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Tag Archives: Anthony Albanese

Labor’s “brave” review fails to upstage Morrison’s incompetence.

Were politics reset in keeping with the times, the parties would concede that it is not a contest between social democracy and a capitalist free-for-all, or “the light on the hill” and “the forgotten people”, or even conservatives and progressives, but one in which the ghosts of organisations that once had some claim to represent these passions compete to prove themselves the superior financial managers. Don Watson

Attack of the Labor Zombies: “Review of Labor’s 2019 Election Campaign”, the ritual killing of Bill Shorten by hungry ghosts, premiers nationally, this week, six months after Bill’s political death, a fate which the commentariat is still finalising for him despite his promising to “hang around” for another twenty years.

Karen Middleton scoffs at Shorten’s pledge. “He’ll be in his seventies”, she sighs, on ABC Insiders Sunday. Bill will be 72. Four years younger than Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren’s 70. Billy Hughes served for 51 years; died at 90 before he could get around to thinking about retiring. But it’s not about age.

It’s … the chutzpah. “He’s got to win all those elections.” Shorten won almost a five per cent (4.99%) swing to Labor in his Victorian seat of Maribyrnong, last election. Next, he’s at fault for making his twenty-year pledge before the review comes out to help others decide his future for him.

How very dare he get in first?

MSM is consumed by the review; the review of the review and any excuse at all to kick Bill Shorten.

Kill Bill has become a national sport since Tony Abbott contrived to make “Bill Shorten” a pejorative term, a project taken up shamelessly by Malcolm Turnbull and with glee by bully Morrison.

Interviews with Morrison normalise his bullying, as Dr Jennifer Wilson argues, in analysis of the PM’s manic scattergun barrage of bullshit to cover his running away from the question guerrilla tactics.

Julia Banks quit parliament after only a term because of the level of bullying during the leadership spill.

What’s even more alarming is the subtext that Morrison, miraculously, got everything right. Scapegoats help with that. It’s a by-product of reducing party politics to the popularity of the leader, part of our brave new age of populist personality politics where policy and reasoned argument count less than spin and image. And Morrison’s fevered hyper-partisanship makes Tony Abbott look like a peace-maker.

Albo offers to accompany Morrison to NSW bushfire areas, he tells Fran Kelly, Sunday. His offer is brushed aside. Something about not getting in the way of “the rescue effort”. Later media images show Morrison, alone, comforting victims, as he did with his drought series of visits, grandstanding on grief.

But Labor doesn’t seem to have got the memo that there’s a war on. Blending psychic surgery with forensic post-mortem, Labor eviscerates itself for a ritual cleansing. Bares its soul. And then some. The Review … is an unparalleled, almost naive act of faith. No wonder it gets everyone’s attention.

But why? Is this orgy of over-sharing prompted by some rush of utopian socialism which only true believers can call into being? Or is it folly? It’s unique, says ABC’s Laura Tingle, her take on “brave”.

“That’s very brave of you, minister. An extremely courageous decision,” as Mr Appleby would say.

Yet Labor’s purpose, beside officially defining what went wrong, is to draw a line under its defeat.

Fat chance. Just because closure is a tabloid TV victim’s top buzz-word doesn’t make it achievable. Somehow, there’s something for everybody because, you know, Labor lost. By Sunday’s ABC Insiders, a  narrow loss morphs into a rout. Labor can’t even pass its own post-mortem exam, Fran Kelly implies.

It’s not easy. Former Keating speech-writer, Don Watson, notes that Labor’s changing constituency increasingly includes service-sector employees, lower-level managers and healthcare workers, as the middle class itself is changing. Labor’s review even detects an influx of woke, affluent, graduates in Southern states, whom, it contends can afford the luxury of idealism. It’s a dangerous hypothesis.

“Since university graduates, on average, earn higher incomes and have more secure jobs than those without tertiary qualifications, they are more readily able to think about issues such as climate change, refugees, marriage equality and the rights of the LGBTQI+ community.”

But a few rich grads didn’t win Labor any seats, Emerson and Wetherill are quick to note. And if your idealism or concern for justice and the survival of the planet is in proportion to your wealth, heaven help the rest of us. Paul Keating reckons Labor lost because it failed to understand the “new middle-class”.

New? Watson sees a class with no ideology nor even consciousness of itself as a class. Being new it has “no roots beyond its self-interest”. He hopes Morrison hasn’t already press-ganged it into Quiet Australians, another bogus, Silent Majority.

But who needs analysis? Nuance is banished from our national conversation. Labor’s review simply has to make Bill the villain. You can’t trust Bill Shorten. It’s the old Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison melodrama.

News Corp prefers a shifty, shorthand, “dud leader, dud policies, dud strategy”, summation which bears no resemblance to the subtler findings published by Dr Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill who chair Labor’s inquiry. But given Murdoch’s stranglehold over our media, it will soon become gospel truth.

Paul Kelly, The Australian’s editor at large, wilfully misrepresents the report.  Eagerly, he invents a turf war. Two Labor constituencies are at war with each other. Father Kelly fears for Labor  – a fear which Fran Kelly and others put to Albo. How can Labor possibly bridge the gap between blue-collar and gown?

“The Labor Party now resembles two rival constituencies fighting each other — their origins embedded in the party’s past and its ­future — a conflict that extinguished Labor’s hopes at the May election and a chasm that nobody knows how to bridge,” Kelly fantasises. But it’s never had any trouble in the past.

Rupert’s troupers can’t labour Labor’s factionalism enough. It diverts from Coalition disunity. All is not well, for example, in Cockies’ Corner. Nationals Deputy Leader and Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, “couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery” one MP tells ABC’s, Lucy Barbour.

McKenzie is under pressure to perform; step up to the plate or step aside. Pauline Hanson’s taken all the credit for saving the dairy farmers and the PM seems to own drought the relief compassion show.

Barnaby Joyce is still agitating for promotion despite spending $675,000 for only three weeks in the field and not providing any reports as special drought envoy. But as media keep the focus on Shorten’s failure and the myth of Labor’s imminent descent into civil war, the Morrison miracle spin gets a further tweak.

(By the magic of implication, the current struggle between Nats and Libs – witness the spat over who owns the theatre of drought relief, or the Liberals capture by climate change denialists – means the Coalition with its three Prime Ministers in six years, rivals The Mormon Tabernacle Choir for harmony.)

Not the Puritan Choir, that’s another, evangelical, faction led by Mr Probity, Stuart Robert, architect of the Turnbull assassination plot. But all is forgiven. He’s repaid $37,975, only $8000 shy of what he had previously claimed as ‘residential internet expenses’.  Streaming Christian TV from home is not cheap.

Be fair. Stu’s wife, Peoples’ Pastor Chantelle, can’t run her Pentecostal online evangelism without a decent broadband connection. Robert also says he’s returned a brace of gold Rolex watches, he and his wife – and other Coalition MPs received in 2013 from Chinese instant noodle billionaire Li Ruipeng.

Robert, Abbott and Macfarlane thought the $250,000 worth of watches were fakes, they say. As you do, whenever any oligarch tenders a token of his esteem in expectation of a return favour. Or perhaps not.

Or perhaps you do – if you’re an Australian MP seeking favour. Robert resigned from Turnbull’s ministry when he breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct on a business trip to China for Nimrod resources in which he somehow gave his Chinese hosts the false impression he was in China in an official capacity.

In 2017, Robert’s eighty-year-old father, Alan, discovers that he is a director of one of his son’s companies and that his son has used his Dad’s address on one of his businesses. Without telling him. The private company in question is doing rather well in winning government contracts, until then.

You won’t catch Robert or Morrison holding any public review. It’s against their religion. Look at the trouble Morrison’s mentor Brian Houston is having just complying with NSW police investigation. He’s refusing to answer questions about his father’s child abuse. The tactic seems to be working perfectly.

Frugal with the truth, lest Satan strike you whilst your guard is down, God’s hot-eyed warriors know when to keep stumm. Just as they know that God put coal underground for our blessing and just as they are happy to burn for mining while awaiting the rapture, believing they will be saved by their faith.

Thou shalt not fear fossil fuels preaches Pentecostal Pastor PD King in The Christian Post.

Yet Robert’s god-botherers and coal warriors are not symptoms of deep division in the Coalition. Nor are Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski, Katie Allen, Angie Bell and Trent Zimmerman who sign on to parliamentary friends of climate action, “a safe place away from partisan politics”, which has Greens, Labor and cross-bench supporters, only to snub their very first meeting 14 October.

But not all MSM scribes are bluffed. Do what Father Morrison does: walk both sides of the chasm at the same time. Granted, “Shut up and eat your peas, dad is talking” is Morrison’s leadership style, as The Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy astutely discerns, but don’t let a paternal despot pull the wool.

“… look at Morrison, who manages to walk every side of every street simultaneously and talk out of both sides of his mouth and suffer no apparent penalty.”

Murphy’s amused by Morrison’s hypocrisy in his illiberal lecture to the mining mafia last Friday week in which he threatens yet another new clampdown, (number 84 and counting) on the civil liberties of illiberal protesters who are exercising their right to boycott businesses who collude with coal-miners to extinguish the planet. She believes he just says this sort of stuff for effect and hopes nobody notices.

Also hypocritical is Morrison’s message that he’ll do everything for coal. Only a few days earlier, he makes a billion-dollar grant to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Abbott tried to close down the CEFC along with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), a move Turnbull reversed.

Morrison’s CEFC grant will help fund new transmission infrastructure to help clean energy access more of the national grid. Next, he agrees to help underwrite the main NSW-Queensland interconnector.

Murphy rightly asks why Morrison is able to shape-shift every day of the week but Labor is excoriated for selling out when it tries to straddle two constituencies. Worse, it must get a real leader, like ScoMo, the actor playing the daggy suburban Pentecostal dad with the Stepford wife, a man we can all identify with.

Shorten’s unpopularity has more to do with his crucifixion by News Corp and its lackeys including, sadly our ABC, than any political reality. Labor’s review concedes, however, that damage has been done.

Labor’s review sums up Labor’s loss as a combination “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” –  a verdict, writes ANU’s Frank Bongiorno “which belies the sophistication of the report as whole”.

But everyone in the gallery – from Michelle Grattan to Mark Latham – gets to twist the knife. It’s a massive pile-on; way more popular, than Melbourne’s Spring Carnival. Bagging Labor’s failings easily upstages the Melbourne Cup, the race that barely slows the nation, our increasingly anaemic, ritual national blood-sport. Besides schadenfreude is surely part of our tall poppy syndrome.

But like the curious incident of the dog in the night time, nowhere is there mention of News Corp.

“The Murdoch media didn’t merely favour the government over the opposition. It campaigned vigorously for the return of the Coalition. And it is a vast empire, with a monopoly through much of regional Queensland, for instance. It is hard not to see in the review’s silence on this matter a clearing of the way for a future kissing of the ring of the familiar kind.” Frank Bongiorno writes.

Everyone wants to wag the finger; tell Labor where it went wrong and by implication how Morrison’s miracle campaign was so inspired – when in reality it was almost totally negative; long on disinformation and attacking Shorten’s character – including the Daily Telegraph’s attack on his mother’s integrity.

A review of the Coalition campaign? Nasty, brutish and short on policy beyond the promise of tax cuts. The $1080 tax cut may have bought a few votes but it is proving a total failure as a fiscal stimulus.

The retail sector is in its third year of per capita recession. While Frydenberg and Morrison seek to explain it away by online sales, as Alan Austin notes, the ABS figures include online sales.

“Retail sales for the September quarter came to $82.6 billion, up just 2.48% on the same quarter a year ago. With inflation at 1.7% and population rising 1.6%, that is a decline in real terms relative to population. So the sector is now in its third year of per capita recession.”

Luckily Labor Zombies … is a sell-out performance, upstaging the government’s own show, “Geronticide! Hell ain’t a patch on the ways you will suffer in God’s Waiting Room; dying of abuse and neglect in our private aged care homes”, brilliantly scripted by commissioners Lynelle Briggs, AM, and Richard Tracey, AO, in their three-volume Interim Report into Aged Care …, “…a shocking tale of neglect”.

Everything’s apples with aged care with just a few rotten fruit spoiling everything. Besides, Morrison says there’ll be more funds by Christmas. He can’t say how little. No-one would expect his government to have been briefed so soon, given that it’s only Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison’s sixth year in government. Expect Santa Hunt and Morrison to stuff the announcement in a stocking late on Christmas Eve.

In the meantime, despite the commissioners’ finding that commodifying aged care is the core of the problem, the Coalition is proceeding with its plan to privatise the staff who do the assessments.

Amazing new efficiencies will follow; such as we’ve seen in the NDIS, where $1.6 billion is being saved by shunting disabled Australians on New Start instead. Private enterprise is a miracle of profit-driven efficiency. And care. No funds will be wasted on gratuitous compassion or humanity. Or spent in haste.

“We are six years into the rollout and we have heard of people waiting two years for a wheelchair, so it needs concerted attention,” says Kirsten Dean from disability advocate group Every Australian Counts.

Expect the reforms to raise the bar; reducing the number of our elderly folk who qualify for homecare “packages”, which are already very limited in scope and difficult to access even at their most basic level.

Above all, Labor Zombies … is a great diversion from the long list of latest revelations of wrong-doing by Morrison’s mob, especially the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) censure of the pork-barrel party coalition for its shonky award of funding under its $200 million regional jobs and investment packages.

Conceding it might have a bit to hide, a furtive, federal government chooses to release its ANAO report on Tuesday afternoon when it hopes all eyes and ears will be turned to the track at Flemington.

The ANAO is scathing about the Morrison government’s disregard for advice provided by bureaucrats. It is also unhappy with ways the Coalition chooses to ignore guidelines regarding merit and eligibility.

Untrained ministers took over the process, making decisions on their own, unaided by expert advice. No. Of course, they did not bother to take minutes. 64 of 232 applications were scrapped. A total of $75.9m in funding is declined. Yet $77.4m in requested grant funding is approved to 68 applicants, not on the departmental list. Over half the funding is pork forked out of the barrel.

While program guidelines require applicants to declare any perceived or existing conflicts of interest, or declare that they had no conflicts – “no action was taken to give effect to this element of the program guidelines”.

Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, is one definition of insanity. Yet, when the Coalition rolls out the pork barrel, this week, in yet another round of drought relief; a billion-dollar “suite of measures” to its backblock pals, as it grandiose handout, once again, to entice farmers to do more of the same, is there method in its madness? Or is it merely Groundhog Day again?

The groundhog factor cannot be ignored. Mugged by an Anthropocene reality; Morrison’s mob have no idea what to do. No policies; no plans. No future. They can only fall back on past practice. And buying votes. Along with nostalgia, the pork barrel is part of every Coalition MP’s mental furniture; it’s in its DNA.

And craving more of the same old, same old means it’s only natural to look backwards; unerringly repeat the same mistakes of the past.  Five years ago, then PM Tony Abbott, and his Minister for Agriculture and Water rorts, Barnaby Boondoggle Joyce, announced – a suite of measures offering financial, social and mental health support. Bingo!

But there is method or shrewd craftiness. Evading accountability for starters. Is there any area of public funding less scrutinised than drought relief? wonders Bernard Keane.

Australia would still have a car industry and 50,000 secure jobs for only a third of the amount that the Coalition is prepared to pony up for loans to farmers and small-businesses in drought-affected towns.

But imagine the outcry from News Corp and its claque if workers, or manufacturers, could borrow up to two million interest-free for two years; with no need to pay back the principal until the sixth year.

“Rural communities can’t function without these small businesses – that’s why we’re stepping in to provide this extra support,” Morrison says. But in its Abbott incarnation, the coalition government was perfectly happy to deny SPC Ardmona $25 million just five years ago?

Many workers and their families in other sectors would be glad of the support. Manufacturing, for example, lost 100,000 jobs, or a third of the entire agriculture workforce, in the year to August.

But extra support has limits. State schools won’t be eligible for $10m in new education funding announced in Thursday’s drought package, an “elitist and unfair” if not downright cruel decision.

Australian Education Union president, Correna Haythorpe, argues it’s “another slush fund for private schools” on top of the $1.2bn Choice and Affordability fund for Catholic and Independent schools, which Lenore Taylor reports also included money for drought-affected areas.

In its encore, Drought Relief 2.0 “Suite of measures” this week, Morrison’s travelling roadshow hopes, above all, that the hullabaloo will distract punters from its own Drought Response, Preparedness and Resilience a report which it commissioned from top brass Stephen Day, DSC, AM, the very model of a modern Major General and former Drought Co-ordinator-general.

Somehow it must keep us from the Light of Day.

Drought is not a natural disaster, it’s an enduring feature of the Australian landscape, reports Day. Yet instead of launching into the droughts and flooding plains of Dorothea McKellar’s My Country – and a staple of The Nationals’ MP interview press-kit, Day breaks with climate-denialist tradition.

“While droughts are normal for Australia, drought conditions are likely to become more frequent, severe and longer in some regions due to climate change.”

It’s plain as day that we’re responsible for the drought, with our love of coal-fired power stations, coal mines and our mania for land clearing. It’s a far less romantic notion than playing the hapless victim – Abbott’s “Shit Happens” philosophy, a helpless victim of natural disaster.

But accountability is apostasy, heresy even in the broad church of the Coalition Party Room and especially to the reality denial cabal in the driver’s seat, to say nothing of the God-made-coal-so-we-should-profit-from-his-divine-providence, Pentecostal push that has a hot-line to the current tenant in Kirribilli House.

 

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The Biggest Consequence of Marriage Equality

As a self confessed social media junkie and one who believes qualitative analysis is damn sexy; reading the marriage equality debate online across many forums has been like the moment Augustus Gloop saw Willy Wonka’s river of chocolate. Here is Augustus standing at the edge of this stream of endless deliciousness and excitement – the best thing he has seen in his life; and he is hungry for it. He wants to touch it, taste it and be part of it.  However, coming up from behind him is this eccentric and very strange man, (who mumbles many, many things that simply do not make sense and answers questions with more questions and never, ever gives a proper answer) screaming at him not to touch the river; not to contaminate his beautiful river or he will ruin it forever.

This is the parallel to the online marriage equality debate.  There are couples who are standing at the edge of the real prospect of marriage equality and yet there are those who are caps locking us to death, screaming at us with warnings of the contamination of society and ruining society and marriage forever.

The other parallel to this scene from this 1971 classic is that Augustus enjoyed for a brief moment in time, just a tiny taste of the river before he suddenly went down the tube and the pressure forced him up the pipe into oblivion (well, possibly the fudge room) to be never seen again.  Between December 7 – 12, 2013, couples could experience just a taste of marriage equality and couples were married under the new ACT law.  However, this suddenly went down the tube and forced up the pipe by the Christian lobby groups and the Abbott Government to the high court just a few days later, where it was blasted into oblivion and never seen again.

The other curious parallel to this scene is this eccentric suit wearing man calls to his little followers, the Oopma Loompas to lead Augustus’ mother up high to where Augustus possibly awaits certain death.  Wonka then calls after them “Goodbye! Across the desert lies the promised land.”  We can metaphorically link this to the “vast barren desert of no hope” Tony Abbott expects couples to cross before they will reach the promised land of marriage equality.

Interestingly, the Oompa Loompas remain silent and obey Wonka with a nodding of heads and then break into a song about actions and consequences.  How peculiar is the similarity to Abbott’s comment on the 12 December, 2013, when the high court overturned the ACT marriage equality laws.  Abbott’s comments were about risk in the action of taking the opportunity to marry and having to accept the consequences of this action.

Is this where the comparison ends? The moral of the entire story of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, is if you are honest, good, gracious and kind to others and put others before yourself; your reward will be to inherit a wonderful world to make your own and share with others.  Is it possible that Abbott will put his prejudice aside and allow a bill to pass which grants a pathway to a better world? Only time will tell.

The Biggest Consequence of Marriage Equality

The biggest consequence of marriage equality is that we will be able to understand our social fabric as a tightly knitted woven thread.  The consequence of not having marriage equality is that our social fabric will remain as one loosely sewn by those of privilege. This is where my primary concern for this debate lies – that we don’t know what this other inclusive world looks like or sounds like. My concern is there is something missing from the narrative in this country and that is ‘the world of married same-sex couples.’ By denying equality, by blatantly discriminating based on gender, we are not allowing our society to develop as a whole in collegiality. We are forcing pockets of silence and darkness upon an entire population of people in this country.  We are shutting doors and issuing confined space tickets to same sex couples.  We are not granting the space and privilege in society others enjoy.

We are not allowing this space in society  to understand marriage for all people. Marriage equality is also such an issue as the social and legal constructs of Australia, predominantly focus on hetero-sexual white (European) thought and many in society tend to view LGBTQIA as ‘outsiders’.  Society for the most part stigmatises LGBTQIA people and this is evidenced through existing derogatory language targeting this group, which is often viewed as acceptable ”Aussie slang.’  Extreme difficulties and targeting of people coming out are told in personal recounts, particularly in rural and regional communities 1. Our legal system also supports such a society.  This is evidenced by laws such as the homosexual provocation law still in existence in Australia today and the ongoing and uphill battle to ensure marriage equality for everyone.  It is also prefaced by the inability to understand fully the issues facing LGBTQIA relationships through lack of data available on this group. For example, one of my previous blog posts about single parents and welfare discusses the absence of data on single parents resulting from a same-sex marriage / unit breakdown.

Stigma is woven as part of our social fabric

As a member of a regional community, the research I have completed for this article, includes the harsh reality for LGBTQIA people living in regional, rural and remote communities. Depression, suicide, stigma and abuse are common themes, as is leaving their home town, family and friends to move to a larger, more understanding environment.  I contemplated what that would be like. I reflected on what it would feel like to be treated as ‘an other’ and feel not fully accepted in my community and alter my life, due to an inherent trait I cannot control. I reflected on what it would be like to feel forced to move away from my loved ones and family, so I could have a ‘stab’ at ‘normal.’

With stigma, society separates the ‘normals’ from the ‘other.’ In this instance it is gender and/or sexuality, which pockets of society choose as the inherent trait to separate as ‘the other’. However, imagine for a second, this inherent trait was blue eyes, or shoe size over size 7, or freckled skin.  Imagine being stigmatised, cast aside and unable to access the same rights of others because of your eye colour, shoe size or freckles.  These traits are beyond our control and if the examples I have chosen seem preposterous; the active choice to stigmatize any individual or group in society for an inherent trait is exactly that.

Some of the arguments within the marriage equality debate online use Christianity as an excuse to discriminate. Online they patronisingly deliver these judgements against others ‘with love.’ Where is it ever taught in the bible to fight with all your might to make people less equal than you? To make someone believe they are less worthy than you because you were born as a heterosexual? To cause people the pain and grief of stigma and ostracisation? Where does it say in the Bible to do that? If it does say any of these things, it is a seriously sick book that should be banned. Let people be happy and enjoy their lives. We only get one life. That is it. From this day forward no one should every feel alone, isolated, depressed or suicidal because they are attracted to someone of the same sex, or they feel they are two genders, or they aren’t sexually attracted to either sex, or they feel like they were born in the wrong body and want to change that. From this day, right now it needs to stop. Every day you judge, every day you stigmatise, cast aside another as lesser, you take away the joy, love and acceptance that they could be experiencing instead. If this is you. If you do this. Look in the mirror and say “What sort of person am I to do this to another?”

What sort of country are we choose to have a social fabric that is full of holes, instead of whole?

design ssm 2

I have hope that this new inclusive and holistic society is well on track to emerge. However, I do not believe it will be in the term of this Government or if this Government is returned to office.

On April, 26, 2015 Tanya Plibersek Deputy Leader of the Opposition of the Australian Labor Party announced that she would be pushing the Labor Party for a binding vote on Marriage Equality and ending the choice of a conscience vote for the party.  Plibersek’s argument is that Marriage Equality is a case for discrimination and the Labor Party is the Party opposed to discrimination.  On Monday 1st June, 2015, Bill Shorten, Opposition Leader introduced a bill to parliament which proposes to alter the Marriage Act to define marriage as between two people. Tanya Plibersek seconded the Bill.  The reason I do not believe that marriage equality will exist under the Abbott Government; is that his Government responded to this bill with contempt, through their silent boycott and absence from the chamber.  Every member of the Coalition Government purposely being absent during the reading of this bill, indicates a lack of support for marriage equality and their overwhelming attitude that marriage equality and the rights of LGBTQAI people are irrelevant and are not worthy of their time in Parliament.

Tanya Plibersek believes that the vote should be binding within the Labor Party.  As a member of the Labor Party; I fully support this.  I support this for the reason that it is discrimination.  I listened to Anthony Albanese (Albo) on ABC Qanda on 1 June and he indicated in his response we need to tolerate and respect the views of others to bring them along with us.   I question whether this is a necessary patience, or a subconscious accommodation for the class of people who understand discrimination well enough in other contexts; but not when it involves stamping out discrimination for something they fear.  The same class of people who use religion and/or prejudice as a shield to ward off progress.   As a progressive, I do not feel I need to respect groups or individuals who actively fight against progress and who uphold discrimination.

To me, asking me to respect people’s opinions against marriage equality, is like asking me to respect people who are for racism, ableism and sexism. I don’t respect that.  It is not a question of conscience. It is a question of enabling discrimination.

I look forward to a world, where I am not asked or expected to respect people who actively uphold discrimination and who stifle progress.

What are the arguments for marriage equality and discrimination?

Finally, I would like to end this article with research I have completed for an earlier 20103 blog post.  I want to re-post it here as I believe it supports Tanya Plibersek’s stance that the Marriage Act in its current form, is discrimination.  NB: This research was originally conducted with a specific focus on women and marriage equality.  It is not my intent for the purpose of this section to exclude others.

Discrimination against women, through lack of legislation supporting marriage equality.

Although both men and women are discriminated against through lack of legislation supporting marriage equality; my focus at this point is to discuss points of discrimination, particular to women.  I will address two areas, discrimination through legislation and discrimination by default through exclusion in society.The Subsection 5(1) of the Marriage Act 1961 defines marriage as ‘…the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.’   The definition of the marriage act, merely states that this is a union voluntarily entered into for life.  There are no specific parameters which specify what a union means.  This is defined in Mary Case’s journal article, “What feminists have to lose in same-sex marriage litigation’2  

A marriage certificate now allows heterosexual couples to have an open marriage, to live in different cities or in different apartments in the same city, to structure their finances as they please, without having their commitment or the legal benefits that follow from it challenged (p. 1203). 

As there are very little restrictions relating to the private behaviours of the marital union, this act is discriminatory purely on the grounds of sex. This is only for persons who identify with having physical, hormonal or genetic features that are distinctly characterised as male or distinctly characterised as female.  Therefore, marriage as defined as a union between a man and a woman, itself is discriminatory based on sex alone.

Women are discriminated within this act as it focuses on ‘sex’ and not ‘gender.  This act excludes all persons who identify with a gender, that isn’t normative to their physically or biologically recognised ‘sex’. This act discriminates against all persons who identify as inter-sex. This Act excludes all persons on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. 3

Women are also discriminated against, through legislation informing a society, which excludes understanding and valuing the experiences of unions that are not specifically between a heterosexual man and woman.

Various academic journals discuss that marriage is ingrained in the patriarchal notion that women are subordinate in society. Although this notion is not as entrenched within our whole society today; a quick search of Google for ‘subordinate wife’ will return over six million hits, with a high volume supporting the subordination of women/wives, particularly in a religious context.  Through legislating marriage as it currently exists, many women are discriminated against and are exempt from marriage, simply because they choose not to have a union with a man and some because they view marriage as placing women in a subordinate role to men.

Mary Case also highlights in her article, that before becoming pope, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger advocated for a normative view on gender in relation to subordination of women.  This is an excerpt of his 2004 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World.

“This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality……… While the immediate roots of this second tendency are found in the context of reflection on women’s roles, its deeper motivation must be sought in the human attempt to be freed from one’s biological conditioning. According to this perspective, human nature in itself does not possess characteristics in an absolute manner: all persons can and ought to constitute themselves as they like, since they are free from every predetermination linked to their essential constitution.”

For Australia to move forward, we need to eradicate the stigma by enabling marriage equality for all.  It stands to reason that the existence of ‘unions’ and the ‘recognition of same-sex partnerships has not eradicated the stigma which forms the basis for the opposition to marriage equality.   The only way forward is to use legislation as a tool to reform society, which will in turn see marriage equality as a lawful and accepted norm in our society.  There needs to be a Golden Ticket to allow us access into this new world and this Golden ticket is the Bill presented by Bill Shorten and seconded by Tanya Plibersek to amend the definition of marriage in Australia and the new world is the world which includes marriage equality for all.

Stigma is a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity.”
―Erving Goffman

Originally Published on Polyfeministix

1. Gottschalk, LH 2007, ‘Coping with stigma: Coming out and living as lesbians and gay men in regional and rural areas in the context of problems of rural confidentiality and social exclusion’, Rural Social Work & Community Practice, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 31-46.

2. Case M, 2010, ‘What feminists have to lose in same-sex marriage litigation’, UCLA Law Review, vol. 57, no. 5,  pp. 1199-1234

3. Sex Discrimination Act 1984

 

An open letter to Andrew Laming

Andrew Laming (Image from theguardian.com)

Andrew Laming (Image from theguardian.com)

Following Kaye Lee’s article, “To my local member” where she provided an exposé of the number of questionable statements by Lucy Wicks (Federal Member for Robertson), AIMN reader Bill Mavropoulos finds that much of Andrew Laming’s (Federal Member for Bowman) recent statements on a range of issues also need to be further examined. Bill writes as follows:

Dear Mr Andrew Laming,

I write to you regarding your recent video presentation on the guardian website published on 26 June 2014. The presentation attempts to explain the Coalition government’s most recent Federal Budget. To avoid doubt the URL for this presentation is as follows:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/jun/26/andrew-laming-budget-whiteboard-video?CMP=soc_567

This seems to be an attempt to counter Anthony Albanese’s video published 14 May 2014 as follows:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/may/14/albo-explains-the-budget-video

The number of misleading statements, omissions and inaccuracies littered throughout your presentation was startling. I felt that it was incumbent on someone from the Australian public to deal with the more glaringly omissions, misleading statements and falsehoods.

Saving $550 from the Carbon Tax and Mining Tax repeal

When the Carbon Tax was introduced, it had a number of tax concessions attached to it that negated its economic effect on the majority of the Australian population.

Furthermore, Labor’s official policy was to move from a fixed price on Carbon to a floating Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from 1 July 2014. The cost of this scheme on an average household if it is removed from that date is actually estimated at $134 annually compared to this policy (see the ABC Fact Check here). The current law is there because you refuse to have a sensible policy to combat climate change.

The statement in your presentation is a blatant misrepresentation of the difference between the Coalition’s policy and that of the previous government.

In your presentation you mention that the Mining Tax will contribute to this $550 saving per household. This is not just misleading and deceptive, it is a blatant lie. In fact consequential amendments that are buried at the back of the MRRT repeal law will remove the schoolkids bonus, small business tax concessions and concessions for superannuation for low income taxpayers.

This means that, taking these measures together, the net effect of removing these measures will leave an average household worse off rather than better off (as you assert). This takes into consideration the large majority of mining companies are foreign owned. Thus repealing the Mining Tax puts money back in Gina and Co’s pockets (because they get out of paying this tax) by taking it out of ordinary Australian’s pockets, by removing these tax concessions aimed at poor and middle Australia.

This part of your presentation was personally the most offensive.

$50 Billion infrastructure investment

This investment was outlined and explained by Anthony Albanese in his video (linked above). Albanese explained clearly in his well-made and factually correct presentation the make-up of all previously proposed infrastructure spending by Labor. He then went on to explain how the Coalition removed and reallocated large amounts of rail infrastructure to fund big ticket road projects that look good during an election campaign but don’t actually address systemic problems in transport infrastructure.

Transport infrastructure accessibility disproportionately impacts younger and lower income families who generally live further away from large metropolitan centers. The rail infrastructure is less adequately developed the further out from these centers you go. Households in this position are reliant on only one mode of transport. This does two things:

  1. Makes these people reliant on motor vehicles that are subject to increasing cost pressures from the increase in fuel excise you are imposing, increased registration costs that the States have been forced to impose because of cuts you have made to their funding and general increased costs of fuel and maintenance, and
  2. Devalues the property prices of homes in these areas in comparison to areas that are closer to an urban center and also have more than one mode of transport accessible.

What this does Andrew Laming, is create a significant social risk in these places. The measure entrenches inequality by effectively creating ghettos with little or no social mobility because these people will pay a disproportionate amount on transport cost while being subject to a reduced increase in the value of their main asset, their home.

Loan for Apprentices was originally just government grant

The loan to apprentices you mentioned actually replaces a cut of a tool grant of $5,500. The Budget itself anticipates savings of $914.6 million from cutting the tool grant measure. However, despite the measure being linked to the $20,000 loan scheme you did not mention it in your presentation.

This $20,000 loan scheme you spruiked is estimated by that same Budget to cost $439 million. This means the net economic loss to Apprentices from these measures is in the order of $457.6 million.

That you had the gall to smile and tell apprentices they will be better off in your presentation while ripping close to half a billion dollars away from them is frankly appalling.

Hospital Funding indexation

The claim that hospital funding is boosted by certain percentages over the next four years again is not the full story, Andrew Laming. It does not outline the fact that due to changes to funding arrangements the government in its Budget estimates it will save $1.8 Billion of funding from Public hospitals in terms of how the increases are calculated. (Let alone the other cuts to health that are not mentioned)

In short you do not outline that although hospital funding will still go up, it will not go up by as much as originally slated due to a cut to the rates of funding originally envisaged.

Education Funding

The Coalition is increasing education funding by partially adopting the Labor Party’s Gonski funding model. However you say nothing about the Coalition government’s refusal to fund this model fully beyond the forward estimate period.

Further to this, due to changes to indexation and deregulation the costs of obtaining a higher education degree will actually skyrocket. This is coupled with changes to the allocation of the funding that essentially stymie the benefits flowing from Gonski entirely.

$7 Co-Payment and Medical Research Future Fund

The statement that this measure supports the Healthcare system in your presentation is ludicrous. Firstly, introduction of the co-payment will clearly necessitate additional administrative costs borne by doctors that will ultimately need to be passed on to patients. In the shorter term this means increased health care costs for the same or worse level of service.

Further to this any savings generated by Health measures in the Budget are to be allocated to a dedicated medical research fund not into the Medicare system that pays for these health services. Therefore in the medium term the Healthcare system is being deprived of the benefits of this additional funding to alleviate the difference between revenue collected for health and the relevant expenditure.

In the long term, investment in the specialised Medical Research Fund has been criticised by experts. The nature of research and development is very complex. Often completely different areas of research result in the creation of medical applications. These other areas of research are being cut by your budget (think CSIRO). The money collected may therefore not be used as effectively as it otherwise would have been by say, allocating it to a broader range of research activities through established funding mechanisms.

This ‘oversight’ is perhaps as a direct result of the Coalition not having a Science Minister who understands that by creating silos of funding for research you may actually be undermining the long term sustainability of the system.

Full income replacement – Having a child

The statement that the full income of a parent will be replaced when they have a child is outrageously incorrect. I do however love the comment you made along the lines of ‘everyone is happy’ because their full wage gets replaced. Note that; the latest statement in relation to this policy is that the maximum payment to a parent over six months will be capped at $50,000.

Furthermore, this payment is not asset or income tested and so because it replaces income up to this cap it acts to effectively redistributes economic benefit from lower income earners to higher income earners.

I believe from watching this part of your video that you either have a dangerous lack of understanding in relation to how this measure works or are trying to deliberately mislead the public.

Pensions indexed, no changes till after next election

This statement was perhaps the most blatantly misleading one of your entire video. Firstly, from 1 July pension supplements are being removed, this is a well-documented fact. Also, due to the long term nature of receiving pension benefits it is cold comfort that the age and indexation decreases will start in a few years rather than now. This is clearly political as you are banking on people forgetting these changes are in the system by the time the next election rolls around.

The fact that you are legislating changes now to decrease the rate of indexation of pensions and raising the pension age to 70 is not mentioned in any detail at all.

This measure will reduce the absolute dollar value of a pension that citizens will receive when compared to the current arrangements. The fact that indexation effects will compound year on year is another nasty fact you have overlooked.

ABC – Savings can be found without effecting programing

This statement is unhinged and completely contrary to reality. Mark Scott the head of the ABC himself has stated that programs will be cut and staff will be laid off in direct contradiction of your assertion.

Please see his comments ‘here’. Saying something doesn’t make it true Andrew, especially when based on absolutely no evidence.

Conclusion

Please be mindful that the video contained a number of other unsubstantiated, misleading, false and generally ludicrous assertions. It was impossible to address them all in this letter without it running to several more pages.

I note that in response to my protests regarding this Budget Andrew you felt the need to message me on Facebook to say, and I quote:

“Sincerely glad you don’t live in my community”.

This gave me a bit more insight into your mind. It is clear you don’t see me or people like me as, an ordinary Australians, or as being part of the community you are elected to represent. I am unsure whether this is due to the level of our income, our ethnicity or simply the fact that you live in a particular part of Queensland and I live in Victoria.

What this suggests about you Andrew, as a parliamentarian, can best be summarised by my response to you via email as follows:

“I [sic] thought your suggestion that I am not part of “your community” was hurtful and suggests that you are not an elected representative of Australia (my community)”.

Andrew Laming show more respect for the Australian public. I warned you on Facebook that should you attempt to mislead the Australian public regarding the Budget again that I would hold you to account, admittedly in more colourful language than used in this letter. Consider this me fulfilling my promises; at least one of us does that.

Regards,

Vasilios (Bill) Mavropoulos

Tax Specialist

You might also like to read:

Under the shade of a Barcaldine gum tree

An Open Letter to Bill Shorten

Letter to all Coalition MPs

An Open Letter to Frances Abbott

A New Narrative

narrative

Image from smh.com.au

It’s really frustrating to find that respected commentators like Jonathan Green persist in suggesting that there are no material differences between the LNP and the ALP. Writing in Mamamia, in an otherwise thoughtful article about Julia Gillard and the importance of gender, he said ‘our parties are in broad agreement’ and that ‘heartfelt views that test the status quo are out of favour in a mannered modern politics that is an often loud contest for whatever unique but slender toeholds might be found in the narrows of the middle ground.’ I think that the few short weeks since the election show how shallow this view is.

On one hand, we have an Abbott government doing exactly what we thought it would; denying the reality of climate change and championing the unfettered free market’s right to exploit Australia’s natural resources without let or hindrance by government. Sacking the Climate Commission and supporting fracking  – despite having said during the election campaign that they favoured restrictions – are only the beginning. I

t’s true that the LNP’s ‘small government’ rhetoric hasn’t always played out in practice in the past, and it will be interesting to see how they react to the small government right wing nut jobs that have, perhaps inadvertently, been elected to the Senate.

Will the blocking of such ‘big government’ initiatives as direct action to meet the carbon reduction target, or Abbott’s signature paid parental leave scheme lead to a double dissolution? Will we see an Abbott election campaign supporting the intervention of government into the free market? I won’t be holding my breath.

Don’t get me wrong; Liberals – and especially Nationals – don’t really believe in ‘free’ markets – they are perfectly happy to distort markets through things like fuel subsidies and negative gearing, to say nothing of state aid to private schools. They want interventions that protect the already privileged. They just don’t want interventions that make society more equal, and, heaven forbid, use government to do anything that could possibly be done by private enterprise, no matter how inefficiently or inequitably.

Abbott himself seems confused between populism and the politically correct Liberal free market line, but the weight of neo-liberal opinion in his party and among his big business mates will prevail, and they’ll forget about the carbon reduction targets and the paid parental leave scheme.

Like the conservative parties in Britain and the US, the LNP stands for smaller and smaller government and the broadest possible play of the free market consistent with the interests of their mates. And that’s what we’ll get.

On the other hand, the contest between Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese for the leadership of the Labor Party has given us the opportunity to focus on ALP policy in a way that wasn’t possible during the election – or for most of the last six years.

The reasons for this failure are complex and include the mainstream media’s obsession with political trivia rather than policy, the difficulties of working in a hung parliament and the ALP’s inability to break free of the daily grind and enunciate a broader vision.

How many times did we hear them criticised for not having a ‘narrative’? (No one seems to criticise the LNP for not having a narrative – perhaps it’s just taken as a given that power is all they care about.) In fact, I think there is a Labor narrative, and it’s just easier to see it when someone – in this case, two people – have to enunciate it publicly.

There are a couple of caveats here. It’s easier to talk about Labor values to Labor Party members who mostly share them than it is to talk about Labor values to swinging voters, who are very likely interested in what’s in it for me. Labor’s not like the Greens. As a major party, Labor needs to appeal to something approaching a majority at any election. They can’t just aim at policy purity for the 8-10% who support them. Thus the rhetoric for the internal audience probably isn’t going to be the same as that for the population at large. One of the challenges for the ALP is, however, to align the two sets of rhetoric.

Second, the Labor narrative has, of necessity, changed in the last twenty years. There might still be references to ‘the light on the hill’, but Chifley wouldn’t recognise the current Labor Party or the political landscape it finds itself in. Paul Keating’s embrace of neo-liberal economics – financial deregulation, dismantling of tariffs, privatisation – has seen to that.

There are now far fewer rusted on Labor voters, far fewer unionists, far less sense of common cause than before economic rationalisation reduced us all to single competing units in a market economy.  It’s because both major parties accept market capitalism that we are told that the parties are the essentially the same. But I don’t think that’s ever been true.

What have the two candidates for Labor leadership been saying about Labor’s narrative? Essentially both agree that the ‘fair go’ is central to Labor’s worldview. Both are committed to improving the lives of Australians in the future.

Now any party could say this. What do Bill and Anthony have in mind? Both seem to be looking at gaps in the current activities of government, in areas like urban public transport, better provision for old age and science and innovation, as well, of course, as defending the gains of the Rudd and Gillard governments in education, disability, and health.

Call this a defining narrative? Well yes. Implicit in Labor’s embrace of economic rationalisation is the promise of an accompanying social wage which ensures that the market does not simply reward the strong or the lucky. It is this social wage that is eroded by small government and low taxes. It is this social wage that requires active government intervention in the market. Only a Labor government can deliver this – the other side doesn’t recognise either the need or the means to achieve it. The narrative is thus government intervention in the market to promote greater equality.

Neither candidate has put their vision in quite these terms; support for greater equality is the nearest they’ve come. I think it’s time for Labor to stop being afraid to say that greater equality can only be achieved through government and that it is the party of government intervention. Given the apparent success of the mainstream media’s anti ‘pink batts’ campaign, they may need to find better ways of saying it. But, thank you Jonathan Green, it’s what makes them different from the winner-takes-all views of the free market Liberal Party.

There are lots of areas where Labor needs to work harder for greater equality than it has so far acknowledged. One stands out: the need to ensure that the rigours of climate changes do not fall most heavily on the already disadvantaged – and this includes many rural communities.

There’s been some acknowledgement that Labor’s agenda has to include sustainability as a core filter for all other policies; for example, there’s no point creating jobs that simply add to the problem of greenhouse emissions. Even the British Conservatives can see that a low carbon economy can create new jobs; Labor’s challenge is to promote growth that is not only sustainable but also equitable. Pricing carbon – which is, of course, a market mechanism – is a good start, but is by no means a sufficient response to the changes that global warming will force upon us.

There’s no doubt lots of other areas where modifying market outcomes is necessary; housing provision and taxation policy come urgently to mind. Labor has time to develop policies in such areas, so long as it is true to its promise to listen to the needs of ordinary people.

The Liberals and their friends in the mainstream media can be relied on to call such policies class war or the politics of envy. This is rubbish. As Warren Buffett says, ‘There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.’ He should know.

Labor doesn’t oppose capitalism, or profit, or entrepreneurialism. Nor, these days, does it want class warfare. But it does want to use the power of government to create a more equal society, and it needs to say so loudly.  And it needs to build new constituencies in support of this.

There is much at stake here. It isn’t just about Labor. It’s about rekindling the belief in the efficacy of government action that twenty years of neoliberalism has eroded. The market, as it is currently configured, is not serving us well. We need to revive the belief that government can, and will make things better. Next time Jonathan Green says Labor and Liberal are the same, can someone please send him this article?

By Kay Rollison

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