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Tag Archives: Insiders

A restless muddled class

With one word – zeitgeist — Germans manage to describe two complex metaphysical concepts:- time and spirit.

Zeitgeist as adopted by the Anglophone world means the spirit of the age and defines seminal points in history.

I detected a shift in the zeitgeist over these last few weeks and I suspect the middle class to which I belong noticed the flux as well.

But the majority, who aspire to a middle class life, seem more muddled than middle. The outcome of the last federal election underscores the point.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating focused on Australia’s middle class during an interview on the ABC’s 7.30 Report. Among topics raised by Laura Tingle, Keating outlined the ALP’s woeful failure to communicate with the middle class, a corps largely created by him and Bob Hawke.

As Keating’s band of baby boomer brothers and sisters retire from the work force at an unprecedented rate, they take with them swags of money unimagined by their parents.

Baby boomer wealth, enterprise and business acumen, underwrite the success of the Australian economy, and the stellar performance of the ASX – Australian Stock Exchange.

And so to the second shift in the zeitgeist; the extraordinary attack on China by Andrew Hastie, Federal MP for Canning.

So powerful is Hastie within conservative ranks, Prime Minister Morrison laughed off his comments as the observations of a mere back bencher. If this is so, perhaps the PM might check whom Hastie voted for in the recent Liberal Party nastiness.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham’s appeal for reticence by his colleagues on ABC TV Insiders on August 11 2019, is too little, too late.

A recent essay published in The AIM Network by Dr Binoy Kampmark, illuminates the vacuity of Hastie’s intemperate remarks.

Hastie’s comments underscore the inability of the current government to manage the national economy, let alone conduct cordial relations with a significant trading partner.

Indeed the government’s misreading of China per se, date back to Andrew Robb’s mind boggling rubber stamping of the 100 year lease of the Port of Darwin to China.

South Australian Labor MP Nick Champion attempted to revive the Port of Darwin fiasco, but to no avail.

Of the two criticisms of Chinese dealings with Australia, we know the issue to which Beijing responded.

The conservative Liberal Party is fiscally clueless, and the nation’s muddled middle class is finally realising its wealth is under threat from a Wunch of Bankers who came together last week for a right wing back slapping orgy known as CPAC.

Keating’s critique of Labor’s failure to communicate its policies with all Australians but especially the middle class, flushed out an old left wing warrior who sprang to the party’s defence.

But Kim Carr’s swipe at Keating proved that neither the right nor left wings of the ALP know how to craft a meaningful dialogue with a bemused middle class.

This conundrum is a major challenge for both Anthony Albanese MP and the trade union movement which conducted one of the worst political campaigns in its history during the last federal election.

Thus it is fair to ask where to now for an increasingly restless middle class.

The answer might be found in another German word, Mittelstand, which roughly translates as “a statistical category of small and medium-sized enterprises”.

In German Mittelstand is expressed as kleine und mittlere Unternehmen or KMU.

Mittelstand companies typically have a maximum of 499 employees.  According to an internet definition, “the term is not officially defined or self-explanatory, hence in English linguistic terms, SMEs are not necessarily equivalent to the Mittelstand. In fact, even larger, and often family-owned, firms claim to be part of the Mittelstand”.

In his heyday Prime Minister Bob Hawke touted European social and economic models. This admiration, aided and abetted by Paul Keating as Treasurer, led to the Australian society we enjoy today.

Perhaps a shell-shocked ALP might deploy its brightest thinkers to evaluate Mittelstand as a way forward for both the Party and the nation.

Sadly the non-aligned Dr Andrew Leigh  has a lot of spare time on his hands.

Dr Leigh possesses the intellectual clout to craft an Australian model of Mittelstand which is increasingly popular in a faltering United Kingdom where it is known as Brittelstand.

Perhaps the ALP might scrape up some money for a couple of air fares to send Dr Leigh and Paul Keating to a Brittelstand symposium next month at the University of Reading.

As changes to the spirit of the age develop, Australia’s muddled middle class will again look to the ALP for answers. And if Labor manages to craft a new way of doing business with business – including Howard’s Battlers — and communicate simply and clearly with a suspicious middle class, it can win government.

But if Labor fails to craft policy for the future, the nation remains at the mercy of a conservative clique, who for no apparent reason, is determined to bankrupt and impoverish every class of Australian society.

Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book, The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale here

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Prime Minister, Why haven’t you called Putin?

Tony Abbott you are weak. When interviewed by Fran Kelly on ‘Insiders’ this morning you were asked if you had called Vladimir Putin. You said you hadn’t called the Russian President over the murder of at least 28 Australians. You gave no indication that you intended to. Why not? Are you too frightened? You say you have spoken to the Russian Trade Minister. Really? What a pathetic reply to a genuine opportunity to show the world that you view the deaths of innocent Australians sufficiently important enough to get on the phone and demand answers. You are clearly not up to the job you have been elected to do.

Putin 2

Putin: image by telegraph.co.uk

You haven’t even spoken to any of the families of the victims. You are waiting for them to ask you to call. You are pathetic. You appear so out of your league in the face of a world tragedy. You are further from a national leader than we have ever seen. Certain elements of the media are giving you credit for your unambiguous condemnation of this act of terrorism and your criticism of the Russian government. How easy is it to mouth-off from a safe distance? Leadership is being pro-active. If any of your advisers were worth their salt, they would have advised you to get on the phone. Did they? If they did, why haven’t you?

All this talk about not inviting Putin to the G20 in November is nothing more than sabre-rattling and a convenient deflection from the proper response of face to face or voice to voice contact.

You owe the relatives of the victims a proper response to our nation’s outrage.

For Christ’s sake show some leadership!

 

Julie Bishop’s SNAFU moments

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On February 2, Insiders began their commentary for 2014.  As usual, they included a right wing voice for “balance”.  This time it was Niki Savva from the Murdoch propaganda sheet, the Australian.  Whilst she may be preferable to the vile Piers Ackerman, Ms Savva adds very little to critical analysis of our political scene as she regurgitates the Murdoch script – Labor bad, Tony good.

At the end of the show the guests are invited to make a final comment.  Niki chose to sing the praises of Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop saying

“Apart from a few verbal snafus, I think Julie Bishop is doing a pretty good job.  After a few turbulent years, finally Foreign Affairs have got someone who is polite, professional, hard-working and can make decisions, so they are very happy.”

So let’s have a look at a few of those “Situation Normal: All F*cked Up” moments.

Before the election, Ms Bishop and others infuriated Indonesia by insisting that we did not need their permission to drag asylum seekers back to their shores.  The situation has deteriorated ever since with our Navy infringing on Indonesian territorial waters, and our refusal to apologise for spying on the Indonesian President, his wife, and several members of his cabinet.

We have also had to apologise to Malaysia for comments Tony Abbott made in June 2011 at a press conference with Scott Morrison suggesting asylum seekers would face human rights abuses if sent to Malaysia.

“Imagine taking boat people from Australia to Malaysia where they will be exposed almost inevitably to the prospect of caning and other very harsh treatment”

At his first major international conference as Prime Minister, Mr Abbott offered “an act of contrition” to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, apologising for the way Malaysia got caught up in “what was a very intense and at times somewhat rancorous debate in Australia.”

“He knows we play our politics pretty hard in our country and I think he understood.”

“I made it very clear to the prime minister that our opposition was never to Malaysia, it was to the former government,” he said.

And then we have Papua New Guinea.

“PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has launched a scathing attack on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, accusing him of spreading ”nonsense” and ”completely untrue” claims over foreign aid linked to the asylum seeker deal.

”I don’t particularly appreciate being misrepresented by others for their own political interests,” he said.

”I am disappointed with some of the debates put forward by some of the leaders in the opposition in Australia, in particular statements that I am alleged to have made to them which are completely untrue.”

We have also upset them by refusing to issue visas on arrival for PNG citizens coming to Australia, a move they have reciprocated.

“Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has expressed disappointment over Australia’s stand on the no visa on arrival for Papua New Guineans traveling to Australia.

He said the government cannot tell Australia what to do but would reciprocate and stand by its decision to terminate visa on arrival for Australia visitors to PNG.”

Not content with alienating our nearest neighbours, Ms Bishop, in her haste to ingratiate herself with her American counterpart, has infuriated China by siding with Japan in the escalating conflict over ownership of a few islands in the East China Sea.

And let’s not stop there.  In a move that even America condemned, Ms Bishop has defended the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, even though they have been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice.  Palestine is justifiably upset at this sudden turnaround.

“AUSTRALIA has recalibrated its position on Israel and Palestine to ensure only “balanced” UN resolutions receive its support, says Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop.

Australia this month abstained from two UN General Assembly resolutions; one condemning the expansion of Jewish settlements and another calling for the Geneva Convention to apply in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The resolution to end “all Israeli settlement activities in all of the occupied territories” was supported by 158 nations. Australia was one of only eight nations to abstain.

Australia was one of only five countries to abstain from calling for Israel to “comply scrupulously” with the 1949 Geneva Convention. The resolution was supported by 160 nations.

Ms Bishop said the shift “reflected the government’s concern that Middle East resolutions should be balanced”.

We have also alienated the global community by reversing action on climate change and reneging on our commitments to renewable energy and our promised contribution to the Green Energy fund.

So aside from pissing off Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, China, Palestine and the world, minor snafus according to Ms Savva, I guess you could say “Julie Bishop is doing a pretty good job.”  At what I’m not sure.  It appears Armani suits, pearl drop earrings and politeness are all it takes to make DFAT “very happy”.

PS Thank you to Fed Up for reminding me about Timor l’Este on whom we also spied and then raided their lawyer just before they took us to court for bugging trade negotiations.  I also neglected to mention our active support for human rights abuses both there and in Sri Lanka.

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