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Tag Archives: Palmer United Party

Principles, Alan Jones And Why People Named Rossleigh Should Pay No Tax At All!

Every now and then we have some journalist telling us that the current generation is functionally illiterate because some young person mis-spelled “manoeuvre”, while ignoring the vast number of mistakes in the mainstream media. (One of my favourtes was when Channel 10 posted underneath a photo of Brad Haddin, alleging that he was Australia’s “wicked keeper”… Mm, perhaps they may be on to something!)

However, it’s people’s lack of a basic education in legal and economic principles that most concerns me.

For example, yesterday morning, I read this piece of nonsense in “The Age”:

“Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority head Ben McDevitt says he is very confident that Essendon players received banned drugs in an 2012 injection program, despite a tribunal finding to the contrary.”

I wish to emphasise that I’m making no judgement about the guilt or innocence of anyone here, but there was no “finding to the contrary”. The tribunal simply found that there wasn’t enough evidence for a finding of guilty.

And that’s the way the law works. When you’re found “Not guilty”, it doesn’t mean that you’re found innocent or exonerated, it simply means that there is insufficient evidence to condemn you as guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

So when Mr. Smedley is found, naked and drunk, in an illegal brothel and he claims that he was a little confused and he thought he was in the doctor’s office for a medical exam, we may doubt his story, but the job of the prosecution is to prove that his version of events doesn’t stack up. At the end of the trial, he won’t be found “innocent”, it may just be that the court decideds there isn’t enough evidence to convict him. And you can be pretty sure that after the verdict, his wife won’t be saying, “How could I ever have doubted you, I’m so sorry!”

But now that the AFL tribunal has delivered the verdict, the letters section was filled with letters asserting that this proved that people had done “nothing wrong” and that the investigation was completely unnecessary and certain people in the media owed certain people a large apology.

And then, of course, we have Mr Palmer suing his ex-PUPpets. According to the lawyer, they’ll be sued under the principle of promissory estoppel, which I find rather interesting.

Now, let’s for a moment consider what a Senator is elected to do – at least in theory. Senators are elected to represent their state. They make certain statements to the electorate and the various states elect the senators that they feel will best respresent them. While parites may support them, or donors may back them, their first duty is, of course, to the state they represent.

All right, we know that it doesn’t work in practice quite like that, but I think we can all agree that if any politician came out and actually said that they knew that this would hurt their electorate, but one of their biggest donors is for it, so their electorate can get stuffed, they’d receive a backlash at the ballot box.

So what is the principle of “promissory estoppel” under which Palmer intends to sue. Well, basically it works like this: A person makes a promise, the person to whom the promise is made then makes certain decisions based on the reasonable expectation that the promise will be kept, and, when the promise is not kept, the promisee suffers some form of economic loss. In other words, you promise me that you’ll supply me with building materials. I enter into a contract to build a house for someone else and then you tell me that you’ve changed your mind in spite of our handshake deal because you’ve found that you can get a better price, so I sue you for the lost revenue on my building of the house.

It seems to me problematic for Mr Palmer to argue that he has suffered some form of economic loss because the senators left the Palmer United Party. The money spent getting them elected has already been spent. If they suddenly rejoined the Party, then neither Mr Palmer nor his party would receive any of those funds back. So essentially Palmer’s lawyers will be arguing that their first duty is not to the electorate they serve, but to the people who financed their campaigns – in this case, the Palmer United Party – because of their “promise” to be PUPs in the Senate.

If this was successful, the ramifications of anyone making any policital donation could be huge. “I donated twenty dollars to your campaign under the believe that you were going to lower my taxes because of your promise to do that, now I’m joining in a class action because, well, I spent the money at Harvey Norman on interest free terms!”

And, of course, Mr Palmer’s lawyers need to be careful that they don’t suggest that Mr Palmer expected some future economic benefit from having senators from his party in the Senate, because surely he would expect them to make up their mind on the merits of each piece of legislation and how it affected their state, because to have a party telling people to vote against the interests of the people who elected them, well, that’d just be wrong, wouldn’t it?

And speaking of parties telling people what to do – or just plain wrong – most of you probably read about Alan Jones’ little rant on what Abbott should do:

  • a judicial inquiry into ASADA, the AFL, NRL and the Gillard government
  • a “drought tax”, like the Queensland flood levy introduced by the Labor government, to help farmers in NSW and Queensland;
  • taxing everyone over 65 at only 15 cents in the dollar to encourage older people to stay in the workforce
  • taking away the entitlements of former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard because of their “wrecking of the economy”.

Which gets back to my point about a basic education on how the legal system works. His first point, I could dismiss with “oh no, not another inquiry”, but as I pointed out at the beginning, the fact that the Essendon players weren’t found guilty, doesn’t mean that there was nothing to investigate. And while it may be worthwhile to look at ASADA and its operations, the linking to the Gillard government makes me wonder whether Jones is suggesting to Abbott that another witch hunt is necessary, because none of the other inquiries have damaged Labor enough.

Similarly, his final point about stripping Rudd and Gillard of their entitlements has two probablems. The first is that it’s an oxymoron. If they’re “entitlements”, then people are entitled to them and one can’t strip them away. But, more seriously, where would you stop if you decided to do something like this to ex-PMs? Without entering into the rather spurious argument that Rudd and Gillard wrecked the economy – when I last looked we still had an “economy” so it clearly hasn’t been “wrecked” – could Parliaments start stripping politicians of their entitlements because they introduced legislation that they didn’t like, or didn’t reduce the Budget deficit by as much as promised?

However, it’s the second and third point that reveal most about Alan Jones. Why only to help farmers in NSW and Queensland? Aren’t there farmers in other states suffering hard times? Oh, that’s right. NSW and Queensland are Alan Jones’ audience.

And while I’m wondering about naked self-interest…

Why tax everyone over 65 at only 15 cents in the dollar? Wouldn’t that include people who could clearly afford to pay the tax? People who were earning millions as a radio shock jock for example…

And I’m still to have someone explain to me why, with such high unemployment, we’re trying to encourage older people to stay in the workforce longer. Yes, I understand that we need to plan for the future, and a few years from now, there won’t be enough younger workers to sustain all the older pensioners. But surely we should be trying to get younger people into the workforce now, so that they could earning and building up superannuation, so that they have less need for the pension when they’re older. And, in some cases, when you encourage older people to stay in the workforce, you’re depriving a younger person of a job.

But hey, I’m not an economic genius like the Liberals. The rises in the superannuation guarantee were first stopped by Howard. They’ve been stopped again by the current mob.  Now, we’re hearing that we need to be putting away more for retirement, so that we’re not reliant on the pension. Perhaps, I’m missing something, but it seems to me that increasing the superannuation guarantee would be a way of doing just that.

Still maybe Jones is onto something. He should be paying fifteen cents in the dollar… Just to keep him in the workforce, not to add to his wealth… And I should be paying no tax at all, just because… well, it’d give me more money and I’d spend it and stimulate the economy and provide jobs, and that’s the only reason, I don’t just say it because it’d allow me to buy more stuff…

Ah, as Jack Lang (NSW Premier during the Depression) supposedly said: “Always back the horse named self-interest, son. At least you know it’s trying.”

 

Why Clive Palmer may not be Abbott’s karma! A pattern emerges . . .

Clive Palmer (image by 4bc.com.au)

Clive Palmer (image by 4bc.com.au)

Anyone else wondering if there’s a pattern starting here?

The Government proposes something. Clive creates BIG HEADLINES by suggesting that he’ll block it. There’s a bit of a brouhaha. The Government complains that the Senate shouldn’t block things because after all they have a mandate! (After all, the Liberals have always just waved legislation through – it’s not like they blocked the ETS or anything…)

A few days go by. Then it’s reported – with no big headlines – that Clive Palmer and his PUPpets have decided to let the thing go through. Sometimes, it’s reported that they’ve extracted some concession. Other times, they’ve either just changed their minds or else whatever concession they’ve extracted is not for the public eye.

Now I don’t mean to suggest by that there’s anything untoward in this. After all, it is possible that Clive Palmer just speaks without thinking, and after reflection, he remembers that he is a life member of the Queensland LNP, so really opposing policies he’s always supported just because he’s trying to win a few populist votes is not really a good long term policy. Or it could be that he just likes watching Tony’s face when it looks likely that the Government actually have to say please before it gets its own way.

Whatever, it seems that there are at least two examples of this.

We won’t allow the Carbon Tax repeal, unless it’s replaced by an Emissions Trading Scheme starting at zero. (Haven’t heard much about that lately.)

We won’t support the changes to the regulations on Financial Advice. (Oh, wait the government have promised us that they’ll strength the legislation in the next ninety days.)

There you go. Two things that’s the start of pattern.

All right, two isn’t much of a pattern, but I wanted to get in early. If I wait until it’s an actual pattern then everyone will see it. Like the pattern where Margie doesn’t accompany Abbott when he goes to a foreign country, including Canberra, which Liberals regard as an alien land.

Just like when some of the Liberals suggested that the Labor Party hadn’t delivered a surplus this century. It’s a pattern. The circumstances of the GFC were no excuse – if the Liberals had still been in power, we’d have still had surpluses. And an unemployment rate of “eleventy”, mind you, but things would have been good because we’d have had a surplus.

But that was under Peter “Figjam” Costello. Under Abbott, I’ve noticed a new pattern. Joe Hockey has never delivered a surplus.

Just remember, you read it here first!

A plea to the Pups: Do not repeal the Clean Energy Act

Original image by The Telegraph.uk

Original image by The Telegraph.uk

After reading a few similar posts I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and try something in the open-letter style, in the vain hope that it might make its way to its intended recipients via the magic of the interwebs. Since I don’t have time to provide statistical analysis what follows is very much a matter of opinion. You can either take my conclusions on trust, or do your own research.

Dear Senators Lambie, Lazarus, and Wang,

Congratulations to you all on your appointments.

I write to express my concern about the repeal of the Clean Energy Act which is currently before the Senate. I cannot emphasize enough the significance of this legislation, and the importance of the task before you. As an Australian who plans on living at least until 70, I feel I have a vested interest in this debate, and so I would like to be sure that you are fully apprised of the facts and consequences before you vote to repeal carbon pricing.

Abolishing the carbon tax will not save families $550 a year. In the last 10 years we have seen energy prices double, but only about 3-4% of this increase is due to the carbon tax. The rest is due to over-investment in poles and wires subsidised by taxpayers and paid for by consumers. Demand for electricity has actually fallen by about 13% over the last 5 years. This may be in part due to an increase in rooftop solar PV, in part due to rising prices. My point is that carbon pricing has not been the driving force behind high energy prices. Overall the impact of carbon pricing has contributed an estimated 0.7% increase to cost of living. Compared to a 2.5% hike for the GST, this is negligible.

No doubt you have become accustomed to our Prime Minister’s underhanded tactics, allowing interest groups to dictate policy and appointing climate sceptics to key advisory positions. As much as Abbott would deny it, the time for arguing the point is over. The science has been around since the 1970s. If CO2 levels rise to 450 particles per million then the planet can be expected to warm by two degrees, posing significant risk to life on earth. CO2 levels are already at 400 ppm and the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as typhoons, floods, droughts and bush fires has increased more rapidly in the last five years than at any time in recorded history. Only those with their heads in the sand have not seen this coming.

It would be foolish to think that our shared desire for the survival of the species would somehow be enough to shake the global economy from its dependence on fossil fuels. On the other hand, a sudden rise in input cost might do just the trick. With crude oil now soaring above $100 a barrel and the Middle East in the grip of war, it looks like we may be seeing the end of an era. As long as demand for energy remains high and shale gas cheap the US may ride out the prospect of a double dip recession for a decade or so, but new sources of energy are desperately needed to drive a new economy. You need only look toward Beijing and Washington to see the reality of this. The fossil fuel industry’s days are numbered, and in what has already been dubbed the Third Industrial Revolution, most significant new investment is in renewables.

What does this mean for Australia? We can only continue to burn coal for as long as it is cost effective to produce it. Once global accords on climate change are reached, coal will face resistance in the market and we will start to see diminishing returns. The future is already looking bleak for the industry, and any amount of foresight would have us steer clear of stranded assets, not to mention the opportunity cost of not investing in renewables sooner.

In spite of Abbott’s best attempts to thwart it, Australia already has a mechanism in place to reduce emissions and provide significant investment capital for renewables. With attendant compensations to taxpayers such as raising the tax free threshold, family tax benefits and other measures, many poorer Australians, including pensioners, are actually better off under the current scheme. In spite of what Abbott would have us believe, the Clean Energy Act is not a toxic tax. Rather it is a well crafted package of reforms which has already lowered emissions by 7% and provides a means to steer our economy out of the cul-de-sac of the resource boom and onto the autobahn of technology and innovation. Who can tell how many new jobs will be created along the way?

With all respect to environmentalists, the legislation currently in place was not designed by a bunch of climate scientists who all got together and decided that preserving things like clean air and water for future generations was a really cool idea, but by shrewd economists who foresaw the need to future proof our economy against global trends. Dismantling this legislation without thinking through the consequences would amount to an act of economic vandalism, or deliberate sabotage, take your pick.

While preserving the planet for future generations is undoubtedly a noble cause, there is a far more cynical truth to consider. Our economic future very much depends on making the transition to clean energy as quickly and smoothly as possible. So while I admire the spirit of the amendments proposed by the Palmer United Party, I would suggest that in the best interest of all Australians the Clean Energy Act should be preserved in its current form. I urge you all to consider this carefully before casting your votes.

Kind Regards

Sean Stinson

Ricky Muir: Just For The Record

Ricky Muir (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

Ricky Muir (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

A few points of clarification.

In my article on Ricky Muir posted yesterday on AIMN, and his part in blocking the Carbon Tax repeal bill, I did not either refer to Senator Muir as a ‘Bogan’ nor did I infer that he was one.

It would seem that the article has drawn a sharp response from some commentors both on AIMN and social media, some objecting to the use of the word bogan while others ‘were not amused’ by the headline.

So let’s take first things first.

The word ‘Bogan’ is a relatively new one in the use of colloquialism, emerging in the last two decades or so.

I should add as a footnote, that Bogans are also known as ‘Bevans’ in Queensland.

However, Bogan seems to have become the predominant term in the vernacular of  the media and the general public.

Prior to this, “Bogan’s” were usually referred to as “Ockers”, a description that seems to have faded with time.

The meaning however, is the same whatever the nomenclature, and describes not so much as the way someone dresses, their level of education, their income or in which suburb they live in for that matter,  but in the manner of how they behave in public.

A summation of Bogan behaviour could best be described as boorish and usually, but not always, alcohol fuelled.

As Sir Scotch Mistery succinctly put it; “It’s an attitude”, and it applies whether you’re the prime minister or a pauper.

Tony Abbott could most certainly be described as a ‘Bogan’ whereas since his election to the Senate, the mainstream media have done their best to portray Ricky Muir as a Bogan.

Relying on YouTube clips, and more than a dose of strong innuendo when faced with Muir’s refusal to give interviews, the mainstream media have done their utmost to present Muir as vulgar at best, and a potentially a dangerous idiot who got lucky and now holds the fate of Australian democracy in his grease stained hands at worst.

A little over a month ago, I watched Muir being crucified at the hands of a po-faced, has-been hack, in the name of ‘investigative journalism’ – you can read ‘sensationalism’ in place of journalism.

I was so appalled by Muir’s treatment at the hands of Mike Willisee that I wrote an article on my own blog page and included a link in the text of yesterday’s post for purposes of further explanation.

It would appear that some readers didn’t bother to use it before hitting the keyboard to vent their spleen that I had besmirched Muir, and more importantly at least as far as they were concerned – themselves.

I did nothing of the sort.

What I was surprised to see was that the debate and comments on Muir’s role in rejecting the Carbon Tax repeal bill, immediately switched to a debate on who was or wasn’t a ‘Bogan’.

The central issue; that of Muir’s efforts to preserve ARENA and his role in helping to stall the government’s attempts at repeal the Carbon Tax, were largely swept aside.

Amazing!

As for those who ‘were not amused’ at the headline, what can I say?

Like all of the contributors to AIMN, I do my own proof reading and editing and enjoy the editorial freedom to write what I like, when I like – contribution is voluntary and none of us gets paid,

I admit that in selecting the headline, I succumbed to the temptation of alliteration, and I couldn’t resist the chance to take a swipe at the MSM for their treatment of Muir.

After watching the result of the debate in the Senate and the subsequent rejection of the government’s bill, the first thing that ran through my head was that in the four days since he’d been sworn in as a Senator, Muir had proved to have far more political savvy and concern for the well-being of the community than either Abbott, Palmer or the media had given him credit for.

The rest of it just fell into place, and as I wanted to get the article out before the MSM put their spin on it, I really didn’t think much more about it – and still don’t.

For those who were ‘not amused’ and thought that the headline had lowered the tone of AIMN, I can only offer the following advice given by an old friend as I started my freshman year at university;

“Always take your work seriously but never take yourself too seriously.”

Q.E.D.

Finally and for the record, whether you like, love or loath Muir or are totally ambivalent, what he represents is an example of democracy at work.

Whatever his reasons, Muir took that next step that many of us probably thought about but never acted on.

Muir stood up and had the courage to put his beliefs and his credibility in his own community on the line and run for office.

Whether or not he proves to be a good and effective representative of  his community, his party, and the people of Australia remain to be seen.

In the interim, his right to privacy and reticence to give interviews to a sensationalist hungry media should be respected until he feels comfortable about doing so.

As I said in my first article, in his short time in the seat, Muir has proven that he is his own man, or at least the man of his party and not the puppet of PUP as the media conjectured, even though Palmer has managed to grab the headlines.

Moreover, as far as trying to make decisions for the good of all Australians, he’s made a very good start.

Here’s hoping that he continues.

Ricky Proves Tricky – Bush Bogan Backs Blocking Carbon Tax Repeal Bill

Ricky Muir (image from news.com.au)

Ricky Muir (image from news.com.au)

A month ago, Ricky Muir was an object of scorn and derision by the MSM.

Following his interview with Mike Willisee, much of social media also jumped on the band wagon posting the Willisee interview on Facebook with the warning; “Be afraid, be very afraid.”

Since his election to the Senate in September Muir has been painted as either an ignoramus who got lucky or simply a stooge for the Palmer United Party.

Since assuming his role as a  Senator on Monday, Muir has proved to be neither and very much his own man.

The MSM has had a fascination with Muir who as a candidate for a minor party, the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts, contested and won a seat in the Upper House.

Reclusive by nature, Muir refused to give interviews and declined to meet with Tony Abbott for a formal discussion and prime ministerial welcome.

With little to go on save for a couple of YouTube clips of Muir throwing kangaroo excrement at his mates, and a homespun philosophy in how to raise children, the MSM opted for regarding Muir as a curiosity at best, a fool at worst following the Willisee interview, or simply a puppet of Clive Palmer following Palmer’s announcement the Muir would form a voting bloc with PUP.

Muir’s first action after being sworn in however was to independently introduce amendments to block the government’s savage cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency with a view of scrapping the agency altogether.

Muir’s actions caught both the MSM and the government off guard, and left the government stunned. The best however, was yet to come.

Back peddling furiously, the government agreed to continue funding ARENA in exchange for the withdrawal of Muir’s amendment, but hoping that the vote on the repeal of the Carbon tax would be finalized on Thursday with a favorable outcome for the LNP.

This was not to be. Muir joined with PUP, Labor and the Greens to write further amendments to the bill to ensure that full savings from the repeal would be passed on to consumers.

The final vote to reject the repeal was 37 to the government’s 35.

This leaves the Abbott government to introduce a new repeal bill which includes the Palmer amendment to the House, and the debate starts all over again.

In less than a week Muir has gone from zero to hero, with social media now prepared to sing his praises, albeit faintly due to Clive Palmer grabbing most of the media attention for today’s move.

On his Facebook page, Muir wrote of himself as “As an average Australian who wants to make balanced decisions which hopefully reflect on everyday Australians.”

A month ago, I wrote that; such honesty despite its apparent naivete, is welcome and  refreshing in a political arena dominated by time servers, party hacks, and Neo-Liberal dog-eat-dog ideology.

Whatever Muir’s communication faults may be, he is still representative of a democracy that prides itself in the fact that anyone with the determination to have their voice heard and who wants to change the system can be elected if they present a credible argument to voters in their electorate.

Moreover, Muir also embodies the fundamental Australian principle of ‘a fair go’.

Within four days of taking his seat in the Senate, Muir has not only shown himself to be his own man, but is as good as his word in making balanced decisions for all Australians.

Let’s hope that he continues to do so.

What does Clive Palmer want?

Clive - what does he want? (image by smh.com.au)

Clive – what does he want? (image by smh.com.au)

The first Joe Hockey budget is about to be presented to parliament and to the people. There has been plenty of speculation about cuts to pensions and introducing Medicare co-payments, but it would still take a brave journalist to try and pre-empt what it will really contain. However, if any of the language being used both by Hockey and other ministers is close to the mark, it seems this government will dodge what is really needed. The one unknown they will have to contend with is Clive Palmer and his senate team. Will Clive roll over and wave the bills through the senate or will he make Abbott and Hockey sweat? Labor would do well to take a much closer look at this interesting development in the Australian political setting. Is it possible that the Palmer United Party isn’t all that concerned about the carbon tax and the mining tax and will not support its repeal? It’s possible.

While there is ample room for Hockey to cut some wasteful programs put in place by the Howard government, the real problem is falling revenue. And that means increasing taxes across the board. It also means NOT removing them, as in the case of the carbon tax and the mining tax. It means dumping election policy commitments such as Direct Action and the Paid Parental Leave Scheme. But is any of this likely to happen?

All the signs at the moment suggest not. Rather than upset their own constituency too early in the piece they will, I suspect, hit the broader community, the aged, the disadvantaged, the unhealthy, students and families; those areas where they think traditional Labor supporters most likely nest. That is their usual form. Apart from a brief period when the Howard government had shiploads of money coming in and looked like losing the 2004 and 2007 elections did they shower money on the very areas they will now attack to balance the budget. All the speculation and the rhetoric point us in this direction. Yet all of this could be avoided if they were to concentrate their efforts on the other side of the ledger, i.e. revenue. There are plenty of opportunities to raise additional revenue from increased personal tax to the GST to diesel fuel excise, but that means breaking election promises.

In the meantime Clive Palmer’s success at elections has opened up the possibility of a new dimension to his political aims, whatever they were or are now. His recent comments and his Northern Territory coup d’état suggest he is more interested in appealing to the broader electorate than furthering his own business interests. He opposes any cuts to pensions and has ridiculed the Coalition’s Direct Action approach to climate change. He also has a keen eye on the Victorian State election in November this year. All indications are that Labor will regain office after four years of Liberal mismanagement and disunity. A good showing for the PUP in Victoria could convince him that his political ambitions weren’t misplaced and that the next federal election could bring even more influence in the running of the country. To that end he would likely be persuaded to appeal to a broader base across the country.

The Commission of Audit has done its job and we should know its recommendations this week. In an atmosphere strikingly similar to the Henry Tax Report, Hockey will likely cherry pick the items that best suit the Coalition mindset. Much will be made of what is perceived as broken promises and the spin doctors will tell us otherwise. They will try to avoid another Gonski debacle. This time they will use well crafted language to justify their decisions. But the electorate will see through it anyway. And this time, Abbott and Hockey will also have to contend with Clive.

I suspect Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are asking the question: What does Clive really want? It deserves more thought than most journalists are giving it. We only have to recall the success Don Chipp and his Australian Democrats had with disaffected voters in the eighties and nineties. There is a similar feeling in the air today and I think Clive Palmer has sensed it. Politics is an infectious animal. Popularity can be an alluring, beckoning charmer. Power is a far greater aphrodisiac than personal success and the timing couldn’t be better. I suspect the electorate is already well and truly over Tony Abbott. His leadership credentials just don’t stack up. There were similar thoughts about Malcolm Fraser in the late seventies. That prompted Don Chipp to make his move. His ‘keep the bastards honest’ campaign resonated well with disaffected liberals who then split their preferences equally between The Coalition and Labor. It could happen again. We know from similar past forays that the Palmer United Party probably won’t last. The DLP, the Democrats and One Nation are a testament to that. But for the time they are here they can wield enormous influence in the short term.

Joe Hockey’s management of the economy is the key. If he stuffs up as John Howard did when he was treasurer in the Fraser government, the Coalition will be in deep trouble with no small contribution from Clive Palmer. History has a way of repeating itself when no one pays attention to what is really happening.

The refugee solution

Image by bitethedust.com.au

Image by bitethedust.com.au

Catriona Thoolen is a member of the Palmer United Party (PUP). Below are two letters she sent to eleven newspapers during the 2013 election campaign with a refugee solution but not one was willing to publish her letters unless she put them in as an ad and paid for the insertion. Any inference that she is a member of the PUP is obviously an invitation to get ignored. The letters offer suggestions on how to integrate asylum seekers into the Australian community.

I don’t know enough about the PUP to say if the suggestions put forward on refugees are part of their policy platform or simply Catriona’s personal views. I’m guessing the latter. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Catriona wrote to The AIMN asking if her letters could be published here. Well of course they can: that’s what the independent media is here for* if we agree with her opinions or not. Here are Catriona’s letters:

1st Letter

Refugees. This could be the biggest opportunity for regional areas that has occurred in our history. This is our chance to grow regional areas. To have a bigger, louder voice and to be heard by the rest of Australia, clinging around the eastern seaboard. We, in the country, know our small towns are shrinking. We know that they will not survive below a certain population level. We have watched as hospitals and schools close and services are withdrawn all because there were insufficient people in these towns to support these services and businesses.

The headlines spruik a “flood of asylum seekers” . To put this into perspective, if the 45,000 people who arrived by boat over the last year were shared around every small town in Victoria, we would all ‘adopt’ just one family. We would add numbers to our smallest schools, we would increase cash-flow within our small towns’ businesses. This is if they were only shared around Victoria. Imagine how many people could be accommodated in regional towns and villages across the whole of Australia? Even if the family remained unemployed and were ‘surviving’ on Centrelink payments they would still increase cash-flow in our small towns. They would buy in our supermarket, chemists (if that small town has managed to retain a chemist), buy clothes and pay for school excursions.

These families have taken huge risks to get here and they are keen to make a new life. They are willing to be settled in regional areas. They, like you and I, just want their family to be happy and safe and for their children to have the chance to go to school. (This in itself may be a bit of a wake-up call for our children, who even if they don’t know it, have it pretty good.) We should be viewing the influx of migrants as a huge “human resource”.

To have had the money to pay for a place on a boat shows that they must have had money, must have had a job, and therefore must have skills. If these families can be placed in a region with that specific skill shortage, everyone would benefit. For those too young (or spent too long out of schooling) for formal qualifications, there is potential for subsidised adult apprenticeships for those keen to learn new skills to support their family. I know regional small businesses are always looking for skilled workers. Maybe there is someone with the skills you need right now waiting in a detention camp somewhere. We can accommodate them. Every small town has vacant houses. We have existing infrastructure. These houses sitting vacant in town have water and electricity waiting to be turned on again. Private rental is not expensive in small towns and this is another way that cash-flow would improve – rent to local landlords. There would be probably unexpected benefits for our children. This family we have adopted would expose our country kids to a cultural diversity that doesn’t exist in most small towns. The huge amount of money being spent on keeping people locked up for months or even years could be spent on the communities which choose to take on and support these families.

2nd Letter

A proposal for a rural solution for asylum seekers. Asylum seekers released into the community are generally unemployed (in some urban areas 93 per cent still unemployed 3 years after arrival) and paid welfare. Some are on visas that forbid them to work which forces them into the unprotected cash job market just like international students and local kids on AusStudy. They have high rental costs. They tend to try to live together to give themselves some feel of community. It is this clustering of ethnic groups around cities that scares many people. Much is made of these new migrants having health cover. But all of us do. Anyone one with a Medicare Card can access medical care in public hospitals at no cost and even if you don’t have a Health Care Card (which all Newstart recipients do), in rural areas all under 16s get “no gap” medical care.

The Long Term. We know from decades of migration to Australia that it takes a generation for the merging of different ethnic groups to take place. A lot of Australians were very unimpressed with the influx of Greeks and Italians after the Second World War, followed by Vietnamese refugees in the mid-seventies but very few would deny now that they have added colour and taste to our culture. We know that the last batch of migrants are generally the least accepting of the next. I am never sure why this is, even at the moment, the biggest (or maybe just the loudest) group against accepting this wave of asylum seekers are the last batch of migrants.

Australia is a country of migrants. We have a living culture that takes in some things and spits out others. We embrace the diversity of our views and we are one of the few countries where we are truly free to speak our minds. We accept differences, without ever feeling the need to implant into our own lives anything that does not suit us. For Australia to become the “Food Bowl” of the world, we need more people in regional Australia, but particularly in regional Victoria which has a variety of regions which allow us to grow just about anything that can be grown in the world. We know that (for some reason that makes no sense to me) city people will not relocate to the country. That even if there are jobs going begging in a country town, very few city people are willing to move to regional areas to take up a role there. The only chance we have to grow regional Victoria is to take up this, once in a lifetime opportunity, to welcome into our towns, our schools, our community these people who are currently sitting in detention centres (at great cost to us) waiting for their lives to begin again.

* Within reason, of course.

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