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I never choose to watch the televised version of Parliamentary Question Time because I find, most of the time, that the appalling behaviour, of so-called adults, makes me shudder at the thought that groups of children might make a visit from school to see how the country is run.

They might quickly understand why it is in such a mess, which I suppose could be regarded as instructive!!

Even listening to a parliamentary ‘debate’ is highly unedifying. And the fact that individuals are required to follow party lines, results in some really strange outcomes – like the time Christian Porter forgot to tell the Liberal senators how to vote and the matter had to be brought back to the Senate Chamber the next day to reverse the outcome.

Clearly there cannot have been adequate – or any – discussion of the relevant Bill in the party room previously, if members did not even know what the party line was.

Which makes we wonder – why do we need so many politicians if decision making is done by a select few?

I have watched debates involving teams of school-aged children and of undergraduates and, with both groups, their manners, language and general demeanour would be a good model for our elected representatives.

In fact – when I really think about it – our parliamentarians do not ‘debate’ an issue, but mainly have a party line, which they pursue by hurling insults at each other. Far too much of what is said is ‘ad hominem‘ – which is the basest level to which any debate can descend – and the intention seems to be more highly geared to making the other side look bad, rather than providing a coherent argument, and giving a foundation to your reasons for supporting or opposing some course of action.

Have you kept count of how many times since 2013, members of the Coalition government have laid the blame for current problems at Labor’s door? And how many times have they promised we would be in surplus – as if that were really important – without yet achieving that goal, through 3 Prime Ministers, as well!

And in the past, when Labor has been in government, the same sorts of behaviour have been in evidence.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the jobless rate for our young people was far higher than for adults younger than 45 – 50. Those made redundant in later life also had a pretty hard time finding work, and it often ended up with their taking on something which did not require their acquired level of expertise.

Those over 60 have virtually no chance of finding a job, even if they are white collar professionals, and to earn a reasonable income needs the sort of skills appropriate for FIFO employment.

Incidentally – one reason wages are low is because employers use labour hire firms which cream off their cut – a bit like a brothel when you think about it!

You often read political discussion where the derogatory term ‘sheeples’ is substituted for voters. And it seems equally appropriate for many of our MPs and Senators, since, it seems, their contribution is essentially limited to voting as they are told, enforced by the Whips!

We are still not through the pandemic crisis and will have to live with the fact that infections could break out again anywhere, anytime and a vaccine is not a certainty.

Consequently, we now have two crises on our hands – one affecting our long term future and one more immediate – but BOTH needing to be dealt with NOW.

No government, at any level, can go on, head in sand, pretending that there is no climate emergency.

All along, the climate scientists have been looking at 2030 or thereabouts as a deadline to avoid going past a tipping point, as regards increasing temperature levels.

Just as an aside – why do governments listen to medical scientists but not those whose research expertise is in matters concerning climate and the environment?

The issue of climate change is actually all so simple that it is incredible that supposedly intelligent people cannot grasp it!

In all branches of science, hypotheses are formed, tested and amended as necessary.This includes making computer models based on known data, making predictions based on a variety of assumptions, and changing the assumptions and models in order to predict best and worst case scenarios.

Since the Industrial Revolution, mankind has ‘progressed’ by harnessing power obtained from a diminishing store of fossil fuels, to make life increasingly convenient and comfortable – and to enrich increasingly massive, and monopolistic, global corporations.

In consequence, we have polluted the atmosphere with so-called greenhouse gases, including, but not limited to, carbon dioxide and methane.

The scientists tell us that this increasing pollution, by fossil duel emissions in particular, is having dire effects on climate by causing rising temperatures on land and in oceans, melting ice at the polar caps which is raising sea levels and changing weather patters leading to increasingly intense droughts and storms, which are also becoming more frequent.

The ‘tipping’ points relate to the levels reached by increasing temperatures above an agreed baseline. One degree Celsius above has already been reached. If we get up to 1.5˚C above, then that is a ceiling which will mean life is not really comfortable but we can cope. Significantly above that, then climate events are likely to become unmanageable.

For a more scholarly explanation, made available in December 2019, see this.

You will note that 2030 scores a mention, and we are well into 2020, with time passing alarmingly quickly!

So, at a time when many people have lost their jobs because of, necessarily, shutting down businesses, to limit infections and death from the COVID-19 virus, we must not think in terms of returning to normal, because what we once thought was normal is no longer an option.

We are not going to get back on any sort of track soon, so please can we take the time to totally re-think capitalism and the role of government.

Australia has long ceased to be the Lucky Country for many of its inhabitants.

We might have shed the White Australia policy a few decades back, but it lives on in a level of cruelty and unwelcoming attitudes towards refugees, and migrants, which leaves many Australians bitterly ashamed of their government’s policies.

At the present time, when nearly everybody has major problems, empathy and compassion are more necessary than they have ever been – and they are required from all of us!

I noted in a tweet (sorry! Guilty as charged!) the other day that there are 3 groups who are not severely affected by the current economic crisis – the very rich, those retirees on indexed pensions for life and – in between those two extremes, because most of the pensioners are not rolling in wealth – politicians in safe seats!

It is easy to see, sometimes, why policy making for the poor and underprivileged is so based on punishing and cracking the whip, rather than holding out a helping hand – because those making the policy have no experience of real hardship.

Currently, policies around Centrelink benefits, NDIS provisions and the cashless Indue card, seem predicated on the assumption that anyone without a job, and/or in need of support, is somehow in that situation because they are too lazy to do anything about it.

How many of our elected representatives have been in the position of having to apply for a required number of jobs in a dictated time period, when for every vacancy there are 15 or more applicants?

Soul destroying would be my summing up of such a situation – and I have never been out of employment, except of my own choosing.

I did grow up in England during WWI rationing from 1940 to 1954, when, unless you could afford to buy on the ‘black market’, we lived on the bare minimum, with food rationing, clothing coupons, and no petrol for civilian use. But please note that these restrictions applied to everyone in the country, irrespective of income level or occupation.

Back to our young people.

What do they have to look forward to?

Education is disrupted, universities have lost funding and staff, many businesses will not re-open, our apprenticeship system was in a bad way already and there will be queues for every job vacancy.

We have actually had some good policy decision-making in the current National Cabinet system. Even many Coalition supporters would be critical of the exclusion of the Opposition Leader from that body, because the need for bipartisan agreement is more critical now than ever before.

The few days that an attenuated parliament has sat has shown, possibly because of that exclusion, that adversarial approaches are alive and kicking. Sad – because now more than ever we need rational discussion and consensus decision-making.

Everything I read about the Great Depression indicates that it was worse and lasted longer because of austerity approaches.

The government is going to leave a debt for future generations, but it is not really a debt if we have booming industries and high employment – which we could have if we keep up support levels for as long as they are needed.

And a serious move to using renewable energy in one of many forms now available, and re-establishing industry, to reduce our dependence on imports, would ensure more jobs and possible more export income.

If we went the whole hog, cancelled HECS debts and all post-secondary fees, stopped using private course providers, given how many of them took the fees but did not deliver the course, and generally fell over backwards to ensure all young people had a chance to be equipped for a vocation, that would not be an expense but an investment, and a first step towards equipping a workforce to pay off the debt.

Interest rates are so low, that loans for businesses to re-establish would be no great hardship and the states could consider cutting some of their fees and charges.

There should be no tax cuts for high income earners and the whole tax system needs a complete going over anyway. A task force to begin that work should be got underway ASAP.

Others will no doubt tear this apart, call it socialism and say if is impossible.

Social justice is not socialism and governments are elected to help not hurt those who elect them.

And the economic model has to be designed to service the whole population, not a select few.

Let’s give our young people hope for their future.

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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16 comments

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  1. John Hanna

    Interesting you say applicants for work have the prospect of being one in fifteen. My daughter recently applied for an entry level job in Queensland (pre coronavirus) and was one of 840 applicants. The statistics used for canculation of unemployment are so distorted that they are a meaningless number used by politicians to pat themselves on the back. It is no wonder young people yake their own lives in significant numbers, usually at an age when they conclude they have little future and are governed by fools.

  2. RomeoCharlie29

    At some time in the future, meaning anytime from now, we will look back on the past thirty years and conclude that much of Australia’s decline could be traced back to privatisation ( for which Hawke and Keating take some responsibility).

    The commododification of University degrees, the outsourcing of VET and job-seeking to private companies, many without the necessary skills — but the requisite mateship with the LNP — the expansion of funding to the non-government health and education providers ( including allowing foreign companies to own retirement homes) have all seen a reduction in quality, an increase in costs and the failure of diminished regulatory bodies to adequately police these inadequacies, or punish them.

    These failures of governance are mainly, but not exclusively, the responsibility of LNP governments intent on marketising the economy. That the results have been disastrous is now pretty plain to see as a government, in denial about the weakness of its pre-Covid economy, talks of a return to ‘ the good old days’ ( that’s my interpretation).

    I see little evidence from either the government or the opposition of recognition of these past failures, and therefore no apparent inclination to change them but here are a few of my proposals for a Post-Covid Australia ( not necessarily in order of importance):
    * a root and branch review of the tax system to ensure equity, prevent tax avoidance and stamp out tax evasion
    * remove tax concessions and tax-free status from churches and religions,
    * remove all tax concessions and subsidies to fossil fuel companies,
    * progressively reduce, then end, funding to non- government education and private health providers,
    * re-establish the Commonwealth Employment Service and phase out privatised job providers,
    * return Vocational Education to a public education service, phasing out private providers,
    * abandon the submarine contract in favour of a locally developed design and manufacturing system for underwater drones,
    * draw a line under further contributions to the Joint Strike Fighter development and explore less expensive alternatives,
    * begin restoring our Foreign Aid budget, specifically towards helping our Pacific Neighbours cope with the effects of climate change,
    * restore support to the CSIRO and other national scientific bodies with the aims of meeting the climate change challenge and developing foreign manufacturing replacement industries,
    * expand R and D support,
    * strengthen the powers of regulatory bodies ( where they will still be needed) to ensure compliance and crack down on shonky practices,
    * halt, or restore, government services proposed or sold, to private enterprise.
    * get rid of the Indue card, robodebt and other punitive policies directed at the poor or indigenous,
    * implement the Uluru statement and develop an Indigenous policy which both recognises and empowers our first people,
    * give back, and increase, funding taken from the ABC and SBS,
    * develop a media policy which reduces the reach and influence of foreign-owned media including News Ltd.
    * restrict foreign ownership of property and strategic industries ( including agriculture) to minority ownership only and beef up the FIRB,
    * revisit all of our Foreign Relationships including, but not restricted to, the US, China and Israel as well as our positions on Taiwan and Palestine with a view to developing a more independent approach to Foreign Policy.
    * have a Senate Select Committee review all of our advisory bodies, secret committees and security agencies to ensure either their continuing requirement or balanced representation,
    * establish a bipartisan committee to review every piece of legislation which has impacted the privacy and freedoms of individuals with a view to repealing the more egregious examples of over-reach,
    * establish a bipartisan committee to review government policies and legislation to assess their role in causing or furthering inequality in the community,
    * legislate to reduce, or end the influence of religion of any persuasion, on government, including a requirement that those MP’s having a professed religion, be required to refrain from voting on any matter that relates to their religion, including, for example, Catholic MP’s not voting on such issues as funding for Catholic Schools ( which should be reducing anyway).

    I am sure there are many areas I have overlooked. Although I probably don’t have many years left, I would be happy to establish, and lead, a hand-picked review panel to oversight the various review panels I have proposed. Over to you SFM.

  3. New Bruce

    RC29
    Limit Parliamentary pensions to the number of year a member has been in parliament.
    One term of Parliament between leaving, and taking up a position in Private Enterprise. (Going back to private practice med or law excepted)
    5 properties tax free, 5 @ 50%, all others pay full tax.
    Cancel foreign leases of our ports and airports immediately.

  4. Mikew

    I miss parliament question time as it is rarely on due to the crisis we are now facing, I would have thought that because of this crisis parliament should be sitting more often not less. But anyway the reason I miss it is because it helped me with my afternoon naps, I would listen to the first 10 minutes or so of complete and utter nonsense, then turn the sound down to a reasonable level and off I would go for an hour or so.

    I don’t know why labor politicians bother turning up for question time as none of their questions are answered.

    As most of our politicians are doing nothing at the moment shouldn’t they be classed as unemployed, and be on centrelink benefits instead of their overinflated tax payer funded salaries?

  5. RosemaryJ36

    John Hanns = I picked 15 because I thought that, pre=Covid, it was 19 for adults but did not want to get brickbats from people accusing me of exaggerating.
    RC29- I totally agree, but I was holding back in the faint hope that more modest demands might possibly be considered. I don’t think we would be wise to hold our breath.

  6. ajogrady

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Australians have voted in 3 L/NP governments in 7 years and the country continues to fail or fall behind other similar countries in our economy, education, health, communication and many other quantifying markers. In particular Scott Morrison believes that success is the ability to go from one total failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm or any conscience. If there is a battle between good and evil then the evidence surely points to evil is winning. Who votes for these corrupt charlatans and shysters always on the look out for the next rort or corrupt kickback.
    Australia is definitely a bona fide lunatic asylum.

  7. ajogrady

    RomeoCharliew9.

    Thank you for a comprehensive and constructive look Into the many failings and ppssible answers to Australias governance needs.

  8. Jaquix

    Author seems to think QT is parliamentary debating time. It’s not of course, it’s QT! Waste of time in present format. Independent Speaker is required. Having own side as “umpire” is farcical, unfair. Questions should be answered properly. Dixers should be banned. Voters are poorly served when Opposition is stymied and thrown out for govt advantage. Watch NZ parliament and see the difference. We are being dudded by a shameless PM.

  9. RosemaryJ36

    Jaquix – if you read paragraph 3 more carefully you will see I had moved on from QT.

  10. Carole

    Has a member of the government ever asked any of the ministers a question pertaining to the state of their electorate or on behalf of an unhappy constituent ? I think the answer is no. The electorate is of no concern to the government, just a chance to bag the opposition. Totally meaningless.

  11. B Sullivan

    “I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

    We won’t get a government that is responsible to the people of Australia until we get a government that fairly represents the people of Australia.

    A year ago 10% of the Australian electorate voted for the Greens. They ended up with just one MP out of 150 to argue their concerns about Climate Change, environmental destruction and social injustice.

    About 9% of the electorate, all located in Queensland, voted for the Liberal National Party. They ended up with 23 seats in parliament. Less then 5% of the electorate voted for the National Party but they got 10 seats. That’s 10 times as many seats as the Greens for half the number of votes.

    That is not a statistical flaw. It is systematic bias that makes a mockery of the notion that Australia is a democratic nation.

    In Australia, government depends on who can pander the most to the regional electorates, most of which are not even economically sustainable without causing massive destruction of Australia’s outstandingly unique natural environment which simply cannot sustain the pressure of so much inappropriate and essentially unnecessary industry.

    70% of Australia’s agricultural produce is sold overseas to privileged customers who can afford Australia’s products but don’t really need them. When cyclones and the inevitable droughts destroy the crops and kill the livestock no one expresses concern for starving customers dying because of food shortages from Australia. So there is no moral reason for reducing agriculture in Australia except to protect the jobs of those who currently depend upon it.

    Alternative industries could be established using some of those vast hectares of cleared native vegetation that still failed to produce enough pasture to sustain even modest numbers of livestock that were depending on it to survive the constant drought. Drought resistant solar farming is the obvious solution which if used to produce hydrogen fuel could free us from dependency on the fossil fuel industry. Massive amounts of public money is already being spent on the regions just to keep the people from moving away, so no one could begrudge sufficient government spending to establish alternative and appropriate livelihoods for them.

    If Australia had been a true democracy in May 2019, Morrison would have required the support of 15 Green MPs in order to form his minority miracle government, though of course a minority Labor government would have been a more likely outcome. Either way the Greens would have been in a position to demand safeguards for the environment and oblige the government to take genuine action to address climate change.

    When the next election is due, and more younger voter’s are enrolled, and more people are aware thanks to the COVID-19 shutdown of how damaging growing the economy just for the sake of the economy has been to the environment, the Greens may come to represent a fifth of the electorate. Yet under the present system they would still have a hard time getting even one seat with which to try to hold whatever government responsible and accountable.

  12. Andrew Smith

    Think the degradation of parliament (and dog whistling of the same, especially when Labor is in power) is radical right libertarian or RWNJ strategy to pass required, or block inconvenient, legislation; while encouraging citizens to disengage from democracy, a perverse form of voter suppression amongst youth.

    Classic (wedge) issues are cultural or conscience based which really have no need for (negative) debate in parliament and media but are used to create noise and deflection e.g. gay marriage and (sometimes) abortion rights.

    The latter, in the US, was not an issue pre Reagan exemplified by Evangelicals via Jerry Falwell not promoting it either way, but became an issue, via Falwell, when trying to attract conservative Catholic and Evangelical votes.

    Hence, rather than allow quiet conscience votes on cultural (non) issues they become conservative policy and part of their media strategy (unclear which comes first?) to create disruption with torrid and emotional debates; meanwhile more important issues are ignored or fly under the radar……

  13. John Lord

    The government will use the current crisis as an excuse to do nothing on climate change.

  14. RomeoCharlie29

    New Bruce, accepted. And of course haven’t touched on the Republic, ICAC, climate change and many more. RJ, went for as many as I could come up with off the top of the head but don’t expect that anyone in a decision-making role would actually read this.

  15. Flogga

    New Bruce – parliamentary pensions are ancient history except for the really old timers. Abolished for all those first elected at or after the 2004 election.

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