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Tag Archives: fighter jets

Jobs and growth…but for who?

The Abbott government says they are all about jobs and growth, but for who?

In 2012, unions were outraged by a decision to allow Gina Rinehart to import more than 1,700 foreign workers on 457 visas for her latest project in Western Australia.

Paul Howes said “This is a big win for Gina Rinehart, it’s a big win for Clive Palmer, it’s a big win for Twiggy Forrest and it’s a massive kick in the guts, a massive kick in the guts to those 130,000 workers in the manufacturing industry who have lost their jobs since 2008.”

A number of companies in construction, mining and IT hired many more foreign workers than they had applied for. The straw that broke the camel’s back was one company allegedly bringing in 800 workers under the 457 visa in an 18 month period when they were only granted approval for 100 visas over three years.

In 2013, the Labor government tightened the regulations to prevent employers from hiring more workers then they originally advertised to the market.

Tony Abbott’s government have made adjustments to the 457 Visa regulation, allowing employers to again hire an unlimited amount of foreign workers with a temporary working visa.

In April this year, the Federal Government was asked to investigate claims that 457 work visas are being abused at Gina Rinehart’s $10 billion Roy Hill iron ore project in the Pilbara.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union said there were up to 200 Korean white collar 457 visa workers employed by contractor Samsung C&T on the project doing low-level clerical work for Roy Hill’s main construction contractor.

“The allegation is that they’ve been brought in to do certain types of work and then they are being allocated other types of work in breach of their visa conditions.”

Aside from being asked to do work outside their visa conditions, the CFMEU alleged many of the staff were working more than 84 hours a week and being paid as little as $16 an hour.

In March, Gina Rinehart’s mining group, Hancock Prospecting signed off on a $US7.2 billion debt package for her highly anticipated Roy Hill iron ore project in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

In return for the US government loan, Hancock Prospecting will purchase American mining and rail equipment from Caterpillar, General Electric and Atlas Copco. The Export-Import Bank says their involvement will “support” 3400 US jobs

Since we own the resources, and we have to give approval to any mining venture, why do we not make it a condition of approval that you must use Australian equipment, Australian steel, and Australian workers?

Threats that projects will not go ahead under these circumstances indicate they were not profitable in the first place and, if we are importing equipment and the profit is all going offshore and the employment to lowly paid foreigners, then all we are left with is the environmental damage, railways linking mines to ports paid for with our royalties, and the demise of manufacturing and tourism.

Under the new Free Trade Agreement, Chinese companies will be able to bring skilled workers to Australia to plug labour shortages on big infrastructure projects.

The deal says Chinese-owned companies will be able to ­”negotiate similarly to Australian ­business, increased labour flexibilities for specific projects”.

The arrangements will apply to projects valued above $150 million under the deal negotiated between the two countries. Projects will involve the employment of foreign workers on 457 work visas.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said the effect on Australian jobs would be “disastrous” if the agreement allowed “Chinese contractors on Australian projects to nominate Chinese workers for visas without having to advertise for jobs locally”.

Maritime Union of Australia Western Australian branch secretary Christy Cain hit out at the visa concession and described the measure as “an absolute disgrace”.

“These (mineral) resources are ours and those of the Australians paying taxes for all their lives that are now ­seeing workshops closing and car manufacturing dying,” Mr Cain said.

“I don’t blame the Chinese, they are saying you want us to invest in Australia then we will bring our own labour over. But it’s ludicrous. What is happening to our Australian values?”

According to a report by the Australian Farm Institute, the value of Australian agricultural exports to China grew by an average 12 per cent a year in the 14 years to 2012. Not bad, except that Chinese imports of agricultural products increased by an annual 16 per cent during the same period. In terms of share of the Chinese market, that means Australia fell from 11 per cent to 6 per cent.

The AFI report says that Australia’s share of US agricultural imports has fallen since the FTA between the two countries came into force in 2005, despite reductions in tariffs. The two countries that achieved the fastest growth in agricultural exports to China over the 14 years to 2012 were the US and Brazil and neither has a free trade agreement with China.

Two Chinese investment groups have established a $3 billion fund to invest in Australian agriculture, as Australia edges closer to securing a free trade deal with China.

The fund, known as the Beijing Australia Agricultural Resource Cooperative Development Fund, is a joint partnership  between state-owned Beijing Agricultural Investment Fund and the Shenzen-based Yuhu group.

It will focus on supplying produce back to China, especially infant milk formula, beef, lamb and seafood.

John Lee, a China expert at Sydney University, points out that Chinese policy is to be a net exporter of meat products, rice and wheat by 2025.

That explains why the FTA with Australia contains no concessions for rice and wheat and perhaps also why there is an important, though largely overlooked, qualification to the reduction in tariffs on beef imports. As our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade puts it, “China has retained the right to apply a discretionary safeguard on beef … if imports exceed a set annual ‘safeguard’ trigger volume.”

The safeguard trigger starts at 170,000 tonnes a year, which is only 10 per cent above Australian exports of 153,000 tonnes of beef to China last year, although there is a so far unspecified provision for the trigger to grow. For exports above this level, the tariff will be reapplied. The department adds, not so reassuringly, that there is a process to “consider” removal of the safeguard.

So it appears the FTA with China has resulted in Chinese investors buying our mines and farms, employing Chinese workers, and then sending the produce back to China at reduced rates.  This produce could well fill the 10% trigger for beef leaving Australian farmers’ produce still attracting tariffs.

And when it comes to our huge spending on defence materiel it’s a similar story.

DMO spends up to $10 billion-a-year of taxpayer funds managing more than 200 defence projects ranging from warships to bullets.  About 40 per cent of the outlays are absorbed by administration costs.

Australia is considering buying 10 state-of-the-art Soryu class submarines from Japan, at a reported price of more than $20 billion.

Former senior Japanese military personnel, Mr Yamauchi and Mr Ogawa, both told the ABC that an Australian budget of $20 billion would mean that all the construction would have to happen in Japan.

And they said any attempts to do any of the work in Adelaide would double the price.

Mr Ogawa said if construction happened in Japan it would be bad for Australian jobs, but good for the Japanese economy.

“If the issue of military secrets can be resolved then Japanese business will be happy it will bring jobs and growth,” he said.

And then there is the $24 billion that Australia had allocated to buy and deploy a fleet of 72 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets.

Critics, including Federal Liberal MP and former analyst with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, Dr Dennis Jenson, claim that politicians have been manipulated by an elaborate and at times misleading sales pitch by the world’s largest military corporation, Lockheed Martin.

In April Tony Abbott said “Australian business has already won some $1.5 billion worth of work associated with this aircraft. Up to $7.5 billion worth of additional work is there potentially.”

The reality is Australian industries are only contracted for around $370 million work, with Lockheed Martin assurances but no guarantees of more to come.  Current contracts are only for 12 months.

Dr Jenson said “The warning I’d give is: don’t bank on the work that you’re being told you’re going to get. You will get it while Lockheed Martin is still pushing very hard for signatures on the dotted line, but once all those signatures are there, don’t bet on winning any future contracts.”

Dr Jenson raised questions about problems posed by the F-35’s heavy weight and the threat that it will be no match for possible adversaries with a high-ranking Lockheed Martin delegation before a joint parliamentary inquiry in Canberra. Lockheed Martin’s response: “We cannot answer that question, just as we cannot answer the threat question, because we get into classified areas very, very quickly.”

RAAF head flight test engineer, Peter Goon, warned “The aircraft is not coming within a bull’s roar of its – some of its operational specifications. The designs are riddled with single points of failure. And many of the critical elements of design have been painted into what we engineers call “coffin corner”.”

“Coffin corner” is the concern that the F-35 couldn’t compete against these cheaper, lighter and more agile Russian and Chinese stealth fighter jets, which are expected to be sold widely around the world.

The US Air Force Combat Command, meantime, has expressed its own reservations. It has warned the US must continue to maintain its older, more agile and far more effective fleet of F-22 jet fighters to back up the F-35s or they’ll be rendered irrelevant. So should Australia instead try to buy the proven F-22? Well, according to the Defence Minister, Australia did ask, but the Americans insisted there was no choice, but to take the troubled F-35 or nothing.

DAVID JOHNSTON: “They’ve said, “No, you can’t have the F-22; that is for the United States Air Force. But you can certainly participate in our program with the Joint Strike Fighter.” We do not have anywhere else to go.”

Is it just me….or are we being screwed here?

Planes, trains, and automobiles

In September 2008, the Daily Telegraph blared:

“Kevin Rudd should ask himself: am I the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister? Kevin 07 has become Departure Gate 08.”

In 2009, newly crowned LOTO Tony Abbott said:

“Kevin Rudd loves a crisis to give him an excuse to run to the airport and jump on a 747 and go off and do photo ops with [then British prime minister] Gordon Brown and Barack Obama.  I accept that Australia’s voice should be heard in the councils of the world, but it would be nice to hear the prime minister’s voice at home occasionally.”

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop accused Mr Rudd of harbouring an “obsession with chasing the global limelight”.

Tony picked up the criticism again when Rudd resumed the leadership in June 2013, saying:

“I think he wants to campaign for the prime ministership of this country from the front of a 747.  I don’t think the Australian public are going to really warm to that but I think that’s the temptation before him now, to not only be Kevin 747 but maybe Kevin A380 and spend most of the next few months out of the country.”

In contrast to his rhetoric in opposition, since getting the keys to the plane, it is hardly any surprise to hear that Abbott has made 11 international trips, the same number as Mr Rudd made during his first 12 months in office.

At the beginning of this year it was briefly reported  that:

“The $600 million lease on the current RAAF fleet of two Boeing 737 business jets and three smaller Challenger 604 aircraft will expire next year and the government will seek agreement from media companies to limit criticism of any decision to opt for bigger planes.  Any negative publicity would be limited to plush add ons such as gold taps or marble sinks.”

This report is disturbing for a number of reasons.  Tony wants bigger planes fitted out in VIP luxury so he can fly his media pack around with him, along with hundreds of businessmen, whilst directing the media to not criticise the decision or presumably risk losing their free ride.

Every major media outlet has correspondents in other countries.  If Rupert wants to fly extra people in I am sure he could afford to do so.  After all, the ATO just gave him $882 million for being good at shifting money around.  (One wonders why they chose not to appeal that decision).

Tony Abbott paid a visit to China last April, accompanied by a record number of over 700 businessmen who together represented over half the value of the Australian stock exchange.  Few realise that this was the first ‘outing’ of the REAL ‘Team Australia”.

“Five state premiers, along with 700 business leaders, including three billionaires are with the prime minister. The government has dubbed it “team Australia“.”

There was also a trip to Indonesia immediately after Tony’s coronation where he hosted 20 business heavyweights including the big banks, mining companies, and health care companies.  Among them was Anthony Pratt, CEO of Visy, and Australian’s second wealthiest person according to BRW.  Surely he owns his own jet.  Must we fly James Packer around the world when he wants to land deals to build more casinos?

In August it was revealed that:

“DEFENCE Minister David Johnston has blown more than $100,000 sending empty VIP air force jets across the Nullarbor to pick up colleagues from WA, including Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.… the VIP planes (RAAF Boeing 737) fly 3000km to Perth empty of passengers. The “ghost flights’’ cost up to $16,000 each, ­excluding wages.  On the return trip, MPs and their wives enjoy fine wine, craft beers, cocktails and gourmet hot meals. MPs’ children have also taken the flights, ­according to passenger lists.”

Perhaps our airlines would be doing a bit better if they were supported by our politicians.  It is also rather incongruous that government representatives attending conferences get bumped from Tony’s flying circus to make way for photographers and billionaires.

No discussion of planes would be complete without a mention of our squadrons of fighter jets that we may or may not see in a decade or two.  As I have said before, I consider this an enormous waste of money as what we need most are planes that can do humanitarian drops or disaster relief or evacuations or search and rescue.  We will not be engaging in dog fights and to waste tens of billions on a training jet to play war games in is a ridiculous waste of resources.

Trains don’t get much of a run with the Abbott government.  Despite Infrastructure Australia identifying the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel as a project of national significance and placing it at the top of its priority list (the board was subsequently replaced), despite the Gillard government offering funding for the project that was marked ready to go, Tony Abbott is determined to build roads instead.  If states want public transport they will have to sell assets because Tony wants thousands of kilometres of pollution-producing bitumen heat islands to be his legacy.

Australia and Antarctica are now the only two continents in the world where there is no high speed rail project underway, though we have no hope of the discussion to progress under this government even though the reasons for it seem compelling.  Traditional rail lines could be opened up for freight and fuel guzzling planes would largely be replaced for the trip between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.  Regional areas could be revitalised giving the option for people to relocate with an easy commute when necessary without having to queue up at airports or joust with trucks on our congested highways.

Not content with buying himself some new planes, Tony Abbott has also just bought a new fleet of bombproof BMWs.  The $6.2 million fleet can withstand AK47 fire, attacks with explosive devices or armour-piercing weapons.  I’m just wondering how many AK47s and armour-piercing weapons are in circulation in Australia.  I hope they have special resistant paint because they are far more likely to get egged which is a real bugger to get off if you don’t do it straight away.

One wonders why we are paying the money to a German company when Holden won the tender process.  Abbott said Holden had not even submitted a bid for the tender, something the company says is incorrect.  Abbott’s critics claim opting for BMW was all part of discrediting Holden around the time it announced it would cease Australian operations.

We have been assured that it had nothing to do with Bridget Abbott being given a gig as a “brand ambassador” for the BMW Sydney Carnival in 2012.  Just as Louise Abbott got the job in the UN and Frances Abbott got the $60,000 scholarship, she was no doubt chosen on merit.  Successful accreditation of courses and extension of fee loans to colleges such as the one that offered Ms Abbott the scholarship are also entirely unrelated events.  But I digress into murky waters.

As well as Tony’s new fleet of BMWs, we have the endless use of comcars by MPs.  Unless a very ‘helpful’ employee steals your diary and goes to the trouble of matching your movements to your cab dockets going back over several years, who would know what the cars are being used for?  Apparently if you need to justify claiming travel and accommodation, just get your photo taken visiting something even if it DOES mean keeping all your colleagues waiting.

I have suggested before how much we could save by building an accommodation wing at Parliament House.  Those who choose not to stay there pay for their own accommodation and travel to and from work.  Those who make appointments during sitting time for places outside Canberra should also pay for travel out of their generous electoral allowance or use the private vehicle provided to all MPs.  Not having free RAAF jets and chauffeured limousines at their disposal might make them a little more circumspect about dashing off for parties and sporting events.

Most of the criticisms I have made in this article could be directed at either of the major parties, though some are unique to Tony.  But it is Tony who has been lamenting waste and Labor’s debt and deficit, Tony that has mercilessly attacked the most vulnerable for the sake of a number on a piece of paper, Tony that has been telling us that nothing is free and we all must help to fix the problem.

All of us except Tony, that is.

The Coalition Plan for a Better Australia

The first thing we need to do is get rid of the toxic carbon tax.  It is destroying the joint.  After all, emissions went up.  Ok, I know that greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector are down about 7.6 per cent since the carbon tax was introduced, or the equivalent of about 14.8 million tonnes, and that demand has dropped as businesses and individuals adopt energy efficiency methods, but emissions from coalmine expansion and new gas plants have been soaring.  And that’s what we want!  More coal and more gas to make our country better.

And as for renewable energy, competition like that is bad for the country.  It puts up prices.  I know normally one would consider competition a good thing but not in this case.  Have you seen those wind farms?  They are U.G.L.Y they ain’t got no alibi they ugly uh huh they ugly.  I know there was some talk of 1 million solar roofs before the election.  That information was purely a discussion paper that was inadvertently leaked by a junior staffer who has since been counselled.

And that mining tax has to go because it is stopping investment.  It may not have raised much money but it has scared off mining companies who will take our resources offshore to develop more cheaply – I’m not sure how, but they will.  Don’t you worry about THAT, you people.

It’s a well-known fact that people don’t appreciate something unless they have to pay for it.  I don’t mean you people who are fraudulently claiming business usage on your cars – we know you love your BMWs.  I mean those lollygagging sick people.  We will introduce a luxury tax on doctor’s visits and medications so sick people will truly appreciate the help the doctors and chemists are giving them.

It is also obvious that we can no longer accommodate all those people who are claiming they are old because of some vague family connection in the past.  Far too many people have been using their age to claim entitlements that the rest of us don’t receive.  To stamp out this reverse discrimination we have changed the definition of old to “too old to work”.  Rather than seeking handouts, we will liberate those who were previously known as old to seek work usually given to other age brackets or to retrain for a new career.  Training fees will be deducted from their estate.

Our greatest priority is to defend our borders against everyone and everything – asylum seekers, sharks, coral – who knows what deadly menace is around the corner and under a tree.  To that end we are amassing squadrons of attack fighter jets, packs of submarines, armadas of orange life rafts, and a whole fleet of fishermen with mates and eskies.  They will complement our Navy who patrol our Northern Shores searching for boats that have stopped and our Airforce who patrol the Southern Oceans searching for the Mary Celeste.  This will be given an unlimited budget that will go up by whatever the generals ask for each year.

We are conscripting our youth into a homeland defence force known as the Green Army which can be deployed to any mine that may be a possible target for whoever is invading – maybe the crown of thorn starfish who already knows that Greg Hunt means business!

To help the unemployed get jobs, we will make everyone part-time, pay them less, and make them move away from family who could provide accommodation and friends who could help with transport or share the cost of living.  Those who choose to commute, we will make them truly appreciate the cost of petrol by increasing the fuel excise so we can build more roads.  This will not apply to anyone making over $1 billion a year.

To show that we are all making sacrifices, rich women will only be given $1,923 a week to have babies.  Corporate Australia will pay for this through a 1.5% levy on some businesses in conjunction with a 1.5% decrease in company tax for all businesses.  That should work….I think.

Any shortfall between government revenue and the subsidies and tax breaks that we give to mining companies, banks, private health insurers, and Gina, will be made up equally by all those who earn over $80,000 who don’t have an accountant.  Those of you who do have an accountant may continue negative gearing because you are the rock upon which this nation is built.

This is our vision, this is our mission…..

Vive les riches!

How many children’s lives will Tony’s jets cost?

Despite the tragedy of gun crime and the seemingly never-ending massacres in the USA, most Americans are against any changes to their gun laws. Even the most moderate individuals believe they must own a gun to defend their family and property regardless of the fact that they have never had to actually use it. The fact that they have a gun sitting there is security for them and a deterrent for would be attackers. Perhaps their society has deteriorated so far that this is their reality – it is certainly their mentality.

They have the same ‘deterrence’ mentality when it comes to their defence forces. They are the biggest and the best. They see themselves as the world police and this is no doubt true to a large degree, even if you disagree with their policing methods and targets.

The Washington foreign policy establishment is accustomed to the authority, prestige, and privilege of being the overwhelmingly dominant power on the planet. There are politically powerful military contractors that also have a voice in U.S. foreign and military policy. But is it really necessary?

The U.S. lost most of its influence in Latin America over the past 15 years, and the region has done quite well, with a sharp reduction in poverty for the first time in decades. The Washington-based International Monetary Fund has also lost most of its influence over the middle-income countries of the world, and these have also done remarkably better in the 2000s.

There is a widespread belief that if the United States does not run the world, somebody worse — possibly China — will. Using a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, China will displace the U.S. as the world’s largest economy this year. The money that China needs to build a fighter jet or pay military personnel is a lot less than the equivalent in dollars that the U.S. has to pay for the same goods and services, and they have 1.3 billion people.

So should we be worried?

China is a rising power, but the government does not seem to be interested in building an empire. Unlike the United States, which has hundreds of military bases throughout the globe, China doesn’t have any. The Chinese government seems to be very focused on economic growth; trying to become a developed country as soon as it can. Their standard of living is generally lower and they have a long way to go to become a rich country so are most unlikely to start a war that would cut off their markets and supply chain.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2012 the US spent over $682 billion or 4.4% of GDP on defence. Globally, $1.756 trillion was spent on defence with Australia contributing 1.4% of that – some $26.5 billion or 1.6% of GDP.

Even though we have been told that the country has a budget emergency and that everyone must face cuts and contribute to improving our fiscal position, there will be no cuts to defence spending. Quite the contrary, the Coalition wants defence spending to be doubled to $50 billion a year within a decade and have commissioned yet another white paper.

Senator Johnston wanted academic and noted commentator Alan Dupont to write the report, and Mr Dupont had begun work in the Defence Department and had assembled a team to work on the document. However, the appointment was never confirmed and “The Prime Minister’s Office” decided that the white paper would be written within the Defence Department as John Howard had done previously.

Senior sources have said that even a defence budget of $50bn by 2023 could not afford the defence force outlined in the 2009 white paper, and confirmed in its 2013 successor. I doubt this year’s effort will suggest any cutbacks since Tony got a chance to sit in a fighter jet. Asking the defence forces how much they need is like giving a kid the keys to the candy store.

And what do we get for this huge expenditure? Do we really need to send tens of billions of dollars out of our economy to the US for fighter jets or to the Japanese for submarines or to South Korea to say thanks for the Free Trade Agreement? What do our submarines and fighter jets actually do? Why would China invade us when we are happy to sell them the country for a fraction of what a war would cost?

Whatever the internal political systems of the countries whose representation in the international arena will increase, the end result is likely to be more democratic governance at the international level, with a greater rule of international law, fewer wars, and more social and economic progress. There will be more negotiation and less orders.

In 2010, 15.1 percent of all persons in America lived in poverty. 16.4 million children, or 22.0 percent, were poor. In Australia, 17.2% of our children live in poverty. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world.”

Homelessness, poor health, hunger—poverty’s consequences can be severe. Growing up in poverty can harm children’s well-being and development and limit their opportunities and academic success. And poverty imposes huge costs on society through lost productivity and higher spending on health care and incarceration.

Some theorists have accused the poor of having little concern for the future and preferring to “live for the moment”; others have accused them of engaging in self‐defeating behavior. Still other theorists have characterized the poor as fatalists, resigning themselves to a culture of poverty in which nothing can be done to change their economic outcomes. In this culture of poverty—which passes from generation to generation—the poor feel negative, inferior, passive, hopeless, and powerless.

The “blame the poor” perspective is stereotypic and not applicable to all of the underclass. Not only are most poor people able and willing to work hard, they do so when given the chance. The real trouble has to do with such problems as minimum wages and lack of access to the education necessary for obtaining a better‐paying job when unemployment is increasing.

I once saw a t-shirt that said “Definition of a Canadian: an unarmed American with health care”. Whilst there is much to admire about America, they are a very different country to us with a very different mentality to us. Letting them dictate to us about defence capability is no more sensible than following their lead on gun laws. We have universal healthcare and free education. They don’t. Let’s not swap our priorities for theirs.

Tony Abbott was in the habit of counting Labor’s deficit in lost “teaching hospitals”. How many children’s lives will Tony’s jets cost?

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