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Tag Archives: Cory Bernardi

Why do we have a Coalition government?

The obvious answer as to why we have a Coalition government at the moment is that the majority of people voted that way at the last election.  But why?

Many people were sick of the white-anting and disunity from a party which removed two sitting Prime Ministers.  I am wondering how they feel now that the Liberals have done exactly the same thing.  Should this government be labelled ‘illegitimate’ with calls for an immediate election?  Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Andrew Nikolic, Cory Bernardi, Tony Abbott and others are unlikely to accept a smooth transition any time soon.

Others were convinced that the warnings about climate change were ‘alarmist’ and that scientists were only doing it to get funding.  Or that they were part of some UN new world order with Zionist banks ready to send us all into subsistence slavery under Agenda 21.   I am wondering how they feel as every year more heat records tumble and extreme weather events cost us billions.

Many voted Coalition so they would fix the ‘debt and deficit disaster’.  Labor was spending like drunken sailors! How are they feeling as government spending continues to rise, the debt continues to grow by about $50 billion a year, and we experience the biggest deficits on record?

There were those who felt we were being invaded by a horde of potential terrorists coming by boat.  We have stopped the boats arriving and in so doing, been condemned by a world coping with an enormous tide of displaced people due, in part, to our aggression in the Middle East and likely to continue as we withdraw foreign aid and replace it with military expenditure.  Are they happy that to stop the boats we are prepared to torture children?

Those that were angry that “Bob Brown’s bitch” was making deals with the Greens must have been somewhat disappointed when one of Joe Hockey’s first actions was to make a deal with the Greens to eliminate the debt ceiling.  I am wondering how they feel as Victorian Liberals look set to preference Greens ahead of ALP.

Some people were concerned that the Labor government was spending tens of billions on a national broadband network that would just be used to play video games and download movies.  Malcolm could get us a system that would cover all our needs for much cheaper and get it finished by 2016.  Or not.  All this talk of digital disruption and innovation must be making them wonder what’s going on, not to mention cost blowouts of $15 billion due to Malcolm’s multi technology mix which, it turns out, will take a lot longer than anticipated to provide a system that will be outdated before it is finished.

Others were cynical about Kevin Rudd’s ‘dishonest negative scare campaign’ regarding cuts to health, education, the ABC, family tax benefits and the schoolkids bonus not to mention the raising of the GST.  But we know that was all lies, right?  Or maybe not.

Many were very concerned that Labor’s changes to the fringe benefits tax which required people to only claim business usage for their cars when they actually used them for business would destroy the car industry and lead to job losses.  Thankfully the Coalition got rid of that quick smart and saved all those jobs . . . oh, wait.

One thing that we can always be certain of is that the Coalition will be better economic managers.  It’s in their DNA.  Except every single economic measure has gone backwards under their stewardship.

They promised to expose the corruption of the evil unions and the rorting of politicians’ entitlements through the revelations by their heroic whistleblowers, Kathy Jackson and James Ashby.  Just don’t mention the 10 NSW Liberal MPs who have been exposed by ICAC or the fraudulent misappropriation of millions by their Victorian state director or Bronnie’s helicopter rides.

The Liberal Party promised to be a transparent accountable government, unless it is an operational or onwater matter, or commercial in confidence, or anything to do with our offshore gulags and the sexual, physical and psychological abuse suffered by the people who came to us seeking help.  And don’t dare ask about how much tax big corporations and rich people pay.  That’s none of your business.

Thank goodness we now have a very popular Prime Minister, but what use is that when the urbane, sophisticated Malcolm Turnbull leads the same party that thought Tony Abbott would be a good idea?

The policies haven’t changed and the personnel who brought you those lies still occupy the government benches.

Despite Malcolm’s ‘new paradigm’, I am still left wondering why exactly we chose a Coalition government.

 

Malcolm’s test

In six weeks’ time, we will see if Malcolm Turnbull is a leader of substance or a snake oil salesman.

You have to admire his courage in deciding to personally attend the climate change talks in Paris but if he tries to push the Greg Hunt propaganda, he will get called out on it.  Some 150 of the 200 or so countries attending have submitted their plans to move to a low carbon future and I doubt they will take kindly to spin.

Both the IMF and the World Bank, along with a growing number of world leaders, are calling for a price on carbon but Malcolm promised the Nationals and the right of his party that he wouldn’t do that.

As recently as July, we had two Western Australian Liberal MPs calling for an inquiry into the evidence of human influence on climate change.

“I’m open to being convinced but the data and the evidence that I’ve seen [on climate change] thus far certainly I don’t find compelling,” said Dennis Jensen.  “You get the appeal to consensus when the data and the evidence is weak and it’s an appeal to authority rather than examining the data and the evidence.”

Dr Jensen said he was not alone within the party, and that there were “at least” 10 MPs who shared his view that the Government should not sign up to emissions cuts without a parliamentary inquiry.

We have Cory Bernardi whose argument runs along the lines of “Well, the Earth’s climate changes all the time, always has, always will and this happened well before we came along burning fossil fuels. Oh and by the way the world stopped warming since 1998 and I just saw an article the other day saying Chlorofluorocarbons were the real culprit of warming not CO2.”

Senator Fierravanti-Wells reminds us that CO2 is plant food which I assume means she thinks increased levels will be good for agriculture.

And then there’s George Christensen who, when addressing the Heartland Institute last year, said “The weather and climate in Australia has not changed in the last century but a new religious interpretation has arisen since then.  When we are in a flood, they tell us ‘too much rain is a sign, more hurricanes is a sign, fewer hurricanes is a sign, the sky is blue – it’s a sign, gravity – it’s a sign’.”

The most strident critic of carbon pricing and the man who worked tirelessly to bring it down, Barnaby Joyce, is being touted as our next leader of the Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said this month that the El Nino was now on course to challenge the 1997-98 event as the strongest on record, and was not expected to peak until late this year.

September was not only the seventh month so far this year to set a new record for heat, it was also the most anomalously hot month in 135 years of data, NOAA said and predictions are that 2015 will easily eclipse heat records in previous years.

Malcolm is going to have to explain why we are approving huge new coal mines and, with China and India both looking to cut coal imports, it is unlikely the ‘lift them out of poverty’ excuse will wash on the international stage.

Will he defend the Direct Action Plan that he previously described as “bullshit” and prohibitively expensive?

In an interview with the Guardian, Turnbull said “If something isn’t working as well as you want, chuck it out. I’m not afraid of people saying, it’s a backdown, or a backflip, an agile government is prepared to abandon policies that don’t work.”

We shall see.

 

Ten Questions for Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong

Yesterday, along with many others I watched the much anticipated marriage equality debate between Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong.  I found some of the questions from the press gallery quite predictable. I felt the questions did not really challenge what marriage equality may mean for us as we progress as a nation. I have put together ten questions I would have liked to have asked Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong.

Question 1 – Twelve Year Olds
Many young people dream of their wedding.  Even at twelve years old I dreamt of my wedding and would often gaze at a good looking boy in my class and wonder if it would be him.  If marriage equality becomes the norm, how will the world change for all twelve year olds?

Question 2 – Is it time to really scrutinise marriage?
Marriage as currently defined, has no specific parameters of what that actually means, besides the union of a man and a woman.  If a man and a woman are married, they can live a life as a sham. They do not need to sleep in the same bed or even live in the same home or even town.  They do not have to share parenting, or be good parents or even be parents and there is always a contentious argument of if and when the housework is actually shared equally.  Heterosexual married couples do not even have to treat each other with respect or endearment. They do not even have to be in love.

My question is, if we do not question the validity of what marriage means, outside of the bringing together of gender opposites, then why is the anti-marriage equality side constantly debating the morals, scruples and behaviour of the LGBTQI community who would like to be married? If this is such a strong area of concern, how do we redress the imbalance here if the anti-marriage equality advocates do succeed? Should we have more scrutiny of heterosexual married couples?

Question 3 – Gender Transformation
If an individual who is married decides to undertake the journey of gender transformation; what do the current laws mean for the married couple if they want to stay together, if both individuals identify and are legally recognised as the same gender?  How will marriage equality have an impact on individuals who undertake the journey of gender transformation,and their spouse?

Question 4 – Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a very prominent issue in Australia at present.  Domestic violence is often discussed in terms of between a man and a woman, rather than between two people. There is now a shift in reports and language surrounding intimate partner violence, which includes same sex relationships.  How will marriage equality assist Governments to legislate for protections for all people in domestic violence situations and enable Governments to fund programs inclusive for all victims of domestic violence?

Question 5 – Atonement
Because it is 2015 and Australia still does not have marriage equality, there may be some LGBTQI people in our community who have felt they could not just ‘be who they are’ and may have chosen to live a life married in a heterosexual relationship for whatever reasons they decided this was best for them.  If marriage equality is achieved, is it fair to say that there may be some resentment from those who feel they have been forced to make decisions they would not have had to? Is it fair to say that by not recognising marriage equality earlier, we have not allowed people to live a full life with freedom of individual expression and decision making and how do we as a nation atone for this?

Question 6 – A parent’s perspective
As a mother to a newly engaged daughter, my excitement is over-whelming awaiting the wedding. Weddings are something which do bring family and friends together for such a celebration of love and happiness. Weddings are seen as a key milestone for so many.  I see myself as someone who is privileged to enjoy this excitement and my heart pains for mothers and fathers who do not have this privilege. From the perspective as a parent, how does a Government see their role in interfering in such a personal, individual celebration of love which is only afforded to mothers and fathers given this privilege? This question is particularly for Senator Bernardi, considering his Government favours small Government and is supposed to favour distancing themselves from interference in the private sphere.

Question 7 – Our social fabric
One of the biggest arguments for marriage equality is that it will end discrimination and enable equality for all.  As per my last question, marriage is currently for those privileged to do so under our laws.  If we do not allow same-sex couples to ‘be’ as heterosexual couples are allowed to just ‘be’ then our social fabric will always be woven from those in a position of privilege.  How can our social fabric ever be complete when we are unconscious of a discourse that is currently silent about love, understanding and togetherness for all? How will marriage equality assist to weave our social fabric or in Senator Bernardi’s case destroy our social fabric?

Question 8 – Regional and Rural communities
I live in a regional community and I am aware that as I have aged over the years, many friends from my younger days have moved on to live in capital cities where communities are generally more supportive of LGBTQI Individuals, as regional and rural communities have not been very supportive in their experience. Some studies also cite very harsh treatment towards LGBTQI people who reside in regional and rural communities with some contemplating suicide or sadly, taking their own lives. What impact will marriage equality have on LGBTQI individuals living in rural and regional communities and what impact will marriage equality have in shaping these communities as a whole?

Question 9 – A Government’s responsibility to understand all groups in society
Although liberal feminism has achieved some great progress for women; liberal feminism was criticised by women of colour for excluding their lived experiences of discrimination and their need to redress areas of discrimination. This is because liberal feminists made assumptions from the perspective of middle class white women. Feminism has evolved to now women of colour having a much stronger voice and leading the issues in many areas of feminism. Including more experiences from a broader range of individuals can only result in better informed legislation.  There are many areas of social policy and statistics collections where research assumptions are made on research and data collected from a heteronormative viewpoint.  For example, there is little data to understand issues for single mothers who were previously in a same-sex relationship.

As it is the Government’s responsibility to develop social policies and legislate for same; isn’t it also the Government’s responsibility to ensure they have an understanding of all groups in society? How will marriage equality impact on the development of social policy and legislation of same? If Cory Bernardi believes these groups should be excluded by default by not having marriage equality legislation to redress this imbalance, does he support ill-informed legislation and policies?

Question 10 – Tolerance and conscience vote versus binding vote.
Anthony Albanese (Albo) on ABC Qanda on 1 June indicated in his response to a question about marriage equality and a conscience vote, is that we need to tolerate and respect the views of others to bring them along with us.  We have many different pieces of legislation which already make discrimination unlawful. Therefore, the battle against discrimination and inequality has been won on many fronts with political parties or Governments coming together to legislate for change to enable equality.

My question is about a conscience vote versus a binding vote. I question whether a conscience vote is a necessary patience, or a subconscious accommodation for the class of people who understand discrimination well enough in other contexts; but not when it involves stamping out discrimination for something they fear.  The same class of people who use religion, ignorance and/or prejudice as a shield to ward off progress.   As a progressive, I do not feel I need to respect groups or individuals who actively fight against progress and who uphold discrimination.

So my question is: How do Governments or even political parties make the decision about what is characterised to be morally and ethically sufficient or insufficient to determine whether a binding vote or conscience vote will be used?  Also, to truly progress, how tolerant should we be of all views?

Originally posted on Polyfeministix – take a poll about how you will vote here

A sociopathic lack of empathy

One thing I have tried to teach my children is that, when you make a mistake, tell the truth, apologise, do what you can to make up for it, and learn from the experience.

The example being set by our nation’s leaders makes it hard to reinforce that message.

According to Tony Abbott, the Coalition’s woes at ICAC are due to the Labor government making rules about donations from developers, implying it is the rule that is wrong rather than the breaking of it.

Likewise in the Bolt case – his conviction for vilifying groups in our society was the fault of an unjust law rather than any wrongdoing on his part according to his special friend, George Brandis.

Hockey’s defence of the revelation that he is paying off his investment property by claiming $270 a night accommodation entitlements is that it is “within the rules”, a defence also used by Malcolm Turnbull and many other politicians.  Nowhere is it questioned as to whether this is what was intended by the “away from home” allowance.

Abetz and Hockey have both used the “blame the media” excuse for things they have said.  I was misinterpreted, I didn’t finish my sentence.  Abbott and Pyne tell us that we misunderstood when they said they were on a unity ticket about education funding.

Twelve months into their term, the government seem unable to take the reins, constantly repeating the “debt and deficit disaster inherited from Labor” line, with absolutely no plan for the future.  Tony counts off on his fingers (an exceedingly annoying habit that he seems unable to function without), “We axed the carbon tax, the boats are stopping, we are building the roads of the 21st century, and we are getting the budget under control”.  There is no thought about what we will do about climate change or how we will help refugees or whether those roads are the best infrastructure investment or modelling on how the budget cuts will affect the vulnerable in our society.

But the prize for the best “pass the buck” comment must go to Tony’s mentor and spiritual advisor, George Pell.  When being interviewed by the Royal Commission into child sex abuse yesterday, Pell made the crass analogy that the Church should not be held responsible for the actions of its clergy any more than a trucking company should be held responsible if one of their drivers molested a woman they picked up on the road.

The last time I looked, trucking companies didn’t run schools.  They were not placed in positions of trust to care for the vulnerable in our community or to provide moral guidance.  I would also suggest that if the company was informed that one of their drivers had raped someone they would not try to bribe the victim to not go to the police.

In 2002, Pell told his audience of World Youth Day delegates that “abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people”, during a public religious instruction session.  In response to the outcry this caused, Pell said he was merely trying to point out that sex abuse by Catholic clergy had attracted attention to the detriment of other issues.

Anthony Foster, the father of two of the abuse victims, has said Cardinal Pell displayed a “sociopathic lack of empathy” when they met to discuss the case in the 1990s.

This lack of empathy is the most frightening part of the current government and the people to whom they listen.  Anyone who is not rich is to be blamed for not working out how to rort the system.  Single parents are made to feel ashamed of their situation which Kevin Andrews and Cory Bernardi tell us will lead to their “sons ending up in gaol and their daughters being promiscuous”.  Unemployed people are just not trying hard enough, the disabled are lazy, and we can’t afford to keep giving handouts to the sick and elderly.  Refugees are to be incarcerated and vilified for wanting a better life for their families, and all Muslims viewed as terrorists waiting to behead us at the first opportunity.

A sociopath is someone who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.  I’d say that just about sums it up.

Tell me what I want to hear

As it becomes increasingly apparent that households will not be $550 a year better off without the carbon tax we hear the rhetoric change.  Andrew Laming said

“It will be $550 lower than it otherwise would be, but if other elements have made prices go up then you won’t see a $550 fall on any bill.  But you’ll be $550 better off than you otherwise would have been, and that’s a very important caveat.”

So if I understand him correctly, because prices are going up at a slower rate that is a cut.  How come the same does not apply to funding for health, education, and pensions?

Despite cutting $80 billion from State funding for health and education, Abbott assures us that this is not a cut because funding goes up each year, albeit by less than promised.  Likewise, Tony repeats over and over that pensions will go up twice a year.  The fact that they will be going up by less (CPI rather than AMWE), thus expanding the relative gap in standard of living, is not to be considered a cut.

Having abandoned carbon pricing, and facing criticism of, and opposition to, its Direct Action Plan, the government, at the behest of its masters, has now set its sights on the Renewable Energy Target.

Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, recently wrote

“We might be able to farewell the carbon tax, but it is just one of a long line of green energy policies which federal and state governments have layered on top of one another that are driving up the cost of electricity.

It is the cumulative impact of these policies that is pushing up the cost of electricity and making our businesses less competitive.

Repeal of the carbon tax therefore must be the beginning of removing shortsighted schemes and programs, and the start of a process to design an integrated approach to climate change and energy policy that supports rather than weighs down our economic competitiveness and jobs.”

Tony Shepherd, the man chosen to lead the “audit” of government expenditure, was also chair of the Business Council of Australia, which threw its weight behind the government’s move to repeal the carbon price.  As a previous chairman of Transfield Services, he has long-established ties to the Liberal Party and ex-NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, and was an outspoken critic of the Gillard government.  He criticised the carbon tax legislation and warned of the dangers of Australia leading the world on climate change, stating “tails do not wag dogs”.

Shepherd wants nuclear power to be in the energy policy mix, not “excluded on ideological grounds”, which, as Crikey points out, seems to forget that for Australia nuclear power is excluded on simple maths — it’s hideously expensive, compared even with renewables.

In January 2012, Maurice Newman, head of Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council, wrote in the Spectator

“Even before they threatened my property, I was opposed to wind farms. They fail on all counts. They are grossly inefficient, extremely expensive, socially inequitable, a danger to human health, environmentally harmful, divisive for communities, a blot on the landscape, and don’t even achieve the purpose for which they were designed, namely the reliable generation of electricity and the reduction of CO2 emissions.”

In an interview on Lateline, Newman said

“I just look at the evidence. There is no evidence. If people can show there is a correlation between increasing CO2 and global temperature, well then of course that’s something which we would pay attention to. But when you look at the last 17.5 years where we’ve had a multitude of climate models, and this was the basis on which this whole so-called science rests, it’s on models, computer models. And those models have been shown to be 98 per cent inaccurate.  CO2 is not a pollutant.”

Newman is calling for the RET to be scrapped  saying

“Whether the Coalition will change their policy on the RET is up to them … I believe it should be removed because the basis upon which we accepted in good faith that we needed it is no longer there.  When we look at the experience of Germany, they have not been successful in reducing emissions; when we look at the science it no longer supports the global warming theory and when we look at the health and economic effects of windfarms and the obscene wealth transfer from poor to rich we have to ask: why are we persisting with them? I think it is a crime against the people.”

David Murray, a former CEO of the Commonwealth bank of Australia, former head of the $90 billion Future Fund, and the man chosen by  Tony Abbott to lead the review of the $5 trillion Australian financial services industry, has also dismissed the threat of climate change, and suggested climate scientists had no integrity.

In an interview on ABC TV’s Lateline Program, Murray said the climate problem is “severely overstated.”

Asked what it would take to change his mind about the climate science, particularly in light of the recent IPCC 5th assessment report, Murray replied: “When I see some evidence of integrity amongst the scientists themselves,” – an interesting comment considering what has come out about shonky practices at the Commonwealth Bank that he led.

He said if he were in a leadership role, he would “set up some scientific approach to get a community consensus here about what is the truth on this matter.” Rather than listening to every major scientific institution around the world, and the overwhelming scientific consensus, he wants “community consensus”?

Murray’s appointment to head the first full scale review of the financial system in 17 years is problematic given his stance on climate change. The financial services industry is probably the most exposed to risk created by a changing climate, changing policy, and the likelihood of stranded assets as the world accelerates towards a low carbon economy.

A growing number of actuaries, advisors and investor groups are raising concerns that banks and funds managers are “flying blind” on climate risk because they are effectively ignoring the issue.

They argue that systemic reviews, be they in finance or resources of manufacturing, need rigorous attention to how the world is changing. Denying climate change is the wrong way to start.

In 2011, Dick Warburton became the executive chairman of the newly-formed lobby group Manufacturing Australia, whose members included big players like Amcor, BlueScope Steel and Boral and small-to-medium business.  Their aim was to urge for a delay to carbon tax legislation.

When Warburton, a self-professed sceptic, was interviewed on the ABC, the following exchange took place:

TICKY FULLERTON: You said earlier today that why should we be doing this when the rest of world is actually pulling out of carbon taxes and the ETS? I’m just wondering what countries you’re thinking about there?

DICK WARBURTON: Canada has announced that they’re not going to go ahead with any carbon tax, so has Korea, so has Japan. They’ve made those announcements they’re not going ahead. And no country has gone ahead with a carbon tax or an ETS since Copenhagen.

TICKY FULLERTON: Can I take you up on that?  Because my understanding is that they are – Japan is still going to be putting a carbon tax in place; in Canada the carbon taxes are being put in – going to be scheduled in through different states. And indeed, in Korea, they used their stimulus money into new green initiatives. And so these are very strong moves. They may be shifted back a bit, but everybody’s moving in that direction, aren’t they?

DICK WARBURTON: No, they might be doing moves like Korea – you’re talking about is the moves of mitigation or moves of change. That’s good. I’m very much in favour of that. But they announced that they would not be introducing an ETS (inaudible). Canada announced it straight after the election. They announced that. Japan, I can’t recall when they made the statement, but Canada and Korea definitely have.

Mr Warburton may like to change his sources of information.

South Korea’s only securities exchange, the Korea Exchange, is reported to have won a contract to operate world’s second largest Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from the start of 2015.

Two Japanese regions have operational mandatory ETSs in place: Tokyo and Saitama. Similar schemes, although likely voluntary, are being or have been considered for the Osaka-Kansai Prefecture and the Chiba Prefecture.

In March 2010, the Japanese government introduced the “Basic Act on Global Warming Countermeasures.”  An initial feature of the Act was a nation-wide emissions trading system (ETS) that would have begun in April 2013.

While this nation-wide ETS was removed from the Act in December 2010, other cap-and-trade measures, such as the Japanese Voluntary ETS (which began in 2005 and became part of the Experimental ETS in 2008), the Tokyo ETS, and the Experimental ETS (the trial period was for 2008-2012, and the government continues to encourage firms to participate), have been active in the country.

According to Japan’s former National Strategy Minister, Koichiro Gemba, the primary reason that the Japanese ETS was deferred was because fellow nations (particularly the United States and Australia) struggled to develop their own robust climate policies.

With the Government’s recent coal-fired electricity regulations, Canada became the first major coal user to ban the construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation units.

”Our approach will foster a permanent transition towards lower or non-emitting types of generation such as high-efficiency natural gas and renewable energy.”

The Province of Alberta passed its Specified Gas Emitters Regulation in 2007 establishing an emissions intensity trading scheme.

To achieve its emissions reduction goal, the Quebec government has enacted regulations for an ETS. As with the Californian scheme, it began in 2013.

Warburton said on repeated occasions that climate science was not settled. “On the cause there’s huge debate about whether carbon dioxide is the main cause.”

Last year, Tony Abbott said “We have to accept that in the changed circumstances of today, the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be an affordable energy superpower … cheap energy ought to be one of our comparative advantages,”

Earlier, the Climate Change Authority’s review of Labor’s renewable energy scheme had concluded that the current targets should be kept. Although it had the statutory obligation to undertake the next review, the government moved quickly to appoint its own inquiry and what better man to appoint to head the RET review panel than Dick Warburton?   The other members of the panel are Matt Zema, the CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator, Shirley In’t Veld, the former head of WA government owned generation company Verve Energy, and Brian Fisher, the former long-term head of ABARE who gained notoriety for his positions on climate policies and is a noted free-market hardliner.

Environmentalists’ fears that this inquiry was set up to reach a predetermined conclusion were strengthened by the government’s rapid moves to cut funding in this area. The budget recommended the abolition of the $3.1 billion Australian Renewable Energy Agency, or ARENA, an institution formed to help bring new technologies into production and deployment, and to fund Australia’s world-leading solar research. While it retained funding to meet its existing contracts, it had almost no funds to enter into any new agreements.

But what can we expect when we have the Prime Minister who said in a radio interview he understood why people were anxious about windfarms that were “sprouting like mushrooms all over the fields of our country”.

“If you drive down the Federal Highway from Goulburn to Canberra and you look at Lake George, yes there’s an absolute forest of these things on the other side of the lake near Bungendore,” he said.

It must be on the daily song sheet as we heard the Treasurer make similar comments.

“If I can be a little indulgent please, I drive to Canberra to go to Parliament, I drive myself and I must say I find those wind turbines around Lake George to be utterly offensive.  I think they’re just a blight on the landscape.”

The government is under pressure from the coal lobby, incumbent utilities, network operators and state governments to either dump, or sharply reduce the renewable energy target.

As Ross Garnaut said

“Whether or not Abbott really does believe in anthropogenic climate change, it is extraordinary that the four business leaders the government has appointed to senior advisory roles – Dick Warburton on the inquiry into renewable energy, David Murray on the financial system inquiry, Maurice Newman to chair the PM’s Business Advisory Council, and Tony Shepherd to head the Commission of Audit – all share a strong view that the science on climate change is wrong.”

ian macfarlaneSeeing Senator Cory Bernardi heading the Senate Committee into Direct Action – ”I do not think human activity causes climate change and I haven’t seen anything that changes my view. I remain very sceptical about the alarmists’ claims.” – and Senator Ian Macdonald wearing a high vis “Australians for Coal” vest in the Senate at the behest of the Minerals Council, just underlines what we are dealing with – a bunch of hand-picked flat earthers who get their climate advice from Christopher Monckton and Andrew Bolt.

 

The characteristics of Fascism and how we might note its presence today

Is fascism creeping into Australia?

There are clearly no Fascist regimes in Australia, or any regime with even the slightest of Fascist agendas. We’re a luckier country than that.

Broadly speaking, Fascism is:

A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

This clearly does not exist in Australia.

But as this guest post by Paul Cannon disturbingly points out, the ‘rhetoric and behaviour’ of the current federal government (and state governments) could easily have us believe otherwise.


Does it matter if democracy shifts to the right? That depends on where you stand politically. But if the shift is extreme then I think it is of grave concern. And what concerns me even more is the tendency to ignore the shift.

If you don’t look closely you never really notice it or generally laugh it off.

The Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism by the author Lawrence Britt, originally published in Free Inquiry Magazine Vol. 23, No. 2, Spring, 2003 are worth noting in regard to current politics in the west These fourteen points are similar but not the same as those published by the author Umberto Eco in 1995, which are also worth reading.

Image from sodahead.com

Image from sodahead.com

Of course, immediately some of you have retreated, because every time the issue of Fascism comes up it is considered passé or too sensational (you can’t say that!) or irrelevant (don’t be ridiculous that was then) and therefore such a comparison to today should not be used. But I believe we hide our heads in the sand when we ignore the trend, even when it is a niche or even isolated elements showing up. Fascism wasn’t closed off in 1945, indeed it continued in Latin America, Spain and Portugal, and periodically in Italy long after the war. It shows up in mass movements across Europe like the British Defence Force, the National Front, and recently UKIP, to use England as just one example. In defining fascism one should avoid Hollywood movies as signifiers of what Fascism actually is and what it looks like. For Fascism to exist today, it cannot be as it was, we have to look for the essence in what is happening now and to ask – what clothes is it wearing?

I am not looking to review Fascism historically, or to dwell on the symptoms of historical Fascism but rather to look at the structure of Fascism and what might be happening now.

Fascism is not by definition totalitarian, it can use that form of governing, but it can be present in democracy. So let’s not be fooled by trying to say its nothing like 1920, or 1933 that is merely a smokescreen.

Fascism developed in Italy. The term Fascism derives from ‘fasces’ the Roman symbol of collectivism and power (a tied bundle of rods with a protruding axe). The Italians also had a description for the concept of Fascism, Benito Mussolini stated that Fascism was ‘estato corporativo’ which means the corporate state (a view also promoted by Othmar Spann in Austria). Fascism is a pretence or veneer of “socialism” or collectivism controlled by capitalism which is in partnership with government (much the same as National Socialism in Germany).

Lawrence Britt studied the National Socialist regime of Germany (Hitler), the Kingdom of Italy (Mussolini), Nationalist or Francoist Spain (Franco), the Military Government Junta of Chile (Pinochet) and other Latin American regimes (Argentina, Paraguay, El Salvador, Brazil), and New Order in Indonesia (Suharto). What Britt found was fourteen defining characteristics as follows:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights: because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerationsof prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: the people are rallied into a unifying Patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military: Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service is glamourised.

5. Rampant Sexism: the governments of fascist nations tend be almost exclusively male dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media: sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security: fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined: governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected: the industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labour Power is Suppressed: because the organising power of labour is the only real threat to a fascist government, labour unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts: fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment: under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption: fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections: sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

In relation to Australia we can immediately rule out 1 (although even here there is the false mantra that refugees are illegal) 11, 13, and 14. And with 4, 6, and 8 there are identifiable elements but not the whole.

But the rest 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, and 12, half, are certainly present in the current federal government rhetoric and behaviour. And if you add elements of 4, 6 and 8, there is a strong shift to the right with a sense of an essence of fascism pervading.

In the current federal government there is:
– a complete disdain for human rights (treatment of indigenous communities, gay people, people who need welfare support payments, disability pensioners, refugees);
– they have manipulated the population by identifying an enemy and scapegoats (“terrorists”, Muslims, refugees);
– the military is not supreme but it is being utilised for civilian purposes, therefore it has been elevated (customs and border control, the indigenous intervention); there is sexism (as demonstrated by Abbott, Pyne and Bernadi among others), and to add – Umberto Eco writes that fascism thrives on creating fear over difference;
– there is a sense of control by cronyism with media, and there is censorship in regard to the refugees coming by boat;
– there is an obsession (pathological) with national security;
– religion is not intertwined but members of the government use their religious affiliation as a bargaining point and they use religious rhetoric to push agendas (Bernadi on the traditional family – whatever that was or is);
– corporate power is definitely protected, even exclusively with environmental considerations, workers rights, and community needs overlooked;
– the corollary is that labour power is suppressed by legislative means;
– there is an unmitigated obsession with crime and punishment (this would be more true of State rather than Federal government but it is present in both).

Umberto Eco makes the point that the very first appeal of a fascist movement is the appeal against the intruders (find a scapegoat and you control a large portion of the voting public).

So is Australia Fascist, well no, not in the historical sense of 1920 or 1933, but there is an alarming trend towards fascist methodology (whether overtly or otherwise) and there is a trend towards corporate control, which is a move away from the rights of groups and individuals, and there is a disregard for our international treaty obligations. The government clearly uses manipulation of the population as to be judged by the government rhetoric that is parroted back on talk back radio by the public often couched in fear ( the refugees would be the clear issue here). There is a disdain for the environment too. And in the proposed education review there is a desire by the education minister to go back in time in terms of how we present contemporary history, labour history, indigenous history, international history (it was Herman Goerring who liked the phrase “when I hear the word culture I reach for my gun”).

The fourteen points demonstrate that what is at stake is freedom, language, history, culture, national identity, and human rights. Fascism is an attitude, albeit a political one, but one that pervades the way governments think and behave.

With seven of the fourteen points by Britt recognisable in current government action and rhetoric there should be more concern in the community about our identity as a nation and therefore our future as a nation. Umberto Eco puts it well when he says “Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plain clothes.”

Bibliography:
Giorgio Agamben. ‘Homo Sacer Sovereign Power and Bare Life’ California, Stanford, 1998
Giorgio Agamben. ‘State of Exception’ Chicago, Chicago Press, 2005
Hanna Arendt ‘The Origins Of Totalitarianism’ Florida, Harcourt, 1968
Umberto Eco. ‘Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt’ New York Review of Books, 1995, pp. 12 – 15.
Roger Griffin. ‘The Nature of Fascism’ Oxon, Routledge, 1993

This article was first published on Paul’s blog Parallax and reproduced with permission.

Union bashing for the new curriculum

Eric Abetz (image by smh.com.au)

Eric Abetz (image by smh.com.au)

Senator Eric Abetz gave a rather disturbing speech to the Young Liberals (aged 16 to 31) national conference in Perth on 25 January this year.

He told them that, over the Christmas break, he had watched American political tv series House of Cards.

“Whilst it was a good watch, the moral bankruptcy, the crass manipulation, the cynicism, were for me all turn-offs.”

I know how he feels, though he apparently assured his son that Canberra politics wasn’t quite as portrayed in House of Cards.  He also assured him that:

“Congressman Frank Underwood engaged in all his unsavoury intrigues in the House of Representatives, and that such things could never happen in the Senate.  I also pointed out that the US Democrats were the equivalent to Australia’s ALP”.

Right.  Did you also remind him, and your audience, that it was a fictional tv show, or are you preparing them for the “we good them bad” indoctrination where fiction will be accepted as fact?

Speaking of which, Senator Abetz also read a book by Hal Colebatch called “Australia’s Secret War” which he described as “a thorough, detailed exposition of how individual unions and their leaders acted to sabotage our nation’s war efforts in World War II.”  He went on to say:

“Hal Colebatch has recalled this painful chapter of Australian history which saw Australian unionists engage in a range of sabotage actions that were utterly unconscionable.

That systematic campaign of sabotage criss-crossed the nation, from Townsville to Fremantle, and cost the lives of countless Australian diggers and allied soldiers.

Their actions included deliberately damaging planes, removing valves from radio transmitters that made them inoperative.

Packages and parcels for our service personnel were pilfered.  Coalminers and munition factory workers went on strike prejudicing the war effort, costing lives, leading to unnecessary loss and increasing the length and cost of the war.

Australian women were needlessly widowed. Australian children were needlessly left fatherless.”

These are very damning accusations to make, but he doesn’t stop there.

 “So I do ask: where was the moral outrage of the ABC and Fairfax commentariat when Hal Colebatch exposed all this in his groundbreaking work?

People killed, people injured, the war effort severely compromised – murder, grievous bodily harm and treason, all at the doorstep of the union movement and all largely ignored.

Talk about a topic for inclusion in the national curriculum!”

And so it begins.  The history curriculum rewrite starts with a union-bashing book published last October from “a secret history rescued from ‘folk memory’ – and one previously suppressed by leftists.”  Anyone who was 20 years old at the start of the war would now be about 95.  I’m not sure we should be basing the curriculum on their anecdotes.

Rowan Cahill points out that:

“Colebatch has form, as they say in the classics. He is the third son of the short-term (one-month) twelfth premier of West Australia, who accompanied strikebreakers onto the waterfront during the bitter Fremantle wharf crisis of 1919, an inflammatory action which contributed to the death of trade union loyalist Tom Edwards following a police battoning.”

Needless to say, Alan Jones gave it his immediate ringing endorsement and, when that other expert journalist, Miranda Devine, pre-reviewed Colebatch’s book in November, a contributor to her blog posed the question:

“Where is the media campaign pushing for the unions to abase themselves and seek forgiveness for the very real harm they did to Australians?  Unfortunately in Australia in 2013 that seems too much to ask.”

Abetz echoes this cry saying:

 “The union movement must provide a national apology for prejudicing the nation’s war effort, remembering those families who needlessly lost loved ones because of their treasonous activities.

Instead the MUA is currently funding a hagiography about the refusal by wharfies in 1938 to load pig iron destined for Japan – an incident the Left is still milking for indignation.”

They apparently want the unions to say sorry for the actions of people who, 76 years ago, refused to send iron to aid Japan’s gearing up for war, but John Howard had nothing to say sorry for because the Stolen Generation never existed?

The Senator then goes on to praise Cory Bernardi’s book and his comments about non-traditional families.  He responded to the offence taken by step-dad Bill Shorten this way:

You know the trip; “I claim victimhood.  I declare that I have taken offence.  So you cannot question me or assail me with undisputed, objective studies”… studies which actually tell us time and time again that the gold standard for the nurturing of children is a married man and woman with their biological children.

He gives a quote from Senator Bernardi’s book about the likelihood of girls from non-traditional families ending up promiscuous and boys as criminals.

“we know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are 5 times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime;  9 times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.  They are more likely to have behavioural problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of this.”

He claims the source of these statistics was President Barack Obama’s Father’s Day address of 2008.  I know the Liberals would like us all to emulate the Tea Party but thankfully, Australian society is still a lot different to the US.  Medicare, the PBS, minimum wages, penalty rates, all contribute to making life just a little easier for our low income earners compared to their US counterparts.  Gangs don’t have the same hold here (yet) and we have strict gun laws.  We do have problems with housing affordability and youth unemployment but comparatively, our safety net is better.

Abetz then sinks even lower in my mind by saying to the kids:

“So can I say to those who in turn might say they were brought up by a single parent, or in a blended family, and turned out okay, take pleasure in this, but ask, was it the ideal?

Would life have been even better if, all things being equal, you had been brought up with your other biological parent coming home every night to provide an even more nurturing environment?”

I wonder if anyone had the courage to stand up and say “It was better than watching my father continually humiliated or seeing my mother get hit or watching two desperately unhappy people drift ever further apart”.  I wonder if anyone talked about the love and support their adoptive parents gave them, something their “biological” parent/s were unable to do.  How dare he make these children feel their lives were less than “ideal” because of decisions made by others when he has no knowledge of their circumstances.

Speaking of criticism from within his own party which dismissed Bernardi’s as a minority view, Senator Abetz said:

 “I have no doubt that for centuries it has been the majority view and that only in the last thirty or so years has this view come to be questioned by a number of social theorists, commentators and interest groups.

I am delighted that reputable commentators like Piers Akerman, Andrew Bolt and Paul Sheehan exposed the hollowness of many of the criticisms of Senator Bernardi’s book.”

Because they would know better than “social theorists” I presume.

And of course, he couldn’t finish without reference to our Christian heritage:

 “A study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences of about 20 years ago to ascertain the reasons for the dominance of what we refer to as our western civilisation concluded that

“in the past twenty years we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion, Christianity…  the Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the transition to democratic politics.   We don’t have any doubt about this”.

If communist academics from China can get it, I would’ve thought it would be a no-brainer for say Senator Lee Rhiannon and the Greens, who are pushing to remove reference to our Christian traditions by expunging the Lord’s Prayer from Parliamentary proceedings.”

As he was concluding, I finally found myself surprisingly in agreement with Senator Abetz when he said:

“I believe that the Liberal Party too often has sold itself short by over-concentrating on matters economic, vitally important though they be – vacating the ground when it comes to our society’s actual foundations.

As we restore our economic fortunes, let us also remember that to succeed in that task we need to restore the societal capital, the values and the foundations of our nation’s non-economic features. To ensure the social legacy we leave future generations will determine the economic foundations and structures that we also leave behind.

Australia’s economic security will ultimately be a reflection of its societal security.

Can I also encourage you, in your discussions with family, friends and colleagues, to respectfully remind people that the future well-being of our nation is not wrapped up in the economic management of our nation, but ultimately in maintaining the social and cultural values and traditions that have in fact given us the unparalleled personal freedoms and wealth which makes us the envy of the world.”

It scares me when he says stuff like that.  What does he really mean?

Maryville, USA. According to the people there it’s just a typical place in the US.

As I watched a report on the Maryville…

And here’s the problem. I was about to write “rape”, but it’s never been proven in a court. My principles tell me that I shouldn’t accuse someone of something that hasn’t been proven. They also tell me that sometimes corruption stops things from being proven. Ok,  let me call it the Maryville situation…

As I watched a report on the Maryville situation, I was appalled. Are these people on the same planet, in the same century. (All right, if you need to catch up, just google it. I’ve read enough now that I don’t want to be accused of trying to influence your reactions to what I’m about to say.)

DARREN WHITE: You have two young girls that are having a sleepover, for lack of a better term, that are drinking at home, underage, that start texting these boys, sneak out of the house, the boys pick them up. They go to another house and then have what everybody at the time believes is consensual sex.

JANE COWAN: But that’s the boys’ account that it was consensual.

DARREN WHITE: No. No, I believe the girls freely admitted that they were drinking at home and they snuck out of the house.

Now, I don’t believe that admitting that you’ve been drinking and you’ve left a house without permission counts as consent. If it does, then I suspect that there’s a lot of politicians who are in trouble next time there’s a division.

But, I don’t want to get distracted by the whole was it consensual/they were asking for it argument. I want to be crystal clear, so before I do that, I want to make an extremely important point. By definition, nobody asks to be raped. So if there is any language deficient person out there who wants to use the “She was asking for it” defence for any of the boys in this case, please go away and realize that people who “ask” for things rarely complain if that’s what they receive. If you say anything that stupid, you are in danger of becoming a “backpfeifengesicht”  – (a face needing to be slapped).

I’m even going to ignore the fact that the girl was underage.

I’m going to concentrate on the one thing.

“On a winter night two years ago, the 14 year-old and her best friend snuck out to meet some boys, classmates of her brother’s and high school athletes. There she was plied with alcohol and passed out. Daisy’s mother found her the next morning, dumped on the frozen ground in the front yard.”

And, strangely, nobody seems to dispute this.

Forget all the stuff where some defend with ideas of blame and sexual politics, of political correctness and where the victim is blamed.

She was dumped. Left. Treated like a piece of rubbish. Nobody making sure that she was safe. Is anyone arguing that being left on the front yard was consensual? Even if one accepted everything other dubious claim from the boys and their cheer squad, how does one reconcile that with basic decency?

Well, of course, the whole thing makes one wonder about how far we’ve progressed as a species. But I guess, Cory Bernadi, the boys who left who left her there must have all come from “non-traditional” families.

Now, as for the asylum seekers, well, I guess they also “deserve” to be dumped. After all, weren’t they “asking for it” too? It’s not our fault. Didn’t they sneak out after midnight?

Let’s hear a cheer for Cory Bernardi and the “Established Order”!

Photo: Daily Telegraph

Photo: Daily Telegraph

Yet again the ABC are demonstrating their determination to make the Coalition look silly. Their latest trick is to give Cory Bernardi’s ideas publicity.

Earlier, Senator Bernardi said there was no room for personal views where cabinet ministers were concerned.

“If Malcolm Turnbull wants to talk about fringe issues outside party policy, he should resign from the frontbench,” he told the ABC.

“Our longstanding party position is that marriage is between a man and a woman.

“Our frontbenchers need to reflect that in any comments they make.”

The Australian 16th December 2013.

Today, however, he expressed the view that ALL members of Pariliament should be free to be free to express “personal views”. But, of course,

“The stifling doctrine, the tyranny of political correctness means that when get into the debate about some issues of substance, you’re howled down and levelled with pejorative slurs. I don’t think that’s healthy  for democracy.”

Corey Bernardi, ABC interview January 6th 2014

And there we have the most intriguing thing at all about the idea of free speech that’s been peddled by the Ridiculous Right – that somehow you have your free speech eroded every time someone criticises you.

It’s an interesting tactic, because rather than discuss your original proposition, you end up discussing “free speech” and we all agree that we have a right to free speech, don’t we? Apart from those leftist, Stalinist, politically correct people who want to shut it down. They don’t value debate! They just resort to name calling because they’re feral, unemployed, socialist welfare cheats.

It was used very well in 1990s with the introduction of the Victorian Certificate of Education. Some newspaper would report a criticism, and while some criticisms were valid, a large number were not merely a difference of educational opinion, there were factually incorrect. If a government minister, teacher or education worker attempted to put the record straight, there’d be complaints about how nobody was allowed to criticise the VCE rather than an acknowledgement that, unlike the previous reports, schools did not have to allow a student to satisfactorily complete even if they’d completed no work.

So, in a similar way, today Cory Bernardi releases his book and says that it’s the responsibility of MPs to speak out and to raise debate. (During his interview, he failed to mention that he thought that Malcolm Turnbull should resign from the ministry for doing just that on gay marriage. Something about party solidarity, which evidently doesn’t include backbenchers.) Yet, when he encounters a debate, that’s “political correctness” and he’s being “howled down”. That’s not “good for democracy”. In other words, it seems that he feels we need a debate where his view is allowed to stand without challenge.

But, as I wrote a few weeks ago, this seems to be a growing trend. Either you agree with me, or you’re part of the other side, and therefore your view is not worth listening to. So let me try to be fair to Cory.

He claims that there are too many abortions in Australia. Ok, I haven’t heard anybody argue that there are too few. (Retrospective abortion is not possible, so don’t go there.) We can agree. So what’s he suggesting? Well, he’s not suggesting banning or making it harder to get an abortion. Just that we should have fewer. Right, then Cory, you are entitled to that view. There now, you haven’t been howled down or called names.

So what exactly are you proposing, Mr Bernardi? That the single mother who finds herself pregnant will decide to marry the first man who’ll agree to it because “a traditional family is the best way to raise a child”? Or are you suggesting that we should increase sex education and availability of contraception so that there are less unplanned pregnancies? Perhaps we could go back to the fifties where many women had the baby, but gave it up for adoption? Or possible we could introduce sharia law and stone adulteresses to death? Oh, that’s right you don’t think extreme Islamic religious views should be imposed on the community – just your own! What’s that – you want an inquiry into how we can reduce the number of abortions? Who’d do the inquiry and what would they ask?

There now, I’ve allowed your idea to stand and be examined. I haven’t even raised your idea about gay marriage leading to people marrying animals, and put forward my argument that if anyone can find an animal that says, “I do” and can fill in the paperwork, then I don’t have a problem with that at all.

Dark days ahead

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

A guest post by John Kelly

He’s a relieved man today. The debt ceiling will be abolished. He has been given the breathing space he needs. But, deep down, Joe Hockey knows the problem hasn’t gone away; getting rid of the debt ceiling won’t get rid of the debt. In fact, the Greens may have added to his woes. Each quarterly budget update will now, by agreement, bring the national debt to the forefront of parliamentary and press gallery scrutiny. And, as the debt keeps rising, the sweat on Joe’s brow will intensify. Joe Hockey thinks he’s won a small scrap here, and he has, but it is minor when compared with what’s coming. Christine Milne has placed climate change and the Coalition’s ‘Direct Action’ policy right in the firing line by forcing the quarterly budget updates to include reporting on monies spent on climate change initiatives, i.e. Direct Action. It sounds like she doesn’t believe it will ever happen. And I’m inclined to agree. She says, “Direct Action doesn’t exist, it has no shape, it’s not an alternative to what we have in place,” she said and added, “It is not a plan, it’s basically an idea and that is all.”

But that is not all that’s happened.

The debt ceiling event in the early life of the new government has firmly embedded one crucial economic fact in the mind of the electorate: that the national debt, prior to the Coalition coming to power, was less than $300 billion. This will be important when the voters come to judge the economic credibility of the new government in 2016 when the national debt will be in excess of $400 billion. They will have an undeniable reference point. Normally your average voter hasn’t a clue how much the nation owes when they go to vote. This time, however, they will remember that figure.

The debt ceiling deal has also revealed the hypocrisy of earlier statements by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott when in opposition. “No real friend of the workers of Australia would want to do a deal with the Greens. We can never build a better future by doing cheap and tawdry deals with the Greens”, he said in August.

Well, now it appears, we can.

So, just four months into the new government, an interesting scenario has developed. Joe Hockey is on the record as saying Labor will never produce a surplus. That opportunistic call will most certainly come back to bite him. It is entirely conceivable that Joe and his government won’t deliver a budget surplus either; possible for ten years, should it still be in government. But, the bigger issue will be the likelihood of a recession and the resulting unemployment.

Australia has had a stunning run of good economic fortune resulting in 22 years of uninterrupted growth since the last recession in 1991. It has been brought about for two reasons. It was the Keating economic reforms of the 1980’s and 90’s coupled with the mining boom of the first decade of this century that have made us the envy of the world. The first was a master stroke of forward planning and pragmatism, the second was the rise of China as an economic power and our capacity to be ready for it. In reality, China was just a stroke of good luck. We were in the right place at the right time. But it is pretty clear the good days are over now. Unless we suddenly experience a resurgence in manufacturing or another country’s industrial expansion creates a shortage of ‘stuff’ we have in the ground, there’s not much else that we have to offer to avoid dark days ahead.

The previous Labor government saw this coming. Revenue from the mining boom was in decline.  Treasurer Wayne Swan tried to cut back on some of the Howard/Costello excesses, including the $300 private health subsidy. The then Opposition would not support that. Perhaps now, Joe Hockey wishes they had. To his credit Joe has moved to end some of the Howard/Costello vote buying excesses, but they won’t amount to much. Christopher Pine tried to contribute by flip flopping on the Gonski education reforms only to make himself and Tony Abbott look stupid. Cory Bernardi wants to cut funding to the ABC and Scott Morrison is finding new ways to persecute asylum seekers but as yet is not offering any cost savings. In the meantime we waste billions trying to keep asylum seekers from coming to our shores when economic pragmatism says managing the problem on our own shores is the better option.

The danger facing Joe Hockey now is that the government might inadvertently hasten those dark days by a savage reduction in spending without a corresponding increase in private investment from overseas. Their obsession with debt and deficit and the fear of being seen as the very architects of the economic vandalism they attribute to Labor, could result in a premature recession of their own doing. When you combine this with the closure of Ford, the likely closure of Holden, and the parlous position of Qantas, the small manufacturing businesses that these giant employers support are the ones that will take the hit. These small industries are the home of Howard’s battlers, the very people who kept the Coalition in power for 11 years. If Holden stays, it will, most likely, be as an importer, similar to Nissan. Ross Gittins in the Melbourne Sunday Age (Sun. Dec. 8) says “Hockey is right when he says retail sales, building approvals, business and consumer confidence – have improved since September. And it’s reasonable to hope this will lead to a modest improvement in consumption, home building, business investment and other aspects of the non-mining economy.”

Well, Ross might reasonably be ‘whistling dixie’ on that last suggestion but he goes on to say, “But we know there will be big falls in mining investment, which could offset most of the gain. There’s not a lot Hockey can do about that between now and then. Even infrastructure spending takes a long time to get going.”

Leaders today get elected on the basis of three-word slogans; they become the people’s choice for the time being. They use catchy little phrases to attract ignorant voters. They borrow most of them from past, equally unimpressive, leaders and have nothing original to contribute. But, we anoint them as our Prime Minister until their weaknesses surface and we look to someone else. Few can show the courage and conviction of a Paul Keating when they know what is needed, even if it costs them government. Few have sufficient intellect for that and those that do, like Keating, are generally despised for it. John Stuart Mill once wrote that not all conservatives are stupid, but most people who are stupid are conservative. That is probably because they are afraid of what they don’t know. They seek guidance at every turn and accept the time honoured practices and formulae of the past; they view such a strategy as safe. In short, they don’t know any better and don’t want to. They just want to be reassured. Conservative politicians are good at offering policies of reassurance. But that is not going to work in the present and near future economic environment.

The challenges of the near future require something of the Paul Keating brand of courage. Joe Hockey has not shown us yet, that he is up to the challenge, but if he is, he will have to cast off the conservative Coalition mindset and risk being very unpopular. His decision to block the sale of GrainCorp on the grounds that it would have been very unpopular shows that he is, thus far, not willing to do this.

John Kelly is 68, retired and lives in Melbourne. He holds a Bachelor of Communications degree majoring in Journalism and Media Relations. He is the author of four novels and one autobiography. He writes regularly on his own blog site, covering a variety of social, religious and political issues.

John Kelly

 

Marriage equality, a matter of conscience

Gay-Australia, image by Archer Magazine

Gay-Australia, image by Archer Magazine

The impetus for marriage equality has been gaining ground for quite some years. Perhaps it’s the pragmatism of most Aussies, or the sense of justice which we place as a primary value which has lead a good majority of Australians to agree that our gay and lesbian citizens should be afforded equal rights under the law – the right to marry if they should choose to do so.

Gay and lesbian couples are currently able to marry in 15 countries which include France, The Netherlands, Spain, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Denmark, Uruguay, Belgium and Argentina.

They can also wed in 13 states of the United States, and on the 17th of July this year England and Wales legalised gay marriage after Queen Elizabeth II provided the Royal Assent. As of next year, couples in England and Wales will be entitled to both civil and religious ceremonies, the latter at the discretion of individual religious organisations.

At the Federal level in Australia, the debate for and against marriage equality has been disappointing. Although former PM Gillard allowed a conscience vote on the issue, she herself voted against it reasoning that, as she did not believe in the institution of marriage per se then she could not vote in support of it. However, one might argue that although an existing discrimination does not effect oneself, is this reason enough to vote against legislation which would rectify the situation?

Tony Abbott has always treaded lightly when it comes to the issue of marriage equality, perhaps fearing that his own conservative Catholicism might have become an issue.

Some hope was given to the gay community via this interview as reported March 2010 by Crikey:

Abbott admitted to a “very poor choice of words” on 60 Minutes. Though, he told presenter Doug Pollard today: “I think blokes of my generation and upbringing do find these things a bit confronting. Anything that’s a bit different can be confronting.”

Abbott pleaded for time to, “I suppose, come to a more balanced and nuanced understanding of these things”. “Don’t hang me, please Doug, for an ill-chosen word,” he said.

“Yes, I am quite a conservative bloke. I do have a traditional background but it doesn’t mean I’m incapable of understanding the complexity of modern life.”

Gay groups have immediately welcomed Abbott’s apparent support for anti-discrimination legislation. He told Joy he was personally “not against the idea . . . in principle I would support it”.

However, what is said during an interview and Abbott’s deeds are often quite different from each other.

Additionally, what Tony Abbott says to one group of people is quite different when he has a different audience to appeal to, as by 2013 Abbott’s coming to a “more balanced and nuanced understanding” appears to have completely evaporated.

In the space of a few hours Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has called marriage equality “the fashion of the moment” to a conservative radio host and “a significant issue” to a group of reporters, leaving the LGBTI community unclear as to his position on the issue.

Tony Abbott has always made it clear that in spite of his attitude towards homosexuality being somewhat ambiguous stating that he “feels threatened by gays” while he himself has a sister who is lesbian, that he will never countenance the likelihood of any government which he leads ever supporting marriage equality.

Populism, thy name is Tony Abbott.

More than Tony Abbott’s attitude of feeling “threatened by gays” has been Abbott’s lack of intestinal fortitude when dealing with rabid homophobic Cory Bernardi.  One would have to suspect that Bernardi’s comments are more akin to Abbott’s own opinion due to Abbott’s failure to make any decisive statement concerning Bernardi’s comments. Admittedly Bernardi did resign from his position as Deputy Manager of Opposition Business 2012, but was only mildly rapped over the knuckles by Abbott.  Abbott was to describe Bernardi’s comments as ill-disciplined, nothing more.

By June 18th 2013, nothing had changed with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting:

Senator Bernardi also stood by his controversial comments last year that the “next step” after recognising same-sex marriage was to support “creepy people” who chose to have sex with animals.

“Bestiality, of course it was an extreme example, but once again it’s linked to the radical agenda of the Greens Party,” he said.

The Fairfax media unable to extract an opinion from Tony Abbott concerning Bernardi’s extreme and offensive remarks, instead interviewed Malcolm Turnbull:

Malcolm Turnbull told Sky News none of the countries around the world that had legalised same sex marriage had gone on to legalise polygamy.

‘‘And the remarks about bestiality are obviously very extreme and extremely offensive and I dissociate myself from them completely,’’ he added.

Mr Turnbull thought it ‘‘quite likely’’ that Mr Abbott would allow the Coalition a conscience vote on legalising same sex marriage in the next Parliament.

Malcolm Turnbull was clearly over-optimistic in the belief that Abbott would contemplate even the remotest of likelihoods that same-sex couples be permitted marriage equality.

On September 16th, the ACT government introduced a bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

The ACT government has a long history of advocating laws to recognise same-sex partnerships, dating back to its civil unions legislation in 2006, which was quashed by the Howard government but re-enacted last year.

”This is something that I have consistently, albeit quietly, championed,” Mr. Corbell [ACT Attorney-General] said. ”It would be something I would be very proud of if the territory were to become the first jurisdiction in the country to legislate for same-sex marriage.”

It has now been confirmed that the federal government will challenge the ACT’s same-sex marriage laws in the High Court as soon as they are passed, or as per Corbell’s statement, as soon as they become operational. Brandis has already issued a warning to gay couples against marrying under ACT’s laws.

As per Mr. Corbell’s previous prediction, George Brandis has confirmed that his government will argue against marriage equality laws on the basis of “consistency”:  that the territory’s laws are inconsistent with the Commonwealth Marriage Act. However, I suspect that the real impetus comes from Brandis’ statements suggesting that any reform is ”a threat” to the ”well-established position” that marriage laws are a Commonwealth matter. Or judging by Brandis’ previously stated opinion that “marriage is defined by custom”, that the security of this “custom” is perceived by himself as under threat.

Brandis:

Mr Deputy President, it is true that marriage is defined by law but, equally and importantly, marriage is defined by custom. In the whole history of our civilisation there has never been a time at which marriage was understood to be other than a relationship between a man and a woman.

I’m not surprised but I’m disappointed that there is a failure to acknowledge that this fundamental matter of inequality needs to be addressed.

In 1935 the “half-caste women of Broome” petitioned the WA Parliament declaring:

Sometimes we have the chance to marry a man of our own choice . . . therefore we ask for our Freedom so that when the chance comes along we can rule our lives and make ourselves true and good citizens.

Today, in 2013 we have the chance to allow our gay and lesbian citizens the same rights to marry, and for all Australians to achieve the same rights as did “the half-caste women” in 1935.

As a note: The reasoning given by Attorney-General George Brandis for his government challenging the validity of same-sex marriage rights is “inconsistency” with the Commonwealth Marriage Act. What then happens to Tony Abbott’s promise to shock-journalist Andrew Bolt to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (the section under which Bolt was convicted), thereby making federal legislation inconsistent with States’ and Territories anti-discrimination laws?

We have a battle, it seems, not just with a matter of conscience but also with a matter of consistency. Neither is making any sense. Discrimination (or populism) wins out against both.

Rope A Dope – Is Rudd Ali to Abbott’s Foreman?

Image by servatius.blogspot.com

The ‘invincible’ Ali (image by servatius.blogspot.com)

Briefly, a recap on history. Muhammad Ali was almost invincible, but he was stripped of his medal for his refusal to be conscripted into the army. He fought the decision in the courts, and – after four years – was allowed to return to the ring. The time out of the ring meant that he was past his peak, and after losing to Frazier, he eventually defeated George Foreman, regaining his heavyweight title. I won’t go through all the fights, but I want to briefly mention the “Rope-A-Dope”.

Ali taunted Foreman in the lead-up, and Foreman fought the first few rounds as though he wanted to hurt Ali. Boxing, I know, is like politics – you are meant to hurt your opponent – but this seemed personal. And for much of the fight, Ali looked beaten. He wasn’t laying a glove on his opponent and he was absorbing punches to his body, but protecting his head and face, which is the scoring area. I can’t remember if it was Round 7 or later, but Ali danced out and started to fight back. Foreman was exhausted from all the body punches. It took a few simple blows, but Foreman went down. Ali had won.

I can’t help but think about this fight in the context of the current political situation. Rudd has been resting; Abbott has been trying to knock out his opponent, but he hasn’t succeeded. Abbott may have appeared to be great while on the attack, but does he have a defence against a fresh opponent?

Yes, there are things that trouble me about Rudd – I do think that he is a “whatever it takes” sort of man – such men are dangerous. But in terms of just looking at the “match”, I feel that he is dancing round the ring while Abbott asks the referee to make him stand still. Rudd’s latest asylum seeker move is designed to appeal to a particular part of the electorate – which it will. It will, of course, annoy another part. But I suspect most of us who aren’t sure that PNG is the answer will feel that it’s Abbott who’s mainly responsible for the politicisation of the issue. Abbott’s response: It’s a good idea, but it won’t work because we’re not the ones doing it! … Strangely, I don’t see that as a vote-winner whatever you think of the issue. If you think that boats are a bigger threat to Australia than almost anything you can name, well, you probably already vote for Abbott. If you don’t, and feel that this is obscene, then Abbott hasn’t won your vote back from the Labor Party, and when allocating preferences you’ll hardly preference a Cory Bernardi type ahead of a Doug Cameron.

” Ali’s theme this fight was to hang a nickname on Frazier as he had done to many of his opponents throughout the years. The name he chose was “The Gorilla”, and he rhymed out the singsong chant “It will be a Killa and a Thrilla and a Chilla when I get The Gorilla in Manila.” while punching an action-figure sized gorilla doll. “

“Debate me,” taunts Kevin, “you’re the boxer.” Abbott insists that he won’t get in the ring with Kevin until an election is called. Perhaps, he’s worried. Or maybe he’s just saving his energy for the next round.

Will the election be called on Monday? Or is this part of the Rope-a-Dope? “Let’s keep Abbott punching to the body, wearing himself out, but doing no real damage.”

Whatever – Abbott looks tired and devoid of strategy. Rudd looks ready for the main bout!

 

Seriously Scary

Image from macrobusiness.com.au

Seriously scary (Image from macrobusiness.com.au)

As Tony Abbott’s move to the Lodge began to seem frighteningly inevitable, we started to see some serious assessments of him – not in the mainstream print or TV media of course, but in quality publications and online blogs. Thus we have David Marr’s Quarterly Essay ‘Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott’ and Waleed Aly’s ‘Inside Tony Abbott’s Mind: This is Serious’ in The Monthly, and recent blogs by Tim Dunlop on The Drum and by Brian on Larvatus Prodeo. I think  Dunlop comes the closest: Abbott is a neoliberal from the right wing of the Liberal Party. The fact that the inevitability of his victory has receded doesn’t make him any less scary.

Marr suggests that Abbott wears a mask. ‘What has been abandoned?’ he asks. ‘What is merely hidden on the road to power? What makes people so uneasy about Abbott is the sense that he is biding his time, that there is a very hard operator somewhere behind that mask, waiting for power.’ But he concludes that there is ‘Values Abbott’ and ‘Politics Abbott’ in which the Politics Abbott – that is political expediency – always wins. Aly argues that Abbott is a consistent conservative in the tradition of the British theorist of conservatism, Michael Oakeshott, meaning that he favours veneration of the established institutions of society, incremental change, and respect for the diversity of views and opinions. He argues that Abbott can separate his private Catholic principles from his public policy, and further, that ‘The urge to dismiss him underestimates him completely, both as a politician and as a thinker: Tony Abbott is a serious person.’  Brian argues that religious principles are not that easily discarded. Tim Dunlop is even more forthright:  ‘With few exceptions, Mr Abbott’s approach to policy shows that he is in thrall to the voices of wealth and privilege and that, for all his claims of conservatism, he is actually leading a party that does not believe in community.’They can’t all be right.

Abbott’s Roman Catholic convictions are well known, as is his friendship with Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, himself a right wing climate change denier. Abbott has shown his allegiance to the church line by his defence of Father John Gerard Nestor, a Catholic priest convicted of child abuse. It’s also been said that one of Abbott’s heroes is the staunchly anti-communist B. A. Santamaria, the guiding light, though apparently never a member, of the Democratic Labor Party. This made me wonder if Abbot has inherited any policy positions associated with the DLP. They were at least in theory supporters of distributism, the idea arising from Catholic social theory that both big business and big unions were to be avoided in favour of small business and small farming. It is said that Santamaria was intensely unhappy with the close association of the DLP with the Liberal Party, which he rightly saw as the political representatives of the big end of town. But it would be a stretch to see Abbott’s courting of small business – the fluoro vests, pies etc. and the talk of reducing regulation – as anything other than electoral expediency. In so far as small business has different interests to big business, there is nothing concrete in LNP policy that supports small business, whereas most of what Abbott has been doing for the last three years – like opposing plain cigarette packaging, a price on carbon and the mining tax – has been very much in the interests of big business. Of course he is against the unions, but so are all Liberals; it’s hardly his Catholic perspective. My sense is that if he thinks he can get away with pushing back on abortion rights and divorce – as in the crazy idea outlined in Battlelines that fault-based divorce could be reintroduced for those who wanted it – he would do so, but that Marr and Ali are right, though for different reasons, that he wouldn’t go to the wall for such issues of identity politics.

Ali suggests that the lesson Abbott learnt when he worked for John Hewson in 1993 was to avoid ideological statements like the Fightback! manifesto which Paul Keating so successfully demolished. I think this could actually be read as ‘don’t release your policies a year out from an election,’ rather than a repudiation of what the policies were. As Ali points out, ‘it was probably the most comprehensive neoliberal blueprint for Australia ever drawn up as policy’, including abolishing awards, ‘greatly reducing the availability of bulk billing in Medicare, abolishing payroll taxes, selling off state-owned enterprises, and giving generous tax cuts to middle and upper-middle income earners.‘ The selling off of state-owned businesses has largely been done already, but there isn’t anything in the rest of the agenda that wouldn’t sit well with Abbott.

Conservatives are supposed to defend the established institutions of society. Neoliberals, on the other hand, are happy to see such institutions fall beneath the steamroller of the free market. The family, which is an institution Abbott as a Catholic is presumably committed to defending, is one which as a neoliberal, he is prepared to abandon. Ali notes that Abbott opposed the removal of the ‘no disadvantage’ test by Howard’s Workchoices legislation, which might have slightly mitigated the effect of labour market deregulation on workers’ family lives, but he was perfectly prepared to go along with the general thrust of the policy, which was blithely uninterested in the damage it was doing to the stability of family life.

What has perhaps been overlooked by some of these commentators is the degree to which Abbott appears to be influenced by not only the tactics, but also the ideology of the American Tea Party. Ali is happy with Abbott’s approach to Opposition, saying ‘Abbott has spent a lot of time thinking about precisely what an Opposition’s job is’, and quoting approvingly his statement that ‘Oppositions are there to hold the government to account. And unless we are confident that a piece of legislation is beyond reasonable doubt in the national interest, it is our duty as the Opposition to vote it down.’ This is actually more crazy talk, because an Opposition can’t by definition vote something down. But leaving that aside, this doesn’t begin to cover the relentless negativity of Abbott’s tactics, which have operated outside parliament as much as within it – the stunts, the rallies, the abuse, the three word slogans.

These slogans are also part of the Tea Party legacy. (Don’t forget the time Cory Bernardi spent in the US learning the Tea Party model – see his Conservative Leadership Foundation.) Stop the boats, end the waste, repay the debt. These are the same issues that motivate the right wing of the Republican party – though it’s Mexicans there, not boat people.  Where else did he get the (erroneous) idea of attacking the debt ceiling? There is no reasoned debate, let alone alternative proposals. This sort of unthinking market fundamentalism is a hallmark of the Tea Party; nothing that they might learn about the reality of a situation causes them to waver from their narrow ideological path. Anti-intellectualism is an article of faith. That’s exactly the approach to public policy that Abbott demonstrates.

So what does this add up to? Abbott is not a conservative. His Catholicism is relatively unimportant in his politics. He is a neoliberal above all else. He is a calculating one, who will put electoral advantage first, but this doesn’t mean he has a particularly nuanced position. His latest effort on an emissions trading scheme – ‘it’s a market, a so-called market, in the non-delivery of an invisible substance, to no one’ – suggests that his grasp of the theory of the market economy is indeed weak – it seems he got this attempted sound bite from the Daily Telegraph, in London – but that doesn’t lessen his reliance on it. Just read Tim Dunlop’s excellent article for the details of the policies announced so far. Think of him, as Marr says, ‘waiting for power.’ Still saying Abbott is ‘a serious person’, Ali? Certainly the idea of him as Prime Minister is serious. Seriously scary.

 

Feel free to speak about whatever I want you to

Part A

In an address to the IPA titled “Freedom Wars”, Tony Abbott declared that it is his intention to repeal s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, claiming that this section of the Act impacts upon Freedom of Speech. This ideal of freedom of speech is that which we should all aspire to, however, as a friend once stated: You mean the freedom to be an asshole. We will explore this later.

The text of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) can be found via Austlii.

Section C18 of the Act, that being which Tony Abbott so vehemently opposes concerns offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin. That’s correct, it’s offensive behaviour, with the specifics being:

For an act to be unlawful it must fulfill the following criteria:

  • that the action causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; or that it is done in a public place.
  • that the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people.
  • that the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.

So let us consider that which is not considered unlawful under s18C of the Act.

It is not a group of friends in a public bar talking amongst themselves, even if the subject matter would offend and humilitate a person standing directly next to them. For example, racist jokes.

It is not public discussions for the purpose of information, education or analysis.

There is also the matter of intention plus “the reasonable person test” that is, would a reasonable person given an identical set of circumstances feel humiliated or intimidated. With regard to intent; for example a remark said in public about a person’s religion might offend that person, however if there was lack of intent on the first person’s part to cause offence, then it is not racial vilification.

Therefore, what we are dealing with is people who want the right to make statements in the public forum, and with the intention of causing offence and humiliation. Enter Andrew Bolt.

Is it nothing more than a sheer coincidence that Abbott announced his intention of changing the racial vilification section of the Racial Discrimination Act just prior to Bolt writing this one. How dare they try to censor this flyer.

Andrew Bolt:

Sadly, the ACT Government seems only too keen on the idea:

Attorney-General Simon Corbell said laws prohibiting religious vilification should be considered by a review of the act that is being conducted by the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council.

How dare these people presume to strip others of the right to speak? How dare they?

And . . . again, where Bolt once again attempts to defend freedom:

I make no comment on their opinion but on the principle.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott rightly calls the laws under which two of my articles on this matter were declared unlawful an offence against free speech, and says he will strip them back. But the Left is furious, and introduces absurd excuses for their excesses:

As reported in news.com, Mr Abbott’s speech came after he wrote in The Australian that section 18C of the act was a “threat” to freedom of speech.

“Expression or advocacy should never be unlawful merely because it is offensive,” he wrote.

All well and good, but this is where it gets strange . . .

Part B

The parties that are advocating relaxation to the freedom of speech laws, nay, hysterically demanding it, are the ones who are in reality practicing the most rabid suppression of it. They want the freedom to be an asshole whilst limiting free speech on those who hold opposing views (to them). You’ll be able to racially vilify or abuse anyone whatsoever, but you will be silenced if any form of dissent, no matter how trivial, is directed towards them.

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi provides us with a number of examples where he takes freedom of speech to mean exactly ‘freedom to be an asshole’. From his Facebook page:

His post “300 more illegal arrivals in the past three days. Labor’s border failures are costing us over $10 billion” attracted a large number of comments, mostly in support of what he said. Here are some of the responses:

I wonder how these lefties will feel when one of there family gets raped like the girl at Sydney uni by a so called legal asylum seeker. Then we have aids tripling in NT ,not to mention known terrorists being released into the community. I class left wing progressive socialists as much a threat to Australia as Islam.

Just what we need more Sudanese and samarlians they’ve settled well hear,NOT! There would have to be a very high likely hood they are connected to terrorist group alshabab,they would be the only ones with the money to get here.

Just think of all the radical muslim’s that are coming as well!

And his post “Here are some facts surrounding the convicted Egyptian jihadist living in the Adelaide Hills…and still this Government won’t admit their failure to protect our borders and our nation. For more of today’s bulletin go to CoryBernardi.com” also attracted comments of support.

Just think of all the radical muslim’s that are coming as well!

We will never know how many other terrorists, murderers or people of disrepute have come into our country because of this Gov, and it’s loss of control of our boarders. We will never know who could be walking amongst us, or what threats could be awaiting our country. This Gov, has put our country in a very vulnerable situation because it has not done it’s job of protecting our boarders !!!!!!!!!!

We should start denying entry to muslims. Make it happen Cory! Fight the good Christian fight!

One terrorist detected….thousands go undetected. Big salaries being paid for incompetence. Stop muslim migration in Australia whether it be legal or illegal. Don’t let history repeat itself.

As much as I disagree with Bernardi’s opinion, or those who support it, I have no problem with their right to express it (however some of it borders on an incitement to racial hatred and should not have been published). Now here’s where it gets funny; where the freedom to be an asshole takes precedent over freedom of speech. I left a simple comment on his page:

Could you please point out why they are illegal arrivals?

That comment was removed and I was subsequently blocked from commenting on his page again. Yes, they love freedom of speech, don’t they? They can vilify anybody who is non-white or non-Christian but but you can’t question their ‘right’ to do so.

There are a number of other examples across social media that confirm the hypocrisy of these right-wing fundamentalists. Let’s also look at Andrew Laming (a politician fond of composing racist tweets), courtesy of Michael White:

Federal Liberal MP Andrew Laming went on a trolling warpath earlier this month in regards to his perception that the National Broadband Network (NBN) was being rolled out in the Brisbane area on a politico-geographic agenda.

“The cold, hard reality in Brisbane is that households in Labor seats are eight times more likely to get the NBN than those in Coalition seats.”

“Worse, the odds are around 50 per cent better if your Labor MP is a minister. This is a save-the-political-furniture strategy. They are not targeting marginal seats here. They are just trying to survive.”

Of course, there are many reasons why his position was completely wrong, as I highlighted in my article last week on how the Coalition – (deliberately or otherwise) – manage to get their facts on the NBN completely wrong.

Constantly.

At the time of his rant – (spread throughout the media over several days) – myself, @CameronWatt and @Gwyntaglaw engaged in a terse dialogue on Twitter with Laming, pointing out clear, well documented facts in regards to the NBN and its rollout schedule, that were contrary to Laming’s own beliefs on the matter.

He ably demonstrated his inability to grasp even the basic concepts of how the NBN works, how it connects together, and how technical matters – (in most cases) – dictate which parts of the network are rolled out first.

He clearly didn’t like being shown up as being wrong about it.

In fact, he hated it.

How much did he hate it? Well, he blocked me on Twitter, a fact I discovered when putting together the aforementioned article last week.

They really do get precious about freedom of speech when it’s not engaged under their rules. They raise their preciousness to the point of being ridiculous. Here is one that definitely ranks as ridiculous:

Andrew Nikolic, a Liberal Party candidate in Tasmania has threatened to contact the employers of Facebook users who “liked” a satirical article posted about him online.

Mr Nikolic informed the New Examiner last week that if the offending article was not taken down he would write to the employers of all the individuals who had “liked” the story.

“I hope the employers and influencers of your satirical group will be amused by the formal letters of complaint I will now send them on this issue,” wrote Mr Nikolic in a Facebook comment that has since been deleted.

Joe Hockey is another who denies free speech to those who have any semblence of opinions that differ from his own.

Yesterday I discovered that Joe Hockey had called me a troll and blocked me on twitter.  My dastardly crime that had caused Joe Hockey to call me a Labor Troll was the reposting of one of his own tweets.

I will say that again, my trollish crime was re-posting one of Joe Hockey’s own tweets.

Oh dear Joe Hockey, Oh deary dear. Is this what our politicians have come to? Reduced to name calling and public hissy fits because a member of the public questions their own words.

It was your own words I was responding to Joe, not Labors words, not a PR piece or a smear campaign designed to discredit you, but your own words, Joe Hockey.

Now go back and read Part A again. Do you see two parallel worlds?

If time permits, also do a Google search and you’ll find dozens of instances where Coalition politicians have blocked people for exercising their freedom of speech; for reasons none other than having a different opinion. It really is a case of freedom to be an asshole. You can vilify, say, Aborigines or Muslims in their brave new world, but you can’t ask them to justify it.

Their reaction to the few examples I’ve revealed in Part B certainly do make their intentions in Part A  nothing but Freedom of speech LNP style: Feel free to speak about whatever I want you to.

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