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Shorten Sweet: Bill Tells Murdoch to Walk The Plank

Bill Shorten has blasted the Murdoch media’s coverage of him and his party. This shows a spine lacking in previous Labor leaders. When it came to the Australian Montgomery Burns, previous Labor leaders attempted to bring him onside during their campaigns. Presumably since picking a fight with the media is rarely a winning endeavour since they always have the last word. Mr. Shorten broke with this tradition this week, blasting what the Sydney Morning Herald quoted him as calling the ‘dishonest scare campaigns’ and ‘usual propaganda from News Corp’.

Them’s Fightin’ Words

Mr. Shorten is perhaps a little late to the party on this one, but he is correct nevertheless. For years, the Murdoch press has been openly hostile to Labor governments and run interference for the LNP. This is presumably because those Labor leaders had the temerity to replace the Murdoch-ordained LNP toady in The Lodge. As examples of Murdoch’s media interference, there was the infamous ‘Kick This Mob Out’ headline from 2013 in reference to the then Labor government and the ‘Australia Needs Tony [Abbott]’ headline of 2010. Murdoch’s opinion is clear. While he is entitled to his opinion, it does not need to be the nation’s opinion. Murdoch media’s blatant LNP propaganda campaign is the strongest argument yet for legislation instituting greater diversity of media ownership.

Culmination of A Long-Term Trend

You may recall from a few months back Mr. Shorten declined to meet with Murdoch personally. This was a wise political calculation (or he actually believes it) since the optics of such a meeting are terrible. Given the influence over politics that Murdoch has, such a meeting would have looked like receiving your orders from the guy who truly runs the country. The present push-back against the Murdoch media empire is thus not only a response to their crap of the last however many decades, but it represents the destination that Mr. Shorten has needed to reach for some time: he is not a Murdoch toady. One of the many reasons the public despises the LNP is because it is so clear they take their orders from the Australian Oligarchs. It is in Mr. Shorten’s interests to present himself as the antithesis to that.

Push-Back: The Truth Exposed

One senior ALP source said it plainly: Murdoch and his media empire are ‘acting as a propaganda arm of the government’. This is not bellyaching over hostile coverage; the evidence shows this claim to be true. Consider a recent Murdoch headline about the budget. There were two road signs; one pointing to the Liberals saying ‘reward’ and the other pointing to Labor and saying ‘risk’. Ignore the pun on ‘risk-reward’ and focus on the bias in the headline. The implication is clear: Labor is bad with money and voting for them is a ‘risk’ rather than an inalienable right. The point here is to play into the myth (and it is a myth) that conservatives are better economic managers because shut up. This despite a Guardian report saying that recent Liberal governments have been the worst economic managers in decades.

An Alternative: Social Media

As newspapers decline in circulation and relevance, a new means of getting one’s message out has emerged: social media. This is far less monopolised; more of an open platform. While this has its drawbacks, it is a way of speaking directly to the people without the interference of a third party. The Labor party sees this as an alternative to the declining print media, and they may well have a point. While it is true that there are trolls on social media, if one observes political posts, we see many true comments coming to the fore. It is also true that the same hacks who strawman and otherwise advance terrible arguments have a social media platform, but the linked tweet shows the pushback.

Old Media ‘Responds’ to Shorten, Pt One: The Errorgraph

The editor of The Errorgraph, Ben English, had this to say about the alleged ramping up of the propaganda leading up to the election

It’s certainly not a considered strategy on our behalf to become more polemical or more strident one way or the other

That statement needs to be carefully parsed. Even if it were true that they are not becoming more polemical (which is highly dubious), what he does not say is more interesting. He did not say that they were not polemical, they are just not being more polemical. Nice unintentional showing of your hand there, Mr. English. He did say that he sees Mr. Shorten’s attitude to the conservative media (also known as the media) as a political tactic. In other words, this is a stunt and once he gets in he will fall in line. Time will tell; this would not be the first election campaign stunt. That said, I am inclined to believe Mr. Shorten since the evidence supports his claim.

Old Media ‘Responds’ to Shorten, Pr Two: The Un-Australian

Next came Chris Dore, editor of The Australian, who said

It’s a curious tactic one week into the campaign to question the motives of an inquisitive media who are simply asking questions

Just asking questions. We see this regularly in America: the media? We’re just asking questions! This is a way to be able to say what you like and have a ready-made response to any criticism. As an absurd example, consider this: does Barack Obama kill puppies? We are just asking questions. It is not clear if Obama kills puppies, so we are asking the question. Do you have a problem with the media asking questions? And there we have it: the media insulated from any criticism as they say any half-baked nonsense that serves their agenda. But back to the plot: inquisitive media? No. Inquisitive is designed to get to the truth. Mr. Dore and his paper are more adversarial, at least when it comes to Mr. Shorten.

Conclusion: Bill Sees the Light

Mr. Shorten has taken a large step in the right direction, and praise is due for this. He and his party finally seem to have realised that Murdoch and his media empire were going to be hostile to them no matter what they did. So they would gain nothing by trying to bring Murdoch and his hacks onside. Politically, the optics serve his purposes well also: he is presenting himself as a man of the people rather than a political sycophant going to daddy for permission to temporarily occupy the highest elected office in the land.

Keep it up, Bill. Forward.

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Coalition campaign launch a real shocker.

“Their end game is simply winning at all costs, even at the expense of decency, compassion, and principle”.

Former Liberal leader, Dr John Hewson, Professor at ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, on Coalition tactics.

Pledging “a fair go for those who have a go”, a triumph of self-righteous humbug; a vow to pull an aspirational nation up but only by its own bootstraps, and homage to upwardly mobile “Helloworld” lobbyist Joe Hockey’s fabulous lifters and leaners in one, cloth-eared, slogan, the Morrison government doesn’t even give itself a chance in this week’s spectacular self-abortive surprise launch of its five-week federal election campaign show, Thursday.

A bit of sniping from Point Piper doesn’t help. Mal Turnbull gives ScoMo a bollocking over Dutton’s random act of kindness in organising a special citizenship ceremony for the family of billionaire Huang Xiangmo, one of the Coalition’s keenest patrons. Dutton needs to pulled into line. It’s something Turnbull never could manage.

Although Huang was not granted citizenship, himself, given some Chinese whispers from ASIO spooks over the glad-handed tycoon’s links to China’s Communist Party, Turnbull tells Morrison to hold Dutton to account. Malcolm says he knows what it is to be Prime Minister and where the buck stops. He’s forgotten his own capture by the right wing and his secret undertaking to the Nationals to continue key Abbott policies.

But time wounds all heels. A joint investigation by Four Corners, The Age and SMH shows Dutton granting then-Labor senator Sam Dastyari approval to hold a ceremony for the family of Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo, reports the ABC.  Turnbull is “concerned and troubled” by the story; the Prime Minister should take it seriously.

“(Dutton) is supposed to be the minister responsible for the domestic security of Australia, he is supposed to be the minister responsible for ensuring our politics is not influenced by foreign actors,” Turnbull nags, helpfully.

“Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister and you can’t wave this off and say that it is all part of gossip and of the bubble — this is the national security of Australia,” Turnbull wags his finger. The former PM, until ScoMo deposed him, draws a parallel with Sam Dastyari, who resigned over similar issues, in a “furore”. (Created by the Coalition.)

There’s also a bit of bother brewing in the deep north where a mob of mostly Queensland fossil-fools succumb to Adani madness, an affliction chronicled brilliantly by James Bradley in The Monthly. Those afflicted include Barnaby fanboy, Matt Canavan and “crazy as a jaybird” James McGrath who threatens to quit or get work experience environment minister, former Minerals Council of Australia shill, Melissa Price to resign.

What they want is Adani to be approved. It means a lot to their career prospects in a few QLD NLP electorates where climate change isn’t happening and where the lies that Adani will create thousands of jobs are believed. Canavan gets all fired up. Steams in to shirt front ScoMo, Thursday 11 April. It’s Adani approval or else.

Later he denies threatening to resign or that anyone is bullying Melissa Price to comply or resign – yet some letters are leaked, according to Barrie Cassidy on ABC Insiders, Sunday, which suggest that bullying may well have occurred.

Liberal senator, James McGrath is both a “fruit loop” and a “Tea Party extremist” to canny Doug Cameron, and a former Boris Johnson boffin. Jim, who also brags he got the scalps of Abbott and Turnbull – or at least helped in their political downfall, now threatens Price. She should resign. Unless she complies with his demand and approves Adani’s groundwater plan, the last hurdle before Queensland gives the final OK.

It’s an edifying glimpse into Coalition democracy at work and it quite puts the lie to any rumours of bullying. But who is former assistant minister, James McGrath, that he should wield such power? His 2013 entrance into the senate gives a fair clue.

Junkee’s James Colley makes a fair analogy. If Clive Palmer, as the Tele suggested, came in like a wrecking ball, then James McGrath came in like a strange man who wasn’t quite finished shouting on the bus.”

McGrath’s maiden maunder is timely in the wake of Christchurch and as a clue to ScoMo’s woes. Early in his maiden speech, McGrath says,

“The ‘Hundred Years War against Tyranny’ continues today on three fronts: first of all Islamist fundamentalism intent on caliphates destroying Western civilisation, especially religious freedom; secondly, democratic governments restricting freedom of speech and association, betraying hundreds of years of liberty; and, finally, leftists delegitimising all views other than their own, especially in media and education.”

Typically, at such times of conflict, or brewing scandal, a Liberal PM could count on a hand from The Oz. Look over there! Bingo! Here’s a bit of rabid Labor-bashing.

Labor plans “to destroy the two core foundations of not just a modern economy but modernity itself and indeed civilisation” rants Liberal hack, Terry McCrann in Murdoch family rag The Australian, after bagging Shorten’s suits.

“I actually think this is my favourite Terry McCrann column ever,” tweets Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen.

Labor leader, William Richard Shorten replies: “I don’t remember putting this in our Fair Go Action Plan.”

Your campaign launch and your leadership is in trouble when your opponents point and laugh at your propaganda organs. Or when the Oz publishes Matt Canavan’s tweeted selfie as he bites into an onion at the Brisbane markets, Sunday, messaging “not as bad as I thought”, a cunning plug for Abbott’s return, or faint praise for ScoMo’s pitch. By eerie coincidence, sacks of brown onions mysteriously pop up in Warringah as if in silent vigil to Abbott’s fall.

But the Coalition runs off the road with its scare campaign. Labor’s target of 50% of new vehicle sales being electric vehicles is soviet-style economics. It’s Pink Batts all over again (in reality, a successful programme trashed by Abbott and a compliant media). Worse, it’s the end of the weekend – (unlike the abolition of penalty rates).

Unfazed, Labor socialists even plan to inject tens of millions into the production of electric vehicles; revive Australia’s moribund manufacturing industry. Instead of coal-fired power? Whatever will they stoop to next?

Electric vehicles can’t tow a caravan? (Nonsense retorts Toyota, we have powerful electric utes in production.) A farrago of lies and ignorance simply invites derision – and an industry rebuke. Wheeling in Michaelia Cash, without her whiteboard but with all her illegal AWU baggage, however, takes the Coalition campaign beyond peak stupidity and into mind-blowing, lunatic absurdity.

50% of tradies will lose their utes under Bill Shorten”, she rages.

How many? Only 50% of NEW car sales will be an electric target by 2030. Unless tradies trade-in their utes every year, it will affect less than half of them. Then there’s good news, electric utes and SUVs will soon hit the markets.

As The Blot Report, reports, “One of the current ute models developed in the US, the Rivian R1T, is expected to be on sale 2020… in three different versions, 105kWh, 135kWh and 180kWh, which will deliver a range of between 370 km and 650 km. Its payload is only 800 kg, it can tow 5 tonnes. Tesla also has an electric ute in production.”

“We are going to stand by our tradies and we are going to save their utes,” shrieks the Small Business Monster.

Yet Labor’s Great Ute Grab Scare of 2019 is abandoned, suddenly, when experts point out a range of fundamental flaws in Ms Cash’s case. This includes evidence that Josh Frydenberg, himself, was spruiking their virtues in January 2018. Where? You guessed it. The Australian, the one stop drop for every aspiring Coalition politician.

Since then, Josh has rocketed from Energy punching-bag to cadet-Treasurer despite lashing out at dinosaur colleagues, still behind the energy wheel. Josh even advocates electric car subsidies, predicting that “the critics will be the ones driving the vehicles in the next decade as part of a revolution taking place in the transport sector.”

We all expect ScoMo to go hard and go low but the fair go is first casualty of the campaign. Coalition rottweiler and Liberal leadership rival, Peter Dutton, slips his leash; attacking the honesty and integrity of Ali France, Labor candidate for his marginal seat of Dickson in Brisbane’s aspiring outer northern suburbs, accusing her of using her disability as “an excuse” not to live in her electoratecausing the nation of the fair go to rightly cry foul.

Dutton digs in. “Voters are angry,” he tells Coalition propaganda unit and minder, The Australian. “A lot of people have raised this with me.” It’s the “people say” fallacy, a common evasion of responsibility and the rules of valid argument. It’s preferred by Donald Trump, a figure hugely admired by our PM, PHON and other local politicians.

Matthias Cormann, Dutton’s numbers klutz in last August’s Liberal leadership coup, rushes to defend his idol by implying that Dutton lacks all moral autonomy and must, therefore, publicly repeat others’ defamation.

“Well, Peter Dutton was expressing views which were put to him by his constituents who had expressed those concerns,” Cormann tells the press. “There are people with a disability [who] live across Dickson and people in his electorate have put [it] to him, … that they don’t accept the explanation that was offered, as a reason for his opponent not moving into the seat of Dickson.”

Relaying malicious hearsay with intent to impugn, defame or gain unfair advantage is unlikely to impress his opponent, or her party, or local voters, or our judiciary.

Nor did MPs echoing opinion impress conservative icon Edmund Burke in 1774. “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Morrison defends Dutton’s diatribe, which, he says, he hasn’t seen, despite Dutts rubbishing his own PM’s public views. Then, class act, ScoMo implies France is lying. “When Labor tell lies in this campaign, we’ll call them out.” Centrelink reversed the onus of proof for its clients; now you even have to prove your false leg is true.

Yet, ScoMo thunders “We have to establish a culture of respect for people living with disabilities and the families who support, love and care for them.” He proclaims a royal commission into abuse of disabled Australians. But his support for Dutton – and his snide insinuation that Ali France is a liar – makes him part of that abuse.

There’s not a wheel-chair accessible home for rent in Dickson, explains France. She’s forced to live six kilometres outside the upwardly mobile electorate. Dutton later tweets a delayed apology. By then, however, he’s torpedoed the campaign mainstay, the ritual ridicule, when Liberals finds black holes in Labor’s costings. Jeering, and finger wagging are cut short, however as Dutts fronts up with an apology – sort of.

Is it something Kristina Keneally says that triggers Dutts’ remorse?  Saturday, The Labor senator says she is “gobsmacked” that Morrison has not called upon Dutton to apologise. Is he afraid of Mr Dutton?” she asks.

“You cannot stand in the [Prime Minister’s] courtyard and shed a tear for people with a disability and then the very next week turn a blind eye to a low, despicable attack by Peter Dutton against Ali France,” Keneally protests.

She calls Dutton, “mean and despicable”, a “thug”, and the “most toxic man in the Liberal party”. To borrow a Duttonism, “many will view” Keneally’s counter-attack as showing admirable restraint and discernment but it’s a brave call nonetheless – especially given that “many will view” others in the Liberal Party as rival contenders.

It’s a public service. Open-minded voters can apply Keneally’s razor to assess any candidate’s despicable thuggery.

Or relative toxicity. ScoMo’s launch blows up in his face, upstaging the Liberals’ asinine slogan with their signature, baroque incompetence, policy nonsense, shonky costings and internecine division.  A toey, Tony Abbott, in “diabolical trouble” according to senior Liberals, with party polling a twelve percent swing against him, goes solo.

Abbott tells a hundred electors in a Sky News Pub Test at the Harbord Beach Hotel in the beach-side suburb of Freshwater, a local watering-hole in well-heeled Warringah, that immigration is the big issue of the campaign.

“Oh fuck off! You’re a migrant, Tony”, a woman in the audience reminds her local member, forgoing the temptation to go low. Call the budgie-smuggler out for being a ten pound Pom? They’re all class in Warringah.

But is there unseemly haste in Morrison’s surprise election call? Is he desperate to get into caretaker mode before any further questions can be asked in Senate estimates about how it could approve Adani’s Carmichael mine 2.0, now a pared-down mini-mega mine, a mere 27.5 million tonnes output P.A. instead of the 60 million in its permit?

“We were framed”, imply CSIRO and Geoscience Australia who step back from the Coalition’s assertion that the agency has given the green light to Adani’s new, improved groundwater plan. There is no new plan. The CSIRO merely answered a narrow set of questions on some aspects of Adani’s water management plans.

CSIRO categorically did not give the whole project its approval, reports The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton. Worse, it did not see Adani’s revised plans until two days after it had answered the department’s few questions.

Yet the senate was due to question CSIRO executives Thursday night and officials of the department the following morning. Suddenly Scott Morrison breaks with tradition to pay a 7:00am to the Governor-General. By 8:29 am, half an hour before Senate Estimates Committee is due to begin he is able to prorogue the parliament.

Murdoch family newspapers already have the news the night before, given a scoop that appeals to Morrison’s twisted sense of giving the media a fair go. It’s a way of punishing those scribblers who criticise policy. It also undermines democracy, claims AFR’s Aaron Patrick, because it polarises media further; removing grounds for a policy debate in the centre. “Moderate voices are lost in a tribal war between conservatives and liberals.”

Patrick defines postmodern conservatism. So, too in a symbolic way does Morrison’s trip to the GG. ScoMo’s driver backs out the 3.6 tonne Prime Ministerial Limousine. The ScoMobile is one of a fleet of nine armoured, bullet-proof BMWs, ($500,000 plus per car) like ScoMo himself, an Abbott indulgence or fit of paranoid megalomania.

Top Ocker Morrison, Fair Dinkum Bloke, Pride of Sutherland Shire, is on his early morning secret mission to the residence of His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter John Cosgrove, Principal Knight and Chancellor of the Order of Australia, Military Cross, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia; Pete’s pad at Yarralumla.

Yarralumla means echo, a perfect fit for ScoMo’s Canberra bubble. The federal election is at last proclaimed for 18 May. It will be an Adani of an election, Adani is the coal warriors’ totem in our postmodern war between those determined to act to heed the realities of climate change and those who would retreat into the denialism of coal.

Adani is one a dozen key carbon bombs, identified a decade ago which will spew out enough carbon dioxide to make a safe environment impossible. Should emissions continue, writes James Bradley in The Monthly, they will cause four degrees or more of warming well before the end of the century. ”

“Ecosystems around the world will collapse, wiping out most species of animals. Acidification and anoxia will devastate the oceans. Rising sea levels will destroy coastal areas, while heat and famine and cascading climate disasters will kill hundreds of millions. These are not outside possibilities. They are the inescapable and near-term outcomes of failing to reduce emissions.

In the face of this reality, opening new coalmines is like locking our children in a burning house and throwing away the key.”  Yet all our PM has to offer is a vacuous slogan about a fair go. He is gelignite putty in the coal lobby’s hands.

“I believe in a fair go for those who have a go,” Morrison proclaims outside his office Thursday morning. “And what that means is part of the promise that we all keep as Australians is that we make a contribution and don’t seek to take one.” Has he even begun to think about those who can’t “have a go”? His slogan is pernicious twaddle, a form of words which will lead to denying those of us in need as undeserving.

Borat impressionist, bingo-caller and a dab hand with a curry, our PM is a man of few parts and no interior or life of the mind but having worked for the Property Council early in his career he knows all about housing. In fact, there’s not much anyone can tell him.

Expect more nonsense about Labor’s grandfathered capital gearing causing property prices to plummet. There’ll be no admission of how over nearly six years’ flat wages growth has eroded each household’s standard of living.

The Morrison omnishambles even makes a hash of its formulaic set-piece, blowing their fake black hole deception by roping in an aggrieved Treasury. Having a flashback? John Fraser, who did little in Treasury except expunge all reference to climate change and take the department back to the (John) Stone age, was similarly put upon.

Bernard Keane reports “Treasury was regularly used to cost bastardised versions of Labor policies that were then dropped to News Corp stenographers as sensationalist “Labor $10 billion hole exposed” fictions.

Plus ça change …  In June, 2018, Fraser made clear that Treasury wasn’t costing Labor’s policies, but what was fed them by Morrison’s office. Perhaps he was underwhelmed when ScoMo publicly snubbed Treasury on negative gearing, insisting he, personally, knew more about the experts on housing. We are at the mercy of ScoMo’s “own experience and understanding”, his faith, or his chutzpah or even just the vibe that guides every dud captain’s call.

Treasury Liberal Phil Gaetjens, a former chief of staff to Costello and Morrison, himself, who also has a seat on the Reserve Bank Board, says that Treasury wasn’t costing Opposition promises. It was just given sets of figures to add up. In other words, like the Minister for the Environment, he’s been conned. Or he’s conning us.

In brief, the new black hole is nonsense but as it quickly hardens – as it surely will- into campaign false narrative, by endless media repetition, it is vital to challenge. Labor’s taxes will never cost  $387 bn; try $157 bn – that is, if you can set much credence on projected expenditure over ten to twelve years – an almost meaningless exercise.

The coalition’s election campaign is all over the auction – rather like Morrison’s dysfunctional government itself. The fair go slogan has been ruptured on the reality of Dutton’s cruelty to Ali France, aided and abetted by Scott Morrison himself who has not even tweeted an apology for calling her a liar.

The centrepiece of the black hole in Labor’s costings has been eclipsed by revelations from Treasury that the government has lied about its new figures being based on Treasury costings. The true figure is closer to $157 bn dollars over ten years, despite what the Coalition may try to tell you.

Above all, the Coalition is divided and under fire from two former PMs, each with their own agendas. What adds some semblance of coherence, finally, is based a series of lies. Adani has not received CSIRO approval for its water treatment plans. Nor will they be soon forthcoming. The Queensland government will need to see far more detail and evidence of practicality before it can even contemplate the process of final approval.

“This advice was limited to answering discrete inquiries on whether elements of Adani’s proposed plans would be adequate to protect nationally significant environmental assets,” says CSIRO’s executive director for environment, energy and water, Dr Peter Mayfield. Adani’s dreadful environmental record internationally  offers little hope of this.

“In that advice, CSIRO had found a number of problems with Adani’s proposed groundwater plans and recommended changes. The environment department, which has the role of regulator, summarised and conveyed those concerns to Adani, which then undertook to make adjustments.”

So far, the department, with its bullied, inexperience Minister, Melissa Price inspires little confidence.

What is certain, however, is that before too soon, electric cars could be produced in Australia and before that the import of electric cars, buses, trucks and utes will bring us cleaner, quieter, cheaper transports of delight. Not only are both parties’ plans almost identical on electric vehicles, it will take more than a catastrophic coalition election campaign to impede their uptake. Yet the launch is a moral and ethical disaster.

Above all, Dutton’s attack on the integrity and honesty of Ali France reveals the vacuity of ScoMo’s fair go slogan and his Prime Minister’s failure to censure him an indictment of his leadership. To accuse a disabled woman of lying about her disability, moreover, plumbs new depths of cruelty and inhumanity.

There is no undoing the hurt, but Morrison and Dutton could start by making genuine apologies. The fair go nation will expect no less.

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Social security privatisation and income management profiteering

The cashless debit card (CDC), is about more than ‘helping social security recipients that are alcoholics, and, or drug and gambling addicts to get help’, narrative. Depending on which trial, or experiment that your postcode is in and if you’re on a disability payment, or a carer payment, or one of a long list of trigger and restrictable payments (listed at the end of this article), that includes the stillbirth payment, you will be put on the CDC.

This is about the privatisation of government services via taxpayer funded infrastructure, set up by private operator, Indue Ltd (Indue). It’s been set up to open up billions of dollars worth of income management, for the financial and commercial sectors. Income management has now become a product to sell. Whether that be from vendors charging fees to access their goods or services, or from the banks charging inward banking fees and overdraft fees. The Indue terms and conditions for the CDC absolves itself of hidden fees: ‘We are not responsible for any fees imposed by third parties.’

There is a litany of stories from those on the CDC about it not working at places where it is meant to and the fees involved, fees for rent transfers, fees for shopping at Coles, fees and defaults of up to $26 because Indue hasn’t paid loans on time. Despite all of this there is much more to come on the CDC agenda.

The ‘Cashless Debit Card Technology Report, in 2017 by Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation, and its working group of senior executives from the banking and retail sectors, have set out a blueprint for the government. It includes the CDC becoming a multi-issuer card opening it up for the banks to issue cards, for commercial tie-ins with reward partners such as AFL and supermarkets for loyalty schemes; CDC’s with commercial branding on it; CDC training rolled into the Responsible Service of Alcohol; and the monetisation of the data relating to the CDC; if there’s a buck to be made, it’s been thought of.

It is also of note that the CDC is uncannily similar to a program in America, called SNAP, (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). It began as food-stamps for those on low incomes or on welfare. The food-stamps were eventually replaced with a debit card system called EBT, (Electronic Benefit Transfer), which is provided by private contractors under the guise of saving the government money with the printing costs. As an EBT vendor, Walmart in particular benefits greatly from the program with a guaranteed income stream worth 18% of the whole SNAP program, or $US 13 billion. It’s in their best interests if the amount on the card is raised and they provide lobbyists to keep tabs on any looming cuts to it.

I’m in no way ignoring that some communities don’t have real problems with alcohol, drugs, crime and violence in their towns that needs urgent attention. The purpose of this article is to create more detail and awareness than has been reported to date. Too much of the media reportage has been more about Liberal and National Party spruiking perceived benefits of the CDC in a seemingly attempt to manufacture the consent of the community rather than detailed analysis. Is a plastic card issued by a private company is really the answer? There are other initiatives in place such as justice reinvestment that is working and transforming towns such as Bourke, involving the whole community without government or private company intervention. More about that in the conclusion of this article.

Indue Ltd is not a bank

It’s a payment transfer business. If you Google https://binlists.com/ for more details about the BIN (Bank Indentification Number) for the CDC, which is: 438775. You will see that the card is issued by Mbna America Bank in Australia. If you look up the same number for more details via https://www.bindb.com you will see that strangely, Indue Ltd is listed as the issuing bank.

Is Indue sending millions of dollars worth of social security payments out to an American bank and back to Australia again? This may explain why Indue are exempt from the Anti-money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act.

Some background

The cashless debit card (CDC) is Andrew Forrest’s version of the BasicsCard, which started out in the Northern Territory (NT) in Indigenous communities. He also wants to replace the BasicsCard which is an EFTPOS card for income management in some Indigenous communities with the CDC. The BasicsCard doesn’t quarantine money like the CDC and it can only be used to buy approved items. The CDC trials arose from the government accepting a key recommendation from Andrew Forrest’s 2014 review – ‘Indigenous Jobs and Training: Creating Parity’.

To start the CDC trials the government had to first get around Social Security Laws. These laws were designed to protect social security recipients from third parties taking payment from them without their consent. They did this by making changes to the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 inside of the CDC legislation with the: ‘Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015’.

Those on the CDC receive 20% of their payment into their own bank account, while the other 80% is transferred to private operator, Indue, making it the legal property of Indue. It’s also important to know that because Indue is not a bank, they don’t have to answer to anyone, they’re also not signatories to the Centrelink Code of Operation or the ePayments code.

John Howard also had to make changes within the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999, for the NT Intervention to occur, more about this and the origin of income management in Australia, here.

The plan by the Liberal and National Party has always been for the CDC to be rolled out nationally for those of working age, it’s articulated very clearly in both of Andrew Forrest’s reviews. Billions of dollars can potentially become the property of Indue or the banks to dole out to social security recipients. His 2017 report also makes it very clear that government subsidies for businesses is expected for further implementation of the CDC. The Nationals also voted in August last year for every Australian under 35 years on a Parenting payment, Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance to be put on the CDC.

The National Party connection and their privatisation push

The CDC contract was won by Indue back in 2009. The Federal President of the National Party, and former Liberal National Party MP, Larry Anthony, helped set Indue up and was Chairman of their board until 2013. He also runs SAS Consulting Group (SAS), a political lobbying group that is registered with the federal government, Indue was listed as one its clients. Indue strangely disappeared off of the government register in August last year. SAS has amongst others, another private operator, Serco as one its clients. Serco won a pilot contract from the government in October 2017 to answer Centrelink phones as a solution for long waiting times. No doubt the 1,200 jobs cut from the Department of Human Services (DHS), in the 2017 budget made the situation worse, as well as the 1,300 that were culled in the 2018 budget. When you do the math, was it intentional? As of April this year, the government has now outsourced 2,750 DHS jobs to Serco. This needs to be investigated much further.

How much are the CDC contracts worth?

The original contract awarded to Indue was worth $11 million over 3-years, it ballooned out to over $25 million. The CDC trials were originally slated to cost $18.9 million  At that time 1,850 were in the trials, so the cost was reported as being $10,000 per participant. In September 2017 after going through all of the tenders and contracts associated with the CDC, not just Indue ones, I calculated the amount to be over $60 million, meaning that the cost per participant was actually closer to $13,000.

In September last year after the Senate came back after the Malcolm Turnbull spill and Parliament was shut down, Senator Fifield and his advisers represented the government in the Senate regarding the CDC expansion to Hinkler. The reason that I mention this is because Fifield up until that point had, had nothing to do with the CDC trials or policies, and it only added to the lack of transparency surrounding the costs involved. They claimed that the costs per participant was getting lower and was projected to be around $2,000 per person for the new trial, and that the oft quoted $10,000 per person was a running cost. When questioned further about the total cost for the new trial and the ones so far, they hid behind commercial-in-confidence, confidential tender processes and contracts not signed yet. They also said that they would release the Goldfield figures in full after 4-years or in 2022, well after the trials are due to finish. What was also revealed was that a cost-benefit analysis for the CDC was never considered, but that one was being done internally and that they don’t know when it will be finished. The government also doesn’t know what the profits are of the companies involved in the CDC trials.

Inadequate support services

Very little money has been set aside for services that are offered to communities to entice them onto the card. Using a recent example, the projected CDC cost of $2k per person in Hinkler amounts to $13.4 million, yet only $1 million has been set aside for support services. It is unclear how much money has been awarded to stakeholders or services that Indue has chosen to assist it with the CDC but there is one in particular that has been noted by people in Hinkler. David Batt of the Liberal National Party, is the State Member for Bundaberg. He is also the Chairman of Impact Community Services, which is a shopfront for those needing assistance with setting up the CDC, and a job services provider. I’m not suggesting that he has done anything wrong, just wondering what other indirect connections without tender processes are going on that are associated with the CDC.

The CDC trials

The CDC began as trials in the disadvantaged and remote areas of Ceduna, in South Australia, and the East Kimberley, in West Australia in 2016. Anyone of working age and receiving the Newstart Allowance, Disability Support Pension, Parenting Payments, Carers Payment, and Youth Allowance, in these locations were forced onto the card. Nobody has really questioned why those on disability or carer payments need income management. Danny Ulrich, from Kalgoorlie, cares for his disabled 18-year-old brother, he doesn’t know why he has been given a CDC if it was designed to target alcohol-related behaviour.

“As a carer we’ve been put in with everyone else and put on the card,” Mr Ulrich said.

The trials have since been rolled out to the Goldfields in West Australia in 2018 and to Hinkler in Queensland this year. The differences with the latest trial being that it went ahead despite many in the community opposing it with many peaceful rallies and calling for the money to instead be spent on education, training and jobs. There is a big difference between politicians and stakeholders wanting the CDC for the community, and what the whole community wants.

The Hinkler trial is only for those aged 35 years and under who receive Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance (Job seeker), Parenting Payment (Single) or Parenting Payment (Partnered). Top-up income payments that people receive while under-employed have also been included in the Hinkler trial. Under-employment is a growing problem in Australia.

The numbers of those on the CDC in each region have increased with each trial. Ceduna began with around 800, East Kimberley with around 1,300, the Goldfields with around 3,600 and around 6,000 people in Hervey and Bundaberg (Hinkler). The original amount of those to be put on the CDC the trials was 10,000 it is now 15,000.

Trials that never end, assisted with a cherry-picked report

The 3-part Orima Report was commissioned by the government and is being used by the government, to not only extend draconian, income management measures, but also to quantify its success in the Senate and by Liberal and National Party politicians spruiking the CDC to the media and other communities. Social and political researcher, Eva Cox sums up the report perfectly in a Facebook post, on The Say No Seven page:

“The whole data set of interviews, quantitative and qualitative, are very poorly designed and not likely to be valid data collection instruments. I’d fail any of my research students that produced such dubious instruments.”

The reports includes a lot of spin, asks respondents for their ‘perceptions’ at times, and includes retrospective responses, for questionnaires. The Say No Seven page, has been following all three of the reports closely, they crunched the numbers at the start of this month, when the final Orima report was released. An example cam be found on page forty-six:

“At Wave 2, as was the case in Wave 1, around 4-in-10 non-participants (on average across the two Trial sites) perceived that there had been a reduction in drinking in their community since the CDCT commenced.”

This approach means that you focus on the minority of responses, rather than the majority of responses. 6-in-10 not perceiving any reduction in drinking around town. It reads a lot differently than the latter.

Another example used a lot and also quoted in the Minderoo Foundation report from 2017, is: ‘For card users at 12 months: 41% of drinkers said they were drinking less; 48% of drug users said they were using drugs less; and 48% of gamblers said they were gambling less.’ Again making the reader or listener focus on the minority of responses.

Independent analysis of the report by qualified researchers, found many serious flaws within the report. The Auditor General Grant Hehir, also wasn’t convinced due to the lack of analysis, monitoring and evaluation of the trial. He also found that there was a failure to properly measure baseline data (data collected at the beginning or before a research project to compare with data collected during and after), making it hard to know what impact the trial had really had. Doctor Elise Klein, Janet Hunt, Senator Rachel Siewert, ACOSS and so many others have made submission after submission to the government, about the negative responses from people on the CDC relating to increased financial hardship, and flow-on social effects, only to be ignored.

The CDC narrative changes

A baseline report for the Goldfields trial was finally released in February this year but it’s commencement is vague, it says that it’s from ‘around the time of the introduction of the CDC.’ The report found:

“levels of substance misuse were reported by many respondents to have reduced, and alcohol-related, anti-social behaviour and crime had also decreased”.

The report also said:

“However, there is some uncertainty as to whether these impacts were a direct consequence of the CDC [cashless debit card] or were linked with concurrent policing and alcohol management interventions.”

The report was by the Future of Employment and Skills Research Centre which is a research centre in the University of Adelaide. This is curious in that the CDC has been legislated to provide income support for those with alleged drug, alcohol and gambling problems, not for being unemployed. The narrative has shifted in recent months with the Minister for Social Services, Paul Fletcher announcing in a presser that the CDCT trial “… is being expanded to address unemployment.”

This completely changes what the Indue card policy was designed for, and what the government originally presented to the Senate. It’s also unclear how a minister can just announce a change in legislation like this. Below was the original goals of the CDC trials. To change it to be about unemployment makes you wonder what is the point of trials? To make it more palatable for the Senate to pass the legislation and for the public to accept over time?

124PC Objects

The objects of this Part are to trial cashless welfare arrangements so as to:

(a) reduce the amount of certain restrictable payments available to be spent on alcoholic beverages, gambling and illegal drugs; and

(b) determine whether such a reduction decreases violence or harm in trial areas; and

(c) determine whether such arrangements are more effective when community bodies are involved; and

(d) encourage socially responsible behaviour.

It also means that all research and data collected by the government to date is redundant and that at the very least new legislation needs to be drawn up with what the government’s true objectives are.

Whole of community consent for the trials questioned, and paid community panels

Claims by the government that the trial communities wanted it have fallen apart under questioning during debates in the Senate. In February last year Labor Senator Doug Cameron, asked Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, about the 86 organisations and stakeholders that were involved in the consultation process for the Goldfields expansion. It turned out that only 5 out of the 86 were positive about the CDC. Those that were positive about the CDC being introduced in their communities were given anonymity.

Every year since the CDC the government has introduced and mostly passed many amendments. Amendments such as the government establishing anonymous community panels that now include government officials in trial sites, taking it out of the hands of local councils and agencies. Paid community panels to determine whether those put on income management should be able to access more cash from their bank accounts than the 20% allocated by Indue. This also happened in the NT during the Intervention. Another one was the addition of one word, ‘was’ meaning that if you used to live in a trial area but have moved you could still be put on the card. Seemingly to stop people moving from a trial area to a non-trial one, or a welfare migration, control measure. Because the trials are rolled out by postcode it also captures those that don’t have drug, alcohol or gambling problems or are even in need of income support assistance. If you want to opt out of the CDC trial process is extremely difficult.

The latest amendment and trial expansion

Just last week the government passed another amendment in the Senate to extend all of the current trials till June 2020. Those in Ceduna will have been on the CDC for 4-years by this time. The Labor Party has also introduced an amendment that has been legislated and is now law, providing some hope for those that don’t need income support as a way to opt out off of the CD program. CDC recipients in all trial sites can exit the scheme from July this year if they’re able to demonstrate “reasonable and responsible management” of their financial affairs. Their amendment also makes the community panels more accountable for their decisions as to why someone can not be exempt from the CDC. They must provide a documented explanation.

The fear for many though is that if the government wins the federal election that they will not only repeal this legislation, but will expand and extend the trials everywhere. The government has also given an additional $70.8 million for the extension of the trials.

People self-harming and suiciding due to the CDC

Besides the information from the screenshot above there isn’t a lot of data relating to self-harm and suicides relating to the CDC. There was recently an ‘Inquest into the 13 Deaths of Children and Young Persons in the Kimberley Region’, and a coroners report that has a CDC recommendation that hasn’t been reported properly. Preceding Recommendation 22 the report states:

‘An evaluation of the Cashless Debit Card trial is outside the scope of the Inquest as is any recommendation that suggests a compulsion. The following recommendation is made, to be considered in parallel with, and not in substitution of, any relevant trial or program already in place, or planned.’

Followed by:

Recommendation 22 – ‘That consideration be given to extending an offer of a voluntary cashless debit card program to include the entire Kimberley Region.’

The Minderoo Foundation reported the recommendation as a reason to roll out the CDC across the Kimberley, no mention of consideration or it being voluntary. As the coroner stated the CDC trial was outside of the scope of the inquiry. Until we have one for the CDC trials we will never know how many people have self-harmed or suicided. One death or someone hurting themselves over a government policy is too many.

In conclusion

The social security and welfare of Australians doesn’t belong in the hands of private companies. Anyone of us can slip and fall into hardship, this is what it’s there for. There are other programs to explore that address alcohol and drug problems like in Iceland for example, where teenagers in the 1980’s and 1990’s had a huge problem with alcohol and drugs that could be tailored to fit certain communities in Australia. Unemployment could also be incorporated with the approach below.

  • They brought in curfews for teens under 16 being out at night with parents helping to patrol the streets to make sure that it happened.
  • Parents signed a pledge to not allow their kids to drink alcohol and to create more family time with them.
  • Kids are kept occupied with the government giving families a $500 voucher for after school activities.
  • Surveys are filled in by teens every year measuring different aspects of their lives such as their relations to their peers, family life, substance abuse and how they feel. A report is then created for each community within 2-months for their schools so that they can work out solutions within each community.
  • They also got politicians onside with the science with Reyjkavic spending over $100 million each year on youth activities.

This model is now run across 35 cities in Europe and has been credited with bringing Iceland musical and sporting success.

Then there are justice reinvestment programs that I mentioned in the introduction where instead of money being spent on prisons, and law and order policies, the money is instead reinvested into the communities. The Australian Human Rights Commission has called it a “powerful crime prevention strategy.” The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee recommended 5-years ago for the Commonwealth to “adopt a leadership role” to support justice reinvestment projects and that it should fund a trial.

In the NSW town of Bourke, the Maranguka project is credited with cutting major offences by 18% and domestic violence and drug offences by 40%, and with school attendance up. This could work in communities such as Kalgoorlie, but for these projects to work they require involving the whole of the community, and the police. Brad Hazzard, the current NSW health minister, said in a Bourke meeting after marvelling at their success:

“I still shake my head in wonder as to why so much state and federal resources are coming into regional towns and not achieving the outcomes we want.”

Many people receiving social security assistance are already living in poverty, cutting them off from cash is not the answer. Let it be voluntary across the board, don’t let our capitalist society turn poverty and welfare into another money making scheme for the private sector, or to be used as a pork-barreling strategy for nonprofits in our communities. Do surveys, get to the core of the problems in each community, provide services that work, seriously look at ways to create jobs and for other ways for people to contribute back to their communities, if they’re able to do so. It’s also well overdue to  trial a universal basic income in Australia.

These are the trigger payments that can land you on the card:

  • ABSTUDY that includes an amount identified as living allowance,
  • austudy payment,
  • benefit PP (partnered),
  • BVA, so long as the recipient has not   reached pension age,
  • carer payment,
  • disability support pension,
  • newstart allowance,
  • PgA (other than non-benefit allowance),
  • partner allowance,
  • pension PP (single),
  • sickness allowance,
  • special benefit,
  • widow allowance,
  • widow B pension,
  • wife pension,
  • youth allowance.

Here are the restrictable payments:

 

Many thanks to all of the sourced researchers, publications and artists involved in this article, which I originally published on Political Omniscience.

 

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Pentecostalism – taking Christ out of Christianity

By Willz  

The first time I heard the word Pentecostal was when my older cousin became one. I was 13 at the time and thought she was nuts. She kept equating the newly invented bar codes with “the mark of the beast”. More out of curiosity than anything, I went to church with her to see what it was all about and as a result, I was quickly lured into the church, boots and all. I was “born again”, baptised in water and then baptised in the holy Spirit, which supposedly gave one the ability to heal people, speak in tongues and prophesy. I studied the bible with a fervour, poring over every detail, determined to become a preacher and help spread the Word …

I kept hearing Pentecostals talk about them being the only true Christian church, yet the racism and religious bigotry never seemed to bother anyone. Apparently, because we were part of the one true religion, we were always right and everyone else was going to hell.

It was only after spending some time away from the church’s influence that I started looking at their beliefs in a more objective way and started questioning all I had been told. Having to be born again to avoid hell never sat well with me as I wondered why people who had never heard the message deserved to go to hell.

I slowly started drifting away from the church as I came to the realization that many of their doctrines were not biblical and their self-righteous racism and religious bigotry really started to bother me. One of the heroes of the Pentecostal movement is evangelist Franklin Graham, who recently toured Australia. Many Pentecostals attended his rallies. Franklin Graham has openly supported the racist policies of Donald Trump. Graham’s support for Trump crosses over into idolatry as he treats Trump like the Messiah (Zwartz 2019). Perhaps the best comment about Graham comes from American Baptist leader, Russell Moore, who stated that the problem with Franklin Graham is that “the Religious Right turns out to be the people the Religious Right warned us about” (Zwartz 2019). Without a doubt, Pentecostals, who are part of the Religious Right, represent everything that they claim they stand against. They claim to be a religion of love, yet their hatred of others is overt.

Is it any wonder that Graham and evangelicals in general, are so racist when their particular brand of Christianity is rooted in the racism and hate-crimes of America’s deep south during the 19th century? Graham thanks God for the victories of the white Christians (Redemptionists) of the 19th century, who used violence often unleashed by the Ku Klux Klan, in the fight against “Negro rule” because they claimed it was immoral (Barber II 2016). This hatred, this bigotry still permeates the psyche of evangelical, Pentecostal Christians today and manifests in their behaviour, in their support and idolising of racists and Islamophobes such as Trump, Abbott, Morrison, Hanson, Bernardi and so on.

The final straw for me was when I sat through a sermon on prosperity which claimed that god would reward his faithful Pentecostals with boundless riches if they prayed hard enough, gave enough to the church and isolated themselves from “worldly people” (i.e. non-Pentecostals). Apparently, those in developing countries are not as deserving even though they pray harder and often have greater faith and reliance on god. Go figure!

After marrying a divorced non-Christian lady, I was cut off from my family who were Pentecostals. They said I would not be part of the family until I left my new wife and came back to the church. Thirty years on and they’re still waiting, hopefully they didn’t hold their breaths. Now I was away from the church’s influence I started to see for myself what a sad group of self-serving racist, religious bigots they were. Infidelities by Pentecostal preachers were starting to come out in the press and I quickly realised it was a case of “do as I say not what I do.”

Having time to read the bible and reflect on its contents without anyone trying to twist it for me, I quickly realised that many of their core beliefs had no basis in scripture. Speaking in tongues is nothing more than incoherent rambling also known as glossolalia, described by linguists as “the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning.” It sounds like unintelligible gibberish but is supposedly a sign of being “baptized in the holy spirit.” Healing is another of their favourite doctrines, but I never saw anyone actually cured of anything even when multiple people laid hands on and prayed for them.

I could go on about how messed up their beliefs are, but even a cursory glance at their history and beliefs on google will have you shaking your head in disbelief. As their movement becomes more openly racist and Islamophobic their hypocrisy needs to be challenged. If there was any doubt about how far removed they are from the teachings of Jesus, their support of a white supremacist, Islamophobic bigoted president that has broken all ten of the commandments several times over. Yet, they claim Trump is a man of god! Are they serious?

Emboldened by Christian preachers openly supporting a white supremacist president, white supremacist Nazis have been attacking Muslim communities, injuring and killing innocent Muslims. Recently there was the murder of 50 innocent people attending Mosques in Christchurch by a white supremacist. While most people expressed sadness and outrage, some right wing politicians tried blaming the massacre on Islamic Immigration and as disgusting as that is, it was a position supported by Pentecostal preachers who treat Islam as an evil cult. They argue that they hate Islam but love Muslims, which makes as much sense as claiming they are loving Christians. They are just hypocritical xians who’ve taken the Christ out of Christianity.

Do not be deceived, Pentecostals and evangelical churches are not Christian. They do not follow Jesus’s example of charity and humility. They follow their own twisted version of scripture by preaching hatred, intolerance and greed. They have nothing in common with true Christians at all. They supported the illegal invasion of Iraq and then complained about people wanting to emigrate from war-torn countries because they are Muslim.

It should be obvious to even the most casual observer that these are the people who we should fear, and not Muslims. Their open hatred for Muslims and anyone who isn’t a white Christian is empowering violent Nazis to commit acts of terrorism like the one in Christchurch. They have blood on their hands and have shown no sympathy for the victims at all.

The bible warns against “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” They are the wolves and Muslims are the sheep.

References

Barber II 2016, ‘The racist history of Southern white evangelicalism and the rise of Donald Trump’, The Washington Post, 23 November, viewed 5 April 2019.

Zwartz, B 2019, ‘Franklin Graham walks in his father’s footsteps – and Trump’s shadow’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 February, viewed 5 April 2019.

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FauxMo’s “truth campaign”

Scott Morrison told radio host Alan Jones the Coalition would not resort to a “fear campaign” but would run a “truth campaign”.

Guffaw.

Apparently, joining the rest of the world in the uptake of electric vehicles and emissions standards is a “war on the weekend”.

A screeching Michaelia Cash, with neck chords fully distended and flanked by a smirking ScoMo and a dumbly nodding Lucy Wicks, vowed “We are going to stand by our tradies and we are going to save their utes.”

The performance was reminiscent of Michael “Elvis” McCormack who warned that a 45% emissions reduction target will mean we can “forget night footy, forget night cricket.”

Oh, and it will “cost Australians at least $9000 a year.”

Then we had the overblown and dishonest response to a bill allowing sick refugees on Manus and Nauru to get specialist medical attention.

“It is going to see hundreds of people coming here quickly, it will be quite confronting and that’s the reality of the bill that they passed in the parliament,” Mr Dutton said.

Linda Reynolds told us the passage of the bill made her “physically ill” and would “come at the cost of the lives of others”.

We would be impotent in stopping all the “murderers, rapists and pedophiles” from invading our shores.

Whyalla wipeout, $100 lamb roasts – these people have form in hysterical hyperbole.

The marriage equality debate wasn’t about human rights according to Tony Abbott – it was about “religious freedom, freedom of speech and political correctness”.  A florist he said “could lose her business because of her beliefs”.  All of a sudden, “traditional marriages would mean nothing”.

And the Safe Schools program wasn’t about respectful relationships and anti-bullying – it was about “gender whispering” and “sexualising our kids”.

The idea that Morrison will run a “truth campaign” is laughable.  He doesn’t understand the meaning of the word.

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The truth as opposed to what Melissa Price says

Today, the misnamed Minister for the Environment, Melissa Price, announced that, on the advice of the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, she was approving the Adani mine.

That is completely untrue.

On 24 January 2019, the Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE) requested Geoscience Australia and CSIRO to provide groundwater-related advice on draft management plans provided by Adani Mining Pty Ltd.

They provided their advice on 22 February.

The review found that the modelling used is not suitable to ensure the outcomes sought by the EPBC Act conditions are met. A number of limitations were also identified in the proposed monitoring and management approaches indicating they are not sufficiently robust to monitor and minimise impacts to protected environments.

The following are the answers provided to the specific questions posed by the government.

Q2a. How appropriate is the numerical model scenario selected by the approval holder to inform the Groundwater Management and Monitoring Plan and Rewan Formation Connectivity Research Plan and for incorporation into the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan as required by the conditions of approval?

The SEIS model used by the GMMP is the most conservative of the model scenarios as it predicts the greatest impacts from the mine development in all aquifers. However, being the best choice of available model runs does not mean that this model run is considered to be fit-for-purpose.

Q2b. Are there any other model scenarios put forward by the approval holder that are more appropriate to ensure the outcomes sought by the conditions of approval are met?

The review of the available model scenarios did not identify any other model scenarios put forward by the approval holder that are considered more appropriate. However, this review has identified a number of limitations, which mean that the model is not suitable to ensure the outcomes sought by the conditions of approval are met

Q3. Are the monitoring and management approaches proposed in the GMMP and GDEMP consistent with the most plausible conceptualisation and sufficiently robust to ensure the outcomes above are met?

The proposed monitoring and management approaches described are consistent with the most plausible conceptualisation of groundwater source to the Doongmabulla Springs complex. However, limitations identified mean that the proposed monitoring and management approaches are not sufficiently robust to ensure the outcomes set out in 2b are met.

The Minister conceded in her media release that there were problems identified by the review.

That advice identified areas of groundwater modelling, monitoring and management that required further work.

That advice recommended a number of actions, which the Company has accepted in full, including:

  • A substantial increase of early warning monitoring between the mine and the Doongmabulla Springs using additional deeper bores and an additional bore site to monitor flows

  • Tightened corrective action triggers requiring an immediate response to any unexpected groundwater impact

  • Commitments to re-run the model addressing all Geoscience Australia and CSIRO concerns within two years of the commencement of coal extraction (noting there are no predicted impacts to nationally protected matters within 15 years).

On Friday, the department called in the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia to give them a verbal briefing on the promises made by Adani.  Most unusually, both organisations produced a letter dated the same day saying that the promises addressed some of their concerns whilst “noting that there are still components of that advice that will need to be addressed through the approval of the research plan.”

Suggesting that “Both CSIRO and Geoscience Australia have confirmed the revised plans meet strict scientific requirements” is a real stretch.  Reading their actual report shows that many of their concerns remain but they were obviously pressured to write a letter in response on the same day they got a briefing from the department last Friday.

Considering Adani’s loose relationship with the truth in the past, giving approval on the basis of promises is madness.

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Trending Issues: Address in Reply-Appealing to National Consensus

By Denis Bright   

In the traditions of outstanding Address in Reply Speeches from the Labor Party since the days of Andrew Fisher in 1909, Bill Shorten has delivered an outstanding appeal to a fractured nation with the politics of hope.

Supporting the Consumer Revolution and Save Medicare Initiatives

The Address builds on the positives in the federal LNP’s own budget with a commitment to fair wages and an extension of the federal government’s own tax offset. This will now benefit income earners to a taxable income of $48,000 with an additional $1,080 in annual take-home pay from 1 July 2019.

These changes alone will detract from the shrill appeal of cross-bench parties in the less affluent electorates in all mainland states. Labor vote cannot go higher in Tasmania without threatening the career of the left-leaning member for Denison who usually supports Labor on crucial economic issues.

Labor will oppose implementation of Phases 2 and 3 of the Federal LNP’s tax relief for higher income earners to the benefit of spending commitments in the forthcoming election campaign:

Labor has signalled it is likely to support doubling the offset, which Bill Shorten proposed in 2018 in his budget reply. But the proposal to flatten tax brackets beyond 2024 would provide a significant point of difference between the two major parties, allowing Labor to oppose high income tax cuts at the May election.

Flattening tax brackets in 2024, as proposed in the 2018 budget, and lowering the rate to 30%, as revealed on Tuesday, would contribute to a cumulative total tax cut of $1,205 a year for a person earning $50,000, $1,955 for someone earning $80,000, $3,040 for a person earning $100,000 increasing to $11,640 for those earning $200,000 or more.

Frydenberg defended the changes as a “long-term structural reform”, which would ensure that 94% of taxpayers paid no more than 30c in the dollar in tax and “incentivise and reward hard work”.

Funding accountability will be enhanced by removing the worst excesses of franking credit payments to retirees whose income from share portfolios does not exceed the current tax threshold of $18,200. The overall cost of franking credit payments has blown out to $6.6 billion. This is approximately one third of the cost of all payments to the NDIS in 2818-19:

Labor’s Fully Funded Plans for the Future

Labor extends the LNP’s commitment to end the freeze on increases in Medicare Payments to practitioners and specialists with a $2.3 billion commitment to reduce the costs of cancer treatment. Access to MRI Units to detect cancer will be increased with particular emphasis on outer-suburban and regional areas. Early diagnosis will also reduce the costs of cancer treatment and in the case of skin cancers these costs can be reduced by more adequate prevention programmes. Preventative programmes can also be extended to aspects of reproductive health to reduce the costs of STDs and abortion procedures.

The Plan for the Future will also address climate change with pragmatic carbon emission targets that can be reinforced by the installation of household batteries with appropriate subsidies to users of extensive solar units at a cost of up to $2,000 per household.

The energy initiatives will be supplemented by controls on clearing of native vegetation and planning measures to support transport-oriented development (ToD Projects) for our cities and the attraction of investment to the regions with particular emphasis on Northern Australia.

All these changes will require support staff in NDIS, aged care programmes, technical support for TOD Projects and other transformative ventures. This justifies Labor’s commitment to tertiary education with an emphasis on overcoming training deficiencies in the IT sector:

Bill Shorten will commit Labor to spend $200m on Tafe campuses and promise to almost double the number of new apprenticeship offered by the Coalition in Tuesday’s budget.

The commitments in Shorten’s budget reply on Thursday amount to $440m of new spending, including $330m to deliver 150,000 apprenticeship subsidies in areas with skills shortages.

The package builds on Shorten’s promise last year to waive fees for 100,000 Tafe students and doubles the investment in campuses from $100m to $200m.

Scott Morrison is expected to call the federal election shortly after Shorten’s reply and education is likely to be one of Labor’s strong suits because it is an area where it can offer higher social spending as a dividend for tax reform.

Labor has already promised an additional $14bn over 10 years to public schools, universal preschool access for three and four year olds, at the cost of $1.7bn, and to reverse the freeze on commonwealth grants to universities.

In Tuesday’s budget the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, promised a $525m skills package that contained $55m of new money and redirected $463m of unspent money from the Skilling Australians Fund.

The centrepiece of the Coalition’s package is $200m to create 80,000 apprenticeships by doubling incentive payments to employers to $8,000 per placement and giving $2,000 payments to new apprentices. Labor’s policy matches the amount of those subsidies but extends them to 150,000 places.

Labor’s $200m building Tafe for the future fund will be spent to re-establish Tafe facilities in regional communities that have lost campuses or courses, build new facilities in growing areas, provide new equipment and expand course offerings.

Shorten said the budget was a “cynical pea and thimble trick” which had cut Tafe, skills and apprenticeship programs despite the fact Australia has 150,000 fewer apprentices and trainees than when Labor left government in 2013.

Labor’s Plans for the Future consolidate the LNP precedents and should be a safe bet for voters in swing seats.

Beyond Precedents: The Need for Sustainable Investment Multipliers

Short-term economic development initiatives aside on both sides of the political aisle, Australia has not come to terms with initiative to attract the right mix of investment in both public and private sectors to sustain a balanced development agenda.

The federal LNP’s plans for a consumer revolution to extend the mining boom and the property market brings too much uncertainty investment for the future in a middle ranking Australian economy which is no global financial hub like Wall Street, the City of London, Beijing or Tokyo.

The consumer revolution might bring more investment in online warehouses, tourist infrastructure and Uber food outlets, but not the balanced investment to bring consensus to a more fragmented and stressful society.

The latest RBA Chart Pack shows the extent to which new age investment based on market-forces, favours the capital cities in Eastern Australia from Brisbane and the Gold Coast to Adelaide with a preference for Sydney and Melbourne:

Mainstream politics is not yet rectifying these financial blind-spots which require a new range of commercial investment sources as recommended by the Business Council of Australia (BCA). The BCA is still too conservative to extend its vision to Asian Belt and Road Investment and Infrastructure Options which need not be unilaterally from China but from China as the vibrant financial hub of the Indo-Pacific Basin. China has been willing to repair its old disputes with Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam and turn them into trading and investment partnerships.

Ironically, this engagement with the Indo-Pacific would save Australia in billions of unproductive defence investment in favour of ports and regional investment projects across Northern Australia about which the federal LNP and populist cross-benchers have fantasized for decades.

Bill Shorten’s address in reply offers a conventional start to a better orientation with closer immediate engagement with New Zealand and the Pacific Islands on a transformation which requires an extended period of Labor Governments at federal and state levels along the Scandinavian development model which reaches beyond the nasty politics of debt and division (Matthias Cormann in The Australian 24 August 2017, pay-walled):

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has laid down the economic gauntlet to Bill Shorten, describing Labor’s policies as akin to communist East Germany’s, in a speech to the Sydney Institute last night designed to set the philosophical and political battleground for the next election.

In one of the most direct ­attacks on the Opposition Leader by a Turnbull cabinet minister since last year’s election, Senator Cormann accused Mr Shorten of being an economic charlatan attempting to take Labor back to the era of socialism by committing to more than $150 billion worth of new taxes.

He accused the Opposition Leader of a shameless descent into the politics of envy used by past socialist leaders. “As he looks ahead to the next election, he has made the deliberate and cynical political judgment that enough Australians have forgotten the historical failure of socialism,” Senator Cormann said.

“The Berlin Wall came down 28 years ago, which means roughly 18 per cent of Australians enrolled to vote were born after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the failure of a system of government that destroyed the economies of eastern Europe.

“Bill Shorten now believes the politics of envy will work for him politically if not economically; that people will believe him when he pretends that the path to a better life for them is to tax their neighbours, their friends and their family members harder; to demonise aspiration and go after hard-working Australians and successful businesses.

“His rhetoric is the divisive language of haves and have-nots. It is socialist revisionism at its worst.”

Let the unproductivity of this rhetoric speak for itself as the federal LNP in 2019 adopts many of Labor’s tax package suggestions in its own consumer revolution strategies.

Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is committed to citizens’ journalism by promoting discussion of topical issues from a critical structuralist perspective. Readers are encouraged to continue the discussions in this current series of Trending Issues for Australians in this election year.

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It’s only words, and words are all I have

The Coalition have delivered a budget full of promises that they hope will win them re-election but, until those promises actually eventuate, they’re only words.

It is perhaps more instructive to examine what the government has actually done with its two terms in office rather than listen to a whole heap of things that haven’t happened yet.

The budget is not in the black.  At the end of February, there was a deficit of $10.657 billion.  The budget predicts that that will reduce to a deficit of $4.2 billion by the end of June.

They have not paid down “Labor’s debt”.  They have increased net debt from $161.2 billion at the end of August 2013 to $370.9 billion at the end of February 2019 despite a strengthening world economy.

The Coalition like to make much of their job “creation”.  From November 2007 to September 2013, the Labor Party, whilst negotiating the GFC, created 1.1024 million jobs.  The Coalition have, by the end of February 2019, created 1.0952 million jobs.

Ever since the carbon price was removed, emissions have gone up.  The latest figures show that emissions to the end of September 2018 were expected to be 2.6% below emissions in 2000.  Our commitment was to reduce them to 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.  This will only be achieved by dodgy accounting.

Meanwhile we suffer increasingly intense droughts, floods, bushfires and cyclones and the Great Barrier Reef hovers on the edge of extinction as bleaching events come more frequently.

The mismanagement of the Murray-Darling Scheme, with water theft facilitated by the government, has put our largest river system, and all those who rely on it, under great stress.

Instead of a world-class FttP national broadband network that could cope with the demands of the future, we are using aging copper connections that cannot even deal with the demands of today.

Foreign aid has been slashed in every Coalition budget with it now at its lowest level ever.  Meanwhile, defence spending has received an increase above and beyond what had been budgeted every year.

Not only did we not get the “rolled gold” paid parental leave for “women of calibre” that we were promised, parental leave entitlements have been cut back with parents no longer able to combine the government leave with workplace leave.

Penalty rates have been cut, wages have stagnated, and job security has been eroded.

Over three million people are living in poverty and more than 100,000 are homeless.

Power prices have skyrocketed and we still don’t have an energy policy.

Little progress has been made on Closing the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage.  Aboriginal people are incarcerated at record rates and recommendations from countless reviews remain ignored.  In what was a heartbreaking snub, the Uluru Statement From the Heart was summarily dismissed.

In 2012, Australia ranked 7th on Transparency International’s corruption perception index (CPI).  By 2015 it had slipped to 13th and has remained there ever since.

In 2014, we were mentioned on the Human Rights watch list for the first time and have scored a mention every year since.

At the end of February, there remained 974 people stuck on Manus and Nauru for whom the government has been unable, or unwilling, to find resettlement places.  In September last year, incoming UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet referred to Australia’s offshore processing centres as an “affront to the protection of human rights.”

In July 2018, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern over the rate of gender-based violence against women in Australia, the treatment of asylum seeker and refugee women in offshore detention on Nauru, and the lack of harmonization in state and territory legislation on abortion.

The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders released a report on Australia in February 2018 highlighting efforts to undermine the Australian Human Rights Commission, and how activists face “enormous pressure” and vilification from public officials and media outlets.

It is unsurprising that Australia has fallen out of the top ten on the World Happiness Index this year.

Two sitting Prime Ministers have been knifed by their own party, scandals have abounded, and internecine warfare remains fierce with the hard right inflicting policy paralysis and the Nats deciding it’s every man for himself.

Tony Abbott once asked for the government to be “judged on what we do, not on what we say.”

And so they should be.

The budget is just words and numbers on a bit of paper that cannot erase the reality of the last six years.

The shit-eating grins and smirks need to be well and truly wiped off the faces of the worst government ever.

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Dead Kids Are Not Sophisticated, Scott. Put Hanson Last.

One Nation flew to a foreign country to ask for millions. They asked USA gun lobbyists to interfere in our politics on social media. PHON got pointers from NRA for political strategy. One Nation is gutter trash. They are clearly UNAUSTRALIAN. They have no place in our society. This is no longer just opinion or left or right banter. Last night, Al-Jazeera broke an undercover news story of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party, negotiating with the USA NRA gun lobby to change gun laws and to try to change our voting system. This is an assault on our people and our democracy.

This is not Australia

If there is one thing that sets us apart from other countries, it is our strict gun laws. When our kids go to school, sure we worry. We worry they might get picked on, or the teacher is giving them a hard time, or they aren’t learning enough, or they might fall off the monkey bars…. We don’t worry that a deranged person with a grudge against society is going to walk into your kids’ school and shoot them dead. That is not Australia, but that is what One Nation wants you to worry about every single day. Not just worry about, but to actually create a society where kids in school lay dying by gunshot wound is a reality. What excuse will Pauline Hanson make as we bury our dead kids? What excuse will Scott Morrison make if he refuses to put them last?

So all you people scared of brown people and think One Nation speaks for you, will they speak for you when your kids are murdered in their classroom? Well? Will they? If you vote for this party you are trash. Nothing but trash.

If you are a leader who refuses to put One Nation last, you are trash. Nothing but trash.

Desperate and Hungry for Power

The video posted at the end of this article is the fully exposes the deranged sentiment of Pauline Hanson and the One Nation Party. They are lobbying for millions – millions from an organisation in a foreign country. They are hinting that they need them to interfere in our democracy for ‘support’ (interference) on Social Media. That means having people from another country, treat you, the voter like a mug. Like a mug. Like a mug.

They want Americans to infiltrate our social media to pretend to care about what you care about, when it is all about making millions for the gun lobby and winning power for One Nation. Not you. They don’t care about you. Its about money and power.

One Nation is so hungry for power, and so UnAustralian, that they are plotting with major organisation in a foreign country to use millions to try to get eight senate seats (or more) to change our voting system. We have the best voting system in the world. It is designed to keep the people you least want in power OUT. In simple terms, it is supposed to keep the bad people out. The dictators, the really dangerous politicians. It has done that….until now it seems. This works when decent parties – decent leaders, put the dangerous parties last. One Nation, along with a few others, is that party.

You Will Be Shunned

If this means nothing to One Nation voters, then these voters will contribute to mass shootings, in the streets and in the classrooms. This cannot be ignored. When the time comes, they will be shunned.

If this means nothing to Scott Morrison, then if he continues to refuse to put One Nation Last, he will contribute to mass shootings in the streets and in the classrooms. This cannot be ignored. When the time comes, Morrison will be shunned.

We Cannot Tolerate Morrison’s Weak Leadership on This

There has been a push from Media, Labor, Greens and other IND to push Scott Morrison to put One Nation Last. He has refused. Now that One Nation wants to change our laws to enable a society, where kids will be shot dead in their classrooms. Innocent little kids. Teenagers with their whole lives ahead of them – murdered in cold blood by a moron with a gun – what is his excuse now? What will Scott Morrison’s excuse be when this does happen? What will be Hanson’s excuse if that does happen? Has the NRA  trained her up in the appropriate “Gun Lobby” response?

After this expose – Scott Morrison has a National responsibility. This is not only to reject One Nation for their racism, but to reject One Nation for dealing with major influential organisations in a foreign country to influence our politics, plotting with organisations in a foreign country about getting the power to change our voting system – the heart of our democracy, and most of all, their vision to change our gun laws which will see our kids, OUR KIDS, dead in their classrooms. This is a complete assault on our people and our country.

Morrison may have thought it was a game and could balance the racism by playing it down. He might back the excuse that One Nation is “more sophisticated” but he sure as hell can’t now.

Howard had the guts to get rid of Hanson. We cannot tolerate Scott Morrison’s weak leadership on this. We just can’t. Put One Nation last Scott. Put them Last.

The Expose

“A three-year Al Jazeera investigation into the U.S. gun lobby has uncovered an effort by an Australian political party to seek millions of dollars in political funding while offering to soften strict, anti-gun laws in Australia. Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit used concealed cameras to track ‘Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’, a right-wing, anti-immigration party, as representatives travelled to Washington, D.C. to hold meetings with the National Rifle Association and other lobby groups, as well as the energy giant Koch Industries. One Nation’s Chief of Staff James Ashby was accompanied on the U.S. visit by Steve Dickson, the party’s leader in the Australian state of Queensland and a candidate in upcoming Australian elections. Ashby and Dickson were recorded seeking up to $US20 million for their election war chest while promising to soften laws, put in place following a massacre in Australia in 1996. The strict Australian gun laws have often been condemned by the NRA. Al Jazeera approached all the groups and individuals featured in this programme. None responded to our findings.”

Fraser Island: Senator Anning Responds to NZ Mosque Atrocity

Earlier this afternoon, over forty people were killed at two Mosques in New Zealand. This horrific tragedy is, of course, abhorrent, and has drawn the usual responses from the usual suspects. I want to respond to Queensland Senator Fraser Anning’s statement issued in response to the massacre. He has been rightly slammed for his vile comments, and I wish to add my voice to his chorus of detractors.

Anning’s Statement: Dog Whistle or Foghorn?

He starts out in the usual fashion by taking the stance that he is opposed to ‘any form of violence in our community’. Can you not see this next part coming? He says

‘However, whilst this kind of violent vigilantism can never be justified, what it highlights is the growing fear within our community, both in Australia and New Zealand, of the increasing Muslim presence’

Any statement that takes the form ‘this is bad, but (or however)’ rarely ends well. Think of statements like ‘I’m not racist, but’ – never ends well. Second, who is ‘our community’? Do Muslims not count as part of ‘our community’? Who are ‘we’ exactly? Careful, Senator, your dog whistle is a little low pitched. It is noteworthy as well that Senator Anning used the term ‘vigilantism’ to describe the actions of a man identified as white. Do you think he would have used a different term if the suspect had been, say, Muslim? I know he would have. Call this what it is, Senator: Terrorism!

As if he were not already a Liberal is disguise, Senator Anning then stokes fear around ‘the increasing Muslim presence’. Need I point out that the victims were themselves Muslims? Finally, that statement, whether he means it or not, is an endorsement of the actions of the shooter! Whether tacit or otherwise, even if he says the violence is not justified, he did say there was good reason to be afraid. People who are afraid do not think. They shoot first and ask questions later.

Easier to Fight Strawmen

The Senator proceeds with two pearlers that must be quoted in full before responding

‘As always, left-wing politicians and the media will rush to claim that the causes of today’s shootings lie with gun laws or those who hold nationalist views but this is all clichéd nonsense. The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place’

Ok, in order. Nobody, either on the left (whatever that means in Australia) has mentioned gun laws as having anything to do with this attack. You made that up, almost as if you are reading from the American right-wing response to any form of mass violence. No-one mentioned gun laws. Kindly cease setting up strawmen and knocking them down. Blaming those who hold ‘nationalist views’ is clichéd nonsense, he says. Alright, the shooter was white and the targets were Muslims. Looks pretty nationalist to me.

Next, as if to read off all the right-wing talking points in response to violence, Anning blamed immigration which allowed ‘Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place’. Need I point out again that the victims were Muslims, and by blaming them for the violence against them, you are agreeing with the shooter? In addition, this bigot assumes that all Muslims are violent, as if this somehow justifies violence against them. Further, he also assumes that these particular Muslims, who, again, were the victims, were immigrants! Yes, because there are no Muslims living in New Zealand who have children! Mr. Anning is a clown.

Ignorance of Islam

Senator Anning then offers his ‘insights’ into Islam. These are every bit as informed as one might think. He says

‘While Muslims may have been the victims today, usually they are the perpetrators. World-wide, Muslims are killing people in the name of their faith on an industrial scale. The entire religion of Islam is simply the violent ideology of a sixth century despot masquerading as a religious leader, which…calls for the murder of unbelievers and apostates’

One would require a shovel to get out from under all those lies. Usually Muslims are the perpetrators he says, without citation. Muslims are by no means the only ones killing in the name of their faith, and given our technological age, murder on an ‘industrial scale’ usually means some form of extermination using machinery: gas or some other form of mass extermination technology. While there is certainly violence carried out in the name of Islam, it is not on an industrial scale. Even if it were, that would be a red herring, designed to distract his audience from the point that the Muslims were the victims here. Even if they themselves had done violence (no evidence for that) it would still not justify violence against them! So all these claims about the violence carried out by Islam are irrelevant.

Islam is, he says, ‘simply the violent ideology of a sixth century despot masquerading as a religious leader’. The prophet Mohammed died in the year the west calls 632AD. That was in the 7th century, not the 6th, you historical ignoramus. As for the calls to murder the non-believers and apostates, yes, the text does say that, but it also says in 109:6 in reference to the atheist ‘To you be your way, to me be mine’. The implication of peaceful co-existence is unmistakable. But Senator Anning does not mention that as it does not fit the narrative.

More Islamic Insights 

Senator Anning then suggests that Islam is ‘the religious equivalent of fascism’. While it is true that Islam does have some concerning practices concerning its treatment of groups such as women, homosexuals and Jews, and it has been used to establish (still-existing) theocratic regimes, this is by no means unique to Islam. Indeed, medieval Europe was by and large a christian theocratic state, with what we would now call Roman Catholicism being the only legal religion until the reformation, and many punishments (and indeed crimes) being based on religious teachings.

Religions are very much like the humans that are involved in (or, according to some circles create) them. They go through an innocent phase, parallel to childhood. Then they become teenagers, with all the self-righteousness and ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ that goes with that. They often obtain some sort of state power during this phase, and become very sure of themselves. Later on, in the case of Christianity this took a very long time, they mellow and lose their state power (albeit reluctantly) and learn to integrate into society as just another element. Think of this as the reformation and its aftermath. Political Islam (to separate it from the garden-variety believers) is very much still in its teenage phase.

A Final Islamic ‘Insight’ and A Lack of Self-Reflection 

Anning said ‘Just because the followers of this savage belief [Islam] were not the killers in this instance, does not make them blameless’. Sigh. Islam is not, for all its flaws, a savage belief system by definition. He made that up. Religions contain texts written by humans. Whatever their source of inspiration, there is inevitable human contribution, and the resultant flaws, in many religious texts.

Also, when he says that even if the Muslims were not the killers in this case, they are not blameless. That is exactly what they are. A nut walks into their house of worship and targets the worshippers based on nothing other than their religion even though there is no evidence of any of them having done anything wrong. They are blameless. To put this nonsense to bed, let us grant his premise. Even if they had done violence, that is a job for law enforcement, not a random bigot with a gun.

To end, Anning quotes from, of all places, the Christian New Testament: the gospel of Matthew, 26:52 ‘all who take the sword, shall die by the sword’ and then he says ‘those who follow a violent religion that calls on them to murder us, cannot be too surprised when someone takes them at their word and responds in kind’.

Ok, first of all, it is unwise to quote a religious text when arguing against a different religion. This makes you look like the foolish hack that you are. Second, if those who ‘follow a violent religion’ are not allowed to be surprised when someone kills them whether they are violent or not, by that logic all members of the Dahmer family should be killed because of what Jeffrey did, whether they supported him or not. As a principle, this is called guilt by association. But once again, these particular Muslims did not do violence! Even if the text does call for this, they did not do it!

Mr. Anning is an ill-informed bigot who has no place as a Senator in the Australian Parliament.

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If Australia is to move forward, we must dump the Howard legacy

The fact that the Liberal Party consider John Howard some sort of elder statesman with great knowledge to impart, the fact that they wheel him out every election like he has some relevance to the contemporary electorate, shows just how bereft of ideas they are.

The blame for pretty much every problem we have can be sheeted squarely at the feet of the Howard era, exacerbated by his disciple, Tony Abbott.

They squandered a once in a lifetime windfall.  They sold off our assets.  They privatised essential services and utilities.  They introduced unsustainable tax concessions that skewed investment away from productive enterprises.  They gave huge tax cuts to corporations and high-income earners.

They used refugees as political pawns.  They changed the marriage act.  They insisted on religious chaplains in state schools.  They instigated the Northern Territory Intervention and refused to apologise for the Stolen Generation.  They sent us to war in Iraq based on a lie.

Despite a pre-election promise to match Keating’s increases to the Superannuation Guarantee, Howard immediately reneged.

They introduced Workchoices which undermined job security, workplace entitlements and wages growth.

Between 1999 and 2005, federal funding for public schools increased by $261 per student compared to an increase of $1584 for each private school student.

Howard’s government corroded Medicare by misdirecting money into tax deductions for inefficient private health insurance.

Infrastructure spending was arbitrary, reduced to porkbarrelling in Coalition and marginal seats.

The public service was politicised and the independence of the ABC attacked.

They torpedoed the referendum on finally getting an Australian head of state.

After negotiating to be one of only three countries permitted to increase emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, they refused to ratify it.  Ever since his defeat in 2007, Howard has spent his time pouring scorn on the “alarmist” scientific consensus on global warming, comparing those calling for action on climate change to religious zealots – a line often repeated by Abbott and Pell.

The Howard legacy was to suck the country into a vortex of power, privilege and greed where ambition, self-aggrandisement and the pursuit of wealth have replaced integrity, public service and acting in the best interests of the nation.

In 1996, Keating said “When you change the government, you change the country.”

How right he was.  But undoing the Howard legacy will be a huge mountain to climb for any government.

Publicised Cruelty: Scott Morrison Visits Christmas Island

His visit struck a sour note. The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was making an effort to show he cared: about those intangible things called borders, secure firm and shut to the unwanted human matter coming by sea. The distant Australian territory of Christmas Island was selected to assist in coping with arrivals from Manus and Nauru Island needing medical treatment. Having lost the vote in parliament on preventing the move, the Morrison government has done its best to ensure that a cruel element remains.

During the visit, Morrison rationalised the re-opening as the fault of the opposition. “As Prime Minister, I closed the Christmas Island detention centre and got all the children off Nauru.” The Labor Party had “voted to weaken our borders and we have acted on official advice to reopen Christmas Island.” The facilities provided “a deterrent to people smugglers and to anyone who thinks they can game the system to get to Australia.” The mythology persists.

There are parallels with atrocity and jail tourism (fancy seeing concentration camps?) in a man being filmed going through such facilities, though this time, they are intended for full use rather than being a site for instructive purposes or moral outrage. Should Australians ever wake up to the full implications of what their government does in their name, such camps might become appropriate measures of a gulag mentality that paralysed any sensible discourse on refugees for a generation.

Being a man obsessed by the moving image (once and adman always an adman), Morrison ensured that cameras never left their focus; the prime minister was keen to push the credentials of the North West Point Detention Centre. He made a pit stop at a library. (Cue necessary movement of arms to bookshelves; expansive hand movements). He even found himself gazing at a lavatory. “It was short,” recalled a disgusted resident, John Richardson. Small businessman Troy Watson was also a touch bitter. “It’s got be some sort of publicity stunt.”

And stunt it is. It belies the fact that Australia is facing, under its current Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton, a record number of asylum seekers who are entering as tourists and economise on their status. They simply prefer to do so by that more approved mode of transport: the plane. As former Department of Immigration official Abul Rizvi points out with sharp relevance, “People arriving on visitor visas and changing their status onshore constituted an astonishing 24 percent of net migration in 2017-8, the mark of a visa system out of control.” Dutton, he charges, has no genuine immigration or refugee policy to speak of.

The re-conversion of Christmas Island into a detention centre has also provided some encouragement to locals. With refugee arrivals comes a market, an opportunity to expending cash. Human cargo can have its value: increased number of personnel, more individuals to clothe and feed on the island, more, for want of a better term, services, however poor. As Watson had to concede, “The economy on Christmas Island has been low for a good 12 months now, all local businesses including our own have certainly suffered.”

The company providing such services Serco, is a UK-based security outfit that deserves being reviled. Self-touted as adept in taking over outsourced services, the company specialises in running defence, health, transport, justice and immigration, and “citizen services”. Forty percent of its work comes from the UK, with about half that share drawn from Australia, where it is involved in some 11 Australian immigration detention centres.

Lodged in the trove of corporate devilry known as the Paradise Papers is an assessment by a Mauritius-based law firm Appleby which regards the company as replete with “problems, failures, fatal errors and overcharging”. This, it’s fair to say, comes with the troubled territory and again reminds us that privatising the swathe of public sector services does much to drain rather than save the treasury. It also serves to corrupt the delivery of such services. Again, deterrence comes before quality; harshness before vision.

The legal firm in question furnishes eager corporate watchers with a spicy note: in 2013, Serco was exposed, along with another charming counterpart, G4S, for overcharging the public purse by millions in the field of electronic tagging. His delightful resume leads to the inevitable conclusion: the company is a “high risk” client that leaves more problems than solutions.

Despite such a patchy record, the company’s 2017 annual report is bright and confident, though concedes the following: “governments have become much more skilled at contracting and focused on risk-transfer; as a consequence margins and risk-adjusted returns earned by many suppliers to governments are much lower today than they were ten years ago”. Not to be discouraged, the report picks up with the confident assertion that “the world still needs prisons, will need to manage immigration, and provide healthcare and transport, and that these services will be highly people-intensive for decades to come.” Crudely and abysmally, the company might just be right, awaiting the commencement of the Christmas Island contract with mawkish eagerness.

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Could A Prime Minister Be Worse Than Tony Abbott? Unfortunately, YES!!!

Last week, we had Julie Bishop telling us that she could have beaten Bill Shorten, but she didn’t get the backing of her party, while this week we have Malcolm Turnbull telling the British that his party got rid of him because he was going to win the election.

When it comes to politics, you’d have to say that Malcolm is a good loser. He’s done so much of it. He led the republic movement and lost that. He became Liberal leader and lost that. He became PM and lost that. But hey, he thinks he would have won the election and if it makes him happy in his irrelevant post-political life, then it’d be a very nasty, spiteful person to point out he’s wrong. Therefore I think we can say nothing and leave that job to Tony Abbott and Alan Jones.

And I must say that I did think it a bit of a stretch for Julie to suggest that she could win a federal election when she couldn’t muster more than eleven votes amongst people who knew her. However, I guess that she may have had more success with people who don’t actually deal with her on a day to day basis.

Still, Julie did have an uphill battle. After all, she would have been putting a man out of job and while we all support women’s rights, we don’t do so at the expense of men. No, really. Scott Morrison told us that today, as his contribution for International Women’s Day.

What he actually said was: “We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.”

Now when he speaks about “others” doing worse, it took me a while to work out who he could mean. For a moment, I just couldn’t think of any minority group that might do worse if women were to “rise”. But then it was as plain as the nose on my face. Or rather, it was as plain as another body part which isn’t usually attached to the head, except in the case of a number of the current government. He obviously meant that terribly oppressed group: Men.

Yes, of course. Scottie is actually a man himself. No, really he is. As people having been telling us lately, it’s really a tough time to be a man. Centuries of privilege are being tossed aside without a concern for the feelings of some men when they lose the right to simply be themselves. Thanks to political correctness, it’s no longer acceptable to do such things as scream obscenities at strangers, kidnap women walking alone or sell your daughters into slavery.

There’s actually more men than you realise and if women were to rise to things like Prime Minister, that would mean that some man would have to miss out, and that would mean that men were doing worse. Specifically, him! But I’m sure he’d still support the general principle that being PM is a man’s job and if Julie had been elected, it wouldn’t have been on the basis that nothing was worse for someone else.

It’s the same in preselection contests. The Liberals are against quotas because they think that women should get their positions on merit, while men should get them on the basis of who their friends are. (Warren Mundine, anyone?) Quotas, it’s argued, don’t allow the best person to be given the job. This sits oddly with the idea that the Nationals are entitled to certain number of ministries based their seat numbers, but there’s surely a reason why quotas are good for the divvying up of ministries but not for ensuring female representation.

Yes, sorry, girls… Is it all right to call you “girls” or should I say “ladies”?

Anyway, sorry. Apparently, you’re allowed to “rise” but only if your success doesn’t come at the expense of a man.

Happy International Women’s Day

!weeks

If Tony is “A Man’s Man”, who is the man who can say, “Tony is my man.”

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It’s anything but normal governance from a bunch of incompetents

It must be said that this cohort of Liberal and National Party parliamentarians is the most leaderless, unethically rancid, and corrupt group the country has ever seen, and political historians will record it so.

To think that this bunch of rotten incompetents, who are arguably the most educated group ever assembled in Canberra with degrees from some of the finest institutions in the world, could be the dumbest, rottenest bunch ever, is oddly in itself, an explanation of the state of our politics.

Australian political historians will record that the period of governance of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison has been an insult to the democracy they sought to function under.

They use expressions like “parallel universe”, and I’m assuming they mean it’s somewhere they can exist, and others cannot, a place where facts die, and truth is murdered. They call it the “Canberra bubble” where only the born to rule can gurgle their way through life.

What follows are words that in their own way seek to describe the dark corrupt years of 2013 to 2019.

In “Trumpish” fashion not a day passes without a scandal of sorts. The past weeks have been no exception. We now find that Australia is selling a weapons system to the world’s number one abuser of human rights.

Australian defense officials don’t know where or how or who will use weapons sold to Saudi Arabia. What a disgrace.

Give that a bit of thought!

Then we have the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea wanting an explanation about the Paladin Affair:

“The Papua New Guinea prime minister, Peter O’Neill, has requested a full briefing on the Paladin affair and said he would “welcome any investigation by Australian authorities”.

And the Minister denies any knowledge of the $500 million-dollar deal.

Pub test required, please.

The AFR reports that:

“Labor has written to the Auditor-General asking for an urgent review of $423 million worth of contracts to security firm, Paladin, in a closed tender.”

Not to be left out of a place as one of the many clowns in the circus Finance Minister Mathias Cormann takes his family for a holiday to Singapore.

Well yes, nothing wrong with that except that it was paid for by Liberal Party Treasurer Andrew Burnes within weeks of that company winning a $1 billion contract from Cormann’s department.

On top of that initial enquiries would suggest that most Coalition MPs enjoy the same privilege. Well, so it is alleged.

Helloworld, a listed company of which Mr Burnes is the chief executive, booked the flights for Senator Cormann, his wife and two children on the company’s “staff and family travel” account.

Michael Pascoe on twitter:

“The core truth about Paladin that should not be overlooked in all the “colourful” stuff – our Manus operation stank so much, no decent company would touch it” The New Daily

At the very least he is guilty of eating from the smorgasbord of political delights.

But wait, it doesn’t end there. Joe Hockey has a million smackaroos invested in the company. Now he couldn’t put a bit of weight behind the tender, couldn’t he?

I’m on a roll here. Remember during the 2016 election that the government was saying that 15,000 South Australians were first told the Australian content of the submarine build, the largest in the nation’s history, would be 90 per cent. Well now we find that the contract doesn’t include a minimum work guarantee for Australians.

Ethnically questionable, pub test or maybe first case for a National ICAC.

And on we roll. This from The Guardian:

“The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has approved the dumping of more than 1m tonnes of dredge spoil near the reef, using a loophole in federal laws that were supposed to protect the marine park.”

How would you be handling all of these scandals at once? Better still perhaps a Royal Commission into all things Liberal.

The government ministers Michaela Cash and Michael Keenan twice declined to be interviewed by federal police about the leaking of the dramatic 2017 raids on the Australian Workers Union’s offices.

Australian federal police officials also told a Senate estimates committee on Monday 17 February that they formed the view while investigating the leaks that evidence “may have been destroyed”.

The statements from police came as Cash’s former chief of staff Ben Davies told a court he had learned of the raids from the union regulator’s then media adviser Mark Lee while the pair made arrangements for Lee’s new job in Cash’s office.

The Australian Federal Police believed there was enough evidence to lay charges over the leak of the AWU police raid but were hamstrung by the lack of witness statements – including from government ministers.

Not to mention the $800,000 in legal costs that like confetti gets thrown around like there’s a wedding in the department everyday.

Katharine Murphy tweeted:

Cash says she provided a voluntary statement to the AFP. She says she sent them Hansard. The AFP said yesterday they got a letter from Cash, and the letter wasn’t a witness statement #estimates

And the latest polling puts them not out of reach of a winning position. Remarkable.

After almost 6 years in power the LNP has no Energy policy and is unlikely to take one to the next election. It has now had 11 positions on this matter, but the coal lovers still hold sway.

And the same goes for an Environmental policy. They have regurgitated Tony Abbott’s old policies.

”In terms of the environment I wonder what price the people of tomorrow will pay for the stupidity of today.”

They have succeeded in giving us a broadband network that by world standards is draconian. Worse even, than New Zealand’s.

It is doubted if the problem can be fixed so the value of the company will have to be written down. The Lord doesn’t even know how many billions that might cost the taxpayer.

And let’s not forget the $30 million given to Rupert Murdoch. The Minister himself cannot explain why.

Rolling along still, despite numerous enquiries the future of the Murray Darling river system remains in in doubt. Then there are even alleged accusations of stealing water against the former Deputy Prime Minister in Barnaby Joyce.

Serious charges, I should think.

Let’s talk about money

Any claim to being the better money manager has been given the flick with the revelation that two companies have been given close to $500 million each without so much as a tender taking place. The afore-mentioned Paladin being the latest.

Then of course there was that half a billion to that little company who likened their gift of half a billion dollars to winning Tattslotto. Again, no Tender Process. The board of this little Barrier Reef company were all mining executives.

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

Simon Banks tweeted:

From Estimates this week, it is now clear the following people have actively misrepresented if not lied about the advice from our national security agencies: @ScottMorrisonMP @PeterDutton_MP @cporterwa @M_McCormackMP @michaeliacash When are they going to resign or be sacked?

Let me explain. Of all the scandals we are being confronted with this is the most outrageous:

“The rest of it is equally outrageous: ASIO chief Duncan Lewis pointed out in estimates last week The Australian Newspaper misrepresented the agency’s leaked advice on the medical evacuations bill, saying that “when reporting wrongly attributes advice from ASIO, or where our classified advice is leaked, it undermines all that we stand for”. Lewis said the leak did not come from ASIO. On the day of the leak, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said: “The agencies have told [Labor leader Bill Shorten] that this bill would be a disaster and it would restart the boats. Not true.”

In other words, they were lying through their rotten teeth.

“Lying in the media is wrong at any time however when they do it by deliberate omission it is even more so. Murdoch’s papers seem to do it with impunity.”

Unfortunately, I have reached my word limit and I haven’t even revealed the attempt to have the Speaker withhold information from the Parliament. The banks, or the frequent attacks on the ABC by this government. Even to the point of breaking the law in appointing Ita Buttrose as Chairperson.

I haven’t even revealed that Liberal MP Tim Wilson has been cleared of contempt by Speaker Tony Smith, but has been rebuked for his conduct.

Then of course there is the “jobs for the boys” scandal with Attorney General Christian Porter appointing one of his own ex-staffers to a plum job on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal just two months after the former adviser left his office.

This Government’s performance over its time in office has been like a daily shower of offensiveness raining down on society. Surely management or indeed, lack of it must mean something.

All of this just goes to prove how out of touch the LNP Government is when it comes to the mood and expectations of the people they serve. However, it is also most unusual to have gathered together in the one place at the one time such an astonishingly well-educated group who has not a clue on how to govern. All in all it stinks with the stench of privilege.

My thought for the day

So why are we not having an election now?

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Nothing underlines white privilege more than the government’s reaction to child sex abuse

Nothing underlines white privilege more than the government’s reaction to child sex abuse.

When allegations of paedophilia rings and child sex abuse in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory were made, the government sent in the army, stripped people of their rights, and made draconian rules affecting whole communities.

When allegations of child sex abuse were made about children in offshore detention, the government attacked those making the allegations.

When rampant child sex abuse in the Catholic Church was exposed, former Prime Ministers lined up to provide character references for the offenders.

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