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Tag Archives: foreign aid

“but Gough Whitlam I will never be!”

In the many tributes that flowed to Gough Whitlam, we were reminded of his impact on the geo-cultural-political map of Australia. As Cate Blanchett put it:

“I am the beneficiary of free, tertiary education. When I went to university I could explore different courses and engage with the student union in extracurricular activity. It was through that that I discovered acting.

I am the product of an Australia that wanted, and was encouraged, to explore its voice culturally.

I am the beneficiary of good, free healthcare, and that meant the little I earned after tax and rent could go towards seeing shows, bands, and living inside my generation’s expression. I am a product of the Australia Council.

I am the beneficiary of a foreign policy that put us on the world stage and on the front foot in our region. I am the product of an Australia that engages with the globe and engages honestly with its history and its indigenous peoples.”

The contrast between that optimistic era when Australia stood up and took its place on the world stage, and the pessimism and fear the nation feels now, could not be more stark.

We have Christopher Pyne fighting tooth and nail to make university education a commodity, for sale to the highest bidder. Private colleges are rubbing their hands in glee as they line up to reap the rewards of privatising tertiary education while the universities meekly fall in line under threats of having their research funding cut if they don’t.

The budget also slashed $110 million in funding from the cultural sector. Screen Australia was cut by $25.1 million, while the Australia Council lost $28.2 million.

However, George Brandis was happy to give a $1 million grant to the Australian Ballet School, to help with its purchase of a new boarding residence. Armed with that taxpayer money, the school spent more than $4.7 million on a mansion.

On the board of the Australian Ballet School is Daniele Kemp, the high-profile wife of former Liberal arts minister Rod Kemp, a predecessor of George Brandis as arts minister. Mr Kemp is now the chairman of the Institute of Public Affairs, a right-wing lobby group.

Despite the obvious productivity benefits of having a healthy population, and the oft repeated promise not to cut health funding, we saw $368 million cut from preventative health measures, the closure of Medicare locals, tens of billions cut from hospital funding to the states, and the closure of groups like the Alcohol and Drug Advisory Council.

Sending a “price signal” to stop people from seeing a GP has been condemned by all health experts as being counter-productive yet, once again, the short term budget bottom line is all this government cares about.

Not content with attacking health, education, welfare, and the arts on the domestic scene, this government is systematically drawing away from our obligations as a global citizen.

Foreign Aid has been slashed by $7.6 billion with speculation that it will be further cut to pay for Tony’s war on terror both here and abroad.

We have refused to contribute to the United Nations Green Climate Fund to assist developing nations cope with global warming, cut $4 million from the UN Environment Program (UNEP), which provides advice on environmental policies and climate change negotiations, and declared coal the saviour of humanity which will lift the world from poverty.

In response to the urgent Ebola crisis, we donated a miniscule amount of money while refusing to send health workers. Excuses abounded but as they were stripped away, we still saw our government unwilling to send any physical help, outsourcing the job to one of their donors who will no doubt employ local Africans to maximise their profits.

Joe Hockey has been making noise about joining a global effort to crack down on tax avoidance while announcing an amnesty for offshore tax cheats, delaying signing the information-sharing deal signed by 40 countries while they consult with business, and slashing thousands of jobs from the ATO leaving them without the staff or expertise to pursue evaders.

Scott Morrison continues to pursue border security and immigration policies that do nothing to help the tens of millions of refugees that other countries are coping with. Instead, we are bribing officials in the world’s poorest countries to take the problem off our hands and refusing to work with the transit countries clogged with people seeking our help.

And as for our Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs, they have been some of the hardest hit. The budget cut $534 million from Indigenous programs. Changing the pension age to 70, charging a GP co-payment, cuts to Family Benefits and changes to Newstart – all of these measures will have a huge impact on the Indigenous community.

Tony Abbott has made so many disrespectful remarks about Australia being “unsettled” before the European invasion when Australian history began and has been constantly negative about Aboriginal communities.

“Whenever I’m asked about what we’re trying to do in Indigenous policy, I say it’s really quite simple; get the kids to school, get the adults to work and keep communities safe,” Abbott said.

Former Australian of the Year, Professor Mick Dodson, responded to this by saying it perpetuated negativity about Indigenous people.

“It’s a three-piece mantra, as if we don’t have social and cultural needs, as if we don’t have linguistic needs, as if we don’t exist as a people,” Professor Dodson said. “It’s a three-trick pony – and a very small pony at that. I mean, all of those three things are about our failure, supposedly, because we’re Aboriginal. I mean the negativity actually makes people sick. The reality is many, many of us are very successful. We never hear about them from you guys [the media]. You’re too busy on the entertainment of black failure and that’s where the government’s mind seems to be and where the public discourse seems to be.”

So frustrated are the Indigenous people, they recently held a Freedom Summit in Alice Springs to elect leaders to speak for them.

Amy McQuire writes

The summit comes a few months after NT Chief Minister Adam Giles made calls to water down the NT Aboriginal Land Rights Act, the first land rights law in Australia, in the name of “economic development”.

Tauto Sansbury is one of the organisers of the summit, and has a long history in Aboriginal affairs, including working with commissioners for the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

He told New Matilda the current political climate had forced Aboriginal Australia to act.

“The political climate for Aboriginal people across Australia is not good. The Abbott government has cut $543 million and is looking to cut more out of the federal budget…

“The Barnett government in WA is planning to move up to 12 000 Aboriginal people off their traditional lands and South Australia is talking about the same thing.

“We have high incarceration rates, high suicide rates, Aboriginal kids being taken off their parents and placed in out-of-home care.

“We have major issues and no one in government is listening. We don’t have people to speak on behalf of their own communities. We’ve got a problem of a very selective representation that has been picked by the federal government and that’s not acceptable to us. That’s not the outcome we’re seeking.

“Tony Abbott is supposed to be the Prime Minister for Indigenous affairs but he’s not listening to us.”

Tony is listening to Peta Credlin, Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart, Maurice Newman, Tony Shepherd, Dick Warburton, Jim Molan, Warren Mundine, Kevin Donnelly, Christopher Monckton, George Pell, and the combined mining companies and armaments manufacturers of the world. He is listening to James Packer and Phillip Morris and the AHA. He is listening to big pharmaceutical firms and private hospital providers.

But he is deaf to the pleas for help from those who really need it.

When Tony Abbott said in his speech to the IPA “but Gough Whitlam I will never be!” he could not have been more accurate.

 

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Risk assessment

Life is a series of choices and decisions. Within the constraints of time and finite resources, decision makers must learn to prioritise – to decide what is most important.

If you listen to anyone outside Australia, the greatest challenges facing us at the moment are climate change caused by anthropogenic global warming, income inequity leading to poverty, the Ebola crisis, pollution, peak resources, health and education in developing nations, the growing tide of refugees, providing enough food and clean water, sanitation, overpopulation, unemployment, species extinction, human rights abuses, affordable housing….and a fair way down the list would be a group of some tens of thousands of disaffected testosterone-filled teenagers that someone has been crazy enough to give guns and rockets to.

When faced with these global problems, the response of the Abbott government brings into question their ability to assess risk and respond appropriately.

On climate change, our Prime Minister tells us that “coal is good for humanity” while our Treasurer denies the fact that we are the world’s largest per capita emitter and that does not even take into account our exports. (When you hear the phrase “I deny the premise of your question” that is Coalition for “I can’t hear you, here comes the Party line”)

As reported in the Guardian:

“Australia’s coal is one of the globe’s fourteen carbon bombs. Our coal export industry is the largest in the world, and results in 760m tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. The urgent goal of Tony Abbott’s government, and his environment minister Greg Hunt is to ship as much climate-devastating coal as possible, as quickly as possible.

Every day, this Liberal-National government, led by Tony Abbott, provides new examples of its nastiness, its short-sightedness, and its willingness to destroy livelihoods, communities and the environment to enrich coal barons.”

A new report by The Australia Institute “The Mouse that Roared: Coal in the Queensland Economy” demonstrates that the coal industry’s risks and damage completely outweigh its benefits.

Felicity Wishart the AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaign Director said that the Queensland Government was prepared to risk the Great Barrier Reef, its international reputation and its $6 billion tourism industry for a coal industry that employs less people than Reef tourism, exports most of its profits and provides just 4% in royalties.

“The Australia Institute report reveals that there are under 25,000 jobs in coal mining in Queensland and 80% of the profits go overseas. This compares with 69,000 jobs in the tourism industry, and almost all the profits stay in Australia.”

When the world’s leaders met to discuss climate change, our leader couldn’t make it due to a prior engagement with Rupert to get his lines about why the war is good straight. Our deputy leader couldn’t make it because he is too busy planning thousands of kilometres of bitumen heat islands to carry millions of fossil fuel burning imported cars. Our environment minister didn’t even seem to be considered or mentioned which is hardly surprising when he points to his plan for the Great Barrier Reef as a success. Ignoring ocean acidification, warming, and salinity while approving the dumping of dredged silt and the expansion of coal ports is considered a success? Oh that’s right, you removed a few starfish by injecting each one by hand. Instead we sent Julie Bishop because she is good at stonewalling and death stares.

As representatives from the Philippines and Kiribati make heartfelt pleas about the damage being done to their nations, we have reneged on our promised contribution to the Green Fund to help developing nations deal with the havoc we cause. As marathon runners in Beijing choke on the pollution, we tell them that burning more coal will make them richer.

Everyone from the Pope to the head of the IMF has pointed to poverty and income inequity being a growing scourge, yet every action taken by this government will have the effect of increasing poverty and widening the gap. Internationally we have slashed Foreign Aid and domestically we have hit the poor with the budget from hell.

Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann say, because the poor get more government handouts, they have more to give back when looking for spending cuts. Raising revenue will not be considered. The poor, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the students, the unemployed, single parents, low income families – these are the people to provide Mr Hockey with a surplus to brag about. In the meantime, one in seven Australians live in poverty with that number predicted to rise.

Austerity and trickle-down economics are failed experiments which this government seems intent on pursuing despite the mountain of evidence and advice warning against such measures. As the majority of people get less disposable income, demand will dry up, production will fall, unemployment will rise, and the downward spiral will continue.

While we seem to have endless money to bomb countries, the money to help build infrastructure and provide humanitarian aid has dried up.

Our response to the Ebola crisis is hugely inadequate. The excuse about evacuation of affected health workers just will not wash. We already have in place agreements with the US about medical evacuation of military personnel to Germany should they become critically ill. Australian doctors and nurses are highly-trained and if they feel that they have adequate protective regimes in place then It is unlikely that we would be talking about a large number of people needing evacuation. Considering the urgency of addressing this emergency, I cannot believe that the US or the UK or Germany would deny health workers the same service they offer to our military personnel.

Our Immigration Minister smugly claims success for his quasi-military war on refugees. He tells us this has been the humanitarian thing to do because he cares so much about asylum seekers that he can’t have them risking their lives at sea. Unfortunately, he also cut our humanitarian intake by 7000 and has failed to successfully resettle anyone. He would rather spend billions on OSB and offshore gulags and bribes to corrupt officials of other countries to absolve us of any responsibility at all rather than a cent on helping refugees. All he has done is bottle refugees up in other countries while we sit back and refuse to help.

In response to growing unemployment, this government has removed restrictions on 457 visas encouraging employers to hire people who will work for less than award wages, no workplace entitlements and no job security. They have removed industry assistance from manufacturing to help them during a time when the high Aussie dollar hit the industry hard while giving billions of dollars in subsidies to the mining industry which caused the problem in the first place.

When Toyota, Ford and Holden leave the country for good in 2017, around 50,000 people who work in the automotive supply chain, mostly in Victoria and South Australia, will face the risk of unemployment.

Despite Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane telling us that ”Australians are smart, innovative and creative. We have the ability to remake our industry sector and the time in which to do it.”, according to European Union data from 2011, only 2.3 per cent of materials shipped out of Australia are high-tech – far less than the US, where the figure is closer to 20 per cent.

The OECD found in 2012 that Australia’s investment in high-tech industries was lower overall than other advanced economies yet the latest budget has slashed funding for research and development and decimated bodies like the CSIRO.

Remy Davison, the Jean Monnet Chair in politics and economics at Monash University, says despite the talk little has been done to create a realistic transformation scheme for industry.

”We talk about investing in smart industries and moving into high-tech industries, but nobody actually does it – not state governments, not federal governments, and to be fair the private sector doesn’t really invest in it either.”

When it comes to the war against ISIL, this is where the Abbott government steps up with seemingly unlimited resources to provide military assistance and to conduct over-the-top raids and surveillance at home, but where is the discussion about what led to the rise of this group? Where are the questions about how we are failing members of our own society so badly that they can be lured into this conflict? Where is the strategy to help young people here to feel like they belong and encouragement to help them become productive members of our society? Where is the support for our Muslim community?

Risk assessment is part of life and a crucial factor for all businesses. How much more so for a government when the consequences of their decisions are so far-reaching? We have a government who came to power with a specific agenda to which they are determined to stick. They are deaf to the advice of experts other than their hand chosen sycophants and choose to ignore the risks. On all counts, in the most pressing problems facing the world, Australia has been found wanting.

Before casting your vote at the next election, Australians should consider the risk of allowing the Abbott government to continue down the path of nationalism and corporate greed at the expense of our duty as global citizens and our responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

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Putting it all together, charity begins at home.

Photo: shutterstock

Photo: shutterstock

So is a good time to start a “charity”?

“The organisations say the cuts clearly break a Coalition promise not to cut their funding when it announced a $4.5bn cut to the aid budget over the next four years two days before the federal election.

At the time of that cut, the then shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, and shadow finance spokesman, Andrew Robb, said “the Coalition will reprioritise foreign aid allocations towards non-government organisations that deliver on-the-ground support for those most in need”.

“That will also mean putting more money into NGOs who are on the ground and who can deliver aid more efficiently than through AusAID or indeed through some of the multilaterals that we’ve been putting money into in increasing numbers because AusAID cannot handle the increases in the budget,” then foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said.

The government said it needed to redirect the $4.5bn towards domestic infrastructure. The cut was from projected expenditure – with the aid budget continuing to grow in line with inflation.”

The Guardian, Jan 18, 2014

And then there’s this:

“Victoria’s most powerful business lobby group wants to be declared a charity in a bid to recoup millions of dollars it has paid in state taxes.

The move would see the ”promotion of commerce” defined as a charitable endeavour, with the group saying charities do not only run soup kitchens.

The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry last week petitioned the Supreme Court of Victoria to declare it a charitable and not-for-profit institution for taxation purposes, which would make the group exempt from paying state taxes.”

The Age, Jan 12, 2014

Not to mention this:

“If Tony Abbott is elected prime minister on Saturday he will abolish the watchdog established by Labor to keep an eye on the billions of dollars received and spent by Australian charities each year. Why?

The answer, in part at least, may be the lobbying power of church conservatives, the Catholic Church in particular, and the office of Sydney Cardinal George Pell, more particularly still.

And their focus has not been the Coalition alone. Labor insiders acknowledge the impact of Cardinal Pell’s office as it reduced the scope of its new national regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.

Charity leaders, church heads and political insiders have told The Sunday Age about the lobbying campaign over charities regulation by the Sydney archdiocese, notably Cardinal Pell’s business manager and chief political envoy, Danny Casey.”

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2013/church-lobby-in-win-over-charities-watchdog-20130831-2sxqs.html#ixzz2qipSg2B1

Sydney Morning Herald, September 1, 2013

Ok, I just hope that the Abbott Government doesn’t consider the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry one of those most in need!

Maybe it’s time we just stating asking questions about more than just the obvious.

Still, I seem to remember that the Howard Government had problems with charities “getting involved in politics” and the suggestion being that they should just shut up and help the people that they were meant to help. Can’t help wondering if the Liberals will apply this concept to the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry, if it were to gain charity status.

By the way, I hope you’ll all join with me in celebrating the anniversary of that great day in Australia’s history, 26th of January. It’s the sort of thing that we need to remember in these current dark times.

The 26th January is, of course, the anniversary of the Rum Rebellion.

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