary voters.”

    We also see politicians who, once their political career is over, go to work in very well paid positions for the companies who donate.

  35. diannaart

    😀

    With so much complete nonsense being presented as platforms – I don’t see why Labor can’t extend itself. Just look at Trump… OK maybe there is some bizarro world axiom which means only the neo-cons can talk rubbish and get away with it. 😛

    We’ll never know, if Labor starting talking about a healthy environmental future, just where that may lead.

  36. jimhaz

    [jimhaz, no one is preventing you from sitting in the dark and consuming a steady diet of BS from the MSM if you prefer]

    This site would want MMT to provide over 400 billion extra dollars per annum all gone on recurrent expenditure. It is bullshit money tree.

    The Greens would kill off the country in taking too much taxation too quickly. A long term depression would result. Pity as i like at least half your policies.

    Trickle down is bullshit as well, so we are on the same side there at least.

  37. Athena

    “OK maybe there is some bizarro world axiom which means only the neo-cons can talk rubbish and get away with it. 😛 ”

    Haha yeah the average ALP voter would head for the hills if the ALP came out with half the stuff that Trump does. But neo-con rhetoric is insidious. Did you watch that documentary about ALEC (link posted above)? Look at the style of advertising used. A lot of it looks harmless and Big Business is slipping it past unsuspecting politicians and voters because they’re unaware of the underlying agenda. The ALP is falling for the more subtle aspects of it, e.g. privatisation.

    Actually there was an important point made in that ALEC video. Big Business knows that it needs to target politicians not only at a national level, but also at a state level, because it’s the states who fund schools and hospitals. A look at the AEC website reveals corporations that are donating to both major parties, and to several of the branches. In SA Ernst and Young has earned contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to review areas within SA Health and their recommendations are causing huge problems. Letting these people get a foot in the door is very dangerous.

  38. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    I’m intrigued by your comments regarding the Greens killing off the country, simply by taking too much taxation too quickly. But here is the thing. If we don’t do something fairly radical, very quickly, to combat global warming, then a long term depression is seriously going to be the least of our worries.

    I don’t think many people truly realise what will happen if the current trends continues, but I’ll give you a clue – it will make World War Z look like a picnic. Meanwhile the Libs fiddle whilst the world burns, and Labor shouts about renewables whilst continuing to flood the world with fossil fuels.

    It is like watching a train wreck in slow motion, with the vast majority seemingly unable to recognise the smash that is going to happen down the track, but worrying instead about how we can make the train go faster.

  39. Athena

    Jimhaz, some business people have been very critical of the LNP’s savage cuts to those on lower incomes, because now those people have nothing to spend and businesses are hurting as a result. When the poor have money to spend, businesses receive that money and have to employ people to receive it.

  40. Athena

    “But here is the thing. If we don’t do something fairly radical, very quickly, to combat global warming, then a long term depression is seriously going to be the least of our worries.”

    A lot of people are going to get a huge shock when the effects of climate change really begin to bite and it will be too late then to do anything about it. I don’t think the majority realises just how much will be impacted by climate change. Don’t expect much action from the major parties though because the neo-cons are very strongly opposed to renewable energy. They’re also determined to ruin our best farm land.

  41. Michael

    Can ANY politician address these two video’s on global Warming:

    and vote only for those who adequately respond.

  42. jimhaz

    @ Athena,

    I’m not so sure that the LNP have done “savage cuts to those on lower incomes”, at least not in direct terms. Bear in mind that they removed the carbon tax, but did not change the low income taxation reductions given by the Gillard gov. Nonetheless, they have gone hell for leather to try and prevent wage rises, and part of this is to set up a mindset in employees not to seek wage rises. They have cut the real wages of government employees, and the reason behind this is that government is often an industrial relations trend setter –they want private industry to follow.

    In relation to international competitiveness such activities do improve the economic position of Australia, and is part and parcel of globalisation.

    It is more about what they (and the latest terms of the ALP) have not done that is the problem. They have not adjusted distribution to provide more income for low income people – distribution that can only come from the top end of town. They have promoted housing inflation, which I feel cuts the deepest into low income pockets. They have promoted anti-unionism when it is this very unionism (and ample resources) that made Australia into such good country. They managed the mining boom in the worst possible way one could, with the exception of the creation of future funds. They have not protected manufacturing industries such has car parts making. They have not tackled the banks price gouging and under-regulation. And the list goes on.

  43. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    jimhaz,

    there was deafening silence in Snotty’s Budget when it came to Newstart and other welfare increases. There was also deafening silence about incentives to businesses to employ Mature Age unemployed and under-employed people. Both the LNP and Labor Governments have continually failed these groups.

    By depriving people of gainful and meaningful employment, it denies Australia of their capacity to pay their taxes.

  44. jimhaz

    @ Steve,

    [I’m intrigued by your comments regarding the Greens killing off the country, simply by taking too much taxation too quickly. But here is the thing. If we don’t do something fairly radical, very quickly, to combat global warming, then a long term depression is seriously going to be the least of our worries]

    I don’t disagree, although the two areas are not closely linked. In taxation terms doing 100% more to limit global warming isn’t really a big deal.

    The real problem is the slowness of the negative effects of global warming on those with wealth – this makes taking adequate action deferrable for them. In finance, the wealthy play the game of musical chairs – their game is with each other, not with us. They intend to stay in the traditional energy game until the music stops then they will all rush for the exit to try and safeguard their dough.

    The wealthy simply will not let us do the right thing re GW and because we are too apathetic, we allow this. The masses have to feel much stronger effects to be in a state where an anti neo-liberalism revolution might occur.

    I am not against the Greens on this issue, except in terms of the idea of individually limiting electricity and water use (what is the point of progress if not to do things more easily).

    I am against all major parties including the Greens, because they wont face the underlying problem – population control. Ie 50000 refugee intake – in 20 years this would add 200,000 kids to the world using resources at OECD rates.

    I’m also a hypocrite. I want greater distribution of wealth. The problem with that though is that this means greater consumption, thus even more using up of the worlds resources. I think it is worth it though, as the rich have far, far too much control and are limiting our necessary evolution to better sustainability.

  45. Athena

    Gee Jimhaz, I’m surprised you haven’t advocated sterilisation of everyone earning under $100,000 pa.

  46. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    @ jimhaz

    I’m with you on much of what you say. Elysium (to use yet another film example) is a fairly accurate analogy of the state of the world just now (except that with global warming, the rich won’t have a safe haven to move to – maybe they think they do? Or they are just in total denial that it will affect them).

    The answer to overpopulation is the same as it has always been – educate people and give them a relatively decent standard of living. All this wastage on arms proliferation (which the Libs just love, and Labor are stuck on a one-way, bi-partisan ticket to hell to avoid being wedged), when it could be used to develop technology allowing us to use more power and more water and increase our standard of living, just seems to go by the by.

  47. diannaart

    I can see I must watch bobrafto’s video link. Too busy ATM.

    However, I do believe once we – all progressives start to speak up more than we have (I’m including Labor in this) a momentum will start that will be hard to stop. CC is getting worse, division between rich and poor getting worse, frustration by low and middle income people at state of education, health transport; all the usual infrastructure suspects. The rich maybe in denial or think their $’s will save them, however our planet will respond to the increase in carbon particles, the poisoning of our water, the impact of fracking AND mega-agriculture – our current behaviour cannot continue indefinitely.

    The really scary thing is the exponential rate of climate change – once we reach the tipping point – well I probably won’t be here to see that. There remains little, if any, time to set back what we have already done and we must resign ourselves to a 2 degree global warning – anything over that is looking very apocalyptic.

    @jimhaz

    During the 1930’s depression, people made do with what they could – no whining about “not making progress” as a matter of fact planning ahead IS progress – just not your sort of progress. We’re not going back to bark huts, unless we mitigate CC.

  48. jimhaz

    [planning ahead IS progress – just not your sort of progress]

    I do not see expansion of numbers of people, goods or whatever as progress or development or good growth. I only see improvement of quality as being progress.

    @ Athena
    [Gee Jimhaz, I’m surprised you haven’t advocated sterilisation of everyone earning under $100,000 pa.]

    Presumably that was said in response to this. “Ie 50000 refugee intake – in 20 years this would add 200,000 kids to the world using resources at OECD rates”.

    Well Ok, yeah yeah go on ignore the issue, distract from it. Too hard to face I suppose.

    Btw, it was an just one example based on current news. When talking about the population issue, I don’t really differentiation between immigrants and refugees. Given the choice I’d slowly cut immigration by 4/5ths within 10 years (and yes, I’m exaggerating the cut). After that, I’d basically I’d only allow scientists and educators to immigrate 🙂 Partly this would be to force local companies to train properly.

  49. Athena

    “Presumably that was said in response to this. “Ie 50000 refugee intake – in 20 years this would add 200,000 kids to the world using resources at OECD rates”.

    Well Ok, yeah yeah go on ignore the issue, distract from it. Too hard to face I suppose.”

    What are you advocating, Jimhaz? That we just bomb the crap out of them and kill them in the name of population control? Should we just choose nations at random – all with dark skinned inhabitants of course, and bomb them? Who do you suggest has the right to reproduce and who hasn’t?

    As Steve correctly pointed out, educated women have less children. We can address the population issue with education, access to contraception and access to abortions.

    People who like to talk about population control also like to point the finger at poorer nations for having more children and being a drain on the world’s resources. However, it has been shown that 1 American child consumes the resources equivalent to 20 kids in central Africa. Affluent white westerners are to blame for the mass consumerism, not those living in poverty.

  50. diannaart

    @jimhaz

    Not what I said, I was referring to your dismay at using less water, less power…

    Population is a very difficult problem – but not so much if we focus on the entire planet rather than just Australia – we can try and forget the rest of the world, but it will not forget us.

    We better be planning ahead for sustainable living rather than parasitical.

  51. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    The biggest issue we have here is how to migrate to a more sustainable future, but do it in a morally acceptable way. As soon as we take an inhumane approach (as we currently are doing for the refugees coming by boat issue) we essentially allow such behaviour to be more generally acceptable, whether that is refusing to treat people, ignoring murder and rape (even when carried out by people whom our country is paying), and there are plenty of people who welcome the opportunity to beat the crap out of people whom they have been told to be scared of, because they get a kick out of it. You can’t beat a good dose of righteous indignation to wash down the ultra-violence.

    And to do this, we have to find a way to get the politics out of the problem solving process. Because we do know for an absolute fact, that when it comes to trying to save their seats, the current governments spending knows no bounds. How many submarines to save Pyne?

  52. Athena

    “I can see I must watch bobrafto’s video link. Too busy ATM.”

    When you get to the end of that video, there’s an advertisement for another one called A Place at the Table, which is also on Youtube. That’s about 50 million (as of 2012) Americans who regularly go hungry due to poverty. Since about 1980 (from memory), the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables has increased fourfold, whereas the cost of highly processed, nutritionally poor food has decreased during that time by the same amount. The American government subsides the farmers who grow crops like corn and soy, much of which finds its way into highly processed, nutrition poor foods, but there are no subsidies for those farmers growing fresh fruit and vegetables. About 23.5 million Americans live in a food desert – that is, there are no fresh fruits and vegies or wholesome foods available in their area. Some of these people are employed, but either receive low wages (there is no minimum wage in the US and it’s common for people to work 2 or 3 jobs and still not earn a living wage), or else they haven’t received a pay rise in years (a police officer interviewed had not received a pay rise in 4 years). Other people are unemployed and unable to find work. One woman with two children lost her job, searched for over 12 months before she found another, and the end result was low wages but just high enough to cut out her food stamps (which cut out at a really low threshold), so working left her in the same position of being unable to feed her kids adequately.

    On top of the hunger due to poverty, there is also an increase in obesity because the poor can only afford to buy junk food. The show revealed a politician being caught doing a deal with a business person, with the intention of screwing the poor and making them starve. Another group of government employees tried to live on food stamps and gave up after a week because they just couldn’t make the money go far enough. School lunches are provided to kids for free. A minuscule amount of funding is allocated for this and by the time overheads are taken out, less than $1 per child per day is left to pay for the actual food. When the government was pressured to increase funding for school lunches, they found the money by cutting back on food stamps!! Here too we saw the effect of Big Business, who refused to work with the government to find a solution for feeding the kids at school. No one will give up their government subsidies to keep on growing crops that end up as highly processed foods. Class warfare is alive and well, thanks to the power that Big Business holds over the government.

    Then we’ve got the long term problems of poor nutrition in early childhood being a hindrance to mental development and contributing to other chronic health problems, kids who are too hungry to concentrate in class and if they don’t learn then they are destined to live in poverty, and the chronic health problems due to obesity. In the long run all of these problems are going to cost a lot more than providing nutritious food to poor people.

    Jeff Bridges was interviewed as he started a charity to address hunger some years ago. He quite correctly said “If another country came here and treated our kids like this, we would be at war with them.”

    It’s disturbing to realise that Australia is headed for more of the same because our government is in bed with Big Business and oh so eager to copy the Americans.

  53. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hear, hear Athena.

  54. Michael

    Anyone know the minimum return one could expect for donations?

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