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Tag Archives: Government

Tony Abbott: Begging For His Job. Round 1.

Something truly remarkable is happening in Australian Politics. Unprecedented in my memory. An Australian Prime Minister is being given the chance to transform from bastard to saint. Or somewhere in-between.

Even after 40% of his colleagues have declared him unfit (and there were probably many more including 6 ministers) to lead our nation. Even in the face of polls that overwhelming reflect the public’s opinion of our leader.

Even after the media and his closest right wing supporters have condemned him. Even though he leads a dysfunctional and chaotic government.

They still think he is the best person for the highest office in our nation. Even after all the lies, his trust deficit, his support for inequality, his arrogance, inflexibility and hypocrisy, his governance for those who have, his inability to understand technology and science and an incapacity to understand women’s needs and sexual equality.

The captain’s calls, back flips, and his monarchist allegiance. His negativity, thuggish demeanor and his contempt for the conventions of parliament. Add to that his inability to adapt to the demands of office which stem from the fact that he is fundamentally a creature of the past. Yes, they still think he has all the characteristics of leadership.

If he is to transform himself who are we likely to end up with?

Leigh Sales on the 7.30 Program put it this way:

“We’ve had the Tony Abbott in opposition, the guy who promised no more chaos, the adults back in charge, the ‘no excuses and no broken promises’,” Ms Sales said.

“Then there’s the Tony Abbott we’ve had so far in government with the surprise policies and broken promises and the captain’s picks.

“Now you’re offering us a third Tony Abbott – one who’s going to change. Who are you?”

As David Marr puts it:

“The prime minister’s problem is not the captain’s picks, not his failure to consult, nor the micromanagement of the cabinet by his office. He just failed to grow”.

In his 20 years of parliamentary service he has been a politician of the past believing his duty is to save us from the future.

No Opposition Leader in Australian Political history has made a greater contribution to the decline in public discourse, the lowering of parliamentary standards and the abuse of our democracy than Tony Abbott.

No Prime Minister in Australian Political history has made a greater contribution to the decline in public discourse, the lowering of parliamentary standards and the abuse of our democracy than Tony Abbott.

Yet his party believes he can convert a lifetime of thuggish negativity into motivational, inspirational leadership. A Prime Minister in whom the people can trust. He deserves the chance they say. We owe it to him.

The conundrum of course for the LNP is that they don’t want to be portrayed like Labor who had little hesitation in dumping leaders but at the same time know they cannot win the next election with Abbott.

When the spill motion was defeated, what followed was an avalanche of contrived support spewed from the mouths of ministers and hangers on that could only be described as nauseating in its insincerity.

Everyone knows that the Abbott brand is dead. In all my years of political ears dropping, never have I seen such a cavalcade of fallaciousness from politicians who could only be described as silly enough to believe their own bullshit. Watching this line up of Abbott apologists was not only excruciatingly painful but seriously saddening. Do these idiots, I asked myself, really believe that I accept as true, the crap they are emitting?

Showing an exterior of suitable chastisement Tony Abbott announced that “Good Government starts today”. One was apt to wonder why it didn’t start when he said that the adults were in charge.

Then in Parliament the same day, when a no confidence motion was moved he immediately went to negative mode in a speech that amounted to nothing more than repetitive old Tony. Transformed Tony was nowhere to be seen. His near death experience seemed not to have registered. Perhaps he was blinded by the white light.

Later on The 7.30 Report the old Tony was still fighting like an Opposition Leader.

I beat Gillard, I beat Rudd and I will beat Shorten he said, missing the point that Australian’s are after a leader, not a pugilist.

It was as Malcolm Farr said on the Insiders program on Sunday:

“He can’t understand why people aren’t grateful”.

He, his Treasurer and his Ministers have never been able to admit that the budget was unfair. On the same program Mathias Coremann said that:

“no Minister had complained that the budget was unfair”.

He must have been lying because Malcolm Turnbull, the alternative leader that 50% of the party want as leader said this:

“it is vitally important, both as a matter of social justice and political reality, that structural changes are seen as being fair across the board”.

“That means not only must tough decisions be justified, but that the burden of adjustment is not borne disproportionately by one part of the community.”

An alcoholic cannot address his problem until he admits he has one. The Government cannot possibly govern for the common good until there is some kind of ministerial acknowledgement that indeed the budget was unfair.

The pugilist might have won round one, just, but the fight for Liberal leadership is far from over. He might have dodged a left hook but the Liberals remain deeply divided. They are all over the place with policy and a treasurer who seems incapable in the job. Pressure has mounted on Abbott to appease the back bench. It is demanding that Hockey and Credlin go.

Brand Abbott is dead. This is why.

For most of my working life I worked in marketing and advertising so I know how people are influenced, persuaded or swayed by such things as branding and repetitive advertising or recurring bullshit.

Companies spend millions of dollars to subtly brainwash you. To align you with a certain brand or product. They will use all manner of persuasive techniques including sex and deceptive packaging to solicit your good will and loyalty. They even measure the eye blink rate of women from hidden cameras in supermarkets to test colour reaction. Yes it’s that sophisticated. And brand loyalty is what they want. There are more psychologists employed in advertising in America than in the health industry. It is all calculated to take power over your decision-making.

Likewise, political parties want your loyalty, or at least they want to convince you that they are working in your best interests. They use the same repetitive techniques.

If you tell a lie often enough people will believe you. The Abbott government stating that asylum seekers are “illegal” and “she told a lie”, or that families received $550 dollars as a result of the removal of the carbon tax are but three examples.

The Abbott Government has taken persuasion to another level employing 37 communication and social media specialists to monitor social media and offer strategic communications advice costing taxpayers almost $4.3 million a year. In addition Peter Dutton’s departments employ more than 95 communications staff and spin doctors, costing at least $8million a year. In Dutton’s case it is about protecting a slogan. Nothing else.

That’s a lot of people to sell the brand, spin lies, omissions, monitoring social media and telling deliberate falsities. It’s about creating or promoting perceptions (rather than realities) about your political brand as opposed to that of your competitor. There are a number of ingredients in “successful” political branding. The product needs a positive image, and a leader with character who is surrounded by positive motivated people.

A fair dose of charisma is helpful but not entirely essential. What is essential is a well thought out narrative that the electorate can relate too and policies that are explainable. Even if they involve some pain. It doesn’t require popularism so long as it has credibility. John Howard was never popular but he had the perception of creditability.

Unfortunately the Abbott government and its ministers are nothing more than a compliment to mediocrity and intellectual barrenness. The brand has its genesis in contemptuous negativity and has failed to apply a label to any policy.

Its front bench is full of colorless dour depressive uninspiring types who will be intent on implementing a second budget of political expediency rather that economic necessity whilst the current one will remain an unfinished work in progress.

The collective personalities of Abbott (a self-confessed and proven liar and a PM for undoing), Pyne (arguably the most hated politician in Australia). Brandis (an Attorney General who believes bigotry is fine), Abetz (needs a personality transplant) Hockey (a serial blamer of everyone else), Joyce (potentially our next deputy PM, OMG). Dutton (cannot shake off his copper image), Hunt (no credibility on Climate Change after writing a thesis supporting a tax), Morrison (the un-Christian Christian. Don’t say I said that. It’s a secret.), Robb (still wanting Joe’s job), Truss (soon to retire) and Cormann (can’t throw off the accent), all of which reads like a list of appointments from a psychiatrist who specialises in personality disorders.

In terms of image the Abbott government comes across as, indignant angry men with chips on their shoulders. Make that logs. Haters of science and progressive policies. And some like Bernardi downright extreme.

In Abbott’s case you have to wonder if Australia has ever elected a Prime Minister so ignorant of technology, the environment and science. So oblivious of the needs of women and so out of touch with a modern pluralist society.

In the latest polling the Labor Party leads the LNP by 14 percentage points.

More alarming though is the Prime Minister’s popularity. Or more accurately his lack of it. And 63% of people think he is doing a terrible job.

The best public relations company in Australia couldn’t do much with the individual images of that lot.

“Australian political history is filled with the incompetence of unexceptional conservative men with born to rule mentalities”.

It’s hard to promote a political brand that blames everyone else, lies continuously, won’t listen to advice, is secretive, won’t compromise and is full of its own self-importance. Never in Australian political history has a budget been so motivated by ideology.

The result has been a public backlash of monumental proportions which is reflected in the polls. So blind is Abbott to his own shortcomings as a leader that he cannot see how badly he and his cabinet are governing. Even the right wing media, Murdoch publications and the shock jocks have deserted him. Social Media is leading the criticism. With the young in particular seeming to hate the Abbott brand with a vengeance.

Former Conservative UK Environment Minister Lord Deben put it succinctly:

“I think the Australian Government must be one of the most ignorant governments I’ve ever seen in the sense, right across the board, on immigration or about anything else, they’re totality unwilling to listen to science or logic”.

“The Rise and Fall of Australia”

The-Rise-and-Fall-of-AustraliaBook Review by John Lord

Nick Bryant Is a BBC correspondent and author who often appears on Q&A and The Drum.

I made the dreadful mistake of reading some reviews of this book (that conflicted with my own analysis) before I sat down to write this. Now I don’t expect everyone to agree with me but in this case, I must say, they all had a clear misunderstanding of exactly what the author was on about.

That being an inability by some social commentators and critics to acknowledge that we have, to a large degree, thrown off our cultural cringe, our adolescence, and taken our place in the world.

We have come to realise the profound truth that we have gone through a period of becoming mature, knowing who we are, and feeling deeply about it. We have earned a national consciousness.

It seemed to me that the reviews I read resented the fact that we were being dissected by an outsider, and a bloody Pommy one at that.

But this is exactly what makes it such an enthralling read. He dares to go where our own self-consciousness about ourselves won’t, unrestrained by our provincial restrictions of self-analysis.

The directness and astuteness of his writing is impressive. His research impeccable and for a person of my vintage his writing gave understanding to my life’s Australian experience. From what we were to what we are. He exhaustively covers every cultural aspect of our society from sport, art, music, dance, theatre, science, medicine, government and our financial structures. He describes a full compilation of our assets and eccentricities.

In some chapters I felt positively enthused about how far we have come as a nation. How much we had achieved, often in spite of ourselves.
He states that today the characteristic that most defines modern Australia is “diversity”. In all its forms, together with multiculturalism it defines us as a nation. That is something I wholeheartedly agree with.

But the contradiction, as he points out is:

The great paradox of modern-day Australian life: of how the country has got richer at a time when its politics have become more impoverished.

It is in the chapters that deal with politics and our democracy that Bryant rightly portrays the sagacious ugliness of our system.

He abhors the fierce partisanship of our politics and the Abbott government’s currentattempts to take us back to an older Australia, a place that we no longer inhabit.

A place languid in the institutionalised comforts of post colonialism.

And this is the paradox the author speaks of. How is it that our politics has gone so backwards while at the same time we have progressed, in other areas, so much?

Might it be as the Prime Minister so sarcastically remarked when asked about the state of our democracy:

There is nothing wrong with it. It’s just the people who inhabit it from time to time.

Or might it be when he describes his cricketing skills.

I couldn’t bowl, field or bat, but I was a good sledger.

This is a refreshing look at this country with new eyes. Eyes that have taken, with simple exhaustive elegance and skill, the time to see us for what we truly are.

The most agreeable thing about, about this book, is the author’s confirmation of my own view. That being that we are being led by a moron.

Although I do concede that he doesn’t say it exactly in those terms. He in fact gives both sides of politics a decent serve. As Australians are so apt to say.

 

A Most Immoral Act

Morrison-and-AbbottIn a lifelong experience of following politics I have, until now, never witnessed children being horse traded, and senators being blackmailed, for the passing of legislation. In this case to reintroduce Temporary Protection Visas.

It looks as though Immigration Minister Scott Morrison (and the senators) have taken the yes side on the ageless Christian ethical dilemma “Does the end justify the means”.

It is a fascination to me as to why people assume that religion has some form of monopoly on morality. And even worse, they pretend to speak on Gods behalf in dispensing it.

Morrison said:

“I will not take moral lectures from Bill Shorten or Sarah Hanson-Young when it comes to border protection on that or any other issues,’’

Abbott said:

“So this is a win for Australia, it’s also a win for humanitarian values, it’s a win for human decency’’

Jesus said:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

We are all wired for decency and conscience with or without religion. Some understand it better than others illustrated by either what we do or don’t do. By our mercy and compassion or deficiency in it.

Morrison like many of the Cabinet are serious practicing Christians who interpret God’s word to fit snugly with their political ideology. They easily accommodate policy with their own definition of scripture, justifying their immorality to themselves. An evil in itself.

As someone who spent many years in a church environment similar to Morrison s (now an open-minded atheist) I can assure the reader that there are many who think like Morrison. They worship their politics and religion without demarcation. In doing so they believe that telling the truth isn’t necessarily in their best interests.

This government seems intent on imposing its own particular form of Christianity on an unsuspecting population. And I might add, one that is completely at odds with current Papal uttering on social inequality.

The decision to sack highly credentialed social workers, doing excellent work in high schools and replace them with accredited Chaplains is outrageous.

And now it seems that taxpayer funds are to be used to fund the training of Priests in religious institutions.

What ever happened to the secular society?

The fools that frequent the senate.

The inexperienced cross-bench senators buckled into the ransom dangled before their collective conscience and awarded the executive the power to ‘’play God ‘’ with the lives of those seeking safety from this supposed Christian nation.

In all fairness it could not have been an easy decision.

Senator Muir, said he was:

“Forced into a corner to decide between a bad decision and a worse decision, a position I do not wish on my worst enemies”.

Maybe the Palmer United Party senators felt the same.

It has also been reported that Morrison’s department had children on Christmas Island phone Muir and beg their freedom even giving them the phones to do so. Now that’s something straight out of the “classic hostage situation” handbook. That’s what terrorists do with hostages.

So, with the passing of this Bill what have we ended up with?

Crikey put it this way, calling it an immoral disgrace:

“At 8.06 this morning it was done: the House of Representatives passed the government’s Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014, following its passage and amendment just after midnight in the Senate. Parliamentarians then got to go home for Christmas, having delivered the Immigration Minister extraordinary powers that in effect obliterate any further pretence that Australia regards asylum seekers as human beings.

The bill restored the failed Howard-era policy of temporary protection visas, a mechanism that actually increased boat arrivals when last attempted. Whether Clive Palmer seriously believes that there is a pathway to citizenship contained in a kind of homeopathic form within the legislation — or it merely suits its purposes to pretend there is — we don’t know, but Scott Morrison has been crystal clear that TPVs will never provide permanent protection.

But the bill goes much further, freeing Australia from any obligations associated with the Refugee Convention, including giving Morrison and his department — which has repeatedly demonstrated it is profoundly incompetent and resistant to the most basic forms of accountability — the power to return people to torture and persecution without judicial review.”

On the one hand cross bench senators like Ricky Muir, Nick Xenophon might argue that the end does indeed justify the means. After all there will be many freed from their dreadful incarceration and the migrant intake has been increased. But did they consider that Morrison already held powers to resolve these issues, to release people. Especially children. His threat was that unless they passed his legislation they could rot in hell.

They could have called his bluff.

Their pretentious anguish at having to deal with such a choice can’t hide the grim reality of their actions.

Greg Barnes (a spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance and barrister) put this way:

“But in passing this legislation Senator Muir and his colleagues have done what many would think is unconscionable in a society that supposedly subscribes to the rule of law – allow the executive to “play God” with the lives of those in our world who want to put their case for asylum to a rich, developed world country with ample capacity to take them.”

Morrison is now effectively above the High Court and our conformity to the International Convention on Refugees has been written out of our law.

The bill, in all probability is the most immoral ever passed by an Australian Parliament.

Not only that, it is also bad policy. It says much about the leaders of this country and their shameful misrepresentation of the faith they profess to follow.
No matter in what sphere of government policy (immigration, health, pensioners, education etc) one looks, you find the hand of Abbott’s hate on those who refuse to join Team Australia.

He seeks to reward those who follow and punish those who don’t. In the past week much has been written about the horrendous failings of his government.

A lot has centered on Abbott’s credentials as a leader. Therein lies the fundamental problem. For those of us who have followed his career closely, it’s easy. He has none.

Leviticus 19:33-34
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

A Week is a Long Time in Politics

If ever a week in politics supported a headline it was the week that Gough Whitlam died. In the main the death of this undeniably charismatic, but gifted man was met with sadness by both supporter and foe alike.

gough

The exceptions who didn’t were Bolt and Jones. Yes, the two who write and comment outrageously on the basis of payment for controversy didn’t but eventually they will pass on as Gough did.

They will be quickly forgotten but he will go down in the annals of Australian history as a decent, sanguine, passionate and sagacious Prime Minister who made an enormous contribution to Australian society.

Something they could never aspire to do.

Yes the week was filled with controversy that only a government devoid of any semblance of leadership could muster.

barnaby joyce

In Parliament the Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce (the probable deputy PM if Abbott wins the next election) got the details of how many Australians have received drought assistance completely and utterly wrong.

Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon called him out but as you would guess, Bronny Bishop ruled he didn’t have to answer. It wasn’t until early evening he skulked back into the chamber and quietly corrected his answer. It’s hard to explain what Barnaby said. If you can decipher it you deserve a medal.

“…you actually get the money until the department decides that you are not allowed to get the money, and at this point in time. So you keep on getting the money, you keep on getting the money, until such time as, on the application being assessed, they decide you are not eligible for it. But it is not the case that you apply for the money and then you have to wait for your application to be approved, you actually get the money straight away.”

Anyway, on Tuesday of this week he got a whiff of his own ineptitude and tried to change the official Hansard record.

com bank

Then the Government for a Royal Commission into anything Labor did refused to hold one into the Commonwealth Bank of Australia as part of its response to a landmark Senate inquiry. This is one of the worst scandals in Australian corporate history. It has ruined the lives of thousands of people but the government’s approach seems to be to let financial planners proceed as if nothing has happened.

During all this the boss of the corporate regulator, ASIC said.

‘’Australia is too soft on corporate criminals and increased civil penalties including more jail terms are needed.’’

“Australia is a paradise for white-collar crime.” He said.

On Royal Commissions that are politically motivated John Howard had this to say.

“I’m uneasy about the idea of having royal commissions or inquiries into essentially a political decision…”
“I don’t think you should ever begin to go down the American path of using the law for narrow targeted political purposes.”

Abbott obviously believes in the total obliteration of one’s opposition and will even provide cabinet papers if he has too.

tell tony

In senate estimates we heard from treasury officials that the Prime Ministers Paid Parental Leave Scheme has ground to a halt. According to senior insiders, it is in serious trouble and loathed by virtually every minister in cabinet.

Our Prime Minister once again showing that he is incapable of governance for the common good.

turnbull

In the midst of all this we had talk of Malcolm Turnbull replacing Hockey as treasurer.
“It’d be a game changer,” one minister summarised. No one disagreed with the soundness of the idea. True, he would bring competence and authority to the Treasury portfolio. He has the ability to articulate a message clearly and forcefully.

But the mere suggestion that this might happen is a reflection of the total incompetency of this Abbott led bunch of out of touch morons.

freya newman

We were greeted with another headline that the whistle-blower Freya Newman had had her sentence deferred until November. Did she break the law? She did, but in so doing revealed yet another instance of the Prime Minister’s use of his office for personal gain further defining his personal lack of integrity. As if it could degenerate any further.

The curriculum taught in our schools never seems to go away when conservatives are in power.

barry spurr

For its review the coalition appointed its usual array of religious zealots and those of indigenous indifference, all sympathetic to the government’s point of view. But this time one of the appointees, Professor Barry Spurr, further advanced his expertise in all things conservative with some emails that could only be describes as indecent. He said they were part of a ‘linguistic game’. Ah the games people play.

Perhaps the PM might consider some people of independent mind for future inquiries instead of the usual hacks.

But there’s more. It was a long week.

indexscott morrison

It seemed that Scott Morrison wanted to be the minister for everything. When interviewed on AM he denied that other ministers were resentful of him trying to take over part of their portfolios. But members of the press gallery confirmed it.

When asked in question time how his portfolio crossed over with Foreign Affairs, Defense, Agriculture, Health, Defense, Attorney-Generals and Prime Minister and Cabinet it wasn’t only the Labor side of the chamber laughing at him.

But Bronny Bishop ruled he didn’t have to answer.

And to add to the weeks worries the Government still cannot get its budget passed. To quote Lenore Taylor in the Guardian.

budget

The Abbott government’s “Operation Budget Repair” appears to have morphed into “Operation Let’s Salvage What The Hell We Can”.

Kevin Andrews said he would consider “any reasonable offer” from crossbench senators in a last-ditch bid to get at least some of his $10bn in stalled welfare changes through the Senate. On top of that there is the fuel excise, that Medicare co-payment and the dramatic changes to higher education. What a bloody nightmare. It’s a pity Abbott doesn’t have the negotiating skills of Gillard.

He and Joe have never been able to admit why the electorate so comprehensively rejected the budget? We all know that the savings fell heaviest on those least able to pay. Now they are saying they will reveal more in the mid-year budget update. This can only mean more unpopular cuts. Or a mini budget.

essential

The Essential Poll during the week found 72% felt the cost of living had become worse in the past 12 months and 48% believe that over the past two years their income has fallen behind their cost of living. That figure rises to 57% for those earning less than $1,000 a week.

It was the worst received budget in many decades. Spending cuts have to be fair, and be seen to be fair, but people also need to understand the overall plan, the purpose, dare we call it the program.

Later in the week when talking about Federal and state responsibilities Abbott said.

“It is in this great country of ours possible to have a better form of government”

I would have thought a good place to start would be to stop telling lies.

ret

Having appointed a group of climate deniers to report on the Renewable Energy Target and Tony Abbott wanting it removed altogether the government, in the face of public opinion, now finds itself in a dilemma. It wants to compromise on the 20% target saying electricity usage has already declined. Shorten should not fall for that nonsense. Add in their ridiculous Direct Action policy and you can see we have, in spite of their various university degrees, a bunch of dunderheads governing us. Perhaps I should have said dickheads.

To be honest I could go on for another couple of thousand words but I’m exhausted. I haven’t mentioned Bishops aspirations for leadership, the credit card negotiations with the banks on welfare payments and fact that his sisters have joined the chorus of condemnation for a privately owned aged-care facility on public parklands at Middle Head.

Then there’s the criticism of the proposed Medibank float that has been described as laughable. Oh, then of course reports that Chrissy Pyne was backing down on his university policy. He said he wasn’t but then I’m not that sure he would know himself.
Goodness I have left out the most serious issue of Ebola. The government’s response has been abysmal to say the least. Just another example of their ineffectiveness. The AMA was right to give Abbott a serve.

In an effort to sound amusing and to allay the fears of those who think I am being overly negative I will close with this.

indexCarbon tax celebration

“I promise this is true”, said Tony Burke: “Greg Hunt, is the man who some people refer to as the Environment Minister.

In Opposition he advocated for the protection of the Tasmania Tiger, extinct since 1936. In Government he’s turned his attention to the Antarctic Walrus – population: zero. Walruses live in the Northern Hemisphere”.

Oh wait, bugger I almost forgot. Were you also aware that Catherine King exposed how it would soon cost up to $2,207 for someone to have their liver metastasis diagnosed? Tony Abbott refused to say how many people will miss out on being diagnosed as a result of the hit to imaging and diagnostic services.

But the week did began with the Speaker announcing she would not continue with the policy of segregation which had been announced as Parliament rose a fortnight earlier.

Hopefully we can now go back to segregation being something kids learn about in the courtroom scenes of To Kill a Mockingbird not during their excursion to Canberra.

The final word for “A week is a Long Time in Politics” must go to Newspoll which had the Opposition six points up on the Government without so much as them striking a blow.

Making Sense (or Nonsense) of Political Polling

If you are as concerned with Australian politics as I am then no doubt you take an interest in the polls.

What do they tell us? Are they legitimate? How do pollsters arrive at their conclusions? What about their accuracy? Can we have confidence in them or are they overrated?

Whether you like them or not it seems that Australians have a great appetite for them. The media recognises this and promotes them as the definitive measurement of the political standing of all parties. The Australian newspaper even creates stories around its Newspoll. Often an exercise in how to just make things up.

But how do we know the difference between Australia’s most popular pollsters and the diverse techniques they use.

However, one thing for sure is that we do have a morbid fascination with polling. Political leaders may brush them off as being meaningless but surreptitiously they are taken very seriously.

Modern political polling began in 1936, with two polls attempting to predict the outcome of the American presidential election. The Literary Digest conducted its poll by sending out 10 million post cards asking people how they would vote. They received almost 2.3 million back and said that Alfred Landon was leading Franklin Roosevelt by 57-43 per cent. In contrast, market researcher George Gallup employed a much smaller sample of only 5,000, but because he ensured that it was representative of the American voting public, he predicted Roosevelt to win by a landslide. In the event, Roosevelt won 60% and Landon just 37%. The Literary Digest lost credibility and subsequently merged with Time magazine in 1938.

We can be assured that the polls are not going to go away. They will in fact intensify as we get closer to the next election. So it is important that they are of the best quality possible. We need to know the differences between the good ones and the bad ones. Or at least how each arrives at its conclusions. But how can we?

Australia has a number of national pollsters.

The Australian newspaper publishes Newspoll. It usually publishes a poll on federal voting intentions every two weeks but at the time of writing has not done so for some time. It does not disclose the criteria it uses on its website but rather espouses its expertise and track record. It is known that it polls land-line phone accounts only. The problem with this is the diminishing access to a variety of people of younger age groups. Telstra estimates that it will lose 60% of its land-line users over the next few years. Even now one would have to question where they source enough younger folk to participate. Are people on landlines, the stay at homes, truly representative of the populace?

Fairfax:The Melbourne Age and The Sydney Morning Herald parted, after a 19 year association, with Neilson in June of this year and are seeking a new partner.

Roy Morgan is the only poll that takes in landlines, mobile telephony, face to face and the internet. It delivers its findings fortnightly via email. It usually delivers a sharp contrast to the other polls.

Galaxy is an independent research company operated by Jamie Briggs. It doesn’t outline its methodology for political polling but its web site does indicate a broad spectrum of media usage.

The Essential Report is based on a weekly sample of 1000 and is usually accompanied by a survey of questions of social interest that usually gives a fair indication of how people are thinking on various issues.

Then, there is Reachtel. It relies on both land-line and mobile telephony for both marketing and polling using recorded messages. It’s a relatively new innovation that it yet to be fully tested over time. People press numbers (interactive voice response) in relation to answers but they aren’t asked age or sex.

All of those listed use different methodology for the vital ingredient of preferences. The two party preferred is the figure that matters most. They all allow for a margin of error using different criteria.

You can add to these the preponderance of online polls like The Drum that saturate the internet and poll every policy and controversy. Of course there is not an online newspaper that doesn’t poll something every day which usually just reflect the readership of the newspaper.

Then we have the Television news polls that are meaningless, only reproducing the views only of those with an earnest interest in whatever the subject is.

Should I mention audience polling?

The media is obsessed with polls. Donors, supporters and political parties really do fret over, or use them tactically to create impressions about how well their party is doing. Conversely, polls are criticised as biased, inaccurate, or simply wrong if they don’t support your view. So what’s in a poll? How do we measure the veracity one to the other?

The fact is we cannot. Polls need to be put into perspective. They are snapshots that reflect public opinion at a specific point in time.

Of utmost importance to polling is the credibility of the sample and we are not able to test this.

It is the same as trying to understand why the voting on talent shows is never revealed.

There are however, some things we do know.

We know that by historical evidence poll samples under 1000 are untrustworthy and inaccurate. We also know that the way in which a question is framed will often determine the outcome.

And we also know that they can be very accurate if measured over a long period. They can also be a precise gauge of public opinion at the time, but in terms of predicting an election result two years away, to be utterly useless.

They can tell us, for example, that the Rudd/Gillard governments were very unpopular, but their policies were popular, and that the Abbott government never received the usual honeymoon period gifted to a new government. Or that an unpopular leader can benefit from a national crisis or at least the perception of it. They can show us how different age groups are thinking. For example most polls are showing that young people hate Abbott with a vengeance.

Some polls like Morgan poll over a two-week period rotating between face to face interviews and telephone. The rotation might include a particular event or controversy in the cycle or miss it altogether.

And to confuse matters more, we currently have a situation where the incumbent government has almost drawn level with its opposition despite a budget in turmoil and a universal acceptance that it has governed badly – and its policies being rejected by the electorate.

How can this be? Are we to believe that at this stage of the electoral cycle around 50% of people would vote for a conservative party who had so badly governed?

We are in an era of market research, surveys, media journalistic opinion, reaction to 24 hour news cycles, inquiries, case studies, focus groups and polling that all seem to determine government policy or public opinion.

The best way of to evaluate what the polls are saying at any given time is to take an average over several different polls on a continuous basis. This has the advantage of combining different sample sizes and methodologies to give greater precision.

The online media blog Crikey under the banner The Poll Bludger publishes comprehensive analytical data of national and state polling. They have both Labor and the LNP level pegging. Take a look and read into it what you may.

As for me I’d ban the bloody things. Just joking.
Why isn’t The Australian publishing its Newspoll? Don’t they have a story to run with, or aren’t there enough young people at home when they ring. Oh I forgot. They weight the responses to equalise ages and sex. Weighting polls is trying to equalise the demographics.

Of course polling is a competitive business and pollsters won’t disclose how they weight. That would be like giving away your favorite recipe. Getting too complicated. How about this then?:

The only poll that matters is the one on polling day.

Abbott – “It’s a Matter of Trust”

Those with long memories will recall that Sir Robert Menzies said that he had received, in the form of a letter, an official invitation from the South Vietnam government to participate in the war against the communist North. When the cabinet papers were released thirty years later it was disclosed that no such letter existed. 521 young Australian men lost their lives in a war that Menzies said was in our best interests.

It’s a matter of trust.

Prime Minister John Howard went to war in Iraq based on information he repeatedly said was true. That being that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

It’s a matter of trust.

Recently in an interview he said he felt embarrassed when he had found out that there were no such weapons. Not a hint of regret that, in part, as a result of his decision 195,000 innocent people lost their lives.

It’s a matter of trust.

Politicians in general place a lot in the trust of the people. Howard went to many an election shouting the mantra ‘’who do you trust’’. Tony Abbott, despite being a pathological liar, often invokes the ‘’just trust me’’ principle as if he has some form of ownership on righteousness when in fact trust is born of truth. A concept beyond his comprehension.

Usually trust between people is formed by way of respect and a mutual understanding that each can trust the other to be honest, one to one. Put another way truth is a companion of trust and one cannot exist without the other. Trust defines the validity of truth.

But in politics somehow there is this expectation that the collective should take the politicians good will, cart Blanche.

In matters of national security where the interests of state supersede all else there is an obvious reason for secrecy. But it must be a confidentially that is obtained by government by means of a willingness to take the people into its confidence. They have to give the people reason to trust them. That means providing enough information to justify your actions.

It is not enough to say; “Just trust me”. There needs to be a transparent, evidenced and justifiable case put forward to back decisions. Otherwise the public cannot but be cynical that decisions are politically motivated. It’s about making an unpopular government and its Prime Minister more popular.

It’s a matter of trust.

On the subject of Climate Change the Prime minister, a known climate denier, who a couple of years ago said it was just crap wants us to trust his opinion on the subject over and above the facts provided by 98% of climate scientists. Just trust me. John Howard said he would rather trust his instincts than science. I wonder if Abbott will be as equally embarrassed when he finds out the truth of Climate Change as Howard is about WMD.

The same of course can be said about immigration strategy. It got to the point where Scott Morrison decided that secrecy was the best policy. That the public had no right to know anything. Just trust me.

It’s a matter of trust.

Four polls taken after the recent National Security upgrade and the decision to return to the Iraq war have thrown up remarkably different results. The independent Morgan and Essential polls have retained the status quo. That is that they have shown little variation in recent months.

However, Newspoll and Reachtell, both show an out of character swing to the Coalition. Newspoll of course is owned by Murdoch who is an avid supporter of the coalition. In the Morgan poll the only group supporting the government is the over sixty fives. They poll over all mediums (they openly disclose their methodology) where as Newspoll only cover landlines. So given that around 80% of Australians use mobile phones a healthy degree of cynicism arises about Newspoll. They ask us to trust their figures but do they find young people using land lines?

It’s a matter of trust.

Without seeming to be trivial even TV talent shows ask us to trust them. Shows like X Factor ask us to take them on trust when they reveal results without letting the viewing public know what the actual votes are. This trust thing permeates itself throughout society. In advertising, in journalism, medicine the law etc, etc. No wonder we become cynical.

It’s a matter of trust.

In terms of trust, politics and its institutions, in the public eye, have never been at a lower ebb. It is all part of the decline of our democracy. Politicians like Christopher Pyne , and others, are seemingly outraged when interviewers dare question their truthfulness. “I don’t agree with the premise of your question” you will hear him say, “Just trust me”.

trust meTony Abbott, before being invited, decided to commit to returning to Iraq. No debate, no discussion no consultation. Just trust me. Then he decided to raise the terrorism threat under questionable circumstances. There was a likelihood of a terrorist attack. No evidence to speak of just speculation. Then we had the raids with 850 police running around doing something or other. All based on some social media chatter. Something the agencies monitor on a daily basis.

This time however it required a media presence all because the PM tells us we are under attack from someone but he can’t give us any information. Just trust me. The problem is that no one does.

We are all just so cynical of the motivation behind his decisions. Why the need for so many police. If we were really under threat why alarm the public. Why would you knowingly incite people to take out their anger against others? Why would you raise, with the politics of fear, alarm bells in the community?

The timing of the raids and the manner in which they were carried out seemed intent on whipping people into a frenzy of hysteria. It looked like a manufactured spectacle.

The result is that the inflammatory language of the brain-dead comes to the fore. People like Cory Bernardi, MPs Craig Kelly and Alex Hawke all protesting the Muslim voice. Add to that mix the unflappable Jaqui Lambie and the flames of ignorance are further fed.

You would only do it if it were to your advantage. If it enhanced the perception of you as a strong leader.

Thus far all that has come of this is that a few men are being questioned and one has been charged with some minor offenses. Only time will tell if it is just all bullshit and timed to coincide with the government’s new National Security legislation which is designed to further augment the power of a few.

After a year in power in which the government has proven its own ineptness it is now asking us to trust it with new draconian powers to thwart the risk of terror attacks.

And to make matters worse the opposition supports their every move unquestioned.

I have a healthy cynicism of our Prime Minister based not just on ideological differences but an ongoing assessment of his character.

It’s a matter of trust.

You’d have to be joking.

Author’s note:
Whilst writing this piece an event occurred in Melbourne that has been described as an act of terrorism. I recommend you read the transcript of this interview.

Tony Abbott Changes Liberal Foreign Policy

Image source: truepolitik.blogspot.com

Image source: truepolitik.blogspot.com

“Let’s wait until we’ve got all the facts in before we come to hard and fast conclusions. But obviously it is the clear and settled position of the Australian Government that larger countries should not bully smaller ones, that countries should not aid people who are in rebellion against their own government and that international disputes should be settled peacefully in accordance with international law.”

Tony Abbott, 18th July, 2014

 

Waiting for the facts, now there’s a change for a start. Ok, it didn’t stop him directly blaming Russia for this tragedy before the investigations even begin, but that’s a vast improvement from when he interrupted Question Time earlier this year to announce that the missing plane was on the verge of being found.

Still, it’s an excellent move that the Liberals are now adopting the policy that “larger countries should not bully smaller ones”! This will, of course, prevent our future involvement in such events as:

  • The Vietnam War
  • Both Iraq wars
  • Our attempts to screw East Timor on oil
  • The G20
  • Trade agreements with the USA
  • Support for the Japanese effort in World War Two

As for “aiding people who are in rebellion against the their own government” – apart from annoyance at the foreign countries who may have contributed to Clive Palmer’s wealth – this probably stems from the fact that Abbott – being English – is still upset over the American War of Independence where tea was tipped into Boston Harbour, while colonials dressed as Native Americans chanted, “No taxation without representation”. The current Tea Party have drawn their name from this event, but left out the word “Boston” from their name. Similarly, in order to achieve consistency, they’ve also left out the words “without representation” from their slogan.

Now, I know some of you will object to me calling Mr Abbott “English” given that he’s lived here since childhood and that he took out Australian citizenship in his twenties. (And, as Parliamentarians aren’t allowed to be dual citizens, he’s clearly revoked his British citizenship – even though there appears no evidence of that.) However, when I complain about referring to Mr Murdoch as an Australian, I’m told that he’s born here so that makes him Australian, even if he has given up his citizenship. As Terry McCrann put it yesterday:

“In the 1960s Murdoch went to Britain, in the 1970s to the US, in the 1980s to the very different universe of Hollywood; that, and a lot more would, as they say, be and is continuing to be history.

But all through this dizzying roller-coasting cacophony of activity he never left Australia.

That’s obvious in business terms. NewsCorp is now the country’s unequalled private sector media player — bizarrely, challenged and increasingly confronted only by the nominally publicly owned but “their” ABC.

BUT he never “left” Australia in even more core personal terms. He always will be quintessentially Australian.”

So, I guess that Rupert is “Australian”; one might almost say that he’s “the Australian” – well, the only one whose opinion counts. (Who needs scientists when Rupert can tell us that the best way to deal with climate change is to build away from the sea?) Of course, we just had the celebration of fifty years of “The Australian” – that newspaper which advocates free enterprise and not relying on handouts, while itself not actually making a profit in the fifty years of its existence.

Ah well, yesterday’s front page of another Murdoch Media Misinformation unit, assured me that Bill Shorten just doesn’t get that we have to find billions of dollars worth of savings while simultaneously celebrating the fact that the Carbon Tax is gone and we’ve removed a $9 billion impost on the economy. And we also want to get rid of that Mining Tax. Because if we get rid of taxes then that’s money that the government doesn’t have and Bill Shorten doesn’t seem to get that when you get rid of taxes like that you need to find spending cuts.

(Typical Labor. When it was announced last year that they’d require people to keep log books on their business-related leased cars, they didn’t understand that this would lead to the death of the car industry because apparently most people weren’t using them for business purposes and if you stop a business rort, that’s bad for the economy – stopping rorts by pensioners, parents, the disabled, the unemployed and anyone else who may not have voted Liberal, on the other hand, is a good and just thing. And let’s face it – any money you take from the government is a rort unless you’re someone whose leasing a car.)

Nevertheless, I can’t understand why – even if they still try and remove the spending associated with it – the Liberals are so concerned with removing the Mining Tax, because, after all, it’s raising so little money, it could hardly be a disincentive to investment. And given some of the things that have been cut because of the “dire emergency”, you’d think every bit would count.

In the Dark Shadow of Conservative Rule

ChifleyAs a senior Australian and one who has witnessed a variety of social reforms over the past 60 years, today I feel profoundly sad. This is the first such occasion where, instead of being proud that we are a middle world power with the vision and foresight to lead the world to a better place, I feel a sense of betrayal that we have, in fact, now gone in the opposite direction. While I can remember occasions where we have been at the forefront of innovation and cutting edge technology, I can’t recall a previous time where we have chosen to go against all the scientific advice and taken such a backward step as to reverse a progressive climate change policy using a market based mechanism.

As I reviewed the period that spans my life it became patently obvious that our progress, economically and environmentally over that time, has come predominantly from Labor governments. Over that period we have criss-crossed from conservative government to reformist on seven occasions. From Ben Chifley’s post war reconstruction of the Australian economy including our first locally produced car and the beginning of the politically divisive Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, we then sat through 23 years of conservative rule where the baby boomer generation essentially grew up parallel to a trajectory driven by an influx of European immigrants and the augmentation of manufacturing, construction and overseas commerce.

WhitlamIn short, our economy, like most western economies of the time, was on auto pilot; a development not driven by any major reforms of the Menzies government, just a natural growth pattern born of a determination to give baby boomers something better. At the end of the sixties, sick and tired of a mistake-ridden, boring conservative ruling class, we looked to Gough Whitlam’s refreshing and progressive approach. It was here we saw the end of our involvement in the Vietnam War, the end of conscription and the introduction of social reforms based on compassion for an underclass and included a world class Medibank/Medicare social health system. The people, however, thought that the rate of change was too fast; it frightened them. The previous government had lulled them into a half sleep.

Hawke keatingThen after a seven year period of economic turmoil under Malcolm Fraser where the cash rate peaked at 22% under the management of the then treasurer, John Howard, we turned once more to Labor for relief and witnessed the great economic reforms of the Hawke and Keating governments.

Thirteen years later the conservatives returned and rode fortuitously on the back of a mining boom they thought would never end. It took a while to see through them but we finally got sick of the blatant hypocrisy of a conservative government that said one thing and did another. Kevin Rudd looked like the light on the hill with his, “great moral challenge” but it was Julia Gillard’s introduction of a carbon pricing mechanism, that confirmed Labor as the only party capable of showing the way forward.

GillardLabor’s demise in 2013 had nothing to do with the carbon tax or the influx of asylum seekers; they governed the country well under difficult circumstances but couldn’t govern themselves. Internal disunity is one thing Australians will not tolerate; nor should we. But the long standing tradition of reform begun by Chifley continued under Gillard’s watch.

Today we live once again under the dark shadow of conservative rule where the ideology of protecting the strong continues. Any agenda that smells of social equality is anathema to these proxies for big business and the free flow of capital and deregulation.

Now, with the carbon tax legislation repealed we are back in that vacuum of denial driven not by science but a theology so false and so evil at its source that it contradicts everything that has previously generated pride in our achievements. In time, the people will once again tire of seeing their living standards fall; they will be wiser to the broken promises, the pious rhetoric of dishonest men, the incessant greed that drives their masters so relentlessly. They will witness the rest of the world adopting some form of carbon price mechanism and eventually be forced to play catch-up. Then, they will long for the great reformers of the past. Frankly, it can’t come soon enough

To echo the words of Lenore Taylor of The Guardian: “It is a sad and sorry place for Australia to be after such a long and rugged process.”

 

Why Clive Palmer may not be Abbott’s karma! A pattern emerges . . .

Clive Palmer (image by 4bc.com.au)

Clive Palmer (image by 4bc.com.au)

Anyone else wondering if there’s a pattern starting here?

The Government proposes something. Clive creates BIG HEADLINES by suggesting that he’ll block it. There’s a bit of a brouhaha. The Government complains that the Senate shouldn’t block things because after all they have a mandate! (After all, the Liberals have always just waved legislation through – it’s not like they blocked the ETS or anything…)

A few days go by. Then it’s reported – with no big headlines – that Clive Palmer and his PUPpets have decided to let the thing go through. Sometimes, it’s reported that they’ve extracted some concession. Other times, they’ve either just changed their minds or else whatever concession they’ve extracted is not for the public eye.

Now I don’t mean to suggest by that there’s anything untoward in this. After all, it is possible that Clive Palmer just speaks without thinking, and after reflection, he remembers that he is a life member of the Queensland LNP, so really opposing policies he’s always supported just because he’s trying to win a few populist votes is not really a good long term policy. Or it could be that he just likes watching Tony’s face when it looks likely that the Government actually have to say please before it gets its own way.

Whatever, it seems that there are at least two examples of this.

We won’t allow the Carbon Tax repeal, unless it’s replaced by an Emissions Trading Scheme starting at zero. (Haven’t heard much about that lately.)

We won’t support the changes to the regulations on Financial Advice. (Oh, wait the government have promised us that they’ll strength the legislation in the next ninety days.)

There you go. Two things that’s the start of pattern.

All right, two isn’t much of a pattern, but I wanted to get in early. If I wait until it’s an actual pattern then everyone will see it. Like the pattern where Margie doesn’t accompany Abbott when he goes to a foreign country, including Canberra, which Liberals regard as an alien land.

Just like when some of the Liberals suggested that the Labor Party hadn’t delivered a surplus this century. It’s a pattern. The circumstances of the GFC were no excuse – if the Liberals had still been in power, we’d have still had surpluses. And an unemployment rate of “eleventy”, mind you, but things would have been good because we’d have had a surplus.

But that was under Peter “Figjam” Costello. Under Abbott, I’ve noticed a new pattern. Joe Hockey has never delivered a surplus.

Just remember, you read it here first!

The puppet masters

Image by The Australian

Image by The Australian

Before the time of Gough Whitlam, the public service were largely responsible for the formulation and co-ordination of policy and senior public servants made the important decisions. The Prime Minister had a single press secretary and ministers of the Crown relied on a very small staff to perform administrative and secretarial duties.

Whitlam created an office employing political staff to help strengthen an executive administration to formulate and implement policies. This continued under successive Prime Ministers with Howard overseeing an expansion of political staff in the Australian government to about 450 and the establishment of a government staff committee to take a tight reign over staff appointments.

As Nicholas Reece points out in the SMH

“TV programs such as The West Wing, In the Loop and The Hollowmen reflect the shift that has occurred in the balance of power in government from public servants to political staffers compared with the days of Yes Minister.”

And amongst these staffers, Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, has arguably achieved more power than any of her predecessors. She and her husband Brian Loughnane run the Star Chamber with an iron fist, deciding who gets what job, who may speak to the media and when, and dictating what people will be told, much to the chagrine of Coalition backbenchers like Senator MacDonald.

Reece goes on to say:

“Credlin holds the ultimate backroom role in Australian politics. Despite her extraordinary power, she does not hold an elected position. She is not appointed by the cabinet, nor is she directly subject to the scrutiny of Parliament. And she does not do press conferences that would allow open questioning by journalists.”

Unless of course, it’s to make the bizarre disclosure that Abbott “allowed” her to keep her IVF drugs in his office fridge. For a very private woman, that was a very private thing to share publicly.

Not only do we have unelected, unaccountable, often inexperienced, staffers dictating policy, we also are paying a fortune to media spin doctors for them to sell their wares.

In August 2012, the Australian reported that

“TAXPAYERS are spending about $150 million a year on an army of spin doctors to sell the Gillard government’s policies to voters.

Figures obtained by The Australian reveal there are about 1600 staff employed by federal government departments and agencies in media, communications, marketing and public affairs roles.

Opposition Senate leader Eric Abetz seized on the figures to accuse Labor of focusing on spin over substance and vowed to cut the numbers if in government.

Senator Abetz said he believed it would cost taxpayers an average of about $100,000 a year to keep each staff member in their job, once salary, entitlements and equipment were factored in. He said a Coalition government would cut the numbers.

“This is literally a battalion, if not an army, of spin doctors. What this highlights yet again is the government’s concentration on spin. They do get the initial message out very well, but the policy underpinning it and the administrative follow-up is always a shambles. Most Australians would agree that spin doctors are not necessarily a core business of a lot of these departments,” he said.”

Unfortunately, those heartening words from Senator Abetz as he decried the waste, turned out to be…spin.

In March 2014, the Canberra Times reported that:

“The federal government’s ”army” of spin doctors and communications staff has grown to more than 1900, based on data supplied by departments and agencies.

An analysis of answers to questions on notice supplied to a Senate committee shows staffers in government media, communications and marketing operations have increased by several hundred in two years and could be costing taxpayers as much as $190 million a year.

Public Service Minister Eric Abetz said the government was conscious of the growth of its spin machine and hinted action was being considered. Responding to the latest figures, the minister said they showed ”the approximate level of communications staffing that the Coalition inherited from the former government after the election”.

Of course – it is an example of Labor’s waste that the Coalition have had to employ more spin doctors.

And chief amongst these spin doctors is Mark Textor.

For the 2004 federal election campaign for John Howard, Textor was credited for the “who do you trust” campaign strategy refocusing key trust questions back on the then Opposition Leader’s economic competence – a line Tony Abbott recycled. In 2012 he was strategist and pollster for Campbell Newman’s Liberal National Party election campaign.

We also have “Tex” to thank for the catch cry quote: “We will stop the boats, stop the big new taxes, end the waste, and pay back the debt.”

So confident is Textor of his position, in November last year he felt it appropriate to tweet about Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa, whom he likened to a 1970s Pilipino [sic] porn star, also questioning his ethics.

Textor’s company profile says:

“Mark’s direct clients have included governments, premiers and opposition leaders in six countries and the CEOs and Boards of major Australian and multi-national companies in a broad range of industries, including; mining, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), pharmaceutical, retail, financial services, banking (“Big Four”), tobacco, renewable energies, oil, gas and farming sectors.”

It’s a bit rich for a man who will say anything for money to be lecturing on ethics.

Australia’s Power Index acknowledged his skill with the focus group.

“He’s a genius at transforming raw research into compelling communication – someone who presses people’s emotional buttons, identifies points of division, and boils complex issues down to their core.”

This is the man who has sold the message of fear and division, and is praised for so doing.

As reported in the Guardian

“In Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, Crosby Textor declares it is paid to lobby on behalf of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

APPEA is the peak industry group for the oil and gas industry and among other things, speaks on behalf of Australia’s booming coal seam gas industry.

Crosby Textor also carries out research for industry groups such as the Queensland Resources Council – the peak body for mining in the state.

Crosby Textor also lists on the lobby registers other clients including Research In Motion (the makers of BlackBerry), property developers, a plastics company, a recycling firm, a business making biofuels and a charity that aims to better protect cyclists.”

How can we expect honesty and integrity from a government which is run by a woman who craves personal power without accountability and a man who has a vested interest in manipulating opinion and policy in favour of his clients?

Waiting For Lefty

Clenched_human_fist-e1405239872603

Tony Abbott’s days as leader of the Coalition are numbered.

Whether or not he takes the LNP down with him remains to be seen.

This weeks Senate debacle was simply another of a long line marked by inept leadership which rests on a conceit that the government has carte blanche to mold Australian society ‘in their own image’ without opposition or accountability.

It is not the failure of Abbott’s efforts to rush the repeal of the Carbon Tax through the Senate, nor is it the government’s inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the arrogance of the Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison in refusing to reveal information ‘for operational reasons’ that has driven the final nail in the coffin of Abbott’s leadership, although these have certainly been deciding factors in the mind of the Australian public.

The deciding blow fell far more quietly when a panel of leading economists who took part in Business Day’s mid-year survey rejected the government’s claims of ‘a budget emergency’ with former chief economist of ANZ and now senior economist for Bank of America Merrill Lynch Saul Eslake, labelling the government’s claims as ‘an abuse of the English language.’

Eslake was not alone in his condemnation. Chris Caton from BT Financial dismissed the claims as; “Simply absurd.”

Those who took part in the survey ranged from market economists, academics, consultants, industry and unions.

Opinions varied but most like AMP Capital’s Shane Oliver, agreed that “Australia was not facing a budget or public debt crisis.”

While the government’s claims of a ‘budget emergency’ had been challenged even before it was delivered by the Treasurer in May, the added weight of the ‘doyens of the dollar’ such as Eslake and Caton, and academics such as Mitchell and Madsen, have effectively sunk any remaining credibility of what Tony Abbott had hoped to be the showpiece of the LNP’s ‘reforms’.

Faced with the combination of a hostile Senate led by the unpredictable cross-benches, and plummeting polls that reflect the electorate’s dissatisfaction – if not outright loathing of the government and its ministers – the LNP now faces a number of choices – none of them palatable.

In the first instance, the government can back down and attempt to negotiate with the cross benches to pass its bills.

In the face of Abbott’s statements that he would not negotiate with independents or minor parties, the back down would leave the LNP humiliated in the extreme, and effectively neutered in the eyes of the electorate.

In the second instance, the LNP could replace Abbott as leader, modify the budget and attempt to win over the cross benches with a consensual approach.

Once again, this may prove embarrassing but much less humiliating and may serve to shore up electoral support in order to stave off the very real possibility of becoming a one term government.

The third option carries far more risk.

Abbott can declare a double dissolution, claiming an obstructionist Senate is preventing governance and take his budget policies to the electorate in the hope that the Murdoch machine and to a lesser degree Fairfax, will throw their weight behind his claims.

This can only be done however, if the Senate rejects the Carbon Tax repeal bill for a second time.

The double dissolution option is unlikely due to the fact that it requires both the House of Reps and the Senate seats to be declared open for contest.

Neither Abbott nor Palmer want to risk this occurring.

Abbott for fear of losing the LNP’s majority in the lower House, and Palmer for losing his leverage in the Senate.

What is likely, is that the repeal will be passed with the amendments demanded by PUP.

If not, then despite Minister for the Environmen Greg Hunt’s posturing, it’s a fairly safe bet that the government will shelve the repeal in an humiliating climb down, and attempt to justify this as ‘bowing to the will of the people’ rather than face an election.

Whatever the outcome next week, the results do not bode well for Abbott and his hold on the leadership of the LNP.

The father of modern political strategy Niccolo Machiavelli, observed that if you find your enemy waist deep in a mire then it is prudent to lend aid in helping him freeing himself.

If however, your enemy is up to his neck then it is good sense to push him under.

Abbott is not yet up to his neck in the mire but he’s certainly up past his waist, and while the ALP have largely remained silent and content to give the Coalition enough rope to hang themselves, the time for action draws nigh.

Since coming to office, there have been few Coalition governments that have galvanized the Left, and indeed most of the moderate Right in the way which the Abbott government has.

From its inept and post-Colonial attitudes to foreign policy, its secretive and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, to its utter determination to create a poorly educated underclass in order to create a ‘market driven’ economy, the Abbott government has been able to alienate Australians in a manner unlike any government before it.

This has resulted in the majority of voters now ‘waiting for Lefty’ – a political party whose premises rest on social justice and the entrenched Australian notion of a ‘fair go for all’ coupled with intelligent approach to climate change.

In the past, this role has largely fallen to the Labor Party with the Greens as a second preference.

Over the last two decades however, the ALP has steadily become almost barely distinguishable from its conservative counterpart.

Much of this shift can be traced to its abandonment of a commitment to full employment and embracing ‘supply side’ economic theory over the Keynesian applications that had served as the central plank of its policies for nearly four decades.

The current situation enables the ALP to re-invent itself as a revitalized and credible alternative to the execrable policies of the Coalition’s Neo-liberalism agenda.

While there are many fronts that afford the Labor party an opportunity to do this, the primary concerns should be focused on rejecting ‘supply side’ economics in favour of post-Keynesian economics in order to stimulate the economy by a return to full employment coupled with a determination to fully fund the public education system.

Other initiatives should include a humane approach to asylum seekers under the UN guidelines, and perhaps the most important issue that faces us all – climate change – should take the highest priority.

Rarely is an opposition party afforded the opportunity which lies before them at the moment.

With a government in disarray and its leader’s credibility in tatters, the ALP’s best strategy is to carpe deim and take the fight to the enemy while at the same time clearly delineating themselves as a viable political alternative to Neo-liberalism and not simply as the modified version which has plagued them for the past two decades and resulted in a shift of voter preference to the Greens or minor parties.

A total rejection of Chicago School Theory and an embrace of post-Keynesian economics would the most positive step that the ALP could take to cement its reputation as a Party dedicated to progressive political change on the behalf of the community as a whole and not simply as a slightly different version of a tool to serve corporate greed

In the main, it can be argued that the bulk of Australian voters are counting the days until the demise of the Coalition as government, or at the very least, the demise of Tony Abbott as leader.

In the wake of the ‘Marches’ that are becoming more frequent and attracting larger sections of the community, the time grows ripe for the emergence of a new Left; one that is focused on social justice as its raison d’etre.

It’s crystal clear that most of the Australian electorate are now waiting for Lefty.

Let’s hope that we’re not keep waiting much longer.

A Change in Perspective

Sometimes you need a change of perspective (image by www.billystevens.tv)

Sometimes you need a change of perspective (image by www.billystevens.tv)

Imagine how much better this world would be if we changed our perspective, writes Petar Vodogaz. We live in a world where politics and religion – in the main – are archetypes of violence.

I type this not just as an Australian born man but also as a citizen of this beautiful, blue-green world we call Earth. And I fear for all our futures. I fear for the next generation after my own and I fear for the next generation afterward. I fear for the soul and the integrity of this island nation. This fear I speak of is caused by the polarisation caused by elements of our society that has flourished and like a disease has spread into the different strands of our civilisation.

I love my city of Sydney but I cringe at how uncaring we have become to the plight of our own homeless, when you read some of the cruelest comments in media comment areas after an article. We have stopped to listen to each other. We have stopped to simply this – care. The growing apathy I see on public transport when almost everyone is lost in their own worlds in texts. People it seems for the most part want to recoil from talking to another person and would rather lose themselves in social media.

Our current political system is shambolic. The two party system has run its course. Our politicians, rather than energise and uplift the Australian people with compassionate policy have pandered to the bigoted, to the extremists. Both parties state they “care about our Nation” and yet if they cared for our nation and the people within in it, they would not commit policies of class warfare, of using emotive speech and terminology such as “welfare leaners” and would not use the plight of asylum seekers in such demeaning terms.

The Australian people have either forgotten their government works in their interest or the majority of people simply do not care until their ‘hip pocket’ is affected. The current Coalition Government states they were elected with a mandate and yet we the Australian people did not elect them to keep secrets from us. Operation Sovereign Borders is simply a calculated piece of policy tainted in bigotry and smacks of touches of the White Australia Policy.

The voter’s role does not begin and end at a federal or state election. There has been enough silence as this current Government has sought to divide and use sloganism and being protected by the Rupert Murdoch media empire it has had a voice piece on commercial TV, shock jock right wing radio and tabloids such as The Telegraph.

I have watched enough of Parliament’s Question Time to see that the majority of politicians have lost touch and those few have not and do try to help people are often drowned out by party politics. I was a former ALP voter but I am now forever separated from politics and there is no single party who I feel I can vote for. The Coalition is as bad as the American Tea Party and the ALP have lost their way on many social issues.

I believe Capitalism is a failed system. As I have become more and more observant of our society, I can hear the vast and often cruel cries of a vastly unhappy society pressurized and polarized. Both politics and religion have been used as instruments of pain, manipulation and above all has made people divisive. We decry the violence in our society and yet have fundamentally chosen to be blind to the ideologies that dull the senses and creates problems rather than helps to elevate and propel humanity forward.

Capitalism is simply a monopoly where the Haves increase their share at the offset of the Have Nots.

If a highly advanced space faring alien species visited us tomorrow and observed us and studied our history of our species, it would not be a good read or a good result. If they were to pass judgment on us, it would be severe and cold and callous. Because our history is stained in blood, each page of our past has been about one ideology trumping over another, about a belief that one race is better than another and so on. We say collectively that we have learnt from the world wars of 1914 and 1939 that never again would be spill the blood of so many people and allow hatreds and ideology to drag us into conflict. And yet we must admit to something that ultimately vilifies us; that our race, is aggressive and violent. That we have purged our planet of resources, killed ecosystems and slaughtered animals sometimes just for fun or to put them up on some mantle piece.

This is a gloomy picture, is it not? Am I painting something very forlorn? Is there hope? Have I given up hope? You would not be surprised if I said I had. But alas, no. I have not given up on humanity. And this is why I have not given up hope.

There is something truly deep inside us that is inherently good and that is our temerity to “learn”. Now to fully embrace this, we must view violence in a different light. We must come to terms with our own dark side and choose to change as a collective and this is how I believe it can be done . . .

It starts from you and me. It starts with a smile. It starts with realising each one of us is inter connected with the other. We cannot view ourselves as “lone islands”; we must come to see our love of violence, in movies, media, in militarism and in regalia of the past. All wars kill people, there is no right or wrong “side”. Not just does it kill our own numbers but it taints our planet.

Take for example the senseless story recently of a father who stabbed to death his 3 year old son. I cannot and would rather not understand this man’s mind for it is rooted in violence.

To start to change society monumental steps must be taken now. First and foremost humankind must see politics and religion as archetypes of violence. The violence of the past and the present can be brought down to a singular form rooted in either manipulative concept. You have the Middle East that has forms of ideology that countless generations believe in and would die for. And if they thought rationally, people would ask themselves “why do we kill and hurt each other for such unseen beings?” And if these ‘gods’ existed and if they were omni-potent and all powerful and caring of humanity, why would they allow all this senseless and cruel pain and violence to continue?

And furthermore the same would be mentioned of politics, where people support a party, sometimes so blindly to believe in some very vile and inhumane policies. Policies that are sugarcoated in nationalism and jingoism.

I call on an old wisdom, Pacifism. And for this to work, the old ‘order’ must fall and this can only fall if humanity or enough people wake up to the fallacies of violence.

You are not a lesser person if you show a softer side.

You are not weak if you don’t anger or show kindness

Turn off the violence. See the beauty of our fellow man and woman by appreciating each other and each moment. For the end of senseless and cruel violence only begins when each of us takes the first steps and the first realisation that for this species to survive each one of us needs a change in perspective. The grand principle of the heavens . . . braces on the razors edge of truth.

From this moment onwards, I simply do not call myself an Australian. I call myself a Citizen of this Earth, a planet we must preserve and live in harmony with.

This is our moment. We deserve better.

Petar Vodogaz (pictured below) is a former ALP member who lost touch with the party after the inhumane policies of re-implementation of the Offshore Detention Policy. Petar has had a change of perspective in relation to a number of social and political issues. A resident of Sydney who has seen the concerning rise of polarisation within our society and believes we must change the way we see and do things before it is too late. He has not given up hope and does believe there is a positive path forward for humanity, only if we choose to adopt new ways of thinking and ways of doing things.

Petar2014

Shush it’s a Secret. “Well that’s what Tony Abbott told me”.

Shush it's an Abbott government secret (Image by sodahead.com)

Shush it’s an Abbott government secret (Image by sodahead.com)

The best governments are those that are open and transparent. Those that realise they have been entrusted with the public’s permission to form government. They govern without secrecy and take the people into their confidence.

But when a political party deliberately, secretly, withholds information the voter needs to reach informed, balanced and reasoned opinions, it is lying by omission. It is destroying the democracy that enables it to exist.

In the first weeks of forming government Tony Abbott made his intentions unambiguously clear. Truth and openness would not be gifted to the people by him or his ministers. Secrecy would trump the public’s right to know. It is normal for Government Departments to release briefing documents when a new government is formed. The wide-ranging, high-level briefings contain the bureaucracy’s assessment of the winning party’s election commitments, and other information designed to allow a smooth transition between governments.

No Government Department has released a brief since the election. Requests to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Treasury and the Attorney-General’s department rejected requests for their briefs. Labor Senator Joe Ludwig lodged FOI requests but was quickly told that a processing charge of $2000 would be applied to each request. Secrecy had begun. They would become the most secret Government in Australia’s history.

Since then Freedom of Information has been subjugated or covered up by the Abbott Government. And it is ongoing. If the Government doesn’t want us to know what we are entitled to know they suppress it, lie about it directly or by exclusion. Everything is a secret.

So frustrated by the secrecy of a new conservative government was the media that it provoked a plethora of commentary from very experienced journalists. From these observations on Independent Australia . . .

James Masola:

‘The new Coalition government has established an early – and unwelcome – habit of shutting down debates it doesn’t want to have.’

Michelle Grattan described the muzzling of ministers by the PMs Department this way:

‘It was the ultimate “get stuffed”.

Annabelle Crabb asked:

‘If a boat is turned around, and nobody is told about it, did it happen at all?’

Lenore Taylor was somewhat annoyed that Treasury would no longer release its advice to the Treasurer:

‘Treasury has advised that the “blue book” – one of two documents prepared during an election campaign by each department for each of its possible incoming ministers – will not be released under freedom of information laws.’

Barry Cassidy observed:

‘How long can the ministerial sound of silence last?’

Sean Parnell suggested that:

‘A new era of government secrecy has been ushered in …’

Laurie Oakes at the time was particularly critical of Scott Morrison’s media diplomacy. Or his ability to say much while saying nothing.

Mark Kenny deplored the Governments cover-up or rorting of travel allowances.

‘It is jarring to see how quickly the public’s reasonable expectation of probity in its political representatives has been superseded by the reflex to secrecy and self-protection in the new political class.’

Mungo MacCallum had this to say:

‘It is now clear that the underlying principle of the Abbott Government is to be ignorance: not only are the masses to be kept as far as possible in the dark, but the Government itself does not want to know.’

Crikey in an editorial said this:

‘… worrying signs of a secretive government.’
It is reasonable to ask what has been going on to make senior political commentators so alarmed about the descent into political darkness.
Since its election the Abbott Government sought to dumb down the Australian community with lies, half-truths and distorted statements designed to create a constant stream of blame for everything on Labor. Budget crisis, debt and deficient etc. etc.

The first step was to limit what Ministers could say by insisting that all public comment go through the Prime Ministers department. A leaked email from Abbott’s press secretary revealed:

‘All media coordination and requests should go through (the PM’s press office). This covers all national media interviews on television, radio and print.’

A veil of secrecy was hung over the media.

As a new Government they further sought to demonise those seeking to escape persecution by creating a perception of national security rather than a humanitarian one. They created “Operation Sovereign Borders” and announced to the Australian people that they didn’t have a right to know anything. And that continues today. It’s a secret. We will determine what you need to know. Secrecy, not in the interest of human morality but for the protection of a political slogan was born.

So secret, so embroiled in underhanded confidentially is everything about this issue that when Abbott says he has stopped the boats, one really wouldn’t know.

When the ABC reported Asylum Seeker claims of mistreatment, the Prime Minister described “Aunty” as unpatriotic. The Foreign Minister followed up with similar remarks and the announcement of a review into funding followed.

Journalists seeking information would, generally speaking, approach a minister or his or her department. If a wall of secrecy was met they could file an FOI request. The Attorney General George Brandis has made the process so difficult, so convoluted, so censored and expensive that it’s hardly worth their time.

A democracy cannot function without scrutiny. To her credit Julia Gillard would stand before journalists and answer questions to the degree that one or the other would reach exhaustion. This Prime Minister is the opposite, usually making a statement then allowing a few questions before walking away when the questions become too probing.

Everything is clouded in secrecy.

This walking away from hard questions does him no credit and only reinforces the secrecy he seeks to perpetuate.

Tony Abbott won the last election for three reasons. Labor’s leadership dysfunction, Murdoch’s support and Abbott’s convincing of the Australian public with shock and awe tactics that everything was a disaster. His secret hidden agenda of lying and deceit has since been uncovered. His first budget has divulged his secret objective. Inequality in all its manifestations. His omission of not telling the people of what he fully intended at the election has manifestly been uncovered. He held in secret his intentions on many policy issues.

Whilst being openly a denier (even if he says otherwise) of climate science the extent and secrecy of his motives was kept hidden from the public only to be later revealed by the scrapping of the ministry of science and other environmental departments. His uttering on this subject have been demonstrably full of secrecy. The hidden agenda was for our country to be dependent on coal.

When, early in his Prime Ministership the issue of “Travel Rorts” raised its head and the public was outraged. Abbott feigned righteous indignation. Secrecy was made the order of the day. Or many days as it turned out.

Mark Kenny said:

‘It is jarring to see how quickly the public’s reasonable expectation of probity in its political representatives has been superseded by the reflex to secrecy and self-protection in the new political class.’

He promised to govern for all Australians but immediately cultivated those who agreed with him, having little time for those who didn’t. He decided to entertain those in the media who had supported him. The guest list included a Who’s Who of locked in Coalition supporters — among them, Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman, Alan Jones, Janet Albrechtsen, Miranda Devine, Chris Kenny, Daily Telegraph editor Paul Whittaker, News Corp editor Col Allan, Paul Sheehan and Gerard Henderson.

Again Secrecy was the order of the day with guests being asked to keep the evening strictly confidential. So secret was it that we still don’t know who footed the bill.

Secrecy is a natural divider. Those who know and those that don’t. What motivates a Government to lie and be secret about its intentions? It may be the embarrassment of being found to be wrong. Or the fear of losing office. More sinister motives might come into play but essentially it’s about two things. One, the attainment of power and two the retention of it. People wouldn’t vote for them if their secret program was exposed. It’s easier to manipulate society with lies blurred in long term malevolent secrecy, than truth.

By its very nature secrecy corrodes democracy. Power is compromised when the people are exempted from the full knowledge of a party’s motives and actions.

We must guard against the evil that is political secrecy. Unless of course it is in the national interest.

Secrecy and lying are interwoven and history has shown the greater evil they can lead to.

The right of Australian politics should be careful as to where they are leading us.

An excerpt from:
They Thought They Were Free
The Germans, 1933-45
But Then It Was Too Late

“This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must someday lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.

You see, one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. In your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things that aren’t there’ or ‘you’re an alarmist.’

You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in, could not have imagined.

Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.” (Milton Mayer).

Back where you came from

Image by ahmadiyyapost.blogspot.com

Image by ahmadiyyapost.blogspot.com

Someone gave me some good advice when I was a single woman: when you’re out on a date with a man, take note of how he treats the waitress. Because one day that’s how he’ll treat you. I couldn’t help but think of this advice, strangely enough, when I tried to digest the disturbing news that Abbott’s government has almost certainly handed Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers back to the government they were fleeing from. Because it occurred to me that Australian voters really should heed this same advice when it comes to the way Abbott treats the most desperate and vulnerable amongst us.

No doubt many Australians would read this and think smugly to themselves, ‘no, I’m Australian. My government would never treat me like they treat an asylum seeker. They’re not from here and I am, so that gives me certain privileges that the asylum seekers don’t have rights to’. But this is clearly naïve.

You think Australians have rights. Sure we do. But asylum seekers have rights too. They’re called human rights and Abbott completely disregards them. Australia has signed up to the UNHCR Refugee Convention, but from the behaviour of the Abbott government over the last 9 months, I wonder why the UNHCR still accepts Australia as a signatory to this international agreement. Yes, we think of ourselves as a first world country. But what first world country would violate human rights and demean the weak and defensive amongst us in order to win political points? How callous does the government have to be before Australian citizens start to show a rational level of concern about the people in charge of this country?

Still not convinced that Australian voters should be worried? Still think vulnerable Australians automatically rank higher in the government’s concern than desperate people fleeing from persecution and violence? What if, just like a first date, a political party is on their best behaviour for a short time? It may last the election campaign. But just like in a new relationship, once the honeymoon period is over and you get to know the real government, their true character can’t be ignored.

The cracks started appearing in Abbott’s best behaviour on the first day of his new government. And there was nothing but red flags in the delivery of his budget. Look, for example, at the way Abbott is treating young Australians. If his welfare policy is accepted by the new Senate, people under 30 who don’t have a job will be denied even the most basic level of Newstart assistance. And it’s not like Abbott’s government haven’t considered the ramifications of this policy change. They know that young people who aren’t getting any Newstart allowance for six out of every 12 months will find themselves broke and homeless. They know that thousands of Australians are going to need emergency relief of the most basic kind – they’ve already increased the emergency relief budget for this very reason. And what about the disabled? Abbott wants people with periodic mental illness to be denied a disability pension because their disability isn’t ‘permanent’. Yet they must know it will be impossible for these people to get a job. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that these Australians will soon be as desperate to survive as Tamil asylum seekers who’ve chosen to risk their life on a leaky boat rather than risk staying where they are.

The handing of Tamil asylum seekers back to the government they were fleeing from should be a lesson for all Australians about a government that wants to put people back in their place. A government that wants to tell us all to go back where we came from. A government who knows that the unemployed young adults from poor families will have the least chance of surviving for six months without Newstart, whilst the rich will be cushioned by their inborn safety net of privilege. But that’s the point of the Abbott government isn’t it? To put us all back in our place. To kick the ladder of social mobility out from under us. To punish the poor and to rub their nose in their misfortune.

I hope Australians are starting to learn this lesson about the Abbott government. I hope they look at the way this government treats asylum seekers and they understand that these poor desperate souls are the canary-in-the-mine-test-of-character that provides all the insight they need into the true values of the Abbott government. And I hope that when they think of the asylum seekers being turned away from Australia, they don’t feel satisfied that Abbott is succeeding in turning back the boats. That they don’t think he’s doing something good for the country and good for them. Even if Australians can’t, on the whole, feel empathy for asylum seekers, I hope they can at least have the emotional intelligence to be worried about themselves. Especially those who know what it is like to be poor and who want to make, or have made, a better life for themselves and their children. I hope they look at the Abbott government and wonder what their futures would be like if they were forced to go back to where they came from. Abbott is trying to exclude whole sections of the community, to define them as less than citizens and to send them back to the misery they came from – just like the asylum seekers. Through his ideological budget, and every decision he has made since becoming Prime Minister of Australia, Abbott is already proving that he will decide who belongs to our community and the manner in which they belong. My question is, are people worried about how he treats the waitress?

A Conspiracy of Convenience

Much has been written here recently about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), the job guarantee, structural deficits, fiscal statements, fiat currency and the like. But that, it turns out, is just the tip of the iceberg. There is also the neo-liberal ideology that drives our governments, the buffer-stock of unemployed so necessary, it seems, to keep wages growth in check, the fallacy of supply side economics and a host of other measures that most people don’t understand and shy away from for fear of appearing stupid.

Most of this was foreign to me except for the gold standard; I knew about that and well remember the day Richard Nixon made the announcement that the USA would no longer tie its currency to its gold reserves. I remember that the gold price was fixed at $US35.00 per ounce and Nixon abandoned that as well. But that story pretty much got lost or buried as Watergate began to encroach upon ‘Tricky Dick’s’ tenure in the White House.

 
But last Friday, listening to ABC Radio 774 in Melbourne with Jon Faine, there was a discussion raging over the 457 visa programme and as it progressed I quickly realised its proximity and relevance to the previously mentioned buffer-stock of unemployment. The 457 visa programme, as most people would know, is designed to enable a company to employ people from overseas on short term visas; people who have the necessary skills needed for particular work where the company cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to fill the position.

It was heralded as analogous to plugging a gap in the wall; a short term fix. Interestingly, such a worker with the required skills did not have to be outside the country when the application was made. Importantly, they did need to have the skills required and be sponsored by an approved business for up to four years. Holders of 457 visas could bring their families and even change jobs after they arrived provided a new employer sponsored them. Even more interesting, there was no limit on the number of people a company could sponsor.

faine

Image: Herald Sun

On Jon Faine’s programme last Friday, two particular callers alerted me to what might be described as a window to rorting on a grand scale. One caller decried the system because it allowed one applicant to be sponsored and employed as a truck driver. Just how the sponsoring company was able to convince the Department of Immigration and Citizenship that they could not find any citizen in Australia able to drive a truck was beyond both me and Jon Faine, but somehow they did.

The second caller alerted me to something even more sinister. He claimed that he had received calls from a person offering him $10,000 to sign a few application forms that would enable multiple 457 visas to be issued to persons unknown for which he (the caller) had no need.

Clearly, there is something wrong here. Notwithstanding the obvious fact that 457 visas are being issued to foreign workers when local workers could quite easily be found, i.e. truck drivers, it also looks suspiciously like it is being used to maintain a buffer-stock of unemployed in the true tradition of neo-liberal economics.
rort 2In February, the Abbott government quietly lifted the cap on business nominations for skilled migrants imposed by the former Labor government and undertook a review of the scheme.
Subsequent changes meant that businesses could increase the number of foreign workers above their initial application.

The Australian Industry Group claimed the change would help those businesses that were struggling to find highly skilled people, but clearly the move has the potential to impact on wages and conditions for Australian workers and leave foreign workers vulnerable to exploitation. Currently there are more than 90,000 foreign workers in Australia with 457 visas.

unemploy

Image: Huffington Post

When we look at what is happening with 457 visas and overlay that upon the neo liberal economic platform one can see it fits quite neatly into its broader ideology and looks a lot more like a programme designed to maintain a buffer stock of unemployed than it is to help meet the sometime dubious requirements of business. It might seem to be only a small part of a much larger conspiracy, but a conspiracy nonetheless; a conspiracy that proponents of MMT could effectively highlight and expose.

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