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Voting Values

By John Haly

Voting is the expression of the rights of an individual to participate in their government, but like any expression, it can be misdirected, coerced, bought and sold. Political Parties understand the role and importance of marketing, propaganda and salesmanship in seeking your vote, irrespective of whether it is in your or your community’s best interest, or aligns with your values.

Value development

For the rest of us, our political attitudes are not always based on careful consideration of policy. Instead, a range of factors including gender, family, religion, race and ethnicity, and early childhood environments are strong predictors of political beliefs.

However, we arrive at our political beliefs; the next question we need to ask is, who in the political spectrum best represents those beliefs. This may be discovered by:

  • an analysis of the policies and their consequences
  • an evaluation of the perceived integrity of the political party

There is a range of political analysis strategies to make a systematic evaluation.  Though this does presume that:

  1. Any of us spend any time to analyse the policies of political parties.
  2. Politicians can be trusted to follow through on their promises and ideological pronouncements.
  3. Politicians represent their constituents and not the interests of well-financed lobbyists and donors.

Instead of a rationally researched choice, research demonstrates that we engage in:

  1. Bandwagon voting [1]  in which people’s voting preferences are reflecting a desire to follow trends and “hop on the bandwagon” regardless of the underlying evidence. [2]
  2. Reluctance to change voting patterns as other research from Europe demonstrates that voters do not adjust their perceptions according to what parties advocate in their campaigns. [3]
  3. A lack of comprehension of essential differences between the major parties motivated by the desire to decrease the potential costs of post-decision regrets. [4]

Why discouraging small party votes disempowers voter’s message.

Major political parties actively encourage bandwagon voting. A prime example is an argument that you should vote for a major party on the pretext that that is more likely to win, instead of voting for the minor party which holds policies with which you agree. This argument ensures you throw away your real choices, for a compromise with values you don’t own, for people you would rather not have in power and relinquish your one element of control to power brokers. I can only assume this must be very empowering for someone, just not the voter.

The reluctance to change your voting patterns despite disagreeing with what parties advocate is a common problem in every democracy.  Pensioners expressing anger at being shafted by the government, then declaring their continuance to vote for the same party, may seem odd to an outsider, but we know it happens.

Turnout % failure increasing in real numbers in recent decades.

Failure to comprehend essential policy differences underpins the high incidence of informal voting in Australia of around 6%. The percentages of voter turnout failures and eligible voters not registering has also increased over time, although offset recently by the Marriage Equality plebiscite voter enrolments. Informal vote margins could have changed outcomes in electorates and possibly even the election of 2016.  Many are content to throw away their only leverage in politics; protesting that we don’t like our options when we don’t know what our options are. These folk are highly disengaged with the ability to change politics but are very deliberate in expressing their political disappointment.

Left or Right

Other issues are the misperception of where your values lie on the spectrum between left and right wing, or “progressive” versus “tyrannical”.  Some other people are sufficiently misled in concepts of political theory to associate socialism with the Nazis or can’t distinguish between communism, socialism, capitalism and democratic socialism.

ABC’s insular perception of political positioning

To aid objective rationality researchers examine party policies, attempting to map a parties position on the political spectrum. The ABC’s vote compass tries to help voters understand their position relative to each of the main political parties. The ABC describes its online survey as a civic engagement application, where one can:

Based on a user’s responses to a series of propositions that reflect salient aspects of the campaign discourse, Vote Compass calculates the alignment between the user’s personal views and the positions of the political parties.

Its critics suggest it’s an insular Australia-centric representation of political ideology, treating the Labor Party as Left-wing party and the Liberals as Right-wing party.  The Greens and One Nations are treated as political extremists. The basis of the perception is that it reflects community attitudes. There is an apparent political reluctance for the ABC – and the “political scientists” who designed the “compass”, – to challenge the status quo or adopt an international perspective.

Democratic Socialism or Nationalist conservatism

The Liberal Party in Australia sees themselves as conservative which former prime minister John Howard described as a “broad church”. The Labor party still see themselves as a left-wing “democratic socialist party”. Oddly both Labor and Liberal suffer from the delusion that they are progressive parties who are at odds with each other when they are really merely in heated agreement. Some pundits legitimately note there are left and right factions within both Parties, but the party as a whole, cannot be both.  Both Labor and Liberal party candidates vote as a whole and discourage “crossing the floor“.

The party as defined by what its policies support, must by logical necessity, establish itself as either one or the other, independent of its internal divisions. As such, I am not interested in the individuals but the gestalt organisation. Also, I want to introduce a more global view of politics rather than the insular ABC Vote compass.   A broader international perspective lifts us away from the tedious bias criticisms levelled at the ABC from both “sides” of the political spectrum.

The shifting polarisations of localised political perspective over time.

How the world sees the political spectrum has changed since it was simplistically regarded as American capitalism versus the communist Soviet Union. This died with the Soviet Union’s restructure via Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika. In the latter part of the 1980s, as the walls came down in Berlin, perspectives changed. The attitudes of Menzies’ worship in the 1980s that framed perspectives for political engagement, for men like Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, and Christopher Pine at college, have shifted significantly.

The Global Compass

Political Compass positioning of Parties in 2016

The internet phenomenon of the political compass did not originate from the ABC but from further afield from an older body of political analysts, who review politics from an international perspective as opposed to our myopic national perception. “The Political Compass” has been analysing OECD democracies since 2001. Their perspective on the political positioning of Australian politics is very different and revealing. The political compass provides a much more accurate assessment of the exact nature of the political positioning of parties in the Australian democracy (and for that matter several other democracies such as the UK, Canada, America, Germany, New Zealand, Irish, and European Governments).

Previous Labor Party progression and direction change since 2016.

What is of particular interest to myself was to review their separately graphed analysis of each year to gain a perspective on how we have changed over time. To this end, I have overlaid the graphs from the last four elections as depicted by the analysis from to This show’s Labor as a right-wing authoritarian party that had been steadily marching further rightwards and more authoritarian until 2016 when it seems they took a back step.

Liberal policy blip leftwards corrected under Morrison and back on course.

It has primarily followed behind the Liberal party, which, although always further right in political ideology at any instance in time, shifted towards the centre in 2016. While this shift helped the Liberals under Turnbull win the 2016 election, the Right-wing factions of the Liberal Party subsequently reasserted themselves. After a challenge by former immigration ministers Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison, the conservative Morrison claimed the Leadership of the party.  The direction of the party reassumed the previous course to the Right.

National Party being utterly consistent and never swerving from the path.

Interestingly, the only party that has made no backstep at all was the National Party. They have stopped for nobody including their partners in the Liberal Party. If you are a right-wing voter who expresses some concern that the Liberal party has softened, then the Nationals have compromised for nobody. Neither, for that matter, has Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.

Menzies & Whitlam

White Australia Policy – Racist & misogynist

From 1949 to 1966 Sir Robert Menzies dominated conservative politics as the Prime Minister.  While described by contemporaries as the Father of the modern conservative movement he was far more pro-refugee, pro-family, pro-freedom, pro-middle-class as the “The Forgotten People” broadcasts showed, then the current manifestation of the Liberal Party. Despite his support for the racist White Australia policy (which is an attitude that has run consistently through his party for generations) his later dismantling the policy and ratification of the UN Refugee Convention was far more progressive than what is exhibited by his party today with their indefinite detention programs. The conservatives held power until 1972 when Australia reacted to a long run of conservative political leadership and voted Whitlam and his agenda into power. By 1973 Whitlam’s Government changed immigration laws to repudiate race as an issue.  Gough Whitlam from 1972 to 1975 shifted the political face of the country sharply to the left-wing.  From the perspective of where Australia had been, his policies seemed radical. Some suggest that in comparison with the world stage, Gough was predominately only playing catch-up with many more progressive countries that had already gone down the path Gough was following. He admitted this in his 1969 election policy speech in Sydney Town Hall about education. Though to many Australians, especially the Right-wing, it was radical politics. While “The Political Compass” has taken no stock or measure of what the Labor Party looked like then, I suspect given the history of the movement of the Labor party in the socioeconomic, political spectrum, and it would be fair to suggest it was legitimately a Left-wing party at that time. It has marched steadily rightwards in the decades that followed.

Strange bedfellows

The only significant left-wing parties in existence anymore according to “The Political Compass”, were the Democrats, Bob Katter’s party and the Greens. Sadly, Don Chip’s political ambitions to “keep the bastards honest”, has been mostly lost to history.  Bob Katter – while initially a member of the National Party – formed his party in 2011 and remained as a member of Parliament – neither gaining or losing ground. The Greens party, on the other hand, shifted towards the centre where the Democrats once trod, even taking on board as members, former state party politicians from the Democrats.

Labor catching up with the Nationals.

So regarding the left/right divides of the political spectrum, it is incorrect to think of it as between the ALP and the LNP. The real gap between left and right policies, ideologies, and social causes are primarily between the Greens on the left and the Labor/National/Liberal “coalition” on the right. Not of course, that the Liberals or Labor party would consider themselves in such an alliance, given their antipathy.  In 2013 the political compass placed the Labor Party’s positioning under Kevin Rudd, to the right of the National party’s position in 2007 under Mark Vaile.  Perhaps discovering the Labor party held a political policy position further to the right and closer toward authoritarian than the Liberal party’s partners (The Nationals) during the Howard years is undoubtedly challenging to some. While the conception of a Liberal/Labor coalition is unpalatable to both parties, keep in mind the Nationals under the Leadership of Barnaby Joyce had marched onwards unrelentingly rightwards and authoritarian and are no longer trailing behind the Liberal party the way Labor has done.

How far Right?

Small party movements and trajectories.

We should evaluate parties regarding their real and current political persuasions in the 21st-century rather than what they were in the 20th century under Menzies or Whitlam. The Labor “left” is no longer close to left-wing!  If the rise of far-right nationalist movements from National Action in the 1980s, to Australia First, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Rise Up Australia (RUA),  and the Australian Protectionist Party (APP), are any indicators, the two major parties are far more closely aligned. The political compass only charted One Nation in 2007 and 2013, but it is evident where on the spectrum it sits. In the absence of a re-evaluation for 2019, we must look to policy changes in parties to determine how far to the Right-wing sit Liberal, Nationals, One Nation and Labor. Given the bipartisan agreement around legislation and policies over initial Adani Coal mining support (although there are signs of change recently), refugee detention, Foreign interference, Encryption laws, journalists and whistle-blower repressionSocial media laws restraints, Low targets for NEG energywebsite blocking, the PM’s war powerscutting migrant welfare, Aged care funding cuts, costly education, private healthcare, Metadata retention, globalisation of trade, mandatory sentencing agendas, static Newstart allowancescriminalisation of abuse reporting and privatisation of public assets, it is not hard to deduce the policy direction. While they have differences on minimum wage (only recently), marriage equality, climate change, Medicare, tax cuts, Federal ICAC, negative gearing and infrastructure & economy, remember that the Labor party has voted with the Liberals for at least 40% of all Liberal legislative agendas since 2013.

How Far Left?

Greens and Liberals – just who are the “Neo-liberals on bikes”?

The only representative left-wing parties noted by the “The Political Compass”, were the Democrats, Bob Katter’s party and the Greens.  The Democrats being the only real centrists to speak of had largely exited the realm of political influence but have returned to contest 2019’s election. The Green’s have floated around on the left side of the political spectrum becoming more Libertarian/Progressive over time but lately shifting rightwards. The Greens have been disparagingly referred to as “neoliberals on bikes”, but while it is true, they have as a party moved rightwards they are by the Political Compass’s assessment a long way from the Labor/Liberal/National neoliberal agendas. The Democrats and Greens are the closest to centrist parties Australia has.

Beyond these parties, the “Political Compass” has not assessed other left-wing or progressive smaller parties. These would include the Pirate Party, the Arts Party, Science Party, Socialist Alliance, and Reason Party, amongst others. The rise of small parties has been marked, and while the Political Compass does not evaluate them, recent emergents have been summarised in the embedded link here.


As 2019 election draws close, whatever values you seek in a party, left or right, socially conservative or progressive, it behoves you to consider which party aligns to your values. So perhaps it is time to reassess both your perception of where your party of choice stands in relation to what you believe. As such “The Political Compass” test, may be revelatory.

The right-wing power Block and what we can expect for 2019.

In doing so, perhaps you might adapt the fixed impression you’ve held over the past, for where the party you’ve always voted for, has moved to in the dynamic and ever-shifting landscape of Australian politics.

If you are a member of any number of right-wing nationalist parties such as “Rise Up”, “Australia First”, “Love Australia or Leave”, then your mainstream preferences would likely be extended to One Nation, the Nationals and the Liberal party in that order. If that is too far right-wing for your liking, but you are still conservative, then the Liberal Party followed by Labor makes a good choice. If you are what many refer to as a conservative “small l” liberal or a mild to a moderate right-wing constituent, then the Labor Party is the only option left to the right. Should in that process, you discover your leanings are significant enough to the left of the Labor/National/Liberal/One Nation right-wing power block, then you have three main options in Bob Katter, the Democrats and the Greens and numerous small progressive party options to choose from, depending on if they have representatives in your electorate.

To many realising that “Labor” is a right-wing party and “The Greens” are the only progressive centrist mainstream party is disturbing enough to one’s decision process, without having to evaluate the real position of smaller parties. The public’s expectations of democracy in Australia are damaged enough already.

What’s in it for ……?

While there is inevitably, the hedonistic approach to politics, on which so many politicians count. All to garner your vote, with “What’s in it for me?”,  as opposed to “What’s in it for my country?”!  Might I remind you of the words of Gough Whitlam when writing in the London Daily Telegraph in October of 1989?

The punters know that the horse named Morality rarely gets past the post, whereas the nag named Self-interest always runs a good race.”


[1] Rebecca B. Morton, Daniel Muller, Lionel Page, Benno Torgler (2015) “Exit polls, turnout, and bandwagon voting: Evidence from a natural experiment”, European Economic Review, Volume 77, July 2015, Pages 65-81, Elsevier []

[2] David J. Lanoue and Shaun Bowler (1988), “Picking the Winners: Perceptions of Party Viability and Their Impact on Voting Behavior”, Social Science Quarterly Vol. 79, No. 2 (June 1998), pp. 361-377, []

[3] Fernandez-Vazquez, P., & Somer-Topcu, Z. (2017). The Informational Role of Party Leader Changes on Voter Perceptions of Party Positions. British Journal of Political Science, 1-20. []

[4] Craig Goodman, Gregg R. Murray (2007), “Do You See What I See? Perceptions of Party Differences and Voting Behavior”, American Politics Research, Volume: 35 issue: 6, page(s): 905-931 []

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches

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Anti-corruption models

By John Haly and Dr Martha Knox-Haly  

Transparency International’s official assessment released in January 2019, indicated that corruption grew in Australia.

During the current term of the Federal Coalition Government, Australia fell from 7th place to 13th place in 2015 and has not shifted since on Transparency International’s index. This relative stability is illusory. The indexed gap United Kingdom (80) and Austria (76) is the widest available for the top 20 least corrupt countries. The width of this gap has obscured Australia’s actual fall from 79 to 77. The latest review by TI was completed by September 2018, after which time new Federal Government scandals emerged:

  • Paladin corruption allegations,
  • Royal Commission findings on Banks,
  • No charges laid over questionable tip-offs on AFP’s union raid from Michaelia Cash’s office.
  • Northern Territory’s public service corruption charges

Federal ICAC proposals

This prompting renewed calls from the media and public for a federal ICAC to be established. Previously submitted by Sen Bob Brown in 2010, Adam Brant in 2012 & 2017, Christine Milne in 2013 and lately Cathy McGowan in 2018.  None of which have come to fruition.

In early 2018, the Australia Institute convened a panel of experts on the subject of the different forms of anti-corruption commissions, generating diverse political and legal reactions. The report’s recommendations remain unenacted despite growing corruption in our governance.

Apart from Tony Abbot begging the government not to create an integrity commission, both major political parties were at least considering such a commission. The Federal Labour party has promised to implement an anti-corruption agency based on the Australia Institute research. In the meantime, Cathy McGowen delivered her National Integrity Commission (NIC) legislation in the last week of November and the second bill for National Integrity Bill in early December. Despite a motion in support in Parliament, it was referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for a report due April 5th. Morrison was initially dismissing it as a “fringe issue”, rejected the McGowen model, offering the coalition’s version, which was neither retrospective, public nor able to make findings of corruption.

The debate has since become what model of Anti-corruption enforcement might actually be useful and agreed upon federally.

Corruption fight as a threat to democracy

How we structure and manage anticorruption commissions, matters.

Transparency International’s anti-corruption conference in Denmark in 2018 made a predictive and correct analysis of Brazil’s presidential elections based on what many saw as the failure of anti-corruption measures.  I attended a workshop in Copenhagen titled “The fight against corruption as a threat to democracy” predominately concerned with achieving increased transparency without political radicalisation. Jair Bolsonaros rise to power was a cautionary example.

The workshop concluded that an improperly managed anti-corruption body could be both ineffective and harmful to civil society, engendering populist movements and anti-establishment radicalism as manifested in Brazil. Corruption prevention by itself would not strengthen democracy and scandals could lead to:

  1. A power vacuum to be filled by even worse governance,
  2. Fuel cynicism towards politics,
  3. Entrench the idea that corruption is inevitable.

So we need to ask of any commission:

  • What should the characteristics of it be?
  • Is it a court or an investigative body
  • Does it secure prosecutions?
  • Should it raise community expectations of a transparent clean society?
  • To whom does it report?
  • Who is covered by this legislation?

In Singapore, the CPIB reports directly to the Prime Minister’s office, but in the era of Donald Trump, is a direct line to the top a good idea?  Does it cover civilian public servants, the private sector, the police? Should elected officials, including our Prime Minister, to be classed as public servants and answerable to this commission?

At this point, we come to the conflict that occurs between lawyers versus political/civil objectives. Legal experts have argued that public hearings risk reputational damage, but interestingly, even the Australian’s Mark Coultan noted that “ICAC routinely conducts priv­ate hearings before proceeding to a public inquiry.”  He went on to remind us that:

Mr Sturgess, head of the cab­inet office in the Greiner government when ICAC was established, warned that making all hearings private would radically alter the nature of the organisation.

When you consider that it was Ian Macdonald, found guilty of corruption, who said making hearings private was long overdue, it may be mindful to ask who seeks to gain the most from secret hearings? A lack of transparency will always hide corruption.

Lawyers also express concerns around the lack of the usual rules of evidence that exist around admissibility of evidence to these commissions.  For example, lack of available admissible evidence was why in the case of Bankstown and Strathfield councils in November of 2007 resulted in findings of corrupt conduct, but did not result in a referral to the Director of Public Prosecutions. This case essentially represented a tussle between criminal standards of evidence versus a civil good.

Conversely, it has been argued that public hearings play an essential role in engaging the public in democratic processes, and this is clear through regular community surveys. Transparency builds confidence in public institutions and giving whistleblowers a line of sight between their actions and consequences. Whistleblower Rebecca Connor’s mining corruption allegations could have been buried with parliamentary debate and committees. Although, parliamentary committees have upheld the principle of public hearings on several occasions. Assertions of unfair reputational damage overlook the detailed pre-investigative processes that preceded public hearings.

NSW ICAC regularly receives approval levels above 85% in community surveys. In states where hearings are conducted in secrecy such as Victoria’s IBAC or South Australia’s ICAC, there is little community awareness, and consequently has no role in building community confidence. The vast majority of the public perceives most, if not all, politicians are corrupt.

Positive perceptions of ICAC for the people of NSW over time.

The next important consideration is that operational legislation specifies the right to investigate, recommend charges, present reports to parliament, and pursue parliamentarians. The early successes of NSW ICAC from 1989 to 1993, and then later from 2011 to 2015 were facilitated by strong political will and commitment to transparency. A commission thrives or withers depending on the level of political favour. The first few years of an agency being established are marked by many legal challenges to its jurisdiction. Therefore, a dynamically supportive legislature is a must in addressing weaknesses exposed by legal challenges.

Does the commission have funding for a dedicated unit to provide advice around legislative reforms? One of the reasons for NSW ICAC’s success under Ian Temby QC was the existence of such a department which was able to provide advice on matters of legislative reform. [NSW ICAC Annual report 1991 pg 66]  There also needs to be a mechanism for independent evaluation of the ICAC’s budgetary needs, as investigations and public hearings are costly.

McGowan or Morrison’s model?

So how do the respective models offered by McGowan versus Morrison stack up? On 13th December 2018, Morrison announced a Commonwealth Integrity Commissioner (CIC), who would have oversight over a Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner and a Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. The new commission will have the power to investigate politicians and their staff but is not allowed to act on complaints raised by the public or reported in the media. It will not have public hearings and is designed to respond to allegations of criminal conduct. Criminal conduct represents a much narrower standard than what has been applicable for other state-level anti-corruption agencies, which had a broad mandate of investigating misconduct. Grey instances such as Susan Ley’s use of tax-payer funded travel to coincidentally inspect an investment property; Barnaby Joyce created a position for his partner or Peter Dutton’s profiting from Childcare facilities, or the lack of tendering for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority funding scandal would not be referred. Can the status quo be challenged as we sanction misconduct by directing it to internal review?

The CIC cannot make findings of corruption, misconduct or criminal matters. This stands in contrast to NSW ICAC which is allowed to make findings of contempt, corrupt conduct and report on recommendations for criminal charges.

Funding is estimated to be between $100 to $125 million and is considered inadequate. There is a proposal around mandatory reporting of corrupt conduct by public servants, but this does not include mandatory reporting by parliamentarians. It is not clear whom this commission will report to, or whether it would present publicly available reports to parliament. Not surprisingly, former NSW ICAC Commissioner David Ipp described the CIC as the “kind of integrity commission that you would have when you don’t want to have an integrity commission.

This article is based on the research by Dr Martha Knox-Haly in researchgate.

Dr Martha Knox-Haly is a clinical and organisational psychologist, researcher and author with more than twenty years experience in her profession and a private practice in Randwick, Sydney.

Her doctoral research (the fifth of six degrees to date) was in the area of political and economic history, as was her most recent book, “Workplace Stress versus Outcomes” which followed a previous publication “How to Stop Your Workplace Going Pear Shaped” which is a distillation of the author’s experience as a researcher, consultant, organisational psychologist. The latest book focused on the relationship between political and economic policies and quality of life indicators for employees and the general public. Her recent publications on Research gate include “ICAC and NSW Governments (1988-2016): Fighting Corruption in the Neoliberal State”.

Audio file from the conference:

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches.

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PaTH to Misery

By John Haly 

Internships ideally are supposed to equip young people with valuable skills for the development of modern work in the economy of the future. Yet our Australian Government believes entry-level jobs are logical points for internship training. Why else would Hungry Jacks be the skills development centre for young people seeking internships to launch them into their employment future?

Fast food restaurant employment requirements are low enough in status to be considered, entry-level, part-time or second jobs. It is a labour market with large turn-over, low pay and requires a skill set an unskilled teenager can quickly learn. The businesses themselves are often franchises with a formulaic capacity to direct food production, staff training and profit margins. 

Hungry Jacks is such an environment. While it can be argued that more significant skill sets are available, they would usually only be available to regular employees over timeExemplified by moving into administrative roles – such as managing inventory, training and supervising other employees. This is not the training that would be provided to unemployed interns doing 25 hours a week to cover Christmas demand under the Liberal’s PaTH program.

Social media has been reacting badly to the inclusion of Hungry Jacks in the Liberal’s PaTH program as depicted by this Meme. Having seen a significant reaction to it in my corner of social media, I thought of expanding on the response it generated, as well as correcting some impressions.

Hungry Jack social protest meme


First: The initial statement is technically correct, but it does imply – incorrectly – that the $200 a fortnight is all the intern receives by way of compensation. That is not so! The $200 is on top of their dole payment.  Newstart Allowance maximum is $550.00 per fortnight for a single person. This still leaves the intern with an income less than the minimum wage($18.93 per hour or $946.50 for an equivalent 50 hour fortnight) and under the poverty line ($433 a week for a single adult living alone or $866 a fortnight).

Newstart verses pension and wages

Second: Because some people don’t even read the meme properly, I have repeatedly read comments that suggest Hungry Jacks is somehow responsible for the underpayment. Morally perhaps, but in real terms, not at all. The truth is more venal, as they pay nothing for these interns and get a $10,000 bonus if they take them on as staff after the internship. These interns are paid out of the public common wealth of our government.

Third: Young job seekers don’t have a lot of choice about taking the internship because their job network provider threatens penalties if they don’t take the “job”. As Employment Minister Michaelia Cash confirmed, “It will be compulsory for all young job seekers within the first five months of being in receipt of welfare.” Like “Work for the dole”, which it is replacing, it is difficult to opt out. PaTH work also impedes one’s ability to spend time in search of serious work opportunities. This is aside from the question of whether serious work opportunities exist at all.

Fourth: Despite some passionate debate on social media, PaTH has little crossover with issues surrounding 457 visas (now called TSS visas) for foreign workers. The PaTH program is aimed at Australian workers on the dole, and foreign workers have no access to this. TSS workers already have paid work, and their numbers are small relative to the unemployed and job vacancies. Their impact on unemployment issues is highly exaggerated. The previous and current existence of TSS/457 workers were primarily a product of failures in education provision for Australians. Although both groups do have a common enemy, in employers rorting of the system for the exploitation of TSS and PaTH workers.

The distribution of 457 visa workers

Fifth: Hungry Jack’s misuse of the PaTH program was absolutely predictable, especially in their case – if you look back to 2011 – when they were fined $100,500 after underpaying almost 700 of its Tasmanian employees. The underpayment was over six times the amount of the fine – $665,695 between March 2006 and August 2008. They were a company whose track record demonstrated a predilection for seeking a way to abuse the system. There are no surprises here and very typical of corporate greed expectations.

PaTH’s Reality

Those explanations made, let’s look into what PaTH is designed to achieve.

What I am concerned about is that we are missing the longer term strategy about making the coalition look successful. The Coalition’s PaTH strategy was never designed to work as a method of employing people. You’ve missed the point if you believe that’s what they sought. Some early statistics showed the initial “success” rate of the program ending in paid employment, was less than 7% of the advertised unique internship vacancies. While legitimate complaints have said that is an unfortunate result – it was a bonus for the coalition if they achieved that. A success rate of 7% just gave Michaelia Cash extra ammunition she could, and did use.

We need to communicate that the combination of ABS methodology for measuring unemployment relies on certain assumptions. For example, if a Newstart recipient works for more than an hour (paid or unpaid) in four weeks, they are no longer registered as unemployed by the ABS. Unemployed people who cannot declare they are ready to work immediately, whether because of other commitments (i.e. children in the case of single parents) or because they are in a state of dysfunction (i.e. disability) that they cannot respond, are also eliminated. Unlike the more reliable Roy Morgan unemployment measures, the ABS’s methodology hides unemployed people. Being on the PaTH program also excludes you from the count. By assuming they were genuinely seeking to have it work to reduce real unemployment, means Australians have missed the more cleverly nuanced purpose of the PaTH program. The real political objective is to create an illusion of “jobs and growth“.

Variance between ABS and Roy Morgan’s unemployment stats

While not counting the unemployed, you can guarantee the coalition is counting any jobs “generated” by businesses that can acquire workers at no cost to themselves. The business makes $1000 per head and – if they turn out to be exceptional workers – can employ them with a $10,000 bonus for doing so. Free labour and income is a significant boost for any business. Retail and service business are disincentivised from taking on casual staff they have to pay to manage increased demand over the Christmas/New Year period, in preference for the PaTH interns.

In short, ABS combined with the PaTH interns program is a masterful mirage that as implemented will create the “Jobs and Growth” in all the areas they want it to occur, but none of them the Australian unemployed really need! It is not about jobs but the “illusion of them” because the Liberals have no plan to generate significant numbers of real paid jobs. Instead, this rather ingeniously manufactured neoconservative illusion that is designed to pass back our common public wealth to the private sector. All the while conning the public that they are creating jobs and growth. Entirely predictable as I outlined back in mid-2016.

Coalition employment results?

Have our unemployment stats dropped significantly after my last PaTH article in 2016, according to ABS? Yes, June 2016 unemployment was at 5.8% and is now down to 5% in November! Have they dropped significantly for the same dates according to more robust unemployment measures such as those utilised by Roy Morgan? Very slightly it appeared, as unemployment measured at 9.6%, and it is now 9.5%! Keep in mind, although, that the size of the workforce in June of 2016 was 12,990,000 and it grew to 13,585,000 by last November. That means 9.5% in 2018 is way larger than 9.6% in 2016. In 2016, 9.6% represented only 1,247,000 unemployed people whereas in November of 2018 9.5% grew to 1,291,000 unemployed citizens. Draw your own conclusions.

Poor Job Vacancy opportunities for the Under and Unemployed

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches

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The Banality of Evil

By John Haly 

When we contemplate great evil, who comes to mind? Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Idi Amin, Kim Il Sung, Josef Mengele, Saddam Hussein, Emperor Nero and so on? Too easy. The reasons are apparent, the history unrefuted and the weight of affirming opinions near universal.

We all like to think of evil as insidious, intentional, cruel, focused and malodorous even. Isn’t “evil” patently recognisable by its social maladjustment? That is the comfortable illusion of how “good folk” describe evil to distinguish ourselves from it. So it may be surprising to hear that according to psychologists nobody thinks of themselves as evil. We self-justify actions and beliefs. Folks may hold their irrationality within their mindset, as they persist with the delusion of being the good guys.

Hitler, for example, grew up in a time where he experienced the open expression of anti-Semitism. He didn’t create anti-semitism, it was his honest belief, that the Jews were responsible for the economic hard times of other Germans in the post-war years. Seems almost banal, doesn’t it?

Chase Replogle writes “Arendt coined the phrase, the ‘banality of evil.’ You can define banal as, ‘so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.’ What Arendt observed was that evil feeds not just on extremism, but just as frequently on our banality. Sin works its way deepest into the most boring and apathetic lives.”

We often don’t recognise evil amidst banality as it is human nature to separate “evil” from our apathy, ignorance, “benign neglect”, “thoughtless bureaucracy”, or our an innate desire to please our perceived “superiors”. Aren’t we all just inclined to follow orders? Resistance is hard, besides “who has the time to protest”? Perhaps you vote for the good guys (however or whomever you decide are the “good guys“), and in that single choice, you make once every three years, some may consider their duty complete. “That’s a democracy“, you cry. As though to comfort ourselves we say, “I’ve done the right thing; I’m not evil or fascist!

The evils of indecision

Last century’s Version of Fascism

But then who is fascist? Is it what it was or what it will be? How often do we accuse the comparative justification of calling the alt-right “fascist” as being too radical? “Nobody is exterminating minorities in gas chambers” one may say defensively. But recall that Hitler took seven years to bring Germany to war. When was it a step too far?

  1. When he was promoted to Chancellor on a minority vote in a democracy?
  2. When he consolidated the Nazi Party’s control of Germany and secretly rebuilt its army from 1933 to 1935?
  3. When he only talked for years about the possibility of expelling Jews and removing their civil rights?
  4. When he was objectifying women as subservient for reproductive purposes with no place in key influence roles?
  5. When he disengaged from the Treaty of Versailles in 1936 and war-tested his military in the Spanish Civil War?
  6. When he shifted non-german foreigners and Jews into gulags or race specific ghettos?

A thousand banal little steps were undertaken in the decade after the Nazi Party grew from 12 seats in the Reichstag to 107 seats in 1930. By the 1940s his troops were frog-marching across Europe and throwing people into gas chambers. When would you have stopped him or protested or objected in that decade? Neither current parties of the Australian nor American government have been in power as long as Hitler before the war (Jan 1933 to Sep 1939).

When I raised a draft version of the above paragraphs in social media, I was warned, “I think comparison with the holocaust needs to used carefully. The Germans did not just “go along” with the Nazi’s they fought against them until a police state was imposed upon them – while most of the political class stood by till it was too late.” This statement, although, was not entirely valid, as the elite of German society did embrace Hitler enthusiastically. While it is true that some “good” people resisted fascism, as they do today, many others, including Jews didn’t realise the consequences. Irrespective of resistance or because of obliviousness the Nazis still marched across Europe, so perhaps it is a moot point. Contemporaneously the problem is, as always, identifying how fascism has evolved. This awareness is painful for many, as they only want to recognise it in the form it took 80 years ago.

This Century’s version?

Despite refutations of such positions, Perhaps because that was before your lifetime and people are so more “woke” now, it is all very different. So let’s explore into what it may have evolved. Have your responses evolved?

  1. Did you react when Donald Trump seized power via the electoral college on the votes of a minority?
  2. Did you respond when Trump began to refocus on the military?
  3. How about when he spoke of expelling Mexicans and Muslims?
  4. Did his objectifying of women whom he grabbed by the pussy upset you?
  5. Did launching air strikes in Syria or breaking established treaties caused you concern? Paris climate accord, Iran Deal, TPP, or NAFTA?
  6. Did locking children in Gulags and separating many permanently from their parents, upset you?
Australian wannabe

OK, so perhaps America has dysfunctional parallels, but we in Australia are markedly different some may claim.

Our politicians are more subtle and more sophisticatedly communicators than Trump. Still, what were your responses in these circumstances?

  1. When 41.8% of all voters voted for the coalition in 2016, did you defend and justify the preferences system for its selection of what the majority wanted?
  2. When Abbott started spending billions on faulty American aircraft, late running Submarines and involved us in America’s pointless Syrian war, did our propensity for violence concern you?
  3. When the social dialogue about banning Muslims entered the political fear mongering, did you speak in defence of the vast majority of adherents to a peaceful religious code?
  4. When misogyny became a familiar and recognisable feature of legislation and leadership, did you say this went too far and defended women?
  5. When Indigenous treaties were scrapped, and political impetus arose that sought to have us withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement were we at all surprised?  Did Morrison’s undermining of Refugee Convention obligations, all while adding to our refugee push-factor in bombing raids in Syria, cause alarm?
  6.  When we against any decent moral code not only locked innocent adults and children in gulags for the “crime” of being foreign and desperate and then began actively resisting efforts to provide medical assistance to children, did any sparrows die?
Policies for the people?

On such subjects, the coalition argues that we need secure border protection for an Island like Australia with minimal 150 km of sea between us at the tip of Queensland and Papua New Guinea to fight off refugees. Even though the majority of refugees fly in and by-pass our secretive “on water matters” border protection. There are many absurdly opposing arguments, such as desperately trying to entwine refugee policy with the war on terror. Money, alternatively, is unavailable for the likes of education, health, social and legal justice, wage equality, mediocre wage growth and affordable housing, utilities food or justice. This absurdity of fearmongering about refugee crime suggests we need be strong and prepared for an invasion of terrorism in our population but simultaneously drives policy to make our community uneducated, poor, unhealthy, un-housed, oppressed and socially divided.

So just because we can see the correlation between what we thought was the progress towards evil and contemporary examples of the same, does it mean we should rethink real “evil”? I mean we all accept that these things happen in society. Unfortunate, perhaps but “evil”. Let’s try to compromise surely. “We are doing this for your security and to save you from the threat of terrorism,” says our politicians. “You will hardly notice it”, they say. Moreover, that last part is right. Like the gradually heated frog in the pot you don’t mainly notice it, and by the time the pot boils, it is way too late.

Equality in Australia: How we treat anyone without wealth.

What we don’t discuss over dinner

“Isn’t that politics”? “I’m not political”. “I disengage from that stuff”. What was it Martin Luthor King said? “All that needs to happen for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing.” Do we by our silence, allow all of that to happen? Perhaps we are too busy to notice the correlations, too compromised by our selfish preoccupations, perhaps we don’t care. However, surely that isn’t bad. Surely that isn’t “evil”.

Amidst the same social media post commentary I previously referenced one gentleman wrote “most people aren’t evil just caught up in their own lives… “and in this contemporary society this is, unfortunately, both accurate and a misconception.

The unheeded dark side

Distractive Accuracy

“Accurate” because of our history of

Productivity and wages unlinked

Being “caught up in our own lives” is true because of more extended hours with reduced skill sets for less pay and bigger bills. These are the results of deliberate bi-partisan political policy choices. We should never forget that policies designed to redistribute wealth upwards, increase inequality, engage in a civil war on society using the tools of racism and attacks on a range of marginalised groups, have a deliberate purpose.

It’s not like there isn’t plenty of issues to raise, provided we can raise ourselves

Misperceived evils

A “misperception” because as an act of self-protection of ego, we protest that we are not evil, just a little compromised, more compliant, obedient or scared of being socially ostracised, perhaps?” As I said before, evil is integral to life’s banality; it is everyday ordinary barely conscious choices we make. It exists in the tiny, tired, “I don’t have the time“, “it’s not that bad“, “there are worse situations” excuses we tell ourselves to support the choices we make. Evil is not in the individual decision but the cumulative. It takes thousands of bad collective small choices made over years, that lead to the exclamation of “how the f#ck did we get here?” as we watch border patrol march down our streets, while our “authorities” detain and abuse our children and bash our disabled neighbours.

Worry not, you’re safe!

But fret not, if you never raised a voice in protest, then they are unlikely to arrest or hamper you because you played it safe with your daily banality. You remained silenced by indecision and compromise; you respected authority and the status quo; you defended the need for thoughtless bureaucracy and realised it was too much work to improve your knowledge of history and politics. Besides, our administration is acutely aware from their study of your metadata, your phone messages, your Facebook posts, and even your TV set-top box that you’re still compliant, malleable, cooperative, collaborators but never, really, truly, magnanimously, unambiguously … “evil”?

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken – Ignite your torches.

A Climate of Opinion

By John Haly 

The battle for climate change mitigation is euphemistically referred to as a “debate” amidst ideologically restrained political advocates that still think there are legitimate oppositional interpretations about it, to respect.

When opinions replace facts in a “post-truth” world, the result may be that confusion and ideology reign inappropriately in society. The increasing occurrence amidst western nations of the populist right, fascism and the rejection of science have manifest to generate a new dark age. Climate change denialists champions include Donald Trump (USA), Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Recep Erdoğan (Turkey), – and further down the list – Scott Morrison (Australia).

The sea of opinions

Like fish swimming in the water, human social exchange swims in a sea of opinions. Facebook, Twitter and online commentary in the news media are awash with a flood of emotionally charged views fought with passionate debates, justifying links, populist rhetoric and ad hominems. The truth may emerge but catching glimmers of it, is as elusive as panning for gold.

The other day after some back and forwards over the subject of immigration my temporary antagonist finally resorted to “I think we have to agree to disagree on this one.” At which point I replied, “We do indeed” and more or less left the conversation with him. (Aside from an amusing sideline with a close friend of my antagonist who made some wry observations of him.) It fell into a case of a civil agreement, to disagree. Isn’t it all just a matter of opinion?

The Olive Curse

Well no. For example, my wife loves olives, and I hate them. It’s my opinion that olives are a curse rendered on humanity by unkind gods sent to torture one’s palate.  My belief about olives is a matter of opinion. The only consequence is when I get a salad with olives, I pass them to my wife’s plate.  She thinks they are a blessing that I am prepared to fork over, whenever I encounter them. Apart from our culinary differences, there are many other times opinions matter and have more serious consequences.

Schools Strike

I spent the afternoon of Friday the 30th of November with my son at the #StrikeForClimate protest in the city. My son – after canvassing his schoolmates who were unaware of the rally – was worried that hardly anyone would turn up. When we turned the corner from George St into Martin place, I pointed up at the massive crowds of thousands of kids and said, “Have a look, you think no one is turning up now?”. He muttered something incomprehensible, but I noted the smile emerging on his face.

The sheer crowds of children at the climate protest that my son was delighted to discover.
Sequence of Events

There are opinions that climate change is a natural cycle of events for which humans bear no responsibility. Other opinions blame humankind’s waste and dirty extractive industries. Unfortunately, the opinions have vastly significant consequences, not the least of which may be the end of civilisation as we know it. Dramatic, yes, but the sequences of the events have already begun.

As temperatures rocket and “hottest on record” becomes a catchphrase,

  • coastal regions are swamped,
  • agricultural crops fail,
  • food shortages escalate,
  • numbers of climate refugees swell,
  • plant, insect and animal life permanently migrate,
  • consequential diseases emerge in areas never encountered before,
  • and the health and welfare of the planet’s human inhabitants are endangered.

Another opinion such as Scott Morrison’s idea that climate change is “nonsense”  fly in the face of concerns by other nations.  If Morrison’s scepticism were true, would mean there is nothing we can do about stopping climate change. If Morrison’s opinions are false, then there is everything that we can do to stop it.

So these sorts of opinions matter enormously. In these cases, you don’t have a right to your personal opinion divorced from truth, if the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. Especially if your erroneous view affects what actions we take. As indeed it does in the case of the conservative government who are beholden to wealthy extractive industry leaders who financially support their opinions to profit in the short-term. When my late (small-l liberal) father argued against anthropomorphic climate change with me, I asked him, “On what planet is it a good thing to pollute your environment?” While he conceded the point, there is always the sense of condescension that the older folk have to the previous generation. None so apparent as the criticism of young people skipping school.  They were castigated by politicians before their protest over the lack of climate change mitigation had even begun.

Follow the History and Money

Despite this, our children took to the streets around the nation in protest of the destruction of their future. They have no ties to corporate ideology nor are they being paid off by extractive industry donations.

It is a truth that the extractive industries knew about the problems with CO2 and overheating the planet for decades. The extractive industries were predicting the effects of industrial pollutions effects on heating our climate in the 1980s. Despite years of research and technology advances and scrutiny over 40 years, our scientific research has done nothing else but confirm what Shell and Exxon knew and then actively falsely denied.

So it is way past time we had our kids still shouting about it in the streets. There is nothing temporary or theoretical about the findings: these have been confirmed! We should have legislated against polluting industries decades ago. Our failure to commit to climate change mitigation should be a criminal offence!

Exxon’s own scientific research from 40 years ago has only confirmed what we still know today.
Remember Tobacco?

This resistance is hardly the first or last battle the scientific community will have with uneducated or compromised opinions. Who recalls a very similar “debate” over whether or not, smoking causes cancer? US tobacco companies were well aware of tobacco’s effects on health, in the same manner, Exxon was about climate change but denied it publically for years. These companies fought every attempt to speak the truth. It is only in the last few years that these companies have been dragged kicking and screaming into public self-confession. As the truth has diminished their market,  Tobacco companies are moving into new smoking markets as Altria is in talks to buy the Cronos group.  Therein lies new issues for another discussion.

Vaccinations have saved lives and eradicated entire diseases from the spectrum of deadly and disabling ailments on this planet.  Yet, the anti-science brigade of anti-vaxxers that have a long history of obstinate rejection is expressing opinions which threaten the safety of the greater community and again, our children.

Your Right to an Opinion

If your opinion doesn’t align with the reality, then you need to get the hell out of the way.  I would argue that you don’t have a right to hold that opinion and prevent necessary risk mitigation that is going to save lives. Unfortunately, this is what our errant government is doing, and which our kids stood up to be counted, in opposition on Friday. When it is the children (not the adults) in the US, who are the ones standing up to archaic gun laws because they are averse to being killed, what does this say of the older generation? Similarly, it is children in Australia, that dare to stand up and protest because they too want a future beyond the lifetime of greedy, corrupt old men who want to die rich. Who are the Adults now?

So no, there are times when you don’t have a right to your opinion and the current race to save humanity from climate change is one of those times. It is – on the other hand – way past time, to stand up and be counted.

And my son was afraid noone might turn up at the protest.
This article was originally published on John’s blog Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches, and has been reproduced with permission.

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Comparative corruption and transparency

By John Haly 

The media and public’s desire for a Federal anti-corruption body and the search for revealing transparency has met with a lagging response by the government. From the mantra of “on water matters” when resisting transparency around refugee issues to the failure to submit Peter Dutton to the High Court over his extraordinary profiting from the public purse, the lack of transparency is wearing thin with the public. As the media scrutiny digs deep into the hidden recesses of the largess to ministers provided by government coffers, the public is finding their protests about the “double dipping” of mothers or the “lifters and leaners” or justification of “Robo debt” claims, a tad hypocritical.

The years of shielding the banks from the scrutiny of what the royal commission has revealed, while these same banks donated millions over time to their political coffers, has upset the public. Especially as they have often been the victims of these banking scams. That successive prime ministers wanted to offer millions in tax welfare as a gratuitous icing on the cake above and beyond protecting them from their crimes, was seen as very “rich”.

That Morrison could claim that he was unaware of the long history of banking fraud and money laundering or saw it as nothing more than a “populist whinge“, flies in the face of what banks have been seen to do here and across the globe. Repeated inquiries into the banks from the Wallis inquiry in 1997 to the Murray inquiry in 2015 and the equally numerous scandals from merely this century, from NAB concealing losses in 2004 to CommInsure payments scandal in 2016, have demonstrated clearly that unregulated banks will always misbehave. There was never any legitimate grounds for not having a Royal Commission, but the government resistance was palpable. As with most cases of corruption and graft to be found in Banks, isn’t it always recommended that one “follow the money”?

Meanwhile in Denmark

On the international scale, one has only to look at the Danish Banks in a country routinely near the top of the Transparency International index. As the Danish government hosted the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Copenhagen on the 22nd of October 2018, the scandal of the Danske Bank was prevalent in the media. The national Danish Chair of Transparency International, Natascha Felix, welcomed the collective audience to three days of workshops and discussion groups. She spoke specifically of the failure of control systems that “allows individuals to steal from the most vulnerable populations in Denmark” and how a Danish bank laundered millions of dollars. The rather ironic timing of Denmark holding this conference and their banking scandal was a subject that came up many times in the course of discussions that followed. The illusion that Denmark was immune to the sin of corruption because of its view that it was an isolated island of progressive values, had been dealt a significant blow. Natascha Felix noted that while Denmark had often been at the top of the Transparency International index, “it doesn’t mean that power and access doesn’t corrupt the Danes.

Opening of IACC conference in Bella Centre’s Congress Hall in Copenhagen, Denmark

One of Natascha’s important opening points was that “when it comes to corruption there is so much more at play than rules and regulations and procedures”. For example, locking people in German gulags in the mid-1940s was legal whereas smuggling Jewish people out of Germany was illegal. In a contemporary example, locking up asylum seekers – who have no criminal charges laid against them – in gulags has been legal for years in Australia. Current illegalities have echoes of the German past. When even so much as reporting crimescommitted against “legally innocent people” while working in these gulags, is illegal, the roles of values and ethics that transcend laws of convenience are significant. Corruption and oppression championed by poorly drafted laws and regulations, does not make the actions of governments less corrupt.

Natascha Linn Felix presenting at the opening of the 18th IACC

Australia’s fall

Australia held the enviable position of being 7th in the world in the Transparency index in 2013, but since the coalition government has been in power, we have dropped to 13th. This is still an enviable position, especially after I was confronted by a response about that fall, by the former Syrian Minister, Abdullah Al Dardari. While on a panel in a workshop at the IACC conference, he gave an amused response to my query about how Australia should proceed. “I will take Australia at any time now … this is a different planet, what you are talking about … 13th, [we’ve] never been 150th”. While many in the audience laughed, context on the international scale can be quite sobering. (Just in case you were curious, Syria comes at 178th, so you can see why the ex-minister suggested my concerns were “from another planet”.) Still, we are not without our battles to seek better from our governments regarding transparency and the absence of corruption.

Abdullah Al Dardari answering questions in the Conflict and Development workshop

As Denmark and our own experience demonstrate, being amidst the top end of the transparency index doesn’t mean our governments and banks and institutions will not make every effort to rob you blind and quite literally, rob the dead.

What we may never have heard

Corruption still holds sway in robust democracies with independent judicial and media oversight. Were we in Syria, it is unlikely we would even hear of banking scandals, much less have any official inquiries. Nor might we have heard that Peter Dutton made $5.63 million from direct subsidisation of his childcare facilities for which he voted. Perhaps it didn’t occur to him there was a conflict of interest? Nor might we have heard of his submission to build a third childcare unit, which is a remarkable interest in children despite his ongoing and robust resistance to other children in his care receiving medical care. Perhaps his interest is not the children, one might speculate?

Nor might we hear about:

I am stopping here although I am sure dear reader you can find many more.

Helicopter scandals, perks & privileges should face a Federal ICAC

Whereas attempts to pork barrel electorates whether it be Barnaby Joyce or a Wentworth by-election will always receive high publicity under any regime as long as it was positive and complimentary. Negative stories like Joyce’s condemnation of women to cervical cancer deaths would, of course, be wholly suppressed where less robust protections for journalists exist.

We are not Syria, but …

Corruption is multifaceted and has high-level impacts of any country, and even if we are not the worst, we are infected by its influence.

So we are not Syria. We do hear of, or have a public reaction to, and legal stoushes over, the apparent corrupt conduct of our political leaders, banks and institutions. And with respect to Abdullah Al Dardari’s entirely appropriate observation that we in Australia are “on a different planet”, compared to what he has had to battle in his roles in Syria and later the United Nations, it is a fight none of us should relinquish because there are darker shades of grey. To have fallen to 7th to 13th on the international transparency index – although to over a hundred other nations that is still enviable – it is indicative of a systematic weakening of our democracy. We are on a downward track which our government is responsible for, as are we who do not hold them accountable. We are a lucky country compared to so many, and ours is an elevated state we have taken for granted. For a long time, we’ve remained politically disengaged, proud of apolitical inclinations, unwilling to take stand over the dinner table on behalf of the struggle of others, lest we offend our privileged white neighbours. We have paid scant attention to the slippage that once it gains momentum, will career downwards unless we put our backs against our pedestal and push hard.

This article was originally published on John’s blog Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches, and has been reproduced with permission.

It was also published on Independent Australia as Comparing Australia’s transparency and corruption with the world.

Climate recalcitrance

By John Haly 

“Recalcitrant” is what Prime minister Keating once described Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir over economic considerations with APEC. In this century, “recalcitrance” has become a term more readily applied to the current persistently pro-coal conservative Government over issues of ecology.

On the 8th of October 2018, as I was leaving Korea, I noted the first Green Climate Fund’s Global NDA Conference at the Hyatt Conference Halls had commenced next door to where I had been staying.

Having addressed climate and economic policy failures by the Australian Government recently, I became interested in how these representatives of the global community were discussing climate investment opportunities to facilitate the reduction efforts against greenhouse gas emissions.

Later the next day, I learned that during the opening sessions it was reported that Thelma Krug, the Vice Chair of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said “The IPCC report is a bridge between the science and policymakers – limiting the temperature increase to 1.5℃ is not impossible.

At the same conference, Jim Skea, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group noted, “Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.

Jim Skea, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group

There was an evident emergence of urgency arising within this conference that repeatedly referenced the IPCC Special Report of Global Warming. It is only with immediate and focused effort can we prevent global temperatures rising above 1.5°C. (The report is available at which includes its summary for policymakers.)

The question on everyone’s mind is, of course, are we up to that challenge and can we do it in time? It is well observed in literature and public commentary that the greatest obstacle to adoption of climate change mitigation is not the science, but the political policymakers and their conservative media support. Notable is their reluctance to take scientific advice over significant business lobbying and financial donations. Hence the desire to either shift the climate change discussions away from the political arena or build a “bridge” the economic policymakers of the world have to cross. The later is what the IPCC report attempts to address.

Back in Australia, the IPCC report bridge to our policymakers seems to have suffered the same fate as that of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen in 1945 at the end of World War 2. It similarly, has been captured by allied forces (western political democracies such as Australia and America), and they are hell-bent on no one crossing it. Hopefully destroying that metaphysical bridge will be as difficult as was the physical one. Although that analogy is troublesome because when they eventually destroyed the Ludendorff Bridge, it was never rebuilt.

Regarding climate change mitigation policies, legislation, measures and institutions the CLIM index (for measuring these factors comparatively for 95 countries) places Australian 55th in the world somewhere after Mongolia and Egypt but doing marginally better than Belarus and Uzbekistan both of whom have economies that are heavily based on fossil fuels. Just as a point of comparative interest, the United States is 45th in the world.

Meanwhile back in South Korea (18th on the CLIM index), the participants at the Global NDA Conference know that the South Pacific and Asian regions have the most to lose if climate change is not mitigated.  Across the continent from the Korean NDA conference, the South China Morning Post had previously reported. “Australia’s new prime minister will not revive plans to embed carbon emissions targets in law, a thorny issue that triggered the ousting of his predecessor in a party coup.” It is not merely a matter of “revival” of policy plans but hostility to even considering implementing any. Pressure by the Institute of Public Affairs (the policy lobbying arm of the Liberal conservatives) to exit the Paris Climate agreement is exemplified by their policy propaganda piece, “Why Australia must exit the Paris Climate Agreement”.

In the early history of that “party coup”, it was evident the conservatives held out hope that Dutton’s potential rise to power meant an end to the Paris Climate accords. While the emerging choice of Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has ruled out exiting the Paris Climate accord, he has decided to deny any further funding to the global climate fund. Claiming in an interview; “I’m not going to spend money on global climate conferences and all that nonsense.” So I can assume it is safe to imagine that the Australia government was not contributing to the NDA conference in Korea, despite Australians having contributed to the IPCC report.

Australia’s recalcitrance in following the leadership of European and British nations in preference for American policy adherence is disheartening and irresponsible. The failure of leadership on climate change by Australian Politics is well recognised even abroad in other countries. Ironically, the delays on mitigating climate change risks instituted by one Australian Prime Minister had previously been considered a luxury we could not afford.

Strong opinions held by Malcolm Turnbull

While the political ideology denies the science in preference for economic overtures and lobbying of financially significant fossil fuel interests, the future of the planet and our collective ability to survive climate change is at stake.

Back on October 9th the Deputy prime minister and leader of the National Party, Michael McCormack stated:

I’m very much supportive of the coal industry. I understand the IPCC report, and I’ll certainly consider what it has to say, but the fact is coal mining does play an important part of our energy mix in Australia and will do so going forward. [The government is not about to change policy] just because somebody might suggest that some sort of report is the way we need to follow and everything that we should do.”

Since the report has emerged, the government has not backed down from this position and confirmed their rejection of the IPCC report to back away from coal power over the next 30 years.

For a country replete in land and sunlight for setting up solar power generation, the excuses against transitioning our energy supply are feeble. Options include intermittent power supplies provided by solar panels, to the 24-hour power supply of solar reflectors heating molten saltsWind and geothermal, although intermittent, backed by the hugely successful battery storage exemplified by the much faster supply response by the South Australian Tesla batteries set up by Elon Musk, is also potentially plentiful.  Scotland expects to harvest all its electricity via renewable means by 2020 and California expects to be complete by 2045. While this nation and state had both different starting points, what has made the difference is not technology, but a political imperative to pursue the goal to not continue to heat the planet.

We have untapped employable resources in Australia, with already 2.383 million people under and unemployed and not enough job vacancies to absorb even 8% of that number. We have the educational resources with 42 universities and 59 TAFE institutions dispersed across metropolitan and regional areas of Australia. This is, despite a concerted effort by conservatives, to restrict access to education. Spending money on innovation, employment and educational resources to boost climate change mitigation infrastructure is a clear growth strategy for our economy, according to the Treasury. Other Nations have demonstrated evidence that climate mitigation has been economically prosperous. What we don’t have, is the political will to act to survive anthropomorphic climate change.

Fear mongering about climate change mitigation by the Liberals, the IPA and mining/coal lobbyists is not based on evidence or the examples of nation-states on this planet. Climate change disharmony (evidenced by increasing global heatwaves, and abnormal climate events) on the other hand, are increasingly apparent. Scientists and experts at these conferences have for decades repeatedly warned us, time is running out, and we need to act soon and fervently. If big business lobbying and political ideology are all that stands in the way of averting a climatic breakdown, then we as Australians need to vote out of office anyone who even remotely risks the future of our planet, in preference for greed and power.

This article was originally published on:

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The wages of pollution is tax

By John Haly

How is it that recent parliamentary bloodletting over tax breaks and electricity pricing continues to detract from steady planetary exsanguination?  Are we now to accept that farm tours, milk levies and infrastructure spends are to be the ready tourniquets for our Australian economy?  The political focus on Tax breaks to increase wage rates while the world’s climate renders economics a mute subject, for a planet less habitable, is a distraction we probably can’t afford long-term.  The political rhetoric around these subjects is diversionary, and there is little truth expressed in the alleged relationships between these subjects.

Wages Stagnate

Wage stagnation has a long historical path dating back decades with the dismantling of industrial relations and neo-liberal politics from both Labor and Liberal governments.  Nowadays, even the ordinarily conservative mainstream media is conceding that wage growth is stagnating in Australia and the cost of living accelerating beyond even the means of the employed.  The costs of living in Australia are not at all aided by the increasing costs inherent in power bills (if we are still able to maintain a home) or food (irrespective of where we sleep at night).

All classes of income suffer near identical CPI cost rises

CPI measures a broader range of costs faced by the public, but the news is grim for every income source.  It is worse although than what is illustrated by CPI measures. In general, the CPI fails to account for substitution and it also fails to factor in the price of housing and the cost of financing. Housing has increased at a disproportionate rate until very recently. The signs of foreign buyers falling in the market were identified back at the end of 2016 when Australia suffered a GDP decline in the 3rd quarter of 2016. Though the fall in housing prices is not expected to stop anytime soon, the cost of housing relative to wages will continue to be unaffordable for increasing numbers of wage earners.

All classes of income suffer near identical CPI cost rises

Beyond the broad-ranging statistics many of the embedded linked articles in the paragraph above, there are some interesting reflections by business magnate Dick Smith as his food business faces closure.  Dick Smith blamed Aldi and Amazon for the demise of his business revenue. He suggested these enterprises had “forced him out of business” because they can sell at a meagre cost.  Many in social media lamented this iconic Aussie brand’s impending demise, but few dug deeper to be asking why it was customers could not afford the luxury of supporting Australian products.  In a country where over 3 million live below the poverty line, there is an established class of the working poor, a depletion of income by the abolition of penalty rates, a diminishing middle class; it is no wonder people can not afford the indulgence of supporting iconic Aussie brands. The “demand” may diminish along with the profits, which leads to the Tax debate.

Tax Debate

Instead of raising the minimum wage, reinvigorating penalty rates, or a cessation on undermining the manufacturing industry and public service, only “significant” solution to low wages and the tide of unemployment offered by the coalition is Tax incentives that predominately benefit one class of Australians – the already very wealthy. The presumption that wealth and employment will Trickle down from corporations to the public is an economic theory without any real-world evidence and plenty that it does anything but trickle down.

Productivity and wages unlinked

Providing Tax breaks enables companies to retain more profit for the business, pay dividends, engage in share buybacks (as they have in America following Trump’s tax breaks) and store profits in offshore tax havens such as Luxembourg, Bermuda, the British Caribbean, Panama or our former Prime Minister’s favourite, the Cayman Islands. Companies exist to benefit shareholders or have everyone in the Liberal party forsaken the demand requirements of business economics? Newly minted Prime Minister Morrison’s shift to small and medium businesses for his tax breaks reflects only the inability for him to pass the breaks for larger companies through the Senate. One presumes that smaller businesses, like Dutton’s childcare services, will not just benefit from direct subsidies from the government, but now, generous tax cuts.  Is one to presume that Mr Dutton will begin to pay his workers larger salaries?

No business employs anyone for which there is not a demand created for sales or a regulatory imposition that they do so.  Unless it is a not-for-profit NGO, it’s not a charity. If the existing demand for the company’s goods and/or services doesn’t initiate the need for employment, then no job vacancies are created. Demand is reduced when the public can not afford your products and/or services. A depressed economy where the people have low wages and little resources creates diminished demand which is the reflections of the Australian retail market when business is down.  Fortunately rising population (predominately via migration), and employment (even though at a diminishing rate and increasingly often part-time employment) keeps money flowing in the economy for retail sales to ebb and grow, although lately only at 0.4%. Amazingly, without real-world evidence, trickle-down economics is still “selling” to the public mindset. Unfortunately, “trickling” of any sort is in short supply in drought-ravaged Australia.

Climate Mitigate

The trepidatious concerns of the conservative political pundit are that climate change mitigation risks harming the economy. Despite the apparent value inherent in jobs and demand in the renewable energy industry, government literature attempts to downplay the severity.  The Quarterly update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, updated for March 2018, says: “Annual emissions for the year to December 2017 are estimated to be 533.7Mt CO2-e. This represents a 1.5% increase in emissions when compared with the previous year.”  But in the preface this government document states; “Emissions per capita, and the emissions intensity of the economy, were at their lowest levels in 28 years in 2017.”

This comment is then followed by charts showing CO2 per dollar of GDP falling. Why would anyone measure the proportion of a chemical compound in the air against an economic measure and have that be the narrative by which we should view pollution? The Coalition of course, although one does admire the ingenuity in finding a way to convert a rise in CO2, into a charitable fall. Not all industry produces pollution, and some industries produce boatloads of it. But is GDP is the measure against which to evaluate how our economy is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions?

GDP is not ever a good measure for some things, as there are far better measures of economic performance. But lets, for now, look at GDP and the assumption that all growth is good growth. It fails to measure significant aspects.

  1. The savings in renewables. For example, reducing spending on subsidies and savings inherent in energy-efficient devices reflects the failure of GDP to differentiate between efficiencies in productive economic activity.  GDP views economic activity as the end not the means to an end. So a coal smelter burning fossil fuel or industry dumping waste that pollutes the rivers and air generates GDP growth is an ”end”. Industry production and product subsidies (such as the $1.8B to Coal) are not added to the GDP calculation and so skews the accounting valuation in relation to the output of CO2. There is neither a relationship between subsidies and emissions for any given industry nor is there a pricing mechanism on pollution emissions for any industry.
  2. Disproportionate subsidies to coal industry versus farming. Farming and Coal may both contribute to GDP but the damage Coal’s greenhouse gas emissions are wreaking on the environment harms farming.  Farming does not reciprocate this harm (although suffering from it) yet received barely more than half the financial aid granted to the Coal industry.
  3. The costs of pollution. Healthcare as a product is added to GDP increasing the value of it, even if the need for it, reflects detrimental factors in a society like suffering from avoidable pollution related conditions. In essence, we fail to price the “cost of pollution” to our economy but add the health expenditure.
  4. Outsourcing pollution.   Abbott and Hockey’s dismantling of manufacturing to the point that we have the lowest share of manufacturing employment of any OECD country has in no way curbed our appetite for cars or manufactured goods.  Manufacturing and Industry were large users of energy in Australia, and by offshoring our manufacturing base to  China, Korea and Japan. We have also offshored our industrial emissions. As we continue to de-industrialise and have more of our goods offshore, we are merely outsourcing the costs of coal pollution, and not accounting for Australia’s remotely attributed carbon emissions.

So measuring CO2 against GDP when GDP fails, on the one hand, to estimate the saving inherent in renewables that don’t pollute, factor in the costs of offshoring pollution from industries and add health costs caused by pollution; is inherently deceptive. While, yes, the report admits on one hand that CO2 has still risen, and then indulges in a gross deception to suggest there is anything positive about this.

The initial capital costs of solar, (including solar towers and molten salt energy storage that can generate power overnight), geothermal, wind turbines, Hydroelectric, Biomass, tidal waves and even the rain; may have been expensive. It is evident the ongoing costs of renewables that will be cheaper than coal for the future of either industry. The economic burden of power costs to lowly-compensated consumers can be mitigated by renewables and shifting from scheduled generation to scheduled load markets, but the government persistently resists these changes for ideological reasons.

Future Economic Fallout

Ignoring anthropogenic climate change and the increasing CO2 emissions not only in Australia but what we have outsourced to other countries, in the face of recurring climate instances such as the recent heat wave in the Northern Hemisphere, will only harm the future of Western economies. Low wages and high living costs hasten reduced demand and spending.  Whether by way of increasing power, housing, health and living costs or the necessary mitigation, insurance or repair of harm caused by a changing climate, we will all eventually, pay the piper.

Do unto refugees

By John Haly

Deterring and imprisoning asylum seekers is gaining popularity in the western world. Punishment by separation of children from parents now has occurred in both Australia and America invoking community backlash. Many are unaware such practices have a long history in both countries. America forthwith will follow Australia’s indefinite detention practices, even as Trump repudiates his policy on separation of children from parents. These practices contravene the Refugee Convention to which both America and Australia were signatories. Dutton’s commentary emphasised the desire to be rid of this troublesome convention. He commented, “I think there is a need for like-minded countries to look at whether a convention designed decades ago is relevant today”.

I want to examine the relevance of international principles that underpin our history of refugee conventions versus “deterrence” against refugees and their smugglers. As I write this, it is Refugee week, so it is an ideal time to investigate the principles behind “deterrence”.

Human Rights convention

On the 10th of December 2018, Democratic Nations worldwide will celebrate the 69th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human rights. Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, Robert Menzies (a man no one will mistake for a soft-hearted humanitarian) signed the UN Refugee Convention on January the 22nd, 1954.  Prime ministers that followed him, both Tony Abbott and John Howard spoke of him being the father of modern Australian Liberal ideology. The former Liberal Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser would have argued that in the 21st century, the Liberal “apple” has rolled a long way from that “tree”.

As we recall Human Rights Day, we will have long distinguished ourselves as the least compliant signatory to the Human Rights convention amongst any western democracy.  When even North Korea can legitimately accuse us of human rights abuses, you know we have moved to the “dark side of the Force.”

Australia, a world leader in child abuse

Internationally speaking, things have taken a turn for the worse since World War II. We have now reached a point where both America and Australia are actively abusing people, including children, who have fled from torture and prospective death in their own country. Some have even died within our offshore gulags and deaths have already featured in Trump’s “zero-tolerance” regime. I want first to outline some historical legal cases which illustrate how international courts have responded to the idea of subordinating human rights to achieve political ends.

The German Autumn

Following the days from 1970 to 1977 clashes between the Red Army Faction (RAF) with Germany culminated in the “German Autumn,” and the kidnapping and murder of industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer. Brett Walker delivered a speech to the annual Dinner of the Civil Liberties Society on Friday the 24th of November 2017 in Sydney in which he described the events of the German Autumn. The Germans had resisted the kidnapper’s demands. Schleyer’s son after failing to pay the ransom privately in part due to both inadvertent publicity and the German government’s reluctance then sued the Government in an attempt to save his father.  The principle invoked was the invariable nature of human dignity by which he called on the government to make an effort to save his father’s life. The specific implication was that nobody should use another, as an instrument or means, to achieve an end. This included hostage-taking with demands. The court rejected the son’s claim in less than a day, and within days, his father was killed. Standing up to hostage takers has consequences.

Aviation hostages

In 2006, the constitutional court in Karlsruhe received a complaint from flight crew staff about the decision that the government had justification in shooting down aircraft held hostage in the air under the ironically named “Aviation Security Act”. The Bundesverfassungsgericht declared that legislation which would have allowed the German Air Force to shoot down hijacked passenger planes was unconstitutional and as a counterproposal reinforced the constitutional right to life and human dignity.

Securing on air matters

In reviewing the decision, the court would not accept the argument by the government that the passengers were very probably soon to die anyhow. They instead held to another principle, that the State could not reduce passengers and crew to the status of “objects” they can kill at the pleasure of the State, no matter the amount of time the people, may or may not, have left to live. The court essentially held that human life should not be used as a bargaining chip or as instruments to achieve an end of preventing the possibility of further deaths. Presuming that one would then be as guilty of the Machiavellian principle that the “ends justify the means“, which is, of itself, the ploy of hostage taking.

Machiavelli versus the Golden Rule

The categorical imperative in a civilised society is that we should act in a manner towards others that we think can, and should be, applied universally. Brett Walker espoused the principle that one should “do as you would have, you and everybody else, done by.” To extend this principle, it would mean that one would never abuse fellow inhabitants of this planet as instruments for some political end or project. The welfare and dignity of people is an end, but never a means by which you should cause one person or group to suffer to produce some advantage for others.

Instead, an alternate approach has been pursued with vigour and enthusiasm by recent immigration ministers such as Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton. Successive Australian governments (supported by the electors who have repeatedly voted for them) have created policies, legislation, and facilities, which are deliberately designed to mistreat and hold refugees and asylum seekers in conditions that we would not subject criminals in our internal national incarceration system. All designed and executed for the declared purpose of “deterrence.”

If punishing the innocent is the law then the “law” is criminal

Under criminal law, the idea of “deterrence” is to sentence a legally convicted person, in a such a way as to deter others from committing such crime. It serves idealistically to deter the convicted person from re-offending.  What is not part of the principle, is the notion of taking people who are not guilty of a crime and have not been convicted of having acted criminally, and visit upon them adversity and punishments to deter and modify other people’s conduct. That is abuse to use innocents as a means and abrogate their human dignity as an end.

Other democracies handle refugees far more efficiently and with less abuse than we do. But this perversion of law, criminality, morality and deterrence did not merely begin here with the likes of Howard, RuddockMorrison and Dutton! In fact, they have refined the “art” of this deliberate moral bankruptcy to heights which previously only totalitarian dictatorships or regimes have practised. Our pathway to abuse instead began with far humbler utterances from the lips of Labor politicians.

Queue jumping

While Keating is often attributed with the “queue jumping” rhetoric,  the source of this phrase came from Immigration minister, Michael MacKellar, in 1977 in a Radio Australia broadcast. While Malcolm Fraser was attempting to placate the fears that hordes of Vietnamese “boat people” were descending on Australia, the Labor Party was busily trying to capitalise on fears about this “unchecked invasion”. Herein lies the original authorship of the fear mongering, which was eventually to become the backbone of refugee policy in Australia. Back then, the Australian public’s reaction, though cautious, was a far cry from the response of this century.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating continued Labor’s negative attitudes towards refugees when they decided to use mandatory detention for asylum seekers at Port Headland, WA. This deterrent detention was the next step in both perspective and action. That act being detention of Cambodian refugees who arrived at Pedder Bay in November of 1989. They were held till 1992 while the government tried in vain to exclude these asylum seekers from seeking justice and the rule of law in the courts.

Like most immigrants, once allowed in and embraced, they became highly productive members of the Australian community. Up until that time, the maximum period of detention allowed for refugees had been 273 days. That limit in the Migration act was removed in 1994, paving the way for the era of indefinite mandatory detention. Similarly Trump’s executive order on June 20th – presumed to be reuniting families – seeks indefinite detention of families as a challenge a 1997 law that limited immigration detention to 20 days. (See Flores v. Reno).

Racism as policy

The success of Pauline Hanson’s racism in 1996 and the rhetoric of Phillip Ruddock in treating refugees not just as “queue jumpers”, but as cunning manipulators of peoples sympathy with an evil intention; marked a change in Australian attitudes. [Pg 31] The implication is that refugees sought to reap the rewards of an Australian Economy, steal our jobs out from underneath Australians, and then use their consequential “enormous wages” to finance terrorist plots against our nation.  Not only does Australia’s falling wage rates make this unlikely, but the patient absurdity of the argument that traumatised people fleeing for their lives – often with their children – were even capable of such manipulation, was surprisingly and naively accepted by the public.

The strange attribution of motives

The proposition that terrorists hide out in detention centres was absurd back then and still is. Myths like these grew in number over time. Until the emergence of Pauline Hanson, it had not dawned on the political party system that racism inherent in public policy was a vote winner. John Howard realised that he could leverage refugees to acquire political power, which he did as a boat named the Tampa approached Australia. In particular, his use of the meaningless phrase “illegal immigrants” helped reframed the public debate to John Howard’s advantage in August of 2001.

The Pacific solution

The Pacific solution followed in September 2001 as Howard opened offshore gulags on Christmas Island, Manus Island, and Nauru. After Howard lost government to Kevin Rudd, that new government closed them down. When Rudd lost leadership to Julia Gillard, she reopened them, and once Tony Abbott became PM, he massively escalated the usage of offshore detention.

On his ascension, Malcolm Turnbull did little to change anything by way of policy; he did allow Morrison and Dutton to leverage legislative control of these gulags. The relish with which Dutton justifies the Government’s actions on Manus beggars belief.  Given that even the vaguest sense of decency would suggest, “deterrence” ought only to be addressed, at least under the pretence of regret.

Drowning in moral ambiguity

It’s not that complex to support children

If we did in any honesty, believe that preventing “drownings at sea” was a moral imperative, then indeed we would be doing what is being done privately by individuals with large boats in the Mediterranean Sea. We would be sending boats to rescue these people, rather than stopping their boats, turning them around and returning them to danger, which is what the Navy now does to prevent “drownings at sea”.

We should also most certainly be addressing the issue of why such people have a well-founded fear of persecution. One so strong, it leads them to seek protection on foreign soil in the first place. We would be spending money at the UN addressing the veto factor or refusing to engage in the sort of bombing and attacks on overseas middle-eastern targets that create push factors that generate asylum seekers.

The notion of leveraging human beings to achieve an end to stop the boats and prevent deaths at sea is comparable to the tactics of hostage-takers in the 1970s. Our government is holding an innocent population hostage to achieve a goal at which they are, evidently, unsuccessful. Claims of having stopped the boats have turned out to be exaggerations or spin. Boats filled with refugees seeking asylum are still “setting sail” to come to Australia as recently as last month. The illusion, however, created and maintained by the government’s response, is to either intercept the boats; pay off the “captains” to turn the boat around; or simply to declare that successful arrivals – when they do arise – don’t count as “arrivals“.

The End – does not justify the means

The end is not justified by whatever means are applied to achieve it. Instead, it’s the acts of compassion that define a civilised society, when they are brought to bear as the means to address an issue and achieve a goal with justice. And that, Mr Peter Dutton, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Jeff Sessions and Mr Donald Trump, is something which benefits all members of a community, old and new, and which has never become outdated.

Community garden signposts

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches.


By John Haly

Warning: Satire, sarcasm or irony could be utilised herein at any moment. Intelligent discretion is advised!

In the midst of massive marches in the capital cities protesting about the choice of date for Australia Day, Andrew Bolt started trending alarmingly on social media. Just when you thought, Andrew Bolt trending on Australia Day – given his previous opinions on aboriginals – could not possibly be good news, I had a changing paradigm moment. All of a sudden I am thinking of converting to Hinduism. If I sound confused, it is because I am no longer sceptical of karma.

Andrew Bolt was injured after falling from a ladder while attempting pruning a tree. Despite hopeful reporting removing the decimal point, it was confirmed to be only a 3.5m fall, injuring his wrist and ribs. Medical staff confirmed there was no head injury despite the fact that behavioural indicators may have suggested otherwise. Despite expectations, no confirmation that he blames political correctness & the unions have been found although the possibility that the ladder leaned to the left as he leaned rightwards may have been a contributing factor. Concerns have been expressed that this was probably the time to embrace his inner “tree hugger”, although some have queried if indeed the tree itself may bear some responsibility. Identifying the tree has been of some concern because the community is torn between pruning it further or awarding it for services to the community.  Sufficient to say there appears to have been no further adverse consequences to the tree, for which many on social media have expressed grave concern.

The witch hunt for which tree was responsible?

Progressives have hoped that finally, Andrew Bolt might admit having to target the wrong threat to Australians. Instead of Australia spending billions on the negligible threat of “terrorism” that kills next to nobody in Australia perhaps Bolt will suggest we re-target our spending.

Perhaps it should be “Ladders” we recognise are the scourge of western society that we ought to be spending money on investigating and deporting offshore! Of course, he may be open now to championing the disparagement of chairs and beds as the causes of more significant numbers of deaths than even the worldwide number of Australian deaths due to terrorism. (That being 113 worldwide in the last 36 years whereas beds have killed 417 and chairs, 198 in the last decade alone).

Although, one can understand why the ladder may be what represents a predominant concern. I can see Bolt’s headlines now:

Lone Wolf ladders terrorising Aussie households believed to be weaponising gravity“.


Remember it is up to you more progressive folk go out to your own ladder and assure it that you understand that most ladders are useful.  Note that while there are some aberrant ladders want to bring about the downfall of humanity, it is true that most moderate ladders are of the class that seeks to be uplifting?

War on Terror such a minor threat

Donations will be accepted to aid the recovery of the patch of grass he fell on between a concrete path and bench. Please note the concrete path and bench are not responsible for their unfortunate placement. The ladder appears to have suffered no ill effects from the fall.

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken.

Let’s keep Australia working

By John Haly

The Liberals who cut penalty rates, public services, and taxes for the corporates, have come up with a slogan to replace “Jobs and Growth”. The slogan is, “Let’s Keep Australia Working.”

The implication being a vote for Labor is a vote against your job. The question we need to ask is: “Has the liberal agenda succeeded in keeping Australia working or are jobs and wages diminishing?”

Full-time / Part-time

In October 2017, Michaelia Cash promoted job growth as she claimed “371,500 jobs created over the last year, 315,900 were full time“. Referencing the ABS’s next month’s stats, Malcolm Turnbull later said: “New data shows another 61,600 jobs were created in November, lifting the number of new jobs this year to 383,300.” That may sound convincing and consistent. Of course, as other authors such as Alan Austin note, it is all a matter of strategically timing your announcement, so the figures fit your case.  For example, choosing a month where historically low employment featured the previous year to be compared with a better statistic this year. A slightly different choice of month or period produces different results. Statistical variations depend on the accuracy of the collection methods; underlying definitions of employment, and what dates are being compared. The ABS statistical methods for employment issues have come under considerable criticism even from within its ranks. The ABS, although, does not engage in any statistical tampering or deception on behalf of the government. ABS methodology follows the ILO international protocols for measuring unemployment, although the methodology does have its faults.

Highly changeable variations in part and full-time employment

Monthly deviations in Full-time employment and part-time employment are significant, and cherry picking dates can be misleading.   Depending on what is your starting and ending point you can show either rising or falling employment.  What is notable is the increasing volatility of employment markets over the years.

So are there alternative measures which use alternative criteria for measuring employment? Roy Morgan’s measurements are considerably more modest than the ABS stats that Michaelia Cash and Malcolm Turnbull referenced. Their numbers for November 2017 report show long-term job expansion is in part-time jobs, with declining full-time jobs. The figures provided, show that full-time employment decreased 31,000 in the last year till November whereas part-time employment rose by 70,000.

Charting Roy Morgan’s analysis of employment and unemployment from 2007 to 2017.

Roy Morgan’s measurements for employment and unemployment differ considerably to the ABS’s methodology for a few fundamental reasons. Morgan’s take on part-time and full-time employment also depicts it as volatile. Morgan shows that part-time employment is growing faster than full-time as the job market is becoming increasingly casualised. A point with which even the RBA agrees. Graphing these statistics over the last ten year shows a clear trend which the ABS methodology obscures while Roy Morgan’s method makes it easier to track. This methodology is also notable for tracking under-employment, or what the ABS calls “hidden unemployment”.

Falling Full-Time V Rising Part-time as a % of the Workforce

Employment numbers have risen, but so has the total labour workforce seeking or occupying employment. The problem is that unemployment and underemployment according to Roy Morgan’s stats were 2.394 million people in Nov 2017 (18.2%). Combined underemployment and unemployment haven’t been consistently below 2 million since 2011. One has to dig through ABS’s statistics for their underutilisation figures to see a similar pattern. Roy Morgan reports 9.8% unemployment, and for ABS it is 5.4% in November 2017. Using percentage figures in a growing labour force can be inherently deceptive. According to the ABS, our unemployment rate in Nov 2017 is at 5.4%, and the last time it was that rate was in February 2013. But in February 2013, that represented 660,000 people. By November 2017 5.4% is 708,000 people. Taking Roy Morgan’s unemployment figures for Nov 2017, we have 9.8% or 1,288,000 people. The last time we were at 9.8% in a similar period to ABS’s 2013 figure, was August 2012, where 9.8% represented 1,205,000 people. In essence, 5.4% or 9.8% in 2017 isn’t equivalent to 5.4% or 9.8% in late 2012/early 2013. Whichever statistical methodology you reference, our labour market is worse off regarding raw unemployment numbers, casualisation, and volatility than we were under Labor’s administration.

Working Hours

Hours of work available for the employed market

But what about the hours worked by those who are employed?  It would seem self-evident that if part-time work was rising faster than full-time, that hours worked would be reducing.  It has long been the thesis of writers such as Alan Austin. I took a slightly different track with ABS data and charted hours worked as a function of just those employed, rather than demonstrating as Alan does, that working hours available for the Adult population is decreasing.  In spite of how you look at it, it is evident that adequate working hours are less accessible both to employed and unemployed.

Job Vacancies

10 years of job vacancy numbers for Australia

Job vacancies in comparison to unemployed job seekers have also been problematic.  While there has been a soft rise in vacancies available over time – since the coalition came into power – it has been far below any measure of unemployed numbers (no matter the method). The job vacancy rate for the entire continent of Australia from the government’s IVI index for November 2017 was 177,900. In the four years of the coalition government, it has never risen above 180K  and has been as low as 150K. Now to be fair, not all vacancies (although most) advertise online. The ANZ, although, regularly tracks job advertisements saying “Job ads growth was 3.7 percent year-on-year in December, a steep fall from 6 percent in November. In trend terms, the numbers looked a bit better at 4.7 percent year-on-year, but this was down sharply from 9.4 percent annual growth in early 2016.”  So let’s factor in these adjustments. Fortunately, Trading Economics has already done this, reporting “Job Vacancies in Australia increased to 201.30 Thousand in the third quarter of 2017 from 189.20 Thousand in the second quarter of 2017“. Despite the increase, 201K job vacancies hardly make a dent in 1,288,000 unemployed people let alone 2.394 million under-employed and unemployed persons seeking jobs in Australia.


Wage rates treading water over CPI rate increases

Well, at least the employed get paid, you may – in the resignation of these dismal statistics – sigh. Therein the news gets worse. Wage rate growth continues to stagnate, to levels unseen in this century down as far as 1.9% in the previous quarter.  While there is still growth, the question needs to be: Is the growth rate keeping up with that of the CPI?  The answer on the surface is “barely”. ABS statistics graphed here show that it is predominately keeping its head above water. The CPI is widely criticised for “excluding home purchase costs“. In a country where private debt towers over GDP by 122% and housing affordability limits access to homes, this is a significant omission. “The ABS does produce cost of living indices which consider the cost of living according to your source of income – wage, pension, or government benefits“, states the Guardian’s Greg Jericho. Once you add the real cost of living factors, you will quickly realise wages are not keeping up with the actual costs of living.

Australia’s rising productivity

Despite the falling wage growth rates, productivity has been expanding by all indicators. One would assume if the nation is being more productive that wages should rise accordingly. So the claim by the Prime Minister has turned from claiming the lack of wage movement is a function of a lack of security and productivity to being “blamed [for] a lack of economic demand“, despite later boasting about Australia’s economic growth. It would appear the government’s excuses change from month to month and assume nobody is keeping track. So despite fewer hours available collectively for the employed, and reducing wage rises, the level of productivity in the country has been rising.

Job Losses

Job losses for specific industries under the instigation of the coalition will have long-term consequences for our economy. Some of these include:

  1. Abbott and Hockey’s dismantling of the car manufacturing industry in this country for a preference for imports from China, Korea and Japan saw the end of jobs for thousands of workers with estimates from 90K to 200K losses. Hockey had admitted in Parliament that “Ending the age of entitlement for the industry was a hard decision, but it needed to be made because as a result of that decision we were able to get free-trade agreements with Korea, Japan and China.’’
  2. The government continues to seek means to support a diminishing mining industry and supply $1billion to Adani Mine. Mining employment is contracting, but it is being promoted at the cost of a tourism industry that employs more than twice the number of people. The tourism sector has the more significant potential for job creation than the mining sector.
  3. The coalition has overseen one in ten public servants losing their jobs, while spending on consultants has risen by $300 million. Amongst those civil servants, the tax department has divested itself of 4400 employees and their expertise in keeping tax avoidance in check, so private companies could stash money overseas whether acquired via profits or tax cuts rather than use it to employ more people in Australia.

Foreign Workers

Numbers granted the predominant classes of working visas for Australia.

There are 37 Visa sub-classes available for a foreigner to work under in Australia of which the 457 sub-class received significant notoriety. As at the end of 2016, there were 95,758 people in Australia who had that visa. That sub-class is being replaced by two separate classes – as announced in April of 2017 – for the future, so tracking worker visas will ultimately be more complex from here on in. Consequently, as a result, the 457 class numbers will naturally begin to shrink which will no doubt be a talking point for the government from hereon.

The lessor referenced 417 and 462 Class of working holidaymakers has had 63,988 visitors granted with working rights last year up until September of 2017. Mapping these three visa classes over the last decade gives one a perspective of for whom the government focusses on “keeping working”.

Now to be fair even if all these people left tomorrow it would still not have a significant impact on unemployment and not simply because the numbers are “low” relative to the numbers of unemployed. As usual, it is nuanced, and for a greater understanding, I have written on this at greater length here.


It is, although, evident that the claims by politicians about their success in managing an economy that has produced employment is highly subjective and lacks credibility. Whatever the coalition is doing, it is NOT keeping Australia working.

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken and Independent Australia.


Sodomy and Pell

By John Haly


Has the cover-up of sexual abuse by the religious leaders in this country ceased, or is a culture of concealment still entrenched and showing up in new forms, as art (or what occurs to art) reflects life?

There is a pub in Newtown I walked past last week, in which the artist, Scott Marsh, was on a small scaffolding rig painting a multi-storeyed image of Abbott and Pell.

It was being painted in a rear alleyway at the back of a local pub. I could not recognise the characters as the painting had only recently started and thought to return later to see how it turned out.

Unfortunately, within 6 hours of it being completed – according to the staff at the Botany View Hotel – Pell’s image had been defaced with a paint splatter leaving only Abbott recognisable.

Sometime after that, it was entirely painted over in black allegedly by members of a right-wing Christian religious group, offended at the portrayal of Tony Abbott in a wedding dress beside a half-naked muscular Cardinal Pell.

The initial and ironic “whitewashing” of the lampooning alleyway mural of Pell’s image by Conservative Christian protestors.

An interview with a local resident revealed that earlier on, people had gathered to protest over the wall’s image on Friday night.  While initially claiming to be Catholics complete with incense burners waving ceremoniously at the wall, my catholic informant noted some discrepancies in their “Catholic” behaviour. Upon befriending them – to seek further information – he learned they came from three separate Christian churches and were not the “Catholics” they initially pretended to be.

The vandalism of Scott Marsh’s work didn’t stop at the image of Abbott and Pell. A Facebook group called “Christian Lives Matter” instigated and provoked “Christians” to continue attacking Scott Marsh’s work which included a privately commissioned image of George Michael on Devine Street Reserve, painted by private commission a year ago. One person has been arrested for defacing that image, and another lost his job, when he was filmed defacing the mural while wearing his employer’s logo on his shirt. They are both facing fines for vandalising private property.

Christian Lives Matter Facebook post calling for the removal any further images painted by Scott Marsh and referencing his year-old as yet undefaced image of George Micheal shown on private property.

Graffiti over the blackened and defaced mural of George Micheals by locals incensed at its disfigurement but promoting love and an end to bigotry.

Social media from the “No” and “Yes” vote campaigns reacted.  Abusive phone calls were received by the hotel staff and licensee.  Lyle Shelton defended the vandalism equating either Pell and/or Abbott to religious leaders such as Mohamed. One might understand if it was an offensive image of Christ, but Cardinal Pell?  All these factors have made me aware, that the fight for Equality for the Newtown’s community of diverse gender, sexuality and race, is far from over. (The Newtown electorate of Grayndler had a 79.9%  “Yes” vote)  An associate on Facebook titled his long opposing proclamation against the images with “Sodomite Nation!“.

Lyle Shelton from Australian Christian Lobby comparing Cardinal Pell to be the spiritual equivalent of the prophet, Mohamed.

Sodomite Nation” is an interesting turn of phrase. It is more interesting to note – like the word “gay” – how the meanings of words change over time. Religious concerns about homosexuality are often based on the fallacious belief that sodomy, as it was expressed in the Bible, was about homosexuality – a word that didn’t emerge in English till the 19th century.  The biblical text, although, had no such connotation.  Even Robyn Whitaker from Trinity College pointed out that Sodomy, as it was revealed in the biblical literature, is about rape and sexual abuse. Sodom and Gomorrah is a story about people rocking up at your door wanting to break it in, to have their way with you or your guests. It’s not about love or sex; it’s about abuse, it’s about rape. If what happened to Lot and his family occurred today outside your house, you would phone the police, scream for your neighbours to help and load your shotgun in defence. It is not about sexual preferences it is about RAPE and SEXUAL ABUSE. It’s sure as hell not about LOVE – gay or otherwise!

That the church has illegitimately changed the meaning of the word is understandable if you’re in the Catholic priesthood, as you wouldn’t want the bible to be condemning your particular predilections towards activities you’re infamous for, concerning small children. Two men who defended Sodomy (in its original biblical meaning) were adorned in effigy on the back-wall of a Hotel at the end of Newtown. One representative guarded the other via enormous political power, while the other defended and hid perpetrators of a crime only to be rewarded by the Vatican, while the biblical God allegedly destroyed a city over that evil. Pell was himself accused of sexual abuse and although an unproven accusation, his defence and lack of concern for sexual predators in the church have been well established.  The church whose original role as defenders of the poor and disenfranchised has been co-opted to enrich and protect the wealthy and powerful and further disempower the class it once served. Abbott content to safeguard this rising new religious force in the world, and set about bringing about changes in the political system to achieve more significant protections for this conservative “Christian” force. Abbott redirected funding from the Royal commission into sexual abuse which attacked his religious friends, to the probe into Labor’s insulation scheme which effectively attacked his political enemies.

These examples of this corruption of:

  1. language to misdirect people about the real sin of sodomy,
  2. identification and prosecution of sexual predators,
  3. justice by seeking to de-funding abuse investigations,
  4. the mission of the church to protect the poor, marginalised and our children, are becoming more efficient.

When considering what harm has been done to children generally by religious and political leadership, we need to consider the broader scope of injury.

These include:

  1. Attempting to protecting Pell and the church from an investigation into sexual abuse. Abbott and his support for Archbishop Pell’s character and redirection of funding belies Australia’s apparent repulsion for child abuse.
  2. Immigration detention and abuse of children which both Morrison and Dutton oversaw. This refugee child abuse was even confirmed by their own instigated investigation by Philip Moss confirming the abuse, as did the one by the Human Rights Commissioner.
  3. Increasing entrenched poverty for children by “attacking” single parents such as did Kevin Andrews by defunding of single parents via a thinly disguised excuse to rebuke their choice of children, over attempting to acquire rare full-time work.  The examples of further political child abuse are numerous from cutting aid overseas, or locally by reducing the Child Care Subsidy, or removing access to the affordability support element under the Community Child Care Fund, or slashing $930.6 million so that family day care educators cannot receive Commonwealth child care fee assistance.  These are just some of a list I have referenced before.

These actions are all being instituted by people who publicly claim a religious affiliation. To be fair, both the religious and political classes are acting entirely consistent with one another to attack what Christ most vehemently opposed. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”(Mark 9:42).

Christ said nothing about homosexuality. Although he did indicate that being a “born eunuch” (an ancient reference to homosexual men – Matthew 19:11-12) was a gift from God.  On the other hand, Christ had a lot to say about abuse of children and the marginalisation of the “least” of people, as well as about Loving one another, which seems to be points that many in this conservative evangelical community appear to have missed. That anyone in the church could mount any defence for either Pell or Abbott speaks, in my mind, volumes about the person they choose to be.


Chalk graffiti protests by locals who were proclaiming love overcoming religious hate over the blacked out artwork by Scott Marsh in the alleyway behind the Botany View Hotel.

So a local artist chooses to celebrate “love” as opposed to “abuse” by having painted two of the figureheads of “child abuse” on a wall in the back alleyway of a Pub in a manner that would be “offensive” to them. Scott Marsh recognised that both these men are offensive to the Newtown community. Art is supposed to challenge society, and it certainly seems to have been challenging to some. “Christians” from churches defended Pell and Abbott by painting over the image that apparently offended, despite that the wider community finds these two men, offensive! Who, pray tell me, stands on the higher moral ground? Is “art” and even the “obscuring of art” reflecting society or in this case segments of the church. It seems to me that the conservative church would still prefer, the sins of these men, were covered up.

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken.

Drug Law Reform

By John Haly

The War on Drugs, like the ones on terror, waste, poverty, and crime, are metaphors for institutional failures to address fundamental problems in our society. Aside from the fact that it is never clear when any of these “wars” will be over, it is also the rhetoric of a political failure to address social reform.

To date, the West’s pursuit of these wars has piled misery on misery (as wars are prone to do). Such wars ostracise the victims, casualties and collaborators in conceptual battles that have no actual target but certainly cause collateral damage.

The “War on Drugs” neither defines the problem nor allocates appropriate consequences for drug use. Moreover, this language does not improve the plight of those suffering. There is although, a long historical process which led to the development of the three international drug treaties and the international drug control systems for the more academically inclined. But for now, let’s simplify.

What is a drug but an ingestible substance designed to have a physiological effect? From that perspective, the orange juice I had for breakfast, morning tea and lunch fulfils that description, as does the small white pill I then popped to alleviate the acidic reaction in my stomach, that repeated orange juice consumption had created. Depending on what that pill was, government legislation may deem it acceptable or not.

The “War on Drugs” is usually framed to attack those substances any given society, country or State consider either “illegal” or harmful.  The media often frames drug addiction in terms of the (over) consumption, possession or distribution of goods that legislators have deemed to be “illegal”. However, that classification can, of itself, be arbitrary. For example, none of this captures the harm done by legal drugs, such as the prescribed opioid epidemic currently killing thousands of Americans (and making its way into Australia), or similarly, the ravages of alcohol and nicotine. Indeed, one of the key imperatives and justifications behind the push for law reform on drugs is that the classification of a “harmful drug” may not necessarily be based on any adverse physiological or psychological effect.  Cannabis is a case in point.

Cannabis in 19th and early 20th centuries was widely used in the USA and even for a while carried by pharmacies as a drug to treat migraines, rheumatism, and insomnia. Hemp was used as a superior textile used for ship sails and caulking. Just as Hemp grew to become a possible threat to US textile industries, Cannabis faced a challenge when in 1925 in Geneva a meeting of the League of Nations banned globally three plant-based drugs – opium, coca and cannabis.  America although did not follow suit till the 1930s when it became the patsy drug that the Department of Prohibition took on as a replacement cause for alcohol prohibition.  The ending of alcohol prohibition left Harry Anslinger (the G-man in charge) with a government department twiddling its thumbs and needing a drug to prohibit.

Racism and fear were used to outlaw Cannabis despite medical advice that it was not dangerous. An “alternative fact” campaign was waged demonising the drug and the Mexican sources for it until legislation banning it emerged. America then pressured trading partners to follow suit. You can read the real story behind its illegitimate banning in the links provided, but for now, let’s focus on drug law reform and how far behind, Australia sits, in its efforts.

Staying with cannabis, as a medically demonstratable drug to treat disease, we have moved way beyond migraines, rheumatism, and insomnia. Strains of marijuana have been used to treat Arthritis, Asthma, Bipolar Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Cancer, Crohn’s Symptoms, Dyspepsia Symptoms, …. and a long alphabetical list of conditions listed on the Medical Marijuana site. There is although, an enduring medical debate as to whether it does effectively treats these conditions or not. The reluctance of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), AMA and college of Physicians to approve medical marijuana is not based on the medical opinions expressed for treatment remedies in places like Canada. Canada provides access to medical cannabis to nearly 130,000 people, while the TGA in Australia has acknowledged only 140 people here.

Like our medical authorities, there was a time when Canadian Doctors expressed their reluctance, as they did in a report in 2014. Three years later, the surge in demand for it as a medication, has seen doctors evidently more comfortable with its efficient use.

However, despite Australia being a nation of immigrants, we have an inherent distrust of learning from anyone else’s success with new or progressive technologies, whether the subject is medical marijuana, renewable energy, transport, immigration, education and the cost of education. We are just inherently stubborn, like a rebellious teenager, unwilling to learn from older advisors/countries.

Other examples of our recalcitrance in Drug Law reform, is Heroin-assisted treatment. As of last August 2017, it will be 20 years since John Howard prevented the proposed scientific trial evaluating the effectiveness of prescription heroin, killing off six years of scientific research.

In the meantime, countries such as United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Belgium, and Spain have all demonstrated success with the impressive results of their heroin-assisted treatment programmes. Denmark has also agreed to a similar plan although in its case started the programme without running a trial.  Why still be running trials when you can review the results from everyone else?

Staff assessment of patients determines not only that their patients have a medical dependency on the drugs but also that other approaches to wean them off this dependency have been unsuccessful. As such, it is not a first-line treatment, but more often a facility of last resort, and apparently a highly successful one.

Indeed, it is now not only made clear that heroin-assisted treatment has been successful regarding mental health, physical health, social functioning and adaptability, but also that it has had economic benefits. HAT is cost-effective because the benefits of the treatment exceed the costs. For example, the cost-effectiveness of the trials has been demonstrated in a substantial reduction in drug-related crime, and this is despite such programs treating barely 5% of the heroin using population.

Fig 1: Incidence of heroin use in Zurich following Heroin-assisted treatment

Dr Alex Wodak, the Emeritus Consultant for Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincent’s Hospital, draws parallels with the treatment of alcoholism:

“The small minority with the (most) prodigious appetite for heroin accounts for a disproportionate share of the harm”, he said.

“But we know the alcohol market best:

  • The heaviest 5% of drinkers account for 33% of the alcohol consumed
  • The heaviest 10% of drinkers account for 50% of the alcohol consumed
  • The heaviest 20% of drinkers account for 70% of the alcohol consumed

The heroin market is probably just as unequally dispersed, but we don’t have figures because the market is illegal.

So Heroin Prescription Treatment is about getting that 5% using – some maybe using $1000/day? – into treatment – to stop them recruiting more novice users.”

Removing these addicts from the drug scene, for which other treatment programs have had limited success, has had a big impact on the heroin market in the countries where such programs have been implemented. Evidence arising from these test programs has shown a disproportionate reduction in drug-related crimes and recruitment of new addicts. Switzerland, in particular, has been an example of this disproportionate change.

Fig 2: Estimated incidence of heroin use in countries where trends over more than a decade have been published


In a 12-year period of the trial in Switzerland, not only were there marked decreases in the estimated initial uptake of the drug in Zurich from 850 people in 1990 to just 150 in 2002, but there was also a reduction in quantities of drugs seized in Zurich. Australia is still only just discussing this as a possibility, according to Dr Alex Wodak when outlining the most recent advocacy efforts in Canberra for this program in August. It’s not even on the agenda in Australia now.

This isn’t the only area of Drug Law reform we are behind on, as evidenced by our responses to Medically Supervised Injecting Centres. In early September the upper house Parliamentary Legislative Council reported on a review for a medically supervised injecting centre in Melbourne. The Victorian Government was then required to respond within 3 months, bringing it to December before we can expect to see any movement.

Unfortunately, the current Victorian Premier is on record as being opposed to a MSIC, including making an election promise not to commit to it in his first term. Given that both the government and opposition have committed to positions competing on a commitment to toughness on drugs, it is expected there will be parliamentary opposition to this centre no matter who is in government. This is despite the fact that members of the local Richmond community and the media have come out in favour of such a facility. The residential group, the Victoria Street residents for an injecting room, has been particularly vocal in support in media interviews with Australian radio presenter, Jon Faine and Loretta Gabriel.

So the local community sees sense in it, and Europe is replete with success stories arising from their trials. Nevertheless, Australia continues to play the cynical, probing but not willing to commit “teenager”. One who suspects their older cousins in Canada and Europe might have a better insight into how this all works but damned if we are going to take the plunge.

When will Australia grow up? When will we cast aside our irrational fears of what might happen, given that there is no evidence to justify our anxiety (in fact, the complete opposite)? Australia’s change resistance is making us the laughing stock of nations. Everyone else is for Drug Law Reform, or Marriage Equality, or Climate Change mitigation, or progressive transport infrastructure, but not us. We still think medical cannabis will warp our minds. We still think marriage equality will lead to all sorts of perversions that no other nation on earth has encountered after committing to it. We still elect climate sceptics to parliament, despite having experienced a continuous chain of consecutive hottest years on record. We still spend millions on roads when public transport solutions have proved invaluable to far larger cities than we even possess.

So while this article is predominately about Drug Law Reform, our resistance is a cultural and political ideology, built behind a wall of entrenched fear and loathing of change and progression. Just because we are a young nation, isolated by vast oceans, settled by invasion, and used as a dumping ground for the unwanted of older cultures, we should not be afraid of emerging from our shells and taking on the lessons learnt by older, wiser heads. Youth is supposed to be characterised by risk-taking and adventure, being prepared to explore where older more cautious heads dare not tread. Instead, in areas like Drug Law Reform, amongst many other examples, we belie this potential, being afraid of our shadows, particularly when the shadows are cast from afar.

We need to be decriminalising Marijuana, making use of medical cannabis to improve health outcomes. We should be setting up Medically Supervised Injecting Centres to cut back the harm bad drugs do to our community. Also, we should be treating the severely addicted through programs like Heroin Assisted Treatment. The “War on Drugs” has had a huge cost to our community and the collateral damage has been far greater than it ever needed to be. The war needs to end. Peace needs to reign. Drug use should be treated as a medical and social problem, not a crime. We have tried the war tactics. They haven’t worked. As they say in the surgical parlance, “the procedure was successful, but the patient died”. Time to try something else.

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken.

The Postal Survey: “What are you so scared of?”

By John Haly

The debate

The starter gun has officially “legally” fired on the government’s campaign for the alternative postal survey formerly known as the plebiscite. The all too predictable debate surrounding the question of Marriage Equality in Australia has finally begun in earnest.

Initial salvos have already been shot across the bow by the “No” campaign in recent weeks, raising uncertainty amongst the uncommitted. Despite this, the polls have long demonstrated a clear majority of Australians wanting Marriage Equality for some years. What is interesting to note here – presumably due to the prolonged nature of the political resistance – is that the “no” campaign’s latest arguments against Marriage Equality reform appear to have evolved.

In part, this could simply be due to the rebuttal against the “no” campaign’s original arguments having already been trotted out ad nauseam. Indeed, Eric Abetz, a long time serial disparager of anything remotely “gay” / homosexual, published his objections in the Canberra Times in 2015. I penned a long response of my own, although it is ground I am not looking to retread here.

Hurry up Australia, you’re going to be last in the race.

The earlier anti-reform arguments haven’t been abandoned entirely. Andrew Hastie has rehashed them recently. At a cursory glance, the local “No” campaign in their latest tack would seem to be most obviously singing from the same song sheets already utilised by largely unsuccessful opposition campaigns run by organised religious interests opposed to similar reforms (now won) overseas. But on closer inspection, the reality is more invidious.

This “new” campaign angle is really not so new. It is in many ways an age-old playbook of home-grown homo/trans/bi-phobia harkening back to every major campaign conducted in Australia opposing any and all LGBTI legal reform dating back to decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 80s. But with the re-purposed survey upon us and their lack of success to date in prosecuting these earlier positions, the “No” campaign has revved up their anti-Marriage Equality rhetoric.  Demonstrated by suddenly expanding their oppositional repertoire.  Evidenced by the surprising emails, I began receiving from the “oktosayno” website. While the arguments may have shifted subtly, I would suggest if I may, that the reasoning on display is still not that nuanced, intellectually rigorous or engaging. But if burying yourself in disingenuously privileged and solipsistic opposition for its own sake doesn’t sound like your idea of dear leader Malcolm’s long-promised exciting times, I’ve already done the work, so you don’t have to.


Sodomy is sexual abuse


The next generation will bring marriage equality into being.

Religious concerns are often based on the fallacious belief that sodomy, as it was expressed in the Bible, was about homosexuality.  But even an ABC article has pointed out that “Sodomy”, as it was expressed in the biblical literature, is about rape and sexual abuse. That the church has illegitimately changed the meaning of the word, is understandable. If you’re in the Catholic priesthood, you wouldn’t want the bible to be condemning predilections that your organisation’s members are infamous for, especially concerning small children. More surprising is that “homosexuality” as a word – not in existence till the late 18th century – has found its way into the Bible. Christ said nothing about homosexuals but had a lot to say about “loving one another” which seems to be a point many in the evangelical community have missed.




Marriage Equality provides legal protections for Children

Then there is the recurring issue of children. Often raised by those most in denial about the already large numbers of same sex couples that are quite happily and successfully producing and raising children. Concern for children seems restricted to those that are raised by heterosexual couples, despite the fact that when it comes to family stability, studies are proving that heterosexual parents are not always managing better family outcomes. But the opponents to Marriage Equality seem to be unduly concerned about issues of procreation.

Procreation and Marriage are not necessarily related. Either one may be the cause of the other to occur, but the sequencing can fall on either side of the other. Alternatively, procreation or marriage may happen in isolation without the other ever being involved. The Marriage vows in contemporary western society are usually about an expression of love between two adults. Children aren’t involved, even if they are already at the ceremony standing by their mom or dad or step-mum or step-dad.  It’s not their marriage!


Marriage Legality


Beyond the emotive distractions, Marriage equality is about human rights

Marriage Equality is about justice and law, not about religion and procreation. Modern religious communities have appropriated “Marriage” and claimed it is theirs to dictate how and to whom it should be applied. However, marriage as a religious undertaking not only predates these religions but in the Christian’s case, it wasn’t even included as a religious celebration till the 9th century. Even then the ceremony didn’t include a priest till the 12th Century. Back then, as Peg Helminski very smartly points out, Marriage was, in fact, a contract between two men.

In the beginning, marriage was a relationship between two men. A man exchanged goods or services with a girl’s father to procure a virgin bride—a bride who likely became one of several wives. This way, he could assure himself that any children he supported held valid claim to his property. Yes, marriage began as a business transaction to assure male property rights. Often, marriage provided other benefits; increasing the family labour force, acquiring a trade agreement or securing a political alliance.”  Marriage and its legal prerogatives have changed a lot since then, regardless of any religious claims to inviolable and unwavering immutability.

Marriage, today, should be about the two non-related Adults legally acknowledging their love for one another. I am appalled that I have to expressly use the term “non-related” as I have seen social media claims suggesting it a slippery slope to incestuous relationships. In the unfounded nature of arguments that arise, the assumption that the parties are not direct descendants or siblings, including adopted (by law) relationships, has to be re-stated. Disallowing relatives are all outlined in Part 3 of the Marriage Act 1961 under the heading “Void marriages” Section 23. Not being able to marry minors is in Part 2. Marriage equality is about changing the Act’s definition of Marriage as between “two people” instead of “a man and a woman” and removing section 88EA in Part 5 (added by Howard), not Parts 3 or 2.

The marriage equality movement wants to change only five words for two in the Act and remove the section Howard added in 2004 because he realised the Act was “gay-friendly”.  That renders genderless, the subject of who can legally marry. In short, “two people“, not exclusively “a man and a woman“. So no Eric Abetz, polygamists, need not apply. Also prohibited by Part 3! Nobody in the Gay and Trans lobby groups is asking you to change Parts 3 or 2 so why do you – as a Lawyer – not understand?


Church denial


Marriage Equality is about equal human rights not exclusivity for some.

Church’s will still retain the right to deny marriage ceremonies from people they don’t want to have married in their churches. Irrespective of whether they are Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, non-attendees, the great spaghetti monster worshippers, or even gay. (Part 4, Division 2, Section 47 of the Marriage Act) It is about legal equality not ceremonial! It is, not about excluding a group in the community, even if they follow the great flying spaghetti monster. (The supreme creator of the universe – OK I am getting personal here, and I must confess in the interests of transparency, to being a signed up member of that “church”). It is about allowing a relatively significant minority group access to the rights and privileges the vast community already has. It’s access to the legal (not religious, not procreational) right to be married. Marriage ratified by the State, not the Church.


Political Correctness


Resistance to political correctness as an argument is odd or at the very least, anti-social. Yes, extreme aspects of PC have become draconian. But marriage equality isn’t about being draconian; it is about being fair. For the most part, political correctness is what everybody who isn’t a bigot, calls politeness. Yes, Mr George Brandis and Mr Scott Morrison, you do have the option (perhaps rather than right) to be a Bigot, but the rest of us want a civil interaction that will build a cohesive society that binds us all together, not separates us. The likes of Peter Dutton, Andrew Bolt, and Tony Abbott may rail against political correctness, but if the alternative is the sort of hate speech and fear mongering you lot love to express quite freely, the rest of us wouldn’t mind skipping. Political Correctness started as a “counterweight to prevailing orthodoxies and power,” and although it in particular cases turned oppressive and shrill, it originated out of trying to protect communities such as the gay ones, and as such, still has value and relevance. Marriage Equality is working to do that. So despite the enduring prevailing will amongst the oppressed and marginalised to speak truth to power, the “no” campaign’s freedom of speech is still equally well preserved.


The unbeatable argument


Vote “Yes” loudly!

There is one “No” campaign argument for which I have no rebuttal. It is one advanced in one of the many satirical pieces that arose out of opposition to the first televised Ad of mothers talking about concerns for their cross dressing children and safe school issues. (Small note: Safe schools is about bullying in schools and has nothing to do with marriage equality, people). The counter Ad shows young women talking about how she had planned her marriage for months but that it would never begin to compete with gay individuals who have been planning their marriage for decades. That “wedding competition” line has to be the most valid argument for the “No” vote campaign. It made me laugh and then realise, that’s quite a valid fear. You’d better believe they have been waiting for that day for years. It will come, and the weddings will be fabulous!!


This article was originally published on Australia Awaken.


Right or Left – the invasion of the neo-liberal agenda

By John Haly

Identifying bipartisan values within in our polarised political class is hard. Common ground is elusive not only because the values represented by politics have changed, but discerning the truth in an alternative fact world, filled with propaganda, is problematic. What values do our politicians really hold, as opposed to what they say, they do? What do our representatives really value and what leverage can we apply upon finding commonality between Liberal and Labor or Republican and Democratic representatives?

Our economic commonality

Once upon a time the Republicans stood against slavery, fighting a bitter civil war over it (even if the recently installed president Donald Trump himself, is not sure what that conflict was all about). But now, the red shoe is very much on the other conservative foot.

The American economy was built on slavery, but the emancipation of the black population forced America to reconstitute slavery, redefining it by way of contemporary political spin. The now changed and more authoritarian Republicans have achieved this by instigating the largest per capita incarceration rate in the world, where prisoners slave for the private industrialised markets. And attempts by previous President Barack Obama to curtail this “market” are now being undone by his successor’s moves to boost it.

There are striking similarities in the Australian experience. Although rarely recognised as such, our own initial economic growth was also predicated on slavery of the convict and pacific islander variety. So we can claim no high moral ground. Similarly with America’s passion for “rule of law” and the devising of ever more draconian reasons for increasing incarceration. By way of example, where drug addiction and mental health are succesfully treated as a medical issue in more enlightened countries like Norway, in America and Australia they are still legal issues used to feed prison populations.

Australia is also no stranger to political ideology (once foreign and abhorrent to party politics, but which is now being swallowed whole). Australia as one of the instigators of, signatories to and loud supporters of the UN refugee human rights platform, now holds refugees in foreign gulags across our oceans. Such treatment would have been unthinkable to foundational conservative stalwarts such as Robert Menzies, who in 1954 was amongst the first to ratify the Refugee Convention. Once we in Australia reached out to refugees and embraced them as new neighbours into our community, bringing food parcels and contact to strangers. Today we have the increasing fiasco of scandals and mistreatment of refugees, first by Morrison, and now by Dutton.

Once upon a time

Political relics change with time but society’s memory is short lived

Looking back, we were less afraid, our news of the wider world more limited. Admittedly our situation was hardly perfect. We were more openly racist as evidenced by the White Australia Policy. But we were also less willing to lie and obfuscate to justify our injustices. We were also more courageous, a little less insular in some manner, and far more attracted to science, wonder, community, tribalism and extended “families”. Our societies here and abroad had a larger and more prosperous middle class. Greed was a vice, not a virtue. Class distinctions may have seemed more obvious, but now – when they are more prevalent – they are less discussed. We used to be about societies but now we are all about economies. Interesting reading on that subject can be found in “An Economy is not a Society” by Dennis Glover.

Left and Right wing politics, Democrats and Republicans, Socialists and Conservatives stood for different approaches to the politics of life. Distinctions that existed have disappeared over time. The middle classes are vanishing and now the real polarisations are the rich and the poor, certainly not left and right. Christ was right when he said “the poor you will have always“. One wonders if he actually realised just how vast the gulf would eventually become between the poor and the rich (whom he frequently addressed to do something about it)? Money and it’s influence have become the ultimate distinction in western society.

“Greed is good!”

It no longer matters if you are Democrat, Liberal, Labor or Republican, as the common thread that holds our politics in undivided loyalty is greed. The sort that Gordon Gekko from “Wall Street” once famously declared was good (although a lot of his speech was also about the complacency of the powerful).

Helicopter scandals, perks and privileges should face ICAC

Today our political class embraces greed and complacency without reserve or hesitation. Politics is a lucrative business, as the recent scandals from One Nation demonstrate. Lobbyists, corporations, developers, the rich and empowered all bandy both “sides” of the political spectrum with donations, lucrative “political retirement” jobs and financial funding access. The political arena is awash with nepotism to jobs for the boys. That is on top of the significant salaries, lifelong pensions, travel and security concessions, and business opportunities, which are the dividends of a career in politics. Though even in these shameless times, perhaps Mike Baird, could have spared a little more effort towards maintaining the illusion of some propriety, by spending a little more than six weeks with his “ailing family” (his avowed reason for suddenly quitting the hallowed position of NSW Premier), before taking up the far more lucrative banking industry role with the million dollar salary.

The “sides” that successful political parties hold to today, are small deviations from an overall shared conservative class of values, with greed always being at the center. The “left wing” parties follow the “right wing” parties who have a differential approach to following the money. The pursuit of that money is closely followed by corruption, as the NSW ICAC has repeatedly found on both sides of politics. I attended a lecture by Dr Knox-Haly at the University of Sydney’s 5th floor Abercrombie Room on the history of ICAC on the 19th of May 2017. Also in attendance was Elizabeth Kirby, the longest serving State Democrat MLC (now retired). While asking questions afterwards, Elizabeth pondered why both parties avoid a Federal ICAC. Dr Knox-Haly speculated that the differentiation for corruption between our primary two parties, was while the Liberal’s entitled mentality has little insight into their own corruption, “The difference is, that Labor actually has some insight that what they are doing, might be corrupt“.

Electing democracy

The “left wing” stay just marginally behind their similar “right wing” counterparts, for the purpose of declaring their “distinctions” to attract a community of voters who will largely vote for the “lesser of two evils“. Unfortunately, clever gerrymandering, electoral colleges, systems of disenfranchising classes of voters, legal court challenges and strategic alliances more often than not, ensure the public majority will is ignored.

In the recent American presidential elections, the Democratic candidate (Hillary Clinton) received three million more votes than the Republican candidate (Donald Trump), but due to the electoral college system, the Republicans won the presidency. Dismissing 3 million people as an example of fraudulent voting is not just unproven, intellectually lazy, ludicrous, and credibility stretching. It is also an acceptable lie, which relieves the “true believer” from any intelligent engagement in politics.

Similary in Australia, according to the AEC 34.73% of the electorate voted Labor and 28.67% Liberal in the last federal election. But political alliances with the Nationals and preference systems ensure the Liberals currently hold power in Australia, although only by the majority of one seat. Adding all Liberal, National and LNP primary votes, only accounts for 41.80% of the 13.5 million voters in Australia. In France, the majority voted against National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, and yet with 21.3% of the vote, she was still one of just two finalists in the last round of French elections (which she lost).

Trump won the American presidency but not the popular vote, because of an historical, artificially weighted voting system. It is arguable that there may have been good reasons for such weighted voting systems historically. But as times and circumstances have changed, such electoral systems have moved from serving the common good, to more likely serving small select interest groups driven by avarice and greed. Gerrymandering has largely been discounted in Australia by non-partisan boundary selections, but it is rife in America, even though it loudly and proudly proclaims itself to be the longest lasting “democratic republic” in the world.

Origins of the Neo-liberal agenda

None of these weighted electoral voting systems started out as corrupt. The rebalancing undertaken was merely meant to provide a more equitable representation of the will of all of the people in a polity. For example, to avoid giving greater or overwhelming national influence to more populous urban and coastal areas, over the needs and will of smaller regional inland populations. A reasonable proposition on the surface of it.

But societies and technology have changed slowly over time, and unfortunately that electoral system has simply not adjusted (enough) to the changing nuances and circumstances of contemporary life. As a result, the erosion of democracy did not occur suddenly. The rights of the majority were rather whittled away through successive governments from both “sides” of politics. Privatisation of Public assets in Australia did not start with Conservatives, it began with Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. The “socialist” Labor party divorced itself gradually from its roots in the Union movement and its support of the working class. Similarly, Trump is not a new phenomenon. The pathway there was laid by Democrats and Republicans equally.

Obama was not a “socialist” black man.  He was a privileged, wealthy man complicit with the greedy, über wealthy class he mingled with and still does.  Unlike Iceland, he did not jail the people responsible for crippling his country’s economy, he paid them off. That mistake has cost America dearly. A repetition of a formula that has never worked but is repeatedly applied. The gold coloured glasses of privilege and wealth screened out the faces of the poorer masses, who had otherwise hoped that because he shared a skin colour, his filtered eyes might see their plight. His foreign policy was deplorable when it came to the Middle East, when you consider that Obama bombed seven countries adding to an enormous refugee crisis in Europe.

While I am being harsh with Obama, there are many things that are commendable about his administration, not the least of which is the extraordinary efforts he made to create (the now endangered) Obamacare. To be fair to the balance of this article, you should read the Rolling Stone’s article in regards his successes and failures. The good that a man may do, whether it is Obama or Keating, is oft undermined by what they either failed to address, or any concessions that were made to not ruffle the feathers of the wealthy cocks in the hen house.


European lighthouse warning Australian economic/policy shipping

Neoliberal politics from both the “left” and the “right” have had a debilitating effect on egalitarian democracies. Neither “side” of politics (Labor/Liberal or Republican/Democrat) have a policy platform designed to rectify inequality, or our increasingly controlling police state, or our endless pointless involvement in wars on the other side of the planet. The best we can hope for is to be a little less unequal, by choosing a candidate that leans towards helping the proletarians.  Instead each “side” have internalised neo-liberal conservative values to a lesser or greater extent. Unless either side tailors a persuasive vision of real world solutions based on evidence – as opposed to ideology – from more successful democracies (i.e. Europe), the downward spiral of inequality and social class division will continue.  Unless the “lefter” side of “right” begin to propose policy platforms that could achieve a shift away from what cripples our economies, then they will continue to lose elections and the public’s faith.

It’s just a step to the left

Interestingly in Australia, both Labor and Liberal have begun leaning a little to the left (Labor in policy and voting history, and the Liberals with regards to the 2017 budget). A departure from previous history. Such wins are small and their longer term future uncertain. The positive aspects of the 2017 Liberal government budget and health reforms, still exist in context alongside other classic neoliberal policies, such as tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of the impoverished. Both Trump and Turnbull share the delusion that trickle down economics is a way forward, despite all the real world evidence that it has never worked. Wages and jobs remain depressed in both countries and unemployment is the only growth area.

Death by 1000 cuts

Very few of the changes that harm our society are rushed, although the Rebublicans are certainly trying it with healthcare. Once suggesting the nascent beginnings of a possible policy paradigm shift – the very likely soon to be extinct Obamacare – has proven to be merely an ephemeral reform, yielding to an upsurge in the everlasting tidal vices of greed and self interest. Likewise, the increasing incremental attacks on Medicare in Australia are following a similar path by way of stealth such as freezes and coverage removals leading eventually to an American privatised style medical system.

Of course, even Trump recognises that Australia’s universal healthcare system is currently still a long way from being anything like what they have in America. However, the eventual dissolution of Medicare was never going to be a matter of outright overnight dissolution, in the manner that Trump and the Republicans are seeking to achieve with the dissolution of Obamacare. Rather, it will be the gradual death by one thousand cuts, with Australia gradually devolving to a system where big phama, hospitals, insurance, bio-medical and prosthetic companies garner huge profits at the expense of failing health and ageing demographics of our society.

Paths once trod we follow

Are the Roman and American empires fates entwined?

With so little political differences in policies, how will any of this change? Being self-contented and tranquil is the domain of spiritual gurus, saints and philosophers, but many of us find our political plight disturbing and seek change. America, although, is as unlikely to change anymore than the Roman Empire once did. Only collapse or revolution ever bought about real change in the Roman Empire. Is America’s only hope therefore, its eventual collapse? And even if that occurs how will it ever satisfy its insatiable vice of greed? How much longer will it take for Australia to follow that path? Do we have hope of another, less-traveled path? Is there hope that we are not as America-lite as some dread? For example, if you have to go to the pains that Matt Wade did to assert our differences, is that because he is aware of how many similarities we have? How long will such differences remain? And if either nation changes course, for how long shall we stay that course, guided by the sort of people that are currently attracted to a polity where self aggrandisement and avarice takes precedence over leadership, governance and vision? Some vices transcend time, revolution and society.

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken.

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