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Whither Constitutional Change?

Within a very short space of time, we are going to be embroiled in a national discussion on constitutional change: namely, we are going to be asked if we favour First Nations people having a voice to our national parliament enshrined in our Constitution. The purpose of this article is not to take sides or to push one argument over another. Rather, it is to explore the options and the processes that contribute to a national constitutional referendum and to generate discussion.

Constitutional change in this country is fraught as the Constitution can only be amended by referendum, through the procedure set out in section 128. A successful referendum requires a `double majority’: a national majority of voters plus a federal majority of states (i.e. four of the six states).

The votes of those living in the ACT, the NT and any of Australia’s external territories count towards the national majority only.

Since 1901 there have been 19 referendums but of the forty-four referendum questions posed only eight have passed: The last constitutional referendum was for an Australian Republic held on 6 November 1999 – it failed. Usually, there are multiple questions to be resolved at each referendum – this time it appears there will only be one although it could be argued that there is some serious housekeeping necessary to tidy up our Constitution – perhaps that’s a question for another day.

Timing for a referendum is critical as is political consensus. Labor have already said that they favour a referendum in their first term and Pat Dodson, the special envoy for reconciliation and implementation of the Uluru Statement from the heart, favours a referendum on 27 May, 2023 – that is the 56th anniversary of the successful 1967 referendum allowing the commonwealth to make laws for Indigenous people and count them in the census, and the sixth anniversary of the Uluru statement.

So far the coalition has only said that it is open to supporting a referendum but wants to see more detail and the model to be put to the Australian people. This is a change in the position of the Morrison government. Indeed, Morrison ruled out a referendum quite specifically in the lead-up to the 2022 election; “It’s not our policy to have a referendum on the Voice” he told us. His minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, had favoured legislation for a voice and intimated that this would go before the parliament prior to the 2022 election but clearly, this didn’t occur as there was limited interest from coalition members and the then leadership.

The suggestion by Wyatt that a legislated voice, even as an interim measure, was shouted down by Aboriginal groups who generally considered that legislation was unsatisfactory and could be changed at a political whim and only an entrenchment in our Constitution would give any long-term certainty and continuity.

The road to constitutional change is not an easy one and the enabling legislation for a referendum has first to be passed by both houses of our parliament to set the process in motion. Already there are fears that not all parties are on the same page. Newly elected Country Liberal Party senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price a self-described Warlpiri-Celtic woman is suggesting caution on what she considers to be Labor’s policy on the Voice. She said recently that she was taking a cautious approach :

“We’ve got to understand what Labor proposes through this Voice process, and we’ve got to take a look at that before we take a clearer position on it, but I would certainly urge my colleagues to prioritise [more critical] issues,” she said.

“[The Voice] she said doesn’t clearly outline how in fact we’re going to solve some of our really critical issues, issues that I’ve been very much campaigning on for many years around family and domestic violence, around child sexual abuse, around education.”

The Greens are also taking a wait-and-see attitude and are suggesting that they would prefer to see “a truth-telling and treaty process begin before action on an Indigenous Voice”.

There has been considerable consultation over the past five years since the Uluru statement and this has produced the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process report.

This report recommends that the Voice should comprise 24 elected members, with two drawn from each of the states and territories, two from the Torres Strait Islands, five additional remote representatives drawn from the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales, and one member representing Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland.

How much power, influence or authority this group would have on our government and parliament is not yet established but it is an advisory body and would not have a veto on our legislative process and would not be an additional chamber to our parliament as suggested by Malcolm Turnbull initially.

The Turnbull and Morrison governments demonstrated their then objection to a constitutional voice in saying :

“Our democracy is built on the foundation of all Australian citizens having equal civic rights … a constitutionally enshrined additional representative assembly for which only Indigenous Australians could vote for or serve in is inconsistent with this fundamental principle.”

If the Dutton opposition were to maintain this fundamental argument then, the referendum would have little chance of passing.

The form of question to be put to the Australian people will obviously be critical to the success of the referendum but it seems probable that the question will be posed in general terms with the detail and structure to follow in the form of legislation enacted through the parliament: ideally, this draft legislation would be available prior to the referendum so, there is a lot of work to be done if the May 2023 date it to be met.

The legislation governing the process for referendums in Australia is laid down in the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1994. Among other provisions, this legislation, by section 8, sets out the procedure for presenting the ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments which need to be communicated to each elector prior to the referendum

There are, of course, political risks for the Albanese government in the whole process and already some in the opposition are labelling the process as ‘Labor’s referendum’ which, of course, it isn’t. However, if the referendum were to fail or not receive bipartisan support the political fallout for the Albanese government could be damaging in its first term.

We shall see !

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Morrison has gutted the LNP

Even typing those words has an unreal feeling. Will he come back? Will his poisonous personality rear up out of the darkness? Will he make a miraculous comeback? Or will he pull the pin on his parliamentary career, and move to the U.S. where some believe he belongs?

Some might find such trepidation, caused by one very unimpressive individual to be over-wrought, but it is no exaggeration to describe him as a catastrophe dodged.

The single worst prime minister in our history, aided and abetted by the most aimless, and spineless collection of chancers and rent-seekers ever gathered. And yet he went close to setting up a government which was almost impossible to remove.

The power of the Murdoch press pack is still very much in evidence in Australia, but the rise of the independent media, and the very powerful effect of the Twittersphere, undermined what looked like a forever government.

Anthony Albanese’s day 1 failure to name the unemployment figure also gave rise to fears that Labor’s run would be sabotaged. The performance of the ABC and its political commentators was woeful, probably fuelled by the constant threats of funding cuts, and the intimidation by the ministry.

But failures in disaster management, naked vote-buying which favoured, as always, LNP electorates; the performance of electoral liabilities like Matt Canavan and George Christensen was a reminder of how low our democracy had fallen.

On any measure now the opposition will be made up of the remnants of the shattered Liberal Party, and also by those in the National Party who escaped annihilation by the skin of their teeth, but are too obtuse to know that their time must be nearly up.

Peter Dutton is so spectacularly unsuitable as a leader of anything, that it immediately forces one to cast around for something, anyone, to present an alternative government. Of course looking at Dutton’s performance since rising to the leadership could fill one with despair.

Instead of looking contrite and accepting the crushing verdict of the voters, his first words as opposition leader were to suggest that he would be ‘on hand’ to clean up Labor’s “inevitable mess” in 2025.

No sense of looking for redemption. No shame regarding his own failures, from his first days as a minister. No embarrassment regarding Australia’s fall from grace within the international community. No regrets about the fate of refugees, stranded and victimised by a series of bullies, as Morrison allowed his cabinet to participate in some group cruelty.

Appointing Angus Taylor as the Treasury shadow serves to highlight the lack of able members to choose from. His known difficulty with numbers, a la Clover Moore, and also emissions reduction, and his vulnerability on matters of integrity regarding water related matters, means that possibly the most important role in opposition is being filled by someone who will struggle, especially against such a polished performer as Jim Chalmers.

There was never any acknowledgement that the election was fought on climate action, fixing corruption and a demand for honest government. Every action the LNP took, from the botched pre-selections in New South Wales, to the last minute weaponisation of prejudice against trans-gender kids, to the memories of Robodebt, added up to a tone-deaf government which people did not just want gone, but one that many actually feared.

The only possible excuse for the conscious bastardry shown by the LNP through nine long years is that they were all struck with a group hysteria, in which they lost their minds, and their moral compasses, in the naked arrogance of never-ending power.

That is why so many in the community, with little or no interest in politics, finally woke up to the nasty excesses, the blame shifting and the outright theft, and mis-use of taxpayers’ funds.

How can we be expected to accept members of parliament with the obvious character flaws of some of the casualties of ‘the reckoning’? For such it was.

We woke up that the leader was from a religious cult, who only recently admitted, through a ‘sermon’ he gave at Margaret Court’s very own church, that he doesn’t believe in government, and thus does not believe in democracy.

 

 

His playbook was spectacularly unsuited to Australian conditions. We are not a nation of religious bigots. We are not a nation of patriarchal misogynists. We are a nation which has always honoured the principles of fairness and justice before the law.

We have always believed that our representatives must act in a manner befitting their high status, and the rewards which accrue to politicians.

Morrison and his ‘vandals’ trashed the conventions, laying bare the lack of regulation and accountability, which had never been so nakedly exposed as it was by the behaviour of the LNP government.

If you are confronted by visions of Barnaby Joyce, apparently the worse for wear railing about whatever the issue of the day was, then Australia’s voters decided to disempower this collection of misfits, and to give the other team a go.

Anthony Albanese is not much of a speaker, and he can stumble on a simple answer, but he appears to be decent, caring, and competent. These qualities are in short supply, and especially on the opposition front bench.

Simon Birmingham is what I would call an old fashioned Liberal. He appears to be decent, caring, and competent. I expect that in the not too distant future, the LNP rump, following a couple of disastrous polls on Dutton and Ley, will decide the neo-liberal far right experiment has failed, and will attempt to reset the coalition.

Sadly the coalition parties have been stripped of talent, and so we could see a Labor government for years to come. That poses a series of future problems. A good government needs a good opposition. Morrison has pretty much made that impossible.

 

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Damning words and how to use them to tell the story of Morrison’s downfall (Part one)

Some readers of The AIMN would know that besides writing for it, I also use Twitter and Facebook to express my views. I write using the title “Words that make you think.” I do so not only to express my opinion but to hopefully elicit different views from the many who read my work and draw them into The AIMN where truth prevails.

I have written a random selection of quotations and thoughts this year. They tell the story of a Labor victory and whether they will rescue us from the deterioration in governance the Liberals and Nationals created.

The words or quotes I use have appeared on Facebook, Twitter or The AIMN. Some on numerous occasions.

Pre-election: My thoughts in early April 2022

I find it impossible to imagine that the Australian people would be so gullible as to elect for a fourth term a government that has performed so miserably in the first three. But they might.”

“If you want to change, change the government.

Morrison suggests he will become a new person

“It’s easy. Before bed, you take one ‘Better me’ tablet, as prescribed, and bingo. In the morning, gone is the arrogance, bullying, the self-righteousness, the motormouth and the know-all attitude.”

“Many Australians will be confused with the Prime Ministers interview with Leigh Sales last night. If he is as good as his answers why is he in so much trouble. I’m Baffled.”

“I need a second term, I’m just warming up. Only a man out of touch with reality could make a statement like that.” (The Australian, paywalled).

“If, as the Prime Minister says, he intends to change and become more empathetic, he could start by releasing the Biloela family. They have been held in Immigration Detention since March 5 2018. The two children, Kopica and Tharunicca, were born in Queensland. The family had lived and worked in Biloela for four years.”

“Isn’t it remarkable that a highly-paid politician (Scott Morrison) so demonstrably objects to our lowest-paid workers receiving a pay rise?”

“Politicians who say they will change aren’t necessarily seeing the light. They might just be feeling the heat.”

“There is no good reason to give our highest-paid workers a tax cut now. What have they done to deserve it?”

“At this stage, Labor’s lead is much more significant than it was in 2019. These figures show that all the current polls have moved toward Labor, and if they hold up into next week, the Coalition is looking at an electoral shellacking on May 21.”

“I contend that Labor is the only party that can bring about the social change necessary to restore and carry our democracy into a bountiful future both economically and socially.”

“Debate is not of necessity about winning or taking down one’s opponent. It is an exchange of facts, ideas and principles. Or in its purest form it is simply the art of persuasion.”

“Every Australian should ask whether Australia needs a campaigner or a leader. Do we need a bullshit artist or a leader? A corrupt Prime Minister or a leader without baggage. A perverted liar or a leader.”

“Instead of being proactive, we tend to wait for disaster. Even in politics. This government is a typical example.”

“The economy is being run by a minister who may very well lose his seat, but the message is “We are best to manage the economy?” A contradiction in terms? Go figure.”

“Now, I must confess that my objectivity these days suffers when I listen to him. I have written much about his lying (and his proven guilt of dishonesty) that I’m trying to pick out the pieces of truth when I listen to him now.”

“Conservatives say that poverty is the fault of the victim, but wealth comes from virtue, and both are the natural order of things.”

“When I talk to people about this election and mention Scott Morrison’s lying, I’m often surprised at how many men forgive him because “they all do it.” Imagine what sort of a society we would have if all we did was lie to each other.”

“It is obvious that Question Time in the Australian Parliament is just an excuse for mediocre minds who are unable to debate with intellect, charm or wit, to act deplorably toward each other. And in doing so debase the parliament and themselves as moronic imbecilic individuals. Change is necessary. Question time should be the showcase of the parliament and badly needs an independent speaker.”

Ask yourself: Does the democracy we have make you feel good about your country?”

“Labor has never been better placed to win a contest of ideas. It must vigorously argue the case for action against growing inequality. Instead of pretending it is a Socialist party, be one.”

“Leaders who cannot comprehend the importance of truth as being fundamental to the democratic process make the most contribution to its demise.”

 

 

“After some time, buffoon Joyce was replaced with the buffoon McCormack, and after a period in which buffoon two accomplished nothing, they returned to buffoon one.”

“Which country has shown the most compassion. The one who had the heart to accept them or the one who couldn’t find the heart. Seeking asylum.”

“Sure, any Labor proposals should be scrutinised as much as any other parties, but to suggest that both entities are as guilty of pork barrelling as each other when one has not been in government for nearly a decade is a bit rich.”

Continued on Saturday with part two: Post-May 21, Labor have won.

My thought for the day

The Coalition Government’s performance over its time in office had been like a daily shower of offensiveness raining down on society. Surely performance or lack of it must have meant something.

 

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The symptoms of mental illness are not the “plan of Satan”, Mr Morrison

I have refrained from writing this post for four days, as it is my apperception (the mental process by which a person makes sense of an idea by assimilating it to the body of ideas they already possess) I have gained from considering the erudite wisdom of Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning‘, an empirical resource of psychiatric and psychological study, in which he reasons that between the action and reaction there is a void in which we have a choice to make in how we react in life to the action. We may either react in an impetuous and emotional manner in which unknown consequences flow from such behaviour, or we may sit back, and in a measured, thoughtful and rational response set out our thoughts. I have not chosen the path of impetuosity, as I consider the words I am about to write below should be set out in a context of personal experience, and hopefully, therapeutic value for people living with a mental illness.

As you may gather from the headline to my post, I am obviously responding to Mr. Morrison’s words spoken last Sunday at a Pentecostal Church established in Perth by the former Australian tennis player, Margaret Court. May I indicate at the outset of this post, I do not intend to display any impiety towards the Pentecostal religion; people are entitled to believe in any form of religion they so choose to believe in; just as I or any other person may abjure any form of religious belief.

My apostasy for religion does not influence my thoughts about Mr. Morrison’s words spoken during his sermon last Sunday about mental illness. As I explained herein my words are derived from personal experience. Many of you may be already aware of this fact, but for those of you who are unaware I have almost recovered from a mental health breakdown in March 2021, a breakdown which culminated from both the post traumatic shock I suffered of seeing my deceased mother on the floor of her apartment approximately 14 hours after she had passed away, as well as almost 43 years of undiagnosed mental illnesses. My mental illnesses had been undiagnosed for such a lengthy period of time because of my shame to admit to my thoughts, and it is the issue of shame which motivates my reaction to Mr. Morrison’s words.

If you are also unaware of what Mr. Morrison said during his sermon (his words decrying government and the United Nations have been more than adequately addressed by the Prime Minister Mr. Albanese) about mental illness, it is reported in the Murdoch media (don’t get too excited, Uncle Rupert, I am still unhappy with you and Lachlan) that:

“While he noted there were “biological issues” or “brain chemistry” that resulted in clinical disorders, he sought to link the everyday anxieties to a spiritual deficit. Mr. Morrison declared that if people gave into their worries, they were giving into “Satan’s plan”.

The symptoms of mental illness, including worry and anxiety are not part of “Satan’s plan”. Mr. Morrison’s words are reckless, and they are also indicative of the anachronistic mindset of a medieval cleric manipulating the benighted minds of the parishioners during the Dark Ages. To link such symptoms to “Satan” or evil, only increases the risk of propagating thoughts of shame amongst the two million or so people suffering from a mental illness in this country.

It is shame which causes many people suffering from mental illness coming forward to seek help. Without displaying too much impiety at this juncture, for Mr. Morrison to link the symptoms of mental illness to “Satan’s plan” is just a product of dissolute pious mumbo jumbo of the greatest degree, and it has no place in psychiatric medicine or psychology. I know, because I have been now undergoing psychiatric treatment and psychological counselling for 16 months, and Lucifer plays no part in either field of treatment.

So I strongly reject Mr. Morrison’s misconceived words about mental illness, but if you think I may have be prone to displaying emotive language in this post, you should have been at my house on Monday when I initially read the above-mentioned article.

I would also like to share with you now the importance of candour and advocacy in normalising mental illness in our society. I have openly shared my mental health journey on Facebook and Twitter since about April 2021. The genesis of my online advocacy about the journey of my mental health treatment and recovery, and the need to normalise the condition in society, arises from the shame I had about my various mental illness thoughts which consumed my mind since 1979.

Whilst I was hospitalised during my first admission to hospital in March 2021, I heard many of my fellow inpatients express the feelings of shame they held about their mental illnesses, and how they were too ashamed to allow the illness to be known in their individual communities.

It became apparent to me, being the outspoken person that I am, society needed to have an open discussion about mental illness, so that more people would come forward to admit to their suffering, and to seek treatment. I have received a number of social media messages from various people since April last year in which they thank me for my advocacy, but this week I received a message from one of my 23, 700 followers on Twitter which best encapsulates the need for an open discussion about mental health in this country. The message I received from this person (for their privacy they shall remain anonymous) read as follows:

“Hi Michael – we have never met but wanted to thank you for your up front and honest tweets in relation your mental health condition. I suffer from anxiety which has re-emerged after 20 years of control. Bit of a dark place now but reading your words provides confidence and reassurance that there is a future and a path forward. Thanks again.”

I do not derive any narcissistic pleasure from this message, but it does give me comfort that by being candid and discussing online my journey back to a healthy state of mind I have given this person hope they will do the same.

Stay well, my friends.

 

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If you want an example of the Australian media’s ingrained toxicity…

If you want an example of the Australian media’s ingrained toxicity, the reporting of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s decision on Saturday to reinstate COVID payments to casual workers is a splendid one.

Mr Albanese had earlier and wrongly decided that the payments, mandated to end on June 30 by the previous LNP government, should not be renewed. This unwise decision, taken in the midst of surging infection around the country, provoked alarm from many quarters including some media. It was accompanied by startlingly ill-informed comments from the Prime Minister, suggesting that “good employers” ensure that their casual employees can work from home when unwell. A great deal of casual employment cannot be undertaken “from home,” a fact one hopes would not escape a Labor Prime Minister’s notice.

However, after taking the criticism on board Mr Albanese announced that the payments would be extended until September and backdated, so no one would suffer from his earlier error in judgement.

Media, including the Canberra Times ($), the Sydney Morning Herald the Australian, Sky News, the Guardian and 6 News Australia are among those who chose to report these events as a “backflip” by the Prime Minister. “Backflip” is a derogatory term only ever used by media to imply weakness and inconsistency. The use of that one word signified the negative nature of their narrative. Albanese had not “reconsidered after listening to critics.” Albanese had “caved under pressure.”

“Backflip” in this context is a failed metaphor. All backflips result in the performer facing the direction from which they began the action so are not a change at all, but rather an elaborate means of returning to the same point of view. Nonetheless, the word has become a fundamental component of the lexicon of political commentary. This in itself could be considered a metaphor for the state of the industry.

The message conveyed to politicians is toxic: You must change this decision but if you do we will attack you for your weakness and inconsistency.

If you continue to attack someone for making a change for the better you’re likely more invested in attack than you are in change. Regrettably, our media frequently create the impression that they are far more dedicated to furthering the former than the latter. So wedded are they to negativity they are unable or unwilling to acknowledge that a government capable of reversing its bad decisions is a democratic rather than an autocratic body, and the kind of government we so desperately need at this time.

The “backflip” narrative is an elaboration of the press conference “gotcha” moment so beloved by many Australian journalists. It’s nothing to do with speaking truth to power or responsibly informing the public, rather when it works it’s a “look at me” reporter’s power trip, an opportunity to momentarily grab the spotlight if a politician can be made to look foolish, inept, or ignorant.

The moment a journalist employs the term “backflip” they have fallen into editorialising. They have made a choice, perhaps unconsciously given the prevalent misuse of the term, to contaminate their reportage with biased language rather than simply reporting the facts. It is a fact that the former Morrison government mandated the termination of COVID payments on June 30th. It is a fact that Mr Albanese initially intended to uphold that termination. It is a fact that he reconsidered this decision and extended and backdated the payment. A choice is made by journalists as to how to present these facts to the public: as reconsideration, or backflip. There is a glaring difference in the impressions created by these two words.

While we have managed to elect a new government, we are still stuck with the same old media who cannot or will not imagine a non-toxic politics. This will likely not be the last time the Albanese government may have to change its position. Any government must be granted the space in which to reverse bad decisions without enduring toxic criticism from toxic media who are more interested in furthering discord than they are in facilitating positive change.

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Divine Right to Rule and the Delusion of the Religious Right

By Andrew Klein

In Western tradition there is a concept of kings and queens ruling by divine right, you have to imagine ‘God’ giving his/her imprimatur to the successful bidder for a Throne. Mostly this occurred after bloody battles and political scheming behind the scenes and more often than not involved members of the church. Those familiar with English history would be aware of Henry VIII of the Tudor line who succeeded his father Henry VII who managed to beat Richard III at Bosworth Field during the War of the Roses, much being made to discredit Richard III and bringing an end to the Plantagenet dynasty. Whilst it seems perfectly alright for ‘nobility ‘to raise armies, create alliances with powerful barons and their troops the idea that a ‘commoner’ would challenge a King was considered abhorrent, and in fact, regicide.

England did eventually have a commoner challenge a king when Oliver Cromwell and his Parliamentary Army fought and beat Charles I, leading to the King being decapitated and Puritan Rule under the rule of Cromwell. Anyway, it makes for good reading when you have the time.

My point this morning is the influence of the Church and Religion in the 21st Century on the Secular State. The relatively recent rantings by the ISL (Death Cult) in the Levant and its desire to create a Caliphate is probably about 600 years too late; most religions develop and evolve and religious scholars are more than capable of placing any religion into the context of the times. The evolution of the way that the divine is seen perceived and acted upon is not new.

Surprisingly, there is also a resurgence of fundamentalist thinking in the West, often by those who trawl through the Old Testament and select those passages that allow them to degrade and undermine persons deemed to be less worthy than themselves, and for some bizarre reason, the United States is still able to produce some of the most vitriolic and nasty type of preacher who would have felt much at home during the wars caused by religion willingly carrying verbal faggots and fuel to ‘burn’ and malign those apparently breaching Leviticus. Not a particularly bright move, but in effect sad and hurtful if people take the message of the ‘Christ‘ seriously.

The unknown danger lies in what our elected leaders believe and I expect that most of us, much like me, never took religion or its impact too seriously when voting for a candidate. Yet here is the crux of the matter: Australia has had a Royal Commission into the abuse of Children by Churches and Faith-based organisations which occurred for generations. Rape, sodomy and physical abuse not being uncommon and the more the evidence comes out one – as a reasonable human being – can only feel a sense of revulsion towards those that were both active and complicit in the abuse.

I have to ask myself why our former government moved funds around and away from these inquiries and having read the Submission by the Commonwealth to the Royal Commission I am left shaking my head. We have had a Prime Minister, that almost, daily made it a point to remind us that Islamist Terror via the ISL Death Cult compromises all of us. Sadly this has also been a slur of those in our community that are not only Australian but also Muslim. Yet the very sources of evil that came from a Christian background are ignored, white washed and justice is denied or delayed.

I do not think that religion has any place in a secular State and it is time that those seeking to rule/govern a secular State place their cards well and truly on the table and declare any conflict of interest that may arise. Our former Prime Minister and his more than gentle dealings with Cardinal Pell should be the first. It may be convenient for governments to ignore the plight of what are called the ‘Forgotten Australians‘ but the more evidence is presented there may come a time that distraction and deception fail and the voting public will want some serious answers.

 

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Australia needs a Bill of Rights

Australia is at a crossroads. The decade of Coalition government showed how vulnerable our rights and freedoms could be in the face of a political party radicalised by anti-democratic and illiberal ideas. The Republican Party in America is displaying how quickly rights can be destroyed, even after it was removed from government; we need to protect vulnerable groups within our nation from copycat attacks.

After the Albanese government fulfils its campaign promises to institute a collection of federal integrity measures, it should tackle drafting a Bill of Rights for Australia. The protections such legislation would afford are crucial.

The measures taken over the nine years of Coalition rule were such that Andrew Wilkie MP described the country as moving towards being a “pre-police state” in 2015 and “becoming a police state” in 2018. When courts objected to illegal steps by the Coalition, the government changed the law. We need to have stronger protections in place and even treaty obligations, before another government that shows such cynical disregard for Australian norms is elected into power.

There are a number of actions by the Liberal governments of the 21st century that must never be repeated. The indefinite administrative detention of refugees and the endless cruelties perpetrated upon them by Home Affairs and their contractors are a stain upon our reputation. We returned refugees to their persecutors, despite non-refoulment being at the heart of the Refugee Convention. Australia has sunk a long way since we stood as one of the original signatories in 1951.

The growing crisis of state capture over the last decade led to a government that was intent on keeping its secrets. The persecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery, his lawyer, are only two of the star chamber trials of whistleblowers in an egregious and secretive abrogation of citizens’ rights. The Coalition’s dedication to unpopular policy, echoed in state governments, has led to laws aiming to suppress peaceful protest. Without protest, democracy is crippled.

Scared of its voters, the government stepped up surveillance. The police need a warrant to inspect people’s electronic devices. Border Force, by contrast, has taken 40,000 electronic devices from people entering Australia over the last five years in a fishing exercise surrounded in secrecy.

The overturning of Roe v Wade last week in America pointed out that rights not encoded in laws are vulnerable. Now reproductive rights groups are preparing for cases where women who have miscarriages are arrested, their phone and internet history searched. Adversarial partners could be asked to testify to the criminality of the loss of a pregnancy, and the bounty system would reward them financially for the accusation.

Pregnancy tests in small towns are being put behind the counter to block privacy. Doctors are dangerously refusing to treat women miscarrying until they contract an infection, and pharmacists are refusing to issue the prescribed medication to hurry a miscarriage safely to its conclusion. Women’s bodies have ceased to be their own in Republican states, the very states where the maternal death rate is by far the worst in the industrialised world. Pregnancy is being criminalised.

The former Vice President has repeated the proposal that the abortion ban should be implemented nationally when the Republicans next take the other two arms of government.

This is not a decision supported by many Americans. Roughly 80% support abortion in some cases. Approximately 60-70% support abortion in the first trimester. The unpopularity of state bills allowing women or doctors to be charged with homicide for any intervention from the moment of conception does not prevent their passing. America’s democratic processes at all levels are compromised to enable this minority rule.

It is not just unwillingly pregnant people that stand to suffer. Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion outlined the fact that he saw all privacy protection precedents as “demonstrably erroneous” and that none could stand. Not only is marriage equality likely to be reduced to a state matter in America, but also the re-criminalisation of homosexuality. Some Republican figures have begun discussing banning contraceptive access in their state.

The Supreme Court’s attack on rights took place because three increasingly radical figures were named to the court under one President. It was not an armed coup that is depriving Americans of their freedom and equality but judicial appointments by a single elected leader. He functioned as the key to implementing decades of unscrupulous strategising by those using him.

There are two main cultural forces at work in America shaping these minority decisions being imposed on the public. One is the growth of the Religious Right, expressing extremist Christian positions on sexual morality that must be universally enforced to allow Christ to return. The other is a “social conservatism” deployed by Republican strategists and their media allies in “culture war” campaigns. The two overlap: the former depicts homosexuality as a grotesque sin, the latter depicts it as a grotesque and unmanly aberration.

Both forces are at work in the Right in Australia. Under the Morrison government, Australians saw the Religious Right come to the fore. The long Coalition procrastination on marriage equality made the debate bitter and harmful. After the passing of the marriage amendment, the backlash from religious conservatives was embraced by Morrison who worked to pass a parallel bill legalising religious discrimination.

Morrison accompanied this with attacks on trans youth and sportspeople, an echo of a key Republican strategy in America. The embrace of Katherine Deves, whose campaign was apparently run out of his office, illustrates the inclusiveness of the strategy. Right-wing feminists who have been encouraged to deploy white supremacist talking points are brought into the fold to broaden the appeal. In America, hundreds of laws have been implemented to limit both teachers’ ability to talk about the existence of LGBTQI+ people and the actions of trans people.

This Religious Right pressure on government hasn’t disappeared with Morrison. Extreme religious groups are stacking Liberal and National Party branches. In South Australia, the leader of the Liberal opposition David Speirs, three of his shadow ministry, and Labor MP Clare Scriven are attending an anti-choice training day on the same weekend as rallies against anti-choice legislation take place around the country.

The same (substantially fossil-fuel funded) culture war battles are being fought in Australia as in America. We have echoes of their Critical Race Theory battles in our “history wars.” Senator Hollie Hughes just reported to the Sydney Institute that “Marxist teachers” were to blame for the Morrison government’s defeat. This parrots lines in America where Republicans are trying to break the public school system in favour of religious education. Sky News both echoes and prompts the culture war battles that swirl in the internet sewers. The Religious Right has shown it is as unscrupulous as the socially conservative Right in the tools being used to reverse the achievements of the civil rights era.

Already, a Bill of Right’s protections is going to be difficult to define in Australia. Disinformation makes a fact-based discussion challenging. Anti-vaxxers would argue that the community’s need for mass vaccination to keep hospital systems functioning is a plot meant to poison them. Shaping a line for the protection of protest in regular times as opposed to pandemic eras is fraught. The Deves position and its “alternative facts” are being filtered out through women’s chats and gender-critical feminist journals disseminating illusory threats and breeding a demand for the persecution of a minority.

This debate will be complicated and require a delicate hand so that the provisions are clear enough to prevent excessive judicial license to interpret. They must be comprehensive enough to prevent a group from being harmed by its interests’ omission.

America is showing us that the combination of religious extremism and disinformation-based culture war radicalisation can create a dangerous voter bloc. A disengaged majority can be overwhelmed before it knows what hit it.

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Builders or wreckers – the contrast is stark

The Coalition came to power in 2013 with the promise to wreck things and they didn’t disappoint.

Labor had introduced a price on carbon that was working well. It encouraged polluters to reduce emissions, investment in renewable energy, and research and development. It gave money to farmers for carbon abatement. Trade exposed industries were compensated as were consumers with a tripling of the tax-free threshold, increased pensions and energy supplements to welfare recipients.

We also had a tax on mining superprofits with the revenue to be redistributed via company tax cuts, small business instant asset write-offs, increasing the superannuation guarantee and super tax concessions, an infrastructure fund for the states, increases to family tax benefits, a supplementary allowance for those on income support, plus the schoolkids bonus.

And then along came Tones who got rid of it all.

Investors in clean energy fled as the Coalition “axed the tax” and cut the renewable energy target. Soaring profits from mining continue to be funnelled off to foreign shareholders as they squeeze every cent of profit from what are fast becoming stranded assets, leaving this energy rich nation to deal with exorbitant power prices and the insecurity of an aging fossil fuel generation fleet.

Under the Gillard government, a real FttP rollout of the NBN had begun.

Abbott’s response to this nation building infrastructure as he instructed then shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull to “demolish” it?

“The Government is going to invest $43 billion worth of hard-earned money in what I believe is going to turn out to be a white elephant on a massive scale. We can be certain the NBN will be to this term of government what pink batts and school halls were to the last term of government.”

It is telling that they chose Murdoch’s Fox Sports studio to announce the demolition.

We are now paying billions to redo NBN connections to all those poor bunnies who had the totally inadequate FttN thrust upon them.

Over the last nine years, our relations with other countries soured. Our rankings for human rights, transparency and corruption, and press freedom have all tumbled, as has trust in government and other institutions.

These will all have to be rebuilt.

From the way Peter Dutton has started as leader, it seems the wrecking mentality continues in the federal Coalition. Luckily, the Australian electorate has made them irrelevant.

 

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About “Boofhead”

A person’s appearance is the most challenging thing to write about because one doesn’t want to be insulting. Nevertheless, when such things have a direct bearing on the electability of an individual, the writer needs to make a judgement.

Many factors come into play when accessing one’s ability to lead, and I referred to them many times during the past decade when criticising Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

Now the Liberal Party have elected Peter Dutton as their leader and finds themselves confronting the same problem: a leader has no character.

His appearance is but one of the numerous flaws that make him unelectable. At times his appearance can be positively frightening. I watched an interview with him last week in which he appeared grotesque to the point wherein he looked menacing, even absurd. Perhaps it was the lighting, but his face seemed to lack definition. From it, two small black eyes appeared. The right one was blacker than the other.

No doubt he can be a frightening-looking man. Women, in particular, I’d assume find him so. I’m not being silly here, but perhaps he should consult a make-up artist.

But let’s take a few steps backwards and do a background check.

Wikipedia tells us that:

“Peter Dutton … is an Australian politician who has been Leader of the Liberal Party and Leader of the Opposition since May 2022. He has represented the Queensland seat of Dickson in the House of Representatives since 2001and held ministerial office in the Howard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison Coalition Governments.

Early Life

Dutton was born on 18 November 1970 in the northern Brisbane suburb of Boondall. He is the eldest of five children, with one brother and three sisters. His mother, Ailsa Leitch, worked in childcare, and his father, Bruce Dutton, was a builder. Dutton finished high school at the Anglican St Paul’s School, Bald Hills.

Police career

Upon leaving high school, Dutton graduated from the Queensland Police Academy in 1990. He served as a Queensland Police officer for nearly a decade, working in the drug squad in Brisbane in the early 1990s. He also worked in the sex offenders squad and with the National Crime Authority. In 1999, Dutton left the Queensland Police, achieving the rank of senior detective constable.

Business activities

On leaving the police, Dutton completed a Bachelor of Business at the Queensland University of Technology. He and his father founded the business Dutton Holdings, registered in 2000; it operated under six different trading and business names. The company bought, renovated, and converted buildings into childcare centres, and in 2002 it sold three childcare centres to the now-defunct ABC Learning. ABC Learning continued to pay rent of $100,000 to Dutton Holdings. Dutton Holdings continues to trade under the name Dutton Building & Development.

Note: A comprehensive biography of Peter Dutton is available on Wikipedia, and I suggest you go there if you require more information.

What we know about his character

(My apologies for repeating what I wrote a little over a fortnight ago, but I feel that it was important to include in this article).

1 Let’s begin in here when:

“… News Corp Sunday political editor Samantha Maiden wrote a column critical of Jamie Briggs. Dutton drafted a text message to Briggs describing Maiden as a “mad fucking witch” but inadvertently sent it to Maiden. Maiden accepted an apology from Dutton.”

2 Before the 2016 election, Dutton said of refugees:

“… many won’t be numerate or literate in their own language let alone English”, and “These people would be taking Australian jobs”. Turnbull defended Dutton by stating he is an “outstanding Immigration Minister”.

3 And this:

“Dutton denied claims made by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young that she was spied on during a visit to Nauru.”

4 But:

“The spying claims were later confirmed by the Immigration Department and Wilson Security who carried out the spying operation.”

The spying claims were later confirmed by the Immigration Department and Wilson Security, who carried out the spying operation.

5 When the then-prime minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations in 2008, Dutton was the only member of the Coalition frontbench to ‘boycott’ the apology.

He excused his absence by saying the apology was:

 

 

Five years ago Dutton told the Sydney Morning Herald that he didn’t understand its symbolism and importance to Indigenous people at the time. This was when his name was being brought up as a potential future PM. This albatross around his neck over the apology has been there – and will continue to be there – for some considerable time. He can make all the excuses he likes, but he’s going to have fun trying to find someone who believes his excuses.

5 Sudanese gangs. In January,2018, Dutton claimed people in Melbourne were “scared to go out to restaurants” due to “African gang violence”.

6 Peter Dutton resigned from the Police Force 20 years ago, but a cloak of mystery has always hung over it.

In his maiden speech in Parliament in 2001, Dutton said he’d witnessed:

“… the best and the worst that society has to offer during his time in the force.

I have seen the wonderful, kind nature of people willing to offer any assistance to those in their worst hour, and I have seen the sickening behaviour displayed by people who, frankly, barely justify their existence…”

Interesting observation. I wonder which one has had the most influence in his political career.

7 Mr Dutton, during the 2019 election, was forced to apologise after he accused his rival of using her disability as an excuse to not move into the electorate.

8 He thought that performing an anti-marriage equality song at the NRL Grand Final was a good idea. Because it was “free speech”.

Dutton also criticised a list of 20 high-profile CEOs who signed a letter urging the prime minister to legislate for same-sex marriage and singled out Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

“If Alan Joyce and any other CEO wants to campaign on this or any other issue in their own time and on their own time, good luck to them,” he told a Queensland LNP conference crowd.

9 Dutton did, however, raise a few eyebrows when he suggested “special treatment” of white South African farmers earlier this year, claiming they were being “persecuted” and faced “horrific circumstances”. Apparently, this didn’t go down well in South Africa – its government demanded Dutton retract his comments.

10 In 2015 Dutton joked about the plight of Pacific Island nations facing rising sea levels due to climate change. And who was he telling the joke to? Well, none other than Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison. Abbott was prime minister then and had just returned from talks with Pacific Island leaders about climate change in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

They were late for a meeting about Syrian refugees, and Dutton remarked that they were running to “Cape York time“. Abbott replied that there was “a bit of that up in Port Moresby”.

“Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door,” Dutton quipped back.

11 Peter Dutton identifies as a Christian, but his public activities in that space are rare.

12 More recently, as the new Opposition Leader, Dutton suggested that specific portfolios required a different tone or a different language than others and that he hoped people wouldn’t judge him by it.

13 Dutton’s wealth – including extensive property holdings and his wife’s child care business – continues to be a talking point. Estimates have been anywhere between $5million and $300million, depending on who you read and how it is calculated. I have no idea what his worth is, and I refuse to engage in speculation.

The pedlars of verbal violence and dishonesty are the most vigorous defenders of free speech because it gives their vitriolic nonsense legitimacy. With the use of free speech, the bigots and hate-mongers seek to influence those in the community who are susceptible or like-minded.

Summary

After all the racist overtones, the belittling comments, the callus detachment and straight-out xenophobia, is he really saying it was only an act because that’s what different portfolios demanded? How insulting to those who sought our refuge and demeaning to those who would offer it. And how evil of those who would believe him.

Dutton’s worldview seems to have been formed from a series of pessimistic experiences without comprehending the meaning of optimism.

And for old time’s sake:

 

 

 

My last post: Why is Scott Morrison remaining in the Parliament?

My thought for the day

It is far better to form your own independent opinions relative to your life experience and reason than to allow yourself to be blindly led by others.

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Why is Scott Morrison remaining in the Parliament?

The answer to my headline will be revealed a little later, or it may not, depending on how you digest what l am suggesting.

Tony Abbott stayed on after being rolled by Turnbull. Rudd did so when Gillard successfully challenged. Both were motivated by the possibility of regaining power. Abbott didn’t and became a hindrance to Turnbull, but Rudd did and became Prime Minister for a second time.

So, what could be Morrison’s motivation for staying on? Perhaps his ego is telling him to be patient for another opportunity. Maybe he believes God’s will is for him to fulfil his destiny. Maybe there is another reason. Maybe it’s for the money (though I’m not suggesting it is).

In May, the Australian Associated Press fact-check reported that Morrison’s yearly salary was $549,250.

But that was while he was prime minister. But:

As of 2019, the annual base salary of a member of the federal Parliament in Australia is $211,250 per annum. Parliament House, which is what Morrison will receive as long as he stays in Parliament (provided he doesn’t become a shadow minister).

That’s plus expenses which can be very lucrative. (Writing for Yahoo Finance, Eliza Bavin puts it at $300,000 PA.)

“Now, let’s discuss the parliamentary pension for when Morrison finally decided to exit.

When Tony Abbot departed in 2019, the Sydney Morning Herald reported he would receive 6.5 per cent of the base parliamentary salary (now $211,250) for time spent as an MP and 6.5 per cent of the PM salary (now $549,250) multiplied by the years spent in each job respectively. This figure is then multiplied by 75 per cent of that total, giving a slightly smaller number.

If we do some similar maths for Morrison for the time spent as a Minister, Prime Minister and regular MP, the total comes to about $200,000 annually.”

It’s not a lousy superannuation package; whatever way you look at it, think about all the perks that go with it. Free travel, an office with a personal secretary. Labor has promised to have a Royal Commission with terms of reference up and running before Christmas.

But could there be another reason for him staying on? Yes, there could be, and its name is Robodebt.

The terms of reference could include the following:

  1. To establish who was responsible for establishing Robodebt scheme.
  2. To establish what advice and what process or processes informed the design and implementation of the Robodebt scheme.
  3. To investigate the handling of complaints about the Robodebt scheme – including in relation to the scheme’s legality – by Services Australia, the Department of Human Services, other relevant Commonwealth agencies and Ministers.
  4. To determine how much the implementation, suspension and wind-back of the Robodebt scheme cost taxpayers.
  5. To investigate the harm caused to law-abiding Australians by the Robodebt scheme.
  6. To investigate the use of third-party debt collectors under the Robodebt scheme.

The Australian (firewalled) described Robodebt as:

“… the worst example of maladministration and callous indifference since the Coalition took office, but the PM won’t be held to account.”

In fact, it’s much worse than that; it is possibly the most callous scheme ever devised by a political party in Australian political history. And further to that, Scott Morrison’s fingerprints are all over it. It has been alleged (repeat, alleged) that Morrison told the department to continue even after being told that the scheme was illegal.

Image from Graham Perrett MP (Facebook)

When the unlawful scheme was conceived, Mr Morrison was social services minister and continued the welfare debt recovery program as prime minister and even underpinned a return to surplus on a projected windfall.

And if that were the case, then it would be better in Morrison’s defence to give legal evidence as an MP and former Prime Minister than as a private citizen. There would be protection in doing so in the event that some pro bono work is required at a later date.

The former Government unfailingly did all it could to cover up and obstruct enquiries into the origins of Robodebt and has consistently refused to take responsibility for the damage it caused, including the real possibility that many people committed suicide.

Eventually, after Labor helped instigate a class action, the Government caved in, and a $1.8 billion settlement was made to repay the scheme’s victims. The offer saved Morrison, Roberts and Porter from appearing in the witness box. However, now that we have a Royal Commission. People will have to front up and tell the truth.

Who was responsible for establishing the scheme? Why did the Commonwealth “unlawfully claim nearly $2 billion in debts from 433,000 people?”

This highly:

“… illegal and immoral Robodebt scheme caused serious harm to many Australian families – who have reported that this contributed to stress, anxiety, financial destitution and even suicide.”

In April of this year, the then Opposition Leader Anthony told the ABC that Robodebt was a “human tragedy.”

“Against all evidence, and all the outcry, the government insisted on using algorithms instead of people to pursue debt-recovery against Australians who, in many cases, had no debt to pay,” Mr Albanese said.

“It caused untold misery.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded, telling the ABC that:

“The problem has been addressed” when asked if the Coalition planned to hold inquiries into the program.

“There have been numerous inquiries into this and there’s been court matters which we’ve fully cooperated in and almost $750 million in response to that,” Mr Morrison said.

“And the changes in the scheme have been in place.

“So the problem has been addressed, but any such inquiry, I imagine, would have to start with the process of income assessment, averaging of income, which was introduced by the Labor Party.”

Why did the Government undertake Robodebt when there were significant questions about its legality? We now know that this was Scott Morrison’s scheme; he was the Social Services Minister at the time of the 2016 election when he proudly boasted it would pump billions into the budget bottom line.

John Howard told Tony Abbott that he would be opening a can of worms with his Pink Batts and Julia Gillard Royal Commissions, and it has turned out that way. There is an immediate call for them at the mere whiff of a scandal, but this is profoundly different. It has the stench of Morrison written all over it.

Robodebt has unnecessarily inflicted unwanted anguish and mental stress on those susceptible to it. We may never know the number of suicides caused by the receipt of automatically generated debt letters, but we need to know the truth. So, the case for a judicial inquiry into this debacle is irresistible. It would be able to examine not only the issue of what was known about the unlawfulness of the scheme but the “human cost” of it, plus the Government’s “use of private debt collectors” to pursue victims.

Do you shape the truth for the sake of a good impression? On the other hand, do you tell the truth even if it may tear down people’s view of you? Alternatively, do you simply use the contrivance of omission and create another lie. I can only conclude that there is always pain in truth, but there is no harm in it.

My previous post: The one that the Murdoch media got horribly wrong.

My thought for the day

Time doesn’t diminish the crime.

 

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It is hard to fathom what a hateful place Australia has become

The last decade changed Australia.

We became a country who held asylum seekers hostage in concentration camps where they were regularly abused and offered no hope for the future. Various Australians were demonised – Muslims, those of Lebanese and African descent, the Chinese diaspora. The superiority of Western Christian civilisation was to be taught in schools.

We cut off services to remote Indigenous communities, unwilling to support their “lifestyle choices”, placed them on income management despite no evidence that it improved anything, took their children and locked up their youth in record numbers, some as young as ten years old, and rejected the invitation offered by the Uluru statement.

Our aged care system is in an appalling state. Lack of regulation and oversight has led to a private industry whose prime motive is profit rather than care. The heart-breaking stories from the Royal Commissions into the aged and disability care sectors should shame us all.

Prominent women have been bullied, harassed, intimidated, demeaned and silenced. Julia Gillard, Gillian Triggs, Yassmin Abdul-Magied, Christine Holgate, Sarah Hanson-Young have all been treated deplorably and it’s worth noting that Peter Dutton was one of the prime offenders.

During Dutton’s failed leadership coup against Turnbull, Liberal women were reduced to tears and threatened with the loss of their preselection. No-one denies this happened – many women spoke out at the time – but there were no consequences.

The rainbow community have been used as political footballs in the Coalition’s attempt to woo the religious vote. The country had publicly debated their right to marry, to study or work, to play sport, to aged care, to order a wedding cake or flowers, to pronouns – even where they go to the toilet had been endlessly pored over by conservative media.

The Coalition set about demonising and undermining unions in order to remove the ability of workers to have a collective voice. They have kept unemployment benefits below the poverty level and cut penalty rates to the lowest paid workers. Wages have stagnated whilst cost of living has soared.

We gave tax cuts and concessions to the wealthy and then, in the name of budget repair, illegally pursued welfare recipients for historical debts with the onus on them to prove they didn’t owe anything.

So much has been made by the government of the need for coal and gas to provide cheap reliable power, that they refuse to admit that it is our very reliance on these fuels that is driving up prices. We stupidly sold our resource development to foreign shareholders who then determine to whom they will sell and for how much. It’s all about profit and nothing about benefit for local consumers.

Supposedly fixing this would risk national sovereignty – investors would be wary, they say. I would suggest any slack left by fossil fuel investors would be quickly picked up by investment in renewable energy, storage and transmission. But that wouldn’t please Gina and Clive and a few coal miners in Queensland who want to keep their exorbitantly high-paying jobs.

Housing has become unaffordable, not because of a lack of supply, but because of tax concessions and low interest rates that have seen the market swamped by investors. A look at politicians’ property portfolios, Peter Dutton’s for example, may explain why they are so reluctant to change this.

We have fallen from a world leader in introducing a price on carbon to a pariah, labelled the Colossal Fossil for our resistance to any action on climate change. We are now a global leader in wildlife extinctions.

Water has become a commodity for the use of miners and large-scale irrigators, or for landowners to sell to the government. The abuse and corruption has been exposed many times, but still it continues as our waterways dry up, fish die, and towns truck in water to survive.

There is no better example of this than John Norman – a cotton farmer charged with defrauding the Murray-Darling plan of tens of millions of dollars and causing significant damage to neighbouring farms. His property was in David Littleproud’s electorate and he is Littleproud’s ex-wife’s cousin. Despite being charged in 2018, I can find no record of prosecution to date though it appears he may have sold his property along with its significant water allocation.

Barnaby Joyce and Angus Taylor are also up to their eyeballs in this. Tanya Plibersek will have an uphill battle trying to sort this mess out.

One of the most disturbing factors of the previous government was their increasing secrecy – refusing to release reports, shutting down FoI requests, employing consultants rather than using the public service, contracts awarded without tender. But what is most chilling has been their attacks on press freedom.

Journalists’ homes and offices have been raided and they have been threatened with prosecution or defamation suits. The ABC has had its funding cut and had countless complaints from government and endless inquiries into its supposed bias, all concluding it is not. Respected journalists like Emma Alberici and Nick Ross have been sacked because the government didn’t like what they wrote.

We have had to have spelled out to politicians that pork-barrelling is, in fact, illegal – something they refuse to accept. The arrogance of government using public money for political gain, or the enrichment of associates, has become so entrenched that they believe it a legitimate right of power.

Bestowing positions as rewards for party loyalty rather than on merit and expertise is endemic. Appointing Sophie Mirabella to the Fair Work Commission in the dying days of government, a job she will hold until age 65 at a huge salary, was a prime example of this. They also gifted her husband Greg a senate seat in Victoria. Sophie has always had an eye for the prize.

Universities have also been under attack – locked out from Jobkeeper assistance, no foreign students, funding cuts, interference in research grants and courses, demeaned as out-of-touch indulgent “elites”. Anti-intellectual, anti-science rhetoric has emboldened climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers – groups the government actively supported and pursued.

We have become a hateful place over the last decade – suspicious of each other, greedy, unprincipled, uncaring, focused only on what’s in it for me.

The election showed the country is ready for a reset. It will be up to all of us to be part of that. We can and must do better.

 

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One that the Murdoch media got horribly wrong

1 Before this win, Labor was last in power for six years from 2007-2013. Before that, you have to go back to 1993, when Paul Keating was Prime Minister. The Coalition has dominated the intervening years, and it has done so with the assistance of the newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Things changed forever on May 21 2022. People, in their wisdom, decided that Rupert’s mastheads were part of the problem and not the solution. The influence they once carried in the form of deception, misleading headlines or straight outlying was no longer.

The traditional means by which we gathered our information is now well and truly antiquated.

The control over how we once sought our political news, namely newspapers, has been eroded to the point of obsolescence. This election has proven it. The Murdoch newspapers – try as they may – had very little influence on the election results. There is now a significant disconnect between those who produce news for consumption and its consumers. The monitoring of information from Murdoch and the election outcomes show just how out of step they are with the voting public.

The public rejected traditional media like the Murdoch mastheads for the same reasons they shied away from the Morrison Government. They were sick and tired of all the lying, for example, about climate change, neo-conservatism, and significantly, the state of play in the theatre of politics. They preferred to get their information from social media outlets and reputable online sources such as The AIMN.

The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Herald Sun, The Courier-Mail, The Advertiser, The Mercury, and the Northern Territory. News Corp is reported to control 70% of the printed news in all capital cities.

 

 

In terms of politics, they are now a defunct rabble. Their opinion isn’t worth the cost of the ink that adheres itself to the newsprint they use.

News Corp in this election was at its bombastic best. Its front pages were full of dangerous, destructive insulting and harmful pictures. They savaged independent candidates with articles that knew no boundaries.

Writing in The Guardian, Malcolm Farr was critical of elements in the Murdoch media, postulating that:

“The most destructive, harmful and dangerous vote anyone can make in the forthcoming election is for a teal independent or the Greens,” wrote the Australian’s Greg Sheridan on May 3. “They are both a direct threat to our national security.”

A futile comment, as it turned out, as the Greens picked up another three seats, and the Independents stomped home in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Most were women replacing men.

Despite what was a clear direction from the punters to elect the independents, Murdoch is known to prefer maintaining a two-party system.

So, what comes out of all this rejection of Murdoch and his acolytes? There are still some good sports pages to read and pics galore, but I wouldn’t trust the politics.

In debating their tactics with colleagues and friends, I have noticed that the Sky (and Fox) viewership seems to be marked by a collective personality disorder whereby the viewer feels almost as though they’ve been let into a secret society. Arguably, this has been the election in which the bias of its tilted reporting has been exposed?

When the polls have been analysed to the nth degree, and all the data is done and dusted, one of the biggest stories of this election will be how Murdoch’s News Corp failed to have the desired influence on the result. From newspapers to television; it has become impotent. Maybe forever. I want to think so.

If a newspaper article is written in a manner to suggest objectivity, but subjective words are scattered throughout it together with carefully phrased unsupported statements, then dismiss the piece as having no cogency.

2 The new Ministry:

Ups and downs

On the last count, Labor had secured 77 seats from which it has to select a Speaker or select a Speaker from the crossbench (which would be a brave move). Either way, it will govern in its own right.

Albanese has been quick out of the blocks selecting a Ministry to take Australia into the future. He advised all the Ministers “not to waste a day” of government.

Jason Clare, Labor’s campaign spokesperson ended up with education. A little surprising given the work he had done on housing policy. And Albanese wanted to promote the Queensland left-wing senator Murray Watt, and he did. Straight into the cabinet.

Women will be an issue for both major parties, but Albo is way ahead of the Coalition, boasting of appointing the “largest number of women ever in an Australian cabinet.”

Relative to its importance, early childhood ended up in the outer Ministry. “Given cheaper childcare was so central to Labor’s campaign“, that really surprised me.

I’m also surprised when a person with expertise in one area is given another. Murray Watts is a case in point. He has vast knowledge in communications yet ended up in foreign affairs.

The ins and outs

It’s a bit like selecting a football team. You need 22 fit players, and you have 30 players competing for the 22 spots.

Three females have “moved from the backbench to the outer Ministry“:

“Left-winger from Western Australia Anne Aly, Anika Wells from Queensland, and Kristy McBain, both right-wing are from New South Wales.”

Remember, all the factions have to comply with Labor’s Affirmative Action policy. Wells “needed to replace the Queensland right-winger Shayne Neumann” (formerly, veterans’ affairs) on the new frontbench.

So, Aly ended up with early childhood education, and Wells got aged care and sport. McBain got regional development. There are now ten women in a 23-person cabinet, which I think is a record.

Albanese has invested in a talented professional team with Marles in defence, Penny Wong in foreign affairs, Katy Gallagher in finance, Jim Chalmers in Treasury, Mark Butler in health and Tony Burke as leader of the lower house and in the workplace relations portfolio.

NSW right-winger Chris Bowen will implement the plan he set up in opposition for climate and energy.

Bill Shorten was given the portfolio he wanted, disability, even though they are not close, or so it is said.

Pat Conroy will work with Penny Wong on the Pacific in the outer Ministry- left-winger Andrew Giles will manage immigration. Victorian Clare O’Neil in home affairs), and the left-wing senator Tim Ayers will be assistant minister for trade and manufacturing.

As a reward for having delivered four lower house seats to Labor’s column in 2022, Patrick Gorman was appointed assistant minister to the prime minister.

Andrew Leigh, an economics professor, is always disadvantaged because he is not a faction member. He is one of the Labour party’s best brains. Albanese has kept him as an assistant treasury minister responsible for competition policy and charities in honour of his substantial expertise.

The South Australian right-wing veteran Don Farrell has also kicked a goal; now, he’s Labor’s deputy Senate leader. Farrell also keeps the portfolio of special minister of state, which he held in opposition, together with trade and tourism.

The to-do list

The first Albanese cabinet and Ministry were sworn in at Government House on Wednesday morning, and the subcommittees of the new cabinet met for the first-time last Thursday. There is much work to be done.

With a trip to Tokyo out of the way, Albanese is now on his way to Indonesia.

Upon his return, he will nominate Sue Lines, a Western Australian senator, as the new Senate President when the 47th parliament meets for the first time in the last week of July.

As for the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Queenslander Milton Dick and Victorian Rob Mitchell have shown interest, but the more exciting prospect would be Tasmanian veteran independent Andrew Wilkie who has expressed interest in sitting in the Speaker’s chair.

My thought for the day

Would you rather play in a team of champions or a champion team?

My previous post: The villain takes centre stage

 

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Peter Dutton On Education And Re-education…

Now, let me be quite clear here: I’m not being overly sensitive to Peter Dutton’s recent comments because I’ve spent a large part of my professional life in schools. Ok, I’m a teacher and, according to our new leader, I’m an extremist…

Wait, that’s right. Peter Dutton isn’t our new leader. The Liberals didn’t win the election. Sorry, it’s easy to forget that when the media have spent more time talking about the Coalition and how poorly Labor went than talking about Labor. Well, I’m sure with the crisis in the cost of energy, we’ll be hearing all about Labor’s poor planning and their lack of any solution to this problem which they should have fixed when they were last in office…

Anyway, I was talking about Mr Dutton’s latest attempt to demonstrate his softer side by telling all the viewers on Sky that teachers were extremists and that this would be a focus for the next election. It’s entirely possible that this was a throwaway line, like his joke about water lapping at the door. After all, he was on the Andrew Bolt show and there were likely to be less people listening live than when he shared the joke with Tony and Scott.

Just in case you’re one of the millions who don’t listen to “The Bolt Report”, the substance of He Who Must Not Be Blamed, Shamed or Named’s comments was that he was going to talk to parents about what teachers were doing and get them all onside and put a stop to this lefty bias that teachers seem to have.

As Pleasant Pete said: “…If it was limited to just environmental issues or just to climate change, it would be bad enough… extremism is some of the teachers and the language they use, the approach that they take, it’s across a broad range of public policy areas and I think the national curriculum, the values argument is going to be one of the big debates over this parliament and I think you will see a big difference between the policies we take to the next election compared to what Labor will. Labor is completely and utterly dominated by the union movement as you know and the teachers’ union is one of the strongest voices in the ALP and not in a good way!”

That’s the actual quote so if it seems to be a little disjointed that may be because he had to stop and remember that he’s a nice man now that he doesn’t have any of those nasty portfolios that demand you drag families out of their beds in the middle of the night or tell rape victims that they can’t have an abortion because we will decide who comes into this country and the circumstances, etc.

But it was his comments on history that demonstrated exactly how much he’s changed. He said that he didn’t want teachers “teaching a different view of history”. Teachers should stick to the actual facts of what happened.

Now, this is a perfectly reasonable demand for a leader to make. After all, that’s the idea that Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin and various other strong leaders had. There are certain facts and you stick to them and if you seem to think that there aren’t we can educate you at the re-education camp.

Yes, not teaching a different view of history begs the question: “Different view from who or what?”

Now, I realise a question like “Was Australia settled or invaded?” does raise the temperature at some family get-togethers, but the idea that history is all neatly settled some time ago and all that teachers do is present a series of orderly facts isn’t teaching history any more than saying that science has discovered everything that we need to know and there’s no room for an alternative hypothesis about the nature of the universe or a fresh look at the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum physics and let’s just ignore Einstein’s objections…

Sorry, I got distracted there. There’s probably several physicists upset by me suggesting that there’s something wrong with the Copenhagen interpretation, and Dutton would be on their side for sure. Or mine, on the grounds that they know too much about the subject and we’re better off sticking with someone like me who’s done his own research.

There’s nothing wrong with the idea that teachers “should stick to the actual facts of what happened”, except for the fact that – as a discipline – history is about using various sources to try to determine what DID actually happen. If the government version of history, for example, says that asylum seekers threw their children overboard and there’s video evidence, a historian also needs to investigate the eye-witness accounts that say it never happened, as well as trying to view the video evidence which seems to have be unavailable owing to the fact that it got wet, when the government ordered that it be thrown in the water in order to save their credibility.

Yes, it seems that Mr Dutton has a very settled view of the world. This must be what that columnist who said that Pete had the worldview of a Queensland cop meant when she said that we should give him a go. Once you decide who’s guilty, you don’t have to think about it any more.

Actually, I’m not even sure that Queensland police think that way…

 

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Dutton Blasts Albanese: ‘How Dare You Do What You Said You Would Do!’

SATIRE

Incoming Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has blasted Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for doing what he said he would do, as well as going back on an LNP policy.

‘How dare you do what you said you would do? That’s not what a government does’ he said.

‘That’s not what a government does’ he said.

‘He also reversed our policy, a very galling decision on his part. Mr Albanese is very entitled, isn’t he? He seems to think being ‘in government’ allows him and his fellow lefties to ‘make decisions’. The man is ‘delusional’.

 

 

 

 

 

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So long, and thanks for all the pish

Here’s your hat. What’s your hurry?

And so we bid farewell to inarguably Australia’s worst ever Prime Minister.

A shameless liar, a humbug, a serial failure, a belligerent bully, a duplicitous toad oozing smarm from every pore. A pig who appealed to worst instincts, who saw opportunity in the dogma of a prosperity cult to justify the exploitation of the vulnerable and indulgence of the wealthy. He treated natural disasters as photo opportunities, he was an indolent incompetent who bungled problems and fled crises. A bellicose grifter masquerading as Scotty from next door, a facile galoot mugging for the cameras to fill the void of actual effort, a Tupperware area manager playing dress-ups as Dear Leader. He was contemptuous of all expertise or insight that challenged the small notions of his own repressed experience and his selective, biblical literalism. Simply, he was a vacuous, smirking clown who thought he was getting away with it.

This genius political tactician, the master campaigner took to market a sales pitch of licenced corruption, of “more CO² is less” and the feeding of anti-trans tropes to a usually reliable constituency of hateful religious bigots. As a desperate off-set to The Oaf’s blunderfucks the Tory machine resorted to re-animating the spectral John Howard to haunt the streets making noises like a trod-upon duck in once-safe blue-ribbon enclaves whose posh inhabitants fled for the exits.

Scooter left the office as he came to it – with self-serving duplicity and bastardry. Our affected Jesus Freak In Chief, a Christian of convenience, specialises in the demonisation of the desperate for personal benefit. His final wretched act as Prime Minister was to instruct the Australian Border Force to over-ride his own protocols and publicise an interception of a suspected asylum seeker boat on election day.

“I’ve been here to stop this boat, but in order for me to be there to stop those that may come from here, you need to vote Liberal and Nationals today.”

The last, frantic flailings of a fraud. No eagle painting this time but chickens coming home to roost – in an unused Bunnings flat-pack chook pen.

To stretch the metaphorical ironies – this useless shonk has burned down the House Of Liberal and charred the paint on the National Party outhouse as a bonus. If you listen carefully you can hear the ‘fwit fwit fwit’ of his chubby thighs as he flees the scene smelling of petrol and hubris, a sound not quite drowned out by the tantrums of entitled Tory born-to-rulers.

Perhaps, in a few years after a little of his damage is repaired, some may recall his name as they drop into Engadine Maccers and see, there in the corner, the Scott Morrison memorial stool.

 

(The entitled are not known for a capacity for introspection and self analysis.)

 

Looking for Mr Right

From Howard, to Abbott to Morrison the Tories continue to search for the bottom of the barrel and their scrapings have revealed what many dreaded. Herr Schickltuber. This is a man who clenches his butt cheeks to force a smile, who thinks “ex-Queensland copper” is a positive on his résumé and “lefty” is a pejorative and whose aesthetic runs to menace and black uniforms, side-arms and dark-sunnied goon squads. A hairless Lurch sans the joie de vivre.

Ersatzgruppenfritter Dutton, unlike his predecessor, possess some modicum of self-awareness but his human skin-suit is a work in progress. The warmongering of a belligerent hawk is to be toned down, a cuddlier, softer, kinder style of refugee abuser is to emerge – handing out a free kitten with every poking stick.

“I’ve always seen Parliament as a disadvantage frankly for sitting governments.” (Peter Dutton, 10 December 2018).

Let the re-imaging begin. FMD!

Meanwhile the rubes of the Nats contemplate a future continuing with a befuddled oik at the pointy end, hands clasped over his beer belly at pressers, puce of face, snaggled of tooth reciting the names of country towns he’s been pissed in like some bizarre rendition of I’ve Been Everywhere.

* * * * * * *

Regardless, Labor, the Greens and progressive independents have routed the bastards. It’s a bright new day and I will now retire my ScoMo sledges and direct my energies to developing a portfolio of potato-themed invective.

 

References

https://www.themonthly.com.au/the-politics/rachel-withers/2022/05/25/same-same-dutton

https://www.crikey.com.au/2022/05/22/scott-morrison-liar-lightweight-loser-one-final-victory/

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/may/23/stoking-fear-and-hatred-held-the-coalition-in-power-finally-australia-had-enough

https://www.themonthly.com.au/the-politics/rachel-withers/2022/05/26/desperately-tweaking-sussan

 

This article was originally published on Grumpy Geezer.

 

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