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Search Results for: loz lawrey

Charities, Unions and Social Welfare Groups Call For Living Incomes For Everyone: The LIFE Campaign Begins

By Loz Lawrey  

Throughout the current Coalition government’s term in office, social activist groups and even business leaders have been calling for the abysmally low Newstart (now JobSeeker) payment of $565.70 per fortnight to be raised to at least a minimum level that affords recipients the ability to meet their basic needs: food, shelter and the necessities of life.

In real terms, the rate of Newstart has been frozen at its current punitive level since 1994, as this 2016 article in The Conversation explains.

For years, successive governments have allowed this social justice issue to fester as one of the elephants in Australia’s room (like climate change inaction, the inhumane treatment of indigenous Australians and asylum seekers in detention… etc… ).

A religious obsession with neoliberalism has always strangled the Coalition’s ability to acknowledge and respond effectively to the real-world issues that our nation confronts.

That cultish ideology reframes every debate in money market terms: the economy becomes pre-eminent and over-arching while society, where the actual real people reside with their very real need for assistance and support from a government that claims to govern in their name. Trickle down rules.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has, however, thrown the economic and social cards into the air and forced  the Morrison government to deliver what society required: an immediate all-encompassing (more or less) protective response to both the pandemic itself and its resultant economic damage and unemployment.

Suddenly, the Coalition’s tiresome judgmental weasel statements such as “a fair go for those who have a go” sound like the screech of fingernails on blackboard.

At times like these, what choice do conservative governments have? Knocked off their ideological perches and pedestals, they embrace a form of socialism. And throw some money around in the public interest.

This irony has not escaped many, but what choice do they have?  Australia is, after all, a social democracy and we expect our governments to step up and act to assist us all in times of crisis.

Although it has been widely reported that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic the Morrison government has “doubled” the fortnightly JobSeeker payment, this is in fact not the case. The payment remains at $565.70, or a mere $40.40 per day.

It is the provision of a separate additional “coronavirus supplement” of $550.00 per fortnight that has, for practical purposes, “doubled” the payment, bringing it to $1,115.70 or $79.69 per day.

Why not just increase the JobSeeker payment? Why the separate ”coronavirus supplement”? It’s simple. In September 2020, once eradication or sufficient suppression of the virus has been achieved and things return, to some extent at least, to “normal” (we hope), the Coalition intends to jettison the supplement and return JobSeeker payments to the previous punitive and insufficient Newstart level of a mere $40.40 per day.

Yes, they are indeed that bloody-minded.

What the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted is this: the government has only succeeded in keeping pre-pandemic unemployment payments at such a low level because charities have taken up the slack and unemployed Australians were an easily-disregarded minority.

Come September, those charities expect a surge in demand they will be unable to meet should payments revert to previous levels. Let’s not forget that vast numbers of newly unemployed Australians may never work again and may require ongoing assistance.

The arrival of the pandemic and the need for a Keynesian “pump-priming” response forced the Morrison government to raise the Jobseeker payment to a level that actually worked in the real world.

It’s one thing to demonise, marginalise and underpay unemployed Australians when they constitute a small percentage of the population, but quite another to treat the hordes of citizens who’ve lost their livelihoods in the past three months with similar contempt.

Under the Coalition, the JobSeeker payment has been kept deliberately low, an inadequate support payment deliberately designed to punish those unable (or, in the government’s twisted view, unwilling) to find employment.

When only a small percentage of the population is unemployed, they become easy targets for demonisation by others.

When most Australians are enjoying the good times provided by a healthy economy, for those left behind the “dole bludger” myth is easily maintained, stoked as it is by commercial media and conservative politicians.  With the arrival of COVID-19 that myth collapsed.

The millions of working Australians who’ve lost their livelihoods due to the effects of the pandemic cannot be tarred with the brush of laziness that the Morrisons of this world have always applied to those in need.

In Australia in 2018-19, the “poverty line” (measured as 50% of median income) was $457.00 per week for a single adult or $65.28 per day.

The poverty line represents the income level below which an individual is considered “poor” and unable to provide for their daily needs. Clearly $40.40 per day represents a level of support that leaves recipients living in a state of constant stress and anxiety, struggling to pay for rent, bills and food.

It should be a given that, in a civilised society, even one suffering from the current pandemic-induced upheavals, that social support payments for the unemployed and disadvantaged should never be allowed to fall below the poverty line.

That line represents the cutoff point, the social Plimsoll line below which loss of dignity, misery and marginalisation become the lived experience of  those forced to rely on welfare.

By adding a coronavirus supplement to JobSeeker, the government raised the payment to a level that sits just above the poverty line, a level at which the many recently unemployed could manage to pay their rent, feed their kids and survive these most difficult times.

Surely this is the level at which it should have already been set? The Coalition’s creation of the Corona virus supplement was a clear admission that payment levels to date had been woefully inadequate. It also helped them avoid howls of anger and outrage from the most recently unemployed.

So what will happen come September? Will the pandemic still be with us? Will the need for lockdowns and social distancing still be the dominant force?

Whatever the answer, the JobSeeker allowance must not be allowed to revert to pre-pandemic levels.

We must ensure that future governments focus on job creation rather than implementing a regime that punishes those with no job.

COVID-19 has taught many formerly working Australians a harsh lesson about unemployment: that dole bludger can easily be you. And you can find yourself in the dole queue overnight.

We can only hope that in the future our society and its governments will show more compassion and understanding to those of us who, at one time or another in their lives, need help.

Trade unionists, social activist groups, charities and individuals are now coming together to endorse the simple claim for a Living Income, in other words a minimum social support payment that allows recipients to provide for themselves and continue their quest for employment with the dignity that all members of society deserve.

The Living Incomes For Everyone (LIFE) campaign is organising via Facebook to ensure $1,100 per fortnight becomes the absolute minimum payment below which no-one should be forced to struggle for survival.

This national campaign is receiving more endorsements from groups and individuals each day as we head for the government’s cutoff date of 27 September. The list of participating organisations is growing longer and longer and is regularly updated here.

The grassroots LIFE campaign is people-driven.

You can find a summary of its demands here.

To participate, go to the Living Incomes For Everyone Facebook page.

To find out more and to hear speakers from some of the collaborating organisations, you can attend the official online launch of the LIFE campaign on 21 July at 7.30pm here.

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Climate Change Isn’t The Elephant In The Room… It’s Capitalism

By Loz Lawrey  

In the arena of our public debate, various loud quacking voices seem to have recently fallen silent.

Australia’s national firestorm tragedy has driven many of the usual right-wing, Newscorp, coal lobby, anti-science climate change denialists back into their caves.

Stark factual reality has a way of subverting ideology and belief, no matter how strongly we cling to our chosen “views”. It’s hard to argue that climate change is a greenie conspiracy when its impacts are so evident: lives lost, homes destroyed, dreams shattered. Extreme weather events are now occurring on a global scale.

Where are Malcolm Roberts, Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin, et al? Where’s that guy who regularly rings ABC Radio talkback regurgitating the dodgy claims of  Rupert Murdoch’s opinionators?

The battlefield of climate change debate is now littered (figuratively) with the bodies of the denialist fallen.

Who shall fight the good fight on behalf of the billionaire class to repel those hordes of scientists, with all their researched facts and evidence, before they take the castle of the plutocrats?

Don’t worry, Gina. Don’t worry, Rupert… you still have Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly, those staunch legionnaires, out there proselytising on your behalf: “Reality be damned!” they cry. “Facts don’t matter, it’s how you interpret them.”

Despite the crisis unfolding across Australia, there they were, slytherin soulmates strutting the world stage, making total galahs of themselves:

Former politician Abbott, still dwelling in the mental labyrinth of denialist delusion, was hard at work, helpfully explaining on Israeli Radio that “Australia is in the grip of a climate cult!”… (Giggle. This from he who is known as the “Mad Monk”, failed priest of the darkest cult on the planet): Tony Abbott, former Australian PM, tells Israeli radio the world is ‘in the grip of a climate cult’.

Meanwhile, backbencher Craig Kelly’s overt rejection of climate science drew scorn, contempt and condemnation from conservative commentator Piers Morgan on Britain’s ITV:

 

 

In fact, when it comes to addressing climate change our Prime Minister has drawn great criticism from world leaders globally.

As our national fire crisis unfolds and Australia burns as never before, world leaders look on aghast, openly criticising our inept and possibly criminal government for its lack of response.

It takes a brave idiot to claim “nothing to see here, it’s just another drought and the greenies won’t let us do hazard reduction burns”.

Sadly, in our country idiots have never been in short supply, brainwashed over time by the conservative right, high priests of the cult of greed that is capitalism.

Capitalism. It’s been with us a long time and its legacy of planetary destruction must be confronted before it’s too late.

Look at Australia. In just 200 years we, the foreign invaders of British/European descent, have trashed the place. Our land management practices (or lack thereof?) have left this nation well on the way to becoming, forever, a scorching desert.

This didn’t have to happen. Imagine a scenario where white men came as visitors from abroad, with open minds and hearts and respect for the dark-skinned inhabitants of this great continent, eager to learn and understand their language, their local customs and culture.

After all, who really had historical seniority when Cook’s pale-faced sailors stumbled ashore in Botany Bay in 1770? Britain was only founded in 1536. It was historically and culturally a baby in comparison to Australia’s native population, who, evidence tells us, have occupied this continent for some 50,000 years.

The “western civilisation” we so often hear about from conservatives such as Tony Abbott is nothing more than an unschooled baby compared to Aboriginal civilisation, with its 50,000 years of learning and cultural development.

“Western civilisation” was exported from Europe and Britain. For native Indians in America or Aborigines in Australia, it meant genocide and attempted cultural annihilation imposed, always, by gun violence.

In their arrogance, the European arrivistes saw themselves as superior and “civilised”, the local natives as “savages”. And yet the real savagery came with the gun culture of the invaders.

The British Empire globally was founded on savagery, yet the perpetrators of that savagery always perceive themselves as the champions of “civilisation”.

Of course, with “civilisation” came capitalism.

Capitalism, that greed-driven system of private ownership and profit-driven exploitation of people and resources. The system we’ve been stuck with since the dark days of feudalism.

Capitalism. That free-market economy “winner-takes-all-and-let-the-rest-perish-in-poverty-amidst-the-scorched-remains-of-a-ruined-planet” system so beloved of the rich and the business elites.

Yes, the “top end of town” does actually exist. Driven by greed, they use their wealth and power to perpetuate denialist claims and maintain the status quo that suits their agenda of self-interest.

I’ve been on this planet for nearly seventy years, and since my first visit to a local rubbish tip in Wyong, NSW as a child, capitalism has never seemed “quite right”.

How could a system that requires constant “growth” ever be sustainable in the long term, in a finite world? Surely thinking people have always been aware that we live in a fool’s paradise? Our resources were always bound to run out and despite our refusal to admit it, we’ve always subconsciously known they would, eventually.

Since I looked down, as a young teenager, from the deck of an ocean liner, at the man-made rubbish floating in the ocean, capitalism has always seemed suspect to me.

And yet we were born into this system and it’s all we’ve ever known.

Over the years I’ve watched what can only be called the beast of western imperialist capitalism devour whole sections of humanity through war, politically-driven genocide, poverty and famine.

Distracted as we all are by the need to survive, to provide for our families and loved ones, most of us find little time to consider in depth the broader context of human existence – the world as we make it. We’re all bobbing like corks on the ocean, just trying to stay afloat.

And now we’re also trying to avoid being consumed by fires such as we’ve never experienced before, fires that result directly from anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change.

Climate change, the bastard child of capitalism.

Capitalism, which will never acknowledge or admit to its own destructive impacts upon our environment and our societies.

Capitalism, that abusive system which has only ever truly served the privileged few.

Capitalism, that cult of greed which preferences the worship of money over respect for life itself.

Capitalism, not climate change, is the real elephant in the room.

Now that Australia is ablaze, those of us who, infuriated by the denialism of the greedy, have seen these impacts coming for years, take no pleasure in “I told you so’s”.

We sense a quickening in the public consciousness, an awareness that we may be reaching the awful degree of human suffering necessary for us to finally admit there’s a problem and do something about it.

As always, our media feed us distractions such as more nonsense from Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly. It all feels like yet more reactionary bait-and-switch, a “look over there!” diversion from the real issue.

As long as we keep debating the existence or otherwise of climate change and do nothing in real terms to change our behaviour, our headlong rush towards self-destruction continues apace.

Capitalism has always been detrimental to much of humanity. Yet we’ve tolerated it because it wears the sheep’s clothing of “freedom” or “liberty” and offers the promise of “growth”. It has always painted itself as the “least bad” system available to us.

It’s time to admit that this “least bad” system is, in fact, bloody terrible.

And now we’re facing the final dystopian impacts capitalism always threatened, through human-induced climate change, to deliver.

To those who are now saying “we-need-to-admit-climate-change-is-real-and- have-a-conversation-about-it,” I say no.

We need to address the real problem: capitalism. We need a new system.

We need to change our behaviour and the very way we live.

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Distraction, Diversion And Dereliction: A Government With No Real-World Vision

By Loz Lawrey  

In any democratic parliament, they waste so much space and time, bloviating incessantly and indulging in constant tribal self-aggrandisement.

Call them conservatives, right-wingers, contrarians, shallow-minded barbarians, knuckle-draggers, “Trumpanzees” (in the U.S.A.), “Morrison’s Morons”… call them whatever.

They’re a breed. Short on new ideas, but big on ideology and “belief”, they place little value upon facts and evidence.

How can in-depth thinking occur when so much available brainspace is already cluttered with Milton Friedman-style concepts of “free markets” and concerns over “political correctness”, bound together with the mortar of blind faith in an invisible, unprovable deity?

Political ideology and religious belief are siblings, really. How often in the past few years have we heard people say: “I don’t believe in climate change”?

I know I’ve often found myself shouting at the radio or TV: “It’s not a matter of belief! It’s evidence-based science!”

Mind you, I “believe” we all need a degree of “belief” just to get through the day. We have to “believe” in ourselves. We “believe” we’ll wake up tomorrow. When we start to think about belief we realise we’re already full of the stuff, in one way or another.

A mind already occupied by a fatalistic belief in “god’s plan” has little room for the creative thinking that leads to good policy development around nation-building or social equity… to governing, in other words.

Which brings me to… er… our current prime minister and his fellows in the “broad church” of the Morrison “government”.

While the Murdoch media trumpet Smuggo’s popularity with voters, I must say he appears to elicit the same outrage, anger and disgust from progressive Australians (roughly half the population) as did Anthony Abbott.

Does this make him vulnerable to a leadership challenge? If not now, then surely soon, when the gloss of his surprise electoral win loses the last of its sheen?

What will be the last straw for Morrison? I seem to remember that in Abbott’s case it was the offer of a knighthood to Prince Phillip that did the trick.

Australians (even the conservative right) had had enough.

Overnight, Malcolm Turnbull was dusted off and reinstated as coalition leader.

In Morrison’s case, just a few more weeks of non-response to the actual real-world burning of Australia may do the trick, while he focuses on ideological obsessions such as legislating “religious freedoms” (ie. entrenching religion’s right to discriminate in law) and repealing the humanitarian Medevac laws.

Scott Morrison is the embodiment of right-wing evangelical conservatism. He champions beer, barbies, and “belief”. Oh, and “the Sharks”…

Does he champion big ideas? Does he read books? Does he nurture an active imagination? Is he able to visualise a better Australia? Do his “values” include truly valuing ALL of us?

History tells us otherwise. After all, he’s the proud “I stopped the boats” guy, the man who takes pride in Australia’s offshore gulag detention regime where desperate refugees have been detained without hope (ie effectively abused and tortured) for years simply for arriving by boat without a visa.

Why weren’t they simply given visas and allowed to lodge asylum claims? If they’d come by plane, most would arrive with a visa in hand, as this government document from 2015 makes clear.

The whole mess around boat arrivals and offshore detention looks like nothing more than bureaucratic hair-splitting spin, designed to win the votes of bigots by demonising poor people fleeing war zones in search of a better life, as though they seek to invade our country in overwhelming numbers.

The absurd, disgusting, ongoing inhumane offshore detention regime, sustained as it is by the old canard of “border security”, seems to pander to some sort of racist bigotry.

Why must it be offshore? Why not onshore?

The whole cruel business has always been nothing more than theatre, a shadow play designed to create the impression of a government in control, a protective government caring for its citizens. Sadly, its impact upon the health of detainees, both physically and mentally, has been disastrous.

All this while implementing uncaring policies that effectively demonise poorer, unemployed and disadvantaged Australians, such as those receiving Newstart allowance.

Surely the imposition of the cashless welfare card will bring some Australians closer to a state of slavery, with authorities exercising control over the financial choices of individuals?`

As an evangelical Christian espousing “Prosperity Christianity”, Scott Morrison embraces a form of religious exclusivism that says: “my religion is the one true faith”. Surely the exclusion of atheists, non-believers and other “unworthies” is an unavoidable consequence of our pentecostalist prime minister’s worldview?

Does his “lifters and leaners” ideological judgement of each citizen’s social worthiness not stem directly from such exclusivist thinking?

Perhaps our country’s social cohesion relies upon shared concepts, such as the idea that we are all basically well-intended towards one another, or that acceptance and inclusion are natural expressions of our humanity.

Oops! That sounds awfully like a “leftie” or “leftard” perspective.

Rank socialism, even.

Is anyone else experiencing the current assault on progressive Australians? Members of the coalition government seem to regularly attack Australian citizens, demonising some as “lefties”, “activists” (how did that become a dirty word?), “leaners”, “greenies”.

How can a government of civilised beings make such statements, which effectively constitute an assault on half the population?

It’s not belief itself I have a problem with; it’s the displacement of thought, of analysis and consideration that I object to.

Personally, I rejected the “left, right” conceptual paradigm when Abbott came to power in 2013.

That’s when the political divide coalesced in my mind into “empaths vs sociopaths”.

A simplistic generalisation, I know, but it’s the only way I can explain the two conflicting mindsets constantly at war in the arena of our democracy.

Like the U.S.A., Australia has two political tribes, with the brains of conservatives wired one way and progressives the other.

Never the twain shall meet, so how do we resolve this?

Under our current system, half the population or the other is perpetually disgruntled and dissatisfied, if not living in a state of constant outrage and anger.

Meanwhile, so much government energy is spent on what is, at the end of the day, nothing more than ideological puff stuff such as “border security”, “religious freedom” and the “ensuring integrity” assault on workers’ rights.

Right-wing brain farts, long-winded complaints about “political correctness”, ministerial conflicts of interest and controversies… so much of our arena of public debate is filled with swirling nonsense, leaving little time for big ideas and policies for future-building.

What’s worse is the fact that Morrison’s ideological entrenchment results in the casual dismissal of everything he just doesn’t “get”. The arts, for example.

His closure of the Department of Communication and the Arts displays a gob-smacking barbarian ignorance, a complete lack of understanding as to the role of art in society and its contribution to our national well-being.

That ignorance alone should preclude him from holding public office. Without a clear perspective on the elements that contribute to a healthy, well-rounded national mindset, how can politicians come to terms with their own role and serve the public effectively?

And he’s the prime minister, the leader… Surely leadership requires something more than Morrison’s vacuous “beers, burgers and how good’s cricket?” approach?

Today, as large swathes of our nation burn, what is the Morrison government focused on?

Angus Taylor’s lies to parliament, the “religious freedom” legalisation of discrimination, the repeal of Medevac laws, the “ensuring integrity” attack on unions and the right of workers to organise… Integrity? One has to wonder if this government knows the meaning of the word.

Just listen to the likes of Morrison and his ministers when being interviewed. Do we hear a nation-building narrative? Do we hear about the search for solutions to address the great challenges of our time? Do we hear proposals for real-world action?

No, we don’t. We get evasion, distraction, diversion and dereliction of duty.

Australia’s greatest shame is its own government, the one it has chosen…

As Elvis once sang: “A little less conversation, a little more action, please!”

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Dismantling Australia’s Decency

By Loz Lawrey  

In 2014, some six months after the Abbott Coalition government came to power, a wave of community outrage found expression in the March in March rallies.

Some 100,000 Australians took part in protest marches at 29 locations nationwide to decry the new government’s right-wing policies and neoliberal agenda.

Organised on social media, March in March was in a sense a pop-up people’s movement, a grassroots response to a government which many progressive Australians perceived to be toxic to the common good.

As its online organisers sought to articulate and define what drove the collective outrage, the catchphrase “the people, united for better government” emerged as a war cry for the March in March movement.

One word which kept reappearing in those discussions, however (and later on placards at the rallies), was “decency”.

There was a prevailing sense that our national character had always been imbued with decency and that decency should always inform the policies enacted by our governments.

It was equally clear that our new government had little concept or understanding of the word, dismissing it as just another leftie snowflakey term like “empathy”.

Where had Australian decency gone?

Many progressives believe that decency in our country has been eroded and diminished over time and that its devaluation began in 2001 with the Tampa affair, a shameful episode in Australian history in which the Howard government abrogated its responsibilities to the United Nations under international law.

Several weeks later the Children Overboard affair served to normalise the demonisation of asylum seekers who, overnight it seemed, went from being innocent refugees in the public mind to “illegals” invading our borders.

Poorer, disadvantaged Australians, like asylum seekers, also became targets of ever-increasing government mistreatment (think cashless “welfare” cards and Newstart payment rates frozen since the 1990’s).

Meanwhile, the (mainly Murdoch) media worked tirelessly to reinforce the public’s contempt, using the well-worn tropes of “dole bludgers” and “lazy welfare cheats”.

In 2001, in response to a question from an ABC journalist on a Four Corners program about Australia’s working poor (who, despite being in full time employment, struggled to pay their bills and meet the cost of living), then Education Minister Tony Abbott planted a seed of contempt for the poor with this statement:

“Poverty is, in part, a function of individual behaviour. We can’t stop people drinking, we can’t stop people gambling, we can’t stop people having substance problems, um… we can’t stop people making mistakes, ah… that cause them to be less well off than they might otherwise be”.

Thus spoke the same Tony Abbott who in 2014 so contemptuously dismissed the concerns of the 100,000 Australians who marched in March.

His statement caused such outrage in Australia’s social services community that it can still be heard on YouTube today:

 

There it is – the old subtext of contempt for the less well-off that has underpinned the Coalition’s approach to governance throughout the Howard years and which truly found its champions in the right wing Coalition government Australians have been enduring since September 2013.

I once heard it expressed as an adage in a speech by a conservative accountant, who put it this way: “no one enjoys poverty more than the poor themselves”.

As with Abbott’s statement, the implication is that poverty is a choice, and that if you find yourself in dire financial straits, you have no one to blame but yourself.

This article, published in response to Abbott’s Four Corners statement, highlights some of the toxic fallacies that, to this day, inform Coalition ideology.

Abbott led a hollowman government, one without empathy or consideration for those it considered to be not “having a go”.

It was clear to many that Abbott came to power and immediately set about implementing the antisocial free market libertarian agenda of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA): business and profit first, the people and their needs last.

The common good? The public interest? Thrown overboard, for greed and profit.

The conservative agenda drives our nation relentlessly towards becoming more and more like Trump’s America where the rich are “winners” and the poor are “losers”.

In a land where the “winner takes all”, our poor find themselves excluded from enjoying the tiniest share of the wealth of our nation, a share to which, as citizens, they are surely entitled.

In Australia, our “social security” safety net has morphed into “welfare”, U.S. style. We’ve gone from “social safety net” to “alms for the poor”.

Public health and education are under constant attack as the Morrison government prioritises huge tax cuts to business while disenfranchising our needy and de-funding the NGOs that assist them.

Environmental protection? Addressing climate change? Let’s not go there.

This Coalition government, which treats human rights as an inconvenience, maintains a world view underpinned by an ideological disregard and contempt for marginalised and disadvantaged Australians.

Sadly, the citizens of our first world nation can no longer depend upon human rights remaining an essential foundation stone in our social democracy.

It could be said that like human rights, decency has also been under constant attack these past twenty years.

Lies and misrepresentation have been blatantly deployed with ever-increasing arrogance by successive Liberal/National Coalition governments, from Howard’s “children overboard” (2001), to his “which party do you trust to keep interest rates down?” (2004) (nb. governments have no control over interest rates), to Abbott’s “no cuts to the ABC or SBS” (election eve 2013) to Morrison’s “Labor death tax” (2019).

This disregard for truth, for decency, for empathy, for social inclusion and equity is still evident in the strident shoutings of the now re-elected PM Morrison and the Trumpian rhetoric of so many of his ministers.

Could there be a more cruel and divisive slogan than Morrison’s mantra “a fair go for those who have a go”?

Organisers of the March in March 2014 rallies were amazed at the variety of messages and slogans on the placards of participants.

They knew thinking Australians were unhappy and angry at the Abbott government’s direction, but what took them by surprise was the variety of issues being raised.

It seemed as though people across the board from all social sectors felt negatively impacted by many of Abbott’s policies.

They felt personally affronted by what they saw as the contemptuous de-funding of so many public services that Australians have always held dear, in areas such as science, education, health, social security, environmental protection… even our own ABC.

They felt disgust at the shameful normalisation of cruelty which underpinned Abbott’s regime of inhumane detention in offshore gulags, a regime of which our current PM “On-Water-Matters” Morrison was so proudly an architect.

They knew that this was the thin end of a very thick wedge and they sensed that the hammering-in had only just begun…

For six years since then Australia has become ever more a floundering nation of diminishing empathy, leaving so many of its own behind.

And yet we still have both government and media telling us that that’s acceptable, that it’s quite OK to throw a percentage of us under a bus.

Why? Because some of us are unworthy, apparently.

The seed of contempt Tony Abbott planted in 2001 is now a tree.

And now, it seems, decency is lost.

Have so many Australians really forgotten what the word “decency” means?

Are we really now a decency-free Australia?

Nearly half the nation wonders: Why, Australia? Why the selfishness? Why the contempt for your fellows? Why the hatred of others? Why the increasing bigotry? Why did you re-elect this government without decency?

 

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Liberal Soul-Searching: Can A Zombie Government Find Its Soul?

By Loz Lawrey 

After the Liberal/National Coalition’s resounding loss in the 2018 Victorian state election, Liberal leader Matthew Guy, in his concession speech said this: “We need to stay united. We need to stay focused, on our opponents and the game ahead, not on ourselves”.

This statement illustrates the misguided mindset of Liberal Party politicians: they believe that their job is to simply seize and hold power at any cost (the Tony Abbott approach), rather than to govern the nation by listening and responding to the Australian electorate.

Do these people realise they’re supposed to be in government, not playing some form of competitive sport?

Since Abbott’s election in 2013, the federal Coalition government, like its sibling party in Victoria, has been staggering about under the weight of this fundamental misunderstanding, like a clown carrying a donkey.

Winning an election is one thing, but actually governing requires the dialling-down of campaign rhetoric and focusing on developing and implementing good policy in the public interest.

Perhaps this is simply what an elitist born-to-rule mentality looks like. It’s as if these politicians are saying “We know best; our ideology and beliefs are the best; facts, evidence and expert advice don’t matter and neither do your opinions, voters. To us, it’s all about winning”.

Once the Coalition actually wins government however, it doesn’t seem to know what to do, other than bombard the public with messages about itself to reassure us that it does know, such as Scott Morrison’s already tired mantra: “We’re getting on with the job.”

A party of salesmen, the Liberal Party tends to get hung up on the effectiveness of their salesmanship rather than that of their policies or “product”.

We’re already hearing bleats of disgruntlement from conservatives about their party not “selling the message” effectively enough to win over voters in Victoria.

Unfortunately, the quality of the salesmanship becomes irrelevant when the policy message is negative and uninspiring.

And what is that message? Does the Liberal Party actually have a coherent vision for our country? A vision that depicts a healthy multicultural, inclusive, egalitarian society whose principal aspiration is fairness? A vision of a happy, well-educated society? A “clever country” perhaps?

Or is their vision one of mean-spirited, judgemental, fascist authoritarianism where certain minority groups are demonised and human and civil rights are constantly eroded while funding for social welfare agencies is withdrawn over time, while the rich get richer?

The Liberal Party embraces the antisocial neoliberal non-vision of trickle-down free market economics: low-taxing small government, pay-as-you-go profit-driven health and welfare services and privatised public utilities.

Meanwhile, their climate change denialism remains, blatantly, the elephant in the room. The only “message” we’ve been hearing endlessly repeated for the past five long years is another mantra well past its use-by date: “It’s Labor’s fault!”

The Coalition will only ever produce mere career politicians, never true statesmen.

Statesmen inspire and unite voters; they don’t try to divide and manipulate us through fear and insecurity. They don’t spruik hollow, contrarian slogans such as: “we’re working to save Australians from a Shorten government”.

A statesman might say (and mean) something like this: “We can never be a stronger state until we are a fairer state.” Victorian Labor leader Daniel Andrews delivered this simple message of inclusion and goodwill on ABC Melbourne radio on post-election Monday.

How different this sounds to the chest-beating, divisive hate speech we hear from Canberra Liberals.

During his Saturday night victory speech, when Andrews praised Victorians for rejecting “the low road of fear and division” we knew exactly what he meant.

The negative sloganeering we’ve been subjected to during this state election campaign, compounded by the dog-whistling from Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton on law and order and terrorism has been like enduring a constant, never-ending screech of fingernails on a blackboard: “Screech! African gangs! Screech! Terrorists! Screech! Labor waste! Screech! Labor taxes! Screech! Law and order!”

A cacophony of fear-mongering nonsense, if you will. What a sad, miserable and above all, cynical approach to wooing an electorate: trying to scare people into voting for you.

It’s the oldest trick in the book, the last resort of desperate politicians, devoid of vision: scoundrels in their high tower of last refuge, hurling grenades of fear and loathing in a mendacious attempt to divide, conquer and scare voters into endorsing their regressive ideology and political posturing.

The narcissistic federal infighting, incompetence and toxic messaging have at times felt like an ever-flowing river of rubbish. Finally at last, Victorian voters have said “enough!”

Even some of the party’s own have also had enough: MP Julia Banks has abandoned the party to sit on the cross bench as an independent. In her view

“The Liberal Party has changed, largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about and talk to themselves rather than listening to the people.”

Federal Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has blamed Liberal officials and “ideological warriors” for imposing their extreme views on social issues on the broader party, which the public now views as one of “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”.

Bring on the federal election, as soon as possible, please.

Can Australians stand another six months of Zombie Government dysfunction?

Surely the Liberal/National Coalition has earned a long, long period in opposition?

After the Coalition’s poor result at the 2016 federal election under Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberals promised to do some “soul-searching” over their growing disconnect from the electorate.

Their Victorian election wipe-out is proof that the search has been fruitless. Much of the Liberal messaging came from Canberra, echoed by a compliant Matthew Guy, so the Morrison Government shares the responsibility for the loss.

Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton et al continually bang on about “our values” but those “values” appear to include mean-mindedness, misogyny, homophobia and outright cruelty.

If these are truly Australian values, then I’m a Martian.

To search your soul in self-reflection, first you need to find it.

Has the Liberal Party lost its soul?

Does a Zombie Government even have a soul?

Oh, for a government that values values

By Loz Lawrey

I constantly hear the word “values” bandied about in public debate. What are values?  The label commonly refers to moral and ethical principles or standards of behaviour, but what do the politicians who pepper their rhetoric with the term really mean by it?

If you google the term you’ll lose yourself in a plethora of examples and definitions of “core” and “personal” values, but according to Department Of Home Affairs Fact Sheet 07, “Life in Australia: Australian values” are:

  • respect for the freedom and dignity of the individuals
  • equality of men and women
  • freedom of religion
  • commitment to the rule of law
  • parliamentary democracy
  • a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good
  • equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background.

That sounds OK to me and resonates completely with my own progressive views. It reassures me that beneath all the bluster Australia just might be at heart a modern, forward-looking nation, doing its best to learn and grow with the times. But do the priorities and policies of the (currently Morrison) Coalition government reflect those values?

Most applicants for Australian visas are required to acknowledge this “Australian values statement” as part of entry application process:

Perhaps this requirement to understand and acknowledge our society’s values should also apply to those who seek public office, because it’s clear that some of our federal parliamentarians subscribe to values sets of their own, ones that bear no correlation to the Home Affairs definition. What are these people even doing serving as representatives of the people?

We’ve often heard Pauline Hanson bandy the term “Australian values” about (they’re “Judeo-Christian”, according to her) as she advocates for her divisive hate-driven white supremacist agenda.

Where do her priorities align with the Home Affairs template, if at all?

We’ve heard Peter Dutton wave the “values” flag as he has, on multiple occasions, sought to whip up communal antipathy towards Somali youth (“African “gangs”), Lebanese Muslims, refugees and anyone who dares to contradict him or call him out.

When he was Prime Minister, Tony Abbott (remember him?) would refer to “Team Australia” and its “values” whenever the ABC’s reporting irritated or embarrassed him. His own sense of self-importance would take a hit when the reportage mirrored the facts, rather than his simplistic sloganeering. Like Pauline Hanson, he also used “Australian values” to support a “ban the burka” (read “anti-Muslim”) motion put forward by Nationals MP George Christensen.

The war on welfare recipients conducted by the Coalition was hardly rolled out under the banner of “a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good”.

Values? “Equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background” clearly does not apply to those desperate refugees who came to us by boat. They get abuse and torture instead, as they are driven to insanity or suicide on Nauru by the Coalition’s calculated cruelty.

Shouldn’t values inform our public policy-making? Shouldn’t they be the overarching first principle of government? Sadly, “values” is now officially a weasel word, an often racist dog whistle of the political right. It is a useful tool in the conservative arsenal, a term that somehow implies an unearned moral superiority. It is often used to silence dissent and shut down debate. After all, who would dare argue with or call “values” into question?

We live in an age of spin, a time when political messaging often has more to do with expedience than honourable leadership. Our current Prime Minister (this week) happens to be a former marketing man, a salesman. He embodies the Coalition’s preference for salesmanship over substance. It never occurs to them that electoral rejection of their policies may be based on the shortcomings of the policies themselves rather than the way they were “sold” to voters. From their perspective, Barnaby Joyce’s skills as a “retail politician” made him an excellent Honourable Member and Deputy PM. (Pause for laughter).

Scott Morrison keeps saying things like “what Australians want is …” or “the Australian people want us to …” as if he actually knows what we, the Australian people, value.

He clearly does not. If he did, we’d have a clear policy for addressing climate change and reducing emissions. We would be endorsing renewable energy as the only way forward. We wouldn’t have the cruelty and abuse of offshore detention. We wouldn’t see the dismissal, with the Coalition’s customary contempt, of the concerns of Indigenous Australians. We wouldn’t have been subjected to a divisive plebiscite on same sex marriage.

And then there’s religion. Ay ay ay! What can we say? I intend no disrespect to people of faith. I believe that we are all people of faith one way or another, not just those who embrace Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, Guru Nanak, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or any other deity. At the end of the day, we all believe in something, even if it’s sport, sausage sizzles, Scientology or Dale Carnegie’s self-improvement for salesmen program.

We each live by our own understanding and concepts, regardless of how we came by them. The fact that so many belief-systems exist is surely the greatest argument for secular government and the separation of church and state there can be. A secular system is the only place, the only platform upon which many differing faiths can co-exist. Without it we’re living back in the time of the crusades and the inquisition, not here in 2018.

I have no problem with religion but I do object to the endorsement of homophobia as a “value” by religious institutions. A weasel word in itself, wrapped in the weasel-skin cloak of “religious freedom”, the term “values” is put forward as justification for an agenda of discrimination against a minority not on any proven, scientific or evidence-based grounds, but on outdated, archaic prejudice and bigotry which should have no place in the modern world.

According to Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies, however, “Church schools should NOT be forced to play by secular rules. It goes to the very heart of religious freedom that religious organisations should be able to operate according to their religious ethos.”

What is he actually saying? The subtext appears to be: “We religious folk are special. We are superior.

We can flout the laws of the land. We will use funding from secular taxpayers to promote our agenda of homophobia and social control. We will claim tax-exempt status while doing so.”

“Religious ethos.” Now there’s a weasel term! You could endorse any hateful agenda to divide and conquer with that one.

Scott Morrison became, just a few days ago, the latest in the conga line of inadequate Prime Ministers to lead what is apparently now known as the ATM government, a failed government which has now wasted years of Australia’s precious time.

In the name of “leadership” we have, over several years, been force-fed slogans and catch-cries, lies and misrepresentations. Ideology seems to be the problem. This Coalition ATM government simply does not subscribe to the values promoted by its own Department of Home Affairs.

The “public good”? “Mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion”? Forget them, they are “leftist values”, part of a “leftist agenda”. Remember Peter Dutton’s warning that “a single act of compassion” could destroy the cordon of cruelty his government has erected in the name of “border security”?

“Leftist” or otherwise, our country deserves a government that values values. Not weasel pretend-values, not a list of definitions to be ignored but actual heartfelt real dinky di ones that truly define our aspiration to become the best, most humane society we can be.

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Killing The ABC: The IPA’s Agenda To Dismantle Australia

By Loz Lawrey

I’ve been resisting the urge to write yet another “rant” because … geez, who wants to hear more whingeing? Another complaint, another letter to the paper from yet another grumpy old man who thinks the world’s going to hell in a handbasket?

Yet I awoke today to read that the Liberal Party Council has endorsed the IPA’s wet dream: the privatisation of the ABC.

Enough! I have to squawk and screech!

In 2013, realising that Australians were about to elect an Abbott government, I remember thinking about the dumbing down of our nation I’d been witnessing for years and the extent to which it had been driven by the right wing servants of the moneyed class, aided and abetted by tabloid newspapers and commercial TV.

At first, Abbott’s style as opposition leader seemed absurd and unlikely to be taken seriously by anyone with a brain and an inclination to use it.

How could moronic, simplistic three-word slogans possibly convince Australians into voting for a party so out of touch with the public interest, one which strives to entrench the power of wealth while leaving our disadvantaged struggling to survive?

Quite easily, as it turned out.

“Stop the boats”, “ditch the witch”… several years before the ascension of Trump in the USA, Abbott and his media champion Rupert Murdoch were hard at work normalising hate speech and the politics of division.

TV vox pops with Australians in the street showed them responding to questions about their electoral intentions with regurgitated slogans or headlines from Murdoch’s publications.

The ill-named “Liberal” party, then led by Abbott and now Turnbull, bears a greater resemblance to the anti-communist, white nationalist empire-loving Old Guard than it did to the party created by Menzies.

As adjunct Professor John Nethercote (Australian Catholic University) tells us, Menzies “expressly distinguished liberalism from conservatives … Menzies was mainstream, and believed in the mainstream, believed in the community and a middle class.”

While current Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull may pay lip service to Menzies and his “values”, the fact is that the party he now leads is a different beast to the one Menzies founded. Hard-right conservative cuckoos now inhabit the Liberal nest.

It’s hard for the outsider to comprehend what these people stand for, other than money and the power it affords in a capitalist society.

In other words, that is all they stand for: their own interests and those of their wealthy backers, to the exclusion of the rest of us.

This is fascism, the merging of government and corporate power.

Selfish and self-serving, they are the ideological descendants of Thatcher and Reagan, harbingers of a toxic worldview that eschews the very concept of the common good.

“There’s no such thing as society”… Whether or not Maggie Thatcher actually said this is uncertain, but this statement perfectly encapsulates the mindset of the political far right, a mindset which perceives fascist authoritarianism to be in the public interest.

Why would anyone vote for a party that celebrates “winners” (ie. the rich) but will throw you to the wolves should you need a little help at some point from a system to which you yourself may have contributed for years via your taxes?

Well … you tell me.

In August 2012, the far right “think” tank The Institute For Public Affairs (IPA) published a wish-list of 75 suggestions for restructuring Australia’s system of governance.

If you have the time, please read this article, despite the repugnant Weasel-speak in which it is written, because it truly exposes the hypocrisy of the IPA and its agenda – one in which Medicare (ie. public health)is described as a “radical policy” and our “generous welfare safety net” (social security) as “unsustainable into the future”.

Item numbers 50 and 51 on this list were:

Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function

Privatise SBS

This raised such concern in the Australian community that Abbott famously declared on election eve in September 2013 that under a Coalition government there would be “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”

These were nothing more than glibly-delivered promises, spouted at the eleventh hour by a shameless aspirant to power who had not the slightest intention of honouring them.

And what have we witnessed since then, over several years?

An ongoing defunding our public broadcaster and a vitriolic assault on its journalists based on … what? The wishes of the loony IPA? The rabid ideology of the far right?

The fact is that independent journalism and reportage tends to make right-wingers sound stupid. When ideology is given precedence over evidence, the earth becomes flat. Shallow utterances based on nothing more than belief have little to do with the truth and much to do with the pursuit of an agenda.

Once the Coalition took office, the assault began: The ABC “takes everyone’s side but Australia’s” and should “show some basic affection for the home team” squawked Abbott.

Why? Well, the ABC was doing its job. Reporting the facts.

However, when the facts don’t suit politicians and their agendas, they complain bitterly.

Throughout its history, the ABC has occasionally upset governments, be they Coalition or Labor.

Of course, it’s quite natural for incumbent governments of all stripes to wish the national broadcaster was their own propaganda spin-machine, regurgitating official media releases without scrutiny.

But it isn’t, and never should be a mouthpiece for government. Its journalism is one of the vital checks and balances that sustain our social democracy.

This is the very reason that the independence of the ABC must be maintained – its reportage holds government to account.

Sure, all journalism should be “unbiased”. Opinion pieces in conservative publications masquerading as news articles are one thing. But real “news” journalism is about facts, facts and more facts.

In other words, real journalists serve the truth, in the public interest.

Forget “Team Australia” and “taking sides”. These statements of Abbott’s seemed to imply that the truth should sometimes be suppressed.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, himself an IPA alumnus, has just lodged his fifth complaint against the broadcaster. This is not someone engaging in oversight and management. He is serving an agenda, and his complaints are part of a coordinated assault upon the ABC by a cabal of vested interests: far-right ideologues, commercial media owners and our own federal government.

The IPA recently released their book “Against Public Broadcasting – Why We Should Privatise The ABC And How To Do It”.

If I had the time and could be bothered, I’d read the thing and write a response that counters its toxic arguments and neo-liberal antisocial agenda. But sadly, I’m getting old and life’s simply too short.

What a miserable bunch of contrarians they are. So many of the “suggestions” on the IPA’s wishlist are about dismantling, demolishing, defunding and destroying or privatising institutions that were set up with the express purpose of improving our society and supporting Australians.

Is the Turnbull government hard at work implementing the IPA’s agenda? Yes, they are.

What sort of society do these people want? Their concept of “freedom” implies a  law-of-the-jungle world with no checks and balances, no empathy or inclusion, no equality or decency.

Clearly they want Australia to emulate the descent into darkness we are currently witnessing in Trump’s America.

Well, damn them all and damn them to hell.

We’ve let them do so much that is wrong since 2013. They’ve managed to make Australians condone torture and abuse being carried out in our name in offshore gulags.

History will not treat us kindly.

They have already reduced the ABC to a shell of its former self.

The lack of funding and resources is evident, yet still our ABC struggles on, for us.

Please, good people.

We can’t let these goombahs get away with this murder.

Save our ABC.

Fascism: History Repeats, Again

By Loz Lawrey

“… It was 1941. Europe was in flames. Spain had fallen to a ruthless dictator. Hitler had rolled over the continent, reduced France to an abject state, and was about to invade Russia. Concentration camps were filled with Jews (though we in America did not know much about that yet). Mussolini ruled Italy. Japan ravaged eastern China and southeast Asia, as her ultimate conquerors would later continue to do in Indochina. The enemy was fascism – and fascism did not exist only across the oceans …” (from the Rolling Stone article “Pete Seeger: Guerilla Minstrel” by Gene Marine, 13 April 1972).

It’s true that fascism, which emerged in Italy in the 1920s, was rearing its ugly head in America as well as Europe by the 1930s and 40s.

Social justice activists such as Pete Seeger knew their enemy well. The scrawled message “this machine kills fascists” on Woody Guthrie’s guitar said it all.

What is fascism? Most dictionary definitions describe a system of authoritarian government whose attributes include nationalism, racism and dictatorial/autocratic state control. Under fascism, military, corporate and political interests conjoin to impose their power over the people and suppress all voices of opposition or dissent. Hitler’s Nazi regime was fascist in nature.

Definitions of fascism tend to sound like neoliberalism’s mission statement, listing elements critical to the business model of … call them what you will: the wealthy elites, the one percent, the military/industrial complex, the economic rationalists, the political hard right, the corporate predators of neoliberalism … in other words, those who profit from chaos.

Socialism to fascists is what Kryptonite is to Superman. Fascists hate socialism, communism, even conservatism, which can appear too moderate in the eyes of these far-right bully boys. To fascists, concepts such as “human rights” and “social justice” are irrelevant.

Aspiring fascists prowl the corridors and back alleys of our federal parliament and public service.

Home Affairs, Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton presides over a vast portfolio which, it could be argued, places too much power over others in the hands of one man.

Were he ever given free reign to exercise that power at will, without checks and balances to constrain his actions, fascism would displace the last vestiges of democracy in our country.

Were the Liberal/National Coalition government not constrained by our parliamentary system and the need to maintain an appearance of social democracy and public participation, we would now be living under an overtly fascist regime.

As it is, we are witnessing the creeping resurgence of fascism both here in Australia and globally.

I was born in 1951, only six years after the end of the Second World War, a horror chapter in humanity’s ever-repeating cycle of war, conflict, genocides and self-inflicted abominations which many of us hoped had ended with the USA’s shameful atomic  mass murders at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I grew up in a time when our society truly believed fascism, which had a presence in Australia during the 1930s, had been consigned to the past, just another stain on humanity’s abysmal human rights record.

We great apes think ourselves clever, but we don’t treat each other well, do we?

It is said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Lies, misrepresentation, fear-mongering, racism, the promotion of conflict and social division, “othering”… these are the tools of the fascist trade.

Political leaders with easy access to propaganda by mass media bring these tools to the task of grasping power and imposing control. The hysterical headlines of the Murdoch gutter press are a deliberate form of brainwashing.

How easily we forget the lessons drawn from the mistakes of the past. How short is humanity’s collective memory.

In my 66 years I have witnessed a great arc of human social improvement: Progress. A genuine, educated attempt to be truly human in our values and our social organising, underpinned by a vision of utopian possibility.

I’ve observed the struggle for civil rights in western nations, the hard-won gains of the union movement, the efforts to enshrine human values of fairness and decency within so-called democratic societies.

I’ve also witnessed that same vision of fairness, inclusion and equality being dismantled over time, diluted and diminished by neoliberalism: the cult of individualism with its “winners and losers” mentality.

Although socialism always attracts bad press, history demonstrates that some socialist values and principles of inclusiveness are mandatory requirements for any successful, healthy civil society.

For a few brief decades, thanks to the activism of our trade unions, workers enjoyed better wages, working conditions and safety standards than ever before.

With a little socialist garnish to balance its greed, capitalism actually seemed to work for a while there.

Workers earned a fair wage, a single breadwinner could feed a family and business reaped the rewards of workers’ ability to spend.

Trade unions brought rogue employers to heel. Principles of decency forced governments to endorse the standards of fairness that workers demanded.

Union members made this happen, while non-member “freeloaders” also enjoyed the fruits of endless hard-fought union campaigns. For years. And years.

Yet here we are today: Union membership is at an all-time low. Our hard-won rights, wages and conditions have been eroded and subverted, sanded down and dimished to the point of practical non-existence.

The new “gig economy” is code for a deregulated law-of-the-jungle employment environment where workers’ rights and entitlements no longer exist.

Like the crazed high priests of greed that they are, business lobby groups continually advocate for lower wages and working conditions in the name of “flexibility” and “productivity”.

We recently saw the oddly-named “Fair Work Commission” cut penalty rates for low-paid hospitality workers working outside business hours or on weekends, a decision that clearly had nothing to do with fairness for workers.

The nonsensical trickle-down economic argument supporting that decision would reduce workers to the level of indentured servants, caught up in an endless struggle for survival on wages which don’t meet the cost of living.

One has to wonder: can businesses really prosper while disenfranchising and impoverishing the very workers who are also their customers?

As long as workers are treated as “units of work” rather than people, exploitation will remain an integral part of our industrial relations system.

Penalty rates were originally conceived, fought for and won by unions seeking to compensate workers for the social disadvantages of working outside normal business trading hours while the rest of society plays.

Bloody unions! Always at it, aren’t they, trying to inject fairness into the employment space! They must be stopped! Quick! Raid their offices!

Unbelievably, I recently met a young man in his early twenties who had no idea what a trade union is. To him, the job market is a toxic jungle where concepts such as “fairness” or “living wage” no longer apply.

He sees a dog-eat-dog competitive arena where only a few victorious gladiators will ever be left standing to share the spoils of success.

To him, being a worker means being thrown to the wolves. Scars are expected. Ongoing employment and economic and social survival are now mere hopes, no longer expectations.

Is the struggle for social justice finally lost?

It could be argued that fascism has always been with us in one form or another.

Perhaps it simply changes its spots, adapting like a  chameleon to the temper of the times.

One could say that neoliberalism is fascism in sheep’s clothing, with its veneration of corporate power and market freedom, its deregulation, its austerity measures, its disregard for both the individual and the public interest, its attacks on social justice and denial of society’s right to social cohesion.

In other words, we now suffer from a different form of authoritarianism. Today industry and commerce run the show. Although the appearance of democracy and “people power” is maintained, governments listen first to the lobbyists of their corporate masters while paying lip service to voters, who are condemned to waiting for trickle-down benefits which may never materialise.

We are drowning in an ocean of often irrational lies and spin regurgitated by politicians quivering with excitement at the magnitude of corporate “donations” (some might say “payment for favourable outcomes”) to their party coffers.

Governments use the same fear-mongering (terrorists, North Korea etc) and “othering” (refugees, welfare recipients, “gangs”) as fascist regimes once did, in their ongoing attempts to divide, disempower and control us.

I’ve always found far greater inspiration in the stories of compassionate contributors to human betterment than those of conquering heroes and economic, social or sporting “winners”.

Some human stories warm the heart and inspire us to become our most generous selves, while others leave us mean-minded, competitive, judgmental, full of hubris, intolerance and nastiness.

I know that as a post-war baby boomer, I’ve been very lucky. I was born into middle-class comfort. I enjoyed a free education and a reasonably consistent working life, punctuated by short periods of unemployment, during which times my family was sustained by a viable social safety to which I myself contributed by paying tax, along with my fellow Australians.

While the media “dole bludger” label has always been with us, our social security system, though never perfect, ensured that few of us actually went homeless, unlike today’s reality when more than one in two hundred of us sleep rough.

“They” have turned us against each other. Maggie Thatcher’s “there’s no such thing as society” has come to pass.

Our own government constantly attacks and demonises our most disadvantaged citizens.

We are judged. If we accumulate wealth, we are “winners”. If wealth doesn’t materialise for us (for whatever reason), we are dismissed as “losers” and kicked to the curb.

As time passes, so does the past become devalued and forgotten. That’s why the historical record is so important.

I remember learning some years ago that the study of history was to be wound back in school curriculums. I knew then that we were making a mistake. How easily a generation forgets the lessons learned by its predecessor.

Once history is devalued and ignored, we’ve disempowered ourselves by throwing a precious resource of fact-based knowledge overboard.

Today we live in a world where people of lesser ability are elevated to high office, where stupidity is celebrated and fools are made famous by commercial media placing profit above the public interest.

Today I regularly encounter adults who’ve never read a book and are unaware of the precedents of history. I believe this trend has a lot to do with the resurgence of fascism we are witnessing globally.

Yes, fascism, Nazism … the ugliest variations on the theme of “Stupidity Uber Alles” are all around us. Fascism, that paradigm whereby bullies in jackboots with small brains, sadistic tendencies and no empathy whatsoever run the show.

As a player on the stage of life, I’ll eventually exit, stage left.

The world will go on without me and, apart from a few songs and scribblings floating in cyberspace, there will be little or no trace of me left behind. I hope to leave a small footprint: not too many people hurt, not too much damage done.

I love life, and while I do occasionally tumble into the slough of despond, I usually manage to remain positive in the face of what sometimes seems like universal awfulness.

There are, however, times when I’m overwhelmed by disappointment at what I perceive to be humanity’s bad choices.

My disenchantment began in the 1980s, with Thatcher in the U.K. and Reagan in the U.S., who infected our world with the toxic poison of “economically rationalist” neoliberal ideology, elevating selfishness, applauding greed and equating obscene wealth with success.

Today, things look worse than ever. Toxic regimes devour their own citizens. More global conflict seems inevitable.

History is repeating, again …

Once more, humanity’s fate is held in the hands of a few greedy, power-hungry men. Their deluded madness enslaves us all, and by their hand shall we bleed. Or perish.

Unless, of course, we choose otherwise.

How to reject division

By Loz Lawrey

“Loz, you have no class”, she said. Shocked and confused, I felt my eyebrows arching. Was my sister-in-law’s mother insulting me?

“No”, she said. “I mean, you have no class”. Then I realised: she was referring to social “class”.

This was a seminal moment for me. It had the effect of plunging me into an ocean of self-analysis and thought about myself and the societies which shaped me.

Do we have a class system in Australia? Many of our politicians seem to think so. How often do we hear the term “class warfare“ bandied about? In the country of the Fair Go, with our social democratic system which espouses equality for all, how can this be?

In truth we’ve always had a class system, but it has to go.

Multiculturalism cannot thrive and blossom in this country until it does. Well-off Australians often seem to harbour a contempt for our indigenous citizens, for refugees and “foreigners”, for our less-educated, our poor and disadvantaged. That contempt, constantly fanned by radio shock jocks, Murdoch and IPA opinionators and echoed by right-wing politicians, must end

The concept of “class” is not only imposed by the entitled few upon the less well-off many. “Class” difference is also accepted as reality and reinforced by those who benefit the least from such a construct.

My late wife used to tell me that she often heard the term “that’s not for the likes of us” from her parents. She made it clear how hard she had to struggle in later life to overcome and forget that dream-crushing, crippling statement.

Social and economic “class” doesn’t bring us together, it limits us and keeps us apart.

I’ve lived on Australian soil since 1975, but many of my earlier years were spent in other countries: the USA, Indonesia and France. My father worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and was often posted overseas for years at a time.

I spent my final four years of high school as a boarding student. Once a year I was flown overseas by the government during the Christmas holidays to visit my family in Cairo, Egypt, and later Madrid, Spain.

Released from the shackles of boarding school, I spent 1970 in a hall of residence at the Australian National University growing my hair, listening to music, experimenting with substances, avoiding lectures and, as might be expected, eventually dropping out. I’d been locked up in an institution for far too long.

My work resume details a chequered career: I’ve been a factory worker, a beer keg roller, a wine and spirits storeman, an invoice clerk, a Commonwealth public servant (twice), a labourer, a menswear salesman, a hardware/paint salesman, a tradesman painter and decorator, and a builder/renovator.

I’ve also been unemployed for periods of time, such as the early 90’s, during the “recession we had to have”, and forced to rely on unemployment benefits, so rudely referred to as “welfare” by the Turnbull government these days.

I hope all this palaver about myself hasn’t come across like a narcissist’s picnic. I just wanted to make the point that I’ve lived and experienced life from many angles, and that’s why the concept of ”class” means nothing to me.

Now in my mid-sixties, I realise that I’ve been a very lucky boy. I’ve been living through the most prosperous period in our country’s history and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experiences and opportunities I’ve been afforded.

I’ve lived in or visited many overseas countries, each with their particular cultures, societies, languages, cuisines and idiosyncracies.

I’ve worked alongside humans of all ages, social backgrounds, education levels and racial origins.

I’ve seen enough of the world and its people to know that we are all connected and that at our core lies something beautiful, a quality beyond ethnicity and appearance that we associate with the word “human”. Dare we call it “soul” or “life energy”?

I don’t focus on “class”. I try to see not what divides us, but what unites us. Wherever I look I see human beings, each of us grappling in our own way with the demands, expectations and responsibilities of our lives, carrying the baggage and joys of our lived experience and often, sadly, the scars of abuse.

How do we, as a nation, cut through the hypocrisies of “class”, the judgmental pushing-apart, the social condemnation inflicted by the entitled well-off upon our most disadvantaged? How do we come together? Do we truly seek inclusion and equity for all as our most noble objective?

Our attempts at multicultural inclusion have been admirable to date, but it’s clear that government ministers such as the execrable Peter Dutton just don’t get it.

Has this man ever read a book? Has he travelled overseas? Has he ever imagined anything other than acquiring and maintaining power over others? Has he ever bathed in the Ganges or wandered through the marketplace in Marrakesh? Has he strolled the Champs Elysees? Has he ever experienced the warmth and hospitality of strangers that a traveller can encounter in all corners of this globe? Has he ever had the chance to perceive the oneness of humanity? Or has he only known, in his short life, the limited, fearful, xenophobic post-colonial parochialism in which it appears he was raised?

Every public pronouncement Dutton makes seems to reek of racism and condemnation, of “othering”. So far, he’s singled out Lebanese Muslims, refugees from several countries and members of our African-Australian community. “These people”, he thunders …

He may as well say it: ” these non-white people” … they’re not subscribing to “Australian values” … we must teach these “values” in schools!

Yes, Dutton. And what might those values be? The values of inclusion, of embracing difference, of learning and growing together? No, you’re just like Tony Abbott – resentful of the fact that our multicultural nation isn’t some pale reflection of mother England.

Can’t you damn right-wingers see our amazing potential? Are you unable to move beyond your petty mindscapes and see the obvious? Our country is uniquely positioned to be a visionary world leader, to develop a model of social and economic organisation that might arrest humanity’s headlong rush towards self-destruction. Why can’t you see that?

In Australia, our multicultural experiment is working. We just need to accelerate its development.

That process will require that you step down, Dutton. Just removing your toxic voice (and several others) from the arena of our public debate will give our community clear air to breathe, live and grow, together.

I believe that overseas travel and exposure to other societies and cultures should be a mandatory part of our education system.

Why should young Australians’ first taste of world travel be landing in an overseas war zone, wearing camouflage gear and carrying a gun?

Surely they need to see the world in a time of peace, to find themselves surrounded by sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures beyond those they’ve grown up with. Just to broaden their minds and open their hearts …

And I don’t mean catch a train to Footscray. While Footscray itself is well worth a visit, it still exists within the Australian paradigm, a paradigm which locks us into a bow-to-the-queen and follow-the-USA mentality, a paradigm which tries to foist a “last-refuge-of a-scoundrel” patriotism upon us all, a form of nationalism which implies and seeks to entrench a concept of white superiority which only exists in the minds of little men.

No, young Aussies. I mean: go overseas. Immerse yourself. Place yourselves on a foreign street, in a community whose language you don’t speak. Learn that communication beyond speech is possible, when the need is there. Understand that that foreign-looking brother or sister is quite willing to advise and assist you, even make you welcome in the community he or she loves.

Please, know the joy of travel. Learn to be thankful for the warmth of acceptance. Learn to share that warmth. Don’t stand on our beaches flinging stones at new arrivals.

Our Prime Minister Turnbull is quite good at playing the role of Multicultural Mal when it suits him, when the cameras are rolling.

But by their hypocrisy shall ye know them: one day Turnbull participates in a blatant attack upon our African community, enthusiastically endorsing Dutton’s vicious “African gangs” smears, the next he’s all smiles, graciously gushing and grinning like a wolf as he effusively welcomes Kenyan-Australian Senator Lucy Gichuhi to the Coalition dark side.

And then we get: “There’s no one more Australian than Barnaby Joyce!”

Actually, we get the government we deserve.

It’s really no surprise that our federal government and its brain-farts, thought bubbles and vitriolic public utterances simply reflects the confused and split personality that is our Australian psyche today.

Nothing is more illustrative of our schizophrenic national identity than the annual Australia Day/Invasion Day debate.

Poisoned by the leftover white entitlement of our colonial past so blatantly sprayed about by the Abbotts, Duttons, Turnbulls, Bernardis, Sheltons, Bolts etc. among us, public debate in Australia is constantly tainted by the rhetoric of division, of judgment, of racist bigotry, of intolerance and fear of the “other”.

It’s simple really. Do we want a united, inclusive nation?

Do we really want to live in that mythical land of the Fair Go?

Or do we want the division, the racism, the cruelty and contempt for our most disadvantaged being dished up daily by a government owned and operated by billionaires and bastards?

One thing is clear: A government that constantly singles out particular social sectors for demonisation can never unite our nation. Right-wing divisiveness is scarring Australia’s soul. To reject division and reclaim our nation’s heart, we must reject this government.

Hypocrisy shall be his epitaph

By Loz Lawrey

As Australia suffers the stewardship of a man apparently devoid of vision, inspiration and the self-confidence and character to truly lead, the word “hypocrisy” will forever define the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull.

We’ve had toxic PM’s before; John Howard and Tony Abbott come to mind. By “toxic”, I mean those whose determination to consolidate and entrench their own power at all costs subsumes their desire and capability to take our whole community forward, together, towards a greater common good.

Rarely are such people able to articulate a coherent plan for the betterment of our nation beyond spin-doctored platitudes such as Turnbull’s meaningless “jobs and growth”, or Abbott’s ghastly negative three-word slogans (remember how we choked on those?).

Such “leaders” don’t agitate for change or betterment. Rather, they seek to impose upon our present a white-picket-fence conservatism from the past. They don’t move with the times; they want to freeze us in time.

They’ll say or do anything to score a political point, to shut down debate and maintain their authority at any cost. But many Australians recoil in horror when shallow, mean-minded and divisive language spews forth from those who would purport to govern our nation.

Language is the most basic and important tool in the leader’s kit. Language has the power to unite, to inspire, to uplift. It is the brush which paints great visionary concepts into our public consciousness: the ‘light on the hill”, the “clever country”… such truly great verbal imagery encourages a nation’s people to share and embrace aspiration, moving forward, together, towards a brighter future.

But what do we get from Turnbull and his ministers? As Zorba the Greek might have put it, we get “the full catastrophe”. We get platitudes and scripted sweet nothings. We get bluster and manufactured outrage.

We get rhetoric designed to achieve nothing more than deflect attention away from the government’s own failures and shortcomings. We get hypocrisy.

We get constant attacks upon the Labor opposition as if the Coalition really believes that this is what Australians want to hear: a relentless, negative ever-flowing river of rubbish.

I’m drowning.

It’s New Year’s Day, 2018. What is Malcolm’s message to the people? Might it be something along the lines of: “We’ve found a new way to manage our country’s wealth, resources and social organisation. Our focus is to create a society in which everyone is included, cared for and afforded the opportunity to participate fully in the pursuit of the happiness that should be the birthright of every Australian”? Or perhaps something less cheesy but inspiring and inclusive nonetheless?

Nope. From Malcolm, we get this: “We are very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria, in particular in Melbourne. This is a failure of the Andrews Labor government.”

Ministers Greg Hunt and Peter Dutton, singing in harmony from the same songsheet, highlight the fact that they’re talking about “African youth gangs”.

And so, here we are. On the first day of the new year, Turnbull and Co. are already hard at work demonising a minority group, inciting hatred and dividing our community. Inspiration? Leadership? No. This is casting poison into the well. It’s classic “divide and conquer” stuff, astoundingly blatant in its arrogance.

Yes, folks, this week’s New Year effort by our federal government has been to pick a state government issue which Victoria is already addressing, inflate it into a message of fear and loathing and dump it on Australia’s coffee table like a steaming turd. Umm … thanks, Malcolm. The Sudanese community, in particular, thanks you. Not.

How stupid does the Turnbull government think we are? Now, there’s a question… we did elect them.

There’s no doubt the federal Coalition hates state Labor governments and grasps with eager hands any perceived opportunity to attack them.

We’ve witnessed Turnbull try to make political capital from the South Australian power blackout of 28 September 2016, when Australians concerned about climate change were stunned to hear him cynically blaming the state’s renewable energy policy for what was, in fact, damage to the grid caused by a severe weather event.

It’s as if the Turnbull government (and the Abbott government before it) is constantly trying to drag us backward, forcing its regressive, outdated worldview upon a society yearning for progress, like missionaries trying to impose their fanatical belief system upon a culture foreign to their own. It’s as if they’re constantly trying to insert a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn’t fit!

That’s the trouble with hypocrisy. It requires a suspension of disbelief, but try as we may, we can’t get away from the fact that the emperor has no clothes. In the end deception, truth-twisting, dissembling and misrepresentation cannot hide the reality, the facts.

Professor Google tells us that hypocrisy is “the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case”. Well, there it is. Sorry Malcolm, the jury’s back. Your pompous pronouncements in praise of multiculturalism and the “fair go” belie your government’s constant ongoing attacks on whole community sectors. You simply can’t claim to stand for all Australians as you single out some of us for vilification by the rest. You can’t let ministers like Peter Dutton target Muslim Australians of Lebanese extraction or young members of our Sudanese community with his insulting, condemnatory rhetoric. When you do, you out yourself as a hypocrite.

“Divide and conquer” has been an evident weapon regularly deployed by Coalition governments, at least since John Howard’s “we will decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come” during the 2001 Tampa affair.

Sadly, it seems that hypocrisy is on the rise and, thanks in part to Donald Trump (its very embodiment in the USA), becoming normalised. Cynics among us might say that hypocrisy is as old as the human race. Sure, there’s no argument there. There was once, however, less tolerance for it from our politicians and in our public discourse generally.

Standards are slipping. We want leadership, well-intentioned leadership. Instead, we’re getting hypocrisy, garnished with obfuscation.

Hypocrisy, Malcolm Turnbull, shall be your epitaph.

Capitalism: can we give it back?

By Loz Lawrey

Human beings are self-aware. We can dream. We can imagine. We can visualise. We can turn thought into action. Great Apes that we are, we have the capacity to examine and assess our lives as we live them and the societies we create.

We observe, draw conclusions from our own perceptions and adjust our behaviours in ways that enhance our lived experience. Onwards and upwards we go!

At least, that is our potential … It’s a shame that greed, politics, power games and our natural inertia tend to corrupt society’s potential to provide each one of us with a chance to evolve and thrive.

As individuals and collectively as a species, what do we seek?

There’s no doubt that survival always tops the list. Survival, above all else, is our primary instinct, and to meet its demands we need a reliable supply of food, clothing and shelter. These days, to satisfy those requirements, we need money.

Our capitalist system, so staunchly championed by both sides of politics, is completely dependent upon our society’s shared recognition and acceptance of currency as a repository of value and medium of exchange.

Our Australian Dollar is a unit of agreed value as well as a useful means of payment or recompense for the provision of goods and services. We use money to get stuff we need, and other stuff we just … want.

We work, we get paid, we spend. Money is capital, the basic building block of capitalism. We have allowed it to become a necessity of life.

Some of us want just enough to provide for a “good life” (however we define that) for ourselves and our families. Others want obscene amounts, more than any one family could possibly spend in one lifetime. Most of us just want to survive.

And yet, while money is the building block of capitalism, the mortar that really holds the temple together is our shared agreement to, and acknowledgment of, the perceived “value” of money.

We are individuals and citizens of global nations. Capitalism is our model, the system of trade and commerce into which we’re born. We know no other system and our very concept of survival is framed by this capitalist paradigm.

At the same time, the increasing social and economic inequality that capitalism entrenches within global societies tells us that it is a flawed and corrupted system.

Capitalism does not serve us all equally. Left unchecked, it will always deliver great wealth for some, comfortable survival for others and misery for many.

Money itself, or currency, is not the problem. The problem lies in our surrender to capitalism’s “free market”.

One has to wonder how humans with the ability to think agreed to hand over the authority to rule our lives to such an imaginary construct. The “free market”, with its connotation of liberty and freedom is surely one of the most deceptive weasel terms ever dreamt up by the forces of evil.

The “free market” is a pirates’ paradise where global corporations and wealthy interests wield the power to influence governments and plunder the societies those governments were elected to serve.

The “free market” leaves whole populations of workers and welfare recipients behind, ground underfoot, crushed by a neoliberal agenda which values money more than people.

Governments that abdicate their responsibility to regulate our market economy display a religious zealotry, an obsession with ideology and belief. They ignore  evidence, research, facts, statistics and reality itself. They inhabit a mental fairyland, far removed from the experiences and concerns of we, the common people, and are unfit to govern.

If capitalism is ever to work for the benefit of everyone, it requires regulation: a return to the very “red and green tape” that lazy, self-entitled conservative politicians hate so much and work so hard to wind back.

There’s no doubt that capitalism requires our collective consent to even exist. Without our acceptance and endorsement of the perceived value of all global currencies, money would be worthless. Mere printed paper.

In fact, the very state, the condition of our world today requires our consent. Our messed-up world reflects us and the choices we make. We, the Great Apes (now with computers!), are the co-authors of our own story. We are all actors in a drama of our own making. War? Peace? Love? Hate? Generosity? Cruelty? Capitalism? We own them all.

As individuals, we may agree or disagree with the state of the world and the current organisation of our global society. Yet everything that happens on Planet Earth (other than natural disasters) is authorised by our tacit collective agreement. By our choices. By what we do.

When we elect a government, we give consent to the policies it will implement, which is why democracy demands informed participation from all of us. If we elect representatives who disregard the public interest, then we can expect decisions that are ultimately abusive towards large sectors of our community.

A government which treats refugees inhumanely in offshore gulags, which gives tax cuts to big business while cutting social security support for our most disadvantaged, reveals itself to be sociopathic in its approach and either ignorant or dismissive of the concept of the common good.

Without an ongoing desire to understand the people and their priorities, without active policies of empathy and inclusion for all, without a guileless and visionary leader, no government can ever govern fairly.

A government that wants to raise the age at which citizens can access the Age Pension (because, well … we can’t afford to get old anymore, can we?) is out of touch with the reality of people’s lives. Many tradespeople and manual workers over 60 already struggle with physical aches and pains from work and overwork. Retiring at 65 is tough enough. Changing the pension age to 67 is cruelty, pure and simple. Only fat cats could dream this stuff up.

A government which undermines its own working population by enabling a two-tiered economy of underemployed local workers and underpaid “visitors” (backpackers, 457 visa holders) no longer serves the voters who elected it. Such a government is owned by wealthy vested interests.

Yes. We, the people, consent to this stuff, and every three years we are given an opportunity to withdraw our consent by voting lousy governments out. When we do, however, the all-encompassing paradigm of capitalism still rules. The cult of capitalism continues to prevail and the temple of its predator priests will continue to stand.

A new incoming, slightly less bad, slightly more progressive government will also worship at the temple of the money-lenders. Like all incumbent governments, they will collude with the media to enact, both at home and on the global stage, our daily bread-and-circuses parody of either “good, responsible government” or “trouble at mill”, whichever serves the agenda of the day.

Conservative of progressive, whichever party holds office will continue to support our system of consumer capitalism, which is currently killing off the very environment that sustains life on this planet while condemning millions of humans to a miserable existence.

All of which begs the question: as citizens, could we withdraw our consent from not just an unsatisfactory government, but from capitalism itself?

Does our power begin and end at the ballot box? Could we somehow collectively change the paradigm globally? Is there a better way?

It seems unthinkable … I mean, we’d all have to communicate and … err … agree on a new way forward.

It’s a hard thing to imagine in our world, where capitalism is a “given”, a system we’re all born into it. Like all “isms”, capitalism is a human construct. It’s a mental collective agreement we’ve all made, a plane of shared consciousness we agree to stand on together … what if we all decided to step off?

Capitalism has nothing to do with nature, with nurture, with life, the spirit, the essence of our humanity. It’s simply a set of rules we’ve made to give chaos and anarchy some semblance of order.

If only it worked for all of us, equally.

Can we fix it? Or just … give it back?

Playing Chess With Pigeons

By Loz Lawrey

I’ve been hearing terms such as “postmodernism”, “neo-marxism” and “the left” bandied about by right-wing commentators ever more frequently lately, so, in order to clarify my own understanding of the meaning of these verbal brickbats, I’ve been doing some googling.

I’ve always thought of myself as a leftie, and proud of it. A communist or socialist? Perhaps, though if a label must be chosen, I prefer the term “progressive”.

But am I a postmodernist or a neo-Marxist? “Yes and no”, said Professor Google. “You are and you aren’t”, because these terms are extremely difficult to explain and many conflicting, often contradictory definitions exist.

That’s the trouble with “isms”. Their actual meaning is loose, fluid and subject to interpretation.

According to Google, “communism” is “a theory or system of social organization in which all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs.”

Now to me, that doesn’t sound too bad. In fact, if I had to select a recipe for social organisation, welfare and cohesion, then some version of communism or socialism would be my choice. An inclusive “best for all” system which makes everyone a winner.

When right-wing pundits use the term “communism” however, it implies evil of the worst order.

Communism is portrayed as the enemy of capitalism, of “freedom” (however we define that), of our first-world right to selfish greed and exclusive self-advancement.

Former Prime Minister John Howard once described the very idea of a banking royal commission as “rampant socialism”. I’m still trying to make sense of that statement. I think he meant that a royal commission would be a bad thing.

Conservative politicians regularly conflate communism with unions and social activism generally.

What are these forces working so hard to drag the sensible centre of politics and governance towards the far right, those barren lands where chaos and deregulated anarchy prevail?

What does “the right” actually want? From where I’m sitting, it looks like a vision of dystopia, a post-apocalyptic disaster zone where a few mega-wealthy “winners” lord it over a population of starving, miserable, downtrodden losers.

I may be on the wrong planet. The problem may be me. I do acknowledge the possibility. Or, I may simply be ageing and struggling to accommodate a changing world, one in which my “givens” no longer apply.

You know, old-fashioned concepts such as: Decency should guide us. Empathy is good. Inclusion is essential. Racism, misogyny, bigotry and religious zealotry are destructive and anti-social. We should care for each other and support our most vulnerable etc, etc….

There’s a meme that regularly circulates on Facebook: A picture of a pigeon on a chessboard knocking the pieces over, with this caption:

“Arguing with conservatives is like playing chess with a pigeon: No matter how good you are at chess, the pigeon is just going to knock over the pieces, crap on the board and then strut around acting like it won.”

At times I myself have tried unsuccessfully to argue with that pigeon.

I can confirm that it’s a complete waste of time. Don’t even bother.

It’s as if Planet Earth is inhabited by two tribes, with the members of one wearing blue-tinted spectacles and members of the other red. Both tribes are looking at the same world, yet seeing completely disparate landscapes.

Language is difficult. If I say “table”, do you visualise a round, square or rectangular one? Large or small? Made of timber or otherwise? Perhaps that’s why they say “a picture’s worth a thousand words”. At least when we look at a picture we are seeing the same thing.

“There’s a war on empathy” commented singer/activist Billy Bragg on a recent visit to Australia. Who could disagree? Well… possibly “left”-hating conservatives who approve of Australia’s inhumane treatment of refugees?

At the time Malcolm Turnbull was entreating us not to get “misty-eyed” over his regime’s ongoing human rights abuses.

Is there a war on thinking? Anyone observing the toxic outpourings from the Murdoch media, the shallowness of journalism, the decrease in literacy or the Coalition’s defunding and dumbing-down of the ABC might think so.

Right-wing attacks on universities as cauldrons of “leftism” make one wonder: what is the “right” afraid of? Is it “leftism” or thought itself?

Might it be that universities are in fact incubators of ideologies of empathy and social inclusion precisely because they are centres of thought and learning?

I ask again: What does “the right”  actually want? What is the conservative vision? Is there one? If there is, I’m damned if I can see it. Perhaps I’m wearing the wrong glasses.

I know I can describe the kind of world I would prefer to live in, and it’s a warm and friendly place, where people actually care… I’m guessing that makes me a stupid old leftie hippie.

Conservatives are well-practised at criticising and condemning, but whenever I ask one to articulate their coherent vision for a better world all I get are insults such as “leftard”.

In other words, crap on the chessboard.

The far-right agenda of the Turnbull government strikes again

By Loz Lawrey

The Australian well of public debate has been truly poisoned by the hatred, bigotry and racism spewed forth daily by right-wing commentators and politicians.

Now the ABC has succumbed to their onslaught of unthinking vitriol over a well intended Anzac Day post by broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Mageid and terminated her excellent Australia wide program.

The most disgusting aspect of this whole affair lies in the fact that Yassmin’s call for our Anzac Day remembrance to include other victims of war cast no disrespect towards either our veterans, our fallen, or their survivors.

We’re happy for Vietnam veterans to march on Anzac Day. Why not remember other victims of war as well, at the same time?

It is clear that the howling wolf-pack of haters calling for Yassmin’s sacking are driven by Islamophobia and racism.

Today Australia’s ABC has shed its mantle of decency, fairness and inclusion.

Today we face the reality that our most trusted source of reliable news and information, our beloved ABC, has been stolen from us by the same toxic far right agenda which underpins everything the Turnbull government does.

Our very democracy is being subverted and dismantled before our eyes as Australia under the Coalition government becomes a nastier, less tolerant and overtly racist nation.

On Turnbull’s watch, how much more global shame must we endure?

The public comments from the sociopathic Immigation Minister Dutton calling for further sackings clearly demonstrate the foul unbalanced (one might say insane) attitudes promoted daily on 2GB radio, which is the amplifier of every far right idiot’s hatred.

Let’s face it, this disgusting government wants to privatise the ABC and turn it into another 2GB.

Then Australia can truly reflect the quality of its leaders and be the disgusting nation they want it to become, an intolerant nation of unthinking bigots which has lost sight of its own humanity.

 

Protesters to March In March again

Media Release

Three years on from the first March in March protests in 2014, the grassroots March Australia movement will host rallies on Saturday 25 March 2017 protesting the policies and decisions of the Turnbull Coalition government.

“The 2014 rallies were a response to the regressive Abbott government”, said spokesman Loz Lawrey. “People thought the Fair Go was under attack, and over 100,000 of us took to the streets nationwide. Since then, progressive Australians have endured an ever more divisive and abusive agenda from an ultra-conservative Turnbull government more interested in its own ideology than in true public service.”

Under the banner of “The People United For Better Government”, March Australia is a network of citizens with shared progressive views. Their rallies offer advocacy groups a platform to come together and air multiple issues of concern at the one time.

“We are ordinary Australians” Mr Lawrey said. “We just want our country to be an inclusive and productive nation. We want work. We want mutual respect. We want to embrace our multicultural society and learn to reconcile our differences.”

“We want a government that respects human rights and works in the public interest. We expect accountability and transparency from the governments we elect.”

“The Coalition’s unconscionable policies around Centrelink debt, the welfare card and the incarceration of refugees have driven some individuals to suicide. The corrupt job network gives private enterprise control over the very lives of some Australians. This government stuffs up everything it touches, from the NBN to the ABC.”

“We invite all citizens and activist groups to join us on Saturday to raise your concerns”, he said. “There are so many areas in which this government is failing, such as health, education, environmental management, humane treatment of refugees. It’s a huge task to even try to list them all. The placards at the marches will tell the story.”

Contacts

Loz Lawrey, Candace Wirth, email: maactivistinterchange@gmail.com

Leesa Little, email: info@marchaustralia.com

 

Rallies will take place in nine locations on Saturday 25 March, as listed below:

For details visit the March Australia Activist Interchange Facebook page.

 

Adelaide

11:30am – 2:00pm, Victoria Square, Adelaide

Facebook page

Contact Sarah Pinkie, email: sarahmarchinmarch@gmail.com

Armidale

2:00 – 4:00pm, Central Park, Armidale

Contact Vanessa Peterson, email: australian.action.alliance@gmail.com

Brisbane

12:00 – 2:00pm, Queens Gardens, Brisbane

Facebook page

Contact Ewan Saunders, Sally Dodds or Kathryn Wilkes, email: liztearii@hotmail.com

Cairns

3:00 – 5:00pm, The Lawns, Wharf One, Cairns

Facebook page

Gosford/Central Coast

10:45am – 1:00pm, Carrawah Reserve

Facebook page

Contact Jeff Sundstrom, email: jeff.sundstrom@gmail.com

Darwin

1:00 – 4:00pm, Parliament House, Darwin

Nambucca Heads

11:00am, Nambucca Plaza

Facebook page

Newcastle

1:00 – 4:00pm, Pacific Park, Newcastle

Facebook page

Contact Leigh Shears, email: marchinmarchhunter@gmail.com

Sydney

1:00 – 4:00pm, Belmore Park, Sydney

Facebook page

Contact JessieLee Peacock, email: marchauswestsyd@gmail.com

 

So many reasons to March in March

By Loz Lawrey

Let’s make a list. I’ll start right here in this article.

I know I’ll miss many issues because I’m no expert on current affairs, politics, or the state of the economy.

I hope that when you’ve read this piece you’ll add your own suggestions to this list of government outrages and violations of the Fair Go in the comments section below.

I’m just an old geezer who cares about Australia and wants to see it achieve its amazing potential as an inclusive multicultural social democracy where not one citizen is left behind, where policy-making is based upon real-world research, expert opinion and above all, the public-interest test otherwise known as the Fair Go.

Not the “pub test” which usually seeks endorsement for bigotry, NO.

I mean the Fair Go test.

The Fair Go lies at the very heart of Australianness, or supposedly always was (although I’m sure our indigenous brothers and sisters would disagree, much to our national shame).

However, I do believe that the Fair Go is the underlying principle that can unite us all, whatever our ancestral origins.

It’s the key to Australia’s re-invention as a truly modern civilised society, one which provides low cost education to its people, which provides public healthcare and social services for our disadvantaged, which invests in its own future and the social and environmental legacy we bequeath our children.

An Australia which focuses on uniting, not dividing.

An Australia which embraces all humans, regardless of difference, simply because we’re all alive here together and we need to look after each other and make this planet work.

We Aussies are either the descendants of convicts, free settlers, refugees from war and dysfunctional economies, or the cruelly dispossessed yet still proud descendants of the most ancient culture on our planet. Or perhaps simply dreamers in search of a better life.

Sports-loving or hating, carniverous or vegetarian, straight, gay or transgender, black, white, brown, yellow, red or any shade of anything … we are Australian.

Catholic, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, Anglican, Seventh-Day Adventist, Church of the Fying Spaghetti Monster … whatever! We are Australian.

This is our potential – to be a world-leader in inclusive, rational policy-making. To lead the way by embracing renewable energy.

Australia, if it wished, could become the nation that shows the world the way to human betterment and fulfillment.

We actually could, as a nation, make the conscious choice to base our society on principles of inclusion and mutual respect rather than the divide-and-conquer neoliberal rat-race which disempowers most of us.

We could admit that “gross national happiness” requires more than reducing budget deficits and book-balancing.

We could value social capital as equally important as economic capital.

I hesitate to speak in this way.

Because I can already sense the hate-cannons of the right-wing nonsensicators being armed and loaded with the weasel-words of regressive conservatism, often used to great effect against any progressive voice that dares to squeak out: “bleeding heart”, “loony leftie” “greenie” etc. etc.

But hey, I was born in the 50s, a teenager in the 60s, a young man in the 70s. In that era empathy was still cool.

Then the 80s arrived, and I saw the world change. It’s all been downhill since then.

I remember the moment I became conscious of the new paradigm being foisted upon us.

I was standing in Adelaide’s Rundle Mall one sunny morning. Suddenly my mind replayed a collage of images and soundbites from my week’s TV viewing: Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and other demons of their ilk peddling the new neoliberal mantra of individualism and competition.

Whether or not Thatcher said “There’s no such thing as society” (the jury’s still out), she certainly meant it.

We were returning to the law of the jungle, to “only the strong survive”, to a new world of “winners” and “losers” in which could only a few could “win” and many would lose.

As a casual worker in a hardware store (because full-time workers, even back then, were no longer being hired) struggling to pay his way and make ends meet, I knew this “new world” would not be kind to me.

That’s the flaw with the whole neoliberal trickle-down concept. Only a very small percentage of the population, nationally or globally, can truly prosper.

The neoliberal lie relies on our gullibility, our blind belief that we too can one day become millionaires too.

Donald Trump is the very personification of that false promise – it seems many Americans still believe more in the American dream than on-the-ground reality: “If we elect a billionaire, we ‘ll become rich too!”

Wake up! Not everyone can be a millionaire! Or even a billionaire. To even put faith in such a concept is an act of greedy selfishness.

Sure, we all want success, but must it come at the expense of others? Must we impoverish others, or deny them social services and support because we want our tax dollars spent solely upon ourselves?

Sorry, I’ve been babbling, as progressives do if you give them a glass of wine and ask them: “how was your day?”… “Peppered with outrage and disgust at the xenophobic, racist, selfish, fearful, regressive and ignorant conservatism of hard-right extremists masquerading as liberals”, they might say. “ Oh, and it was sunny. Bit warm”.

But … back to the list!

Let’s start this list of government policies and decisions that outrage and disgust, that attack ther Fair Go, that erode workers’ rights and entitlements, that tear our social safety net, that abuse and torture refugees, that are anti-social and simply wrong… oops…. list them!

Please add your own to those I’ll invariably leave out:

  1. The Indue welfare card.
  2. The corrupt privatised Job Network.
  3. The Centrelink debt-recovery scam.
  4. The overt attacks on welfare recipients, and the lies and falsehoods around welfare which spring daily from the mouths of government ministers.
  5. The Turnbull government’s collusion with the Murdoch media in the demonising of refugees, welfare recipients and the welfare system generally, by actively providing distorted statistics and false figures on the true cost of welfare.
  6. The Turnbull government’s use of bodies such as the “Fair Work Commission” to attack and remove workers’ entitlements such as out-of-hours penalty rates.
  7. The Turnbull government’s use of the ABCC to demonise and disempower the trade unions that work so hard to represent workers.
  8. The Turnbull government’s blatant lies and misrepresentation around electricity supply and renewable energy.
  9. The Turnbull government’s climate-change denialism and support for the fossil fuel industry.
  10. The theft from the public purse from ther ongoing rorting of political entitlements and travel allowances by politicians.
  11. The Turnbull government’s regime of torture and abuse of asylum seekers in offshore detention.
  12. The Turnbull government’s nonsensical claims that $50 billion in tax cuts to corporations that already pay less than their due will somehow benefit our broader economy and allow some benefit to trickle down to the rest of us.
  13. The contempt with which the Turnbull government treats Australians, as though they were our rulers, not our servants (which they actually are).

I’ll stop here for now. As the late great Bob Ellis would have said: Discuss.

I’m sure once others contribute to this list, we’ll find there are more reasons than we knew to join other concerned Australians on the streets

Bring a placard and let Turnbull and his cronies know:

WE’RE NOT HAPPY, MAL!

Stand Up Australia March in March Rallies will be held around the nation on Saturday 25th March.

Information can be found on your nearest March Australia Facebook page or at the March australia Activist Interchange website http://maai.x10host.com

or Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/maainterchange/

or at #StandUpAustralia2017

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