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Tag Archives: Christopher Pyne

A Tinpot Dictator?

When Scott John Morrison takes his Sunday fly-drive to leafy Yarralumla to visit His Excellency, David Hurley, AO, a former NSW Governor and his “captain’s pick” for GG, the jig is up; now everyone knows a federal election will be held 21 May and, sadly, the guess-the date-games must end, despite Morrison’s addiction to secrecy, quibbling and game playing. Things that help him lord it over other people.

Morrison loves evading or concealing truth as much as lying. “I just don’t care”, he tells ABC’s Annabel Crabb. It shows. Politics is mostly just a game to him. At the hint of a threat to his power, however, his game morphs instantly into Mortal Kombat.

ADF crew salute him, a Morrison idea, as our malignant narcissist-in-Chief alights Shark One, the QANTAS A330 VIP executive jet, his favourite boy’s toy, a Big Dick clubhouse with wings, done up to look like a business executive’s office suite with $250 million of public money. It’s more than PR. He loves to pretend he’s not just a sad, gutless, gas industry puppet. He’d take his jet to fetch the girls from school if he could.

Following protocol, Morrison knocks up his vice-regal manservant, low profile Governor-General, Dave Hurley to kick-start the election. It won’t be about policy, or even playing the game, it will be a rabid hyper partisan attack on Labor, especially its leader, Anthony Albanese. And pork-barrelling. While Shark One may soar, Morrison’s politicking plumbs the depths of the lowest gutter.

In a damaging flashback, former rival for Cook, Michael Towke, pops up to accuse Morrison of racism. Towke accuses the PM of resorting to “racial vilification” to overturn the initial ballot which Towke won convincingly. Morrison allegedly insinuated that Cook’s voters wouldn’t accept a Lebanese Australian candidate.

“At the time [in 2007] he was desperate, and it suited him to play the race card,” Towke tells The Project’s Waleed Aly,

By remarkable coincidence, during the 2004 federal campaign, when Morrison was state director of the Liberal Party, racist tactics were used against Labor candidate for Greenway, Ed Husic, not a practising Muslim.

A day before the election, a fake ALP brochure was distributed in Greenaway. “Ed Husic is a devout Muslim. Ed is working hard to get a better deal for Islam”.

Morrison wins no friends by leaving his GG call to the last possible moment – but that’s his trademark. He’d be late to his own (political) funeral. As events may prove, given the way he’s alienated women across the nation and more than a few in the Liberal branch of NSW, once a powerhouse the Coalition hoped might counter losses in other states.

Then there’s the pandemic failure. Going AWOL during the bushfires. The submarine fiasco which cost us at least $5.5 billion. The trade war with China that’s helping ruin our export trade and a fair bit of tertiary education. Morrison’s list of failures is huge.

Loyal Deputy Barnaby Thomas Gerard Joyce keeps the faith, however, if only with his followers who count on him to pick a winner. In a sensational leaked text from the Nationals’ leader composed in March 2021, Joyce confides that he does not “get along” with Morrison.

“He is a hypocrite and a liar from my observations and that is over a long time. have never trusted him, and I dislike how earnestly [he] rearranges the truth to a lie.”

A High Court challenge mounted by Matthew Camenzuli, from Parramatta, an IT mogul from the NSW Liberal conservative faction, aligned with former Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells slows things up but, here, Morrison’s only himself to blame. Getting his envoy, Alex Hawke to stall and delay local pre-selection meetings until the Federal executive would have to step in has not endeared him to everyone in the NSW branch nor nationally. Hawke is widely reviled.

Many Liberals resent his high-handed intervention in branch pre-selection. Retiring senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, stiffed for a winnable place on the ticket, calls Morrison a tyrant and a fraud who hides behind the façade of his church-going.

Others accuse him of remaking the party in his own image. Departing NSW Liberal, Catherine Cusack, joins a swelling chorus of women in Liberal politics who call Morrison a bully. He’s “ruined” the Liberal party, she says. She will not vote for him or the party at the federal election.

If you can’t run a Liberal branch, how can you run the country?

But there’s a ray of hope for ScoMo. Camenzuli’s lawyers fail to overrule Morrison’s intervention to save Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman from a local preselection battle that could threaten their political futures. Camenzuli sought an injunction to block the preselection of nine Liberal candidates which would bar the party from printing their names on the ballot paper.

Keeping everyone else waiting while he gets his act together gives Morrison time to win his high-stakes game. Pick his favourites. Remake the party in his own image. Above all it gets him attention. Forget the daggy dad act. This PM is a ruthless Machievallian.

Will he pull the fat out of the fire? Critics of our PM’s self-abrogating demeanour still decry the way Morrison hogged the show at last January’s Australia Day awards ceremony. Worse, Grace Tame was threatened by someone from the Office. Women vote. They won’t forgive or forget the Morrison government’s record of sexism and misogyny. Nor will they overlook the spate of Liberal women who have recently spoken out against him.

Former commercial rose-grower, Minister for Family Service and manager of government business in the senate, Anne Ruston, Minister for Women’s Safety, fails her first real test. Who threatened Grace Tame? The former Australian of the year used a Press Club Address to explain that someone from “a government-funded organisation” rang to tell Tame she must not say anything “damning” about Morrison so close to an election.

Mystified. Jane Hume adds a bit of hand-wringing. We don’t even know if it were a man or a woman, she wails. Clearly, no-one’s tried very hard to find out. Tame says that she’d prefer that the person who felt they needed to make the call should out themselves. An investigation into the call is “the very same embedded structural silencing culture that drove the call in the first place and misses the point entirely. It’s not about the person who made the call, it’s the fact that they felt like they had to do it”, Tame explains.

It’s sexism; the age-old gendered response of doubting and discrediting the victim’s story when the victim is a woman. But it’s no vote winner for over half the population.

Yet the PM seems happy. Morrison promotes Ruston to Liberal Campaign Spokeswoman. Her Labor counterpart, Katy Gallagher will not give up on women so readily.

But look over there – how good is our invisible Governor General? A big gig every three years, if only to help a PM call a fresh election or witness signatures whenever Ministers are appointed. Morrison loves pomp and ceremony. It adds a legitimacy he craves and a distraction he badly needs. Dave Hurley’s happy. He’s hoping to win a trifecta.

The Governor General’s hazy job profile makes Morrison appear almost industrious by contrast. Being GG, on the other hand, keeps you busier than “the arts” or in tertiary education, both spurned by Frydenberg in JobKeeper, despite his forty billion dollar (Joe Aston calculates) windfall, for businesses in profit despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Fan-boy Greg Jennett, a Tarzan of adulation, if not fatal attraction to the PM, and Jane Norman, the John and Betty of ABC afternoon political television, become a hot mess of running commentary on the twenty minute meeting, breathlessly spilling the beans on such essentials as Morrison’s coffee with the Governor General.

Greg and Jane kindly remind us that Yarralumla sits in 58 hectares of Canberra prime real estate, in case we miss how the trappings of office are lavished on our ruling class, while others die of malnourishment, neglect and the latest mutant strain of coronavirus in “aged care facilities” a gulag of misery where our poor, wretched, vulnerable elders pass their final days in a fog of antipsychotics in state subsidised granny farms staffed by some of the lowest paid, most highly casualised workers in Australia.

The Coalition’s Aged Care Act 1997, ushered in a flood of private investment in the exploitation and commodification of the elderly. Private equity firms, new foreign investors, superannuation and property real estate investment trusts “entered the residential aged care market.” Data on residents’ safety and wellbeing must be kept top secret.

Our current aged care crisis stems from Howard’s Aged Care Act, writes Dr Sarah Russell. His government subsidised private health insurance is still helping scupper Medicare.

Amazingly, Dave, a spry 68 year-old corporate state welfare beneficiary with all his own teeth, is at Yarralumla this weekend and not entertaining Prince Andrew, who’s been known to slip in, sans fanfare, for a quick visit, as he did in 2018, to promote Pitch@Palace, his matchmaking of investors and corporate partners with startup companies. Now it’s wound up after Andy’s misadventures with underage women abroad, stories which his mother, Queen Elizabeth II refuses to believe, preferring the much more plausible “I was at Beatrice’s Birthday at Woking Pizza Express” alibi.

Pitch generated £1.345 million in economic activity, 6,323 jobs and 39% of its winners were women. Andy did quite well, too. Pitch@Palace Global Ltd, the private company set up to run the events, had a clause in its terms and conditions about its entitlement to a 2% equity share for three years for any company that went through its program.

Other royals also are put up at Admiralty House, the GG’s other historic pad on Sydney harbour with ten bedrooms enjoying views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Hosting VIPs keeps the Hurleys busy. Then there’s Linda’s staff singalongs.

And her serenades. The Guardian Australia reports Hurley wandering betwixt tables of war widows (average age 81, according to Dave), microphone in hand, leading them in song over cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches. Bit of dill with that, dearie?

“You are my sunshine” is the unofficial vice-regal national anthem – but only the chorus. The verses are a bit downbeat if you Google them. Don’t try this at home.

A staff of seventy-six don’t just run themselves and there’s travel involved in GG. All adds up. Representing HM at home and Australia overseas costs a million a year.

But the nation has to look after its investment. Hurley’s annual salary is around half a million. Of course, a governor general does get a generous pension scheme with that.

As Morrison arrives, his white BMW 7 Series Prime Ministerial limousine with AFP escort ghosting up the long drive, Dave’s lurking purposefully near the entrance to Yarralumla, a “colonial revival” pile set in what remains of an historic sheep station.

The property retains the original shearing shed atop a tumulus of a century and a half of merino droppings. A heritage overlay of decaying sheep shit is a fitting tribute to the types who led the colonial frontier wars waged by European imperial invaders on indigenous Australians in the name of the same British Crown that Governor-General Hurley represents.

The GG has his Mont Blanc Meisterstück Gold-Coated Fountain Pen uncapped, ready to sign a chit to let Morrison dissolve parliament and call a federal general election, a minefield of lies, furphies, turpitude and gratuitous character assassination which our GG can avoid entirely by express permission of the electoral commission. But he does get to look on.

A federal election campaign is a made for TV event just like Master Chef or Hard Quiz or The Melbourne Cup and corporate media regale us with the day’s political stunts.

There’s a scorecard on performance in The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph and The Australian as in any horse race commentary. Tallying up the pratfalls displaces any more insightful commentary on commercial TV – Buckminster Fuller’s “bubblegum for the eyes”.

Analysis of issues and policies is supplanted by spectacle and mindless Vox Pops. In a rare departure, this year, however, the Sydney Morning Herald takes Morrison to task for his broken promise over a federal ICAC. Attempting to blame Labor doesn’t pass the pub test.

Imagine if Dave Hurley were to put his mouth where his money is. Our GG, would refuse Morrison permission to hold an election. Nope, ScoMo you’ve abused the trust of the Australian people. Piss off back to Bronte and stop wasting my time.

If only. A relic of colonial rule, a GG hasn’t colluded with the judiciary and The Palace to remove a PM since Whitlam, but it pays to keep him on side and avoid bagging Pine Gap, 16 km south west of Alice Springs, the eyes and ears of the US military, since it went on line in 1969. One of its uses is to provide information to aim drones.

If there’s a moral problem with hosting an outfit which is staffed largely by employees of Boeing Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics – along with niche companies that work exclusively for the CIA and NRO, such as Leidos, Scitor and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) our government doesn’t see it. Put simply, we host companies who profit from war and enable them to collect the data they need to make war.

In fascinating technological updates the satellites have multiplied to at least thirty-eight, which have the capacity to monitor everything from your text message to Dominos to thermal evidence of Chinese hypersonic missile launches. All of this vastly increases our value as a nuclear target. It could give us leverage in a more equal relationship with the US but given our lickspittle foreign policy don’t hold your breath.

Above all, Pine Gap makes Australia complicit in war crimes. Last December, the New York Times lists over 1300 reports of civilian casualties since 2014. Many are children, in wars that the US portrays as being waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.

Yet, ‘American air wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have been plagued by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, thousands of civilian deaths – with scant accountability.”

But does our GG task our PM with this problem? Nope. Dave’s famous for his saying “the standard we walk by is the standard we accept”. He’s a big fan of ethical leadership, a political oxymoron “borrowed” by David Morrison in a sermon on another unicorn, gender equality in the army. Dave M later confesses on Q&A he’s “pinched” the line.

The PM just loves Dave H and the whole vibe of the ethical leader thing, which like cleanliness, is next to godliness and getting professionally photographed at a Hillsong service, eyes wide shut. Photographed? At least one former member of the parliament has read her King James Bible,

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites. are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and. in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.”

“His actions conflict with his portrayal as a man of faith; he has used his so-called faith as a marketing advantage,” says senator Concetta Fieravanti-Wells.

Federal Election 2022 is to be a forty-one day endurance event, not simply in order to dazzles us with hi-viz photo-opportunities, vapid talking points, or disgruntled punters in pubs, but to buy time, a gamble given incumbents generally decline in popularity over a long campaign. Opinion polls predict a Coalition defeat, Liberal/National 34%, ALP 36%. -7% swing against the Coalition but just a 2.6% swing in favour of the ALP

Perhaps, like Mr Micawber, Morrison is hoping something will turn up. As it does. Albo doesn’t know what the cash rate is and he can’t recite the official unemployment rate.

Of course there’s outcry from the usual suspects,“Unfit to be PM,” decrees Murdoch’s top toadie, Terry McCrann in the expatriate billionaire’s Australian, while AFR, shocker, Phil Coorey gasps “A horror,” leaving Professor Judith Sloan, alone, to hype the Labor leader’s howler into his “Party’s complete misunderstanding of the jobs figures”.

Seriously? Even John Howard who failed the same gotcha in ‘07 is underwhelmed. Babies Overboard Howard bobs up in WA to spare Morrison getting the bum’s rush. Again. Abbott has Covid. Or he’d be there with (bicycle) bells on. Don’t discount a late showing.

True, the Man of Steel’s got other things on his mind like minding Ken Wyatt in Hasluck – it’s not so long ago that Joe Aston had word Kenneth might defect to Labor.

And Swan’s Kristy McSweeney is busted misquoting herself on how if you can’t tell a bloke from a sheila just walking down the street, you probably shouldn’t be aiming for Canberra.

Is that a serious question? Okay, well Anthony Albanese didn’t know the unemployment rate. So what?”

Morrison’s first gaffe is a big one. He fudges when asked whether Alan Tudge, guardian of the curriculum from the left-wing, is currently education minister – (a Tudge of class?)

His reply that Al is “technically” still in cabinet is at odds with earlier assurances that he’d resigned. Of course, this could be merely another Morrison lie, but it does seem to be a clumsy attempt to divert press from a half million payout to former staffer Rachelle Miller which fails to keep the (unconsummated) affair off the front page.

First up, Tudge claims, “we never had sex.” They were “intimate” four times; sleeping naked together but there was no funny business. Sounds very plausible.

The minister without portfolio may be inspired by Gandhi’s tales of sleeping naked with young women who also took their clothes off just to test his chastity.

With Tudge mounting such an impregnable defence, it is little wonder that Morrison has had to pivot on his earlier version of events in which the Education Minister had surrendered his portfolio for his own sake.

No point asking why Miller was paid “well over $500,000”, if nothing untoward transpired between minister and media adviser. $500,000 is the sum whispered to have been his payout when Morrison himself was sacked as head of Tourism Australia citing irreconcilable differences with boss, Fran Bailey amidst claims tendering processes were not adhered to.

As for any ministerial code violation, the non-bonking occurred before the advent of Morrison’s code. Yet Miller was promoted while in an intimate relationship with her boss. The PM is OK with that. Yet Miller wants the details released. Samantha Maiden reports that legal costs in six figures are also to be paid by the Morrison government.

“He has chosen for the sake of his health and his family for a period of time to stand aside from the ministry,” Morrison claims.

“But here’s been no other education minister sworn in, no-one went out to the Governor-General, we’re very transparent about all of that.”

Morrison is creating an issue for himself in refusing Miller’s request that he release details. Unwisely.

Moonlighting as Education Minister, albeit unsworn, is Stuart “Rolex” Robert, the PM’s prayer partner, a tricky phrase now, given recent whistle-blower revelations that senior Liberal Party figures abuse the parliamentary prayer room for congress of a baser nature.

None of the parties implicated: MP Tim Wilson, former defence minister Christopher Pyne and others, or the investigating law firm Sparke Helmore, even try to rebut the story, notes Michael West. Give it time.

More of a problem to his own side than any scandal involving rent boys plying their trade in consecrated space within the House is Mendacity Morrison’s contempt for democracy and his addiction to micromanagement.

Notorious for his pledges that never eventuate, the PM is now hated by NSW Liberals for being too “hands on”.

Former Cook MP, Stephen Mutch, a self-styled moderate who credits himself with inventing the term if not founding the group, calls Scotty a “tinpot dictator” for riding rough-shod over democratic local branch pre-selection processes, to choose his own candidates for key NSW seats. Mutch is shocked at the way the moderate minority now runs the branch.

“Over decades … I saw how the faction changed from a relatively informal group of friends with a fair degree of collective decision-making into a more formalised operation run by politicians, staffers and some party activists,” Mutch tells The Saturday Paper.

As the former moderate explains, the moderates became more high-handed, serving the personalised agendas of a few at the top. Later, the faction morphed into “a professionalised, essentially privatised operation, run by a small coterie of business lobbyists.”

Which is where we are today.

All is not lost, however. Scotty is still a useful tool to the fossil fuel lobby, an old mate of Big Mining and our media oligopoly, Rupert, Kerry and tagalong Peter along with other shonks, shills and big-shots in Australia’s oligarchy.

But just to nip it in the bud, a few of his man-servants in the PMO, big up Morrison with Bushmasters and coal, while Rio shows it hasn’t blown up all its moral high ground along with the 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge, by taking over RUSAL’s twenty per cent share in QAL’s aluminium smelter, in response to Russia’s attempt to obliterate Ukraine. That’s fixed Putin’s wagon.

How good is a Morrison government which struts the world like a colossus, punching above its weight? Shirt-fronting Putin. “Keeping Australia Safe” is not just hairy-chested electioneering or the Crosby-Textor textbook stunt of creating an external threat tactic.

Nor is this self-interested opportunism by Morrison’s omnishambles of a government plumbing record lows in all the opinion polls. Throw another dead cat on the table. We are the hawks of AUKUS keepers of the sacred flame of the temple of the rules-based order to which Australia, as US deputy Marshall, is so solemnly and selflessly pledged.

Not only does ScoMo continue to wow the international community with his statesmanship, he buys seventy thousand tonnes of Whitehaven coal which the big Liberal donor can’t sell, it’s still sitting in Newcastle until a hapless crew is press ganged into taking it to Odessa, currently in range of Russian rocketry, and on to Ukraine.

True, he’s copped a few shockers recently, including that’s just the price of decisive leadership. OK he may be “a complete psycho”, a “hypocrite and a liar “a fraud” to his own team, but a clutch of Liberal women, his “crumb maidens” as Amy Remeikis calls the women who support Morrison’s patriarchy for scant reward, step forward to back up his latest claim that his high-handed intervention in NSW politics stems from his unbridled feminism and his need to step in to protect a few good women.

It’s farcical, writes The Monthly’s Rachel Withers that Morrison can claim that he stood up for women in an intervention intended to save the seats of two men and woman.

Is he all fake religion and no moral compass? Morrison simply cannot be trusted, warns Fierravanti-Wells who is dropped to an unelectable spot on the Liberal senate ticket in favour of party apparatchik, Marise Payne, in number one spot for time-serving, with another former army officer, Jim Molan, butcher of Fallujah, in at number three.

It’s already turning nasty: in second spot is Nationals’ top NSW Senate candidate, Ross Cadell, another Nat in a hat, who threatens to “drop shit” on the party’s Hunter candidate James Thomson in a public row at Warners Bay Hippo Espresso cafe 20km south of Newcastle, if Thommo does not redistribute $120,000 in donations.

You can see why Cadell has beaten the venerable, born-again John Anderson, Joyce’s mentor, a man with a Big Mining background as well as a former Nationals leader.

“While professing to be a man of faith,” the retiring senator says, sporting a huge crucifix in her bitter Goodbye To All That speech, he is “adept at running with the foxes and hunting with the hounds, lacking a moral compass and having no conscience”.

Don’t hold yourself back, Connie. (As Morrison and his team insist on belittling the former Liberal senator, much as the PM does with “Grace” and “Brittany”.)

Team Morrison rushes to point out that hell hath no fury like a NSW senator relegated on the ballot paper. Connie’s just disappointed. A pile-on of other furious colleagues ensues, including much of the NSW Liberal Party. But ScoMo, a work of performance art in progress, won’t let a few dud reviews put him off his game.

Good Friday, Morrison tells national media how Jen and the girls go to church at Easter. Albo, Tony Abbott and 5000 others also attend Sydney’s Maronite Christian Mass. Easter is a time of hope he says, while claiming on national TV, religion is such a personal thing for him.

But there’s revived interest in how the PM deposed Lebanese-Australian and Maronite Christian Michael Towke in a dirty bid for pre-selection in Cook in 2007. So Morrison chooses a service in Victoria at Syndal Baptist Church with Gladys Liu MP, who failed to disclose her links with the Chinese government before preselection in Chisholm, a marginal Liberal seat.

There were also issues with an undisclosed donation to the Liberals of $37,000, together with questions as to how exactly the MP raised a million dollars for the party.

But Easter is a time of hope. No doubt Dave gives Scott a few pointers on the PM’s integrity commission model. Its architect, former Attorney-General, Christian Porter resigned over an anonymous donation or blind trust he’d accepted to pay his legal fees in a defamation case against ABC investigative journalist, Louise Milligan, a case he abandoned.

Ethical leadership is costly. The PM spends big money to get his own way in a high stakes poker game which goes right to the High Court over whether he can override local branches’ preferences in Liberal preselection in NSW. Chief Justice, Susan Kiefel says he can.

Not that Morrison gives a toss. It’s our money he’s spending. Has there ever been a bigger spending, higher taxing government? But the political cost of alienating so many NSW Liberals is huge. It’s already undone him in Warringah where his transphobic captain’s pick, Katharine Deves, proves a dud, with her social media post about “surgical mutilation”.

Having the arrogance to believe you know best and bypassing the local democratic process (with a bit of help from Premier Perrottet) leads to a poor choice?

Who’d have known?

Anti-trans activism could derail the Coalition’s election campaign. It triggers a pivot. Morrison backflips on his plan to dog whistle prejudice, intolerance and ignorance. He withdraws his support from Tassie Senator Claire Chandler’s bill banning transgender women from playing women’s sports, after he cops flak from Liberal “moderates” and independents.

Incredibly, the PM lies about why he pulls rank on NSW pre-selectors. The “menacing controlling wall-paper”, as former Liberal MP Julia Banks calls him, pretends to ABC 7:30 he’s a knight in shining armour rescuing women from “factions” whom he leaves unnamed, as if he’s just being protective; one of his most outrageous lies to date.

“Sussan Ley, one of my finest cabinet ministers and one of our most successful women members of parliament, was under threat. She was under threat from factions within the Liberal Party and I decided to stand up to it,” Morrison says.

“I’m very serious about having great women in my ranks…Fiona Martin was another.”

But Julia Banks tells a different story. “It was the three months of Morrison’s leadership that … was definitely the most gut-wrenching, distressing period of my entire career.”

Morrison an advocate for women? It’s risible and – as The Monthly’s Rachel Withers notes, it’s insulting to women.

“The claim is laughable. If there’s anyone Morrison was trying to save it was factional consigliore Alex Hawke in the seat of Mitchell, and his overarching aim was to maintain control of the numbers in the party. At the end of the day, the only person Scott Morrison truly stands up for is Scott Morrison.”

 

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Abbott Supporters Still Pyning Away!

Well, thank god those days of dysfunctional government are over and the adults are back in charge. No, really, they’ve told us many, many times that they’re the awesomest government and they’re really good and besides Bill smells and has no friends and nobody likes him and we’re going to call him names until he cries because that’s the way adults do things…

Anyway, I must say that the events of the past few days remind me yet again of why people are rather cynical of politicians. For those of you who haven’t followed the events surrounding Christopher “The Fixer” Pyne, it goes something like this.

  1. Pyne was speaking to a group of like-minded Liberals. An amazing thing in itself. He not only mentioned that he and George had always voted for Malcolm the Magnificent, but that changes to the marriage laws may not be all that far away.
  2. Even though this was not a public forum somebody leaked it to Andrew Bolt.
  3. Tony Abbott immediately suggested that Pyne’s “confession that he has made to his close colleagues in the Left faction” demonstrated that he’d been disloyal while a member of his leadership team because, well, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote for someone else when you’re a member of Cabinet apparently. (Let’s leave aside the rather strange idea that there is a “left faction” in the Liberals. Ok, there may be some that are less right, but it’s a bit like talking about the intelligent faction of One Nation.)
  4. There are lots of anonymous sources suggesting that Pyne must be replaced because his comments suggested that he wanted to change government policy and that he should support government policy at all times.
  5. Turnbull and Pyne both come out and say that there’ll be no change to government policy, which is nicely ambiguous because the suggestion from some was that a couple of Liberals were going to introduce a private member’s bill and attempt to get legislation through with a few committed souls crossing the floor. That, of course, wouldn’t require a change to government policy.
  6. There is still anger towards Christopher Pyne for suggesting that he supported something that isn’t government policy.
  7. Tony Abbott puts aside his anger to publicly release a manifesto of exactly what the government should do, which is somehow different from Pyne’s sin of saying it behind closed doors, because nobody has a problem with this at all, even though, at face value, suggesting that the government policy needs to change doesn’t seem to be supporting current government policy.

That about catches you up. So now we can carefully examine Tony’s manifesto without being all caught up on whether Malcolm will sack Christopher or whether a whole bunch of Liberals will join Cory Bernardi’s party and bring down the government.

I did notice that the headline on one of the articles about Tony’s plan implied that it was a plan to help the Liberals get re-elected. Now, if he simply wants to help the Liberals get re-elected, I have a very simple one for him. It’s what they told the sheep farmer: “Just shut the flock up!”

However, I’m sure that Mr Abbott would argue that his ideas are not simply about being returned at the next ballot (whether that’s the ballot for Liberal leader or the next federal one), but that they’re real solutions that will take Australia back to its glory days when men were men, the Queen was beloved by all and we all rode on the sheep’s back… in a purely economic sense, of course, because nobody – not even Cory Bernardi – would have even thought to suggest that we were on a slippery slope toward bestiality.

Mr Abbott, as he usually does, covered a range of ideas. Yep, that is a euphemism for saying that the poor man is unable to stay on any given topic for more than a couple of minutes without exhausting his knowledge. Young Tony asserted the need to cut immigration before following up with complaints about political parties surrendering to populism. Now, I guess some will think that this is a bit hypocritical, but let me remind you that it’s only when somebody else does something that a lot of people agree with that it’s populism, when one does it oneself, it’s bowing to the will of the people in line with democratic principles. Along with Mr Abbott’s misgivings about populism and the whole political spectrum moving to the left, he was also concerned about school funding and energy targets. School funding, he speculated, had moved in the wrong direction, although he wasn’t clear about what he meant by that, although he has made it clear in the past that he thinks that private schools should be getting a lot more than they are. And the Senate shouldn’t be have so much power to block the government and he proposed measures that would enable a joint sitting without the need for a double dissolution. Nobody asked him why he tried to block so much government legislation when he was in Opposition, if he felt that the Senate was an unnecessary obstacle. Similarly, nobody suggested that this might be a problem when those silly Labor people get back in. Perhaps, Tony has a plan to ensure that only conservatives can be elected in future; perhaps he’s quite happy to allow Labor to introduce all those things that the Senate has rejected in the past. Whatever, it surely couldn’t be because a man who was once our PM wouldn’t have thought his idea through.

And then, there were his ideas on energy. Listening to Finkel – whom the current government commissioned to work out the best solutions, or at least some solutions, because we’ve already rejected some even if they are the best – would be a terrible mistake. No, it’s better just to make up your own mind because that way you don’t get confused by a lot of nasty facts. No, we should freeze the renewable target at 15% and stop any new wind farms because we may have an energy shortfall and building more wind farms would help reduce this shortfall, but not by using coal and so, therefore, it doesn’t fit the criteria of good energy policy. Let’s be quite clear here, renewables are being subsidised and we don’t like that. We think that the market should decide and if the market doesn’t want to build any new coal-fired power stations then the government should go it alone and build one itself. There now, that’s perfectly consistent, isn’t it?

A spokesman for Mr Turnbull said that he had no plans to change government policy. When asked if he had any plans at all, the spokesman said that he’d check with the PM but he was almost certain that he had been talking about his intention to develop a plan at the first available opportunity.

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Turnbull’s Innovation – a rebranding of the same old pocketful of promises

Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘Innovation! Package‘, turns out to be another boost to small business and nothing to do with innovation at all. It is another conjuring trick from a government pledged to avoid commitment or accountability under the guise of ‘encouraging the free flow of ideas and entrepreneurs’. It is based on a seriously defective business model, the tech start-up. As a strategy toward economic restructure, it is a poor choice; an inexcusable error of judgement.

Above all, Innovation! is an opportunity missed. Instead of investing in renewables, boosting employment and kicking its fossil fuel dependency, the Coalition has chosen the trendy but flaky tech start-up business enterprise, a choice which will distract from tackling its rising carbon emissions while further trashing Australia’s former reputation as a good global citizen.

For all Greg Hunt’s absurd claims that we lead the world in climate policy, expert report, based on a range of measures, from the UN climate talks in Paris yesterday reveal us to be third last. Although Julie Bishop may fluff around on the world stage promising to fix climate with ‘innovation’ the truth is that we are substituting urban myth for science or economics.

The start-up myth itself is enchanting and beguiling. Rich young San Francisco Bay Area, California dudes meet somewhere on the autism spectrum and hunker down to a year or two of nerdy anti-social existence. They live off their wealthy parents while they code software 24/7. Overnight they become billionaire misfits and eccentric publicity-loving celebrities proving all along to the world that smarts matter. The PM, especially, loves this tale.

The dudes attract a few other couch surfers along the way together with a rash of venture capital: rich folk who gamble by lending the dudes money in the hope of a huge return on their investment. Or not. Stop the press.

The start-up success story is an urban myth. Surely no-one in their right mind would recommend we adopt this model to fix our own tanking economy? If he is serious about the Innovation! hoo-ha, Mal’s judgement is once again is up the Silicon Valley creek.

Start-ups are expensive failures as a rule. Current UC Stanford and Berkeley research shows that over 90% of start-ups self-destruct. Typically, software dudes borrow to build a product for which there is no customer, a product for which they also have to manufacture a demand. Nothing like putting on the wings when your craft is taxiing along the runway. When the product is ready to market, the dudes have no buyers, no income and no funds to continue and they crash. The dudes fall back on couch-surfing until they inherit.

Not all give up. There are serial starters-up who make failure a lifestyle choice. Our PM warms to these. He will see to it that failure is elevated in our own society to the status it deserves by taking the sting out of bankruptcy. No stranger to failure himself, politically, he will ignore the difference between political and business failure. Taxpayers will pick up the tab.

Even the few start-ups who succeed, employ few workers and minimise their taxes. Outfits like Google or Apple or Facebook are adept in creative tax accountancy. What start-ups are good at is making profits for investors.

Making a few rich dudes richer is no way to rebuild a nation’s prosperity. Start-ups offer no key to economic revival. They do, however, offer an attractive package to business classes, a package which is trendy enough to deceive the mug punter who will pay the bill through higher taxes. And coal is spared by default.

Strip away the packaging and Innovation! looks like plain old crony capitalism; a rebranding of the same old pocketful of promises to the big end of town that is the Liberal Party’s reason for being. A bit of tinkering around the edges is added to confirm Innovation!. Some refunds are touted as reinvesting in science as if government has suddenly come to its senses after destroying the CSIRO’s morale and much else with it. Turnbull supporters seize on the refunds as proof that Mal is progressive after all. The facts attest otherwise.

Some ‘efficiency dividend’ cuts from CSIRO, made when ‘good government’ had no need of science, will be returned. But it is nowhere near enough funding to do a ‘reset’ even if CSIRO wanted to. Or it were possible. So much knowledge has already been irrevocably lost. But business and science will be able to hold hands in the cosy, innovative Turnbull era instead of being at arm’s length or independent as empirical impartiality dictates.

Academics are to be enticed out of ivory towers to team up with business types in an alarming re-run of the wishful thinking that ignores our economy’s small size. We do not have the money. Venture capital is just not available here to the degree that it is to UK or US researchers. The priceless value of pure research in non-commercial fields is also ignored, although vital to innovation and the foundation of all science.

So what are we left with? Another tax break for investors? A newer, softer neo-liberal bankruptcy-lite to allow ‘entrepreneurs’ to quit more easily; bail out of financial obligations such as wages to redundant workers more readily? An incubator for shonky con-men and dud business ideas? Strip away Innovation! Package wrapping and most of what is left amounts to a scheme in which privileged venture capitalists are subsidised by everyone else.

Attracting venture capital, we are told by our po-faced ring master Turnbull will enable the best business brains to invent new businesses which in turn will G-R-O-W the economy. We are to forget in all the hoopla and excitement that venture capital has no interest in progress or innovation as such. But it loves huge profits.

Turnbull expects us to fall in love with a scheme to encourage those whose business model includes the very best the Cayman Islands has to offer. It will not build a 21st Century economy or a nation but it will accelerate our already disturbingly rapid divergence into two distinct nations, a nation of haves and have-nots.

Yet is anyone really surprised by Turnbull and Pyne’s surprise package? Turnbull gave us our NBN, popularly known as ‘fraudband’. A political stunt, NBN is now woefully behind schedule, over-budget, slow and over-priced. It is increasingly evident to consumers that the NBN project, like Direct Action is fundamentally flawed.

Substituting copper wire for fibre allowed the LNP to undercut Labor’s real NBN, but it is a bit like carrying forward Kyoto credits instead of reducing our carbon emissions, an accountancy trick which does nothing to make it all work. A sale of Turnbull’s NBN lemon is rumoured. In softening bankruptcy rules, Monday’s message is that it’s OK to fail. You learn from it. Turnbull would know. Or is it OK to fail, provided someone else picks up the tab?

A Humpty Dumpty for our times, Turnbull can make Innovation! TM mean whatever he chooses as he peddles a scheme to boost his wealthy backers’ fortunes at the expense of all the rest of us; a type of subsidy for the investing classes. Treasurer Morrison is on standby to announce further cuts in government spending; cuts to our services and quality of life as a nation, all in the name of Innovation! Innovation! is already morphing into a new, secular religion, at least in Liberal Party circles. Or is it a tax-deductible church and charity to business? What is certain is that it will cost us all dearly.

Innovation promises, programmes are old hat in Australia. Innovation policy expert Roy Green notes that Australia has had 60 reports at Commonwealth level on innovation since 2000. $9.7billion of government funds is spent annually on ‘research and innovation’ across 13 portfolios and 150 budget line items.

Making Innovation! into a faith means that it is immune from criticism. You can’t be against the future can you? Only a heretic would be sceptical. Challenging the creed is almost un-Australian, as Malcolm Turnbull clearly implied when he chided Leigh Sales on Monday’s 7:30 Report. ‘Aunty is not interested in Innovation!?’ he gibed. Nor was she excited. ‘Exciting’ infects all government policy announcements it seems. It is becoming a test of faith. Forget reason. If you are not excited, you are beyond the pale; an unbeliever and a Luddite.

Turnbull’s ‘exciting’ announcement on his nation’s future is pure theatre. Spruiking his package around lunch time Monday, the PM is flanked by our agile new Innovation! Minister, Christopher Pyne, the consummate political organ grinder’s monkey who is reinventing – repositioning himself – ‘in this space’ – before our very eyes. Pyne is flattered, he says, to reveal that his name was called second when Turnbull announced his new cabinet, but to others the PM’s choice of Christopher Pyne for the new portfolio signals an each-way bet at least on its success.

A spectacular flop as a ‘back to the future’ Education Minister, whose advisors included back to basics gurus, Kevin Donnelly and other advocates for corporal punishment and that old nostrum ‘the Judaeo-Christian tradition’ to purge the modern filth of relevance from children’s learning, Pyne peddled his ideologically blinkered, backward vision of education as a private market-driven commodity and the rightful prerogative of the rich.

Although the odd, ambitious, Vice Chancellor could see promotion in embracing Pyne’s elitist neo-liberal plan to privatise learning, there were few other takers. It was widely believed that Pyne was forced to write a book, about himself for his children lest they read for themselves, one day, unaided the truth about their father’s failures. Yet he is a survivor. A sequel, Christopher Pyne, A Man for All Seasons, must surely follow.

Disappointingly missing from the launch of the new era of mindless optimism, Australia’s own techno-Micawberism was a song and dance routine. Surely Kylie could be persuaded to reprise Locomotion with just one or two judicious edits?

‘Everyone is doing it … the Innovation! … c’mon … c’mon … do the Innovation! with me’.

Another Prime Minister, another Christopher Pyne is doubtless already working on the choreography. ‘Industry, Innovation! and science’ are conjoined uneasily in a threesome of convenience in the tyro minister’s full title but we all know it’s a meaningless title for a made up job to keep a recycled Pyne, a numbers man, in Turnbull’s pocket in case another coup is brewing.

Abbott will stay in politics by popular demand, he says, between snipes at his PM and his PM”s policies. Yet Mr Popularity brushes aside his need to discipline rogues. Even with the recent eight point downturn, he’s still up in the ego polls of preferred PM, as if it matters.

Turnbull is mobbed by his own cheer squad. Kate Carnell just loves him. Andrew Carnegie has a man crush. Orchestrated squeals of approval are heard from the hordes of ‘institutes’ and other ubiquitous lobby groups for the rich which will successfully block any real progress or innovation. Indeed, Australians have stagnation rather than innovation to look forward to in the words of the clear-eyed economist Satyajit Das.

‘What I’m seeing now in Australia is the same that I see in many Western democracies. Powerful lobby groups form and then they basically push their own agendas and, because they countervail each other, the whole system basically gets completely and totally stagnant and nothing happens.’

Turnbull’s Innovation! stimulus package unleashes a Pavlovian stampede as business classes clamour and elbow each other aside to snout the public trough, breaking only to preach small government or plead with government to cut funds from the poor and disadvantaged. An intoxicating scent of vast profits to be made wafts towards the feral animal spirits of the entrepreneurial classes like catnip from Canberra. This way if you want to make money!

Anyone who has any can lend their money at favourable rates and with less risk to ‘start-ups’ or new businesses. Rich white men step up. They are not slow to catch on to Malcolm’s spiel. Business, especially ‘small business’ as the motley, multifarious mob likes to style itself, can see that Innovation! is all about encouraging ‘start-ups’ or small business ventures. About them. And that’s all it is. Innovation! is not about new or original ideas. The country can’t afford any of that expensive, non-productive nonsense.

Kill-joy Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, is duty-bound to remind anyone still listening to him that, ‘Since the 2013 election, the Abbott-Turnbull Government has cut $3 billion from innovation, science and research initiatives.’ Let Malcolm Turnbull insist at every turn that we are an agile and clever country, the evidence is otherwise.

Australia may rank number one in the world for how many years kids typically spend at school, but it is 77th when it comes to how many graduate with science and engineering degrees. Here Australia ranks below Azerbaijan, Mongolia and Guatemala and will continue to do so provided our innovation is confined to creating business incubators for the wealthy at the expense of expanded, improved access for all to education.

Let Turnbull make his announcement with the assistance of a funky horn-rimmed Pyne now reborn as guru of the Innovation! vibe. Well may they redeem bankruptcy and failure as yet another stage in learning. Pyne is destined to fail at his latest project just as surely as he flopped as Minister for Education. Unless, of course, he incurs collateral damage as Mal Brough digs himself out of the Ashby go-fetch-Slipper’s-diary scandal.

Australians are not deceived. They know that Prime Ministers and governments do not create innovative nations or economies by decree. They know that however attractive the tax breaks, a rash of investment in companies based on the software start-up model is no more a step towards greater national prosperity than it is a way to restructure our stalled economy.

Designed to reward his small business backers, presented as something it is clearly not, infected by the mania of the Silicon Valley start-up cult and heeding none of its limitations, Turnbull’s Innovation! Package is a breach of faith with the Australian people as much as a signal failure of his government’s political imagination and will to explore real reform. Still, with Kylie behind it, The Innovation! could really catch on.

‘Everyone is doing it … the Innovation! … c’mon … c’mon … do the Innovation! with me’.

 

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Why Tony Abbott Isn’t Darth Vader … Although Christopher Pyne May Be R2-D2!

Another Star Wars movie.

Little did I know when I saw that first one way back in the seventies that I was watching something that would have such staying power.

Of course, it’s obvious in retrospect because it has all the ingredients of a modern myth. Good versus evil. The Force. The Dark Side. The young apprentice learning from the wise Yoda. (I realise that some of the younger readers won’t actually realise this but we used to have apprentices in Australia once.)

And, of course, it’s all about sex. You have that final climax where Luke and the others fly down a long tunnel and shoot their tiny little objects in the hope of hitting that small target. If that’s not a metaphor for sperm hitting the egg, I don’t know what is… I’m not going to make any comment on “Hands Solo” and his big hairy wooky. Or did I spell that wrong? Impossible, phonics means that nobody would ever be illiterate ever again.

Anyway, I was just reflecting on the Liberals and the strange disconnect between gladly welcoming refugees from a camp overseas, while demonising those who came by sea “our boundless plains to share”.

But it’s this capacity to divide things into good and evil that has me thinking. Once someone is defined as evil – in the eyes of many of the Liberal frontbencher – then all rights are forfeit. It’s not a case of I just made a simple mistake. No, you don’t deserve a trial. You deserve incarceration or deportation.

Good people, on the other hand, should always be given the benefit of the doubt. Even after there’s no doubt. That’s why Arthur Sinidinos is back in the ministry and Craig Thom(P)son was a tainted vote.

Of course, the ascension of Turnbull has left all sides of politics a little confused. Parts of the left are breathing a sigh of relief that Abbott’s gone, while pointing out that Turnbull hasn’t actually changed very much. Well… He hasn’t actually changed anything of significance, but one has to impressed with that Cheshire cat grin and the fact that he actually he actually attempts to argue some sort of case rather than working on the assumption that we can all assume that anyone who disagrees with him has already gone over to the Dark Side and can just be ignored.

The Liberals, on the other hand, fall into two camps. Those who are just pleased that Abbott’s gone and Malcolm might actually win the next election and be PM for a long, long time, and those who are pleased that Malcolm might actually win the next election and then they can put Abbott back after they’ve got control of the Senate and they can pass laws which say that any votes against the government can be ignored under the sedition laws which say that it’s a criminal offence to try and bring down the government.

Of course, that sounds far-fetched to a lot of people.

And it is …

Then again, any suggestion that Abbott would reintroduce knights and dames and, not only that, suggest that Prince Phil should go down on one knee to get a tap from Lizzie would have been dismissed as the ramblings of someone with little grip on reality just a llttle over two years ago.

And it’s always interesting what people deny. If you saw this video clip last week, you’ll notice that it was reported Greg Sheridan denied telling people that Abbott is going around saying that second Abbott government will be better that the first!

However, you’ll notice that he’s denying what he allegedly said, not the part about Abbott going around saying that!

If this was Star Wars, what would they call it?

Abbott The Second Coming. (Nah, too religious.)

Abbott Strikes Back!

Return of The Shit!

Whoops, typo there.

Should be “Return of the Sith”.

 

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Money Is No Object!

Paul Sheahan wrote something rather interesting today…

Well, that’s incorrect. He wrote something that caught my eye. And I’m trying to work out whether the man suffers from memory problems or is simply lying. He wrote:

“In politics, the Rudd Labor government went berserk on deficit spending to remain popular.”

Now, I’m happy for someone to debate whether the Rudd government’s policies were effective, or whether they just postponed the inevitable recession. I’m happy for someone to debate whether the money could have been better spent. I’m even happy for them to debate whether or not the pink batts problems were caused by socialism or unchecked capitalism.

But to suggest that the deficit spending was all about “being popular” just strikes me as a total rewriting of history. Even at the time, much of the spending wasn’t popular. The Liberals were telling us that Labor had gone too hard, too early and there’d be no money left when we were actually in recession – which they assured us was unavoidable.. Many asserted that the $900 would be wasted on alcohol and pokies.

(On a side note, isn’t it interesting that when Labor tried to introduce a voluntary pre-commitment amount for pokies, the Liberals teamed up the Clubs and screamed “nanny state”, but the Ceduna trial of a welfare card which can’t be spent on alcohol or gambling is just fine and dandy.)

Anyway, Paul Sheahan thinks that all the Rudd government’s spending was only to make his government “popular”. And I’d like to point out that he does specifically say the “Rudd Labor government”, so he is talking about the spending that was done at the height of the GFC. This not about things like the NBN or the National Disability Scheme.

Sheahan is one of people who like to remind us of that factoid that there’s a limited amount of money. (Note the use of the word “factoid” which, as I pointed out when Christopher Pyne used the word in parliament, means something that’s repeated often enough for people to take it as fact.)

The problem when we discuss “money” is that many people take it as synonymous with “cash” of which there is a limited amount at any given moment. “Money”, on the other hand, is a measure rather than being a thing in itself. Money tells you how much of the limited resources of the world you can access should you convert your money into something else. Of course, should everyone decide to convert their money into things at the same time, then we’d have inflation. And if they all decided to convert their money into the same thing – such as tulips – we’d have a bubble. (See Dutch Tulip Bubble.) We have people telling us that bubbles are inevitable and just part of the capitalist system.

As banks and governments can create money with the stroke of a computer key. money is infinite. Of course, if they do create an excessive amount of extra money, then the existing values of the “money” will diminish. There are a limited amount of tulips and if there’s suddenly an extra trillion dollars in the tulip market that million dollars for a bulb is going to look like a bargain.

Perhaps a good way to look at it is to use a sporting analogy. Money is the score and while sometimes scoring is hard, that’s only because there’s a team that keeps taking the ball of us and trying to score themselves. In the unusual event that we all decide that we’d rather see a good fast, high-scoring game and we start kicking for the same end, scoring becomes a lot easier. Of course, in real life, this doesn’t happen very often, and many people who are scoring like it’s a basketball game, wonder why the soccer players are finding it so hard to score and conclude that it’s because they’re lazy.

So when people start talking about there being a limited amount of money, what they actually mean is that there are a limited amount of resources. However, if governments can use money to reorganise the economy so that more “resources” are being created then it can actually add to the wealth of the country. If a person is working instead of being unemployed or underemployed, then that adds to the overall pool of “resources”.

The question is not whether such things can be done. Of course they can. The question is what is the most effective and worthwhile way to do it. Will reducing unemployment by two percent create a wages breakout? And a tulip bubble which leads to problems down the track? Will increasing unemployment by one percent mean that we have a tulip glut on our hands? Or is it better to have a regulated tulip market and stop all this speculation.

Creating more money was more or less what the Rudd Labor government did in the early days of the GFC. It was about economic management. Given that we were in danger of recession, there was little prospect of inflation.

So the idea that it was about popularity is another one of those little factoids that certain columnists are so fond of helping to create.

 

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The high achievers of the Abbott Government who should keep their Ministries!

Below is a short list of Ministers – the high achievers – who should keep their positions after the reshuffle.

Minister for Women. OK, let’s start with Mr Abbott himself. As Minister for Women he’s responsible for a number of achievements:

  • His signature paid parental leave scheme which was so good that we couldn’t afford it.
  • As he reminded us, removing the carbon tax enabled the women of Australia to use electricity for their ironing instead of warming it on the stove.
  • Stopping the boats which was good for everyone, even women.
  • Commenting on the popularity of women when they were working surrounded by men.
  • Encouraging them to take scholarships in fashion courses.

Minister for Education: Christopher Pyne has also been a high achiever. Recently he announced changes to the Australian Curriculum which promise a greater emphasis on phonics, as well as a greater emphasis on the benefits of Western civilization and Anzac Day. I’m shore u’ll awl agree that fonnix helps stewdents to spel evareethink crektly. Wuns thay spell werds as they sownd, then nowun will complain about bad spelling eny moor. But Pyne has been an achiever from the moment he took over the portfolio proudly boasting that he hadn’t read the Gonski report, giving confidence to all those students who attempt essays without reading their English texts.

The Attorney General: George Brandis, the quiet underachiever. George may have ignored tradition in this portfolio by failing to defend the court system when those “vigilantes” held up a coal mine by resorting to the unfair tactic of using the existing law, but that’s not the only thing he hasn’t done. The list is quite long and, honestly, you’d have more hope of getting through the books in his library, which is another reason to keep him in his current position. Moving his bookshelves again could jeopardise the Budget which is on a path to sustainable surplus sometime after the return of Halley’s comet.

Minister For Employment: He’s hardly been a quiet achiever, not only has he been busy with his portfolio, but he’s had an opinion on same sex marriage and the links between breast cancer and abortions. Of course, you all know that I’m talking about the erudite Eric Abetz. OK, he may be a bit left wing for his uncle Otto and Andrew Bolt but, in case you’ve forgotten, among his achievements are this change to “red tape”:

After streamlining, employers will no longer have to report on:

  • CEO remuneration

  • remuneration of casual managers

  • components of total remuneration

  • numbers of job applications and interviews, and

  • requests and approvals for extended parental leave.

And, of course, last but not leased … and certainly not for sale, the man who professed his loyalty to Abbott right to the very end, we have

Treasurer: Joe Hockey has put us on a path to sustainable surplus. Or so the Liberals keep telling us. Considering we were a basket case just two years ago, Joe’s measures have put us back on track in extraordinarily quick time. Particularly when those nasty senators wouldn’t even allow a number of his vital Budget measures. How can a miracle worker like that be dumped?

Apart from that, I suggest that Mr Turnbull should spill all other positions and draw names out of a hat for ministry positions.

Let’s face it, he couldn’t do much worse than Abbott’s attempts at choosing a ministry.

 

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Haven’t they sacked Pyne yet?

Just to reinforce that we have not had any change of thinking with a new leader, Christopher Pyne rolled out his “new curriculum”, endorsed by state education ministers yesterday.

There is to be a greater focus on Western civilisation and our Christian heritage.

Indigenous issues have been cut from parts of the curriculum, and students will no longer be taught about Harmony Week, National Reconciliation Week, or NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week.

It’s worth noting that, on the IPA’s 75 point wish list, number 73 is “Defund Harmony Day”.

Students will continue to learn about Australia Day, Anzac Day and National Sorry Day. The Year 6 study of the contribution of “individuals and groups” to Australian society will no longer include a reference to indigenous people or migrants, and will be confined to the post-Federation period.

The existing requirement to study Australia’s connection to Asia has been deleted from the new curriculum.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the changes would resolve “overcrowding’’ in the primary school curriculum, boost the teaching of phonics and strengthen references to Western influences in Australia’s history.

The states and territories did not agree to make STEM subjects compulsory in high school, partly because they do not have the teachers to do it.

They also decided, on advice from The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), that from next year, new teaching graduates will not be allowed into classrooms until they pass a test ranking them in the top 30 per cent of the population for literacy and numeracy.

Wouldn’t it be better to do that sort of testing before they start their degree rather than when they have finished it? They are also going to make the students pay for the test themselves, and whilst imposing higher standards on trainee teachers, I have heard no mention of higher pay.

AITSL chairman John Hattie — who took part in the ministerial meeting — said the changes would bring teaching closer in line with professions such as engineering and medicine.

“We have to make it very clear to people considering a teaching career that if you’re dumb you can’t be a teacher,’’ he told The Weekend Australian. “We need to worry considerably about the students in the classroom and the quality of the person standing up in front of them.’’

To all you ‘dumb’ people who were aspiring to be teachers, might I suggest a career in politics instead – no such restrictions apply.

 

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Christopher Pyne’s Greatest Hits of 2015: Winner of the People’s Choice Snoutie

It’s official. The people have spoken. Christopher Pyne has won the inaugural People’s Choice Snoutie.

Voting for the People’s Choice Snoutie Award kicked off last weekend, and closed yesterday. For a while Senate Leader Eric Abetz was a serious contender for the title – but Pyne, like the poodle with a bone that he is, took the lead fairly early on and eventually streaked ahead to claim victory by a significant margin.

The Inaugural ‘On the Snout’ Awards

OnTheSnoutDefinition In case you didn’t catch last week’s ‘unbiasedly’ prestigious and soon-to-be coveted ‘On the Snout’ awards – here’s a quick run-down on what you missed.

The On the Snout awards – or ‘Snouties’ – are named after recently retired U.S. political satirist Jon Stewart, who in his last show exhorted his viewers to be vigilant in watching out for bullshit, saying “if you smell something, say something”.

There was plenty to smell in Canberra in the last parliamentary sitting fortnight – and so the ‘On the Snout’ awards were created. The inaugural awards went to four worthy winners:

  • The David Copperfield Magic with Numbers Award – went to Joe ‘Eleventy’ Hockey
  • The George Orwell 1984 Award – went to Peter ‘PDuddy’ Dutton
  • The Dragon Slayer Award – went to Chief of Lawfare, George Brandis
  • The Golden Snoutie Award – the most coveted award of all – went to Snout in Chief, Tony Abbott

(Read more about how each of the above award winners won their awards here.)

The People’s Choice Snoutie

While the winners of these four key awards were announced last week, there was still one award for the last parliamentary sitting fortnight left to be decided – the People’s Choice Snoutie.

PeoplesChoiceSnoutieTranswithS As its name suggests, the winner of this award is chosen by the people of Australia who were asked to vote for “the member of the LNP cabinet (other than Tony Abbott) who has been the most ‘on the snout’ over the last fortnight“.

And like the well-informed electors that we are, the people of Australia voted. With well over a thousand votes cast, we can be fairly certain that the people have picked the LNP cabinet member most worthy of this award.

And the winner is . . . (drum roll please) . . .

Christopher Pyne [Sound of applause]

Christopher Pyne’s win is particularly impressive since he was not actually present in the second week of the last parliamentary sitting. And in week one, other than some press around his expense claims – particularly around spending $5,000 to fly three members of his family to Sydney for New Year’s Eve in 2010 – he was on the periphery of key events rather than being at the centre of them.

So how did Christopher Pyne win the much coveted People’s Snoutie award?

The answer is fairly simple – Pyne started the fortnight with such a high level of snoutiness, that even a fairly low profile over that two week period was unable to dull exactly how ‘on the snout’ he is. This is perhaps best expressed by an insightful quote from The Shovel a few months back:

Being massively annoying and effectively wearing people down until they agree with him is Christopher’s strong suit.

In Christopher Pyne’s own words:

You couldn’t kill me with an axe. I’m going to keep coming back.

It’s this level of commitment to snoutiness that was a key part of why Christopher Pyne won the inaugural People’s Choice Snoutie this week.

So let’s revisit some of Christopher Pyne’s greatest hits this year, which led to him winning this award.

Christopher Pyne’s Greatest Hits for 2015 (the story so far . . . )

Education reform – it’s all about the money

Pyne’s so-called ‘Education Reform’ legislation is undoubtedly his number one hit for the year – and a continuing chart-topper from 2014. Its title suggests that he is doing something to improve the way we educate. But not so much. In fact the only thing the Bill is seeking to reform is the way that higher education and research are funded – he’s effectively doing Joe Hockey’s work for him. But reform is a much nicer word than ‘taxation’ – making it easier to package up this pile of snoutiness for an attempted sale.

But unfortunately for Pyne and his LNP colleagues – nobody is buying it. The draft Bill has been knocked back by the Senate twice already. Further, both Australia’s top universities and one of the experts who provided input to the design of the original Education Reform Bill say the proposed Bill is fixing a problem that doesn’t exist while leaving the real issues unresolved – suggesting even more that the Bill is primarily a revenue-raising exercise by the government rather than actual reform – and definitely on the snout.

The Black Knight of Snoutiness

It was Nick Xenophon who first pointed out our People’s Choice Snoutie winner’s similarities to the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail:

Just like the Black Knight, Pyne keeps on keeping on with his much-on-the-snout Bill, despite the disdain almost everyone else has for it. Which brings us to . . .

Taking Research Scientist Jobs Hostage

No-one could forget Pyne’s attempt at a ScoMo tactic back in March this year, when he took 1700 Research Scientists’ jobs hostage. His initial ransom demand was that the Senate must pass his Education ‘Reform’ Bill.

In doing this, he was following Scott ‘ScoMo’ Morrison’s tactic from the end of the previous year, when he managed to get changes to the Migration Act passed by the Senate. ScoMo did this by telling the crossbenchers in the Senate that if they didn’t pass the changes, 150 children would not be released from detention before Christmas. As you may recall, apparently ScoMo even had some of the actual children – who could have been released at any point without the Bill being passed – call Ricky Muir, pleading to get him to pass the bill.

It’s difficult to get snoutier than that.

But Christopher Pyne is always up for a challenge it seems. And so, our first People’s Choice Snoutie winner decided to emulate ScoMo – this time holding Scientists’ jobs hostage, saying:

“There are consequences for not voting for this reform and that’s very important for the crossbenchers to understand. The consequences are that potentially 1700 researchers will lose their jobs.”

Luckily, after significant outrage from pretty much everyone, Pyne magically found the money needed to fund these jobs, and he released his hostages without harm, declaring himself to be ‘the fixer’.

Taking from the Poor to give to the Rich (the Anti-Robin-Hood)

In 2014, Pyne has cut funding to certain state schools and increased funding to a significant number of private schools. Apparently he feels a “‘particular responsibility for non-government schooling’ that [he] doesn’t feel for government schools“.

Magically finding funding for one of Abbott’s Pet Projects

Despite the emergency in university funding, it turns out that there is still money available for one of Abbott’s favourite climate-contrarians – Bjorn Lomborg.

As you may recall, four million dollars was offered to any university who would allow Lomborg to establish a ‘consensus centre’ on climate change – of which up to 70% was to have been spent on promotion, marketing and events. The University of Western Australia was originally going to give Lomborg a home, but withdrew due to strong opposition to the centre. Apparently Flinders University is currently considering whether they will take him and his four million dollars worth of funding on.


Any single one of these entries would have been enough to win Pyne a Snoutie award in the normal run of events. Combined, they paint a picture of a worthy winner of the inaugural People’s Choice Snoutie award.

Take a bow Christopher Pyne – you are most definitely on the snout.

Thanks to all for voting. If you’ve got further examples of Pyne’s Greatest Hits this year that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear your comments below.

This article was first published on Progressive Conversation.

 

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The Pynes have never seen the fireworks . . . Right this wrong!

In defending a $5000 cost for Christopher Pyne and three of his family members to fly to Sydney from Adelaide over the Christmas/New Year period, a spokesperson explained that Pyne did engage in work activities and he and his family had never seen the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Either this spokesperson has a burning ambition to dump Pyne and the rest of the Coalition government even further in it, or he or she is so steeped in the tradition of political entitlement and privilege that they can see no downside to revealing that we, the hapless taxpayers, many of whom never have and never will see the fireworks in Sydney on New Year’s Eve except on the telly, paid for the Pyne family to enjoy this cultural privilege.

I have never subscribed to the belief that any one human being is of greater significance than any other so naturally, I don’t see why my tax dollars should fund the Pyne kids’ excursion to the fireworks just because they have Christopher for their father. Oh, but wait. They have Christopher for their father. I may need to rethink my position on their disadvantage.

It may be a glitch in my constitution, but I have never found reason to respect any individual simply because she or he holds a particular office. There are actually very few people I do respect, and none of them are politicians or public figures. If I was going to shout anyone a trip to the fireworks, it would be one of them. There is much codswallop bandied about with regard to respecting “the office,” but one cautious glimpse at the increasingly unhinged Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, ought to disabuse anyone of the notion of respecting an office, given the type of lunatic who can apparently hold it. An office, like an institution, is only as good as the human beings inhabiting it, and that can be very very bad indeed.

We do not have “politicians” anymore, in the sense of a class of people willing to give a period of their lives to the service and well-being of the citizenry and the country. We have instead ideologues, intent on pursuing their self-interested goals and taking every possible advantage of us while they do it. It matters little on which side of the House they plonk their narcissistic arses, as is evidenced in the uncharacteristic rush to defend one another’s expenses claims. Of course extravagance is in the rules: politicians wrote the rules and they may not know much about running a country, but they do know how to look after themselves.

Pyne says he will not be repaying the airfares we coughed up for his family to see the fireworks. Why am I not surprised. Call me cynical, but if anything comes from Abbott’s apparent determination to address the “entitlement” rules I suspect it will be an amendment to permit taxpayer-funded travel to party fundraisers. The man who wrings his hands over the denial of coal supplies to poverty-stricken millions on the sub continent who will, he claims, suffer and possibly die because of the Federal Court decision on the Adani Carmichael coal mine, gives not a fig for the Australian taxpayer who, while increasingly unable to make ends meet, has to watch his or her tax dollars pay for the children of comfortable and privileged politicians to fly business class and see the spectacles.

Time to get out the metaphorical tumbrils.

This article was first published on No Place For Sheep.

 

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Alchemy, phonics and the future of our children

As alchemist Abbott tries to turn coal into gold and professor Pyne pushes phonics, our children’s future is being placed in jeopardy.

A recent report from chief scientist Ian Chubb stated that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations required science, technology, engineering or mathematics skills and knowledge yet there has been a continuing decline in the percentage of year 12 science and maths students over the past two decades.

In 2012 there were 30,800 more students in year 12 than in 1992 but 8000 fewer physics students, 4000 fewer chemistry students and 12,000 fewer biology students than two decades previously. The percentage of students studying advanced and intermediate maths also declined over a similar period.

There is also a significant gender imbalance with boys far more likely to choose maths and science subjects than girls. (Male over-representation in Physics: 28%, Advanced maths: 16%, Intermediate maths: 7.3%, Chemistry: 3.8%)

This has very worrying implications for society.

“People who have a background in science beyond year 10 are more likely to persist in trying to understand issues like climate change, GM crops and coal seam gas than someone who thinks, ‘It’s all too hard, I’m just going to go with what someone else says’,” Dr Lyons, an associate professor of science education at Queensland University of Technology, said.

While Christopher Pyne focuses on phonics and rewriting history, more enlightened minds, those with actual expertise in the area of education, are calling for science and maths specialists in primary schools and better teacher training, support and resources.

John Kennedy, the head of science at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney, said engaging teachers helped spark a child’s interest in science at a young age and helped retain older students in their final school years.

“It’s not that [students] find the sciences or the maths hard,” said Mr Kennedy.

“If the teacher is engaging, wanting to work with the [student], then the [student] wanted to study it the next year,” he said.

Research has found engaging children in science before the age of 11 to 14 was critical to their long-term interest in the subject.

Since 2004, the Australian Academy of Science has run Primary Connections, a primary school science and literacy program that has helped improve teacher quality and been used in 73 per cent of Australian schools.

Primary Connections is based on an inquiry-orientated teaching and learning model. Students use their prior knowledge and literacies to develop explanations for their hands-on experiences of scientific phenomena. Students have opportunities to represent and re-represent their developing understanding. They are engaged actively in the learning process. Students develop investigations skills and an understanding of the nature of science.

Teaching and learning progresses through five phases: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate.

Engage

Each unit begins with a lesson that mentally engages students with an activity or question. It captures their interest, provides an opportunity for them to express what they know about the concept or skill being developed, and helps them to make connections between what they know and the new ideas.

Explore

Students carry out hands-on activities in which they can explore the concept or skill. They grapple with the problem or phenomenon and describe it in their own words. This phase allows students to acquire a common set of experiences that they can use to help each other make sense of the new concept or skill.

Explain

Only after students have explored the concept or skill does the teacher provide the concepts and terms used by the students to develop explanations for the phenomenon they have experienced. The significant aspect of this phase is that explanation follows experience.

Elaborate

This phase provides opportunities for students to apply what they have learned to new situations and so develop a deeper understanding of the concept or greater use of the skill. It is important for students to discuss and compare their ideas with each other during this phase.

Evaluate

The final phase provides an opportunity for students to review and reflect on their own learning and new understanding and skills. It is also when students provide evidence for changes to their understanding, beliefs and skills.

Unfortunately, our Education Minister prefers the Direct Instruction approach.

  • DI focuses on teacher control of lesson pacing and content and does not encourage the engagement with student cultural resources, background knowledge and community context.
  • It deskills teachers by routinizing their work and downplaying their professional capacity to vary instructional pace and curriculum content depending on the student cohort and context.
  • It works through strict tracking of student progress and ability grouping, which research shows can severely disadvantage some students.
  • Finally, it places the teacher and child in a rigid relationship where the teacher is always the one with the power and knowledge with limited allowance or recognition of individual and cultural difference. This relationship is not conducive to local adaptation of lessons or content to accommodate community, cultural or individual differences, creativity and innovation in teaching and learning.

Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has been given tens of millions in government funding to implement Direct Instruction in Cape York communities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has not been successful despite all the funding, with only 25 per cent of the Aurukun youth of high school age attending school. Many are sent off to boarding school but leave at the first opportunity.

“The communities of Aurukun and Hope Vale report a significant number of disengaged youth of high school age who have returned to community but have not engaged in an education option. These youth participate in dysfunctional behaviour and feel disengaged from mainstream society and also from their own communities.”

When we combine this didactic approach with the demise of the Gonski reforms, the attack on TAFEs, huge cuts in funding for research and scientific bodies, and the proposed deregulation of university fees, Abbott’s mantra of “Jobs and Growth” is hard to take seriously.

And what sort of an example are they setting when this government ignores all science, all fact-based evidence, to remove a carbon price, put a ban on wind turbines, and advocate more coal-burning.

Instead of anticipating the skills needed for the future, Abbott would rather issue 457 visas than train Australians. Instead of investing in research by the CSIRO and universities, he would rather give money to big pharma. Instead of needs-based funding for education, he would rather fund elite private schools. Instead of funding TAFEs he would rather give accreditation to dubious private colleges.

With a Prime Minister who is a puppet for his donors, an environment minister who measures his success by how many coal mines he can fast track, and an education minister who prefers ‘chalk and talk’, the fate of our children is in the hands of Luddites.

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I have a bad feeling . . .

Whilst we have all been distracted by Choppergate and passionately discussing Adam Goodes and marriage equality, I have a sinking feeling we have been sold out and not just by the TPP. The tea leaves are telling me that the crossbenchers may have sold out on higher education reform.

Today I saw David Leyonjhelm interviewed and he was purring about his success in destroying the wind industry. He said seven of the eight crossbench Senators had combined to achieve this and that they are realising the power they have when they agree.

When asked if there had been any progress on the budget measures that were still blocked in the Senate he immediately said yes, there had been some successful negotiation.

Apparently Greg Hunt was not happy about the wind farm embargo but Tony Abbott weighed in with his support because “he very much wanted their support” on another matter.

The alarm bells started ringing when I read in the Guardian:

“The Abbott government is spending $150,000 outsourcing its negotiations with crossbench senators and the university sector about the higher education package that has been blocked twice by the upper house.

The talks are being led by Robert Griew, a consultant who was until recently an associate secretary in the federal Department of Education and Training with responsibility for higher education policy.

Griew is now a principal of the Nous Group, a firm that has won a federal government contract to assess “stakeholder views” on higher education, including the Coalition’s push to deregulate university fees.

The department’s contract with Nous Group was worth $150,000 and would run from 13 July to 5 August, according to the AusTender website, which cited the “need for independent research or assessment”.

Griew has sought meetings with crossbench senators, telling them the education minister, Christopher Pyne, wanted to bring the legislation back to the parliament during the spring sittings.”

For starters, what the hell are we paying Christopher Pyne for? Is he so objectionable that he can’t be the person to do the negotiation? Is there no-one in his Department that is able to brief the Senators and negotiate with the university sector?

But even more disturbing was Leyonjhelm’s smile. Have they sold out our kids to pander to the woman who doesn’t want a wind farm next door? Surely not?

I have a bad feeling . . .

 

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NAPLAN, Domestic Violence, Corruption And Good Old Uncle Otto!

Ideas are a bit like being caught it in a river; it’s easy to be swept along without stopping to actually think about whether or not you should swim to the side and have a think about where you’re being taken.

So yesterday, I found the commentary on NAPLAN rather strange, and I was concerned about where the current seemed to be heading.

To summarise, we’ve had NAPLAN for seven years now and (amazingly!) we haven’t seen significant improvement in the test scores.

There was also a story on the radio about a place where they’d trialled putting domestic violence offenders in remand when they breached an intervention order. This was showing some signs of being effective the spokesman said.

In other words, when you actually do something, it sometimes works.

Which sort of made me think of NAPLAN.

The whole idea that simply testing students every two years would have led to any improvement is as ridiculous as expecting that getting people ignoring intervention orders to do surveys would have led to a reduction in the number of breaches.

If NAPLAN had been combined with some teaching initiative, or at the end of the Gonski reforms then there might be something to question, if scores “hadn’t significantly improved”.

Of course, for some people, the expectation was that NAPLAN would mean that teachers tried harder. It’ll be interesting to see if this data is interpreted by politicians to mean that maybe teachers are trying as hard as they can, or whether we’ll have someone like Christopher Pyne* telling us that this simply means that there’s no need for extra funding because we now spend more on education than we did when Australia was first colonised and that literacy levels were better back then and that the only answer is to privatise it because the private sector does everything better.

Like corruption.

Well, I should be careful what I say here because there’s been allegations of a criminal nature about Australia Post sub-contractors and everyone should have the presumption of innocence. However, it’s more the light it’s shining on the wonderful shifting of much of the TAFE sector into private hands that interests me.

Apparently, unlike the public sector, the private sector exists to make a profit, and, as a result, some people put making money before giving students a quality education. Or, in some cases, any education.

Who’da thunk that, eh?

Certainly not the Liberals who seem to think that their mates in the private sector can run anything more efficiently than they can. So let’s sell off everything and then we’ll let people self-regulate, because – as Bronwyn Bishop shows – self-regulation takes away a lot of that needless red-tape that just adds to the cost. In the case, of the TAFE sector, the lack of efficient regulation means that private prividers can eliminate costly things like teachers and course delivery, making them infinitely more efficient than the those old, innefficient monolithic government organisations who were slowed done by the requirements that they actually try to teach people some skills.

And speaking of more efficient, I notice that WA politician, Peter Abetz (Eric’s brother) was quoted as saying that Great Uncle Otto, the Nazi, wasn’t all bad. Given the views of the Nazis on homosexuality and Eric’s recent pronouncements on same sex marriage, I was a little concerned as to what he considered were some of Otto’s accomplishments. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that all Peter mentioned was how his relative had ignored Hitler’s orders about razing Paris as the Germans were retreating and prefering to negotiate with the incoming Allied Forces for a civilised withdrawl. (Shame that doesn’t run in the family!)

What a man! Ignoring orders from your superiors as it becomes clear that they’re losing the war. Sort of reminds me of the Liberal backbench standing up to Tony over Bronwyn Bishop. That sort of thing shows great courage.

Medals all round, I say.

Nah, make it knighthoods. Not for Otto though. “I must not give foreigners knighthoods” was one of the conditions of him staying on as leader after his near death experience earlier this year.

* For those of you who watched “Mad Men”, does anyone else find that Peter Campbell reminds them of Christopher Pyne, or is it just me?

pyne campbell p

 

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My Thoughts on the Week That Was

Saturday June 27

1 Do you ever wonder what happened to the debt crisis? That time when Abbott and Hockey used every negative description they could to describe Australia’s budgetary position as a disaster. Well in less than two years in office, the Abbott government has added almost $100bn to the level of Commonwealth government debt. This is a 35% increase from the $273bn level of gross government debt at the time of the September 2013 election. This increase flies in the face of the Coalition’s pledge prior to the election – and occasionally since – of reducing debt and at some stage, paying it off.

By the time the next election is held, most likely in the latter part of 2016, the Budget papers indicate the Abbott government will have increased government debt by around $150bn in its three years in power and three years of implementing its economic policy objectives.

2 Now I ask you, if the ABC is as biased as Abbott and his acolytes reckon why would they produce a series as damaging as The Killing Season?

3 President Obama had two significant victories in the Supreme Court this week. Firstly they overwhelmingly endorsed Obamacare as legal. The Republicans had tried to bring it down 50 times in the Congress. This will cement him as a great President. Secondly the Court gave its blessing to equality in marriage in all States further enhancing the President’s progressive political views.

It is now difficult to imagine how our Prime Minister could possibly prevent gay marriage becoming a reality here. He has been on the wrong side of history on so many things. Climate change is but another.

Sunday 28 June

A Sunday reflection:

The Australian flag, for me at least, has little relevance. It is simply another nation’s flag with a few stars surrounding it. It speaks of our past and not our future. But of late, I must confess to being pissed off to see it, or more precisely, many of them being used as background for a Prime Minister to spew unwarranted divisive inflammatory language about national security.

The security of a nation’s people is of course a government’s first priority. There can be no doubt about it. How you go about it is another thing. John Howard was accused, when using the term, “Be alert but not alarmed” of being just that, a alarmist. Tony Abbott on the other hand with his inflammatory language “DAESH IS COMING, IF IT CAN FOR EVERY PERSON AND FOR EVERY GOVERNMENT WITH A SIMPLE MESSAGE. SUBMIT OR DIE” makes no secret of the fact that for nothing more than political reasons he is about not only scaring you, but making you petrified. His aim is to have the entire population in a high state of anxiety.

Why? Well history shows that people are inclined to support an incumbent government in times of crisis. So everyday Tony Abbott creates crisis with National Security. He places it front and center. He makes it his top priority to imply that at any time something catastrophic is about to happen. Making people feel insecure is of the utmost importance to him. Everyday there is a reason for new laws to be passed, more money to be spent on security with explanations scant or nonexistent.

If it were all true a leader with character, judgement and discernment would, without conflicting National Security, take the people and their well-being seriously by creating a comprehensive calming statement of fact and intent that the people could digest with trust. This of course is beyond a leader like Abbott who thrives on gutter negativity.

An observation: “If the Coalition has, as it’s fond of telling us, natural economic qualities superior to anyone else in its DNA, why is it hiding behind the cloak of national security?”

What then are the facts?

When using the language of terrorism, in my mind is a 9/11 or a suicide bomber – a car bomb. Not a couple of confused kids with a sword and a knife.

So without playing down the importance of vigilance I am trying to bring some perspective to the government’s alarmist language when talking terrorism.

ABS stats on deaths by terrorist activity for the period 1978-2014 show that 113 Australians lost their lives. Yes, that’s right. In 36 years 113 people have died from terrorism.

By comparison this year around 730 will die from Domestic Violence and around 2500 will take their own lives.

You be the judge.

For me I just wish we had a leader whose voice was as loud for the victims of child abuse, domestic violence and suicide as it is for terrorism.

An observation:

“You cannot possibly believe in democracy if at the same time you think you’re party is the only one that should ever win”.

In view of the rise of far right Neo conservatism I am currently reviewing my position.

Monday 29 June

1 The LNP should rename themselves the Lost Negative Party.

2 A decent, reasoned leader governing in the public interest would concede that despite his own views the momentum for equal marriage requires immediate action. My fear is that even with a free vote there are enough LNP MPs so influenced by religion that they will ignore the public’s overwhelming desire for change.

3 Malcolm Turnbull said on Insiders yesterday that under its charter the ABC has a higher duty of objectivity than any other media outlet. He is right of course and this is evidenced by the Q&A furor. It’s just a pity that commercial outlets are not subjected to the same rules of objectivity. But that of course would be infringing on their right to free speech.

For a belly laugh read this.

Tuesday 30 June

1 The Morgan Poll shows that Federal LNP support is up 1% to 46.5% down 1% to ALP 53.5%. No doubt Labor had a bad week last week but Abbott is still on the nose. 62% of Labor support comes from the 18-24 group. LNP is favored by 57% aged over 65.

Labor also improved its position in the Essential Poll and now leads 53/47.

You work it out.

The National Security scare campaign hasn’t worked.

isis

2 Sad to see long-term head of the left-leaning think tank, the Australia Institute, Richard Dennis stepping down. Hope he continues to write.

3 Isn’t it ironic that while the LNP is facing a bitter internal dispute within its ranks about the science of climate change a new group has been formed to put pressure on them to come up with a reasonable emissions reduction target from 2020 onwards, warning against “piecemeal” policies and arguing that avoiding dangerous warming and reconfiguring the economy requires tougher and more urgent action from the Government?

Members of the group include the Australian Aluminium Council; Australian Industry Group; The Climate Institute; Australian Conservation Foundation; Business Council of Australia; WWF Australia; Australian Council of Social Service; Energy Supply Association of Australia; Australian Council of Trade Unions; and Investor Group on Climate Change.

When diverse groups such as these come together for a common cause it simply demonstrates just how far Tony Abbott is out of touch on, not only this, but many other issues.

An observation:

‘Change sometimes disregards opinion and becomes a phenomenon of its own making. With Its own inevitability’.

4 “This is not a question of a boycott” Malcolm Turnbull said referring to the fact that no one from the LNP is allowed to appear on Q&A. What is it then one might ask? An attack on free speech?

5 The children of terrorist Khaled Sharrouf are victims of the sins of the father and it amounts to child abuse. As such they should be afforded the same considerations available to other victims.

6 The proposed changes to the current successful management of Super Funds amounts to nothing more than Union bashing. Conservatives certainly know how to hate.

Another thought:

‘We would be a much better society if we took the risk of thinking for ourselves unhindered by the unadulterated crap served up by the media and self-interest groups’.

Wednesday July 1

1 Despite Bill Shorten’s horrendous week last week Tuesday’s Newspoll shows Labor is ahead of the Coalition 53% to 47%, nearly a direct reversal of the 46.5% to 53.5% result at the September 2013 federal election.

2 On Q&A the champion of free speech, Tim Wilson, the individual who goes to great lengths to protect the right of people like Jones, Bolt and other right media extremists to spread their hatred, denied it to someone he disagrees with. Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner has a very warped sense of what free speech is. As does Turnbull when it comes to the word independent.

3 Labor has left the door open for the caucus to reverse Kevin Rudd’s rule that makes it nearly impossible for the party’s elected leader to be toppled in a midnight coup. Its draft national constitution, published on its website, includes changes made to the way the leader is elected by an equally weighted ballot of caucus and party members. That’s more like it.

4 The Four Corner’s revelation that key Liberal fundraising body took Mafia money for access is of major concern. Shorten offers a bi-partisan approach to political donations but as yet Abbott hasn’t taken it up. Is it any wonder that politicians are so un-trusted?

5 Joe Hockey received $200,000 in a defamation case but the real problem is in the reason for the case in the first place. That is that for a fee of $22,000 you could be guaranteed attendance at lunches and other events with the treasurer. Reeks of . . .

6 Now out of the blue the PM has taken his unusual manner of talking into another zone.

“May God bless you, may God bless your work, may God bless the country you are helping to protect and prosper.”

Read about it here.

Thursday 2 July

1 I seems that documents obtained under FOI by The Australian Financial Review reveal that the Coalition Cabinet considered similar taxation on superannuation to that proposed by Labor but dropped it when Labor announced its policy.

So they dropped what they inevitably will have to do simply to avoid being embarrassed.

2 A question about National Security. Would you say our Prime Minister is seeking to calm our overblown fears or is playing them for all he’s worth?

3 The former well thought of Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson who was sacked by Abbott because he believed in the science of climate change, has heavily criticised the Abbott government’s renewable energy target and Direct Action policies, saying they will be a far costlier way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than an emissions trading scheme. When the truth comes back to bite you. And the truth is that we are being governed by untruthful fools.

An observation:

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

“Seriously, if our Conservative politicians go any further to the right they will be in danger of falling off”.

4 Has Labor Party morality sunk so low that it would support legislation that would see someone jailed for up to two years for reporting the abuse of asylum seekers? Have we really reached the point under Abbott that for revealing the truth, that someone is being ill-treated, even raped, you can be jailed? Shame shame. Without transparency democracy cannot exist let alone flourish.

Friday 3 July

1 The response to a Private Members Bill on equal marriage from the conservative side of politics is both predictable and illuminating. Reading between the lines of the Prime Minister’s statements it seems he is prepared to delay it for as long as he can.

And this from government whip Andrew Nikolic who heads the committee that decides on what legislation comes before the Parliament. MPs who expect a vote on same-sex marriage any time soon must have “rocks in their head”.

2 When the Abbott government’s Energy White Paper was released it made headlines for its curious reluctance to mention climate change – but the looming Defence White Paper may prove to be a different story.

A report on community consultations associated with the Defence White Paper flags the consequences of climate change, extreme weather events and environmental pressures as a significant security risk for Australia – second only to the risks posed by terrorism.

It’s all catching up with you Tony.

3 In case you didn’t know, the Attorney General and Arts Minister, George Brandis, will have the final say on all grants allocated through the newly established National Program for Excellence in the Arts, draft guidelines published on Wednesday suggest.

Doctors

4 Are Australians aware that yesterday was the start of the GP Tax by stealth? Yes that’s right yesterday saw a four year freeze on the Medicare rebate, meaning that doctors over time will be $8.43 worse off each visit so its expected they will pass it onto the patients.

Gay marriage 2

And this is the week that was.

Anthony Albanese summed it up rather nicely when talking about Tea Party conservatives and Eric Abetz’s piece on gay marriage in the SMH:

“They are stuck in the past and they want everyone to go back there and keep them company”.

One last thing:

The fragility of life and relationship is once again demonstrated with the murder of Adelaide football coach Phil Walsh. I hope the greatest game on earth stands tall in the circumstances.

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Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

When Tony Abbott chose his Ministers one can only wonder at his motivation.

The Minister for Immigration morphed into Border Security, tasked with stopping those who would seek safe haven in our country.

The Minister for Communications was appointed to destroy the NBN.

The Minister for Health, an ex-policeman, after no consultation with the health industry or treasury, set about dismantling universal health care. He also ripped up the National Hospitals Agreement with no consultation with the States.

The Minister for Social Services rescinded gambling reform laws and labelled anyone who used the services of his department as bludgers and leaners.

The Minister for the Environment went on a rampage getting rid of carbon pricing, winding back safeguards and rights of appeal, delisting and endangering world heritage sites, while approving mining, development, and deforestation at an obscene rate.

The Minister for Industry put the final nail in the coffin for car manufacturing and has overseen the death of the renewable energy industry.

The Minister for Trade and Investment signed FTAs which have cost the budget billions in tariff revenue, allowed foreign companies to bring in their own workers, and put our sovereignty over health and environmental laws at risk.

The Treasurer and Finance Minister have destroyed business and consumer confidence by their constant refrain of a “debt and deficit disaster” which they have greatly added to by producing a budget that was so blatantly unfair and poorly researched and targeted that it had no chance of being passed.

But perhaps the cruellest appointment of all was putting Christopher Pyne in charge of education.

On pages 40 and 41 of the Real Solutions pamphlet the Coalition made the following promises:

  • We will continue current levels of funding for schools, indexed to deal with real increases in costs and we will ensure that money is targeted based on the social and economic status of the community.

That unity ticket only lasted as long as it took to finalise the election results after which we were subjected to the greatest load of doublespeak resulting in the Coalition cutting funding for years 5 and 6 of the Gonski reforms, reneging on the signed deals with the states, and abandoning their co-funding and accountability obligations.

  • We will ensure the continuation of the current arrangements of university funding.

Obviously this was a non-core promise.

  • We will review and restructure government research funding to make sure each dollar is spent as effectively as possible.

Apparently, the most effective way research dollars can be spent is in stopping spending them so Hockey’s bottom line looks healthier.

As reported in the Canberra Times,

“Universities are pleading with the Abbott government to abandon its threat to axe funding for major programs supporting 30,000 researchers if the Senate refuses to support the deregulation of university fees.

Peak body Universities Australia warns in its budget submission that researchers on the verge of major breakthroughs in health, climate science and manufacturing will move overseas if funding for the Future Fellowships scheme and National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (NCRIS) expires.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has repeatedly said that continued funding for both programs – which have been described as the “backbone of research in Australia” – is contingent on the government’s higher education reforms passing the Senate.

“If Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers block the reform package in the Senate, there will be no source of ongoing funding for these two vital research investments, meaning job losses and irreparable damage to our high-quality research capacity.”

What sort of a myopic dilettante is this man? In an arrogant display of petulance he threatens that if he doesn’t get his way he will refuse to use our money to invest in the innovation and research that will contribute to our future.

“NCRIS has led to major breakthroughs on vaccinations, 3D imaging, drugs to treat heart failure and the production of a new type of steel that produces 70 per cent fewer greenhouse gases than regular steel.

The facilities it supports include the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), based at the University of Tasmania, which conducts long-term ocean monitoring, including of temperature rises linked to climate change.

The Future Fellowships scheme supports 150 leading mid-career researchers, allowing them to continue their work in Australia.

“Without further investment by government in this scheme, many researchers, often midway through their projects and on the cusp of important breakthroughs, will move overseas where other governments are seeking to attract the world’s best,” Universities Australia says in its submission.

Universities are lobbying for $200 million a year in funding. Let’s put that in perspective.

How can we find $244 million for religious school chaplains but we can’t afford university funding?

Exploration by coal and energy companies is subsidised by Australian taxpayers by as much as $4 billion every year in the form of direct spending and tax breaks – 20 times what the universities are asking for.

According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Defence Budget Brief 2014-15, the cost of defence is over $80 million per day. Three days defence spending would fund university research for over a year.

The amount being spent on submarines and fighter jets represents about 200 years’ worth of research funding and is going to foreign economies. The two jets we have already paid for and not received would more than cover one year’s research at a cost of just under $US130 million each. We have 70 more on order and have been warned the costs will rise.

Which do you think will bring the greatest return on money invested, or the greatest productivity gains, or the greatest protection against disease and the ravages of climate change, or the greatest advancement for humanity?

While cutting the contribution to universities, the government’s intention to extend financial assistance to people studying diplomas or undertaking degrees at private colleges like the one Frances Abbott attends will cost $820 million.

According to a report by the Productivity Commission early last year, the government spends $3.8 million per private school on average – $8,546 per private school student.

Government schools teach the great majority of poor, disabled (76.6%) and Indigenous (84.7%) students, as well as those who do not speak English as a first language. However, in spite of the additional costs and burdens associated with teaching disadvantaged students, government spending per public school student increased by about 2.4 per cent a year between 2007/08 and 2011/12. In the same five-year period, government spending per private school student increased by about 3.4 per cent a year.

Interestingly, a University of Queensland study of NAPLAN results recently debunked conventional wisdom that having a child in a private school leads to better academic results. Furthermore, there is a disadvantage in sending a child to a private school if they go on to university, as more drop out in their first year.

Tutoring towards exam results does not serve a student well if they have not been encouraged to love learning and given the skills and resources to research. Creativity and innovation should be nurtured rather than stifled by directed learning.

The government are continually asking, with a sneer, well tell us what you would do.

Why don’t we give that $820 million offered to private colleges to the universities instead.

Why don’t we stop funding private schools and introduce a Private School Rebate similar to the Private Health Insurance Rebate. Allow people to claim up to a maximum of, say, $7000 per child at a private school as a tax deduction (adjust that depending what year they are in).

Fee statements would have to be produced and the size of the deduction would be on a means tested sliding scale which cuts out when combined income exceeds $180,000.

Considering our government champions personal choice and responsibility, price signals and market forces, lower taxes and user pays, this should appeal to them.

But I won’t hold my breath.

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Good Government Starts Today … Or Tomorrow, But We’re Definitely Committed To It!

There’s an old cartoon where the couple in a car are speeding down the highway while there’s hundreds of cars stuck in traffic in a lane beside it. The wife says, “Look at the sign – we’re going the wrong way!” To which the husband replies, “Who cares, we’re making great time.”

Every few days someone in the current Abbott Government makes me remember that cartoon.

Of course, unlike the man in the cartoon, most members of the government seem completely unable to acknowledge that they are going the wrong way, even though that’s what the sign clear says.

“We’ve made great progress on the Budget!”

But the deficit is growing and it’s not predicted to get back to surplus any faster than Labor planned.

“But you’d be a fool to trust what Labor said. They promised to get it back to surplus a couple of years ago and they still haven’t done it!”

But you’re the government now; you’re the ones promising to have it back in surplus, then changing the date.

“Yes, but I’m not a quitter. I’m determined to see this through, as is the PM. He’s a nice bloke, you know. A terrific guy. Family man. Athlete. He pedals really fast. Firefighter. And he’s a fighter. He’ll get back up. Really, I can’t think of someone with more attractive daughters. No, he’s certainly the best person to lead the country. “

Of course, Hockey did acknowledge that having the highest unemployment since John Howard was PM wasn’t great, but attempted to argue that it could be worse. Basically, his point was that if there hadn’t been so many jobs created last year then unemployment would have been over seven per cent, so we were really, really lucky that we’d rid ourselves of that Labor Government who wouldn’t have grown the economy.

He went on to argue that the best possible way to improve the unemployment figures was to get the economy growing faster. Which, to me, is a bit like a mechanic saying that the best possible thing for your car is to get it moving again, because once it’s moving then you won’t have this problem with it stalling. And if it keeps stalling, well, that’s because it’s not moving. At this point, don’t be tempted to ask the mechanic how you’re supposed to get it moving again, because he’ll just tap his nose and tell you that he has a plan, and, though it may not be popular, the best thing you could do is to pay his bill.

In fact, that’s more or less what Hockey said:

“I’m trying to get it to shift and things that have been unpopular but necessary have helped.”

I’m still trying to work out how sacking large numbers of public servants is meant to stimulate the economy and lead to an increase in employment numbers in the short term, even if one accepts the rather dubious argument that it’ll help get the Budget back in surplus and once the Budget is back in surplus, all will be well. (And once the car starts moving, it’ll no longer be stalled. $739, please, for parts and labour!!)

But, of course, the week truly belongs to Tony Abbott. Now I’m not going to mention the war – in particular, I’ll say nothing about the holocaust; neither will I make cheap shots about him not being able to stop Japanese subs from coming to Australia. (Actually they’ve announced that it’s no longer the case that Adelaide can’t build them, and that the they’ll be allowed to put in a thing that nobody seems to know what to call, before the contract is given to the Japanese under the free trade deal that’ll lead to jobs, jobs, jobs in whatever part of the world we’re trading with, and now that we have a free trade deal, well, what benefits them, benefits us, because we’re all just one happy free trading partnership where we’ve managed to break down the borders. Actually, change that to barriers. We want STRONGER borders, but no barriers to the movement of money, trade and anything else you care to name, if your donation is big enough.)

So after we’ve had the barnacle clearing, the learning, back to work Tuesday, more learning, and good government starts today day, we were treated to the government’s attempt to bury a report by waiting six months then releasing it late in the day, only to have Tony attack the Human Rights Commission for all he’s worth (no, actually, probably a bit more than that!) A report that was apparently partisan against his government, yet Mr Abbott suggested only minutes later that he was doing the Labor Party a favour by not following its recommendations, because if he implemented a Royal Commission “… it would condemn them (the former Labor government).” Strange that a report that was so ‘blatantly partisan’ report should also condemn the Labor Government, but, never mind, Abbott’s attack on Gillian Trigg’s managed to create enough attention that the report didn’t go the way of so many reports: We’ve got it, thanks, we’ll read it and get back to you, unless it’s the Gonski Report which Christopher Pyne refused to read because there were no pictures.

But just to cap off the week, we had the sacking of Phil “Smiley” Ruddock. Undertaker Ruddock, the Father of the House (do we know who the mother is?), the third longest serving member ever, Uncle Phil, the Liberal Party Whip was sacked. Make no mistake, Abbott wasn’t going to give him the dignity of resigning to promote generational change, or because he wanted to spend more time nursing a family member’s ingrown toenail, the PM made it clear that the decision was his. (I don’t think that he added and his alone, because that may have necessitated another announcement about how he intended to be more consultative in future, and people tend to grow a little cynical when you announce the same intention to change on a weekly basis, instead of the monthly basis that we’ve grown used to.)

Yep, I’ve heard people argue that the term, “forward progress” is a tautology, because you can’t have “backward progress”. That, of course, was before the Abbott Government.

Cheers,

Rossleigh.

 

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