Living with uncertainty

Over 20 years ago, Paul Kelly published 'The End of Certainty', about…

Flag, stockade or discovery: Australia’s Eureka dilemma

Like many writers I require a Eureka moment of insight to write…

Passing On Debt To The Grandchildren And Why…

Now I heard something rather interesting recently. Somebody said that because of…

Big Tech Antics: The Data Robber Barons Appear…

Silicon Valley continues to sprawl in influence, and its modern robber barons…

Early childhood workers left out in support package,…

By William Olson  Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Michele O’Neil has…

Mealy-Mouthed Universities: Academic Freedom and the Pavlou Problem…

A sorry state of affairs has descended upon Australian academic institutions like…

Climate Snippets #1

Reef BleachingFrom James Paten Gilmour, Research Scientist, Coral Ecology, Australian Institute of…

Morrison, Murdoch, Trump: A week of shambles

There are so many matters ripe for your attention in this conservative…

«
»
Facebook

Tag Archives: Coalition

Hungry miles

The other day a relative said she felt uneasy and that the present situation seems unreal. She described a sense of foreboding despite warm weather and clear, blue skies.

She is correct. We are experiencing an inexorable transformation. It is quieter. We are adjusting to isolation to save our lives, and by so doing witnessing a transformation on how we carry out our daily tasks.

Each night we watch this phenomena unfold across the world.

July 20 1969 is the last time I recall a similar occurrence, when humanity stopped and watched men walk on the moon. But in this new century, a virus is calling a halt and by so doing changing everything … at least for some.

There is no such change for neo-conservatives. The spawn of Friedrich August von Hayek, Ayn Rand and others, as typified by Donald Trump and Scott Morrison, truly believe business as usual once the pandemic subsides. But nothing could be further from the truth.

As I walk around the block for daily exercise I notice abandoned taxi cabs — parked nose to tail, on quiet inner city streets where I live. And there are tradie vans, valuable work equipment stashed on their roofs, similarly abandoned. Each vehicle is a rusting, dust-covered talisman of a crashing economy.

And yet Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg persist with the notion of Snap Back. In my opinion this is as dangerous an illusion as Donald Trump promoting the virtues of Hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19.

A democracy beset by deflation cannot and will not return to normal with the snap of a finger. Those abandoned taxis will not pull away from the kerbside and convey passengers to mythical cross-town destinations.

So why persist with the illusion that Australia and the world will return to the way things once were?  The answer is stark. Neo-conservatives consider the pandemic an economic rather than a health and social crisis.

When people are ill En masse, as is the case now, they cannot go about their daily lives. Thus our only option is to do as we are doing, namely stop everything, stem the spread of the illness and remove the threat of the virus infecting the citizenry. Developing a vaccine is a hallowed grail, but until this is achieved, it is the role of government to sustain the populace no matter the cost. To not do so is to flirt with social chaos.

As far as I am concerned neo-conservative delusions can take a long walk off a short pier and yet this twaddle peddled by John Roskam of the tax-exempt Institute of Public Affairs, makes yet another neo-conservative demand. You can guarantee this asinine rubbish will become a rallying cry of The Australian newspaper and its addled cousin Sky After Dark. Both enterprises by the way, are haemorrhaging cash, courtesy of a crash in advertising revenue.

If Roskam’s demands are heeded, particularly cutting tax, an accelerated economic collapse is inevitable. Yet this ideologue of the right wing of the Liberal Party ignores stark facts. For example, the dissipation of daily revenue for states and territories due to a shortfall in train and bus fares could endanger a slew of public amenities such as schools and hospitals. So it is fair to demand Roskam’s bankers, the coal industry et al, to pay their fair share. If Roskam or Gina Reinhardt acquires Covid 19, chances are they, like England’s Boris Johnson, will be treated by publicly trained nurses and allied health staff.

Roskam goes on to say, it “isn’t only an agenda for (tax) reform. It’s an agenda to provide what Australia needs most at the moment, which is hope for a more prosperous future”.

There are two problems with his opinion; income is collapsing at an alarming rate vis a vis those abandoned taxis, and hope for a prosperous future is for now, illusory.

Thankfully Australia is led by a National Cabinet comprising three Labor premiers and two Labor chief ministers. As long as this arrangement remains in place, we will probably be spared the worst excesses of those IPA’s spruikers Scottie from Marketing and Peter Dutton, whose culpability over the Ruby Princess debacle verges on the criminal.

Those abandoned taxis I mentioned earlier, line inner city streets which, three quarters of a century ago became known in Sydney as The Hungry Mile.

If we remain calm and ignore the lunatic demands of the far right, we just might avoid the formation of hundreds of hungry miles snaking across the roads and highways of the United States.

So no more calls about tax reform please, Mr Roskam. Instead demand a fair wage for our public health workers, our teachers, our internet technicians, our police officers and the underpaid workers in local grocery stores, who are keeping us fed, healthy and connected.

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

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Enemy of the good

For many years I have been furious with the Greens for their sabotage of Labor’s ETS in 2009. Perhaps the policy was flawed. Certainly it did not go far enough. But it would have been a start. Imagine if the CPRS had begun more than a decade ago? Rather than a decade of arguments over whether we should act on pricing carbon, we could have spent the decade refining the targets and methodologies. I’m still mad about it. But in the wake of the 2019/2020 summer bushfires I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’m making exactly the same egregious error.

More than one opinion article has been published in recent weeks suggesting the Morrison government might use the fires as an excuse, a trigger, to recalibrate the Coalition’s approach to climate change policy. Each time I read such an article I find myself thinking along a well-worn track:

Don’t do it! Don’t start taking climate change seriously. Don’t deal with the deniers in your own ranks. Don’t suddenly start sounding reasonable!

We know that the bushfires have focussed Australia’s attention in a way never before achieved. We know that the last vestiges of AGW denial are crumbling in the real world. We don’t want the Coalition to be a part of the real world. We prefer our Coalition politicians to be outliers, historical artefacts, easily pushed aside in favour of progressive parties whose policies are obviously simply better.

Fantasy politics

There’s a narrative that has the Coalition remaining intransigent on the issue, clinging stubbornly to coal mines and fossil fuel oligarchs, carbon exports and the revolving door of post-politics coal company directorships. In this fantasy world, Labor drops its own recidivist approach, ceases clinging to coal and instead brings a decent selection of climate policies to the next election. And the Australian public, woken up by repeated disasters and environmental collapse, consign the conservative parties to history where they belong and sweep progressives into power across the country.

It’s a good dream – but it’s little more than a fantasy.

2019 was supposed to be the climate change election. The Coalition came into that election clinging stubbornly to coal and gas. By contrast, Labor brought a stable of progressive climate policies, along with the Greens on the far left. This was supposed to be the election at which Australia stated, loud and clear, that the preceding decade of policy stagnation and climate inaction would not continue.

And we know how that turned out.

When polled about important electoral issues, climate change ranked highly in the estimations of Australians. When push came to shove, though, it was not as important as taxes, cost of living and “death taxes”. (Never mind that the Coalition is higher-taxing, presides over escalating costs of living and entirely made up the threat of death taxes.) The Australian people increasingly understand the importance of climate change, but they won’t vote for decent environmental policies if it means foregoing franking credits.

Obviously there were many factors at play in the 2019 election. But that’s the point. There will always be many factors at play in any election. Climate change may persuade some hesitant Australians that environmental policies are needed, but the Coalition can play that game – they like to wave fig-leaf policies around, just enough to assuage conservative voters that they have the issue in hand, while not enough to actually force any kind of change. The expectation that climate change policies will be a vote-changer, let alone an election-decider, has so far proven unfounded.

It’s seductive, thinking that our dying environment (or, really, any one major issue) could be the defining factor in the next election, in the contest of ideas and the competition for government. It’s always foolish. There are no single-issue elections.

What’s a single-issue voter to do?

For many voters, the exigency of global warming and the existential threat to human civilisation trumps all other considerations. To the extent that if the Coalition had the best suite of climate policies on offer (and any feasible likelihood of being serious at carrying them out) a single-issue voter would need to consider voting for them, against their better interest in every other area of social policy. Climate change is so important that it can take priority over healthcare, education, tax policy or industrial relations.

So far in the 2010s and 2020s, there has not been a need to weigh climate change policy against other progressive issues. The progressive parties have also offered the best climate and environmental policies.

But what if the Coalition were to pivot to a decent environment strategy? How would that impact on the left, who fully expect – nay rely on – them to remain troglodytes on the issue?

The problem with being a single-issue voter is that political operators like to neutralise issues. If climate change is a perceived area of weakness – which it undeniably is, for the Coalition – then they will seek to minimise its impact in any election, through a combination of downplaying the issue’s importance, and offering policies so it can appear to be interested in doing something.

Adopting a single-issue approach willfully ignores and demotes the dozens of other defining policy areas on which the parties compete. It relegates consideration of a rejuvenated NBN. It discounts overt corruption, pork-barreling and electoral tampering. It devalues the Coalition’s continual budget cuts to the ABC, childcare, social security and just about any other area excepting the military and politicians’ salaries.

There are so many other political issues worth our attention. But in this hyper-partisan age it hurts us to consider that in any specific area, let alone the area of possibly greatest consequence for the future of the country, the other team might get something right. If it’s difficult for conservative voters to imagine the Coalition’s approach could be wrong, perhaps it could be almost as hard for us on the progressive side to give credit for things they do right.

Of course, this is likely all academic. It doesn’t seem likely that the Coalition will change its stance. They are too riddled through with entrenched climate change deniers. Too embedded with the mindset that coal is the energy source of the future and will be the backbone of Australia’s economy for the foreseeable future. Too dependent on the financial backing of their masters and supporters in Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart and the Minerals Council of Australia. They seem unable to grasp that the market for coal exports will die, suddenly and quickly, and that climate change action can bring economic benefits rather than costs.

Most likely, I’ll never be confronted with the cognitive dissonance of the Coalition finding the way forward on climate change. I just need to accept that there’s a big part of me that hopes they never will.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

The backlash of change

When I was a child, “In the olden days” as my children when younger used to say, Robinson’s jams had a Golliwog emblem and I had a golliwog to play with, as well as traditional dolls.

I also read Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

A decade or so later, my sister was studying medicine in London and brought home a lonely (black) African fellow student to share Sunday lunch.

About this same time, I was reading ‘Cry, the beloved country’.

Learning is not confined to the classroom, and, over time, through expanding our knowledge and understanding, we are offered the chance to cast off prejudices, respect difference and accept that change is a continuing feature of our existence.

That is perhaps an idealised expectation. Not all avail themselves of that choice.

When I was a teenager, homosexuality was a criminal offence throughout the British colonised world, as well as among those of other faiths. In the British context, this was largely a result of the translation of certain passages in the Bible – which was, itself, penned in more ignorant times.

My mother, a dedicated Christian, who was brilliant in English grammar and arithmetic, but totally ignorant of more than basic science, firmly believed in the Genesis story of creation.

Ignorance of scientific discoveries is no excuse for ignoring them once they have been bought to your attention. There is no place in a changing world for ‘believing’ something which has been shown to be false.

It is a fact, which is still being denied by the intransigent, that mankind’s addiction to increasing use of fossil fuels, with the concomitant increase in polluting emissions, is a major contribution to accelerating global warming.

It is a fact that we are running out of time to take the steps necessary to drastically reduce the level of emissions and the damage being done to our oceans by plastic pollution.

Too many wars and conflicts are already occurring around the world, and the expansion of global corporations, encouraging the greed and selfishness of shareholders, are all features contributing to a refusal by a majority of governments to accept the massive task of declaring war on climate change.

Governments think in terms of winning the next election in 3 – 5 years’ time.

This myopic approach denies them the vision of how their current policies will impact the next generation – or they do not care about others enough to think it worthwhile.

When it comes to politics, I sit on the fence.

No one party has all the answers and the way European governments form coalitions from a wide range of parties is, in my opinion, a far healthier way to achieve consensus and develop policies which are not too biased.

The current ‘Coalition’ government in Australia is setting itself up to develop a police state. The AAT is being progressively politicised by appointing liberal members, many with no legal experience and little in the way of other special and relevant expertise.

Our disgusting treatment of refugees and asylum seekers – worse treatment than is handed out to those condemned of serious criminal offences – even Ivan Milat’s cancer was given more medical attention than are the severe traumas inflicted on those confined to Manus and Nauru.

We have a Minister in Peter Dutton who seems obsessed with sadistically inflicting pain and suffering. The Biloela family could have stayed at home, contributing to the community while all their matters went through the courts.

Instead, two innocent little girls have been treated so badly that we have almost certainly breached our obligations under the UN Convention on Children, while they have probably been as traumatised for life as have the victims of institutional sex abuse.

And the cost to the taxpayer has been exorbitant – certainly more than enough to settle all the excluded refugees in jobs and contributing to the economy!

Australia – the Lucky Country? – I don’t think so!

Australia – the land of the Fair Go? – Only if you are white and wealthy!

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

The Coalition money shuffle

One of Joe Hockey’s first acts as Treasurer in 2013 was to gift the RBA $8.8 billion.  The main reason for this was to make Labor’s deficit look bigger.  As a side bonus, it allowed the RBA to invest in the forex market, banking on the Australian dollar losing value as the mining boom subsided.

And that is exactly what happened allowing the government to draw…wait for it…$8.8 billion in dividends over the last six years.  That’s all very well (if we ignore how the Coalition screamed like stuck pigs when Labor took a one-off dividend of $500 million in 2013) except Hockey borrowed the $8.8 billion so we are still paying interest on it.

We have also paid a fortune in “fees for banking services” as investment banks have raked in hundreds of millions in trading fees.

Had Hockey not engaged in this political chicanery, we would be billions of dollars better off.

And then there are the six Future Funds which contained $198.8 billion as at June 30 this year.

The direct cost of managing these funds was over $1 billion for the last three years alone.

The DisabilityCare Australia Fund had $16.4 billion sitting in it, which must be aggravating to the many people still waiting to access services or those who have had their services reduced.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land and Sea Future Fund (ATSILS Fund) was established in February 2019 with a capital contribution of $2 billion transferred from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Account.

The purpose of the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation, to whom the fund will make payments apparently at the discretion of the Minister if the investment mandate targets have been met, is to acquire and manage land, water and water-related rights so as to attain economic, environmental, social or cultural benefits.  One wonders how much will actually be handed over for that purpose now that Peter Costello has his hands on it.  I am sure the mining companies would prefer that money to be tied up rather than used.

In July, the government deposited another $7.8 billion into the Medical Research Future Fund.  As we were still in deficit, this was a pretty amazing feat which must have come at the cost of other research cuts and/or interest costs for the borrowed money.  It’s interesting how they can find a lazy $8 billion when they want to.

The Education Investment Fund, originally intended for new facilities in the higher education sector, had payments frozen in 2013 and it has been accumulating funds since.  These have now been taken to create the government’s new $4 billion Emergency Response Fund.

Then, on 1 September 2019, the assets of the Building Australia Fund were transferred to the newly created Future Drought Fund.

The original Future Fund was established in 2006, funded in part from budget surpluses but mainly from the sale of Telstra.  As at June 30, there was $162.6 billion sitting in it.

Kevin Rudd, as Opposition leader, suggested using $2.7 billion of it to invest in a National Broadband Network with profits being returned to the Future Fund.  The Howard government screamed blue murder, claiming that Labor intended to “raid” the Future Fund for their own means.  Gee, that has worked out well for us hasn’t it.

While legislation permits drawdowns from the Future Fund from 1 July 2020, the Government announced in the 2017-18 budget that it will refrain from making withdrawals until at least 2026-27.

What on earth is the point of sitting on that pile of money when only 20% of it is invested in Australia?

The ten year return has been 10.4% for the Future Fund which might sound good until you look at Infrastructure Australia’s High Priority Project list where every project has a cost benefit ratio of better than that.

We could be employing people in productivity enhancing infrastructure construction. We could be increasing primary healthcare and reducing hospital waiting times to save money and improve quality of life.  We could be investing in research and education, both of which bring a far greater return than 10%.

But the Coalition are obsessed with accumulating cash and apparently have zero understanding of the value of actually using the money for the benefit of our economy and our citizens.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Induced amnesia

By RosewmaryJ36 

Nowadays it seems strange watching TV, film productions and documentaries from more than 30 years ago. Nearly everybody in them seems to be smoking cigarettes!

OK, Joe Hockey and Matthias Cormann were caught smoking cigars only a few years back, although that was a drop in the ocean of his stupid behaviour when you think of the appalling budget he had just announced!

Do you remember how strenuously the major tobacco companies worked to deny that smoking tobacco was harmful? Nearly as strenuously as Hardie Industries fought to avoid paying compensation to those whose lives were drastically and painfully shortened because their lungs succumbed to mesothelioma.

It is now old news that in the late 1970s to early 1980s, as coal, oil and gas production was ramping up, some of the major companies involved in that production, commissioned research into the atmospheric consequences of increased emissions of CO2 and their predictions have proved remarkably – and alarmingly – accurate.

They subsequently paid considerable amounts for pseudo-scientists to refute the information. The success of that campaign is such that today, in Letters to the Editor of my local paper, yet one more brainwashed individual decries man-made global warming as a myth.

Feel free to fact-check the above!

What is the connection between this and tobacco?

Greed.

And where does amnesia come into the picture?

Mega global corporations like the oil and gas and, even now, tobacco, companies need to raise large profits to keep their shareholders happy. They have little compunction in lying and cheating in order to ensure those profits keep rolling in.

I was one of many who were conned into feeling more sophisticated if I nonchalantly waved a cigarette around on social occasions and I would have been far from alone in being guilty of causing others to suffer from passive smoking.

I gave up smoking at Easter, 1987, and am aware that I have probably not done my lungs any good. This morning I was talking to a neighbour who has just had surgery on her lungs and is waiting to hear whether further surgery will be required. Needless to say – she is an ex-smoker.

Australians are fortunate that we have had governments who have stood up to the tobacco companies, introduced plain packaging and reduced the numbers of locations where people can continue to smoke.

Unlike Indonesia, our country’s next-door neighbour, the number of smokers here has massively decreased and more and more people are being discouraged from taking up or continuing smoking.

Yet when it comes to our attitude to climate change, we seem to suffer from induced amnesia.

Once more we have major corporations, telling lies to ensure that they can keep the profits rolling in.

I would be curious to know how many of our decision makers have shares in the coal, gas, CSG and oil industries, because they seem desperately reluctant to accept the science and take effective measures to reduce emissions. Maybe the donations are big enough to induce amnesia!

Currently our government, maybe experiencing pangs of conscience over the effects of drought on our farmers, are throwing money around like confetti – some of which is being spent in ways totally unrelated to the drought.

The Murray Darling Basin Authority, having allowed capitalist approaches towards water to encourage non-water users to buy water rights, are responsible for exacerbating the adverse effects of the drought.

We now have rural communities with no potable water, yet, at the same time, big corporations are hoarding water to ensure successfully selling crops which are highly water-dependent. I do not know why we pay our politicians to run the country because by all accounts they are only doing a good job or running it into the ground, saddled with debt and disaster.

Don’t be fooled by the truly mythical importance of having a surplus! We have an overall debt which is massive compared with when the Coalition came to power. And the much-touted surplus is courtesy of taxes, paid by all, including the poor.

I suspect many people do not really understand a country’s finance system, so please bear with me for a necessarily simplified explanation.

Each year, the budget drawn up details what the governments intends spending, on what the money will be spent and how much money the government anticipates receiving from various sources – mainly a range of taxes and sometimes sale of assets.

If, in fact, the balance between income and expenditure is not achieved, then the government ends up with either a deficit or a surplus.

If a deficit, then it simply goes into debt by ‘borrowing’ through issuing government bonds. It will pay interest on these, they can be traded, and when they expire the government has to buy them back. If, however, a surplus is achieved, then the government has more money to either pay for existing or new services, or pay off existing debt by buying back bonds.

The latest tax cutting exercise has not achieved the claimed outcome of boosting spending to enliven the economy, and the people most in need of government assistance are being given short shrift and accused of being on drugs.

Not only that, but the government, has failed to devise any tax measures that ensure that global corporations trading in this country pay their fair share of taxes. Instead it devises possibly illegal schemes to claw back possibly notional debts from welfare recipients.

Talk about robbing the poor to further enrich the wealthy!

Back to the main theme.

The underlying problems which affect us are a result of greed.

Corporations have a duty to act in the best interests of their shareholders – who did very nicely from all the schemes which were exposed during the recent Royal Commission into the finance sector.

We do not help ourselves by allowing ourselves to suffer amnesia.

We forget the history of tobacco so we do not recognise the truth when it comes to global warming/climate change/the climate emergency – call it what you will. It represents a pattern affecting the world, bringing increasingly severe weather events – hurricanes, cyclones, droughts, floods, landslides, rising sea levels, melting polar ice – over which we have little control.

WE DO HAVE SOME CONTROL OVER THE INCREASING SEVERITY IF WE REDUCE EMISSIONS AS MUCH AND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

That way we can limit the extent to which temperatures will rise but it is now unlikely that we can reverse the situation greed has created!

They say you get the government you deserve.

In that case we all deserve to get the hell out of our world, because the government’s inaction is ensuring that the world will become an increasingly unpleasant place to try to live!

And – sorry! There is no Planet B! Certainly not in the time frame left to us!

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

A manifesto for how to tell lies

The Government’s accidental emailing of their confidential talking points is nothing more than a manifesto of how to tell lies, to lie by omission, mislead and generally confuse people.

They have nothing to do with providing the public with information about the Government’s progress in resolving issues, or initiatives in progress, or even the introduction of new ideas.

Lying in government, except for reasons of national security, is wrong at any time, however when they do it with deliberate intention of omission it is even more so. Scott Morrison’s Government, however, seem to do it with impunity.

The document contained an extensive range of talking points over a wide area of policy that including spin about drought assistance, climate change, rising carbon emissions, the banking inquiry, and other matters of embarrassment to the government.

On radio and morning television programs newsreaders and hosts treated the matter as being funny and a bit of a joke.

It isn’t.

The Attorney-General Christian Porter denied it was an embarrassment:

“I didn’t know that they were (distributed),” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“These things happen from time to time.”

He may as well have answered:

“Our government likes it, when we are answering questions to all be lying in unison, all telling the same lie in other words. What’s the point of us all telling different lies? Now that would be embarrassing.”

Here are some examples of the talking points, courtesy of The Guardian:

If you are asked about the ACCC inquiry announced by the Treasurer …

The government has directed the ACCC to undertake an inquiry into the pricing of residential mortgage products, particularly after the banks failed to pass on the RBA’s recent interest rate cuts in full.

The Inquiry will focus on the period from 1 January 2019. Since this date, there have been three cuts (June, July and October) by the RBA to the official cash rate.

Together these cuts have reduced the cash rate by 75 basis points, and the big four banks have passed on an average 57 basis points in owner-occupied home loan rates.

The major banks have decided to put their profits before their customers, and that’s not a good outcome for their customers or the economy.

As the Reserve Bank governor pointed out recently “lower interest rates put more money into the hands of the household sector and, at some point, this extra money gets spent and this helps the overall economy.

The inquiry will ensure the pricing practices of the banks are better understood and made more transparent by; understanding how banks make pricing decisions for residential mortgages – which is particularly important in the current context of banks not passing on the RBA rate cuts in full. Assessing how prices differ for new and existing customers. Investigating barriers to switching.

The inquiry will consider pricing across the entire residential mortgage market by major banks, smaller banks, and non-bank lenders. But the big four banks will be a key focus of this inquiry, given they hold around 75% of residential mortgage debt.

The government is committed to increasing competition in banking and promoting good consumer outcomes in the mortgage market to ensure that consumers can get a better deal.

The consumer data right provides consumers with greater access to their personal information giving them power to securely transfer their banking data to other providers to get a better deal. This is one of a number of policies the government is implementing to increase competition.

If asked how this differs to the royal commission and previous ACCC inquiries …

The financial services royal commission specifically focused on misconduct rather than the way that banks are pricing their mortgages.

The ACCC’s previous residential mortgage price inquiry specifically focused on whether the major bank levy affected the prices charged for residential mortgages.

The government has also decided to acknowledge the IMF climate report, which said Australia would fail to meet its Paris target:

We’re taking meaningful action to reduce global emissions with our $3.5bn climate solutions package that will deliver the 328 million tonnes of abatement needed to meet our 2030 Paris target.

Our national target is achievable, balanced and responsible, and is part of coordinated global action to deliver a healthy environment for future generations while keeping our economy strong.

In the electricity sector, we are reducing emissions while maintaining reliable and secure supply:

The latest official projections show the national electricity market (NEM) is on track to be 26% below 2005 levels by 2022, eight years early.

On the back of $25bn of committed investment in clean energy, Australia leads the world with more than double the per capita investment of countries like France, Germany and the UK.

If asked – IMF climate change report saying we will not meet our 2030 target …

We’ll meet our target without introducing a carbon tax.

When Labor were in government and introduced a carbon tax, energy prices went up and industry threatened to take jobs offshore.

The IMF report does not take into account our $3.5bn package which maps out to the last tonne how we will deliver the 328mt of abatement needed to reduce emissions to 26 to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The report also states that under a $75 carbon tax, retail electricity prices would increase by 70-90% in Australia.

That is not something we are going to do to Australian households and small businesses.

The Guardian adds that:

“When asked about that on Friday, Josh Frydenberg seemed to miss the question and answered along the lines of “Who said that? Labor?” which is a standard response these days.”

“The government is also pretty into what the party who is not in government is doing. Joel Fitzgibbon has given them some extra steam… “

Labor division on energy policy …

Joel Fitzgibbon has backflipped on his recent calls for a carbon tax and again presented yet another position on energy policy – this one driven by self-interest to save his own seat, following huge swings against him at the recent election.

Meanwhile Bill Shorten and Penny Wong have recently said they are “proud” of Labor’s reckless 45% target and made the case to keep it.

This follows calls by the assistant climate change spokesman Pat Conroy to scrap their 45% emissions reduction target but Labor change spokesman Mark Butler won’t commit to anything.

Whether it’s “Chairman Swanny” calling for Labor to keep their $387bn tax and spend agenda or Fitzgibbon looking back to the future then doing a backflip, Labor haven’t learned the lessons from the election and want to rehash policies Australia has comprehensively rejected.

We’re taking meaningful action to reduce global emissions with our $3.5bn climate solutions package that will deliver the 328 million tonnes of abatement needed to meet our 2030 Paris target.

Under our government Australia leads the world with more than double the per capita investment of countries like the UK, France and Germany.

The Guardian also adds:

“But the best thing about this one is that the government actually admits that emissions have increased (at least through its notes). For the records, emissions have increased every year since 2014, when the carbon price was scrapped.”

If asked about recent increases in emissions …

Emissions fell 0.4% over the first quarter of 2019.

Emissions for the year to March 2019 are up 0.6 % or 3.1 Mt. This small increase is due to an 18.8% increase in LNG exports. LNG production related emissions increased 4.7 Mt.

Absent the increase in LNG exports, total emissions would have declined. Australia’s LNG exports for the year to March 2019 are estimated to be worth $47.8bn.

While this industry’s success has increased Australia’s emissions, it has potentially reduced global emissions by up to 28% of Australia’s annual emissions by displacing coal generation in importing countries.

We are nearly half way towards our 2030 Paris target – emissions are down 11.7% on 2005 levels and the emissions intensity of the economy and per capita are at their lowest levels in nearly three decades.

We are also on track to overachieve on our 2020 target by 367 million tonnes.

And these are just some examples from 17 pages of nonsense. A government that finds it necessary to have to mislead the public so openly isn’t worth a pinch of salt, let alone a pot of Fosters.

Just before I finish I posted this yesterday on Facebook:

The Prime Minister’s cancellation of next month’s COAG meeting is yet another example of his government’s inability to govern. Early reports at 6pm on a Sunday night suggest a case of spilt milk over recycling policy and that other than “they had nothing else to talk about.” What a load of hogwash.

My thought for the day

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

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Morrison’s monumental dysfunctional Pacific “family” failure

No matter how much money you put on the table it doesn’t give you the excuse not to do the right thing, which is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coalmines.”  (Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, 14 August 2019).

“Shove a sock down the throat of Jacinda Ardern” – urges Alan Bedford Jones, 2GB Sydney’s sock-shock jock, another former, failed, Liberal Party candidate and inveterate misogynist,Thursday, as New Zealand’s PM supports Pacific Islanders’ global warming concerns, endorsing the resolutions of all but one of the eighteen countries and territories of this week’s 50th Pacific Islands Forum, (PIF) meeting in Tuvalu’s capital, Funafuti.

Left on its own, promoting global warming is Australia. Ms Ardern says, diplomatically, that our land down-under can answer to the Pacific for itself. New Zealand, or Aotearoa, as its Maori people named it, commonly translated as land of the long white cloud, or, continuously clear light is doing what it can to limit its carbon emissions to 1.5C.

Ms Ardern expects all nations to make a similar commitment but will not lecture others.

Rabid climate change denier Jones turns puce. He rants; spits foam at the microphone. Does ScoMo’s office tell Jones to put the boot in? For Jones and his audience – and, indeed, for much of Morrison’s government, global warming, is a hoax. And an aberration, a perversion of reason. The notion is an unnatural hoax, as is the monstrous regiment of women who dare to demand their fair share of political power from blokes.

“Here she is preaching on global warming and saying that we’ve got to do something about climate change,” Jones harangues listeners from his bully pulpit. His signature outbursts of outrage, his demonising and his scapegoating are his own take on Orwell’s two-minute hate. Jones down low may be heard playing daily in all the best dementia wards in hospitals all over Sydney. Thursday, Jones goes off like a frog in a sock.

Preaching? It’s precisely what the Kiwi PM takes pains to avoid, but Jones rarely lets fact spoil his argument.

New Zealand has cows that burp and fart, he sneers, in a rare, brief, departure into scientific truth.

Jones role has little to do with reporting and even less with respecting fact. In the 1990 cash for comment scandal, where he and John Laws were found to have accepted money from a slew of corporations, QANTA, Optus, Foxtel, Mirvac and big banks, the jocks’ defence was that they were not employed as journalists, but as “entertainers” and thus had no duty of disclosure or of journalistic integrity. Yet Jones hopes the PM is briefed,

“I just wonder whether Scott Morrison is going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat.”

Outraged by Ardern’s audacity – as much as the fact that she’s a Jezebel – a woman brazenly asserting authority, independence and leadership, Jones works up a lather. Arden’s an impudent hypocrite, he squawks. Australia act responsibly or answer to the Pacific on policy? Accountability is heresy in ScoMo’s government. Perhaps Jones hopes that his “sock it to her” will be an Aussie form of “send her back”.

Sending Kiwis home, if Peter Dutton doesn’t like the look of them, is at least one Morrison government policy that’s coherent. Repatriation on “character” grounds saw a thousand forcible deportations between 2016-2018. Under Morrison as Immigration Minister in 2014, the policy was expanded to include all those Kiwi-born residents who’d been sentenced to twelve months or more in prison.

Many of those deported under the “character test” have no family or friends in New Zealand; have extensive family ties in Australia and have spent very little time in New Zealand, having arrived in Australia as children.

It’s another source of friction between Australia, its major trading partner, despite China (NZ$15.3bn) now having eclipsed Australia (NZ$13.9bn) as New Zealand’s biggest export market.

Friday, Jones’ sock-jock mockery continues. “The parrot” ridicules one of New Zealand’s most popular and effective Prime Ministers; alleging Ms Ardern is “a clown” and a “joke” for “preaching about climate change”, claiming, falsely, that New Zealand’s carbon dioxide has increased per capita more than Australia’s since 1990.

The Parrot’s problems with women in power, rival those of the Liberal Party itself. Worrying aloud in 2012 about our Pacific policy and how “women were wrecking the joint” during Gillard’s highly successful minority government, Jones said he was “putting Julia Gillard into a chaff bag and hoisting her into the Tasman Sea”.

Gillard’s government invested $320 million in promoting Pacific Island women’s role in business and politics.

“She said that we know societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating,” he shrieked in utter disbelief to listeners during an on-air hate update from Barnaby Joyce about the sale of Cubbie Station to a Chinese-led consortium.

“$320 million could have bought the 93,000 hectare Cubbie Station and its water rights, he reckoned. Kept it in Australian hands. There’s no chaff bag big enough for these people.”

“Women are destroying the joint – Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly.”

Gillard’s father John a former psychiatric nurse who passed away at 83, “died of shame”, he added in 2012, “To think that he has a daughter who told lies every time she stood for Parliament.”

Also socking it to Jacinda, Jones is joined in combat by another Liberal supporter and climate denialist, One Nation’s resident empiricist, Malcolm Roberts, who knows how much Kiwis love sheep jokes.

“New Zealand has over 60 million sheep. Sheep produce about 30 litres of methane a day. If Ardern was serious about addressing ‘climate change’ shouldn’t she start by culling the entire sheep population of NZ? Or is she just climate gesturing?”

Roberts is wrong in several respects as an AAP fact check demonstrates. He can’t count sheep. New Zealand’s official data agency, Stats NZ, reports the most recent farm census, conducted in 2017, records 27.5 million sheep in the country. A 2018 provisional update reports a drop to 27.3 million.

Nor are sheep the major culprits. New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2017, released in April 2019, shows sheep produced 12.7 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Dairy cattle accounted for 22.5 per cent, while electricity generation created 4.4 per cent.

Above all, this year, New Zealand introduced a bill to reduce emissions of methane by animals to 10 per cent below 2017 levels by 2030, and between 24 and 47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050.

Fellow climate science denier, Mick-Mack, as Coach ScoMo calls our deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, must grab a headline to delay being deposed by Barnaby Joyce. Mick-Mack chimes in with a killer argument. Lenore Taylor says on ABC Insiders Sunday, that he couldn’t be more “offensive or paternalistic” if he tried. Itinerant Pacific Islander fruit-pickers, he says, should thank their lucky Aussie stars.

“They will continue to survive,” the part-time Elvis impersonator says in his most tone-deaf, judgemental manner. “There’s no question they’ll continue to survive and they’ll continue to survive on large aid assistance from Australia. They’ll continue to survive because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit.”

And our tomatoes – for eight dollars an hour, as reported in the recent settlement of a case on behalf of fifty workers from Vanuatu, who suffered bleeding from the nose and ears after exposure to chemicals at a farm near Shepparton under the government’s seasonal worker programme.

Brisbane based Agri Labour Australia refuses to admit liability, even after being taken to court and even after agreeing to an undisclosed financial settlement. The Fair Work Ombudsman takes separate legal action. This results in nineteen workers being compensated $50,283 for wage theft – a crime rife in our migrant workforce be it in horticulture or in hospitality.  No records were kept of the workers’ labour over six months.

Seasonal worker and father of six ,Silas Aru, worked for six months, yet was paid a mere $150 in total in farms across Queensland – also as part of a government seasonal workers’ or slave labour scheme. Federal Circuit Court Justice, Michael Jarratt​ struggled to imagine a “more egregious” case of worker exploitation.

Exploited to the point of criminal neglect or abuse, men and women from the Pacific Islands are often the slaves in our nation’s overworked, underpaid, casual or part-time workforce. Mick-Mack knows how to pick ’em. Rip off the vulnerable. Trick them. Rob them blind. Then remind them what a favour you are doing them.

As the bullying of the Pacific Island leaders rapidly turns into an unmitigated disaster, something must be done. ScoMo’s staff work long and hard to orchestrate a shit-storm in response. It’s specialised work. Howard allegedly had an operative in his office solely working on “Alan Jones issues” throughout his term in office, former 2UE Jones colleague and big critic Mike Carlton tells The Saturday Paper’s Martin McKenzie-Murray.

Jones’s confected outrage is a tactical dead cat thrown on the table; distracting media from ScoMo & Co’s default policy of bullying and duplicity. Con-man Morrison promises $500 million over five years for “climate and disaster resilience” but it’s an accounting trick; a shonky repackaging of existing aid. No-one falls for it.

Pacific leaders are insulted, alienated by Morrison’s attempt to con them with a fake bribe. Our PM adds injury to insult by adding a bit of emotional blackmail.  Fijian PM, Frank Bainimarama explains.

“The PM … apparently [backed] into a corner by the leaders, came up with how much money Australia have been giving to the Pacific.” He said: “I want that stated. I want that on the record.’ Very insulting.”

Bainimarama is ropeable. By Saturday, he is all over the media after phoning Guardian Australia. ScoMo’s “condescending” diplomacy is as much of a massive fail as his government’s energy or environment policy or overseas aid abroad vacuums. The Fijian PM is clear that by alienating and insulting Pacific Islanders, ScoMo is helping drive the leaders into the arms of the Chinese. In other words, Morrison’s mission is a total failure.

Kick Australia out of the PIF, calls Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati, and veteran advocate for nations battling rising sea-levels caused by global warming. Australia’s membership of the Pacific Island Forum should be “urgently reviewed” for possible sanctions or suspension over the Morrison government’s pro-coal stance, he says. There’s a precedent. Fiji was barred until recently in a move to censure its departure from democracy.

(PIF) … is supposed to be about the well-being of the members,” Tong tells The Sun-Herald and Sunday Age“If one country causes harm to other nations, such as by fuelling climate change, “there should be sanctions”.

“Pacific people see through this facade. We won’t solve the climate crisis by just adapting to it – we solve it by mitigating it, reducing emissions, investing and transitioning to renewables, not shirking our moral duty to fight,” Greenpeace’s Head of Pacific Joseph Moeono-Kolio says. But our federal government just doesn’t get it.

ScoMo started badly by opting for antagonism and insult. Sending junior minister, coal lobby shill, Alex Hawke on ahead to set up talks did not go over well. Hawke recycles denialist garbage. Human influence on global warming is “overblown” he reckons, while in Tuvalu, he peddles the lie that our economy depends on coal.

In reality, the Morrison government’s dance to the tune of the coal barons costs us a fortune. Avoiding climate change reduces our GDP, by $130 billion a year, reports The Australia Institute, citing calculations by government consultant, Brian Fisher. Yet in the reporting of the Forum, our media helpfully relay the government’s re-framing of our global warming crisis into a choice between jobs or a few more emissions.

We are “family” insists Great White Bwana Morrison. A dysfunctional family where a crafty Father Morrison tells the younger fry lies. The Greens Adam Bandt puts his finger on it. Our wretched carry-over Kyoto credits are yet another shonky accounting trick to allow ScoMo to continue his hollow boast that “we’ll meet and beat” our Paris emissions reduction targets. The stunt certainly does not impress beleaguered Pacific leaders.

“At the moment we are not on track to meet the Paris targets. No one in the world is. We are on track to exceed 3.5 degrees of global warming, which will be a catastrophe. The Pacific Island leaders know this.”

Exploiting “a pollution loophole” is how The Australia Institute (TAI) describes Australia’s bad faith. The “pollution loophole” amounts to about eight years of fossil-fuel emissions from the Pacific and New Zealand combined, calculates, TAI, in a research paper it helpfully makes available to leaders before the Forum. The paper pulls no punches from its title onward: How Australia is robbing the Pacific of its climate change efforts.

Worse, it spells out how Islanders are paying for our denialism. Australia intends to use 367 Mt of carbon credits to avoid the majority of emission reductions pledged under its Paris Agreement target. Meanwhile, the entire annual emissions from the Pacific Islands Forum members, excluding Australia, is only about 45 Mt.

The bad faith continues. ScoMo & Co coerce Island leaders into watering down the text of their draft declaration. Or so it seems, unless you are tuned to Radio New Zealand. Local reports have it that after twelve hours, the PIF comes up with a hollow text that mimics the Coalition’s own climate change denialism.

Pacific leaders released a draft declaration in Tuvalu, Tuesday, calling for “an immediate global ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants and coalmines” and for all countries “to rapidly phase out their use of coal in the power sector”. It echoes the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call last May.

All references to coal go from the forum communique and climate change statement. Expunged also, are any aims to limit warming to less than 1.5C or any commitment to a plan for net zero emissions by 2050.

Naturally, the Pacific leaders have the nous to issue their own separate declaration with targets which echo its draft statement and which follow the lead of the United Nations, sadly, a body increasingly ignored – if not ridiculed – by our own government and that of its great and powerful friend the US, among a host of others.

By Saturday, Morrison’s stunt with grateful fruit-picker and sock back-up is unravelling badly. Promising to be “a good friend, partner and brother of Pacific Island countries” is China’s special envoy to the Pacific, ambassador Wang Xuefeng, who is quick to exploit the rift between Australia and its Pacific neighbours.

Morrison insists the Forum is a “family gathering” and that “when families come together they talk about the stuff that matters, that’s most important to them. Over the next few days that’s exactly what we’ll do.” It’s ScoMo code, Newspeak for insulting, alienating and bullying the leaders; trashing their hopes and aspirations.

Let the Pacific Islanders worry about rising sea levels and increasing salinity which is rapidly making their homes uninhabitable. In Australia, government energy policy is dictated by a powerful coal lobby – with powerful allies in the media. The PM who brings a lump of coal into parliament also has an assistant recruited from Peabody Coal and has his fossil-fuel lobby and a daft hard right with the upper hand in mind all week.

The Prime Minister’s performance at the Pacific Islands Forum is a monumental failure. Even if his bullying, his intransigence, his inhumanity and chicanery do impress a few one-eyed partisans at home it has dealt irreparable damage to our goodwill in the Pacific, which has not really recovered since the Abbott government  cut $11bn from overseas aid in 2015, a cut which the budgie-smuggler insisted was “modest”.

Fears that China will exploit Australia’s neglectful – if not abusive – relationship with its Pacific neighbours are aired all week but the Morrison government isn’t listening. It does everything in its power to offend and alienate Pacific leaders as it clings to its ideological fixation with supporting a moribund coal industry at home.

Above all, enlisting or inspiring the support of Alan Jones, aka The Parrot, has helped the Morrison government shine a light on the unreason, the bullying, the racism and the misogyny which lie at its heart.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

 

Wentworth Circus, Elephants In The Room, Jokers In The Pack And Too Many Ringmasters…

The Liberals have lost Wentworth for the first time and so the analysis begins.

We’ve already been told that Malcolm didn’t help. He should have been there, campaigning his little arse off out of gratitude that the Liberals made him PM. Ungrateful wretch.

And, in the washup, Sky News was telling us not to draw too many conclusions because Wentworth wasn’t typical of the rest of Australia…It’s one of the wealthiest suburbs and it does have a significant gay population. True enough, I suppose, but is one meant to draw the inference that other electorates have an insignificant gay population?

However, I keep coming back to a point I make over and over again. We only get to vote once every three years or so and we often make our choice based on who we think is the least worst. Our vote is sometimes the lesser of two evils, rather than a ringing endorsement of every single policy of the party we ultimately vote for. And sometimes, an electorate gets the chance to say, yes, you seem more in tune with what we actually think than either of the major parties.

It’s not that Wentworth is out of step with the rest of Australia on something like climate change. Wentworth has pretty accurately reflected the fact that most people think more should be done on climate change. It’s not that Wentworth is out of step with attitudes to LGTBI issues or children on Nauru; it’s more that the loudest conservative voices have managed to make it sound like they are speaking for the “ordinary” Australian. And it’s hard to get more ordinary than some of the people backing Peter Dutton.

Now, I always suggested that Malcolm Turnbull wasn’t all that left-wing. I know, it’s surprising that a Point Piper multimillionaire Liberal Party leader wouldn’t be an extreme socialist pushing for the overthrow of the corrupt system.  Yes, we’ve been told about leftie Malcolm, so often that we overlook the fact that most of his progressive views were consistent with the majority. Backing for the Republic, marriage equality, action on climate change. You name it, there was nothing that wasn’t a popular position. He was always positioning himself for popularity. That is, until he became Prime Minister, where his Faustian bargain left him unable to please either his party or his electorate. While it was one thing to paint Malcolm as progressive; it’s quite another to ask us to believe that a Liberal stronghold – one of its safest and most affluent seats – is a hotbed of out-of-touch elites who were simply angry at the dumping of their man.

It’s worth pointing out that they did so with the full knowledge that, unlike so many by-elections, they had the power to make the Coalition a minority government. If anything, this should have chastened them, made them more circumspet. And it’s not as though, this was a surprise like the 1999 defeat of Kennett in Victoria where people made a protest vote without any expectation that it would result in a change of government.

The electorate made a conscious decision to create a hung Parliament. But to hear Scott Morrison last night, it was all about Malcolm Turnbull, it was all about the “price” of switching leaders. But rest assured, the Liberals would rise again. (I’m sure I heard a few “hallelujahs” at this point from the crowd). Ok, perhaps not in three days, but it certainly sounded like an evangelical meeting at times. He went on to repeat his well-worn slogans of “Those who have a go, will get a go”, “The best form of welfare is a job”, “Jesus was a small businessman” and “I stopped the votes” and several other meaningless phrases, as though these had somehow helped deliver an electoral victory rather than the most embarrassing thing to happen to the Liberals in almost a week.

I guess it’s easy to be pessimistic and shake one’s head. We have a governent voting for a motion then realising that they didn’t intend to vote for it, floating ideas which are against all departmental advice, squabbling internally, considering a disgraced Barnbaby for a return to the Deputy PM role only a few months after his embarrassing admissions. And I know some of you will be worried by the assertions that this won’t flow through to the general election because of Rupert Murdoch or because the Liberals will “get away with it like they always do”.

However, I think that it’s always worth stopping and considering how many impossible things have happened. I mean, not only have the Liberals lost Wentworth – unthinkable just a few weeks ago – but they lost to an openly gay Independent. Yes, I know some of you are thinking, so what? But that’s the point. How long ago would it have been unthinkable for a candidate to have called their same sex partner up on the stage during their victory speech? If you go back to the beginning of this century it would have been talked about for weeks.

Progress may feel like two steps forward and one step back. And even, at times, the other way round. But because progress is slow, we often don’t see how far we’ve come. There’s still a long way to go, of course. For example, I was confused as to why the email suggesting that Phelps had pulled out because she had HIV was reported as being a “smear” and a “slur”. I don’t see having HIV is either of those, any more than a suggestion that she was cancelling an appearance because she had the flu. It was a nasty trick, sure, but why a “smear” as though HIV suggested something immoral about the person.

So, before the media starts talking about how terribly the Labor Party performed and tries to start leadership speculation about Shorten, let’s see this for what it is: a massive wake-up call for Scott Morrison. Unfortunately for him, his speech last night suggested he intended to just keep hitting the snooze button.

Bankers, Tankers, Anchors And The Liberal Party…

One of the things that I’ve learned over the years, is that being honest is usually you’re best option. Of course, like most people, I find myself in situations where I’ve… ah, shall we say, bent the truth. This leads me to another bit of sound advice. If you’re lying, you’re better off saying nothing after it’s clear that you’re lying. Or else, do a full mea culpa and admit that either a) you were mistaken, or b) you lied.

In politics, this is usually looked upon as a refreshing change. Unless, of course, you do it on a weekly basis, in which case it’s not a change at all.

So when it comes to the Liberal Party, I acknowledge that we have a different set of values and while I personally understand that there’s some need for a defence force, I believe that the $200 billion we’re spending on planes and submarines over the next ten years might be more productively spent elsewhere. But, like I said, different set of values. There’s a discussion to be had, when two people have differing priorities and sometimes a compromise can be reached.

On the other hand, lying is a completely different matter. It’s one thing to say that: We told you that privatisation would make energy prices cheaper,  that was before we realised that private companies would put profit before everything – but now we’ve realised that, we’ve put a few safeguards in and any day now you’ll get all the benefits of privatisation. Besides you’ve got energy stocks in your super so you’re ridiculously high energy prices are actually helping you save for retirement.

That still fits under the definition of a difference of opinion. However, when the Liberals start to tell us that the Banking Royal Commission which they opposed has nothing to do with the new penalties that Scott just happened to announce at the same time that everyone is going: “Shock, horror. Banks exploiting their customers. Who would have thought such a thing!”

It’s very hard to believe the Liberals when they tell us:  We argued that there was no need for a commission, but we set one up anyway, and now that it’s finding all these examples of wrongdoing, it’s showing that it wasn’t necessary until we decided it was necessary, and, in spite of all that it’s discovering, it’s not having any effect on us, because all the new oversight and any new penalties are just things that we were going to do anyway.

Or to try and put the government’s position as simply as possible;

  1. There was no need for a Royal Commission because while there were some examples of dishonest or corrupt practices, there was plenty of checks and balances to ensure that these were these practices would be detected and dealt with.
  2. There was suddenly a need for a Royal Commission after some Nationals threatened to break ranks. It became even more pressing and one was announced shortly after the banks suggested that it would be ok by them if we had one.
  3. The Royal Commission starts to discover that the culture in some parts of the banks is even worse than its critics suggested, which doesn’t lead to any action from the Liberals because – according to Scott Morrison – all the new penalties were planned and not in response to anything happening at the Commission. Like the announcement of the Commission itself, the timing was just coincidence.
  4. For the Liberals the Royal Commission will be their equivalent of Schrodinger’s Cat – the thought experiment in Quantum Physics, where a cat in a sealed box can be thought of as both alive and dead. The Royal Commission wasn’t necessary when Labor and The Greens called for one, but became necessary once the Liberals decided that it was, meaning that the Commission is now both necessary and unnecessary. It remains necessary because the Liberals set it up, but it remains simultaneously unnecessary not only because Labor suggested it, but also because nothing it discovers will lead to any admission from the government that their actions have been influenced by it.

Like I said, liars need some consistency, or their story falls apart. On a real level, it would have been refreshing to have heard the Turnbull Terriers tell us that Labor and/or The Greens had raised a convincing enough argument for them to change their minds. But no, instead we have ministers once again trying to justify the unjustifiable.

Ah well, at least now I’ll find it easier to explain quantum physics without having animal rights people ask me why the poor cat was sealed in the box.

The Schrodinger Royal Commission! Mm, it has a certain ring to it…

 

The Magnificent NBN, Victoria’s “Right-To-Kill Bill” And It’s Just A Flesh Wound…

Writing in “The Herald-Sun” (and no, that’s not really an oxymoron) in May last year, Terry McCrann lauded the government’s NBN success:

 

“RIGHT now, over one million Australians are actually signed on to and using the National Broadband Network. When Labor lost office in September 2013 barely 100,000 were.

So in just two and a half years the number of active users has leapt tenfold — an extraordinary rate of increase in both access and use.

The total number of premises which are able to connect, when and if they choose, has similarly expanded at that spectacular pace, from around 250,000 then to approaching 2.5 million now.

The NBN is finally a done deal. There really is, or should be, no going back to the failed all-fibre $100 billion-plus fantasy of Kevin Rudd and Stephen Conroy.”

 

And just a few weeks ago were told by Malcolm himself, that the NBN was “doing an extraordinary job”. Yes, just a few weeks ago the board that replaced the one that Labor put in place had the situation well in hand and, while even one complaint was too many, now that so many people were being connected then, of course, there’d be more complaints. After all, people are such ungrateful wretches, why look at how some people are complaining about the closure of Manus. As Tony “the Legend” Abbott tweeted: “For years, Greens and Labor allies demanded Manus close. Now it’s closing, they’re still complaining. They just can’t be trusted on borders”. (N.B, NOT SATIRE. ACTUAL TWEET. I know that it’s sometimes hard to tell. Just like when the Australian Border Force told the Senate that sometimes a boat arrival was not a boat arrival. From what I could understand, a recent boat wasn’t an arrival because it happened and we haven’t had one in over a thousand days so,therefore it couldn’t be an arrival, I’m not sure if it was still a boat.)

But more on Tony later… Mm, that last bit should be read aloud. Anyway, just because in a handful of cases, people were being stuck without a landline, they complained. Don’t they understand that this is the “biggest, fastest” thing in the history of Australia? Nay, the world. Why, it’s the biggest, fastest thing since the big bang. (Not the TV show, the Big one!) Don’t they understand that it’s one of Australia’s shining achievements? Why, Turnbull himself listed it and the NDIS as the achievements of his government.

So it comes as a complete shock to me that Turnbull, the man who took over when there was but a “bare 100,000” signed on to the NBN, should suddenly decide that it was a “train wreck”. Well, in case you think that it’s a mea culpa, remember that Malcolm and his Merry Men, don’t need to apologise because nothing is ever their fault. You see, it was because Labor started the project. And they had to take over from where Labor had left it. It’s not like they could put in a whole new management… Oh wait, they did. But it’s not like they could renegotiate the contract and stop the fibre to the premises… Oh wait, they did that too. But I suppose it’s the 100,000 houses that had signed up under Labor who are having the problems… Oh wait, no it’s not.

Anyway, it’s Labor’s fault because it was their idea, like the problems with energy policy: they want a Clean Energy Target but we’ve put in place: A GUARANTEE. And we’re good at things like that. Who could forget “Our Contract With Australia”? You know, the one where we promised to “End the Waste And Debt”?

Mm. Perhaps I’d better move on to Mr Abbott and mention that he “stopped the boats”, which must have fixed up the hospital queues and the traffic problems in Sydney. A remarkable achievement. In a recent tweet, he told us:

Now, I think that we really need to object to his emotive language. Wherever you stand on the issue, the use of the phrase “right-to-kill bill” is an attempt to paint the legislation in negative light. Ok, he probably neither meant to reference Quentin Tarantino nor suggest that Victoria was declaring open season on Bill Shorten… No, it was a really pathetic way of framing a difficult decision as “killing”. Allowing a terminally ill person to end their own life is vastly different from giving people the “right to kill”. Still, one can see why poor Tones might be finding parallels with euthanasia and what the Liberals did to his leadership and that may be what’s making him behave so emotionally.

But perhaps, Tony just likes to impersonate the Black Knight from “Monty Python And The Holy Grail”. You know, “it’s just a flesh wound.” How else could one explain one of his other tweets: “Re AFR story. This isn’t over. There are five million Australians yet to vote and the NO campaign is appealing to every one of them!”

Mm, does Mr Abbott mean that they are making an appeal, or does he mean that the No campaign is appealing to all of them but they just haven’t got around to voting yet?

Whatever, ya gotta laugh. The only other option is for me to decide that I’ve died and I’ve been sent to this absurd Hell, where Donald Trump is president and even after taking the leadership of Abbott, Turnbull behaves like he’s not only betraying all his previous principles, he’s putting his hand up to be the most inarticulate PM since Billy McMahon famously urged people to look at the facts and vote for the ALP… Billy did quickly correct himself, but history would have judged him less harshly if he’d pretended that he meant it. Whatever you think of Tony, he at least gives the feeling that he does have some misguided belief in the things he’s saying, while Turnbull sounds like an understudy who didn’t bother to learn his lines properly, let alone develop an emotional truth.

Why we need more corporate tax cuts

 

ATO data shows that 36 per cent of large companies paid no tax in the 2014-15 financial year. 679 companies including McDonalds Asia Pacific, Chevron Australia, Vodafone Hutchison and News Corp made $462 billion in revenue in Australia last year without contributing a single cent to the nation’s health, education, defense or welfare.

Of the large companies who did pay tax, the effective tax rate on profits was 25 per cent – 5 per cent below the statutory rate of 30 per cent.

Of the 200 largest corporate taxpayers in Australia, companies in the health care, energy and financial sectors paid the lowest effective tax rates of 19 to 24 per cent on a combined income of over $330 billion.

Investors in Australia assume taxpayers will bail out Australia’s big four banks in the event of any of them becoming insolvent. As a result, investors lending to such large banks are prepared to accept lower returns for risk, which lowers how much banks pay for funding. The Reserve Bank of Australia estimates that Australia’s major banks receive an implicit subsidy worth between $1.9 billion and $3.7 billion due to this assumption.

An international report on G20 subsidies found that the Turnbull government is continuing to subsidise fossil fuel production to the tune of $5.6 billion a year. Nearly $6 billion a year is paid to Australian corporations though the Fuel Tax Credit scheme. In 2014 it was estimated that State Governments alone had paid $17.6 billion in subsidies to mining companies over the previous 6 years.

Oxfam Australia estimates that the Australian economy is losing up to $6 billion a year in tax revenue due to Australian-based multinationals shifting money to international tax havens.

The federal government remains committed to doing bugger all about this problem, but they are pushing ahead with their plans to cut corporate tax rates. This means that while we’ll still be up to $6 billion a year down on revenue, corporate tax avoidance will be a lot less of a problem in Australia, because the less tax you’re meant to pay, the less tax you can avoid paying.

So the government would like to wish big business a happy and prosperous 2017. For the rest of us, they’ve had to made make some cut backs.

 

Day to Day Politics: Coalition playing catch up politics.

Thursday 21 April 2016  -73

1 So what happened to the “it’s not a revenue problem”? The Coalition is set to raise a lot of it with the news that they are about to hit the superannuation of high income earners. So they should of course. It was an immoral tax discount that had it continued would have in the next couple of years cost as much as the aged pension. Labor can rightfully claim that the Coalition is playing catch up politics because it had addressed the problem months ago.

Remember not so long ago the Treasurer was adamant they would not touch super. This is further proof that it is Labor who is setting the economic agenda.

Mind you, the most confusing of all Coalition spokespeople, Matthias Cormann on News 24 was denying the policy but we all know the good news leaks have begun.

Also consider that Tony Abbott was saying that Labor intended raising five taxes, “a carbon tax, a “housing tax” (reduced negative gearing), a “wealth tax” (a lower capital gains tax discount), a “seniors tax” (superannuation) and a “workers’ tax” on smokers, and they would oppose it all. Now they have ticked off two of them . . . for now.

An observation

The word “lying” (in political terms) has been replaced with the more subtle reference of “overstatement”.

2 Playing catch up also applies to the Coalition’s proposal to make the banks pay the restoration of funding that it had taken away in the 2014 budget. It is estimated thy will have to fork out $120 million. Although given their propensity for ripping people off we might safely assume it will be the consumer who eventually foots the bill.

The Government plans to strengthen ASICs powers but is still saying no to a Royal Commission which the public are overwhelmingly in favor of.

With a list of accusations about poor financial advice, dodgy life insurance, mortgage fraud, rate rigging, corporate bribery and corruption you would think they would take it more seriously.

To quote Ross Gittens:

“For years they’ve been locked in a race to maximise profits. They’ve put profits and executive bonuses ahead of the interests of their customers, and seem keen to resume profit maximising as soon as the fuss declines”.

In any case they are yet again reacting to Labor’s initiatives.

3 At this point it looks as though the Government is set to use our taxes to sell its budget. Well they wont deny it so I’m assuming they will. The dishonesty is appalling. The use of taxpayer funds for political purposes should be banned.

The advertising campaign is set to highlight measures including, super changes,multinational tax changes and an increase to the tobacco excise. All measures the Opposition has had on the table for some time.

Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos is set to face a Parliamentary Enquiry into Liberal Party donations. Remember the NSW Electoral Commission is holding back money until it reveals the names of private donors. In order to pass the basic pub test Arthur might have to take a lie detector test this time.The last time he gave evidence before ICAC he was suffering from selective amnesia.

5 Further research by Corporate Tax experts reveals that 76 of Australia’s biggest multinationals pay on average 16.2% tax which is half the corporate tax rate.

6 Julie Bishop is again repeating and repeating her lie of 2015 when she said that the Coalition inherited ‚‘the worst set of financial accounts inherited by any incoming government in Australia’s history‘‘ Back then she won Fact Checks Zombie, for the undead claim of the year.

Update. Despite Ms Bishops multiple repetitions of the claim, she was, and still is wrong.

7 Flashback circa 2013.

“As far as school funding is concerned, Kevin Rudd and I are on a unity ticket. There is no difference between Kevin Rudd and myself when it comes to school funding” Mr Abbott said.

My thought for the day.

“Never in the history of this nation have the corporate and privately rich been so openly brazen”.

 

Day to Day Politics: It’s bloody simple when you think about it … a Royal Commission, that is

Wednesday 13 April.

1 Labor proposes a Royal Commission into the financial sector. Particularly the banks. The establishment and those of a conservative ilk cry foul. ASIC, a major regulatory body say they continuously investigate crime and have adequate powers. Repeat, powers. In fact our financial institutions are overseen by four regulatory bodies. The harshest in the world, people of the right scream out.

To me it’s rather simple and I don’t profess any superiority of intellect.

A Royal Commission is needed to find out why in spite of the best oversight in the world it is not working. I can’t make it any clearer than that.

I don’t understand why it is at press conferences when the Prime Minister and others espouse what they see as an almost faultless system of regulation, why some journalists with a bit of brain doesn’t ask the fundamental question:

“Can you please explain then why it doesn’t seem to be working?”

Sabra Lane had the perfect opportunity to put the question to Deputy PM on 7.30 Tuesday night but let the opportunity slip.

Mind you it might have some relationship to the reason why the ATO can’t collect tax from multinationals. They sacked the staff collecting it, or conversely it might be, in ASIC’s case (200 sacked) that the $100s of millions ripped from its budget is affecting its capacity to investigate.

ASIC Chairman Greg Medcraft at the commissions Annual Meeting last year said that they were “very thinly resourced”.

In 2013 he said Australia was too soft on corporate criminals and that the Country was a “paradise” for white-collar criminals and the regulator could do little about it because it lacked the resources.

So it seems they have heaps of power with no one to enforce it.

The argument that Labor opposed a Royal Commission last year is a nebulous one. Things can always get worse to the point where a change of mind is not only justified but necessary.

A change of mind when it addresses the common good is a worthwhile thing to do.

Or one also could argue that Labor is making a stand against the greed and corruption being perpetuated on us by big business and the right of the political spectrum in general. If you want to put this to the test, go to a pub or apply Turnbull’s own fairness test.

We don’t live in a right-wing democracy. When you only have Royal Commissions into matters relating to your political opponents and ignore those associated with you, you leave a stench of hypocrisy that has a whiff of gutter politics about it.

As for the banks reaction they are considering a mining type advertising campaign against the opposition.

To quote  marketing consultant Tony Ralph , who has apparently worked on a number of similar campaigns.

”no doubt the banks can run a campaign that will turn the political opportunism of a Royal Commission into an electoral nightmare for Labor”

And if Labor gained power and I hypothetically were leader I would have no hesitation into having a Royal Commission into the Ashbygate Affair.

2 Monday’s ABC Four Corners, if nothing else, confirmed that Clive Palmer is a grubby individual and that nothing in the world matters unless it is of benefit to him. His entry into politics was solely calculated to be profitable to him. The appointed administrator suggests that a “reckless” Clive Palmer instructed Queensland Nickel to pay him nearly $15 million and may have acted as a shadow director for the company according to an administrator’s report which recommends winding up the Townsville-based operation.

He might join a long list of corporate names like Elliott, Bond and Skase. Perhaps a Royal Commission into the breakdown of corporate law.

3 Tuesday’s Essential Poll still has the parties tied on 50/50 apiece. In my view 40% are rusted onto each party. The Greens have about 10% and the rest are undecided.

One should never pre suppose that in a democracy the party you support should be the only one that ever wins. But a vote for the Coalition this time would be an acknowledgement that you are satisfied with bad government and would be happy to experience another three years of it. That you would be happy with a further decline in the standards of our political institutions. You wouldn’t care if your children suffered in their education or if inequality increased. In short you would accept mediocrity, or worse. The right would of course interpret your vote as one of confidence and your regret would be twofold in the realisation that you had committed the same sin twice. Too late then.

I wrote this a short time after the last election:

“I have wondered since the election what I will write about for the next three years. I have concluded that it is my duty to hold the government to account. To see to it that the Government governs honestly and transparently and that the media reports news rather than opinion in the guise of propaganda”.

I think I have been true to my word.

“I feel people on the right of politics in Australia show an insensitivity to the common good that goes beyond any thoughtful examination. They have hate on their lips and their hate starts with the beginning of a smile”.

My thought for the day.

“Are you really doing what is important? What you believe in, or have you just adjusted to what you are doing”.

 

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

Monday 11 April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I “Fairness is absolutely critical,”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My thought for the day.

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

far below getting things done for the common good’

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

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

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

 

Day to Day Politics: How will the young vote when they’re pissed off with politics?

Why are so many voters so reluctant to vote? The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) released figures after the last election that revealed 20 per cent of eligible voters did not cast their ballot in the last federal election and 25 per cent of young voters failed to enrol for the next election.

Of those aged 18-24, 400,000 people did not enrol in time, meaning they were ineligible. In the 2010 Election 3 million people didn’t vote. And a large portion of these were young people. It is evident from the polling and surveys that young people are turning away from politics.

It is a problem that deserves serious attention because it is affecting the spirit of our country’s democracy.

“It is clear from the evidence that the trend is for increasing numbers of otherwise eligible electors to remain outside the electoral system,” Electoral commissioner Ed Killesteyn said.

Are the young not participating in the political process simply because they are uninformed morons, feel disenfranchised or are they actually intelligent individuals exercising some form of protest?

“When you guys get your act together we might consider voting.”

It is a topic that has interested me for some time and some time ago I had the opportunity to test some assumptions. My daughter is PA to the Campus Director, Doug Doherty, at the Lavalla Catholic College, Traralgon in country Victoria. The College enjoys a reputation for academic excellence and was about to hold their Annual Student Elections. The elections are overseen by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and in part duplicate some facets of the electoral system.

On the same day I was invited to conduct a focus group with final year students who would be eligible to vote in the next Federal or State elections.

Two members of the AEC sat in as observers together with the Campus Director. My purpose was to ascertain how well versed the students were politically. Were they cognisant enough on the subject to render an informed vote?

With such a broad agenda facilitating a group such as this can be challenging, even thorny. One has to keep moving things along and not become bogged down on particular issues.

I began with all the required protocols and opened with this statement:

“People need to wake up to the fact that government affects every part of their life and should be more interested. But there is a political malaise that is deep seated.”

After a short discourse into the meaning of the word malaise, and a little reticence of unfamiliarity, the group of six boys and six girls quickly displayed a vibrant disposition to engage in the proceedings.

I asked a couple of starters. Who was Australia’s first Prime Minister? What does the name Parks mean to you? To my surprise the name Barton came forth as did a reference to Parks being the father of the constitution. I noticed one of the AEC people raise an eyebrow. I followed up with a question on the date of Federation. A couple of boys quickly identified the date and it became apparent that they were more politically attuned than the others. It didn’t however prevent the others expressing a view. The discussion was lively, animated and thirsty for quantitative expression.

With the preliminary questions out of the way I entered unchartered waters. What policy areas do you feel strongly about? One lass ripped into the Queensland bikie laws which rather took me by surprise. I let it go for a while before introducing the matter of Climate Change. This really got them going and a consensus of opinion arose that politicians were treating the matter flippantly. After all it was their future that was at stake, not theirs. The group raised the matter of equality and when I steered it toward Gay Marriage (a delegate subject for a Catholic environment) I was taken with their maturity. These young people are being taught how to think and not necessarily what to think, I thought to myself.

Eventually the Asylum Seeker issue raised its head with a united consensus of altruism. “How could we treat people like we do?” asked one young lass. I concluded that they had an elevated view of social justice.

Even when I broached the subject of the Separation of Powers they were inclined to the view that the Church had too much sway relevant to its influence in society. I wondered if they knew how many Catholics were on the front bench. On the separation subject they did not have a definitive knowledge but unhesitatingly displayed a willingness to jump in the deep end. Such was their zeal for learning.

All this of course eventually led to the inevitable question. What do you think of politicians in general? There answers took me by surprise because they came out in support of our pollies, thinking that in the main they had honourable intentions. Opinions varied when lying entered the discussion. They became quiet animated with their disapproval of the amount of lying in current politics.  Did Julia Gillard lie? Empathically ‘no’ was the answer. How was she treated? Appallingly, they answered.

The group felt that it was the media that characterised and shaped the personality of politicians. When I mentioned the word Murdoch a look of total contempt crossed their faces.

What informs you? I asked. Is it your parents, TV, newspapers, social media? Overwhelmingly the answer came back ‘’Social Media’’ This was unsurprising. It would seem from this group that family had little or no influence. They didn’t trust newspapers or commercial television. They were independent thinkers.

What they had little tolerance for was older people’s reluctance for change, their inflexibility to consider new ideas. It wasn’t a narcissistic display of youthful know all sagaciousness I was hearing, but rather a genuine desire for change for future prosperity and environmental necessity.

The group as a whole did fall down when I broached Ideology. However, it was an area where they showed the greatest thirst for learning and it is an area in which the school curriculum lets students down. When I asked. Do you think the school curriculum teaches you enough about politics? They answered with a collective no. And in what year should it be taught? Year 12 came the reply.

They described Political Philosophy in terms of a predictable Left versus Right argument. The Labor Party tried to do things for people but the Liberal Party was for the rich and big business. A familiar response. I read to them differing explanations of various ideologies and their eyes opened with an eagerness for more information.

I moved on. Does our Constitution guarantee free speech? The assumption was that it did although the two knowledgeable lads differed but couldn’t quiet nail it. “It’s only implied” I said and the assumption disintegrated with looks of disbelief. “We just assumed it was in the constitution!” the group voice chorused .

Could they explain Australia’s system of Government and how the voting system works? Definitively, no, they could not but they made a fair stab at it. They didn’t think there was too much Government citing our geographical isolation and diversity of population. They all identified the three tier structure, understood the voting process if not its methodology.

My time was running out and there were many questions I wanted to cover. Do you know the name of your Member of Parliament? What electorate are you in? What is a gerrymander? How does a bill pass the Parliament? Do you know what hypocrisy is?

I managed to get through them all in my allotted time and finished with one final question. Should Australia become a republic? On this one I found their answers to be simplistic, even thoughtless. But then as one who fought for the referendum with much vigour I might be a little biased. Still, I thought if this college had debating teams, the question “should Australia have its own head of state” would make a good one.

So what did my focus group accomplish? I confess that I expected the group to only have a rudimentary knowledge of politics and its complex machinations. I was pleasantly surprised with their depth of insight into policy and current events. They were indeed informed, bright, well-mannered, articulate and educated. What they lacked in practical knowledge they easily made up for with desire and an enthusiasm to know.

An old adage states: “There is no sin in not knowing, the sin is in not wanting to know.” They expressed a desire to know.

Their school was indeed fostering observation and curiosity but the pity is, I thought to myself, is that we have young adults eager to embrace social political enlightenment and we don’t accommodate the learning of it in our schools. I am sure that in the hour or so that I had with them their knowledge of the political process increased exponentially.

How difficult would it be to foster a few discussion groups such as this?

The young are not voting, this is a serious issue, a serious democratic deficit that we need to attend too.

My thought for the day.

“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?”

 

Scroll Up