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Risk assessment

Life is a series of choices and decisions. Within the constraints of time and finite resources, decision makers must learn to prioritise – to decide what is most important.

If you listen to anyone outside Australia, the greatest challenges facing us at the moment are climate change caused by anthropogenic global warming, income inequity leading to poverty, the Ebola crisis, pollution, peak resources, health and education in developing nations, the growing tide of refugees, providing enough food and clean water, sanitation, overpopulation, unemployment, species extinction, human rights abuses, affordable housing….and a fair way down the list would be a group of some tens of thousands of disaffected testosterone-filled teenagers that someone has been crazy enough to give guns and rockets to.

When faced with these global problems, the response of the Abbott government brings into question their ability to assess risk and respond appropriately.

On climate change, our Prime Minister tells us that “coal is good for humanity” while our Treasurer denies the fact that we are the world’s largest per capita emitter and that does not even take into account our exports. (When you hear the phrase “I deny the premise of your question” that is Coalition for “I can’t hear you, here comes the Party line”)

As reported in the Guardian:

“Australia’s coal is one of the globe’s fourteen carbon bombs. Our coal export industry is the largest in the world, and results in 760m tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. The urgent goal of Tony Abbott’s government, and his environment minister Greg Hunt is to ship as much climate-devastating coal as possible, as quickly as possible.

Every day, this Liberal-National government, led by Tony Abbott, provides new examples of its nastiness, its short-sightedness, and its willingness to destroy livelihoods, communities and the environment to enrich coal barons.”

A new report by The Australia Institute “The Mouse that Roared: Coal in the Queensland Economy” demonstrates that the coal industry’s risks and damage completely outweigh its benefits.

Felicity Wishart the AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaign Director said that the Queensland Government was prepared to risk the Great Barrier Reef, its international reputation and its $6 billion tourism industry for a coal industry that employs less people than Reef tourism, exports most of its profits and provides just 4% in royalties.

“The Australia Institute report reveals that there are under 25,000 jobs in coal mining in Queensland and 80% of the profits go overseas. This compares with 69,000 jobs in the tourism industry, and almost all the profits stay in Australia.”

When the world’s leaders met to discuss climate change, our leader couldn’t make it due to a prior engagement with Rupert to get his lines about why the war is good straight. Our deputy leader couldn’t make it because he is too busy planning thousands of kilometres of bitumen heat islands to carry millions of fossil fuel burning imported cars. Our environment minister didn’t even seem to be considered or mentioned which is hardly surprising when he points to his plan for the Great Barrier Reef as a success. Ignoring ocean acidification, warming, and salinity while approving the dumping of dredged silt and the expansion of coal ports is considered a success? Oh that’s right, you removed a few starfish by injecting each one by hand. Instead we sent Julie Bishop because she is good at stonewalling and death stares.

As representatives from the Philippines and Kiribati make heartfelt pleas about the damage being done to their nations, we have reneged on our promised contribution to the Green Fund to help developing nations deal with the havoc we cause. As marathon runners in Beijing choke on the pollution, we tell them that burning more coal will make them richer.

Everyone from the Pope to the head of the IMF has pointed to poverty and income inequity being a growing scourge, yet every action taken by this government will have the effect of increasing poverty and widening the gap. Internationally we have slashed Foreign Aid and domestically we have hit the poor with the budget from hell.

Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann say, because the poor get more government handouts, they have more to give back when looking for spending cuts. Raising revenue will not be considered. The poor, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the students, the unemployed, single parents, low income families – these are the people to provide Mr Hockey with a surplus to brag about. In the meantime, one in seven Australians live in poverty with that number predicted to rise.

Austerity and trickle-down economics are failed experiments which this government seems intent on pursuing despite the mountain of evidence and advice warning against such measures. As the majority of people get less disposable income, demand will dry up, production will fall, unemployment will rise, and the downward spiral will continue.

While we seem to have endless money to bomb countries, the money to help build infrastructure and provide humanitarian aid has dried up.

Our response to the Ebola crisis is hugely inadequate. The excuse about evacuation of affected health workers just will not wash. We already have in place agreements with the US about medical evacuation of military personnel to Germany should they become critically ill. Australian doctors and nurses are highly-trained and if they feel that they have adequate protective regimes in place then It is unlikely that we would be talking about a large number of people needing evacuation. Considering the urgency of addressing this emergency, I cannot believe that the US or the UK or Germany would deny health workers the same service they offer to our military personnel.

Our Immigration Minister smugly claims success for his quasi-military war on refugees. He tells us this has been the humanitarian thing to do because he cares so much about asylum seekers that he can’t have them risking their lives at sea. Unfortunately, he also cut our humanitarian intake by 7000 and has failed to successfully resettle anyone. He would rather spend billions on OSB and offshore gulags and bribes to corrupt officials of other countries to absolve us of any responsibility at all rather than a cent on helping refugees. All he has done is bottle refugees up in other countries while we sit back and refuse to help.

In response to growing unemployment, this government has removed restrictions on 457 visas encouraging employers to hire people who will work for less than award wages, no workplace entitlements and no job security. They have removed industry assistance from manufacturing to help them during a time when the high Aussie dollar hit the industry hard while giving billions of dollars in subsidies to the mining industry which caused the problem in the first place.

When Toyota, Ford and Holden leave the country for good in 2017, around 50,000 people who work in the automotive supply chain, mostly in Victoria and South Australia, will face the risk of unemployment.

Despite Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane telling us that ”Australians are smart, innovative and creative. We have the ability to remake our industry sector and the time in which to do it.”, according to European Union data from 2011, only 2.3 per cent of materials shipped out of Australia are high-tech – far less than the US, where the figure is closer to 20 per cent.

The OECD found in 2012 that Australia’s investment in high-tech industries was lower overall than other advanced economies yet the latest budget has slashed funding for research and development and decimated bodies like the CSIRO.

Remy Davison, the Jean Monnet Chair in politics and economics at Monash University, says despite the talk little has been done to create a realistic transformation scheme for industry.

”We talk about investing in smart industries and moving into high-tech industries, but nobody actually does it – not state governments, not federal governments, and to be fair the private sector doesn’t really invest in it either.”

When it comes to the war against ISIL, this is where the Abbott government steps up with seemingly unlimited resources to provide military assistance and to conduct over-the-top raids and surveillance at home, but where is the discussion about what led to the rise of this group? Where are the questions about how we are failing members of our own society so badly that they can be lured into this conflict? Where is the strategy to help young people here to feel like they belong and encouragement to help them become productive members of our society? Where is the support for our Muslim community?

Risk assessment is part of life and a crucial factor for all businesses. How much more so for a government when the consequences of their decisions are so far-reaching? We have a government who came to power with a specific agenda to which they are determined to stick. They are deaf to the advice of experts other than their hand chosen sycophants and choose to ignore the risks. On all counts, in the most pressing problems facing the world, Australia has been found wanting.

Before casting your vote at the next election, Australians should consider the risk of allowing the Abbott government to continue down the path of nationalism and corporate greed at the expense of our duty as global citizens and our responsibility to protect the vulnerable.


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  1. Terry2


    The major talking points in Australia, by contrast, seem to revolve around The Bachelor, Xfactor, Big Brother and the Block – no risks
    there !

  2. M-R

    I have, as always, only one problem with this excellent post: it is preaching to the converted. I have no idea how to reach those remaining obdurately unconverted; but I suspect they cannot be brought ’round.
    So you are seeking to preach to the half-way converted, I think: and I’m not sure if they read on-line publications like this.
    I certainly HOPE they do.
    Meanwhile, I can only say GOODONYER; for of course you can’t stop posting in this fashion ! SOMEONE has to do her|his best to counter the Miranda Devines of this world.

  3. Kaye Lee

    “If you care about other people, that’s now a very dangerous idea. If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. Maybe you can become rich, but you don’t care whether other people’s kids can go to school, or can afford food to eat, or things like that. In the United States, that’s called “libertarian” for some wild reason. I mean, it’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.”
    – Noam Chomsky “Business Elites Are Waging a Brutal Class War in America”.

  4. CMMC

    Great work, as usual, our dear Kaye.

    Reports from ABC journalist, tweeting from Indonesia, that the A.F.P. are acting like hired thugs, grabbing cameras and microphones and shoving journo’s around.

    The AFP Is Now God!

  5. Kaye Lee

    “The main event at the G20 looks more likely to be whether or not climate change gets a guernsey; and here again it appears that Abbott is on a loser. Obama and the Europeans have announced they are on board, and China’s Xi Jinping is bound to want his two yuan worth if things get interesting.

    As the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has pointed out, [climate change] is the big challenge: the one that will go on after Islamic State, Ebola and the other crises. This is reality. And it will need a little more than gung-ho rhetoric, wishful thinking and shirtfronting to deal with it.”


  6. Ricardo29

    Nailed it again Kaye Lee, but I’m wondering where the cigar chompers are going to conjure a budget surplus from, and when. Not in my lifetime the way they are going. Have to agree with MR about preaching to the converted, it means we have to send this on in the hope some of the ‘obdurately unconverted’ ( great term too) will read it.

  7. Kaye Lee

    The surplus isn’t coming from selling another of our profitable assets – Medibank. The girlinator tells me it is to be spent on “productivity-enhancing infrastructure” which sadly means roads rather than an NBN or high speed rail.

  8. stephentardrew

    Although I had definite issues with Labor they were moving in the right direction having helped us through the GFC. However they needed to understand the value of debt financing to achieve growth while increased employment and subsequent taxes, as well as bracket creep to provide increased income. This would help balance out, and reduce, any temporary increase in debt. Tax reform would also save much while continued support of the vehicle industry, allowing investment in alternate energy technologies to fill the hole left by the possible cessation of the vehicle manufactures, would have helped maintain a sustainable economy. That people would vote for an end to the mining tax is just plain self-defeating. The emissions trading scheme was working and we were playing our role against global warming. Though there are complex arguments for or against we could eventually work out an effective tax upon financial transactions, in part, to make the sector accountable for their contribution to the GFC for which they have had to pay very little in return. Just soft prosecutions and fines and no jail time.

    Labor got sucked into the the whole surplus farce without setting out adequate reasons why. The nail in the coffin was their factional infighting and personality wars. Now due to NLP pre-election lies the cultural paradigm has been turned against rational solutions and paradoxically the people who voted for them. At the moment Labor has the biggest platform of the opposition parties yet they don’t seem to have a raft of well reasoned policy alternatives or critiques to challenge the LNP.

    A well structured budget response would not need to argue the case for or against the items presented in the article because there would be enough growth and resources to fulfill our international obligations. Unless we want increased world wide poverty and a substantial poor lower class in Australia then the opposition parties better start getting the ball rolling. The LNP know they are selling us a lemon however their irrational magical dogmatism prevents them from changing direction. Labor hiding behind LNP incompetence is not going to work unless we have an informed public. Labor is playing musical chairs in hope of LNP failure rather than a full frontal attack upon injustice and inequity.

    Defining obvious ethical obligation to fulfill our moral obligations outlined in the article are simply being ignored by the LNP. To be successful Labor must propose a plan for growth and increased prosperity and if people feel the economy is growing and their wealth is increasing they will not begrudge foreign aid or adequate welfare provision. The real issue at hand is to alleviate peoples personal fears of impending poverty, and disaster because, while they are worried about personal finances and their future, it is easy to deflect them from social justice.

    AIMN has accumulated reasoned rational solutions supported by empirical evidence suitable to challenge the current paradigm on both the right and left. I would suggest that overcoming the LNP’s continual drive to use fear as a policy weapon must be countered before we can change attitudes to social welfare objectives and international obligations.

    I don’t claim to be a genius or have all the solution however I do think that understanding the psychological and sociological dynamics of fear and negativity would substantially assist the left in its attack upon neo-fascist oligopolistic greed and self-interest.

    There is something to be said for a positive and uplifting approach to the economy rather than this fear induced anger and resentment at anyone who gets any sort of assistance. Anger just feeds anger, right or left, whereas a positive and uplifting message can counter the driving compulsion of the right to use fear as a weapon of power and control. I know there is substantial difficulty in countering the raving blustering of unethical fools but repeating their methodology is not going to change public opinion.

    This is as much a psychological problem as a political problem. Unfortunately things are not always simple and easy.

  9. stephentardrew

    The other thing I meant to say was that the LNP are not interested in risk assessment until the garbage hits the fan and then the costs are often substantially higher however they just bully and bluff their way through the process. Just keep on message with pure single minded self-interest regardless of any rational risk assessment. Trying to extract logical solutions from largely irrational magical, mythical fear driven minds is, itself, not rational. Unfortunately paradox raises its ugly head and when irrational paradoxical thinking predominates you can forget rational solutions. Using heightened fear as a method of control is neither rational nor solution based.

  10. stephentardrew

    See: Appendix C Perception performance indicators demonstrate just how deluded Australians are about their mitigation of global warming.

    Great risk assessment.


  11. Gilly

    Well put together Kaye Ideology without thought, and what do we have? It is very difficult to put together a better strategic plan to, not only,.ruin a nation but also to strip away all and any ways to recover or resist the fate to come.

  12. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Beautifully written Kaye. The brazen abuses of Abbott and his LNP Neanderthals to people in need and great social justice initiatives is sickening. Their unconscionable support for only themselves and their supporters’ vested interests, is sickening too.

    I rang Senator Ricky Muir’s office this morning in response to a GetUp initiative. I offered support and encouragement to Senator Muir to stand firm in support of higher education for all Australians and not to let Abbott and Pyne in with their scissors to ruin it and make it impossible for ordinary people to seek higher education.

    This was a timely and very important phone call in the light of the fact it is the day that Gough Whitlam died. The man who introduced free higher education in Australia.

    We could all despair and feel intimidated by Abbott, the smug thug. But I refuse to be and each day I think of something I can do to keep the message flowing that we are watching and we VOTE and we know other people who vote too.

  13. Kaye Lee

    Mobilise the young people…they can save us. Their future is at stake. Climate change, education at all levels, universal healthcare, workplace entitlements and job security, the NBN, affordable housing, assistance when things go wrong – all these things we have fought for are at risk. We need young people to care enough to register and to be aware enough of the political process to cast their vote wisely. We need them to understand the preference system for the Senate so they realise voting for the HEMP party or the Sex Party is actually a vote for someone else entirely.

  14. randalstella

    Not on topic.
    Vale Gough. One of only two Australian political statesmen. The other being Don Dunstan.
    Without him, where would this country be?

  15. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    +1. Every state needs a Don Dunstan too.

  16. Kyran

    Your article is indeed serendipitous on such a day. I recall a quote from the 60’s, “Some men see things as they are, and ask “Why?” I see things that never were, and ask “Why not?””. I think it was Robert Kennedy, and I have probably paraphrased badly.

    My point is that it was the politics of aspiration, of improvement. Mr Whitlam is being remembered for the positive changes he made in making Australia inclusive, compassionate, engaged and relevant, away from the Menzian torpor (Paul Keating, this morning). Your article, to me, highlights where we have headed over the past decades.

    We no longer expect our politicians and leaders to have aspirations or visions, merely an army of spin doctors to justify the unjustifiable, to explain in three words or less their inability to do their jobs.

    There are now numerous studies, globally, that decidedly point to prevention and early intervention being cheaper than cure. These studies have primarily been done in the areas of health and education and appear to be unanimous in their findings. They are predominantly economic studies and have demonstrated that for every one dollar spent early, ten dollars are saved later.

    Mr Whitlam established universal health care, education, indigenous rights and a plethora of other changes. That these were expensive when undertaken is undeniable but their benefits are still being felt. Successive governments have since decided that these are budgetary items, not aspirational ones. Their spin doctors have cajoled us over the years to accept this preposterous scenario, that we are being unreasonable to expect these things. The fact is, we should demand these things and, if those in power can’t find a way to accommodate them, they should go away and let someone in who can do the job. Budget surpluses and deficits will come and go, but universal standards can never be regarded as negotiable.

    Risk assessment is, as you well explain, a matter of prioritisation. It requires the risk be identified and dealt with in a methodical, practical and logical manner. This will not occur when hysteria is more admired by government as a means to keep the politics of fear and division alive and well, lest “We the people” become expectant of aspirational leaders.

    On such a day, I don’t expect, or want, the clocks to stop, or even pause. His passing is an inevitability of mortality. I hope his passing reminds us all of the importance of aspiration. The desire to look to the future and ask “Why not?”. Not to actively seek to turn the clocks back 50 years.

    As for the “young people”, I have endless faith there are many youth who continue to dare to dream. I have two, and I will be with them on Saturday for “Welcomes” march here. We surely cannot demand of them what we are not prepared to do ourselves.

    Ok, I will stop ranting now.

  17. stephentardrew


    As an ex South Aussie I lived through the Dunstan years when SA was truly progressive until that moron Steel Hall screwed it up. Have always admired Don Dunstan, more so than Whitlam, because he was a lot more pragmatic and may I say rational. He had a real social conscience and was a Labor representative in the old tradition. We certainly could do with more of his ilk.

  18. Annie Byam

    Good article Kaye …. covering much. The coal issue is vile – and could only be expected from a Government such as we have now.

    However ————

    I do wonder though …. will he back down ? ….. will Abbott ( with flowery words and a bit of self-flagellation ) … decide that the rest of the world is right – and that he ‘made an ‘honest’ mistake’ ?

    Now – THERE would be the greatest sweetener he could deliver – and would ensure his tenure in Government for many many years.

    Which frankly – is his sole aim ……. to reign over his ‘kingdom’ for a long long time.

  19. Pingback: Risk assessment – Kay Lee can’t be cut short – must to read | olddogthoughts

  20. stephentardrew

    Kaye I totally agree with mobilizing young people With you all the way.

  21. Pudd'nhead

    Annie Byam do you posit the idea of Abbott having a conversion on the road to Damascus (read apocalypse) in which he might perceive the continued unfettered use of coal as dangerous to life and with that realization might perceive he had previously made an honest mistake? There is significant evidence in his background to indicate his inability to be honest and that he has a decided inclination to mark his choices (whatever they may be) with any fallacious reasoning that will serve to achieve his aims. Any casual observer would know that the chances of Abbott acting for the benefit of all are fairly slim. We have in the last day lost a great man, Mr.Whitlam, who had the interest of every Australian in his work. To allow the hollow Abbott to wear the same title as PM is an insult to the community that he (Abbott) is now trying his best to render to the mercy of big business.

  22. Annie Byam

    Pudd’nhead …….

    Please re-read ( if you wish ) my last two sentences. You couldn’t possibly have read them the first time.

    Really dirty politicians ( much as we have in todays’ Government ) will do absolutely ANYTHING to maintain power – over all.

    They wiil promise and then go back on those promises ( which is exactly what happened pre and post election 2013 ) ….. and there is nothing to stop Abbott doing exactly the same thing ( vice versa ) …. to SWEETEN the pot, and have people say “Gee – what a good fella, he realised his mistake – isn’t he honest – we wlll vote for him “). He also might do that – for political gain – when he sees China backing off coal purchases from us. That would go to making his ‘honesty’ ( pigs would fly ) look even better – if you get my meaning.

    A dirty politician wouldn’t care about what he didn’t believe in, in the first place – i.e. his own ( alleged ) ‘mistake’. They will say and do absolutely anything … much of it barely believable – as we have seen this past 12 months and are still seeing – day in, day out.

    These grubbers ( especially the ones we are dealing with now ) are capable of anything, and will use unscrupulous methods to acquire their aims.


    Doesn’t anybody realise that it could happen ?.

    I think some should read up a bit on the sociophathic personality in their psych. books.

    or … if you like – an easily read ‘dummies’ site http://www.wikihow.com/Spot-a-Sociopath …. and you can move on from there to more detailed and professional explanations of sociopathology.

    I rather think your ‘recognition responses ‘ would kick in pretty quickly, even on this little wikihow link I have posted !!!!.

  23. Annie Byam

    p.s. to Pudd’nhead ……… You said it yourself :

    ……..” decided inclination to mark his choices (whatever they may be) with any fallacious reasoning that will serve to achieve his aims. “

  24. Kaye Lee


    The Clean Energy Council, which represents the renewables industry, said “the so-called ‘real’ 20% … would actually decimate the industry.”

    “Such a move would leave many projects and companies financially stressed, billions of dollars in lost investment and thousands of jobs foregone. We are already about 40% of the way to meeting the legislated 41,000 gigawatt-hours of large-scale generation. If we were to reduce this target to a ‘real’ 20%, it would actually mean a cut of almost two thirds of the additional large-scale renewable energy required to be built,” said the CEC’s acting chief executive, Kane Thornton.

    “Not only that, but the modelling for the RET review by [the consultants] ACIL Allen showed that any scenario where the level of the target was reduced would lead to higher power prices for consumers in the future.”


    “A Sydney restaurant owned by Tourism Minister Andrew Robb and his family is being promoted by a government-funded $40 million, 18-month Tourism Australia campaign that targets 17 key global markets to sell the Australian “foodie” experience to the world.

    The Robb family restaurant, Boathouse Palm Beach, is showcased on Tourism Australia’s “Restaurant Australia” website, which was launched in May, as the “ultimate day trip destination” just an hour from Sydney and the “perfect place for a relaxed family outing”.”


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