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Now the blame game

By Ad astra    

Do you, like me, bristle as you hear the political class playing the blame game?

Seldom have we been so inundated with such a plethora of reports, inquiries, Royal Commissions and sundry investigations into past blunders. The Ruby Princess episode springs to mind, but there are many others. They all have something in common. They address the same question: ‘What happened?’ The oft-repeated rationale for the question is that we need to know this so that we can avoid it happening again. That is nonsense. What has happened is usually patently obvious to anyone reading the report of the event, and how to avoid a recurrence equally obvious. While how to avoid a repetition sounds a reasonable aim, the actual motivation is to apportion blame.

The political class revels in the blame game. It is another form of adversarial behaviour masquerading as legitimate discourse. We wrote about this in Is adversarial behaviour damaging our democracy?

As soon as a report is released, politicians do not ask how ‘How did we mess up so badly’. Instead, they first seek to find someone or some body to blame. They usually begin by asserting: ‘It wasn’t us’. Political opponents are then targeted with vigour. Even-handedness in apportioning blame is not an option. Scoring political points and damaging the reputation of opponents, is all that counts.

We are surprised when a politician concedes an error; we expect that such a concession will be accompanied by ‘Our opponents did the same’. When a minister makes a blunder, no matter how monumental, colleagues spring to his defence. We saw this recently when minister Colbeck showed his ineptitude so starkly. Yet he was defended by his colleagues and his spineless ‘leader’ did not sack him, as he should have.

I won’t burden you with a long recital of examples of the blame game. Just think of Donald Trump.

When did you ever hear him accept blame for anything?

When challenged with America’s surging unemployment, he insists that, rather than being to blame, he is tackling it with outstanding success. When challenged with America’s faltering economy, he not only refuses to accept blame, but asserts that it is booming as never before due to his superior management.

When asked about the wild spread of COVID-19, he insists he’s not to blame, refuses to accept that his unpreparedness is responsible and even disputes the extent of the epidemic in the US, and the hundreds of thousands of deaths that have already occurred. Who will forget the interview he had with aspiring journalist Jonathan Swan, who challenged him so stylishly with a set of uncomfortable facts that laid the blame at his feet. He was not about to accept Swan’s assertions; he had alternative facts of his own, which he lamely offered on pieces of paper. When Swan retorted: ‘You can’t do that’, Trump looked astonished. In his world, he can do or assert whatever he likes.

In our own country the blame game is in full swing. Who is to blame from the spread of the virus in Victoria? Dan Andrews is the prime target of his opponents, but the ‘bungled’ hotel security arrangements comes a close second; again Chairman Dan the culprit. Opposition leader O’Brien has his daily whinge about Andrews’ ‘bungles’, laying the blame heavily on the Premier for anything that is not going well.

Do politicians realise how much voters despise them when they play the blame game? They seem oblivious to the disdain they attract, as they do in so many other instances. They live in their Canberra bubble disconnected from the real world outside. They are elected to understand the issues that affect us and the problems that beset us, yet how often do they offer us understanding, comfort, reassurance and advice. They let us down collectively, and often individually as well.

When politicians play the blame game, they demean themselves. Yet they seem oblivious to the harm they do to the political class, and the disdain they evoke. Will they ever wake up? I doubt it.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Tony Abbott still makes me feel sick in the pit of my stomach

1 Sir Robert Menzies and Tony Abbott remain the only two Prime Ministers who one could argue were more British than the British.

Menzies adoration of The Queen was so over the top as to be an embarrassment. Abbott’s love for the Monarchy showed up when he championed its side during the 2019 referendum.

Now we find that Abbott, who was so despised as Australian Prime Minister, that his colleagues got rid of him. Then to make matters worse his constituents voted him out of his seat.

My view of him when he was elected Prime Minister in 2013 was this:

Has Australia ever so blindly elected a man so negatively characterless?

So ignorant of truth and transparency.

So willing to endorse and foster inequality,

So insensitive to those who cannot help themselves.

So illiterate of technology and science.

So oblivious to the needs of women and the aged.

So inept at policy formation and its implementation,

So prone to the language of absurdity.

So pugnacious so confrontational, so self-righteous, in his attitude toward others.

So dismissive of those wanting equality and so out of touch with a modern pluralist society.

A man so unsophisticated in deep wordily acumen or discernment, yet so religiously motivated.

Yet here he bobs up, being proposed as a British trade envoy to do all the necessary Brexit trade deals.

Tony Abbott as a British trade envoy is not quite comedy but it will do for a serious giggle.

If all they expect of him is the repetitious shaking of hands and gratis smiles at garden parties then he is probably their man.

I expect that the job would demand all the attributes of a leader he never showed as Australia’s number one man.

In that role he was about as useless as an ashtray on a motor bike.

Of course, he was born in England in 1957 and later attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. So draped, was he in his Englishness, that he even, as prime minister, gave the Duke of Edinburgh an Australian knighthood.

The sheilas and blokes of good old Oz were completely gobsmacked with the decision, at the time, and demanded he get a new manager. He has been handling himself for far to0 long was the word from the main bar at Young & Jackson.

Nobody could see what services the Prince had done for us that might justify us giving the wanka a title that we couldn’t receive ourselves. I hope that makes sense.

Well unless you were still a British citizen, you were still eligible for a knighthood. Perhaps a discreet meeting had taken place with Sir Lynton Crosby. Do you get my drift?

There is nothing in Abbott’s background that suggests he is remotely qualified for this job. I mean, one wouldn’t dare put the mother country through such an ordeal.

The UK’s shadow trade secretary, Emily Thornberry was aghast at the appointment, saying:

“I just find this appointment absolutely staggering,” Thornberry said. “On a personal level, I am disgusted that Boris Johnson thinks this offensive, leering, cantankerous, climate change-denying, Trump-worshipping misogynist is the right person to represent our country overseas.”



In fresh news The Guardian reports that Abbott had admitted that in signing trade deals while he was Prime Minister he never allowed himself to become “side-tracked by peripheral issues such as labour and environmental standards.”

Which is of course in direct opposition to Boris Johnson’s insistence that “workers’ rights and environmental standards would be maintained once Britain leaves the single market and customs union.”

Just to finish off the former Prime Minister put the throttle down. In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank he said that the economic cost of lockdowns meant families should be allowed to consider letting elderly relatives with the coronavirus die by letting nature take its course.

“Letting nature take its course.” Those words make me feel sick in the labyrinth of my guts.

Abbott claimed it was costing the Australian government as much as $200,000 (£110,000) to give an elderly person an extra year’s life, substantially beyond what governments would usually pay for life-saving drugs.

Abbott said not enough politicians were “thinking like health economists trained to pose uncomfortable questions about the level of deaths we might have to live with.”

That the man could have been a priest is beyond my physical and mental capacity to cope with as I try to manage my way through this crisis.

This conservative thinking of money before lives makes … me want to vomit.

But Abbott’s proposed appointment hasn’t been the only controversy of late.

2 Last Monday, in a bid to redirect attention from the economic bad news he is about to deliver, the treasurer chucked the greatest political hissy-fit since Pauline Hanson objected to vaccinations.

“The biggest policy failure in living memory” so said the Australian Treasurer referring to Victoria’s perceived lack of a COVID-19 plan.

That is the greatest load of hogwash l have ever heard. Menzies got us involved in Vietnam. It cost our country 500 young lives and millions of dollars. Then there was Iraq.

That’s what I call policy failures.

3 Unless there is something I’m missing, I fail to understand all the goings on about Facebook and free news.

It seems to me that If I share something from a Murdoch newspaper on Facebook is it news or free advertising? A link to the newspaper ensures that you are directed away from Facebook to the newspaper in question.

Perhaps they should be paying Facebook. What am I missing?

4 Now let me move onto that never-ending question as to when we might get an anti-corruption bill. Well on Tuesday Paddy Manning wrote in The Monthly that Helen Haines, the independent member for the regional Victorian seat of Indi, put two new bills on notice in the lower house: the Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill 2020 and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Standards Bill 2020.

It is said that the decisions our politicians make now and upon the ending of this pandemic will shape our future for decades to come.

Therefore, we must rise to the occasion and install an integrity commission. After two years it is obvious the government has no intention of doing so.

I wish the Member for Indi all the very best.

My thought for the day

I find it impossible to imagine that the Australian people could be so gullible as to elect for a third term a government that performed so miserably in the first two and has amongst its members some of the most devious, suspicious, cruel and corrupt men and women… but they did.

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Let our old folk die? Abbott sets the tone for a cruel and heartless government’s next act.

“We haven’t got everything perfectly right … we continue to learn from the experiences of previous events”.

Richard Colbeck appears as this week’s poster-boy for the Morrison government of cruelty and neglect. Yet in a blink of an eye, he is eclipsed by Tony Abbott, a fellow colossus of incompetence who thoughtfully syndicates his timely advocacy of gerontocide to every paper in the land. But first to Dick.

Nearly a fortnight after displaying total incompetence, if not criminal neglect of his duty of care, former carpenter and onetime professional pokies’ lobbyist, Dick Colbeck has yet to toss in his claw as Aged Care Minister. Imagine if he were a Labor Minister. There’d be rallies in Canberra; demands to “ditch the Dick”.

While the PM bangs on about his invisible COVID plan for protecting us from the truth about his aged care debacle, discovery learning is all the go, insists Minister for Aged Care and enabler of elder abuse, Dick Colbeck, after freezing like a bunny in the headlights of a senate Covid-19 Committee inquiry 21 August.

How many aged care residents have died of coronavirus? Chair, Katy Gallagher asks. Incredulous. How many have coronavirus? Dick doesn’t know that, either.

“You don’t know how many people have passed away. You’re now telling me you don’t know how many people have the infection?” “… you’re the minister for Aged Care.”

Completely rattled; as bonkers as a Belgian Hare, bunny Colbeck swears he has the figure with him; just not in front of him. It’s a bravura display of abject ineptitude that rivals that of rolled gold Liberal dud, the recently anointed UK trade envoy and now de facto aged care spokesperson, Tony Abbott.

Abbott, too, was habitually ill-prepared. As Howard government Health Minister, 2003-7 he is described by Nikki Savva as attending meetings without reading his briefing papers. Indulged by a PM. who increased government subsidies to private health insurance corporations while exploiting a minister more interested in politicking than policy, he was a stooge to help keep health out of the news.

The greater truth, however, is that Colbeck’s now very reduced ministry is a poisoned chalice, offered him only by a PM who needed to ensure that there was at least one Tassie with a portfolio in his government. Dick was the least worst pick.

Now it’s all backfired. The ongoing dumpster fire that is Richard Colbeck’s continued tenure exposes new depths in the Morrison government’s signature evasion of responsibility. It shuns its moral and legal responsibility for senior citizens? It parades its irresponsibility. Is it a calculated slight or just more evidence of endemic corruption and incompetence? Hundreds of grief-stricken families mourn their loved ones.

The minister’s subsequent efforts to put things right include storming out of the senate and walking out of pressers. Theatrical? That’s the plan. He’s a walking advertisement for the Morrison take on Ministerial responsibility. Luckily, Colbeck is part of a government in which accountability is a dirty word.

Dick’s incredible run of luck continues, as does the misery of our lucky country’s pensioners, especially younger Australians, who must not only suffer cruelly inadequate payments but endure the predation of a parasitic job provider network. In 1998, a Howard government invented an Orwellian unemployment industry in which Jobactive job “provider” spivs profit from government subsidies at the cost of robbing job seekers of their dignity and sense of self-worth. With the pandemic, business is booming.

Rick Morton reports that the Jobactive caseload has more than doubled to 1.4 million people – up from 630,000 in February – while mutual obligations for job seekers were temporarily suspended because of the virus. If they have more clients on their books, however, there are also vastly fewer jobs.

Newcastle University Economics Professor, Bill Mitchell delineates the abuse even before COVID-19.

“There’s a whole industry of punishment and coercion and monitoring of the unemployed when there’s not enough jobs anyway.” 

Then there’s the systemic cruelty which is the “aged care sector”, where a generation of unique and wonderful individuals gifted the wisdom of experience, who have devoted their lives to others, is dehumanised; reduced into a buzzword “sector”.

How good is the jargon of economics? Here it helps ensure our elders suffer an old age of abuse, neglect. Similarly, so many are destined for the scrap heap of aged care facilities – not “nursing homes” – for the latter term implies that a nurse is on the payroll.

Our elders are not a priceless living treasures to whom we owe at least a duty of care, but a burden on society – Liberal Party neoliberal attention-seeker; suppository of all wisdom, Tony Abbott reminds us today.

Abbott, bravely speaks from the safe distance of the Policy Exchange, a murky Tory NeoCon think tank, located in London and linked to former Conservative PM and Brexit genius, David Cameron. Policy Exchange comes 27th or bottom of the list for transparency in Transparify’s UK Think Tank Transparency report 2016. Kensington Wine Bar buff and Timor cabinet bugger, Alex Downer is chair of its trustees.

Abbott slams community lockdowns as Covid “health dictatorships”. It’s a chance to sink the slipper into Victorian Premier Dan Andrews’ for his “extraordinary ineptitude”, the only field in which the former PM is a world leader, in the orchestrated pile-on-shit storm that is the Morrison government’s answer to the pandemic. Dictator Dan is a character in lurid News Corp fictions that regularly slander the Labor leader.

For Abbott, the economic cost of lockdowns means families should be allowed to consider letting elderly relatives with the coronavirus die by letting nature take its course. He claims it costs federal government up to $200,000 to give an elderly person an extra year’s life, substantially beyond what governments would usually pay for life-saving drugs. Boris Johnson who has recovered from COVID-19 only thanks to intensive, expensive medical intervention should be personally, vastly cheered.

Abbott is on to something, however. In 2019, the OECD Pensions at a Glance 2019 report indicates that poverty rates for age pensioners in Australia are very high at 23%, a full ten percentage points above the OECD average. And if you are old or unemployed – or both, it’s all your own fault. At least that’s the dominant narrative subtext in the News Corp-led claque that is Australia’s mainstream media.

Why waste resources on the improvident elderly? They are lucky to get a Minister to represent them at all – although the aged care minister is in the outer cabinet which means he is seen and not heard.

Of course, even in a Morrison government, Dick Colbert is lucky to keep his job. Yet he’s led a charmed life as a politician. Good fortune, surely, is the main feature of this nonentity’s rise to office.The only feature?

Astonishingly, against all odds, Dick won top spot on the Tassie senate ticket in 2019, determined by a trim panel of only sixty-seven selectors. Colbeck’s elevation was helped by personal testimonials from Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and other “high profile” Liberals; paragons of selfless generosity and integrity.

Mathias Cormann, Marise Payne and Noddy Birmingham also backed the little Tassie battler and not just because Shouty McShoutface Morrison told them to. No wonder Colbeck has yet to be asked to resign.

And why should he? Since when is not giving a stuff about knowing stuff all about your job a hanging offence in a Morrison government? It’s all part of the Roadmap™ Out.

Why, Alan Tudge jumped at the chance to help out in a portfolio well beyond his ken. Big Al was only too happy to step up from spruiking a (gravel) rash of shovel-ready projects in Population, Cities and Urban infrastructure to nurse Dave Coleman’s babies in Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs.

Cuddly Tudgie is all heart; the gift that keeps on giving. Stop Press. His website list of press releases and pork barrels details yet another “shovel-ready” Gold Coast roundabout project; a 10.7 million upgrade on one of the coast’s busiest intersections that will “spark” thirty four “city jobs”. Seriously.

Unless it’s a magic roundabout – eternally under construction, the average punter will be lucky to get some short-term casual labouring out of it. But the optics are there. Local MP, Federal Member for blue-ribbon Fadden, Savvy Stuart Robert is rapt. He can spot a good deal. Even the odd gold Rolex or two.

“The upgrade will benefit cyclists and pedestrians as well as motorists”, Morrison’s prayer-mate Roberts points out. Who would have thought? Crikey. No skate-boarders or roller bladers? Perhaps that will be the guts of a subsequent press release. But that’s the Morrison government through and through: no policies, just wall to wall announceables a sort of game of mates meets friends with benefits.

Big Al’s baby-sitting will further endear him to a nation forever grateful to his work as Human Services Minister three years ago. Benefit? In 2017, Al defined poverty out of existence. Who can forget Tudge’s tough love; his selfless determination to stem welfare payments and government services to the poor?

“Just continuing to put more and more government services into places, be they Aboriginal communities or not, and continuing to increase welfare payments, isn’t going to be the solution to the problems which exist in many dysfunctional locations today,” an utterly functional Tudge argues.

Big Al wants us to focus instead on his “pathways to poverty” – such evils as welfare dependency, drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown and poor education standards. Admit it. Your poverty is your own fault.

And dole bludgers are actually richer than you think. He’s done the Maths. We should not be measuring poverty against a nation’s average household earnings, he contends. We should look instead at “absolute deprivation” – which is not being able to afford the basics, food, schooling, shelter.

By Tudge’s magic formula, the poor are 10 percent better off today than thirty years ago -in the golden years of The Silver Bodgie, the late Bob Hawke’s neoliberal nirvana. Doubtless, Tudge’s insights will vastly comfort all those Australians who find themselves booted off Job-Seeker come 31 December.

On JobKeeper? Toughen up buttercup. From September 28, your payment will fall to $1,200 a fortnight, followed by a further drop on 1 January 2021 to $1,000. But that’s only if you were lucky enough to be in the minority of workers on at least twenty hours a week before JobKeeper was introduced.

If, as is most likely, you are just a lucky part-timer, then your payment will be slashed in half to $750 a fortnight from the end of September. Three months later, it drops to $650 a fortnight. Happy New Year.

All extensions will expire on March 28, 2021. But you’ll be too busy to notice applying for jobs all day.

2021 will usher in a new round of the circus of mutual obligation (a theatre of cruelty in which you are forced to apply for jobs that don’t suit you that you know you’ll never get). Applications take time and money – not to mention the incalculable cost of being bullied by your parasitical job provider, always dead keen to collect lush government subsidies. And the Morrison government’s made it a whole lot easier for them.

“As the rest of the country descended into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the government made it easier for these agencies, known as Jobactive providers, to claim bonus “outcome” payments, fees and other rewards for the work of “servicing” the unemployed”, observes Rick Morton in the latest edition of The Saturday Paper.

Private job agencies have banked at least $500 million, reckons Rick from his reading of the government’s own data and payment schedules. The federal government has even paid agencies for workers who kept their jobs after its JobKeeper scheme was announced – at least according to one document.

“An Outcome may be payable where an Outcome was already tracking for a participant who moves onto the JobKeeper Payment through their previous employer or applies for/receives JobSeeker Payment initially then moves onto the JobKeeper Payment through their previous employer,” the government’s helpful guidance document explains – allowing job providers to double-dip.

But credit where it is due. Where would we be today without John Howard’s privatisation of employment services? And where would Sarina Russo be? Liberal Party pal and uncrowned “job queen” Russo’s modest empire includes Sarina Russo Job Access, Sarina Russo Apprenticeships, Sarina Russo Institute, Russo Business School, Sarina Russo White House and Sarina Russo Recruitment.

With $100 million, reputedly in personal wealth, Russo’s a Liberal Party’s mega-donor. Her companies have banked $2 billion worth of government contracts since 2006. Her most recent contract struck under the brief, ill-fated Abbott-Credlin duumvirate amounts to a cool $606 million. It expires in 2022.

Job providers such as Russo are clearly attuned to the day to day realities of job-seekers. In touch. The cost of getting to interviews comes atop rising supermarket and utility prices  – while jobseekers get by on thirty-eight dollars a day. New research from the ANU estimates that while half a million fewer Australians live below the poverty line, 2.2 million will be added when coronavirus supplements cease.

3.8 million of our population will be thrown into poverty. If we don’t allow for accommodation. Using an ‘After-housing’ version of poverty, the 3 million becomes 5.8 million people. How will they cope? In the nineteenth century, Australia was feted as the working man’s paradise. What have we become?

Adding insult to inhumanity, JobKeeper 2.0, the new poor law, is passed by the lamest excuse for parliament we have ever experienced. As Michelle Grattan reports, under rules agreed for the current sitting fortnight, MPs can participate in parliament remotely and ask questions and speak but cannot vote. Who exactly does get to attend and vote is neither transparent nor democratic. Many Victorian MPs, for example, are locked down in the garden state. Even barking Barnaby Joyce is not happy.

“No disease in 2020 should interfere in your parliamentary democratic rights. Parliament in a half-life is not a parliament, it is merely a rather large building, kind of a new age palace in Canberra.”

Barnaby bullshits on about how New England doesn’t get represented if a vote is taken and he’s not present in the chamber. A glance at his voting record doesn’t help his case. His weatherboard and iron constituents, the growing rural and regional poor would be shocked to discover Joyce sides with big business and mining and against the worker.

If they give a stuff.

Joyce’s base is more inspired by the way he harvests their resentment at the way the cards seem stacked against them and how he gives them someone to blame; scapegoats the latte-sipping urban guerrillas, The Greens or an out of touch Labor.

(Morrison makes a similar play for his tradies who enjoy material success but are press-ganged into his anti-academic, anti-Arts and humanities philistine Team Ocker.)

Joyce exploits his notoriety, like Morrison’s mentor Trump. A perverse logic is at work. How he votes in parliament matters less than his performances. His schtick. The more erratic, outspoken or eccentric his behaviour, the more his fans’ faith in his independence is confirmed. Supporters like to think “that he’s a maverick”.

Local store owner Andrew Coventry is on to something. “Australians in general love an underdog. They love a local boy story. We kind of fall a little bit for that larrikin, or a villain. A lot of people up here feel he has been hardly done by – by the media and maybe crucified a little bit.”

Joyce, of course, who, like Morrison, is only in politics for himself, is actively undermining the PM’s sock puppet, the underwhelming Michael McCormack, nominal Nationals leader, whose charisma bypass and a secret agreement helps keep Liberals in power and is part of a type of a brazen gerrymander.

Where Joyce’s complaint really breaks down is on not being represented. A major indictment of our political system is how much the Nationals are over-represented. In 2019 they gained only 7.5 per cent of the vote, but this entitles them to 10.6 percent of the members of the house of representatives.

In total, the Nats boast 21 members and senators, six ministers and two assistants in portfolios vital to regional and rural Australia. The Greens, on the other hand, won 10.4 per cent of the vote but have only one member of the house of representatives (0.65 per cent of members) and nine senators.

Doubtless Scotty would love Joyce to resign. But you don’t even have to turn up for work to keep your job in a Morrison government. Granted there are extenuating circumstances but David Coleman fell ill last December. He’s granted indefinite sick leave: his PM can’t face another by election. Similarly, even miracle Morrison can’t find another patsy to tend Aged Care. Or can’t be faffed. Besides, dynamic Dick is doing a sensational job as Minister, Belgian shepherd, Matthias Cormann assures us.

“I am sure that he regrets not having had that number at his fingertips. I am sure he does,” Cormann, archly tells Canberra’s press-gang, hosing down the senator’s complete and utter cock-up. Or perhaps not. Coach Morrison has taken Dickie’s whistle off him. Colbert can’t blow up any emergency measures.

Similarly, back in African gangland, after sensational revelations of his leading role in branch-stacking for Victorian Liberals in search of a more Mormon Victorian party, Assistant Treasurer, Michael Sukkar is off Scott-free, while in a desperate bid to bury a Turnbull dud, Spud Dutton is being chipped sideways and consigned into the death-in-life of Minister for Defence, a sinecure which will be revamped to include Abbott and Morrison’s Village People paramilitary, Border Force, so there’s no hint of demotion.

Not in pay, anyway. Pete still has to help service the considerable outgoings on his multi-million dollar property portfolio built in part thanks to government subsidies to Queensland childcare centres. Dutton remained in cabinet meetings where childcare was discussed.

But, look over there. Victoria is ruining the economy. Yes it’s time to play the Dan not the ball. Remember that recession we had to have?  Paul Keating, November 1990?

Turns out we never had it. Technically. Revised ABS data for the June 1990 quarter show Australia economy grew by 0.1 per cent. Two consecutive quarters of negative growth never happened. Yet now, even work experience boy, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg admits that after a 0.3 per cent contraction in ABS March quarter growth figures, recession is inevitable. That’s why he’s attacking Dan Andrews.

Frydenberg fears Wednesday’s National Accounts show a seven per cent decline in economic activity.  Is that a recession or a depression? Newspoll’s no help. Its latest dodgy estimate suggests a 50 – 50 tie between Labor and Coalition. Morrison’s approval rate dips seven points to a net approval of +32

Naturally, in a government of duck and weave and spin, the recession we can’t avoid has nothing to do with the federal government’s failure to manage to economy. It’s The Coronavirus Recession. And it’s all Dan Andrews’ fault because instead of his lockdowns. After all, “letting her rip” has worked so well in the UK or the US which recorded 93.2 deaths per million in August — or more than 30,400 in one month.

While we recorded two deaths in June and 93 in July (3.6 per million), Australia’s August tally represents 455 (17.8 per million). Australia ranks 42nd out of the 54 highly developed countries on deaths per million in August.

Today, rising underemployment and falling private sector business investment are but two sure signs that we are in recession, a recession we did not have to have – if only Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments knew anything about economic management.

Or ever listened to expert advice.

A profound collapse in work available and hours worked in the economy can be blamed on ‘Rona. So, too with the big dip in private investment. The construction slump.

Granted, the coronavirus with its widespread disruption to all forms of economic activity globally brings its own deep malaise. Add to this its many risks to our mental health, not to mention corona mania, a type of group madness; a folie a foule, evident in the behaviour of many of our elected representatives.

Yet we enter a recession the pandemic has made worse. Hungarian Josh Frydenberg and his shysters need something to hide behind as the stench from assistant-Treasurer Mick Sukkar’s branch-stacking spree threatens to get into everything while weekend wok-botherer, Pappadum Morrison posts selfies of himself concocting another hokey, home-spun ScoMo self-promo with a Sri Lankan curry.

Or so he says. Catch it on Linked-In where our fearless leader describes himself as an “influencer”. Tell that to Malcolm Turnbull. Or Michael Towke, victim of a Daily Telegraph smear campaign from whom Scotty stole preselection in Cook in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire in 2007.

Dan’s the plan, as Paddy Manning observes, for the non-wok, workaday week. Morrison’s shit-can Dan campaign turns even dirtier, Monday, as the work experience federal treasurer accuses the Victorian Premier not only of wrecking the nation’s economy with his reckless disregard for disrupting the profiteering of our banking and commerce oligopolies but not having a roadmap out.

No Melways. No Google street view? Not even a trail of stale focaccia bread crumbs?

Look over there. Dan Andrews has wrecked everything. His pandemic lockdowns represent “… the biggest public policy failure by a state government in living memory”.

Wednesday, the Herald Sun prints its Morrison government press drop.

The Australian economy has officially entered into a recession with the latest national accounts figures confirming the worst contraction since the Second World War.

Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell 7 per cent for the June quarter, revealing the financial wounds inflicted upon the economy from the initial lockdown sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

This is no time to be cutting the spending power of the most vulnerable, as Greg Jericho notes. Can’t afford it? Nonsense. Can’t afford not to keep it going.

Nor should we abandon our senior citizens to the vagaries of the property investors’ marketplace. Yet it’s odds on that more austerity budgeting is on the cards. And while there is no doubt that pandemic has played havoc with our capacity to continue business as usual, there is no question that the failure of government policy meant that the economy was tanking well before the pandemic erupted.

This may be a recession we couldn’t avoid but neoliberal Coalition economic policy has done almost everything to invite. Even its stimulus package will be cut short. And Morrison’s junta, his COVID-19 committee of mining industry executives’ talk about a gas-led recovery is dangerous nonsense. In the meantime, expect the war on Dan Andrews to reach fever pitch. To say nothing of our cold war on our biggest trading partner.

As Richard Colbeck almost said, “We haven’t got everything perfectly right … we continue to learn (almost nothing) from the experiences of previous events.”

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The traits of right-wing extremism

By Kathryn

There is so much hatred and violence in an ever-increasingly right-wing world mismanaged by totally corrupt, self-serving, profit-obsessed sociopaths like Donald Trump (USA), aided and abetted by the likes of Scott Morrison (Australia) and Johnson (UK); all of whom love to ramp up hate-speech, encourage turmoil and public disobedience (when it benefits them) and remain silent – even acquiescent – when their fascist police force start brutalising black people, or when minorities are victimised at the hands of right-wing white supremacists!

This is the type of thing happens – inevitably – following the rising amount of hate speech, intolerance, division and victimisation of vulnerable people and minorities under ultra conservative, right-wing extremism.

Right-wing extremists are, truly, the most dangerous and hateful of all forms of political leaders. Add the fact that so many of them are bible-thumping hypocrites into the bargain and it makes them even more offensive!

It doesn’t take much before the worst of them quickly degenerate into power-obsessive fascism, pushing through terrifying policies that whittle away the democratic freedoms of others to protest, to voice their condemnation of the stone cold neo-liberalism that thrives during their tyrannical mismanagement, the escalating nepotism, the increasing lies and staggering waste and misuse of taxpayer funds, the never-ending expenditure on war and weapons of war at the expense of the poor, the disadvantaged and their never-ending attacks and defundment of State education and health care.

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Hitler and Mussolini are examples of what can happen when right-wing extremism goes horribly wrong – doesn’t take much before it slides into fascism! Right now, we have this form of right-wing terrorism in Brazil under the fascist jackboot of Jair Bolsonaro. The fact that Trump has an increasingly similar style of megalomaniacal, narcissistic sociopathy cannot be ignored!



The contemptuous arrogance, the despicable declarations of “fake news”, the stubborn refusal to take any responsibility for their appalling recklessness, the increasing incidences of self-serving rorting of taxpayer-funds and blatant corruption that goes on and on without consequence, their total lack of foresight and zero integrity, the absolute determination to rule at any cost no matter how low they have to stoop to maintain their power – all of this is the common thread that seems to bind right-wing extremists around the world.

The only thing useless, non-achieving right-wing parasites are adept at is playing the relentless blame game of anyone and everyone for their own catastrophic ineptitude. Trump goes on and on and on blaming Obama (who was the best President the USA ever had); the lying, conniving LNP (in Australia) never stop blaming everyone but themselves – particularly the Labor government who have not been in government for over seven years; Boris Johnson and the smug Tories never seem to tire of pointing a finger at left-wing or environmentally-aware politicians in the UK (and around the world). The fact that these ruthless, ultra-conservative despots also have a tendency to take over and influence the media is a red flag warning as to their total disregard for our democracy and their contempt for our right to impartiality of the media! In Australia, we have the LNP forming a notorious – and totally undemocratic – alliance with Rupert Murdoch and his IPA (the Institute of Public Affairs). The IPA are a group of self-serving, unelected, multi-millionaire corporate predators who have undue, enormous influence and control over conservative politicians in the LNP in order to promote and encourage policies that will enrich and empower themselves at the expense of ordinary Australians.

The horrendous and unspeakable evil alliance the LNP have formed with the malevolent, non-Australian media overlord, Rupert Murdoch, has done so much damage to our democracy, freedom of the press and factual, fair reporting of our media – it is an unfolding tragedy. Ever since the disreputable John Howard changed the rules that once prohibited a single entity owning a huge majority of our media, Murdoch’s influence – and, by association – the influence of the LNP/IPA Alliance, has infiltrated, influenced and manipulated more than 70% of Australia’s media making it one of the most biased and contaminated forms of media in the free world.

Murdoch is now widely regarded throughout Australia as the totally biased Propaganda Minister to the LNP, doing everything they can to character-assassinate, denigrate and ridicule any opposition to the LNP/Murdoch/IPA Alliance of mutually benefiting multi-millionaire corporate predators. It is right-wing degeneracy at its worst!

Tragically, the above-named ‘traits’ are the modus operandi; what we now know to be the standard procedure of malevolent, self-obsessed, right-wing megalomaniacs who, once seizing power (through fair means and foul), hang on to it with bloodstained fingers, using their political power to openly favour their billionaire corporate donors over everyone else to ensure that they push through cruel, capitalistic policies that will vastly enhance their own personal wealth and power (and the wealth and power of their obscenely wealthy and powerful cronies).

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Being treated as pariahs – challenging the mental health of Victorians!

By Leonie Saunders  

Human beings are a social species. We are hard-wired to social interaction, cooperation and reciprocity. It is elemental to maintaining our mental health and our survival as a species.

As a Victorian, enduring the isolation of lockdown has so many challenges including keeping one’s mental health in check. This is particularly relevant given the uncharitable provincialism expressed daily on the mainstream media by the premiers of Queensland, N.S.W. et al. People living alone having to cope with with isolation is one thing, but trying daily not to internalise the fact that we Victorians are being treated as pariahs, alienated from our families due to imaginary lines on a map exposes the chinks in the armour of our Federation.

Unfortunately, Victorians in lockdown are captive to news reported by callow journalists employed to deliver news on the cheap by the owners of this country’s mainstream news media outlets. And if that isn’t bad enough, there is the pitiable reporting coming from the ABC’s News 24 department that construes balanced journalism as employing right-wing talking heads reporting news with a clear Liberal bias.

As it stands now, other than turning off the news completely, it is impossible to ignore the unchallenged snide comments and finger pointing emanating from Sydney’s other lethal spider, Scott Morrison.

It is much to my chagrin that press gallery journalists do not hold power to account. Perhaps it’s all in the name, because even in the face of obvious government corruption, they consistently allow Morrison to get off scot free.

Seeing the Prime Minister smirk in to the camera as he, without any compunction whatsoever, shoves the buck for his government’s failures safeguarding the health and well-being of the elderly on to the Victorian government is infuriating. Then on top of that trying to cope mentally with the sickening parochialism coming from the other State Premiers; the worst being Annastacia Palaszczuk. The disparaging subtext contained in their comments makes it more than evident to Victorians that contrary to the “we are all in this together” spin. We know that Australians are not all in this together.

On any assessment, it is the epitome of bloody-minded cynicism that with an election imminent, Palaszczuk is exploiting COVID-19 for her own political purposes. Following closely behind Palaszczuk in the ‘We are not really in this altogether stakes‘, is N.S.W. Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Vying for third place is the Northern Territory’s newly re-elected Chief Minister Michael Gunner and the Premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall. Coming close behind is Tasmania’s Peter Gutwein. And as for the W.A Premier Mark McGowan, well having lived in Perth for many years, it is not surprising to me that his political fortunes have skyrocketed. After all, COVID-19 provided him the opportunity to reassert the desire of the state’s Sandgropers to keep W.A. free of the rabble from the east.

While it is generally understood that as a federation, the greater good can only ever be achieved when we as a nation work together in the common good to improve the well-being of our whole society. Sadly, COVID-19 has shone a light on the soft underbelly of Australia’s federation. It challenges the very notion of social solidarity in the collective good of all Australians. We need only look at the water plundered in the north that is axiomatic of the appalling mismanagement of the Murray-Darling to know that State politicians do not consider the common good in terms of all Australians. To them the common good will always be defined by lines on a map, not as a whole.

Unfortunately, the law of the instrument governing the behaviour of state politicians does not bode well for the future of our nation, so long as the states view ‘the greater good’ only in parochial terms. Mark my words, if state politicians continue doubling down to act in their own self-interest, alienating Australians from Australians, when the horrors of human accelerated global warming that loom ominously come into full effect, no technological advancement will save us from Mother Nature’s wrath and the ensuing backlash of a nation divided will doubtless lead to the breakdown of civil society.

And therein lies the rub.

Is it any wonder people living outside of Australia reading and watching the news online as reported via this country’s mainstream news media outlets are justifiably disconcerted by what they are observing taking place in our country. The apparent dysfunction that exists within our federation sparks statements such as, “I thought Scott Morrison was the Prime Minister of the entire nation.” This is generally followed rhetorically with the question; “Isn’t Victoria an integral part of Australia’s federation?”

Then when seeing the arrogance of the Prime Minister smirking on the news, and knowing the history behind his ability to set the media’s daily agenda was made easier by Labor Party’s antipathy towards the establishment class owners of Fairfax newspapers, irks me no end. That during the late 1980s Bob Hawke and Paul Keating did a deal with the devil in the lead up to getting Labor’s Cross Media Ownership Legislation passed by the Parliament that gave the newspaper publisher the power to control the circulation of over 70% of the entire nation’s metropolitan and regional newspapers is indefensible.

And yet despite all the evidence that tells me otherwise, I still want to believe that had Hawke and his treasurer Keating had a skerrick of nous and forethought as to the ramifications of their legislative changes to Australia’s mainstream print and broadcast media outlets, they would not have willingly concentrated media power into the hands of two filthy rich bully’s. One being Kerry Packer, an overbearing self-confessed tax dodger, and the other Rupert Murdoch, a megalomaniacal puppet master.

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Sadly, Labor’s penchant for self-destruction as evident in the changes to media laws in the 1990s and the abolition of industry-wide bargaining opened the way for Howard to consolidate Murdoch’s power even further. All together, the decisions made by the Labor Government followed by Howard have dramatically undermined Australian democracy. To such an extent that non-unionised workplaces and self-censorship are commonplace for journalists in the employ of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp papers. The same goes for the commentariat employed by Murdoch and a like-minded coterie of right-wing owners of the country’s other broadcast news media outlets. For young ambitious journalists soft peddling where Scott Morrison and his ministers are concerned is a matter of survival.

There are copious ways broadcasters peddle their pernicious political influence. To be more specific, owners of newspapers hand-pick editors, likewise the producers in television and radio are hand-picked by CEOs who share the same political mindset as their company board of directors. This ensures the upper echelons of corporate Australia always control the narrative in the content of the copy written by journalists and the context in which opinions wrapped up and framed as questions are in keeping with their capitalist owners political agenda.

Notwithstanding the pressure to conform, journalists of quality and integrity understand that in a democracy their primary obligation is to the public. They know the public’s right to be fully informed accurately and without bias is a precondition of being granted privileged access to power. Whereas, sadly, for many young ambitious journalists succumbing to the pressure of operating in a concentrated media environment are destined to see the world through the lens of their proprietor’s right-wing bias. Tragically, the instant they succumb, they make themselves unworthy of those privileges as partisanship on the part of news journalists is the antithesis of their role and responsibilities in a democracy.

Of most significance to the undermining of democracy is the way in which the nation’s press gallery journos consistently fail to forensically examine the Prime Minister on the details contained in his government’s policy decisions. Not only during the pandemic, but overall. The lack of media scrutiny in a democracy contributes significantly to Australians never knowing the full extent to which their policies have a detrimental effect on the health and well-being of our society.

For intelligent, free thinking Victorians it is beyond reprehensible that in the midst of the pandemic the press gallery grant the Prime Minister enough unchallenged air time so as to allow him to shove the buck of his and his government’s mismanagement on to the broad shoulders of Victoria’s Daniel Andrews. To say the media’s reporting by young overly ambitious political neophytes is wearing thin, would be an understatement.

Under the circumstances, maintaining any semblance of sanity I have to trust that outside the borders of Australia’s most progressive state, there lives a multitude of socially conscious, politically literate Australians alert to Scott Morrison’s modus operandi. For the sake of my sanity, I have to trust that in spite of his best attempts to shift focus away from the fact that as the regulatory authority and bestower of public monies to private owners in the for profit aged care sector. COVID-19 has awakened the majority of my fellow Australians to the ruthless socio-economics of neoliberalIsm as implemented by Morrison and his ministers.

Of course, the Liberal Party’s biggest donors being business lobbies, it is not happenstance that Scott Morrison subscribes to the ideology of small government underpinning deregulation and privatisation as championed by the IPA’s monopoly capitalists. The federal government‘s overarching protection racket for the profit takers is directly responsible for the disgraceful neglect of essential safeguards to protect the health and well-being of the elderly in private aged care facilities. One can only hope, as a consequence of COVID-19 Australians are taking heed of the Prime Minister’s words and actions that reveal his deep-rooted mean-spiritedness. If there is any justice post-Rona, the lies told by him and his cabinet of freeloaders will be his government’s undoing.

Observing the pitiful inadequacy of Albanese and his Shadow Cabinet’s performance is adding to my general despondency. Watching Albanese put himself forward as the 2nd coming of Mr. Consensus, banking on the government’s fortunes changing so that Labor can win high office by default is lamentable. Notwithstanding the fact that seeing, hearing and reading the mainstream media’s right-wing attack dog journalists going for the Victorian Premiers jugular while simultaneously acting as accomplices in the Prime Minister efforts to hoodwink Australians is infuriating. It is indeed problematic for Labor that during this crisis coal-loving Joel Fitzgibbon can capture a minute of limelight by raising his ugly destabilising head. Yet Albanese has not be able to find a way to cut through to make his mark as a potential leader of the nation. Obviously Albanese is being ill-advised. Albanese thus far hasn’t had the mettle to show the same loyalty to Victoria’s Dan Andrews as Morrison has shown to his state’s Premier, Gladys Berejiklian.

Where Australia’s opaque Prime Minister is given a free ride in the media, Victoria’s Premier Dan Andrews fronts up to answer loaded questions from a baying pack of Murdoch’s News Corp journalists. He does not shirk the moral responsibility of his position as Premier, and it is to his credit that he takes responsibility where it is not his to take.

Which brings me to the fundamentals of our democracy.

Under the Westminster System representative democracy ministerial responsibility is a constitutional convention. However, inscrutable changes in our polity in recent history are clearly irreconcilable with these conventions consistent with the democratic precepts of open and accountable government.



Irrespective of the jurisdiction, one of the major causes for the public’s general distrust of this nation’s political class is due to neither Federal nor State Ministers having due respect for the Westminster System’s convention that behoves all in high office to take moral responsibility for failing to adequately discharge the duties. Ministerial mea culpas is not accountability, its lip service. The only way Cabinet Ministers can demonstrate accountability is by way of resigning from the Executive. Thus the system is now completely broken.

From a big picture perspective, the ultimate responsibility for global pandemic is capitalism and the systemic embrace of supply-side neo-liberalism. For this alone, the Prime Minister must held to account for his incautious push to open up the national economy driven by an unquestioning adherence to neo-liberalism and the capitalist tenets of unrestrained growth.

Let me be clear, profitability is the primary driver of Australia’s private sector aged-care homes. They are a federal government responsibility. The federal government’s Health Minister Greg Hunt and the Minister for Ageing, Richard Coldbeck ultimately bear responsibility for the tragic deaths of our elderly citizens in these ill-equiped, unwholesome institutions. If either of these men had a soupçon of morality and human decency they would resign post haste. Had these Ministers been less-concerned with adhering to their party’s economic doctrine and actually cared for the health and safety of the elderly many of these deaths could have been avoided.

The truth is we as a society have been hoodwinked into believing that private ownership is more efficient than public ownership, whereas years of evidence shows this couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, the sophistry of efficiency gains that slides like honey off the tongues of government ministers and business owners continues to hold sway in the general public’s mindset.

One of the primary reasons successive Coalition governments have cleared the way for corporations and churches in the aged care industry to employ an under-trained casual workforce is to curtail the labour cost of employing full-time qualified nurses to care for the elderly. Employing casuals acts as an impediment to unionism in workplaces, which of course is the neo-liberal orthodoxy central to the Coalition government’s much heralded cutting red tape narrative that allows profit takers to self-regulate.

Cutting red tape has enabled private security firms to adopt a skim off the top business model of employing sub-contractors who they know utilise untrained staff. It is not as if politicians and departmental bureaucrats don’t know sub-contracting to cut costs forms the basis of the business model adopted by large security firms. And this is why the ultimate responsibility for Victoria‘s hotel quarantine fiasco rests on the shoulders of Jenny Mikakos. Mikakos willingly took on the roles as Victoria’s Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services and Minister for the Coordination of Health and Human Services COVID-19 as well as Deputy Leader of the Government. And she has been shown to have failed significantly in performing her duties In her portfolios as Minister for Health and even more so in the Coordination of Health and Human Services COVID-19.

Like Hunt and Colbeck federally, as a Cabinet minister Mikakos bears the ultimate responsibility for the actions of her ministry’s oversight on the relative departments. If Mikakos had a modicum of integrity, rather than allow her leader to bear the burden of answering for her erroneous decisions; she would fall on her sword.

Considering the cautionary advice given by experts in the realm of psychology who warn that one of the prime causes of depression and anxiety is anger turned inward. We can view as inevitable that the sneering parochialism voiced by the Prime Minister and State Government Premiers will on a subliminal level have long term deleterious effects on the collective mental heath of my states citizenry.


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COVID-19 has certainly exposed the worst of Australia’s unsophisticated provincialism that has long had its political impetus in the right-wing ranks of Sydney’s smug ruling-class. I fear the chinks in the armour of Australia’s federation will need serious panel beating to repair the subliminal substructure in the psychology of a state that has been alienated from the rest of the nation to which it is suppose to belong.

This article was originally published on Connecting the Dots.

Leonie Saunders is benevolent dictator of Connecting the Dots, proud lefty feminist. Adores children and animals. Despises greedy union-bashing, power-abusing corporate polluters.



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What goes around, comes around

Another definition of Karma?

As a child, I remember reading of highwaymen – Dick Turpin, with his horse Black Beth, who was notorious for his antics on Hounslow Heath, near where I grew up.

Then there was Robin Hood, who robbed the rich to give to the poor.

“Stand and deliver! Your money or your life!”

And now we have the dilemma created by COVID-19 – do we save lives or the economy?

Those who do not want for anything which money can buy, are the most eager to protect their wealth, and the institutions which have helped to create it, and if lives are lost in the process – well – we are over-populated, in the estimation of many!

The wealthy (interpret this as – those who are extremely comfortably endowed with worldly goods) tend to be jealous of their status, unwilling to lose it, and ready to brand the poor as being lazy and incapable of managing their lives.

The Indue Card policy bears witness to this attitude, as does the general law and order cause.

I accept that this is a sweeping generalisation and we do have genuine philanthropists, but the balance is basically towards inflicting a punishment which does not necessarily fit the crime.

If children grow up to be rebellious, lawless and perform criminal acts because they have not been properly cared for, guided and protected as small children, then they must be punished and dealt with in ways which guaranteed they continue in a life of crime.

Is that really the right approach?

It seems to be far too hard for the law-and-order brigade to realise, that early intervention, support for parents and young children, and mentoring, together with proper health support and guidance through a mother’s pregnancy, could have a real impact on the problem.

I often wonder how many of the Indigenous youngsters who get on the wrong side of the law in the NT have been affected by FASD – Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disease – through the mother’s over-dependence on alcohol during pregnancy?

Almost any parent of teenage children will tell you that, at times, they are at their wit’s end as to what to do with their rebellious kids. But that rebellion is a normal part of asserting independence, after years of absorbing the lessons their parents have been trying to instil.

It may take time, but sooner or later those parents are usually heaping praise on those children’s achievements!

None of us ever has adequate access to a “How to be a parent” course, and we depend on our own parents for clues as to how to go about the job. If our own parenting has been erratic, or worse, we are not going to do as good a job with our children – and there is nothing wrong with being offered help.

All children are individuals, and what works for one does not necessarily work for another – and that is without taking into account those who are afflicted with physical and mental health issues, or are just plain ‘different’.

And, as an aside – sexual abuse is not exclusive to institutions. More rape and abuse occurs in the family circle than is committed by outsiders. And whoever the perpetrator, the damage done, is enormous.

With government, it is a similar story. Ideology is not necessarily enough, because policies are not developed in a vacuum – they have to be appropriate to the circumstances.

Horses for courses.

And never has this been more evident than now, when we are faced with a global pandemic, at a point in our history when greed for the illusory benefits of constant growth has left us facing the existential crisis represented by Climate Change.

In one fell swoop and with limited warning, we are facing a world which demands attention to an extent we can barely grasp.

‘Normal’ no longer exists, and arriving at a ‘new normal’ will be much more difficult for those chained to beliefs and ideologies than it will be for those adjusted to change as a permanent feature of life, and willing to think progressively.

Our present government is showing signs that it is incapable of acting as required in by current circumstances.

We have really lost touch with what is needed to be a true democracy.

We have a Constitution which is not fit for purpose, government thinking requires us to ‘snap back’ – which, in the circumstances is impossible – and everyone is too timid to stand up, en masse, and tell those in charge that we need a massive change in approach and they need to hand over the reins to experts, more able and willing to ensure that we concentrate on saving lives, not fortunes!

It is a sad irony that, in recent years, there has been growing concern that we have an imbalance in the population and may end up with too few younger people in employment to support those on the Age Pension.

Now we face a world with too few jobs, because so many businesses have been forced to close, by policies (rightly) designed to save lives, no certainty of an effective vaccine, but a reducing population of elderly people as they succumb to COVID-19!

Ironic indeed!






I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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Trust Linda Reynolds? Sure can’t

Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds was one of the first to speak up about the bullying that occurred during Scott Morrison’s rise to the top job.

“I just hope … whatever happens tomorrow that the behaviours that we have seen and the bullying and intimidation that I do not recognise as Liberal in any shape, way or form be brought to account.”

However, she quickly changed her tune when offered a minister’s role.  Despite it being her who raised it in the Senate, she then said it was not the appropriate forum to air the issue and accused Labor of making “cheap political capital” out of an important issue which she had subsequently decided should be addressed behind closed doors….or not at all.  No-one was “brought to account” but hey, Linda got a promotion so all’s well.

We then had the humiliating debacle – well for anyone with a conscience – of Linda’s 16 second complete backflip on wage restraint.

“Do you agree with the sentiment that flexibility in wages, and keeping wages at a relatively modest level, is a deliberate feature of our economic architecture to actually drive jobs growth?” David Speers asked on Sky News.

“No I don’t. No, absolutely not. And for Bill Shorten to even suggest that, I think, shows a fundamental lack of understanding about economics,” she said.

“Well I’m actually quoting Mathias Cormann, the finance minister, here. Your colleague. He says that wage flexibility is ‘a deliberate feature of our economic architecture’,” Speers said.

“He’s absolutely right,” Ms Reynolds replied.

Moving on to her brand spanking new portfolio of defence, three months ago, Reynolds said that, despite the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal recommending that World War II hero Teddy Sheean be awarded a Victoria Cross, she did not feel it was appropriate.

“The 2019 review by the tribunal did not present any new evidence that might support reconsideration of the valour inquiries recommendation,” she said.  “That is also my view and the view of defence.  It is a very difficult decision, but I believe in the circumstance, the right decision.”

Then two days ago, Reynolds posted this on her facebook page:

“The announcement by the Prime Minister that Teddy Sheean has been recommended for a Victoria Cross for Australia is recognition of extraordinary and selfless acts of valour by a young Australian in defence of his country and his mates. Lest we forget.”

Oh Linda, we don’t forget.

So when Ms Reynolds takes time out from her sucking up to Donald Trump to issue a media release about Dan Andrews rejecting ADF help in Victoria’s fight against COVID 19, which was quickly refuted with facts from the actual person involved in Victoria’s emergency response, it is blindingly obvious that this woman is solely focused on petty party politics and will say whatever she thinks her bosses want to hear.  She has a laser-like focus on where her bread is buttered.

Heaven help us if she is the best person we can find for the job of co-ordinating the defence of this country.

Linda Reynolds, you are the epitome of a political hack.

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‘Aged care’ should be exactly that, and not places where government determines how you live and die

As Prime Minister, Scott Morrison must take responsibility for aged care.

Most people of my vintage would have had the experience, the responsibility, of seeing that your parent’s last days on earth are as serene as is humanly possible.

For most, it is an experience of the celebration of their life. For others, the finding of a suitable nursing home can be a distressing time.

Death for the religious is the gift of moving from one life to another. For others, it is just the ending of normality; the cycle of life’s ending. It is not about the length of it but the depth of it.

For me, being told that the life we are living is a forerunner or introduction to better one serves only to devalue the one we have, but death is not the mystery it is made out to be. It is simply the reverse of the other mystery we call birth. Whatever the circumstance, dignity and the person’s final wishes are paramount.

The conclusion of our life ends in many, often-complicated ways. Ethnicity, and religion will frequently dictate the manner in which we die.

The way a society and its government views aged care (our final days) dictates the manner in which we see out our last days and with three years as Treasurer and two as Prime Minister, it is here that Prime Minister Scott Morrison must take responsibility for aged care.

A Death Certificate might show proof of death but the legacy you leave behind will demonstrate how you lived.

After 20 reports and an ongoing Royal Commission, no ignorance can be pleaded here.

The absence of any scrutiny on this subject has come about because our democracy hasn’t been functioning as it should.

Federal Parliament was supposed to sit last week. The decision not to was taken a couple of weeks before, on medical advice. Whether the Prime Minister is deliberately dodging the Parliament is up for debate but it has to be said that he doesn’t take kindly to criticism.

It is difficult to imagine that places responsible for the health of the aged could become breeding places for COVID-19 yet 10 per cent of Victoria’s aged care homes have now seen outbreaks.

My wife and I have had the rather unpleasant experience of hopping from one aged care home to another trying to find suitable care. Daniel Andrews isn’t the first to utter the words; “I wouldn’t send my own mother there.”

It wouldn’t surprise you if I said that the treatment of some residents has been disgusting. Hence Andrews’ comment.

At times there are 100 residents for one nurse, which of course is totally inadequate.

I believe that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

Now if the federal government – who runs private health care – knew that the elderly were the age group most vulnerable to COVID-19 then you would think they would have paid greater attention to their living conditions.

So, in part the Morrison government is responsible for Victoria’s second wave. The great crime is knowing and doing nothing. How could they possibly have just ignored it?

All 11 deaths in Victoria last Monday were at privately owned nursing homes that ultimately the federal government has responsibility for. (Shades of pink batts.)

Friends may leave your presence but their impression remains.

The Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck refused to name the aged care facilities in Victoria battling outbreaks of coronavirus on the basis of “reputational’ fears.” Yes, they are afraid it may damage their business.


Yes, you heard that correctly. They are afraid it may damage the reputation of their business. Well many of them should be thrown out on their ears and it is also fair to say that the government’s inaction on issues they knew about makes them responsible for the deaths of many elderly folk.

It’s as though these places are just God’s waiting room and there is little point to interior décor or excellent sanitary conditions.

“Reputational issues”! Lord, spare me.

The Australian reported (fire walled) that 65 per cent of the country’s total 221 coronavirus deaths have been in aged-care facilities. (Read here in The Monthly for an analyses.)

It is, however, particularly galling that the problems within the health care industry were not discussed, and seriously so.

Paddy Manning in The Monthly, reports that:

“Even conservative Liberal backbencher Concetta Fierravanti-Wells is angry. David Crowe revealed this morning that Fierravanti-Wells, writing in a submission to the aged-care royal commission, said that the Abbott government (including then social services minister Scott Morrison) “sowed the seeds of the predicament that the aged-care sector is facing today”. Fierravanti-Wells had held the aged-care portfolio in opposition and developed plans to reform the sector based on Productivity Commission recommendations, but her policies were dumped when the Abbott government was elected and she was shifted into multicultural affairs.”

More so given that they had received a scathing interim report from the Royal Commission. This makes Morrison’s inaction positively more dreadful.

His usual response in similar situations is to blame others, but he is on his own on this one.

The fact is that given the Victorian outcome it is shameful that he has done nothing since the release of the report.

The Parliament should have been debating this issue and Albanese (and others) would have the opportunity to question Morrison about the inaction but it appears our democracy has also been disgracefully quarantined.

Morrison seems to get away with enough from the Murdoch-led media in Australia and he goes unquestioned on important matters.

However on Q&A last Monday a few pointed questions were asked:

“Coalition MP Andrew Laming, a former doctor, was asked why the federal government had not done more to prevent the outbreaks in aged care.

Q&A’s host, Hamish Macdonald, asked him why a 2018 report into aged care, written by Prof John Polares, had not received a detailed response from the government.

“There has to be a response,” he said. And it has to be given to the professor.”

Two years have since past. Anyway his answer seemed to go through to the keeper with a minimum of swing, took a nick but, no appeal was made.

“The Labor MP Ged Kearney, a former registered nurse whose father-in-law died of COVID-19, said: ‘The Morrison government has failed aged care’.

Dr Vyom Sharma, a Melbourne GP, agreed and said a broader view was needed to understand why people might have not been following isolation rules.

‘We have to look at the systems approach here,’ he said. “Why aren’t people doing this? Could it be because people are waiting long periods of time for their test results to come back? Could be because we had no paid pandemic leave until very recently.”

Later in the program, Golding told the panel that the situation at St Basil’s had been ‘a catastrophic failure’ when her mother was being evacuated.”

Perhaps now it’s obvious why Morrison might not have been so keen for the Parliament to meet. He loves a soapbox where his words escape pursed lips at the rate of 10 a second, undefined and unchecked. But not in a Parliament where there are penalties for lying.

Albanese has been onto it, saying that Morrison must answer why he has made no effort to clean up these privately owned Aged Care Homes where profit comes before human health.

I for one would love to hear his answers.

My thought for the day

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness… You are more blessed than the many who will not even survive this day.

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Flag, stockade or discovery: Australia’s Eureka dilemma

Like many writers I require a Eureka moment of insight to write an essay for The AIM Network. This morning, 6/08/2020, I found inspiration in the words of Richard Cooke.

In his long-form analysis of the fate of the arts, titled A unitary theory of cuts published in the August edition of The Monthly Cooke enumerates the singular policy of the IPA/Morrison Government, namely absolute victory in the Culture Wars.

I urge you to read Cooke’s discourse which although thorough, misses one vital point.

Cooke does not mention the suspension of the Australian Parliament. And it is this void in the life of the nation which gives the IPA/Morrison Government a free hand to dismantle the ABC, the Arts and the Public Service — the trinity of its Culture War targets. Add to this the dismemberment of Australian universities, and the future of this wide brown land appears distinctly bleak.

And so to the remainder of the Eureka metaphor.

In the United States, Brazil, the Philippines, Iran, and Turkey – the list is long – COVID-19 is being deployed as a shield to further the aspirations of right-wing nationalist governments. The same is happening in Australia. A casual read of the propaganda output of the Murdoch/IPA/Morrison Government, reveals non-stop criticism of the Andrews Government of Victoria as well as the feisty government of Annastacia Palaszczuk in Queensland. Mark McGowan the Premier of Western Australia, is Satan Incarnate, and yet there is little by way of criticism of the Liberal premiers of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania. The Labor governments of the ACT and the Northern Territory, daily endure local press vilification.

But it is Victoria, home of the Eureka Stockade, which is enduring the worst of the twin plagues of COVID-19 and daily attacks in The Australian newspaper led by an entitled brat named Adam Creighton. And let’s not forget the egregious contributions of Tim Smith MP, Rowan Dean, Andrew Bolt, and Miranda Devine and so on and so on. Worst of all are the actions of the so-called wolverines hell bent on matching Chinese nationalism with their own post-modern Australian version of jingoism. But this propensity for provincialism can spin out of control, and morph into something far darker than attacks on cultural icons.

In the absence of a federal parliament Australia has the National Cabinet, which thus far is keeping much of the country safe from the ravages of the COVID-19 plague. But as the virus spreads in Victoria, old enmities of the pre-Federation era are emerging. None more so than the sniping between Annastacia Palaszczuk of Queensland and Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of New South Wales. Each year both states play out this old rivalry in the Rugby League State of Origin series. Palaszczuk seems to understand the politics of this visceral combativeness far better than her counterpart, the NSW State Member for Willoughby.

Ms Palaszczuk is ramping up appeals to the innate patriotism of Queenslanders, especially those who live in far northern regional seats where the Eureka flag is worn by workers as a tattoo and displayed as a logo on the back of many a ute and four wheel drive.

This brings me back to Victoria, birthplace of the Eureka notion, and Premier Dan Andrews.

Each day Andrews faces a phalanx of television cameras to update his fellow citizens on the ravages of COVID-19. And each day he answers hundreds of media questions from the likes of Adam Creighton and his ilk, in a way that makes the Federal Parliament’s Question Time look insipid. Andrews has the uncanny knack of speaking directly to his fellow citizens.

When Dan Andrews said he would not put his parents into an aged care home in Melbourne, he spoke truth to tragedy.

The nationalist push by ScoMo and his enablers, especially in Victoria, might well result in a political manifestation long pursued, but thus far not attained; namely an Australian Republic. More than a century on, this phrase from the Ballarat Reform League Charter lies at the heart of contemporary Victorian identity; that it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called upon to obey.

With a Federal Labor Party waiting in the wings with a broad suite of far-reaching and easily modified public policies, a shocked and possibly impoverished electorate will not make the same mistake twice.

By the time the next Federal election comes around, I’m fairly confident every citizen, like the diggers at the Eureka Stockade, will clamour to ensure they too have a genuine voice in making the laws [all] are called upon to obey.

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

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Pandemic preparedness: who has responsibility?

With the COVID-19 blame game and finger pointing so evident lately, my recent article; An incompetent and careless government is a threat to us all needs repeating. With the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria people are lining up to saddle the blame on the premier, Daniel Andrews. Some, borrowing Donald Trump’s claim that COVID-19 is the “China virus,” are now disgracefully calling COVID-19 the “Victoria virus.”

There’s no denying that many new outbreaks across the nation have links to Melbourne, but how did the virus get to Melbourne in the first place? Did it come from Sydney? Canberra? Queensland? The USA? China? The UK? The fact is, it came from somewhere. There’s a body in this country responsible for doing its best to control the import and spread of the virus in this country. It’s called the Australian government.

When you read the extract from my earlier post below, keep in mind that Scott Morrison “declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national pandemic on 27 February” and approximately two weeks later passengers from the Ruby Princess were allowed to disembark in Sydney.

Here is my extract:

In the dying days of the Howard government they were very mindful of a couple of viruses, H5N1 (avian influenza), or bird flu as it was better known as, and H1N1, which was known as swine flu, that in a worse-case scenario could bring the world to its knees. That is, a global pandemic. Which includes us.

We had to be prepared for it…

Battle plans for such an event hit the drawing-board in 2007; an initiative of the Howard government – readying the country for the worst – and some time later the program was given life again by the Rudd government, with a significant increase in funding.

Here is Howard’s original pandemic plan: Australia’s Preparedness for a Human Influenza Pandemic.

Due to copyright I cannot reproduce any of the report so I draw your attention to Section 2.43 on page 59 and the importance of thermal scanners being deployed at airports.

What is so good about thermal scanners? Here is a succinct explanation:

In efforts to contain the highly contagious virus causing COVID-19, thermal cameras, set up at checkpoints or hand-held by personnel at airports, borders, and entrances to businesses, schools, and other institutions, are being used to screen large numbers of people for elevated body temperatures quickly and reliably.

A high temperature does not necessarily indicate that the person is infected with the coronavirus, but it is the first step in identifying its presence. People with a high temperature are taken for further testing and, if they test positive, are isolated until treatment can begin.

Thermal scanning should be utilised as the first step in ‘catching’ and ultimately containing the disease, and this is practised in a growing number of countries.

I say “well done” to the authors of Australia’s Preparedness for a Human Influenza Pandemic report 2007/2008 for including the use of thermal scanning in airports as one of their key recommendations.

Now let’s jump to the present day and the same report prepared in August 2019: Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza. Again, as with the previous report I cannot reproduce any of the content due to copyright reasons. But I draw your attention to page 136, and there – right up the top of the page – the use of thermal scanners is Not recommended, stating, bewilderingly, that their effectiveness is low and their use is an impediment to travellers.

Instead, as summarised on page 127 of the report, the traveller will be confronted with pamphlets and brochures etc.

What is going to be of the most critical importance in the identification of even one person who is carrying the coronavirus: thermal scanning or a pamphlet?

I also encourage you to read page 9 of the report: “Pandemic stages” and ask yourself how well the Morrison government rates in this current pandemic.

On February 28, Katie Burgess, writing in The Canberra Times reported that the:

But the Health Department says there are no current plans to subject travellers to temperature checks, on the advice of medical professionals.

… Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told media on January 21 temperature checks had proven ineffective in past pandemics.

Murphy, sadly, must have read the 2019 report which had reached the same conclusion: it didn’t work for pandemics in the past so it obviously won’t work with any pandemics in the present or the future.

Ever heard of tunnel vision, Mr Murphy?

It is true that thermal scanning won’t stop the spread of the coronavirus and it won’t always catch those that have it, but it will take enormous steps in detecting it, as countries like China have shown.

Australia, meanwhile, with its incompetent and careless government is dragging its feet.

I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that our incompetent and careless government is a threat to us all.

Note: There is also a brief report from 2018: Emergency Response Plan for Communicable Disease Incidents of National Significance: National Arrangements which also ignores thermal scanning at airports. In fact, they don’t even rate a mention, but a ‘police presence’ at airports does.

* * * * *

Those who are adamant that Daniel Andrews is to blame for the recent outbreaks … may want to think again.

Now I wish to draw your attention again to the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza, dated August 2019.

Two major issues we hear much of are 1) whether schools should be closed, and 2) the risk of outbreaks from aged-care facilities. Who should make the decision to close schools? If it is a State decision, can the Federal Government intervene? Who is in charge of the aged-care facilities? Is it a State responsibility or a Federal one?

Again, I apologise that due to copyright I cannot reproduce the content, but the following sections in the report answer these and many more questions:

Page 31: Section 4.1.4: Implementation of public health measures (second paragraph).

Page 32: Section 4.1.6: Communication (first paragraph).

Page 145: Timing (relates to school closures).

Worth reading, weren’t they?

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“Life wasn’t meant to be easy” – but does it need to be so bloody unfair?

Mr Morrison – you are the current leader of a party with a philosophy for life which grabs every opportunity and cares not one tiny jot for those unable to do so.

Over a long period now, the goal of your party has been to ensure that those who support you are really well looked after, while those who disagree with your policies are derided and denied a real chance in life.

The rot, both in reality and metaphorically, began under John Howard. He scored a lot of contempt and criticism and paid back his critics in spades when he got the chance.

Undermining the rights of the poor and disadvantaged has been carried out in ways which have massively increased the gap between the seriously wealthy and the undeservedly poor. Unions have been castrated, many lower paid employees are defrauded by employers, a strong resistance to establish a meaningful Commission Against Corruption at Commonwealth level has allowed corruption in government to flourish, and Scottie from Marketing has ignored any requirements for integrity, transparency and reasonably unbiassed policy-making which should be expected of democratic governments.

The reason the Coalition could proudly boast of a massive surplus when they lost government to Labor, was because they had privatised so many services – and, in the process, increased the cost to the user.

Just think a moment. Income tax rates mean that those on lower incomes pay lower tax rates, and services provided by government are provided by public servants whose salaries are paid by the government.

When that service is privatised, the new management has to cover all costs, usually reduces them by employing fewer staff, make a profit to meet the requirements of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) – AND keep shareholders happy. Few of these services offer a means tested system, so the contribution paid by users is effectively more for those in the population on lower incomes – if they can afford the service at all!

Another example of the way that income distribution ensures that the poor may be denied a service or, if they use it, pay a higher proportion of their income than do the well-to-do!

The current crisis affecting Victoria, and possibly NSW, so seriously has been the creation of Coalition policies.

Federally ‘regulated’ Aged Care Homes have not so much been starved of funds, but provided for in ways which allows fund increases to flow on to shareholders, while failing to ensure that regulations require minimum standards of training for and numbers of staff.

A majority of staff are poorly paid, and the nature of their contracts guarantees that they will need to have second, and even third jobs in order to make ends meet.

Most developed countries which run a democracy, recognise the need for reliable child-minding facilities, which also offer early childhood education. Consequently the well-qualified staff offer an important service, allowing adults to be able to work in the knowledge that their children are being well looked after and educated – at government expense.

Australia has increasingly gone down the American path, regarding government assistance as a first step to Communism, and the recent, brief, willingness to provide the service for free has been abruptly, prematurely and disastrously terminated.

Women, and families on lower incomes have, of course, been most affected.

People have three choices about where they live: they might be able to buy a house, which usually involves taking out a mortgage; they might be renting, probably privately because the country has been starved of social housing; or they couch-surf, between living on the streets.

In partial recognition that there would be severe financial implications for the first two groups if job loss hit the household, the government did introduce some temporary policies, without really thinking them through.

Victoria has established that Australia, as a whole, is far from out of the woods in relation to COVID-19.

Morrison, lacking any real understanding of the likely consequences of the long-term effects of the pandemic, has it firmly fixed in his mind that we can ‘snap-back’, with minimum side effects.

He has shown no understanding that, quite apart from the not insubstantial number of people requiring serious help following their bush fire losses, those who lose their jobs during the shut-down are living with the high stress levels associated with uncertainty.

He falsely raised hopes by introducing short-term plans concerning payment of rent, and mortgages, being safe from eviction or foreclosure, without thinking through whether there was any certainty that landlords and mortgagors would respond favourably, or that states and territories would enact legislation to ensure tenants and mortgagees were, in fact, protected. Or for how long this could continue.

Banks have demonstrated without a shadow of doubt that they are entrepreneurs, not philanthropists. What motivation has the Coalition offered to encourage them to defer mortgage payments and not charge interest on late payments?

Both households where the house is mortgaged, and landlords who are leasing properties on which they have a mortgage, are at the mercy of the banks on this one, while those who are tenants have no certainty that they will not be evicted and/or charged interest on overdue rent.

And how long will this situation last?

How long is a piece of string?

We do not know – and neither does the government.

And for how long will our borders be closed to non-Australians?

And, incidentally – what does it say for the morality of the airline business that they are charging exorbitant fares for returning Australians, or those moving within Australia, because of government-imposed restrictions on passenger numbers?





I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

PS – Have the Robo-debt victims been reimbursed – with interest – and have those promised help after the bush fires received it yet???

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A tawdry B Grade coup

Like many Australians in lock down I ‘m devouring movies and television programmes to pass the time.

Recently I came across a b-grade film which chilled me to the bone. Bushwick recounts the alliance of two strangers and their bid to survive during an invasion of New York by heavily-armed militiamen.

As I browse the film’s reviews, I am reminded the people of the United States of America are 100 or so days away from a presidential election like no other. And the premise of the fictional Bushwick could become reality. American and international media is alarmed at the prospect of President Trump refusing to accept the outcome of the election. This article from The Guardian focuses on so-called voter fraud.

Americans are enduring multiple travails as revealed in David Lipson’s terrifying Foreign Correspondent episode, Life and Liberty broadcast on ABC-TV on July 28 2020. Life and Liberty could be a scene from the fictional scenario depicted in Bushwick.

On the same date Foreign Correspondent went to air, Australia announced to the world it is going all the way with the most unstable American administration since the confederate presidency of Jefferson Davis.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds beat the drums of war as they stood beside the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at an AUSMIN meeting.

I doubt many Australians grasped the significance of this dangerous tête-à-tête, while fewer still recognise the economic risk of chumming up to a floundering American administration.

So much has changed so quickly.

In September 2019 David Uren, an economic analyst and former economics editor with The Australian newspaper said this in an article published by the ultra-conservative Australian Strategic Policy Institute:

The strength of the economic relationship [with China] does shape the government’s strategic options. Australia hasn’t followed the US’s freedom-of-navigation operations close to the Chinese-constructed islands in the South China Sea, for example. However, prosperity is in the national interest and the relationship has delivered that over the past 15 years.” (Emphasis added).

And yet less than a year later Prime Minister Scott Morrison puts the nation on a virtual war footing to curry favour with the US which is our 24th ranking goods trading partner,

Australia can ill afford to alienate China, or any trading partner for that matter, as the world economy deflates into global depression. Statistics do not lie, but everyone else so it seems, does.

When Josh Frydenberg succumbed to a brain snap on ABC-TV Insiders and eulogised Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, he literally threw the Coalition’s junior partner under a bus.

The truth of the matter, as outlined in an Asialink Business essay written in 2018, is China, good, bad or indifferent, cannot get enough of the fresh produce grown and reared in regional and rural Australia. It is important to note these goods and other Australian exports, sail through the hotly disputed South China Sea

Under the heading Agriculture and Processed Food, Asialink reports:

“China buys more Australian agricultural produce than any other country. In the 2017-2018 financial year, Australian farmers and the broader agricultural sector sold more than AUD 11.8 billion of produce to China, around a quarter of all agricultural exports. Trade is growing strongly, but untapped opportunities still abound. The Australian Department of Agriculture predicts China will account for 43 per cent of global growth in demand for agricultural products to 2050. The primary increase in demand is predicted to be for foods such as beef, lamb, dairy, fruit and vegetables. Australian products have an enviable reputation for being clean, safe and high-quality – which positions Australian exporters strongly to take advantage of China’s growing demand for quality produce and its need for food security.”

So why put this at risk now? There is no simple answer other than to say the Morrison Government has drunk the fake news flavoured Kool Aid disseminated by the Dirty Digger.

With Democrat Joe Biden tipped by pollsters  to take the White House and Democrats seemingly set to dominate the US Senate and House, now is not the time to cosy up to a floundering administration. Nor domestically is it the time to attack state premier’s fighting for the lives of their citizens. And it is certainly not the time to champion a disgraced English prime minister who sparked a civil war in her Northern Ireland, introduced a poll tax, went to war with Argentina then endured the ignominy of a very English coup by her own party.

Now is the time for truth telling, or Makarrata, a Yolngu word and concept which describes the resolution of conflict, and the justice and peace which follow in its wake. Despite the dissembling of the Murdoch press, Australians need to face up to some uncomfortable truths, including the coup which resulted in the sacking of Gough Whitlam on November 11 1975. And the fact a US Administration which deploys militiamen to tear gas its own citizens in the name of democracy, will abandon Australia in favour of its own self-interest as quickly as Operation Warp Speed.

In this time of plague it is worth heeding the words spoken at an inquest held in the aftermath of the Chernobyl catastrophe.

Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth.”

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

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Morrison – the buck stops with you!

Before commencing writing this post, I read another brief biography of Morrison’s career which was less directly critical than one I had read earlier and certainly more complimentary than a more recent assessment.

My impression from personal observation is that Morrison is first cousin to a chameleon.

The so-called Christian cult to which he belongs has done little to steer his policy-making down paths of love and caring for his fellow man.

As Immigration Minister, the essential cruelty with which he pursued his ‘stop the boats’ policies, was superficially predicated by following Kevin Rudd’s dictate that refugee boat arrivals would never come to the Australian mainland to stay.

And, as then PM, Tony Abbott’s skin-deep Christianity resulted in no attempt to rein in this behaviour.

But at no time did it seem that any well-thought-out policies were being developed to enable the refugees in offshore detention ever to have a chance of a settled existence. They have, pretty much consistently, been treated more cruelly than are convicted criminals. And these refugees were fleeing danger, only to find they were out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The deal with Cambodia was a farce, at tax payer’s cost, and it is a moot point whether the deal with the USA has been truly beneficial for any who were able to ‘benefit’ from it.

With Malcolm Turnbull’s ascendance to PM, Morrison became Treasurer, and, in this role, his decisions made it very clear that, in economic terms, he was on the side of Capital and Labour was the enemy.

That has been further highlighted now that he is himself PM, and well and truly out of his depth in trying to steer us through the turbulent waters of a global pandemic, causing economic chaos of an order not seen since WWII, while being assisted by the NCCC.

Continuing in the pattern which Morrison had established, Peter Dutton brought all his police career experience to ensure the cruelty to offshore refugees was refined, and the screws tightened.

And don’t start me on my contempt for Dutton’s treatment of the Biloela family, which sees to have become an unseemly personal vendetta!

Originally Greg Combet, who has, throughout his career, in and out of politics, earned a great deal of respect was connected to the NCCC, but is no longer involved, and it seems that the balance of the interests of the remaining members of this group is such that prioritising action on global warming is not to be expected, even though that is even more important than the pandemic!!

While the National Cabinet concept has worked well in some regards, Morrison has made the same mistake as he did with the bush fire disasters.

Yes – the states and territories have powers which they should be allowed to exercise, but in a national emergency – which both bush fires and COVID-19 have created – the Commonwealth government MUST have a realistic coordinating role.

Because Victoria was one of the states which delayed lifting restrictions, Victorians were seeing others elsewhere already letting their hair down, so making it more likely that they would want to rush back to ‘normal’ behaviour as soon as possible.

But the real problem – which, after years of deliberately holding back wage increases, and actually deliberately driving wages down, removing penalty rates and creating a gig economy, by encouraging casual labour contracts, the Commonwealth should have realised that many low wage earners have no access to sick pay.

If the Coalition government was properly aware that social distancing, testing for infection, etc were essential as restrictions were removed, it should have realised that the lowest paid, casual workers could not afford not to work!

The fact that we rely on many migrants to work in these areas, which includes those working as carers, cleaners, etc in Old Age Homes, means there may have been a breakdown in the process of explaining the procedures associated with testing.

Directions were – if you thought you had symptoms, get tested.

Once you were tested, isolate until you get the results.

If the result is positive, quarantine for 14 days and then get tested again.

Did those directions include the questions – can you afford not to be at work?

How will your household manage without your wage?

Do you have somewhere suitable for isolating yourself?

Probably not – because, for those creating the system, and those involved in testing, those issues might not have come to mind.

And that is where the Commonwealth government has let everyone down.

Surely there were advisers, or others consulted through these processes, who must have been aware of this?

You cannot blame people for not staying away from work when that would have meant there was no food on the table for the members of their family!

And anyway – hasn’t Scott Morrison himself urged everyone to get back to work, particularly if their work is ‘essential’?

And is not looking after the elderly ‘essential’ work?

I am sorry Mr Morrison, but every day that you receive accolades for how well you are doing, you should be receiving brickbats for allowing your hubris to prevent your seeing what you should be, but are not, doing!

As PM, the buck stops with you.

Daniel Andrews readily apologises for his mistakes and oversights.

You brush criticism aside.

And please everyone – stop going on about massive debt and deficits!

The Coalition needs no encouragement to withdraw financial help as fast as it can, despite the fact that thousands, if not millions, will be struggling to find work, and many who have had, and have recovered from, the infection, may not be well enough to take on the first job available!

The government must commit to providing support for as long as necessary and then some.

Even if a few people get a little more than they need, it will return into circulation to stimulate the economy, which is really important, too!

And I hope those robbed through the Robo-debt scandal are being reimbursed as soon as possible!

I am also hoping that the Coalition government does the minimum amount of damage before the next election and that the other parties will patch up their differences,  formulate policies which will not only help this country in recovering, but also assist the planet in reducing emissions and keeping temperatures down – and win the next election!

Remember – divided we fall!

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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Shadow ministers slam priorities in Fox Sports “handout”

Opposition communications ministers have called out the Morrison government’s continued hypocrisy in its funding of its broadcast interests – granting $10 million of public to Fox Sports, weeks after revelations of continued cutting millions of dollars in funding to the ABC.

While $41 million of funding was recently found to be cut to the ABC in late June by the Morrison government in a move that may also result in as many as 250 jobs shed by the national broadcaster, the funnelling of money to Fox Sports is also not the first of its kind.

In 2017, amid the absence of a paper trail that would have otherwise outlined the motives of such a move, the Turnbull government under the guardianship of then-communications minister Mitch Fifield extended a $30 million grant to Fox Sports – presumably to increase airtime for events and programming for women’s, niche, and under-represented sports on the Foxtel block of channels over a four-year interval, as outlined in the 2017 federal budget.

Fifield, at the time, said the grant was merely part of a “broader media reform package”.

However, South Australian senator Sarah Hanson-Young – reasonably aghast at the ongoing cost of cuts to the ABC totalling $783 million since 2013 – assails the brazen appearance of the grant to Fox Sports.

“Another day, another public hand-out to the Morrison Government’s [Rupert] Murdoch mates,” said Hanson-Young, the Greens’ holder of the communications portfolio.

“Giving tens of millions to Fox Sports while cutting funding to the ABC really is the height of arrogance,” she added.


Paul Fletcher, the Morrison government’s minister for communications, has defended the extending of the grant, citing that Foxtel’s block of Fox Sports channels – between the presence of women’s professional sporting leagues such as the WNBL, WBBL, Super Netball, AFLW, NRLW, and the W-League, all of which currently operating under existing broadcasting deals – has provided a platform for a doubling of women’s sport coverage in programming hours since 2016.

“With six dedicated sports channels and a wide range of sports news, Fox Sports has a strong commitment to broadcasting sports and events that may not otherwise receive television coverage,” Fletcher said on Wednesday.

Nonetheless, Hanson-Young feels that the government grant money can be better spent on enhancing the public broadcaster, and went as far as suggesting that women’s sporting leagues should be on national free-to-air broadcasters such as the ABC and SBS, and not on any of the Fox Sports channels.

“This funding program for Murdoch’s Fox Sports says everything about the priorities of the Morrison Government. The Morrison Government is handing out millions of dollars of taxpayer money to a private, corporate broadcaster while slashing funding at the public broadcaster,” Hanson-Young exclaimed.

“Any support for the broadcast of women’s sport should be going to the public broadcasters which fans can watch for no further cost.

“The ABC has suffered from repeated budget cuts under the Coalition Government, some $783 million since 2014, and is now cutting jobs and news services to stay afloat. If there is money to go around for broadcasting, it should go to the ABC and SBS.

“The PM needs to reverse the funding cuts to the ABC. He can easily find the first $10 million by taking it back from Murdoch and putting it where it will be the most benefit to broadcasting and promoting women’s sport and where fans can actually watch it without forking out more money,” Hanson-Young said.

Meanwhile, Labor front-bencher Michelle Rowland, the ALP’s shadow minister for communications, while assailing the government in restricting viewership of women’s sport to pay-TV platforms, hit a direct link between the aggregate total of $40 million to Fox Sports for what is now a six-year interval and the “sport rorts” scandal on the government’s watch stemming from last year’s federal election.

“The Morrison Government left women and girls ‘changing in cars or out the back of the sheds’. Now, they’re keeping taxpayer-funded women’s sports coverage behind a pay wall,” Rowland said.

“Australia’s sportswomen deserve better. Young girls can’t be what they can’t see.

“At a time when Australia is in recession, many households are facing unemployment and money is tight, $10 million would go a long way to supporting sports coverage to which all Australians can see for free,” added Rowland.

But like Hanson-Young, Rowland maintained that the Morrison government – a body that claims to be empowering women’s sport leagues and participation on Fox Sports – has its end-game priorities misplaced.

“Despite spending more than $250 million pre-election on community sports infrastructure, the Morrison Government failed to fund hundreds of worthy women’s sports projects because it prioritised marginal seats over merit.

“Today’s announcement just proves this government will always put political gain before real support for women and girls in sport,” Rowland said.

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ACTU: JobTrainer scheme latest in poor government plans to cut unemployment

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has heightened its calls for the Morrison government to extend the existing JobKeeper and JobSeeker schemes beyond their respective September expiry dates, and also criticized the planned application of the new JobTrainer scheme as the national unemployment rate has risen to 7.4 per cent.

The ACTU fears that many of the three million people currently receiving JobKeeper payments risk falling into the ranks of the unemployed if the government fails to extend the scheme in ten weeks’ time.

“No one wants to see more people fall through the gaps which is why we need to extend JobKeeper and deliver a comprehensive plan for a jobs-led reconstruction,” Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s president, said on Thursday.

“People need reassurance that Australia isn’t going over an economic cliff,” added O’Neil, “so the sooner the Government tells people the plan, the better for everyone.”

Citing monthly figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the national unemployment rate rose 0.4 per cent to 7.4 per cent for the month of June. However, the ACTU also acknowledges the belief of Josh Frydenberg, as the federal treasurer thinks the “real” unemployment figure – to encompass those who have lost faith in the pandemic-related job market – may be closer to 13 percent.

“We have 13 times more unemployed people than jobs available, and record rates of young people [are] either out of work or needing more hours,” said O’Neil, in pointing out the challenges and inadequacies alike by the Morrison government to combat unemployment figures that have climbed since the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting national recession started.

Another one of those inadequacies, according to the ACTU, lies in the new JobTrainer scheme as announced on Thursday morning by Michaelia Cash, the jobs minister for the Morrison government.

“Our nation has faced many challenges, and it is critical that we keep our apprentices in jobs and help those looking for work,” Cash said in unveiling the government’s new $2 billion employment investment package.

“This package will be essential as the economy rebuilds so that people looking for work can reskill and upskill for in-demand jobs, provide school leavers with a pathway into their careers, and ensure businesses are able to get the skilled workers they need,” Cash added.

However, O’Neil counters the government’s newest scheme, pointing out that while it represents “a good start” by returning two-thirds of the funding cut from training programs during the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison LNP regimes, the direction of JobTrainer could be better applied through the TAFE institutes rather than through private providers.

“The JobTrainer plan restores some of the money in the training sector but it needs to be targeted to TAFE, which we know works, not handed over to the privatized sector which we know is full of dodgy providers,” said O’Neil.

Not only does the JobTrainer scheme – as another one of its shortcomings – expire in March of next year, but it also recalls another heavily-critiqued job-creation plan on Morrison’s watch, when he was the nation’s treasurer in 2016.

The Youth Jobs PaTH program, not only criticized as instituting its sham-like $4/hour “internship” scheme that never created a single job beyond an initial interval to young workers, was also seen to be run to benefit private Job Network providers.

“People need a real pathway that builds on skill development into real work so expanding the program to include new apprentices and making sure there are government projects with mandated minimum numbers of trainees and apprentices is what we need to see now,” said O’Neil in the ACTU’s constructive criticism of the JobTrainer program.

Also, on Tuesday, O’Neil and the ACTU also implored the Morrison government to extend the JobSeeker program not just for the benefit of the unemployed persons who receive it, but to help stimulate the economy out of recession as well.

Citing the overall health, safety and well-being of those receiving the $1138 per fortnight JobSeeker scheme since it was introduced on March 30, O’Neil insists that cutting the rate back to old NewStart-alone levels of $40 per day would have catastrophic effects on the nation’s unemployed.

“JobSeeker isn’t just important during the pandemic – it is essential that people looking for work have time and security to find a job,” said O’Neil.

“We need to understand the impact of this virus and part of that is ensuring that no one falls into poverty when they lose their job. Any move to cut the rate will be opposed,” O’Neil added.

In advising the Morrison government to extend the JobSeeker and JobKeeper programs beyond September and suggesting that the new JobTrainer scheme should be run through the TAFE systems, O’Neil and the ACTU – in the last few days alone – are further enhancing their reputation as an organization that remains on the side of working people and the unemployed alike.

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