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Tag Archives: Clive Palmer

Day to Day Politics: To the pub test you can add Malcolm’s fairness test.

Monday 11 April 2016

Malcolm Turnbull has, since he become Prime Minister, has used the word fair extensively. If you read the following quotes you would, I think, conclude that the man has a fair (pardon the pun) idea of the meaning of fairness. In fairness he is talking about tax reform but it’s fair to assume that his appreciation might extend to other areas.

His talk of tax reform and the fairness of it began soon after taking office and people were overwhelmed with his radical approach which seemed so unlike a conservative one.

Let’s take a look at what he was saying:

A Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared fairness “absolutely critical” to future economic reform in Australia.

B “A reform package must, at the very least, raise the revenue we need, share the burden fairly across the community and do so in a way that incentivises employment, investment and innovation,” he told the audience.

C The Prime Minister said taxation reform must be fair, or it won’t be supported.

D Malcolm Turnbull: ‘burden of tax is best borne by those able to pay it’

E Malcolm Turnbull says the fairness test in his looming tax reform package will be whether people with more resources pay more than people with fewer resources.

F “Fair is obviously in the eye of the beholder, but fair, I think, for Australians, means that the burden of tax is best borne by those able to pay it,” the prime minister said.

G “We have an egalitarian tradition and I think the test of whether any set of measures is fair is whether people look at it and say, yep, that’s fair enough.”

H PM uses key speech to put fairness centre stage in economic approach

I “Fairness is absolutely critical,”

J Mr Turnbull told the Melbourne audience the Government’s overall goal is a “high wage, generous social welfare net, first world economy” where the burden would be shared.

K “The object of the taxation system is plainly to raise the revenue the government needs for its services it provides,” Mr Turnbull said. The Prime Minister said any reform package the government proposed would have to raise the revenue it needed, while sharing the burden fairly across the community.

L “Fairness is absolutely critical. Any package of reforms which is not and is not seen as fair will not and cannot achieve the public support without which it simply will not succeed,” Mr Turnbull said.

The familiar phrase “Everything is on the table” was bandied about but no sooner were they on than they were off. The only remaining reform possible is some tinkering at the edges of superannuation. And that might only be cosmetic.

Over five months the government has made such a mess of its economic policy that it has backed itself into a corner where its future will be judged on the fairness of its next budget.

Never in my lifetime of following politics has a government so unambiguously placed itself in a position where it will rely on a budget to determine its future. One that has to not only be fiscally tough, fair and responsible, reflecting a narrative for the future, but it must be popular at the same time.

Cutting spending is the answer according to Treasure Morrison. The big money is in the areas of social welfare, education, health and overseas aid. There is still social welfare money in the universally condemned and unfair budget of 2014. Education, health and overseas aid have already been hit for six so any further cuts will have to result in dramatic cuts to services.

They are proposing a cut in tax for business without consideration to cuts for the average citizen who pays PAYE tax.

And this all has to be done against a backdrop of the rich and privileged taking advantage of tax breaks either provided by government, obtained by unscrupulous means or simply paying none.

Large financial institutions who because of their importance to the economy are treating the public like gullible fodder to ever increase their obscene profits are under public scrutiny. Everywhere there is corruption, the Panama papers will soon name the 800 Australians allegedly evading tax, also in politics, in the banking and financial sectors, political donations, the misuse of parliamentary expenses, corporate bribery, but the Government seems only interested in addressing corruption that will enhance its prospects of re-election.

They say that regulators like ASIC have more power than a Royal Commission, that our banks are the most regulated in the world but cannot explain how if that is the case, scandals keep on keeping on.

I wonder if the banks would pass his fairness test on credit card rates for example or fines for being overdrawn.

“The critical thing here is that the high standards of putting the customer first, of ensuring that the trust of the community is justified,” Turnbull said. “That requires leadership from senior bank managers and they are providing that leadership and they will provide more. We have a strong regulatory structure to do that.”

The word unfairness has struck a lingering chord with the electorate. An electorate that applies the pub test to everything. Now they have Malcolm’s fairness test. They are now asking questions. Why does the Treasurer and the Prime Minister lie so much about the economy?

Why are they so unable to tackle tax reform in a way that is fair and equal for all Australians? It’s simple really. All of the taxes where a substantial difference could be made happen to be in areas where the rich and privileged are advantaged with taxpayers funds.

Morrison is now faced with presenting a third Coalition budget while at the same time major cost savings from 2014 have not passed the senate. It would not surprise if he has the gall to carry over the savings. Surely that must be fiddling the books.

The problem for Morrison is that ideology forbids the raising of new taxes or for that matter taking away taxpayer funded subsidies already handed out. It is anathema to them. And of course further cuts to health, education and welfare would be unpalatable by the electorate.

Turnbull’s grandiose talk, when attaining power about tax reform has petered out to nothing.

This budget will be judged on its fairness. The only way that can be achieved is, well let me quote Turnbull.

“A reform package must, at the very least, raise the revenue we need, share the burden fairly across the community and do so in a way that incentivizes employment, investment and innovation,”

I don’t believe for one moment they can deliver a budget that is good for the country without putting their instincts for survival first.

My thought for the day.

‘In the recipe of good leadership there are many ingredients. Popularity is but one. It however ranks

far below getting things done for the common good’

PS. Interesting comment from a Facebook friend Lee Mullin to my thought for the day, yesterday.

“We exercise our involvement in our democracy every three years by voting. After that the vast majority takes very little interest. Why is it so?”

“The ruling class decided to make it illegal not to vote. This legitimised their authority. The ruling class took us into wars, sold our assets we worked and paid for, manipulated information to maintain power, lied about intentions, destroyed the working environment, handed bankers enormous control over money production, distribution and supply, and, as if to say a final “get stuffed”, taxed us for their own benefit and created systems that allowed them to steal by avoiding their own tax liabilities. Would anyone willingly vote for such an appalling structure they choose to call democracy?”

 

Day to Day Politics with John Lord

Monday 23 November

1 An illustration of just how much the hard right resents the demise of Tony Abbott was illustrated by Gerard Henderson’s sarcastic comment on Insiders about the media fawning Malcolm Turnbull. They make no secret that Abbott’s leadership style is the far right’s preferred option. This was further empathised when at the end of the program I switched to the Bolt Report where he was giving the PM a similar serve.

The problem for the right wing extremists like Bolt, Jones, Hadley and others is that they rely on extremism to titillate their audience. Turnbull’s moderation doesn’t suit and they feel threatened. It’s difficult for them to sustain an audience on a menu of temperance when what they want is a diet of intemperance.

2 How decidedly hypocritical of Julie Bishop to say that Australia doesn’t act unilaterally. That is exactly what we did in Iraq.

3 Tony Abbott is entitled to express a view on any subject he so desires. It’s just that it takes an enormous ego, after having so abysmally failed as a leader, to continue to express views that contributed to the fact. His comments on National Security were untimely and unhelpful.

An observation:

“In the information age those who control the dissemination of news have more power than government”.

4 Did you know that nearly 11 million children under the age of five die every year?

5 Clive Palmer was also on Insiders perpetuating his irrelevance. Although it has to be admitted that he did stop a few pieces of nasty legislation early on.

6 Another guest was Greens leader Richard Di Natale who becomes more impressive as time goes on. He made a valid point on the monetary cost of Climate Change. One that I have expressed with the following statement many times:

“We all incur a cost for the upkeep of our health. Why then should we not be liable for the cost of a healthy planet”.

7 My Coalition broken promise reminder:

A. Broke an election promise to build replacement submarines in South Australian shipyards, spending more than $20 billion on Japanese submarines instead.

B. Broke an election promise to a publish a proposal for constitutional recognition for Indigenous people and establish a bipartisan process to try to bring about recognition as soon as possible within the first 12 months of Government.

C. Broke a promise to achieve a surplus in the Governments’ first year in office, instead overseeing an estimated $? billion deterioration in revenue.

D. Broke a key election promise to bring in 26 weeks parental leave paid at a working mother’s actual wage

MY THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

“The ideas of today need to be honed with critical reason, factual evidence and scientific methods of enquiry so that they clearly articulate the currency of tomorrow”.

P.S .The purpose of this daily post is not just some commentary on everyday political events but also to promote discussion.

 

Just in time for Christmas . . .

By Richard O’Brien

With Christmas just around the corner, Commonwealth Toys ® has announced a new range of action figurines – the Political Leaders series.

Poor sales figures earlier in the year lead to the manufacturer issuing a recall of the Tony Abbott action figurine – which most children found disappointing no matter what outfit it was dressed it in.

Its replacement, the Malcolm Turnbull figurine, has resulted in much better sales. The Turnbull model’s primary feature is a 300 watt torch located in its posterior. While tests by No Choice Magazine found there was a significant risk of the torch dazzling children and temporarily blinding them to everything else that was going on, they also indicated that this effect was likely to fade with time.

Despite costing 15% more than other figurines in the range, all Turnbull models with principles have sold out. Instead all purchases of the Turnbull model now come with a free Warren Truss figurine – which doesn’t really do anything but helps complete the set.

Redesigned after the manufacturer discovered it was a choking hazard, the Bill Shorten figurine has proved less popular with children this year, despite now being made up of parts that are almost impossible for most children to swallow. The new design also incorporates greater joint articulation, allowing the figurine to fold more easily – making it compatible with the offshore detention series of accessories. Spine sold separately.

Made from recycled plastic, the Richard Di Natale figurine comes mounted on its own moral high ground. Popular with younger children the figurine has had considerably more success competing with the Shorten model than the Turnbull model – despite offering little in the way of new features and accessories.

Sales of the Clive Palmer figurine have continued to decline steadily – despite coming with a range of accessories including a model of the Titanic, a dinosaur park and the now defunct Gold Coast United Football Club – it is expected to be discontinued sometime next year.

 

‘Day to Day Politics’ with John Lord

Saturday 21 November

1. Whether those of us on the left of politics like it or not it has to be recognised that as Marius Bensen puts it:

The Australian public has been watching Turnbull in different roles on the public stage for decades, but it looks like his performance as Prime Minister is the most acclaimed to date’”.

For years now Australians have been complaining about the quality of our leaders and the revolving door quality of it. In the absence of a Whitlam-like figure has Turnbull maintained the rotation?

2. A wooden boat has neared Christmas Island and been boarded by the navy, sparking speculation it could carry asylum-seekers. Will they really just tow it back to sea, wave goodbye and shout “safe journey”? Is that what they call saving lives at sea?

3. Clive Palmer is advocating that only the Church should have the right to marry people. Everyone else gets a civil union. Now that’s equality for you.

4. Yesterday I wrote that Scott Morisson said he was back on track to a surplus. But what is the importance of a surplus?

In the past 79 years we have had 12 of any significance. Once by Ben Chifley, three times by Bob Hawke, and eight times by John Howard, who shared another with Rudd, who was elected during the 2007-08 fiscal year. The surpluses by Howard came from an unprecedented, never to be repeated mining boom and the sale of public assets.

5. The Arts community was stunned when the Abbott Government announced earlier this year it would redirect $104.7 million from the Australia Council to a new fund administered by the Arts Ministry. New Communications and Arts Minister Mitch Fifield has come up with new guidelines for the distribution of funds but is it just a rebrand or a meaningful plan?

6. On a not so newsy day here is something to think about:

“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom or our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile” (​Robert Kennedy 1968).

7. The weekly poll aggregate reading now has the Coalition well ahead of its position at the 2013 election, with Bill Shorten’s personal ratings continuing to sink. The latest is 54.4-45.6 to the Coalition

8. It says much about the decline in American society when an individual of dubious character like Donald Trump could even remotely be considered worthy of standing for the highest office. Suggesting that some citizens should wear something that identified them as somehow different from other citizens is obnoxiously outrageous in the worst possible way. American freedom?

9. In a week and a half the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will begin in Paris. Delegates from 195 countries, plus representatives from countless companies and NGOs, will come together with the avowed goal of reaching an agreement on climate and emissions. I dare to hope that I will never have to say this again:

“In terms of the environment. I wonder what price the people of tomorrow will pay for the stupidity of today”.

All up, there will be more than 40,000 attendees. That’s a lot of delegates, but what they’re trying to achieve is a colossal enterprise that will affect the billions now living and all those who will ever be born.

MY THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Free speech does not mean it should be free from ethics. Like truth for example”.

World Revision – Sponsor a Millionaire

By Richard O’Brien

For the cost of just 15% of your groceries, bills and sundry expenses per week you can sponsor a millionaire today and make a real difference. Your donation can help make the lives of millionaires throughout Australia better.

Millionaires like:

Gina, a 61 year old girl from Western Australia. When Gina’s father died she was forced to become Chairman of Hancock Prospecting where she attempts to support herself and her lawyers on less than $33 million a day.

Clive, a 61 year old boy from Queensland, where children like Clive are often conscripted into political office before they have had a chance to develop any notion of public service, fiscal responsibility or how the real world works. Clive’s extravagant lifestyle has meant he has been unable to pay income tax for six years.

Malcolm, a 61 year old boy from Wentworth. Born to rule, Malcolm has been afflicted with a severe case of expectation since birth. Forced to seek treatment in the most prestigious schools, universities and legal firms, many children like Malcolm often end up on the streets of Canberra selling their principles, or begging for votes from the plush cushioned benches of Parliament House.

By agreeing to pay a 15% GST and applying it to fresh food, you can help fund a tax cut for millionaires like Gina, Clive and Malcolm. Your contribution can help prevent the government from taking away the tens of billions of dollars in tax scams, offshore havens and corporate subsidies that help keep these children in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

Sponsor a millionaire today, and make the world a better place – for them.

 

Putting dodgy politicians under the same scrutiny as dodgy union officials

When the government decided to spend $80 million on the Trade Union Royal Commission, $17 million of which is going to Minter Ellison, Attorney-General George Brandis’ former employer, its purported aim was to ensure that registered organisations are more transparent and accountable.

The Coalition said “there is clear evidence that the money paid by members to some registered organisations is being used for personal gain and inappropriate purposes.”

Considering the number of scandals pertaining to politicians’ entitlements, the hypocrisy of this statement is astounding.

They want “registered organisations and their officials to play by the same rules as companies and their directors” and for “penalties for breaking the rules to be the same as those apply to companies and their directors, as set out in the Corporations Act 2001.” They have also called for “reform of financial disclosure and reporting guidelines so that they align more closely with those applicable to companies.”

“A dodgy company director and a dodgy union official who commit the same crime should suffer the same penalties. The Coalition believes that the members of registered organisations, mainly workers and small businesses, deserve better. They are entitled to the same protections as shareholders of companies.”

But what of dodgy politicians?

Surely the people who hold the highest positions in the land running government business should be similarly accountable to us, the shareholders?

ASIC describes the general duties imposed by the Corporations Act on directors and officers of companies as:

  • the duty to exercise your powers and duties with the care and diligence that a reasonable person would have which includes taking steps to ensure you are properly informed about the financial position of the company and ensuring the company doesn’t trade if it is insolvent
  • the duty to exercise your powers and duties in good faith in the best interests of the company and for a proper purpose
  • the duty not to improperly use your position to gain an advantage for yourself or someone else, or to cause detriment to the company, and
  • the duty not to improperly use information obtained through your position to gain an advantage for yourself or someone else, or to cause detriment to the company.

Whether politicians exercise their powers and duties with care and diligence is open to debate and whether their decisions are in our best interests is similarly questionable, but when it comes to the last two requirements regarding gaining advantage, there is considerable concern.

andrew and ginaGina Rinehart wanted the carbon and mining taxes gone. Done.  She wanted special approval to use extra 457 visa workers.  Done.  She wants a special economic zone in the north and government funded infrastructure to facilitate development.  Underway.  She wants company tax reduced.  Coming.  But she doesn’t want anyone to know how much tax she pays in case someone decides to kidnap her.  Done.

And then all of a sudden, not long before the free trade agreement was signed with China, Gina, and several other rich Liberal Party donors, decided to invest in dairy and beef cattle farms – the two big winners from the ChAFTA.

When Kevin Andrews, as Social Services Minister, got rid of gambling reform laws, was he considering the best interests of the people?

When George Christensen launched an attack in parliament on the National Health and Medical Research Council which he accused of demonising the sugar industry through their new food guidelines, did it have anything to do with his family being sugar cane farmers?

When David Leyonjhelm attacks smoking regulations, is he looking out for our welfare or is it because he receives large donations from the tobacco industry?

And what of the ultimate irony of Clive Palmer’s party having the deciding vote on repealing the carbon tax when he had a high court challenge underway and an unpaid bill of $6.8 million?

Alexander Downer, as Foreign Minister, sanctioned the bugging of another nation’s parliamentary offices to gain commercial advantage for a company who then employed him when he left politics.  There are countless examples of similar conflicts of interest and ‘reward for service’.

ICAC has shown us that many politicians use their position for personal gain and advantage for their friends and donors. The rejection of a federal ICAC by both major parties would suggest that they do not want the same scrutiny that their state counterparts and the unions are getting.

Regarding false statements, the ACCC states that:

“It is illegal for a business to make statements that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression. This includes advertisements or statements in any media (print, radio, television, social media and online) or on product packaging, and any statement made by a person representing your business.

When assessing whether conduct is likely to mislead or deceive, consider whether the overall impression created by the conduct is false or inaccurate.

Comparative advertising may be used to promote the superiority of your products or services over competitors as long as it is accurate.

Claims that give the impression that a product, or one of its attributes, has some kind of added benefit when compared to similar products and services can be made as long as the claims are not misleading and can be substantiated.”

If you apply that code to, say, climate change, our government, abetted by the Murdoch media, the IPA, and a few other vested interests, are guilty of the most heinous example of false advertising in history.

A recent study by the CSIRO showed that barely one in four Coalition voters accepts climate change is mostly caused by humans, with more than half of Liberal voters believing changes to global temperatures are natural.

“To a substantial degree, when asked, a significant fraction of the public say what they think their preferred party says.”

Obviously, the standards that apply to businesses to be truthful with their shareholders and customers are totally ignored by our government.

When climate campaigners recently took the Dutch government to court, three judges ruled that government plans to cut emissions by just 14-17% compared to 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change and ordered the government to cut its emissions by at least 25% within five years.

The precedent has been set and I, for one, find the idea of Greg Hunt defending his statements about Direct Action against carbon pricing in a court of law, presumably with reference to Wikipedia, absolutely delicious.

 

“I’m with Stupid” man arrested; imagine if he’d been against Stupid!

Photo: Word Art generator

Photo: Word Art generator

Ok, for those of you who haven’t caught up with the Queensland man who was arrested for standing next to LNP supporters and waving while wearing an “I’m With Stupid” T-Shirt I give you the link “The Courier Mail”‘s report just so you know that it isn’t made up!

Now, because I write on this site, I’m often accused of being a lefty, which is ridiculous because I’m a Capitalist through and through. Any time I see I chance to make money, I’m there, and I’d be as rich as Gina or Rupert if it wasn’t for the fact that – like the current government – I suffer from poor marketing.

I read the article and immediately saw an opportunity to make a few bucks by marketing a t-shirt saying “I’m Not With Stupid – I’m Voting xxx”. Of course, The Greens would be too full of priniciple to replace the xxx with “Green”, and Labor supporters don’t have any money because they’ve put everything on the credit card, so the obvious person to approach with the idea was Clive Palmer.

Initiallly, his representative was very supportive and said that most of the members of his party wanted one. However, when it was discovered that the PUP members, in fact, wanted one with Clive Palmer’s photo instead of Campbell Newman’s, apparently Clive went cold on the idea.

Senator Lambie, on the other hand…

All right, I’m making it up. In a country where people are arrested for creating a public disturbance by waving while wearing a t-shirt, I feel that I have to make that clear. Just as I feel that I feel I need to make it clear that he was lucky that he wasn’t arrested under the VLAD laws.

And, while I’m at it, I also feel that I have to set the record straight on what I wrote about Abbott not visiting South Australia or commenting on their bushfires. He went there “as soon as he could” and offered them $4 million. Which is really extraordinarily generous. After all, he only offered $5 million to Iraq!

Perhaps, John Cleese should have the final say!

Stupidity.

P.S. For those who have pointed out that I posted the wrong link, I’m posting the accident as well, in case anyone is looking for it. (Yes, yes, it is ironic that I post a link on stupidity and it’s the wrong link, yes it is ironic, yes, this is why I could never be a member of Abbott’s front bench because I can actually acknowledge when I make a mistake, and clearly none of them can or we’d have mass resignations and by-elections!) This is the John Lloyd one which I accidentally posted which although it’s a little longer is thoroughly worth it: John Lloyd.

 

Weird scenes inside the coal mine.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times (depending on your socio-economic bracket).

One thing about this government, every day brings new things to discuss, none of them good, unless you happen to be a mining company, a global corporation, an arms manufacturer, a wealthy tax avoider, or a financial adviser.

A Senate committee recommended in June that the Commonwealth Bank face a judicial inquiry as part of its report on the performance of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Financial planners working for Commonwealth Financial Planning (CFPL), a subsidiary of CBA, were accused of putting clients’ money into risky investments without their permission. They were also accused of forging documents and earning hefty commissions along the way.

“These actions were facilitated by a reckless, sales-based culture and a negligent management, who ignored or disregarded non-compliance and unlawful activity as long as profits were being made. The CBA’s compliance regime failed, which not only allowed unscrupulous advisers to continue operating, but also saw the promotion of one adviser, thus exposing unsuspecting clients to further losses.  ASIC appears to miss or ignore clear and persistent early warning signs of corporate wrongdoing, or troubling trends that place the interest of consumers or investors at great risk.”

The government has commissioned a report into the financial services industry, ironically enough headed by former Commonwealth Bank chief and inaugural Chairman of the Future Fund, David Murray. His interim report, released in July, found the following:

  • There is not enough competition on superannuation fund fees, and scope for more efficiency.
  • Retiring Australians are given little guidance on what they should do with their money and the types of investment products they should buy.
  • The inquiry recognised the importance of good financial advice and the need for affordable, non-conflicted advice. It suggested that the minimum standards required to become a financial advisor be increased and that a public register should be introduced.
  • Current disclosure of investment product rules lead to “lengthy documents that often do not enhance consumer understanding of financial products and services.”
  • General advice should be renamed as ‘sales’ or product information so that savers could better distinguish whether an agent was selling or actually advising something.

The final report is expected to be completed by November.

As well as the Murray report, the corporate regulator ASIC is due to release a critical report on the life insurance industry next week which is expected to raise concerns about churning of clients, largely due to conflicted remuneration.

Rather than heeding the warnings from the Senate or waiting for these reports to be released, the government, with the help of the pensioners’ friend, Clive Palmer, is trying to ram through its changes to the financial advice laws.

Palmer insisted on some changes which had the effect of doing little to strengthen protection and a lot to add more red tape.

Jacqui Lambie, in her inimitable way, showed her deep understanding of the subject making it all clear as mud. (And this person holds the balance of power).

“We look at it, and we may have made a couple of errors, but we’re swinging around now to fix them up,” she said. “[We] probably didn’t put the FOFA in cement and we’re making sure that is going to be done before we put that bill through, to make sure that is cemented in, a couple of things in it that were, I guess, a little bit debatable.”

Her mother did warn us that Jacqui never did her homework.

The regulations will allow financial planners associated with banks to continue to receive payments for directing customers towards the banks’ own products.

David Whiteley, of the Industry Super Association, said the changes would not prevent bonuses and other forms of conflicted remuneration being paid to financial advisers.

The chief executive of National Seniors, Michael O’Neill, said the deal would do nothing to help investors or fix problems in the industry.

“On the surface it adds nothing to the issue at all, except potentially another layer of red tape, which was the reason why the government made its changes to start with. This was a grubby deal and Clive Palmer has treated older Australians with contempt the way he’s dealt with this today,’’ he said.

Chris Bowen said the government’s changes to the FoFA regulations had scored a ”daily double” by reducing consumer protections from unscrupulous financial planners and increasing red tape.

”They’ve emasculated the requirement to work in the best interests of the client,” he said.

Now, independent Senators Nick Xenophon and John Madigan have introduced two amendments to tackle the worst and arguably most potentially dangerous aspects of the Coalition’s reforms – namely general advice and changes to the best-interests duty.

Considering the banks and AMP own or control up to 80 per cent of the financial planning industry, as Nick Xenophon put it,

“The financial services industry is big enough and ugly enough to look after itself and … consumers are the ones government should be providing with certainty and adequate protections.”

But hey…we’re open for business.  Caveat emptor.

But will China invade Australia?

Jacqui Lambie warns that a Chinese invasion of Australia is a frightening possibility. But is it? Dr Strobe Driver reports.

These past weeks have seen Clive Palmer MP berate the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government and other (Chinese) that have had business dealings with him. This was followed by a further dictum from his colleague Senator Jacqui Lambie speaking about the potential of a Chinese invasion and what’s more, she has refused to withdraw her comment. The short-tempered outburst by Senator Palmer on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Q&A program, to be sure was just that, an outburst. As insulted as the Chinese community feels toward Palmer, his outburst was attributed to his frustration with the legal system, his dealings with some Chinese business people and when it all imploded, he drew in other societal elements. Nevertheless, being a minister of parliament does demand a level of tact and discretion that was obviously lacking on the night in question and there has been some repercussions, but other than hurt feelings not much more seems to have eventuated—an apology was forthcoming and all appears smooth again.

Returning to Senator Lambie, and her comment about the ‘Chinese invasion of Australia,’[1] it can be safely assumed that what Lambie is actually referring to is contained in a broad military context: an air- and sea-borne attack culminating in a boots-on-the-ground, physical armed presence not dissimilar to the one taking in place in Ukraine by Russian forces in recent times; the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas in the early 1980s; and the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003. History, and moreover recent history, is littered with examples of the ‘type’ of military engagement Senator Lambie is identifying. To be sure, this is a step further than the ‘fiscal invasion’ of the Chinese that was hinted at prior to the election of the Abbott government, which directly dealt with the number of Chinese investments in Australia—especially with regard to landholdings/farming—which was driven by the somewhat xenophobic Nationals under the guise and umbrella of ‘who owns what in Australia.’ Free market squabbling aside, and the prejudices inherent within this argument about the marketplace, the issue that needs to be examined is whether there is a modicum of truth in what Lambie has stated. Is Australia really in danger of being invaded?

Acknowledging the obvious generalizations that are present in the political deliberations and in the comments of Senator Lambie, there is a need to examine what is pushing the underlying tone of the debate, and then driving the discussion. One upshot of her comment/s is that the military ‘rise’ of China is now out in the public sphere and the massive impact this will have on Australia is finally beyond the hallways of the Department of Defence in Canberra.   The heretofore hidden fears that reside alongside the mercantile arena of profit and the ‘food bowl’ debates within the Asia-Pacific (A-P) have evolved into the public arena. It is also fair to argue the popular press has played its part in the awareness of the ‘fear factors.’ Articles that have appeared in the press recently include ‘China must be offered a bigger role in the Asia-Pacific,’[2] ‘New vertical Chinese map gives greater emphasis to South China Sea claims,’[3] ‘Return of the samurai: Japan steps away from pacifist constitution as military eyes threat from China,’[4] ‘Long March Out of China’;[5] and one of the most recent which offers an historical, rather than a straight contemporary assessment, is Paul Monk’s ‘China’s parallel with Germany before WWI [World War One],’[6] which highlights the course of war being the outcome of particular political processes. With all of the above-mentioned commentary, and in particular because Monk has drawn into the mix an historical pivot, there is a need to examine these issues further to highlight where the fear ‘comes from,’ and where it has its roots.

The idea of an invasion being the only pathway to gaining political and geographical advantage is in part due to the popular media being awash with images of war comprising fast moving conflicts that escalate quickly, are both broad-front/symmetrical and asymmetrical, extremely violent and intense and have the ever-present element of ‘collateral damage’ (read: civilian deaths) in the race for armies or militias to establish their strategic footprint/s. However, the relevant issue is invasions gain results which inevitably have to be repelled, defused or accepted. Invasions by the Soviets into Chechnya, the United States of America (US) into Iraq, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) troops and their allies incursion into Afghanistan, the recent Israeli invasion into Gaza, and the Islamic State (a non-state actor) being successful in northern Iraq, all offer and reinforce a broad-based understanding of what invasions can actually accomplish and also offer an insight into why they are embarked upon. There is however, more to all of these events in terms of them being simply categorized as overt acts of violence that have a focused outcome—namely territorial acquisition through force—and it is within this spectrum that Senator Lambie alludes to, that can be given a perspective.

A significant part of the reason the rise of China, and the subsequent actions of the PRC government have become so chilling, and the reason the ‘invasion’ word was used by Senator Lambie, is twofold. In the first instance an Asian nation has never presented such a symbolic threat to Western hegemony; and secondly, never has an Asian nation had the actual potential to follow through in a sustained/long tern way with military force. The shock of this state-of-affairs resides in Western nation-states and Western European-centric nations—Australia and America, and to some extent Japan are included is included in this mix—have been privy to, over the past several centuries is watching the slow but sure rise of Western Europe as a ‘force.’ As Europe became a force it has incrementally been able to dictate its version of what government and governance should ‘comprise of’ to the rest of the world. And moreover, it has used force in the process of making nations adhere to ‘Western’ principles. The way in which this has happened includes both military and political realms: the forcing of democracy on Japan at the end of World War Two (WWII) by the US and Allied powers; winning the Korean War by United Nations forces; and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. All of these instances have had the enduring effect of proving Western liberal-democracy is the most venerable and robust of all governments and governance. Francis Fukuyama would deem the collapse of communism to be the ‘end of history,’[7] which translates in simpler terms, to liberal-democracy as a form of government ‘winning’ against communism. In the process of the West ‘winning’ however, there has also been double-standards along the way which have undermined the faith and confidence in Western governance and the damage this has caused should not be underestimated. Included in demanding of good governance from others there has been an acceptance of appalling behaviours from the West per se in favouring those that have served the needs of the West: Singapore and Saudi Arabia being leading examples of this phenomenon. Other examples of atrocious behaviour are incursions by France into Algeria to stem independence movements and its claims on (French) Indo-China; the US and Allied invasion of Iraq in 1991 in order to gain a ‘New World [American/Western-driven] Order;’[8] the second invasion of Iraq under false pretence in 2003 is to name only a few instances in which Western geo-political and geo-strategic double-standards with regard to ‘good governance’ have reigned supreme. In accomplishing such occupations and political tenets, the West has been able to decree the way in which the world—aside from the Russian Federation and China—must operate. These cursory examples prove the West has made, and remade, the platform upon which ‘good governance’ is judged. The time of this dominance is coming to an end, as China is on the rise.

China will be a vastly different case to what the West has previously encountered and then dominated, as it has adopted the West’s interests in being a regional as well as global controller and therefore the ‘case’ of China is completely different than what has gone before in the power-stakes of the twentieth century. China is a completely different because it has a ‘pax-Sino’ in mind—not unlike the pax-Britannica of the 1800s—and it has embarked upon this in earnest from the mid-1990s—and it has a century’s long plan. China’s dominance is that of being a global geo-political and geo-strategic actor and thus, current preponderance in the A-P is only the first step, and an even stronger global military presence will follow. China has moved in a truly ‘global direction’ and is on a pathway that was triggered, and then further stimulated, by Premier Deng Xiaoping who started the process in the mid-1980s. The Xiaoping era would be the first quantum leap into a globalized world and would signal significant domestic and international changes—this was defined by Xiaoping as ‘socialism with a Chinese character.’[9] China was essentially, thrust into a Western world and it would over time exploit the free market, gain international political astuteness, and in the late-1990s, begin to stamp its geo-strategic authority on the world: the A-P region is its first port-of-call. Over time China is seeking to take its ‘rightful place’ in a globalized world. This ‘time’ has taken two decades and it is now in that ‘place’, or in simpler terms, China is now a major actor on the world stage and moreover, one that is prepared to back its position/s up with military force if need be. It is at this point that the historical element as well as the dangers for other actors—particularly Australia in the A-P region and the invasion scenario to which Lambie alludes—can be introduced.

Part of the danger Australia faces in the future as China moves out ‘into the world,’ is that the world will have to accommodate the PRC’s needs, and by necessity its people. This factor, in the first instance is where there are ongoing and developing difficulties. There is an ‘accommodation’ that will need to be given over to China and a significant point to focus upon is to observe an historical element, and to realize within it lies a chilling and changing demographic. In 1913 Western Europe accounted for 14.6 percent (%) of the world’s population. By 2001 Western Europe comprised 6.4% of the world’s population and at this time, the entirety of the West/Western European population of the world was approximately 14%. America, as a standalone country comprised at this time, 4.6% of the world’s population. As at 2001 China’s population comprised approximately 21% of the world.[10] Herein lies the ‘problem’ that Australia in the first instance and the Western world in the second, will have to face: if China is not offered a more prominent of ‘rightful place’ in the schemata of world strategies/politics a massive disruption will occur as China will react to any moves by other nation-states to retard its progress. Based on history, a war is in the making. It is pertinent to ask what will drive such an outcome. The evidence-base for this ‘outcome’ is also in the history of the West.

The schemata upon which the West has developed its societal modality is one of a thriving and burgeoning middle-class, and this has been encouraged in other societies by the West in order for the West to meet its own needs, and in doing this the West has had other societies contribute to its progress.  The ‘progress’ became an ever-upward spiral in which the dictums of modern nation-statehood—that is, economic growth equaling stable investment environments for Western enterprises—were ones that offered ongoing prosperity; and the middle-class continuum. What is happening in China, and has been exponentially expanding in the past decade, is the PRC has set about accomplishing exactly what the West has done for centuries: developing a strong middle-class. The Chinese government has set about actively creating a burgeoning middle-class in part to have a greater tax base, to extract people from grueling, chronic poverty and to in general raise the living standards of citizens. Domestic harmony is also part of the PRC’s aim. Overall, this has been successful as poverty has fallen from 26% in 2007 to 7% in 2012.[11] An historical comparison can be made here which befits the West’s pattern, and in doing so offers the growth of China another perspective and the inherent dangers for the West.

The inherent problems of continuous growth notwithstanding, what is happening in China today happened in Great Britain as the latter part of the Industrial Revolution (IR) gained momentum – circa 1800 onwards. In the process of the IR’s momentum the British government had to meet ever greater demands from its populace. How did it satisfy the demands of its ever-growing middle-classes? Britain robustly expanded beyond its own borders often usurping other nation-states, frequently through violence and colonisation in order to gain what it needed. Nations that acceded to British demands, either as a ‘protectorate’ that was accorded all of the security and safety Britain could muster or, alternately, Britain used force. Nevertheless, Britain still gained what it needed and the British people benefited—the middle-class continued. To be sure the French before Britain used this method, and since post-1945 the US has followed a similar trajectory with its domination of world markets through the Marshall Plan, the Bretton-Woods agreement which allowed America to essentially dominate the world’s free market, are examples of heavy-handed polity.

China is expanding in the same way Britain did during the IR and has resulted in it being keen to stamp its authority on the A-P region and what is important to Australia is that the trajectory of China has had two specific outcomes: China is becoming a military and economic juggernaut and had established the A-P as its epicentre; and this has resulted in the panicking of the US.  Recently the Obama administration has gone to great lengths to reassure Australia it is committed to keeping a geo-strategic and political presence in the region with a recent visit by Secretary of State Kerry and a reiteration of wanting to ‘rebalance’ Asia.[12]  This illustrates the US is keen to keep one step ahead of China in the region.  However, and crucially for Australia, underpinning this is America does not want to modify its approach to the region; and wishes the status quo to remain within the post-WWII and Cold War parameters.

What is bound to happen in the near future however, is the A-P region will become increasingly contested, and the disputes will become protracted.  As the middle-classes of China begin to demand their perceived and/or actual rights, the PRC government will have to succumb to their demands, if only for enhanced domestic stability.  Hence, China will, like the Spanish, French, British and Americans before it, have to use extramural preponderance to get what it needs for its populace.  The question that can now be asked and the one that returns to the core of this article, is will this result in an invasion of Australia?  From a geo-strategic perspective it is unlikely that this would happen in the next decade as China does not have the support facilities in the region for a limited invasion as the most vulnerable ‘impact points,’—the west/northwest of Australia—would not be able to be adequately reinforced after an initial foray.  China over the next decade will be dealing with its expansion in the A-P region in a much ‘softer’ way, as it has done in the region generally, and in Africa and Oceania.  This has been done with unconditional fiscal contributions (loans).

With regard to soft power China is critically aware of the political ramifications of Australia’s poorly thought through foreign policies, and in particular the rage that these have created throughout Indonesia. China has been quick to capitalise on this with gaining deeper connections with Indonesia.  If a more solid outcome and strategic footprint—air- and sea-bases in Indonesia—is enabled by the PRC beyond the current military outposts of Pakistan and Myanmar the danger/s for Australia exponentially increase and an invasion would be more likely. The importance of outposts and the enhanced capabilities they offer can be seen through Britain in the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas, the US in Guam, Diego Garcia and the United Arab Emirates.  These are clear examples of preponderance and to believe China is not on a similar pathway modeled on British and American history is to deliberately ignore the evidence. From this point it is obvious that if China were able to establish a greater military presence in Indonesia exercising control over Australia would be more able to be achieved although this would more likely be the strangulation of access to shipping- and air-traffic in the region, regardless of whether it is military or mercantile, as this tactic would essentially render Australia fiscally and militarily decapitated in the region.

Returning to the initial centrepiece of Lambie’s argument and notion of whether Australia is in danger of being invaded in the traditional sense’ of the term. The reason this is not probable is the state-of-affairs regarding invasion are dictated by sheer logistics and materiél requirements for an invasion to succeed and then be sustained. Chinese support- and/or operated-bases are in their infancy and this will be the case for at least another decade and therefore an invasion would not be strategically viable. In the meantime China will continue to ‘invade’ Australia from an economic perspective and this will have a triad attached: to enable China to exert influence on regional strategic partnerships; to establish China and A-P multilateral deals that actively encourage the use of the Renminbi (sometimes called the Yuan), as a source of collateral; and to pro-actively downgrade Australia-US military commitments and partnerships.  As happened with Britain and the US the middle-classes of China will demand more from their government—in particular more fiscal and military status in the world—and Australia will be at the forefront of these ructions that both soft power and hard power bring.  As the decade toward 2025 grinds on the massive influence China will have will cause the displacement of Australia’s and as such, the Chinese will not automatically accept Australia’s definitions of how the A-P should be controlled: this will cause problems.  The coming state-of-affairs for Australia will be one surviving the numerous upcoming protracted and friction-filled escalations and the ever-greater political and military demands China will inevitably make.  In parallel with this the other issue for Australia will be whether Australia is also able to fend off America’s increasing desperation to maintain its traditional post-WWII foothold as it too, and in order to fulfill its ‘rebalancing’ claims, must enter the regional quarrels.  However, this does not necessarily equate to protecting Australia per se.

For Australia the decisions that will have to be made, in order to totally avoid an outbreak of war—one in which Australia for all intent and purposes will inevitably lose and one that would encourage a ground invasion by Chinese forces—is where to place China as these regional machinations increase?   And correspondingly, where to place the US?  The point for Australians’ to understand is it is a WWII-based belief to assume that the US will come to Australia’s aid immediately, or as a follow-up to any Chinese show of force.  The truth of the matter resides in the history of the US as per WWII being a ‘European war’ until the bombing of Pearl Harbor forced the US to face the realities of the conflict, and the undeniable reality is that an Australia-China military collision would not necessarily be an urgent priority for the US.  Once again the making of such a statement can be given credence by observing that America is fiscally bankrupt to China, and owes the PRC trillions of dollars and the US would simply not risk China calling in its debt/s as this would devastate the US domestic economy.  And moreover, for the US Australia would not be the only ‘game in town.’  Reflecting on this statement, a significant part of the reason the US lost the Vietnam War is that it was not the ‘only game in town’[13] as it was beset with domestic civil strife, had ongoing issues with the Soviet Union-Cuba alliance, and had European Cold War commitments as well as the ‘space race.’  An Australia-China conflict will also adhere to the ‘not the only game in town’ principle for the US and for Australians’ to believe that the US will see a conflict in the A-P region as important enough to warrant an immediate response is simply wrong.  Also, America will be tormented with fiscal and political problems in the next two decades which will continue to render an already war-weary nation to be dubious about entering another war. The problems that will influence the US’ lack of enthusiasm to intervene in the A-P will range from the sheer distance from the US and of it being a China-controlled environment; intractable domestic and regional dealings with Mexico and the South Americas associated with drugs, migration and political trends; the combined economic, geo-political and in some cases geo-strategic influences of what has become colloquially  known as the ‘BRICS,’ (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa); the ongoing and increasing demands of, and ties to, Israel in a continuously fractious Middle East; and the immersion of energy, politics, and geo-strategies of the ‘stans’ of Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

To be sure, the US essentially having been sidelined to that of an equal rather than a superior player in the next decade is already being put into place by China.  The evidence is America’s slow reaction to commenting on and having a greater involvement in the South China Sea tensions in a more immediate manner which is in direct contrast to its role in the Cold War years. Moreover, China has continued to exercise its perceived ‘regional rights’ with relative impunity; and the PRC recently rejected a US proposal to decrease tensions over the ‘disputed territories,’[14] and these are further signs the days of absolute control for the US are over.  The issue-at-hand remains that China would not invade Australia in the next decade because pax-Sino has not been on the ascent long enough; and has not been able to establish the required networks for a limited invasion of Australia to succeed.  Perhaps of equal importance in the next decade America will have declined to the point of being non-interventionist, at least in the eyes of the PRC.  After the next decade for Australia all will not be so secure.

The implications for Australia beyond 2025 onwards are not as assured and this will be due to the fact that as China continues to rise the US will continue to decline and therefore, the US will have become a significantly lesser threat.  Furthermore, as the US is forced to shift its focus toward Central Asia, the South Americas and Israel, this will make Australia more vulnerable. There is no reason to think that if Australia continues on its current pathway of antagonism in the region—especially toward Muslim countries—that there would be enough impetus for China to believe a limited invasion would not be successful.  There is much China could gain from such an overt act as part of a grand strategy of preponderance; to force Australia to rethink its US ties; to gain greater access to Australia’s resources upon which it depends; as a signal to regional enemies that it is the force to be reckoned with; and to show regional allies it is the most powerful and dynamic actor. In short, Senator Lambie’s outburst is largely accurate, premature perhaps, but based on British and American preponderance, accurate nevertheless.

[1] ‘Jacqui Lambie refuses to apologise for warning of Chinese invasion.’ AAP/The Australian. Sydney: Murdoch Press. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/jacqui-lambie-refuses-to-apologise-for-warning-of-chinese-invasion/story-fn59niix-1227038207396

[2] Hugh White. ‘China must be offered a bigger role in the Asia-Pacific.’ The Age, Melbourne: Fairfax Publishing Ltd, 10 June, 2014, 16.

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-26/an-new-chinese-map-gives-greater-play-to-south-china-sea-claims/5550914 Australia Network News, 26 June, 2014.

[4] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-19/japan-expands-their-military-amid-growing-tensions-with-china/5672932 Australia Network News, 19 August,, 2014

[5] Andrew Browne. ‘Long March Out of China.’ The Australian, Melbourne: Murdoch Media, 19 August, 2014, 9.

[6] Paul Monk. ‘China’s parallel with Germany before WWI.’ The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney: Fairfax Media, 20 August, 2014. http://www.smh.com.au/comment/chinas-parallel-with-germany-before-wwi-20140820-10631j.html

[7] See Francis Fukuyama. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press, 1992.

[8] Gabriel Kolko. Another Century of War? New York: Monthly Review Press, 2002, 217.

[9] Ezra Vogel. ‘The Transformation of China.’ The Agenda. http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674055445

[10] Angus Madisson. The World Economy. Historical Statistics. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris: OECD, 2003, 258.

[11] GALLUPWorld. ‘China’s Per-Capita GDP has Led to a Drastic Reduction in Poverty.’

http://www.gallup.com/poll/166565/one-five-worldwide-living-extreme-poverty.aspx

[12] Jemima Garrett and staff. ‘US secretary of State John Kerry uses Asia-Pacific to ‘redouble’ focus on region.’ Australia Network News, 14 August, 2014 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-14/john-kerry-focuses-on-pivot-to-asia-pacific-at-end-of-region/5671992?section=world

[13] James Lee Ray and Ayse Vural. ‘Power Disparities and Paradoxical Conflict Outcomes.’ International Interactions, Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis, 1986,12, 315-342.

[14] David Tweed and Sangwon Yoon. ‘China snubs US proposal at ASEAN.’ The Age. Fairfax Media: Melbourne, 11 August, 2011, 13.

This article was first posted on Strobe’s blog Geo-Strategic Orbit and has been reproduced with permission.

Laggards or Leaders

While Joe Hockey labels Australians as “lifters or leaners”, governments are similarly judged as “laggards or leaders”.  In one fell swoop this government has taken us from being a world leader to a despised laggard.

You could be forgiven for not knowing there was a climate change conference in Bonn in June.  In fact, I am not even sure if we actually sent anyone.  The last I heard, the delegates were standing around at Sydney airport wondering what to do because the PM’s plane had flown off to France full of photographers and businessmen, relegating the delegates to catch commercial flights, but the PM’s office, who control such things, had neglected to give approval for their expenses.

Since I had heard no reports of the conference I looked for myself.  This was the first story I came across.

Australia awarded Fossil of the Day at UN Climate Talks for Trying to Reconvene Flat Earth Society

June 10 2014, Bonn – Germany: CAN bestows the first Fossil Award of the Bonn UNFCCC negotiation session to Australia in recognition of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s stupendously brazen denial of the catastrophic risks posed by climate change in his effort to form an alliance of “like minded” countries opposed to action on climate change, already dubbed by some as a new “flat earth society.”

News accounts report that the Minister has enjoined Canada in his new coalition and is reaching out to other countries including the UK and India “aiming to dismantle global moves to introduce carbon pricing.”

CAN salutes the Abbott’s commitment and consistency in his willful blindness to the catastrophic economic costs incurred by climate change.

He has also recently announced his intention to keep climate change out of the upcoming G20 talks hosted by Australia arguing that  climate change is inappropriate because such talks are primarily about economics.

Prime Minister Abbott must have missed the IPCC memo which spells out that climate change is the economic problem facing our age – it’s already costing us, but it doesn’t cost the earth to save the world.

He is clearly looking for recognition of his visionary approach to climate change, and CAN is proud to be among the first to step out and congratulate his dedication to the fossilized past.  [In case you were wondering – no, this isn’t a joke.  Abbott has really done this.  Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.]”

This came on the heels of the report from the conference in Warsaw in November last year.

November 22, 2013

This year’s Colossal Fossil goes to Australia. The new Australian Government has won its first major international award – the Colossal Fossil. The delegation came here with legislation in its back pocket to repeal the carbon price, failed to take independent advice to increase its carbon pollution reduction target and has been blocking progress in the loss and damage negotiations. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!

Some people have described our new Senators as a “breath of fresh air”.  What I see is ill-informed naïvity.  Clive Palmer has somehow convinced these “ordinary people” that Australia will be better off without a carbon price and a mining tax.  Nice going Clive.

Tony Abbott has managed to do the same, telling us that our cost of living will go down, jobs will be created, and investment money will flow….but don’t bet the house on it.

This unholy alliance has sent Australia backwards but they will not prevail.  Their actions will be increasingly condemned as the world forces them to take action on the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced.

Image by climate-change-guide.com

Image by climate-change-guide.com

Abbott will face enormous pressure at the G20 summit later this year, and at the climate change talks in Paris next year, despite his efforts to remove discussion from the agenda.  Under pressure from Obama, in a typically immature approach to control the language, Abbott agreed to discuss “energy efficiency”.

A recent poll by the Lowy Institute showed that after six years of declining public concern about climate change, the trend had reversed with 45 per cent of people saying it is a “serious and pressing problem”.

In the meantime, it is worth remembering that smart, decent people are waiting for this temporary nightmare to pass and have viable plans for the direction our future must take.

In July 2012, Beyond Zero Emissions produced a document called “Laggard to Leader – How Australia Can Lead the World to Zero Carbon Prosperity”.  The main thrust of the study is:

  • Australia must stop using the promise of a global treaty that won’t eventuate to duck responsibility for its ballooning coal and gas exports.
  • A moratorium on coal and gas expansion followed by a phasedown will drive a massive increase in global renewable energy investment.
  • Australia can lead the world to cheap, abundant renewable energy by deploying off-the-shelf, zero carbon technology that will grow Australia’s prosperity.

The International Energy Agency warned in 2012, “the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close”.  To keep the door open, global emissions must peak and begin to decline by 2020 at the absolute latest and then keep declining to zero by between 2040 and 2050. We are in “the critical decade”.  Decisions we make today will largely determine the state of the climate system within which all subsequent generations must live.

The world’s nations gathered in Durban in late 2011 to continue long-standing negotiations towards a comprehensive international treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The best they could agree was that they would aim to negotiate by 2015 an agreement requiring some countries to start reducing emissions beginning in 2020. These negotiations cannot be relied upon to secure the emissions cuts that are required. “It is clear”, argue the editors of the world’s preeminent scientific journal, Nature, “that the science of climate change and the politics of climate change … now inhabit parallel worlds”.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia where the Federal Government and its State Government counterparts are aggressively supporting a massive programme of investment in new mines, wells, pipes and ports. These projects will see Australia export a staggering amount of highly emissions-intensive coal and gas during — and well beyond — the critical decade.

Australia is already the world’s largest coal exporter, responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s traded coal, and is the fastest growing exporter of liquefied natural gas. The emissions embodied in Australia’s fossil fuel exports already total much more than our “domestic” emissions. Based on data accumulated by Australian Government agencies, Australia’s combined coal and gas exports are projected to more than double between now and 2030.

To allow this to occur would be catastrophic for global efforts to avoid dangerous climate change: it would mean Australia would be causing more than 1 in every 10 tonnes of the greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted into the atmosphere in 2030 consistent with a 2°C warming trajectory.

Australia is the steward of its natural resources. They belong to all Australians and we can choose what to do with them. When our exports of coal and gas are burned, the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is the product of these choices. The fact that these emissions are not counted in Australia’s “carbon accounts” under UN carbon accounting rules has previously been used as an excuse for us to ignore their consequences.

But these rules are based on the idea that all countries will have emissions reduction targets, the achievement of which will “add up” to the global cuts necessary to stay within the 2°C limit. With the UN negotiations deadlocked and no foreseeable prospect of such an international regime emerging in the necessary timeframe, this excuse is not acceptable.

Hoping, against all probability, that the negotiations will reach a breakthrough just in time, while at the same time making the problem they are trying to solve significantly worse is a dangerous, counterintuitive and counterproductive approach for Australia to take.

It is well beyond time to approach the global challenge of preserving a safe climate in a very different way. It is time to put leadership towards zero carbon prosperity at the heart of our response.

The logic of “Cooperative Decarbonisation” is simple. Each country must phase down to zero or very near zero the greenhouse gas emissions associated with every economic and social process over which it has control or influence.  Instead of drawing lines at national borders, this approach recognises that, in a globalised economy, countries have shared responsibility for many of the emissions that occur in any one place. As such, countries should use every lever they have to eliminate those emissions within their “sphere of influence”, including the fossil fuels they export and the goods they import.

Clearly, international cooperation will be required — particularly to ensure that the goals of sustainable economic development are achieved and that wealthier countries assist low income countries to make this essential transition. But instead of trying to do it all in one “grand bargain” as they are today, countries should work in smaller groups, focusing their efforts on the individual sectors and processes that cause emissions — working to leave fossil fuels in the ground, preserve the world’s forests and make renewable energy affordable for all.

Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, is one of only a small handful of countries that can lead this process. The main reason for this is simple: our sphere of influence over global emissions is immense. Our high domestic emissions make us an important player, on par with nations like France, Spain and South Korea. But it is our ballooning coal and gas exports that make us a truly critical influence on global emissions.

We can use this position to focus the attention of world leaders on the most important, yet least discussed part of the climate problem: the fact that only one eighth of the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves can safely be burned. Australia can help make that which is currently “unthinkable” — a global fossil fuel phase out — a reality.

We need an Australian moratorium on new fossil fuel developments: a bold move from the world’s largest coal exporter that can serve as the centrepiece for a wider call to action. Such a move would maintain the current global price of coal and stop it from falling by an expected 30% this decade. It would be one of the few conceivable ways that any single country could jolt world leaders into action, creating the economic and political momentum to commence immediate global discussion on the best and fairest means to phase-out fossil fuels.

Thankfully, Australia’s global power does not arise only from our ownership of the resources that are fuelling the problem. As the beneficiary of world class solar and wind resources, we also hold the key to the most important solutions.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy are essential to decarbonising the world’s energy system. Thanks largely to the targeted investments made by Germany and other European countries when these technologies were more expensive, they have sailed down the “cost curve” and are now price-competitive with fossil fuel energy in many markets. Germany’s installation of almost 30GW of solar PV brought PV prices down by an incredible 65% over the past six years.

The other crucial technology is concentrating solar thermal (CST) with storage. This technology, which is operating today in other countries, produces 24 hour energy from the power of the sun. The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan showed that powering the Australian economy using predominantly CST is technically and economically achievable, starting now, in ten years. The greatest gift that sunny Australia could give to the world is to repeat for CST what cloudy Germany did for solar PV: through smart policies and targeted investments, enable the deployment across Australia of enough CST to make this game-changing technology cost-competitive with fossil fuels everywhere.

Cheap renewable energy will solve some of the most challenging problems facing humankind this century — from climate change, to oil scarcity, to energy poverty — and allow us to build a global economy on foundations as reliable as the rising sun.

Australia has the power to make it happen.  It is up to us to insist that it does.

Why Clive Palmer may not be Abbott’s karma! A pattern emerges . . .

Clive Palmer (image by 4bc.com.au)

Clive Palmer (image by 4bc.com.au)

Anyone else wondering if there’s a pattern starting here?

The Government proposes something. Clive creates BIG HEADLINES by suggesting that he’ll block it. There’s a bit of a brouhaha. The Government complains that the Senate shouldn’t block things because after all they have a mandate! (After all, the Liberals have always just waved legislation through – it’s not like they blocked the ETS or anything…)

A few days go by. Then it’s reported – with no big headlines – that Clive Palmer and his PUPpets have decided to let the thing go through. Sometimes, it’s reported that they’ve extracted some concession. Other times, they’ve either just changed their minds or else whatever concession they’ve extracted is not for the public eye.

Now I don’t mean to suggest by that there’s anything untoward in this. After all, it is possible that Clive Palmer just speaks without thinking, and after reflection, he remembers that he is a life member of the Queensland LNP, so really opposing policies he’s always supported just because he’s trying to win a few populist votes is not really a good long term policy. Or it could be that he just likes watching Tony’s face when it looks likely that the Government actually have to say please before it gets its own way.

Whatever, it seems that there are at least two examples of this.

We won’t allow the Carbon Tax repeal, unless it’s replaced by an Emissions Trading Scheme starting at zero. (Haven’t heard much about that lately.)

We won’t support the changes to the regulations on Financial Advice. (Oh, wait the government have promised us that they’ll strength the legislation in the next ninety days.)

There you go. Two things that’s the start of pattern.

All right, two isn’t much of a pattern, but I wanted to get in early. If I wait until it’s an actual pattern then everyone will see it. Like the pattern where Margie doesn’t accompany Abbott when he goes to a foreign country, including Canberra, which Liberals regard as an alien land.

Just like when some of the Liberals suggested that the Labor Party hadn’t delivered a surplus this century. It’s a pattern. The circumstances of the GFC were no excuse – if the Liberals had still been in power, we’d have still had surpluses. And an unemployment rate of “eleventy”, mind you, but things would have been good because we’d have had a surplus.

But that was under Peter “Figjam” Costello. Under Abbott, I’ve noticed a new pattern. Joe Hockey has never delivered a surplus.

Just remember, you read it here first!

Abbott and Palmer – The Lion and the Lamb

Image by rockgenius.com

Image by rockgenius.com

Tony Abbott had a favored technique which he applied to the five boxing matches he had at Oxford.

As soon as the bell sounded, Abbott would rush his opponent before they had a chance to get out of their corner and commence to rain a flurry of blows.

Perhaps it was a good thing for Tony that he confined himself to only a few bouts, as the technique won’t work against a more experienced opponent who will simply cover up, side step and wait for an opening.

In an interview conducted circa 2006, with ABC’s Melbourne’s Jon Faine, Abbott in typical hubris told Faine that his technique was; “basically no big deal. You’ve got to remember Jon, that they were only weedy Poms.”

Both Abbott’s boxing technique and the remark offered a good insight to the character of the man.

Rush in, try to overwhelm your opponent through sheer aggression and then denigrate them as weak and unworthy.

Aggressive and conceited, Abbott has applied the same characteristics and approach to his political career.

On winning the election, Abbott was determined to come into government like a lion.

The adults were in charge. There would be neither compromise nor quarter with his opponents.

Sweeping reform was to be the order of the day.

The opposition was there to be pummeled and denigrated, ridiculed and reviled.

Truth and facts, always shadowy figures in politics, were to be trampled underfoot along with a sense of humanity as Abbott trod the paths of  Right wing righteousness to a Shangri-la where Australia was “open for business.”

How could he lose? Tony not only had God in his corner but Rupert Murdoch as well.

Why; – the difference was scarce adjusted in the tomb!

Then came Clive Palmer.

If Abbott saw himself as an elected crusader seeking the holy grail of an unfettered ‘free market’ economy, Palmer portrayed himself as Robin Goodfellow, a role which he has clearly relished over the past few weeks.

No stranger to politics, Palmer won his votes through unabashed populism.

While Abbott played to the Dress Circle of  the true believers of the free market, Palmer played to the stalls.

There are interesting parallels between Palmer and his approach to politics and those of Senator Huey P. Long former Governor of Louisiana.

Long was a member of the Democrats and helped get Roosevelt elected in 1932, but split with the party in 1933 to conduct his own bid for the Presidency.

Palmer was a member of the National Party and bank rolled the ‘Joh for Canberra’ campaign in 1987 but split with the Nationals after failing to get pre-selection to contest the Division of Lilley in 2013.

Similarly to Long, Palmer announced that he would run as an independent for the seat of Fairfax at the 2013 and hinted that a run for PM “wouldn’t be out of the question.”

Long’s success so frightened the party leaders that even the conservatives flocked to Roosevelt, and readily embraced FDR at his worst in preference to dealing with ‘the Kingfish.’

While Palmer has not espoused any campaign similar to Long’s ‘Share the Wealth’ policy, he was quick to refute the Abbott government’s  claims of a budget emergency as “sinister and ideologically driven.”

Palmer added that News Ltd had been complicit in peddling the LNP’s “lies and broken promises, and that Rupert Murdoch should get the Joseph Goebbels award for propaganda.”

Both Palmer and Long had axes to grind with the parties that had spawned them.

Long with FDR as a political rival and for his remarks that Long had flouted and caricatured the process of parliamentary democracy, Palmer with the Nationals and their refusal to select him as a candidate for the Division of Lilley coupled with his ongoing feud with Queensland premier Campbell Newman.

Palmer has waited patiently over the last ten months to even the score with the LNP while maintaining a steady media profile, and stole the spotlight from Tony Abbott by appearing with Al Gore a week before the senate was due to vote on Abbott’s center piece policy of Carbon Tax Repeal.

Palmer announced that he would support the repeal – but with conditions.

When the bill was presented to the Senate, what followed could only be described as a farce worthy of  Moliere.

Abbott, whose polls as preferred prime minister had plummeted, was desperate to ram the bill through in an attempt to salvage the government’s credibility, suddenly found himself cast in the role of Pantaloon, as Palmer and his party insisted on further amendments to the repeal,  and then amendments to the amendments.

Treading warily, Abbott shifted the blame to the ALP while at remaining at pains not to antagonize Palmer.

Six days later, the bill is still under debate in the Senate and no vote has been cast.

A similar if not more muted situation occurred when the government presented its Future of financial advice reform (Fofa) bill on Tuesday, with Palmer clearly calling for the government to jump, while the LNP responded by asking; ‘how high?’

Whilst a large number of voters may feel a strong sense of Schadenfreude at Abbott’s fate at the hands of PUP and the independents, as The Guardian’s Leonore Taylor observed of Palmer’s antics;

“It makes the government look like donkeys being led by the nose, but much worse than that spectacle, it is a terrible way to run the lawmaking process.”

Abbott, who came in like a lion and who was sure that his ‘rush ’em, knock ’em down, and then kick ’em in the head’ style would overcome any political or parliamentary obstacles, has been reduced to a lamb by Palmer, and now the roles are reversed.

While Palmer could hardly be described as a lamb, he’s proved to Abbott and the LNP that he can certainly be the lion when it comes to calling the shots in the Senate.

Palmer may enjoy playing Puck to Abbott’s Bottom, but for the sake of governance the situation cannot continue indefinitely.

At some stage, the lamb is going to have to lie down with the lion.

At present however, Abbott and the LNP are learning that while the lion may lie down with the lamb, the lamb’s not going to get much sleep.

This Reprehensible Rabble

If anything was patently obvious from the events in Canberra last week, it is that Clive Palmer thinks he is running the country and the media seem to think so too. They are all over him, relegating Tony Abbott to the role of a bit-player. It is also patently obvious that the government’s negotiating skills sit somewhere between pitiable and non-existent.

The repeal of the carbon tax is only the beginning. There are still budget bills to be passed as well as the mining tax and Clive Palmer appears intent on maintaining the chaos. It is conceivable that Tony Abbott will soon be cornered into either giving Palmer everything he asks or calling a double dissolution. At the moment he is vacillating and his weakness on this issue will expose him for what he really is. His pre-election bluff and bluster has dissolved.

Last week’s circus in the senate was inevitable and it will happen again. The closer you get to your enemy, the sharper you need to be. Clive Palmer has been around long enough not to trust anyone and knows since the day Joe Hockey delivered the Budget that the Prime Minister’s word has little or no value.

kerry

Image by The Sydney Morning Herald

Palmer probably remembered Abbott’s comments when interviewed by Kerry O Brien a few years back. “The statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared scripted remarks,” Abbott said. In that interview Abbott revealed that he sometimes went further than he should when making a promise. I’m sure it was no surprise to Palmer when the wording to the amendment on the bill to repeal the carbon tax wasn’t quite what it was supposed to be.

If the Coalition think for one moment that they can put one over Clive Palmer, they are deluding themselves. But, given Abbott’s penchant for verbal dishonesty they will probably keep trying and in the process, expose themselves for the utterly reprehensible rabble that they are.

That is not to say that Palmer will not acquiesce when it suits him. He is unpredictable and, I suspect, delights in keeping the government, the opposition and the media guessing. But as time passes (and it can’t come too quickly for most of us), the interaction between him and the Prime Minister will further expose Abbott’s difficulty in negotiating to a point where even his most steadfast supporters will have had enough. The government couldn’t even get their amendments right. A double dissolution could see him lose office or at best see his lower house majority whittled down to one or two.

The senate result could be worse with a strong chance that both major parties would lose numbers to the PUP. If for some reason the people go against PUP and vote to restore some sanity the result will likely favour Labor and the Greens. Either way, Abbott is in trouble. Doubtless his party’s electoral engineers are doing their sums and would be weighing up the pros and cons. The advice given to them by outgoing senator Ron Boswell to stand up to Palmer is the right advice but they appear unwilling to take it.

promises

Image by BBC.com

For the electorate, the greater issue here is honesty, or lack of it. The budget exposed the Coalition to be utterly dishonest, something they brought on themselves; an own goal. They can no longer claim the moral high ground. Their claim to have a mandate is, and always was, spurious. There is just too much evidence out there to show that they have treated the electorate as fools. Clive Palmer has realised that as the self-appointed defender of the underdog, his political future has promise. He will not want to betray his image and backtrack on anything he has said to the pensioners and the battlers who have crossed over to his side.

By way of comparison the government is showing signs of cracking under the pressure. Tony Abbott’s speech to the LNP annual state conference in Brisbane on Saturday bordered on the bizarre.“You and we are rescuing our country . . . it is only us who can rescue our country right now,” he said. Rescue from what? His attack on Bill Shorten was equally weird and suggests he is beginning to lose the plot.

election

Image by news.com

His upbeat display of confidence was in direct contrast to the events in Canberra and the reality of the situation as it unfolded. He referred to the events in the senate as “a lot of colour and movement.” It was chaotic. Under Abbott’s leadership thus far, the Coalition has lost all the support they had at the election and then some. Their only way forward is to replace their leader and try starting again. That is unlikely for now and things are only going to get worse.

 

 

Ricky Muir: Just For The Record

Ricky Muir (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

Ricky Muir (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

A few points of clarification.

In my article on Ricky Muir posted yesterday on AIMN, and his part in blocking the Carbon Tax repeal bill, I did not either refer to Senator Muir as a ‘Bogan’ nor did I infer that he was one.

It would seem that the article has drawn a sharp response from some commentors both on AIMN and social media, some objecting to the use of the word bogan while others ‘were not amused’ by the headline.

So let’s take first things first.

The word ‘Bogan’ is a relatively new one in the use of colloquialism, emerging in the last two decades or so.

I should add as a footnote, that Bogans are also known as ‘Bevans’ in Queensland.

However, Bogan seems to have become the predominant term in the vernacular of  the media and the general public.

Prior to this, “Bogan’s” were usually referred to as “Ockers”, a description that seems to have faded with time.

The meaning however, is the same whatever the nomenclature, and describes not so much as the way someone dresses, their level of education, their income or in which suburb they live in for that matter,  but in the manner of how they behave in public.

A summation of Bogan behaviour could best be described as boorish and usually, but not always, alcohol fuelled.

As Sir Scotch Mistery succinctly put it; “It’s an attitude”, and it applies whether you’re the prime minister or a pauper.

Tony Abbott could most certainly be described as a ‘Bogan’ whereas since his election to the Senate, the mainstream media have done their best to portray Ricky Muir as a Bogan.

Relying on YouTube clips, and more than a dose of strong innuendo when faced with Muir’s refusal to give interviews, the mainstream media have done their utmost to present Muir as vulgar at best, and a potentially a dangerous idiot who got lucky and now holds the fate of Australian democracy in his grease stained hands at worst.

A little over a month ago, I watched Muir being crucified at the hands of a po-faced, has-been hack, in the name of ‘investigative journalism’ – you can read ‘sensationalism’ in place of journalism.

I was so appalled by Muir’s treatment at the hands of Mike Willisee that I wrote an article on my own blog page and included a link in the text of yesterday’s post for purposes of further explanation.

It would appear that some readers didn’t bother to use it before hitting the keyboard to vent their spleen that I had besmirched Muir, and more importantly at least as far as they were concerned – themselves.

I did nothing of the sort.

What I was surprised to see was that the debate and comments on Muir’s role in rejecting the Carbon Tax repeal bill, immediately switched to a debate on who was or wasn’t a ‘Bogan’.

The central issue; that of Muir’s efforts to preserve ARENA and his role in helping to stall the government’s attempts at repeal the Carbon Tax, were largely swept aside.

Amazing!

As for those who ‘were not amused’ at the headline, what can I say?

Like all of the contributors to AIMN, I do my own proof reading and editing and enjoy the editorial freedom to write what I like, when I like – contribution is voluntary and none of us gets paid,

I admit that in selecting the headline, I succumbed to the temptation of alliteration, and I couldn’t resist the chance to take a swipe at the MSM for their treatment of Muir.

After watching the result of the debate in the Senate and the subsequent rejection of the government’s bill, the first thing that ran through my head was that in the four days since he’d been sworn in as a Senator, Muir had proved to have far more political savvy and concern for the well-being of the community than either Abbott, Palmer or the media had given him credit for.

The rest of it just fell into place, and as I wanted to get the article out before the MSM put their spin on it, I really didn’t think much more about it – and still don’t.

For those who were ‘not amused’ and thought that the headline had lowered the tone of AIMN, I can only offer the following advice given by an old friend as I started my freshman year at university;

“Always take your work seriously but never take yourself too seriously.”

Q.E.D.

Finally and for the record, whether you like, love or loath Muir or are totally ambivalent, what he represents is an example of democracy at work.

Whatever his reasons, Muir took that next step that many of us probably thought about but never acted on.

Muir stood up and had the courage to put his beliefs and his credibility in his own community on the line and run for office.

Whether or not he proves to be a good and effective representative of  his community, his party, and the people of Australia remain to be seen.

In the interim, his right to privacy and reticence to give interviews to a sensationalist hungry media should be respected until he feels comfortable about doing so.

As I said in my first article, in his short time in the seat, Muir has proven that he is his own man, or at least the man of his party and not the puppet of PUP as the media conjectured, even though Palmer has managed to grab the headlines.

Moreover, as far as trying to make decisions for the good of all Australians, he’s made a very good start.

Here’s hoping that he continues.

Ricky Proves Tricky – Bush Bogan Backs Blocking Carbon Tax Repeal Bill

Ricky Muir (image from news.com.au)

Ricky Muir (image from news.com.au)

A month ago, Ricky Muir was an object of scorn and derision by the MSM.

Following his interview with Mike Willisee, much of social media also jumped on the band wagon posting the Willisee interview on Facebook with the warning; “Be afraid, be very afraid.”

Since his election to the Senate in September Muir has been painted as either an ignoramus who got lucky or simply a stooge for the Palmer United Party.

Since assuming his role as a  Senator on Monday, Muir has proved to be neither and very much his own man.

The MSM has had a fascination with Muir who as a candidate for a minor party, the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts, contested and won a seat in the Upper House.

Reclusive by nature, Muir refused to give interviews and declined to meet with Tony Abbott for a formal discussion and prime ministerial welcome.

With little to go on save for a couple of YouTube clips of Muir throwing kangaroo excrement at his mates, and a homespun philosophy in how to raise children, the MSM opted for regarding Muir as a curiosity at best, a fool at worst following the Willisee interview, or simply a puppet of Clive Palmer following Palmer’s announcement the Muir would form a voting bloc with PUP.

Muir’s first action after being sworn in however was to independently introduce amendments to block the government’s savage cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency with a view of scrapping the agency altogether.

Muir’s actions caught both the MSM and the government off guard, and left the government stunned. The best however, was yet to come.

Back peddling furiously, the government agreed to continue funding ARENA in exchange for the withdrawal of Muir’s amendment, but hoping that the vote on the repeal of the Carbon tax would be finalized on Thursday with a favorable outcome for the LNP.

This was not to be. Muir joined with PUP, Labor and the Greens to write further amendments to the bill to ensure that full savings from the repeal would be passed on to consumers.

The final vote to reject the repeal was 37 to the government’s 35.

This leaves the Abbott government to introduce a new repeal bill which includes the Palmer amendment to the House, and the debate starts all over again.

In less than a week Muir has gone from zero to hero, with social media now prepared to sing his praises, albeit faintly due to Clive Palmer grabbing most of the media attention for today’s move.

On his Facebook page, Muir wrote of himself as “As an average Australian who wants to make balanced decisions which hopefully reflect on everyday Australians.”

A month ago, I wrote that; such honesty despite its apparent naivete, is welcome and  refreshing in a political arena dominated by time servers, party hacks, and Neo-Liberal dog-eat-dog ideology.

Whatever Muir’s communication faults may be, he is still representative of a democracy that prides itself in the fact that anyone with the determination to have their voice heard and who wants to change the system can be elected if they present a credible argument to voters in their electorate.

Moreover, Muir also embodies the fundamental Australian principle of ‘a fair go’.

Within four days of taking his seat in the Senate, Muir has not only shown himself to be his own man, but is as good as his word in making balanced decisions for all Australians.

Let’s hope that he continues to do so.

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