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Tag Archives: ALP

Charter for Conservatism: The ALP Campaign Review

Reports on electoral strategies are often written in order to be avoided. They are scripted for the express purpose of gathering dust on shelves, or decaying in digital files rarely to be consulted except by historians. But the review of the reasons why the Australian Labor Party lost the May 2019 Australian federal election was deemed of particular interest. Authored by Jay Weatherill and Craig Emerson, the report was harsh. “Labor lost the election because of a weak strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership, a cluttered policy agenda that looked risky and an unpopular leader.” The authors advance 60 findings and 26 recommendations.

The review does make relevant and cogent points. The campaign was deeply flawed: dissenters and contrarians concerned that Labor was not making the progress needed to win government were dissuaded. Victory would surely be inevitable. But with the campaign barely a week old, the primary vote had fallen to 34 per cent, with Labor coming out on the two-party vote with 47 per cent. This was at odds with the optimistic magic that seemed to be coming from internal polling, with Labor set to secure 37 to 38 per cent of the primary vote in marginal seats, and nab 51 per cent of the two-party vote.

Having Shorten as leader was a handicap. Six years which had included seeing off two prime ministers had taken a toll on popularity. (This ignores the obvious point that Shorten was never popular.) He was also “attacked through an enormously expensive campaign funded by Clive Palmer, which dovetailed into the Coalition’s campaign.” The review did concede that, especially when it came to Queensland, the opposition leader fared poorly, especially when compared with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The review suggests taking a battering ram to centralised campaigning. “Success is likely to require a campaign culture that is less centralised and encourages a greater diversity of views and more robust internal debates – to reflect the increasing diversity of Labor’s constituency from inner-city voters to those living in outer-urban, regional and country communities.” Australian regionalism, in other words, must become a serious feature of ALP policies.

One of those manifestations is a nod in favour of preserving such beasts as coal mining, thereby giving the renewables sector a generous shove off. The stranglehold of the resource sector is secure. “Labor should recognise coal mining will be an Australian industry into the foreseeable future and develop regional jobs plans based on the competitive strengths of different regions.” The stance taken by the party on the Adani coal mine project “combined with some anti-coal rhetoric, devastated its support in the coal mining communities of regional Queensland and the Hunter Valley.”

On the policy front, the report did not single out the tax policies as being, in of themselves, costly. What mattered was their complexity and their message, lost in the Coalition megaphone approach designed to foster “anxieties among insecure, low-income couples in outer-urban and regional Australia”.

An important point made by such commentators as Katharine Murphy is that the broad church of Labor is fracturing. The view of the congregants are at odds with each other; the high priests are not sure what line their sermons should take. “The central question of the review,” poses Murphy, “is how does Labor fuse its increasingly divided core constituencies – those constituencies being blue-collar workers and affluent metropolitan progressives?”

The reviewers have their own existential assessment. “Success in resolving this dilemma will first require Labor to acknowledge it exists. It will require Labor to devote the necessary time and energy as a party to address it.” The party had “been increasingly mobilised to address the political grievances of a vast and disparate constituency.” A certain core of “working people” facing “economic dislocation caused by technological change will lose faith in Labor if they do not believe the Party is responding to their needs, instead of being preoccupied with issues not concerning them or that are actively against their interests.”

Such analyses tend to contain a mandatory amount of self-flagellation. But the report’s sense of electoral contrition risks dulling the policy making arm of the party, giving the apparatchiks further reason to be more conservative. The focus there will be to push the party further into coalition territory and the political right, thereby making them even less appealing than they already are. Why go for Labor when you can get the true Conservative with reactionary trimmings?

Labor has already become the hostage of the poll meter, the statistical projection, the party factional machine. The Gillard-Rudd years were symptomatic of adjustments that did little to project a party secure about itself, and everything to suggest that demons of contradiction had taken residence in the castle. The poll dictated the policy, rather than policy driving the polls.  Fearful party factions, knives at the ready, did the rest.

The report does little to discourage that, even if it does suggest faults in the internal polling system of the party. Do not dare to dare, as it were. Restrain yourself: the electorate needs generalities, not complexities.

Australian politics lost its shine some time ago – if, indeed, it ever had it – obsessed as it is by various measures of the pragmatic and reactionary. This review is bound to re-enforce such tendencies, extinguishing any social democratic embers that might be lingering. But an important group who resist sufficient chastisement remain the pollsters who persist in their mawkish way to parade figures supposedly obtained with the highest degree of accuracy. The influence of such modern astrologers must be curbed.

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Is Labor doomed for oblivion, or can Albo mount a comeback?

Bill Shorten took over as leader of Australian Labor Party in 2013 and resigned in 2019 after taking the party to two elections.

He won the leadership in a two-horse race with Anthony Albanese (Albo) under revised party rules: Rules that gave Albanese little chance of winning.

In 2016 he came within one seat of becoming Prime Minister after adopting a strategy of prematurely revealing major policies well before the election.

He also adopted a benign approach to the everyday swings of Australian politics. An approach that was seen as sensible by some and too light on by others.

He wasn’t expected to win in 2016 so his narrow loss was seen as exemplary. In 2019 he was in better shape and given the dreadful performance of the Coalition in office was expected to win in a canter.

Labor had led in the polls for the better part of three years. Shorten had turned the conventional wisdom on its ear by going early with new policies and shirt-fronting the government at every opportunity.

In many ways it was a radical approach to electioneering taking from the rich to accommodate a fairer and more equal society. Having said that, there were many Labor die-hards who wanted policy to be even further to the left. Conversely, others wanted more centre-right policies.

In short, Labor had done everything right. They were disciplined and loyal to their leader but when the crunch came, even with a set of policies that would make for a better society, their campaigning was terrible.

“The campaign, not the issues, was Labor’s Achilles heel, with the Coalition’s personal attacks on Shorten the final nail in the coffin,” wrote Peter Lewis in The Guardian.

A leak, however, from the committee appointed to reason why Labor lost, seems to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of Shorten.

It is now almost 6 months since Labor experienced its night of soul-destroying darkness. All the untruths and scares told by a prodigious teller of fabrication by Morrison wasn’t enough to unseat him.

The accrued mistrust of Shorten together with union association and unpopularity reigned supreme over the lies and scare campaigns of the Coalition. It must have run deep.

Once again Labor was to experience the loneliness of opposition.

Having had a right-wing Opposition Leader who took them to the left they elected a left-wing leader in Anthony Albanese who seems intent on taking them to the right.

In the months that have past, Albanese has given members the chance to publicly speak up on policy. Some have, and I feel sure more will once the report into their election loss is released in the next week or so.

Moreover, this point in time Albanese seems to be taking the rather old fashioned tactic of laying low unless its otherwise necessary, upping the anti in the third year and releasing policy with only a few weeks or months to go before the election.

At this point it would be wrong not to release a climate policy, very wrong.

The perception of Albo was that he could ‘tuff’ talk to any conservative leader. He indeed unlike others knew how to lay a decent shirtfront on the government.

Initially, Party members wanted him instead of Shorten. Now that they have him and the shirt-front is nothing more than a powder-puff to the left cheek, they want more aggression. As if it resolves everything.

As the theory goes, Labor only ever wins when a person of charisma enters the fray. Whitlam, Hawke and Rudd were men of their time who had vision, excited the people with the possibility that they could achieve great things.

All had one thing in common. They dared to be different, even radical.

The common good should be at the centre of any political philosophy. However, it is more likely to be found on the left than the right.

There are those in the Party, and those who support it, who long for the socialism of days long gone without a thought for the changes that have occurred in society. As if one thought suits all.

People scream out “retaliate with the truth”, but the fact is that accessibility or exposure to do so in opposition is limited to a 15-second grab on the nightly news.

Taken in totality, and in my view, there was nothing wrong with Labor’s policies for the recent election. It was just the way they were presented that was deplorable. A Hawke or Keating would have held society in the palm of their right hand and mellifluously told them the facts.

Had as much thought been put into how they were to sell them, and indeed defend the complications in them, they might have stood a chance.

As it was there were so many impediments that you could drive the proverbial truck through them.

Just as the government has a list of talking points to defend its policies, so too should the opposition have had to defend its own.

For example, when employment raises its head every Labor MP should know the following:

“In September 2013, there were 706,400 people unemployed (trend) or 697,100 (seasonally adjusted).

In September 2019, there were 718,000 people unemployed (trend) or 709,600 (seasonally adjusted).

They aren’t keeping up with population growth. Why does no one ever say in response to the jobs growth claim, that there are 12,000 more people unemployed now than when they took over?”

Tell it straight, tell it as it is and fix it.

I have gotten a little ahead of myself so let’s come back to the present. Labor is going through a period of self-examination with a new leader who hasn’t yet found his feet.

Albo is, however, making overtones of doing politics of the past whereas what is needed is something purer than the abrasive manner of the mouth that roared.

Albo should be using the phrase; “He’s loose with the truth” (about Scott Morrison) on every occasion he can, and keep on doing it until it sinks in.

And he should add; ”Just a clone of Trump” to a collection.

It is reasonable to assume that after his sucking up to Trump, Morrison is telling us that it will be the path of Trumpism he will be taking in the future.

At the moment Morrison is having a ball portraying Labor as a party of the past and that it is he and his party that are for the workers.

This impression is reinforced by responses to questions in this week’s Essential Report designed to get the first real take on peoples perceptions of Anthony Albanese’s Labor.

Morrison’s marketing experience – based mostly on slogans – comes through in everything he says and does. He understands the value of lies, repetition and misrepresentation.

It is a pity that Australian politics has degenerated to such a level, but it does however; give Labor an opportunity of rebirth, maybe as a “Common good party.” Dare to be different, and above all be progressive.

It would be a grave mistake to re emerge as just another centre-right party.

It seems to me that everyone wants an economy that is performing well.

However, when you are asking those who can least afford it to disproportionally support it you are not serving the common good.

When Joe Hockey was Treasurer he told the National Press Club: “The average worker works one month every year to pay for the welfare of others.”

At the time I wondered how many months the average worker worked to subsidise farmers, miners, tax breaks, negative gearing, franking credits, private and religious schools (religions don’t pay taxes), and retired politicians.

Fairness and equality of opportunity must be central to any Labor Party platform.

It is difficult to get a grip on just how Albo might rebrand Labor after its period of self-examination given that the opposition leader, given his confusing support for so many Coalition policies.

At the moment he is less popular than Shorten himself. If he doesn’t survive they could end up with a future leadership team of Queensland’s Jim Chalmers and former deputy leader Tanya Plibersek.

So much depends on the attitude of the leader that it is even more difficult to predict how the party will brand itself without it being settled in leadership.

Let’s put that aside for a moment. Before any re-branding can take place the party has to be satisfied that the reason or reasons for the defeat have all been exposed.

Was it the unpopularity of Bill Shorten? Was it the policies or was it entirely the campaign itself?

For me it was the trifecta. Yes, Shorten was unpopular. No, there was nothing wrong with the policies – it was the leaders inability to articulate them, which of course bleeds into the conduct of the campaign.

Ask yourself would Labor have won with Albo?

A hypothetical question indeed. And truthfully I don’t know what Labor should do. It is too early. All I can do is offer some comments, ideas and suggestions, but I have always felt that cleaning up our democracy would be a noble pursuit and the first step toward regaining government.

I note that as I write the news community today, 21 October, are asking for more transparency in our government. It is true that we have a government of a “need to know” mentality, that hides things from us and is about as transparent as a black glass window.

When a political party deliberately withholds information that the voter needs to make an informed, balanced and reasoned assessment of how it is being governed. It is lying by omission. It is also tantamount to the manipulation of our democracy.

Here are some thoughts on a Labor revival based on repairing our democracy:

  1. The Labor Party needs to rid itself of out-dated social objectives and invest in a social philosophical common good instead.
  2. And recognise that the elimination of growing inequality is a worthwhile pursuit.
  3. In terms of talent, both parties are represented by party hacks of dubious intellectual liability without enough female representation and worldly work-life experience.
  4. Labor’s pre-selection processes are rooted in factional power struggles that often see the best candidates miss out.
  5. There is a need to select people with broader life experience. Not just people who have come out of the union movement. Fix it.
  6. Our Parliament, its institutions, and conventions was so trashed by Tony Abbott and those who followed that people have lost faith in the political process and their representatives. Fix it.
  7. Ministerial responsibility has become a thing of the past. Fix it.
  8. Question time is just an excuse for mediocre minds that are unable to win an argument with factual intellect, charm or debating skills. Fix it.
  9. The public might be forgiven for thinking that the chamber has descended into a chamber of hate where respect for the others view is seen as a weakness. Fix it.
  10. Question time is the showcase of the Parliament and is badly in need of an overhaul and an independent Speaker. Fix it.
  11. Recent times have demonstrated just how corrupt our democracy has become. We have witnessed a plethora of inquiries all focusing on illegal sickening behaviour. Fix it.
  12. Light frivolity and wit has been replaced with smut and sarcasm. It has debased the parliament and all MPs, as moronic imbecilic individuals. Fix it

I cannot remember a time when my country has been so devoid of political leadership.

In recent times we have had potential, but it was lost in power struggles, undignified self-interest, and narcissistic personality.

The pursuit of power for power’s sake and the retention of it has so engulfed political thinking that the people have become secondary and the common good dwells somewhere in the recesses of small minds lacking the capacity for good public policy that achieves social equity.

People on the right of politics in Australia show insensitivity to the common good that goes beyond any thoughtful examination.

One cannot begin to discuss the decline of Australian democracy without at the same time aligning it to the collapse in journalistic standards and its conversion from reporting to opinion.

Murdoch and his majority-owned newspapers; with blatant support for right-wing politics have done nothing to advance Australia as a modern enlightened democratic society.

On the contrary, it has damaged it, perhaps irreparably. Fix it.

Bloggers more reflect the feelings of grass-roots society.

Truth in government as a principle of democratic necessity needs to be reinstated.

Fix it first and common good policy will follow.

My thought for the day

Leaders who cannot comprehend the importance of truth as being fundamental to the democratic process make the most contribution to its demise.

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The Bill that Australia despised

Who had the better election campaign?

It is said that hindsight is a wonderful thing.

An extended period of time after an event gives one a better reflection of its context, rather than the usual instantaneous rushed response.

So, it is in that vein that I look back on the last Australian election campaign, Saturday 18 May 2019.

Analysing the election campaigns a few months on gives one a greater understanding of the campaigns of both parties.

But let’s start with the Coalition. What did they take to the election other than some ill-considered tax cuts? (By ill-considered I mean that I struggle with the concept of tax cuts while there is a Royal Commission in place about the treatment of our aged and $1.5 billion is being taken from the NDIS). Well, they took very little, actually. A born to rule party, generally speaking, doesn’t think it needs to.

Although the Coalition, maybe because it was convinced it would lose, decided the effort really wasn’t worth it.

However, this belies the fact that Scott Morrison campaigned like a drunk looking for a drink. He lied in fact and by omission.

He invented scare campaigns in the best Liberal Party tradition. A retiree tax, The Bill Australia Can’t Afford, franking credits, and a tax on everything all worked a treat. So much so that you would be hard pressed to pick the best.

He upped his pomposity to the point of pure fakery that was a precursor to his conversion to Trumpism, playing his Christ-thin Christianity for all it was worth.

All it amounted to was some more money for domestic violence, a reduction in pensioner chemist scripts before becoming free, a lift in the five-year freeze on Medicare, 307 million for schools, 100 billion for infrastructure over 10 years, a cap on refugee numbers, a cap on immigration, a promise to maintain border security and catch internet trolls.

There was also a promise to reduce our power bills by 25% and of course, the tax cuts.

That was it in all its Liberal glory, shallow with no narrative about our future or where the Prime Minister saw us in an increasing complex world. There were no ideas, no mention of the struggles of our First Nations People or the poorest in our community.

Negativity seemed to be the order of the day, highlighted by a champagne launch held in the shadows of darkness in case the light might reveal how few bothered to turn up.

Hardly the foundation for a winning an election campaign but Morrison, to his credit, furiously pounded Bill Shorten for his inability to explain Labor policy.

He made what – was in my view – good policy look mediocre. His sheer will must have won over many voters.

Aided and abetted by the Murdoch press and the shock jocks; the wealth of Palmer and the inappropriate intervention of Dr. Bob, the Prime Minister created, not a miracle, but an illusion.

Life is about perception, not what is, but what we perceive it to be.

If you tell the people often enough that you are the best to manage the economy … they will believe you.

Hence the campaign slogan“Building our economy, securing your future”.

Speaking of slogans and advertising in general, one has to say that for the first time I can remember the Coalition got it right with the use of television and social media.

They targeted voters judicially with ads aimed at specific groups and individual personalities at the micro level.

If per chance you are wondering why I haven’t mentioned the Deputy Prime Minister and his party it is simply because I cannot remember his name nor what he said he would do for our good country folk.

That Morrison could have won after 6 years of the poorest governance the country has known, together with a policy campaign that berated Labor and overlooked its own hopelessness speaks volumes for his abilities of persuasion.

And what of Labor?

Labor entered the campaign full of running. After all, it hadn’t lost a poll since the Moses parted the Red Sea.

The government had elected yet another leader and had proven to be an accident-prone chaotic mess of people who had no idea how to govern. It had a leader who hadn’t shown an empathetic tear in all the portfolios he had been a minister in. Was he ‘tuff,’ was he a motor mouth. Yes he was.

Labor had everything going for it. It had revealed policy after policy in a calm orderly manner and provided the Australian voter with a stark ideological difference to consider.

Its policies were fair and just, seeking to take a more equitable share of the country’s riches from those that have and create a more just society.

Gone would be the days when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

Labor’s policies were full of fresh economic ideas that would see an end to trickle-down economics that in conservative eyes at least is the answer to all things economics.

More money would be spent on schools and hospitals and all those things that created a better social cohesion. Nothing wrong with that. The average punter would endorse those moves rather enthusiastically

It undoubtedly had the better power and climate policies, the best proposals on health and infrastructure, and the better and fairer policies on education. The sheer range of policy was enormous, and displayed the vast work the party must have put into them.

But here is the crux of the matter. They fell for the oldest trap in the political Bible. They found themselves in a mire of detail.

Every policy required a truckload of explanation. Did you ever have it explained to you just why the country wouldn’t be able to afford the subsidies for franking credits and negative gearing a few years from now? No, because it would take a month of Sundays to do it. Therefore attempts to do so ended up being bogged down in the inevitable too hard basket.

And you can add to that last but not least the main reason Labor’s campaign fell flat on its face.

In my view Labor had the best campaign, the best policies, and the best group to manage the economy and was and is the best party philosophically conditioned and able to take Australia into the future.

However – and it is sad to say this – they had the wrong man as leader. One can hear populism vibrating in the hearts of those who use it and you can tell sincerity when confronted with it. Morrison reeks of populism and Shorten the latter.

My view nevertheless wasn’t that of the majority of Australians. More than enough hated him for reasons beyond my understanding to make the difference between winning and losing.

In a couple of weeks a small group of Laborites will report on why Labor lost to such a group of pathetic individuals unfit to govern our great nation. They will come up with a multitude of reasons, but Shorten probably wont be on the top.

My thought for the day

I found it impossible to imagine that the Australian people could be so gullible as to elect for a third term a government that has performed so miserably in the first two and has amongst its members some of the most devious, suspicious and corrupt men and women but they did.

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Labor are losing their nerve

When the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull won 76 seats in the 2016 election, it was generally accepted that Turnbull had “blown it” and the knives were quickly sharpened.  Yet when the ad man wins 77 seats, he is hailed as a messiah that has delivered a decisive victory enabling the Coalition to do whatever they damn well please.

Let’s be clear about that election result.

Leaving out Queensland, in the rest of the country, Labor won 62 seats compared to the Coalition’s 54.  That is a resounding victory.

We have the government that Queensland thrust upon us against the wishes of every other state and territory (except WA – the only other state where the Coalition won a majority of seats).

Instead of highlighting that endorsement, Labor are flapping around like a dying Murray cod, desperately trying to find something or someone to blame.

Labor’s agriculture and resources spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, told Gerard Henderson’s Sydney Institute that the ALP should offer “a political and policy settlement” on climate policy “to make 28% the target by 2030”.  Matt Keogh agrees.

This view has nothing to do with science or jobs or responsible governance and everything to do with self-serving politics.

“How many times are we going to let it kill us? Indeed, how many leaders do we want to lose to it?” said Fitzgibbon whose primary vote in his coal-mining electorate fell 14% at the last election.

If Fitzgibbon was worth his salt, he would be pointing out to his constituents that opening Adani will lead to job losses in existing coal mines.  He should recognise that automation will also threaten coal-mining jobs and be transitioning his electorate towards more sustainable industries and employment.

Did I mention climate change?

At the time when we need them most, Labor are losing their nerve.

Fitzgibbon did say one thing with which I agree – “Labor’s equivocation over the Adani coal mine left us in no man’s land,” though I doubt we mean the same thing when we say that.

Speaking of Adani, despite government approvals being fast-tracked and a timetable of what happens next being published by the Coordinator-General, Adani continues to fail to meet deadlines.

The royalties agreement with the Queensland government was supposed to be finalised by September 30.  That deadline has now been put back to November 30.  Worryingly, the timetable now says “Agreement not required for construction of mine or rail to commence.”

Infrastructure and interface agreements with the Whitsunday RC and the DMRT also missed their September 30 deadline with hopes now that they will be concluded mid-October.

Accreditation as a Rail Infrastructure Manager (RIM) and Rolling Stock Operator (RSO) – Stage 1: construction and Stage 2: commissioning of rollingstock – were supposed to be concluded by July 31.  The latest release on October 1 states that “Adani will continue to work with the Commonwealth Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator to obtain necessary approvals. This approval not on the critical path and the Coordinator-General will continue to monitor.”

As climate activists around the world hit the streets pleading with governments to take urgent action, Labor is missing a crucial opportunity, preferring to investigate how they can be more like the Coalition.

Trying to appeal to Queenslanders is a road to ruin.  Have a go at the people they choose to represent them – Peter Dutton, Matt Canavan, George Christensen, Stuart Robert, James McGrath, Andrew Laming, Pauline Hanson, Malcolm Roberts, Bob Katter – what a sorry bunch.

We need strong leadership and conviction to tackle the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.  Sadly, Labor seems more interested in courting votes from those who will never vote for them than in saving the planet.

 

Ten things more reckless than funding Gonski

Paul Keating was so right about Malcolm Turnbull, wasn’t he? “A bit like a big red bunger on cracker night. You light him up, there’s a bit of a fizz but then nothing, nothing”

After all the glasses-twirling hype and the selfie-induced-train-hopping; nothing is exactly what we are getting from an undemocratically elected, Liberal Party appointed Prime Minister who is quickly learning that he can’t please the people and his party. However, he has clearly chosen who he aims to please. Malcolm Turnbull has clearly chosen to please the conservative right wing of his party and not the people of Australia and certainly not our children!

In his interview on 3AW with Neil Mitchell, Turnbull described Labor’s commitment to fund Gonski as, “Reckless.” Malcolm Turnbull believes that the fair and equitable education of ALL little Australians is “Reckless.” Malcolm Turnbull believes that investing in our children, the very people who will shape this country for our future, is ‘Reckless.”

Malcolm Turnbull believes that your child does not deserve a fair go!

Any leader who undermines the very essence of our shared Australian value of – “The Fair Go” is reckless. It is reckless toward us as individuals and it is reckless toward us as a collective. Turnbull’s rejection of Gonski funding is not just reckless, it is irresponsible and regressive.

To play on a phrase Julia Gillard famously used … If Malcolm Turnbull wants to know what Reckless looks like, he just needs a mirror. That’s what he needs.

The Abbott-Turnbull Govt has been the most reckless Government of my lifetime. That is why we need to talk about the:

Ten Things More Reckless than Funding Gonski:

1. Not Giving a Gonski

Education changes people’s lives.  The Gonski Reforms are an opportunity for fairness and equality in education.  It is an opportunity to provide equal access to pathways of future success for all of our children. The Gonski reforms will pull some sectors of our society out of generational disadvantage. The Gonski reforms enable our country to be competitive and improving our economy. Giving a Gonski is giving our children, your children, a chance to be competitive in the jobs of the future. Committing to Gonski could mean enabling the pathway for a future Prime Minister. Refusing to commit to Gonski is keeping the door shut to a Prime Minister that could have been.

The Prime Minister of Australia willingly choosing to uphold disadvantage over fairness and equality for all is beyond reckless, it is downright destructive.

2. The Job Seekers can Starve for Six Months Policy

This little gem drummed up by the ‘let’s stigmatise poor people’ rabble of the Abbott-Turnbull Government, decided that in the era of high unemployment created by decisions by their own party, that young people who could not find a job are not entitled to social security payments. Deciding that young unemployed people should have no money for basics such as food, clothing, shelter, hygiene products or medicine is very reckless indeed. (Labor, Greens and some cross-benchers opposed this and a new policy is in progress for jobseekers to starve for one month instead.) 

3. Trashing Labor’s FTTP NBN 

I’m just going to leave this here because I’d rather watch Jason Clare explain how reckless Turnbull has been with the NBN, rather than write about it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwatQqj3Hvs&w=560&h=315]

4. The Trade Union Royal Commission

Wasting millions and millions and millions of dollars on a political witch hunt, presided over by a judge with a history that spans decades of  very close ties to the Liberal Party of Australia, is one of the most reckless acts against the working class this country has ever seen. The reckless attack on workers to bring back a reckless star chamber style ABCC is abhorrent. No Mother or Father ever wants the young man in this video to be his or her child! Shame. Shame. Shame.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og-GzJwprbw&w=560&h=315]

5. Attacking the Most Sick and Vulnerable in Our Society

The cuts to health and the continuous push towards a user pays system are reckless to the extreme. The situation the Abbott-Turnbull Government is pushing for, is where your wealth decides whether you are in pain, undiagnosed with a serious or terminal illness, or possibly even die.  This type of class division of access to health will lead to a broken country.  No human life is less valuable than another life based on the amount of money someone has in the bank.    

6. Being a Fake Friend

Both John Howard in 2005 and Tony Abbott in 2014 said that the Liberal Government was the best friend the workers have ever had. Pretending to be a friend to the worker, is not just reckless, it is deceitful. A Government who makes it easier to employ foreign workers instead of Australian workers is not a best friend to the worker. A Government who does that is made up of a pack of self-righteous, out of touch lazy gits and by taking a generous wage, are the real leaners on society. MP’s are not elected by the people to do backroom deals to push Australians out of work.  How reckless is it to make changes to employment rules that result in Australians being replaced with foreign workers and then laugh about it.  Really? How reckless is that to everything the people in this country value?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN65QxIzbtY&w=560&h=315]

7. Attacks on low paid workers and their families

The push from the Abbott-Turnbull Government to make life more difficult for families by cutting family payments and attacking penalty rates is indeed reckless. Some parents rely on weekend shift work to help the family get through the week. Sometimes this is the only work mum or dad can get to work in with their primary duty of caring for children. To attack the penalty rates of some of the poorest people in the country in conjunction with cuts to family payments and abolishing the School Kids Bonus is yet another step closer to the Abbott-Turnbull led class divide trotted out by the Liberals and Nationals time and time again. Class divide is indeed one of the most reckless things a Government can do.

8. The Government’s policy of Secrets and Lies

The approach and treatment of Asylum Seekers under the Abbott-Turnbull regime is abhorrent, shameful, disgusting and damaging.  The Abbott-Turnbull Government’s commitment to the secrecy provisions of their policy is beyond reckless. I do not believe a word exists for how damaging this extreme practice is. The treatment of Asylum Seekers is in the name of all Australians, not just in the Government’s name. Concerned citizens and advocacy groups have the right to investigate the treatment of people seeking asylum in our name. Asylum seekers have the absolute right to advocacy, medical treatment and legal representation. The cloak and dagger approach has only lasted so long. As reported yesterday, Border Force admitted that at least 23 boats have been turned back and this is a regular occurrence. To say the boats have stopped is a bald-faced lie. With the Government casting its invisibility cloak over people seeking asylum, the public have no idea if people are still drowning or the number of deaths at sea. As Harry Potter Fans will appreciate, the Government has the invisibility cloak and with Dutton’s face as the stone and Turnbull’s twirling glasses as the wand, the Government really could be the Masters of Death.

9. Income Management – Basic and Healthy Welfare Cards

The Cashless Welfare card is the symbolic mechanism that brings the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s agenda of stigmatisation of the poor to life. This draconian, punitive measure ensures that those who are unemployed are branded as such at the checkout. The Government harps on about how they understand innovation, but then deny the unemployed the ability to purchase cheap goods off buy and sell sites on Facebook and at the local market. The cashless welfare card denies an unemployed mother the ability to give their school child that $3.00 in an envelope for the school excursion they just remembered about that morning. Income management only serves to degrade the unemployed as incompetent and not able to manage their own meagre budgets. It is a punitive and degrading measure, which takes away the liberty and freedom of those who are on welfare. Income management increases barriers to employment for jobseekers and that is indeed reckless to the individual and to our society as a whole.

10. Not allowing a free vote in Parliament on Marriage Equality

One of the roles of the Prime Minister and Government is to provide leadership of tough issues. This often means doing what is right for minority groups, regardless of popular opinion.  I was deeply perturbed at the very vocal Abbott-esque backflip by Turnbull in question time on Thursday.  The new Malcolm appears not only to be reckless, but now completely unhinged.

Terri Butler: Given it is clear that members of the Prime Minister’s own party will not respect the $160 million plebiscite on marriage equality; will the Prime Minister immediately allow the free vote that he used to argue for on the private member’s bill that is currently before the parliament?

Malcolm Turnbull: I am not sure what it is about the honourable member’s approach to democracy that she so despises the views of the people that sent her here.

Parliament did not conduct a plebiscite to determine if we should or should not have sexual harassment laws introduced. They did not conduct a plebiscite to pass the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, contrary to what the popular belief at the time would have been. The Government of the day saw legal entrenched discrimination and had the guts to redress it.

By standing by a plebiscite, Malcolm Turnbull is valuing the opinion of bigots and homophobes who have recently photoshopped rainbow nooses around a woman’s neck in an anti-marriage equality advertisement. That is not valuing democracy. That is upholding bigotry and allowing bigots to have a voice against those they seek to oppress.  As leaders, the Government has a moral obligation to view this debate from a legal standpoint of discrimination based on the choice of sexual preference and redress this discrimination immediately.

It is reckless for a Government to deny people who love each other the right to marry, based on their sexual preference.

Conclusion

If Malcolm Turnbull wants to know what reckless really is, here are just ten of the many reckless things the Abbott-Turnbull Government has done in the short space of two years and four months.  Investing in Gonski is not reckless, it is responsible and visionary, two things the current Government lacks.  To fight this Government’s recklessness, remember always to put the Liberal/National or LNP last on your ballot paper and Give a Gonski today.

 

Previously published on Polyfeministix

Join the Protest to re-elect Turnbull

A very wise man once said to me, “There are two types of politicians. Anti-Community and Pro-Community. The Liberals are always Anti-Community. That is why there are always protests against a Coalition Government.

Turnbull has been ahead in the polls since he obtained the Prime Ministership by default. Anyone who toppled Abbott would be the Nation’s automatic Messiah. He could read the back of a Cornflakes packet and the public would still have been cheering.  How fortunate for Turnbull.

The party did not want Abbott.  The party re-installed a former failed leader, Malcolm Turnbull.  Four Corners painted Turnbull as the good little boy who didn’t make any fuss about Abbott whilst he was the Prime Minister. He just sat back patiently and waited for his crown.  

The fact that Turnbull did not make any fuss about Abbott or vocally opposed Abbott’s policies or rhetoric, clearly shows that Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal National Coalition simply were happy with Abbott’s policies. They just wanted a new face to deliver them and that is what we have now.

We saw the rise of March in March or March Australia during the Abbott years. We also saw massive protests against Campbell Newman’s harsh cuts, job losses, privatisation of public assets and the attack on our civil liberties in Queensland as well as his mantra of selling our assets.  People marched and yelled in protest because they were fighting to protect everything that underpins us as Australians – A Fair Go.

Will you join the Protest to support Turnbull?

This leads me to the central question of this piece. Turnbull and the Coalition are ahead in the polls, but are his policies really worth fighting for? Your vote for a Turnbull Government is the ultimate endorsement of your fight for Turnbull and his policies. Would you protest for his policies to save his Prime Ministership? 

If the Coalition’s policies are so important to make this country great, why do Liberal members and Liberal supporters and even swinging voters not get out there and protest to make their voices heard? Why do they not get out there and really fight for them?

I ask you this: “If you are thinking of voting for the Abbott-Turnbull Coalition Government are you so passionate about their return in the election that you would protest to keep them?”

To look beyond voting for a face and to really understand what that face represents, let’s take a look at what 10,000’s of people protesting for the Abbott-Turnbull policies would sound like…..

Cuts to Medicare

“If you get sick you should pay, user pays is a better way”

“It’s my taxes anyway, Make the poor PAY, PAY, PAY!”

“Cuts to Medicare should come quick. If you can’t afford it, don’t get sick!”

GST Increase

“Increase GST on everything!”

“GST up NOW!”

“Make the poor pay much more.  A GST rise is our winning score!”

NBN FTTN

“Fast Broadband is a joke. Keep the copper that gets choked!”

“44th in the world isn’t last. We don’t need Internet that’s fast!”

“Rural living is a pity. If you want internet move to the city!”

Climate Change Denial 

“Climate Science is a joke. Renewables will send us broke!”

“It was hotter last year! Climate Change is a smear!”

“Coal is good for humanity! Up the Climate Anti!”

Education – Cuts to Gonski

“We don’t need children educated. Gonski should be eradicated!”

“More funding for Elite Private Schools! Funding needy schools is for fools!”

“Education is a privilege, not a right. Down with Gonski, Fight, Fight Fight!”

It’s an election year. It’s time to get serious.

Turnbull neo liberalism

It is time to look beyond Turnbull’s smile and his nice suits and the fact that he is not Tony Abbott. In my personal view, what Turnbull stands for – Mass privatisation, harsh neo-liberal policies and radical industrial relations reform, is far worse than what Abbott stood for. By voting for a Liberal or National party member, you are joining the protest above. Through your vote for a Turnbull Government, you are endorsing the destruction of the quality of life we enjoy in Australia.

It’s time to vote with our hearts and use our vote to stamp out the greed and austerity that underpins the destruction of a fair go in Australia by the Abbott-Turnbull Government.

 

If you can chant all of the above and stand shoulder to shoulder and march with those who support Turnbull; by all means, vote for your Turnbull candidate.  If not, put the Liberal and National Coalition candidates last on your ballot.  It is where they put you.

Originally published on Polyfeministix

 

Bob Katter nails it: we are being deceived about the FTA with China

Bob Katter is a man I’ve never paid much attention to. He’s on the other side of the country and might as well be on the other side of the planet as far as I’m concerned. But when a friend sent me the link to Katter’s speech in Parliament last week on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement I sat up and took notice. It’s a gem. It sparkled. You need to see it.

Here it is:

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (17:50): I feel sorry for the members of the government, I really do. They get a brief and they have got to get up and tell us how wonderful the free trade deal is and how it is going to save the world. I was in this place and saw the then Prime Minister stand up and lead the clapping for Andrew Robb on the free trade deal with China and I thought, ‘Maybe I know nothing about politics, but if this is getting you votes I am a Martian astronaut!’ Four weeks later he was thrown out a window.

You think you are deceiving the people of Australia. You are not. When they hear ‘free trade deal’, they hate you. Understand that, because I might not be an expert in a number of fields, but after 41 years of straight wins in pretty hostile territory, I can tell you that I know a little tiny bit about politics. I sat at the feet of the great master, Bjelke-Petersen. So if you are not interested in governing the country, if you are not interested in helping your country, maybe you might just think about your survival.

I feel sorry for the LNP. They somehow think that Australia is this big, huge country and that it can produce a magnificent amount of agricultural production. It most certainly can produce a lot more than it is producing. But it is not a big, huge agricultural country at all. There is 53 per cent of Australia that is designated as desert and 23 per cent is designated as Indigenous lands. Since the governments of Australia will not give title deed to those lands, they are sterilised. That is 76 per cent gone. There is seven per cent that is national parks. So, if you take out that 83 per cent, there ain’t a lot left.

The concept that huge areas of land will produce huge areas of food—sorry; that is wrong. There are a few thousand hectares, maybe 30,000 hectares, of land that is producing about a quarter of Australia’s beef production. They are called lot feeders. Basically the cattle do not wander around chewing grass. That is not the way beef is produced anymore in America or in Europe or in Australia. It is done in lot feeders. So you have a different concept altogether, where you do not need huge areas of land. Your competitive advantage is in that lot feeder. That is where the action comes. You have a competitive advantage in that area.

Somehow they think, ‘There are millions of people in South-East Asia, and we’re going to be able to sell all this food to them.’ Mr Deputy Speaker, I would refer you to the statistics. In fact, there is a pretty good chance that we will be importing food from those countries. Let me be very specific. When I stood up in this place 15 years ago and said that this market fundamentalism, this free market rubbish, will destroy your country, I said that Australia could become a net importer of food. Every 10 years, the imports increase at 103 per cent and the exports increase at 21 per cent. You do not have to be Albert Einstein to figure out that the graphs will soon cross.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you must understand that, if every Chinese city had two 20-storey buildings with tanks on each storey, then they could produce all of the protein requirements for China. They do not have to buy any of our beef. They do not have to buy any of our seafood product. In fact, if you look at a graph of the increase in seafood production in China, if you extrapolate that graph on for about 30 or 40 years, in theory all of the world’s protein would be coming out of the prawn and fish farms in China.

I am fascinated by how this is going to help Australia. The last speaker, the member for Lyne, touted the beef industry. I do not know if he knows anything about it. I rather doubt that he does, but he touted the beef industry. Well, let us have a look at what this free trade deal does for the beef industry. We sell our beef at the present moment at $2 a kilogram. If you look at the average price, it is a lot less than that, but I will take $2 a kilogram. Its 10 per cent tariff has been abolished, so that is a 20c advantage we get. The beef sells over there for $32 a kilogram. Those are the figures that have been given to me. But now the Australians are going to have a terrific advantage of 20c, so it is $31.80 now. Jeez, that will lead to a huge increase in the benefits for the beef producers of Australia! A difference between $32 and $31.80, and the member of parliament who sits beside me here, the member for Lyne, seriously touted that as something that is going to help the beef industry? Why doesn’t he do his homework? Why does he just take the drivel that comes from the frontbench? And the drivel that comes from the frontbench is dictated by the giant corporations that bankroll the mainstream parties.

Having dealt with the LNP, we will move on now to the ALP. If ever there was a day on which ‘Red Ted’ Theodore would turn in his grave and the founders of the labour movement would spit upon the people that sit in this House and call themselves Labor members, today is the day. When I walk out of this place, there is a magnificent portrait of a bloke called Charlie McDonald. Charlie McDonald was the first member for Kennedy, and every time I go out I salute Charlie. Six of Charlie’s first seven speeches in this place were railing against the importation of foreign labour. Well, this document opens the door to it. This man went out and helped form the Labor Party, the labour movement, of Australia. They fought and died, literally—there were three shearers shot dead at the strike, where Waltzing Matilda was written a couple of months later—and the entire executive of the AWU were jailed for three years with hard labour for having a strike. These men and their families went hungry. What happened when they got arbitration was that the miners said, ‘We’re bringing the coolies in from China. Ha, ha. Take that, Buster Brown; take that.’ And the cane plantations said, ‘We’re bringing the Kanaks in to be cane cutters, so take that, Buster Brown; take that.’

So the first member for Kennedy stood up in this place and courageously fought to create the Labor Party—and the people who sit here on $200,000 or $300,000 a year, enjoying the benefits from the creation of that labour movement, sit here and betray every principle that was put forward by those people. Charlie McDonald would turn in his grave. But I am proud to say that the people of Kennedy are still represented by people who are not sell-outs, who are not under the control of the big plantation owners or the big mining companies. No. We are under the control of the people of our area. That is who we are under the control of and proud to say it. This opens the door that the Charlie McDonalds died for. The ALP today sold them out—lock, stock and barrel. There is not a trade unionist in Australia who is not looking at the ground and being ashamed of his association with the labour movement.

Let me become very specific. I am fascinated. I am just a poor, humble, simple Cloncurry boy. Clearly, these wunderkind—over here and over there—have decided to have free markets. The honourable member over there, Mr Brough, is making faces; he thinks it’s funny! I will tell you how funny it is, my friend. You have to buy everything from overseas. The last whitegoods factory, which is at Orange, closes this year. So you have to buy all your whitegoods from overseas. About 40 per cent of the steel in your house—the roofing on it, the reinforcing steel for your floor—comes from overseas. About 40 per cent of your cement comes from overseas. All your whitegoods and all the motor cars in your garage will come from overseas, next year. The clothes you wear will all come from overseas. Your footwear will all come from overseas. The petrol you put in your car comes from overseas. Everything we buy comes from overseas. Where are we going to get the money to buy all of these things?

The honourable member there, Mr Brough, laughed at me. People have laughed at me ever since I came into this place and started talking about this. I want it on record that he laughed at me, because the history books will pass judgement upon him. They will say: ‘Who are the people who destroyed this country?’ We have to buy everything from overseas. Where are we going to get the money to buy all our petrol, to buy all our motor cars, to buy everything in our houses and to buy the clothes on our backs?

Let me turn to food—and people in this place laugh at me about this. This country is now a net importer of pork. It is a net importer of seafood. It is a net importer of fruit and vegetables. It is only a matter of time. As I said, it is 103 per cent every 10 years, the last time I looked, and a 21 per cent increase in exports every 10 years. Inevitably—as the sun rises—we will become a net importer of food. You cannot eat live cattle or unprocessed grain, but if you take those two commodities out we are getting pretty close, in fact, to being a net importer of food. People in this place have laughed at me, but the people of Australia are passing judgement upon them, already, as we talk.

Where are we going to get this money from? We have only two things now that we export, and everyone knows that they are iron ore and coal. I am not here to denigrate those industries. In fact, I pray every night of my life to the good Lord that it does not come to pass, the continuation of what we are suffering in the thermal coal industry. But I would not like to be backing myself in, and I will not go into the problems of the thermal coal industry. What you have is what you have, in iron ore.

The country has to buy everything from overseas—and all they have to buy it with is iron ore and coal. A little bit of gold. Of course, aluminium is doomed. Aluminium is electricity. It came to Australia when we had the cheapest electricity in the world, in Queensland. Australia now has the second highest electricity charges in the world. So it will be bye-bye aluminium. It will be bye-bye all mineral processing, because it all depends upon—and I am sick and tired, in this place, of hearing ‘It’s high wages that are killing us!’ Wages look pretty bloody small when compared with the cost of mineral processing, which is the cost of electricity.

It is due to the incompetence of the people in this place and of state governments who have taken electricity charges up 400 per cent in 10 years. That is what your free markets and privatisation have done: 400 per cent increase, in electricity charges, in 10 years. For 10 years before that, in Queensland, there was no increase at all. For 10 years before privatisation and a deregulation of the pricing mechanism we had no movement in price at all. My case rests. It dooms aluminium and it dooms mineral processing, so you are left with iron ore and coal. The income from iron ore and coal—maybe $150,000 million or whatever it is—is not enough to meet our imports. It is nowhere near enough.

You are living in a country that is going broke at 100 miles an hour. You cannot buy everything from overseas when you have nothing to sell overseas. The people in this place with their market fundamentalism, their fanaticism, have imposed upon Australia a regime that no other country on earth has to suffer under. Every other farmer on earth gets 40 per cent of his income from the government. Our poor farmers get six per cent. I conclude on that note. So much for your free trade. (Time expired)

 

Labor’s empty promise

Much has been made of the influence of trade unions and the power of factions within the Australian Labor Party and rightly so considering some of their preselections, particularly for the Senate where position on the ticket has become a gift for union and party hacks rather than a reflection of talent.

In Western Australia we saw the disgraceful elevation of Joe Bullock, assistant secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union (SDA), above sitting Senator Louise Pratt, causing her to lose her seat.

To underline what a travesty this was, Ms Pratt outpolled Bullock in first preference below the line votes – 5,390 to 3,982.

Ms Pratt was a talented, intelligent, hard-working Senator. Joe Bullock, on the other hand, is a conservative old white guy who described the ALP as untrustworthy and full of “mad” members and admitted he had voted against Labor.

Bullock described Ms Pratt as a “poster child” for gay marriage and questioned her sexuality. He said he was needed in Parliament otherwise it would follow “every weird lefty trend that you can imagine”.

For some reason, the Catholic right leadership of the SDA feel they should have a say in marriage equality. National President, Joe de Bruyn, who Gough Whitlam described as “a Dutchman who hates dykes”, and who was the driving force behind the elevation of Bullock, said “Marriage started with Adam and Eve.”

It is an “objective” truth, he says, that same-sex couples cannot marry. “Marriage is between a man and a woman; always was, always will be. It is based on what is innate in human nature.”

Paul Conway, secretary of the left-wing Victorian meatworkers union, described the SDA as “a tame cat union.”

“Its primary interest is not its members but numbers in the ACTU and ALP, getting its people into Parliament, having an impact on issues like same-sex marriage.”

Bullock is also anti-republic. Addressing the Australian Monarchist League last year, he said the presence of a monarch protected people from “the oppression of a totalitarian regime”.

“An hereditary constitutional monarchy is particularly well suited to embodying in a living human person a focal point for all the best sentiments of patriotism, duty and public spirit,” Senator Bullock said.

Now, in Tasmania, we are seeing a similar factional power play relegating talented Labor Senator Lisa Singh to an unwinnable fourth position on the Senate ticket. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary John Short leapfrogged the sitting Senator to take third spot.

Senator Singh, who is Labor’s parliamentary secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Water, spent four years in the Tasmanian State Parliament before being elected to the Senate in 2010. She has been very active in advocating many causes and was named Hobart Citizen of the Year in 2004 among other prestigious awards such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2014, one of India’s highest civilian awards, for her exceptional and meritorious public service as a person of Indian heritage in fostering friendly relations between India and Australia..

John Short suggests he is “a reasonable candidate because I’ve got a lot of life experience.”

“I’ve done a lot in my life, brought up a family, struggled at times, and I know what it’s like to struggle, and I stand up for workers every day.”

Lisa Singh is unaligned to any faction and that, rather than lack of talent or performance, is what will cause her demise. Former Queensland senator Margaret Reynolds weighed in on the issue, saying that preselection was a weakness in Australian politics because it relied on the wheeling and dealing of powerbrokers.

Former Franklin Labor MHR Harry Quick also criticised the decision.

“Another example of the Tasmanian Labor Party looking after their mates, regardless of the talent pool available to them,’’ he said. “Having Lisa Singh as a senator has injected a degree of humanity and tolerance to a moribund Senate team, currently representing the union and party hacks who do as they are told.’’

In July this year, Bill Shorten made the following pledge to the ALP National Conference:

“Let us end the debilitating gender divide. Because if Australia can lead the way in equality for women then we will truly be the richest nation in the world.

Rich in every sense of the word.

Our goal should be nothing less than the equal participation of women in work … equal pay for women at work … and an equal voice for women across our parliament.

So let this Conference declare, by 2025 … 50 per cent of Labor’s representatives will be women.

Only in a society where men and women are treated equally, can the true potential of women and men be achieved.”

When the ALP dumps two outstanding young women with proven success in public service for two old men who have done nothing to recommend them, and who express views that are diametrically opposed to Labor policy, one can only conclude that the noble aspirations expressed by Mr Shorten are nothing more than hot air and that he does not have the power or the inclination to make them a reality.

Give Labor a big tick

It was bound to happen and I’m glad it did.

After weekly emails from Labor – that were generally pointless or simply wanted me to sign a petition – I am pleased to announce that something constructive found its way into my inbox.

Instead of garbling on about nothing or inviting me/email recipients to send stern words to the government about whatever horrible policy they were trying to thrust upon us . . . Labor wants my opinion about the policies important to me.

I don’t know how many people received said email but I do hope that a hell of a lot of people are on their mailing lists. I want a hell of a lot of people telling Labor what is important to them.

Now to the email:

We want to make sure our community is heard. We have so many supporters who are passionate about so many different issues.

That’s why we’d like to hold a series of Facebook QandAs with Labor Shadow Ministers so that you can ask your questions about Labor’s plans and policies directly from the source.

So what issue are you most passionate about?

The Budget

The Economy

Education

Environment and Climate Change

Foreign Affairs

Health

Higher Education

Immigration and Asylum policy

Infrastructure

Innovation and Start-ups

National Security

The NBN

NDIS

Regional Australia

Social Security, Pensions and Welfare

Are Labor actually about to start implementing some policies? Are they actually trying to shake off the Liberal-Lite label? Are they actually trying to move forward again now that Tony Abbott and his wedge-style of politics have been swept away?

If ‘yes’ to all of the above, then “thank you, Labor”.

For two years I’ve been dumbfounded as to why the issues important to me have been ignored. There must be tens of thousands of Labor supporters who feel the same way, but at last Labor wants to hear from us.

As I’ve been the first to complain over these two years I will be making sure I am one of the first to tick some of the boxes. Please join me. We are about to be listened to.

Too little too late

mouse-on-wheelThe switch has been flicked. Extraordinary. I have seen more reporting of government policy in mainstream press over the last week than I saw in the last three years. This is probably an exaggeration, but isn’t perception reality? All I remember seeing throughout 2010 to 2013 was yet another report about Gillard’s ‘unstable grip on the leadership of the Labor Party’.

Political journalists treat their readers like idiots by pretending that they got the Labor leadership call right. How dare they now pretend to be innocent bystanders and justify their newfound interest in political policy by saying it was all Gillard’s fault that they couldn’t report her policy success. Because when you’re saying something is going to happen for years and it eventually does happen, you still just look like an obsessive, one-track mind with a Murdoch narrative that no journalist had the courage to rise above. A broken clock is right twice a day; however in this case of course it’s worse than that. The mainstream media just kept picking away, kept writing article after article about Rudd’s campaign to destabilize Gillard’s leadership until they gave her no choice but to give in to the bullying. They made the story a reality.

The excuse that Rudd’s campaign was newsworthy, and therefore justifiably reportable is rubbish. We all know there is leadership tension in any party. Anyone keen to use Turnbull or Hockey as their unnamed source would find the same thing on the other side of the chamber. We all know there is plenty of news going on in Canberra and elsewhere all the time. It’s journalists’ decision, it’s their judgment call, to decide, with their limited column inches and word count, what news is important to report. When every political journalist in the country was writing the same article every week, they were declaring to readers that nothing else of importance was happening in this country. And isn’t this how the mainstream media have really failed? Because I can’t believe anyone could argue that Rudd’s blind ambition was a bigger story than any of the things they missed, namely:

Gillard’s Success

It’s amusing now to see so many political journalists writing glowing obituaries about Gillard’s career as the first female Prime Minister of Australia. Actually, it’s not funny. It’s pathetic. Where were these articles before Rudd challenged last week?

Gillard’s amazing legacy will be intact, and future analysis will only improve our understanding of the significance of the last three years of policy reform to the social fabric of our community. That is, on the assumption that Abbott doesn’t dismantle all Gillard’s good work. But no, this was never the story. The story was never on policy, was never on Gillard’s exceptional negotiation skills. It was never on her poise in the face of constant abuse from Tony Abbott, from his colleagues, from many in the media and all their foul mouthed foot-soldiers across social media and deep, ugly dark parts of the internet. Abbott changed this country the day he stood in front of the ‘Ditch the Witch’ sign (twice). He gave permission to the Grace Colliers, to the Larry Pickerings, the Alan Jones, to the Mal Broughs and his fundraising dinner, to children throwing sandwiches. Abbott’s message was that it’s fair game to personally denigrate your opponent for political gain, and to denigrate the position of Prime Minister in the process. He made it fair game to call Gillard a liar every day until it became part of her name. That is Abbott’s legacy. And this is what we saw in the press instead of hearing about Gillard’s amazing success while leading a minority government constantly referred to as ‘chaos’. Journalists should hang their heads in shame when the only way to get an accurate account of Gillard’s leadership is for the Victorian Women’s Trust to buy space in a newspaper.

Ashbygate

I can already imagine the groans of mainstream journalists about this next topic. But this time, before you all start complaining, I’m not imploring you again to take interest in the campaign designed by Mal Brough to remove Peter Slipper from parliament, with the hope of bringing down the Labor Government. I’m not asking you to track down James Ashby and to find out exactly what went on. I’ve come to terms long ago with the realization that you’re just not up to investigating Australia’s own version of Watergate. But again, aren’t you shamed by the Ashbygate trust, which has raised over $50,000 from the public to dig into this story and to reveal the truth? While you complain you can’t afford to do any investigative reporting, we’re all donating funds to see this job done properly by someone else. Well played.

Policy, policy and policy

Is it not a huge embarrassment to the mainstream media that they are now trying to spend the few weeks before the election playing catch up in political policy areas far too complex to leave to sound bites? The electorate deserves better than this. We deserve to know about Abbott’s plans, and how they differ from the current Labor government. I could write fifty posts about all the policy areas that have been totally ignored for the last three years, replaced and wiped out by the unending narrative of ‘Labor leadership tensions’. Here’s a snapshot of a couple, and some questions I would like answered which should, in a decent mainstream media, have been asked years ago:

Climate Change – we saw Abbott on the news every night in his latest stunt, wearing yellow safety vests, stacking bananas and driving trucks. What exactly is his Direct Action Policy? How much will it cost? And how will it actually work? Did you not think when you went along on one of Abbott’s stunt trips it might have been worth asking about this? And to keep asking until you got an answer?

What about the effect of the Carbon Price which was meant to wipe Whyalla off the map? Have you held the Liberal National Coalition to account for all their easily disprovable propaganda and lies, designed to scare voters and to undermine action against climate change? If you bothered to check, the effect of the Carbon Price has been to reduce emissions and to increase investment in renewable energy which will further reduce emissions in the future. This is great news! Also, it’s slightly newsworthy that, even after Abbott spent all his tax-payer funded time and travel allowance on his anti-carbon-tax road trip, the majority of voters haven’t been fooled. Doesn’t this story warrant as much of your attention as a leaky Rudd? It’s just the health of the planet we live on at stake after all. Is the tenant in the Lodge really more important than that?

Paid Parental Leave – This is Abbott’s ‘signature policy’. He is offering to pay women a full time salary, capped up to $75,000 for six months maternity leave, presumably to help them pay their mortgages while they take leave from work. Apart from the fact that this is middle and upper-class welfare on steroids, I am quite concerned that many voters have very little information about the mechanics and cost of this scheme.

Abbott has said he will tax companies to fund this policy. However he hasn’t mentioned it much since business said they weren’t happy about it. I don’t need to imagine Gina Rinehart’s reaction to a tax increase. Can someone please follow up with Abbott about this? Is his policy a policy or not? We want to see another blood oath! One question, which still hasn’t been answered, is a fairly simple one – will a woman who already receives paid maternity leave as part of her employment contract receive Abbott’s paid leave as well? Or does it just top up the employer’s contribution to six months fully-paid leave? Or is it instead of the employer’s contribution? I would have thought this information is kind of important, no? Is anyone going to ask the question?

We could have seen three years of policy analysis, including plenty of comparison of Abbott’s broadband plan, his education funding versus Gillard’s Gonski plan. We could have heard how Abbott’s ‘Stop the Boats’ policy of turning back boats was not going to be accepted by Indonesia, and how it contravened the agreement Australia has made by signing the UN Refugee Convention.

But no. All we saw was sound bites about how Abbott wants to destroy the Labor government, how Rudd wanted to take over from Gillard and how Gillard’s government was always on the brink. We will surely look back at the last three years as a proud, successful time for the Labor Party with an amazing leader. And a time where trust in the mainstream media was eroded to the point of no return. Because journalists and their vested interests in the vested interests of their bosses have failed the electorate. We are now seeing too little too late and democracy is the loser. Shame on you all.

 

Old, Tired, Cynical and Arrogant (Part 1)

Guest post by Doug Evans 

This is a tale of two political parties: the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Liberal Party of Australia. The ALP was founded in the 1890s and the Liberal Party in 1945 so as political parties go they are old and as often happens in old age they have arguably grown tired, cynical and arrogant. These two old parties have dominated Australia’s political landscape since the middle of last century.

There is a third old party, the Nationals (founded in 1913), the permanent minor coalition partner of the Liberals. And a young party, The Greens. They are not central to this story. For better or worse around 85% of Australian voters vote for either the ALP or the Liberals. It is these two old parties who have shaped the Australia we live in today and whether we like it or not, whether we care or not, these parties between them are now shaping the Australia of tomorrow. This story is not about the probable imminent destruction of the Gillard Labor government. It is not about the disgraceful role played by a financially challenged, over-concentrated mainstream media in the shaping of Australian choices at the ballot box. Important as these stories are in their own right they have been endlessly discussed elsewhere.

This is a story of the forces reshaping these two old parties and their profound implications for the future of our democracy. It starts with the rapid decline both in membership and perceived social relevance of both the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Liberal Party of Australia. Much has been written about the internal problems of the ALP and according to Margot Saville at Crikey more buckets of ink are about to be spilled between now and the end of the year on the question of ‘What is wrong with Labor?’  We all know that Labor’s membership base is collapsing but little is written about the corresponding decline in Liberal Party membership. Political junkies know that the decline in Labor’s membership is due to the marginalization of rank and file members and blatantly undemocratic internal processes but are less aware that the same applies to the Liberals.

Report number four for the Democratic Audit of Australia conducted by the Political Science Program of the Australian National University summed up  the situation succinctly for both these ‘old’ parties:

The picture with regard to internal democracy is a bleak one. Low party membership probably means even lower levels of active participation. And ordinary party members may have little opportunity to engage in debate that would conform to deliberative principles, that is, principles concerned with the quality of debate. Pre-selection is a key party activity and work by (former Labor minister) Gary Johns suggests that the major parties don’t meet even basic principles of fairness in the way they conduct these processes.

Further cause for concern arises out of the extent to which parties rely on large private donations. Public funding only exists in some jurisdictions and, even when it is available, parties continue to attract high levels of private funds. There is much debate about the need for increased financial accountability and about the effectiveness of rules for disclosure, particularly given that these rules vary considerably across the country.
(Jaensch, Brent and Bowden, ‘Australian Political Parties in the spotlight’, ANU, 2004)

Little has changed for the better in the subsequent decade. This post is part one of an examination of the consequences for our democracy of these changes and the growing gap between them and the electorate. So I’m going to write about this. The story needs to start with some facts.

Who belongs to the old political parties?

The short answer is old people. Writing for Inside Story Norman Abjorensen states that the median age of Victorian Liberal members in 2008 was 62 (presumably higher in 2013) against the median age of Victorians of 43. There is no reason to believe that the membership of their coalition partner the Nationals is more youthful. According to Latham, 55% of Labor’s national membership is in the ‘concessional’ membership category, largely retirees. Given the strong influence of the Union movement over the ALP you might expect that a high percentage of Labor members would be members of trade unions. You would be wrong. Latham shows that roughly 5800 unionists Australia wide belong to the ALP. About 16% of the membership. This is less than 0.5% of the membership of ALP affiliated unions, hardly a resounding vote of confidence in the continued relevance of the ALP by the members of the Unions whose dues bankroll the Party.

How many people belong to the old political parties?

LIKE MOST other western liberal democracies, Australia has experienced a steady decline in membership of political parties, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics putting total party membership at just 1.3 per cent of the adult population in 2006 – the same percentage as in Britain, where there is growing concern about dramatic falls in member numbers, and much lower than many European countries. – See more at The parties democratic deficit. So in 2013 about one in every hundred Australians belongs to a party. There has been some discussion of the decline in ALP membership lately. Mark Latham’s Quarterly Essay ‘Not Dead Yet’ charts a membership collapse “from 150,000 members nationally in the 1930s to 50,000 in the 1990s to just 11,665 members who voted in the ballot for the ALP national presidency in 2011.” Latham probably overstate the scale of the decline as Wikipedia gives a membership figure of around 35,000 nationally. The 2010 Bracks, Carr, Faulkner Review of the Party put the number at 36,000 and after Prime Minister Gillard called for a membership drive numbers are thought to have risen to as much as 44,000 in 2012. Whether this is a temporary halt in the decline or something more permanent this is still well below a membership of 50,000 twenty years ago. Hardly cheering. It also raises the question of why, if the total membership was 35,000 people only one in three members would bother to vote in a ballot for the national president in 2011?Estimates of the membership of the Liberal Party tell a similar story. One source gives a national membership of 78,000 for the Liberals and a surprising figure (to me at least) of 100,000 for the Nationals.  cites a State membership figure of 13,000 from a 2008 internal party review of the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party, down from a peak of 46,000 in 1950 when the population was far smaller. Whether such a figure in Australia’s second most populous state is consistent with an national figure of 78,000 seems questionable.To place these membership numbers in context if we accept that the current ALP membership is 44,000 and the current Liberal Party membership is 78,000 Labor has about the same membership as the Adelaide Crows AFL club and the Liberals just exceed the somewhat more successful Collingwood Football Club.Australia’s population is roughly 22,300,000. A total of 719,582 Australians are members of an AFL Club.The ALP has 44,000 members and the Liberal Party has 78,000 members. My computer’s calculator tells me that this means:

One in every 31 Australians belongs to an AFL club.
One in every 506 Australians belongs to the ALP.
One in every 286 Australians belongs to the Liberal Party.

Australians are more than nine times more likely to belong to an AFL club than to the Liberal Party and about seventeen times more likely to belong to an AFL club than to the ALP. Now perhaps this is not a fair comparison. Membership of an AFL club promises pleasure and the sense of belonging and requires nothing in return. Membership of a political party which offers nothing to ordinary rank and file members unless they become part of the Party elite and requires some contribution of time and effort is unattractive to busy Australians balancing the pressures on time and money of daily life.

Why is membership of the ‘old’ political parties declining?

The reasons for this can be quite specific. For example Abjorensen cites the example of the Queensland Branch of the former National Party.

The former National Party in Queensland, now merged with the state Liberal Party, suffered a massive exodus soon after John Howard was elected leader of the federal Liberal–National coalition in 1996. An internal report, never made public, identifies a single reason for the abrupt slump – Howard’s clampdown on guns in the wake of the Port Arthur killings in Tasmania. The party went to considerable lengths to keep this quiet for the sake of Coalition unity, but the Queensland Nationals were fatally wounded and have never recovered their previous clout. Many of the disgruntled ex-Nats found their way into One Nation, where they caused mischief for their old party. – See more at The parties democratic deficit.

The former National Party in Queensland, now merged with the state Liberal Party, suffered a massive exodus soon after John Howard was elected leader of the federal Liberal–National coalition in 1996. An internal report, never made public, identifies a single reason for the abrupt slump – Howard’s clampdown on guns in the wake of the Port Arthur killings in Tasmania. The party went to considerable lengths to keep this quiet for the sake of Coalition unity, but the Queensland Nationals were fatally wounded and have never recovered their previous clout. Many of the disgruntled ex-Nats found their way into One Nation, where they caused mischief for their old party.

The former National Party in Queensland, now merged with the state Liberal Party, suffered a massive exodus soon after John Howard was elected leader of the federal Liberal–National coalition in 1996. An internal report, never made public, identifies a single reason for the abrupt slump – Howard’s clampdown on guns in the wake of the Port Arthur killings in Tasmania. The party went to considerable lengths to keep this quiet for the sake of Coalition unity, but the Queensland Nationals were fatally wounded and have never recovered their previous clout. Many of the disgruntled ex-Nats found their way into One Nation, where they caused mischief for their old party. – See more at The parties democratic deficit.

But in the case of both the Labor and Liberal Parties the decline of membership is a function of the increasing centralization of decision making in both Labor and Liberal parties. This process has increasingly marginalized the rank and file members. Abjorensen again:

There is a body of largely anecdotal evidence that suggests rank and file members of both main political parties find they have very little input into the parties’ processes, namely policy and pre-selections. Indeed, the more these are centralised, the less relevant local branches and their members become.

In respect of the ALP Latham comments that:

Compared to other community organizations the return on ALP membership is minimal. Active Branch life has been reduced to a hard core of the ageing party faithful. plus members of parliament and their staff and others hustling for elected office.  … Branches go through the motions of monthly meetings and debate, knowing that their resolutions will be ignored by the Party hierarchy. 

The ‘Party hierarchy’ is driven by two overlapping substructures of the affiliated unions and the factions. According to Jaensch et al:

In the Labor Party the factions and the unions are parallel, if not unified sub-structures. The factions have their organisational and numerical bases in the unions, and the unions spearhead the faction leaderships and decision-making. … the 2002 Rules Conference decision to set 50:50 as the national union to member vote will have no effect on faction (or union) domination. 

The hold of the factions and unions on ‘their’ candidates does not relax after their election. Appearing on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Lateline program on 24 June 2002, former South Australian ALP Senator, Chris Schacht commented:

I want to have an open mind in debate within the party and hear the debate before I make up my mind about how I should vote on party policy—not to be directed by what a factional leader says you must vote and if you don’t follow it, you might lose your pre-selection.

With regards pre-selection of candidates for the Liberal Party; when John Howard was Prime minister no Liberal Party pre-selection took place without close Prime Ministerial scrutiny. A tick from the Party Leader and the patronage of powerful party figures to whom there are direct personal and professional links were both necessary for successful pre-selection as a candidate for the Liberal Party. Local members who too strongly disagree(d) with the consensus of the powerful risk(ed) their displeasure and the possibility of negative consequences. The importance of powerful patrons is well illustrated by the rise to Parliament of Liberal Party rising stars Josh Frydenberg and Kelly O’Dwyer.

In a 2009 piece for Crikey Andrew Crook wrote:

…the grassroots doily conventions have been steadily eroded in favour of hand-picked or factionally-“flagged” candidates. In most states, hopefuls will have already jumped through numerous social hoops and fronted “pre-pre-selection” selection committees designed to weed out the rabble. Just like Labor’s preference for industrial officers and backroom numbers men, the idea of a Thatcher-loving shopkeeper rising through the Liberal ranks has been eclipsed by blue-chip blue bloods like Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins and Peter Dutton in Dickson/McPherson.

In the Labor Party the situation is no better. Andrew Crook in this Crikey piece paints an equally depressing picture of the process for pre-selecting candidates within the ALP.

For the most part, internal democracy is a charade, and there is generally no legal requirement for “private” party structures to open up their processes. … The disjuncture with the electorate is startling. In Victoria, outcomes are determined by numbers that represent around 0.1% of the ALP primary vote in any given lower house seat.

Discussing the ALP Abjorensen says:

The rapidly declining relevance of its shrinking membership and the capture of its factions – and with them the party machinery – have seen Labor become little more than the plaything of unrepresentative cliques. Poor-quality candidate selection and scant attention to policy are the inevitable outcomes, not to mention the corrosive effect of even greater public cynicism and further disengagement.

This position is supported by a profile of the Seat of Batman, site of a controversial pre-selection battle, which reveals the arcane tribal nature of ALP structure.

The 2010 Review of the ALP internal processes and structure conducted by respected ALP elders Steve Bracks, Bob Carr and John Faulkner Faulkner supports this view of the party. Its assessment of the disillusionment of the rank and file members was that it is deep and widespread.

The following are verbatim extracts from face-to-face consultations and submissions made by members to the Review process. They are a sample of what members and supporters believe is wrong, and what needs to change, in our Party. The Review Committee was struck with the consistency and strength of the views put to it.

“As a party member for nearly 39 years it seems that branches are now treated as irrelevant by head office — only good for handing out on election days.” — Member, Sydney

“A branch member no longer has any power and hasn’t for a long time.” — Member, Melbourne

“Many branches feel very frustrated and ignored these days.” — Member, Adelaide

“At the moment, the party branches are dying, because the rank and file are given no voice in the Party. The members and branches no longer have any say in preselections or in policy. Unless this trend can be reversed, we will become a party that exists just to provide a path for ex-trade union leaders and ex-staffers of politicians to enter parliament.” — Member, NSW

“The [issue is the] rise of the central Party apparatus and the decline of the branches. If the resolutions of branches are ignored, if the rules of the Party are ignored, if pre-selections are determined by head office and not the relevant electoral councils, if we remove democracy as the beating heart of our Party why would people join a branch, why would people get involved in our Party, why would people vote for us?” — Member, NSW

“The demand that branches be respected meant that a branch’s local knowledge and concerns should be taken seriously. There was a sense that the party leadership did not take seriously or wish to involve itself with a branch’s participation in issues and policies that profoundly affected its members and its local community. Branches, it was argued, could be at the forefront of pivotal community battles.” — Branch submission

“The grassroots organisation of the ALP used to be something that we left the Liberals for dead in.” — Member, Cairns

“Members have given up. They feel that their only function is to turn up on polling day and spend a day in the sun handing out how-to-vote cards. Members want to be involved at a local level at a bare minimum.” — Member, Queensland.

In the case of the ALP at least the disillusionment of the rank and file members is surely also driven by the ongoing series of scandals and corruption that have dogged the party for decades and continue despite attempts at ‘root and branch reform’.

Thus the disillusioned membership of both these old parties is not only shrinking but it is also aging rapidly. In Part Two I will argue that despite awareness of the process its causes and consequences neither party has acted to halt or even slow this rate of decline and I will outline the profoundly disturbing implications of declining membership of these two parties for all Australians.

Budget blues and other things

budget

Budget Blues

In January of this year I wrote a piece outlining my list of “political priorities for 2013.”I blogged it prior to the Prime Ministers announcement of a September election. I also invited people to add their particular priorities. Some corresponded with mine and others were completely different.

With the budget having been delivered this is my report card to date. Originally, I placed then in random order and did not prioritise one over another. However, the election is getting closer so I have put them is some sort of personal preeminence.

1.That the electorate might awake from its malaise and see that this is a very important election for the future of Australia and that politics in some way or another affects their very being.

There are no signs of this so far and it can be attributed to a number of factors. Firstly, that Australians in general are so disillusioned by the body politic (and reasonably so) that it has completely divorced itself from the process. Two, the right-wing mainstream media has destroyed the public with their avalanche of support for Neo conservative politics. So much so, that media no longer reports to the electorate. It indoctrinats it. Thirdly, Mr. Abbots style of negative opposition based on three word slogans has worked to the point that combined with MSM influence the public is bombarded with right-wing neo conservative crap trap. Moreover, in the absence of credible alternative reporting they believe it. What else is there to do other than think for yourself?

2. That the election will be a contest of policies and ideas and the means to implement them. Can we afford them?

Thus far, the Labor Party is the only one putting forward policies that are far-reaching reforms. When I presented my list, Gonski and the NDIS were but policies in their embryonic stages. No states had signed on and the big doubt was how they would be costed. All that has changed. A recent survey said that 62% of people were in favor of education reform and 18% against. Similar percentages supported the NDIS with 72% for and 12% against. As with the NBN 54% were for Labor’s plan and 23% for Mr. Abbott’s These reforms have widespread public support. The fascination with these survey results is that the same people said that they would be voting for a conservative government. Rather proves the indoctrination theory I think. So the possibility arises that Tony Abbott might be elected to implement Labor Party policy.

Last night the Treasurer spelt out the means by which both policies would be funded. It is now incumbent on the opposition to say what program’s they will cut in order to fund these schemes or alternately if indeed they will proceed with them.

Now that the budget is delivered and open to scrutiny and the coalition has, it all laid out in front of them. The opposition has no excuse not to start revealing their policies. They agree with the implementation of Disability Australia well lets see how they will fund it. If they have, an alternative to Gonski tell us and declare the funding. Tell us how the direct action plan will be funded. Labor has declared where it will cut. So should the opposition.

3. That the asylum debate might become a humane one and not remain the political football that it is.

This has not happened and if anything, the problem is getting worse. Mr. Abbott has gone back on all his tough talk of the past two and a half years and has now admitted that he will not be able to “Stop the Boats” but will endeavor to bring them back to John Howard levels. For all this time he could have been part of the solution but for reasons of political advantage chose to be part of the problem. The mainstream media have not in any way rebuked him.

See my piece on this subject. https://theaimn.com/2013/05/08/man-overboard-tonys-boats-backflip/

4.That the question of equality of marriage might again come before parliament and Mr. Abbott might give his party members the right to think for themselves.

With 54% of Australians in favor of gay marriage and 33% against one has to wonder if politicians do really govern for themselves or for the people. The Prime Minister may say she is against it (which I very much doubt) but in all fairness allows her party a conscience vote. On the other hand, Mr. Abbott (after dangling a carrot of hope) allows his own religious beliefs to override public opinion. He should be overwhelmingly condemned for his stand on this issue but a passive media conditioned to his every need will not do so.

5. That the truth comes out in the Ashby/Slipper case and that our democracy would be placed ahead of conspiratorial party politics.

We are awaiting the judge’s findings on the Leave to Appeal and the concurrent Appeal cases and we can only hope that democracy will be truly served. However, the true test will be in how the media reports it. Will they just bury it the back pages like the original findings or will integrity, truth and justice prevail.

See my summary at https://theaimn.com/2013/05/05/may-day-may-day-ashby-appeal-update/

6.That as in the USA elections some FACT FINDER sites might emerge during our election year and expose any lies and misinformation.

Its happened http://www.politifact.com.au/ was launched in May.

7. That the forth estate as the custodians of the publics right to know might act responsibly and report fact and not just express biased opinion.

There is little or no hope of this happening. The strange thing is that main stream media never opens itself to self-examination. Instead, it just self-righteously assumes that it can continue on its merry way with all the crap their dirty little minds can create and expect to suck us in. One day they might conclude that facts and truth do actually matter. In fact, it is a pity that fact in journalism cannot be made compulsory and decency legislated.

We would be a much better society if we took the risk of thinking for ourselves unhindered by the unadulterated crap served up by the media and self-interest groups. Perhaps in time they might grasp that free speech does not mean it should be free from ethics. Like truth for example.

We are being conned with bullshit. https://theaimn.com/2013/03/23/being-conned-with-bullshit/

8.That Mr. Abbott would stop walking out of press conferences when he is asked serious questions.

This continues to happen with impunity and the compliant journalists bow their heads and walk the other way with the same impunity from their masters.

9. The media might start questioning the opposition about its policies without using the excuse that they have none. They have a policy for climate action for example ask them about the cost and how it will work. In addition, if it doesn’t, what is plan B.?

There has been some questioning of the Opposition leaders unaffordable Parental Leave Scheme and his direct act plan for reducing carbon emissions. Even from within his own party. Could we say it is persistent strenuous enquiry that is determined to expose genuine flaws in his policies? To use a one word quote from Mr. Abbott. NO. Is there robust journalistic investigation? NO. Is there face to face hard-nosed concentrated questioning of MR. Abbott? NO.

Perhaps we should just rely on Malcolm Turnbulls opinion of the direct action plan. He has described it as a ”farce” and ”bullshit”.

See my view https://theaimn.com/2013/04/06/climate-change-a-lay-persons-delemma/

Having said that cracks are starting to appear. See
https://theaimn.com/2013/04/27/abbott-batting-on-a-deteriorating-pitch/

10. That the issue of an Australian Republic might find its way back onto the agenda.

It seems that with the help of Turnbull this issue so dear to my heart might re invent itself and my dream of Australia taking its true place in the world might eventuate. Isn’t it odd that two prominent members of the same party can be so diagonally opposed on major policy and issues of cultural sensitivity?

How ridiculous is it that our constitution allows a head of state of another country to circumvent the passing of legislation.

Read my view https://theaimn.com/2013/02/16/the-reluctant-republic/

There are of course many other issues that people have an interest in. For example infrastructure, overseas aid, the economy and Northern development are but a few. Expand my list and discuss them if you so desire.

 

Tony Abbott’s shaky campaign – beginning of the end?

Malcolm Turnbull with Tony Abbott (Photo: Sydney Morning Herald)

Malcolm Turnbull with Tony Abbott (Photo: Sydney Morning Herald)

Tony Abbott has spent most of this year hiding from scrutiny and waiting for what the media say is a certain election win later this year — but have the wheels started to fall off his campaign in the last few weeks? Matthew Donovan reports.

TAKE NOTE of this date. 10 April 2013.

In my opinion that is the date the Coalition’s campaign started to crumble around them.

The much hyped release of their NBN alternative could hardly have gone worse. Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull – or as Tony likes to call him, Mr Broadband – were clearly out of their depth at the awkward policy announcement of their “faster, cheaper and more affordable” broadband plan.

It was nothing short of cringe-worthy.

The content of the plan was thoroughly panned across the board and social media had a field day. Within hours, the tag #fraudband had been adopted on Twitter and memes decrying its lack of vision were springing up by the minute. Experts were quick to reject the idea that we shouldn’t take fibre to the home (FTTH) but rather to the node (FTTN) and then use the existing copper network, yesterday’s technology, to reach the home.

It will deliver much slower speeds than Labor’s plan and quickly become redundant as technology and demand outpaces its roll out. An outcome that clearly isn’t satisfactory for Australia’s data and technology hungry consumers.

Not the best of starts when trying to address one of their greatest weaknesses — credible costed policies.

Within two weeks, Tony Abbott plunged his party into another publicly embarrassing situation, this time, asylum seeker policy.

On 23 April, he unveiled what he hoped would be a stunt to wedge Labor. Sadly, for him, it blew up in his face almost immediately.

He happily posed in front of a large roadside sign that stated 639 “illegals” had arrived in Australia since Labor took over, adding:

“Labor have lost control of our borders.”

The response from some in the media was swift and pointed.

Jane McAdam from The National Times clearly wasn’t impressed [author’s emphasis]:

You cannot apply for a refugee visa before you leave a country because a “refugee” is, by definition, someone outside their country. Even if you cross a border, Australian embassies abroad cannot issue refugee visas to those on the move – such as people fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan. Further, it is highly unlikely that refugees will be able to get a visa of any other kind, such as a tourist or work visa.

For example, an Iraqi who applies to an Australian embassy for such a visa will likely be screened out, precisely because of the assumption that they will claim asylum on arrival in Australia. It is a catch-22.

For these reasons, the Refugee Convention prohibits countries from imposing penalties on asylum seekers who enter without a passport or visa. Indeed, in some cases arrival without documentation may in fact help to demonstrate that a refugee claim is compelling and credible.

Article 31 is one of the most fundamental elements of the Refugee Convention precisely because it underscores the right of people in distress to seek protection – even if their actions constitute a breach of a country’s domestic immigration laws.

Indeed, even the two international treaties on human trafficking and smuggling both make clear that being a victim of trafficking or smuggling must not negatively affect a person’s right to claim asylum and receive protection.

The opposition’s use of the term “illegal” is designed to tarnish people’s perceptions about the legitimacy of asylum seekers’ claims. It is language that dehumanises and criminalises. Invoking it is either ignorant or deliberately mischievous, since the act of seeking asylum is not a crime, but the right of every individual.

This is nothing more than John Howard style dog-whistling and, happily, Abbott was challenged about these assertions at a press conference.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxlunUpz-Nc] (more…)

Welfare is a right for those who need it

WelfareUKThis post is by @KayRollison

This has been a black week for those on welfare in Britain. We can’t let the same thing happen in Australia.

The British Conservative government is demolishing the welfare state, brick by brick. A series of changes, scarcely reported here, make it even harder for people who are poor, unemployed or have a disability. They include a bedroom tax – I kid you not – that public housing tenants have to pay if they have a spare room. Many will be forced out of houses they have lived in for years. There’s an arbitrary cap on benefits, reduction of the Council tax benefit and a host of other cuts like no legal aid for civil cases – you can read more of the details here. And by the way, there’s a tax cut for the rich. As far as I know, none of these specific changes figured in the Conservative’s election campaign. The policies are accompanied by flagrant attacks in the mainstream media on people living on welfare; apparently welfare is to blame for the horrific death of six children at the hands of their father. Welfare is a ‘lifestyle choice’, according to the Daily Mail.

What we see here is the almost inevitable result of neo-liberal ideology at work. You can’t tax the rich – indeed they need tax cuts – because they are supposed to be creating the wealth which pays for the safety net for the poor whom the system (inevitably) disadvantages. Only they aren’t creating wealth – there’s a recession.  So there’s a vicious circle, with less revenue to pay for the safety net, which is increasingly expensive, and less and less affordable … unless you tax the rich, which is ruled out by definition.

One of the saddest features of this debacle is that the British Labour Party doesn’t seem willing or able to oppose these cruel changes. Guardian journalist George Monbiot describes the Labour Party’s position as ‘low-alcohol conservatism’, a hangover from the ineffective ‘third way’ policies of Tony Blair, who also wanted to relieve the state of its duty to minimise inequality, and promoted ‘personal responsibility’. The economy is in recession, but it’s still your fault if you can’t find a job.

Monbiot suggests that too many people in Britain still suffer from feelings of deference. He says:

‘They lived in great and justified fear of authority, and the fear has persisted, passed down across the five or six generations that separate us and reinforced now by renewed insecurity, snowballing inequality, partisan policing.’

The only antidote he sees is hope, engendered by ‘the power of a transformative idea’ that can change the way people think about equality and inequality. He suggests a ‘basic income’, paid for by a ‘land value tax’.

These ideas may have merit. But here in Australia, we don’t need them. I don’t want to get into a debate about national character, but I don’t think Monbiot’s characterisation of the British as still somehow accepting the rightness of inequality or feeling powerless to oppose it, applies here. We have a strong belief that more equality of opportunity is better than less, though this belief shouldn’t be taken for granted. Certainly the anti-welfare messages all too frequently espoused by the mainstream media probably do have an effect – welfare cheats, lazy unemployed, and shirkers claiming disability are core business for programs like A Current Affair. But while trust in governments’ ability to improve people’s circumstances has declined, people still look to them for assistance when things go wrong. The conservative ‘big government is the problem’ mantra doesn’t work terribly well here.

And surely our Labor Party is not the spineless body that British Labour seems to have become. Yes, it did undertake a massive retreat from government ownership of public enterprises. Yes, there are – and should be – debates about how to avoid welfare traps. But it has never retreated from the associated need to provide a proper safety net. You can read a discussion of what the Prime Minister says and does about equality (admittedly not always the same thing) here.

So at least in theory, we have a culture that approves of a society with greater rather than less equality, and a party in government that still espouses more equal sharing of wealth. Polls continue to show the voters want the ALP to represent workers and traditional Labour values. Essential Polling concludes that

‘Labor’s woes aren’t due to pitting the classes against each other, but rather a failure to fulfil their mandate to represent working people’.

What better narrative does the ALP need? It’s time to be bold. No more nonsense about struggling on $250,000. You can look at the real situation here. Forget about the accusations of ‘class war’. The only class war in Australia is of the rich vested interests versus the poor and weak. Welfare is a right for those who need it. The measure of their need is the level of their inequality. This is the simple message the ALP needs to shout from the rooftops. (After all, the mainstream media won’t publish it.)

And I fear they are going to need to shout it. Should the LNP win the election in September, they will be faced with a version of what the Conservatives have in Britain – declining revenue and growing welfare costs as the population ages. And their solution will be the same. Australia may not be in recession, but the Liberal mantra of balancing the budget, alongside their many expensive commitments to middle class welfare will mean they will cut spending in other welfare areas, no doubt playing the dole bludger card as they have in the past. But don’t expect to see any of this before the election; this is what we can expect from the post budget audit commission. ‘Labor’s budget black hole’. It’s all so predictable.

Where Monbiot is certainly right is in calling on hope as a motive force to oppose such attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable. Labor in Australia must never be ‘Liberal Lite’. It must reassert its traditional left of centre values.

By Kay Rollison

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