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Tag Archives: Julie Bishop

The Chinese political donations blow up

By Erin Chew

Well the dragon is out of the bag. The Chinese political donations scandal has taken front and centre stage in Australia, with politicians now dotting their “I’s” and crossing their “T’s”, distancing themselves from being implicated. To avoid the jury by media and the court of public opinion, they are advised to deny, deny, deny.

But the question is, how long has this been going on for, and why it has only been now that the Government is jumping up and down about it? The fact that it implicates Chinese companies and business people makes this saga all the more inflated, triggering prejudicial feelings among regular Australians and presumably the fear of a Chinese economic invasion. To those active in the Chinese community in Australia, political donations is nothing new, in actual fact, it is the norm, meaning that this is how the “Chinese” do business. This is not saying that political donations is right and ethical, but it is more so to point out that Chinese businesses do things differently than “western” businesses.

Chinese Australians are also relatively cautious when it comes to standing up and being overtly politically active. To mainstream Australia, the perception is Chinese Australians are hardworking, excel academically and in essence live the model minority life. To an extent this is not wrong. The earlier Chinese in Australia are taught to study hard and not make a big deal in the public sphere. Hence, many Chinese who were born and raised in Australia tend to shy away from schoolyard skirmishes and not to confront but negotiate and be diplomatic. And in some cases to give in, because asides from becoming a target nothing more will be achieved. It is also this perception and mindset that has worked against the Chinese in Australia, placing them in the situation they are in today. Anything which mentions the words “Chinese investment” and bidding for farmland, natural resources, electricity and purchasing mines will turn heads and cause unconscious and conscious xenophobia.

What is most interesting is that Chinese political donations to political parties, is not new news – well that is not to the Chinese Australian community. In China, the controversy surrounding Sam Dastyari wouldn’t even bat an eyelid. Corporate political donations for current/future business/publicity favours is how business is done there, and paying a legal/travel bill for a politician is part and parcel of a business/political relationship. The Chinese way of business and influence speak to the way Australia does it are on completely different sides of the cube. Where this style of doing business is frowned upon in Australia, it is acceptable within certain sections of the Chinese community. This is not saying the Chinese political donations saga is right or wrong, but it is just to make a point which has not been relayed adequately in the mainstream media.

So let’s talk about what has transpired and how did Sam Dastyari get mixed up in all this. But to understand how this all blew up, is to have some knowledge on the background to Chinese political donations in Australia. For those who take an active interest in Australian politics know that both Labor and Liberal Parties have Chinese fundraising groups, using the names of “Chinese Friends Of…” and/or “Chinese Association For…” and a number of similar style group names. Their sole purpose is to hold fundraising events and garnering support for the respective political parties, and having these groups are a way to channel Chinese political donations. The man of the minute, Huang Xiangmo and his company Yuhu Group, attends these fundraising events (on both sides of politics), as well as other Chinese and Chinese Australian business people, and this is one way where donors are able to discreetly make a donation. At these events many politicians from the respective political party are in attendance – their way of guaranteeing that they are in the good books with the Chinese Australian community – you know, taking photos, shaking hands and looking pleasant. Both Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten and other senior MPs would make concerted efforts to speak and be present at these events. The more senior the MP that attends, the better chances of receiving better donations and fundraising outcomes.

Sam Dastyari was merely a scapegoat, collateral for the media to pounce and jump on. His crime in the court of public opinion was having asked and received a payment of $1,670 from the Top Education Institute, run by the businessman Minshen Zhu for travel costs. Sam declared this money. Following rules, and in the name of transparency, this declaration became public and Sam moved to pay this money back. One thing led to another, and it was found that before Sam became a Senator, Huang Xiangmo of Yuhu Group, paid $5000 to cover some legal bills. Reason for the legal bill is unknown. The only thing Sam has publicly stated is that it was for a personal matter and that the media trial by jury coordinated by the Government is just a distraction. He is not wrong there, because like Sam, other more senior politicians, such as Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, George Brandis, former Premier Bob Carr, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have all been photographed with Huang with some politicians, including Sam himself having visited Yuhu headquarters in China.

Former MLC (NSW Upper House) Eric Roozendaal went to Yuhu Group after he resigned from politics, which paved the way for Ernest Wong, former Deputy Mayor of Burwood and friend of both Sam Dastyari (back then General Secretary of NSW ALP) as well as Huang Xiangmo to replace Eric Roozendaal as an MLC (NSW Upper House). Ernest has a strong presence and influence within certain sections of the Chinese Sydney community as well as sections of the Chinese Australian media, so politically, he was the ideal candidate. Sam as the General Secretary of NSW ALP back then justified Ernest’ entrance into NSW Labor as being a Chinese representative in Parliament, and where this is noble and is required, there was no consultation or even consideration of other candidates within the Chinese Australian community who would also be suitable for the position. But remember, Ernest is a known fundraiser and networker for the NSW Labor Party, so he was the more convenient candidate. There is not more to say on the story behind this saga, because it is adequately reported all over Australian media outlets and reports.

Although, one interesting fact which has not been clearly reported in the media, is that there is not a whole lot of backlash from the Chinese Australian community, particularly those who read, listen and watch Chinese Australian media because these media outlets are controlled by the same people who organise and coordinate these political fundraising sub groups. It pretty much operates like Chinese state owned media. The people with the biggest pockets and political influence will be able to dictate what goes in and what gets left out as well as how issues and columns are communicated.

So where to from here? Well I guess we will just have to see how deep the cracks grow and spread, and how much trial by media the Australian public demands. But it makes you wonder, whether the Chinese are being targeted for prejudicial reasons, and what about political donations from British, American, Canadian, New Zealand or other European companies – would these be seen in the same light as Chinese political donations? Remember making anything remotely “Chinese” publicly will always attract the attention of the mainstream and give media reports more crunch. And as for Sam, well he will be fine on the back bench and being young, will have adequate time for soul searching and to make a comeback when things die down. Rest assured politicians who have been associated with Huang, Zhu and other Chinese companies who make big political donations will be quiet and not comment on any media questions and reports. Remember, there is nothing remotely wrong with corporate political donations, it is really about tougher regulations and ensuring greater transparency.

Erin Chew is Convener of the Asian Australian Alliance, and Asian Australian Alliance Women’s Forum.

 

Is Uranium the Asbestos of the 21st Century?

By Mel Mac

After reading about incoming Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, and his interest in nuclear power today, I remembered that it wasn’t too long ago that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said similar things of which I wrote about back in December 2014.

The minister for foreign affairs Julie Bishop, reignited the nuclear energy debate in Australia saying that it remains an option and a way to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions after 2020. “It’s an obvious conclusion that if you want to bring down your greenhouse gas emissions dramatically you have to embrace a form of low or zero-emissions energy and that’s nuclear, the only known 24/7 baseload power supply with zero emissions,” she told Fairfax Media. A “baseload power supply” is basically a continuous power supply. “I always thought that we needed to have a sensible debate about all potential energy sources and, given that Australia has the largest source of uranium, it’s obvious that we should at least debate it,” she said.

In 2006 businessman and nuclear physicist Ziggy Switkowski, headed the Review of Uranium Mining Processing and Nuclear Energy in Australia (UMPNER). Mr Switkowski is mostly known for being the former Telstra CEO that oversaw the initial privatisation of Telstra. He stepped aside controversially in 2005 with a “golden handshake” two years shy of his contract ending amid share prices slumping, and the fallout from risky financial decisions. Recently he is back in telecommunications after nearly a decade when the minister for communications Malcolm Turnbull, appointed him as Chairman of the national broadband network (NBN) in October last year. Ms Bishop was minister for education, science and training and minister assisting the Prime Minister for women’s issues, in the Howard government when the UMPNER review was released. She expresses dismay at the end results of the review: “The debate didn’t go anywhere. It descended into name calling about which electorates I intended to place a nuclear reactor in, and would I rule out Cottesloe Beach – that kind of puerile debate. So it didn’t ever get off the ground,” she said. Mr Switkowski’s review was pro-uranium mining and pro-nuclear power but many critics did not agree and felt that the narrow terms of reference set by the federal government restricted the panel to a study of nuclear power, not a serious study of energy options for Australia. And that there was already existing research indicating that meeting energy demand and reducing emissions can be done with a combination of renewable energy and gas to displace coal, combined with energy efficiency measures, without needing to use nuclear power. Another critic Dr. Mark Diesendor said that the report has no basis for its claim and that: “Nuclear power is the least-cost low-emission technology …” “How can the panel assert that nuclear is least cost, when it has neither performed any analysis nor commissioned any on this topic? To the contrary, wind power is a lower cost, lower emission technology in both the UK and USA and would also be lower cost in Australia.”

After hearing Ms Bishop’s comments, Mr Switkowski said: “It’s a big call for our leaders to engage in this debate, but a good one because it will take some time for communities and industries to get comfortable again with the current and future generations of nuclear technology.” He is of the belief that Australian community sentiment has been warming since the Fukishima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, where the aftermath is ongoing, with 100 thousand people still displaced. The disaster occurred due to a major earthquake and a 15-metre tsunami that disabled the power supply, cooling three Fukushima Daiichi reactors causing the accident. Mr Switkowski appears to have his hopes pinned on advances in Small Modular Reactors (SMR), which are part of a new generation of nuclear power plant designs being developed in several countries. “The small modular reactors will provide a real opportunity to consider nuclear power again because they are a tenth of the size of a nuclear or coal-fired powered station.” He also hoped that they could address concerns most people held about the reactors being waste, their closeness to residential areas and the risk of accidents such as the Fukishima or the Chernobyl nuclear power plant catastrophe in 1986. He admits however, that if there were improvements in wind and solar technology over the next twenty years, renewable energy sources could be more viable. “It’s a bit of a race, given the time that’s been lost due to Fukushima,” he said.

I would hope that we are on a race to come up with the best alternative energy options including renewable energy, rather than putting all of our eggs into one nuclear basket.

The 5th Annual SMR conference in Washington D.C. was held in May this year. Senior Policy Adviser, National Resources Defence Council (NRDC) Christopher Paine, commented that “no speaker even mentioned the swiftly emerging reality that in 2025, potential SMR deployments will be competing against cleaner simpler renewable electricity plus energy storage systems – nuclear power will no longer be able to market itself by playing on customer fears of the “intermittency” of renewable energy sources.” Mr Paine also noted that no presenters at the conference had made a case that the economics of an SMR power plant would be better than those of an advanced conventional nuclear plant. On average a nuclear plant takes between 5-7 years to build, not including the planning and licensing. The initial outlay is very high and up to 75% total of it’s lifetime which is around 40-60 years. Exact figures for the construction of nuclear power plants are often commercially sensitive and hard to provide. Recent examples in the United States though have been priced from $5-$12bn per reactor over a relatively short construction time span. Even though the running costs of a nuclear plant are fairly low, the upfront costs associated with the construction and financing of it make it much more expensive than fossil fuel power, or coal. Mr Paine mentioned “energy storage systems”, this would solve the “baseload power supply problem” that is used to explain why nuclear is better than renewable energy. In fact, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) researchers are working on new battery technology promising more efficient and affordable solar and wind energy. The three year project has received a $750k investment from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (AREA) as well as $1.24m industry support. “The focus of this project is to find a storage solution. Solar energy is not continuous; it is only when you have sunshine that you can generate electricity. The same goes for wind and other renewable energy sources. We intend to develop a rechargeable battery that can store these renewable energy sources and make them available for later use.”

Australia supplies between 12-20% of the global market and we have around 30% of the world’s reserves of uranium. Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan bought around 2,400 tonnes of uranium from Australia, our second largest market next to the European Union. The former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, came to tour Australia this year at the end of August for a week and to campaign for large-scale renewable energy. It’s of note that the current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Australia and where he addressed the Australian Parliament a month before hand. Mr Kan, a trained physicist, was once convinced that nuclear power was the future but this changed in March 2011 with the Fukushima nuclear disaster, when he faced the prospect of evacuating 50 million Japanese citizens from their homes. “Japan as a country would have lost its capability to function for decades,” he said, adding that only luck and “the mercy of God” stopped the crisis from reaching such a scale. He started his tour in the Northern Territory (NT), where the Ranger uranium mine is located, and most likely the source of some of the uranium oxide that found its way to the Fukushima plants. Energy Resources Australia (ERA) and it’s majority owner, Rio Tinto, won’t confirm this, citing commercial confidentiality. What is known is that Australia was the largest supplier of uranium to Japan; ERA produces more than half our uranium ore; and that Canberra’s nuclear safeguards office confirmed in October 2011 that Australian uranium was present in the Fukushima plants. Mr Kan doesn’t doubt some of Fukushima’s pollution originated at Ranger. ERA insists it abides by the world’s best environmental safeguards and practises, that are policed by both the NT government and the federal government’s supervising scientist, who is the federal regulator of the site. There has been more than 200 safety breaches and incidents over the past 30 years at the site, according to the Environment Centre NT. The worst one to happen was last December and the third mishap that month, when a leach tank with a 1.5 million litre capacity burst and spilled out a radioactive and acidic slurry. Mine operations were closed for several months before the Abbott government declared no harmful effects had been detected from the spill.

The traditional owners were opposed to the mining of uranium on the site, yet a 1976 act of Parliament allowed mining to go ahead on Mirarr lands anyway. Justice Russell Fox, the chair of the evironmental inquiry into Ranger, and who recommended that the mine go ahead also noted that “the evidence before us shows that the traditional owners … are opposed to the mining of uranium on that site”. Nevertheless, he said, “we form the conclusion that their opposition should not be allowed to prevail”. He also expressed hope that the mine would improve the “general happiness and prosperity of the region”, he also acknowledged that “the arrival of large numbers of white people … will potentially be very damaging to the welfare and interests of the Aboriginal people there”. Based on his recommendations, the Kakadu National park came to be, with its boundaries carefully drawn to exclude the Ranger site. Toby Gangali, was a Mirarr man, and his documentary was shot more than thirty years ago, and was shown to former Japanese PM Mr Kan during his visit. Mr Gangali talked of ancient sacred sites nearby, and of his fears that “something might go wrong if the mine goes ahead … snake might come … big rainbow … he might kill all over the world”. Downstream from Ranger, inhabitants of the small Aboriginal settlement of Mudginberri are worried about what the mine may one day send their way. Mark Djandjomerr and May Nango, who spoke through an interpreter, said they live in “constant fear there could be an accident. We know that a lot of jobs have been created by the mine. But we are the people who have to live downstream from it, we are always frightened something could go wrong”.

As traditional landowners, the Mirarr take responsibility for the impacts that activities such as mining on their land, has on others. The possibility of uranium being incorporated into a nuclear weapon or present at the site of a nuclear accident is of enormous concern to Mirarr. In April 2011, after the Fukishima disaster, Yvonne Margarula wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon and expressed her sorrow at the impacts radiation was having on the lives of Japanese people. She noted that, ‘it is likely that the radiation problems at Fukushima are, at least in part, fuelled by uranium derived from our traditional lands. This makes us feel very sad. It was confirmed by Dr Robert Floyd, Director General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), that, “Australian obligated nuclear material was at the Fukushima Daiichi site”.

David Sweeney is a long-standing nuclear free campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation and he poignantly said: “Australia did not stop extracting and exporting asbestos because we ran out of the resource, we stopped because the resource ran out of social license and the companies involved in this toxic trade ran out of excuses. The same will happen with the uranium sector.”

We do have a moral obligation and a humanitarian responsibility for the potential hazards posed by the uranium we sell. Once it leaves our shores, there are so many dangerous risks that we are taking and the ramifications of proliferation, nuclear waste and nuclear disasters could all have catastrophic impacts, on not just our country and economy but our neighbour’s countries and economies.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s government, is set to restart at least two nuclear power plants operated by Kyushu Electric Power early next year, but is facing resistance from local lawmakers concerned that the evacuation plans in the event of an accident were inadequate, as one example. Other power companies would like to follow Kyushu Electric Power’s lead and reopen reactors next year, however many of the nation’s 48 reactors are aging or located in seismically sensitive zones. In a poll conducted in October 18-19 this year by Kyodo News, 60% of respondents said they were against restarts, while 31% were in favour. Japan has also just re-entered a recession and is using quantitative easing as an economic measure to counteract it, which I have written about as well and the link is included in this sentence for ease. When Mr Abe made his case in late 2012 that he was the man to save the economy and revive Japan, including tackling Japan’s national debt, which currently stands at around 240% of their Gross Domestic Profit (GDP); voters handed him a landslide win. Just two years on out of a four year term, Mr Abe has dissolved the Japanese government and declared a snap election for December 14th this year. “We cannot”, he thundered, “let this chance go.” Many Japanese think they are being asked to buy the same horse twice. Mr Abe’s popularity has tumbled from the levels that he enjoyed early on and analysts believe he is seeking another four-year term now before issues begin next year over defence policy and the restarting of Japan’s closed nuclear plants and more grow.

Prices for uranium however have been depressed since the nuclear crisis in Japan in 2011 and most of the Australian uranium miners haven’t made a profit since then. Exploring all of the sides of nuclear energy is pause for thought, before we can even contemplate using nuclear energy in Australia. That is not to say that we can’t keep on exploring better ways to harness nuclear energy safely, because let’s face it, it’s great emission wise, just really bloody dangerous, but it would be great as a back up plan. We can never have too many of those.

This article was originally published on Political Omniscience.

 

Am I not pretty enough?

When I recently saw a photograph of Julie Bishop’s boyfriend David Panton sitting next to her in the official delegates section on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly, I wondered what the reaction would have been if that was Tim Mathieson sitting next to Julia Gillard.  Imagine the outrage, the questions, the accusations.

For some reason, Julie Bishop has been treated entirely differently to Julia Gillard in so many ways.

When Ms Gillard did a photo shoot for an article in the Weekend Australian, Julie Bishop accused her of behaving like a “fashion model or TV star” rather than a politician, adding that posing for magazine covers was “not my style”.

who weeklyIn the last two years, Bishop has appeared in Who Weekly, The Australian Women’s Weekly, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire talking about her portfolio as well as fashion and fitness.

Unlike Gillard she has not been criticised for her magazine profile or her cultivation of social media and the blogosphere.

When Scott Morrison talks about childcare funding there is no Sophie Mirabella screeching from the other side to the childless Bishop “You won’t need his taxpayer-funded nanny, will you?”

There is no Bill Heffernan suggesting she is unfit to lead Australia because she is “deliberately barren” or George Brandis labelling her as “one-dimensional” because of her decision not to have children.

Bishop has largely avoided scrutiny of her time as a lawyer and her treatment of dying litigants as well as her very brief tenure as shadow treasurer.

She has never been grilled by radio shock jocks on the private lives and business dealings of her various partners.

Rather than having Germaine Greer telling her she has a fat ass and Anita Quigley telling her to “get a stylist her own age”, Bishop is always described as “stylish”.

Julie-Bishop-5

 

When, as deputy, Julie Bishop stabbed a first-term sitting Prime Minister in the back she was just doing her duty. Perhaps it was acceptable because she didn’t have the temerity to think she could be leader.  Why would she when she is “living the dream” as Foreign Minister.

 

Did Julia Gillard cop the abuse because she was the first female PM? Was it because of the nastiness of the Abbott era unleashing the hounds?  Was it due to the vitriolic campaign by conservative commentators and the Murdoch press?

Or was she just not pretty enough?

julia

Julie Bishop’s Epiphany on the Road to Damascus

It comes as welcome news that Australia is set to abandon its opposition to Bashar al-Assad as part of a durable peace settlement in Syria.

The recent military escalation by Russia and reported sightings of Chinese war ships in the Mediterranean in the last week must come as something of an embarrassment to the war hawks in Washington, and the knives may well be out for whichever rookie secretary forgot to register the war on terror as a trademark. Still this has done little to change the tri-partisan rhetoric coming out of Canberra. “I don’t for a moment shy away from the comments that we have made in the past about the illegitimacy of the regime.” “President Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his own people, and the death and destruction in Syria is appalling and at unprecedented levels”, Ms Bishop recently said in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In hearing these remarks I can’t help be reminded of the outrageous claims and bald faced lies which led us into war in Iraq in 2003. Whatever happened to all those weapons of mass destruction which Saddam was stockpiling? Was he able to secretly shield them from UN weapons inspectors with an invisibility cloak? Perhaps the same cloak that Dr Assad is using to hide his chemical weapons arsenal? Or the one that Iran is evidently using to conceal its uranium enrichment program? Not to put too fine a point on it, but when the executive director of Human Rights Watch is leading the cheer for the removal of the legitimate government of a sovereign nation state which currently enjoys the support of 80% of its people, one might wonder if we are being told the whole truth.

Having taken part what now seems like an age ago in the rallies against the 2003 invasion of Iraq – the biggest protests Australia has seen since the Vietnam War, I’m more than a little miffed at the lack of public outrage at Australia’s compliance in 2015. Perhaps the media is doing a better job of selling its lies and deception this time around, but so far I remain unconvinced. I am tired of the blatant propaganda surrounding this illegal war. I’m tired of the persistent references to “civil war” in a country which is clearly being attacked by outside forces. I’m tired of hearing the government of Syria constantly referred to as “the Assad regime”, and carnal knowledge of dead animals aside, I’m well tired of David Cameron referring to Bashar al-Assad as a butcher.

So far as Washington’s support for terrorists is concerned, there’s no putting the cat back in the bag. I have argued this extensively in other essays, but it doesn’t take a political analyst to see that Obama, Netanyahu, Ergdogan, Salman and Abdullah before him have been working hand in glove with various terror groups to destabilize and ultimately remove the Syrian government for their own nefarious ends. Washington’s war hawks have bypassed congressional appropriations by directing their client state Saudi Arabia to deploy radical anti-Syrian (and often anti-US) militants against Assad, unleashing a wave of terror on the region. Playing both sides against the middle may have some merit in games of strategy, but willingly supporting terrorists who commit atrocities against civilians by any other name is still a war crime.

Of course there are many players in this proxy war, each with their own interests: Obviously there’s the US and its allies, who in their relentless quest for world domination just can’t seem to keep their grubby hands out of other people’s business. In their latest adventure, United States Secretary of State John Kerry and the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in collusion with Wall Street insiders had contrived to control the entire region’s oil and gas reserves and to weaken Russia and Iran by selling cheap oil to China.

There’s Russia, whose soft underbelly comprises almost every country ending in ‘stan’ from which Islamist extremists might enter its borders. Already feeling the squeeze of tough trade sanctions since the shooting down of MH17, this manipulation of the oil market, despite weakening its economy, will likely strengthen its resolve.

There’s Israel, a newly created, US backed, militarised rogue state whose original British colonial design includes not just the annexation of both the West Bank and Gaza but of all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates including parts of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the Sinai, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. (The plan for Greater Israel involves the Balkanization of surrounding Arab states, beginning with Iraq, which is to be divided into Shia and Sunni territories and a separate Kurdish state.)

There’s China, an emerging superpower now lumbered with a stalling economy and forced to choose between a ready supply of cheap oil and the prospect of the war in Syria spilling into Iran, Southern Russia and eventually breaching its own western borders.

There’s Germany, which seems to have embraced the prospect of close to a million new low paid workers with the same enthusiasm with which it welcomed the surge of cheap skilled labour at the close of the Soviet era (an attitude perfectly consistent with EU ambitions to enforce human misery through austerity.)

And then there are the endless hordes now beating a path to Europe in what’s been called the biggest mass movement of refugees since WWII. It’s not just the Alawites, Yazidis and other religious and ethnic minorities once protected under Syria’s Ba’athist government who now face a grim future, but the entire Syrian population, of whom more than half are now internally displaced or have fled in fear for their lives. Pray tell what conceivable form of ‘regime change’ would ever allow these people to return to their homes?

Syria was and is the last secular nation state in the Middle East, and as has been argued by many, not least President Putin himself, it is for the people of Syria and nobody else to decide who will govern them. Russia is now working in concert with Iran, Hezbollah and other regional partners to end the horror brought to bear by Washington’s incessant meddling, and while Obama still condemns Russia’s strategy as “doomed to failure” and continues to demand Assad’s ultimate resignation, this outcome is looking increasingly less likely.

While China’s last minute arrival is obviously a game changer, it’s not like the US were never invited to the party. Putin’s attempts to forge an alliance of nations to deal with the growing threat of global terror have never specifically excluded US participation, but with the US demonstrably the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism, it does make things a little awkward. As well as Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army, the new coalition looks likely to include all members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO); Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, and Tajikistan. This poses an obvious question right off the bat. Is Washington really afraid that Russia’s intervention will make matters worse in Syria? Or rather that putting an end to ISIS once and for all might render the US irrelevant?

What emerges from this picture is a strong sense that Washington’s war hawks are losing, or have lost, their grip over Middle East politics. The Iranian moderates who are inclined to cooperate with the West for economic reasons are naturally allied to Russia where the Syrian ISIS threat is concerned; the Gulf monarchies seem only too happy for Russia to broker a peace between warring Shi’ite and Sunni factions, and with Russia now flexing its military muscle, Netanyahu is hardly likely to be spoiling for a fight either.

Whether or not any of this could lead to a lasting peace in the Middle East it’s too early to say, and with the likes of Carly Fiorina now set to trump Trump for the GOP candidacy, and Hilary Clinton still a likely choice for the Democrats, Washington’s campaign for global hegemony is unlikely to end any time soon. It does however seem that we may have reached a turning point. Could the battle for Syria prove a victory for peace and diplomacy in an increasingly multi-polar world? Or is this how WWIII begins?

That was then…this is now

In 2011 Joe Hockey said “No qualifications, all the excuses that Wayne Swan talks about – falling commodity prices, a high Australian dollar, nominal growth not being up to standard. Somehow the GFC is ongoing all the time.  So yes, we are upset about this … they think the Australian people over summer will forget the solemn promises.”

This week, when admitting that MYEFO will show the deficit has deepened and the promise of a surplus in 2018-19 has been abandoned, Hockey said “We have faced some significant headwinds this year. Obviously the global economy has come off a bit, iron ore prices have dropped dramatically and we have had some opposition in the Senate that has made it harder.”

After rubbishing the Rudd government’s stimulus spending, Hockey now says the delayed surplus was a deliberate measure to avoid dampening economic activity with a sharp withdrawal of public money.

“We want to keep the economy going, we want to keep it strong …we want to keep that momentum going.”

And he isn’t the only one finding governing is a tad harder than bagging out the other guy.

When the Labor government sought a seat on the UN Security Council, Julie Bishop said “There really has been no justification for the benefit that will accrue to Australia by pursuing a seat at this time.”

Then, in a press conference in New York in November, Ms Bishop delighted in taking an extra minute to remind journalists who’d failed to ask about Australia’s achievements on the Security Council of the “successful two years” our membership had delivered.

Julie has rather enjoyed basking in the limelight but she has also had her problems.

In an interview with the ABC in 2012 while in opposition, Ms Bishop said climate change funding should not be “disguised as foreign aid funding”.

“We would certainly not spend our foreign aid budget on climate change programs,” she said.

In an interview with the Australian in November last year, Mr Abbott said “We are committed to dismantling the Bob Brown bank [the Clean Energy Finance Corporation] at home so it would be impossible for us to support a Bob Brown bank on an international scale.”

After a meeting with Angela Merkel in November this year, Tony Abbott said of the Green Climate Fund “We also have a Clean Energy Finance Corporation which was established by the former government and there is $10bn in capital which has been allocated to this.  In addition to those two funds a proportion of our overseas aid, particularly in the Pacific, is allocated for various environmental schemes including schemes to deal with climate change. So, we are doing a very great deal and I suppose given what we are doing we don’t intend, at this time, to do more.”

Less than a month later, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the government would take $200 million from Australia’s foreign aid budget over four years to put into the Green Climate Fund.

“I think it’s now fair and reasonable for the government to make a modest, prudent and proportionate commitment to this climate mitigation fund,” he said, adding that the $200 million would be “strictly” invested in “practical” projects in the Asia Pacific region, even though he has no part in the administration of the fund.

Keeping up with Christopher Pyne on education funding is harder than working out Dutton’s GP co-payment or Abbott’s Paid Parental Leave scheme.

One thing Pyne has continually stressed is the need to improve teacher quality yet the budget tends to indicate he only wants to do that in private schools.

“The Government will achieve savings of $19.9 million over five years from 2013‑14 through efficiencies in the operations of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) including a refocus on core priorities. This includes savings of $9.5 million over five years from 2013‑14 from funding allocated to AITSL by the former Government for its National Plan for School Improvement.

The savings from this measure will be redirected by the Government to repair the Budget and fund policy priorities.

The Government will provide $4.9 million over two years from 2013‑14 to the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership for the continuation of the Australian Government Quality Teacher Programme (AGQTP). The AGQTP provides funding to non‑government education authorities in each state and territory to improve the quality of education through projects and activities that offer teachers and school leaders opportunities to develop their skills.”

If I was to try to list all the inconsistencies, backflips, and hypocrisies being committed on a daily basis by this government it would be a full-time job requiring daily updates.  And they will be forced into more because their entire approach to governing has been just wrong.

Tony Abbott sees negotiation as weakness and compromise as failure.  He is utterly incapable of admitting to being wrong – “We had a good policy, now we have a better one”.  He must blame others for any problems because it couldn’t possibly be that he is doing anything amiss, even as we have Hockey now grudgingly realising the benefits of stimulus spending.

Tony Abbott is so woeful even his most ardent admirers are forced to report their disappointment.  Fluff pieces with morning show hosts even turn into fiascos as Ben Jenkins reports.

It’s actually just a case of the PM suffering from a phenomenon political scientists call “being extremely shithouse at interviews”.

While Abbott tries valiantly to smash the ship of state through the iceberg of public opinion, it’s easy to forget that our prime minister is, and always has been, a terrible interviewee. His complete inability to change tack renders any interview a stilted exchange with a distressingly sinewy random word generator, in which an answer matching a question is purely a matter of chance.

True, it’s better than his previous strategy of “wordlessly stare into Mark Riley’s soul until he leaves you alone out of pure awkwardness”, but not by a huge margin. Abbott is so unwilling to back down on any matter at all that when he calls David Koch “Chris” for a second time during the interview, the PM doesn’t even acknowledge it, let alone apologise.

When the script stinks and the lead actor is a ham who cannot improvise who is supported by a cast of theatrical sycophants directed by Rasputin in animal print our government is now a farce waiting to become a tragedy.

Should Julie Bishop be afraid?

Image from sportsbet.com.au

Image from sportsbet.com.au

Rumour has it that Kevin Andrews will not contest the next election and Peta Credlin will be gifted the safe seat of Menzies, and there are good reasons why this might prove to be true.

Both are big players in Abbott’s Star Chamber as is Credlin’s husband, Brian Loughnane.  They certainly have the power to make this happen.

”As for a Cabinet re-shuffle, “it’s really Tony and Peta’s decision, there’s no point pretending otherwise”, the MP said, referring to the Prime Minister and his chief of staff Peta Credlin, who has been criticised for a perceived excess of power within the government.”

At first I thought Andrews unlikely to give up his position but on further reflection there could be some contributing factors.

Like the realisation that he is never going to become Prime Minister.  A couple of weeks before Tony Abbott rolled Malcolm Turnbull, Kevin Andrews made an unsuccessful bid for the leadership.  While he seems to wield more power behind the scenes that Tony Abbott, he doesn’t get to do the handshaking.  Perhaps he feels he can do better elsewhere.

He may return to his marriage counselling business since there is plenty of government money on offer there.  His publications could become required reading as Andrews is an Adjunct Lecturer in Politics and in Marriage Education in the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne – an institution that has also just benefited from newly offered government funding.

Andrews has been able to reward his backers.  How else could one describe his repealing of gambling reform laws?

He has been able to impose his ideology in everything from school chaplains to the categorisation as “leaners” of anyone who uses his department’s services.

He has been able to oppose stem cell research, voluntary euthanasia, RU-486, and marriage equality.

As Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Andrews set the tone for Scott Morrison when he revoked on character grounds the visa of Dr Mohamed Haneef, who had been granted bail on charges of aiding terrorists. After the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped all charges against Haneef, Andrews refused calls to reinstate Haneef’s visa, stating that his personal evidence was still valid. Andrews’ justification of his decision, on the basis that he had a reasonable suspicion that Haneef had associated with suspected terrorists and therefore failed the test of good character that a person must pass to keep a visa, was rejected in the Federal Court, and the revocation of Haneef’s visa was overturned.

We have just voted to remove these safeguards.

Andrews is also a climate change sceptic so he can feel successful in dismantling any action on that too.

All in all, Kevin probably thinks job well done.

If, like me, you have wondered why Peta Credlin takes a seat at the table in all meetings with foreign leaders, why she gets to host soirees for Murdoch hacks and radio shock jocks at Kirribilli House, why she gets to decide who gets what job and who may speak to the media and what they may say, it may be now a bit clearer.

It seems obvious that Tony will have to be dumped sooner or later.  Could Peta be a double agent?  After all, she is the person advising him and look how abysmally he is doing.

My prediction?  Peta wants to be Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on her way to the top job.

Look out Julie, the turd polisher is making a run.

Julie Bishop and the privilege of not self-identifying as a feminist

Originally published on http://polyfeministix.wordpress.com/

Is standing up and proclaiming to be a non-feminist a sign of personal success, or is it an insular subconscious privileged rejection or blindness to the existing failures in our system that still affect women in Australia today? How does the absence of self-identifying as a feminist affect policy issues at Government level?

Julie Bishop, MP & Foreign Minister, only woman on the front bench in the Australian Liberal (conservative, neo-liberal, right-wing) Government stood in front of the National Press Club on Wednesday and declared that she was not a feminist. She doesn’t reject the term, but she feels no need to self-describe herself that way.  Her main argument was that she doesn’t define her success or failures through a prism of gender. Bishop also does not acknowledge the glass ceiling and says for her, she ‘will work hard and set her mind to it and if it comes off that is great.‘ If it doesn’t, she will try to understand if she was ‘competent enough or whether she worked hard enough or if the breaks went her way.’ She doesn’t look at this as gender specific.

Julie Bishop also spoke of feminism in the past tense, the role that it (feminist movement) has played,’the barriers they faced and the challenges they had to overcome. This further re-enforces her position that feminism is no longer a necessity in today’s society. That we somehow have all ‘made it’

If we contextualize Julie Bishop’s stance of non-identification as a feminist, we need to understand her position in society.  Julie Bishop is a white woman, raised in South Australia, went on to study law, practiced law, became a partner in a law firm at 26, married a property developer and has had relationships with a senator and former Lord Mayor (source: JulieBishop.com.au).

Is it justified to say that she holds this view, because she is a woman submersed in an environment of privilege?

Julie Bishop doesn’t believe it is a big deal. However, as a woman in Australia, I feel it is a big deal for any politician not to identify as feminist.  They are the policy makers. It is their ideas, beliefs and experiences that lead them to policy decisions.  Even people who are from positions of privilege attempt to engage with women from all walks of life, so they develop an understanding of barriers, discrimination, injustice and inequities women face and take a feminist position and advocate for equality for women. If someone doesn’t truly value equality for all women and identify as a feminist – someone who advocates for equality for women, then where does this leave us in terms of policy development, towards a more equitable future?

One of the main themes I heard in Julie Bishop’s narrative that I found concerning, was that feminism is irrelevant as because it is ‘all about her’  She never spoke of other women, only her own personal situation.  Feminism is about inclusivity of all women.

If Julie Bishop could de-contextualize herself from her personal situation, upbringing, background and privilege; I wonder if she was another women in another situation, would she self-identify as a feminist?

Would Julie Bishop as an Indigenous woman, when faced with cuts to Indigenous Legal Aid Services, contemplate a future of staying in a violent situation, because maybe she didn’t work hard enough?

Would Julie Bishop as a teenager, faced with pregnancy discrimination and terminated from her traineeship, self attribute blame that maybe she wasn’t competent enough?

Would Julie Bishop as a  woman returning from maternity leave, and missing out on training and development opportunities still not acknowledge the glass ceiling?

Would Julie Bishop as a woman and a victim of rape in our justice system, experiencing accusatory questioning and double the length of questioning than for other assaults, or as an Indigenous woman experience significantly worse questioning, with racist imputations being made in court – would she still not look at this through the ‘prism of gender?’

Would Julie Bishop as a woman working in two casual jobs, in a lower paid traditional woman’s field of work and experiencing non-secure work and a gender pay gap of 17% still truly believe that the feminist movement should still be spoken of in the past tense?

Would Julie Bishop as a woman seeking Asylum and fleeing from sex slavery, rape, sexual abuse and attack, fear of honour killings, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, one-child policies, discrimination due to sexual orientation or feminist political activism, children being under threat, general religious restrictions on women, sexual harassment, denial of education, forced marriages, slavery, trafficking, and imprisonment – and then sent back to that situation, due to poor policy on the processing of women and the legitimate attempts to understand their history and claim for asylum, still shrug and reflect on “if the breaks went her way?”

Would Julie Bishop as a retired woman discovering that she has substantially less superannuation than her male counterparts due to breaks in work, lower paid work and casualisation of work; or as an indigenous woman realise that as one of 40% of Indigenous women, who actually has no superannuation at all – still not feel the need to self-identify as a feminist and advocate to right this wrong?

Does Julie Bishop, as Julie Bishop reflect that 64% of law graduates are women, however only 22% of women hold senior positions in law firms. Only 16% of women are on the bench in the Federal Court of Australia.  Does she truly believe that all of these women simply just did not work hard enough?

Does Julie Bishop, as Julie Bishop try to understand if there are inequities within the Australian Liberal Party for pre-selection of candidates, such as questions about parental and marital status? Or does she truly believe that she is the only woman of calibre and of suitable merit in the Liberal Party, capable of a position on the front bench?

Does Julie Bishop also stand with the Prime Minister and Minister for Women, hand on her heart and truly believe that “Women do not suffer legal discrimination in Australia?”

I see Julie Bishop’s announcement that she does not self-identify as a feminist a huge gap in policy decision making in Australia. Increasing the representation of women in Parliament should  lead to a new perspective and a diversity of contributions to policy-making and to priorities of development, and it gives the female population a role in deciding the future of their country and the rights and opportunities for their gender. However, if one is not in touch with the inequities present in contemporary society for all Australian women, policy development towards equity will be very slow and still permeated with male voices and perspective.

Many people have touted Labor of late as ‘Liberal-Lite’ however, this is an example of a very stark contrast between the Liberal National Party and the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Labor Party has a policy platform on equality for women in Australia. They understand that equality for women is not only good for the economy, but essential for the progress of our country.  Recently in my hometown, Bill Shorten gave a very powerful speech on the necessity of equality for women. Tim Watts, Member for Gellibrand as a male politician, advocates very strongly on domestic violence issues, as does Claire Moore. These are only two notable MP’s amongst many.  Similarly, the Greens also have a strong platform for women, with Senator Waters a very proactive advocate for women.

What we hear on the Liberal’s side of the fence in terms of equality for women is silence and symbolic gestures from the only woman on the front bench, that ‘feminism is in the past’ and “is not a useful term today.’

As former Prime Minister Mr. Keating famously said about  Tony Abbott (and I’ll extend to the team he leads) – “God Help Us, God Help Us!”

Note:

A) The sources for the claims for legal discrimination and discrimination by default in this post, can be found here

B) This post is not intended to take away from or de-legitimize any of Julie Bishop’s personal achievements or successes,
but to decontextualise her position, as a women in a position of privilege, to attempt to challenge her position on feminism and what it means for our country.

Trust, transparency and accountability or gimme gimme gimme?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And every day it gets just a little bit worse.

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

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

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

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

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

Do ya do ya do ya really care?

I make this pledge to you the Australian people.

I will govern for all Australians.

I want to lift everyone’s standard of living.

I want to see wages and benefits rise in line with a growing economy.

I want to see our hospitals and schools improving as we invest the proceeds of a well-run economy into the things that really count.

I won’t let you down.

This is my pledge to you.

-Tony Abbott campaign launch speech, August 25 2013

Nice words but let’s face it – the Abbott government doesn’t give a shit about you.  The evidence is overwhelming.

With one in seven Australians living in poverty, we have a Prime Minister who spends hundreds of billions on defence, security, and buying armaments. We have a Prime Minister who is so stage-managed he refuses to face the electorate on Q&A.

Our Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs has overseen the slashing of funding and the abolition of many successful initiatives that were working towards supporting our Indigenous people and closing the gap. But we have truancy officers aplenty, even if most of them are working for the dole.

We have a treasurer who feels those on welfare, the ‘leaners’, should be the ones to clear the country of debt. His justification for this is that he must cut spending and poor families get more money from the government than the rich, whilst steadfastly refusing to consider raising revenue by cracking down on tax avoidance.

He tells the world that our economy is in good shape while whipping up hysteria here about a non-existent emergency.

After coming to power on the promise of reducing the debt, Hockey has been borrowing so fast the net debt has increased from $178.10 billion when he took over to $217.55 billion at the end of August. PEFO numbers had net debt peaking at $219bn (12.7% of GDP) in 2015/16.  The gross debt has risen from $290 billion to $345.035 billion – that’s extra borrowing of about one billion a week.

We have an education minister who has reneged on funding reform for schools, wants to make tertiary courses unaffordable, has closed down trades training centres, has insulted teachers, wasted money on a pointless review, and wants to rewrite history as a Christian crusade.

We have a health minister who is busily unwinding universal healthcare and preventative health agencies and who wants to discourage the poor from seeing a doctor.

On one hand we are warned about the alarming increase in obesity and diabetes, on the other we have the assistant minister for health, at the behest of her junk food lobbyist chief of staff, taking down a healthy food website.

Senator Nash insisted the health star site be pulled down a day after it was published in Febuary on the grounds it was published in error, despite freedom of information documents showing the minister was warned it would be published, and the states committing to spend $11 million on it.

In June, a watered down version of the site was reinstated, with the voluntary introduction period extended to five years from two and companies allowed to use the star ratings in conjunction with the industry’s daily intake guide.  They also decided to continue voluntary pregnancy warning labels on alcohol, despite poor uptake by mixed drinks and so-called alcopops. Michael Thorn, the chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education, said it was “disgraceful” and put “booze before babies”.

“The alcohol industry will be celebrating that they have been able to successfully avoid introducing a warning label on their products for almost two decades,” he said.

One of the first steps of the minister for social services, Kevin Andrews, was to wind back gambling reform laws despite recommendations made by the Productivity Commission in its 2010 report into Australia’s gambling industry and the Victorian coroner’s report linking 128 suicides in that state directly to gambling..

This is the man who, along with our employment minister (he of breast cancer/abortion link fame), wants to see young unemployed without any income for 6 months of the year, and for the disabled to get out there and get one of those thousands of jobs that are just waiting for them if only they weren’t such bludgers. He also wants to lower the indexation rate of pensions which will cause the gap in standard of living to widen.  All this while cutting $44 million from the capital works program of the National Partnership on Homelessness.

We have an environment minister who wants to cut down Tasmanian old growth forests and expand coal ports and dump sediment on the reef. He has wound back environmental protection laws and the right to appeal and gone on a spree of approving record amounts of fossil fuel production.  At the same time, he has overseen the destruction of the renewable energy industry.  They don’t even send him to world conferences on climate change because, after all, what could he say other than sorry.

Not content with these overt attacks on the environment, the government has quietly initiated a low key, unscheduled review into Australia’s national appliance energy efficiency standards. The only formal explanation offered to date is in the Energy “Anti-” Green Paper, which refers to “opportunities to reduce the red-tape burden on businesses”.

At least they were honest when our communications minister was appointed to “destroy the NBN” and he has done a damn fine job of it. Despite Tony Abbott’s election speech claim that within 100 days “the NBN will have a new business plan to ensure that every household gains five times current broadband speeds – within three years and without digging up almost every street in Australia – for $60 billion less than Labor,” the truth has emerged.

We will be left with a sub-optimal network, a mishmash of technologies, at a time when the world is increasingly going fibre. It will end up taking nearly as long and costing nearly as much as the all-fibre network it is replacing. The industry – and many around Turnbull – is increasingly realising this. But Turnbull will not budge.

Australia is the loser – all because of one man’s pride.

Scott Morrison, our immigration minister, is about as welcoming as a firing squad. He is like Hymie from Get Smart in his robotic determination to stop the boats at any cost.  That goal apparently absolves him from any form of scrutiny, criticism, or human decency.  He has a blank cheque and not one cent of it will be used to help refugees.

Despite our growing unemployment, he is also front and centre in providing Gina with her 457 visa workers – no rights, no entitlements, and if they complain they get deported.

Our minister for trade is working in secret, getting signatures on free trade agreements at any cost – it’s the announcement before the end of the year that’s important, not pesky details about tariffs and the fact that we no longer have the right to make our own laws without getting sued by global corporations.

Our attorney-general, the highest legal appointment in the land, thinks defending bigots is a priority. When faced with illegal actions by the government, steal the evidence, threaten journalists with gaol time and funding cuts, and introduce laws which remove official accountability.  And while you’re at it, let’s bug the entire nation and make people prove themselves innocent.  Even if they haven’t done anything wrong I am sure they have had evil thoughts.

Barnaby was last seen trying to hasten the demise of a few endangered species that are standing in the way of his dams.

Warren Truss is run off his feet planning roads, roads and more roads. Luckily they dumped that idea about releasing cost benefit analyses for any expenditure over $100 million.  Thank god we got rid of that pesky head of Infrastructure Australia so we could get someone who understands our idea of what ‘independent body’ means.  If the people want public transport they can build it themselves.

And how’s our girl doing? She’s looking tired to me.  Making a case for a seat on the Human Rights Council whilst torturing refugees, or being sent in to bat at the world leaders’ conference on climate changed armed with nothing other than a rain forest conference, must shake even asbestos Julie’s steely resolve.  The Armani suits and death stare can only get you so far.  When in doubt, flirt.

I know you would like a mention Jamie Briggs but for the life of me, the only thing that comes to mind is your fawning introductions for our ‘Infrastructure Prime Minister’….

”To introduce our Tony, is what I’m here to do, and it really makes me happy to introduce to you…the indescribable, the incompatible, the unadorable….. Prrrriiiiimmme Minister!”

 

Lawmakers or lawbreakers?

The Readers Digest list of the 50 most trusted professions in Australia ranks lawyers at 39 and politicians at 49 just scraping in in front of door-to-door salespeople and two places behind call centre staff.

Considering these are the people who make, and prosecute, our laws, this is a sad indictment.

The record of the Abbott government ministers with regard to the law makes one wonder if they may just consider themselves above it all.

Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinis is continuing to be mentioned at ICAC.  Not only was he involved in shady dealings when at Australian Water Holdings, he is now implicated in emails (that his lawyers tried to have suppressed) from chief fund-raiser of the NSW Liberal Party Paul Nicolaou to Peta Credlin.  As Sinodinis was Finance Director (2009 to 2011) and President (since 2011) for the NSW branch of the Liberal Party, it is hard to believe he knew nothing of the laundering of donations through the Canberra-based Free Enterprise Foundation.

Credlin and Loughnane appear to be in on the act, and Bronwyn Bishop and Tony Abbott have also been named, the former for redirecting funding through her Dame Pattie Menzies Foundation Trust and the latter for his association with Lindsay Partridge the MD of Brickworks who were advocating for the repeal of the carbon tax.

In May, the SMH published an article stating that

“Treasurer Joe Hockey is offering privileged access to a select group including business people and industry lobbyists in return for tens of thousands of dollars in donations to the Liberal Party via a secretive fund-raising body whose activities are not fully disclosed to election funding authorities.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is probing Liberal fund-raising bodies such as the Millennium Forum and questioning their influence on political favours in NSW.

Mr Hockey offers access to one of the country’s highest political offices in return for annual payments.

The donors are members of the North Sydney Forum, a campaign fundraising body run by Mr Hockey’s North Sydney Federal Electoral Conference (FEC). In return for annual fees of up to $22,000, members are rewarded with “VIP” meetings with Mr Hockey, often in private boardrooms.”

Members of the forum include National Australia Bank as well as the influential Financial Services Council, whose chief executive is former NSW Liberal leader John Brogden.  Both these groups have benefitted from the changes to the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) laws.

The chairman of the North Sydney Forum is John Hart, who is also the chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia – a hospitality industry lobby group whose members stand to benefit from a government-ordered Productivity Commission review of the Fair Work Act that is expected to examine the issue of penalty rates.

Mr Hart also sits on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council.

When asked if there should be a federal ICAC, Mr Abbott said that he thought that Canberra had a “pretty clean polity”.

Despite accepting huge donations from bodies with obvious vested interests and loudly articulated demands – mining companies, property developers, financial institutions, hotel and gambling bodies, hospitality industry – Tony Abbott said

“The thing is that we’re going to keep the lobbyists out [of politics]. And the problem that ICAC is exposing is a problem of lobbying, essentially its influence peddling . . . and we’re going to make sure that that has no place whatsoever federally.”

Last night’s edition of 60 minutes showed Mal Brough, by his own admission, directed the stealing of a copy of Peter Slipper’s diary.  James Ashby also stated he was offered employment and legal costs by Christopher Pyne who has always denied any knowledge or involvement.  And now, boy wonder Wyatt Roy is dragged into the fray.  Somebody is/has been fibbing.

It would be very interesting to know who filed the complaint with the Australian Federal Police after Mal Brough went through Slipper’s diary and when the complaint was filed.  There has been some suggestion that is was ex-defender of bigots, Attorney-General George Brandis.

When faced with action in the International Court over Alexander Downer’s bugging of the East Timor Parliamentary offices to gain confidential trade information for a subsequent employer, Brandis reacted by raiding the offices of the lawyer for East Timor, confiscating the evidence and the passport of the key witness.

If laws get in the way, bypass them or abolish them.

In June, the court upheld a challenge to the National School Chaplaincy Program, saying providing funding directly to chaplaincy organisations was constitutionally invalid.  To get around that, the federal government will give a quarter of a billion to the states, insisting they must employ only religious chaplains.

Despite 72 per cent of Australians wanting same-sex marriage legalised, one of Brandis’ first acts was to challenge, and overturn, the ACT’s recently passed same-sex marriage laws.  Why?  Because he could is all I can come up with.

I am sure Corey Bernardi and Kevin Andrews were demanding this ‘depravity’ be abolished.

A poll in 2009 showed that 85 per cent of the country is in favour of voluntary euthanasia but that will never happen while Kevin Andrews has a driving seat in the Star Chamber.

In 1997, Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz were members of the Coalition’s fundamentalist Christian faction, the Lyons Forum, who were successful in overturning the Northern Territory’s historic voluntary euthanasia law.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, the recently decorated compassionate Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop also has an affinity with the law.  Before we were paying for her Armani suits she was busy representing CSR (amongst other “dodgy” corporate clients) famously asking the court “why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

Our Environment Minister Greg Hunt has overseen the roll back of environmental protection laws to facilitate his approval of coal mining.

The Federal Government’s handover of environmental approval powers to the states for development projects will wind back 30 years of legal protection for the environment and put at risk Australia’s World Heritage areas such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Tasmanian forests.

At the same time, state governments are seeking to ‘fast track’ major developments, such as coal mine and coal seam gas projects, reducing public participation and removing legal rights of local communities to mount legal challenges.

This is a crime that will certainly saddle our children with perhaps insurmountable problems.

And in perhaps the most heinous example of disregard for the law, morality, justice and humanity, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is currently considering a submission calling for an investigation into Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.  The submission was officially accepted by the ICC on May 19, 2014, and it names Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott.  Similar complaints have been lodged with the United Nations.  Let’s hope they can compel our government to accept their legal obligations even if they are bereft of ethics.

hague

Greater Australia-Japan Military Ties: another dangerous step for Australia in the coming age of pax-Sino

The upgrading of Australia-Japan defence ties by the Abbott Government sends a dangerous and irresponsible signal to China, writes Dr Strobe Driver.

Bishop, Johnston and what the West helped teach China

The recent trip of Foreign Minister Bishop and Defence Minister Johnston to Japan in order to build greater ties via the articulation of defence needs, and talk intellectual/product/intelligence interchanges is a very dangerous stance for Australia to adopt. The level of this type of political intimacy would be okay if times were different, but they are not. What should be understood is that China is rising at an astonishing rate and whilst this process is taking place it is utilizing the pathway of postulation via threat-of-force. This is manifesting in what it believes to be a ‘reclaiming’ of its territories. To be sure, China is only following the pathway that the United States (US) and the Soviet Union taught the world in the Cold War; and more recently what the US and its allies have consistently shown the world in the invasions of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan (including ongoing US drone-strikes in the sovereign state of Pakistan) and with regard to the Soviets, Chechnya, the Ukraine, and to a lesser extent Georgia. France and its meddling in Indo-China and Algeria, Britain in Malaya and the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands have also succeeded in sending clear messages to China that invasion cum occupation are vibrant post-preponderance mechanisms. From these examples there is no historical reason for China not to pursue its ambitions using preponderance through the prism of threat-of-force with an understanding that there will be a follow-up application of actual military force if need be—this in current circumstances would happen most likely by the geo-strategic stretch of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and has been recently displayed in their recent intrusions further into the Pacific Ocean.

Australia – Japan and ‘defence’

The political movement of significantly closer Australia-Japan relations at this friction-filled time in the region is dangerous in the extreme for Australia. Why? First and foremost it sends a message to China that Australia will show allegiance to Japan militarily if there is a China-Japan ocean clash. One must ask if this were to occur what Australia could do about this in order to defend show its allegiance to Japan. The answer is ‘very little,’ beyond voicing its concerns in the United Nations (UN). The unpalatable truth of the matter is Australia simply does not have the capabilities to facilitate a military response even if it wanted to, and with this in mind, what could Japan do if there was an Australia-China ocean clash in the region? Before an answer to this question is offered, it is timely to observe that as recently as the 11th June, 2014, a reference to the continuing frictions—which have a serious potential to drag Australia into a regional conflict—was brought up in a recent senate hearing. Australian Defence Department head Dennis Richardson in an assessment of the instability in the region and the possibility of a unilateral action (read: China) destabilising the region, he stated in part “…there is always the risk of an accident or a miscalculation … ”.[1] What then would be the outcome and what could Japan do if a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ship sustained damage, or was sunk in an exchange of fire? Japan could also do nothing, as it does not have ‘blue-water’ or ‘ocean-going’ navy capabilities to exercise any form of significant control beyond its littoral boundaries. In simpler terms, Japan possesses a ‘green water’ navy only. Moreover, and contributing to the non-interventionist strategies that would come to the fore is Japan’s neighbours have deep-rooted animosities toward it, and therefore to act in such a way would signify a resurfacing of its historical expansionist tendencies; and create a storm of protest from its near-neighbours. Hence, Japan would be very hesitant to act on behalf of another country, whether Australia or the US, due to its severe regional history. Moreover, the sensitivity of its neighbours and the fact that such an action might trigger and then encourage China and Russia to act in a more definitive way on their territorial claims is the opening of a Pandora’s box that Japan simply does not want. Whether the territorial claims of China and Russia are valid is a moot point and beyond the scope of this essay, however the socio-psychological and geo-strategic intentions of Japan’s neighbours should not be underestimated as they play a significant role in Japan’ geo-political environment.

History and fear

To be sure, Japan’s other enormous fear, which one could suggest outstrips any other in terms of engaging in a conflict is its complete and absolute reliance on imported oil and this too, should not be underestimated. For instance, a concerted effort by China to limit and/or cut off supplies to Japan would place the Japanese economy in a parlous condition. Bearing in mind this is exactly what the US did in gaining the unconditional surrender of Japan in the Pacific phase of World War Two (WWII) is to acknowledge the issue remains alive in the island nation. More to the point and an important part of the scenario of geo-strategies is to realise, in more contemporary times, the aspect of Japan’s reliance on imported oil can be observed in that, part of the reason the US invaded Iraq the second time in 2003 was to exercise a level of control over oil supply exports from the country. This had, and has, the ongoing residual of contributing to an ‘understanding’ by Japan that it is somewhat ‘tied’ to the US geo-strategically; discourages the questioning of the ongoing post-WWII positioning of US forces in Okinawa; and extrapolating on Jacques argument, encourages Japan to ‘think of itself as an Asia-Pacific power rather than [an] East Asian power’[2] and further highlights Japan’s post-Meiji stance of respect for the West and contempt for Asia.[3]

Nevertheless, where does this leave Australia if an ‘accident or a miscalculation’ were to take place and if these closer Australia-Japan military ties resulted in an RAN ship being damaged/sunk in an engagement? The default position of the Abbott government is that the US would immediately step in and come to the ‘defence’ of Australia—the ANZUS treaty notwithstanding. Relying on an assumption as the region becomes more friction-filled is dangerous in the extreme; and has the potential of placing Australia in a perilous position. Essentially, Australia’s position is one of being involved in the region to the extent of overtly demonstrating an alliance with a distant neighbour that has no military response capabilities in terms of coming to Australia’s aid; and of assuming the US will respond immediately and precisely with a corresponding show of force is fragile. If Australia must take sides the Abbott Coalition and conservative government needs to seriously assess whether the US, in the next two decades, will exercise any form of robust response to Australia’s ‘needs’ in the Asia-Pacific (A-P) region. Moreover, it is an already acknowledged fact that America is a war-weary and “foreign policy fatigue[d]”[4] nation, whose people are perplexed by the lack of appreciation shown for its endeavours in saving and/or rescuing other nations (such as Afghanistan and Iraq), have the will to interdict in the A-P region, regardless of what their president states. To believe this stance would change if Australian forces were threatened/destroyed is a fantasy.

To assume the US would intervene, if there were a force-on-force collision on the high seas, is a belief that has its roots in a time long gone. America will do what is best for America, and to assume otherwise befits an historic underpinning that is now superseded. Moreover this attitude displays in the Coalition a genuine lack of awareness of the coming state-of-affairs; and what the coming storm—consisting of a deliberate containment of China—will bring. The historical situation remains transfixed in the minds-eye of this Coalition government (as it was the previous Labor government), by what the US accomplished in the ‘saving’ of Australia as the Japanese advanced through the A-P region in the (early) phase of the Pacific theatre in WWII. The US did come to Australia’s aid at this time and to be fair, after the bombing of Darwin Australian policy-makers had been caught completely off-guard by Japanese advances; and were in a state of disarray.

The here and now: how times have changed

The above-mentioned scenario, of Australia being caught by surprise and needing to have acute intervention is, in contemporary times, not applicable. In the late twentieth and the early twenty-first century the dissemination of information is much greater and the awareness, information and debate is robust in political, military and academic realms. There is a vast amount of information with regard to China’s rise and the possible trajectories, the threat it may pose, and the potential collisions that may occur—there are none of the ‘surprise factors’ that were present in 1941-42. Therefore, to not understand or to blithely ignore the enmeshment of history and the severe implications it could have for Australia—or to continue on an ‘as normal’ pathway when dealing with Japan in the current state-of-affairs—borders on a wilfull denial of Japan’s history in the region; a the impact the rise of China will have on Australia from a military perspective; and harnesses a misguided belief that the regional power-stakes will not undergo seismic change in the near-future. Ministers Bishop and Johnston’s behaviour on behalf of the Abbott government signal a retreat to the sanctuary of the past in which the US—as it did in the early 1940s—will come to the aid of Australia immediately and completely; and that Japan will remain steadfast in its military allegiance to Australia as the pressures from China grow. These are the gravest of mistakes and the positioning of Australia by Bishop and Johnston’s actions send a clear and overt signal to an up and coming regional strength that previous relationships matter at the expense of creating new and vibrant ones. Thus, the upgrading of Australia-Japan defence ties (even if the end result is one of only symbolism) sends a dangerous and irresponsible signal to a burgeoning China—a land of a sixth of the world’s population, and a country that has over a million-plus military personnel—and makes the coming era of pax-Sino for Australia an increasingly dangerous place, within a progressively fragile environment overall. Australia’s default should be one of striving for inclusiveness in all the A-P region, and not be one of sending exclusive signals to one country which might antagonise another.

It is timely here to consider the actual worth of US’ assurances, and reflect on the history of such ‘assurances’ in the ‘cold light of day.’ There were assurances given to the Southern Iraqi (Marsh) people during the latter stages of the First Persian Gulf War, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnamese Army) were also given assurances during the latter stages of the Vietnam War, the Hmong people of the Central Highlands of Vietnam were also given promises by the US government during the Vietnam War in their fight against the North Vietnamese. In recent times Iraq was told the US would stay the course, and Afghanistan was told it would be helped until complete independence: all in one way or another were rescinded upon. For Australians’ to think they are of greater importance than any of the aforementioned is irrational; and unsupported by reality. Lastly, a perspective on the Americans’ coming to Australia’s rescue in the Pacific phase of WWII should also be given its place, if only to observe what could happen if the above-mentioned Australia-China collision comes to pass and the region explodes into a kinetic-phase of military action. American policy with regard to Australia at the time of WWII is able to be seen in its true light when Wurth’s recent book, 1942 Australia’s greatest Peril, is examined. Wurth states:

The security of Australia had just been listed very low on a secret US Army list of strategic priorities – in fact, behind seven other priorities -beginning with maintaining Britain, keeping Russia in the war as an enemy of Germany, and maintaining the status quo in India, the Middle East and China.[5]

Foreign Minister Bishop and Defence Minister Johnston should ask the US where Australia actually is placed in its current list of priorities, as one could (and should) based on history, doubt that it is at number one. Regardless of where Australia is on any foreign powers’ list, a more measured and articulate approach needs to be taken toward China in the A-P region. A more coherent and sensible approach to China is sorely needed, if only because China is now on a pathway to exercising preponderance with the addendum of force; that we are in no way assured of America’s response if a ‘miscalculation’ leads to conflict, regardless of our joint histories; and that Australia wishes to show China it is an independent, critical thinking nation, one capable of making its own way in the region free of American influence. To go in the Bishop-Johnston direction on behalf of the Abbott government is tempting a future military fate; and Australians’ should further understand, time is running short to have a positive input in balancing the region before a war breaks out.

Footnotes:

[1] Mike Head.  ‘Australian Senate committee discusses threat of US-China war.’

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/06/11/wars-j11.html?view=article_mobile

[2] Martin Jacques. When China Rules the World. London: Penguin Books, 2009, 400.

[3] When China Rules the World, 394

[4] Tom Switzer. ABC Lateline ‘Friday Forum.’ Presenter/Reporter: Emma Alberici   http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2014/s4025260.htm 13, June 2014.

[5] Bob Wurth. 1942 Australia’s greatest peril. Sydney: Macmillan Australia, 2008, 19. Italics and highlight mine.

This article was first published on Geo-Strategic Orbit and had been reproduced with permission.

More articles by Dr Strobe Driver:

What a State demands, what a citizen gives, and what Abbott and Hockey simply don’t understand

People ‘cost too much’: the Abbott Government and Neoliberalism

Julie Bishop’s SNAFU moments

image

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then we have Papua New Guinea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They’re Illegal, and they don’t even thank us for locking them up!”

Photo: museumvictoria.com.au

Photo: museumvictoria.com.au

Interviewer: Good evening, tonight we have Liberal Minister for Truth, Ima Lyre, who’s recently returned from a trip to Nauru. Good evening, Ms. Lyre.

Lyre: It is a good evening, just shows that there’s no need for that carbon tax, doesn’t it?

Interviewer: Sorry, I don’t follow.

Lyre: Well, you should. That’s what all the Murdoch journalists do.

Interviewer: I mean, I don’t understand.

Lyre: it’s perfectly simple. It’s a good evening. There’s no warming. Everything’s fine.

Interviewer: I don’t see how one evening…

Lyre: Are we here for an interview or for you to ram your opinion down people’s throat?

Interviewer: Ok, how would you rate your first 100 days in office?

Lyre: Well, of course, it’s not up to me to rate it. That would be arrogant. That’s the Prime Minister’s job. And he rates it A+.

Interviewer: Some of the opinion polls are suggesting that people are disappointed in your efforts so far.

Lyre: Well, that just shows that we have a lot more stupid left wing people than we thought.

Interviewer: Sorry?

Lyre: If they’re turning against us, then they must be left wing and thererfore not worth listening to.

Interviewer: It doesn’t concern you that you might lose votes?

Lyre: I’m sure that these polls don’t reflect how people will vote at the next election. This is probably just a reaction to the fact that people are disappointed because the Budget emergency was far worse than we thought when we described as a catastrophe, so we’ve had to make some hard decisions.

Interviewer: Such as?

Lyre: We’ve had to cut back services to Aboriginal communities, the CSIRO and George Brandis’ library.

Interviewer: Now, you recently went to Nauru. How did you find it?

Lyre: Oh, the pilot did that. I just waited until we landed, and then walked off the…

Interviewer: How did you find the conditions there?

Lyre: I never heard any complaints.

Interviewer: You’re suggesting that the asylum seekers are perfectly happy?

Lyre: How would I know? I never spoke to any of them. And I wish you wouldn’t call them asylum seekers, can you call them by their correct name, “illegals”?

Interviewer: It’s not illegal to seek asylum.

Lyre: No, but it’s illegal to come by boat.

Interviewer: I don’t believe that it is.

Lyre: Both the PM and the Immigration Minister call them illegals, so they must be.

Interviewer: Just because a person says something it doesn’t mean it’s true. I mean I could say that Rupert Murdoch is an illegal immigrant – it doesn’t make it true!

Lyre: Yes, but you’re not Prime Minister, are you?

Interviewer: Anyway, how can you say that you had no complaints if you didn’t speak to the asylum seekers?

Lyre: I said that I didn’t hear any complaints. And obviously, if I didn’t speak to them I wouldn’t have heard any. Besides, they’re foreign. I wouldn’t have understood what they were saying anyway. I have enough trouble with Matthias, and he’s one of us.

Interviewer: One of us?

Lyre: I mean, a Liberal. You’re not going to twist that to suggest that I’m racist!

Interviewer: But what if they had a complaint. How can they raise it?

Lyre: Well they can tell the people looking after them.

Interviewer: What if the complaint is about the people looking after them?

Lyre: Then, they’re just ungrateful, aren’t they? Look, the weather was fine, rather like the last time I went to Bali, and their accomodation was fine, just like the last time I went camping. And I believe that the kids are getting as good an education as the locals on Nauru.

Interviewer: And how good is that?

Lyre: How would I know? I’m not Education Minister!

Interviewer: So, basically, you didn’t discover anything that you couldn’t have found out without wasting money actually going to Nauru?

Lyre: No, that’s not true. I found out that the Duty Free shop in Nauru isn’t worth the trip.

Interviewer: So it doesn’t worry you how these people will spend their Christmas?

Lyre: It’s not like these people celebrate Christmas, so there’s no problem there.

Interviewer: Thank you, and may you get everything you deserve this Christmas!

Lyre: Thanks, the same to you.

Interviewer: Until next year, good night!

As the dust settles on the election

Abbott Indonesia

Guest post by Mark McCallum

As the dust settles on the election and my abject despair at the result dissipates with the realisation that it will actually affect my daily life very little, I begin to settle into an, “OK, let’s see what happens” frame of mind. “How long will it take before the shit starts hitting the fan?” I notice the sun still rises and good things still happen, albeit in a nastier and more selfish Australia.

Then, in the space of only a couple of weeks, I get smacked back into reality!

Julie Bishop manages to offend  most of the Indonesian cabinet before she has even got her feet under the table with them.

Tony Abbott decides everything is not in a state of emergency, so the swearing in of Cabinet can wait for a bit and there is only one woman worthy of inclusion, even though she pretty much came with the furniture.

Scott Morrison decides the best way to stop the boats is to keep their arrival secret because, I presume, it is safest to do so!  . . . Hello, doesn’t he think someone will dob?

Brandis and Joyce happily dismiss their own rorting, considering that “just paying it back” will simply be OK.

Tony Abbott thinks controlling the media in Australia worked well, so let’s try it with the Indonesians. So he refuses access to the Indonesian journalists at his press conference. He manages to leave for home with everything looking “hunky dory”, but only because the Indonesians got him to back down. That will go down well with the folks back home.

How is it that these people are now governing this country?

So I ask myself; who could possibly have voted for these people that treated us with such contempt before the election and then decided that, as that went so well, let’s keep doing it? Whoever they were, they can’t be serious thinkers as they must have accepted that what was passed off as policy . . . they have little concern for the “greater good” . . . and they respond well to fear and hatred so are easily led into a mob mentality. All things the LNP used to advantage.

Then it hit me like a brick! I’ve met many of them: people who didn’t even vote! People who have never had an original thought in their lives. They are not interested in policy, because they don’t understand any of it. They are only interested in “what’s in it for me”  and they will vilify anyone who does try and explain it all to them. They feel that voting is a conspiratorial imposition. They can be, and were able to be, convinced that The Labor Government was the cause of all their problems.

The next question then becomes obvious. Why do we make them vote? My head is spinning now because compulsory voting has been something I have believed in for as long as I have been politically aware. I always viewed the American system – were voting is not compulsory – as being fraught with the potential for corruption. Money buys position and influence and thus the poor have no incentive and more often than not even denied the opportunity to vote!

I now look at the election we have just had and reflect on the obvious and very similar influences and then look at the result and wonder how much of that result could be put down to those who didn’t really want to vote, being lead by those with vested interests and disproportionate influence and I begin to wonder whether compulsory voting is in fact the best practice.

Can it be argued that under voluntary voting, those that are sufficiently motivated, would do so with a better understanding of the importance of that right, and consequently judge the policies put forward with intelligent thought? Would that force the politicians to make better policy? Would our politicians be better able to concentrate on visionary policy for the whole of the country, instead of being so focused on reactionary pandering to the “Western Sydney bogan” and “Queensland white shoe brigade” mentalities?

I would appreciate it if some respondent could sway me back to my long held belief in the  compulsory voting system, because,  at the moment, I am seriously wondering why we force morons to vote.

hemmingway

 

Tony’s women

 

Image courtesy of SMH

Image courtesy of SMH

Jacqueline Maley writes:

Prime Minister-elect, we’ve been through this! We’ve talked about it time and time again and we thought it was resolved. After you made the quip about the ironing and the housewives of Australia, remember? And those tricky historical abortion comments that kept cropping up and you couldn’t quite explain away? And the time you seemed to imply our unmarried female prime minister was somehow living in sin?

With due respect Jacqueline, and while realising that your topic is intended to be ironic, the attitude which espouses all of Prime Minister-elect Abbott’s attitude come from this *from the heart* remark:

I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons’.

Again from Ms Maley:

You pointed out that you are surrounded by powerful women. You brandished your confident, intelligent wife and daughters. You promised us a paid parental leave scheme that – granted – made business blanch with horror, but seemed to show that you did indeed, “get it” when it came to women.

Yet all of these “confident, intelligent” women were given the rider of: attractive, hot . . . sex appeal. Which brings us back to Abbott’s original statement that women in general do not have the aptitude, ability or interest “to even approach equal representation”. I should imagine that those who somehow miraculously overcome their burden of the double X chromosome factor, and do have the aptitude and ability are those “door knockers” which Abbott currently is looking forward to – as long as they have ample sex appeal, I should imagine.

Bronwyn Bishop (BB) is of course the anomaly being endowed amply with what might be described as matronly dominatrix qualities, plus has the blessing of seniority and a certain upper class quality; she should do well as Speaker. BB comes under Abbott’s category of one of those rarest of the species, a woman with both aptitude and ability (although the latter is to be proven – in Opposition she did her best dealing with the lads out the back of the boys toilets attitude). BB we are now told does not believe in Affirmative Action, on a philosophical basis. Or might it be to protect one’s own backside as needed, being one of the only women? BB’s pooh-poohing of Affirmative Action certain decreases the chances of other women entering the field as competition.

Julie Bishop (JB) on the other hand being the serial token woman for no less than three Liberal leaders, and renown for commenting on not very much pertaining to her portfolios, and then when she did making an utter mess of it. JB must then come under Tony Abbott’s category of “sex appeal”. At least it would seem that Abbott thinks so . . .

Apart from The Death Stare, the cat’s claws movement and a penchant for wear extremely tight fitting and expensive Armani suits, I really do not know what JB’s *field of expertise* is, remembering that in ’09 she was forced to resign due to perceived incompetence, this coming from her own ranks – in the role of Shadow Treasurer – Hockey took over.

A few months later, Abbott became LOTO and in spite of numerous indications of incompetence such as being hauled up for not less than two reported “please explains” by the Indonesian Ambassador for spouting some Women’s Weekly style nonsense about Abbott’s-turn-back-the-boats, she obviously retained the pleasure of Abbott. Not once did Abbott do-a-Howard and at least make an apology for this particular Shadow Minister.

As stated by Ms Maley:

To have such a women-poor cabinet is to either say that you deliberately overlook competent women because you are sexist, or to say there are no competent women in your ranks to promote in the first place.

If the latter is the case, whose fault is that?

Or as also precisely stated by Annabel Crabb:

(“That’s just how it panned out” is the traditionalists’ defence of organisations that proudly appoint “only on merit” and find, time after time, that an astonishingly high proportion of the really excellent people also have willies).

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