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Tag Archives: Clive Palmer

Blunder from Down Under

According to Richard Denniss, the chief economist and former executive director of The Australia Institute, government spending is the key prop of the Australian economy.

Denniss’ stark observation comes on the day (02/09/2020) Australia slips to its lowest ebb since the Great Depression, and the day after the Federal Government throttled the Job Seeker and Job Keeper programmes.

This calculated shift to calamitous austerity comes at a time when the cost of money is at an all-time nadir. So low that at the start of the week Governor Philip Lowe of the Reserve Bank of Australia said, “fiscal and monetary support will be required for some time given the outlook for the economy and the prospect of high unemployment.”

So why is Australia plunging into a rapidly emptying summer swimming pool? The answer can be found in the mutterings of the far right extremists now in charge of the National and Liberal parties, and our national destiny

There is no stopping this wrecking crew. Thus far The Usual Suspects – Craig Kelly MP, Josh Frydenberg MP and Senator Richard Colbeck are blaming Victorian Premier Dan Andrews for the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. And calling for the use of a dangerous, ineffective drug to treat the disease, while denying responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of men and women languishing in a privatised aged care system.

But all this is as nothing when compared with the embarrassment of the Blunder from Down Under, the onion eating serial misogynist, and climate denying failed Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

I do not intend to quote this English-born ex politician, but provide this link to one of many news reports documenting the ravings of this benighted twerp. For the record, when asked his opinion of Abbott’s appointment to a Tory sinecure in the Old Dart, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “well done Boris! Good hire”.

With this vapid observation dutifully reported by Sky News we are hearing the death rattle of neo-conservatism.

There is no Plan B. No Snap Back. No stratagem for life after the pandemic. Nor is there a chance for an upswing in trade with China. Instead, science is ridiculed. Conspiracy theories rule the popular imagination while our future wealth and security – superannuation — is being dismantled.

Bush fires, a pandemic and the Liberal National Coalition are making 2020 one of the worst years in the nation’s history. The cruel irony is this did not have to happen. We are where we are because we made it so at the ballot box. We chose Rex Patrick, Richard Colbeck, Jacquie Lambie, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Bob Katter, Pauline Hanson; the list is long. We claimed to be sick of politicians yet chose to believe Clive Palmer’s lies.

We read The Australian, The Herald Sun, and The Daily Telegraph. We laughed at the cartoons of Bill and Johannes Leak, and called friends and family members with alternative views, left wing radicals. And we stood by and allowed our female political leaders to be characterised as barren.

Our ally the United States of America now normalises armed militias patrolling the streets of once great cities. We watch black men and women, strangled, bludgeoned, gassed and shot in the back, and yet we do not ask ourselves, ‘could this happen here?’ But this is life for many Aboriginal Australians.

On May 19 2019, I described the day after the election. Reading back I think I managed to capture the menace of the time:

“Dark morning air is crisp across southern Australia, warm and dry north of the Tropic of Capricorn. A short, late autumn day beckons. Communities recently described by their Federal electorate names; Corangamite, Dunkley, Hughes, Fraser, Deakin, Gilmore, Higgins, Dickson and many more, awaken to more familiar urban, regional and rural denominations. And though the election is over the outcome is unclear, at least in this electorate, or that Senate position. But certain certainties remain.

A young shivering tradie walks to his ute, fires up the motor and switches on talk-back radio.

A grumpy grey nomad passes driving duties to his wife. Their 4×4 and trailer swing northeast toward Kynuna. The couple is heading to Birdsville in the Maranoa electorate and a campsite near the Goyder Lagoon.

In the Grayndler electorate a young Balmain woman, trim in well-tailored sweat gear, promises to meet her friends in the Piccolo Bar for a skim latte. The pilates class is over. She is curious about an overheard, heated conversation. The Adani coal mine might actually go ahead.

Dry hoar frost crackles beneath the boots of a vintner surveying vines outside Wellington in the Federal seat of Calare in the central west of NSW. He waves toward a convoy of trucks laden with hay for drought-parched station owners and goodies for their children and wives. For an instant, he wonders if the trucks might stop at the Nanima Aboriginal Reserve where his great aunt once lived.

And so to Beamish Street Campsie in the electorate of Watson named in honour of John Christian Watson, an Australian prime minister in the early 20th Century. Few of Campsie’s citizens know Chris Watson led the world’s first “labour party” government, and believed to be the first social democratic government.

In Macleay Street Potts Point a poster of a smiling Kerryn Phelps, Federal Member for Wentworth, gazes at a batch of empty shop fronts across the road from the El Alamein Fountain.

Journalists wrote hundreds of thousands of words about this day in the life of the people of a nation, who for the past three years wrestled with notions of entitlement, a fair go, and the difference between leaners and lifters. As the morning stretches toward noon, citizens begin to ponder this new day within their respective bubbles, a word favoured by the Federal Member for Cook, Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The grey nomad urges more speed to get to the campsite on the shores of the Goyder Lagoon in time to set up before the fast approaching sunset.

“You’re thinking about catching that big Murray Cod,” his wife says.

“Hope so. If there’s any left,” he replies, adding,”there’s plenty of water flowing into Lake Eyre. She’ll be right.”

“Yeah I know,” she says, “and we’ll have these memories to savour when we go into care”…

A red light begins to flash on the dashboard.”

Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale here.

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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?”

 

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.

 

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 gina Gina 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!

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.

 

 

A Climate Created by The Abbott of Clive

Al Gore and Clive Palmer (image from theguardian.com)

When Clive Palmer stood beside Al Gore (God only knows why Gore did it) in the Great Hall at Parliament House to announce his party’s voting intentions regarding the Carbon Tax, I like many others watched with daunting anticipation. After all he had, in his own typically flamboyant way, created an event (or an illusion) of world importance worthy of a major speech at the UN.

The former Vice President gave the occasion celebrity value. For me it was not just an announcement. It was about a decision vital to my country’s future. What might this man of singular self-importance do?

Then Palmer announced the terms and conditions for his party’s support for dropping the tax, one of which was that it be linked to the implementation of an ETS, albeit without a price. Well that’s what I thought I heard and I said to my wife:

“I think Clive has Tony by his Crown Jewels”.

What I thought I heard was not what I had heard at all after Palmer later clarified his remarks. It was not linked at all. I was somewhat devastated when, after doing some quick intellectual gymnastics, I concluded that Clive had pulled a swifty. Then I angered to write but prudence got the better of me and I decided to canvas some thoughts from those like me who are concerned and opine on serious matters such as this. It was as well I waited because the subject has taken more twists and turns on a daily basis than the Albert Park Grand Prix circuit.

I can guarantee that a read of these articles might tip your sanity over the edge, confuse you, make you more aware, disappoint you, or even infuriate you. But hopefully they might convince you that we are being led by a moron of unbelievable stupidity and myopia. Closely followed by a businessman who only wants two things. Anything that will advance his business interests and revenge against those who wouldn’t give him what he wanted.

But hopefully the last article by the ever astute Peter Martin will put things in perspective for you.

First off the grid was former Gillard Minister, Craig Emerson.

”Lots of carbon-emitting smoke and sideshow alley mirrors were on display yesterday when Clive Palmer and Al Gore announced a major environmental breakthrough. Now that the smoke is cleared and a light is shone on the mirrors, here’s what was actually announced. It confirms what I wrote last night.”

PUP Senators will vote with the Government to repeal the existing Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) law, including the present fixed price and the future floating price. PUP will seek to introduce its own ETS with a zero price. However, it will not insist on the Government voting for its bill. Even if the new ETS bill were to make it through the Senate, it must then go to the House of Representatives where the Government has a majority (that’s how it became the Government). Unless PM Abbott has a massive change of heart, the Government will defeat PUP’s ETS Bill in the House. The bill therefore will not become law.

Palmer is insisting on the Government retaining the Renewable Energy Target, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Change Authority. He has also announced PUP will vote against the Government’s Direct Action legislation.

As announced, the net result is that Australia’s existing ETS will be scrapped and not replaced with any ETS. Direct Action will be defeated. The Renewable Energy Target, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Change Authority will be retained.

While this is better than nothing, it is hardly cause for celebration for anyone who believes an ETS is vital to reducing carbon emissions. Unless Clive Palmer or Tony Abbott change their minds, there will be no ETS and therefore no effective action on climate change.

Mark Kenny in what I think is one of the best pieces on the subject said this:

The understanding here is that Abbott’s real priority is – and only ever has been – the destruction of the carbon ‘‘tax’’. Everything else, including the $2.5 billion direct action plan to pay large polluters to cut emissions, was merely put forward because the Coalition feared that offering nothing was electoral suicide.

Barry Tucker. Blogger for THE AIMN had this to say:

By voting for abolition of the carbon price (“tax”), Palmer saves millions in future payments for pollution from his mines. He still has to pay for overdue carbon price bills, plus fines and penalties of about $63 million and growing almost exponentially.
He may do another deal to get some relief for that liability. Ultimately, he’s just in politics for his own benefit.

James Clancy a Facebook friend commented on the guaranteed reduction on his power bills:

Well today I received a letter from Energy Australia that Electricity prices will increase from 1st July 2014. The weighted average price increase to Qld customers will be $4.58 per week. So it looks like they are going to charge first and give a little off if the carbon tax is repealed. I seem to recall that Electrical suppliers had written to the Federal Government saying that they will give consumers the savings they make. So we Pay $294.00 extra a year, how much will we get back when the carbon tax is repealed I bet it is not around $550 as Tony Abbott has claimed.

Ross Garnaut

Economist and carbon pricing expert Professor Ross Garnaut says the Palmer United Party’s position to vote to retain the RET and other key climate change bodies will have “important” and positive effects.

Doug Evans another writer for this blog said.

Abbott and his band of hateful sidekicks are a disgrace. Even if they become a one term blot on our political landscape we still have three years of their carnage to endure. On the bright side they are not getting it all their own way. Their first budget is in tatters raising the question of whether or not there will be a second ‘horror’ budget next year, further cementing their unpopularity. The really important elements of the Clean Energy legislation (CEFC, ARENA) look as though they will endure as does the RET. No-one in government or the MSM seems to be able to fully evaluate the meaning of the loss if the price on carbon. Thanks to Labor’s insistence carbon price was always set too low to drive meaningful change and when linked to the global carbon market was going to come much lower (hence the Greens’ insistence on the fixed price period). The carbon price hasn’t been and was never going to be the major element of this legislation driving the clean energy transformation. Axing the tax will have very little effect on the rate of growth of our carbon emissions.

The media with their unshakeable fixation on THE CARBON TAX have taken to repeating that without the (very small) stick of our ETS we are without any mechanism for driving down emissions. Not sure why they ignore the (somewhat larger) carrot that is the combination of RET and CEFC.

For those of you who (like me) love to hate Greg Hunt, Mark Kenny ( a journalist for whom I normally have no respect at all) has written a very interesting speculative piece for Fairfax on who wins and who loses from Palmer’s carbon tax machinations The article bears strongly on assessment of what matters and what doesn’t in the wash up of Abbott’s shock and awe onslaught on our climate policy. It is worth reading and reflecting on, not least because it reveals tensions within the government around this issue.

Similarly I found Lenore Taylor’s piece on the background leading to Palmer’s stunning appearance beside Al Gore pretty interesting also. It also explains why Gore having agreed to appear with Palmer still looked so very uncomfortable about being there.

Lenore Taylor in an interview with Palmer last weekend.

“Our amendment makes it a requirement that people will have to pass on the power cost savings … not a voluntary situation, it doesn’t leave it up to the ACCC to decide at its discretion whether or not it wants to enforce this”.
“But I’m not in business, I’m serving the Australian people, so knowing that I am going to make sure this legislation goes through to protect to protect our pensioners and everyone like that”. “Palmer has given up several directorships but remains the owner of a number of companies, including a nickel refinery, coal leases and an iron ore holding”.

Annabel Crabb in her usual stoic style.

“Direct Action is about as popular within the Coalition as a peanut at a preschool, and not having to make sense of it in practice is something of a lucky break for the government”.

“Anyone building hypothetical future scenarios based on Clive Palmer continuing serenely as the new face of emissions trading might want to exercise caution”.

Michael Pascoe in The Age.

“Clive Palmer is being hailed in several quarters as a jolly green giant saving Australia’s carbon emissions trading scheme, not to mention lauded as a master political strategist. Hold the phone at least on the first part of that”.

“One of the problems with Clive is working out what he’s saying, what he might think he’s saying and what he actually means”.
“They can all be quite different things. For businesses having to plan and invest around carbon policy, that’s not very helpful”.

Bernie Fraser former Governor of the Reserve Bank.

“Policymakers need to look beyond short-term economic considerations in the interests of some of the big companies to longer-term community interests. That’s what governments are supposed to do, but unfortunately it’s not happening at the present time”.

Laurie Oakes in Melbourne’s Herald Sun.

“Palmer himself? It’s only a couple of months since he was proclaiming disbelief in the whole idea that human activity contributes to global warming. Scientists, he claimed, could be paid to say anything.

Now he adopts the stance of an environmental warrior, committed to retention of the Climate Change Authority and opposed to any change in the Renewable Energy Target designed to ensure 20 per cent of Australia’s energy comes from sources such as wind and solar by 2020”.

“The Prime Minister has held every position there is on climate change, from branding the science “absolute crap” to claiming before his recent Washington visit he accepts it, and from supporting an ETS when John Howard embraced it to asserting a price on carbon would destroy the economy”.

And this from Australianpolitics.com

Palmer has demonstrated today that he has a deft and populist political touch, even though his political positions don’t withstand close scrutiny. He has positioned himself to be seen to be sympathetic to climate change policies, although nothing he has proposed will ever come to pass. The carbon tax will be abolished, with a direct financial benefit to Palmer’s companies.

Mark Kenny again.

“Just before the House adjourned on Thursday, there were jubilant scenes on the floor of the House of Representatives as the Coalition passed the carbon tax repeal bills for the second time”.

“Mr Abbott met Mr Palmer on Thursday morning and emerged happy that the minor party’s four upper house votes would support the abolition of the fixed price, subject to just one condition – a guarantee that the package would contain legislated assurances of cheaper electricity for households”.

Mike Carlton in his usual full on journalistic style got right to the point.

“His idiocy would not matter a toss but for the fact that Newman is chairman of the prime minister’s Business Advisory Council and, therefore, presumably in Tony Abbott’s shell-like ear. Publicly, Abbott has held more positions on climate change than there are sexual acrobatics in the Kama Sutra but you know that, deep down, he believes it’s “crap”. His word.

Abbott is appalling and will no doubt do plenty of damage but he is not getting all his own way. With any luck this will be the dominant theme of his one term government.

Richard Dennis on the cost of power.

‘The main reason that electricity has been getting dearer is the over investment in poles and wires, and the fundamental inefficiency in the way that the national electricity market’s working,’ says Richard Denniss, executive director of the Australia Institute”.

Peter Martin

“For six glorious wild and wet days last week, South Australia sourced 67 per cent of its electricity from wind. Needless to say, it’s an Australian record. So fast were the turbines turning from early Monday to early Sunday that the entire national grid sourced an extraordinary 14.5 per cent of its electricity from wind”.

But the last word goes to the Prime Minister in this article from Philip Correy:

“Tony Abbott has sparked a war with the renewable energy sector by claiming their product was driving up power prices “very significantly” and fostering Australia’s reputation as “the unaffordable energy capital of the world”.

What a Circus!

Photo: litistan.wordpress.com

Photo: litistan.wordpress.com

Why is there a sense of foreboding whenever Tony Abbott travels overseas? Probably because one’s immediate reaction is, “Oh God, in what way will he embarrass us this time.” I can’t help thinking that as they watched John Oliver’s parody of Abbott on his weekly satirical, “Last Week Tonight” show, members of the American press were of a similar mind about his planned visit there next week. Tony Abbott’s poor media presence, his stilted speech, his fake laugh are grist for the mill to a press corp. aware of his tendency to say something incredibly stupid. My fervent wish would be that they ignore him and give us all a break from the cringing and squirming we will have to endure as we sit on our sofas, in front of our TV sets and follow his movements across the Northern Hemisphere. The planned meeting with US President Barack Obama will, no doubt, be particularly painful to watch. One can only hope that Obama will take pity and shield him from the US press or at least spring to his aid when Abbott inevitably sticks his foot in his mouth.

In the meantime the Coalition government and particularly the Liberal side of it appear to be imploding. Bolt on Turnbull, Bernadi on Turnbull, all stirred up over a meal Turnbull had with Clive Palmer. And the winner was . . . Clive Palmer. Even West Australian Liberal MP Dennis Jensen, a former research scientist and defence analyst, was moved to criticise the government for cutting funding to the CSIRO? It’s not hard to see that the Liberals are running scared right now. Bad polling numbers, internal criticisms of Hockey’s budget and the press popularity of Clive Palmer who is clearly enjoying the road show and keeping everyone guessing as to what he’ll do next, is taking its toll. Queensland Coalition MP’s in particular are already starting to panic. Palmer’s popularity in Queensland and the rising dissatisfaction with the Newman state government is a genuine concern for them. As most MP’s know only too well, when Queensland voters are upset they can be particularly savage come election time.

One wonders why Andrew Bolt raised the question of Turnbull’s activities on his programme. Was he prompted to do so by the Abbott camp or was he trying to gain some publicity for his show? Does he genuinely fear Turnbull? Has he forgotten the devastating impact leadership speculation had on the previous government? For all the commentary that has appeared on this issue, it was Bolt who started it. He is the one making the case for Turnbull’s so-called disloyalty. Interestingly, several Coalition MP’s came out this week criticising Turnbull and favouring Bolt, when the PM made it clear in parliament that he favoured Turnbull over Bolt. That is hardly what you would call a co-ordinated united front.

In the meantime, Hockey has gone strangely quiet and Scott Morrison is in damage control. Two self immolations and one murder so far on Scott Morrison’s watch. And that’s what we actually know. There are claims of asylum seekers being lost at sea while being forcibly repatriated to remote Indonesian Islands by the Royal Australian Navy. But the Minister is warning his critics against making “assumptions” about what led Sri Lankan man Leorsin Seemanpillai to take his life. Does he not realise by saying that, he is drawing attention to the obvious?

Now, a new problem has surfaced and it has gone viral. John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ skit made Abbott look like the village idiot. Anyone familiar with the Comedy Channel who knows the threesome that is Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and John Oliver, would also know their popularity worldwide via YouTube. And the Liberal party brains trust would have noticed too that Oliver was careful not to alienate his friends in Australia. He emphasised that only 30% supported Abbott. Australian politics is hardly ever presented in satirical form overseas. We are mostly ignored, criticised or praised depending on the circumstances, but rarely satirised. And for an Australian Prime Minister to be the subject of that satire, to be so jeered and made to look so inept and just plain stupid must be a first, particularly on the eve of an official visit. Will we be hearing accusations that this also was planned by Turnbull?

Everything about this farcical situation has been of the conservative’s side of politics own making. It might have been planned but the more likely explanation is that they are all just so rattled and dysfunctional these days, that it all came naturally. Did you see Barnaby Joyce’s sexist gaffe on The Project during the week? On Peta Credlin, he commented, “I’m on good information from her husband that she’s a woman.” He explained the gaffe as a poor attempt at humour. Yes it was, but it also validates the dysfunctional element infecting the government. What a circus!

Ides of May?

I am not sure what Malcolm Turnbull was thinking, or drinking, when he posted the following on his facebook page today:

Like most Australians, I was angry about Labor’s reckless financial mismanagement of the NBN….but then as I read another Labor press I started to feel young again. Yes, this took me back to my youth, to the 1980s, to Duran Duran, shoulder pads and the Alan Bond and Laurie Connell school of finance – borrow billions, dont worry about how you can pay the interest let alone repay the principal.

He was apparently chuffed with his theatrical posturing in Question Time today. He found himself rather witty and the smirk on Abbott’s face shows he enjoyed it too.

Well the reviews from the public show they weren’t quite as impressed with Malcolm as he so obviously was with himself. They were actually more concerned with substance than rhetoric.

The following is a very small selection of comments which overwhelmingly follow this vein:

“Like most Australians” – you’re kidding yourself if you actually believe this Mr Turnbull.

“Like most Australians, I was angry about Labor’s reckless financial mismanagement of the NBN” – Where did you pull that one from? Most Australians want an NBN FTTP, and you know that.

‘Like most Australians’, I want FTTH. Anyone who’s passed year 11 physics can tell you why.

Sorry, I can’t hear you over THE COST OF TELSTRA’S COPPER NETWORK.

LOL What you guys are doing to the NBN now is a lot bloody worst mate. Thanks for building something that will cost more to maintain and is already out dated……….The libs always thinking short term not long term when it comes to infrastructure.

I’m not surprised you’re harking back to your youth. Liberal party current policies are from a bygone era also. Archaic tech solutions, removing anti-discrimination protections, education for the rich, religious chaplains. Seriously? We are better than all of that. It makes me sad that now both majors have lost the plot.

13 percent GDP is not debt crisis. Sorry but you’re a pack of liars.

No Mr Turnbull I was not angry over Labor’s NBN plan. I was however, angry over the LNP’s second rate alternative plan. Now all I hear when you speak is ‘blah blah blah blah, turn over the record, blah blah blah blah, turn over the record, blah blah…..

You have lost all credibility with me, and I think it’s time I changed the record.

This isn’t a company you’re managing Minister, it’s a country. A good bottom line means nothing to me. I want services for my tax dollar. People are borrowing 6 times earnings to buy a house and you are worried about a debt of between 10 and 20 percent of GDP. I was hoping for a little bit more from you. Don’t fear monger, it belittles you.

If there really was financial mismanagement why can’t you fix the problems and continue with an all fibre rollout? If you really are the superior economic managers that you claim to be then I don’t see why you can’t do it instead of lumping us with technology that is outdated before it is even rolled out.

I am Australian – like most of my friends – and I can assure you I was not angry about Labor’s NBN. If you think that the Libs can roll it out more efficiently – then I will support your policy just as I supported Labor’s. I think you should have said, “like most Australians – we all want faster internet speed”. Please stick with Labor’s good intentions and use your considerable business knowledge to get it to us in a cost effective way. It is NOT cost effective for any nation to have SLOW speeds. Copper has got to go – and I am pretty sure most Australians agree with that!

One of these days Malcolm, you will realise that people want a world class NBN. If you want to bag Labor over the NBN, how about you go on about how they wouldn’t have delivered a world class broadband network and the Libs will.

Where we’re at today, literally nobody believes that the Liberal Party cares about the digital economy. *This* is why people rally behind Labor’s vision, because any vision is better than what Liberals are offering us. You want to win the argument? Do it better, not worse.

The Liberal Party can go on and on about Labor’s reckless spending. Most voters understand that cuts need to be made. What we don’t approve of is the inequitable way that this government has looked to save. Malcolm, I’m happy to pay extra in tax if it’s going to our pensioners, the sick and the needy. I am NOT happy paying for CEOs to have kids, Gina’s fuel rebate, politician’s entitlements (especially like the ones that Don Randall claimed) etc. That’s just offensive and un-Australian and it makes me ill to hear the words “fair go” spew forth from Tony’s mouth.

Just wondering Malcolm….do you still intend borrowing $22.2 billion for your paid parental leave scheme and $24 billion for your fighter jets to add to the $8.8 billion you borrowed for Joe Hockey to gamble on the exchange rate going down? How many billions are you borrowing for Operation Sovereign Murders? How many billions will we be borrowing to gift to our worst polluters?

I too am happy to contribute. We do need some changes. But when I hear of amnesties for offshore tax cheats, and that Frank Lowy’s Westfield chain paid 8c in the dollar tax for the last umpteen years, and that we gave Rupert Murdoch about $880 million tax return for having accountants who are savvy enough to move profits from country to country to minimise tax and take advantage of currency exchange rate shifts, you then want to shaft our most vulnerable? How about we stop giving Gina “exploration” grants. How about you grow some balls and tell her that a condition of any approval is that she employs Australian citizens and use Australian steel and equipment. The US made it a condition for Gina’s recent $7 billion loan for her new destruction of the planet venture – she must use American steel and equipment. How ridiculous is that – they estimate it will create 3,400 jobs in AMERICA! This crew are way too scared to require anything from Gina but you say sick people and pensioners and students and unemployed need to contribute more. Not only that we will get rid of that amazing mining tax that on one hand destroys investment in this country (NOT), but on the other doesn’t raise any money. Just as it was about to start kicking in with billions (from your own estimates), you say oh no we can’t have Gina paying anything to make billions from our resources. Let’s get rid of the schoolkids bonus instead. Do you seriously expect anyone who knows the truth to think that is the way this society should go? And why are we sending $12 billion out of our economy into the American economy for jets we won’t see for a decade if they ever work out how to make them work. Malcolm, listen to your conscience. You KNOW the truth – speak out and we will back you.

It seems that “most Australians” have an entirely different opinion to Malcolm and his buddies and that “most Australians” were singularly unimpressed with his video of himself being smart and seem more concerned about the many ways that this government is making this country a worse place to live in.

The advertising isn’t working Malcolm. How about trying some truth. Who knows, you may have a chance to salvage a modicum of integrity if you have the guts to drop the turnbullshit. Remember when you thought climate change was real and that the ABC was important? Was this an attempt to gauge public opinion because you well and truly got told….remains to be seen if you listened.

“A senior Liberal Party official attended last night’s dinner with Cabinet minister Malcolm Turnbull, the Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson, and latecomer Clive Palmer.

The ABC has been told the Liberal Party’s federal vice president Tom Harley was at the dinner, which Mr Palmer is describing as “chopstick diplomacy” amongst “friends”.

Ides of May?

 

 

What does Clive Palmer want?

Clive - what does he want? (image by smh.com.au)

Clive – what does he want? (image by smh.com.au)

The first Joe Hockey budget is about to be presented to parliament and to the people. There has been plenty of speculation about cuts to pensions and introducing Medicare co-payments, but it would still take a brave journalist to try and pre-empt what it will really contain. However, if any of the language being used both by Hockey and other ministers is close to the mark, it seems this government will dodge what is really needed. The one unknown they will have to contend with is Clive Palmer and his senate team. Will Clive roll over and wave the bills through the senate or will he make Abbott and Hockey sweat? Labor would do well to take a much closer look at this interesting development in the Australian political setting. Is it possible that the Palmer United Party isn’t all that concerned about the carbon tax and the mining tax and will not support its repeal? It’s possible.

While there is ample room for Hockey to cut some wasteful programs put in place by the Howard government, the real problem is falling revenue. And that means increasing taxes across the board. It also means NOT removing them, as in the case of the carbon tax and the mining tax. It means dumping election policy commitments such as Direct Action and the Paid Parental Leave Scheme. But is any of this likely to happen?

All the signs at the moment suggest not. Rather than upset their own constituency too early in the piece they will, I suspect, hit the broader community, the aged, the disadvantaged, the unhealthy, students and families; those areas where they think traditional Labor supporters most likely nest. That is their usual form. Apart from a brief period when the Howard government had shiploads of money coming in and looked like losing the 2004 and 2007 elections did they shower money on the very areas they will now attack to balance the budget. All the speculation and the rhetoric point us in this direction. Yet all of this could be avoided if they were to concentrate their efforts on the other side of the ledger, i.e. revenue. There are plenty of opportunities to raise additional revenue from increased personal tax to the GST to diesel fuel excise, but that means breaking election promises.

In the meantime Clive Palmer’s success at elections has opened up the possibility of a new dimension to his political aims, whatever they were or are now. His recent comments and his Northern Territory coup d’état suggest he is more interested in appealing to the broader electorate than furthering his own business interests. He opposes any cuts to pensions and has ridiculed the Coalition’s Direct Action approach to climate change. He also has a keen eye on the Victorian State election in November this year. All indications are that Labor will regain office after four years of Liberal mismanagement and disunity. A good showing for the PUP in Victoria could convince him that his political ambitions weren’t misplaced and that the next federal election could bring even more influence in the running of the country. To that end he would likely be persuaded to appeal to a broader base across the country.

The Commission of Audit has done its job and we should know its recommendations this week. In an atmosphere strikingly similar to the Henry Tax Report, Hockey will likely cherry pick the items that best suit the Coalition mindset. Much will be made of what is perceived as broken promises and the spin doctors will tell us otherwise. They will try to avoid another Gonski debacle. This time they will use well crafted language to justify their decisions. But the electorate will see through it anyway. And this time, Abbott and Hockey will also have to contend with Clive.

I suspect Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are asking the question: What does Clive really want? It deserves more thought than most journalists are giving it. We only have to recall the success Don Chipp and his Australian Democrats had with disaffected voters in the eighties and nineties. There is a similar feeling in the air today and I think Clive Palmer has sensed it. Politics is an infectious animal. Popularity can be an alluring, beckoning charmer. Power is a far greater aphrodisiac than personal success and the timing couldn’t be better. I suspect the electorate is already well and truly over Tony Abbott. His leadership credentials just don’t stack up. There were similar thoughts about Malcolm Fraser in the late seventies. That prompted Don Chipp to make his move. His ‘keep the bastards honest’ campaign resonated well with disaffected liberals who then split their preferences equally between The Coalition and Labor. It could happen again. We know from similar past forays that the Palmer United Party probably won’t last. The DLP, the Democrats and One Nation are a testament to that. But for the time they are here they can wield enormous influence in the short term.

Joe Hockey’s management of the economy is the key. If he stuffs up as John Howard did when he was treasurer in the Fraser government, the Coalition will be in deep trouble with no small contribution from Clive Palmer. History has a way of repeating itself when no one pays attention to what is really happening.