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Tag Archives: Joe Hockey

The Republic debate is back: Is this Hockey’s ‘Marriage Equality’?

Joe Hockey – along with Peter FitzSimons (head of the Australian Republican Movement) and Labor Senator Katy Gallagher – announced today that they are putting the Republic back on the table for discussion. At a time when Hockey is struggling for popularity, and when even dangling tax cuts before people isn’t winning him any votes, a cynical person might wonder if this is Hockey’s attempt to get back behind a barrow that others will be happy to push along with him.

Don’t get me wrong – as I wrote recently, I’m as staunchly pro-republic as Abbott is a monarchist. And if Hockey is fair-dinkum about this, then more power to him. But just as I believe Marriage Equality has little chance of getting up while Abbott is prime minister, the same is true of a republic.

Let’s revisit what happened in the 90s

By way of context, here’s a quick summary of the key events around the vote for Australia to become a republic in the 1990s:

  • Support for Australia becoming a republic was strong in the 90s – as shown in the graph below. The green line represents the percentage of people who were for Australia becoming a republic, and the red line is people who were against it. Right up to the referendum, there was consistently a significant margin between those who were pro-republic and those who were against it.

PollsPriorToReferendum99

So how did the republican movement fail – I hear you ask? Good question . . .

  • In 1993, Paul Keating created a ‘Republic Advisory Committee’ – which was chaired by then banker and lawyer, one Mr Malcolm Turnbull – to determine what changes would be needed to the constitution for Australia to become a republic. Which they did. Before they could start putting more detail behind these changes so that they could be put to a referendum however….
  • In 1996, John Howard – a confirmed monarchist – was elected Prime Minister on a reluctant platform of putting Australia becoming a republic to a referendum late in his first term.
  • In 1999 Howard successfully put the question of Australia becoming a republic to bed, for what turns out to be a good 16 years. He did this by tying Australia becoming a republic with a model which he knew was not popular with the Australian people. The republican model Howard put forward to be voted on would have replaced the Governor General with a President elected by politicians. (The more popular model – which had over 70% support – had the Australian public electing the President.)By doing this, Howard cleverly split the pro-republic movement so that those who favoured the more popular model actually told people to vote ‘no’ in the republic referendum, some mistakenly believing they would get a second go at a vote with their preferred model. But with Howard as Prime Minister, this was never going to happen.
  • The rest – as they say – is history. The vote for Australia to become a republic failed, with 55% of people voting against Australia becoming a republic.

(For a more detailed ouline of events, see my recent article on how Abbott is using the same ploy currently with marriage equality.)

Some 16 years later . . .

Back to 2015, and Joe Hockey is bringing up the republic debate again. Now, to be fair, he has always been in favour of a republic, this is not a change in position from him. But why now?

Certainly, if Hockey is serious about wanting a republic, he must know that it could never get up with Abbott as Prime Minister – John Howard proved that. And Abbott confirmed his willingness to play dirty in order to get his own way recently, by ‘branch stacking’ the party room on the discussion about marriage equality with Nationals.

Is this Hockey’s ‘marriage equality’ – something that he is a known supporter of that the public can get behind? Or does Hockey know that Abbott’s days are numbered – and therefore the time might be ripe now to bring up a key issue that actually could get across the line in the next parliamentary term?

Only time will tell.

Either way – as the French used to say ‘Bring on the Republic’ (Vive la République)!!!

(The flag design above – minus the words – was by John Joseph of Epping, NSW – see http://tinyurl.com/oqx963d)

This article was first published on Progressive Conversation.

 

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The Rich Need Tax Cuts Or Else They’ll Just Stop Making Money!

budget1 Once upon a time there was a Treasurer who was very, very concerned about delivering a surplus. But that was in another galaxy far, far away.

In Australia we have Joe Hockey. Who has “spending” under control now, but there’s still more to be done. The deficit is much larger than it was under the last Swan Budget, but he has the solution. We need to give tax cuts to those on the top rate because if we don’t they may stop working.

I know, I know, some of you are going to wonder how reducing revenue will help the Budget get back into the black, but the Liberals have the answer to that one: Quick, bomb Syria.

In case you persist and say, how are you going to pay for the tax cuts, the Liberals can calmly point out that they stopped the boats.

When you ask what’s that got to do with the fact that reducing revenue will actually put the Budget further into the red, you’ll be reminded that it was Labor that insisted on wasting money on things like women’s refuges when a simple ad campaign is all that’s needed to stop domestic violence.

If you give up and say that, well, a Budget Deficit is probably a good thing because it’ll stimulate the economy, you’ll be told that it’s thinking like that which caused Australia to be in such a mess and that things have to be paid for, and that’s something that the Left don’t understand.

And the tax cuts will be paid for with the reduction in spending that the Liberals have achieved. So said Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenburg, so don’t you worry at all.

A surplus is just around the corner. Like the tax cuts.

Which can only happen after the election. Although Joe wasn’t very specific about which election. It’s certainly not the Canning By-election. It may be the one next year. Or the one after that. Or when they actually get round to having one in North Korea. But definitely after an election and not in the next Budget.

But you can be sure that it’ll happen because the Liberals are a party that cuts tax. Take the GST. They’ve just cut the figure at which you have to pay it on overseas goods from $1000 to zero. If that’s not a tax cut, what is?

And they’re talking about making it 15% rather than 10%. But that’s not a new tax. It’s just an increase of an old one. And it’s not really an increase because we’re about to bomb Syria and, as we said before the previous election, personal income tax needs to come down and the boats need to be stopped so that we can have jobs and growth.

Income tax, you see, is a disincentive to work. And it’s only by reducing income tax that we’ll encourage people to work extra hours.

Because we want people to work extra hours. Not to go home to their families. We don’t want to share the jobs around and have two people working twenty five hours. No, we’d rather remove the tax disincentive so that one person can work fifty hours and the other one doesn’t have a job.

Of course, not all jobs work that way.

With some jobs, you couldn’t find a way of giving a person’s overtime to somebody else. And, of course, with jobs like this all overtime is voluntary. Nobody ever gets forced to work extra hours. With all jobs, your boss comes to you and asks what hours do you want to work, and because of the high income tax rates, lots of people just say that not only do they want no overtime, but it’s not really worth coming in after Thursday lunchtime so just dock my pay and I’ll see you Monday.

And with other jobs, well, they’re just high paying ones where you work as much as needed to get the work done. You know, like being in charge of the NBN which thanks to the Liberals is going to come in on time and under budget. Well, sooner than Labor’s and whatever the eventual cost Labor’s would have cost more and not used those state of the art copper wires. Anyway, high rates of tax – that’s the reason I haven’t ever taken on a job paying in excess of a million a year – I’d be losing half of it to the government.

Yep, this is why companies have such trouble finding CEOs, nobody wants to earn that sort of money because they’ll have to pay so much tax.

As for people earning money through investments, well, because of the high tax rates most of them have decided to simply bury it in the backyards because they don’t want to earn a single dollar that might cost them 47 cents in tax.

Although one wonders why Joe’s wife has a place in Canberra when she’s so well off that surely the tax rate must be a disincentive to her charging him rent.

Whatever, personal tax rates are a disincentive to work.

Cutting penalty rates on the other hand is not a disincentive to people working at all.

 

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Question Time fact check

In case anyone is unsure about the Coalition’s message, they are about “jobs, growth, and community safety…jobs, growth and community safety.”

Pull out the string and that is what you will hear from every one of them.

Oh, and “the Cabinet is doing exceptionally well” even if we do say so ourselves. Ok, even if we were just told to say that by Peta.

But every time they try to elaborate, we are subjected to a load of “trust me” that bears very little resemblance to truth.

Take Question Time today.

Every opportunity he got Joe Hockey repeated the figures that the Coalition created 38,000 jobs last month and 334,000 jobs since coming to office. He then went on to compare average monthly job creation with the previous government saying he was creating eleventy times more than they were.

A quick look at the Labour Force Survey for July 2015 shows that Joe is using the SEASONALLY ADJUSTED ESTIMATES (MONTHLY CHANGE) which states that “Employment increased 38,500 to 11,810,700.”

So Joe was correct about job creation for July but the same source shows he is wildly wrong about his other figures.

Between November 2007 and September 2013, employment increased from 10,583,200 to 11,645,800 – an increase of 1,062,600 in 70 months at an average of 15,180 per month. Remember this covered the period of the global financial crisis.

Between September 2013 and July 2015, employment increased from 11,645,800 to 11,810,700 – an increase of 164,900 in 22 months at an average of ….hang on….7,495 per month.

Under this government, full time jobs have increased from 8,133,700 to 8,170,400 – an increase of 36,700. Part time jobs have increased from 3,512,100 to 3,640,300 – an increase of 128,200, showing part time employment increasing at three and a half times the rate of full time jobs

Surprisingly, even with all these extra people employed, aggregate monthly hours worked decreased from 1,641.5 million hours in September 2013 to 1,633.2 million hours in July 2015.

A spokesman from Hockey’s office told me they use the ABS figures and the ANZ job ad survey. Using the job ad survey is obviously spurious as it does not differentiate between new positions and vacancies in existing positions, presumably because someone has taken another advertised job. Joe appears to be claiming his policies are responsible for every advertised job and is claiming credit for creating them, new or not, despite the different story shown by the ABS labour force figures he chooses to quote at other times.

And then we had Tony berating environmental groups for standing in the way of the “10,000 jobs that will be created directly by the Carmichael coal mine”, even though evidence from an economist commissioned by Adani itself – Jerome Fahrer of ACIL Allen – given in the land court earlier this year said: “Over the life of the project it is projected that on average around 1,464 employee years of full-time equivalent direct and indirect jobs will be created.”

Adani claims they are the jobs for the mine and about 70km of the 388km railway. An Adani spokesman said the higher figure included contributions from the mine, the Abbot Point coal terminal near Bowen, and the 310 kilometre rail line connecting the two.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche previously said the rail line alone could provide 2400 new jobs. Considering the source we can count on that figure also being highly exaggerated.

Even if Adani’s interpretation was correct, it meant the port and railway line would have to create “8500 or so plus jobs” for the 10,000 jobs figure to stack up. And as they cannot find a financial backer, the whole argument is moot.

A 2013 report by Deloitte’s found that the total Australia-wide value-added economic contribution generated in the Reef catchment in 2012 was $5.7 billion with employment (as measured in full-time equivalent workers) of just below 69,000. Why would you risk this unique asset?

Lenore Taylor points out the absurdity and inconsistency of the Abbott government’s approach when it comes to wind farms and jobs in renewable energy.

“When an environment group successfully uses 16 year-old national environmental laws to delay a project, the Abbott government tries to change the law to prevent them from ever doing it again.

But if an anti-windfarm group can’t find a way to use existing laws and regulations to stop or delay a project, the Abbott government tries to change laws and processes to make it easier for them to succeed.

The first is called green “vigilantism” and “sabotage” and the second is, according to environment minister Greg Hunt, a reasonable response because “many people have a sense of deep anxiety, and they have a right to complain.”

The government calls regulations that stop fossil fuel or mining projects “green tape”, but a wind commissioner and yet another scientific committee to look at unsubstantiated health complaints regarding wind turbines is apparently no kind of “tape” at all.

Question time also contained an attack on Labor for being xenophobes for questioning labour arrangements in the Chinese Free Trade Agreement. We’re all for jobs but 457 visas are an integral part of creating those jobs….apparently.

All in all I would say the first part of our new three pronged aspiration, jobs, is not doing quite as well as Hockey and Abbott would have us believe.

 

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When Abbott Commits, You Can Be Sure Of . . . Something

From the Prime Minister’s website:

“As Prime Minister, Mr Abbott has promised to spend a week each year living and working in an indigenous community. In recent years, Mr Abbott has spent time working as a teacher’s aide in Coen and as a truancy officer in Aurukun as well as participating in Bush Owner Builder indigenous housing project near Hopevale on Cape York. Last year, Mr Abbott and a team of business leaders spent four days helping to refurbish the library of the local school at Aurukun.”

So, that must be coming up soon, I thought.

In fact, this very month according to this ABC story, Tony Abbott to spend week in Torres Strait, Northern Peninsula Region. But then the story is from the ABC and who can believe the ABC? After all they tell us in that article that:

“Last September, Mr Abbott ran the country from a tent during a week-long stay in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.”

While I may sound a little pedantic here, I seem to remember that he cut trip short, leaving on the Thursday to farewell troops to going to Iraq, but promising to return on the Friday. Unfortunately, due to “terror raids” he had to stay where he was, because, apparently, the security forces couldn’t manage without him.

Still, he did make the commitment and that means that he intended to do it. Intending to do something is the same as doing it? Isn’t that right?

Like his commitment to the Paid Parental Leave Scheme, which can be considered something that he did, because it was only scrapped when he decided that it would be better to make a commitment to improving childcare, and now that he’s committed to improving childcare, well, we can all feel better already and mark it down as one of the great achievements of the Abbott government like reducing the deficit and stopping the boats. Although some silly people tried to suggest that the fact that a boat made it to Western Australia the other week meant that we hadn’t actually stopped all the boats, they ignore the fact that this boat was stopped, and the people sent back to where they came from, like that SBS show has been suggesting for three seasons now.

Like those submarines that the Liberals promised would be built in Adelaide. The people of Adelaide didn’t seem to show any gratitude for the promise and seemed to think that by putting the process out to tender that wasn’t the same as actually building them there, which seems to rather harsh. To placate those ungrateful South Australians for presuming that just because there’s already a draft announcement awarding the contract to the Japanese that the decision not build the submarines there has already been made, Mr Abbott has now promised to build ships there instead… Sometime after the next election, but he has brought it forward to his next term in office so that he can ensure it starts, because if Labor get in, they may stop the project because Labor is anti-jobs, anti-Australian, soft on borders when it comes to “illegals” and too hard on borders when it comes to foreign investment and overseas workers.

And six months, Mr Abbott promised that good government would start that very day, which is another thing he should be commended for thinking and saying, even if he didn’t actually produce anything that could remotely be considered good government.

Although we did have Mr Turnbull telling the Australia-China Business Forum:

“While the unions will advocate for what they believe to be in their members’ interests – and the fact is that the vast bulk of 457 visa holders choose not to be union members – the Labor Party is supposed to be a party of Government, and that brings with it the responsibility to stand up for the national interest.”

Not only do they choose not to be union members, a large number of them choose to work for below award wages too, and enjoy being exploited, which is their choice and good on Mr Turnbull for saying so. Mr Turnbull is showing the sort of “good government” Mr Abbott was talking about back in the days when Joe Hockey was still prepared to come out of the house occasionally.

So, now that we know that Mr Abbott will be running the government from an Indigenous community in August. That should mean that we won’t see him going straight to see the Governor-General on Monday so that Bronwyn doesn’t have the chance to move a spill motion in the party room.

Gee, I hope there’s no emergency that’d make him cut his visit short this time. Still, we can rest assured knowing that Mr Abbott says something, he considers it as good as done.

Even if he never actually does it.

 

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Scare Campaigns Hide an Economic Void

Just eight weeks after the release of the 2015-16 Federal Budget, one that the MSM will tell you was well received, serious doubts are now beginning to emerge not just with growth estimates generally, but also with revenue targets; doubts that are coming from a variety of qualified sources.

If we are able to look beyond the recent scare campaigns being waged, we see the current trend in overall growth is well below the level necessary to bring unemployment down. Wages growth is stagnant, business investment is sluggish and household spending is restrained.

By now, Joe Hockey would have realised that dramatic spending cuts are not the smartest way to manage an economy particularly when those cuts take money away from people who actually spend it.

Having spent most of his time in opposition bagging the economy, then taking a machete to it at the first opportunity when in government, Joe Hockey’s scare campaign has achieved the opposite of a boost in spending and investment.

One part of the domestic sector is saving or paying down debt, the other is postponing expansion and development plans. Both private sector components hold little confidence in the long term future.

But it gets worse. Both Hockey, Tony Abbott and the rest of those charged with managing our economy, simply don’t know what to do. They have no idea how to stimulate growth, or if they do, they refuse to acknowledge it. They listen to people who don’t know and turn a deaf ear to those who do.

The ABC’s business editor, Ian Verrender describes their position similar to that of an ostrich with its head in the sand, while IPA Research Fellow, Chris Berg just pleads for a better understanding of the importance of growth. We can add to these, Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens who, in his customary deadpan way, is trying to alert them to the real nature of the problem.

glenn These and other comments from seasoned economists like Bill Mitchell who are not stricken with the neo-liberal approach, but simply state the bleeding obvious, ably represent the chorus of people who see our economy heading toward the abyss.

At a recent address to the Anika Foundation, Glenn Stevens said, “In the interim, the somewhat more restrained attitude to debt and spending by households, combined with a similar attitude by the government sector, has meant that there has not been quite enough domestic demand to achieve full employment, in the face of the fall in business investment.”

He warns that households are moderating their spending patterns to offset mortgage commitments. They are preferring to de-leverage rather than spend.

veren ABC’s Ian Verrender says, Joe Hockey’s self-proclaimed credible path back to surplus, “was to be achieved by way of a magic wand, through an unexplained sudden return to trend growth. From 2.5 per cent last year, the economy would gather momentum this year, expanding by 2.75 before rising to 3.25 per cent next year and then to its long-term growth trend of 3.5 per cent.”

Such estimates fly in the face of Glenn Stevens’ earlier statements that record low interest rates can only do so much and that trend growth could settle below 3%, well under that estimated in the budget.

berg To further illustrate the dilemma, when a senior fellow at the IPA begins to question the coalition’s performance, you know something must be wrong. Chris Berg says, “That the Government can propose higher taxes and proclaim its desire for lower taxes in the same breath isn’t a failure of messaging, it reveals an absence of purpose.” Berg complains that the government has no central economic agenda.

In the end it matters little that the MSM doesn’t highlight the failings of this government. In terms of the economy it is the people who feel it first; the unemployed, those who are reduced to part time work, those whose wages are suppressed, those whose debt levels become unmanageable, those who suddenly find buying essentials is as much as they can afford.

Politicians who enjoy entitlements the way ours do, don’t seem to notice these things even when they are staring them in the eye.

But when they fail to listen to experts, pretend they know better and create fear campaigns to deflect our attention, their lack of credibility becomes all too obvious to the voters and even to members of the IPA.

 

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My Thoughts on the Week That Was

Saturday July 18

This is not going to go away. The revelation that Bishop wasn’t prepared to pay back the money for her helicopter flight until the Prime Minister intervened is particular damming.

BRONWWN

There is still the question of the $88,000 two week trip to Europe. Even if she can justify it under the existing rules she is still guilty of extravagance that should not be tolerated. If it cannot be justified, her position is untenable.

And of course she still has to explain how she thought the trip was consistent with her duties as Speaker, an office that requires detachment from partisan politics.

Sunday July 19

PHILIP

Prince Philip is back in the headlines with another “gaffe”. This time, he asked a group of East End women: “Who do you sponge off?” People just dismiss it as another regrettable thought from a man of few redeeming features. If fact a man who has sponged of the public purse all his life. A snob in the true meaning of the word. (Look it up).

Bronwyn Bishop sponges of the taxpayer by using a helicopter to attend a fundraiser for her own her own party and thinks she has done nothing wrong. She will repay the money, reluctantly, under the Minchin protocol which is nothing more than a mechanism to get away with cheating and will probably continue to treat Members of the House of Reps as her subservient beings and humiliate as many of them as possible.

George Christenson will address a Reclaim Australia rally proclaiming his racist white superiority whilst being cheered on by the Prime Minister under the guise of free speech.

Although isolated these three instances have one thing in common. They are each born of a deep sense of establishment where the incumbents believe that a certain right of entitlement has been bestowed upon them and that all others are beneath or subservient to those of privilege.

Monday July 20

If as the Prime Minister says the pursuit of Bishop is a beat up. What was his pursuit of Slipper? A beating?

1 As a well-read lover of language and its power to persuade I intently dislike those who prostitute its meaning. Watching Greg Hunt on Insiders yesterday was an agonising exercise in the destruction of the English language. By that I mean this, when lies are used so blatantly to construct the basis of what seems a reasoned truth and sentences mangled to the point where they become deliberately indecipherable I am appalled. Such was the case yesterday. I said to my wife after the interview. “Do you have any idea what he was talking about? She answered “Why? did you?”

ENGLISH

2 And on the same program Gerrard Henderson’s feeble, flippant attempt to dismiss Speaker Bishop’s misdemeanors as uneventful and unworthy of serious discussion were so typical of someone so biased as to not be able to see the wood from the trees.

To quote John Hewson:

“I just think its pretty bad short-term politics and it’ll end in tears for a lot of people.”

And Peter Costello says:

“Bronwyn Bishop’s interpretation of her parliamentary entitlements, arguing the Speaker can claim taxpayer benefits for attending any function where she speaks about parliament is wrong.”

Who said this I wonder:

“I love her but her bias as a Speaker has made Parliament almost unworkable” one backbench MP said.

3 And before anyone accuses me of bias let me say that in my many years of following politics we have never had a worse bunch morons who seemingly don’t want to govern for the common good. Only for themselves. All of them.

4 An example of 3. Tony Abbott thinks Bronwyn is doing a really good job. That proves it.

5 Organisers of the Reclaim Australia event in Brisbane have announced their split from the organisation to join an explicitly anti-Islam group. That’s what they really are so I salute their honesty if nothing else.

reclaim

A Midday thought

I don’t think anyone has ever uttered words like these that better describe everything that is bad and wrong about the governance of our nation. We have a rotten government and a rotten leader in Prime Minister Abbott. Who else would react to a great wrong by a rotten Speaker by saying this?

“She has been a strong Speaker…she has been a strong servant of our country, she has been a good servant of the Coalition and so she does have my confidence but like everyone who has done something like this, inevitably, for a period of time, they are on probation.

Tuesday July 21

PROBATION

The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of Australia is ON PROBATION. I really struggle to get my head around the implication of that. Has any other Speaker in Australia’s history ever been “ON PROBATION?

Let me repeat this less the ramification of the statement escapes you. The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of Australia is ON PROBATION.

Could the PM tell the public the duration of the PROBATION, its conditions, the consequences of the Speaker breaching any of the conditions of the PROBATION, how any breaches of the PROBATION will be reported to the Australian public and how the status of the PROBATION could be affected by any investigation conducted by the Department of Finance or indeed the Federal Police.

Since Tony Abbott became leader of the Liberal Party and in turn the Prime Minister of Australia he has been responsible for the disintegration of many of the institutions and standards of conduct that used to cement our democracy. He is a disgrace to the very principles that we once thought were necessary for robust, transparent, open and truthful government.

Wednesday 22 July

Posted my short story Confession of an Honest Conservative.

1 This week’s Essential Poll again has Labor in the lead, 52/48.

2 Today in Sydney the PM is having a retreat with the State Premiers to discuss the vexed issue of tax. The premiers will rule out anything that is detrimental to their own state. In the meantime the Federal Government is conducting a tax inquiry but has ruled out any major tax reforms (those that could make any difference) because it might affect its chances of reelection.

Then he says: “We are doing what’s best for all Australians”

Bullshit.

Or to borrow a comment by Stephen Tardrew:

“We are meeting to discuss what we are not going to do just to make it look like we are doing something about nothing. Brilliant act of circular escapism.”

Thursday 23 July

1 Renewable energy: Labor puts forward 50 per cent target by 2030; pledges to introduce emissions trading scheme. This will give the voter a stark contrast from which to choose. It could be described as bold and visionary. The difference is simply that one party is for the future and one the past or that one believes the science and one doesn’t.

2 During the “Copter Crisis” Mrs Bishop said that as Speaker: “I speak to community groups, I’ll speak to Liberal groups, I’ll even speak to Labor groups”.

Well it seems one Labor Branch has taken her at her word and issued an official invitation to speak at a seminar.

“We would like to invite you to be our guest speaker on the topic ‘what role will the Westminster system play in an Australian Republic?”

3 The bye election for Don Randall’s seat will be an interesting test for the Abbott Government particularly as it is in WA. The seat was won by the Liberal Party 52.2 to Labor 47.8. The earliest date it could be held is 29 July. The average swing is 5%.

4 It seems our Speaker has been ripping off the taxpayer for years. Fairfax has disclosed that the taxpayer has even funded her trips to the Opera. I’m guessing she would have seen Call Me Madam, Orpheus in the Underworld, The Beggars Opera, Madam Butterfly, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Taming of the Screw and Carmen of course.

5 Just a reminder to those familiar with the life and work of the person known as Jesus. Yes he was the world’s first socialist.

6 A rarity for me to agree with Janet Albrechtsen but she is correct. “MPs can’t hope to end the age of entitlement and exempt themselves.”

7 “It’s astonishing that the Liberal party can campaign against a carbon tax because it raises the cost of living – and then advocate a tax, the GST, that literally raises the cost of living.”

Friday 24 July

INTERNET

I found myself without any Internet for most of Thursday and it wasn’t reconnected until around midday today. Even in that short space of time I was reminded of just how much the internet had become part of my life. It is somewhat of a shock when the instantaneousness of information (and many other things) is taken away. I recalled the time when of habit I would venture to the front gate to collect the daily newspaper. The Melbourne Age was my source of news. It had sustained me all my life.

Now at 6am every morning I go on line and suck in the news of the day from as many and varied outlets as time allows. Surely the advent of the internet and social media sites has changed the way we communicate and opine our thoughts irreversibly. Take Facebook for example.

Social media of course receives its share of criticism but I have found it rewarding in the sense that it has given me the opportunity to express my thoughts in a forum that is at times robustly disagreeable but always enlightening. It makes you dive into humanity, hear things you do not want to hear, and defend what you have to say .It is for those with opinions or for those without the courage to share them. And fence-sitters of course. It attracts the reasoned the unreasoned the civil and the uncivil. The biased and the unbiased. It is for people with ideas and sadly those without any. It whispers or shouts dissent. But mostly it’s a society of our own creation. It is also a technology that has given licence to the nutters of society or conversely you could say that it has identified and exposed them.

2 We have had the usual post Premier’s self-praise of their retreat and without wishing to sound negative they made what, in a flourishing progressive democracy should be normal and ongoing attention to reform, sound like for the first time in human history, they had discovered the benefits of civil discourse.

Recommend you read Kaye Lee’s article on this subject.

3 Bill Shorten addressed the issue of that most vexed issue of Asylum Seekers at the National Conference.

John Kelly restated the obvious in his piece for The AIMN.

“The Liberal party hit upon a winner with John Howard sensing and playing to the national mood with the Tampa affair back in 2001. It was never in the national interest to refuse to help destitute people seeking asylum. But he did it anyway.”

“The decision he made on the Tampa was very much in the interest of his party winning the next election. That’s why that he acted the way he did. And suddenly we learned that wedging was the new political game in town.”

Then Philip Ruddock started calling them illegals and Tony Abbott disgracefully demonized them in order to wedge Labor. Clever politics but morally sick. But that’s our Prime Minister.

A pox on both your houses.

And this is the week that was.

Oh, and by the way we did find out that Joe had charged the taxpayer $20,000 dollars to visit his farm 13 times. The expenses saga came and went and by the end of the week we were back to normal.

Was our Democracy advanced? No, not one iota.

 

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My thoughts on the Week that Was

Saturday June 13

1 I am an artist with a Dip of Fine Arts. How anyone could say that Wind Farms are a blot on the landscape is beyond me. Thank God our PM didn’t pursue a career in industrial design.

The Prime Minister’s scathing comments on wind-farms and renewable energy put him out of step with the way the world is moving.

2 It would be remarkable, if true, that a Government so intent on destroying people smugglers, actually paid them to turn boats around so as to protect its own reputation of “stopping the boats”. Absolutely incredible but I suspect most Australians won’t give it much thought. Such is their apathy.

Sunday June 14

1 Hockey’s advice to first home buyers looking to get into the housing market may have been self-evidently correct but on top of his other gaffes and those of the Prime Minister’s one wonders how around 48% of the population would willingly still vote for them.

2 The polls next week will be revealing.

3 “Given her own story and connection, I had hoped to see a more courageous and compassionate response.”

These are the words of the brother of Nats Senator Bridget McKenzie, Alastair who is gay. It seems the Senator is committed to traditional marriage but not the conservative rights of individuals and the voice of equality.

4 Bill Shorten has agreed to appear at the Royal Commission into Unions. John Howard felt that Royal Commission witch hunts were a bad idea and usually came back to haunt you.

Given no evidence has come forward, at this time, of any wrong doing on his part I shall not comment further other than to say I hope the companies involved had a very good reason for not reporting to the police, any alleged bribe.

An observation: Saturday night 10 News leads with Shorten dragged into appearance before Union Royal Commission. At the end of the news service there is a short prom for the Bolt Report asking the question “Did Shorten break the law?” Talk about media manipulation. Conversely 7 opens with a story on Abbott’s refusal to come clean on payments to people smugglers.

5 From the “US Catholics” blog:

As Catholics, we believe that housing is a human right, and that society has a shared obligation to ensure that individuals and families have access to safe and affordable housing. We see firsthand in our communities and in our parishes, the pain and suffering caused by homelessness and the lack of affordable housing”.

And we have a Catholic Prime Minister who supposedly follows his faith.

Pope

Monday 15 June

1 To think that an “Australian Government” who has so demonised both asylum seekers and the people who smuggle them, now openly pays them to turn boats around, is insulting the very people who elected them. This act of consorting with criminals to achieve a political purpose is reprehensible. If the Australian people condones its government doing deals with known criminals then they are as stupid as the government they elected. And flippantly avoiding the people’s right to know further insults every citizen’s intelligence.

2 Happened to catch the Bolt Report on Ten Sunday afternoon.

Bolt climate

Peter Costello is a panelist and I cannot help but make a comparison with the ABC’s Insider program on which the panelists were measured and factual. His program simple caters for conservative rednecks and displays no objectivity. In fact the panel seemed to approve the alleged payments to people smugglers.

Piers Ackerman the discredited duplicate of Bolt in Sydney appeared giving his OK to the behavior of Joe Hockey. Every guest reinforces conservative values with vigorous, loud enthusiasm. Not one difficult question from the host.

Christopher Pyne, the mouth that roared, astonishingly admitted that he doesn’t trust his colleagues in cabinet.

Chris pyne

“No fears no favors” he signs off with. Please explain.

3 Todays IPSOS Fairfax poll has Labor 53 with the LNP on 47. Bill Shorten has regained his lead as preferred PM.

Tuesday 16 June

1 The IPSOS poll has now fallen into line with all the other published polls to indicate the government has not achieved a budget bounce. (It must be said that governments only gets budget bounces on very rare occasions. However, this one was deliberately framed to do so. It confirms my previously stated view that the budget did nothing for the Government. Following them Morgan Poll has Labor at 54.5 and LNP 45.5

2 Last week both the Foreign Minister and the Immigration Minister said in public interviews that the Government didn’t pay criminals to turn boats around. In parliament they couldn’t answer the same question because of security reasons.

And the PM’s failure to answer the question for the same reason leaves the Australian public with no other option than to conclude that it is yet another lie. Or a lie about a lie. But then he told us he was a liar before we elected him so we shouldn’t be at all surprised. He may think he is on safe ground because he is pumping up his security measures but breaking the law to do so is beyond the public’s acceptance.

It raises the question, have they really stopped the boats, or have they just been paying to have them turned around?

Conversation pieces:

“We asked the Minister if he agreed with himself and he wasn’t able to answer” (Tony Burke).

“1942 John Curtin stood against the might of the Japanese empire. 2015 Tony Abbott wants to terrify you about a few loopy kids from Lakemba” (Mike Carlton).

“I wonder if in Tony Abbott’s war on ice he would be willing to bribe drug dealers” (Richard Dennis).

“Who would have thought that Tony Abbott would get to a point where he can’t say NO” (Tony Burke).

“Bit messy in Parliament House, and it’s not just because the cleaners are on strike” (Tony Burke).

8 “Paying off people smugglers would save money” (Philip Ruddock).

Tuesday 17 June

1 Is it really possible, as some commentators are suggesting, that the PM is deliberately using the boat bribery accusation as a diversion? If the results of the Lowy Institute poll are correct the public are shit scared of terrorism and why are the media not reporting on government negotiations with Senate independents regarding important budget legislation?

This PM, If he hasn’t already, is dragging this country’s international reputation through the mud.

Who is drawing attention to the ABC’s Four Corners program on coal or the Pope’s speaking out on the dangers of Climate Change? Both an embarrassment to the LNP.

2 When I finished writing this I watched an interview with Abbott in which he said for the millionth time “we have stopped the boats” and we have done so within the law. Now I ask myself: “It’s illegal to bribe people and given he has said they have acted within the law hasn’t he answered the question with a NO”. I believe he has implied that.

Maybe it is just a diversion but gee, can our politics get any lower?

3 Bronwyn Bishops performance on Q&A did nothing to enhance the dignity of the office of the Speaker. I think the audience said more than I can say in words

4 The final result for Newspoll-as-we-know-it is much better for the Coalition than IPSOS or Morgan, 51/49 to Labor. It’s the last Newspoll before it switches to Galaxy.

Wednesday 17 June

1 The shenanigans of the last couple of days is but an illustration of the depths our political system has slipped. Labor might be able to claim the slightly higher ground in that they may not have paid to have boats turned around whereas the Liberals very well may have.

The biggest loser, however, is the state of our democracy. Politics must be the only institution that never seeks to improve itself.

Democracy

Here is just one example: Bronwyn Bishop appears on Q&A and totality trashes the traditions of the position of Speaker by making political comments about issues that could appear before the Parliament. Speakers simply don’t go into the media to talk about the current political debate.

The state of our democracy is badly in need of repair.

2 This week’s Essential Poll comes in with Labor leading 52/48. The more interesting part of it was the status of institutions. On the question of who do you trust political parties came last at 12%.

Thursday 18 June

1 An observation:

“Why is it politicians are given the title ‘the honourable'”?

2 Addressing pension sustainability without addressing superannuation tax concessions is futile and will achieve very little. That is why Labor was saying “no”. They were trying to force Abbott into addressing the problem. The Greens have made a naive decision.

3 I have written much on the subject of the state of our democracy and I don’t think I have ever been in such despair about it. Whilst I am tempted to repost my previous post I will leave it to those wishing to read it to do so. Does Aussie Democracy Exist Anymore?

4 George Brandis is in a bit of trouble with all eight crossbenchers voting with Labor and the Greens to establish two Senate inquiries. Both will scrutinise the actions of the Attorney-General.

The legal and constitutional affairs references committee will now review the handling of the letter sent by Martin Place siege gunman Man Haron Monis to the Attorney-General and, separately, Senator Brandis’ decision to divert $105 million from the Australia Council to a new program that has been branded by Labor as his own “arts slush fund”, the National Program for Excellence in the Arts.

abbott liar

5 At the risk of repeating myself, when the PM says he has stopped the boats and has done so legally he is in effect saying that they have not paid people smugglers. How about a question beginning with “given that you have said you don’t pay people smugglers … ” Abbott interrupts “but but but”. Journalist: well you said you did everything legally.

6 LNP branches using the ABC’s The Killing Fields for fund-raisers is yet another example of the decline in respect and civility between political parties.

Friday 19 June

1 Tony Abbott has accused the ALP of “rolling out the red carpet” for terrorists to come back to Australia because it is questioning whether a decision to strip citizenship from foreign fighters should be made by a Minister without the involvement of the courts.

terror law trap

That of course is another lie. For a PM seeking bipartisanship on these matters to say such things is reprehensible. It’s just that they are opposed to legislation that was not informed by any documentation, cabinet submission or legal advice. Legislation that would enable an incapable Minister like Dutton to decide on the citizenship of anyone. In other words they want us to respect the law of the land.

They want to keep the Australian people safe, they say. I hope that includes victims of child abuse, domestic violence, those contemplating suicide etc etc. and I hope they put in equal resources.

2 Australian politics has degenerated into a daily dose of conservative negativity. Every day we are subjected to the drug of Tony Abbott’s morose personality of shock and awe politics. Thrust upon us is a constant stream of we “know what’s best for everyone” that disregards the common good with a determination to govern for those who have and ignore those who have not.

3 By the way. The Killing Fields rated abysmally.

4 Bill Shorten is again accused of another dodgy union deal but former chairman of toll road operator ConnectEast Tony Shepherd, who recently led the Federal Government’s Commission of Audit, at the time congratulated Thiess John Holland, the AWU and construction union on the industrial agreements reached.

“It’s a unique outcome for a massive and unique project and it will provide the contractor with the flexibility required to achieve completion on time and on budget” , Mr Shepherd said.

It’s important to point out that this is exactly what the Prime Minister wanted when he announced the Trade Union Royal Commission. While there may (may) be other, worthwhile things that spring from the Commission, I doubt anyone really doubts that Tony Abbott’s aim all along was to drag Labor figures onto the stand, and thus through the inevitable media storm that accompanies such events.

Midday thoughts:

1 Can we please also have a Coal Commissioner? I for one have many complaints to register. A wind farm commissioner represents a new low in Abbott’s relentless anti-renewables campaign”. Anyone who thinks he is remotely interested in Climate Change has rocks in their head.

2 The Pope has said nothing factually on the state of our planet that is not already known. The force of his argument however is in the moral position he puts to his millions of followers. But of course the moral argument is always confronted by the evils of capitalism, greed, power and privilege.

3 In yet another example of the PM telling blatant lies: Former national security law watchdog Bret Walker, SC, has launched a blistering attack on the government’s “absurd” handling of the citizenship debate’’ and demanded Prime Minister Tony Abbott apologise.

4 Bill Shorten today gets another drubbing from the MSM. This time about campaign funds. Of course they don’t mention Hockey’s dubious funding or Reinhart funding Joyce. Have any laws been broken? I’m waiting for some facts.

Having said that, wouldn’t it be nice to have some squeaky clean leaders?

Finally:

There have been four polls released this week. The IPSOS and Morgan polls both showed a substantial increase in the Labor vote share, but Newspoll and Essential have not supported this trend to Labor. Here is this week’s poll table. Note that Morgan leans to Labor by about one point, while IPSOS leans to the Coalition by a similar margin. The last Ipsos was the 50-50 tie following the budget, while the other polls are weekly or fortnightly.

Newspoll 51/49 for ALP, Essential 52/48 for ALP, Morgan 54.5/45.5 for ALP, IPSOS 53/47 for ALP.

And this is the week that was.

 

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My Thoughts on the Week That Was

Saturday June 6

1 The Prime Minister’s and Minister Dutton’s responses to Senator Hanson Young’s objection to allegedly being spied on in Nauru was appallingly sexist and political overreach of the worst kind. For the PM to say she was “looked after” was insultingly gratuitous and condescending regardless of the rights or wrongs of the situation. And Dutton’s childish temperamental outburst was a reflection on his inadequacy as a politician. He should have stayed in the Police Force. Creepy indeed.

2 It has always fascinated me that unions can be so maligned for the slightest whiff of wrong doing yet business criminals like Bond, Skase, Elliott and others are considered by many to be folk heroes.

Sunday June 7

Did I see last night an advertisement promoting the budget? Is it taxpayer-funded? That would be a first.

Monday June 8

Peter Dutton’s inability to get his facts right on the statement by Human Rights commissioner Gillian Triggs about Ministerial powers suggests that he is the last person to decide on one’s citizenship. Or anything else for that matter

1 As if to demonstrate, yet again, he and his government’s apathetic out of touch governess, Joe Hockey, the treasurer of Team Australia, in answer to a question about housing affordability said: “The starting point for first home buyers is to get a good job that pays good money”.

House

I would have thought it’s a problem easily solved. All they have to do is produce all the jobs they said they were going too. (Sarcasm intended)

2 The Abbott government appears to be running an orchestrated campaign to “destabilise or even destroy” the Australian Human Rights Commission, according to the nation’s first federal human rights commissioner Brian Burdekin.

They are at war with everyone who disagrees with them. Vindictive bastards.

GAY MARRIAGE

3 Scott Morrison said: “If you say that you don’t get on board with the same-sex marriage bandwagon, then somehow you’re a homophobe or something like that – I don’t think that’s very helpful”.

“I think it’s time for people to have a bit of a breather about this and consider what the other options are.”

Could someone tell me what the options are to inequality?

Tuesday June 9

Nile

1 In NSW it seems Rev Nile is doing a deal with Premier Baird to get his Power legislation passed. It’s a sneaky Religious one of course. Parents of public school children will only be offered the Ethics course for their children AFTER they have turned down Religious Education courses. They won’t be told they are available on the course curriculum. Now that’s Christian transparency. Lying by omission.

2 “I’m for individual freedom … to the max. So you can imagine my profound disappointment, bordering on despair, when I see some on ‘my team’ thinking it is OK for a minister alone to take away a citizen’s rights – indeed, take away citizenship – in the blink of an eye. No appeal, no judicial process, just a ministerial decision. What were they thinking?” (Amanda Vanstone).

3 The conservative Christian forces in the Coalition are gathering their forces to confront Abbott on marriage equality. Extremists like George Christensen are determined to go against public opinion and govern for the minority.

4 NBN have let contracts to try and speed up its implementation.

An observation:

On the NBN: “The problem with designing a network to meet the needs of today is that it denies you the ability to meet the needs of tomorrow”.

5 Now hear this: Labor put in place laws that guaranteed 700 companies (including Packer, Reinhardt etc) would be more transparent in terms of tax liability. They respond by saying it would make them more susceptible to kidnapping, privacy, personal security and extortion. Without any evidence from any law enforcement agency to back up this assertion, the government decided to shield these companies from any disclosure. Rotten to the core.

Wednesday June 10

1 “Even as a cabinet minister, sometimes it’s hard to pay a Sydney mortgage and I know over the years I’ve earned a lot more than the average person” (Tony Abbott).

If he finds it hard, what hope the average wage earner? Just as well he got free education and didn’t have to pay University fees. Gee you have to feel for his hardship being the world’s highest paid politician can’t be easy.

Meanwhile Treasurer Joe Hockey is selling his $1.5 million farm. Umm, it all reeks of privilege and elitism. And Glen Stephens thinks the housing market is crazy.

2 Scott Morisson said yesterday: “The institution of marriage came from religion. It was adopted by the state and I have always been a firm believer in the separation of church and state and the main reason for that is it protects the church – and I think the church’s institutions do need to be protected”.

He is factually wrong on the first count and on the second I am wondering what it is the church needs protection from.

3 Bill Shorten has moved to make the gender gap an issue for the ALP’s July national conference and for Labor more widely.

“Wanted: more female politicians”

An observation:

“At some time in the human narrative . . . in our history, man declared himself superior to women. It must have been an accident, or at least an act of gross stupidity. But that’s men for you”

Thursday June 11

Wind farms

1 The PM was certainly out and about yesterday. He described wind farms as visually awful and a danger to people’s health. Of course there is no scientific evidence to say people’s health is effected and no doubt he finds the sight of coal stations spewing their filth more aesthetically pleasing.

Coal mines

I am an artist with a Diploma of Fine Arts. How anyone could say that Wind Farms are a blot on the landscape is beyond me. Thank God he didn’t pursue a career in industrial design.

A study conducted by the government’s own National Health and Medical Research Council recently found that there is no “consistent evidence” that wind farms damage human health.

On top of that he wishes a RET had never been implemented.

Farm

His ignorance of the way the world is headed in terms of renewable energy is breathtaking in its arrogance.

His new-found frankness contradicts claims he and his ministers made before and after the election about how committed they were to renewable energy.

2 Good to see the Member for Gippsland (my electorate) Darren Chester has become the first National’s MP to openly throw his support behind same-sex marriage. Not much we would agree on but on this one yes.

3 Labor is considering changes to capital gains tax rules as well as negative gearing if elected, but remains tight-lipped about the policy it will adopt before the next election.

The PM responded by saying:

“If you look at what the Labor Party is proposing at the moment they want to hit your super with more tax, they apparently want to drive down the value of your existing home and now it seems they want to put rent up by fiddling with negative gearing”.

He neglected to say they plan to raid your bank accounts.

4 It seems AMEX has not paid tax in Australia for 7 years on a turnover of 8 billion. How is that possible? I wonder if Hockey might know.

5 This week’s Essential Poll is unchanged with Labor leading 52/48.

6 Abbott’s terrorist language is becoming more alarmist and sensational every day. The adults are still yet to take charge.

Friday June 12

1 In denying to answer a question as to whether Australia paid people smugglers to turn boats back Tony Abbott has more or less confessed that we did. He just doesn’t like telling the truth. Does it then mean that we were complicit in people trafficking?

2 What a thoroughly detestable grub of a Prime Minister he is. A liar who will do or say anything that suits him at the time. His comments about wind farms are implausible. The one he referred to was on Rottnest Island, funded by the Howard Government, supplies 40% of the Islands power, and is perfectly acceptable to the residents. To say that they are ugly and noisy based on an experience some years ago is ridiculous. Any wonder international leaders call him a fool.

3 Speaking of political grubbiness. Radio shock jock Ray Hadley and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton have been accused of “sexist claptrap” after playing a song labelling Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young as the “Dumbest Politician in Australia”.

Must be Christopher’s turn next.

And this is the week that was. Well except that Bill Shorten made yet another speech about Australia becoming a republic. Perhaps he should just say that if elected a plebiscite is assured.

And I won’t comment on the Murdoch accession plan because its as clear as mud as to who is actually in charge.

 

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How Australians Justify Torture

By Eva Cripps

Torture is an evocative word. It conjures up images of shackles, chains, beatings, burnings, suffocation, and waterboarding. Almost everyone has watched a movie that incorporates some element of torture. Blind fold over face and knife to throat, submersion into a watery pit, a bucket full of scorpions. While this visual imagery is captivating, in reality the threshold as to what constitutes torture is not as high as many Australians think.

Graphic scenes of torture in movies and TV series are seen as entertainment and definitely not part of reality. It is only reality in third world, war torn countries, or in underworld gangs in faraway cities infested with organised crime. Certainly, state-sanctioned torture has no place in a Western, democratic, developed nation. There is an uncomfortable denial from many that Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers amounts to torture.

The Australian Government is unrepentant in its asylum seeker policy. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is determined to do whatever it takes to fulfil his ‘Stop the Boats’ election promise. This includes the guarantee that no genuine refugee, let alone economic migrant, who attempts to come to Australia by boat, will ever ‘call Australia home’. Those who do attempt the journey are either turned back to Indonesia or held in detention in offshore processing facilities on Manus Island or Nauru.

In March 2015, the United Nations slammed Australia for violating international obligations with its treatment of asylum seekers, stating that it amounted to torture. This followed the November 2014 ‘children in detention’ report from the Australian Human Rights Commission. The report found systematic exposure to and horrific cases of sexual and physical abuse of children in immigration detention.

Despite the independent and sustained reports of torture and abuse in a regime funded by the Australian taxpayer, many people remain apathetic. And the Government’s recently enacted laws which may see doctors, health workers and counsellors jailed for reporting abuse, will further remove any potential discomfort from the minds of many Australians.

But for those who do engage, the conversation often revolves around whether those subjected to abuse in detention are ‘genuine refugees’. In a strange twist of logic, it seems that the government-defined classification of the asylum seeker is entirely relevant as to whether a fellow human being should be tortured at the taxpayer expense.

“They’re not genuine refugees, they are economic migrants,” is a common response to any condemnation of the asylum seeker policy.

As if this makes all the difference.

Are these Australians really so callous as to endorse Government-funded torture, simply because a person, labelled an ‘economic migrant’, dares to seek a better life?

“They’re not real refugees. They should have waited their turn. It was their choice to get on a boat. If they can afford to pay people smugglers, they can afford a visa.”

Are Australians, as a nation, really saying that where they believe a person is not escaping torture, genocide or persecution, it is acceptable to detain and torture them for simply seeking a new life in another country? Are Australians actually comfortable with their tax dollars being spent on this?

The assumption behind Abbott’s policy is that the people smuggling business will be thwarted by removing all hope of settlement in Australia. Abbott has made it clear that “If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door.” He believes that if there is no chance of seeking a better life, the incentive to get on a leaky boat is removed. But desperate people, escaping persecution, have little option when the alternative to getting on a boat is death in a jungle.

And the Government, in its failure to acknowledge that the vast majority of asylum seekers are genuine refugees, will no longer even ask if a person will face torture if returned to their country of origin before turning back a boat.

The Australian Government is quite clearly telling all asylum seekers, regardless of their personal situation, that if they want safety and security, Australia won’t help. If they make it to Australia by boat, they will be locked up indefinitely in detention. Their babies will spend their formative years exposed to abuse. Their punishment for seeking a better life is torture.

The same Government is telling Australians, if they want a better life, get a good job with good pay. Earn or learn. Have a go. If they can’t get a job, move to a different location.

The recent rage surrounding the ‘housing affordability’ debate and ‘tampon tax’ campaign highlights the contrast between white Australian expectations and the reality for those seeking asylum.

First home buyers, faced with rising house prices in major cities, have rightly been offended by out-of-touch Treasurer Joe Hockey’s flippant advice that they should get a good job with good pay if they want to buy a house in Sydney. But while many of these people may be currently living with their parents in the leafy suburbs, in a share house near the CBD, or renting a perfectly suitable home, asylum seekers are housed in barely liveable conditions that are ‘rat-infested, cramped and very hot’.

Australian women, angry that essential health and hygiene products are taxed as ‘luxury items’, are well within their rights to lobby for change. However it is no surprise that a Government who considers pads and tampons ‘luxury items’ for Australian women, has no concerns about restricting access to sanitary products for asylum seekers. Abbott might think a little differently if it were his wife and three daughters walking around with blood clots running down their legs.

If housing affordability comments and unfair taxes can cause so much outrage amongst Australians, why doesn’t the torture of asylum seekers?

The hypocrisy in the messages is astounding.

One group of people is subjected to torture, cruel and inhumane treatment for seeking a better life, while another group is actively encouraged to do so. And what is the difference?

Only people lucky enough to be ‘Australian’ are entitled to better their circumstances. Only people who already have a pretty good standard of living are entitled to improve their situation. It is not the responsibility of Australia to help asylum seekers. But not only that, if they come to us for help, we will torture them.

If a person is from a country destroyed by war, a minority persecuted in their homeland, stricken by poverty, we will make their life so hellish in our detention centres they would rather face persecution at home.

The ‘Stop the Boats’ policy has never been about saving lives. It was always a populist tactic to appeal to voters who believe the media rhetoric around ‘queue jumping’ and ‘illegal immigrants’. While Australians fear that ‘economic migrants’ will steal their jobs, there will always be support for draconian asylum seeker policies and no widespread condemnation of appalling conditions.

The Australian Government spends more than $1.2 billion a year on offshore detention facilities, endorsing torture, and physical and sexual abuse. It has promised to pay Cambodia $40 million to accept refugees; a country known for human rights abuses. That is a lot of money which could be spent in Australia, boosting the local economy and creating jobs for Australians.

There is no justification for the way the Australian Government is treating asylum seekers.

None at all.

It should make no difference at all if a person is a genuine refugee or economic migrant. They must be processed quickly, humanely and allowed to get on with their lives.

Staying silent is condoning the torture.

 

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The Agenda of Stigmatization is alive and well in Budget 2015

One of the main themes I have addressed over previous blog posts in regards to the 2014 Budget is the “Agenda of Stigmatization” by the Liberal National Coalition Government. The Agenda of Stigmatization is alive and kicking in Budget 2015. The targets? Women, single parents and working mothers.

The stigmatization narrative of the Liberal National Government’s Budget 2015 is like a passive aggressive snarl, rather than the brazen punch to the face we received in 2014.

Rorters and Double Dippers

On The Insiders, ABC (17/05/2015) Barry Cassidy interviewed Joe Hockey on a variety of budget related matters. The first area that piqued my interest was the matter of Paid Parental Leave. This policy assists parents, predominantly young women to care for their new born babies for a period prior to returning to work. This was hailed as a major initiative of the Coalition Government. One where they built on Labor’s Paid Parental Leave Policy and had ‘achieved better and greater than Labor ever could, where it comes to women.’ In fact the coalition stated that:

The Coalition’s paid parental leave scheme will result in a woman earning the average full-time salary of around $65,000 receiving $32,500 – and they will be around $21,300 better off under the Coalition’s scheme relative to Labor’s scheme.

Tony Abbott also famously stated on 3AW in September, 2013, that

“I don’t think women suffer legal discrimination and I don’t think anyone these days sets out to do the wrong thing but it is very difficult for women to combine work and family if they don’t have a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme and that’s going to change very soon under the Coalition.”

So now they don’t have a “fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme” – what has the Coalition got to offer women?

Now the Coalition has back-flipped on this policy; stating the reason for the back-flip was that they have listened to the community. Yes, the community needs reliable, affordable childcare, but not at the detriment of already hard fought for entitlements at work.

The negative narrative of parents, primarily women, being ‘rorters and double dippers’ is meant to stigmatise this group so the public believe that working mothers are getting more than their fair share. The Coalition would like the voting taxpayer to believe that mothers are essentially stealing the nation’s taxes.

The narrative here is set to stigmatise, so if they are returned to Government, there will be little outcry from the public, when they reduce or abolish Labor’s Paid Parental Scheme altogether.

Single Parents

Single parents, particularly single mothers are another favourite target group for the Liberal National Government’s agenda of stigmatisation. We have already had in Budget 2014 attacks on FTB reducing family income for up to $6,000 per year and a the abolishment of FTB once a child has turned six. In addition, return to work and education supplements, which have been vital in the past to transition single parents into work will also cease. These changes still need to be passed in the Senate and are now linked as savings, which will fund Childcare, in addition to savings found from those on Newstart under 25 having no income for one month.

When the Prime Minister and Minister for Women was challenged in Question Time about these cuts by Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, the Prime Minister accused Labor of supporting welfare as “pseudo-generosity. This is a prime example of the Coalition’s narrative that they see welfare as a ‘generosity’ to be given or taken away rather than an essential need.

Now we have the “Have A Go” Budget of 2015, where the Coalition ‘Has a Go’ at Single Parents by comparing apples and oranges to convince the public that Single Parents are not only having their cake and eating it too, but eating hard-working people’s cakes as well. The message here is that single parents are greedy bludgers, who get more in hand-outs than a hard working voting taxpayer.

The following table was discussed on The Insiders, ABC Sunday 17 May, 2015. Barry Cassidy queried Joe Hockey as to why it was necessary to compare the two. Hockey’s response was that he thinks it is important to advise tax payers where their money is going. (It is also interesting that the pictures on this graph pegs a single mother with two children against a hard-working single man.)

As you can see the “Age of Entitlement’ Graph demonstrates that a hard-working person working five days per week, is actually worse off than a sole parent with two kids. This is a dynamic display of the ‘Lifters and Leaners” narrative we were accustomed to in 2014 although the actual words are not used in Budget 2015. The subliminal messaging is what is used to be effective here.

However, the graph does not take into account the cost of raising children, which I have added below:

joe single parents 3

As this table now shows, regardless of what the Coalition want you to believe, when you take into account the cost of raising children; a sole parent working part-time is not better off than a hard-working individual working five days per week on $80,000 per year.

As Barry Cassidy put to Joe Hockey “But you may be creating resentment though for no purpose” Of course, Joe Hockey disagreed and responded with “Why anyone would resent helping a single parent?”

After the last 18 months of stigmatizing those on welfare, including single parents; along with the Kevin Andrews’ mantra that married couples are more valued in society; this really speaks volumes of how out of touch Joe Hockey and the Coalition are. Maybe the Treasurer should follow commentary on social media and main stream media to understand what many people think of those on welfare.

Joe Hockey knows and the coalition knows that their negative narrative about those on welfare for the past 18 months has already increased resentment. Taking an under-handed swipe at single parents, whilst butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, is beyond reproach.

The narrative here is set to stigmatise, so if they are returned to Government, there will be little outcry from the public, when they make more harsh cuts to welfare and single parents in conjunction with a more Liberal friendly Senate.

The 2015 Budget has given little to no hope for those already doing it tough on welfare. The Budget failed to deliver a vision for our future and has painted an even bleaker future for women. It is essential that the vision we have for the future is to say “NO” to a Coalition Government at the next election and always, always, put Liberal & National last.

“Stigma is a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity.”
―Erving Goffman

 

Originally Published on polyfeministix

 

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Et tu, Scott?

Considering how smug Scott Morrison is looking lately, it is somewhat ironic that it was Joe Hockey that gifted him his first government “snout in the trough” job.

Hockey was tourism minister and Morrison was the state director of the NSW Liberal Party. In 2004, in an act of blatant croneyism, Hockey gave Morrison the $350,000 a year job as chief executive of Tourism Australia where he was responsible for the “Where the bloody hell are you?” campaign.

The nine members of the board complained that Morrison did not heed advice, withheld important research data about the controversial campaign, was aggressive and intimidating, and ran the government agency as if it were a one-man show.

Fran Bailey, Hockey’s successor as tourism minister, apparently despised him but Morrison was confident that John Howard would ultimately back him. He reportedly boasted that if Fran Bailey got in his way, he would bring her down. When board members called for him to go, however, Bailey agreed, and it was Morrison who was sent packing. An industry insider said “[Fran’s] one big win was ousting Scott. His ego went too far.” The “agreed separation” was said to have pocketed him at least a $300,000 payout.

When Bruce Baird decided to step down from the seat of Cook, Morrison ran for preselection but was not backed by either faction in the Liberal Party and received just eight votes. Michael Towke, a Lebanese Christian from the right faction, won. Four days later, amid allegations of branch stacking, Towke became the victim of a smear campaign, with a series of damaging personal stories leaked to the Daily Telegraph who, after a legal challenge, later offered an out of court settlement for their defamatory slander.

The upshot of the smear campaign was that the NSW state executive refused to endorse Towke’s nomination, and demanded a second ballot. The beneficiary was Scott Morrison, a cleanskin in the factional fight, who was parachuted in as a unity candidate even though local party members initially rejected him, partly because he was considered insufficiently right wing.

In the 2007 election, Scott Morrison was duly elected as the member for the safe Liberal seat of Cook and, when the party lurched to the right under the leadership of Abbott, Morrison cast himself as a central figure in the Liberal fight-back, much to the annoyance of longtimers in the party who grumbled that he was a first-termer in too much of a hurry.

Leaks to the Daily Telegraph said that Morrison argued in shadow cabinet that the Liberals should exploit community concerns about Muslim immigrants. What better way for a first-termer to shore up support in Cronulla than to champion the issue of border protection? One senior Liberal described the one-time moderate’s confrontational approach on asylum seekers as “Supreme opportunism.”

As Nick Bryant put it, “He has become a creature of the capital’s hyper-adversarialism and also of his Cronulla constituents’ parochialism.”

The more publicity that came Scott Morrison’s way, the more hardline he became. So much so that, on the morning when victims of the Christmas Island boat people tragedy were due to be buried in Sydney, he launched an ill-tempered attack on the government for paying for family members to make the long journey from Christmas Island.

Abbott’s lukewarm response was “It does seem a bit unusual that the government is flying people to funerals.” Instead, it was left to Joe Hockey to condemn the remarks: “I would never seek to deny a parent or a child from saying goodbye to their relative.” Then came an acid shower of criticism from party elders. John Hewson called his comments “inhumane”. Malcolm Fraser was scornful: “I hope Scott Morrison is just a fringe element in the party.” More woundingly, Bruce Baird also slapped down his one-time protégé: “I’m very disappointed that Scott would make those comments. It is lacking in compassion at the very time when these people have been through such a traumatic event.”

There is no doubting Morrison’s ambition but will he be content with Joe’s job? Will Tony see the writing on the wall and pass the chalice? Morrison is 11 years younger than Abbott and three years younger than Hockey. His past tends to indicate an arrogant self-belief, and a willingness to exploit any means, that makes him a man that we should all regard with a great deal of caution.

 

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The Liberals Managed Point One On John Kotter’s Eight Step Process Really Well!

Photo from talking points.com.au

Photo from talking points.com.au

My son is doing Year 12 Business Management, so I decided to have a look at what he’d be examined on at the end of the year. I saw a question about John Kotter’s theories of managing change and in that serendipitous way that things happen, I noticed a book by him the next day. The book was called, “Our Iceberg Is Melting”.

Well, I bought it, read it and wondered why it needed a fable about penguins to make the same points that he made in his slightly longer book. Perhaps he was concerned that some people don’t read books unless they have cartoons in them.

Whatever, when I read his 8 step process for change management, I couldn’t help but think of the Abbott Opposition/Government. Basically, Kotter elaborates on the following points:

  • Establishing a Sense of Urgency

  • Creating the Guiding Coalition

  • Developing a Vision and Strategy

  • Communicating the Change Vision

  • Empowering Employees for Broad-Based Action

  • Generating Short-Term Wins

  • Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change

  • Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture

I can’t help but wonder if some bright spark in the Liberal strategy bunker had read John Kotter’s theories and thought that this would be the way to successfully implement their agenda of Fightback/Workchoices.

Now, I think we can all agree that Abbott, Hockey and friends successfully managed to create a sense of urgency. The “Budget emergency” and those hysterical comparisons to Greece convinced many, many people that Labor had borrowed so much that some foreign creditor was going to snaffle all our mineral resources in exchange for our debts, and the average Australian wasn’t going to receive any benefit, which is completely different to the current situation where mining is providing hundreds of jobs to people organising 457 visas.

However, their “guiding coalition” seemed to fall at the first hurdle. It was all about having the sort of people that can encourage a collaborative effort in implenting change. They certainly failed to build and maintain a working relationship with the Senate. And it’s their failure here that makes me think that they see the 2014 Budget as being a failure of communication rather than substance. Lately, whenever the Liberals look at an election loss or an electoral backlash, they always put it in terms of not explaining themselves well enough, as though somehow the voters didn’t seem to understand what they were trying to do – in much the same way that a stalker argues that their victim didn’t understand that it was love that motivated their behaviour.

But I think it’s on the vision thing that they really had problems. Kotter argues that it’s important to establish a shared vision at this point in the process. The Liberals, on the other hand, rather than attempting to find bipartisanship as often as possible, seem to have excluded anyone who was the slightest bit critical. From the time they came to office, they’ve set about removing any public service head who was implementing the Labor Government’s policy, as well as dismissing any critics as not worth listening to, no matter how constructive the criticism or how well-credentialed the critic was. Rather than talking ideas through to establish a clear, shared vision with the rest of Australia, they’ve left it at things like: “We intend to have a stronger economy” or “We have a plan”.

As for “Empowering Employees For Broad Based Action”, apparently that’s happened a few weeks ago after Abbott agreed to be more consultative and backbenchers won the right to take toilet breaks without needing to ask Peta Credlin for permission.

Lately, they seem to have skipped straight to the “Generating Short-term Wins” thingy. We’ll see that when the Liberals are returned in the NSW state election, no matter how many seats they lose. Of course, we’ll be treated to now we’re back on track and this just shows how the voters are responding to the new, improved consultative Tony Abbott. And we’ll see it in the Budget when Joe puts the sugar back on the table and says that this tax cut or or boost to childcare or whatever it is, is a direct result of the government’s fiscal discipline and we’re on track for a surplus sometime in the next decade, so it’s all ok.

As for the “Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change” and the “Anchoring new approaches into the culture”, I suspect that they’ll have to wait until after the next Federal election, which may be sometime in June or July. Or as soon as Malcolm has the numbers. Once there’s another spill mooted, Abbott’ll be off to see Sir Peter faster than his dash for the door when Craig Thomson tried to vote with the Opposition.

 

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Conservative ideology and the Intergenerational Report: why Hockey had to remove all reference to inequality

Why did Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott remove all reference to inequality and income and wealth distribution in the Intergenerational Report? Warwick Smith investigates.

A search of the government’s recently released Intergenerational Report for the word “inequality” yields zero results. The same is true for “income distribution” and “wealth distribution”. This is not surprising because conservatives are basically forced by their other beliefs to play down the importance of inequality.

As many others have pointed out, the Intergenerational Report is an inherently political document and is much more informative about the current government than it is about the actual future of the country. The very short treatment of climate change in the report is a case in point. Another important element that was present in the 2010 report that is entirely absent from the 2015 version is any mention of wealth and income distribution. Instead, the 2015 report relies entirely on averages for reporting income and wealth.

Using the average (or mean) value for income and wealth can conceal very important information. Distributions can be measured and modelled just as averages can be measured and modelled. Not reporting on or modelling distributions is therefore a deliberate choice.

If you have 100 people in your economy and 99 are in abject poverty while one is a millionaire, average wealth is about $10,000. If that millionaire doubles their wealthy to $2 million the average wealth also doubles to $20,000. Based purely on averages it looks like things are going really well despite 99 percent of the population living in poverty and nothing improving for them. This is not an entirely unrealistic scenario. In the United States, since the 2008 financial crisis, a staggering 93% of income growth has gone to the top 1% of income earners. The average income has grown but the bottom 99% of income earners have mostly seen wages stagnate or fall. If we only heard about average incomes during that period we could be fooled into thinking US incomes are recovering from the financial crisis.

Equality of outcome is required for equality of opportunity

The negative consequences of extreme inequality have been very well documented by numerous studies in a variety of fields. Nations with high levels of inequality have poorer outcomes across a huge range of health and wellbeing measures, from teenage pregnancies to drug and alcohol problems.

warwick

Income inequality has a huge impact on health and well-being even among wealthy western nations. Graph from ‘The Spirit Level’.

Conservatives, by definition, tend to defend the status quo with respect to institutional structures. This means that if current structures are resulting in increased inequality then they are driven to dismiss or play down the importance of inequality. In fact, many conservatives consider inequality to be essential in order to provide incentives for hard work. However, there is only value in an incentive to climb the ladder if climbing the ladder is possible.

The reality is that the more unequal a country is, the lower equality of opportunity they tend to have. Equality of opportunity relies, to some extent, on a degree of equality of outcome. Parents in poverty cannot provide their children with the same opportunities that wealthy parents can no matter how intelligent, well intentioned or well informed they are. Similarly, children in poor communities will likely attend schools with poorer student outcomes and lower teaching standards than those in wealthy neighbourhoods.

When it comes to inequality, conservatives are trapped between conflicting articles of faith; small government and meritocracy. The data imply you cannot have both. Meritocracy requires considerable government intervention, particularly in education, health and welfare.

The policy leaders in this area are the Nordic nations of northern Europe and we would do well to pay more attention to their successes. Not only do these nations have relatively low levels of inequality, they have high income mobility and score very well on measures of life satisfaction and wellbeing. They achieve this through a complex web of legislation but it is underpinned by well-funded universal healthcare, education and welfare systems. The effect of these is to provide more than just a safety net but rather a baseline standard of living such that everyone can live a dignified life. This seems to me the very essence of a civilised society and is certainly within reach of all wealthy western nations.

We can see why Hockey and Abbott chose to remove references to inequality from their Intergenerational Report. Honest discussion of inequality reveals the incoherence of their broader social vision. When reduced to outcomes, the conservative political agenda of defending current structures and institutions manifests as simply protecting the interests of wealth and power at the expense of the rest. That’s all it ever has been – the rest is smoke and mirrors.

Warwick Smith is a research economist and social commentator. He blogs at reconstructingeconomics.com and tweets @RecoEco.

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Good Government Starts Today … Or Tomorrow, But We’re Definitely Committed To It!

image There’s an old cartoon where the couple in a car are speeding down the highway while there’s hundreds of cars stuck in traffic in a lane beside it. The wife says, “Look at the sign – we’re going the wrong way!” To which the husband replies, “Who cares, we’re making great time.”

Every few days someone in the current Abbott Government makes me remember that cartoon.

Of course, unlike the man in the cartoon, most members of the goverment seem completely unable to acknowledge that they are going the wrong way, even though that’s what the sign clear says.

“We’ve made great progress on the Budget!”

But the deficit is growing and it’s not predicted to get back to surplus any faster than Labor planned.

“But you’d be a fool to trust what Labor said. They promised to get it back to surplus a couple of years ago and they still haven’t done it!”

But you’re the government now; you’re the ones promising to have it back in surplus, then changing the date.

“Yes, but I’m not a quitter. I’m determined to see this through, as is the PM. He’s a nice bloke, you know. A terrific guy. Family man. Athlete. He pedals really fast. Firefighter. And he’s a fighter. He’ll get back up. Really, I can’t think of someone with more attractive daughters. No, he’s certainly the best person to lead the country. ”

 

Of course, Hockey did acknowledge that having the highest unemployment since John Howard was PM wasn’t great, but attempted to argue that it could be worse. Basically, his point was that if there hadn’t been so many jobs created last year then unemployment would have been over seven per cent, so we were really, really lucky that we’d rid ourselves of that Labor Government who wouldn’t have grown the economy.

He went on to argue that the best possible way to improve the unemployment figures was to get the economy growing faster. Which, to me, is a bit like a mechanic saying that the best possilbe thing for your car is to get it moving again, because once it’s moving then you won’t have this problem with it stalling. And if it keeps stalling, well, that’s because it’s not moving. At this point, don’t be tempted to ask the mechanic how you’re supposed to get it moving again, because he’ll just tap his nose and tell you that he has a plan, and, though it may not be popular, the best thing you could do is to pay his bill.

In fact, that’s more or less what Hockey said:

“I’m trying to get it to shift and things that have been unpopular but necessary have helped.”

 

I’m still trying to work out how sacking large numbers of public servants is meant to stimulate the economy and lead to an increase in employment numbers in the short term, even if one accepts the rather dubious argument that it’ll help get the Budget back in surplus and once the Budget is back in surplus, all will be well. (And once the car starts moving, it’ll no longer be stalled. $739, please, for parts and labour!!)

But, of course, the week truly belongs to Tony Abbott. Now I’m not going to mention the war – in particular, I’ll say nothing about the holocaust; neither will I make cheap shots about him not being able to stop Japanese subs from coming to Australia. (Actually they’ve announced that it’s no longer the case that Adelaide can’t build them, and that the they’ll be allowed to put in a thing that nobody seems to know what to call, before the contract is given to the Japanese under the free trade deal that’ll lead to jobs, jobs, jobs in whatever part of the world we’re trading with, and now that we have a free trade deal, well, what benefits them, benefits us, because we’re all just one happy free trading partnership where we’ve managed to break down the borders. Actually, change that to barriers. We want STRONGER borders, but no barriers to the movement of money, trade and anything else you care to name, if your donation is big enough.)

So after we’ve had the barnacle clearing, the learning, back to work Tuesday, more learning, and good government starts today day, we were treated to the government’s attempt to bury a report by waiting six months then releasing it late in the day, only to have Tony attack the Human Rights Commission for all he’s worth (no, actually, probably a bit more than that!) A report that was apparently partisan against his government, yet Mr Abbott suggested only minutes later that he was doing the Labor Party a favour by not following its recommendations, because if he implemented a Royal Commission “… it would condemn them (the former Labor government).” Strange that a report that was so ‘blatantly partisan’ report should also condemn the Labor Government, but, never mind, Abbott’s attack on Gillian Trigg’s managed to create enough attention that the report didn’t go the way of so many reports: We’ve got it, thanks, we’ll read it and get back to you, unless it’s the Gonski Report which Christopher Pyne refused to read because there were no pictures.

But just to cap off the week, we had the sacking of Phil “Smiley” Ruddock. Undertaker Ruddock, the Father of the House (do we know who the mother is?), the third longest serving member ever, Uncle Phil, the Liberal Party Whip was sacked. Make no mistake, Abbott wasn’t going to give him the dignity of resigning to promote generational change, or because he wanted to spend more time nursing a family member’s ingrown toenail, the PM made it clear that the decision was his. (I don’t think that he added and his alone, because that may have necessitated another announcement about how he intended to be more consultative in future, and people tend to grow a little cynical when you announce the same intention to change on a weekly basis, instead of the monthly basis that we’ve grown used to.)

Yep, I’ve heard people argue that the term, “forward progress” is a tautology, because you can’t have “backward progress”. That, of course, was before the Abbott Government.

Cheers,

Rossleigh

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