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Shining a light on dark places

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The attempt to sell the repeal of Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act has led to a new page in the “phrases to repeat” Coalition script. Everyone from Tony Abbott and George Brandis to Tim Wilson is saying that it is the responsibility of the community to “shine a light on dark places”.

I realise they are referring to bigotry and racism but I think it is a laudable sentiment which should be embraced and extended.

I would like a light shone on Manus Island and Nauru and “on-water operations”. I would like to see a cost benefit analysis of our offshore detention policy. I would like to see a total bill for Operation Sovereign Borders and the incarceration of innocent people.

Add up how much we are spending on orange life rafts and unmanned drones and having a naval fleet patrolling. Add up how much we are spending on flights for politicians, aid workers, guards, journalists, asylum seekers etc to fly backwards and forwards to Indonesia, PNG, Nauru, Christmas Island, Cambodia, Solomon Islands and everywhere else we are trying to make complicit in this inhumanity. Add up how much it is costing us to keep 30,000 people locked up in limbo.

Next, this government is carrying out a concerted campaign to discredit unions using the Craig Thomson case to justify spending hundreds of millions on a Royal Commission and the re-establishment of the ABCC. I find this hard to understand as Mr Thomson is going to gaol – doesn’t this show that we already have a system of oversight by which corrupt officials can be prosecuted? Aren’t the police and ICAC better suited to deal with bribery, corruption and intimidation?

The $24,000 that Mr Thomson misappropriated pales into insignificance compared to the amount of money that politicians have been forced to repay for fraudulent expense claims that are brushed off as “mistakes” if someone questions them. I would like a light shone on parliamentarians’ entitlements and for the Finance department to exercise better governance.

I would like to shine a light on who is actually running our government. Every time Tony Abbott meets with world leaders Peta Credlin is sitting at the table. I know she runs his office but surely there are some diplomats, economists. cultural, trade or defence experts that deserve a spot in front of her.

I want to know why Cardinal Pell and Maurice Newman feel empowered to advise the government on climate change. I want to know why Mark Textor feels empowered to wade into foreign affairs on Twitter. I want to know who are the puppet masters. (see Andrew Robb video).

Speaking of puppet masters, I want to shine a light on political donations, and on paid political advertising which is banned in the UK.

Coincidentally, in a recent freedom of speech ruling in the European Court, the UK government successfully argued that the ban on paid political advertising was necessary to achieve the “legitimate aim of avoiding the distortion of debate on matters of public interest by unequal access to influential media by financially powerful bodies.”

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority of nine to eight, that the long-standing ban on paid political advertising on television and radio in the United Kingdom does not contravene the right to freedom of expression in article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Wealthy corporations, organisations and individuals have unusual access to, and influence over, the parties and politicians to whom they donate. Hundreds of millions of dollars are donated and then spent on advertising. Not only is this a ridiculous waste of money, it makes our political parties beholden. They are focused on chasing sponsorship so they must appease those with the means to bankroll them. People back winners so they must concentrate on being popular rather than governing.

The media must have a good relationship with a politician to gain access and to be fed the leaks. The politician must have a good relationship with the media because they choose what the next headline will say and which stories will be reported. This symbiotic arrangement has degenerated so far that politicians and journalists are amongst the least respected professions in the country.  The following arrangement doesn’t add to the public’s trust.

“The $600 million lease on the current RAAF fleet of two Boeing 737 business jets and three smaller Challenger 604 aircraft will expire next year and the government will seek agreement from media companies to limit criticism of any decision to opt for bigger planes

According to senior government sources the new plan would involve aircraft such as the Airbus A-330 or Boeing 777 that can fly hundreds of passengers over long distances with fewer stops. The Boeing 777 and Airbus A-330 each cost about $250 million and both can carry in excess of 200 passengers in VIP configuration.”

And why should the media not report on this? Because the current planes “are too small to carry a full complement of press gallery journalists and crews” so let me spend my hundreds of millions in peace and you get a free ride to come film me. The taxpayers are footing the bill for Tony’s tame journos to be flown around the world presumably for free.

I would like to shine a light on corporate lobbyists and the deals they make with politicians. After leaving Parliament, an inordinate number of ex-pollies secure plum jobs with corporations they dealt with in their portfolio.

After bugging the East Timorese cabinet rooms under the guise of building them as a foreign aid project when he was Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer became an adviser to Woodside Petroleum, the company that was negotiating to exploit the oilfields. Peter Reith was appointed as a consultant to defence contractor Tenix immediately after resigning as defence minister. Health minister Michael Wooldridge signed a $5 million building deal for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and days later, after resigning as health minister, was employed by the college as a consultant.

I would like to shine a light on the truth about debt and deficit. Between PEFO and MYEFO, under the Coalition government, the projected deficit for the year blew out by $17 billion. $10.2 billion of that was due to spending decisions made by the Coalition, notably an $8.8 billion gift to the RBA, an extra $1.2 billion for offshore processing, and tax breaks for those with super balances over $2 million.

Quoting from the Coalition “phrases to repeat” sheet, you will hear every one of them say Labor left us with a debt of $667 billion. Well to quote Joe Hockey’s own MYEFO document which he produced in mid-December:

“Net debt is forecast to be $191.5 billion in 2013-14 and reach $280 billion in 2016-17.”

The figure of $667 billion comes from Hockey’s MYEFO estimation of the possible gross debt in ten years’ time. Surely between now and 2024 he will be able to come up with a solution or will we still be hearing about Labor’s debt?

Where we need a glaring spotlight is on the free trade agreements that we are rushing headlong into. With Peter Dutton insisting that our health system is unsustainable why on earth would you enter into agreements that will unquestionably send our PBS into a death spiral? Allowing the evergreening of patents and other measures to benefit the pharmaceutical companies (who just so happen to be generous sponsors of the pollie pedal) will potentially spell the end of generic medicines with a huge increase in the price we pay for our drugs.

I could go on but all this light shining is burning me out. We need all of you to be torch bearers for our country. Do as Tim Wilson urges us to do – shine a light on the dark places where this government is trying to lead us.

19 comments

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  1. ShaunJ

    G’day KL,

    As usual another brilliant article. I love your insight and passion. I have acquired an extra strong torch and will endeavour to use to light up those very same “dark corners” you have pointed to.

  2. DanDark

    Someone hid the torch before the election
    (I think it was Peta Cretin)

    So we got constantly tube fed,3 word slogans
    that would solve all this countries problems
    The Knight(Tony) in shining armour was going to rescue the country
    according to him and his spin doctors,if my memory serves me well

    I hope more torches are starting to be found and turned on
    The spotlight needs to be bright and constant
    and directed on this backward,
    not so good with the truth PM

  3. Bill Shaw

    A light should also be shone on the TPP secret agreement. Something smells.

  4. Roswell

    Kaye Lee, if this isn’t your best piece of work yet, then I don’t know what is.

  5. Tracie

    In relation to the asylum seekers, don’t forget the $3000 per quarter for each asylum seeker of temporary visas paid by the Australian government to the Nauruan government in the Nauru detention centre. This is information obtained courtesy of Asher Wolf, who received FOI documentation from the Australian government.

    It runs into around $7 million per year.

  6. JAQ

    Kaye again- if only the newspapers could have your clarity! If only we had journalists that shared your ethics. Where the bloody hell are they? People need to start writing- old fashioned letters to their local members, and make these rain drops a flood. We are getting the facts from people like you. We need to use them.

  7. Pingback: Shining a light on dark places. | sandbarsearle

  8. John Clapton

    Keep shining, Kaye

  9. Matt

    Great stuff Kaye. As always a great article. Please keep up the good work as you are one of the rare people that can seemingly put our frustrations into words. As always I will be sharing this piece on my face book page and urging all to read it.

  10. Stephen Tardrew

    Excellent as usual Kaye. Speaks for itself.

  11. Kaye Lee

    Turning on the torch again…

    “The Tax Office is allowing Australians with money parked in offshore accounts to avoid harsh penalties by coming forward, in an amnesty program worth up to half a billion dollars.

    ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan will announce the program today, which will reduce the penalties for taxpayers who hand over information about their hidden accounts over the past four years.”

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/last-chance-ato-amnesty-for-offshore-cash-20140327-35jv4.html#ixzz2x82VIUVc

  12. Wayne Turner

    Well written article.This Liberal party are very selective indeed.

  13. Stephen Tardrew

    Reduce the tax base; reduce purchasing power through lower wages; reduce assistance to the poor thus further reducing immediate purchasing power; forgive tax evasion when many of the avoidance loopholes have been closed; scrap the mining tax; reduce business taxes; scrap the ETS; push up unemployment and rig the unemployment data; get rid o the manufacturing skill base; deny global warming and its costs; sack CSIRO scientists and end green innovation subsidies and so on.

    Insert Kaye’s dot point lists here and Tracking Abbots Wreckage.

    Who will pay? Of course we the people. To cover the consequent deficit we shall screw workers and wage earners.

    Solution: Blame Labor.

    This is austerity. Have a Little peek at Europe and see how that’s worked out. Millions of unemployed and impoverished.

    Jail the perpetrators of the global financial crisis? That went well didn’t it. They suffered so much they are now receiving record profits and bonuses while life for many goes to shit.

    Quantitative easing (QE) goes on happily feeding the bank profit margins and covering their rotten balance sheets. Yellen suggests reducing QE and the markets take a dive. How dare you remove our fee lunch.

    All those homeless and jobless people complaining when things are going so well.

    Another Financial Crisis is Looming (see link) A new class of derivatives has arrived.

    Australians are living in la la land lulled into apathy by our survival of the last financial crisis. Mm I seem to remember Labor was in power.

    Be warned the fox is in charge of the hen house and you and your children will all pay. It’s like: Oh that’s over there were OK mate we got misspeak rodent to see us right.

    Just remember conservative over there is conservative over here. They are all painted with the same greedy economic rationalist and religious ideological brush.

    http://www.alternet.org/economy/another-financial-crisis-looming-heres-why-and-how-it-will-play-out?page=0%2C0

  14. Don Winther

    Another great article Kaye Lee, thanks. One thing for sure is all this talk of bigotry, mockery, humiliation, Knights and Dames is just another one of the LNPs distractions from something much more important. Selling Medicare maybe, why would he sell Medicare its making Half a Billion dollars profit for Australia, that would be stupid. I know Tony is an idiot but he is not stupid…….. it must be something else ……. where is my spotlight.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Queensland Premier Campbell Newman gets $70k pay rise as tribunal increases politicians’ pay.

    The new pay scale grants Premier Campbell Newman a rise of about 22 per cent, while Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk’s pay will go up by about 34 per cent.

    Mr Newman’s pay packet will increase by almost $70,000 to about $380,000 a year.

    Ms Palaszczuk’s pay goes up by $80,000 to about $310,000.

    He added the increases would be backdated to July last year.

  16. Stephen Tardrew

    Oh how we suffer.

  17. Paul Raymond Scahill

    I keep saying GET RID of this TURKEY and all his gobblers. When the time comes,and we can only hope it is soon, the NEW government should consider prosecuting all the recipients of cash benefits and building a gaol to house them and feed them bread and water, like they warrant. Unfortunately as each day goes on we see this P.M. carrying on like the IDIOT he is, and as much as I despise a person like Peta Credllin I do feel that many of the ridiculous decisions that are made, are in fact made by the MAD MONK.

  18. Pingback: Shining light into dark places | Wondering Pilgrim

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