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Tag Archives: Sophie Mirabella

Democracy at work

Just how powerful are we as voters? Very powerful, writes Sir ScotchMistery. And our power lies not just in how we cast our vote at the polling booth, but in how we can decide in whose name appears on the ballot paper.

Over the last few weeks we have all been moaning mournfully about the nature of “democracy” in Australia and the fact that today it really doesn’t exist. What we are suffering under the moment is far more an oligarchy led by three or four wealthy people telling another person who wishes he was wealthy (and as far as we can tell, still a pommy), what to do.

I have done a bit of tweeting on the subject and people keep coming back to me saying “30 independents in every house of Parliament in Australia will allow right wing nut jobs (RWNJ), to overtake the Parliament.

Whilst I accept that there is an element of this which may be true, the same possibility applies to left wing nut jobs but whatever the result, if done properly there is no reason for Australia not to have 30 independents in each house of Parliament, each representing the needs and aspirations of their electorate.

The electorate of Indi, with its centre in northern Victoria, took it upon itself to oust the sitting “liberal” member, Sophie Mirabella, on the basis that she didn’t appear to be representing anybody but the Liberal party, and most certainly not her electorate, which she had supposedly “represented” for the past 13 year, from 2001.

Indi did it differently.

In general, when we think of an “Independent” running for parliament, we see in our minds eye somebody deciding that they are good enough to take on the incumbent or conversely are prepared to put their time, effort and money up to run a campaign against the incumbent, in their own right. In fact the path to Cathy McGowan taking the seat of Indi, had nothing whatsoever to do with her deciding she was good enough to take on the incumbent.

During 2012, a small group of young people from the area decided they weren’t being represented properly or effectively, and from those 12 people grew a movement of over 3000 volunteers who basically door knocked the entire electorate, which was a task in itself when one considers that the division of Indi, which has been part of the Parliament of Australia since Federation, having been one of the original 75 divisions proclaimed at Federation, continuously, covers an area of 28,567 km² along the NSW border from Rutherglen to Corryong in the North, Kinglake and Woods Point in the South and Falls Creek, Mount Hotham, Mount Buffalo and Mount Buller in the east. As you can see, a huge electorate which needs a lot of miles driven to cover it.

Anyway, these young people and their volunteers who ended up numbering in excess of 3000, door knocked the entire place and asked people what they felt were the important things to take into Parliament as their “issues”.

The result of these “kitchen table conversations”, was a document Voice for Indi which became part of “Indi Shares”. The resultant Voice for Indi website became a way for those people who initially met, and their volunteers and the people who decided that the basic premise was correct, and that they weren’t being represented by Ms Mirabella, or the LNP, to engage, to keep in touch, to fund raise and eventually to launch a run into Parliament.

In June 2014, the “Indi Shares” at Oxley in the rugged hills around Wangaratta resulted in around 100 people getting together and talking about making a difference in Australian politics. Politics without the parties, in a space where the “candidate” was employed by the electorate directly, rather than having to survive on their own means.

My memory of it was that around $180,000 was raised by those people to fund the change, rather than being dependent upon the resources of the candidate, or more importantly, of a party machine with its associated apparatchiks, and their predilection for parachuting candidates into the house.

Once the document had been put together, A Voice for Indi advertised for a candidate to work within their guidelines (as set by the members of the founding group, the results of the document from the kitchen table conversations, and input from volunteers).

Again, from my memory, which is getting rather rusty, the money raised went to funding things like campaign paraphernalia, T-shirts, and operations office and the expenses of the candidate, to allow her to behave as if she had already been elected, from the time she was employed by the organisation. In other words, Cathy McGowan was employed directly by the members of the electorate.

In and of itself, this is not a hard call. It is rather a matter of finding a committed core group of people prepared to put time effort and some money towards the process of locating somebody to properly represent them as electors, and further to more widely represent the needs of the electorate, including the issues important to the mostly (in this case) Conservative electorate. No one in the whole process was disenfranchised by the movement and one of the people we met during the Indi shares conference, was a farmer who had never ever voted anything but conservative.

The one thing that has to be said is that nobody can launch an election campaign for election with no money and it would be unfair and inappropriate to expect someone outside of the likes of Clive Palmer perhaps, to completely fund their own campaign to unseat one of the party faithful. In this situation it requires a gathering of like minds to get together and sort out funding, directions, plans and vision, then to find somebody appropriate to present those issues to a Parliament which no longer represents the needs and aspirations of the Australian people, but rather represents the direction the ALP and LNP wish to take the country in terms of its interface with United States and Europe, including rushing into any war that the LNP decides is good for us, and signing and “Free” trade agreement the US tells them to.

We have 18 months to find 30 independents for both houses in the Federal Parliament, and a further three years to do the same thing in every State government house. This perhaps is the only way to change the current unicameral system in place in Queensland, and also get us back to a proper “democratic” form of Parliament not only in Queensland but in the whole of Australia.

In conclusion I would add, that to paraphrase Charles F Aked – ‘all that is required for the parties to win every time, is for good people to do nothing’.

I hope that somewhere in Australia are a few hundred people who see this, OUR COUNTRY, as something more than the indistinct shadow of a star on “old glory”.

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Turn back – you are going the wrong way

If we don’t do something to halt the direction that this country is heading then we are in danger of a crash of catastrophic proportions.

While the rest of the world recognises the critical threat of climate change, and moves towards global action to address it, we remove carbon pricing, dismantle all climate change bodies, change environmental protection laws, and move away from initiatives like Marine Parks and the Murray-Darling water buyback.

When the rest of the world begins transitioning from the dependence on fossil fuels, we approve the largest coal mines in the world and the infrastructure to support them. We ramp up CSG mining. Rather than making the polluters pay, we decide to pay them with taxpayer money, and remove the mining tax that would at least give us some share of the money made by exploiting our dwindling resources.

When the rest of the world is increasing the share of renewable energy, we cut $20 million from the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program and $40 million from Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and wind up the Low Carbon Communities program which provides grants to local councils and other groups to make energy efficiency upgrades to community buildings. We cap government spending on reaching our emission reduction and renewable energy targets, and refuse to contribute to the Green Energy Fund.

In the face of rising unemployment, instead of investing a relatively small amount in the car industry, about one tenth of what we give to the mining companies, we choose to let the industry die and put tens of thousands of people out of work. But never fear, Sophie Mirabella has been appointed to build submarines instead.

We cannot afford to have the Salvation Army doing humanitarian work with asylum seekers and we cannot afford the mental health experts that were assessing and treating them, but we can afford $1.2 billion for more tents, and $1.1 million for Special Envoy Jim Molan to do something, though I am not sure what. We apparently can spend “whatever it takes” to stop the boats.

We have just appointed as Human Rights Commissioner someone who told a Senate Committee last year that the Human Rights Commission should be abolished. His main goal is to champion freedom of speech and a free press. He feels there has been far too much emphasis on left wing humanitarian silliness, and that we should have the right to racially vilify people.

We have condoned human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and West Papua, been caught spying on Indonesia and East Timor, infuriated China by taking sides with the US, and Indonesia by our boat tow/buy back rhetoric, ignored the UN by siding with Israel, refused to address whaling with the Japanese, and in general, vacillated between tough guy and fawning friend at a rate that would make your head spin.

In the area of health, Westmead Children’s Hospital will lose $100 million in funding for the first stage of a comprehensive redevelopment, while the Children’s Medical Research Institute will lose $10 million and the Millennium Institute will lose $12 million, amongst many other funding cuts.

Even though we have a gambling problem, we undo the poker machine reforms. Even though we have a drug and alcohol problem, we get rid of the alcohol and drug advisory board. Even though new figures show Australians are fatter than ever, more than $18 million has been cut from obesity prevention programs. Even though we have a disproportionately high number of indigenous Australians in gaol, we cut $43 million from indigenous legal aid funding.

With the looming crisis of an aging population, we scrap the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing six months before they completed a three year report to help the government design a policy to deal with challenges posed by Australia’s ageing population. We also block pay rises to aged care workers. Rather than encouraging low income workers to invest in superannuation to relieve some of the future burden on the old age pension, we cut the co-contribution and delay the superannuation guarantee increase, whilst giving further tax breaks to very high income earners.

Congestion on our roads, parking, and the pollution from cars is a growing problem. Rather than investing in public transport, we are building more roads, even ones people don’t want, and ignoring Infrastructure Australia’s priorities.

With a slowing economy, rather than looking to raise more revenue, we have employed big business to tell us how to cut spending.

Rather than waiting for the Productivity Commission to finish the many reviews they have been tasked with, we are employing private consultants like Price Waterhouse Cooper to produce reports that say what the government wants to hear.

Even though the Productivity Commission said that replacement wages for paid parental leave would be too costly, inequitable, and of little benefit to workforce participation, we are pushing ahead with a scheme that will cost us over $5 billion a year giving money to people who don’t need it. At the same time we are blocking the payrise to childcare workers, and cutting $450 million from before and after school care programs, something that would help with job retention and productivity.

Even though we have already had 8 enquiries into the home insulation scheme, we are now to have a Royal Commission. To pay for this we have cut $6.7 million from the Caring for our Country program, which grants money to conservation projects.

We are also cutting about $1 billion from education by stopping initiatives like the trade training program.

The minister for education, Christopher Pyne, has appointed David Kemp and Andrew Norton to undertake a review into the demand-driven funding system for universities. Kemp was minister for education in the Howard government and Norton was his adviser on higher education policy.

Rather than continuing with the rollout of FttP NBN, we have gone back to square one and employed Malcolm’s mates to stonewall the Senate Committee. It appears from the redacted documents that some of us will get a far inferior service for much more than anticipated sometime much later than promised, and they will be the lucky ones.

We are rushing to sign free trade agreements in secret which will sign away our rights to make laws in our own country. We will be at the mercy of foreign corporations and our health initiatives and PBS scheme, environmental safeguards, and perhaps even gun laws, could be at risk.

In the face of growing debt and blown-out deficits stretching into the future, we borrow $8.8 billion dollars to give to the Reserve Bank who said they didn’t need it. Mr Hockey denies this was a political ploy to make Labor’s debt look bad and, when he takes out the dividends before the next election, that won’t be just to make him look good. The interest over 3 years will go close to $1 billion dollars. Expensive PR exercise from the party who promised to stop the waste, pay down the debt, and get the budget back into the black.

The government is restricting access to information, appointing cronies to every position, gagging debate, and pushing ahead with an agenda that blatantly favours big business and the very rich and looks increasingly like the IPAs 100 point wish list.

Unfortunately it is at the expense of our environment, our children, our health, our humanity, and the very fabric of our society.

Western Australians could find themselves with a very grave responsibility in the new year. At the moment, the only check on Tony Abbott’s ravages is the Senate.

If you get the chance to vote again next year, think very carefully about what Abbott will hand to the big corporations should he have control of both houses. Think of the repercussions to health and education and social services and workers’ conditions. Think about how minor parties will vote and who they will give their preferences to.

Currently you have voted for these three Liberal Party Senators:

Linda Reynolds. Apart from the fact that she was recruited by Brian Loughnane, Peta Credlin’s husband, I can find little about her.

David Johnstone. Even though he has been Minister for Defence for three months I have not seen or heard anything of him. Actually, I don’t recall much from him in his time as Shadow Minister either.

And of course, Michaelia Cash, the “Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Woman” as the sign on her door describes her. Who could forget her recent Senate performance.

Perhaps these people represent your local interests well – I don’t know – but, should you be asked to vote again, I would say think wisely Western Australia – the fate of the nation could be in your hands.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

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Feigned Love

Tony Abbott has declared fixing Australia’s greatest “national failure”, dire Indigenous disadvantage, will be one of his personal priorities if he wins office.

Personally, I think it’s all talk. It’s just a display of feigned love.

This is just talk from the man who, when Indigenous people traveled for three days to get to Canberra to put their case to a Parliamentary committee, walked in late, didn’t apologise, sat down and then fell asleep.

This from the man who said ‘There may not be a great job for them but whatever there is, they just have to do it, and if it’s picking up rubbish around the community, it just has to be done’

This from the man who, at the Australia Day celebrations this year, said “The first lot of Australians were chosen by the finest judges in England, not always for good reasons, and from that rather inauspicious beginning we have become a rich, a free and a fair society which has contributed so much to the wider world in good times and in not so good times.”

This from the man who has previously said ‘Now, I know that there are some Aboriginal people who aren’t happy with Australia Day. For them it remains Invasion Day. I think a better view is the view of Noel Pearson, who has said that Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage’ and ‘Western civilisation came to this country in 1788 and I’m proud of that . . . Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage’.

This from the man who ignited the debate as to who is a ‘real’ aborigine when he said he wanted Territory Indigenous Advancement Minister Alison Anderson in federal politics because she would be an “authentic” indigenous representative in parliament. He described federal Liberal lower house MP Ken Wyatt as an “urban Aboriginal” – a “good bloke” but “not a man of culture”. “It would be terrific if, as well as having an urban Aboriginal in our parliament, we had an Aboriginal person from Central Australia, an authentic representative of the ancient cultures,” he said.

This from the leader of the Party that refused to make an apology to the Stolen Generation and, when it was later famously made by Kevin Rudd, there were several Coalition MPs conspicuously absent including Sophie Mirabella, Alby Schultz and Don Randall. The West Australian backbencher Wilson Tuckey departed immediately after the opening prayer to join those who had not bothered to show up. The Victorian Liberal MP Chris Pearce attended the event but refused to stand at the end of the speeches. Beforehand, he was outside the chamber deriding the ceremony as a “pantomime”.

And this from the man who suggested to the rally at the Tent Embassy that it’s time for them to move on that sparked a wave of support from most non-Indigenous Australians.

And from the same man who thinks the most hated policy – in the eyes of Aboriginal Australians themselves – the racist and appalling Northern Territory Intervention didn’t go far enough.

And, whilst not Abbott, who could forget Andrew Laming, the Liberal MP for Bowman, tweeting: “Mobs tearing up Logan. Did any of them do a day’s work today, or was it business as usual and welfare on tap?”

They certainly have history when it comes to their disgraceful treatment and disrespect for Aboriginal people.

Their views are extremely important in helping explain the place of Aboriginal people in the Australian political system. A series of questions that were asked of a sample of members of parliament – while Howard was prime minister – revealed the existence of varying party views that form an important framework to the development of Aboriginal policy. Some of the differences between Labor and Coalition MPs were imposing. It is worth having a look at some of these answers as they clearly identify who did and did not support Aboriginal causes. Consider them as a backdrop to discussions on issues such as Mabo, Wik, Native Title, the Stolen Generation, the Northern Territory Intervention or Abbott’s current promises.

Members of parliament – support for Aborigines
Government has responsibility to grant land rights: ALP 93.2% Lib/Nat 40.8%
Settle land claims before development: 78.2 24.2
Aborigines should have special cultural protection: 76.7 43.7
Approve of treaty recognising Aboriginal rights: 85.6 11.2
Law should allow for Aboriginal customs: 60.0 21.4
Constitution should recognise Aboriginal self-government: 29.0 4.6
Aborigines should not be assimilated: 80.3 42.2

You could excuse my cynicism. I’ve been that way since working in Aboriginal affairs under the Howard Government when one of his Ministers confided that “Aboriginal bashing is good politics.”

If Tony Abbott does become Prime Minister, this is one pledge I won’t expect him to deliver.

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