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Tag Archives: Andrew Robb

Small government and deregulation could be the death of us

In 1977, at a meeting in Exxon Corporation’s headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black delivered his message to an audience of powerful oilmen: carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.

He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius, and as much as 10 degrees Celsius at the poles. Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert.

“Some countries would benefit but others would have their agricultural output reduced or destroyed.”

“Present thinking,” he wrote in 1978, “holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”

Exxon responded swiftly. Within months the company launched its own extraordinary research into carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and its impact on the earth. Exxon’s ambitious program included both empirical CO2 sampling and rigorous climate modeling. It assembled a brain trust that would spend more than a decade deepening the company’s understanding of an environmental problem that posed an existential threat to the oil business.

One manager at Exxon Research, Harold N. Weinberg, shared his “grandiose thoughts” about Exxon’s potential role in climate research in a March 1978 internal company memorandum that read: “This may be the kind of opportunity that we are looking for to have Exxon technology, management and leadership resources put into the context of a project aimed at benefitting mankind.”

His sentiment was echoed by Henry Shaw, the scientist leading the company’s nascent carbon dioxide research effort.

“Exxon must develop a credible scientific team that can critically evaluate the information generated on the subject and be able to carry bad news, if any, to the corporation,” Shaw wrote to his boss Edward E. David, the president of Exxon Research and Engineering in 1978. “This team must be recognized for its excellence in the scientific community, the government, and internally by Exxon management.”

Then, toward the end of the 1980s, Exxon curtailed its carbon dioxide research. In the decades that followed, Exxon worked instead at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day.

This shameful history has been extensively researched and written about at InsideClimate News which details the deliberate misinformation campaign despite their full knowledge of the damage they were doing.

This type of behaviour is not isolated.

Pharmaceutical company Amgen is a significant sponsor of Tony Abbott’s pollie pedal ride. Amgen promoted the use of the drug Aranesp to treat anemia in cancer patients who were not undergoing chemotherapy, even though the drug’s approval was only for patients receiving chemotherapy. A subsequent study sponsored by Amgen showed that use of Aranesp by those nonchemotherapy cancer patients had actually increased the risk of death. In 2012 they were convicted of “pursuing profits at the risk of patient safety,” and forced to pay $762 million in criminal penalties and settlements of whistle-blower lawsuits.

These examples of deliberate duplicity, similar to that of the tobacco industry, shows why deregulation and small government are a bad idea. Governments are the only organisations that can protect us against the harm caused by those who put greed in front of the welfare of the planet and its inhabitants.

The Coalition seems to think that, if business is given a free rein, all will be well, but this is patently not the case.

In his haste to claim some sort of an achievement for the Abbott government, Andrew Robb was willing to sign away the right for us to make laws in our best interests. Instead, he agreed to protections for business profits despite the repeated examples of industries deliberately lying about the harm they are causing.

Can we really expect businesses to be ethical when their sole purpose is to make profit for their shareholders?

Why is it that every policy proposed by the Coalition is to protect and promote the very people who have been proven liars?

Why are we giving the fossil fuel industry subsidies when they, themselves, knew 40 years ago that their business was unsustainable?

Why are we reducing taxes for companies that not only do everything they can to avoid paying tax, but also falsify research knowing the potential damage they are causing?

Could it be because our government is more interested in investors’ profits than the wellbeing of its citizens?

On August 18th, the Australian Financial Review published a list of Malcolm Turnbull’s investments; they include the SPDR S&P 500 Fund, whose 3rd largest holding is Exxon Mobil, who have also been significant donors to the right wing Institute of Public Affairs who have effectively been paid to continue the misinformation about climate change.

Understand Australia, if you vote for the Liberal Party you are voting for people who not only facilitate this behaviour, they personally profit from it. It’s time to stand up and say enough is enough!

 

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Morrison’s Approaching Waterloo

It may be early days but Joe Hockey’s second and final attempt to bring down a credible budget appears to be unravelling already. Even on the night of his budget speech in May it was clear that his growth projections were far too optimistic.

It makes one wonder if the whole budget process was one started first by establishing a bottom line and then working backwards, fudging the figures necessary to substantiate it.

Is that how they eventually arrived at a growth estimate of 2.75%? Perhaps it was a case that if it sounded unattainable, to hell with it, that’s what it was going to be.

And then they made it 3.50% all the way out to 2019/20?

The Reserve Bank announced on Friday it was downgrading its growth estimate to 2.25% for the current fiscal year. Surprise, surprise! If correct, that has the potential to blow out the deficit by a further $11 billion.

Not that we should be concerned about deficits. It’s the ability to manage them that should have us concerned; particularly when our current treasurer thinks we only have a spending problem.

The fact is, deficit spending is what we need right now, but it has to be targeted. It has to be value adding, creating employment and making a positive contribution to our GDP.

The current deficit projections cannot be attributed to anything positive because they are essentially caused by over-optimistic estimates, not excessive spending. While revenue for the first three months of the May budget is on track, giving Scott Morrison some breathing space, it is based on reduced earnings that are likely to continue declining.

Peter Martin in ‘The Age’ says, “The charts in the budget that predict a return to surplus by 2019-20 were built around an assumption of fast economic growth of 3.5 per cent in the five years to 2021-22.

That growth estimate is simply unreasonable and based more on hope than insight. That means revenue projections over that same period cannot be achieved without significant tax increases. Realistically, a surplus is not on the horizon any time soon.

How long Morrison will continue to kid himself about his perceived revenue/spending problem remains to be seen but sooner or later he will have to face the reality of a slower China and a population not growing as fast as expected.

He has also stated that any increase in the GST would not be used to boost the overall tax intake. How could it not, unless it is all given away in compensation. If that’s the case, why bother increasing it?

Thus far, Morrison has given no indication that he understands how to manage a national economy any better than Joe Hockey. I have no doubt Malcolm Turnbull has a better idea but he is hamstrung by a neo-classical mindset that suffocates his extreme right wing colleagues.

This situation, therefore, foreshadows a difficult time for both men. Sooner or later, unless some Chinese miracle occurs, there’s going to be a clash of ideologies, a seismic shift that will see one of them emerge triumphant, while the other goes the way of Joe Hockey.

If it’s Morrison that survives, the economy and by extension, the Australian people, will be the big losers. However, the spin merchants within the Liberal Party will camouflage it such that it is not likely to be apparent until after the next election.

Without a radical change in strategies along the lines that Italy and Canada are starting to entertain, we will continue in decline for some time yet.

And we should not expect Andrew Robb’s Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP) to come to the rescue either. The news from Hilary Clinton is not good. It is unlikely that, in its present form, it will achieve the 85% GDP target of member nations it needs, for approval.

I suspect Scott Morrison is about to meet his Waterloo.

 

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Money makes the world go round … which is why we had a flat earth before it was invented!

OK, Dr. Joanne Howe’s report on the China Free Trade Agreement is brilliant and extremely accurate. No, I haven’t actually read it, but not reading it didn’t stop Mr Turnbull from dismissing it or Andrew Robb as describing it as “not worth the paper it’s written on”. One doesn’t need to read something to dismiss it. Think Christopher Pyne’s proud declaration that he hadn’t read “The Gonski Report”.

I may actually get around to reading the report on the Chinese Free Trade Agreement. After all, I read just about everything. I even read the Liberal’s “Real Solutions” booklet which was mainly full of problems. In fact, it can be summarised by simply stating that the fundamental problem is that we have a Labor Government being run by a woman, whatsmore!) and the solution is to vote us in. As Tony and Joe used to say ad infinitum, “We have a plan”, and when that wore thin they developed it a bit further and said it was for “Jobs and Growth”. When it became clear that it was their own jobs and growth that they were talking about, even their own party realised that it was time for a change.

Anyway, I was reading the Fairfax Fluff this morning and apart from an opinion piece stating that it was only Muslim young people who were joining IS which completely ignores a couple of non-Muslim boys who went and joined, I was most taken with the editorial, “Trans-Pacific trade deal has tremendous potential”.

It began with an economics lesson:

“The fundamental reality driving economics, politics and public policy is scarcity – there are unlimited wants but limited means.”

So far, so Year Eleven Economics. Of course, the trouble with this truism is that, like all truisms, it often moves from the indisputable part to a justification of what the speaker actually wants.

Not everyone gets what they wants, so you’ll just have to compromise and go and see the movie I want to watch!”

Or to use a more recent example.

“There are limited means in the economy so the well-off can’t afford to pay any more tax on their superannuation, but you need to cut your penalty rates so that businesses can work 24/7, just like 7/11!”

Similarly, the editorial jumped from this economics lesson to the rather interesting proposition:

“Most of the industrialised world has come to the conclusion that open markets provide the best outcomes for the biggest number of people.”

Now this is an interesting statement for a number of reasons. The first being that it excludes the non-industrialised world, but still has the qualifier, “most”.

However, it’s when we start to think about this in terms of the generalisation that we realise that it’s not just full of qualifiers, but a bald-faced lie. Granted that they are primarily talking about free trade between countries. Nevertheless, even the TPP doesn’t completely open the markets between countries, it just makes them slightly freer. And, as has been pointed out so many times, it makes corporations so much freer to sue governments when their profits are threatened.

Of course, the idea of “the best outcomes for the biggest number of people” is an interesting concept in itself. Slaughtering everyone in Florida and distributing their wealth equally to the people of Cambodia would also provide the best outcome for “the biggest number of people” but there are all sorts of moral and ethical issues as to why this isn’t a good idea.

But it’s the whole idea of how we perceive economics that most intrigues me. Like this particular editorial has done, we reduce it to a simple concept and then jump from that concept – whether it’s true or simply a belief – to make a whole lot of judgement calls which often move so far away from the concept that we don’t realise the journey we’ve been taken on.

We’re persistently told that free markets are the best by governments who insist – often quite correctly – on a whole range of restrictions. Why can’t I sell alcohol to ten year olds? Why can’t I start my own pharmacy and dispense medicine without all the red tape of requiring a prescription for certain medications? Guns, I’m not allowed to sell them from the back of my car. In fact, why can’t I turn my house into a nightclub and pump out loud music till the wee hours of the morning?

There’s a whole range of restrictions that we all consider reasonable before we even start to look at the ones about which there could be an argument for “freer markets”. (OK, when I say “all”, I’m ignoring David Leyonhjelm whose views seem a bit extreme when compared to moderates like Abbott and Trump).

For years we’ve been removing tariffs and eliminating subsidies in certain industries. The idea is that it’s the “best outcome for the biggest number of people”. This may well be true.

But I have a few truisms of my own. And one of them is when someone says, “Trust me, and don’t listen anything that’s questioning what I want to do, because I don’t”, it’s time to to ask for the evidence.

And when the government’s own modelling suggests that the China Free Trade Agreement will only bring about 6,000 extra jobs, claims made by Mr Robb seem a little far fetched.

Yeah, trust me. Don’t listen to those unions. They’re just racist and they’re concerned that Chinese workers will improve the prosperity of this country so much that people will realise that the unions never did anything for the workers of this country.

 

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What does ChAFTA really mean for Aussie jobs?

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade the Chinese-Australia fair trade agreement will “provide greater flexibilities for companies to respond to unique economic and labour market challenges”. But what does this mean for Australian jobs, asks Mel Mac.

The Chinese-Australia fair trade agreement (ChAFTA) began negotiations in May 2005 with the agreement formally signed on the 17th July 2015, by Australian Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb and the Chinese Commerce Minister, Gao Hucheng. The ceremony was witnessed by Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott who described the signing as a “momentous day” for the Australian-China relationship. “It will change our countries for the better, it will change our region for the better, it will change our world for the better,” Mr Abbott said. He paid tribute to Chinese President, Xi Jinping whom he described as a “shrewd” negotiator and “friend of Australia”. He further toasted the deal saying “I trust that today our Chinese friends will enjoy the fine beef and the good wine that will soon be more readily enjoyed by their countrymen.”

Last year was a busy year for the Abbott government, which also signed off on the Korea-Australia free trade agreement (KAFTA) and the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA). According to a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) report titled, Economic benefits of Australia’s North Asia free trade agreements, it will create lots of new jobs. It has estimated that between 2016 and 2035 the FTAs will lead to 178,000 jobs, at an average of 9,000 per year. Mr Robb also enthused the three FTAs job creation, saying that “Given what’s going on in the region, the extraordinary explosion of people going into the middle class, this is a landmark set of agreements, and it will see literally billions of dollars, thousands, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and will underpin a lot of our prosperity in the years ahead.”

The report also forecast an additional GDP increase between 2016 and 2035 of $24.4 billion and a boost in real consumption of $46.3 billion, equating to an increase in household consumption of nearly $4,500. This has been questioned by the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET). It said the study authors were “consultants which produced wildly optimistic estimates of benefits for the Australia-US FTA (AUSFTA) which did not eventuate.” Ten years on it’s still unclear as to what benefits the American-Australian FTA has had for Australia or even America.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is worried about how the deal will affect local jobs and unemployment levels. There is the ChAFTA and there is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) document, about an Investment and Facilitation Agreement (IFA), that was signed before the formal signing. An IFA is a project to be established between the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), or its equivalent, and a project company. A project company is eligible to establish an IFA where:

  1. (a) A single Chinese enterprise owns 50% or more of the project company; or, where no single enterprise owns 50% or more of the project company, a Chinese enterprise holds a substantial interest in the project company;
  2. (b) There is a proposed infrastructure development project (“the project”) by the project company with an expected capital expenditure of $A150 million over the term of the project;
  3. (c) The project is related to infrastructure development within the food and agribusiness; resources and energy; transport; telecommunications; power supply and generation; environment; or tourism sectors;
  4. (d) The project company is registered as a business in Australia;
  5. (e) The project company agrees to comply with all Australian laws and regulations, including applicable Australian workplace law, work safety law and relevant Australian licensing, regulation and certification standards; and
  6. (f) The China International Contractors Association (CHINCA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia (DFAT) have recommended the project and the project company meet the criteria in paragraphs 2(a) through 2(e).

Section four, covers the areas of negotiation for DIPB and the project company, which includes –

  1. (a) The occupations covered by the IFA project agreement;
  2. (b) English language proficiency requirements;
  3. (c) Qualifications and experience requirements; and
  4. (d) Calculation of the terms and conditions of the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT).
  5. The project company may be asked to provide additional information by DIBP in respect of its requests for concessions in the above areas. Other than the areas referred to in paragraphs 4(a) through 4(d), the grant of visas will be subject to meeting all other Australian nomination and visa requirements.

Interestingly the ChAFTA Myths versus realities released by DFAT only mentioned option 2. (b), most likely because it fits in with the infrastructure narrative. The “concessions” also aren’t mentioned but imply that the project company can negotiate a private contract with DIPB, to import Chinese workers on projects in lower skilled occupations. Though workers under the 457 visa scheme are required to be paid above TSMIT and possess a certain amount of English ability, this also looks like it can be negotiated under the IFA.

In paragraph six it states – There will be no requirement for labour market testing to enter into an IFA. The IFA is valid for four years from the date of execution and with the possibility of an extension. In the actual ChAFTA itself, in Article 10.4: Grant of Temporary Entry, it states – In respect of the specific commitments on temporary entry in this Chapter, unless otherwise specified in Annex 10-A, neither Party shall

  1. (a) Impose or maintain any limitations on the total number of visas to be granted to natural persons of the other Party; or
  2. (b) require labour market testing, economic needs testing or other procedures of similar effect as a condition for temporary entry.

Here is the ChAFTA side letter between Mr Robb and Mr Gao after the formal signing of ChAFTA, that provides more detail and states –

Australia will remove the requirement for mandatory skills assessment for the following ten occupations on the date of entry into force of the Agreement. And that the aim is to further reduce occupations or eliminate the requirement within five years.

Automotive Electrician [321111]

Cabinetmaker [394111]

Carpenter [331212]

Carpenter and Joiner [331211]

Diesel Motor Mechanic [321212]

Electrician (General) [341111]

Electrician (Special Class) [341112]

Joiner [331213]

Motor Mechanic (General) [321211]

Motorcycle Mechanic [321213]

Alan Hicks of the Electrical Trade Union (ETU) said that the Government’s decision to remove the mandatory skills assessment for Chinese workers in ten occupations was a disgrace. “For the Federal Government to come out and waive that under a free trade agreement, without any consultation with unions or employers, is an absolute disgrace,” he said. “It’s going to create significant workplace dangers, not only just for electricians, but all those people who use electricity.” Mr Hicks said China’s statistics of workplace deaths was of “genuine concern” to Australians. “Australia leads the way in electrical safety. We’ve got some of the best electrical workers in the world. A lot of countries aspire to have the same level of safety standards that we do,” he said. “We’ve got a licence system right across the country — no matter which state or territory you work in, you’ve got to be licensed to carry out the work — and those sorts of systems aren’t in place in other countries like China. Mr Hick’s also said that “And China has a woeful workplace health and safety record. They have over 70,000 workplace deaths a year, so we are genuinely concerned.”

There is also a ChAFTA DFAT factsheet that says – In order to better facilitate the temporary entry of workers associated with trade and investment, Australia and China will also increase cooperation in the areas of skills recognition and licensing, including through encouraging the streamlining of relevant licensing procedures and improving access to skills assessments.

Besides the Abbott government’s ideologies being against the work of the unions, it’s unclear as to why industries relating to the ten different occupations including employers, weren’t consulted. In the ChAFTA Myths versus realities document, it tackles untrained Chinese electrician worries, but it doesn’t mention doing away with the mandatory skills assessments or mention the total amount of visa’s on offer. The ChAFTA agreement also enables an Executive arm of government power that goes against the parliament’s 457 visa bill in 2013, where employers, are expected to conduct labour market testing.

The Chinese government’s response to ChAFTA through correspondence with Mr Robb is clear – I have the further honour to confirm that my Government shares this understanding and that your letter and this letter in reply shall constitute an integral part of the Agreement. What any of this means in the long term, in regards to state and federal industrial laws remains to be seen. But it does look like an overreach by the Abbott government in regards to executive power, with the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, deciding matters without employer input, let alone employees, the opposition or workers. It also has the faint scent of Work Choices, an unpopular set of federal industrial laws brought about by former Prime Minister, John Howard in 2006. Taking the power away from workers, over employers in your own country is one thing but taking on China’s is another. The IFA seems to enable these features, and how this will impact on local employment in Australia, also remains to be seen.

Either which way, training needs to be involved, and concessions made solely by Mr Dutton, is not enough to allay justifiable fears from the Unions and Australian’s looking for jobs in the areas of – Food and Agribusiness; Resources and Energy; Transport; Telecommunications; Power supply and generation; Environment and the Tourism sectors. The other question is, if it’s just a matter of training Chinese workers in Australian regulations etc; who is providing this training and how long does it take? And lastly, is there options for Australian’s who have the skills but don’t speak Mandarin and so on?

This article was originally published on Mel’s blog Political Omniscience.

 

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The chilling reality of the TPP

The TPP was conceived in 2003 as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP) as a path to trade liberalisation in the Asia-Pacific. The original participating countries were Chile, New Zealand and Singapore with Brunei joining in 2005. In 2008 the United States of America (USA), Australia, Peru and Vietnam joined, followed on by Malaysia, Mexico, Canada and Japan. China and Korea have expressed interest but the USA did not bring it up when President Barrack Obama last visited the Chinese President Xi-Jinping in November 2014. This was puzzling to most as the USA has made so much of the TPP and it’s nervousness about China’s growing might economically and militarily.

Free Trade Agreements (FTA) deal mostly with goods being imported at a certain price as long as certain environmental and labour standards are met. What’s different about the TPP is that the treaty has 29 chapters, dealing with the whole scope of tariff and agricultural quota removal and market access on sensitive products, but in particular agricultural goods. It also includes provisions over nontariff issues such as intellectual property rights, the environment, state-owned enterprises, and investment. Japan was the last to join in 2013, and agriculture as well as the auto industry has long been a sticking point in Japanese trade liberalisation and held up the TPP negotiations with the USA. However recent agricultural reforms by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has tipped the power of balance back into the governments favour and away from Japan’s most powerful farm lobby, the Japan Agriculture Cooperative (JA). In January this year Japan offered to import more rice from the USA while keeping existing tariffs in place, and the USA agreed to stop demanding that Japan ease its car safety standards. In early February this year, progress was made on issues such as state-owned enterprises, environmental protection, and investment. This not only paves the way for greater market liberalisation and deregulation in Japanese agriculture but enables Mr Obama’s plan to “fast track” push for Congress approval to conclude the TPP within the year.

What is of the most concern is the provisions over not only the aforementioned non-tariff issues of intellectual property rights, the environment, state-owned enterprises, and investment but the Investor State Dispute Settlements provisions (ISDS). ISDS allows multinational corporations to sue governments if they’re deemed not to be acting in their best “interests”. It can potentially place limits on governments being able to develop their domestic laws and policies in areas such as public health, patents on medicine, the environment, food labeling, Internet use and privacy and even local media content. Australia for example is currently entrenched in it’s first investor-state dispute since November 2011 with Philip Morris Asia, due to the introduction of the ‘Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011′ (TPPA). The laws were introduced by the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government, as a health measure but Philip Morris Asia amongst the many breaches, believes that it infringes their intellectual property. Previous Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Liberal National Party (LNP) governments have in the past only included ISDS in trade agreements with developing countries that don’t have investments in Australia and they weren’t included in the US-Australia FTA. American corporations are the most frequent users of ISDS and the “safeguard” clauses countries employ to protect themselves can and have been re-interpreted and over-turned through the arbitration process. Philip Morris International Inc in the Australian case for example is challenging the tobacco plain packaging legislation under the 1993 Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Hong Kong for the Promotion and Protection of Investments (Hong Kong Agreement) by using it’s Asian arm to circumnavigate them.

The former Gillard government also decided to ban the inclusion of ISDS in future trade agreements, they didn’t think that it harmed investment as did the Productivity Commission. Even where corporations do lose they have dragged governments through lengthy and expensive legal processes with dispute settlement cases being heard by tribunals of three private-sector lawyers whose decisions are beyond appeal. The tribunals tend to be more concerned with assessing potential damage to corporate investments over the protection of government or public interest. There are more than 500 of these disputes being launched globally and more than $3bn being paid by out governments, meaning taxpayers, to corporations under existing US trade and investment agreements alone.

Not only is there strategic litigation employed by corporations but there is a concept known as “regulatory chilling”, which is the alleged case with Philip Morris Asia suing Australia for example, they’re able to put pressure on other countries considering plain packaging regulations too. According to Dr Kyla Tienhaara: “The Australian government has suggested that Philip Morris is currently engaged in trying to achieve global regulatory chill through its case by basically showing other countries that might want to introduce plain packaging legislation ‘Look what we’re doing to Australia.’ This is actually working because countries are saying, ‘We’re going to wait to find out what happens with that case before we go ahead with our regulations.”

Lone Pine Resources filed a $250m lawsuit against the Canadian government when Quebec placed a moratorium in June 2011, which was expanded into 2012, banning drilling and fracking processes for oil and gas underneath the St. Lawrence River, until a strategic environmental evaluation was completed. “Based on the principle of precaution, the Quebec government’s response to the concerns of its population is appropriate and legitimate,” said Martine Châtelain, president of Eau secours! (Quebec based Coalition for a responsible management of water). “No companies should be allowed to sue a State when it implements sovereign measures to protect water and the common goods for the sake of our ecosystems and the health of our peoples,” Ms Châtelain added.

Again back in Canada, they are popular with these disputes unfortunately, is the case of Eli Lilly and Company, which is an American global pharmaceutical company (and it’s fifth biggest). They filed a $500m law suit against Canada for violating its obligations to foreign investors under the North American FTA for allowing its domestic courts to invalidate patents for two of its drugs. Canadian courts found that there was a lack of evidence supporting the drug’s alleged benefits.

According to Forbes in 2013 the biggest profit margins produced be USA corporations were in the Pharmaceuticals, Banks, Car makers, Oil and Gas makers and Media industries. In 2013, US Pharmaceutical Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, made 42% profit margin. As one industry veteran put it: “I wouldn’t be able to justify [those kinds of margins].” In the UK that year, there was widespread anger when the industry regulator predicted energy companies’ profit margins would grow from 4% to 8% for the year. Last year, five pharmaceutical companies made a profit margin of 20% or more, these were – Pfizer, Hoffmann-La Roche, AbbVie, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Eli Lilly.

The problem isn’t just with the massive amounts of seeming profiteering but the fact that the drug companies spend far more on marketing drugs, in some cases twice as much, than on developing them. Johnson & Johnson (US) total revenue for 2013 was $71.3bn with a profit of 13.8%, it only spent 8.2% on research and development, yet 17.5% was spent on sales and marketing. Drug patents are usually awarded for 20 years, but 10-12 of those years are spent developing it at a cost of up to $2.5bn, leaving eight to ten years to make money before the formula can be taken up by generic drug companies. Once this happens, sales fall by 90%-plus. Joshua Owide, director of healthcare industry dynamics at research company GlobalData, explains, “Unlike other sectors, brand loyalty goes out the window when patents expire.” This is why pharmaceutical companies go to such extraordinary lengths to extend their patents, a process known as “evergreening”, employing “floors full of lawyers” for this express purpose, one industry insider has said. And with a drug raking in $3bn a quarter, even a one month extension can be worth a lot of money. Some drug companies, including the UK’s GSK, have been accused of more underhand tactics, such as paying generics to delay the release of their cheaper alternatives. This is a win for both industries, as it has been said that the loss of the big pharmaceuticals far outweighs the generic industries revenue.

What can all of this mean potentially for my native country Australia and more so in my current home state of New South Wales (NSW)? NSW regulations that prevent coal seam gas (CSG) recovery near residential areas could be subject to law suits if the TPP goes ahead with these murky investor-state dispute settlement provisions. If it affects their profit margin you can be assured that a law suit will eventuate as will tricks from corporate lawyers trained in this specific area. Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb has assurances of a deal being finally struck within weeks. “Mid-February to mid-March: that’ll be, I think, the timeframe,” he said. “We might have to come back again to conclude some things, but that’s the intent. The final issues, as always, are the most difficult. But everyone seems to be in a mood to find some common ground so that we can get this major, major agreement off the ground.”

The current Australian government has an appetite for signing FTAS as seeming proof of their economic prowess. The TPP has been years in the making and fraught with difficult negotiations especially in regards to the ISDS provisions that could impact on us really hard, and we have barely even touched on them. The secrecy in an Australian political environment, let alone with a disillusioned public, couldn’t come at a worse enough time. I would think now is the time for the Opposition, Independents and the Senate to come together and put the public’s interests first and put it first every time, no matter the high level of Investment interest in our country. It is apparent that the current government wants to dismantle our Medicare and even introduce a medical tax. Can you imagine what could be in store for us if we allow multinational corporations or investors with trade ministers, not governments mind you, to ultimately decide our economies, laws and policies? I will leave you with the global spend on medicines projected to be worth up to $1.2 trillion for the year 2017.

This article was first published as ‘We can not allow the TPP with no transparency & clauses to sue us‘ on Mel’s bog, Political Omniscience.

 

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It’s all about the jobs, bout the jobs, no trouble

Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have been at pains to tell us it’s all about “jobs and growth”. Now that we have “a number” the economies of the world will be saved. But how do we intend to reach this magical figure of “2% growth above what is expected”?

The government’s action plan has listed five “key commitments” to underpin its pledge.

The first key commitment to expanding economic activity is infrastructure spending, including its “asset recycling initiative” – encouraging state governments to privatise assets and then plough the proceeds into new projects.

Considering we are selling the profitable Medibank Private to invest in railways for dubious Indian coal mining ventures, this seems an avenue to privatising profits and socialising losses. No doubt some Liberal Party donors will do well out of it.

“Employment welfare reforms” is ranked as the No 2 commitment, and notes that the changes will “strengthen participation and activation strategies”.

By cutting payments entirely to some unemployed and requiring jobseekers to search for more jobs to qualify for payments, the government argues it will spur the unemployed to look for work rather than live on welfare, thereby boosting economic activity.

But that boost can only come if there are jobs for the unemployed to get and there seems little in the way of a plan to create jobs beyond “axe the tax” and “build some roads”.

Anglicare Australia commissioned a report called “Beyond Supply and Demand” which rubbished the Abbott government’s treatment of the long-term unemployed, calling for a “life first” rather than a “work first” approach to end joblessness.

Anglicare executive director Roland Manderson said

“It’s a problem if the public debate hinges on an assumption that people can just try harder and get work, that’s not true. What is true is that people can get work and develop really great work but you need to put that investment in at the front end. The problem with the ‘earn or learn’ (budget measure) is it makes the assumption that any training will do the trick. It’s disempowering to train people who might find work for a short time, but then are out of work again because they haven’t worked through their life barriers.”

Labor assistant treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh said cuts to welfare payments such as the unemployment benefit, family tax benefits and the pension would act to suppress economic growth.

“If you produce a budget that reduces the income of the poor, it has an impact on consumer demand because they spend everything they’ve got,” he said. “That will detract from economic growth.”

The other key commitments are “cutting red tape”, “contributing to global trade liberalisation” and “creating self-reliant industries”.

If one thing came out of the many millions spent on inquiries into the Home Insulation Program, it was to underline the dangers of “cutting red tape” and oversight.

The most obvious result of this commitment is to fast track development and mining approvals without regard to environmental impacts, and to remove rights of appeal.

The detail of the China Free Trade Agreement, or Memorandum of Understanding to be more accurate, is yet to be released so it is difficult to assess its impact but one concession we made was to allow Chinese companies to bring in their own workers. I’m not sure how selling our assets to foreign companies who send their profits back home and who employ foreign workers will actually boost our economy.

Andrew Robb also admitted that Treasury has not done modelling on the overall impact of this agreement and he does not know how it will affect our balance of trade.

The commitment to “create self-reliant industries” seems to fly in the face of Abbott’s staunch resistance to reducing fossil fuel subsidies. And how does Newman’s Galilee railway and Hunt’s Emissions Reduction Fund fit into that plan?

As was forcibly pointed out over the weekend, renewable energy is an industry of the future, but rather than taking advantage of the billions available for investment in this area, Abbott seems determined to kill off this industry and the tens of thousands of jobs that go with it, presumably because it offers competition to those humanitarian coal producers and users.

Which seems strange as the Coalition’s plan for more jobs is based on improving productivity and competitiveness.

Across the globe, mining productivity has declined by 20 per cent over the past seven years, despite the push for increased output, and declining market conditions.

Efficiency in the Australian mining industry has received a stern rebuke from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), rated as one of the least productive regions in the world.

The damning report ‘Mining for Efficiency’ states that Australia is the second least productive mining region in the world, with Africa taking the wooden spoon, and North America beating Australia on all classes of equipment.

The report claims there is an inherent conflict between the productivity plans of the mining boom which were based on increased volumes, and plans based on cost reduction which are now coming to the fore of business strategy.

Despite claims by industry lobby groups that high wages in Australia will impact on our competitiveness, results actually show “significant divergences” between mines in close proximity chasing the same minerals under the same industrial relations conditions.

Equipment and the way it is used is a key focus of the report, which shows that productivity differences between the best and worst performing mines are stark, with some of the best practice outputs coming in at more than 100 per cent greater than the median performers.

“The popular tagline of the mining sector is that the miners are serious about productivity,” PwC states.

“We suggest that most are reducing costs and increasing volumes but there are precious few with legitimate claims to improving core productivity in their open cut operations.”

Comments in the report echoed the new fashion for cost reduction employed by the major miners who continue to sell off ‘non-core’ assets, such as BHP Billiton had done earlier this year with Nickelwest operations.

“Miners are banking the first available dividend, selling or segregating mines deemed too hard to fix and tempering expectations of further productivity gains by citing a combination of labour laws, high costs, regulatory hold ups and mine configuration constraints,” Lumley said.

And then this morning, we are hit with the news that the axe has fallen again at Australia’s research agency, the CSIRO, with another 75 researchers retrenched across the organisation’s future manufacturing, agriculture and digital productivity programs.

All three affected areas belong to the CSIRO’s flagship “impact science” division, set up in 2003, which aims to partner with universities and the private sector to bring “large scale and mission directed science” to bear on major national priorities.

Future manufacturing research will be hardest hit, losing up to 45 full-time positions, including in advanced fibres, biomedical manufacturing and high-performance metals.

Among the work to which future manufacturing research scientists have contributed is state-of-the-art ceramic body armour for Australian soldiers, the southern hemisphere’s first Arcam additive manufacturing facility, which enables 3D printing of metals, and a spray-on topcoat for aircraft.

But this shouldn’t surprise us from a government who thinks coal is the industry of the future and a Treasurer who thinks that climate change is “absolutely not” an impediment to economic growth

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Trust, transparency and accountability or gimme gimme gimme?

Buoyed by their success at the 2013 election, the Abbott government has wasted no time in using their power to feather their own nest and to promote, reward and employ their backers. Whilst all governments do this to a degree, Abbott has taken it to a whole new level of blatant nepotism and servitude to his masters at the expense of the public interest.

On the 9th of September 2013, before the count was even finalised, Julie Bishop flexed her muscles by her petty and vindictive decision to revoke the appointment of Steve Bracks as consul-general in New York. He had been appointed in May, long before the caretaker period, and was due to start that week.

It’s not as if Ms Bishop had a better person in mind. The position remained vacant for six months until it was gifted to Nick Minchin, the man who gave Tony Abbott leadership of the Liberal Party in return for his conversion to climate change denial.

And she didn’t stop there. Despite having 18 months of his term left, Mike Rann was booted from the position of High Commissioner to the UK to make way for Alexander Downer. This is the man who, under the guise of providing foreign aid, authorised the bugging of the cabinet offices of the East Timor parliament to further the commercial interest of Woodside Petroleum who coincidentally employed him after he left politics.

Rather than investigate this matter, which is before the International Court of Justice, George Brandis authorised raids to steal the evidence and cancelled the passport of the prime witness.

Brandis also hit the ground running to look after his mates. So appalled was he by the conviction of Andrew Bolt, he immediately set about changing the laws to protect the rights of bigots. To champion the cause, he made the inexplicable decision to sack the Human Rights Commissioner for the Disabled, Graeme Innes, and appoint the IPA’s Tim Wilson (without advertising, application, interview, relevant qualifications or experience), to fight for the repeal of Section 18c of the racial discrimination laws,

After a huge backlash from the public, Brandis was directed to drop his crusade, and there sits Tim Wilson, drawing a salary of $400,000 including perks, with nothing to do.

Mr Wilson’s appointment followed Senator Brandis’ announcement that he had chosen former Howard government minister David Kemp – the son of IPA founder Charles Kemp – to chair the advisory council of Old Parliament House. This position had been given to Barrie Cassidy but Brandis forced him to resign. Along with Kemp, two others were appointed: Heather Henderson, the only daughter of Liberal Party founder Sir Robert Menzies; and Sir David Smith, whose place in history was assured on November 11, 1975, on the steps of Old Parliament House, when as official secretary to governor-general Sir John Kerr he was required to read out the proclamation sacking the Whitlam government.

Brandis, as Minister for the Arts, also appointed Gerard Henderson as chairman of the judging panel for the nonfiction and history category of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, Australia’s richest book prize.

Tony Abbott only took a few hours to begin his Night of the Long Knives. The swearing-in ceremony had barely finished when the Prime Minister’s office issued a press release, announcing three departmental secretaries had had their contracts terminated and the Treasury Secretary would stand down next year.

The head of Infrastructure Australia also quit or was sacked for his criticism of the government’s interference with the independence of his organisation. The head of the NBN, along with the entire board, were also replaced.

All funding for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples was withdrawn. Countless charities and advisory groups have been defunded.

Climate change and renewable energy bodies have been under constant attack with many disbanded and the rest hanging on temporarily by the grace of the Senate.

To replace all these experienced experts, we have seen an astonishing array of people appointed to high-paying positions as advisers, reviewers, commissioners, consultants, board members, envoys –

Maurice Newman, head of Tony Abbott’s 12-member Business Advisory Council, aged 76, a former head of the stock exchange and the ABC and a founder of another of the right-wing think tanks, the Centre for Independent Studies. Climate sceptic.

Dick Warburton, 72, the former chairman of the petrochemical company Caltex, among other corporate affiliations. Appointed to review Australia’s 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target (RET). Climate sceptic. Also appointed was Brian Fisher. Climate modelling done by his firm has been presented to the review panel by the oil and gas sector, as part of its campaign against the RET.

Tony Shepherd, former head of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), aged 69. Appointed to head the Commission of Audit. Climate sceptic. Former Liberal senator Amanda Vanstone and Liberal staffer and Chicago-school economist Peter Boxall were on the commission’s panel. Peter Crone, director of policy at the BCA, was head of the secretariat.

David Murray, 65, the former CEO of the Commonwealth Bank, appointed head of the government’s Financial System Inquiry. Climate sceptic.

Henry Ergas, 62, regulatory economist and columnist for the Australian. Appointed to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s “expert panel” to assess the costs and benefits of Turnbull’s “copper magic” NBN-lite. Climate sceptic who recently made a video with Christopher Monckton.

Kevin Donnelly, the IPA-aligned former chief-of-staff to Kevin Andrews and champion of corporal punishment. Appointed to review the National Curriculum. He then appointed Barry Spurr, author of racist sexist ranting emails, to advise on the literature curriculum.

Warren Mundine, son-in-law of Gerard Henderson. Appointed to advise on Indigenous affairs. Has set up a nice new office, 10km away from his department.

Jim Molan, retired general and author of the tow-back policy. Appointed as Special Envoy to fix the asylum seeker problem and to advise on the defence white paper, a position he quit after three weeks citing differences with the Defence Minister.

Janet Albrechtsen, columnist for the Australian, and Neil Brown, former deputy Liberal Party leader. Appointed to the panel overseeing appointments to the boards of the ABC and SBS.

It seems the pool of “experts” nowadays is confined to the IPA, the Australian, the Business Council, and the Howard government, and climate change scepticism is an essential criterion.

Aside from jobs for the boys (and a couple of girls who think feminism is a dirty word), we have also seen the blatant promotion of the coal industry with fast-tracking of approvals. We have seen the repeal of gambling reform laws. We have seen the delay and watering down of food and alcohol labelling laws. We are seeing an attack on the minimum wage and penalty rates. All of these measures are against the best interests of the people and purely designed to reward business donors.

Our Prime Minister personally introduces James Packer to international government and business leaders around the world to promote his quest to build more casinos. This is despite the fact that his company, Crown, has been implicated in bribery to a Chinese official.

In a recent report, the OECD was scathing of Australia’s record, pointing out that Australia “has only one case that has led to foreign bribery prosecutions, out of 28 foreign bribery referrals received by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) … this is of serious concern”.

One of the 28 cases referred to the AFP related to two properties in Chinese Macau part owned by James Packer’s company, Crown.

A former Macau official is currently serving a 289-year sentence for accepting bribes of up to $100 million, with various suspect projects named, including the casinos.

The OECD report notes Australian police did not launch a domestic investigation into any possibility of Crown’s involvement.

In another scandal, former Leighton Holdings construction boss Wal King has denied all knowledge of a $42 million bribe Leighton is accused of having paid in Iraq. Leighton Holdings continue to be awarded lucrative government contracts.

Another of the 28 cases referred to by the OECD relates to payments made by BHP Billiton in China. They note that, unlike Australia, the US has launched two investigations into BHP Billiton

The OECD’s lead examiners expressed concern that the “AFP may have closed foreign bribery cases before thoroughly investigating the allegations”.

The only foreign bribery investigation that has resulted in prosecutions in Australia is the highly publicised case involving the Reserve Bank subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia over which, interestingly, Dick Warburton has been investigated as a former director of Note Printing Australia.

One must wonder about a police force that can spend hundreds of thousands investigating and prosecuting Peter Slipper over $900 worth of cab charges, that can mobilise over 800 police to conduct raids leading to the arrest of one teenager who got a phone call from a bad person and the confiscation of a plastic sword, but who refuse to investigate widespread corruption in industry.

And every day it gets just a little bit worse.

A Sydney restaurant owned by Tourism Minister Andrew Robb and his family is being promoted by a government-funded $40 million, 18-month Tourism Australia campaign that targets 17 key global markets to sell the Australian “foodie” experience to the world.

The Robb family restaurant, Boathouse Palm Beach, is showcased on Tourism Australia’s “Restaurant Australia” website, which was launched in May, as the “ultimate day trip destination” just an hour from Sydney and the “perfect place for a relaxed family outing”.

Perhaps Tony Abbott’s daughters earned their job at the UN and $60,000 scholarship. Perhaps the contract to BMW had nothing to do with them giving an Abbott girl a gig. We will never know.

This is only a sample of how the ruling class are using our nation as their personal plaything, of how they openly flaunt convention and even the law, of how they silence dissent and promote their agenda, of how they bestow rewards.

Until this abuse of power is curtailed, politicians will rightly be reviled as the least trustworthy people in the country.

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Do ya do ya do ya really care?

I make this pledge to you the Australian people.

I will govern for all Australians.

I want to lift everyone’s standard of living.

I want to see wages and benefits rise in line with a growing economy.

I want to see our hospitals and schools improving as we invest the proceeds of a well-run economy into the things that really count.

I won’t let you down.

This is my pledge to you.

-Tony Abbott campaign launch speech, August 25 2013

Nice words but let’s face it – the Abbott government doesn’t give a shit about you. The evidence is overwhelming.

With one in seven Australians living in poverty, we have a Prime Minister who spends hundreds of billions on defence, security, and buying armaments. We have a Prime Minister who is so stage-managed he refuses to face the electorate on Q&A.

Our Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs has overseen the slashing of funding and the abolition of many successful initiatives that were working towards supporting our Indigenous people and closing the gap. But we have truancy officers aplenty, even if most of them are working for the dole.

We have a treasurer who feels those on welfare, the ‘leaners’, should be the ones to clear the country of debt. His justification for this is that he must cut spending and poor families get more money from the government than the rich, whilst steadfastly refusing to consider raising revenue by cracking down on tax avoidance.

He tells the world that our economy is in good shape while whipping up hysteria here about a non-existent emergency.

After coming to power on the promise of reducing the debt, Hockey has been borrowing so fast the net debt has increased from $178.10 billion when he took over to $217.55 billion at the end of August. PEFO numbers had net debt peaking at $219bn (12.7% of GDP) in 2015/16. The gross debt has risen from $290 billion to $345.035 billion – that’s extra borrowing of about one billion a week.

We have an education minister who has reneged on funding reform for schools, wants to make tertiary courses unaffordable, has closed down trades training centres, has insulted teachers, wasted money on a pointless review, and wants to rewrite history as a Christian crusade.

We have a health minister who is busily unwinding universal healthcare and preventative health agencies and who wants to discourage the poor from seeing a doctor.

On one hand we are warned about the alarming increase in obesity and diabetes, on the other we have the assistant minister for health, at the behest of her junk food lobbyist chief of staff, taking down a healthy food website.

Senator Nash insisted the health star site be pulled down a day after it was published in Febuary on the grounds it was published in error, despite freedom of information documents showing the minister was warned it would be published, and the states committing to spend $11 million on it.

In June, a watered down version of the site was reinstated, with the voluntary introduction period extended to five years from two and companies allowed to use the star ratings in conjunction with the industry’s daily intake guide. They also decided to continue voluntary pregnancy warning labels on alcohol, despite poor uptake by mixed drinks and so-called alcopops. Michael Thorn, the chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education, said it was “disgraceful” and put “booze before babies”.

“The alcohol industry will be celebrating that they have been able to successfully avoid introducing a warning label on their products for almost two decades,” he said.

One of the first steps of the minister for social services, Kevin Andrews, was to wind back gambling reform laws despite recommendations made by the Productivity Commission in its 2010 report into Australia’s gambling industry and the Victorian coroner’s report linking 128 suicides in that state directly to gambling..

This is the man who, along with our employment minister (he of breast cancer/abortion link fame), wants to see young unemployed without any income for 6 months of the year, and for the disabled to get out there and get one of those thousands of jobs that are just waiting for them if only they weren’t such bludgers. He also wants to lower the indexation rate of pensions which will cause the gap in standard of living to widen. All this while cutting $44 million from the capital works program of the National Partnership on Homelessness.

We have an environment minister who wants to cut down Tasmanian old growth forests and expand coal ports and dump sediment on the reef. He has wound back environmental protection laws and the right to appeal and gone on a spree of approving record amounts of fossil fuel production. At the same time, he has overseen the destruction of the renewable energy industry. They don’t even send him to world conferences on climate change because, after all, what could he say other than sorry.

Not content with these overt attacks on the environment, the government has quietly initiated a low key, unscheduled review into Australia’s national appliance energy efficiency standards. The only formal explanation offered to date is in the Energy “Anti-” Green Paper, which refers to “opportunities to reduce the red-tape burden on businesses”.

At least they were honest when our communications minister was appointed to “destroy the NBN” and he has done a damn fine job of it. Despite Tony Abbott’s election speech claim that within 100 days “the NBN will have a new business plan to ensure that every household gains five times current broadband speeds – within three years and without digging up almost every street in Australia – for $60 billion less than Labor,” the truth has emerged.

We will be left with a sub-optimal network, a mishmash of technologies, at a time when the world is increasingly going fibre. It will end up taking nearly as long and costing nearly as much as the all-fibre network it is replacing. The industry – and many around Turnbull – is increasingly realising this. But Turnbull will not budge.

Australia is the loser – all because of one man’s pride.

Scott Morrison, our immigration minister, is about as welcoming as a firing squad. He is like Hymie from Get Smart in his robotic determination to stop the boats at any cost. That goal apparently absolves him from any form of scrutiny, criticism, or human decency. He has a blank cheque and not one cent of it will be used to help refugees.

Despite our growing unemployment, he is also front and centre in providing Gina with her 457 visa workers – no rights, no entitlements, and if they complain they get deported.

Our minister for trade is working in secret, getting signatures on free trade agreements at any cost – it’s the announcement before the end of the year that’s important, not pesky details about tariffs and the fact that we no longer have the right to make our own laws without getting sued by global corporations.

Our attorney-general, the highest legal appointment in the land, thinks defending bigots is a priority. When faced with illegal actions by the government, steal the evidence, threaten journalists with gaol time and funding cuts, and introduce laws which remove official accountability. And while you’re at it, let’s bug the entire nation and make people prove themselves innocent. Even if they haven’t done anything wrong I am sure they have had evil thoughts.

Barnaby was last seen trying to hasten the demise of a few endangered species that are standing in the way of his dams.

Warren Truss is run off his feet planning roads, roads and more roads. Luckily they dumped that idea about releasing cost benefit analyses for any expenditure over $100 million. Thank god we got rid of that pesky head of Infrastructure Australia so we could get someone who understands our idea of what ‘independent body’ means. If the people want public transport they can build it themselves.

And how’s our girl doing? She’s looking tired to me. Making a case for a seat on the Human Rights Council whilst torturing refugees, or being sent in to bat at the world leaders’ conference on climate changed armed with nothing other than a rain forest conference, must shake even asbestos Julie’s steely resolve. The Armani suits and death stare can only get you so far. When in doubt, flirt.

I know you would like a mention Jamie Briggs but for the life of me, the only thing that comes to mind is your fawning introductions for our ‘Infrastructure Prime Minister’….

”To introduce our Tony, is what I’m here to do, and it really makes me happy to introduce to you…the indescribable, the incompatible, the unadorable….. Prrrriiiiimmme Minister!”

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Playing Political Football with the Economy

Usually in an election campaign the leader of the party makes individual policy announcements and is supported by the relative minister. In the 2010 campaign Tony Abbott (as if to confirm Costello’s opinion of him as an economics illiterate) shirked the presentation of his party’s economic policy and hand balled it to Joe Hockey. Now Joe wasn’t up to the task making a complete balls-up of presentation so he in turn hand balled to Andrew Robb. He decided to give the assembled press an economics lesson and in doing so confused both himself and the press. Watching it on television was excruciating and that cringe factor came over me. You know the feeling one gets when you watch someone making a fool of themselves without knowing it. Andrew did such an appalling job that he had party advisers giving him wind up signals from the back of the room.

As if to make matters worse they then neatly side stepped treasury and had their policies costed by some fifth tier accountancy firm in WA. It in turn was a balls up of monumental proportions and a black hole of even greater proportions was picked up. They were later fined for their incompetency.

All this brings me to Joe Hockey’s latest announcement that he intends to again side step the Treasury Department because in his words ‘he cannot trust them.’ Instead he says he will use a variety of outside sources (all assuredly sympathetic to his parties world view of economics) to cost his parties policies. This is of course totality unprecedented and raises questions of ‘’what is he trying to hide?’’ And if he cannot trust them now, how would he do so in government.

As we say in Australia. It all sounds a bit sus. I mean it was their own economics champion who founded this “Charter of Budget Honesty” so why won’t he play by the rules?

Is he seriously saying that the Coalition will not recognise the Treasury Finance statement, PEFO?

In other words, he is preparing to reject the statement from the only authorities that have possession of the facts. It is a rejection of the umpire’s call. He seems to be running away from the rules the Coalition instigated itself. That being the disclosure of honest national policy costings and budgeting.

One cannot help but think that this is a deliberate attempt to muddy the policy waters. He is seeking to reject the department’s figures so as to allow him the flexibility to make things up as he goes without scrutiny. In other words he is asking the public to trust the people he anoints to cost his policies and reject the official body that has all the facts at its disposal and is giving the same advice to both parties.

Two months ago, Hockey said: “We have always said that the only numbers we can actually rely on are the numbers released by the secretary of the Department of the Treasury and Finance, 10 days into the election campaign. Because they belong to the public servants rather than these numbers which belong to the government.”

Sorry but Joe is simply not credible. We should be demanding that Mr Abbott deliver his party’s economic policy and that Mr Hockey stand beside him with properly documented and costed policies according to the charter of honesty that his party introduced. And I might add in plenty of time for the electorate to digest it.

There is really no excuse. The Government is expected to release an economic statement late this week and it will be backed up by the PEFO report 10 days into the campaign. Common Joe give us the truth. It does matter.

Otherwise it’s all a bit sus.

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