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Tag Archives: Jim Molan

Trust, transparency and accountability or gimme gimme gimme?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And every day it gets just a little bit worse.

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

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

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

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

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

 46 total views,  4 views today

Has anybody seen Tony’s envoy?

Image courtesy of abc.net.au

Image courtesy of abc.net.au

”I am as happy as a pig in shit – you can quote me on that – doing what I’m doing at the moment.” – Special Envoy Jim Molan.

Has anyone seen Molan, Tony’s personal “troubleshooter” on asylum seekers who promised to convince Indonesia to sign up to the Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy?

For those of you who don’t recognise the name, he was the tame retired general who was trotted out before the election campaign to assure every news program that would have him on that the tow-back policy would work and that Indonesia would just cop it.

General Molan was instrumental in developing and promoting the Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders asylum-seeker policy, under which border protection would come under the command of a three-star military commander. He has been a key player including helping to launch Operation Sovereign Borders when Mr Abbott and his immigration spokesman Scott Morrison announced the policy in July (refer above photo).

General Molan denied he was a Liberal Party activist, as suggested by then Defence Minister Stephen Smith but told the ABC governments should achieve outcomes:

”I find that the people on the other side of Parliament . . . in the Opposition, have experience in doing what I want them to do, that is, secure our borders”.

”They have a greater probability of success and they’re an impressive bunch.”

Emboldened by his acceptance into the fold, Mr Molan penned a few articles. In July he wrote the following piece:

“Defence is not in the public mind as much as borders, but defence and borders are linked by the common failure of the Labor Party in government.

Australians should be quite sure that our Indonesian friends could stop the flow of people through Indonesia to Australia in a relatively short period of time. Commentators or politicians who imply that we are asking something impossible of our nearest big neighbour, are downright wrong. I make this judgement from living in Indonesia for five years and working intimately with the Indonesian security apparatus, and it applies now within a democratic Indonesia.

If the Indonesians achieved half the success in moving against the people smugglers as they have in countering terrorism, then there would be no appreciable problem. Indonesians do not see people smuggling as a significant problem for themselves, and are sensitive because they have tens of thousands of their citizens illegally overseas as workers. Corruption is also part of it with some locals on the take, and the anarchical nature of the Indonesian media means that leaders must not be too close to Australia.

To control our borders, we should not have to rely on the self-interest of our neighbour, but it would be really good if our neighbour assisted us as a friend, as we have assisted them significantly in the past. I have not forgotten our role in East Timor, but the final report of the Indonesian-Timor Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship Indonesia allows Australia to confidently occupy the moral high ground in relation to that issue. If people smuggling is truly a big enough issue, and around 70 per cent of Australians certainly consider it so, then Australia needs to impress on Indonesia the seriousness of the situation, not just go to Indonesia and list people smuggling as an agenda item.

So, if this is a real problem to an Australian government, then what will get our big friend’s attention is Australia’s resolve, part of which is returning the boats to Indonesia in order to totally disrupt the people smugglers’ business. If Australia agrees only to pay for offshore processing in some new Indonesian Galang, we will have signed a blank cheque for Indonesia to cash for as long as it wants, much Australian money will be wasted by inefficiency and corruption, and people smugglers will just move a bit further down the supply chain and once again wait us out, knowing that their customers will finally end up in Australia.

And boats can be turned back. The techniques for doing so should not be discussed openly for the same reason that we do not discuss operational detail in Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan.”

One can only wonder how this missive was received in Indonesia.

At the beginning of August we hear from Molan again:

“The nation needs South Australia’s submarines much faster, a top military mind says.

Retired Major General Jim Molan, an adviser to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and a former senior soldier, says more money is needed to get the 12 new submarines up and running. Construction will not begin until 2017 at the very earliest, and Maj Gen Molan said it was likely to be 2030 before they’re in the water.

He says Australia needs a decade of increased spending to get to “where we should be”.

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston reiterated the Coalition policy to draw up a new White Paper within 18 months if they win the election, which would include a new Defence Capability Plan. He said the Government had a history of delaying important projects and that a Coalition Government would see the Future Submarine Project as a “top priority”.

“That’s why we’re redoing the White Paper . . . we are committed to the submarines in SA,” he said.

I wonder how that made Holden feel?

When, lo and behold, Tony Abbott then offered him the role of “Special Envoy” in late August, General Molan denied he had been offered a job for spruiking the policy:

”At no stage did I recommend that there be a regional envoy,” he said. ”At no stage in the derivation of the policy was I ever driven by self-interest. I have been retired [from the army] for five years and I am totally enjoying it. I also make a shed-load of money, so I’m not in this for the money. However, the logic of doing it is unchallengeable.

”I am as happy as a pig in shit – you can quote me on that – doing what I’m doing at the moment.”

Yet further:

“I have a good understanding of the region . . . and I have many friends up there. I will be the troubleshooter, I will be the fixer. Technically I have been directed to facilitate regional co-operation. That is the political speak . . . what it means is I will be concentrating on a number of countries to make sure we have a regional deterrence framework. The vast majority of the solving can be done internally in Indonesia and they want to solve it. People smuggling is against their domestic law. And there is a kit bag of tools that we can use to make this work.”

“I’ve been retired for five years, I have lived in fear of being offered a job I would want to take . . . and now it has come. This is a job we in the military can do well. And it is critical we get it right.”

Is it just me, or is he showing an unhealthy enthusiasm to have gunboats to play with again? Most people who deal with asylum seekers are traumatised by the encounter rather than “happy as a pig in shit”.

A little history about Special Envoy Major General (retired) Molan . . .

He was the chief of operations of the allied forces in Iraq with responsibility for the operations in Fallujah. Faith in military solutions convinced Molan that George Bush’s troop surge in Iraq delivered “victory” to the Western occupiers, a reasonable judgement if victory is defined as the destruction of the country and the immiseration of its population. If you claim to have run the war in Iraq, it may be necessary to believe this nonsense. By almost any measure, the war in Iraq has been one of the greatest military catastrophes of modern history.

In 2009 he recommended in articles in The Interpreter and in the Australian Army Journal to send a further 6000 Australian troops to Afghanistan for up to 5 years. Despite growing public opposition to sending more troops (65% of Australians were opposed) and a failure to subdue the Taliban since we first attacked them in October 2001, Molan still believed a military victory in Afghanistan was “a fair probability,” even if he could neither define it nor explain why the course of the war would suddenly change with additional foreign troops.

In language borrowed from the Bush Administration, Molan claimed “our enemies play on our morality and exploit our goodness,” blaming the waning ‘popular’ support for the war for exposing “our greatest vulnerability, our resolve.”

Finally, in a paragraph about the mismanagement of the war and corruption in Kabul, Molan blames NATO, a “poor constitution,” and “Hamid Karzai’s natural Afghan ways . . . ” What is he suggesting here? That Afghans are naturally corrupt and untrustworthy, hence our failure to ‘win’ the war? There is no other interpretation of these extraordinary and unfortunate remarks.

Scott Burchill, in a scathing assessment of Molan, said “it would be surprising for military men to advocate political solutions to global conflicts. It’s not their area of professional expertise. By default they lead with their strongest suit – organised violence – not geopolitics or diplomacy.”

The Coalition has budgeted $1.1 million for the role of Special Envoy over two years. Why is the person who designed the asylum seeker policy, and who is supposedly the “fixer”, the man who has “friends in high places” and who has been flying around at our expense visiting them – why is he not at the weekly briefings instead of that poor benighted General Campbell?

Could it be because they have chosen as “Special Envoy” a man who enjoys wars, a man who thinks we need more guns and submarines, a man who thinks all Afghanis and Indonesians are corrupt ? No wonder we are in trouble.

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Turn back – you are going the wrong way

If we don’t do something to halt the direction that this country is heading then we are in danger of a crash of catastrophic proportions.

While the rest of the world recognises the critical threat of climate change, and moves towards global action to address it, we remove carbon pricing, dismantle all climate change bodies, change environmental protection laws, and move away from initiatives like Marine Parks and the Murray-Darling water buyback.

When the rest of the world begins transitioning from the dependence on fossil fuels, we approve the largest coal mines in the world and the infrastructure to support them. We ramp up CSG mining. Rather than making the polluters pay, we decide to pay them with taxpayer money, and remove the mining tax that would at least give us some share of the money made by exploiting our dwindling resources.

When the rest of the world is increasing the share of renewable energy, we cut $20 million from the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program and $40 million from Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and wind up the Low Carbon Communities program which provides grants to local councils and other groups to make energy efficiency upgrades to community buildings. We cap government spending on reaching our emission reduction and renewable energy targets, and refuse to contribute to the Green Energy Fund.

In the face of rising unemployment, instead of investing a relatively small amount in the car industry, about one tenth of what we give to the mining companies, we choose to let the industry die and put tens of thousands of people out of work. But never fear, Sophie Mirabella has been appointed to build submarines instead.

We cannot afford to have the Salvation Army doing humanitarian work with asylum seekers and we cannot afford the mental health experts that were assessing and treating them, but we can afford $1.2 billion for more tents, and $1.1 million for Special Envoy Jim Molan to do something, though I am not sure what. We apparently can spend “whatever it takes” to stop the boats.

We have just appointed as Human Rights Commissioner someone who told a Senate Committee last year that the Human Rights Commission should be abolished. His main goal is to champion freedom of speech and a free press. He feels there has been far too much emphasis on left wing humanitarian silliness, and that we should have the right to racially vilify people.

We have condoned human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and West Papua, been caught spying on Indonesia and East Timor, infuriated China by taking sides with the US, and Indonesia by our boat tow/buy back rhetoric, ignored the UN by siding with Israel, refused to address whaling with the Japanese, and in general, vacillated between tough guy and fawning friend at a rate that would make your head spin.

In the area of health, Westmead Children’s Hospital will lose $100 million in funding for the first stage of a comprehensive redevelopment, while the Children’s Medical Research Institute will lose $10 million and the Millennium Institute will lose $12 million, amongst many other funding cuts.

Even though we have a gambling problem, we undo the poker machine reforms. Even though we have a drug and alcohol problem, we get rid of the alcohol and drug advisory board. Even though new figures show Australians are fatter than ever, more than $18 million has been cut from obesity prevention programs. Even though we have a disproportionately high number of indigenous Australians in gaol, we cut $43 million from indigenous legal aid funding.

With the looming crisis of an aging population, we scrap the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing six months before they completed a three year report to help the government design a policy to deal with challenges posed by Australia’s ageing population. We also block pay rises to aged care workers. Rather than encouraging low income workers to invest in superannuation to relieve some of the future burden on the old age pension, we cut the co-contribution and delay the superannuation guarantee increase, whilst giving further tax breaks to very high income earners.

Congestion on our roads, parking, and the pollution from cars is a growing problem. Rather than investing in public transport, we are building more roads, even ones people don’t want, and ignoring Infrastructure Australia’s priorities.

With a slowing economy, rather than looking to raise more revenue, we have employed big business to tell us how to cut spending.

Rather than waiting for the Productivity Commission to finish the many reviews they have been tasked with, we are employing private consultants like Price Waterhouse Cooper to produce reports that say what the government wants to hear.

Even though the Productivity Commission said that replacement wages for paid parental leave would be too costly, inequitable, and of little benefit to workforce participation, we are pushing ahead with a scheme that will cost us over $5 billion a year giving money to people who don’t need it. At the same time we are blocking the payrise to childcare workers, and cutting $450 million from before and after school care programs, something that would help with job retention and productivity.

Even though we have already had 8 enquiries into the home insulation scheme, we are now to have a Royal Commission. To pay for this we have cut $6.7 million from the Caring for our Country program, which grants money to conservation projects.

We are also cutting about $1 billion from education by stopping initiatives like the trade training program.

The minister for education, Christopher Pyne, has appointed David Kemp and Andrew Norton to undertake a review into the demand-driven funding system for universities. Kemp was minister for education in the Howard government and Norton was his adviser on higher education policy.

Rather than continuing with the rollout of FttP NBN, we have gone back to square one and employed Malcolm’s mates to stonewall the Senate Committee. It appears from the redacted documents that some of us will get a far inferior service for much more than anticipated sometime much later than promised, and they will be the lucky ones.

We are rushing to sign free trade agreements in secret which will sign away our rights to make laws in our own country. We will be at the mercy of foreign corporations and our health initiatives and PBS scheme, environmental safeguards, and perhaps even gun laws, could be at risk.

In the face of growing debt and blown-out deficits stretching into the future, we borrow $8.8 billion dollars to give to the Reserve Bank who said they didn’t need it. Mr Hockey denies this was a political ploy to make Labor’s debt look bad and, when he takes out the dividends before the next election, that won’t be just to make him look good. The interest over 3 years will go close to $1 billion dollars. Expensive PR exercise from the party who promised to stop the waste, pay down the debt, and get the budget back into the black.

The government is restricting access to information, appointing cronies to every position, gagging debate, and pushing ahead with an agenda that blatantly favours big business and the very rich and looks increasingly like the IPAs 100 point wish list.

Unfortunately it is at the expense of our environment, our children, our health, our humanity, and the very fabric of our society.

Western Australians could find themselves with a very grave responsibility in the new year. At the moment, the only check on Tony Abbott’s ravages is the Senate.

If you get the chance to vote again next year, think very carefully about what Abbott will hand to the big corporations should he have control of both houses. Think of the repercussions to health and education and social services and workers’ conditions. Think about how minor parties will vote and who they will give their preferences to.

Currently you have voted for these three Liberal Party Senators:

Linda Reynolds. Apart from the fact that she was recruited by Brian Loughnane, Peta Credlin’s husband, I can find little about her.

David Johnstone. Even though he has been Minister for Defence for three months I have not seen or heard anything of him. Actually, I don’t recall much from him in his time as Shadow Minister either.

And of course, Michaelia Cash, the “Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Woman” as the sign on her door describes her. Who could forget her recent Senate performance.

Perhaps these people represent your local interests well – I don’t know – but, should you be asked to vote again, I would say think wisely Western Australia – the fate of the nation could be in your hands.

Image courtesy of rendezvousofme.blogspot.com

Image courtesy of rendezvousofme.blogspot.com

 23 total views,  2 views today