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Tag Archives: George Brandis

The year that made me

As I listened to Attorney-General George Brandis today unconvincingly bellow (shout loud: argument weak, as the father of my children used to say) that Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered by history as one of our great prime ministers, I reflected that while it’s sadly apparent Brandis is a fool, what is most unsettling is that he apparently believes the rest of us to be even bigger fools.

Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered by history as one of the weakest men ever to hold the nation’s highest office: I’m damned if I can think of many who’ve been more ineffective, more blustering, more incompetent and more so obviously at a total loss as to what to do next. No amount of Brandis’s maniacal talking up is going to change that situation, as we saw with failed and sacked prime minister Tony Abbott, also marketed as great and in the process of leaving a powerful legacy, as his popularity hurtled off a cliff like Sidney Nolan’s upside down horse, his death cult followers clinging to the saddle, three-word slogan at the ready: Nothing to see! Nothing to see!

There’s a pattern here. Talked up one day, compost the next.

No one can make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, least of all the meta data-challenged Attorney-General who will himself be remembered largely for his technological ignorance, his ludicrously expensive bookshelves, and his elitist notion of what constitutes art.

Turnbull’s deplorable decision to carry on with predecessor Tony Abbott’s (the one who will be remembered for giving Prince Philip a knighthood, just one of a vast array of incomprehensible acts of wilfully destructive stupidity) ill-willed and non-binding plebiscite on marriage equality demonstrates yet again that the Prime Minister is haemorrhaging principles from every orifice, in a kind of spiritual Ebola that has afflicted him since he took office.

I am unable to think of one reason why the Australian public has a “right” to vote on the right of citizens to marry or not. This is not a question of protecting the Australian public’s rights: no member of the Australian public will suffer during the enactment of same-sex marriage. Marriage equality is a human rights issue, and it is an outstanding example of heterosexual arrogance to reframe it as an issue on which “the people” are entitled to have their say. Why are they entitled to have their say? Give me one good reason.

If “the people” are “entitled” to “have their say” in plebiscites on all matters regarded by politicians as “too important” for them to simply do their jobs, why bother having a parliament at all? We’ll use their salaries and perks to fund opinion polls instead, then all they’ll need to do is pass the legislation.

The High Court ruled that parliament already has the authority it needs to simply amend the Marriage Act to include same-sex marriage, without consulting anybody. Why are we paying the idle swine to hand the job back to us?

Trust me, said George Brandis when asked if his party would honour a *yes* vote, and that’s where I fell off my chair and rolled on the floor laughing my arse off.

It used to be that when Abbott said anything good about someone we knew they’d be in the dumpster fairly soon. It’s very hard to believe that Brandis is serious about Turnbull’s strength as a leader. I don’t think he is. He’s shouting loud because his argument is, like its subject, weak. His exaggerated praise of Turnbull is turning the corner into mockery. Brandis knows what’s coming.

Some of you may be familiar with the segment on ABC broadcaster Jonathan Green’s Sunday Extra, The Year that Made Me. A guest who has achieved chooses a year from her or his life which to them was highly formative. Malcolm Turnbull could do this gig.  He could call it The Year that Made Me lose every principle I’d ever held, and left me a dusty, creaking husk of a man, and taught mean the true meaning of the phrase, laughing-stock.

Excoriate! Excoriate!

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

The Strange Case Of The Liberal Party!

Perhaps my brain is wired differently, but I tend to notice contradictions in things.

Of course it’s pretty easy to notice the contradiction in Peter Dutton’s compassion for those living in refugee camps while he has absolutely no sympathy for those we’re holding in detention for offshore processing.

However, my brain doesn’t stop with that simple contradiction. It goes on and wants to know why when the Liberals are so bullish on people “showing initiative” and “having a go” and “doing something to help themselves” that the very refugees who’ve done that are the ones that we’re meant to despise because they paid people smugglers to bring them here. And paying people smugglers is absolutely immoral … Unless you’re paying them to tow people back.

As for the offshore processing, well, it’s hardly the sort of efficiency that the Liberals profess to love so much. I mean, if the public service took this long to process anything, it’d be privatised in a flash.

But then I also see strange inconsistencies in so many of the Liberal Party’s positions:

If “high” rates of income tax are a disincentive to people working, won’t reducing penalty rates also have the same effect?

Why did Joe Hockey think it was outrageous that someone as well off as he is only have to pay $38 for his son’s medical bills, but be similarly outraged that he was entitled to claim an allowance for renting his wife’s place while staying in Canberra?

Why do they seem to think that unions taking money for ensuring that projects are completed on time shows how dodgy and corrupt the unions are, but the employers paying the money have no case to answer?

Why do they complain about 18C and how it hampers free speech, but turn around run an ad campaign that accuses the CFMEU of being racist? Or why does George Brandis, after telling us of our right to be a bigot, complain that people showed an incredible amount of “bigotry” when talking about Abbott’s religious views. (Which given Abbott’s recent speech, one could argue are another great example of inconsistency!)

Why do they believe that Labor taking money from unions makes them beholden to the union movement when in government, but the money the Liberals receive from various groups has absolutely no effect on their decision-making?

Why do they always argue Labor members accused of something dodgy should stand down and leave Parliament, but any Liberal member should be subject to procedural fairness?

Why, when Labor gives out funds without any obvious process is it “pork-barrelling” or “rewarding their mates”, was it ok for the Arts Minister to have a special fund to reward “excellence”?

Why was the removal of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister an outrageous betrayal of democracy, but the removal of Tony Abbott just something that needed to be done?

And, finally, why, when they’re such supporters of small government and so positive about the private sector, are any of them in Parliament on the public payroll and not out helping to build the economy?

 

The Brandis diaries

On Monday we will be treated to the theatre of the shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfuss, taking the Attorney-General’s department to the Court of Appeal over a denied freedom of information request regarding George Brandis’ diary for the first six months or so after the Coalition took office.

It appears Mr Dreyfuss wants to demonstrate that Mr Brandis did not consult with anyone about his new national security laws.

Brandis’ office has trotted out the most ridiculous excuses as to why they can’t release the diary under FOI, ranging from it would be too much work, to George’s safety being put at risk if people knew his movements, to some people maybe not wanting anyone knowing they met with George.

The whole thing is bizarre.

Why would Dreyfuss want to prove there was no consultation when his party have already passed the legislation? There may be more to come but surely they should have asked the interested parties’ opinions before they voted yes?

And the idea that knowing who George spoke to 2 years ago could lead to people knowing his travel patterns which “may increase the security threats relating to his personal safety” is ludicrous, as is the department’s assertion that it would take too much time. They have chosen to present a defence in court instead which one would imagine would require even more time.

Not to mention the cost.

Monday is also the day that the Federal Court will hand down its decision on the civil case mounted against Craig Thomson by the Fair Work Commission.

Senate Estimates recently revealed that the cost of this civil matter to the taxpayer thus far has been $4.1Million and as Wixxy points out, that does not include the cost of the criminal case, the police investigation that went for years, the FWA investigation that also went for years, the Senate Inquiry into the FWA investigation, and the KPMG report into the FWA investigation.

The courts have become the plaything of politicians where the cost of scoring political points seems irrelevant to them.

There is no question that our freedom of information is being eroded and must be addressed. Government secrecy is increasing rapidly with Ministers being given unilateral powers not subject to judicial oversight.  The right of appeal is being removed in certain cases and security agencies are being given unprecedented protected powers.

As the government increasingly withdraws from transparency and accountability, shrouding their actions in secrecy, they are, at the same time, increasing their powers of surveillance over all of us and removing our rights through special detention and deportation laws.

If Dreyfuss was truly concerned, rather than wasting time and money, he would have voted against this erosion of human rights and done more to force the government to disclose what is being done in our name and to put the threat to national security into true perspective instead of encouraging the hyperbole.

 

George Brandis obviously wants two laws

Oh, shoot me, please.

Attorney General George Brandis has:

. . . hit out at criticism of Tony Abbott’s religious beliefs, describing the “ridicule” to which the former prime minister was subjected as “bigotry at its most shameless”.

He is further quoted as saying:

“The incessant sneering and ridiculing of the former prime minister, Mr Abbott, on account of his religious faith was bigotry at its most shameless – made worse, if possible, by the added hypocrisy of the fact that many of those who engaged in that sneering were the very same people who like to pose as the enemies of bigotry.”

Hypocrisy! Oh dear.

This is the same George Brandis who in 2014 (in defence of Andrew Bolt, one assumes) declared that:

”People do have a right to be bigots, you know,” Senator Brandis said.

“People have the right to say things that other people would find insulting, offensive or bigoted.”

So who is the hypocrite, George?

It seems that there are two laws in this country: one for ‘them’ and one for ‘us’.

You can count me as one of ‘us’.

Putting dodgy politicians under the same scrutiny as dodgy union officials

When the government decided to spend $80 million on the Trade Union Royal Commission, $17 million of which is going to Minter Ellison, Attorney-General George Brandis’ former employer, its purported aim was to ensure that registered organisations are more transparent and accountable.

The Coalition said “there is clear evidence that the money paid by members to some registered organisations is being used for personal gain and inappropriate purposes.”

Considering the number of scandals pertaining to politicians’ entitlements, the hypocrisy of this statement is astounding.

They want “registered organisations and their officials to play by the same rules as companies and their directors” and for “penalties for breaking the rules to be the same as those apply to companies and their directors, as set out in the Corporations Act 2001.” They have also called for “reform of financial disclosure and reporting guidelines so that they align more closely with those applicable to companies.”

“A dodgy company director and a dodgy union official who commit the same crime should suffer the same penalties. The Coalition believes that the members of registered organisations, mainly workers and small businesses, deserve better. They are entitled to the same protections as shareholders of companies.”

But what of dodgy politicians?

Surely the people who hold the highest positions in the land running government business should be similarly accountable to us, the shareholders?

ASIC describes the general duties imposed by the Corporations Act on directors and officers of companies as:

  • the duty to exercise your powers and duties with the care and diligence that a reasonable person would have which includes taking steps to ensure you are properly informed about the financial position of the company and ensuring the company doesn’t trade if it is insolvent
  • the duty to exercise your powers and duties in good faith in the best interests of the company and for a proper purpose
  • the duty not to improperly use your position to gain an advantage for yourself or someone else, or to cause detriment to the company, and
  • the duty not to improperly use information obtained through your position to gain an advantage for yourself or someone else, or to cause detriment to the company.

Whether politicians exercise their powers and duties with care and diligence is open to debate and whether their decisions are in our best interests is similarly questionable, but when it comes to the last two requirements regarding gaining advantage, there is considerable concern.

andrew and ginaGina Rinehart wanted the carbon and mining taxes gone. Done.  She wanted special approval to use extra 457 visa workers.  Done.  She wants a special economic zone in the north and government funded infrastructure to facilitate development.  Underway.  She wants company tax reduced.  Coming.  But she doesn’t want anyone to know how much tax she pays in case someone decides to kidnap her.  Done.

And then all of a sudden, not long before the free trade agreement was signed with China, Gina, and several other rich Liberal Party donors, decided to invest in dairy and beef cattle farms – the two big winners from the ChAFTA.

When Kevin Andrews, as Social Services Minister, got rid of gambling reform laws, was he considering the best interests of the people?

When George Christensen launched an attack in parliament on the National Health and Medical Research Council which he accused of demonising the sugar industry through their new food guidelines, did it have anything to do with his family being sugar cane farmers?

When David Leyonjhelm attacks smoking regulations, is he looking out for our welfare or is it because he receives large donations from the tobacco industry?

And what of the ultimate irony of Clive Palmer’s party having the deciding vote on repealing the carbon tax when he had a high court challenge underway and an unpaid bill of $6.8 million?

Alexander Downer, as Foreign Minister, sanctioned the bugging of another nation’s parliamentary offices to gain commercial advantage for a company who then employed him when he left politics.  There are countless examples of similar conflicts of interest and ‘reward for service’.

ICAC has shown us that many politicians use their position for personal gain and advantage for their friends and donors. The rejection of a federal ICAC by both major parties would suggest that they do not want the same scrutiny that their state counterparts and the unions are getting.

Regarding false statements, the ACCC states that:

“It is illegal for a business to make statements that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression. This includes advertisements or statements in any media (print, radio, television, social media and online) or on product packaging, and any statement made by a person representing your business.

When assessing whether conduct is likely to mislead or deceive, consider whether the overall impression created by the conduct is false or inaccurate.

Comparative advertising may be used to promote the superiority of your products or services over competitors as long as it is accurate.

Claims that give the impression that a product, or one of its attributes, has some kind of added benefit when compared to similar products and services can be made as long as the claims are not misleading and can be substantiated.”

If you apply that code to, say, climate change, our government, abetted by the Murdoch media, the IPA, and a few other vested interests, are guilty of the most heinous example of false advertising in history.

A recent study by the CSIRO showed that barely one in four Coalition voters accepts climate change is mostly caused by humans, with more than half of Liberal voters believing changes to global temperatures are natural.

“To a substantial degree, when asked, a significant fraction of the public say what they think their preferred party says.”

Obviously, the standards that apply to businesses to be truthful with their shareholders and customers are totally ignored by our government.

When climate campaigners recently took the Dutch government to court, three judges ruled that government plans to cut emissions by just 14-17% compared to 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change and ordered the government to cut its emissions by at least 25% within five years.

The precedent has been set and I, for one, find the idea of Greg Hunt defending his statements about Direct Action against carbon pricing in a court of law, presumably with reference to Wikipedia, absolutely delicious.

 

The high achievers of the Abbott Government who should keep their Ministries!

Below is a short list of Ministers – the high achievers – who should keep their positions after the reshuffle.

Minister for Women. OK, let’s start with Mr Abbott himself. As Minister for Women he’s responsible for a number of achievements:

  • His signature paid parental leave scheme which was so good that we couldn’t afford it.
  • As he reminded us, removing the carbon tax enabled the women of Australia to use electricity for their ironing instead of warming it on the stove.
  • Stopping the boats which was good for everyone, even women.
  • Commenting on the popularity of women when they were working surrounded by men.
  • Encouraging them to take scholarships in fashion courses.

Minister for Education: Christopher Pyne has also been a high achiever. Recently he announced changes to the Australian Curriculum which promise a greater emphasis on phonics, as well as a greater emphasis on the benefits of Western civilization and Anzac Day. I’m shore u’ll awl agree that fonnix helps stewdents to spel evareethink crektly. Wuns thay spell werds as they sownd, then nowun will complain about bad spelling eny moor. But Pyne has been an achiever from the moment he took over the portfolio proudly boasting that he hadn’t read the Gonski report, giving confidence to all those students who attempt essays without reading their English texts.

The Attorney General:  George Brandis, the quiet underachiever. George may have ignored tradition in this portfolio by failing to defend the court system when those “vigilantes” held up a coal mine by resorting to the unfair tactic of using the existing law, but that’s not the only thing he hasn’t done. The list is quite long and, honestly, you’d have more hope of getting through the books in his library, which is another reason to keep him  in his current position. Moving his bookshelves again could jeopardise the Budget which is on a path to sustainable surplus sometime after the return of Halley’s comet.

Minister For Employment: He’s hardly been a quiet achiever, not only has he been busy with his portfolio, but he’s had an opinion on same sex marriage and the links between breast cancer and abortions. Of course, you all know that I’m talking about the erudite Eric Abetz. OK, he may be a bit left wing for his uncle Otto and Andrew Bolt but, in case you’ve forgotten, among his achievements are this change to “red tape”:

After streamlining, employers will no longer have to report on:

  • CEO remuneration

  • remuneration of casual managers

  • components of total remuneration

  • numbers of job applications and interviews, and

  •  requests and approvals for extended parental leave.

And, of course, last but not leased … and certainly not for sale, the man who professed his loyalty to Abbott right to the very end, we have

Treasurer: Joe Hockey has put us on a path to sustainable surplus. Or so the Liberals keep telling us. Considering we were a basket case just two years ago, Joe’s measures have put us back on track in extraordinarily quick time. Particularly when those nasty senators wouldn’t even allow a number of his vital Budget measures. How can a miracle worker like that be dumped?

Apart from that, I suggest that Mr Turnbull should spill all other positions and draw names out of a hat for ministry positions.

Let’s face it, he couldn’t do much worse than Abbott’s attempts at choosing a ministry.

 

What does the government want from George Pell?

What do the Pope, George Pell, George Brandis, Tony Abbott and climate change have in common? Quite a lot, suggests Vanessa Kairies.

I have been following the climate change issue for a couple of decades. I thought I had heard it all and seen it all, until now. I was recently having a discussion with a friend who showed me the most disturbing video regarding climate change. One, which I urge all Australians to watch. It is an interview on May 2015 with Professor Peter Wadhams. An eloquent man who has been studying the Arctic and Climate Change for 40 years. He is one of the world’s leading Arctic scientists.

In it he states:

“The volume of ice that remains in the Arctic in Summer is only a quarter of what is was in the 1980’s.”

“If that downward trend continues … then the volume will go on to zero in just a couple of years.”

“We are being very complacent about sea level rise … we ought to be realising that many coastal regions … will have to be abandoned.”

“This will have an enormous impact on the global economy and the lives of people.”

“The disappearance of ice in the Arctic is leading to warmer air masses.”

 

 

Obama got it, with the coastal regions of America to be drastically effected. He and most of the world have instigated the change towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their countries. They are turning away from fossil fuels in droves.

Last year, Professor Wadhams was among a group of leading climate scientists who gave a presentation to the Pope (and his advisors) about the threat of climate change. It must have had some influence, as in June this year the Pope released his encyclical calling for swift action on climate change in which he said:

“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

“Climate change is doing most harm to the poor.”

“A very solid scientific consensus indicates we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.”

Then the family feud in the Vatican happened when a month later our very own George Pell, Financial Advisor to the Vatican, enstated by the Pope himself, came out with the objection that “the Roman Catholic church had ‘no mandate’ to lay down doctrine on scientific matters“, adding that “the church has no particular expertise in science”.

Personally, when it comes to climate science I prefer to take my advice from the professionals such as Professor Wadhams – people who have dedicated their lives to study and science. The Pope does too.

George, are you being used as a pawn in the game that is Australian politics? More on that later.

Then came the revelation that Pell met secretly with Attorney General George Brandis in May this year, a month before the Pope’s encyclical was released. I wonder what they discussed?

Did George Brandis do a deal asking for George Pell to debunk climate change? Was it an exchange, guaranteeing a more lenient time in the witness box at the upcoming Royal Commission into Child Abuse?

George Pell has made the headlines here in Australia for all the wrong reasons.

In 2004 before the election, Pell met with current Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Shortly thereafter Pell openly attacked the Labor Party’s education policies. Tony Abbott denied that this meeting took place, but later admitted that the meeting had in fact taken place because he had sought religious guidance.

To digress, here is an old favourite of mine . . .

 

Returning to the Royal Commission, there are a number of questions for Pell when he does appear which may include:

1.Did he try to bribe one of the victims?

2.Did he ignore other victims’ testimonies?

3. What was his involvement in moving serial child sex offender Gerald Ridsdale around to different parishes?

4.How much did he know about Ridsdale’s abuse of children?

5.Was he the priest that witnessed Ridsdale raping a child?

Was the family feud in the Vatican instigated by the Liberal Party and their need to debunk climate change? And if so, might it have been a bit too obvious if Tony Abbott had attended the meeting instead of George Brandis? Given Abbott’s track record, I think so. I’m now waiting for Pell’s statement opposing marriage equality. That one is a given.

According to the the 2011 Australian National Census, there were 5,439,257 Catholics in Australia, representing 25.3% of the population. That’s a big audience. I wonder how many of them vote Liberal? And I wonder how many of them are guided by every word from George Pell?

It’s fairly obvious to me what Canberra is up to . . . and what they want from George Pell, but what is the cost?

Note from author:

Readers are welcome to view my Indigenous artwork on climate change, which I hope you enjoy.

Stop climate change.

The great climate change denial.

 

They’re here, they’re there, they’re everywhere. So beware!

When the IPA published their wish list of 75 plus 25 ways to “reform” Australia, they conceded that it was “a deliberately radical list. There’s no way Tony Abbott could implement all of them, or even a majority.”

They suggested that if he “was able to implement just a handful of these recommendations, Abbott would be a transformative figure in Australian political history. He would do more to shift the political spectrum than any prime minister since Whitlam.”

Perhaps they were right but not in the way they intended.

Tony is assiduously working his way through their list and he has certainly shaken the Australian public out of their political apathy.

Even before we get to the list, the article introducing it gave us a picture of what was to come.

“The vast Commonwealth bureaucracies and the polished and politically-savvy senior public servants have their own agendas, their own list of priorities, and the skill to ensure those priorities become their ministers’ priorities.  Fresh-faced ministers who do not have a fixed idea of what they want to do with their new power are invariably captured by their departments.

So when, in the first week as minister, they are presented with a list of policy priorities by their department, it is easier to accept what the bureaucracy considers important, rather than what is right. The only way to avoid such departmental capture is to have a clear idea of what to do with government once you have it.

We should be more concerned that senior public servants shape policy more than elected politicians do.”

The IPA highlight “Gillard’s National Curriculum” as an example of ministers acquiescing when they should have been opposing.  And why should they be opposing?

“The National Curriculum centralises education power in Canberra, and will push a distinctly left-wing view of the world onto all Australian students.”

So, presumably, when you put a lawyer in charge of education he should not listen to his department, he should not listen to the state ministers, he should not listen to the education experts.  He should have already decided what he wants regardless of any advice from the public servants that have worked in that area for decades, and he should instruct them to implement his ideas.

But where does the lawyer get his ideas if not from all those paid to assist him?

Enter the IPA-aligned former chief-of-staff to Kevin Andrews, Kevin Donnelly, who has written many publications over the years arguing that the Australian school system is failing because schools have been taken over by radical educators who see their role as being to “liberate students by turning them into new-age warriors of the Cultural Left.”  Pay him to reaffirm those oft published views in a “review” of the National Curriculum.

And while we are at it, get the former head of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), Tony Shepherd, to do an audit commission which came out like a wish list of BCA/IPA policy prescriptions, neatly cut and pasted, but not very well backed by facts.

The IPA go on to warn us of the real danger posed by the Australian National Preventive Health Agency – “a new Commonwealth bureaucracy dedicated to lobbying other arms of government to introduce Nanny State measures.”

Sure enough, it was one of the first agencies to be axed in Joe Hockey’s contribution to the wish list.

As the Melbourne Age’s economics editor, Peter Martin, noted in a piece of post-budget analysis: “Big food, big tobacco and big alcohol have been thrown the carcass of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency.”

The IPA also demanded an end to food and alcohol labelling, and to end “all government-funded Nanny State advertising” against unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking and junk food consumption.

And so in February last year we saw the health department ordered to take down its new healthy food ratings website, and then $130 million was cut from a program to tackle Indigenous smoking despite it making significant inroads into reducing the high percentage of smokers in the Aboriginal community.

The IPA also quoted a previous Intergenerational Report and came to the following conclusion:

“Australia’s ageing population means the generous welfare safety net provided to current generations will be simply unsustainable in the future. Change is inevitable.”

No mention of the generous superannuation tax concessions which will soon overtake the aged pension, a stance also adopted by this government.

Whilst Brandis may not yet have satisfied the IPA’s desire to abolish the Human Rights Commission, the government has cut $1.65 million from its budget, refused to renew the position of its disability commissioner and appointed – absent the usual due process – one of the IPA’s own, Tim Wilson, as one of the remaining six commissioners. Attorney-General George Brandis flagged an intention to “further reform” the HRC which seems to be what this attack on Gillian Triggs is all about.

Brandis also flexed his muscles when, a month after being sworn in, he announced the forced resignation of ABC journalist Barrie Cassidy from his new job as chairman of the Old Parliament House Advisory Council.

Brandis said in his media release that Cassidy “accepted the importance of the Museum of Australia [sic] Democracy [in Old Parliament House] maintaining its apolitical and nonpartisan character”.

To have someone in the job currently engaged in politics, even if only as a political journalist, was “not consistent with that character”, Brandis said and then promptly replaced him with David Kemp who is a former Liberal minister and continues to practise politics through his work with the IPA.

The institute wants all media ownership laws eliminated along with the relevant regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and requirements put in place that radio and TV broadcasts be “balanced”.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is duly considering changes to Australia’s regime of cross-media ownership. The likely outcome: more concentration in Australia’s media, already the most concentrated and least diverse in the developed world. More influence for the IPA and Rupert Murdoch.

Not that the IPA need more exposure.  In the year to June 2013, according to the IPA’s annual report, it clocked up 878 mentions in print and online. Its staff had 164 articles published in national media, mainly in the Murdoch press which, considering he is a long-time IPA director, is not surprising. They managed 540 radio appearances and mentions, and 210 appearances and mentions on TV.

The allegedly bias ABC, which the IPA would break up and sell off, gives the IPA a lot of air time too. One count, by Independent Australia, clocked 39 appearances by IPA staff in the year 2011-12 on The Drum alone. That’s almost as many Drum appearances as the combined total of all other think tanks, left, right and centre.

The repeal of section 18C of the RDA is number four on the IPA’s policy wish list, and before you knew it, Attorney-General George Brandis was up there championing the right to be a bigot.

On October 5, 2011, the IPA ran a full-page advertisement in The Australian supporting Andrew Bolt, paid for and signed by more than 1200 people including federal politicians Mathias Cormann, Jamie Briggs, Michaelia Cash, Mitch Fifield and Andrew Robb, to name a few, and literally dozens of other ex-pollies, staffers, and advisers.

Before he won the prime ministership, in April 2013, at a dinner celebrating the IPA’s 70th anniversary where Andrew Bolt was the MC, Abbott noted the IPA had given him “a great deal of advice” on the policy front, and promised them he would act on it.

“I want to assure you that the Coalition will indeed repeal the carbon tax, abolish the department of climate change, abolish the Clean Energy Fund. We will repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, at least in its current form. We will abolish new health and environmental bureaucracies. We will deliver $1 billion in red-tape savings every year. We will develop northern Australia. We will repeal the mining tax. We will create a one-stop shop for environmental approvals. We will privatise Medibank Private. We will trim the public service and we will stop throwing good money after bad on the NBN.”

In fact, one might argue that Abbott under-promised at that dinner and has over-delivered since. Other major items on the IPA’s published wish list included stopping subsidies for the car industry (done), eliminating Family Tax Benefits (part-done), the cessation of funding for the ABC’s Australia Network (done), abandonment of poker machine reforms (done), the introduction of fee competition for Australian universities (part-done), and negotiating free trade deals with Japan, South Korea, China and India (almost done).

While several of the IPA’s wish list are being held up in the Senate, they do have flesh in the game, and even more so should PUP Senators hold to their threat of abstaining from every vote until the leadership turmoil is resolved.

Cross benchers Bob Day and David Leyonhjelm are both “long-term IPA members”.

Bob Day was a driving force behind the IPA front organisation, the Owner Drivers’ Association, which purports to represent the interests of independent contractors in the transport industry. In reality, says Tony Sheldon, National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union, the ODA has consistently campaigned against laws improving working conditions and safety for drivers.

Another IPA front organisation is the Australian Environment Foundation.  Two of its directors were IPA staff, including executive director Mike Nahan, now the treasurer in Western Australia’s Liberal government. For its first two years, the AEF shared the IPA’s postal address.

It was actually an anti-environment group. It opposed new marine parks and plans to increase environmental water flows in the Murray-Darling Basin, and supported Tasmanian woodchipping and genetically modified foods.  It also lobbied the World Heritage Committee in support of the Abbott government’s plan to de-list parts of the Tasmanian forests.

Source watch even lists Peta Credlin under former staff of the IPA.  I have not been able to verify that from any other source but she sure sings from their hymn book.

Not only are they determining policy and infiltrating all levels of government, they are also being rewarded with gifts.  Despite cutting $100 million from the Arts budget, Minister for the Arts Brandis found $1 million to give the Australian School of Ballet to put towards the purchase of a $5 million mansion to house their 28 students in luxury.  On the board of the school is Daniele Kemp, wife of former Liberal Minister Rod Kemp who is now the chairman of the IPA.

To paraphrase Pixie and Dixie…

They’re here, they’re there, they’re everywhere.  So beware!

As Jinx would say…

“How ree-dick-ul-luss.”

The real stitch-up

Tony Abbott has been sneeringly yelling at anyone who will listen, if there are any of those left, that the government has no confidence in Gillian Triggs because the timing of her report shows it is a “stitch up” designed to make him look bad, like he isn’t capable of doing that on his own.

I would like to point out that Ms Triggs told Senate estimates hearings in early 2013 of the HRC’s concern about children in detention and their ongoing investigation.  She was slapped down by George Brandis who wasn’t interested.

In February 2013, some seven months after Ms Triggs had assumed her role at the Human Rights Commission, and seven months before the election, Senator Brandis grilled her unmercilessly about why the HRC was not spending more of their budget on defending free speech.

When she pointed out that the HRC receive about 17,500 inquiries a year of which approximately three concern political opinion “so it is a very tiny part, in answer to your question, of the complaints function of the commission”, Brandis refused to accept her explanation.

Senator BRANDIS: That may very well be so, Professor Triggs, but why has it taken people other than the Human Rights Commission to elevate this debate? Why has it taken people like my friends at the Institute of Public Affairs, some of my colleagues in the coalition, columnists, editorial writers and writers of letters to the editors of the newspapers to get a debate up and going in Australia about limitations on freedom, when we have an agency, your agency, whose explicit statutory charter is to promote and advance those rights?

Prof. Triggs : I wonder if I could take another point here. I accept your question. I think it is a valuable one, as I have said. But let us look at another element of this—that is, a great deal of my time as president and that of many members of our human rights law and policy group has been responding to our profound concerns about the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. I understand that at the moment we have many thousands—and I do not know the exact number, but let us say 6,000 people—in mandatory detention in Australia, including children. Many have been there for years. Babies have been born within that environment. They have been charged with no offence, and they have not yet had their claims to refugee status assessed. That is an area that I think is of fundamental importance to human rights.

Senator BRANDIS: Well, it is.

Prof. Triggs : It concerns arbitrary detention without trial. If I may say so, I went to an interesting lecture by the foreign minister the other day to celebrate the Magna Carta, quoting the fundamental principles of the Magna Carta that no man—or presumably woman—can be charged or held without a trial of their peers. It seems extraordinary—

Senator BRANDIS: I do not think the barons at Runnymede had friends like Mr Eddie Obeid and Mr Ian Macdonald, unlike our foreign minister, who speaks with eloquence about the Magna Carta, at least.

Brandis mentions several times his “friends at the IPA”

“Whereas your commission is a dedicated and committed advocate of antidiscrimination principles, I do not see the commission being a dedicated and committed advocate of freedom principles. You have think tanks, like in the Institute of Public Affairs, which has something called a ‘freedom project’. I do not see a freedom project in the Human Rights Commission.”

Senator Brandis finishes with what was no doubt his aim all along.

Senator BRANDIS: My last question. Your commission does seem to have a superabundance of discrimination commissioners in various areas. Should the Human Rights Commission have a freedom commissioner whose particular brief is to promote the kind of balance of which you speak so that within the commission there is a person whose particular job is to promote freedom, just as, within the commission at the moment, there are, I think, five commissioners whose particular job is to promote antidiscrimination?  Would that not be a desirable balance—one freedom person versus five anti-discrimination people?

Come on down Timmy!

A couple of months later, in April 2013, Brandis attended the IPA 70th birthday bash.  He obviously enjoyed himself because he has been rewarding them ever since.

As soon as he assumed office, Brandis gifted to Tim Wilson a $400,000 a year job as a Human Rights Commissioner despite his “woefully inadequate” qualifications.  It seems apparent that Wilson was appointed to destroy from within and, if worst comes to worst and he can’t abolish the HRC as he wants, then Tim will probably be offered the top job after the “anonymous” leaks about Triggs wanting to get out.

After the predictable backlash to this obvious act of cronyism, George wrote an article in the Australian condemning those who criticized his choice.

“But some things never change, like the reaction of the claque of bilious pseudo-intellectuals who constitute what passes for a left-wing commentariat in this country. Mike Carlton, Catherine Deveney, Van Badham and their ilk were nothing if not boorishly predictable.  They and their followers unleashed a storm of hatred and bile against Wilson on social media, the like of which I have never seen.”

Or perhaps they just thought that sacking the Disability Commissioner to employ your unqualified inexperienced ideologically opposed little friend was a step too far?  And is that any way for the highest legal officer in the land to speak?

This was all the more hypocritical considering  Brandis, in opposition, had previously taken to the Australian to excoriate the appointment by Mark Dreyfus of Labor staffer-turned-intellectual Tim Soutphommasane as Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, a role for which he was eminently qualified, labelling him as “yet another partisan of the Left”.

Dr Soutphommasane graduated from the University of Sydney with a first-class honours degree. He was then a Commonwealth Scholar and Jowett Senior Scholar at Balliol College of the University of Oxford where he completed a Master of Philosophy with distinction and a Doctor of Philosophy in political theory.

From 2010 to 2012 he was a Lecturer in Australian Studies and a Research Fellow at the National Centre for Australian Studies of Monash University.

Soutphommasane is the author of three books: The Virtuous Citizen: Patriotism in a Multicultural Society (Cambridge University Press, 2012), Don’t Go Back To Where You Came From: Why Multiculturalism Works (New South Books, 2012) which in 2013 won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award in the ‘Community Relations Commission Award’ section, and Reclaiming Patriotism: Nation-Building for Australian Progressives (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

By contrast, Wilson has a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Diplomacy and Trade from Monash University.  He worked at the Institute of Public Affairs for seven years.  He was a vocal critic of the Human Rights Commission and during his time there the IPA called for the abolition of the commission.

After his “surprise”appointment, Wilson wrote that:

“Attorney-General George Brandis has asked me, as Australia’s next human rights commissioner, to focus on traditional liberal democratic and common law rights, particularly article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

All rights should be defended, but the human right most being neglected is free speech. Arguably freedom of speech is the most important human right. It is the human right necessary to protect and defend all other human rights.

Article 19 of the covenant states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

Article 19 ought to be the human rights community’s starting point. But at the moment it seems more like a footnote.

Increasingly free speech has been pushed aside in favour of laws and regulations designed to stop people being offensive to each other, a steadily expanding corpus of anti-discrimination and defamation law, and the growing momentum towards restrictions on speech online.”

Whilst the Attorney General may appoint people to the HRC, I am not sure he has the power to direct them then what to say and do, and I am wondering how Tim feels about George’s recent announcement of devoting $17 million to monitor social media to take down terrorist propaganda

When the two Tims attended Senate estimates hearings in May 2014 to discuss proposed changes to Section 18C of the racial discrimination act, George Brandis objected to Tim Soutphommasane giving his opinion even though he is the Racial Discrimination Commissioner.  Ian Macdonald, coincidentally, was also chairing this meeting as he was with the recent meeting with Gillian Triggs and he upheld Senator Brandis’ objection saying his opinion had no place in the discussion. (see video here)

But later in the hearing, Tim Wilson was allowed to re-state, at length, his clear support for changing the Act.

After the hearing, Senator Singh said Dr Soutphommasane ”was gagged, in complete contradiction to Tim Wilson who was able to share his views on the RDA.  Senator Brandis initially stopped me from asking the question and accused me of being dishonest in asking for Dr Soutphommasane’s views.  This is a man who stands for freedom of speech yet won’t allow a witness at the table to speak.”

This absolute championing of freedom of speech seems very much at odds with Tony Abbott’s stand against Hizb ut-Tahrir, taken after Alan Jones urged him to “proscribe the movement”.

“We are changing the law that will make it easier to ban organisations like Hizb ut-Tahrir. But before that even we should have a system in place which red cards these hate preachers and stops them coming to Australia.”

The response from our “Freedom Commissioner” was totally devoid of any legal facts, or gumption for that matter, as reported by Michelle Grattan in October:

“Wilson fears florid talk about “hate speech” can “justify censorship all over the place”. He is considering putting in a personal submission to the current parliamentary inquiry into the legislation, urging a tighter definition of the advocacy of terrorism. Wilson says it is unclear where the line would be between the advocacy of terrorism and for example attacking the coalition’s air strikes in the Middle East.”

Apparently, he either didn’t get around to his “personal submission” or it was ignored.

Abbott is right…this has been a stitch-up – one that began well before George Brandis was in a position to reward his “friends at the IPA” and, with the help of Senator Macdonald, take his revenge on that pesky woman.

Believe Me, I Know The Difference Between Satire And Reality!

A number of people commented on yesterday’s This is How Tony Got Elected expressing the idea that the pictures were from a satiric site “Why I’m Voting Liberal” and that I’d mistaken a satiric post for real actual Liberal voters.

Now I am aware that people have sometimes taken made-up quotes from my writing as genuine, even when they’ve clearly been satiric. Even when I’ve used clearly fictional names and characters like “Hoe Jockey”, “Tiny Habit”, “Arnie (I’m not sexist) Corperson”, “The Speaker: Dolores Umbridge” or “Christopher Pyne”. Even when their behaviour has been so outrageous, so unbelievable that surely, surely nobody could confuse them with the actual Liberal Party. (Although there have been a couple of times that the Libs have adopted my satire as their actual policy a few days later – makes me wonder whether all those jobs Abbott created for monitoring social media are actually just searching for new policy ideas.) 

Anyway, I always try to be careful not confuse what Liberals are actually doing and saying with attempts to make them look ridiculous through exaggeration. Admittedly, Abbott, Brandis, Pyne and others make this an almost impossible task sometimes. But, in this case, the photos weren’t taken from the site that wasn’t serious.  I went back and checked the site’s description. It asked for people under 30 to post reasons that they were voting Liberal. I copied its description to show to someone who assured me that the site wasn’t serious:

“Under 30?
Voting Liberal on September 7th?
Tell the country why!

We’re young people who care about our future and opportunities. We care about the economy. We care about what jobs there will be for us in the future. We care about good, sustainable and forward-thinking government. We want real change.

I’m Voting Liberal is a campaign for young Australians.

Get involved! Get together with your friends and send photos to:
imvotingliberal@gmail.com or message them to this page.”

And I found the other site – the satiric one. Yes, it is hard to tell what’s satire and what’s not these days. I mean, how do you caricature Andrew Bolt or Alan Jones? And yes, if that description hadn’t been written before the election, one might easily think that it, too, was purely a send-up of the Liberal’s Real Solutions document.

So yesterday I added the following P.S. to the article.

P.S. Just to clear up some confustion, this is a genuine site and not the parody site.

Update at 8pm. The site seems to have disappeared in the last couple of hours and that link no longer works.

 

If you’ve just clicked on the link. Yep, that’s right. It no longer exists.

Given that there seems to have been no updates to the pictures since the election, it does seem a strange coincidence that the day “This Is How Tony Got Elected” appears that within a few hours, the site disappears, leaving no evidence that these people once cared about “good, sustainable and forward-thinking government”.

Well, this is hardly shades of 1984. I mean, I don’t even know that there was a direct connection to the Liberal Party it may have just been created by a group of concerned young citizens determined to create a stronger economy led by someone who wears speedos and can do a pull-up.

Whatever, it’s gone, and if that’s because of what I wrote yesterday then I’ll need to be careful what I write in future.

I mean, imagine if I wrote about Tony Abbott, and he was gone the next day.

Labor supporters would never forgive me.

 

The death of due process, transparency and accountability

Increasingly this government is seeking to subvert due process and impose their agenda in totalitarian fashion.

Regardless of whether you think the increase in fuel excise is an appropriate measure, the move to introduce it through regulation rather than legislation is specifically designed to bypass parliament.  The regulations will need to be backed up with proper legislation by the Senate within 12 months or the money raised will have to be refunded.

As reported in the SMH

“The government believes the ploy will put Labor and Greens senators in a bind at that time forcing them to choose between keeping the escalating revenue stream, or voting it down forcing the government to pay potentially hundreds of millions of dollars collected from motorists back to oil companies.

While the incremental inflation adjustments will raise an expected $167 million from motorists by November next year, little-appreciated new compliance costs for service stations are calculated at $5.06 million according to Treasury estimates.”

So much for cutting red tape to help small businesses.  They also ignore the flowon costs to households as businesses pass on increased delivery expenses, and the cumulative effect of twice yearly increases.

And it seems they may be trying to introduce the GP co-payment in the same way.

Initially, on Tuesday Peter Dutton said:

“There is no capacity to introduce a $7 co-payment through regulation, the advice from our legal people within the department as well as with attorneys is the $7 co-payment needs substantive legislation to support the co-payment.”

But yesterday he changed that message, refusing to rule out the introduction of the $7 levy by regulation to bypass the need for legislation.

“I am not going to rule things in or out. I am saying that there are options that are available to the Government,” Mr Dutton said.

Finding ways around our parliament and our laws is becoming a habit.

After the High Court ruled in June that the federal government could not directly fund religious chaplains in public schools, Christopher Pyne chose to give the money to the states with the direction that it could not be used for secular welfare workers.

So much for their claim that education decisions should not be dictated by Canberra.

In February, a Senate inquiry paved the way for the Parliament to give Environment Minister Greg Hunt legal immunity against future legal challenges to his decisions on mining projects.  It will protect him from being challenged over deliberate or negligent decisions that do not comply with the law.

The Coalition government has now licensed Greg Hunt to avoid compliance with the EPBC Act.  The amendment retrospectively validates ministerial decisions – even if they did not comply with the EPBC Act when they were made.

We are also losing our right to appeal development decisions.

The Abbott government’s move to establish a single approval process by passing environmental approval responsibilities onto the states and territories creates a conflict of interest as they raise revenue from land sales and mining royalties.

In early 2014 the Queensland government proposed to confine the objections and notifications process for a mining lease to people owning land within the proposed lease.

The Coordinator-General is fast becoming an almost supremely powerful czar for large projects in Queensland, subject only to the political whims of the state government.  He can also prevent any objections to the environmental authority for a coordinated project from being heard by the Land Court. When combined with the severe restrictions on objections to mining leases, very few people can now challenge matters such as impacts on groundwater of large mines that are declared a coordinated project.

Under the federal Coalition’s one-stop shop the Coordinator-General is also proposed to have power to approve projects impacting on matters protected under federal environmental laws.

And that’s not the only avenue for appeal that is being shut down.

Australians could be left with no appeal rights against government secrecy by the end of this year.

The May budget cut $10.2 million funding for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) which handles Freedom of Information appeals.  The government wants appeals to be handled by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal instead.  This move is being blocked in the Senate so we will be left with effectively no avenue for appeal.

But perhaps the most blatant disregard for the law is being shown by Scott Morrison who, in a Napoleonic gesture, has conferred on himself the power to revoke a person’s citizenship.  The new laws provide the Minister with the power to set aside decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) concerning character and identity if it would be in the public interest to do so and confer on the Minister the power to make legislative instruments.

Morrison has condemned innocent people to indefinite incarceration and washed his hands of any responsibility for their welfare.  He has ignored warnings that his actions are in breach of human rights and is actively outsourcing our responsibilities under the Refugee Convention at enormous cost to this country.  He is now even blocking refugee applications from people coming through official UNHCR channels.

Journalists have been denied access to detention camps.  Even the head of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, was denied access to child asylum seekers on Nauru on the grounds that the commission’s jurisdiction did not extend beyond Australia’s borders.  The cost of a single-entry media visa to Nauru rose from $200 to $8,000.

And if any of us report on the machinations of this government, our fate is in the hands of Attorney-General George Brandis who has the individual power to determine if we should face a possible ten year jail sentence.

So much for free speech, transparency and accountability.

“Trust me,” they say.  Not friggin’ likely.

 

Will Brandis Shirt-Front Morrison? Can Morrison please be the Demtel Man?

Originally published on Polyfeministix

We often ask eachdemtel brandis other “If you had a superpower what would it be?”  Scott Morrison’s superpower was revealed yesterday. He gets to throw people out of the country.  This person was not an Asylum Seeker with brown skin, but a wealthy, white, “female attraction expert” or (Misogynicus Piggius). After a very active social media campaign, Scott Morrison cancelled the visa of Julien Blanc. Scott Morrison kicked Julien  Blanc out of the country.

 

This ‘event’ has raised two questions for me. 

If Morrison has this superpower – can he please be the Demtel Man? 

Will George Brandis now Shirt-Front Morrison?

I think to put my mind into perspective for others I shall need to explain.  Julien Blanc did nothing criminal during his visit, but what he advocates is very harmful to women and if implemented by his male followers would see the physical and sexual harrassment of women in society, escalate.  In a nutshell what he advocates is offensive and wrong.

Morrison booted him out the country as Morrison did not agree with Julien Blanc’s freedom of speech nor his freedom of expression.

Although, many advocate for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. This is a very good contemporary example of how freedom of speech and freedom of expression can be harmful to certain groups of people in society.  

Freedom of speech was vigorously defended by the LNP who advocated very strongly to Repeal Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. Particularly because as Abbott demonstrates quite clearly here that There is a great Australian silence – this time about the western canon.” (ie white people)

Tony Abbotts IPA speech

 

Fortunately, for whatever reason Morrison decided to cancel Blanc’s visa it was done without Morrison raising the emphasis on freedom of speech that the LNP hold so dear to their heart.  In this instance, Morrison (hopefully) understood the harm that Blanc does to the image of and treatment of women wherever Blanc and his sad posse unfortunately land.  (Maybe LNP can now join the dots to freedom of speech and how it can cause harm to others.)

Will Brandis, who so vigorously defended Freedom of Speech on QandA recently and who infamously stated “People have the right to be bigots” do anything about this?  Will he actually Shirt-Front Morrison over his lack of cling-to-ridiculous-ideology-even-if-it-hurts-vulnerable-people-and-disrespects-our-first-people mantra?  How will Brandis now defend the pathetic and harmful stance that they should repeal Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act after what Morrison has done this week?  

What will Brandis’ excuse be for Morrison, to defend him as part of the LNP? Does this mean that the LNP are now soft on Freedom of Speech? (If you are a Liberal voter and this worries you or you are anxious, pull out your wallet, open it up and breathe in….and out….and in….and out, now….relax. If you don’t have enough money in your wallet for this breathing & relaxation exercise to work, you should not be voting Liberal, you Dummkopf!)

The Demtel Man

Now onto why I want Scott Morrison to be the Demtel Man.  Morrison has the power to kick people out of the country.  This week he kicked out a vile person and ignored this person’s right to freedom of speech. Sanity and humanity finally prevailed.  If only Morrison could be the Demtel man and yell:

“But wait….there’s more!”

Please boot out (because freedom of speech & freedom of expression no longer matter and I find these ‘freedom of speech & freedom of expression’ listed below just as offensive as Julien Blanc’s harmful opinion of women!)

Cory Bernardi, Liberal Senator – For using his freedom of speech to express that it was ok to put women in a headlock and that marriage equality will lead to polygamy and bestiality
(But wait there’s more)

Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia  – For using his freedom of speech to say offensive things about women, defense personnel, our Indigenous people and LGBTI to name a few (offensive statements are far too extensive to include here). (But wait there’s more)

Joe Hockey, Federal Treasurer  – For using his freedom of speech to express his distaste and immense dislike for middle income and disadvantaged Australians by forcing his unfair, sick budget onto us  (But wait there’s more)

Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister – For using her freedom of speech to imply that Julia Gillard was a criminal and gained personally from a Union slush fund 20 years ago (Apology NOW Ms. Bishop!) (But wait there’s more)

Bronwyn Bishop, Speaker of the House – For using her freedom of expression to act upon partisan smirks and nods at Christopher Pyne, For using her freedom of speech to restrict freedom of expression for Islamic women and for using her freedom of speech and freedom of expression to express her hatred of Labor, which is acted out under section 94a umpteen times in the last year. (I also thinks she picks on the Member for Gellibrand more than anyone else – or is that just me?) (But wait there’s more)

Christopher Pyne, Minister for Education – For using his freedom of speech to express his of hatred against anyone who desires a higher education (I often imagine Sturt to be this scary place like hell, where the constituents have been sent to earth to torture us. Sturt people – please stop!) (But wait there’s more)

Kevin Andrews – For using his freedom of speech to express his willingness to harm jobless Australians by forcing them to have no income for six months. For expressing his view that all people on unemployment are on drugs, suggesting they be drug tested. For expressing his view that de-facto couples are not as happy as married couples, and his over-riding mantra that the unemployed are ‘bludgers who need to be motivated. (But wait there’s more)

Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance – For using his freedom of speech to express that being a girly-man is a bad thing, an insult. Gender is not binary Cormann! For using his freedom of expression by infamously smoking a cigar celebrating turfing the poor into the gutter with the LNP’s unfair, sick budget. (But wait there’s more)

George Brandis, Attorney General – For using his freedom of speech to express that people have a right to be Bigots. (But wait there’s more)

Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Communications – For using his freedom of speech to express it is ok for rural and regional people to not have decent, reliable, fast internet (Do you think he may be Amish or he has a fascination with the 1930’s?) (But wait there’s more)

Barnarby Joyce, Minister for Agriculture – For thinking it was ok to change his freedom of speech to include things he actually did not say, when he changed Hansard  (Maybe Kevin Andrews could enlighten Barnaby that Hansard is for better or for worse, ’til death do us part!) (But wait there’s more).

Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs – For using his freedom of speech to express that money is more important than indigenous women being able to access safe, respectful, supportive National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service. (But wait there’s more)

Greg Hunt – Minister for the Environment – For using his freedom of speech to express that he absolutely detests the environment, in everything he does and says (But wait there’s more)

Peter Dutton – Minister for Health, For using his freedom of speech to express that it is OK for the disadvantaged, poor, sick and needy to go without medical treatment because they can’t afford it and that is is OK that cancer may not be detected in many, due to the exorbitant costs through his proposed changes to medicare. (But wait there’s more)

Campbell Newman – Premier of Queensland, For using his freedom of speech to tell lie after lie after lie and using his freedom of expression to pose as a concerned Premier in advertisements instead of a politician spending public money on advertising in an early campaign. (But wait there’s more)

Liberal Voters – For using their freedom of expression to vote for the most incompetent, harmful, hurtful Government, we have had in the history of Australia. (But wait there’s more)

and last but not least – You, Mr. Morrison  – Boot yourself out of the Country, for your ongoing freedom of expression and freedom of speech implying that human beings seeking asylum are less than human beings and should be treated as such.

 

Trust, transparency and accountability or gimme gimme gimme?

Buoyed by their success at the 2013 election, the Abbott government has wasted no time in using their power to feather their own nest and to promote, reward and employ their backers.  Whilst all governments do this to a degree, Abbott has taken it to a whole new level of blatant nepotism and servitude to his masters at the expense of the public interest.

On the 9th of September 2013, before the count was even finalised, Julie Bishop flexed her muscles by her petty and vindictive decision to revoke the appointment of Steve Bracks as consul-general in New York.  He had been appointed in May, long before the caretaker period, and was due to start that week.

It’s not as if Ms Bishop had a better person in mind. The position remained vacant for six months until it was gifted to Nick Minchin, the man who gave Tony Abbott leadership of the Liberal Party in return for his conversion to climate change denial.

And she didn’t stop there. Despite having 18 months of his term left, Mike Rann was booted from the position of High Commissioner to the UK to make way for Alexander Downer.  This is the man who, under the guise of providing foreign aid, authorised the bugging of the cabinet offices of the East Timor parliament to further the commercial interest of Woodside Petroleum who coincidentally employed him after he left politics.

Rather than investigate this matter, which is before the International Court of Justice, George Brandis authorised raids to steal the evidence and cancelled the passport of the prime witness.

Brandis also hit the ground running to look after his mates. So appalled was he by the conviction of Andrew Bolt, he immediately set about changing the laws to protect the rights of bigots.  To champion the cause, he made the inexplicable decision to sack the Human Rights Commissioner for the Disabled, Graeme Innes, and appoint the IPA’s Tim Wilson (without advertising, application, interview, relevant qualifications or experience), to fight for the repeal of Section 18c of the racial discrimination laws,

After a huge backlash from the public, Brandis was directed to drop his crusade, and there sits Tim Wilson, drawing a salary of $400,000 including perks, with nothing to do.

Mr Wilson’s appointment followed Senator Brandis’ announcement that he had chosen former Howard government minister David Kemp – the son of IPA founder Charles Kemp – to chair the advisory council of Old Parliament House.  This position had been given to Barrie Cassidy but Brandis forced him to resign.  Along with Kemp, two others were appointed: Heather Henderson, the only daughter of Liberal Party founder Sir Robert Menzies; and Sir David Smith, whose place in history was assured on November 11, 1975, on the steps of Old Parliament House, when as official secretary to governor-general Sir John Kerr he was required to read out the proclamation sacking the Whitlam government.

Brandis, as Minister for the Arts, also appointed Gerard Henderson as chairman of the judging panel for the nonfiction and history category of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, Australia’s richest book prize.

Tony Abbott only took a few hours to begin his Night of the Long Knives. The swearing-in ceremony had barely finished when the Prime Minister’s office issued a press release, announcing three departmental secretaries had had their contracts terminated and the Treasury Secretary would stand down next year.

The head of Infrastructure Australia also quit or was sacked for his criticism of the government’s interference with the independence of his organisation.  The head of the NBN, along with the entire board, were also replaced.

All funding for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples was withdrawn.  Countless charities and advisory groups have been defunded.

Climate change and renewable energy bodies have been under constant attack with many disbanded and the rest hanging on temporarily by the grace of the Senate.

To replace all these experienced experts, we have seen an astonishing array of people appointed to high-paying positions as advisers, reviewers, commissioners, consultants, board members, envoys –

Maurice Newman, head of Tony Abbott’s 12-member Business Advisory Council, aged 76, a former head of the stock exchange and the ABC and a founder of another of the right-wing think tanks, the Centre for Independent Studies. Climate sceptic.

Dick Warburton, 72, the former chairman of the petrochemical company Caltex, among other corporate affiliations. Appointed  to review Australia’s 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target (RET).  Climate sceptic.  Also appointed was Brian Fisher.  Climate modelling done by his firm has been presented to the review panel by the oil and gas sector, as part of its campaign against the RET.

Tony Shepherd, former head of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), aged 69. Appointed to head the Commission of Audit.  Climate sceptic.  Former Liberal senator Amanda Vanstone and Liberal staffer and Chicago-school economist Peter Boxall were on the commission’s panel. Peter Crone, director of policy at the BCA, was head of the secretariat.

David Murray, 65, the former CEO of the Commonwealth Bank, appointed head of the government’s Financial System Inquiry. Climate sceptic.

Henry Ergas, 62, regulatory economist and columnist for the Australian. Appointed to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s “expert panel” to assess the costs and benefits of Turnbull’s “copper magic” NBN-lite.  Climate sceptic who recently made a video with Christopher Monckton.

Kevin Donnelly, the IPA-aligned former chief-of-staff to Kevin Andrews and champion of corporal punishment. Appointed to review the National Curriculum.  He then appointed Barry Spurr, author of racist sexist ranting emails, to advise on the literature curriculum.

Warren Mundine, son-in-law of Gerard Henderson. Appointed to advise on Indigenous affairs.  Has set up a nice new office, 10km away from his department.

Jim Molan, retired general and author of the tow-back policy. Appointed as Special Envoy to fix the asylum seeker problem and to advise on the defence white paper, a position he quit after three weeks citing differences with the Defence Minister.

Janet Albrechtsen, columnist for the Australian, and Neil Brown, former deputy Liberal Party leader. Appointed to the panel overseeing appointments to the boards of the ABC and SBS.

It seems the pool of “experts” nowadays is confined to the IPA, the Australian, the Business Council, and the Howard government, and climate change scepticism is an essential criterion.

Aside from jobs for the boys (and a couple of girls who think feminism is a dirty word), we have also seen the blatant promotion of the coal industry with fast-tracking of approvals. We have seen the repeal of gambling reform laws.  We have seen the delay and watering down of food and alcohol labelling laws.  We are seeing an attack on the minimum wage and penalty rates.  All of these measures are against the best interests of the people and purely designed to reward business donors.

Our Prime Minister personally introduces James Packer to international government and business leaders around the world to promote his quest to build more casinos. This is despite the fact that his company, Crown, has been implicated in bribery to a Chinese official.

In a recent report, the OECD was scathing of Australia’s record, pointing out that Australia “has only one case that has led to foreign bribery prosecutions, out of 28 foreign bribery referrals received by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) … this is of serious concern”.

One of the 28 cases referred to the AFP related to two properties in Chinese Macau part owned by James Packer’s company, Crown.

A former Macau official is currently serving a 289-year sentence for accepting bribes of up to $100 million, with various suspect projects named, including the casinos.

The OECD report notes Australian police did not launch a domestic investigation into any possibility of Crown’s involvement.

In another scandal, former Leighton Holdings construction boss Wal King has denied all knowledge of a $42 million bribe Leighton is accused of having paid in Iraq. Leighton Holdings continue to be awarded lucrative government contracts.

Another of the 28 cases referred to by the OECD relates to payments made by BHP Billiton in China. They note that, unlike Australia, the US has launched two investigations into BHP Billiton

The OECD’s lead examiners expressed concern that the “AFP may have closed foreign bribery cases before thoroughly investigating the allegations”.

The only foreign bribery investigation that has resulted in prosecutions in Australia is the highly publicised case involving the Reserve Bank subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia over which, interestingly, Dick Warburton has been investigated as a former director of Note Printing Australia.

One must wonder about a police force that can spend hundreds of thousands investigating and prosecuting Peter Slipper over $900 worth of cab charges, that can mobilise over 800 police to conduct raids leading to the arrest of one teenager who got a phone call from a bad person and the confiscation of a plastic sword, but who refuse to investigate widespread corruption in industry.

And every day it gets just a little bit worse.

A Sydney restaurant owned by Tourism Minister Andrew Robb and his family is being promoted by a government-funded $40 million, 18-month Tourism Australia campaign that targets 17 key global markets to sell the Australian “foodie” experience to the world.

The Robb family restaurant, Boathouse Palm Beach, is showcased on Tourism Australia’s “Restaurant Australia” website, which was launched in May, as the “ultimate day trip destination” just an hour from Sydney and the “perfect place for a relaxed family outing”.

Perhaps Tony Abbott’s daughters earned their job at the UN and $60,000 scholarship.  Perhaps the contract to BMW had nothing to do with them giving an Abbott girl a gig.  We will never know.

This is only a sample of how the ruling class are using our nation as their personal plaything, of how they openly flaunt convention and even the law, of how they silence dissent and promote their agenda, of how they bestow rewards.

Until this abuse of power is curtailed, politicians will rightly be reviled as the least trustworthy people in the country.

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