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Unemployment by COVID exploded

By John Haly  

Locking down the economy to save lives in a pandemic comes at the cost of unemployment, but how much, is the issue. Measuring that unemployment in Australia has been the focus of much dissent of late, in both social and mainstream media. The variations post-COVID have been extreme and rigour in methodology and measurement primarily abandoned.

Headlines like the ABC’s “Almost a million Australians out of work due to coronavirus; RBA tips economy to take 10pc hit”, are common. The Reserve Bank and Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre asserted similarly, “unemployment rate will rocket from 5.1 per cent past the 1992 high of 11.1 per cent as quickly as August before hitting 12.7 per cent in May 2021.

ABS instability

Meanwhile, the underfunded and understaffed ABS produced statistics on unemployment that needed readjusting between January and May of 2020. Between 5.1% to 5.2% for any given month, raising or dropping unemployment estimates month to month anywhere between 5,500 to 10,900. The month of February shifted from 689.9K (5.1%) on the 19th of March by an additional 10.9K to 709.8K (5.2%), by the 16th of April. The adjacent chart shows the other four adjustments. Data accuracy was problematic under COVID-19.

ABS’s Unemployment website record of changes to unemplyment figures in 2020

Apparently, the ABS had stopped surveying the whole of March during the lockdown. By the 14th of May, the ABS announced that unemployment had only risen from 5.2% (718.8K) in March to 6.2% (823.3K) in April. No trend estimates for April were released, despite being widely perceived as an underestimate. If this is to be considered valid, then this constituted a percentage of drastic unemployment which had previously been unseen, … since September of 2015 – when it was last 6.2%. In the middle of a Pandemic with apparently massive job losses, we were expected to believe it was as “catastrophic” as most of 2014 and 2015. Although if you look back far enough, it was much worse (as unemployment exceeded 6.2%) in the first half of 2003, back as far as the time ABS kept records, using the redesigned sample methodology developed, back in 1992.

6.2%? Really?

To everyone’s surprise, a certain level of healthy scepticism has arisen about the ABS statistics. There were dozens of social media posts that bandied the “one hour a week” rule for defining employment, as a criticism.

Questioning of Sen. Michaelia Cash 19th Sept 2019 at Doorstop Canberra

The idea that anything over one” hour a week constitutes “employment” arose from a question raised by a journalist to Michaelia Cash. The reaction to Cash’s “one hour a week” measure of employment is problematic because neither was, the question well-posed nor the answer, accurate. The problem is the “one hour in a week” rule is a misnomer. Statistically, that is true of what is known as the “reference week”, BUT the ABS also takes regard of the four weeks before the end of the reference week. So “what counts as full-time work” is not measured in any one week, neither do they count your work history for only a week. Besides, no one works for merely one hour a week as Greg Jericho is quick to point out. It is far more likely the minimum is at least a single work shift a week. Although, Greg’s focusing on the “one hour a week”, ignores the other points of exclusion.

You also have to be actively looking for work during those four weeks to be counted as unemployed. Other exclusions include working without pay in either a family business or farm during the reference week. Steve Keen in “The Australian”, of all places:

Herein lies the problem with spin in economic data: sometimes the spin turns your way, sometimes it doesn’t. The ABS uses the internationally sanctioned definition of unemployment, which is similar to Tom Waits’ definition of being drunk: you have to be really, really out of it to qualify. Not only must you not be in employment, but you can’t have done even one hour of paid or unpaid in the four weeks prior to the survey. Nor can you be discouraged by the absence of available jobs either — you must have applied for something in the previous four weeks — and you must be available to start immediately.”

This explains why – for the ABS – unemployment is only 6.2%. The Lockdown by Scott Morrison announced on the 13th of March began on March 16th – after his Church’s Pentecostal conference was over. Closures of pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants weren’t mandated till the following Monday. Further closures of Auction houses, real estate auctions, eating in shopping centre food courts, amusement parks, play centres, etc., were not decided on, till later that week. Wage subsidy packages were decided on, by the end of March.

So, given people have to be unemployed for four weeks to begin to registering to the ABS as “unemployed”, many former employees, would not have even been designated as “unemployed” in April. Also one needs to factor in, that Jobkeeper “hid” people who were later fired in April or thereafter.

International vs domestic

The ABS unemployment methodology is often criticised for the wrong reasons. What people don’t understand is the methodology championed by ILO that ABS has a context – international comparisons. That is the correct context. The “I” in ILO stands for International not Intra-national.

As a stand-alone domestic measure, it is fundamentally flawed—realised by the concession that there is an element of “hidden unemployment” that is not measured by the ABS methods. There is also a concept of “discouraged job seekers” and “underutilisation”. All these additional descriptions are an admission that the ABS does not wholistically measure Australian unemployment. The ILO standard was never designed to be used to measure the internal or domestic unemployment of any country.  Alan Austin often uses ABS statistics to compare nations but continues to demonstrate that, there is more to Australian unemployment than just the 5+% the ABS has been claiming in recent years.

Australian domestic employment

The ABS does not adequately measure real domestic unemployment. The government frequently engages with these measures to deceive the public as to the actual extent of domestic unemployment. This is where the non-internationally comparative Roy Morgan’s statistics should be used. They are a far more accurate measure of real domestic unemployment in Australia. Roy Morgan is quite capable of defending its methodology. Comparing Roy Morgan and the ABS shows that the ABS has become increasingly misaligned.

Roy Morgan vs ABS statistics on unemployment

Charting Roy Morgan’s employment statistics for over a decade and adding the Department of Employment’s IVI statistics for job vacancies reveals several long-standing trends.

  1. Full-time work has been falling as a portion of Employment in Australia, and Part-time has been rising.
  2. The rate of entry into the workforce is not matched by employment growth.  Unemployment now at 15.3% from 6.3% in April 13 years ago as illustrated by the gap between workforce and employment.
  3. There have never been enough job vacancies to fill the unemployed’s needs for work.
  4. There was no robustness in the economy for jobs to survive any emergency that might disrupt it.

Workforce, employment and job vacancies in Australia over 13 years

This graph shows a stark drop in full-time employment when pandemic lockdown occurred, but not so for part-time employment. While these are early days to track significant reductions, there is another explanation.

Corporation’s human capital is often hard and expensive to acquire. Expertise that marches out the door from an enterprise can be irreplaceable, especially in high-end jobs. Drilling down into the IVI stats for job vacancies reveals numeric disparities between entry-level jobs and highly skilled positions.

The combination of managers, professionals, technicians, social workers, clericals, etc., represent the largest portion of job vacancies whereas labourers, machinery operators, drivers and low skilled jobs are a much smaller proportion. I’ve outlined these proportions previously via Anglicare’s Jobs Availability Snapshot.

Shifting full-time workers to part-time helps employers retaining critical staff when their business recovers. The ACA promoted this as an option for keeping staff, and the JobKeeper legislation enables that approach.

Australian under and unemployment

Still, where is our recovery going to come from when you consider the figures of this graph on under and unemployment and job vacancies? Consider:

  1. Given the enormity of under and unemployment (24.7%), how can our economy recover?
  2. Given the trend in falling job vacancies to less than half what it was at the beginning of the year, from where is employment going to come?
  3. Given Australia has been in a per-capita recession since late 2018 where is the pre-existing economic robustness for a functional recovery?
  4. Given the previous falls in business & consumer confidenceWage rates and household saving, and rises in CPIUtility pricing, through household debt where is the cushion for a soft landing?

Under & unemployment and the poor job vacancy opportunities in Australia

The methodology for unemployment measurements during the great depression of the 1930s was different from how we measure today. Pointing out that unemployment reached a record high of around 30% in 1932, is problematic as we are not using comparable measures. That hasn’t stopped the media from making the comparison, and it is not that far fetched, given the enormity of the problem.

Poor economic indicators for Australia leading into 2020

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

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Not so Covid Safe

By John Haly  

The CovidSafe app has triggered innumerable privacy and security concerns amidst the public, who are already deeply suspicious of a government that has eroded public trust. Amongst recent instances of the diminishment of our trust are:

Despite the trust deficit, the Australian Government has spent $1.5m on CovidSafe, including over $700,000 for Amazon to host the data.

But is the issue Trust or Competence?

The lack of trust in this Government’s promotion of this CovidSafe App may be justifiable on their record on privacy and security. Still, you have to keep in mind their frequent displays of incompetence in science and technology. Remember Abbott and Brandis trying to tell the public what metadata was? Remember Malcolm Turnbull trying to come up with a better NBN? Recall both the Australian Census online or the Centrelink portal failures were falsely blamed on convenient DOS attacks? Attacking them on untrustworthiness can be done. Still, it is easier to criticise the App’s lack of suitability both technically and statistically. So I am going to stay away from the privacy and security issue and ask the question, is the CovidSafe App fit for purpose?

The Physics of Radio Signals

My analysis begins with a comment in a recent ABC article concerning the software bugs and issues of the COVIDSafe contact-tracing app:

“ … “Because mobile phone device models are different in Bluetooth strength and how they operate, all contacts within Bluetooth range are noted on the user’s device,” a DTA spokesperson said. …”

Bugs and issues can be fixed (although not in time before lockdown lift begins), but there are limits to what our science can discern about the physics of radio signals, like Bluetooth.

Let me ask you, dear reader, a few questions.

Do you live in the country, city, an apartment or have anyone who lives within 10 metres of you? Do you stand in a social distancing line keeping the required 1.5m while waiting to get into a shop? The answer to the last question ought to be yes, but bear with me. If you are within 10 metres – or in right circumstances, perhaps twice that – then you and a stranger or a known neighbour can be tagged with “associating” because this App uses Bluetooth to detect other phones.

Before you protest that it is supposed to be when you are within 1.5 metres, keep in mind using BlueTooth for localisation is a very well researched field of study. Bluetooth and other narrowband radio systems can only reach an accuracy of several metres at best without accompanying geolocation or triangulation of wifi data (a strategy later IEEE papers raise as attempts to overcome localisation inaccuracies). Naturally adding geolocation data, raises all the apparent privacy and monitoring concerns (which I said I was not going to go into). This App, for now, doesn’t use geolocation except on the Android/Google version of the App in a limited capacity.

Bluetooth Ranges by class dependancies


Signal strength isn’t a good indicator of distance between two connected BlueTooth devices, because it is too subject to environmental conditions. Is there a person between the devices? How is the owner holding his/her device? What is its proximity to metal plates that impede the signal path? Are there any other radio frequency reflecting surfaces? Is there a wall? Concrete walls will attenuate the radio signal. Using BlueTooth is essentially wholly inaccurate, and it has absolutely no sense of direction. Much like our Government, but I digress. Whereas the virus can’t traverse walls and floors (unless it is brought into enclosed spaces by people), Bluetooth can. Generically for a distance of approximately 10 metres. Although my testing on a five-year-old iPhone 5 running iOS 9 can make a connection from nearly 20 metres through two building walls or doors. So Bluetooth can’t tell when you are 1.5 metres away.

Bluetooth Ranges are extending not contracting.


Meaning two neighbours sitting alone watching TV in their lounge room – according to their respective phones running the App – have been in close contact for hours if your binge-watching a good series. Let’s not even discuss how long you and your neighbours have spent “sleeping” together, while alone in your adjacent houses or apartments with your phones on the charger by your beds. For all you know, anybody’s phone might be standing in the adjacent store, approximately ten or more metres away but with whom you never interact. The Government App will be rife with false positives without you even knowing who these “contacts” are.

Google Phone providing geolocation permissions

But alternatively, a passing stranger’s viral cough load, can in seconds, infect you. So can contact from a surface contaminated with coronavirus. Someone coughing into your face is undetectable by your mutual phones, unless he spends 15 minutes in your proximity, apologising. At least if that happens, you have plenty of time to ask for name and contact information for the contact tracers, when one of you gets unfortunate news after being tested. Touching an infected surface and forgetting to wash your hands before shovelling food into your mouth, means the time between contact and infection, can be hours, but either the wrong or no phone, might be blamed.

The App can detect none of these scenarios that tell you when another person with the same App, has a phone. None of these things will trigger a 15 minute Bluetooth alert. It is not just false positives that it will generate, but it simply can not detect anything other than another phone. Let me reiterate. It is a Phone detection facility, not a virus detection facility!!

The Lottery Probability

Now let’s discuss some numbers! The ABC reported on the 6th of May, that 5 million phones that had uploaded the App. The Government reported on the same day we had conducted 688K tests Australia-wide for the virus. This lifted our testing stats to 2.6% of the population, presuming not too many people have gone in for repeat tests.

Our consequent testing regime has risen (as of 21st of May) to 1,137,684 tests or 4.4% of the Australian population of 25.695 million. Simultaneously, the upload of CovidSafe has slowed to only 5.87 million by the 19th of May. So 22% of the population (a long way from Morrison’s desire for 40%) with an App that can only potentially detect 4.4% of the population, and a lot of these tests will be negative – for now. Only 0.65% of all those tests have been positive.

The Covid infection Status in Australia as of 6th of May


So let’s rephrase that.

So 22% of the population – if paired with mutual phones running a working version of the CovidSafe App – can confirm the 0.65% of 4.4% of our population, has coronavirus. To be fair, it might have a remote possibility of identifying someone with an infection, but the probability of my winning the lottery has a better chance. Let’s not forget the only alert the App – in theory – sends, is AFTER someone has been infected and have informed authorities and a tracing team has triggered the alarm, which, if they have infected you, is a little too late. Note I used phrases like, “might have” and “in theory.” Sadly as of writing this, the capacity of the App to do any of this is non-existent.

The Covid infection Status in Australia as of 21st of May


As of the 19th of May, no State in Australia has reported any use of the CovidSafe App data, and the State with the most substantial documented infection rate (NSW) “has had issues integrating it into the existing contact-tracing method.” In addition to the incapacity of States to process the data, many smartphones can’t run the CovidSafe App.  The Guardian reports, “there are no plans to make it work on phones operating older software than iOS 10 and Android 6.0.” This is not a recent discovery, as we have known for some time that the tracing capacity is inoperative.

Risk Factors

The most significant risk is the public’s misunderstanding that it will keep them safe. That leads to complacency, which means people may ease their due diligence and not be so cautious about social distancing and washing their hands regularly. That is where it becomes dangerous.

To quote one woman I interacted with recently on social media said, “I have the app because l want to be notified if l have come into contact with a positive person and get tested ASAP.” The App was never even conceived to be a buzzer that alerts you to positive people nearby. Perceptions like that actually make it dangerous! Not only does it not keep you ”safe,” but it also has the potential to increase the risk of infection through complacency. The Government has been negligent in educating the public not only to what it is supposed to do, but what are the limits of the physics of radio waves and statistical probability.

People’s misunderstanding of how the App works leads to risk taking.


Instead of focusing on a dysfunctional App, perhaps we should be following the examples of IcelandSouth KoreaGermany, or our neighbour New Zealand and upscaling randomised asymptomatic testing or regular testing for critical workers. All the success stories of countries handling the virus have the common thread that testing was crucial.


The App is not a panacea for tracing infection. It is a placebo to placate the masses who are too technically illiterate to understand the nuances and limitations of technology, by an incompetent Government that focuses on misunderstood technology at the expense of more robust asymptomatic testing of Australians.

Unfit for purpose? Gov’t or App?

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


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Pass the baton

By John Haly  

Children are striking in the streets and demanding an effective response to climate change, while many adults sit on their hands. It is a sharp illustration of intergenerational conflict, and Greta Thunberg has become a lightning rod for that conflict.

Greta Grief

Children are striking in the streets and demanding an effective response to climate change, while many adults sit on their hands. It is a sharp illustration of intergenerational conflict, and Greta Thunberg has become a lightning rod for that conflict.

Mind you, Greta had demonstrated quite the capacity to defend herself, protesting that, “They come up with every thinkable lie and conspiracy theory.” It’s not like the generational divide hasn’t been a feature of every previous protest and societal struggle, but with the advent of social media, the conservative minority voice has been amplified out of all proportion to their numbers.

Interestingly on that subject, rarely does the subject of the “science” emerge in the conservatives criticism. When it does, it goes beyond parroting debunked right-wing dogma, as it has revealed the enmeshed relationship between the conservative pressmining barons and political parties. These self-interested groups will stop at nothing to protect their vested interests and are quite literally prepared to sacrifice children and their future.

The millions of dollars dedicated to Climate Denial funding

Yet Greta is triggering the troglodytes and eliciting bullying from a notably dominantly loud demographic in our society – Conservative and Privileged Old White Misogynists.

Hypocrisy in action


The rage of Conservative and Privileged Old White Misogynist (CAPOWM) men is leading the charge. Miranda Divine and Daisy Cousens would demonstrate that it is not an exclusively male opposition. #notall[are]men😎 Irrespective, the role of women in outrage over Greta, is dwarfed by the sheer numbers of male counterparts.

CAPOWM men feel very affected and threatened by a 16-year-old girl in plaits in a way they do not feel affected by about thousands of scientists and adult climate activists. Despite adults protesting, the idea of children conducting a school strike is seen as an existential threat that invokes a moral panic previously unseen. This “existential threat” is breaching some fundamental principle these CAPOWM men hold to be sacrosanct.

1 These men hold that Elder men are authoritative and demand respect for their “masculine role” and Greta is challenging the status quo and daring to raise her voice to confront her elders on their failures to attend to these climate issues.

2 These men hold that woman and children should be subordinate, and Greta is challenging their authority and refuses to back down to them.

3 These men maintain that they have the right to power and authority, and Greta is building a groundswell of popular power to rise and challenge their “throne of swords”.

4 These men have always been able to blackmail, bully and bribe, but she is so bold and so young that they can find no means of leverage and find themselves in foreign territory. Perhaps not dissimilar to the British response when they faced off Joan of Arc.

5 These men realise they cannot reduce this young woman to being a sexualised compliant tool whom they can manipulate to disparage or compromise. Although Tommaso Casalin, an Italian youth football coach, thought otherwise and was justly sanctioned.

6 These men fear the loss of their wealth, power or privilege or that they will be asked to share any part of it!

7 These men realise it is inherently wrong to attack a child and are confronted by the power of her honesty. They know they lack the moral high ground and hate being out manoeuvered.

Finally, my eighth reason and one – which when I read online – I initially thought was satire. I searched in vain through the article page for the satire disclaimer. It wasn’t satire! I have seen it replicated a few times now. I baulked at adding this because – while acknowledging toxic masculinity – I inaccurately assumed, this was a minority of chest-thumping men who felt afflicted by this issue.

8 These men’s toxic masculinity has such a firm grip on their psyche; they feel that if they engage in eco-friendly behaviour, they’re worried it might undermine their masculinity. In short, being seen as “green”, is perceived as “too girly”. WTF!

As a personal interjection, I find it quite hard to wrap my head around the last one. Since I thought it was satire initially, I can only reference Mark Humphries or The Chaser’s real satire by way of providing these men with clarity.

The critical evaluation of Mysogyny

Decent Men!

Decent older men, don’t behave like this!  And I want to finish this article with an inspiration I took from the Student Climate Strike in Kyoto, Japan which our family attended on the 20th of September 2019. My son has not missed any of the School Climate strikes in Australia, but we were in Japan when this one occurred. My son is no “Greta”, even if he understands the crisis of anthropogenic climate change. He is a self-effacing lad not prone to outbursts of radical self-expression or shouting slogans in people’s faces, although I have heard him joining in the chants at protests of his own volition. Although, only when he didn’t notice his proud father looking on. I spoke of his attendance at the first strike in this embedded article.

It was witnessing the “passing of the baton” from one generation to the next, in the Japanese march that caught my attention, amidst all the photographs and recordings I made. The protest started with some speeches at Maruyama Park (an urban park known for its cherry blossoms). Protestors formed an orderly procession under the constructive direction of police officers who at intervals reminded people to drink water to fend off any dehydration. Compared to the harsher attitudes of Australian police over climate protests invoked by Government lies, the courtesy and concern of the escorting police existed as a sharp contrast. The chants expressed by the protestors alternated between English and Japanese.

Casual police presence and peaceful protest

Last efforts to carry the torch for a generation

Amongst the protestors was an old man in a wheelchair, holding a sign in his lap that read, “No peace without Global Justice”. As the parade progressed down the street, I noted he was missing. The young lady (and accompanying gentleman) who had been pushing his wheelchair was holding the sign. After not finding him in the crowd, I approached them and interviewed them, as to where he had gone. As an older man, he wanted to participate for as long as he could in the student’s strike but had a medical appointment pending. He passed his sign back to the younger lady and left, in effect passing the baton back to youth to carry the cause on. She carried his sign until the end of the march.

CAPOWM men trolling the internet

Could we perhaps refrain from being foolish misogynist old white men who keep disparaging our youth? Could we be less threatened, by a forthright young girl demanding we pull our proverbial socks up, and take a lesson from a wiser old Japanese man? There comes a time in an older man’s life when whatever effort we have made to better our world for our children, is beyond us. We pass on the baton to them in the hope they will build a better world from the mistakes we have made. For that task, the only thing worthy of an honourable man, is to pass on whatever encouragement, guidance and blessings he can.

Climate Protest by permaculture

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches and has also been published on Independent Australia.

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Donation transparency

By Dr Martha Knox-Haly and John Haly.

The Australian government’s increasing corruption is both measurable and comparable with other sovereign states. Trends in fluctuating Transparency International score for Australia in the last 25 years and international comparisons on political donations rules, are revelatory.

In 2013, Australia was amongst the top 10 countries on the Transparency International Index. Now in 2019, it has fallen to 13th in the world. There are many avenues through which the national ranking of transparency can deteriorate. What is clear is that the form of government and the quality of that government plays a significant role in determining transparency. Transparency rankings are highest in countries where democracy is most robust. Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark are all in the top ten countries on the Transparency International Index. The same modelling also indicates that dictatorships are the next least corrupt form of government (Page 2) and that corruption is most likely to occur in partial democracies, where the state is weakened. Could Australia’s comparatively quick slide between 2013 to 2019, be associated with a process that is undermining the state? This period coincides with the advent of the Coalition Government, and Australia’s slide out of the top 10 has happened before. The Transparency International Index only goes back to 1995 and has only been operating in its current form since 1998. But an examination of the years from 1998 to 2007, which coincides with the four terms of the Howard Government, indicates that Australia had fallen entirely out of the top 10, tending to hover around 11th to 13th place. Australia’s score hovered between 7 to 9 from 2007 to 2013, a period which coincided with the Rudd/Gillard Federal Labor Governments. It is not possible to say precisely why these shifts in Australia’s standing occurred based on which party was in power Federally. But it does suggest that there are underlying phenomena to be explored.

Donations or Bribery?

It should also be noted that the Transparency Index only measures perceptions of corruption, rather than actual corruption. Political donations are amongst the most direct means of state capture, or which weakens democratic purpose. This awareness was born out in a 2003 World Economic Forum survey of 102 countries, where 89% of surveyed countries estimated that the influence of political donations on policy changes was moderate to high.  Is there something unique to Australia’s political donations rules, that differentiates Australia from the top ten countries on the Transparency International Index, but which has also been a point of difference between the Federal Liberal and Labor Governments? Referring to the IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) database can clarify the first part of this question. The IDEA database compares 180 countries, on 74 different aspects of political donations. The database draws a distinction between donations to individual candidates versus parties. Specific questions are listed about rules around foreign contributions, corporate contributions, trade union contributions and contributions from other sources. Limits on monetary, in-kind and candidate-funded contributions, access to media, restrictions on online advertising, as well as gender equity in candidate funding, are explored. Prohibitions on vote-buying, spending limits for candidates and political parties, requirements for regular reporting on party finances and candidate expenses, public availability of reports, as well as disclosure of donor and lobbyist identities, are listed items.

On the matter of restricting contribution sources, Australia appears to be more rigorous than some of the ten countries on the transparency index. Australia, along with Singapore, Finland and Norway have specifically restricted foreign contributions to elections. Australia (along with eight of the ten top countries) permits contributions from corporations and trade unions (in fact only Canada and Luxembourg expressly prohibit corporate contributions). Canada, Finland and Luxembourg explicitly prohibit donations from corporations with government contracts to parties or candidates, but Australia and the six remaining countries of the top ten, do not have such a prohibition. Only Finland and Canada have explicit limits for individual donations outside of election periods to candidates and parties. Finland, Sweden, Norway and Luxembourg explicitly prohibit the use of state resources in elections, but there are seven top ten countries, which do not. Data is not available for Canada and the Netherlands, but no such limit exists for Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark. In fact, there is remarkably little difference between Australia and any of the top ten countries with respect to 73 of the political donations indications listed on the IDEA index.

Countries that ban corporate donations

There is only one stark difference between Australia and the top ten countries, and this is in the realm of anonymous donations. Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark and Norway expressly prohibit anonymous donations. The other countries require disclosure of donor identity for donations ranging between $20 for Canada to $5000 for Singapore. The Australian cap on anonymous donations is twice as high as that permitted in Singapore. In Australia, the cap on anonymous donations is set at $10,000 per year and is indexed by the consumer price index each year. Also, Australian political parties are only required to do an annual disclosure, unlike other top TI countries, which require more frequent and more timely disclosure.

Further anonymous donations of up to $10000 can be treated as separate items at Federal, State and Territory levels. In theory, this means that up to $90000 could be contributed each year anonymously to a given party. No other country in the top ten has such a loose and generous relationship with anonymous donations.

In Australia, the financial disclosure scheme was amended on the 8th December 2005 to increase the threshold for anonymous donations to more than $10,000 per the calendar year as a result of its being linked to the CPI. What was the background for this? According to the Federal Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform (JSCER), the public was already concerned about political donations back in 1983. This lead to recommendations for fully funded public elections, disclosures and public funding for first preference votes. In 1995, the Keating Labor Government removed the obligation for parties to lodge a claim with the AEC for reimbursement of electoral expenses, weakening institutional oversight of donations. However, it was the Howard Coalition Government, which amended the Electoral Act in 2005, increasing the prescribed anonymous disclosure threshold to $10,000, and making it CPI Indexed. By 2017, the disclosure threshold was $13,500. Before 2005, the disclosure threshold was $200 for candidates, $1000 for senate groups and $1500 for political parties. The changes reflected a diminishing pool of private donors for both major political parties, and it was a concern at least for Labor Senator John Faulkener that this would open the way for buying and selling access.

In 2008, the Rudd Labor Government tried to reduce the anonymous disclosure threshold to $1000 through the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2008. That bill prohibited the receipt of gifts of foreign property limit public funding to the lesser amount of either actual campaign expenditure or the amount awarded per eligible vote received. The 2008 bill stalled in the Senate, as did the two subsequent efforts by the Rudd Government. The Gillard Government tried and failed to reduce the disclosure threshold in 2011. Coalition representatives on the JSCER dissented against the reduced disclosure threshold. They also resisted having the definition of ‘gifts’ being amended to include fundraising. In 2013, a deal was struck between the Gillard Government and then opposition leader Tony Abbott, which would have resulted in the anonymous disclosure threshold being reduced to $5000. However, Abbott faced a party revolt, once details of the deal leaked.

After his loss to Malcolm Turnbull, Abbott spoke out again about the need for transparency in political donations in 2016. The Australian Labor Party introduced the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Donation Reform and Transparency) Bill 2016 in November 2016. The bill again tried to reduce the disclosure threshold to $1,000, prohibit the gift of foreign property and anonymous gifts; and restrict public funding of election campaigning to declared expenditure incurred or reimbursed based on first preference votes. The Australian Greens also attempted to introduce a similar bill in 2016, which would reduce the threshold for anonymous donations, and prohibit contributions from specific industries. It failed, although foreign donations have been prohibited, corporate, trade union donations remain. To date, the extraordinarily high anonymous donations cap is still in place, and it is clear that it is both a point of distinction between Australia and the top ten TI countries and between the Coalition and other parties.

Failing perception of Transparency for Australia

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


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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.


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