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Tag Archives: Kevin Andrews

Why do we have a Coalition government?

The obvious answer as to why we have a Coalition government at the moment is that the majority of people voted that way at the last election.  But why?

Many people were sick of the white-anting and disunity from a party which removed two sitting Prime Ministers.  I am wondering how they feel now that the Liberals have done exactly the same thing.  Should this government be labelled ‘illegitimate’ with calls for an immediate election?  Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Andrew Nikolic, Cory Bernardi, Tony Abbott and others are unlikely to accept a smooth transition any time soon.

Others were convinced that the warnings about climate change were ‘alarmist’ and that scientists were only doing it to get funding.  Or that they were part of some UN new world order with Zionist banks ready to send us all into subsistence slavery under Agenda 21.   I am wondering how they feel as every year more heat records tumble and extreme weather events cost us billions.

Many voted Coalition so they would fix the ‘debt and deficit disaster’.  Labor was spending like drunken sailors! How are they feeling as government spending continues to rise, the debt continues to grow by about $50 billion a year, and we experience the biggest deficits on record?

There were those who felt we were being invaded by a horde of potential terrorists coming by boat.  We have stopped the boats arriving and in so doing, been condemned by a world coping with an enormous tide of displaced people due, in part, to our aggression in the Middle East and likely to continue as we withdraw foreign aid and replace it with military expenditure.  Are they happy that to stop the boats we are prepared to torture children?

Those that were angry that “Bob Brown’s bitch” was making deals with the Greens must have been somewhat disappointed when one of Joe Hockey’s first actions was to make a deal with the Greens to eliminate the debt ceiling.  I am wondering how they feel as Victorian Liberals look set to preference Greens ahead of ALP.

Some people were concerned that the Labor government was spending tens of billions on a national broadband network that would just be used to play video games and download movies.  Malcolm could get us a system that would cover all our needs for much cheaper and get it finished by 2016.  Or not.  All this talk of digital disruption and innovation must be making them wonder what’s going on, not to mention cost blowouts of $15 billion due to Malcolm’s multi technology mix which, it turns out, will take a lot longer than anticipated to provide a system that will be outdated before it is finished.

Others were cynical about Kevin Rudd’s ‘dishonest negative scare campaign’ regarding cuts to health, education, the ABC, family tax benefits and the schoolkids bonus not to mention the raising of the GST.  But we know that was all lies, right?  Or maybe not.

Many were very concerned that Labor’s changes to the fringe benefits tax which required people to only claim business usage for their cars when they actually used them for business would destroy the car industry and lead to job losses.  Thankfully the Coalition got rid of that quick smart and saved all those jobs . . . oh, wait.

One thing that we can always be certain of is that the Coalition will be better economic managers.  It’s in their DNA.  Except every single economic measure has gone backwards under their stewardship.

They promised to expose the corruption of the evil unions and the rorting of politicians’ entitlements through the revelations by their heroic whistleblowers, Kathy Jackson and James Ashby.  Just don’t mention the 10 NSW Liberal MPs who have been exposed by ICAC or the fraudulent misappropriation of millions by their Victorian state director or Bronnie’s helicopter rides.

The Liberal Party promised to be a transparent accountable government, unless it is an operational or onwater matter, or commercial in confidence, or anything to do with our offshore gulags and the sexual, physical and psychological abuse suffered by the people who came to us seeking help.  And don’t dare ask about how much tax big corporations and rich people pay.  That’s none of your business.

Thank goodness we now have a very popular Prime Minister, but what use is that when the urbane, sophisticated Malcolm Turnbull leads the same party that thought Tony Abbott would be a good idea?

The policies haven’t changed and the personnel who brought you those lies still occupy the government benches.

Despite Malcolm’s ‘new paradigm’, I am still left wondering why exactly we chose a Coalition government.

 

Putting dodgy politicians under the same scrutiny as dodgy union officials

When the government decided to spend $80 million on the Trade Union Royal Commission, $17 million of which is going to Minter Ellison, Attorney-General George Brandis’ former employer, its purported aim was to ensure that registered organisations are more transparent and accountable.

The Coalition said “there is clear evidence that the money paid by members to some registered organisations is being used for personal gain and inappropriate purposes.”

Considering the number of scandals pertaining to politicians’ entitlements, the hypocrisy of this statement is astounding.

They want “registered organisations and their officials to play by the same rules as companies and their directors” and for “penalties for breaking the rules to be the same as those apply to companies and their directors, as set out in the Corporations Act 2001.” They have also called for “reform of financial disclosure and reporting guidelines so that they align more closely with those applicable to companies.”

“A dodgy company director and a dodgy union official who commit the same crime should suffer the same penalties. The Coalition believes that the members of registered organisations, mainly workers and small businesses, deserve better. They are entitled to the same protections as shareholders of companies.”

But what of dodgy politicians?

Surely the people who hold the highest positions in the land running government business should be similarly accountable to us, the shareholders?

ASIC describes the general duties imposed by the Corporations Act on directors and officers of companies as:

  • the duty to exercise your powers and duties with the care and diligence that a reasonable person would have which includes taking steps to ensure you are properly informed about the financial position of the company and ensuring the company doesn’t trade if it is insolvent
  • the duty to exercise your powers and duties in good faith in the best interests of the company and for a proper purpose
  • the duty not to improperly use your position to gain an advantage for yourself or someone else, or to cause detriment to the company, and
  • the duty not to improperly use information obtained through your position to gain an advantage for yourself or someone else, or to cause detriment to the company.

Whether politicians exercise their powers and duties with care and diligence is open to debate and whether their decisions are in our best interests is similarly questionable, but when it comes to the last two requirements regarding gaining advantage, there is considerable concern.

andrew and ginaGina Rinehart wanted the carbon and mining taxes gone. Done.  She wanted special approval to use extra 457 visa workers.  Done.  She wants a special economic zone in the north and government funded infrastructure to facilitate development.  Underway.  She wants company tax reduced.  Coming.  But she doesn’t want anyone to know how much tax she pays in case someone decides to kidnap her.  Done.

And then all of a sudden, not long before the free trade agreement was signed with China, Gina, and several other rich Liberal Party donors, decided to invest in dairy and beef cattle farms – the two big winners from the ChAFTA.

When Kevin Andrews, as Social Services Minister, got rid of gambling reform laws, was he considering the best interests of the people?

When George Christensen launched an attack in parliament on the National Health and Medical Research Council which he accused of demonising the sugar industry through their new food guidelines, did it have anything to do with his family being sugar cane farmers?

When David Leyonjhelm attacks smoking regulations, is he looking out for our welfare or is it because he receives large donations from the tobacco industry?

And what of the ultimate irony of Clive Palmer’s party having the deciding vote on repealing the carbon tax when he had a high court challenge underway and an unpaid bill of $6.8 million?

Alexander Downer, as Foreign Minister, sanctioned the bugging of another nation’s parliamentary offices to gain commercial advantage for a company who then employed him when he left politics.  There are countless examples of similar conflicts of interest and ‘reward for service’.

ICAC has shown us that many politicians use their position for personal gain and advantage for their friends and donors. The rejection of a federal ICAC by both major parties would suggest that they do not want the same scrutiny that their state counterparts and the unions are getting.

Regarding false statements, the ACCC states that:

“It is illegal for a business to make statements that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression. This includes advertisements or statements in any media (print, radio, television, social media and online) or on product packaging, and any statement made by a person representing your business.

When assessing whether conduct is likely to mislead or deceive, consider whether the overall impression created by the conduct is false or inaccurate.

Comparative advertising may be used to promote the superiority of your products or services over competitors as long as it is accurate.

Claims that give the impression that a product, or one of its attributes, has some kind of added benefit when compared to similar products and services can be made as long as the claims are not misleading and can be substantiated.”

If you apply that code to, say, climate change, our government, abetted by the Murdoch media, the IPA, and a few other vested interests, are guilty of the most heinous example of false advertising in history.

A recent study by the CSIRO showed that barely one in four Coalition voters accepts climate change is mostly caused by humans, with more than half of Liberal voters believing changes to global temperatures are natural.

“To a substantial degree, when asked, a significant fraction of the public say what they think their preferred party says.”

Obviously, the standards that apply to businesses to be truthful with their shareholders and customers are totally ignored by our government.

When climate campaigners recently took the Dutch government to court, three judges ruled that government plans to cut emissions by just 14-17% compared to 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change and ordered the government to cut its emissions by at least 25% within five years.

The precedent has been set and I, for one, find the idea of Greg Hunt defending his statements about Direct Action against carbon pricing in a court of law, presumably with reference to Wikipedia, absolutely delicious.

 

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.

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

Home, home on the range

On August 4th, Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews launched 2014 Homeless Persons Week where he “reinforced the Coalition’s commitment to help those without safe and secure accommodation.”

Help them with what, I wondered, as every sign to date has indicated that this government is hell bent on increasing the number of homeless people and cutting off all support.  In the hope that I may have missed a new announcement, or was misunderstanding all the funding cuts, I read the media release to see what help was being offered.

Mr Andrews wants to “raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness and the surrounding issues.”

“On any given night in Australia, homelessness is a reality for over 105,000 Australians and these disturbing statistics represent individuals from all walks of life,” he said.

Perhaps it is Kevin’s awareness that needs some work because that figure comes from an ABS media release in 2012 titled 105,000 people homeless on Census night 2011Awareness was raised some time ago so I read on to see how this awareness would translate into action.

Mr Andrews said the Australian Government is committed to adopting a considered, methodical and measured approach to addressing the complex issue of homelessness.

I am growing to hate the word methodical.  It usually presages committees and consultants and coloured papers and millions spent on reviews with little achieved.  But I read on still clinging to the idea that a media release surely contained something concrete.

“We have made a good start with all states and territories signing the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, which will allow us to start working collaboratively to achieve a lasting legacy of helping all Australians find appropriate housing.”

What Mr Andrews fails to point out is that the states and territories already had a signed deal with the previous government and he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to renew the commitment, and in so doing, he cut $44 million that was to be spent on capital works.

Chief Executive of The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia, Dr John Falzon, said “The uncertainty remains despite the Government’s recent announcement that it will extend the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) for another year. Although the NPAH extension was welcome, the spending cut of $44 million to the capital works program aspect of the agreement was not. A commitment to addressing homelessness should be bipartisan. It is homelessness itself that we must cut, not the spending on homelessness.”

With the crisis in youth unemployment, and the government’s focus on “earn or learn”, they also made the inexplicable decision to cut funding to the Youth Connections program which provides funding to local youth services to support young people at risk of disengaging from education and work.

“This is a highly successful program, supporting 30,000 young people each year.  When we have national youth unemployment at 12.2 per cent and many regions as high as 20 per cent we cannot afford to end assistance now,”  Youth Connections National Executive Officer Rebekha Sharkie said.

“What’s more, 93 per cent of young people in the program who had reconnected with education, training or employment for at least 13 weeks, were still working or studying six months after Youth Connections.  That’s an extraordinary level of success and shows that this programme is too important to face the chopping block.”

Jobs Australia CEO David Thompson said the service was needed more than ever and should be extended or replaced with a similar service.

“There is a growing crisis in Australia of youth unemployment and disengagement. Some young people need a lot of support to successfully overcome the challenges and issues in their lives that are holding them back,” Thompson said. “Cutting this program makes no sense from an economic perspective: with an ageing population, we need more young people participating in work. It makes no sense from a social perspective: because if we don’t make the effort to keep young people engaged in education and work, then there’s a greater risk that they’ll engage in anti-social behaviour. And it makes no sense from a Budget perspective because giving up on young people means more of them will end up on the dole, costing the Government money, rather than paying taxes.  Youth Connections fills a critical gap in services and with youth unemployment at crisis levels in some areas, it’s just not the time to be cutting a programme like this.”

One service that will lose funding because of this decision is the Oasis Youth Centre in Sydney.  Run by the Salvation Army, it provides accommodation, case management, and a school which offers tailored programs for its 33 students.

“Students who come into our Oasis Youth Centre have a whole range of complex needs and they can’t attend normal school because of these complex needs they have. We work with them, we tailor the program to suit. Three young ladies who will complete their HSC this year, we have another 19 completing year 11 and then the rest are completing year 10 or completing basic numeracy and literacy classes.

The Youth Connections program, the education program we provide here is very important. So important that we’re going to look at how we can continue this Youth Connections program, the school right here, even after the funding is cut. That means we’ve got to look at the others services we’re providing and just see how we can continue to do this because we see education as an important part of stopping this endless cycle of homelessness. Around 44,000 young people every night homeless, and we’ve got to end this.”

Also affected by the cuts will be the Brimbank/Melton Local Learning and Employment Network which plays a vital role in brokering partnerships and fostering a strategic whole-of-community approach that supports young people’s education, training, transitions and employment outcomes in Melbourne’s west.  Key objectives include improved retention rates and educational outcomes, and improved transition outcome and development of work-ready skills in young people.

The Abbott government has cut $128 million in funding to youth connections, partnership brokers, and the national career advice programs—programs designed to assist young Australians finishing school and getting work.

These three programs are aimed at getting young people into the education and training they need to get a job and then getting them work. Youth Connections has been a fantastically successful program. It’s helped more than 100,000 people already and 80 per cent of people who go through Youth Connections are still in work or training 18 months later.

The average cost of putting a young person through a Youth Connections program is just over $2000.  Youth Connections works, it’s cost effective and it makes absolutely no sense when the Government’s talking about reducing unemployment to cut the very programs that help unemployed young people into the training they need or into the jobs that they can stick to.

Determined to read to the end of Kevin Andrew’s media release, I finally came to his “plan”.

“In the year ahead we will review housing and homelessness policies and programmes to examine ways to improve housing supply and affordability.  This review will feed into the Government’s White Papers on Reform of the Federation and on taxation.”

And there we have the strategy.  Tanya Plibersek warned in her speech during the week that

“The Government’s got a White Paper on Commonwealth-State relations that says basically that housing’s none of the Commonwealth’s business so what happens to public housing funding after June next year, who knows. We know that there were 10,000 more national rental affordability scheme properties to be built. This Government canned them in the most recent Budget as well so that’s 10,000 affordable homes that would have been available under existing funding except this Government has ended that program.”

Victorian Premier Dennis Napthine has warned that the national partnership on homelessness, which provides family violence services and accommodation for the homeless, including the government’s flagship ”Youth Foyers” program in Warrnambool and Ballarat, would be at risk without additional money from the Commonwealth.

When talking about the importance of education in breaking the cycle of homelessness, Tony Abbott made much of his decision to spend $30 million on truancy officers to keep aboriginal kids in school.  He did not mention that his government cut $1.6 million in funding in November for a school bus service that transported students from town camps to five schools in Alice Springs.

Add to this the cuts to legal aid and family violence programs, the closure of many refuges, and the withdrawal of any support for young people for half the year, and it is clear that this government has no concern about a growing problem and are instead exacerbating the situation of our most vulnerable citizens.

Mr Andrews concludes by saying “National Homeless Persons Week is a time for us all to reflect on what we can do to achieve long-lasting results in helping people stay out of chronic homelessness.”

It appears he is reflecting on how to abrogate any federal responsibility by passing the buck to the states.

Multiple Ministers Scoring ‘Own Goals’

own goalOver the past week or so we have witnessed examples of possibly the most mistake prone bunch of ministerial amateurs we have seen in the past 60 years. Each in their own way would qualify as a contender for the title, “Own Goal of the Year” award, should such a title ever become a reality.

Joe Hockey is claiming that Australia’s gold plated credit rating will be at risk if parliament fails to approve a path back to surplus. Joe is starting to sound desperate but I’m not sure if it has more to do with sharpening his leadership aspirations than his concern for the health of the Australian economy.

His comments to New Zealanders that our economy is in good shape are in stark contrast to what he has been telling us. His suggestion that our credit rating is at risk is simply laughable.

But now he is fighting off allegations that he was deliberately hiding budget papers prepared by Treasury that show low income earners to be bearing the brunt of the budget cuts. Did he not realise that we would see through that in a flash? One own goal.

abetzThen, there is the Minister for Employment, Eric Abetz, who announced a revised work for the dole scheme requiring unemployed people to apply for 40 jobs a month if they want to receive benefits. That is spectacular in its absurdity. Professor Jeff Borland from Melbourne University says, “The international evidence is overwhelming. It’s hard to believe that the government couldn’t understand that this isn’t the best way to improve people’s employability.”

Professor Boland conducted an empirical study of the Howard government’s work for the dole scheme and concluded that such schemes are unlikely to help people looking for work. That’s hardly surprising. I could apply for 40 jobs in one week if I put my mind to it. Just how many replies I would receive is another matter. Just how many interviews I could attend if given the opportunity is questionable. Just how I would do all this while trying to fit in 25 hours of work for the dole is to question my capacity to replicate Superman.  Abetz has even upset the business community. Collectively, they have voiced their concern that companies will be overwhelmed by job applications that could amount to 32 million a month. Pity the bulk of them couldn’t find their way to the office of the minister. I can’t believe Abetz didn’t see that one coming. Two own goals.

andrewsNow, we know that Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews, wants to scrap the 90 minute rule that is used to determine how long is too long for someone to travel to work each day. Now, he is attempting to influence those couples in de facto relationships to get married for their own protection. Why the sudden concern now, or are his comments that de facto couples are more likely to separate, masking nothing more than Catholic Church teaching? His call is unlikely to result in any sudden rush to the altar though. His $200 coupons for marriage guidance have attracted just 1400 applicants from a budget of 100,000. Three own goals.

brandisAttorney General, George Brandis and Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull are at odds over piracy laws. Brandis says that internet service providers were not ”innocent bystanders” and should contribute to the costs of an anti-piracy crackdown.
Malcolm says that rights holders concerned about copyrightturnbull infringement should sue those who illegally download material. One would have thought that such senior government ministers would have consulted one another before releasing statements that contradict each other. Neither seems to understand the internet very well. Four own goals.

huntLast week, Environment minister, Greg Hunt approved the multibillion dollar Carmichael Coal Mine development by Indian company Adani, which threatens the Great Barrier Reef. Hunt has incurred the wrath of Greenpeace which now plans to mount a campaign targeting any Australian bank that might be inclined to provide finance for the project. Putting aside Adani’s woeful environmental track record, Kate O Callaghan’s expose on the potential damage to the Great Barrier Reef and the dubious economic benefits to Australians spells out, all too clearly, that this decision will haunt Hunt for the foreseeable future. Five own goals.

abbottBut the “Own goal of the Week” must surely go to Tony Abbott for his ‘Leadership Call’ on the shelving of plans to alter Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. It’s another broken promise and has even drawn criticism from trusted friends (Bolt, et al.). It has also caused great distress among Liberal party members who have flocked to their beloved Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), threatening to quit the party. Wow! Six own goals.

What a mesmerising collection of mixed messages that these utterly rattled and hopelessly confused people are sending out to the good folks in voter land; all of them, it would appear, determined to lead the charge to electoral disaster. I guess we can only hope that they will be spectacularly successful in achieving that.

Kevin Andrews Is A Genius. And His Hair Looks Natural To Me!

Kevin Andrews tells us that the figures don’t lie. A couple who don’t marry are more likely to separate than a couple who do.

Well, who’d have thought that. You mean a couple that go to all the trouble of organising a wedding where they pledge to stick together for the rest of their lives are more likely to stay together than a couple who haven’t made such a pledge?

Strangely, statistics also showed that couples who announced their engagement were more likely to stay together than couples who decided not to go on a second date.

Although he didn’t mention it, couples who received marriage counselling were more likely to get divorced than people who believed they were happy with each other. And this was true whether the couples were married or merely “living in sin”.

But Kevin’s interest in marriage counselling goes back a long way as is explained in this Weekend Australian article by Greg Bearup:

EVERY three years Kevin Andrews and his wife Margaret book themselves in for a joint ­session on a marriage counsellor’s couch — or the workshop, as he prefers. They have a solid and loving 35-year marriage, he insists, but he likens his relationship to the modern motor car. “It might last a lifetime,” the Minister for Social Services explains from a couch in his Melbourne electoral office as modern motor cars scurry along Doncaster Road, “but usually we get it serviced every two or three years.” Without that service the car, like his marriage, may still run along, seemingly OK, “but the tyres get a bit bald, the brake pads need replacing and, you know, the steering needs adjusting — if you’re fixing it up, you’re going to go on for longer.”

Now I think that a joint session on the counsellor’s couch may do more for many relationships than counselling, I’d rather not imagine Kevin Andrews on any couch with or without his wife. So I’m going to try and imagine improving a marriage by replacing the bald bits, the brake pads confident in the knowledge that I can give it a good steer and  still handle the wheel with skill and expertise even if I don’t hit the accelerator quite as hard as I  did in my younger days.

Let’s ignore that for the moment and get back to the topic at hand (if you’ll excuse the expression), because Bearup’s article also let us know about Andrews history with counselling.

There are many counselling services out there, so which one to choose? Andrews and his wife co-founded a Catholic counselling service in Melbourne in 1980 called the Marriage Education Programme. (Both have since resigned from it and Margaret is no longer doing any counselling, Andrews’ office says).

 

So, lucky they have nothing to do with it any more, because if you look at its website, it looks like just the sort of place that would benefit from the “free” counselling offered to couples. And that would be a conflict of interest.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch and in fact the poor old taxpayer is paying for it. Do I hear that we’re spending and not living with our means and that this is more debt to go on the credit card.

Nah, this a LIBERAL idea, and they never cost anything.

Conspiracy of silence

Image by thethingswesay.com

Image by thethingswesay.com

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

[Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States, August 8, 1950]”
― Harry S Truman

If you think that Scott Morrison is justified in keeping “on-water” operations secret for safety and security reasons, perhaps you can explain to me why this secrecy extends to onshore activities like detention camps and gagging people who work with asylum seekers.  Perhaps you can explain why the carers of the two boys, recently disappeared by Immigration officials, are too scared to speak out for fear of losing their job which is to make a home for these kids.

There is a concerted campaign going on to remove accountability, avoid questioning, and silence dissent and it is not just in the area of border protection.  Advocacy groups for anyone other than industry are being systematically dismantled.

If you visit the government Office for the Not-for-Profit Sector website you will be greeted by the following message:

“Thank you for visiting the Office for the Not-for-Profit Sector website.

On 18 September 2013 the Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbott MP, was sworn in by the Governor-General. On this day, the Governor General signed the Administrative Arrangements Order and the Social Inclusion Unit and the Office for the Not-for-Profit Sector was disbanded.

The Minister for Social Services, the Hon Kevin Andrews MP, will have responsibility for the community sector, volunteering and philanthropy. The Minister for Human Services, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, will have responsibility for service delivery policy.”

We might have got a clue when Abbott announced his Cabinet.  No Youth Ministry, No Early Childhood Ministry, No Science Ministry, No Climate Change Ministry, No Disability Ministry, No Aged Care Ministry, No Workplace Relations Ministry, No Multiculturalism Ministry, BUT there’s a Minister for ANZAC Day!

Another red flag was raised when the community sector was not represented on the Commission of Audit and it has not been invited to make a submission to the McClure Welfare Review being conducted by former Mission Australia chief executive Patrick McClure.

“As far as we know no one was invited to make a submission. The review has no terms of reference, has held no public meetings and has issued no interim discussion paper. We have had discussions behind closed doors but there’s been nothing in the open,” Ms Goldie, head of ACOSS, said.

And if any further proof was needed, there was the inexplicable decision to sack Graeme Innes, Disability Commissioner, and replace him with an IPA sock puppet.

Two weeks after the budget, Mr Morrison withdrew funding for the Refugee Council of Australia, which had been allocated in the budget papers, saying he and the government did not believe that “taxpayer funding should be there to support what is effectively an advocacy group”.

Government funding for a wide range of community organisations including ACOSS expires on December 31 after a budget decision to extend it for only six months while new long-term arrangements are developed.

The organisations have been told their grants might be put out to tender.

A vital component of Non Government Organisations (NGOs), as the name suggests, is that they remain independent of the government.  Such independence is needed in order to effectively advocate for the marginalised, the environment and for those who can’t speak up for themselves. But because of a heavy reliance on government funding, and increasing use of gag clauses, NGOs are at risk of losing their vital independence.

Governments, at both the state and federal level, are increasingly contracting out services to independent providers, which is typically seen as a cost-cutting measure. As a result, more NGOs and community groups are providing services on behalf of government, in essence becoming contractors for government programs. As Browen Dalton noted recently in The Conversation, “Australia has a higher proportion of human services provided by [not for profits] than almost any other country, with the sector turning over $100 billion a year.”

However, this outsourcing means that NGOs are more reliant on government funding. And increasingly, government funding has come with heavy restrictions that threaten to jeopardise the indispensable independence of Australia’s NGOs.

The community sector plays a vital part in a democratic political system. These organisations are pivotal in shaping public advocacy and in representing those who fall through the cracks. They ensure that every person is considered in the democratic process. They also fill in the gaps where government services and programs fail. Community groups provide much needed services in homelessness support, education, refugee resettlement, disability care, arts, and many other community programs.

In a 1991 report, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Community Affairs stated:

An integral part of the consultative and lobbying role of these organisations is to disagree with government policy where this is necessary in order to represent the interests of their constituents.”

The nature of government funding is a threat to this independence.  As funding for some of the most vital services comes from government rather than through the public, it is the government decides which services are more important and inevitably controls the direction and delivery of such services. This model undermines the independence of NGOs, and ignores the expertise of those working on the ground to decide where services and funds need to be allocated.

Last year, the Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, stated that “to benefit civil society as a whole, the Government has committed to abolishing the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, with repeal legislation to be introduced into Parliament next year”.  He introduced a late amendment to the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 to delay the introduction of the Charities Act2013 from 1 January 2014 to September 2014.  This was referred to a Senate Committee.

In February, the Centre for Independent Studies advised the Federal Government to act on its pre-election promise to abolish the ACNC it “is not achieving its main objectives, which were to improve public trust in the not-for-profit sector, reduce red tape, and police fraud and wrongdoing”.  The vast majority of the sector disagrees.

In June we read that

The Senate Committee report into the abolition of the charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC), has failed to break the deadlock between the Government and other parties, and if the majority report is implemented it would be retrograde step for public trust and confidence in sector, the ACNC Advisory Board Chairman Robert Fitzgerald has warned.

Fitzgerald said despite 80 per cent of submissions received by the Senate Committee supporting the retention of the ACNC, the majority senate report recommended the ACNC Act be repealed.

“This recommendation was saying the Australian community had no right to information about a sector that receives substantial tax concessions and benefits every year.   The charity and Not for Profit sector is one of Australia’s fastest growing and important sectors. It has taken 17 years, at least six inquiries, 2000 submissions and volumes of evidence to get an effective national regulatory model. And now the effect of the majority opinion is would be to undermine basic transparency, the tackling of duplicative reporting and proven and effective regulation.

By moving to abolish the ACNC, the Government is going against the tide: England and Wales has had an independent charity regulator for more than 160 years; Scotland and Singapore established regulators and a public charity register following charity scandals; New Zealand has had a charity regulator since 2005.  In the last 12 months Ireland, Jamaica and now Jersey have moved to establish independent charity regulatory bodies and public registers. Hong Kong has also recommended establishing a public charity register.

Since the ACNC’s inception, three separate surveys have each found an 80 per cent satisfaction rate with respondents supporting the ACNC.

In a relative short period of time, the ACNC has created Australia’s first free, publicly available national charity register, provided sound education and advice services to support charities in their governance, and implemented the Charity Portal and Charity Passport, which is critical to reducing duplicative reporting across government.

It is now a matter for the Parliament to determine if it wishes to have an efficient and effective regulator, or return to a regulatory regime that will ultimately increase compliance burdens on the sector and fail to deliver transparency to the Australian public.”

Since the 2013 election

AXED

Social Inclusion Board

National Housing Supply Council

Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness

National Policy Commission on Indigenous Housing

National Children and Family Roundtable

Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing

Immigration Health Advisory Group

DEFUNDED

Refugee Council of Australia

Australian Youth Affairs Council

Alcohol and Drug Council of Australia

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services

ADDED

Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council

Australian Treasury Advisory Council

Not for Profit Advisory Group to the ATO

Innovation and Technology Working Group

Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership

Indigenous Advisory Council

Aged Care Sector Committee

 

Note:  Two groups who argued vehemently for the abolition of a watchdog were the Catholic Church through Cardinal Pell’s office and the IPA.  The ATO will now be asked to take over the duties of watchdog even though they will be shedding about 900 staff over the next six months.  Happy days for tax cheats.

This government is now officially obscene

Image courtesy of 3aw.com.au

Image courtesy of 3aw.com.au

One of my more mundane, but at times more amusing jobs as a federal public servant was for a short time reviewing letters to and from the Prime Minister and happy or unhappy campers. The Prime Minister, of course, laid his or her eyes on none of these letters.

I recall one letter to Kevin Rudd from a fanatically furious and foul-mouthed lady demanding that the government do more for her. She had been unemployed for eight years and it was, by the tone and content of the letter, Kevin Rudd’s fault plain and simple. In that eight years she had applied for a whopping 30 jobs and was exasperated that she was still unemployed. The announcement of her desperate plight concluded with these exact words: “What more do I have to do?”

Thirty job applications in eight years; well, I guess she could have done a bit more.

I hope she finally has a job. I also hope she’s over 30. If the answer is ‘no’ to either then she’s about to get real busy.

Young job seekers forced to wait six months for unemployment benefits will be required to apply for 40 jobs a month . . . despite not receiving any money, job seekers will be required to meet the activity requirements for unemployment benefits throughout this period.

If they fail to do so, their waiting period will be extended by four weeks.

A spokeswoman for Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews defended the requirements.

“These expectations are reasonable . . . “

Surely they can’t be serious?

Expecting a person to apply for ten jobs a week is as ridiculous as applying for 30 in eight years.

Many would argue that there are probably thousands of unemployed people who do actually apply for 10 jobs a week, and there no doubt are. I admire their tenacity and resolve. But to expect everyone under the net to apply for 10 jobs a week is raising the bar of expectation far too high.

Apart from the incredible expense this saddles upon the job seeker (as noted by Rossleigh), there are plenty of others who will feel the strain. Can you imagine how unproductive for an employer it would be if he or she were to receive truck loads of applications for a job he or she placed in the local paper? Every employer who advertised a position will in all likelihood need a good two weeks just wading through the applications.

Can you imagine the pitfalls of offering yourself as a referee for a job seeker who applies for ten jobs a week? Unless you enjoy writing referee reports or constantly taking calls from hopeful employers then it’s highly likely you’d happily rescind your offer.

And what if you scored an interview but could not attend because it was in a town or city hundreds of kilometres from where you live? You only applied for the job because there were none in your home town. You knew that you couldn’t attend the interview and by applying for the job you’ve basically wasted the employer’s time, but you applied because of your obligations.

Dozens of examples could be put forward that highlight where this policy is an absolute farce. It’s just another farcical policy from what is nothing more than a farcical government. For the Minister’s office to suggest that these expectations on the job seekers are reasonable show that he has no idea what young people outside of his circle of acquaintances have to endure. Where they live. How they live. Their family circumstances.

Doesn’t he realise that most unemployed people are trying to find work? Does he too not realise that there aren’t enough jobs to go around? Does he not understand the depression many of these young people have to deal with even without this added responsibility.

I’m appalled that this government has decided for themselves that all young unemployed people aren’t doing enough to find work. The mere fact that they are hopeful of introducing a policy that will deny people under the age of 30 any income support is surely enough motivation for those young people to find work. They don’t need to be made to apply for 40 jobs a month. They don’t need to be set up for failure.

This is obscene.

Has the Minister even bothered to look at the vacancies in any rural area to see if there are even 40 jobs a month on offer? Has anyone? And now we read that there are forecasts that the job market is going to dry up even further for young people.

It’s a pity that Ministers never get (or bother) to read the correspondence from disgruntled voters such as the lady who wrote to Kevin Rudd. If they did, maybe they’d come to the realisation of what life is like in the real world.

More articles by Michael Taylor:

Hockey’s lazy, lying helpers

Can ‘The Australian’ stoop any lower?

Just a quick question; has the line been crossed?

The house wins

While everyone reels from the worst budget ever, a lot of other very insidious work is flying under the radar.  One of the most blatant examples of STUFF YOU from our current government came from our Social Services Minister, Kevin bloody Andrews.

In the days after the 2010 election, Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie was a very popular man.  In a bid to obtain his support to form government, Tony Abbott offered him $1 billion to build a hospital.  Wilkie regarded this as an irresponsible bribe which made him wonder about Abbott’s suitability for the job.  He chose instead to back Julia Gillard who promised poker machine reform.

The industry responded with a multi-million-dollar public lobbying campaign run by club lobby group ClubsNSW, and its pub counterpart the Australian Hotels Association, which targeted and turned wavering Labor MPs against the so-called Wilkie Reforms, and eroded parliamentary support for harm-reduction measures, such as mandatory pre-commitment, of which polls suggested most Australians approved. Mandatory pre-commitment would have required punters to nominate how much they’d lose in a given session, and then be locked out when they hit the limit.

And they didn’t limit their action to advertising.  AFTER the 2010 election, the AHA and ClubsNSW gave more than $1.3 million in donations for the final quarter of the year. By an overwhelming margin these were directed at the Coalition.

In an ignominious backdown. Gillard reneged on the deal giving in to the power of the hotel and gambling lobbies, watering down the promised reforms and only committing to a limited trial in the ACT.  I was disappointed with this decision and Mr Wilkie was rightly furious, but at least his integrity had begun the process of reform with the passing of the National Gambling Reform Act in November 2012.  The Acts set out key requirements for voluntary pre-commitment on poker machines, dynamic warnings and $250 daily ATM withdrawal limits in gaming venues (excluding casinos).

And then along came Kev, who, disguised as a mild-mannered Christian from the extreme right, fights a never ending battle for donations, “normal” families, and the financial backers’ way.

A brief reminder of Kev’s previous form:  He is against euthanasia, RU486, stem cell research, abortion, equal opportunity, affirmative action, refugees, homosexuality, and sex education.  He is a member of many religious organisations which benefit from government funding and in 2011, said of the Greens that their agenda would threaten the “Judeo-Christian/Enlightenment synthesis that upholds the individual”.  He was responsible for introducing Workchoices, and for the illegal victimisation of Dr Haneef.  He is also a member of the Credlin led Star Chamber.

In December last year, less than three months into his term in office, this moral crusader introduced to the House of Representatives a bill repealing almost all of the gambling harm-minimisation measures passed by the Gillard Labor government in November 2012.  He even changed the name to National Gambling Measures Act.

Australians are amongst the most prolific gamblers in the world.  A 2013 report by the AMA studied the health effects of problem gambling making the following observations.

An estimated 2.5 per cent of Australians experience moderate to severe problems caused by gambling. For every person with a gambling problem, it is estimated that an additional 5 to 10 people are adversely affected by their gambling. This means that up to 5 million Australians feel the health, social and financial impacts of problem gambling, including friends, families and employers of people with a gambling problem.

Problem gamblers experience high levels of comorbid mental health disorders and substance abuse, and they or their families may experience stress-related physical and psychological ill health as a consequence of their gambling activities. Other adverse effects include family breakdown, domestic violence, criminal activity, disruption to or loss of employment, and social isolation. Additionally, problem gambling may compromise the capacity to afford necessities such as adequate nutrition, heating, shelter, transport, medications and health services.

Problem gamblers have a higher than average number of visits to a GP, and experience an increased incidence of  illnesses such as hypertension, insomnia, migraine, depression, anxiety, stomach upsets, headaches, and other stress-related symptoms of physical and psychological ill health.

As gambling activities have expanded and diversified, particularly with the introduction of interactive gambling, so too have the ways in which gambling is marketed to different sections of the community. Young people and other vulnerable populations are increasingly exposed to messages from a broad range of media that endorse, promote and normalise gambling.

The expansion in gambling activities has not only increased the prevalence of problem gambling, but has also entrenched governments’ dependence upon gambling taxation. For state and territory governments, their dual role as regulator and beneficiary poses a structural conflict and obstacle to achieving gambling policies and regulations that prioritise public health and consumer protection objectives. If the expansion of gambling and its associated harm is to be reduced, it is imperative that governments’ reliance upon revenue from gambling is overcome.

The adverse consequences of problem gambling are not distributed evenly across the population. The prevalence and impacts of problem gambling are most pronounced among socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and communities, including Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, those with poor literacy, people with pre-existing mental health problems, certain cultural and linguistic communities, and people living in regions or metropolitan suburbs with high levels of unemployment and economic hardship.

Young people are at a heightened risk of developing problems with gambling and, the earlier the onset of gambling behaviour, the more likely problem gambling will result and continue into adulthood. Gambling during childhood or adolescence is typically associated with risk-taking behaviours, reduced educational performance, and mental health problems, including depression.

Gambling researchers say heavy financial losses are likely to be one of the most important causes of suicides among problem gamblers.  Problem gamblers often have substance-abuse problems and other mental-health issues, but debt has been identified as the factor most likely to push them over the edge.  Victoria’s State Coroner Judge Ian Gray has released a report showing 128 people took their own lives in Victoria in the past decade because of a gambling addiction though, due to the secretive nature of problem gamblers, the true figure is undoubtedly much higher.

In 2010 the Productivity Commission illustrated Australia’s gambling obsession in extraordinary figures: that Australians lost about $19 billion per year gambling, and that much of this — some 41 per cent, in the case of poker machines — drawn from problem gamblers.  And a few more statistics.

•The social cost to the community of problem gambling is estimated to be at least $5 billion a year.

•Only around 15 per cent of problem gamblers seek help.

•One in six people who play the pokies regularly has a serious addiction.

•Some poker machines can be played at extremely high intensity – a gambler could lose more than $1,500 in just one hour.

•Young people (18-24 year olds) spend more on poker machines than any other age group. Many adult problem gamblers report having developed gambling problems during their teenage years

•Three-quarters of problem gamblers have problems with poker machines. It’s even higher for women – in 9 out of 10 cases poker machines are identified as the cause of problems for women

•Problem gamblers are six times more likely to be divorced than non problem gamblers

•Problem gamblers are four times more likely to have problems with alcohol and four times as likely to smoke daily than non problem gamblers

•Children with parents who are problem gamblers are up to 10 times more likely to become problem gamblers themselves than children with non gambling parents

With all this irrefutable evidence available, it is plain to see that our political parties are more interested in keeping their donations rolling in than in addressing this most costly, avoidable, evil of social diseases.

The 2012-13 annual financial returns from political parties and donors, shows the Liberal Party’s total revenue was $73.1 million last financial year, compared to Labor’s $54.7 million. The Nationals further bolstered the Coalition’s haul with $8.3 million. The Greens recorded $8.1 million in revenue.

Roslyn Packer, the widow of billionaire Kerry Packer, and mother of casino mogul James Packer, gave the Liberals $580,000 in 2012-13.  The Australian Hotels Association gave Labor $150,000, which successfully neutered their gambling reforms, and hedged their bets, giving the Liberals $372,500.   Given the cut-off for the disclosures was June 30, these figures do not include money taken by parties during the 2013 election campaign.

It just remains to say, Kevin Andrews, you are a moralising self-serving hypocritical political whore who is willing to sacrifice the health and well-being of the citizens of our country to serve your wealthy masters.  I have no respect for you.

The time has come, the walrus said….

euthanasia

We are told we have an aging population that we cannot afford to support so we must all get off welfare and work longer. We are told we can no longer afford universal healthcare and that we must all pitch in. We are told that we have a financial crisis (cough). We are also told that “all things are on the table”.

That being the case, I feel it is time to reopen the discussion about euthanasia. I understand that this is an extremely sensitive debate where no-one should ever try to dictate what opinion should be. But surely it is time to consider giving people the option of avoiding suffering and dying with dignity at a time of their choosing.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in the Netherlands. When dealing with a patient’s request for euthanasia, doctors must observe the following due care criteria. They must:

a. be satisfied that the patient’s request is voluntary and well-considered;

b. be satisfied that the patient’s suffering is unbearable and that there is no prospect of improvement;

c. inform the patient of his or her situation and further prognosis;

d. discuss the situation with the patient and come to the joint conclusion that there is no other reasonable solution;

e. consult at least one other physician with no connection to the case, who must then see the patient and state in writing that the attending physician has satisfied the due care criteria listed in the four points above;

f. exercise due medical care and attention in terminating the patient’s life or assisting in his/her suicide.

Two thirds of the requests for euthanasia that are put to doctors are refused. Experience shows that many patients find sufficient peace of mind in the knowledge that the doctor is prepared to perform euthanasia and that they ultimately die a natural death.

The ability to refuse a request for euthanasia or assisted suicide guarantees doctors’ freedom of conscience. The basic principle underlying the legislation is that patients have no absolute right to euthanasia and doctors no absolute duty to perform it.

Experience shows that in practice the vast majority of cases of euthanasia (almost 90%) relate to patients with terminal cancer. Three percent of deaths in the Netherlands are the result of euthanasia or assisted suicide. Of those, 7% were done without the explicit request of the patient.

A 2002-3 study on hospital costs of older people in New South Wales in the last year of life found that

  • Care of people aged 65 years and over in their last year of life accounted for 8.9% of all hospital inpatient costs.
  • The average costs per person of those who died aged 65–74 years was $17 927 with cancer as the most frequent cause of death (41.2%)
  • Average inpatient costs increased greatly in the 6 months before death, from $646 per person in the sixth month to $5545 in the last month before death

A lot of the money being spent may not only be not helping, it can cause the patient to endure more bad experiences on a daily basis. The patient’s quality of life is being sacrificed by increasing the cost of death. For some families, that last year/month can be a genuinely awful experience for all concerned.

The discussion has to be about quality of life, not just length of life, and of course, religious, moral and uncertainty issues are involved. Many families have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order put on the patient record, and the health care proxy (usually a close relative) thinks that takes care of the problem. Yet a DNR does not address quality of life satisfactorily. You can only do that by having a discussion early on with the patient about how they want to live their life to the end in the best possible way. Most of the current physicians, family members and provider institutions really dislike that conversation simply because it can be hard on the person initiating the discussion.

With the process frequently driven by the medical system’s focus on performing aggressive interventions at any cost — and the reluctance of families to talk about death — many people who are dying do not get the care they want.

Worse, they often suffer through unnecessary, even harmful treatments. When patients have a terminal illness, at some point more disease treatment does not equal better care. Ending up in the hospital often means aggressive, high-cost treatment at the expense of quality of life. A 2010 Dartmouth study of elderly cancer patients nearing death found that 9% had a breathing tube or other life-prolonging procedure in the last month, and at most academic medical centres, more than 40% of the patients saw 10 or more doctors in the last six months of their lives.

A 2013 report by Australia21 – a non-profit body dedicated to analysing complex issues – found even though voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide were unlawful, they occurred ”not infrequently” in Australia with no oversight and rarely any prosecutions.

It said Australia’s laws were ”deficient and unequal” as people with the right knowledge or connections could be helped to die while others had to suffer.

Launching the report, co-author Emeritus Professor and former Fraser Government Minister Peter Baume said: ”Voluntary euthanasia goes on every day – but without supervision, without advice from colleagues and without rules.”

The report recommendations state governments should legislate now to protect patients and doctors and the Federal Parliament should restore powers to the territories so they may do the same.

As I have mentioned before, The Northern Territory briefly legalised euthanasia until our current Social Services Minister had it overturned in 1996. Considering the future, it is perhaps time for Mr Andrews to revisit the cost of the imposition of his Christian beliefs in denying people choice about their own lives.

 

Kevin bloody Andrews

Kevin Andrews (image from abc.net.au)

Kevin Andrews (image from abc.net.au)

As a companion piece to rossleigh’s excellent article, I thought it might be useful to have a closer look at our Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews.

As a backbencher, Andrews authored the Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996 to overrule Northern Territory legislation that legalised euthanasia (the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995).

Andrews also called for an end to trials of the RU-486 drug and voted against a bill that took away the Health Minister’s power to veto applications to allow the drug to be used.

In taking a stance against stem cell research in 2002, he stated that it was the “first time” that “human beings can be treated as a commodity”. He also took a stance against stem cell research during a debate in 2006, which resulted in the overturning of a previous ban on the research.

As the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, he was responsible for introducing the Howard Government’s major changes to industrial relations law in 2005, commonly known as WorkChoices.

Andrews is a member of the Lyons Forum, a socially conservative Christian faction within the Coalition. He has served as the Forum Secretary and is credited with suggesting the name for the faction.

As Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Andrews attracted controversy after 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. However in November, e-mails released under the Freedom of Information act appeared to indicate that Andrews’ office had a plan to revoke the visa before the case went to court, in the case that bail was granted.

Following Andrews’ criticism of irregularities discovered in the CV of an Indian doctor working on the Gold Coast, various media organisations carried reports disputing Andrews’ claim on parliamentary and ministerial websites to have co-authored three books, having contributed only a chapter to each. Andrews argued in his own defence that:

“In common, everyday parlance, as one of the authors (of a chapter) I presumed you called yourself a co-author – that’s all I’ve simply done. I wasn’t aware, to be frank, of some publishing convention that someone’s referred to (that suggests otherwise). If that offends people’s sensibilities well so be it, basically.”

Andrews’ 2007 decision to cut Australia’s refugee intake from African nations was branded by some critics as “racist”, and pulling out the race card before the 2007 Australian Federal election. Andrews defended the decision, saying: “Some groups don’t seem to be settling and adjusting into the Australian way of life as quickly as we would hope.” Andrews accused Sudanese refugees of fighting in bars and congregating in parks to drink alcoholic beverages, but did not provide statistics to back up his claims.

In 2009, Kevin Andrews declared his candidacy against Malcolm Turnbull in a vote for a leadership spill, in opposition to Turnbull’s support for the government’s emissions trading scheme. He had declared himself a climate change sceptic, saying that ‘the jury is still out’ on human contributions to global warming. The party room however voted down having a leadership spill 41 votes to 35 and the Andrews challenge did not eventuate. After continued leadership speculation, a second Party Room meeting was held, at which point the leadership was declared vacant. Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull all stood for the leadership, and Tony Abbott was ultimately successful. Following his election as Leader, Abbott promoted Andrews to the Shadow Cabinet as Minister for Families, Housing and Human Services.

A member of the Catholic Pontifical Council for the Laity, Andrews is an Adjunct Lecturer in Politics and in Marriage Education in the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne.

Andrews is an advisor to the Board of Life Decisions International (LDI), a (non-denominational) religious pro-life group that is primarily concerned with opposing the pro-choice Planned Parenthood organisation. LDI campaigns for chastity, boycotts corporations and names individual celebrities who support abortion, euthanasia, or embryonic stem cell experimentation or who, in their opinion, support sexual promiscuity. These include GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson and Johnson, Time Warner and Disney.

Andrews made a speech to the Endeavour Forum on 9 April 2003, a group focusing on women’s issues, opposing abortion, equal opportunity and affirmative action.

He has also spoken at the Family Council of Victoria, an organisation which regards homosexuality as the manifestation of a psychiatric disorder. The Family Council of Victoria also opposes sex-education and anti-homophobia policies in public schools, which it claims is “pro-homosexual indoctrination” of students.

In 2011, as a Liberal Shadow Cabinet frontbencher Andrews published a critique of the Greens policy agenda for Quadrant Magazine in which he wrote that the Australian Greens’ “objective involves a radical transformation of the culture that underpins Western civilisation” and that their agenda would threaten the “Judeo-Christian/Enlightenment synthesis that upholds the individual” as well as “the economic system that has resulted in the creation of wealth and prosperity for the most people in human history.”

In December 2013, as Social Services Minister, Andrews introduced to the House of Representatives a bill repealing almost all of the gambling harm-minimisation measures passed by the Gillard Labor government in November 2012.

“This is a straight capitulation to the power of the pokies lobby,” says Tim Costello, chair of the Australian Churches’ Gambling Taskforce.

When Australia is recognised as having perhaps the worst gambling problem in the world, with 41 per cent of poker machine revenue coming from problem gamblers, one must wonder about Andrew’s motivation. Could it have something to do with the sudden upsurge in gambling-industry donations to Australia’s major parties, which coincided with a deal between independent MP Andrew Wilkie and then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard?

Fittingly, Andrews’ amendment will also change the name of the law passed in 2012 — from the National Gambling Reform Act, to the National Gambling Measures Act. For now, meaningful gambling reform is quite literally off parliament’s books.

Andrews is a member of the Credlin-led decision-making Star Chamber which includes federal Liberal Party director Brian Loughnane – Ms Credlin’s husband – along with John Howard’s former chief of staff, Tony Nutt, and minister Michael Ronaldson.

He also has his gun sights set on the ABC. Speaking at Canberra airport on his way to a cabinet meeting, the Social Services Minister said that in a robust democracy, the media should be scrutinised as much as anybody else. ”I think the ABC should be open to constructive criticism about its performance as it would be about the performance of other people and other institutions in Australia,” he said. ”What goes around comes around.”

We then hear from our Social Services minister that the nation’s welfare system is “unsustainable” and large, urgent changes must be made to the disability pension and the general unemployment benefit.

He said the government was reviewing all welfare rules to see what could be done to decrease the number of unemployed on the dole, including the possibility of eliminating the ability of those on welfare to refuse to take a job if it was more than 90 minutes from their home and keep their income support payments.

Mr Andrews has already revealed the government is looking at changes that would see more people under the age of 40 on the DSP checked to see whether they could work and temporary payments for potentially impermanent conditions to prevent the number of those in the system from ballooning to one million.

Under Mr Andrews’ mooted change, disability pensioners who were assessed by their family doctors – before Labor tightened the system in 2011 – would be re-examined by medical experts at the Department of Human Services.

The minister is also considering giving a fixed higher payment for the most disabled pensioners, with lower payments for people with less restrictive disabilities, who might be able to work part time.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said the Abbott government was “punishing some of the most vulnerable people in society” by tightening checks on the disability pension.

Regarding the minister’s idea to reassess recipients, Mr Innes said: “To effectively move the test back a few years, it just seems a cruel way of penalising people who’ve been in receipt of a benefit. Introducing a quarterly or six-monthly check is just adding more complexity both for the Centrelink system and for people with disabilities,” he said.

Andrews is pushing the idea that pensioners suffering “episodic” illnesses such as depression should be given monthly or quarterly medical certificates rather than getting two-year “set and forget” pensions. This idea, he said, was particularly important given there were now more disability pensioners suffering from psychological conditions than suffering musculoskeletal problems.

Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie said she would support any measures by the government to “invest” in disability pensioners to help them return to the workforce.

But she was concerned that subjecting disability pensioners to more regular assessments could end up “exacerbating their mental health condition”.

“We don’t have a welfare crisis in this area, we have a jobs crisis,” Dr Goldie said. “We all want to work on decent reforms which will improve people’s pathways back to being well and getting paid work.”

Despite the financial crisis that apparently makes it necessary for us to send people suffering from depression ‘down pit’, Mr Andrews was able to find $20 million for marriage guidance counselling vouchers. This of course has nothing to do with the fact that he and his wife are/were involved in the marriage counselling business.

I have tried to remain factual in this snapshot biography of our Social Services Minister but hells, bells and cockle shells, it would be hard to find someone less suitable for the job.

What’s there to crow about?

Image by imgur.com

Image by imgur.com

Tony Abbott is gleefully crowing about “100+ days without a boat”. What Mr Abbott seems oblivious to is that he has closed yet another door on people fleeing persecution and human rights abuses in places like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The Taliban just fired rockets at the Electoral Office in Afghanistan so the upcoming election doesn’t look like it will make everything tickety poo over there either. Things don’t seem to be getting any better in Syria though the government haven’t done any mass gassings lately, not in the open anyway.

And it isn’t as if we have increased our humanitarian intake or processed any of the people already being illegally held in detention. This has cost us a fortune, subjected our navy to allegations of abuse, seen us internationally condemned, caused enormous mental and physical harm to vulnerable people, and Australian guards are now implicated in the death of a man who was under their protection. Yet this is supposed to be a success?

Tony’s team are also pushing very hard for the repeal of the carbon tax but it is becoming harder and harder to drown out the chorus of condemnation for such an act from world leaders, the UN, climate change bodies, scientists, economists and the citizens of the world. He accused the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, of “talking through her hat”, and said he doesn’t want to “clutter up” the G20 agenda with talk about climate change. Can you imagine how that was received?

Blatantly sacking scientists and advisory bodies to appoint climate change deniers to every position might allow you to fool people in Australia in the very short term. It will not change the science. This headless chicken (Prince Charles) flat earth (Barak Obama) denial is wasting precious time and shows us globally as unwilling to do our bit – something Australians have always been respected for in the past.

The Senate inquiry into the Direct Action Plan has released its findings and they are damning. If this process is to have any credibility, the Coalition must drop this idea and agree to move to an ETS with higher targets for emission reduction and renewable energy. It is what every expert recommends, especially the economists.

Greg Hunt must be the only Minister for the Environment who would be bragging about approving billions of dollars of new coal mining and port expansion which will unquestionably lead to the degradation of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. He has also advocated the removal of marine park legislation to allow for commercial fishing, removal of world heritage listing to allow for logging, and the building of dams in our ecologically sensitive pristine North. With an Environment Minister like that, who needs natural disasters?

And then there is the mining tax. On the 7:30 report, Abbott claimed that the mining and carbon taxes were partly to blame for BHP Billiton’s decision to delay the expansion of its huge Olympic Dam mine despite the fact that Marius Kloppers said it had nothing to do with the mining tax which doesn’t even apply to the copper, uranium or gold extracted from the site.

Mining profits worldwide have slumped by half since 2011 as the mining boom comes off its highs according to a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers which says that higher costs, more writedowns and fluctuating commodity prices have hit the fortunes of the top 40 mining companies including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

PwC Australia’s head of energy and mining, Jock O’Callaghan, says the possible repeal of the mining tax in Australia is unlikely to have much impact on Australia’s appeal to investors. Not surprisingly, the government has failed to take note of this advice.

Mr O’Callaghan says he expects more mines to close, including in Australia. “Certainly if we see a further downturn in commodity prices that is going to put more pressure on marginal mines,” he said. “There is no denying that and again that is not just an Australian phenomena.”

As Ross Gittins explains,

“For the income earned by an industry to generate jobs in Australia, it has to be spent in Australia. And our mining industry is about 80 per cent foreign-owned. For our economy and our workers to benefit adequately from the exploitation of our natural endowment by mainly foreign companies, our government has to ensure it gets a fair whack of the economic rents those foreigners generate.

Because Labor so foolishly allowed the big three foreign miners to redesign the tax, they chose to get all their deductions up-front. Once those deductions are used up, the tax will become a big earner. Long before then, however, Tony Abbott will have rewarded the Liberal Party’s foreign donors by abolishing the tax.

This will be an act of major fiscal vandalism, of little or no benefit to the economy and at great cost to job creation.”

Mining currently employs about 2.4% of our workforce but this is set to drop as they move into the less labour-intensive production phase. As we saw during the GFC, they are not altruistic benefactors and have little loyalty to their employees. According to Richard Denniss

“When commodity prices fell during the global financial crisis the first thing the mining industry did was sack thousands of their workers. Indeed, according to Treasury, if all industries had been as quick to punt their employees as the mining industry the unemployment rate would have hit 19 per cent rather than its peak of 5.9 per cent.”

Penny Wong described Abbott’s rhetoric regarding the mining tax as “one of the most dishonest, self-interested fear campaigns that we have seen in Australian politics” and I can only agree.

After saying there was no difference between Liberal and Labor on education, we have seen billions cut with a backing away from the bulk of the Gonski funding, the abolition of trades training centres, and cuts to the before and after school care program despite childcare being identified as far more important in improving productivity and workforce participation than paid parental leave.

We have also seen the Coalition attempt to repeal Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act in a bizarre attempt to “protect the rights of bigots”. Countless journalists have said they have not felt constrained in any way by this section of the act and do not see the need for its repeal. This is purely and simply a pander to Andrew Bolt and Rupert Murdoch. Promoting hatred under the name of free speech is a truly cynical exercise which has left many Australians feeling very uneasy about what is happening to our country.

According to the Coalition, our debt and deficit are a real problem and spending must be reined in. While listening to a relentless barrage softening us up for the cuts that are to come, we watch Tony Abbott spend money hand over fist on his Paid Parental Leave scheme, orange life rafts, unmanned drones, planes both for the Air Force and himself, grants to polluters, gambling on the foreign exchange market, tax concessions for the wealthy, subsidies to profitable mining companies, marriage guidance counselling vouchers, and gifts to pollie pedal sponsors.

We are also going to sell everything we own and spend billions to build roads.  Public transport and high speed rail will receive no funding.  I am sure the fact that cars rely on fossil fuels hasn’t entered into the decision making.

With the rollout of the NBN in limbo, Malcolm Turnbull has admitted that he cannot keep his pre-election promises. His inferior offering will take much longer and cost much more than he led us to believe and will be outdated before it is even completed.

Abbott’s rush to sign free trade agreements which include ISDS clauses with all and sundry (No. 87 on the IPA’s wish list), has put our nation at sovereign risk where we will risk being sued if we introduce laws to protect our health and environment. It will almost certainly lead to a huge increase in the cost of medicine as pharmaceutical companies block the release of generic medicines, and a host of other repercussions that we can only anticipate with dread.

We have the Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews, winding back gambling reforms and disbanding the oversight of charitable bodies. We have the Environment Minister disbanding climate change advisory bodies and removing environmental protection laws. We have the Health Minister disbanding bodies like the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, and attacking Medicare with offices closed on Saturdays and co-payments likely. We have the Assistant Health Minister blocking a healthy eating website and the Assistant Education Minister asking childcare workers to give back their pay rise. In fact, I cannot think of one act or one piece of proposed legislation that has been in the best interest of the people of Australia.

With cuts to foreign aid, indigenous affairs, charities, and asylum seeker advocacy groups, it is increasingly obvious that the vulnerable can expect no protection or assistance from this government. They have made their agenda patently clear. Buy a ticket on the Good Ship Rinehart and lift with the rising tide, or be left to drown as the wealthy stand on the shoulders of the poor to board the corporate gravy train.

 

The Ministry for Misinformation and Wealth Protection

The AIMN has obtained a copy of a draft proposal circulating the Coalition party machine.

In an attempt to better use available resources, state and local governments will be abolished.  All federal and state ministries, departments, advisory bodies, and their employees, will be coalesced into one organisation known as the Ministry for Misinformation and Wealth Protection (MMaWP).

It is estimated that this will eventually result in one million redundancies which will come from, as far as possible, natural attrition.  Retraining as spin doctors will be available to those with a penchant for prevarication.  Others will join a mobile workforce to be deployed wherever the mining or agricultural industries may need them.  Others will build the roads of the 21st century.  Those who refuse will be transferred to an undisclosed location to undergo behavioural rehabilitation followed by resettlement.

MMaWP will be headed by the Creator of all things seen and unseen, Peta Credlin.  Through her all things are made.

The Creator’s wisdom will be disseminated by the Knights of the Star Chamber – Brian Loughnane, Tony Nutt, Andrew Hirst, Mark Textor, Michael Ronaldson and Kevin Andrews.  These six men meet around a table emblazoned with the Star of David to reflect our Judao-Christian heritage.

Appointments have been made on merit.

Two Archanglers will head up Operation Corporate Marauders.

Scott Morrison will be in charge of Misinformation.  He will give a weekly briefing though, due to concerns about wealth security and diplomatic relations with other companies, the time and place of these briefings will be kept secret.

Greg Hunt will head the Wealth Protection program.  He has had 175,000 rubber stamps made and will be sending them to those who are in the top 1% of income earners.  This will save an enormous amount of red-tape as developers and entrepreneurs can be self-regulating.

Advising the Archanglers, there will be a Coalition of Cheaters.

Joe Hockey has a team devoted to getting blood out of a stone.  Discarded stones will be washed away by the rising tide.  Middle-class stones will be put on orange life-rafts while they regenerate more blood for harvesting.  Diamonds will be given a transfusion and accommodated on a fleet of custom built yachts.

Malcom Turnbull will advise on how to sell things you wouldn’t buy.

Andrew Robb has been charged with protecting the wealth of pharmaceutical companies so they can continue to contribute to the Pollie Pedal ride.

Julie Bishop will be in charge of grooming.  It is understood that she has a memorandum of understanding with Armani to provide uniforms for MMaWP officials.  She will also instruct in deportment and the importance of making eye contact.

Christopher Pyne will give back-to-basics direct instruction on indignation.

Anthony Mundine will advise about Aboriginal Muslim sports stars.

Bronwyn Bishop will act as interpreter and mediator.

Tony Abbott will be the face of the MMaWP, available to travel anywhere for a photo opportunity.  Audio will not be allowed.

Banks and Private Health Insurers will remain outside the purview of the Ministry.

Perhaps the most courageous proposal of the MMaWP is to abolish the Australia Sale Act, paving the way for majority foreign ownership of Australia.  They argue that privatising Australia would bring enormous wealth to a few people which will allow them to feed more serfs.  Hungry serfs will find sweatshops off-shore.

Concerned Aussies Gina Rinehart, Rupert Murdoch and Andrew Bolt have put together a partnership which is understood to have made an offer to keep Australia in the hands of Australians.  Their Board of Directors, the IPA, have been in close negotiation with the MMaWP, and insiders have told AIMN that agreement in lack of principle has been reached.

We will endeavour to keep you informed of reaction to, and progress on, this proposal.

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