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Tag Archives: Institute of Public Affairs

Who’s REALLY running Australia?

Tony Abbott speaks at last year's IPA dinner (image from glennmurray.com.au)

Tony Abbott speaks at last year’s IPA dinner (image from glennmurray.com.au)

The news that Tony Abbott finally had his way by repealing the ‘carbon tax’ was greeted with instant jubilation by the Institute of Public Affairs (the ‘IPA’). Within minutes of the announcement they sent forth the following email:

XXXXX (Name removed)


We did it.

A few minutes ago the Senate voted to repeal the carbon tax. Let’s pause a moment to reflect on our achievement.

The Institute of Public Affairs has never wavered from its principles. The IPA will always stand up for what is right, not what is popular.

The IPA has always stood firm against carbon taxes – even when every political leader in Australia thought they were a good idea.

 

With high-quality research, compelling analysis, and a loud voice communicating the evidence, we changed the debate.

Together, we’ve now won the debate.

It was your financial support that allowed the IPA to do all of this.

So thank you for your courage. You did what was right – not what was easy. And we prevailed.

John Roskam
Executive Director

Note statements such as ‘We did it’, and ‘Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on our achievement’.

One could be forgiven for assuming that they are the government, but of course they are not – they were simply rejoicing in their part of what was a successful campaign. The Abbott Government runs this country, right?

But who runs them? Is it the IPA after all?

This guest post by Glenn Murray is indeed timely given today’s result in the Senate. Originally published in May on glennmurray.com.au, the above letter from the IPA makes it just as relevant today as it was when first written two months ago.

A big-biz alliance told Abbott what policies it wanted

Recently an alliance of big businesses put together a wishlist of 100 policies they wanted our government to implement. I’ll discuss these policies in a second, but for now, think of them as a recipe for making the rich richer.

Look how many he adopted . . .

So far, the Coalition has adopted or endorsed, or is considering, more than a third of these big-biz policies. (The previous Labor government adopted one too.)

IPA policies adopted or on the cards

That alliance is the IPA

The alliance I’m talking about is the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) – a lobby group for big business, founded in 1943. The IPA publishes ‘research’ papers and articles that are funded by big business, to serve the interests of those businesses. These papers and articles are then channeled to the news media.

Although the IPA is not obliged to disclose who it lobbies for, they have disclosed some of their donors, over the years, including:

  • News Limited
  • BHP-Billiton
  • Western Mining Corporation
  • Monsanto
  • Telstra
  • Tobacco companies including Philip Morris and British American Tobacco
  • Oil & gas companies including Caltex, Esso, Shell and Woodside
  • Tasmania’s largest logging company, Gunns

If you’ve seen or read any anti-climate change talk over the last few years, it’s probably come out of the IPA. According to the IPA’s Executive Director, John Roskam, climate change denial is one of their favourite games:

Of all the serious sceptics in Australia, we have helped and supported just about all of them in their work one way or another…”

They’ve also lobbied to have world heritage protection stripped from 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest.

And just in case you’re wondering if maybe they’re doing it because they honestly believe they have science on their side… they’ve also campaigned against plain packaging for cigarettes. So, no, genuine science isn’t really a factor.

For a more detailed insight into the lobbying activities of the IPA, check out John Menadue’s great article: ‘Think tanks, cash for comment and the corruption of public debate’.

What policies are the IPA responsible for?

The IPA’s ‘wishlist’ was published in two parts. You can find the originals here and here. Below is a summary of the policies they lobbied for which have since been adopted (or look like being adopted):

  1. “Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it” – Abbot has vowed to do this.
  2. “Abolish the Department of Climate Change” – Abbott has already done this.
  3. “Abolish the Clean Energy Fund” – Abbott is trying to do this.
  4. “Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act” – Abbott is trying to do this.
  5. “Abandon Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council” – Abbott has said he’ll do this.
  6. “Repeal the renewable energy target” – Abbott is trying to do this.
  7. “Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol” – This is on the cards.
  8. “Introduce fee competition to Australian universities” – Abbott is trying to do this.
  9. “Repeal the National Curriculum” – Abbott’s not openly trying to do this, but he has appointed IPA member, Kevin Donnelly, to lead a review of our curriculum.
  10. “Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)” – Abbott hasn’t done this, but he is trying to cut $3.3m from it in the budget.
  11. “Eliminate family tax benefits” – Abbott hasn’t eliminated them, but he’s trying to lower the threshold for part B in the budget, and he’s also trying to freeze the payment rate for both parts until 2016.
  12. “Abandon the paid parental leave scheme” – Abbott hasn’t abandoned it, but he’s trying to wind it back in the budget.
  13. “Means-test Medicare” – Abbott hasn’t introduced this, but the Coalition has considered it.
  14. “Eliminate media ownership restrictions” – Abbott is considering it.
  15. “Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency” – Abbott is trying to do this in the budget.
  16. “Cease subsidising the car industry” – Abbott has already done this.
  17. “Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction” – Abbott cites this as the basis for his reduction of ‘red and green tape’.
  18. “Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities” – Abbott hasn’t done it yet, but he’s in favour of it.
  19. “Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including: a) Lower personal income tax for residents; b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers” – Abbott is considering it (preparing a white paper).
  20. “Repeal the mining tax” – Abbott is trying to do this.
  21. “Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states” – Abbott is doing this. He’s promised a one-stop shop for environmental approvals.
  22. “Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold” – Abbott hasn’t introduced this yet, but he’s definitely in favour of it.
  23. “Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent” – Abbott hasn’t gone quite that far, but he’s dropped it by 1.5% to 28.5%.
  24. “Cease funding the Australia Network” Abbott is trying to do this in the budget.
  25. “Privatise Medibank” – Abbott is doing this.
  26. “Reduce the size of the public service” – Abbott is trying to do this in the budget.
  27. “Repeal the Fair Work Act” – Abbott isn’t trying to repeal it, but he’s trying to undermine it.
  28. “Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them” – Abbott is trying to do this.
  29. “Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors” – The Coalition was talking about doing this, but I don’t know if they did.
  30. “Abolish the Baby Bonus” – The previous Labor government did this.
  31. “End all public subsidies to sport and the arts” – Abbott is trying to make big cuts to sports and the arts in the budget.
  32. “Rule out any government-supported or mandated internet censorship” – The Coalition has done this (p.7).
  33. “Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built” – Abbott hasn’t done this, but he has watered down the NBN, and is now delivering something far inferior, which includes key involvement for Telstra (which Labor’s NBN eliminated).
  34. “Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling” – Abbott hasn’t done this directly, but he’s backing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which would put it at great risk.
  35. “Privatise the CSIRO” – Abbott hasn’t done this, but he’s slashed its funding in the budget.
  36. “Extend the GST to cover all goods and services” – Now that Abbott has cut $80b from state school and hospital funding, the states may be forced to consider expanding the GST.
  37. “Negotiate and sign free trade agreements with Australia’s largest trading partners, including China, India, Japan and South Korea” – Abbott is doing this.
  38. “Rule out the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment for electronic gaming machines” – Abbott has done this.

So of the IPA’s wishlist of 100 policies, 3 have been publicly endorsed, 6 are being considered, 10 have been partially adopted, and 19 have been fully adopted.

Note that although the government has ruled out the sale of Australia Post, they were definitely considering it, so some would say it should be included in the list above too.

Oh, and the bonus prize? The wife of the IPA’s chairman is on the board of a ballet school that got a $1 million grant in the budget. To help it buy a $4.7m mansion to use as a boarding school. Meanwhile other arts institutions took an $87m cut. Screen Australia was cut by $25.1 million and the Australia Council lost $28.2 million.

Couldn’t it just be coincidence? Nope, Abbott’s in the IPA club

It’d be comforting to think it was all just one big coincidence, but sadly it’s not. You see, Abbott’s part of the IPA club. He even spoke at the IPA’s 70th anniversary, along with Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart and Cardinal George Pell:

It’s quite a brown-nosing performance, so just in case you can’t bring yourself to watch it all, here’s the bit that shows how highly Tony thinks of the API:

The IPA, I want to say, has been freedom’s discerning friend. It has supported capitalism, but capitalism with a conscience. Not for the IPA, a single-minded dogmatism or opposition to all restraint; rather a sophisticated appreciation that freedom requires a social context and that much is expected from those to whom so much has been given. You’ve understood that freedom is both an end and a means; a good in itself, as well as necessary for full human flourishing. I particularly congratulate the IPA and its marvelous director, John Roskam, for your work in defence of Western civilisation.”

And remember, this is the organisation with such an appreciation of “social context” that it campaigns against plain packaging for cigarettes. And the director who is so passionate about the defence of Western civilisation that he continually publishes propaganda and psuedo-science to try to discredit the climate-change scientists who are trying to fight the single biggest threat to that civilisation.

More important, though, is this bit:

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

Still not convinced? Then try this on for size . . .

He even appointed ex-IPA Director as a Human Rights Commissioner

When Abbott won the election, Tim Wilson was a Policy Director at the IPA. Three months later, he was our newest Human Rights Commissioner. Even though the IPA had publicly called for the Commission to be abolished… while Tim was still a director! And despite the fact that Tim clearly wasn’t qualified for the role. Check out his Tweet below (from his time at the IPA, before his appointment as Human Rights Commissioner).

Tim Wilson's anti-free speech tweet

Liberal & the IPA have been pals since 1942

You get the picture . . .

Murdoch’s in the IPA club too

Rubert Murdoch is a donor and outspoken champion of the IPA. In fact, his dad, Keith, was one of the its founders (p.2).

Murdoch spoke at the 70th anniversary dinner too:

Although he talks a lot of rhetoric, his true colours still shine through in gems like this:

The market succeeds because it gives people incentives to put their own wants and needs aside to address the wants and needs of others…

What’s fair about taking money from people who have earned it and giving it to people who didn’t?…

too much welfare can be bad for a single mother…

we must have a press free from government intervention…

income inequality is not the right way to measure the fairness of our society”

 

So is one of his top columnists, Andrew Bolt

Herald Sun columnist, Andrew Bolt, is another club member. In fact, he MCd the 70th anniversary event.

Here’s his introductory speech:

Like Murdoch, he talked a lot of rhetoric, but his speech was probably more telling:

I will also thank, for a visit I had one night, at a very low moment, Tony Abbott…

it wasn’t just the IPA that won the debate… against the sort of laws that we use to stop me. The Liberal Party is promising to repeal some of the worst of the Racial Discrimination Act, and the IPA will, of course, be leading the charge to ensure that the rest also follows, and that the Liberals do not take the easy option there…

It’s hard to over-estimate the impact of the IPA. It’s very hard…

the IPA’s been on the right side of all the arguments for freedom, since it was founded 70 years ago. Freedom from government socialising the economy…

Politicians operate in a cultural space… It is up to bodies like this to define where that cultural space is and should be, and to expand the boundaries.”

 

And when you look at the Murdoch press, you can tell

Murdoch and Bolt’s speeches were both met with much applause. They’re clearly of the IPA, for the IPA. And thus of Liberal, for Liberal.

So it’s no surprise that their media contributions are also of the IPA, for the IPA, of Liberal, for Liberal. Bolt’s last comment above illustrates this very clearly. Let’s just look at that again, so we make no mistake how Murdoch and Bolt see the intertwined roles of the IPA and the media:

Politicians operate in a cultural space… It is up to bodies like this to define where that cultural space is and should be, and to expand the boundaries.”

In other words, ‘we need to brainwash the public, so our politicians can do what the IPA wants them to do’.

That philosophy goes a long way towards explaining some of the horrendously biased (often fictional) stories that pass for news in Murdoch’s newspapers. (And don’t forget, Murdoch controls 65% of all capital city and national daily newspapers, which are by far the most influential in setting the news agenda.)

Take these vastly different portrayals of Labor versus Liberal lies, for example:

Lib vs Lab lies

Or these outright lies about the carbon tax being responsible for gas price increases (click or tap the image to zoom in):

IPART-gas-prices

(Links: news.com.au story and IPART report)

Then there was this Daily Telegraph front page gem that not only pitted war veterans against disability support pensioners, but also used a stock image of young healthy people lining up to suggest that disability pensioners are all just healthy fakes, lining up with their hands out:

Murdoch Fake Photo

(Link to the Shutterstock image)

Or the Australian home page, on the morning after long-time Liberal Party staffer, Ray Carter, blew the whistle on the entire NSW Liberal Party at ICAC, claiming “everyone knew” about the slush funds that he used to launder illegal donations from property developers to the party. (Only part of the image is shown below. Click or tap to see the whole lot.)

Small Australian

And who could forget the parade of anti-Rudd/pro-Abbott front pages leading into the 2013 federal election?

Anti-rudd

The IPA features directly in a lot of media too. Here’s a snapshot of their media campaign for the year to June 2013 (from p.9 of their annual report):

IPA-in-the-Media

I don’t have a breakdown of how many of those appearances and mentions were in the Murdoch press, but I think it’s safe to say it was a lot. (Although, sadly, they feature very prominently on the ABC too, which might be attributed to the fact that the ABC’s Managing Director used to be a senior adviser for the NSW Liberal Government. He was chief of staff to the Education Minister, Virginia Chadwick, and a senior adviser to education minister, Terry Metherell).

Now let’s put all those pieces together . . .

Abbott has broken promise after promise after promise. On the eve of the election, he promised no new taxes, no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no cuts to the ABC and no cuts to the SBS… He also promised to be a government of no nasty surprises and no excuses. He’s broken all those promises, and more, and he’s forging ahead as if we don’t matter. Meanwhile, he’s adopted or endorsed more than a third of the IPA’s policy wishlist. And the Murdoch press has backed him the whole way.

To me, it’s very clear what’s really going on . . . The IPA suggests big-biz policies, the Liberal party adopts them and Murdoch gets the public to accept them. Simples.

The only real question is why?

You can follow Glenn on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook.

 

In the Clash of Ideologies, Language Wins the War

Image courtesy of the australian.com.au

Image courtesy of the australian.com.au

Jim Morrison famously and prophetically said, “Whoever controls the media, controls the minds”. 

This is certainly the case in Australia.

In this guest post Loz Lawrey looks at how the media – the Murdoch media in particular – shape out attitudes and opinions.

In 1988, Professor Noam Chomsky reminded us that the media “serve, and propagandise on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that control and finance them” (1). Never has this fact been more blatantly obvious than it is today.

The glaring anti-Labor/Greens bias on display by the Murdoch-owned news media during the term of the Gillard Government exaggerated Labor’s dysfunction and gave credibility to a Liberal/National opposition devoid of policies or ideas, other than a plan to hand decision-making over to commercial vested interests.

Today much of the mainstream media’s energy is spent fulfilling the roles of apologist and spin doctor for a right-wing conservative government which serves the wishes of a global oligarchy.

Selective coverage of current affairs events, skewed “opinion” pieces disguised as news reportage, simplified “black or white” presentation which avoids all nuance – the mainstream media has an endless supply of tools for the manipulation of public perception.

There is, however, more to the message than what is essentially the delivery system, or the means of presentation. The TV or radio program, the article in the print media or even the political billboard are simply what the megaphone is to the voice – the means of imparting the message. It’s in the language that real power and control resides.

Political forces use language as the weapon of choice on the field of public debate – what some refer to as the battlefield of ideas. In this arena, the army with the sharpest, most evocative language will prevail. There is little need for true logic or reason to underpin one’s arguments, only that a perception of reasoned lucidity is created by the language used.

While all sides of politics strive for control of any public debate through their use of language, conservative forces in our society have become masters of what is known as weasel language, or weasel words. The terms come from the reputation of weasels for sucking eggs and leaving an empty shell – at first glance weasel words create an impression of real meaning supported by research-based evidence or expert advice, which upon closer inspection is found to be hollow and devoid of substance.

This mastery of language, together with the recent structural disarray in evidence on the left of the political spectrum, goes a long way to explain the survival of conservatism around the globe, despite its continuing assault on the public interest, both nationally and globally.

The work of bodies such as the right wing Institute of Public Affairs is as much about formulating the language used to justify its ideologically-based policies as it is in formulating the policies themselves.

Words such as “free” and “freedom” are tacked onto the labelling language used to define and create a perception of a proposal or idea. Hence we get “free market”, “free speech” and “freedom of choice”. Once you insert a word such as “free”, a benign impression is created of harmless intent.

So it is that when a spokesperson for the IPA argues that people should be “given the right” to work for less that $16 per hour, they are claiming that working for less than the established and agreed minimum is a freedom. In this way, shifting employment conditions closer to the slavery end of the spectrum is made to sound like a positive, liberating move. It will hardly be a liberating experience for those workers who endure it, however, when they find themselves working longer and harder for less or very little, unable to meet their own living needs.

The term “free market” creates an image of happy global business, unfettered by tariffs and protectionist regulations, with goods moving freely about, resulting in best outcomes for both business, workers and consumers. The fact that tariffs were developed as a means to counteract trade imbalance and injustice is swept aside, because who wouldn’t want “freedom” in the marketplace?

Now business regulation designed to level the playing field and increase real fairness in trade is labelled by conservative governments as “red tape”, an evil to be done away with. Environmental regulation intended to protect our natural heritage landscapes and control resource extraction is now dismissed as “green tape”.

These terms belie the fact that such regulation has been developed over many years in response to the perceived need to maintain balance and sustainability in all things into the future.

Even the term “sustainability” itself has been highjacked by the weasel-worders. When the term is used in the context of economic debate, any cuts to spending or public funding are easily justified. Old-age pensions? Unsustainable. A living-wage pay rise for child-care workers? Again, unsustainable.

The rhetoric of conservative ideology is cleverly employed over time to erode the positive public perception of ideas and institutions which are seen as contrary to the the right-wing world-view.

A gradual sanding-down of the public’s acknowledgment and appreciation of the workplace rights and entitlements won over years of union organising and picketing has been achieved by the repeated portrayal of unions as hotbeds of thuggery and corruption.

Dismissive rhetoric about “the left” ignores the fact that leftist political values are based upon social justice, inclusion and concepts of decency and fairness. The ongoing message is that an empathetic worldview is “loony” and that to embrace a cynical philosophy of “winners and losers” is to dwell in the “real world”.

In this way a political message has been delivered into the public sub-consciousness: that leftist views are “crazy” and “loony” in their consideration of the public good, and that right-wing extremist views which can only benefit a minority elite are “sensible”, “rational” and “economically sound”.

Somewhere, somehow, logic and reason lie bleeding and forgotten by the masses, while weasel words and tabloid headlines are regurgitated as valid arguments in the arena of public discussion.

(1)  Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988)
     by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman

 

Centre for Right-wing Apologist Politics (CRAP)

IPA logo (Photo: atlasnetwork.org)

IPA logo (Photo: atlasnetwork.org)

Inspired by Shane Maloney’s Brunswick Institute –‘one of Australia’s leading independent sources of opinion’, ‘conveniently located in the shed in the back yard of Shane Maloney’s residence,’ and funded by his wife – I’ve often wondered if I should start my own institute. Perhaps a Centre for Right-wing Apologist Politics that analyses Liberal policy. Then maybe I’d get invited to contribute to the ABC’s Drum as often as Kevin Donnelly, Director of the one-man Educational Standards Institute.  That’s 52 times between 16 Dec 2009 and 28 June 2013. My favourites amongst his posts are 4 July 2012: Don’t let class envy wreck school choice and 21 December 2011: Tertiary institutions discriminating against the middle class. But make no mistake: Kevin is still sure that the ‘Cultural-left is dominant in areas like the ABC, the Fairfax Press, most of our universities and amongst our so-called public intellectuals.’ ‘Listen to the news, read the papers or follow public debates and it soon becomes obvious that the consensus on most issues champions a Cultural-left perspective.’ Really? Does he live in a parallel universe, or just not subscribe to the Murdoch press? I wonder who funds his Institute.

A closer look at Donnelly’s views suggest that he isn’t really interested in education as such. Sure, he wants more religion in the syllabus, and quite likely agrees with Christopher Pyne that kids should know more about Gallipoli (which version, I wonder?). But what he’s really interested in is making education a market commodity. It’s about the parents, not the children. Here’s his view of what education policy is all about: ‘Whether introducing vouchers (or tax credits) to enable more parents to choose Catholic and independent schools, establishing community schools free from government control (known as charter schools in the U.S.) or allowing schools to develop an alternative to a state mandated curriculum, there is an alternative [to free public education].’ ‘Let the market work.’  No surprises that he’s a member of the IPA, whose wish-list for the Abbott government includes ’12: Repeal the National Curriculum’ and ’13: Introduce competing private secondary school curriculums’. Of course he’s going to tell the Abbott government what they want to hear.

Frightening as this is, my point isn’t just about Dr Donnelly. It’s about where the Abbott government gets all its so-called expert advice. Clearly not from experts. Having an evidence-based expert view on something is apparently a disqualification for giving advice to the Abbott government.

Their first-line resource is the Murdoch press. In a Quadrant article (where else?) announcing the formation of his Institute, Donnelly can only find The Australian and commentators like Andrew Bolt to stand as spokespersons for a conservative perspective. Journalists writing for the Murdoch press – including Bolt – are at best commentators, with little more claim to expertise than I have. Their role is to fuel the culture wars. Andrew Bolt’s conviction under section18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is surely the reason why Attorney General Brandis wants to repeal it. There’s probably a number of pet culture war projects of commentators like Bolt that the Abbott government will obligingly undertake. These are the frontline skirmishes in the culture wars.

Other straws in the wind include the appointment of Business Council of Australia president Tony Shephard to head the National Commission of Audit. He’s a business lobbyist – nothing impartial about him. Then on a rather different note, Abbott would rather take the advice of celebrity overseas-adoption advocate Deborra-Lee Furness, than that of the National Intercountry Adoption Advisory Group which he abolished only weeks before.

But the main source of LNP advice looks like being the rash of conservative think tanks that have appeared over the last few years. The main one appears to be the IPA (actually much older, founded in the 1940s), whose funding is at best opaque, but believed to include mining and tobacco interests. A number of key points of their agenda have already been accepted by Abbott. Those working or writing for the IPA, such as Donnelly himself, Chris Berg, Tim Wilson or Bob Carter may or may not have some expertise in their areas – one might question what Tim Wilson knows about climate change – yes, before the new job on the Human Rights Commission he was director of climate change policy for the IPA – or what Bob Carter, Science policy advisor knows about it either. The point is that they are openly partisan. The Menzies Research Centre – the name does give it away – is another local conservative operation, whose executive director Dr Don Markwell, has been appointed Senior Adviser on Higher Education to Christopher Pyne. The Menzies Research Centre is run by a board of business men (well there’s one woman out of seven members) and ex Liberal politicians, and is openly supported by big business like AMP and Deloitte. No prizes for guessing their agenda.

Then there’s network of interlinked climate change denial organisations, including the IPA, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the Australian Environment Foundation, the Australian Climate Science Coalition, the Lavoisier Group and various other overseas groups like the Heritage Institute and the Heartland Institute. They are the fronts for propagating opinions of deniers like Ian Plimer, whose views are apparently shared by Tony Abbott. Though he hasn’t actually read Plimer’s book, Abbott says that he ‘is a highly credible scientist and he has written what seems like a very well-argued book refuting most of the claims of the climate catastrophists.’ This is partisan advocacy gone mad. But having disbanded the Australian Climate Commission, disparaged the CSIRO and the public service, who else is there to ask?

It seems to me that what we are seeing is a nasty mixture of anti-intellectualism, cronyism and pig ignorance, where ideology trumps any rational assessment of the facts. Of course I agree that all intellectual positions are based on values. And that governments seek the advice they want to hear. But this egregious reliance on those who are blatantly partisan and lacking in expertise is a recipe for disastrous policy outcomes. These are not the failings of a government taking time to find its way; they are the habits of mind of right-wing ideologues, whose decision making is only likely to get worse. My Centre for Right-wing Apologist Politics is looking good.

An Open Letter to Tim Wilson

Dear Tim Wilson,

I’m sure you’re a huge fan of Open Letters, what with your passion for free speech. I am also a fan of free speech within the bounds of reasonable conduct, and so today I’m using my free speech to write you this letter.

I’m also a fan of getting to the point quickly so I’ll put it out there right up front. I think you’re a dickhead. Unlike lots of other people who also think you’re a dickhead, I haven’t come to this conclusion recently, or after the announcement that you’ve been parachuted into perhaps the most oxy-moronic position your buddies in the Abbott Government could have handpicked for you. No, I noticed you a long time ago as the boy playing in a man’s world, as you did your best but failed not to blush from the neck up while yelling at climate scientists in a field of scientific endeavour you know nothing about. Although I did note many months ago that your profile on your then-employer’s website, that you are/were apparently undertaking a Graduate Diploma of Energy and the Environment (Climate Science and Global Warming) at Perth’s Murdoch University. What’s that about Tim? Did you complete this qualification, or were you laughed out of the classroom for your ‘opinions’ around weather, and how it’s always been windy so climate change doesn’t exist?

Capture8

Just to recap, you’re more than welcome to use your free speech to deny climate change, and I also enjoy the right to tell you you’re a dangerous, irresponsible, obstructive fool who is contributing to the demise of the planet I live on. Since you are often used as the mainstream media’s poster-boy under the guise of ‘balance’ on the subject of climate change, since they can’t find a climate scientist to go into bat for the fossil fuel companies that no doubt help fund the IPA, you are the blushing face of denial for many Australians. So we’ll think of you, and we’ll be reminding you of your contribution to the problem, for as long as you continue your charade of self-interested denial for the benefit of your career.

But I guess that’s the part that’s most disappointing, Tim. Your denial of climate change is just one small part of your public persona that I find personally offensive. What I also find really offensive about you is the apparent inconsistency of your position, which is really just a consistent suck-up to the Liberal Party, the people you need to give you jobs that you don’t deserve and are completely unqualified for. It doesn’t surprise me that you are an ex-student politician, because you don’t seem to have ever broken out of that immature mindset. So even though you paint yourself as a bastion of the IPAs agenda, encompassing small government and completely unregulated markets, when it comes to your devotion to this agenda, versus your devotion to Tony Abbott’s agenda, your priority in the pecking-order of your dedication is clearly Tony Abbott. Maybe if you were an actual academic, working for a real institute, you would have a more consistent position as the ‘classical liberal public policy analyst’ which you claim to be. Maybe if you weren’t just a Liberal hack, you would understand why it’s very perplexing that you haven’t already mounted a huge defence of the Carbon Price as a market-based mechanism used to reduce carbon emissions. And where is your outrage about Abbott’s Direct Action policy? You’re very quiet on this front Tim. I see that you diligently went along with Abbott in decrying funding to Holden, but what about fuel tax credits to mining companies? Where is your outrage about this intrusion into the free market you supposably cherish? And, of course as we’ve all seen, you’re now working at the Human Rights Commission, with the apparent goal of improving our rights to say and do whatever we like without risk of being sued for discrimination, however if people are saying or doing things you don’t like, you’re all for the police-state’s favourite silencer – the water cannon.

watercannon1

See what I mean about you being a child in a man’s world? It’s just embarrassing Tim. It’s embarrassing for you, for your Liberal mates and totally cringe worthy for all of us who have to hear about it.

A scan of your Twitter feed quickly reveals you to be far more interested in fighting what you very immaturely refer to as ‘Lefties’ (anyone who disagrees with you), than fighting for anyone’s right to free speech, let alone Andrew Bolt’s. And this morning I read that you’ve been bombarding the Department of Climate Change, a government organisation your ex-employer the IPA have lobbied to shut down, with hundreds of freedom-of-information requests, in fact 95% of all the requests they’ve had since April, no doubt with the overall goal of sabotaging their ability to concentrate on their important work of combating climate change, something you don’t believe in anyway. So you want to wreck them like a bully-boy kicking over a sandcastle. Just because you disagree with them. That’s pretty pathetic Tim, don’t you think?

From the behaviour you have exhibited throughout your career so far, I can see you are not just unqualified for the position you’ve been gifted at the Human Rights Commission. You’re also too immature to be representing any such organisation that does important work for the community. Whether you plan to get inside the commission and wreck it internally, or if you’re just interested in the substantial publically funded pay-cheque as a thank-you from your Liberal buddies for your blind support of their election campaign whilst at the IPA, you don’t deserve to be paid by the public to work in this position. Oh, and Tim, since we know you think public servants are a complete waste of space, I just wanted to remind you that you are one now. So I look forward to your gratitude towards the Community and Public Sector Union for your yearly pay-rise and the excellent entitlements that have been fought for and upheld through the unity of workers.

Yours sincerely
Victoria Rollison

UPDATE: As per Dan Rowden’s comment below, I mistakenly thought this article was from 2013. It is in fact from 2011. Apologies. Thanks, Dan.

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What is an Opposition?

opposition

Tony Abbott, leader of the Opposition

On July 2 Lenore Taylor wrote an article in The Guardian titled Tony Abbott’s policy gap: what’s on theCcoalition’s “Figure it out later” list?

In it she summarises LNP policy”. Or more accurately as the title suggests tells us that in reality it consists of a miss mash of uncosted plans and thought bubbles that really just ask the electorate to elect us and we will “Figure it out later”.

When I finished her piece I was a little alarmed. No perhaps I was a little angry and I asked myself. What do we expect from an opposition or indeed what is opposition. Tony Abbott is on the record as saying that the function of opposition is to oppose. I fundamentally disagree with that proposition. An opposition’s job is to hold a government to account but just as importantly is its duty to show that it is a worthy alternative. Mr Abbott is also said to be the most effective opposition leader the country has ever had. If by definition this means that by being negative about your country and having little regard for the common good then those who embellish him with this title are probably correct.

On the other hand I would judge him on his alternativeness”. We the taxpayers of Australia pay our politicians to do a job. Mr Abbott has been opposition leader for some four and a half years now and an election is upon us. We have been paying him all this time to formulate policies that the people could reasonably consider as alternatives to the governments. Thus far he has not delivered. Not one costed policy is before the people for their perusal.
For a moment let’s look at Mr Abbott as the CEO of a Public Company who had been charged with the re structure of his company. He has been given three years to complete the task with recourse to adequate resources to complete the mission. What progress do you think he has made? Are the shareholders entitled to question his work ethic and those of his subordinates? He has to face a shareholders meeting soon. Is the business plan in a reasonable condition taking into account the common good of all the stakeholders? Will the costing’s stand up to the most rigorous inspection. After all the future of the company is at stake.

As Lenore Taylor points out:

“We are spending a lot of time talking about Kevin. But we also need to talk about Tony’s policies – the ones we know about, but particularly the ones we don’t know about, and probably won’t when we cast a vote.’’

“Real Solutions for all Australians” plan, which looks reassuringly like a big book of policies, all chunky and nicely bound, but is actually a much less definitive collection of goals and priorities, with very little detail.”

‘’But Abbott has also said clearly there are a long list of policies he will not announce in detail before this poll, but will think about afterwards. Having attacked Kevin Rudd in 2007 for “hitting the ground reviewing”, the Coalition has a “figure it out later” list easily as long.”

As chairman of the board I would be entitled to say that a “figure it out later’’ policy is not policy at all and I would be entitled to sack him. All he is doing I would argue is trying to foist upon the shareholders an inadequate plan in the hope that they are gullible enough to accept it. And in doing so obtain a position of trust he is unworthy of. And together with that all the perks that go with the job without putting in the hard yards.

Below is a list of policy arrears itemised from Leonor Taylor’s article. I am sure after reading it that you will agree with me. This is simply not good enough. The opposition has had three years to piece together and put before the Australian public policies as an alternative to those of the ALP. If the public accepts this nonsense and takes Mr Abbott on trust they must truly have rocks in their heads.

• Education funding. The education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, has said the Coalition wants to repeal Labor’s Gonksi funding package, roll over the existing system for two years and in that time strike a different funding agreement with the states. It is difficult for the Coalition to develop an alternative policy while details of the government’s policy continue to change and it remains unclear how many states will sign funding deals, but nevertheless, it seems parents will vote at this election without knowing how much money the Coalition is promising to spend on education beyond its first two years in power.

Tax Policy. Abbott has said he will repeal the carbon and mining taxes and promised a “modest” company tax cut, with the size and timing still uncertain. He has also said he will have a white paper, a full review of the tax system, with any subsequent decisions to be taken to the next election.

• Climate change. Business is desperate to know how the 2009 Direct Action policy will actually work, but usually emerge from meetings with the Coalition spokesman, Greg Hunt, with few answers. Hunt has promised a white paper after the election to flesh out the details, with legislation to be finalised within six months of a Coalition term.

• Renewable energy. The Coalition has promised a review of the 20% renewable energy target in 2014, even though it was already reviewed by the Climate Change Authority just last year. Some in the Coalition are demanding that it be scrapped altogether. More likely, say senior sources, it will be wound back a little, because its promise to deliver 41,000 gigawatt hours of renewable energy by 2020 is working out to be more like 25%, due to falling electricity demand. Bottom line: the renewable energy industry is not sure what will happen to the target under the Coalition.

• Federal state relations and Coag.
In his budget-in-reply speech, Abbott promised that within two years of a change of government, working with the states, the Coalition would produce a white paper on Coag reform, and the responsibilities of different governments, to ensure that, as far as possible, the states are sovereign in their own sphere. The objective will be to reduce and end, as far as possible, the waste, duplication and second-guessing between different levels of government that has resulted, for instance, in the commonwealth employing 6,000 health bureaucrats even though it doesn’t run a single hospital.”

• Financial system. The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, has said he will have a “root and branch review” to improve competition in the banking sector.

• Spending. The Coalition will announce savings in the lead-up to the poll but it has also promised a “commission of audit” after the election, to review government spending “top to bottom”, rein in waste, identify where taxpayer funds should be spent and start “with a clean slate” on government spending. That’s a pretty broad brief.

• Northern Australia. The absence of a northern Australia policy would not normally be notable, but Abbott recently released a “vision” to have a white paper on the development of the north. The “vision” said the white paper would look at most of the ideas being vocally advocated by mining magnate Gina Rinehart and the Institute of Public Affairs, but in terms so vague and non-committal it is unclear whether the Coalition intends to actually do them, or was just trying to appease its powerful backers.

• Industrial relations. The Coalition’s policy promises only minor changes to the fair work laws, but will ask the Productivity Commission to undertake a “comprehensive and broad” review of industrial relations policy – with the results to be taken to the next election

• Car industry assistance. We know the Coalition will cut $500m from the budgeted car industry assistance between now and 2015. It says it will have another Productivity Commission inquiry into what assistance should be provided after that and how it should be spent. Given that the industry says ongoing assistance is essential for its survival, that leaves a large question mark.

* Childcare policy will be the subject of yet another Productivity Commission review. The terms of reference ask for policy to be assessed against the working hours and needs of modern families, and leave open the possibility of government rebate being extended to in-home nannies. That all sounds good, but we also know spending will be constrained so the results remain unclear.

* Competition policy.
The Coalition has given mixed signals on competition policy, saying both that the existing laws are too onerous and that small business needs more protection against large competitors. Competition law will be the subject of another “root and branch review” after the election.

It can be seen that there is very little policy in all this. Plenty of reviews that will take another three years. And of course no costings. Oppositions have to be more than opposition for opposition’s sake. More than just endless negativity and suspensions of standing orders. We must demand more from them. Otherwise what are we paying them for? We deserve better.

Incidentally Lenore Taylor is to be congratulated for being one of the few journalists in mainstream media who focuses on policy areas.

 

ANDEV: the Tony Abbott policy announcement when you don’t have a policy announcement

Mining companies are one of the biggest Liberal party donors. Is it sheer coincidence that some of Abbott’s known policies reflect what Gina Rinehart and the big mining companies want?

We are all aware that Abbott has promised to repeal the carbon and mining tax; two taxes that Gina Rinehart (and others in the resource industry) have been publicly opposed to. However, the coincidence between Abbott’s policies and what Gina and the other big companies want, does not end with the repeal of these two taxes.

Gina Rinehart, besides being possibly the richest woman in the world, is also chairperson of a group called ANDEV and ANDEV want their own special economic zone in the north of Australia; an area where most of our mineral wealth is situated. Gina’s father had a similar vision.

On the ANDEV website, under the title “What needs to be done” there is a list and this list is eerily similar to some of the policies and ideas that Abbott has made public:

  • Special Economic Zone in the North
  • One-stop-shops for regulation (to cut “green-tape”)
  • Regional skilled migration visas (457 visas).

Abbott has given indication to a “One-stop-shop” for environmental approvals to cut “green tape” and even used the same terminology that is on the ANDEV website (as have the state LNPs).

Abbott has also indicated that he will consider expanding the 457 visa program and recently the Liberal party blocked a bill that would have ensured that 457 visa workers are only employed as a last resort, when suitably qualified local labour is not available.

Special economic zones (SEZs), while good for wealthy investors-do not offer any benefits for others, due to SEZs avoiding many of the costs of taxation, labour standards, safety and environmental regulations, to which other sectors in the same country must adhere to when doing business.

Another concern with SEZs is the displacement of locals. The host country and the developer require land, and this land is often taken from locals at very low prices. This is a concern, as a large percentage of land in the Northern Territory is Aboriginal owned.

Sadly, it appears that Tony Abbott and the Liberal party are putting the economic concerns of the big mining companies and multi-national oil and gas corporations ahead of our needs and the protection of the environment. If Abbott is elected, do not be surprised if all of the land north of the Tropic of Capricorn is made available to Gina and Co. as a tax free haven that is free from environmental regulation and has a lower standard of employee rights and conditions.

Thanks to The Daily Telegraph Pole Facebook group for this post. The aim of this group is to expose, and provide balance, to the bias and lies being spread by Politicians and the Media.

Update: It is interesting to note how consistent this ‘vision’ is to one of the IPA’s radical ideas to transform Australia:

42 Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:
a) Lower personal income tax for residents
b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers
c) Encourage the construction of dams

The IPA (Institute of Public Affairs) is a free market right wing think tank that is funded by some of Australia’s major companies and is closely aligned to the Liberal Party. It’s members include Rupert Murdoch and yes, Gina Rinehart.

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An invitation to Tony Abbott

Three months out from the federal election Tony Abbott must be very frustrated. He has only three months to tell us what he will do as Prime Minister but the mainstream media (MSM) cruelly refuse to hand him the microphone. He must be wondering why they’re not interested in asking him those little things about policies, plans, visions. I’m sure he has many. I’m sure he wants to tell us what they are.

If the MSM refuse to show him some courtesy then he has one alternative: the independent media. We would love to accommodate him. We’d love to ask him those questions that the MSM so rudely ignore.

Tony, we’re here to your rescue. Among the social and independent media your policies, plans and visions will reach an audience of hundreds of thousands of news hungry readers. At least those readers will be privileged to hear first hand what to expect from Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

So we invite you to speak to us.

I know that political parties keep a very sharp eye on political blog sites so I know that someone in the Coalition will be alerted to this post. Could that person please inform Tony Abbott that we want to speak to him? He could always get in touch with us here at The AIMN and following on from that we can arrange an interview with the independent media groups. It will provide Tony with the best opportunity to proudly announce what he has, to date, been robbed from doing: answering questions.

We, and only we, are interested in revealing Prime Minister Abbott to the electorate prior to the election. And I’m sure that Tony Abbott is desperate for the electorate to know more about him. How can he hope to promote himself through a lazy, uninterested, incompetent mainstream media?

By talking to our keen ears we can hear of – and propagate – the election-winning policies that are currently being stifled by the media. At last he’ll find an audience to hear him out.

Hence, Mr Abbott, we offer this invitation to you to come and talk to us.

Allay the fears of many undecided voters who have not had the opportunity to learn what you stand for, especially given there is a possibility that you might control both houses of Parliament. Some people are petrified at this prospect and the devastation you might create because of your inane personality, your reliance on Catholicism and the simplistic minds of your shadow cabinet. You can dispel those fears, which is something the MSM have not given you the opportunity to do.

Your vision is worthless without public support and yes, we are here to support you.

But let’s cut to the chase. Talk to us, on more than anything, about the Institute of Public Affairs; that free market right wing think tank that is funded by some of Australia’s major companies and closely aligned to the Liberal Party. There are rumours in the electorate that every one of your policies, plans or visions has been generated from the influence this think tank has over your party. And while the MSM are not interested to discuss this issue with you, we are.

In an article by the IPA titled Be like Gough: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia the authors suggest that:

“If he wins government, Abbott faces a clear choice. He could simply overturn one or two symbolic Gillard-era policies like the carbon tax, and govern moderately. He would not offend any interest groups. In doing so, he’d probably secure a couple of terms in office for himself and the Liberal Party. But would this be a successful government? We don’t believe so. The remorseless drift to bigger government and less freedom would not halt, and it would resume with vigour when the Coalition eventually loses office. We hope he grasps the opportunity to fundamentally reshape the political culture and stem the assault on individual liberty.”

It is the essence of that last sentence that particularly grates people and the following list gives people the wrong impression of the havoc you might cause. Here’s your chance to undo it. A chance denied by the MSM.

1.   Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it. It will be one thing to remove the burden of the carbon tax from the Australian economy. But if it is just replaced by another costly scheme, most of the benefits will be undone.
2.   Abolish the Department of Climate Change
3.   Abolish the Clean Energy Fund
4.   Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act
5.   Abandon Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council
6.   Repeal the renewable energy target
7.   Return income taxing powers to the states
8.   Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission
9.   Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
10. Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol
11.  Introduce fee competition to Australian universities
12.  Repeal the National Curriculum
13.  Introduce competing private secondary school curriculums
14.  Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
15.  Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’
16.  Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law
17.  End local content requirements for Australian television stations
18.  Eliminate family tax benefits
19.  Abandon the paid parental leave scheme
20. Means-test Medicare
21. End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
22. Introduce voluntary voting
23. End mandatory disclosures on political donations
24. End media blackout in final days of election campaigns
25. End public funding to political parties
26. Remove anti-dumping laws
27. Eliminate media ownership restrictions
28. Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board
29. Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency
30. Cease subsidising the car industry
31. Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction
32. Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games
33 Deregulate the parallel importation of books
34. End preferences for Industry Super Funds in workplace relations laws
35. Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a percentage of GDP
36. Legislate a balanced budget amendment which strictly limits the size of budget deficits and the period the federal government can be in deficit
37. Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database
38. Repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food
39. Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities
40. Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools
41. Repeal the alcopops tax
42 Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:

a) Lower personal income tax for residents
b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers
c) Encourage the construction of dams

43. Repeal the mining tax
44. Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states
45. Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold
46. Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent
47. Cease funding the Australia Network
48. Privatise Australia Post
49. Privatise Medibank
50. Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function
51. Privatise SBS
52. Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784
53. Repeal the Fair Work Act
54. Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them
55. Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors
56. Abolish the Baby Bonus
57. Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant
58. Allow the Northern Territory to become a state
59. Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16
60. Remove all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade
61. Slash top public servant salaries to much lower international standards, like in the United States
62. End all public subsidies to sport and the arts
63. Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport
64. End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering
65. Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification
66. Rule out any government-supported or mandated internet censorship
67. Means test tertiary student loans
68. Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement
69. Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built
70. End all government funded Nanny State advertising
71. Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling
72. Privatise the CSIRO
73. Defund Harmony Day
74. Close the Office for Youth
75. Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme

Of course, some of those have very little bearing on the electorate. But some have a massive impact. You have been denied the opportunity to discuss these issues with the MSM while we in the independent media have been screaming for you to have a say. So come along and meet with us. Let us be the microphone that blasts your message across Australia. I doubt you’ll never get another chance.

We’d love to chat with you about the above, plus much more. You might even take this as an opportunity to re-affirm that WorkChoices is dead in the water. Put our minds at ease. You can only do this through bypassing the MSM.

My thanks go to John Lord whose article “Public apathy and 75 ideas to make you shudder” inspired this invitation to Tony Abbott.

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Keep your hands off the poor, Joe Hockey

In a speech to the Institute of Public Affairs yesterday, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey warned that a Coalition government would implement drastic welfare cuts, finger-pointed that “attacking spending and looking for structural saves was increasingly urgent”. With a deficit of anything up to $15 billion likely this year, and federal revenue forecast to be between $60 billion to $80 billion lower than expected in the next four years, Hockey needs someone whose hide he can take it out of.

Hit the poor. The IPA would have loved that. It’s the Liberal meme they’ve been hearing for years.

The LNP have it in their veins. To attack those on welfare because a few deficits are forecast is not a new policy issue, and the deficits are a fairly shallow excuse. Deficits are irrelevant. Attacking the poor is something that the LNP just likes to do.

Let’s look at a few interesting announcements from their last great purge on welfare recipients, which occurred during their failed Welfare to Work reforms of 2005-06.

  • “In May, PM John Howard unveiled a “Welfare to Work” package of changes to pensions for people with disabilities and single parents. These were part of the annual budget proposal, which also included tax cuts for the rich”.
  • “A new round of tax cuts for 9 million Australians, worth $21.7 billion over four years, is the main giveaway in Peter Costello’s 10th budget, which also aims to push 190,000 people off welfare and into work. The biggest winners are higher income earners, who are set to receive new tax cuts in addition to those they had already been promised from July 1 this year. People earning $125,000 or more will now be $42 a week better off from this July, and a further $45 a week better off from July next year”.
  • “The Government is likely to usher in a new wave of tax reforms by the time of the next election, promising relief for middle- to high-income earners and changes to the welfare system to encourage people into work. Mr Costello yesterday pointed to the need for continued tax relief – even beyond the changes to come into effect in July which will reduce the impact of the top tax rate of 47 per cent by raising the income threshold at which it applies from $70,000 to $80,000. The Government is also looking at cutting benefits for disability pensioners, with estimates that 150,000 recipients could be moved into the workforce”.
  • “Howard’s May budget, now passed, features some of the harshest reforms yet. They will be implemented starting July 1, 2006, to the detriment of an estimated 300,000 people. They affect all welfare recipients of working age, but impact the most gravely on people receiving disability and sole-parent pensions”.

Summary: reduce tax to the high income earners and cut benefits for disability pensioners. Budget surplus – $8.9 billion.

  • “New legislation will slash welfare payments for thousands of new claimants, and force single parents and the disabled into low-wage jobs. By driving down the living conditions of some of the most vulnerable members of the community, the government intends to create an enlarged pool of cheap labour available for exploitation”.
  • “From July next year, those on parenting payments – mainly women – will be expected to look for at least part-time work when their youngest child turns six and is ready for school. Their welfare payment will be switched over to the lower Newstart unemployment benefit” (my bold).

Summary: introduce legislation to slash welfare payments despite a $8.9 billion surplus.

There’s a lot to be worried about when Hockey talks of welfare reforms. As with the massive axe taken to welfare recipients during the Welfare to Work reforms, are we going to see policies based on class warfare ideologies ahead of social justice? Hockey lends us further insight. His speech in London last year included an unambiguous statement about the age of unlimited and unfunded entitlement to government services and income support being over in the Western world. As Patricia at Café Whispers reported at the time, he then made the mistake of appearing on Lateline that same evening and answering very pointed questions from Tony Jones about exactly what that might mean under a Coalition government.

Patricia wrote:

He repeated again his statement that “with an ageing population and an entitlement system that has seen extraordinary largesse built up over the last 50 years, Western communities, Western societies are going to have to make some very hard and unpopular decisions to wind back the involvement of the state in people’s lives.” At the same time he talked about Australians riding on the back of significant growth in Asia and the Government, if serious about their much vaunted “Asian Century, should start comparing us with our Asian neighbours when it comes to understandable levels of economic growth, inflation, employment and so on, rather than comparing us to countries in Europe and North America”. He then agreed with Tony Jones this included “entitlements . . . a significant issue”.

Having got this beautiful “Gotcha!” out of him, Jones did his best to tie Hockey down as to exactly which benefits he had in mind but got a lot of squirming and waffling in reply about it all depending and case by case issues! It’s worth watching! He wouldn’t be pinned down as to exactly which Asian countries he’d compare us with on social benefit entitlements, but he mentioned statistics for Hong Kong, Korea and Japan. You’ll have to forgive my poetic license in using India and Malaysia for rhyming reasons. After all, they are our neighbours in Asia and millions of people in all of those countries and elsewhere in Asia are currently living in abject poverty.

I was appalled to hear Joe Hockey talk about how we should look to our region for a model on welfare spending! Not so! We need to maintain and improve our mutual support standards here so that we can be a beacon to other countries around us! We are an example of what they can strive for! I can’t imagine living in a modern state which hasn’t found a way to look after its weaker and poorer members. Medical, educational and other social benefits should be fairly available to all regardless of economic status, and yes all need to make a fair contribution to their cost where they can.

Listening to the man who could be our next Treasurer I feared for our future more than ever before. He was talking as if he had no real understanding or appreciation of the enlightened society most of us are beginning to enjoy only now after centuries of struggle from the earliest days of organised labor in Western Europe. Almost a thousand years ago journeymen and their craftsmen employers were striving for improvement in their lives through the Guilds. In the 18th century ‘Scottish Enlightenment’ economist, Adam Smith noted the imbalance in the rights of workers in regards to owners or ‘masters’ in The Wealth of Nations.

The well-being of our society, its economy and its environment, is such that the fair entitlements of all its citizens are protected. Especially the poor and those on welfare for no fault of their own. For their sake at least, this Coalition team led by the likes of Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb must not come to power.

For their sake, keep your hands off the poor, Mr Hockey.

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