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Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women (part 3)

By Tess Lawrence

Women live with Mandemic virus

Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women

In this third and final excerpt of her treatise, Tess Lawrence takes no prisoners but leaves no woman behind. In the face of the Mandemic, she calls for women – and the world – and politicians to all woman up. (Please also see Part 1 and Part 2).

Women have long lived with what I call the Mandemic virus.

Like Coronavirus, it has various global variants and mutations and as burgeoning statistics attest, can cause physical and psychological injury – and prove fatal.

Unlike Coronavirus, there is no Mandemic vaccine.

Ironically and catastrophically, Coronavirus has formed an antigenic shift with the Mandemic virus, igniting sporadic breakouts of increased ‘domestic’ violence, mostly by men, towards women, children and their families in general.

Women have become the punching bags of the world. As well as the perennial sexcuse ‘she made me do it’ chuck in another one. Blame Covid-19.

I killed her. I blame her and Covid. They made me do it

Blame Coronavirus and everything and anything for beating her up, for knifing her, for running over her with the car, for glassing her, for kicking her in the stomach while she’s carrying a baby, for breaking her arm, for strangling her, for pouring petrol on her, for throwing acid on her face, for gaslighting her, for beheading her, for drowning her, for stoning her, for starving her, for breaking her spirit, for drugging her, for killing her children, for setting her and the children alight in a car, for throwing her/your child off a bridge, for raping her, for gang raping her, for killing her by grief, for not allowing her to vote, to dance, to sing, to love, to lust, for harassing her, for demeaning her, for sodomising her with implements, for torturing her, for keeping her uneducated, unfed, unhealthy, poor, for selling her into sexual slavery, for not letting her vote or stand for public office, for killing her with an axe, for killing her with a gun, for killing her with a Kalashnikov, a rapid fire assault rifle, for killing her with barrel bombs, cluster munitions, landmines, chlorine and lewisite, for mutilating her, for slicing off her clitoris, for killing her by humiliation, for ridiculing her, by rumours, for degrading her in public, for killing her by stealth, for killing her dreams, for killing her hope, for killing her aspirations, for stealing her dreams, for slut-shaming her, for killing her with unkindness, for sobbing like a girl, for weaponising sex abuse, by killing her with political psycho violence, for killing her with coercive control.

To all the above I have been privy. As a journalist, as an advocate, as a sister to all the women and girls and girl babies above. Some of the above I have experienced.

She. We. I. Have nowhere to hide.

Govt in-house inquiries into rape and sex abuse, dead loss

The industrial strength parliamentary allegations of rape and sexual harassment have resulted in a plethora of various inquiries, reports and navel upskirting, making international headlines and deadlines.

The community has to endure the nonsensical and irritating propensity of time-wasting of so-called ‘independent’ in-house investigations, often led by party flunkies, former or current staffers. They are a dead loss.

They are meaningless and invariably have happy endings for the accused. Nothing to see here, nothing to hear here, nothing to say. The government is simply regurgitating its own vomit.

Morrison’s cos, John Kunkel, an émigré from Rio Tinto that used sacred Juukan Caves for target practice

They are an insult to our intelligence and to justice. Most of all they are an insult to those who are courageous enough to speak their truth.

Take the facile Kunkel Report. It should be read with more than a grain of Epsom salts.

Dr John Kunkel is Morrison’s chief of staff and general advisory factotum. A proud émigré from Rio Tinto, the blow up doll of the mining industry who used the indigenous sacred caves of Juukan for target practice.

See what I mean? Goodness me, he might as well have been seconded to the Prime Minister by Rio Tinto.

It was Dr Kunkel who was charged with the onerous task of investigating the black ops sleazebags who were spreading false rumours about David Sharaz, partner of Brittany Higgins – his own colleagues in his own office, mind you. As if.

The Battle of Great Brittany in Manberra

Inspired by Grace Tame’s courage and example, on February 14, former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, who worked for then Minister for Defence Industry, the hapless and some say hopeless, Linda Reynolds, revealed she had allegedly been raped by a colleague on a sofa in the Minister’s office in March, 2019.

The allegation stunned an already disgusted public, especially in learning how reaching out to her political peers left Higgins feeling threatened and isolated.

Headlines ricocheted around the world about this latest in a string of allegations and loud rumour that still swirl about Canberra, better named Manberra.

The usual platitudes of faux concern slid out of Morrison’s mouth, along with the pro forma denial of all knowledge of any such thing.

Il Duce Dutton Minister for Home Affairs and Au Pairs reduce Higgins’ claim to “He said, she said.” Really?

Add to this nothingness the repugnant, snide remarks by the ever plotting prime minister-in-waiting Peter Dutton, still smarting from Morrison shrewdly out manoeuvering him for the top job in the Turnbull coup.

The then Minister for Home Affairs and Au Pairs blithely dismissed the Higgins allegations as a mere “he said, she said” affair. Really?

Well no. Not really. It turns out that Il Duce Dutton was being less than honest with the Australian people he professes to serve. Further, he has been more than duplicitous and misrepresented the facts about his knowledge of the Higgins allegations and his contact with his nemesis, Prime Minister Morrison – his office and minions.

An appalling Home Affairs Minister, Il Duce is now busy making an even greater mess of his current Defence portfolio than his predecessor, Marise Payne, whom Morrison has pathetically crowned the Prime Minister for Women in yet another forensic red flag of his disassociation to women and dismissal of the physical and psycho political sexual assault crisis in our Parliament that now warrants a Royal Commission.

Moreover, this crisis continues to compromise our national security and confirms that Dutton has lost control of this aspect of both portfolios. The stereotyping of cherchez la femme has obscured the brutal reality of cherchez l’homme.

Security Alert! If Putin has video of Trump peeing on prostitutes, what does he have on Aussie politicians?

If Vladimir Putin really has footage of Donald Trump peeing on prostitutes (hope they got paid extra, not for the peeing but because it was the Donald) then imagine what filth he has on Australian ministers and parliamentarians in general.

Despite serious allegations made by a number of women employed by the government, most politicians, including females, failed to make any definitive statements.

They displayed the political cowardice for which Australia has become synonymous, whether the discussion is about submarines, asylum seekers, voting at the United Nations, the judicial system, the workplace, the home, wage parity, aged are, superannuation, employment opportunity, welfare, housing, gender equality, Indigenous and other human rights, religious persecution, abortion, climate change or change of life. By any measure women get a bum deal.

But Australia has been blessed with a singular tribe of mostly young, fearless warrior women who have emerged from the shadows of autocratic abusive male dominance to stand defiantly in front of their accusers and their fellow Australians to call out and denounce their abusers and the systemic culture of toxic masculinity that protects and incubate them, including within corrupt political and institutional spheres.

Grace refuses to tame the shrew

Grace Tame, 2021 Australian of the Year, left the nation in awe with her profoundly eloquent, inspiring and moving acceptance speech. It shamed those of us who could have done more and didn’t. Including female politicians.

No more shaming or taming of the shrew within!

The end of her courageous speech when she talks of her serial rapist teacher’s command to be quiet, still echoes in my head and turns my gut:

“I remember him saying, ‘Don’t make a sound…
Well, hear me now!
Using my voice, amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced.
Let’s make some noise, Australia!”

 

Grace Tame’s Australian of the Year speech… shamed those of us who could have done more and didn’t. Including female politicians (Image from abc.net.au)

 

Tame’s speech prompts ScoMo’s ‘Felt good to get that out’ remark as if he was speaking about a fart

The first publicly known survivor of child sexual abuse to win the award, as well as the first Tasmanian recipient (she earlier won Tasmanian of the Year) Tame was also responsible for changing Tasmania’s archaic gag laws to enable victims/survivors to identify themselves if they so wished.

And what did our Prime Minister say to Tame after her compelling speech?

‘Well, gee, I bet it felt good to get that out!’

 

Image from pedestrian.tv

 

This is our Prime Minister speaking for gawd’s sake. As if he were talking about a fart. His repugnant and crass response again reflects a patronising pathology. Either he just doesn’t get it, or he just doesn’t care. Or both.

Women force fed manburger with the lot

It is apparent that our political system is geared to protect the guilty from all sides of the political spectra. The Westminster system was constructed by men, for men and remains mostly comprised of men to this day.

This inequity is reflected in all tiers of our society and the body politic, women are force fed the manburger with the lot.

Lacklustre leaders and governments without vision like Scott Morrison and the LNP compound the problem. The Labor Party and the Greens are not without sin. The world has a glut of such men.

Of course, Australia is not on its Pat Malone with any of this but given our track record we are implicit and complicit in the decrepit legacy world order that subjugates women through coercive control, menace and mendacity. We need a new model of government and governance.

Women getting the short end of the dick

If it is correct that 80 per cent of the world is ruled by men, then at 20 per cent women are surely getting the short end of the dick.

Don’t be misled by inane Coalition propaganda that it is genuinely concerned about the plight of women and girls in this country or any other.

We openly trade, consort, cavort and play sport with regimes that treat girls and women as chattels ultimately owned and enslaved by the male dominated state.

We do so because we share strands of the same intellectual and societal DNA as these foul regimes.

Execution of adulterous Saudi Arabian women related to execution of Hannah Clarke and her three children

The stoning to death of an adulterous woman in Saudi Arabia is unquestionably related to the horrific murders of Hannah Clarke and her three children, Aaliyah 6, Laianah 4, and Trey 3, burned alive by Hannah’s estranged husband Rowan Baxter, who poured petrol on his family and set them alight while they were in their car in Brisbane, February last year.

Ultimately, they were both executions engineered by the state. By defaullt. By intent.

In her 2019 book ‘Coercive Control – See What You Made Me Do’ and so-named SBS TV series, Australian journalist Jess Hill provides us with a litany of ugly home truths about this insidious societal disease that Australia has failed to incorporate into our Commonwealth criminal code, unlike Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland.

Why do you think that might be?

 

Image from womensagenda.com.au

Says Hill:

“For a lot of people [coercive control] sounds like second-grade abuse, a lower form of abuse that wouldn’t be so hard to recover from. What the model of coercive control shows, is that where that is present, you are actually looking at a situation of entrapment, not just abuse.”

The psychological trap and the threat of violence for non-compliance is often enough to keep victims in a state of fear. In the case of Hannah Clarke, Baxter would change his routine randomly to keep her guessing his movements.”

Morrison’s – and the Coalition’s continual sometimes subliminal attempts to coercively control women – ultimately relegates us to instruments and possessions of the state, do they not? They are the same and similar tactics deployed by the likes of the Taliban, Islamic State, Boko Haram, cults, established religions and various pop up terrorist groups.

American Evan Stark’s book ‘Coercive Control – How men entrap women in personal life’ first published 14 years ago, nails the similarities between terrorism, hostage taking and coercive control.

I add the sexual grooming tactics of predators and the more blunt force tactics like cyber terrorism, spiking drinks and raping women whilst they are drunk or unconscious. Or dead.

I’m also adding government, fiscal, political and institutional coercive control of women. Dammit, chuck in manburger with the lot!

Australia slave to Granny England and Uncle Sam and any fossil that precedes the word ‘fuels’

In Australian politics we continue to follow whilst others lead. Latterly, there are no saints and few heroes. We boldly go only where others have already trod and that includes banal intellectual wastelands and fallow paddocks.

We don’t stand on the shoulders of our own giants, Instead we genuflect to the United States, party donors, benefactors, sponsors and any fossil that precedes the word ‘fuels.’ We buy, sell and trade policies and principles on the toss of a dollar.

Since white settlement, we have never stopped tugging at the mullet that grows like a razorback hog’s down what remains of our political backbone, to ingratiate ourselves with Granny England, Uncle Sam or the carpet baggery of home grown and imported marauding mining companies.

Today Morrison is at the helm of this fetid heap of poisonous tailings.

His benign demeanour is dangerous. Consider the company he keeps. I’m not talking only about his QAnon mate, Tim Stewart or indeed Brian Houston but rather those who comprise and compromise his government.

Red-faced wombat Barnaby, eats beetroot and leaves

For a start there’s the red-faced wombat, deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, so called because he eats beetroot and leaves.

Barnaby’s philandering Joyce stick had already once caused him to be stripped of the position and cost him a marriage as well as inspiring then PM Turnbull’s ministerial
‘bonk ban’ on having sex with staff.

Even though Morrison is said to loathe Joyce and claims he cannot interfere in National Party internal politics, he could have and should have in this instance, given the squalid, hypocrisy of Joyce’s past and the (strenuously denied) allegations of sexual harassment by Catherine Marriott.

Regional as well as National Party women have deplored Joyce’s return, including former federal and state president, Christine Ferguson. The Nationals are no different to others when it comes to the disregard and disrespect for the safety and well being of women and girls.

Not only did an in house investigation into the allegations against Joyce predictably prove inconclusive but now there are circumstances concerning the man who headed up that investigation that warrants a truly independent investigation into Marriott’s allegations that will be seen to be fair to both parties.

It was discovered that Ross Cadell, the Nationals’ NSW State Director who oversaw the Joyce inquiry had been the subject of an apprehended domestic violence order by police in 2014 on behalf of Cadell’s former wife, that had later been withdrawn.

Women have had enough of sexcuses

Morrison’s pimping of obnoxious behaviour has been debated on social and anti-social multimedia platforms, mainstream and upstream media alike, in the court of public opinion and in national protest marches led by angry women who have had enough of sexcuses; me included.

Enough is more than enough. We have reached a stage when the coalition’s response to serial allegations of rape and other forms of sexual abuse and intimidation, harassment, covert and overt violence both within and close to parliament’s portals, are met by SloMo and his bovver boys and girls with indifference and diffidence.

The Liberal and National parties are mired in sewage of their own making; muck expunged from a body politic riddled with parasites feeding on their egos.

Too harsh? I’m not finished.

The reflux of the allegations by a now dead woman of rape against former Attorney-General Christian Porter and the allegation by Brittany Higgins that she was raped by a former parliamentary staff member have forever severed the larynx of the LNP circa Scott Morrison.

The facile and arrogant notion held by Morrison and Porter that he could remain Attorney General after his inane press conference when he outed himself, is again another red flag on the coercive control map.

So too is Porter’s arrogant presumption that anonymous monies poured into a Blind Trust is yesterday’s news, now that he has stood down as Industry Minister. Porter has long forfeited his right to represent Australia and the good folk of Pearce.

Christian Porter is the Minister for Christian Porter. Even in this porterfolio he has proven his deceit

Christian Porter is the Minister for Christian Porter. Even in this porterfolio, time and again he has shown his propensity for deceit. This ghastly man, who presumed he would one day be Prime Minister has been the architect of his own demise.

When Morrison goes down, and go down he will, the Porter scandal will indisputably be writ large on his political epitaph.

In my Independent Australia article, The night Porter and allegation of rape, I’ve documented a number of reasons for this claim.

We live in an era of big dick politics and big dick politicians. Hard men with hard-ons all the time, seemingly. Pun intended, there is more to come this side of the federal election.

Australia is a cause without a rebel

Time and again, claims of sexual harassment and cover-ups, the general fobbing off of women and the largely uncensured snide remarks and insult directed towards women for decades by members of both houses of parliament have brought the coalition into particular disrepute on this day. And for sure, some of the insult has been by women in the House.

Who can forget histrionic UteGirl, Michaelia Cash, the political scraps pecker who somehow reminds me of a gallus gallus domesticus (although that is probably unfair to your average chook) threatening to name “every young woman” in Bill Shorten’s office during a tit for tat Senates Estimates hearing?

This noxious bile spat from the mouth of a former Minister for Women! Now this political mercenary is the first law officer in the land. Just what is it about the likes of George Brandis, Christian Porter and Michaelia Cash that vaguely warrants their appointment to Attorney General?

Australia has become a cause without a rebel.

Women are political roadkill

Instead of railing against bigotry and bigots, the Prime Minister has led the Charge of the White Brigade. I’ve touched on only a few of the many worthy examples of proof

For too long in Australian politics, women have been perceived as roadkill. Politically, a bit on the side.

Throwing a few million overdue dollars at us recently is designed to shut us up, tantamount to economic coercive control.

It is as if we should be grateful for extra housekeeping money – if we’re good girls and don’t march or make a noise!

Women around the world live under a mandemic yoke. We need to woman up

We don’t need to wait for the results of a Morrison Rorschach test. He has a list of priors that are sourced well before he was elected PM. He has a modus operandi when dealing with problems – largely ignores them.

The global reality for women is that the design of all governments and regimes, fractured, rogue or otherwise practice coercive control of women, as do institutions and society in general, where it is so often culturally enshrined.

Our world remains a patriarchal collective, like it or no. Even the spoils of war, the looting and the mooting of a new world order really refers to male power, military and political supremacy. Let’s not kid ourselves that the notion embraces gender equality on any level. Millions of women are enslaven to men and their governments and governance.

None of this is so called feminist rhetoric, or the spoutings of any womanifesto. This is the reality for women and girls. The societal dominant and dominating gender is male. It is men who hold the greater power.

Australia and the rest of the world needs to forensically analyse what is left of our degraded democracies and all other forms of regimes infected with the Mandemic virus.

Some of us must step up and take responsibility for not making enough noise, as Grace Tame urges us to do.

We have to fight against an elitism and the corporatisation of what must be a new kind of emancipation. We need to see more so-called ordinary women and indigenous women attend summits and contribute to reports; women who are not always renowned corporate game changers, but women who are mostly voiceless. We need to seek them out, we need to hear their voices. We need to learn from them.

I want to hear from potential Hannah Clarkes and not just hold a wake around their funeral pyre.

Women – and the wonderful men who love us and support us – need to lock this in. To lock our arms around one another. Leave no woman behind. Politicians throughout the world need to acknowledge the wars on women.

Women, myself included, need to woman up.

Please Note: If you need any support, please reach out to Lifeline on 13 11 14. You are not alone.

© Tess Lawrence

Tess Lawrence is Contributing editor-at-large for Independent Australia and her most recent article is The night Porter and allegation of rape.

 

 

 

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Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women (part 2)

By Tess Lawrence

Porter reveals he has document signed by Kate!

In her second excerpt on Scott Morrison’s Coercive Control of Women, Tess Lawrence doubles down on her treatise calling out Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s dangerous weak and duplicitous leadership. She asserts the continuous political assault and insult of women spills into his incompetency in foreign affairs and gross mismanagement of domestic policies and argues that the body politic itself is corrupted by toxic masculinity when it comes to the treatment of women.

Please read excerpt one here.

Content warning: This article discusses rape, suicide and institutional political psychosexual violence.

By any abacus, Christian Porter’s Blind Trust adds up to dirty money.

More than that, it smacks of something more ominous and ugly; something sinister; perhaps a cover up.

One consolation for those of us who still mourn the death of the woman known as ’Kate’ who alleged she was raped by Porter when they were both teenagers, is that this outrageous contribution to Porter’s legal fees has resulted in Porter’s overdue resignation as a cabinet minister.

But that’s not enough. As a double act, Porter and Morrison clearly think we are fools. So must Porter’s donors. We need to know who donated those monies. We will find out.

Morrison’s obfuscation at Sunday’s press conference and his continued reticence to call out Porter’s latterly conduct is repugnant. SloMo has priors.

If Porter and Morrison continue to promulgate the myth that it is of no consequence who donated these monies to Porter, to help pay the legal fees for a spurious defamation action he initiated after outing himself as the alleged perpetrator, then I suggest they are deluded. Big time.

Porter saga proves Morrison government unfit for purpose.

 

 

This latest tawdry episode in the Porter saga, again confirms that he and Morrison are undeserving of the trust of the electorate.

The Morrison government is unfit for purpose and well beyond its use-by date.

What if, like former Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, Porter’s sly money was sourced.

Dastyari said it was; “support for settlement of outstanding legal matter.”

Sound familiar?

What if Porter’s donors are far-right supremacists?

What if the monies were donated by a company/individual awarded hefty government contracts rubber stamped by Porter when he was Attorney General or Industry Minister?

What if the donor is a far-right supremacist group, or an international armaments group or a mining company, or a country – Saudi Arabia? Or other conflicts of disinterest? Quid quo pro?

  • Importantly, what if the donors had a vested interest in suppressing any more information relating to ‘Kate’s’ allegations of rape against Porter?
  • What if the donors were part of a Liberal faction slush fund?
  • What if the donors had any influence in Porter’s decision to discontinue the defamation action against the ABC and Louise Milligan ?
  • What if the donors had any influence in ‘Kate’s’ decision to withdraw her complaint against Porter?
  • What if the donors had criminal affiliations?

Not only are we voters entitled to speculate on the nature and identity of Porter’s benefactor(s) but he actually invites us to do so by virtue of his Blind Trust.

The subtext to all the above is the utter contempt and disrespect shown towards women – and the flagrant disregard for political ethics and standards.

Let us not forget, we are still awaiting Morrison’s legal advice on Porter’s Blind Trust. Pathetic.

Porter and the hours of power

While researching this article, I see that last year, Porter enjoyed the hospitality of former Fortescue chief honcho, now Perth Airport CEO, Neville Power on several charter flights, the first being in May, mere weeks after Scott Morrison appointed Power as Chairman of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC).

How fortuitous it is then that one of Power’s (great surname for someone on the board of energy company Strike) boardroom colleagues on Strike just happens to be Andrew Seaton, the Managing Director of Australian Naval Infrastructure Pty Ltd.

A curious entity, ANI is owned by the Australian Government represented by two Shareholder Ministers, the Minister for Finance, Senator Simon Birmingham and Il Duce Peter Dutton, Minister for Defence and Prime Minister-in-Waiting.

ANI seems to be an empty vessel at the moment, its assets apparently including six Collins Class submarines.

Ships ahoy! When Porter leaves politics, of his own free will or otherwise, the old boy’s network will surely kick in for him. For your perusal and in the interest of transparency, we include below the text of Porter’s entry to the Register of Members’ Interests, dated September 13, 2021.

This is how the big boys pay their debts. Corporate jobseeker for mates, if you will:

“I wish to alter my statement of registrable interests as follows:

In March 2021, I commenced defamation proceedings in a purely personal capacity against the ABC and Ms Louise Milligan [NSD 206 of 2021]. On 31 August 2021 this matter was finalised by the Court.

Although these matters have been conducted in a personal capacity and all legal services were engaged in a purely personal capacity, out of an abundance of caution and consistent with approaches adopted by other parliamentarians in relation to the provision of reduced fee or pro bono legal services, I advise that, in addition to my own personal funds, the following contributions have recently or may shortly be made:

• As has been publicly reported, as part of the settlement an amount was paid by the ABC to Company Giles. Now that the matter has been resolved the relevant cheque will be deposited in Company Giles trust account and applied to my account.

• Part contribution to the payment of my fees by a blind trust known as the Legal Services Trust. As a potential beneficiary I have no access to information about the conduct and funding of the trust.

• My engagement of Ms Chrysanthou was on a commercial fee arrangement. However, consistent with her practice for individual clients, she did not charge me for all of the time she spent on the matter and in the recent settling of her fees I am aware there has been a reduction in fees which has resulted in me having received some services from Ms Chrysanthou on a reduced fee basis.

Although all of the above contributions were made to me, or were for my benefit, in a purely personal capacity, in the interest of transparency and out of an abundance of caution I make this disclosure pursuant to item 14 of the Register of Members Interest.”

Porter bombshell! He has copy of Kate’s signed document

Porter must have known that this perfunctory entry would unleash another media firestorm, but the statement he posted on his website on Sunday contained a bombshell that seems to have escaped closer scrutiny and yet it reveals so much about the man – the political milieu of Morrison’s collective narcissistic government and the LNP in general.

I’m not alone in noting that in talking about his dead accuser Porter rarely expresses any emotion, even when referring to her suicide.

I prefer the phrase ‘alleged suicide’ in this case not because I think Kate was murdered, but because I am well aware that we human beings can be driven to suicide. And we can be driven to it by individuals, by social media, by the ‘system’ and other factors and triggers.

Note: Here I must state categorically that in no way am I – or The Australian Independent Media Network – asserting or implying that Christian Porter had anything whatsoever to do with Kate’s suicide.

Read Porter’s analysis of Kate’s 88-page signed document!

Reading Porter’s resignation statement, I was struck by these words:

“…I have recently been provided from a source outside the ABC with a copy of the only signed document that the person who made and subsequently withdrew the complaint ever made.

Many parts of that 88-page document are such that any reasonable person would conclude that they show an allegation that lacks credibility; was based on repressed memory (which has been completely rejected by courts as unreliable and dangerous); which relied on diaries said to be drafted in 1990/91 but which were actually words composed in 2019; and, was written by someone who was, sadly, very unwell…”

Porter needs to be questioned about the above paragraphs in particular:

  • How can he be so adamant that the copy of the 88 page document in his possession is the only signed document by Kate that exists?
  • Has Porter given a copy of this signed document to the police?
  • Does Kate’s friend and one of her ardent champions, Jo Dyer have this document?
  • Did Porter show Prime Minister Scott Morrison the copy of this signed document?
  • Has the signature and the document been verified as Kate’s?
  • Was the document sworn and witnessed?
  • Where was it sworn and who was the witness?
  • Was the document stamped?
  • Was the document addressed to anyone?
  • Is the document source connected to Porter’s donor(s)?
  • How long has Porter been in possession of the 88 page document ?
  • Does the 88 page document contain Kate’s unsigned statement that was
    released by the Federal Court in the public interest?
  • Has Porter sent a copy of the 88 page document to the Federal Court?
  • Do Porter lawyers Sue Chrysanthou and Rebekah Giles have a copy of the 88 page document ? Are they obliged to forward that document to interested parties?
  • Has Kate’s family got a copy of the document?
  • Was that document produced in Court and/or presented as evidence?

So many more questions. So many more answers to be declined by Porter and the Government.

Federal Court releases unsigned statement by Kate

In March, my article The Night Porter and Allegation of Rape, published in Independent Australia prompted heartening interest and response from informants and sources, not just about the Porter saga but also about other allegations of rape and other forms of sexual violence within and outside of Federal and State Parliaments and invariably coercive control was discussed as a major factor, whether it be in institutions, companies, workplaces, including media outlets, or within households and relationships.

Out of respect for Kate’s own story, her truth as she believed it, of no less value because she is now dead – and because the Federal Court, in a breathtaking decision, thought we the people should hear Kate’s voice – I’m including this comment I posted under The Night Porter article – as is. It has all the links to access Kate’s unsigned statement.

PUBLIC INTEREST BOMBSHELL ! FEDERAL COURT RELEASES ‘ KATE’S ‘ STATEMENT!

* WARNING: KATE’S STATEMENT INCLUDES HER GRAPHIC AND DISTRESSING RAPE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST AUSTRALIA’S FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, CHRISTIAN PORTER, WHO REMAINS A CABINET MINISTER IN THE MORRISON GOVERNMENT.

* Dear Readers, we invite you to read ‘ Kate’s ‘ profoundly moving statement along with the preamble sent by her friends

The Federal Court yesterday released the redacted statement in the public interest and I’ve placed links to the actual ‘Exhibit 1’ that is the redacted document, as well as a link to the court case Dyer v Chrysanthou that precipitated its release.

‘KATE’ ALLEGES BRUTAL ANAL AND ORAL RAPE BY PORTER THAT LEFT HER BLEEDING AND ALSO ALLEGES HE SHAVED HER LEGS AND UNDERARMS.

The Federal Court is to be thanked for posting the statement online, so that the wider community has access to what many lawyers, politicians and journalists have been privy to, for some time.

24 June 2021 25 May 2021Exhibit 1 – Dossier + Letter (PDF, 1.8 MB)Second respondent

https://www.fedcourt.gov.au…

‘Kate’ was found hanged in the garden of her home in Adelaide last year. Her statement is a voice from that cold and lonely grave. We cannot exhume Justice for her. But we can at least, listen to her voice and allegations and yes, we can decide whom is more trustworthy – whom is to be believed – Kate or Porter?

 

 

Julian Burnside has spoken up for so many of us on so many occasions, invariably on behalf of the least of us, including indigenous Australians and Asylum Seekers.

In the above Tweet he says he is speaking for himself. But thousands of us will share his views on Christian Porter.

It is sickening to think Porter was once our Attorney General, holding the highest law office in the land. He was appalling then and more so now.

We have listened to him lie and distort the truth. If his reputation is trashed it was he who trashed it. He continues to hold himself unaccountable to no-one save his ego.

He has dashed his hope of becoming Prime Minister.

The Porter affair thus far can be viewed through the prism of institutional coercive control.

Porter’s lust for power is mirrored in Morrison’s ineptitude and mishandling of Porter’s clear political misconduct. Morrison thinks that if he ignores the stockpile of problems exacerbated by his leadership and a Coalition that clearly strives for mediocrity that we will go away – not the problems.

Australia is languishing through lack of leadership. Christian Porter, Scott Morrison and the LNP have forgotten that they are servants to the people. Instead, they are trying to enslave us to a decrepit legacy system that is reliant on coercive control, and social infrastructure drip fed by political bullies.

CONTACTS FOR SUPPORT. Please reach out. You are not alone.

Lifeline
Phone: 13 11 14
Website: www.lifeline.org.au

Blue Knot Foundation
Counselling and support for survivors
Phone: 1300 657 380

Bravehearts Inc
Counselling and support for survivors, child protection advocacy
Phone: 1800 272 831

Continued tomorrow …

© Tess Lawrence

Tess Lawrence is Contributing editor-at-large for Independent Australia and her most recent article is The night Porter and allegation of rape.

 

 

 

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Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women (part 1)

By Tess Lawrence

Tess Lawrence is not known for holding back when holding forth. In this first excerpt from a longer treatise she calls out Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accusing him of both implicit and complicit coercive control over women in Australia, including female cabinet ministers as well as complainants of alleged rape and other forms of sexual assault and harassment.

Content warning: This article discusses rape and institutional political psychosexual violence.

Scott Morrison’s coercive control of women

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has burgeoned into a political psychopath.

His flaccid leadership and the gross logistical incompetence he’s displayed whilst mismanaging the accumulation, distribution and access to coronavirus vaccines for the comparatively small population who inhabit our vast continent are just two reasons why his tenure is doomed.

There are other crises that warrant immediate attention despite his continuing attempts to suffocate public debate. One of them is Morrison’s ‘woman problem.’ His misogyny and contempt for women have long been stripped bare. They are self-evident; two-faced on the one coin.

The government’s shrewd appropriation of last week’s National Summit on Women’s Safety was an indictment of the continuing irrelevance of the Liberal National Party when it comes to self-examination and institutional reform.

The lack of public advocacy by LNP female cabinet ministers and their appalling political subservience to the ‘father’ of the nation is galling, when it comes down to cleansing Parliament of its sleaze and sleazebags and rehabilitating the House of ill-repute it has become.

So is this. Mere days before the summit, Morrison and his desultory flunkies turfed most of the recommendations made by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins for the Australian Human Rights Commission.

 

 

Many good and wonderful women attended the summit and participated in good faith. Many more should have been there. The paltry 48 hours assigned to the summit was cruel insult. As was Morrison’s keynote address. He is a study in hypocrisy.

His twinkling eyes belie a smarmy paternalism. We have watched him slither from autocrat minister to prime minister, snatching the wattle crown with stealth from more politically agile expectants after the Turnbull spillage.

Morrison’s coercive control stem from Christian Sharia

Afghanistan’s Taliban are shameless in their overt control over women, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s insidious coercive control of women stems from a fundamentalist white man’s version of Christian sharia that deems women, like animals, are mere chattels owned by men and the state.

Of course, all regimes and governments exercise greater coercive control over women than men. Institutional bullying of women in particular is endemic in the construct of rule and religion. Democracy and the Westminster System alike are founded on the coercive control of women, are they not? In the West we learn how heroic women died in the fight for suffrage. They did us proud. My generation has betrayed them. How so?

Elsewhere and everywhere millions of faceless, nameless women continue to die from the catastrophic realities of simply being born female; remaining third class humans within their family household, the notion of voting or standing for any kind of parliament or public office not even a secret fantasy. We all have a shared history, a shared humanity, a shared inhumanity.

What is our Prime Minister doing about it in our own backyard? Bugger all.

We know enough of Morrison’s past and present to call out his patriarchal authoritarianism.

He is publicly steeped in evangelical, biblical primitivism and the subversive, oppressive white tribalism that fuels racial and male gender supremacy.

The latter marches alongside the latent new dawn of pan aryanism now insinuating its emergence from the darker marginalia of history into the stark daylight of global reality; the memento mori of those black and white Pathe’ newsreels replaced and repurposed with full blown glorious technicolour that capture scenes of terrorism, murder and butchery most foul.

Yet blood shed by all nations is as the same crimson shared on humanity’s own Pantone colour chart, regardless of gender.

Morrison’s laying of hands one thing – what of that other kind of laying on of hands?

Morrison may indeed possess healing powers when it comes to his religious laying on of hands upon unwitting constituents enduring hardship.

But it is his failure to adequately address allegations of the unwanted laying on of multiple hands of another kind by male parliamentary predators within the Liberal Party that renders him liable to being described a facilitator and enabler of such creeps; at the least, a bystander.

Then there’s the many allegations of historical and contemporary rape made against other politicians and staff – not all members of the Coalition either.

Morrison’s remit is Parliament and Australia entire; whether polity or populi. Time and again he has manhandled these allegations. He has weaponized them. He has turned that rapid fire assault rifle on the accusers themselves, forever trying to suppress their speech and control the public and political narrative.

His tolerance of what may yet prove to constitute criminal behaviour is disturbing.

Remember how he contemptuously nominated his bestie Brian Houston to be in Australia’s entourage and a guest at President Donald Trump’s White House state dinner?

Houston, we have a problem!

But hey, with Pastor Brian Houston, we had a problem.

Royal Commission cited Houston over father’s sex abuse.

The New Zealand-born founder of global behemoth Hillsong Church, Houston, Morrison’s religious guru and mentor was cited by the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for failing to inform police that his own father, Pastor Frank, was a self-confessed child abuser.

That failure dogs the son of the paedophile preacher man to this day. It dogs Morrison too.

Note: Houston was recently charged by NSW police with the alleged concealment of alleged child sex offences. In the United States, Hillsong continues to be mired in sexual scandals as well.

Sources say Oz big bizzo threatened boycott White House dinner if Houston attended

It was Wall Street Journal’s Vivian Salama who broke the story about Morrison’s failed attempt to secure Houston an invite to Pennsylvania Avenue. And yet before Salama’s scoop, there was loud rumour in diplomatic circles that Trump had given Morrison and Houston the finger.

Now I have learned from former White House insiders that they were not the only ones who didn’t want this episode in the life of Brian to cause political fission. I was told that powerful Australian business interests didn’t want a bar of Houston either.

Of course, Houston had visited Trump’s White House before and after Morrison’s visit but the intervention by some from big bizzo was uncompromising. Some were said to have threatened to boycott the state dinner if Houston attended.

I quote one member of the group who asked not to be identified:

“We don’t want to be in the same room as Houston, whether it’s the White House or the Lodge – let alone sit at the same table with him.”

Further, I was told by a former White House staffer that some of those White House dissidents are also amongst the group of business powerbrokers that recently approached former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to intervene in the lack of vaccines debacle in Australia.

White House rebuff kick in the goolies for Morrison

The fact that even pussy grabbing Trump knocked back the megachurch’s Pastor Houston in this instance was a kick in the goolies for the embarrassed and embarrassing Morrison.

He’d tried in vain to keep a lid on the fact that Houston’s name was on his intimate dance card, once even preposterously asserting that to do so would constitute a threat to national security.

Morrison and Houston were both humiliated by the knockback. I understand our US Ambassador Joe Hockey sided with the business power brokers. Surprise, surprise. Australia now has to endure the historical ignominy of inviting Houston to represent Australia in the first place over arguably worthier invitees.

But wait, there’s more, in less than a fortnight, SloMo is off to the White House again to attend the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue Leaders Summit. President Joe Biden will be doing his darndest to get some sense out of Morrison on the subjects of Covid 19, climate change, cyberspace and oh, yeah, something about a free and open Indo-Pacific. Did someone mention China? No mention of the increasing violence towards women or the disintegration of Afghanistan and particularly the plight of women.

But out of earshot of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan, Morrison will be discussing the implications of the Houston fracas.

Houston episode forensic insight into ScoMo’s psyche

The point is, this White House-Houston episode gives us important psycho-forensic insight into Morrison’s tolerance laissez-faire attitude and mindset about the proliferation and subject of sex abuse in general.

It exposes a worrying personal and political diffidence towards the many historical and contemporary allegations of rape, sexual harassment, insult, abuse and violence made by women – and directed at women within and beyond parliamentary precincts.

It shows too, how Morrison puts his mates first and Australia second. He does this time and again.

Note: Here we must also cite the Coalition’s failure to implement critical aspects of the Royal Commission’s recommendations, specifically the Redress Scheme.

Does Scott Morrison really treat men against whom allegations have been made differently to their alleged victims? Yes. His biases favour males in general and they include alleged male perpetrators.

The siring of daughters has clearly done little to prompt him to be either friend, mentor, protector or prime minister for womankind. We are the last among equals and our Indigenous sisters are the least among the last.

The barbarians at the Holgate

Consider the outrageous bullying and egregious cowardly attack under the protection of parliamentary privilege upon then Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate, by Scott Morrison.

On the morning of October 22, last year, Ms Holgate appeared before Senate Estimates where it was revealed Australia Post had gifted $3000 Cartier watches to four employees, as a bonus for (it has since been revealed ) securing contracts worth several hundred millions of dollars.

In feverish delight, Morrison seized the opportunity to put the boot in to Holgate in Parliament, once again displaying his capacity for demeaning women, going so far as to cast aside common sense let alone natural justice and the law:

“She has been instructed to stand aside, if she doesn’t wish to do that, she can go.”

It was a repugnant abuse of power and parliamentary privilege by a Prime Minister who is accustomed to maintaining a political harem of proudly compliant female ministers who lack the moral and political fortitude as individuals or even as a group, to seriously denounce and indict allegations of bullying and sexual abuse within their own party, even within their own cabinet.

Morrison’s notorious corporate slut-shaming and bullying of Holgate is forever documented in hansard and the ugly saga of the barbarians at the Holgate is far from over. Holgate recently received a $1million payout from Australia Post.

Morrison’s outrageous presumption of the woman’s guilt was out of order, given he did not have the facts at sleight of hand. It was an act of political psycho-violence against Holgate; part of a behavioural pattern, coercive control.

He bloody well knew that Australia Post had a history of dishing out opulent bonuses, including those made to Holgate’s male predecessor Ahmed Fahour.

Mathias Cormann, Onan the Invisible v CEO Holgate

Revelling in his power and toxic masculinity, Morrison proceeded to demean and vilify Holgate in the people’s house. In our name. Not only was he her accuser but also the jury and sentencing judge.

But there had been a long-time plan afoot. Months earlier, he’d sent in his bovver boy Communications Minister Paul Fletcher to politically stalk and undermine Holgate.
Go-fetch-her-Fletcher was only part of it.

There was the sneaky skullduggery of Onan the Invincible, former Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, he who was the regurgitator in 2014 of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s offensive “economic girlie man” slur. How is it okay for a minister to use the word ‘girlie’ as an insult?

The Government needn’t have bothered paying for actors for this ‘play like a girl’ ad– it simply should have featured Mathias Cormann and his ‘girlie man ’insult. After all, there’s no copyright on sexism:

 

 

Together with certain members of Australia Post’s Board and Executive, the blokes plotted to get rid of Holgate, who’d dug in her high heels, to keep Australia Post intact, despite being subjected to industrial strength gaslighting, undermining, mudslinging and character assassination.

Magna Cartier

She was steadfastly opposed to any Coalition privatisation or divestiture of Australia Post, as had been conveniently recommended in a Boston Consulting Group report.

It just so happened that Boston Consulting’s report happily coincided with the LNP’s intent to sell off AP and sell out Australia’s iconic mail delivery service.

Holgate’s apparent largesse provided Morrison with the perfect sexcuse. The perfidious plan to flay Holgate in public was detonated by the Primed Minister.

The Magna Cartier ‘scandal ’ provided him with cover for political thuggery. Or so he thought.

Parliamentary privilege – the politician’s condom and ScoMo’s soiled French letter to Ms Holgate.

There is nothing that I can find to compare with the circumstances and sly subtext of Morrison’s deplorable abuse of privilege – and personal attack on Holgate.

It was malevolent character assassination writ large. She was a soft target. She wasn’t there to defend herself. It was a political mugging and seemingly entertained much of the hypocritical rabble in the well named Lower House. It was below the bikini line for sure and symptomatic of the toxic boys club that is our Parliament.

Wearing the politician’s protective condom of parliamentary privilege, Morrison had Holgate by the short and curlies. But it was a soiled French letter that again contained more forensic evidence of his appalling attitude towards women – and the CEO of Australia Post in particular.

Look at his body language in Parliament as he goes in for the Holgate kill. He’s enjoying it big time. He’s getting off on it. No question.

 

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison – and his government – is guilty of exercising coercive control not only over Australian women, but also those women and children seeking asylum, and refugees seeking a new life in Australia.

The popularity and proliferation of coercive control runs rampant across all societal strata: such is the level of physical and mental sexual violence towards women and girls in Australia, that it may as well be declared a national sport.

It is dangerously close to being described as a bonding mechanism for some males, given vituperative social media posts. For some males it is not a badge of dishonour but rather a campaign medal.

A war on a particular woman so often evolves into a war on all women.

If the sport was granted Olympic status, given our prolific expertise in domestic violence, we would probably win gold, silver, bronze and be runners up as well. This is the ugly reality for so many women in Australia. I know it to be true for my sisters everywhere.

Don’t just take my word for it. Let’s have a shufti at last year’s Parliamentary Inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence and check out what it recorded about coercive control.

What is coercive control?

4.7: The concept of coercive control was developed by Professor Evan Stark, a sociologist and forensic social worker, who defined it as a ‘pattern of domination that includes tactics to isolate, degrade, exploit and control’ a person, ‘as well as to frighten them or hurt them physically’. Professor Stark describes coercive control as a ‘liberty crime’, and it has also been described as ‘intimate terrorism’.

4.8: Submitters to the inquiry characterised coercive control in various terms, but a common theme in evidence was that coercive control is not incident based, but instead involves a pattern of behaviour.

I rest my case. And for the time being, I rest my heart.

Please Note: If you need any support, please reach out to Lifeline on 13 11 14. You are not alone.

Continued tomorrow …

© Tess Lawrence

Tess Lawrence is Contributing editor-at-large for Independent Australia and her most recent article is The night Porter and allegation of rape.

 

 

 

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MEAA issues wish list over proposed media reforms

The union which oversees its member journalists and others involved with media and creative arts in Australia has issued a list of concerns in conjunction with two major media reform-related actions, less than a fortnight away from the federal Parliament convening for the first time in 2021.

The Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA), in a pair of general statements speaking for the position of the entire organisation, has forwarded its submission for the Senate Media Diversity inquiry as well as a separate submission aimed at the News Media Bargaining Code Bill (2020).

The latter submission – put forth just on the Senate’s closing date of January 18 – has the MEAA playing its part to contend with the presence of digital giants such as Facebook and Google, and ensuring that the Silicon Valley giants pay Australian media providers fairly for running their content.

The flow of funds into directly producing domestic content, via bargaining agreements between any of the digital giants and any single domestic-based media provider, and the fear of negotiations breaking down or not possessing its intended results of renumeration exists as one of the MEAA’s collective fears over the bill.

“MEAA objects to the Code’s incorporation of a two-way value exchange principle will diminish the Code’s effective operation. It is an unreasonable concession by the [Morrison] government,” the union said in its submission.

The MEAA would also like some form of explanation, in economic or mathematical formulas or otherwise, as to how individual media outlets will be compensated by Facebook or Google to run their content.

“MEAA is unaware of any reliable means of rationally calculating the ‘benefits’ of Google and Facebook referring traffic to news company websites. It is an overly-elastic concept that is barely articulated or defined in the bill,” the MEAA says.

“In MEAA’s opinion, this measure will frustrate bargaining and resolution of disputes about the value of news content carried by Google and Facebook. MEAA submits that this concession be dispensed with, or at the very least, critically evaluated during the mandatory review scheduled within one year of the Code’s commencement,” the union added.

In the former submission, the Senate media diversity inquiry to be chaired by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the MEAA provided a list of areas of recommendation that it would like to see covered when the inquiry commences.

  • Amend competition and other laws to prevent mergers that lead to more harmful levels of media concentration
  • The Australian government must urgently progress the Mandatory News Media Bargaining Code and extend the operation of the Public Interest News Gathering (PING) program
  • The Australian government should review and adapt critical measures recommended in the United Kingdom and Canada such as: directly funding local news; offering taxation rebates and incentives; and part-funding editorial positions
  • Government assistance should be reset to ensure funding is available for new media organisations, as well as traditional media companies
  • Public broadcasters must be funded in a way that acknowledges the need to provide comprehensive, high-quality cross-platform media content in all parts of Australia
  • The future of the AAP should be sustained through regular, annual relief grants
  • And the regulation of media content should be strengthened and overseen by a single entity

“2020 [saw] the best and the worst of Australia’s media,” the MEAA has observed.

“Australians have relied on journalists and news outlets [in 2020] in a way that hasn’t been experienced in many years.

“It has shown public interest reporting at its finest,” the MEAA adds.

However, the MEAA, in its dot-points of desires for the Senate inquiry, it observes that a paradox exists where while news organisations are breaking new ground in public interest journalism and reporting, economic declines among news organisations remain a part of a stark reality in the journalism industry, as evidenced in a decade-long trend.

And just like with the News Media Bargaining Code Bill, the presence and impact of digital giants such as Facebook and Google looms large.

Previously, layoffs of editorial positions in the thousands have occurred in the last ten years, and 1000 of those job losses in 2020 alone, which the MEAA has tied into the influence of digital publishing as well as a lack of diversity in the mass media in Australia.

“The loss of these journalists, sub-editors, photographers and other positions – and in many cases the mastheads that once employed them – means fewer outlets are covering matters of public interest and significance. In our view this has led to a dangerous fall in media diversity,” the organisation added.

Moreover, the MEAA is also concerned with the lack of ethical conduct of media organisations, and in the mainstream in particular, and has tied this into the lack of diversity and competition therein.

“The power of the few is not always wielded in a responsible or ethical way. In some instances, it has led to a rise in news coverage where the veracity of content is often untested and where ‘balance’ in news reporting can equate to the publication of meritless or misleading arguments,” the MEAA stated.

The MEAA has also implored that integrity issues – particularly in the reputation around the tabloid culture represented in the mainstream media – need to be discussed in the Senate inquiry, or any debate on media reform.

“In a truly plural media environment, the capacity of one voice to steer public opinion in a particular way is limited. In Australia, getting one powerful voice offside can have damaging consequences,” the MEAA stated.

“Where too few voices dominate the media landscape, journalists have reduced job options and might be forced to stay at an outlet because of a lack of opportunities.

“In order to keep their jobs, some inevitably feel pressured to abide by editorial preferences they might not be comfortable with, or which run contrary to the MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics,” the MEAA added.

The Senate inquiry, as well as debates on the News Media Bargaining Code Bill, could occur at any time after the federal Parliament reconvenes from its summer break as early as February 2, subject to a drafting of an agenda of items.

Nonetheless, these two legislative matters – and the MEAA’s potential to use its influence upon shaping them – illustrate that media reform areas will emerge as a hot-button topic throughout 2021.

 

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Unflappable unions remain focused versus IR reform bills

In the federal Parliament’s final sitting week of 2020, Attorney-General Christian Porter has been unveiling the industrial relations reform “Omnibus Bill” via a piece-by-piece treatment – and Australia’s union movement has remained step-by-step in pace with a battle over the proposed legislative-based reforms.

In fact, Sally McManus, the national secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), has applied the blowtorch to the government – in the hottest of acetylene fashions, yet in her characteristic calm, measured delivery – in claiming that all of the hard work of the previous five months of industrial relations reform negotiations has been undone.

“These proposals were never raised during months of discussions with employers and the government,” McManus said on Tuesday, one day before Porter read two bills which would comprise the Morrison government’s measures of reform.

“The union movement will fight these proposals which will leave working people worse off.

“This was not the spirit of the talks with employers and the government, this is not about us all being in this together,” added McManus.

When the nation’s union and business leaders convened in June in Sydney and Canberra to commence bilateral negotiations on industrial relations reforms, both McManus and Porter – as well as many of the assembled representatives from both factions – agreed that if no accords were met, then the government would be drafting and introducing their own versions of reform measures.

That agreement had implied that the government’s measures would be geared in the form of a compromise between the interests among the two sides.

Instead, based on the early leaks over last weekend of the bills’ elements and highlights, they would be heavily favouring the business and employer groups’ lobbying efforts.

The two bills – the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Withdrawal from Amalgamations) Bill 2020 and the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 – introduced by Porter in Parliamentary business in the upper house were finally released on Wednesday morning, and according to the ACTU, the government’s version of reforms under Morrison and Porter in these pieces of proposed legislation would:

  • Break up merged unions within the currently-legislated five-year interval in which mergers must remain intact;
  • Allow employers to cut wages and conditions to their workers, even to the point of allowing awards to dip below the safety net of minimum awards;
  • Reduce rights of casual workers, and can even demote part- and full-time workers to a status of casuals, in order to revoke leave entitlements;
  • Enable casual workers to become permanent part- or full-time employees tied to a single employer – however, if that option is not offered, workers have no recourse to challenge or enforce it;
  • Place the “better off overall test” on the back burner for workers for an interval up to two years, despite what Porter claims to be a boost to the process of enterprise bargaining;
  • Remove the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) requirement that workers currently possess a right upon starting a job that their agreements must be explained to them within a seven-day interval;
  • Enact anti-wage theft legislation, but with penalties which the ACTU sees as weaker than that in some states, such as in Victoria;
  • And avoid assessments of penalties to employers for reducing or restricting rights to casual workers, while those workers would lose the right to due process to appeals

As a result, McManus can only feel a sense of empathy for the nation’s workforce, casuals and otherwise, especially happening a little over a fortnight before Christmas, at the end of what has been a challenging year for everyone.

“Working people, essential workers, have already sacrificed so much during this pandemic, these proposed laws will punish them,” said McManus.

 

 

The details of the bills come on the heels of a report released by Griffith University, where industrial relations research professor David Peetz wrote one conclusion that a majority of leave-deprived casuals also are not likely to receive casual loadings and other entitlements.

In citing this report, the ACTU puts it in the perspective not merely in regard to the industrial relations reform bills which were pending at the time, but to the lack of rights and entitlements which casual workers possess – rights and entitlements which are now hanging in the balance.

“The majority of casual workers are working the same hours every week, but with none of the entitlements that permanent workers can rely upon. They are being ripped off. The proposal from the Morrison government will not only entrench this, it will take rights off casual workers,” said McManus.

“On top of the lower pay and reduced rights, casuals also contend with the constant stress of having no job security,” added McManus.

Meanwhile, Porter – who also doubles in the Morrison government as its minister for industrial relations – refuted the ACTU’s claim that one in four workers will be worse off for wages under these bills.

“It is quite absurd,” Porter told Sky News on Wednesday morning.

“This isn’t about pay cuts for people, this is about more jobs, more hours, more ability to move from casual to permanent employment,” he added.

Porter also said that as daunting as the proposals in the bills are, no verdicts were expected this week.

In fact, debates marked with as much passion as facts and the ideologies of modern politics may cause the fates of these bills to last well into 2021, a reality which is not lost on Porter.

“It should also be said that the introduction of the [bills] today is by no means the end of the consultation process, with a Senate committee likely to examine the legislation in detail over the coming months,” Porter said on Wednesday.

“This is an opportunity for further submissions to be made by all sides of the debate and the government will be willing to consider any sensible amendments that pass the simple test of being good for job growth.

“The danger is that if those inside and outside the Parliament revert to their traditional ideological corners, these critical reforms could be delayed or even blocked, leaving business without crucial supports and workers without an opportunity to get back into jobs,” added Porter.

 

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What do our politicians do?

What, exactly, do our politicians do?

Today, Monday 18 April 2016, the Turnbull government took the almost unprecedented step of recalling all of Parliament for a three-week “emergency sitting” to debate and pass – or, hopefully, fail to pass – two specific pieces of legislation.

Much has been written about the government’s real motivations behind this recall and debate. With the repeated defeat of the ABCC “productivity” bill, Malcolm Turnbull has his double dissolution trigger. But before the vote, with its commonly expected outcome, the Senate spent a large portion of the day discussing the bill.

I had the pleasure of listening to Senator Scott Ludlam’s speech on the subject. Senator Ludlam’s speeches are almost always worth listening to – go on, listen to one or two right now, we’ll wait.

If you just took the opportunity to watch some of Ludlam’s speeches, or have previously done so, beside the clear speaking, reliance on facts and withering irony that he brings to his every contribution, the other notable feature of Scott Ludlam’s speeches is that the chamber is almost invariably almost empty.

It would seem fair to assume that on a matter of such national importance that Malcolm Turnbull would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring “nearly 150 MPs and their staff… back to Parliament from around the country”, that said MPs would want to listen with avid attention to the speeches in response. Presumably the job of an MP is to attend sittings of Parliament, engage in the discussions and debate there, and form an opinion on the subject at hand prior to casting their vote.

One might make that assumption, but one would evidently be wrong. Any cursory viewing of either Parliament or the Senate will show the real situation – wide swathes of benches, primarily governmental and opposition, clear of occupants. That is, until the bells are rung for a vote.

Debates in the Parliament and the Senate, it seems, exist for the sake of posterity and inclusion in Hansard, not to inform the level of understanding of those about to decide on the future of the country. Is it any wonder Question Time so often descends into farce? The stakes are so low, with all – or at least most – MPs already set in their intended vote, that they need to pass the time somehow. The result is a system of government too easily interrupted by process – filibusters, suspensions of standing orders, points of order, and political games such as tying unpalatable bills to legislation of clear national and popular importance, forcing MPs to vote against the good to prevent the bad, or to vote for the bad to achieve the good.

So if they’re not spending their time in their seats in the Chamber, what do our politicians do?

They don’t write their own articles.

They don’t even fact-check, or apparently have very much knowledge about the subject matter of their portfolio. Scott Ryan’s recent snafu with plagiarism is only the most recent of a continual string of egregious failures. Sometimes it seems that if politics were a school class, most Australian politicians would get a failed grade on account of not bothering with even the most rudimentary editing of their copied work.

They don’t rely on expert witnesses.

Greg Hunt, apparently the closest thing the Coalition has to a climate expert, went no further in his research than to visit a wikipedia page. Relying on Wikipedia would bring a failing grade for a student’s essay; why should we accept it from our elected leaders?

They don’t appear to have much knowledge of party processes that fall into their direct remit.

Nor do they seem to take an active involvement in running the companies of which they are the directors. Sometimes it appears that politicians spend more time disavowing any knowledge of things happening in their own department than it would have taken to simply be aware in the first place. It helps that they seem to have such fallible memories. Even if they know something now, they almost certainly won’t know it by the time it becomes the subject of an inquiry. This is a peculiarly specific talent that seems unique to our politicians.

What our politicians do appear to spend plenty of time doing is sledging. Almost every federal politician in Australia, a refined product of the political system, is well-versed in holding the party line, spouting off talking points and heckling during whatever speeches they don’t manage to avoid being present for. Some might consider these to be lower-order priorities than the activities that might actually lead to better legislation.

It’s not as if we don’t pay our politicians enough. Even the most obscure of backbenchers [not] sitting in the pews at the back of the chamber is earning six figures – twice. If you’re reading this, almost certainly every federal politician earns more than you by a number of multiples. It has been said that “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”, as if that were a defense of exorbitant parliamentary salaries, but research has shown that the benefits of lifting politicians’ pay start to even out once the level of remuneration reaches a comparative middle class wage. Middle class wage is approximately the average full-time wage, or just under $81,000. Clearly we pay above the curve. Politicians and economists are wont to point out that if you pay less, you won’t attract the people you want into politics, or keep them there. Amanda Vanstone has argued that Australian politicians earn much less than company directors and others in big business. This brings us to the corollary. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys; if you pay a corporate salary, you get businessmen. Oddly, people rarely seem to question whether businessmen make the best politicians.

So, whilst Parliament and the Senate spend the next three weeks in Canberra having already voted down the extremely critical piece of legislation the Government absolutely needed to have passed, just remember they’re earning a bare minimum of $11,483 for their efforts. And keep that number in mind when you see pictures of empty seats. You’re paying for them to not be sitting there.

Parliament Would Be Better If We Banned Election Campaigns And Appointed People Randomly For Three Years

abbott-asleep Turnbull said something that I agree with.

Now, as you know, I’m no fan of Turnbull’s. Mainly because he reminds me of an assistant principal who used to imply privately that any unpopular decision was the principal’s fault and, if it were up to him, he wouldn’t be implementing that particular measure.

However, when Turnbull said that the public was sick of the way politics has operated over the past few years, I had to agree. Certainly, I’m ready to start talking about what we should be doing and not what should have been done. When we bring up what the various parties have done in the past, we’re talking about different leaders, and, for the most part, a different group of politicians.

Yes, I thought, let’s get back to discussing the merits of individual ideas and not worrying about where the idea has originated.

Turnbull’s stolen Shorten’s innovation and science focus. Excellent! Hopefully, Bill will come up with a few more good ideas that he can steal. Better than relying on the Abbott regime’s ideas.

Actually, did they actually have an idea?

Mm, yes, they “stopped”, they “got rid of”, they “eliminated”, but I’m struggling to actually come up with an idea they had while in government.

But rather than embrace Turnbull’s positivity, we find the same predictable carping. The same negativity.

Yep, it seems that the Liberals just can’t help themselves.

Apart from the whinge from Kevin Andrews, who felt that he should have kept Defence for the good of the country, we have Tony Abbott. Tony felt it necessary to tell everyone that Scott Morrison had misled the Australian people. Apparently, neither Bishop nor Morrison warned Tony about the possible leadership challenge.

What was it Mr Abbott said in his concession speech? Ah yes:

“My pledge today is to make this change as easy as I can. There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping.”

Just an assertion that my trusty colleagues are liars. Well, I guess one has to set the record straight. Mr Abbott had no warning about the potential leadership challenge.

Apart from the ones printed in the newspaper a day or so before. Oh, that’s right – that was just insider gossip and he wasn’t going to play those games.

As one British politician remarked, “No, my boy, those people are the Opposition, When I said ‘the enemy can be vicious’, I meant the people on this side of the chamber!”

 

This Reprehensible Rabble

If anything was patently obvious from the events in Canberra last week, it is that Clive Palmer thinks he is running the country and the media seem to think so too. They are all over him, relegating Tony Abbott to the role of a bit-player. It is also patently obvious that the government’s negotiating skills sit somewhere between pitiable and non-existent.

The repeal of the carbon tax is only the beginning. There are still budget bills to be passed as well as the mining tax and Clive Palmer appears intent on maintaining the chaos. It is conceivable that Tony Abbott will soon be cornered into either giving Palmer everything he asks or calling a double dissolution. At the moment he is vacillating and his weakness on this issue will expose him for what he really is. His pre-election bluff and bluster has dissolved.

Last week’s circus in the senate was inevitable and it will happen again. The closer you get to your enemy, the sharper you need to be. Clive Palmer has been around long enough not to trust anyone and knows since the day Joe Hockey delivered the Budget that the Prime Minister’s word has little or no value.

kerry

Image by The Sydney Morning Herald

Palmer probably remembered Abbott’s comments when interviewed by Kerry O Brien a few years back. “The statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared scripted remarks,” Abbott said. In that interview Abbott revealed that he sometimes went further than he should when making a promise. I’m sure it was no surprise to Palmer when the wording to the amendment on the bill to repeal the carbon tax wasn’t quite what it was supposed to be.

If the Coalition think for one moment that they can put one over Clive Palmer, they are deluding themselves. But, given Abbott’s penchant for verbal dishonesty they will probably keep trying and in the process, expose themselves for the utterly reprehensible rabble that they are.

That is not to say that Palmer will not acquiesce when it suits him. He is unpredictable and, I suspect, delights in keeping the government, the opposition and the media guessing. But as time passes (and it can’t come too quickly for most of us), the interaction between him and the Prime Minister will further expose Abbott’s difficulty in negotiating to a point where even his most steadfast supporters will have had enough. The government couldn’t even get their amendments right. A double dissolution could see him lose office or at best see his lower house majority whittled down to one or two.

The senate result could be worse with a strong chance that both major parties would lose numbers to the PUP. If for some reason the people go against PUP and vote to restore some sanity the result will likely favour Labor and the Greens. Either way, Abbott is in trouble. Doubtless his party’s electoral engineers are doing their sums and would be weighing up the pros and cons. The advice given to them by outgoing senator Ron Boswell to stand up to Palmer is the right advice but they appear unwilling to take it.

promises

Image by BBC.com

For the electorate, the greater issue here is honesty, or lack of it. The budget exposed the Coalition to be utterly dishonest, something they brought on themselves; an own goal. They can no longer claim the moral high ground. Their claim to have a mandate is, and always was, spurious. There is just too much evidence out there to show that they have treated the electorate as fools. Clive Palmer has realised that as the self-appointed defender of the underdog, his political future has promise. He will not want to betray his image and backtrack on anything he has said to the pensioners and the battlers who have crossed over to his side.

By way of comparison the government is showing signs of cracking under the pressure. Tony Abbott’s speech to the LNP annual state conference in Brisbane on Saturday bordered on the bizarre.“You and we are rescuing our country . . . it is only us who can rescue our country right now,” he said. Rescue from what? His attack on Bill Shorten was equally weird and suggests he is beginning to lose the plot.

election

Image by news.com

His upbeat display of confidence was in direct contrast to the events in Canberra and the reality of the situation as it unfolded. He referred to the events in the senate as “a lot of colour and movement.” It was chaotic. Under Abbott’s leadership thus far, the Coalition has lost all the support they had at the election and then some. Their only way forward is to replace their leader and try starting again. That is unlikely for now and things are only going to get worse.

 

 

For The Sake Of Unity Why Don’t You All Agree With Me?

A couple of months ago, I read an amusing post on Facebook which basically said that the Left should stop fighting among themselves and work together to defeat the Abbott Agenda. The writer then went on to say that Bill Shorten was hopeless and the Labor was gutless for not forcing a DD.

Presuming that by “DD” he meant Double Dissolution, I calmly pointed out that there was no way that Shorten could “force” a Double Dissolution and that it seems strange that a call for unity should be followed by an attack on the Labor leader.

To which he replied that it was people like me who just posted on Facebook who were the problem and that we needed to do something instead of just talking about it. I resisted the temptation to point out that he was also posting on Facebook, and decided that I’d do my bit for unity by ending the discussion there before he ended up telling me that I was a nazi who was trying to limit his free speech by disagreeing with him.

Now, I don’t have a problem with anyone criticising any of our politicians. As far as Shorten is concerned, I think the jury is still out. As Leader of The Opposition, there’s always going to be a limit to what you can do. Some will argue that he should be making more of a fuss about this or that. Even when he’s said quite a lot about this or that, but it’s been buried on page 9 of the newspaper and not reported on the nightly news at all. Even when Labor is riding high in the polls.

Whether it’s fair or not, I think Shorten can expect to be criticised for whatever he does or doesn’t do over the next few months.

However, when people start to suggest that Labor is “gutless” for not forcing a Double Dissolution, I start to worry about the general public’s knowledge of our parliamentary system and the history of 1975.

I’ll start with the idea that Labor (with help from other parties in the Senate) could block supply. Let’s ignore the obvious hypocrisy of Labor blocking the Budget after their rhetoric when Fraser did it 1975 and argue that was a long time ago, so who cares? When it happened in 1975, it didn’t immediately force an election. Whitlam tried to tough it out, and it was only when Kerr dismissed Whitlam and appointed Fraser as caretaker PM that Fraser was able to go back to Parliament and dissolve both Houses. There is an argument that if Labor had acted quickly they could have gagged Fraser – they still had the numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives – and moved a motion of confidence in Whitlam.

At the time, the Murdoch press was pushing for an election and supporting Fraser, arguing that these were “extraordinary circumstances”. Can you imagine the media today supporting a Labor blocking of supply? Or would it be blamed for a downturn in consumer confidence or jobs, the shutting down of shops, increased obesity and any droughts or flooding rains in the weeks after?

Even if supply had been blocked by the previous Senate, Abbott would have still had the option of waiting for the Senate that took control from today. Palmer’s PUPpets and the Independents would have no wish to go to an election any time soon. After all, they do have considerable bargaining power at the moment. Would they be prepared to risk it? Can you imagine Ricky Muir giving up his moment in the spotlight? Mm, wrong example…

But even assuming that the Senate did continue to refuse supply, that alone wouldn’t force Abbott to an election. In all likelihood, he’d just blame Labor for any problems and wait for someone else to blink. The idea that Labor or any combination of the minor parties could “force” the government to the polls is just wrong.

Frustrating the government’s legislative agenda to the extent that they choose to call an election, however, is a possibility. But given the government’s standing in the opinion polls it’s fairly unlikely at the moment.

As many of you already know, a double dissolution requires a trigger. A Bill must be rejected by the Senate, then after three months rejected again. Bills that are rejected can then be used as the basis for the double dissolution, and if they are rejected again after the subsequent election, the government can call a joint sitting of parliament and try to get them through that way. (This was how Whitlam succeeded in setting up Medibank and passing a number of other things which had been blocked, until after the 1974 Double Dissolution). While there may be others in the near future, at the moment, the only trigger that I’m aware of is the Clean Energy Bill.

Abbott would only be likely to call a double dissolution under two circumstances:

  1. If there were a number of Bills he wanted passed AND he thought he was a good chance of winning the election.
  2. If Turnbull looked like getting the numbers to oust him.

So, by all means, criticise Bill Shorten and the Labor Party for their policies, for their lack of cut-through, for their hairstyles, for their poor behaviour in Parliament (they’ve been thrown out a hundred times more often), or their factions.

But please don’t criticise them for not calling a double dissolution. It’s just not something that’s in their control.

Assaults on democracy

Parliament House - the centre of our democracy (image by holam.com.au)

Parliament House – old and new – the centre of our democracy (image by holman.com.au)

There are at least two fundamental requirements for a functioning democracy. In various ways, in recent years, we have seen political parties in Australia attempting to subvert and limit these requirements. This is an assault on democracy itself. It may not be deliberate – political parties, like business entities, will work within the constraints of the law to achieve their ends, and loopholes and aggressive tactics are a part of the game. But dress it up how you may, attempting to coerce the workings of parliament and the electoral choices of a population is anti-democratic even if done within the limitations of the laws of that democracy.

In the business sphere, there is an overarching structure to act as a check and balance. The courts, and above them the legislature, ensure that eventually businesses that exploit loopholes to the detriment of the community can be brought back into line. Through the testing of legislation in the courts, through the drafting of new laws and regulations, there are means to help ensure that the system is fluid and no entities can subvert the intention of the regulations to which all businesses are subject.

Politics has no such overarching structure. The limits on politics are the various parties themselves – where one party oversteps the bounds, the only bodies that can pull them up on it are other political parties. Some of the time this works. And sometimes it does not.

Given untrammelled power – for instance, control of both houses of Parliament – a government can adjust the goalposts in such a way as to benefit their own interests and continued dominance. When the cycle turns, as eventually it must, an incoming government is then able to either take advantage of the changes the previous government has wrought, or to reverse the changes and implement their own.

The Australian constitution holds various aspects of our democracy sacrosanct and to change these requires a referendum. The basic mechanics of elections and parties and the existence of two houses are not in danger. There are plenty of other ways that a political party can act to extend its own hegemony, and any number of ways that the intent of a democracy can be subverted by the details.

Basic requirements for a healthy democracy include the following.

1. A free press

Or more accurately, even and impartial coverage and analysis of the issues. Fundamentally, Australian democracy is about vision. In a hundred policy areas each government has to balance the requirements of the community and the best interests of the country. In order to effectively judge the promised approach of a candidate government to each of these areas, in order to accurately evaluate the needs of Australia’s present and future, clear and informative reporting is needed.

In Australia, the media environment is skewed. Various reports have pointed to the obvious bias in the large majority of Australia’s news media. Against this bias, only the minority Fairfax and the public broadcaster ABC attempt a more balanced view. Readers of this blog will understand that “more balanced”, to the conservatives, reads as “rabid pinko”. A detailed analysis of the relative bias of the ABC vs News Ltd is outside of the scope of this article. What is not, is that the Coalition is currently openly discussing curtailing the ABC’s power to operate in the news arena.

“He said there was a compelling case to consider breaking the ABC into two entities with the traditional television and radio operations protected to ensure services in the bush and regional Australia, while the online news service could be disposed of.” http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/turnbull-defends-abc-but-colleagues-want-to-preach-it-a-lesson-20131203-2yotw.html#ixzz2mS3lekiz

Of course, the Abbott government has form in the area of suppressing balanced information from the populace. In just a short three months in office, they have disbanded information bodies, restricted the information flow out of government, suppressed information on the grounds of “operational matters” despite said information being available to those not unfortunate enough to live in Australia, and continued the active dissemination of misinformation, half-truths and blatant untruths.

2. Robust representation in the Parliament

In a representative democracy, not every member of Parliament is going to belong to or be sympathetic to the government. Those members and senators elected to represent the opposition and independent parties – even those who do not represent a party at all – are not there to warm chairs. They are not elected to become a part of the government machine and uncritically support any intentions of the government of the day. Instead, they are there to be a dissenting voice, and hopefully through negotiation in the interests of the people they represent, to improve proposed legislation through amendments. The operation of the Parliament and Senate in this regard is a deliberate structure to ensure that all new law is viewed through the lens of more than one stakeholder; to ensure that legislation that benefits one group does not act unfairly to the detriment of others.

Both Labor and the Coalition in recent years – and as recently as the current sitting of Parliament – have taken, and are taking, actions to subvert this function. Such actions include scheduling complicated legislation for debate and passage in unfeasibly short timeframes. For examples of this – on both sides – you need look no further than the carbon “tax”. Labor provided a package of legislation running to over 1000 pages to the Parliament with eight days to read, understand, debate and vote on it. In response, the Coalition has given the repeal of the carbon tax – eleven bills, to be discussed together – just three and a half days of debate. It would be bad enough if it were just the “tax” being debated, but tied up in the repeal are dozens of climate bodies, administrative bodies, funding arrangements, and associated clean energy infrastructure.

Arguably, however, the Coalition has been worse in their abuse of the processes of Parliament. During the previous term of government, they brought few amendments to the house, preferring instead to grandstand, disrupt proceedings with continual calls to suspend standing orders, and in most cases in Question Time to ask not one question relating to their own portfolios. This was not effective representation of their constituents. But the worst was yet to come.

In the current term, in addition to electing a clearly partisan speaker to the chair of the House – Bronwyn Bishop, who remains in the party room and is an integral part of the Coalition’s governing body – they have also taken actions that in one fell swoop ensure the failure of any amendments to legislation and disempower any independent voices. The attempt to vote on all proposed amendments as a block ensures that a flaw in one amendment, or contradictory amendments, or an extreme position on behalf of one proposal will knock out all the amendments at once. As Penny Wong stated in parliament, this is procedurally impossible. She might have added, deliberately so – it is a flagrant breach of the intention of amendments. (I am unable to find references online to this abuse of process. If you can provide a link, please leave it in the comments.)

Understandably, governments want to implement their policies. But subverting debate using procedural methods is as much an assault on democracy as is continual sabotage of proceedings using points of order and interjections.

Does anybody even listen to Parliament any more?

The majority of the Australian people remain minimally aware of the vagaries of Parliament and how it operates, far less the way that it is intended to represent the interests of non-governmental political parties. Tony Abbott and some sections of the news media deliberately play to this disaffection as they talk about a “mandate” for the government to implement its policies and report scant, if any, details of the proceedings of legislation through the parliament. Regardless, the details remain critically important. These are our representatives, this is our government, and any attempt to usurp the proper processes of democracy is an assault on everyone’s rights – whether you support the government of the day or not. Accordingly, those who are politically aware and interested need to draw attention to these abuses wherever they may be found. Only by showing that people are watching, and that we care about the concept of democracy as much as about its outcomes, can we avoid permanent and catastrophic debasement of government in Australia.

This is Democracy

Democracy

Image from globalresearch.ca

500 BCE, Athens
This is Democracy.

Each year, 500 names are randomly drawn afresh from the pool of eligible voters. These 500 citizens will serve the next year as the legislators for the city. All citizens of Athens are required to vote on any new law that this body creates. Votes are won by a simple majority: one voter, one vote.

There are some people whose opinion does not count; who do not get to vote. In ancient Athens, these include women, children, and slaves. Modern estimates indicate that of up to 300,000 people living in the region at the time, about 20% have voting rights.

Political literacy is high. The opinions of the people are heavily influenced by the media of the day – political satire performed in the theatres.

There are no politicians.

Democracy is dangerous. It takes power away from those who have it, and distributes it amongst those who may have different ideas. It cannot be easily controlled, only influenced. It equalises and it disempowers the powerful.

Thus, since time immemorial, those with responsibility for administering democracy have sought to control its use by limiting the people who may participate. Slaves, foreigners, women, coloured people, non-citizen residents – they’ve all, at some point or another, been excluded from the processes of power.

The great likelihood is that currently, you who are reading this blog post are amongst them.

It is sometimes asked why, if somewhere between 64% and 68% of the Australian people want gay marriage legalised, the major parties are so intransigently opposed to it, or why with seemingly a high proportion of Australians simultaneously outraged by Labor’s and the Coalition’s plans on refugee arrivals, both parties continue trying to out-hardline the other. (I’ve found it impossible to find an actual figure for the proportion of Australians for whom this is a driving issue. If anyone can point me to this number it would be appreciated!

The answer, of course, is that the seats that matter, the swing seats, do not share the outlook of the whole of Australia. Both major parties spend huge resources polling and evaluating their standing in the swing seats.

Both parties target individual seats for marketing, for campaigning, for pork-barrelling and election promises, and both parties heed the opinions and prejudices of the people in these marginal seats as a matter of high priority.

If a policy is adopted that panders to a swing seat, the parties can do this without fear of the outcomes because they know that the rest of Australia will either vote for them or not vote for them, regardless of actual policies.

Of the 144 seats in the Australian parliament, 74 are “safe” – they require a minimum of an 8% swing in order to change hands. The traditional view of “safe” seats is any seat that requires a minimum of a 6% swing, so I’m being conservative here.

Technically, every seat in Australia can change hands at any election. At the 2010 election, some electorates swung by as much as 13%. 18 of the 144 electorates swung by over 8% (17 of them in the direction of the Coalition).

At the 2013 election, with the current projected swings based on polling, any seat on 10% or less might be regarded as a marginal seat.

1789 AD, United States of America
This is Democracy.

“We the people”, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, have the right to vote for their Congress. Most major offices in the country, up to and including the office of President, are elected positions and the people can vote for their preferred candidates to hold them. Legislation is passed by the Congress and ratified by the President.

There are some people whose opinion does not count; who do not get to vote. In post-independence USA, these include women, children, slaves, negroes, native Americans, and non-landholding males. Modern estimates indicate that of up to 5.3 million people living in the USA at the time, about 17% have voting rights.

Technically, the United States is a Democratic Republic. There is already, effectively, a two-party system in operation, with Democrats and Republicans making up the two main schools of thought.

The outcome of the feverish focus on swing seats is twofold. It results in two paradoxically opposed effects. It pushes the parties closer together on big-ticket items, and it increasingly leads to class politics in day-to-day governing.

Both parties are desperate to win the votes of a handful of electorates. Electoral strategy revolves around picking your battles and pitching your offer directly at the heartland of the undecided.

With a limited number of seats in contention, and the stakes so high, both parties have incentive to follow the same path. In Australia, at present, this is slightly right-of-centre.

On refugees, on infrastructure, on education, on the economy, both parties are guilty of me-too politics, as clear vote-winning policies are adopted and co-opted. The opinion of the majority of Australians is not the major consideration. This is one contributing factor to the electorate’s general disengagement from politics in recent years.

The other effect is one of separation, as Labor and the Coalition focus their policy development on particular demographics. Electorates vote on the basis of the people who live there, and most electorates have a character, a homogeneity of age and social class.

As Labor continues to court the vote of the young and the educated, they develop policies that suit their safe electorates. As the Coalition continues to pitch to the battlers and the owners of small businesses, they develop a different set of policies that suit their own electorates.

Neither party is operating in a centric fashion with concern for the opinions of the electorates and demographics that they historically have not appealed to and can’t afford to put effort into winning.

2013 AD, Australia
This is Democracy.

All adult citizens of Australia are expected and required by law to enrol to vote, and are eligible to vote in local, State and National elections. Federal elections allow citizens to elect representatives for their local area, who despite election may not be a part of the governing party. All elected representatives may bring legislation to the house regardless of party affiliation.

Everybody gets to vote, but there are still some people whose opinion does not count. In practical terms, residents who do not follow the majority view of their electorate have no effective voice in parliament and their opinions are not important in the development of policy by the major political parties.

If we estimate that the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has been reasonably successful in distributing votes evenly between electorates, and if we assume further that an electorate requiring at least an 8% swing is “safe”, then of 22.3 million citizens, about 49% live in electorates where their vote is actually likely to be courted. 51% of the populace lives in electorates where the outcome is assumed.

The people are largely ignorant about the day-to-day processes of government and legislature, with attention paid to a small number of big-picture policies and ideologies, and most activity of the Parliament unseen and unremarked.

So what is the answer?

I increasingly feel that the two-party system is broken. Has representative democracy had its day? The day becomes ever nearer when we will have the technical and administrative ability to develop policy on the basis of the intentions of the people as a whole, rather than a representative attitude of the people in your suburb.

A time when every major decision is treated as a referendum and every voter’s attitude is counted, even if only in determining the overall intention of law. (Much of modern legislature is far too complex to be suitable for a census of opinion, but bureaucrats and lawyers can argue the semantics of law required to implement the expressed will of the people.)

This may be a pipe dream and unlikely in the foreseeable future. Until then, the best we can do if we want to ensure our voice is heard is to move to live in a swing electorate.

Co-posted on Random Pariah on 31 August 2013.