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What’s good for the goose

Malcolm Turnbull has come a long way since he said the consequences of unchecked global warming would be catastrophic.

Today he leads a government that has cut $500 million from funding for clean energy, gutted the CSIRO, and continues to erroneously blame South Australia’s use of renewable energy for power failures.

Turnbull’s government remains steadfast in its support for the Adani coal mine and is contemplating a $1 billion loan for the project.

Last week, while most of the nation endured a massive heatwave, his government taunted the Opposition, and presumably anyone else concerned about carbon emissions, by passing around and petting a lump of coal.

The man who in 2010 said that Australia needed to move to “a situation where all or almost all of our energy comes from zero or very near zero-emission sources” now describes proponents of renewables as “drunk on left ideology on energy”.

These days Malcolm Turnbull is all about addressing the impact of carbon emissions by investing public money in clean coal. This is a bit like the government addressing the impact of smoking by investing in low-tar cigarettes, which hasn’t been suggested since Bronwyn Bishop was shadow Heath Minister.

Some might cast Turnbull as an incipit sellout to the fossil fuel industry who now hates renewable energy, but that’s only half true.

It is wrong to assume that Turnbull shares his coal-stroking compatriots’ phobia of clean energy. The man who last week attempted to revive his political fortunes by calling Bill Shorten a “hypocrite” is more than happy to get a little drunk on left ideology on renewables, at least when it comes to himself.

Last year the PM upgraded the solar panels on his Point Piper harbourside mansion and added a stack of batteries giving him a total of 14.5 kilowatts worth of solar panels and 14 hours of battery power. With more heatwaves and power shortages to come, this should ensure the Turnbulls remain in air-conditioned comfort.

So it turns out Turnbull is prepared to back renewables for one Australian family. And who can blame him for going off grid? It’s not like he can rely on his government to fix the problem.

Turnbull’s faith in coal is weak: his home is ready to go off grid

Today, FOI documents confirmed that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was advised that last year’s power blackouts in South Australia were not due to renewable energy failures, but to severe weather conditions that caused unprecedented damage to the network.

Turnbull decided to ignore this advice as it does not align with his commitment to fossil fuels and his party’s entrenched opposition to renewables. Instead, he and his ministers seized the opportunity to politicise the blackouts by blaming the generation mix and the South Australian Labor government, despite having been advised by concerned bureaucrats that in so doing, they were disseminating false information to the Australian people.

Federal Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg claimed that state and federal Labor governments had recklessly committed to ambitious new energy targets, using the SA blackouts as an example of how renewables are allegedly unstable, and allegedly lead to energy insecurity.

These men, along with Barnaby Joyce and other politicians, deliberately misled both parliament and the public, seizing the opportunity to manipulate and obfuscate for their personal and political gain, without any regard for the wellbeing of the country and its citizens. They are traitors.

Turnbull has done an extraordinary backflip from fighting to introduce a carbon price and losing the leadership of his party for his pains, to attacking Labor for “ideological obsession” with renewables at the expense of “energy security.”

However, Turnbull’s commitment to coal and gas does not extend to his personal life. Apparently he is not fully persuaded that coal and gas do indeed provide sufficient energy security. We learned today that the Prime Minister does not seem to be walking his talk, and has installed battery storage in his Point Piper home.

Turnbull also recently upgraded his solar array, to the point where he could almost go off-grid.

As was noted on Twitter, Turnbull is protecting himself and his family from the inconveniences, distresses and dangers of power outages in a NSW market dominated by coal, with renewable technology his policies vehemently oppose.

Turnbull is a hypocrite, as well as a traitor.

In the meantime, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) which is currently considering a $1billion loan to mining giant Adani, has refused a Greenpeace FOI request for dates and locations of upcoming board meetings, on the grounds that it could encourage protesters and media interest if they were made public. This is an acceptable reason for refusing a FOI request? We shall find out. Greenpeace is appealing the refusal.

Coal-fired generators have no future in Australia, writes Ian Verrender, in a piece that is worth a read.

I’m sure Malcolm Turnbull knows there is no future for coal.  I’m also sure he doesn’t care.

Turnbull will gamble with the future of the country and its citizens, many of whom suffer through upwards of 47 degree heat-waves without the benefit of battery storage, because Turnbull wants to keep the job he bought himself for $1.7 million.

And we thought we couldn’t do worse than Abbott.

This article was originally published on No Place for Sheep

 

Children of God?

By James Moylan

I have not been so angry for a very long time. When it comes to matters relating to what adults do to other adults then I can generally remain relatively clear headed – but regarding the abuse of children I simply cannot stay level headed and disinterested. Nor do I even want to try.

In the Bible it says:

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

However, in an article published today in The Australian, ‘Church knew about 4500 abuse claims’ the following observations are made:

The head of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council has held back tears as he talked about the “shocking” and “indefensible” number of alleged child sex abusers revealed by world-first data.

The research released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Monday found almost 4500 people made allegations of child sexual abuse to church authorities over 35 years.

Seven per cent of priests who were members of 75 surveyed Catholic authorities between 1950 and 2010 were alleged offenders.

In one of 10 religious orders examined, the St John of God Brothers, 40.4 per cent of members over the six decades were alleged abusers.

“Between January 1980 and February 2015, 4444 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse made to 93 Catholic Church authorities,” counsel assisting Gail Furness SC said in Sydney on Monday.

“The average age between the alleged abuse and date a claim was made was 33 years.”

….

These have so far resulted in 27 prosecutions, the royal commission heard.

Surely, as a society, we now have to do something to address this shocking situation?

These deluded, child-molesting, hypocrites, should not be allowed access to children: period.

In what other realm of human activity except for religion would we allow a massive organization where 7% of its employees were engaging in child molestation to continue to operate?

Their own ‘God’ told them that:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Matthew 10:14).

However it seems that the only reason that many of these ‘Priests’ enter the profession is so that they can gain access to a never-ending stock of little children to bugger whilst being members of an organization that will protect them in their endeavours!

As a society we have obviously lost sight of common-sense and justice when it comes to the religious organizations that are active within our communities. If you clothe yourself in religious vestments and don an appearance of ‘religious piety’ then, apparently, it also means that you can abuse children and get away with it. Not occasionally, nor as an isolated instance, but rather continually, for years on end, and without any consequences.

The recent reports indicate that about 7% (at least) of the priesthood should currently be behind bars but instead we put them on a pedestal and provide them with tax breaks as well as a megaphone for their hypocritical tosh.

How is this possible? No Australian should be anything but ashamed to admit that they are one of the fools that have been taken in by one of these criminal organizations.

Surely we should all be out in the streets, every Sunday, picketing the churches which harbour these sick criminals and demanding that they all be prosecuted immediately. Or, at the very least, be prevented from ever going near one of our children ever again.

Why haven’t these organizations been branded as being criminal enterprises?

If 7% of the employees in any other organization in our land were engaged in criminal behaviour on a regular basis then it would have long ago been shut down and outlawed.

The next ‘religious’ person who tries to tell me that they are morally superior I will simply abuse. These wrong-headed ‘sheep’ deserve nothing but condemnation, pity, or abuse.

I am utterly aghast!

 

It’s a pity our Treasurer does not recognise our value and price it accordingly

As parliament resumes, the Coalition will be aggressively pushing their company tax cuts.  Their branding has always been “jobs and growth” but there has been a subtle change lately to stressing the need to attract “foreign investment”.

The Australia Institute has just released research examining the reality about foreign investment by looking at the facts – an increasingly rare approach now that governments don’t bother with modelling .

Because of Australia’s unique system of dividend imputation, any reduction in company tax would reduce the amount withheld on behalf of dividend recipients and so increase the amount shareholders will have to ‘top up’ at tax time.  Australian investors will receive no benefit.

This does not apply to foreign shareholders who will unambiguously benefit from a tax cut which is probably why Morrison is now trying to sell the idea that this would attract foreign investment.  But would reducing taxes make any difference?

By value 71 per cent of foreign investment applications come from countries with company tax rates lower than Australia’s rate and by number a large 97 per cent come from countries with company tax rates lower than Australia’s rate.  All of this raises the question – if Australia is already successful at attracting foreign investment why would we give tax cuts to foreigners?

Throughout the whole debate it is assumed that company tax rates are the critical variable affecting investment. However, any returns to the ultimate investors will depend on the individual tax system as well as the company tax and the interaction between the two. When we look at company tax alone Australia has the equal fifth highest among OECD countries yet when we examine the implied total tax rate Australia falls to fourteenth and is only marginally above countries such as the UK.

There has been no correlation in the past between decreases in company tax rate and the rate of foreign investment.

Michael Keating AC was formerly Secretary, Department of Finance and Secretary, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.  He agrees the company tax cut will make no difference

Frankly it is hard to think of reasons why this extension of the company tax cut would represent value for money, as it is unlikely to make much difference to investment nor growth. Indeed, company tax has been cut by a lot over the last few decades in a lot of countries, but in no country was there a significant impact on investment, output or employment. Second, the Government’s own modelling shows that this company tax cut would only increase GDP by 1% after as many as 20 years – which is an infinitesimal impact in the foreseeable future.

You cannot tax a profitable business into being unprofitable.  Australia is an attractive place to invest because we provide a well-educated, skilled, healthy workforce, a stable social and political environment (comparatively), a strong legal and judicial system and established infrastructure.

We have invested a lot of money to provide that environment and businesses have seen the value in taking advantage of the quality labour, the transport infrastructure, and the stability our society provides.

It’s a pity our Treasurer does not recognise our value and price it accordingly.

Australia supports Trump. How does that make you feel?

By now, US President Donald Trump’s executive order denying entry into the US of an wide selection of people, including Australians with dual citizenship, is common knowledge, but here’s an excellent link in case you want to catch up.

World leaders expressed dismay at Trump’s “Muslim ban” and two of the countries on Trump’s List of Seven, Iraq and Iran, have retaliated by denying visas to US citizens.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, when asked to outline our position on the US crisis responded thus:

Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, said the government would continue to work closely with the Trump administration to implement “strong border policies”. She said: “We share a common view on many issues so we will continue to work very closely with the Trump administration,” adding: “The very best days of the Australia-US relationship lie ahead.”

Take a few moments to think about this statement. Let it sink in, remembering events underway in the US right now.

No refugee from any of the banned countries has ever perpetrated an act of terror in the US. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia supplied the majority of the 9/11 attackers and is strangely absent from the list, as are other Muslim countries in which Trump has financial interests.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has thus far made no comment at all on the deepening crisis in the US. He has assured us that Trump will honour his commitment to take the refugees from Manus Island and Nauru off our hands. In other words, Trump has agreed to save the ugly racist faces of the Australian politicians that so closely mirror his own.

Turnbull has not revealed the price Australia will pay for Trump’s magnanimity. Neither has he explained why, when Trump is committed to the protection of his own borders to the extent that he has defied judicial orders and in so doing has provoked a constitutional crisis, the President is willing to take our refugees, many of whom come from some of the countries on Trump’s List of Seven.

The Turnbull government supports Donald Trump. How does that make you feel?

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Do we live in a fascist regime?

In an article yesterday in response to the news that Trump had gagged government scientists and agencies, I included a list of the 14 defining characteristics of fascism.

As I read through the expanded explanation, I got a very uneasy feeling that I was reading about our own government.  The similarities are chilling.

Recognise any of this behaviour?

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
  4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
  5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
  6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
  7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
  8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
  9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
  10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
  14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Is this where we are headed?

Thank you, Donald

By Steve Laing

Well I guess it’s unusual to thank the 45th President, given his excruciating ineptitude and absolute lack of moral compass, but I feel that in this situation I must.

Because due to his “Putting America First” approach, our very own Treasurer has determined that when it comes to future trade deals we need to adopt this very same approach and Put Australia First as our new policy when it comes to trade deals.

“Australia is a trading nation and an Australia first policy does embrace trade and foreign investment and all of these things, so our economic interests are very much aligned with that approach” said Mr. Morrison.

Personally, I’m a little bit surprised that putting Australia first wasn’t the over-arching objective for any trade deals before, but judging by the evidence of what has happened to our car industry as the perfect example, it is abundantly clear that previous trade deals have been obviously not undertaken with this guiding principle in mind.

So there you have it. It’s taken a dumbass Yank to help our Treasurer to come to the realization that when you do deals with other parties, it is your job as the Australian government, to try to get the best deal for our country.

Words escape me.

 

Assimilate but GTFO – of our billboards

Tonight it really hit home. It hit home that the Australian people are more interested in trashing the fair go, than holding it dear as a true Australian value. Once the fair go is well and truly gone; we, as a people are nothing.

Two Girls, Two Flags, Two Tweets

As I browsed Twitter, two tweets had a huge impact on me tonight. The first was from Sam Dastyari. There was a real sadness in Sam’s tweet. A sadness that really encompassed that this insidious scourge of populist racism, led very vocally by Pauline Hanson, is actively destroying our country from the inside out.

The human face of the racial attacks, slurs, anger and hatred from so many “Hansonites” in the last 24 hours were two gorgeous, smiling little girls. This. Must. Stop.

The second tweet was from Josh Butler, Associate Editor of Huffington Post Australia. His tweet really drove home not only the callous behaviour of the last 24 hours; but the stupidity behind it. Is this what we have become? 

Why this really hit home

The reason Sam and Josh’s tweets really hit home is because they wrap up very neatly in a nice little ball how racist ranting has become the new power drug for so many. It hit home because the feeling of elation and superiority more and more Australians are feeling from this negative, insidious activism, led by Hanson (and encouraged by the Media reporting her every word); is now overwhelming us. It is dividing us. It is destroying us.

This hateful rhetoric takes precedence over everything. Over actually giving a damn about the damage, stigma and pain these harmful words and actions are doing to other human beings. Now it doesn’t even matter if the target is just a sweet, innocent, little kid. 

It didn’t matter if the loud screams and anger were aimed at these little girls. It just did not matter.

Did the people screaming in anger and making hateful comments and praising Pauline Hanson ‘to fight against this’ really care how these two little girls felt about the harmful words inflicted upon them? Or if they felt totally destroyed when the Billboard was taken down? 

The honest answer is, “No they did not”

The honest and even more terrifying answer is “No, in the name of Pauline Hanson, they would do it all again tomorrow.”

Our Racism now knows no bounds

This Hansonesque Racism, which is taking off like wildfire, now knows no bounds. Anyone is now fair game. As we can see from today – anyone. 

Just like all little girls, the two girls in this photo were most likely super excited about being on a big billboard. Their Mum and Dad would have been so proud of how beautiful they looked on such a huge poster and no doubt family and friends were delighted to just know them and how proud everyone is of them. Drive-by’s and selfies galore would have been had.

Yesterday, dedicated Hansonites destroyed that overwhelming joy for two little girls.

Due to the racist outrage and fears of safety by the advertiser and threats to the company, the billboard has now been removed.

There is a growing number of Hanson worshipping Australians who see someone in a religious garb as sub-human and they gladly treat them as such and celebrate such joy from another person’s pain and anguish.

The Hansonites don’t care about how these little girls must be feeling. These ‘Patriotic Australians of the adult variety’, actively participated in the last 24 hours in breaking the hearts of these two little girls.

Today is the day that these little girl’s have had to face the reality that they live amongst monsters. Not the BFG kind. Ugly, hateful, mean, nasty, scary monsters who worship a god with a really poor vocabulary, no positive ideas, an ever increasingly prominent narcissistic personality, an over-zealous ambition, with flaming red hair and a nasally twang. How blasphemous of them!

I want to know the names of these little girls so I can ask these Hansonites, if they actually care how [Name] and [Name] felt when the billboard was taken down?

Brave and Patriotic

How much did the Hansonites laugh because these little girls may go to bed tonight crying until they can’t cry anymore?

Did these Hansonites hoot with glee that these little girls will never understand that all they did wrong was to exist as Australians?

Who are these ‘patriots’ who say they don’t deserve to?

How big and powerful do the Hansonites feel? Screaming at these little girls that they aren’t Australian enough? Although they are Australian, just like them? 

Did the rants and screams of the Hansonites make them feel more valued as members of society, because they “protected” Australia from the great harm these two little girls inflicted upon the country by being on a billboard?

How very brave and patriotic!

Hansonite Hypocrites – Is this who we have become?

The video below is so important at this point in time.  It is important because it really visualises the Hanson rhetoric. The message of how we are supposed to shame, ridicule and tear down others. We simply must force ourselves into a position of authority above ‘the targeted others’ and insist they do not belong.

This makes us “Pauline’s Australians’ who are ‘Real Australians’…..apparently.

This video, went viral and was all over social media. Australians were appalled at how this teacher built this little boy up and then tore him down in an instant.

When I read Sam’s tweet tonight, my mind immediately returned to remembering this video and I loudly exclaimed with disgust “What hypocrites we have become.”

Such compassion from Australians for this little boy. Day in day out, people screamed for the teacher to be sacked. Capslocked in anger about what they wanted to ‘do to her.’

What hypocrites we have become.

In the last 24 hours, the big brave Hansonites have metaphorically rushed that stage, pushed the teacher out of the way and ripped that mic out of that boy’s hand in disgust. Then they screamed at him:

“YOU DO NOT BELONG ON OUR STAGE!!!!”

Not only did they do that….they laughed about it and patted each other on the back if they could snatch the mic in a particularly cruel or nasty manner. They cheered if they reached the epic status of making the kid cry really loud. This meant they were ‘true patriots dedicated to Pauline’s Australia.’ 

That is what Hanson and her pack of self-righteous “patriots” have done to these girls yesterday.  

Hanson and her patriots’ message to these girls is that they better bloody assimilate, but seriously GTFO of our billboards. Don’t you dare come to the barbie cos we will damn well make sure we smother it with bacon.  We do this because we think it makes you uncomfortable. Making you feel uncomfortable, makes us feel brave.

I am, you are, we are Pauline’s Patriots.

So yeh – assimilate but GTFO! 

Is Pauline Hanson and her happy hate club slowly choking the fair go to death?

 

Turnbull Government in crisis: fobs off nation with a review

By David Tyler

Pleonexia … originating from the Greek πλεονεξία, is a philosophical concept which roughly corresponds to greed, covetousness, or avarice, and is strictly defined as “the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others”, suggesting a … “ruthless self-seeking and an arrogant assumption that others and things exist for one’s own benefit”.[1]

“We are dealing with other peoples’ money,” intones Malcolm Turnbull, taking the high moral ground as he fronts a thin press conference on the afternoon of Friday 13th. Other people’s money. Who would have thought? Tell Centrelink.

The conference room is almost empty. The Canberra Press Gallery is either on holiday or heading for happy hour. A bored government staffer stands to one side; a stage-manager, ready to call time on any questions after the Prime Minister’s hammy but low-energy performance. The atmosphere is let’s get this show off the road.

Turnbull grips the edges of the moulded podium with both hands: he could be a Border Force Control officer on the bridge of an intercepted vessel. He’ll turn this thing around. The kitsch set is so stagey that it shrieks defensive artifice while underlining his government’s monumental disconnect from its people. The national flags add to the travesty.

It’s time to put out the trash; bury bad news in a time slot where it will attract least media scrutiny. Two weeks into a new year, the Turnbull government is already mired in crisis. Dirty Captain Turnbull must spin scandal as good news.

He is here, he declares, drum roll – to announce a new system. Trust him. MPs are helpless as a kitten when it comes to moral choices. He can fix all that. Operation High Moral Ground will flush out the rorters. Besides, we are soon to discover, he has probity’s poster boy, Arthur Sinodinos, up his sleeve.

Sussan Ley has made a “personal decision” to resign, Turnbull mumbles, to a reporter’s inaudible question. It’s almost an aside. Ley’s personal decision includes a statement that she doesn’t believe she’s broken any rules.

Yep, it’s the damn rules that have broken her; that stupid system which supposes you know right from wrong. Ken Goodger, Acting Anglican Bishop of Wangaratta, holds a garden party at his church in Albury in support of the high flying Health Minister, pilot and Pythagorean numerologist whose wings are now clipped. Grounded. Dumped from the ministry.

A deafening silence ensues from Ley’s own party where one might expect calls of support, yet the news is full of reports of MPs jostling for what the Herald Sun calls her “plum job”. Former Health Minister Tony Abbott puts in job application in Friday’s The Australian, in the guise of an article in which he shirtfronts Turnbull for being all mouth and no trousers.

Turnbull’s call, cunningly packaged as Ley’s decision, he hopes, will soothe a nation inflamed by a week of revelations of pleonectic MPs, snouts in troughs, rorting travel allowances. We will cheer his decisive leadership. Ra. Ra. Fat chance.

A deep anger now dwells within Australians, a sense of betrayal and of loss. So profound now is the gap between rich and poor; between those who have work and those who have no work; between home owners and those who will never own homes. Between men and women’s career options and pay.

Years of neoliberal cuts to services, to wages and conditions; years of corporatisation, deregulation and privatisation and the voracious love of competition and profit above all else have cheated us and divided us. There is nothing any leader of the party of the IPA, the mining lobby’s puppet, the hand maiden of big business and banking can ever say or do which will assuage the people’s anger.

Abroad, vulgarian and fellow professional narcissist, Donald Trump also deals in lies; manufactures facts; abuses those who would dispute his version of events.

“We are not living in a post truth universe”, writes Robert Fisk, “we are living the lies of others”.

Just when he’d hoped to get by without any cabinet reshuffle, a badly wounded Turnbull, who must himself live the lies of his hard right captors, is caught up in another silly season turkey shoot. But he’s ready with the traditional trimmings. Dab hand with the corny theatrics. He falls back on a tried and true script.

A sacrificial resignation is followed by a (patently hollow) promise to fix the system. Cue massive spin from a servile media. By Sunday the ABC features teenage reporters explaining how huge is the grey area between right and wrong. The system’s rotten. Politicians can’t be blamed for any bad moral choice, really.

It’s what you’d expect of Turnbull. God forbid he’d assent to growing demands for a national ICAC. Or agree to a cease-fire in the automated debt recovery phase of his government’s war on the poor currently harassing 20,000 Australians per week.

We haven’t heard it yet but expect the term “welfare security” to be applied soon as the government seeks another phrase in its mission to demonise welfare recipients; its determination to behave with the same indifference and inhumanity towards the poor as it does toward asylum seekers.

Working “incredibly well”, says Christian Porter about Centrelink’s Robo-call debt extortion system which hounds victims of its own mistakes within an inch of their lives; those it alleges it overpaid, demanding repayment plus a ten per cent debt collection fee.

Porter boasts $300 million dollar has been found down the back of the couch or in Grandma’s funeral bond; $300 million which is clearly not money received but debts alleged. There’s $4 billion out there to collect. But only if you believe the figure is anything more than a wild conjecture.

Robot Alan Tudge, a perfect choice as Human Services Minister in an inhuman government, is equally immune to the grief, the fear, the anger, the human suffering his automated debt recovery blunderbuss is inflicting. The system is working well, he says on ABC, Wednesday -“and we will continue with that system”. You bet you are. You bet I am.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, also is utterly unrepentant, blind to anything but the dollars. He makes a virtue of being remote and unyielding. “We make no apology for the fact that we are trying to make sure we are more efficient, have a wider grasp of those who might have received payments in error.” Or those frightened into paying money they don’t owe. Those driven by despair into dark thoughts of self-harm.

Darren O’Connell, whose PhD is in economics, a teacher who has lectured at Curtin University, has tried eight times since November to get his inaccurate debt removed from the system, but the letters keep coming.

“The process and logic used by Centrelink is both flawed, dangerous and opaque,” he tells news.com.au. “This process assumes people are guilty and it is up to us to prove our innocence.”

A competent, compassionate, responsible PM – even an agile PM would have called the dogs off on well before now. Sacked Tudge. Scrapped a monumental failure. Made time for age pensioners. Raised welfare payments to make amends. Instead he’s helping create for himself and his government a mother of a perfect storm.

Changes reducing the allowable value of pensioners’ assets help magnify the anger and resentment from those in the debt-collector’s gun towards those living high on the hog; having fun in the sun.

World’s best minister, Greg Hunt books up $20,000 of summer holidays in Queensland at the taxpayers’ expense. It’s a similar story with Matthias Cormann. Many other examples follow, each one pointing up the gap between the ruling elite and the rest of the nation; the rapidly widening social divide. A Cabinet Minister buys an apartment on impulse when most ordinary Australians are priced out of the market. Any protest is dismissed as the politics of envy.

Sir Michael Marmot, President of the World Medical Association says the opposite to poverty is not wealth. It is justice. Closing the gap on health inequality would mean tackling the disproportionate distribution of global wealth, the epidemiologist argues in his latest Boyer Lecture and it’s exactly the same within nations.

“We have the knowledge and the means to improve people’s lives and reduce health inequality,” he reminds us, “The question is: what do we have in our hearts? Do we have the will to close the gap in a generation?”

Abbott has a go at his PM in his vanity publisher, The Australian, for being unready to deal with a protectionist world under Trump. Be agile; don’t just say the words. Make no mistake, the former PM is on the warpath. Here, he scores a technical point – yet neither PM nor his nemesis equates agility with the real need to seek a fairer, more just society.

The Coalition merely flicks the switch to damage control. When all else fails book in a review or an inquiry. Or a distraction. The perpetually befuddled Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, another politician with a charisma bypass, beholden to capital, is wheeled in front of cameras to signal that trade will boom and security will be strengthened thanks to Turnbull’s deftly steering around the 330 Minke whales Japan is about to kill and avoiding any questions about conservation or the ethics of slaughtering sentient beings for human consumption under the guise of scientific research.

After Tony Abbott’s silly, made to be broken, submarine deal promise, Turnbull’s government is reluctant to make waves. It will not send a patrol vessel to Antarctic waters to monitor the Japanese whaling fleet unlike in previous years.

On the other hand, the free trade agreement with Japan is achieving amazing things, says Steve Ciobo noting

“Exports of beef have climbed about 30 per cent as tariffs of up to 38.5 per cent are lowered as part of the deal and are now worth $793 million.” Wild cheers all round. No-one questions the place of tariffs in a free trade deal.

Sadly, the incredible Japan trade boost news fails to distract the media circus from its pursuit of politicians’ travel rorts.

Professional wave maker, Nick “Get-your-head-on” Xenophon pops up on the box again. He’s sure the system is at fault on ABC 7:30. Up bobs Michael Gordon in The Age. It’s another part of the blame the system ruse. MSM scribes agree to call their hounds off; turn their ire from MPs who cheat, to the rotten system whose main fault seems to be that it presupposes politicians can make autonomous moral decisions. Steve Ciobo argues, on cue, that he can’t tell a Grand Final from a trade deal. Jules Bishop pulls out of the Portsea Polo just in case. Shinzo Abe needs me more is her excuse.

She wasn’t going anyway. Reports of a Hugo Boss outfit suggest otherwise, according to Fairfax’s Julie Singer.

Smoothie Stan Grant is also recruited into grey-washing what to most of us appears very black and white. C’mon, Stan. Imagine you are Sussan Ley. You get to Brisbane, bore a few chemists witless with your talk on scripts which could have been an email or a letter and then you fly on to the Gold Coast to buy your apartment. If you can’t tell which part of the journey to book to your boss, you shouldn’t be a minister.

If you can’t tell you don’t need to charter a jet at $12 000 to do the trip, you shouldn’t be in government. Nor do you need anyone to tell you that flying your own plane along the same route used by commercial services is not only hugely more expensive but it looks as if you are trying to get your flying hours up to keep your pilot’s licence. What Grant doesn’t go into is the fudging that is done to dress up holidays as business.

There is a lot still, though, potential grey area, isn’t there? If you look at the entitlements, it’s full of that, and it’s left to a lot of discretion and self-regulation.

We heard from Steve Ciobo, the Trade Minister, saying that he thinks it’s appropriate that the taxpayer pays if you attend a sporting function. He would be there being questioned, potentially doing work, as well as enjoying the sporting event. Does he have a point?

In a word, Stan, no. Imagine you are Greg Hunt. From 2004 to 2006 you travel with your family to Noosa in late November, each time staying there between three and seven nights and for five nights in 2008. You talk up the political things you do during your holiday. The meetings, the electoral visits. Dress it up. Then you blur the issue by reference to the beaut job you do at other times addressing the Davos mob on Hayman Island as a Global Leader for Tomorrow’ by the World Economic Forum. Yet none of this justifies booking your holidays up to the government.

The rule is clear. If your trip was primarily a family holiday, that should really be the end of the matter. While it is true that there may be some complex areas, the cases reported are not that difficult to call. But Stan and others don’t think so. The government gets a big boost on the ABC’s 7:30 Report and on all other mainstream media. Mission accomplished. Focus can now shift from rorters to the system. Why, it’s even led the Finance Minister astray.

Belgian Borzoi, Mathias Cormann, who barks and growls incessantly about keeping government spending under control, is clearly at a loss when it comes to who should pay for what. He billed taxpayers over $23,000 for weekend trips to the beach resort town of Broome with his wife over five years. A spokesperson for Cormann points out that the Minister would have had a range of mission critical commitments in the beach resort town. A very junior reporter on ABC 24 reads out a list of all the top level negotiations and vital political stuff Cormann would have to do in Broome.

Never overburdened by an original thought, Turnbull looks to the UK for a solution, as he did when he wanted Alexander Downer to retire in favour of pin-striped megalomaniac George Brandis, whose boundless faith in his own infallibility has not advanced either his own career or his Prime Minister’s.

In the meantime, press hacks flock to admire Turnbull’s new baby- his you-beaut triple decker anti-rorting authority. Turnbull’s system fix gets a massive spin, happily diverting us from any thought of adding up the rorts or forming the view that, in Sussan Ley’s case, here dies a scapegoat or taking interest in how few will actually pay anything back.

A sacking, spun as a mutually agreed resignation means there’s no need to publish PMC secretary Martin Parkinson’s review. It’s the very least that the embattled thin-lipped PM can do – apart from wearing the black spectacle frame of gravitas and sobriety who daily appears capable of less and less. The incredible shrinking PM blinks. A shrewd bit of deflection. Then bugger all the preceding reviews, he’ll set up one of his own.

Why, he’ll copy the Poms; import the British system of transparency, its Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 – as befits a staunch republican. He’s even going to set up an Inquisitor or a panel of three of them called an Independent Authority. That’ll help cut red tape and boost the mission of smaller government. But there’s more.

The independent authority will be staffed by a member experienced in auditing, a member experienced in remuneration matters, the president of the Remuneration Tribunal, a former judge and a former MP. Jobs for the boys and growth!

This is a very strong board, the PM patronises us. It will have significant independence from the Government. (Whatever that means.) MPs and senators will be able to get advice and rulings from the independent agency if they are unsure about a claim. Genius. Outsource ethnical decision making. What could possibly go wrong?

“Transparency is the key”, Turnbull says opaquely – the PM who refuses to confirm how much of his own money he spent on the election campaign – a PM who vowed never to sloganeer. We won’t get to see Martin Parkinson’s review of Ley’s rorts. His government refuses permission to professionals working on Manus or Nauru to testify to their experiences. Transparency? The Turnbull government has yet to share with the nation its legal advice it said it needed before joining the US in its illegal interference in Syria.

A 2016 independent review into parliamentary entitlements, led by retired senior public servant David Tune, found a “focus of concern is travel ‘inside entitlement’ but outside reasonable expectations and standards”, The Age reminds us. Turnbull ignores it.

Bugger Tony Abbott’s review which has been lying around the Liberal Party lunchroom, yellowing, fading, curling at the edges along with Turnbull’s own clean-up vows, now a mouldering year old. Mal must make a stand. But it won’t staunch the Turnbull government’s bleeding. And it’s got Buckley’s chance of fixing the problem.

Ms Ley who added an extra S to her name to liven up her life will be remembered more for her travel and her numerology than her service to the nation’s health or the body politic. In May 2016, her wish to lift the Medicare freeze was blocked by departmental red tape helped pave the way for Labor’s Mediscare.

She’s also become a standing joke on social media and an emblem of government excess during its automated debt recovery extortion, part of a war on the poor which has at its heart a mean-spirited denial of welfare beneficiaries right to payments which will at least keep them above the poverty line. A Melbourne Cup field of other rorters soon join Ms Ley. Each one is a nail in the political class’s coffin.

The vivid contrast between the entitlement of the ruling elite and the deprivation of the poor highlights the expanding inequality and redistribution of wealth from labour to capital; worker to boss that began with Hawke’s accord and continued as the neoliberal Keating Rudd and Gillard Labor governments traded away workers’ wages and conditions.

Ley’s final touchdown is a welcome distraction from news that Trump’s team is hustling Congress to approve its members without adequate vetting rushing through the process in a way which shows contempt for the American voter. It brought relief from chortling and guffawing over news from America of a Shower-gate scandal in which Russian agents, it is said, compiled a dossier of compromising dealings on the president-elect including The Donald’s alleged dalliance with Russian prostitutes and deviant sexual preferences

But now Turnbull must rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, as former Health Minister Tony Abbott loiters with intent in the public eye. Abbott backers are active. Turnbull drops National Party Deputy Fiona Nash’s name. As Assistant Health minister, Ms Nash took down a healthy food rating website on the advice of her Chief of Staff Alistair Furnivall.

Mr Furnivall is married to junk food lobbyist Tracey Cain, sole director and secretary of Australian Public Affairs which represents the Australian Beverages Council and Mondelez Australia, which owns Kraft, Cadbury and Oreo brands, among others.

By Sunday, he’s giving the impression that the impeccable Arthur “see no donors” Sinodinos will get the nod. Sinodinos was questioned by NSW ICAC in 2014 but couldn’t recall, despite being a director of Australian Water Holdings, an Eddie Obeid company, on a salary of $200,000 a year for three years, what he did beyond the odd meeting and checking his bank account.

Sussan Ley is all done and dusted now that her resignation is in. Yet her trip to the Gold Coast, after a meeting selling prescriptions in Brisbane, to snap up a $795 000 apartment on the spur of the moment is not all it seems.

In fact, her bargain buy turns out to be a carefully planned purchase in which the Main Street apartment owner, Martin Henry Corkery proprietor of Children First, a child care business and a big donor who gave the Queensland Liberal Party $50,000 in 2011, sold the property at a loss to the MP. Doubtless he took pity on the impoverished Cabinet Minister.

Corkery, who disavows all knowledge of who was buying what, received a $109,977 grant for his day care business when Ley was assistant Education Minister.

Furthermore, a retired couple on the Gold Coast Hinterland helpfully come forward to claim Ms Ley made an unsuccessful bid on their house nine months before she purchased the apartment.

Ley should stand aside until the two inquiries , one by Finance and one by Martin Parkinson of the PMC under way are completed. All overpayments should be paid back with ten per cent recovery fee under the same terms and conditions as apply to Centrelink beneficiaries. The media should be encouraged to drop its spin that Arthur Sindodinos has been cleared. The report, released September last year does not exonerate Mr Sinodinos.

Operation Credo is yet to deliver its report. Happily, NSW’s Baird government made amendments to ICAC last November which are widely tipped to help Mr Sinodinos while a current review of laws banning property and other specified investors to make donations could clear things up nicely.

Despite his sacrifice of Sussan Ley, Malcolm Turnbull begins 2017 badly wounded by revelations not only of endemic rorting but of a political caste made up of ministers such as Steve Ciobo who don’t see a problem with pretending that their holidays or Grand Final tickets are for business and their own and their families’ recreation. Nor will it help him with the perfect storm brewing as a result of the Centrelink clawback debacle and the rising discontent spread amongst pensioners by changes to the assets test.

Most damaging of all, however, and irreparable is the disconnect revealed between his ministers and the Australian people in comments from the likes of Alan Tudge and Barnaby Joyce which indicate a damning lack of empathy if not a contempt for the welfare of ordinary people in a society which wealth is increasingly in the hands of the elite.

Above all, a government which promised openness, transparency and consultation has opted instead for secrecy, lies and diktat. No staged press conference, fake news, spin, arranged resignation or any other diversion can alter one jot the right of the people to a fair and just society; to the truth, Mr Turnbull.

This article was originally published on Urban Wronski.

 

In the words of Julie Bishop, “You’re not a celebrity, you’re an elected representative.”

In 2007, Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop accused Deputy Opposition Leader Julia Gillard of behaving like a “fashion model or TV star” rather than a politician.

You’re not a celebrity, you’re an elected representative, you’re a member of parliament. You’re not Hollywood and I think that when people overstep that line they miss the whole point of that public role.”

Ms Bishop said posing for magazine covers was “not my style”.

“Of course, people want to know more about you, but I don’t think you should be courting that celebrity status as if you’re a fashion model or a TV star, because you’re not,” she said.

Move along a few years to when Julie is “living the dream”, as she put it in an interview with Who magazine in December 2014.

“I can’t imagine a better job than the one I have,” she said as she posed for the magazine featuring an article where she “talks fashion, running, and style”, having also done a cover shoot for Harper’s Bazaar the previous month.  In 2015, it was Vogue.

It seems Ms Bishop now considers herself very much a celebrity.

“Ms Bishop and her partner David Panton mingled with celebrities and business figures in exclusive marquees on Derby Day and Melbourne Cup Day as guests of an airline company and an alcohol company.”

A statement from her office said “The Minister was invited and attended in her official capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party.”

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has argued the case for politicians to attend sporting events on the taxpayer dime.

“I can certainly say as an Australian, I would love to see Australia’s prime minister — I don’t care whether it’s Liberal or Labor — at a key game … between the Wallabies and All Blacks.”

Mr Ciobo seems to have forgotten the deafening booing received by Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the 2014 NRL Grand Final.

Ciobo also defended using his taxpayer-funded car to attend local sport events in his Queensland electorate of Moncrieff, saying: “I think people expect that“.

Would it be too much to ask that you drive yourself to the local footy match?

Defending charging taxpayers for going to the AFL Grand Final, the Trade Minister said, “Ministers or parliamentary secretaries or others are invited to go along to these events specifically by businesses and organisations who are taking the opportunity to showcase themselves there, to take the time to have a conversation in relation to important matters.”

I am not sure how the National Bank “showcases” itself at a football Grand Final and, if there are important matters to be discussed, there are far better places to do it than in the midst of 100,000 screaming football fans.

I beg to differ Mr Ciobo.  You are not celebrities and having a beer with someone does not constitute work.  If you want to take your family to an event, pay for it yourself.  If you want a family holiday, pay for it yourself.

Get over yourselves.

A “Polite Letter” To Malcolm Turnbull!

Dear Mr Turnbull

We have received information from the Australian Tax Office about your employment income. Apparently you have been paid as Prime Minister when it is clear that you have been paying no attention to the mess your government is creating.

What You Need To Do
1. Please check what ridiculous things your MPs have been saying lately
2. Confirm that we are correct in that your only interest in being PM is to swan around saying, “I’m Prime Minister, what are you?”

You can do this by going to a Centrelink office and waiting in line as apparently there’s only a ten minute wait before someone will tell you that you need to go online because they don’t deal with actual people at Centrelink. You can login at the myGov.au website, which takes no time at all because it’s now 2017 and thanks to the Liberals all premises have access to high speed Internet.

What You Need To Know
If you do not respond, you will be charged with fraud where the court case should go something like this:

Prosecution: We think that this man has defrauded us and claimed money that he’s not entitled to.
Judge: Do you have any proof?
Prosecution: No, but he can’t prove that he didn’t!
Judge: What does the defence have to say?
Defence: I thought the obligation was on the prosecution to prove guilt, not the other way around.
Judge: Yes, I thought so too, but not when we enter the political world.
Defence: Oh, in that case, the defence – like the PM – rests.

More Information

If you are found to be merely pretending to be PM you may be subject to a 10% penalty as well as being required to pay back all your salary. However, this may be preferable to actually admitting you had any part in this shambles of a government. Certainly, history will judge you less harshly if you can just pay us to remove all references to you as Coalition leader.

Should you not receive this letter, it’s your fault for not reading the AIMN. However, that is no excuse and you can expect to be visited by a debt collector any day now. Apparently a guy called Tony isn’t doing much and he said he’d be happy to pay you a visit.

Yours sincerely,

Director, Earned Income
Customer Compliance

Compare and contrast: Sussan Ley and Centrelink punters

Such is politics in these interesting times that it’s impossible when alerted to one scandal, to refrain from speculating if it has been confected to distract your attention from another.

So it is with Health Minister Sussan Ley’s current imbroglio which seems, at first blush, a nice little “look over here not there” moment arriving right on top of the Centrelink scandal.

In the former, federal Health Minister Ley appears to have spent an inordinate amount of taxpayer dollars travelling to the Gold Coast, including for two New Year’s Eve celebrations (what ministerial duties could she possibly be fulfilling on New Year’s Eve at the Gold Coast?) and, conveniently, at the time of the auction purchase by herself and her partner, a Gold Coast businessman, of an $800,ooo apartment close to his office.

Noice.

Here is an analysis by the ABC of Ms Ley’s spending.

Ley has agreed to in part pay back some of these taxpayer dollars, acknowledging her fraudulent misappropriation of the money was “an error of judgement.” Many of us think of these behaviours as criminal activities that ought to be investigated by the AFP, but it all swings on the narrative.

In stark contrast, the AFP has joined forces with Centrelink to distribute intimidating letters threatening punters with jail if they might possibly have at some time in the last six years fraudulently claimed welfare benefits. People are advised to pay back the amounts Centrelink determined they owed, prior to any evidence that they actually owed anything. Three debt collection agencies have been contracted by Centrelink to pursue debtors, whether the validity of their debt has been established or not. This is an action Australian Lawyers for Human Rights describe as an abuse of legal process.

It does make sense that calling in debt collectors to pursue an alleged debtor before the debt has even been validated might well be an abuse of legal process. Somehow this fact escaped the notice of the Centrelink overlords, or perhaps they simply don’t care. It’s the government’s intention to continue this extortion for the next four years, making a total of ten years illegally hunting down welfare recipients in order to raise $4.6 billion to fix the budget.

In any case, the contrast between the treatment of Centrelink punters and the treatment of Health Minister Sussan Ley could not be more stark. If it was hoped the Ley affair might distract from the Centrelink debacle, well, no. But I do understand that the LNP would think it might, as they are largely brain-dead.

And then yesterday the Australian’s star turn and renowned dog lover Chris Kenny hove into view, with a tweet on the Ley affair to the effect that “there’s a very experienced health minister waiting in the wings.” Ahahaha! the thlot pickens!

Of course that very experienced health minister must be Tony Abbott, and of course Ley was first outed by the Murdoch hacks.

And so, Turnbull is wedged. If he doesn’t demote Ley: trouble from the voters. If he demotes Ley and doesn’t replace her with Abbott, who has long been agitating for a return to the front bench, he’s in serious trouble with the far right-wing.  Ley is also one of Turnbull’s few allies, and he won’t want to lose her from his cabinet.

However this plays out, the contrast between the manner in which Sussan Ley is treated and the treatment of Centrelink punters could not be a more outstanding example of what the Turnbull government thinks of its citizens. Ley, who ought to be investigated for fraud, is permitted to apologise and pay back the money. Centrelink punters are threatened with jail and repayment of monies, whether they’ve committed fraud or not.

Some humans really are more equal than others.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Update: Sussan Ley has since stood down as Health Minister pending travel expenses investigation.

 

A simplified guide to work entitlements and cutting costs

In order to avoid “errors of judgement” and “flights inadvertently booked for official travel rather than private”, and to help with budget repair and reducing carbon footprint, here are a few tips for politicians.

Stop flying to places outside your electorate to make announcements.

The Federal government is located in Canberra.  That is where announcements should be made.  If there is an area specific component, then the local member can elaborate to their electorate.

Stop charging the taxpayer for your attendance at sporting and cultural events.

If you have been lucky enough to be given free tickets to an event, be grateful, but pay for your own travel and accommodation.  Barnaby Joyce’s excuse that you have to hire limos or use comcars because you are obliged to drink doesn’t pass the wine bar test.

Weddings are not official business unless a foreign head of state is getting married and you are representing the government.

Claims of “networking” are not acceptable.  You should not expect to be paid for having a chat or being at the same function as someone you may have future official dealings with.  Attending a colleague’s wedding, or your own in the case of WA MP Steve Irons, is not government business.

Stop taking your spouse to work.

In 2016 the House of Representatives sat on 51 days.  That leaves 315 days when they didn’t have to be in Canberra.  There may be certain occasions where it is appropriate for your family to join you – first and final speeches for example – but to suggest that you need family reunions means you have chosen not to see your family during the 45 weeks you are not in Canberra.

Do not organise meetings around visits to your investment properties or parties you want to attend

It is a very bad look to have a contrived meeting and then go on to your investment property or hobby farm.  And last minute photos just before you fly out after attending parties do not entitle you to claim for travel and accommodation.

Stop the narcissistic need to have your photo taken.

It is not necessary to fly thousands of kilometres to have your photo taken with a shovel to announce investment in building infrastructure.  It is not necessary to shut down a workplace so you can be filmed on the factory floor.

Use skype and teleconferencing

Flying dozens of bureaucrats business class from Canberra and all over Europe to get together in Paris to discuss how they can cut costs is not productive or cost-effective, or even vaguely justifiable.  Use Skype and tele-conferencing and emails.

Use the internet instead of study tours

Going to a golf tournament on the other side of the country, Steve Irons again, or having a between flight layover in Kuala Lumpar, Barnaby Joyce, do not constitute “study”.  You can save time and money by researching on the internet or asking the many experts specifically employed to do research for the government.

Stop using accommodation allowances to pay off your mortgages.

I know you all do it, and it is “within the rules”, but that doesn’t make it right.  Change the rules.  And while you are at it, build an accommodation wing on Parliament House and we could save a fortune on accommodation allowances, comcars and security whilst reducing wasted travelling time and increasing politicians’ productivity.

Reduce your number of offices

There is absolutely no need for MPs to have multiple offices.  It’s not like they are sitting there at the counter waiting to have a chat with you.  Use communication technology to engage with your constituents.  Answer their emails or their questions on facebook.  Return phone calls where necessary.  Shopfronts do not equate to availability.

 

There are countless examples of enormous waste in government spending – welfare is not one of them.

Get your own house in order.

How Turnbull plans to raise $4.6 billion from the unemployed

The Turnbull government plans to raise a windfall of $4.6 billion over the next four years, and this is how they intend to do it.

Centrelink is averaging annual earnings over every fortnightly reporting period. This means that you are determined by them to have earned income at the same time as you received unemployment benefits. Therefore, you must pay those benefits back.

First you receive a letter advising of discrepancies between ATO and Centrelink records. You are asked to provide pay slips etc, and declare your income for the year/s in question. When you declare income, your problems can begin in earnest. Declared income is averaged out, Centrelink claims you’ve earned in every fortnightly reporting period, a debt is raised against you, you are threatened with debt collectors and ultimately jail, if you don’t comply.

In fact, you may have been unemployed for six months during which time you were entitled to benefits, then in work for six months. The government intends for you to repay the benefits to which you were absolutely entitled, by averaging out the income you received for six months work as fortnightly income over the entire twelve months.

More and more people are revealing this is exactly what has happened to them. It is the government’s intention to continue this practice for the next four years in order to achieve its $4.6 billion goal.

It beggars belief that this is a systems error. If this is the case, those responsible for the design and implementation of the system are unbelievably, inconceivably incompetent. Centrelink’s Hank Jongen claims the methodology hasn’t changed, but no one has explained why, if nothing has changed, the system has begun averaging annual earnings over every reporting fortnight, and raising debts as a result.

At the same time, Centrelink and the AFP announced the implementation of “Taskforce Integrity” to pursue fraudulent claims. As well, the government declared on the Tuesday before the election that they’d discovered a brand new, unspecified way, to raise $4.6 billion.

The government is falsely accusing people of fraud, by falsely declaring legitimate welfare benefits to be illegitimate. They are threatening people with debt collectors and jail, if the legitimately claimed welfare benefits are not repaid. In other words, unemployment benefits have become repayable loans. I don’t recall that new legislation, or that amendment. Does anyone?

They are doing all this in partnership with the Australian Federal Police.

This is a situation out of a dystopian novel. Kafka comes to mind.

This is no systems error. This is deliberate policy. I hope there are lawyers out there all over this. Because we have to establish exactly who is obtaining financial advantage by deception. Increasingly, it sounds very much as if it is our government, by exploiting people at their most vulnerable.

If this mess is indeed an error and not deliberate policy, Centrelink and the relevant ministers have now been made thoroughly aware of it as such. So why do they continue to insist that nothing is amiss, and why do they not halt the distribution of letters until the error is fixed?

Of course, fixing the error may affect their $4.6 billion dollar goal.

Centrelink has now begun using its Twitter account to refer people to Lifeline if they are experiencing distress. Lifeline is a voluntary organisation given little or no support by the federal government. The government has also ripped millions from frontline services for domestic violence victims, community legal aid centres, and over a billion from aged services. You can bet that these outrageously underfunded services will be stretched to their limits by Turnbull’s latest attack on vulnerable citizens.

I cannot remember anytime in this country when a government department has referred citizens to an emergency service because they are experiencing suicidal levels of distress as a consequence of that government’s policies.

Does anyone?

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

On politicians and the age of cruelty

Last night for bedtime reading I was flicking through the philosopher Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic.

Seneca was born in Roman Spain about the same time as Christ fetched up in a stable, and for balance, on the back of the book cover there’s this:

Seneca may well be history’s most notable example of a man who failed to live up to his principles.

Be that as it may, Letter XC in part considers the character or lack thereof of politicians. It’s striking that Seneca refers to a “Golden Age” in which politicians were chosen for their character, and in which government was in the hands of the wise:

They kept the peace, protected the weaker from the stronger, urged and dissuaded, pointed out what was advantageous and what was not. Their ability to look ahead ensured their peoples never went short of anything…To govern was to serve, not to rule. No one used to try out the extent of his power over those to whom he owed that power in the first place.

But with the gradual infiltration of the vices and the resultant transformation of kingships into tyrannies, the need arose for laws…

Reading this gives me some perspective on our current political plight: we are by no means in a unique political situation, though its manner of expression is peculiar to its context. Seneca didn’t have social media, for example from which platform heads of state threaten one another and life on earth with extinction. But the same moral dilemmas are in play. Abuse of power, tyranny, self-interest, contempt, greed, arrogance, stupidity, cruelty and all the vices. Was it ever thus? Is Seneca’s description of a Golden Age nothing more than a doomed attempt at wish fulfilment? It does read like a fairly tale, or a child’s dream of fairness and justice.

It’s difficult to choose, but if I had to single out one dominant characteristic of the Turnbull government, I think it would be cruelty. I was going to write intentional cruelty, then I realised that cruelty is by its very nature intentional, whether that intention is acknowledged or not. I think we have had governments of which this could not be said, and perhaps that was a relatively Golden Age.

Governments such as ours are not only cruel to individuals and groups, they are cruel to the earth in their exploitation of her resources, and their indifference to the catastrophic consequences of this exploitation.

Each new cruelty is justified by the government as an economic necessity, necessary, that is, for the furtherance of the interests of the already comfortable.

For the Turnbull government, power is cruelty. Its members have no other understanding of power, such as that favoured by Seneca and likely regarded by most of us as, after decades of desensitization, as a laughably unattainable ideal. Cruelty has largely become normalised. There are scattered groups who continue to hold out for kindness, but obviously not enough to ensure a government that performs according to those ideals.

I have no idea how we get out of this most ungolden age, this age of cruelty, but I do think the first step is calling it what it is, consistently and unflinchingly. The cruel rarely enjoy being named as such. As Malcolm Turnbull once complained, it hurts when mean things are said about them.

Cruelty isn’t strength, and it is born of weakness. The Turnbull government is synonymous with cruelty. Let’s not call it, or the politicians in it, anything less than weak and cruel.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.