The face of wilful ignorance



To whom do you believe I’m referring? There are no prizes for the correct answer!

I’m referring to someone who I believe is guilty of immoral ignorance. His actions have the potential to destroy our civilization, not today or next week, but in the foreseeable future – we don’t know when, nor does he.

I am referring to Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America.

No, I’m not referring to his ignorant adventurism in international politics, or his provocation of the unstable and unpredictable Kim Jong-un, with his growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles with which he threatens to annihilate Seoul, American cities, now even Australian cities. In this instance, Trump’s behaviour is dangerous and stupid, and should he miscalculate, he could precipitate a tragic outcome – a nuclear holocaust.

No, I’m calling Trump wilfully ignorant because of what he is doing about global warming, which threatens all living things. What he is doing has the potential to destroy habitation on our planet. If global warming is not reversed or at least checked to limit it to no more that 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or preferably 1.5 degrees, catastrophic outcomes will overwhelm us.

I can already hear the climate skeptics out there murmuring that this is a grossly alarmist exaggeration. Some of them even applaud Trump’s moves!

Before we look at the extent of Trump’s malevolence, let’s summarize the global warming problem, which he is content to dismiss as ‘a hoax’: (“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”. 2012 Trump tweet.)

Writing in The Conversation on 20 April, Eelco Rohling, Professor of Ocean and Climate Change at Australian National University, described the contemporary situation in this way: “Getting climate change under control is a formidable, multifaceted challenge. Analysis by my colleagues and me suggests that staying within safe warming levels now requires removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (My emphasis).

Rohling continued: “
To put the problem in perspective, here are some of the key numbers.

Humans have emitted 1,540 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide gas since the industrial revolution. To put it another way, that’s equivalent to burning enough coal to form a square tower 22 metres wide that reaches from Earth to the Moon.

Half of these emissions have remained in the atmosphere, causing a rise of CO₂ levels that is at least 10 times faster than any known natural increase during Earth’s long history. Most of the other half has dissolved into the ocean, causing acidification with its own detrimental impacts.

Although nature does remove CO₂, for example through growth and burial of plants and algae, we emit it at least 100 times faster than it’s eliminated. We can’t rely on natural mechanisms to handle this problem: people will need to help as well…

The Paris climate agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C, and ideally no higher than 1.5°C. (Others say that 1°C is what we should be really aiming for, although the world is already reaching and breaching this milestone.)

In our research, we considered 1°C a better safe warming limit because any more would take us into the territory of the Eemian period, 125,000 years ago. For natural reasons, during this era the Earth warmed by a little more than 1°C . Looking back, we can see the catastrophic consequences of global temperatures staying this high over an extended period.

Sea levels during the Eemian period were up to 10 metres higher than present levels. Today, the zone within 10m of sea level is home to 10% of the world’s population, and even a 2m sea-level rise today would displace almost 200 million people.

Clearly, pushing towards an Eemian-like climate is not safe. In fact, with 2016 having been 1.2°C warmer than the pre-industrial average, and extra warming locked in thanks to heat storage in the oceans, we may already have crossed the 1°C average threshold. To keep warming below the 1.5°C goal of the Paris agreement, it’s vital that we remove CO₂ from the atmosphere as well as limiting the amount we put in. (My emphasis.)

So how much CO₂ do we need to remove to prevent global disaster?
Rohling concludes:
”Right now is the time to choose: without action, we’ll be locked into the pessimistic scenario within a decade. Nothing can justify burdening future generations with this enormous cost.

For success in either scenario, we need to do more than develop new technology. We also need new international legal, policy, and ethical frameworks to deal with its widespread use, including the inevitable environmental impacts…

The costs of this are high. But countries that take the lead stand to gain technology, jobs, energy independence, better health, and international gravitas.
If any more damning evidence is needed, read what John Abramson, professor of thermal sciences, concludes in an article in the 7 April issue of The Guardian titled: New study links carbon pollution to extreme weather that reported on a study of these links: “We came as close as one can to demonstrating a direct link between climate change and a large family of extreme recent weather events. (My emphasis)

Given this scenario, which spells out global catastrophe if urgent action is not taken now, what does Trump intend to do?

Dana Nuccitelli, an environmental scientist and risk assessor, spells out Trump’s reckless plans in an article in The Guardian of 29 March.

He begins:
“Today, Donald Trump signed an executive order taking aim at America’s climate policies. On the heels of a report finding that the world needs to halve its carbon pollution every decade to avoid dangerous climate change, Trump’s order would instead increase America’s carbon pollution, to the exclusive benefit of the fossil fuel industry. (My emphasis.)

“One part of the executive order tells the EPA to review and revise (weaken) its Clean Power Plan and methane regulations… However, revising these regulations isn’t so simple…Environmental attorneys are confident “this is another deal President Trump won’t be able to close.”

“A second part of the executive order tells the EPA to ignore the government’s estimated price on carbon pollution. The Republican Party wants to lower the current estimate, but most evidence indicates the government is dramatically underestimating the cost of carbon pollution. Trump gets around this inconvenient evidence by ordering the EPA to simply deny the existence of those costs.

“A third part of the executive order ends a moratorium on new coal leases on public lands before a review is completed to determine if taxpayers are being shortchanged due to the lands being sold too cheaply. Environmental groups are set to immediately challenge this order. Regardless, lifting the moratorium would have little effect on coal production or mining jobs.

“[Newly appointed] EPA administrator Scott Pruitt [who does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming] undoubtedly will be happy to follow Trump’s orders. In his previous job as Oklahoma Attorney General and fossil fuel industry puppet, one of Pruitt’s 14 lawsuits against the EPA was aimed at the Clean Power Plan. However, the Clean Air Act requires the government to cut carbon pollution. Trump and Pruitt may not like it, but the law, scientific evidence, and public opinion fall squarely against them.”
Nuccitelli goes on to describe Trump’s anti-science budget:
“A few weeks ago, Donald Trump released his first proposed budget, and it’s also fiercely anti-science and anti-climate.

“Among other cuts, it would slash nearly one-third of the EPA budget, hundreds of millions of dollars from the NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] research budget, and terminate four NASA Earth science missions as part of a $102 million cut to the agency’s Earth science program.

“The budget even goes as far as to propose eliminating Energy Star – a purely voluntary program that helps companies certify energy efficient products, saving Americans money while cutting carbon pollution in the process – possibly out of pure spite for the climate.

” “Pruitt has been filling EPA staffing positions with climate deniers from Senator James “the greatest hoax” Inhofe’s office. Trump recently selected coal lobbyist and former Inhofe advisor Andrew Wheeler to be Pruitt’s EPA deputy chief.

Pruitt also hired Washington State Senator Douglas Ericksen, who actively fought the state’s proposed carbon tax, and who invited an obscure climate denier blogger named Tony Heller to testify before a Washington State Senate committee for 40 minutes. To put that in perspective, invited witnesses are normally given just a few minutes to testify. University of Washington climate scientist Sarah Myhre - an actual climate expert - had spoken to a State House committee two weeks earlier, for 8 minutes."


Nuccitelli concludes by stressing the danger of an aggressively anti-science agenda:
“As the Trump administration unleashed its assault on science and the climate, we learned that huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef are dead or dying, 30 years sooner than expected. Despite the last El Niño event ending nearly a year ago, the first two months of 2017 were the second hottest on record, behind only the El Niño-amplified 2016, pushing the world into what the WMO [World Meteorological Organization] calls “truly uncharted territory.”

“Arctic and Antarctic sea ice are at record-shattering low levels. Research is finding increasingly strong links between climate change and extreme weather.

“Americans across the political spectrum are now more worried about global warming than at any time in the past 8 years.

“Fortunately, Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations will be fought in court, and his budget proposal only tells Congress what he’d like to see. Nevertheless, it’s a dangerous time for America’s leaders to be denying climate change, defunding its scientific research, and unraveling its climate policies.

“Science always wins in the end, and if we fight it [science], we will lose.

During the announcement of his anti-climate executive orders, Trump announced, “My administration is ending the war on coal.” Their wars on science and the Earth’s climate, on the other hand, are in full force. (My emphasis)
Trump’s anti-science actions have precipitated worldwide protests. On 22 April The Guardian reported: Tens of thousands of scientists are rallying around the world in a rebuke of Donald Trump’s dismissal of climate science and attempts to cut large areas of scientific research. More than 600 marches in the US, Europe, South America and Australia, began amid warnings from organisers that science is “under attack” from the Trump administration.

Similar protest marches are taking place again this weekend to mark Trump's one hundred days as President of the United States of America. What a condemnation these protests are of his attitude to science and its warnings about global warming!

Melbourne immunologist and Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty called for a price on carbon, adding that there were “major threats to the global culture of science” in today’s world. In San Francisco, Professor Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, and professor of Global Environment and Sustainability, labeled Trump’s anti-science actions as ‘oppression’.

So there it is. Trump’s immorality, Trump’s malevolence, Trumps wilful ignorance is on full display. Should he be able to carry out his anti-science agenda, should he be able to implement his destructive plans to diminish global warming to irrelevance, should he be able to convince his electorate that global warming is, as he asserts, simply a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, should he be able to halt or curtail evidence gathering about global warming, should he carry out his threat to defund countless agencies devoted to climate science, he would be condemning mankind to horrifying outcomes: many millions displaced as sea levels rise, mass starvation as water supplies wane and crops fail, obscene loss of diversity and biological resources, and all the consequent turmoil: civil disruption and wars over water, food and territory.

If you think all this is just alarmist exaggeration, think again. Look at the evidence, take note of the facts, and listen to the thousands of climate scientists who every day are pointing to the effects of global warming that are already upon us, warning us of the disaster ahead.

Trump is the most powerful person on this planet; the USA is the most powerful nation on earth. What Trump says and does has superordinate influence. If he carries out his threat to pull out of the Paris Agreement, that might render that momentous accord worthless, and all its lofty intentions null and void. What then will be the fate of our planet and all who live on it?

In the face of this immorality, is anyone prepared to counter the assertion that through his iniquitous disregard of the overwhelming evidence of destructive global warming, Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America, is the face of wilful, culpable ignorance?




What do you think?
What do you think of Trump's anti-science attitude?

What do you think of his climate change denialism?

What can be done to stop this behaviour?

Let us know in comments below

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The report card


Former minister and Liberal Party director Andrew Robb recently completed an investigation into the poor performance of the Liberal Party in the 2016 federal election. Yes, they won by a whisker, but losing 14 seats is a drubbing. Former PM Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, writing for the Daily Telegraph has her theory
On two separate occasions over the past 10 years, Malcolm Turnbull has plotted to seize the Liberal Party leadership from the incumbent. On both occasions, the polls hit high highs, and then low lows. On both occasions, the base deserted Turnbull and on both occasions, the considered judgment was he had a plan to take the leadership but he had no plan to run the party, or the country.
Robb was probably a little less biased, claiming according to Fairfax media
The review argues the party needs to "recognise and respond to the fact that the next campaign effectively begins the day after polling day" and establish a structured research operation that provides politicians with a "continuous understanding of community sentiment" towards policy.

It argues Liberals must "while governing for all, at all times respect, and be seen to be respecting our base".

This underlines the party's need to focus on the mainstream - necessary to win elections - while also pleasing core conservative supporters who demand action on deeply held but potentially divisive policy positions, such as free speech and tax cuts.
Both Credlin and Robb are pushing the same argument. A political party must appear to have a plan to be successful. The plan must be continually honed to be attractive to the particular requirements of the ‘rusted-on’ supporters as well as society in general. The alternative is the proverbial baseball bats on the verandah at the next election, to which a number of ALP politicians as well as Newman, Barnett, and Turnbull can personally attest. It is a lesson that is forgotten more often than remembered – apparently. Opinion polls would suggest that Turnbull hasn’t learnt the lesson.

One of Turnbull’s actions in the last session of Parliament was to steer tax cuts for business through the House of Representatives and the Senate, unfortunately at the same time the Centrelink ‘robo-debt’ farce continued. Regardless of the claimed benefit to the community of tax cuts for business or recouping overpayments from Centrelink recipients, to be apparently giving business a reduction in tax while actively and aggressively pursuing those on lower incomes [possible paywall] for what are frequently non-existent or grossly inflated debts is certainly not a good look. As Mungo Maccullum observed in The Monthly [possible paywall]
With Turnbull having negotiated the reductions for small to medium firms through the Senate, it was thought that he would take his winnings and retire – that the cuts for the big end of town would be quietly removed from the table. But not a bit of it: Turnbull will plough ahead, pushing the doors marked pull and ignoring the lessons – not just from the last election, but from all the polling since.
The price of housing (predominately in Sydney and Melbourne) is a ‘hot button’ issue at the moment. Domain.com.au breathlessly (they would do that, they are a real estate sales site) reported in mid - 2015 that the median Sydney house price was in excess of $1million, with their economist, Dr Andrew West attributing
the huge growth to the high level of investor activity, with the $6.4 billion in loans approved over May – a record. “Sixty-two per cent of the housing market loan share is now investors – another record – and an increase of 27 per cent over the first five months of this year compared with the first five months of last year.
Last February, consumer rights group Choice co-authored a study that found
thousands of tenants are being discriminated against and live in a climate of fear.

The research, undertaken by CHOICE, the National Association of Tenants' Organisations and National Shelter, found that 83% of renters in Australia have no fixed-term lease or are on a lease less than 12 months long, and 62% feel they're not in a position to ask for longer term rental security.

Half the tenants who took part in the study said they've been discriminated against, and an equal percentage said they were worried about being blacklisted on a 'bad tenant' database.
During April, Choice looked at the economics of renting again and looked at Treasurer Morrison’s recent speech to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and quoted Morrison as suggesting
housing prices in Sydney and Melbourne are causing people on higher incomes to remain in the rental market longer, causing a "concertina effect" that's impacting those on lower incomes.

"Over half of renters say they rent because they can't afford to buy their own property," says Morrison. "Because of this, they are staying in the rental market for longer – a dynamic that puts upward pressure on rental prices and availability, and even more pressure on lower-income households, increasing the need for affordable housing."
Rather than tackle the potentially difficult discussion around negative gearing, Morrison suggests that the way to reduce rental demand (and prices) is to increase the amount of rental properties available. While supply and demand does play a part, as Choice points out
The focus of property investment in Australia is capital gain, rather than yield – meaning investors make more money from selling a property that has increased in value than they get from rental income. As a result, there is little incentive for investors – particularly "mum and dad" investors – to hold onto investments for longer.
Greg Jericho, reporting on the same speech reported
The treasurer emphatically ruled out any changes to negative gearing to temper investor lending on Monday.

His speech contained a continuation of the regular theme of specious reasons in favour of negative gearing that we have come to expect.
Jericho goes on to quote Morrison arguing against his own policy
you’ve got one set of circumstances over in Perth and to that matter in South Australia and Tasmania. I mean negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions exist there as well and property prices in Perth are going the other way or have been in the eastern states you’ve got a very different response
To demonstrate his point, Jericho argues
And yet Morrison – as did his predecessor Joe Hockey – also likes to suggests abolishing negative gearing will cause rents to rise because when it was briefly abolished in the 1980s, rental prices rose in Sydney and Perth, despite the fact they were flat elsewhere:

Thus for Morrison different house prices growth in different cities suggests negative gearing is not an issue, but different rental prices growth suggests it is.

Similarly Morrison continued to argue that negative gearing is mostly used by average income earners. He argued that “two thirds of those taxpayers who negatively gear their investments have a taxable income of $80,000 or less”.

That might be true, but of course it ignores that most of the benefit of negative gearing goes to higher income earners:

And crucially his argument ignores the fact that people use negative to gearing in order to reduce their taxable income below $80,000.
You may remember Abbott’s claim before the 2013 federal election that the ALP’s National Broadband Network plan was unnecessary and unaffordable. Abbott won the 2013 election and appointed Turnbull the Communications Minister to ‘demolish the NBN’. Paddy Manning has written a long and detailed article on the policy and practice behind the NBN as rolled out by firstly the ALP and then the Coalition Government (with Turnbull in charge for a considerable period of the time) and it is less than complimentary. There have been a number of opportunities where an intelligent politician would have changed course and delivered a better solution for all Australians – Turnbull didn’t.

Turnbull’s recent headline ‘successes’ include losing 14 seats in Parliament at the only election he has faced as Prime Minister, legislating corporate tax cuts while falsely accusing thousands of those who have relied on Centrelink of theft and perpetuating obsolete technology for political reasons. In addition, he still has hundreds if not thousands of human refugees suffering in Detention Camps. Robb’s review suggested that the next campaign needed to commence the day after election and while the Liberals’ conservative base needs to feel considered, there needs to be a ‘continuous understanding of community sentiment’.

Opinion polls, general sentiment and media coverage would suggest that Turnbull clearly doesn’t understand community sentiment. Additionally, his report card (marked by Liberal Party elder Andrew Robb) is a fail for the lead up to the 2016 election. Can Turnbull learn the lesson before the next election or another night of the long knives?

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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How are the ‘adults’ managing our economy?



Who will ever forget the insults, the slurs, and the slander that the Coalition heaped upon Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan as they managed the economy through the Global Financial Crisis and beyond? They were depicted as children playing games in their political sandpit with no idea of what they were doing, making one catastrophic mistake after another.

Remember how the Coalition boasted that the children should get out of the way and let the adults take over, insisting as they did that they were the experts at economic management. So convincing was the rhetoric that the electorate believed them and has consistently rated them as superior to Labor in economic management in opinion polls.

Recall the ‘debt and deficit disaster’, a mantra with which they assailed Labor for years. Remember the ‘intergenerational debt’ they accused Labor of accumulating.



Since their election in 2013 they have had their chance to show their much-vaunted expertise under the skilled management of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, and then Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, with Mathias Cormann a consistent shadowy presence. How have they done?

I am indebted to one of our most astute political commentators, Bernard Keane, Crikey politics editor, for the best analysis I have read of the Coalition’s economic performance over the last four years. You can read it in its entirety in his article in the April 3 edition of Crikey: How the deficit was blown: The Coalition’s $100 billion bill.

I have drawn heavily on Keane’s analysis and have quoted from it substantially. Here is an abbreviated version of it. Sit down before you read it, and have a tranquillizer handy.

Keane begins:
”Since its election in 2013, the Coalition has given away $46 billion in political decisions, and signed the Commonwealth up to $50-60 billion in long-term spending that will hammer the federal budget for decades to come. (My emphasis.)

“The 2013 Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook, produced independently by Treasury and Finance, forecast a return to surplus this financial year and net debt peaking last year at $219 billion.

“The Coalition’s first budget forecast a return to surplus in 2018-19 and net debt peaking at $264 billion.

In MYEFO at the end of 2016, the budget was forecast to be still $10 billion in deficit in 2019-20, when net debt would be $364 billion.
Can you believe that after their promise to return the budget to surplus this year, and their assurance that net debt would be confined to $219 billion last year, the ‘adults’ subsequently told us that the budget would not return to surplus until 2018/19, and later that in 2019/20 we would still have a $10 billion deficit and that net debt would balloon to $364 billion, twice as high as Labor’s deficit ever was! No wonder the ratings agencies are breathing down their necks! And they still claim that the situation would have been much worse had Labor still been in government!

While Keane acknowledges that much of the spectacular deterioration of the budget under the Coalition is due to revenue write-downs, he asserts that “the government has worsened its own position through a series of political and ideological decisions that give the lie to its claims to be the victim of an irresponsible Senate”. He details the substance of those decisions as follows:
  • an $8.8 billion gift to the Reserve Bank to make the 2013-14 budget deficit look worse, and earn future dividends for the government.
  • Repeal of the carbon price cost the Commonwealth around $12.5 billion in lost revenue over the forward estimates and at least $1.8 billion per annum beyond that (based on a conservative estimate by the Climate Institute, lower than the government’s own estimate)
  • The government’s company tax cuts agreed last week will cost $5.2 billion over the forward estimates.
  • Repeal of the mining tax – despite the government’s claims that it raised no money – cost it $3.5 billion over the forward estimates, according to budget papers.
  • The reversal of Labor’s changes to Fringe Benefits Tax reporting requirements to end the rorting of novated leases cost, by its own admission, $1.8 billion over the forward estimates.
  • Income tax cuts for middle- and high-income earners cost $3.8 billion.
  • The ineffective Emissions Reduction Fund so far is costing $2.55 billion, although the government has decided no further funding will be wasted on it.
  • A Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, established with no effective oversight, assessment or evaluation mechanisms and flagged as a funding source for unviable coal mining projects, will cost $5 billion.
  • A National Water Infrastructure Development Fund established as a funding source for Barnaby Joyce’s obsession with building more dams, is costing $0.5 billion.
  • A scheme to prop up dairy farmers threatening to desert the National Party, via the discredited means of concessional loans, is costing $0.55 billion.
  • Australia’s continuing participation in Middle East military ventures has so far cost $0.72 billion since Tony Abbott sent Australian forces back to Iraq in the name of fighting the “existential threat” of ISIS.
  • The government is spending $0.24 billion on a school chaplains program, although further funding has been halted for now.
  • Nick Xenophon extracted an additional $0.37 billion worth of conditions as price for his support for company tax cuts last week.
Keane lists several significant costs beyond the forward estimates from a number of other government measures:
  • The disastrous F-35 joint strike fighter program will cost taxpayers at least $17 billion over the period to 2023. There are new problems with the aircraft that are not being addressed or are worsening, and with no guarantees the cost will not escalate further.
  • The government’s decision to reverse the Abbott government’s approach and construct the new generation of Royal Australian Navy submarines in Australia is expected to add up to 30% to the $50 billion cost of the program in order to provide less than 3000 jobs in South Australia.
  • The company tax cuts agreed last week will cost $25 billion over ten years, although the government remains hopeful it can increase that cost to $50 billion! although there remains no evidence from anywhere in the world of any economic benefit from company tax cuts. (My emphasis)
  • The continuing fiscal impact of some of the above measures beyond the forward estimates will cost the budget, on a conservative estimate, $6 billion per annum (unindexed)
  • .
Although some of the decisions were backed by Labor such as the submarines decision, which will cost the taxpayers many billions of dollars, the F-35 purchase, and the income tax cuts, “these decisions are in defiance of evidence, represent the triumph of ideology over reason, and in many cases were rankly political." (My emphasis)

Worse, some of them are likely to generate new waves of spending: the removal of an effective, cheap carbon price in 2014 created an energy policy vacuum that led directly to the current energy crisis and proposals from the government to spend billions of dollars re-entering the power generation industry.

Our military involvement in the Middle East looks set to increase, not decrease, in coming years.

The cost of poor decision-making will be borne by taxpayers for years, even decades, to come.” (My emphasis)
It would be hard to imagine a more condemnatory account of the Coalition’s ‘adult’ management of the nation’s economy in the four years since 2013. Its predictions have all been wrong. The ‘adults’ have steadily worsened the nation’s fiscal situation. The 2019-20 budget is projected to still be $10 billion in deficit, the promised surplus is nowhere in sight, and the nation’s net debt is projected to be $364 billion, twice as high as it ever was under Labor!

In an update in Crikey Weekender: Seven new terrible economic records ScoMo set in March - Scott Morrison has some new records to add to his quest to be known as Australia's worst treasurer reads: "The Office of Financial Management released figures last week showing gross borrowings at $484.6 billion. Of this, $58 billion is residue from the Howard government or its predecessors. Labor increased it by $212 billion. Another $214.6 billion has been added since the 2013 election. Hence the Coalition has now more than doubled Labor’s gross debt, in three years and six months. It doubled Labor’s net debt in January."



The unavoidable conclusion is that this ‘adult’ government is economically incompetent, driven by its conservative rump, quite unable to see its way through the nation’s economic difficulties, incapable of analyzing the economic situation, inept at deriving solutions, bereft of planning ability, and hog-tied by ideological constraints. Moreover, it is so unutterably arrogant that it cannot see its ineptitude. And even if it could, would it be capable of doing anything about it?

As a substitute for informed opinions, all we get is self aggrandizement and platitudes from Turnbull, and a torrent of meaningless drivel from the Coalition's two motor-mouthed financial Daleks: Morrison and Cormann.

How has it come to this with the adults in charge?


What do you think?
What is your assessment of Scott Morrison as Treasurer?

Should he be replaced?

If he needs to be replaced because of incompetence, who should replace him?

Let us know in comments below.

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The winds of change


Question – what do Mark Latham, YouTube, Nicola Sturgeon, Theresa May and Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act have in common? The question could be answered by suggesting the winds of change are in the air.

Former ALP leader Mark Latham was sacked by SkyNews recently over a number of issues including attacking the 15 year old daughter of the Reserve Bank Governor as, in Latham’s view, she had no idea of how the disadvantaged live. It’s not the first time Latham’s employment with a media organisation has been terminated. In August 2015 the Australian Financial Review accepted the resignation of Latham after it was determined that he was the person behind the apparently fake ‘real Mark Latham’ Twitter account that targeted Rosie Batty, and journalists Anne Summers, Leigh Sales, Lisa Pryor, Mia Freedman and Annabel Crabb, among others.

In fact, a week or so before he was shown the door by SkyNews, former NSW premier Kristina Kenneally complained to SkyNews about comments Latham made on air that she considered to be defamatory. Kenneally is also employed by SkyNews. He also made a ‘foul-mouthed tirade’ at the 2015 Melbourne Writers Festival. For those who can’t remember his attitude, and potentially why he lost the 2004 federal election as ALP leader – here is the clip.

General Motors Holden and Kia Motors recently announced that they were pulling their advertising from YouTube which, like Google, is owned by Alphabet. The justification for the change of heart is that the two companies found that their products were being promoted alongside an offensive video that directed misogynistic insults at journalist and businesswoman Ita Buttrose. In addition
The UK Government, The Guardian and France's Havas SA, the world's sixth-largest advertising and marketing company, pulled its UK clients' ads from Google and YouTube [during March] after failing to get assurances from Google that the ads wouldn't appear next to offensive material. Those clients include wireless carrier O2, Royal Mail Plc, government-owned British Broadcasting Corp., Domino's Pizza and Hyundai Kia, Havas said in a statement.
Others, including Bunnings, Foxtel, Caltex, Vodafone and Nestle have also suspended using YouTube as an advertising channel over similar concerns. The Australian government pulled its advertising at the end of March as well.

On 28 March 2017, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon and Britain’s prime minister Theresa May had a meeting. Now, given that the UK has finally delivered the letter invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Convention (the mechanism to start the Brexit process) and there is some belief that Scotland would prefer to stay in the EU, there was a genuine news story to discuss. What did the UK Daily Mail focus on (pun intended)? Not the process of the meeting, not the outcomes of the meeting but the legs of the respective leaders. Following the outcry from other sections of the media,
A spokesperson for the Daily Mail urged its critics to "get a life" and questioned if the "po-faced BBC" and "left-wing commentariat" had lost its sense of humour.
The ‘great Section 18C debate’ in Australia came to a (possibly) final ending at the end of March after around three years of people trying to justify their positions on allowing racism and misogyny. The Senate in a late-night vote, chose not to insert ‘harass’ in the section to replace the words ‘insult’, ‘offend’ or ‘humiliate’. One of the organisations driving for the change to Section 18C was The Australian newspaper. According to The Saturday Paper,
After more than three years, a change in prime ministers, campaigning by conservative media outlets and countless Q&A debates, changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act were voted down in the Senate last night. In a triumph of the English language, The Australian is calling [paywalled] the defeat a “limited victory”.

Throughout the Senate session, which ran late into the night, the focus was on Attorney-General George Brandis. While arguing for the 18C reforms during seven hours of debate, Brandis said the spirit of “the late, great Bill Leak” was presiding over the chamber. Brandis himself provided the Senate with his reaction to being called “a white man” on several occasions by fellow Senators.
In one of the more factual articles about Section 18C, the ABC published a listing of complaints under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act that have made it to Court. On the face of it, the law seems to work (link contains offensive language). Latham has make a career out of being (in the words of my Grandmother) ‘a nasty piece of work’. In the words of Annabel Crabb
Characteristically, the great man incorporated a generous measure of unintended comedy. He accused – for instance – the ABC broadcaster Wendy Harmer of being a "commercial failure". This is pretty good coming from a guy who has been sacked, dumped, or awkwardly non-renewed by countless commercial media executives and is one of the handful of living Australians who has been submitted to the most exacting ratings survey available in this country – a federal election. On which occasion, in Mr Latham's case, the nation opted firmly for John Howard repeats.

(There comes a time in every man's life when he realises that he is not a commercial hit. I would imagine that the hosting of a TV chat show which is out-rated five-fold by ABC2 Bananas in Pyjamas repeats might edge a fellow close to such an epiphany, but each to his own I suppose.)
In a similar way, those who believe that ‘free speech’ gives you the right to publish ‘hate’ such as attacks on Ita Buttrose et al have a right to their beliefs. However, common decency should lead YouTube and similar organisations to determine that ‘hate’ is not acceptable and refuse to be the medium for the publication of those views. Again, in the words of Annabel Crabb, Hate plus hate equals hate. Fortunately, organisations like the UK and Australian governments, Caltex, Holden, Vodafone, Nestle, and The Guardian seem to have determined that hate is not acceptable. While it is a win for community values and common decency (remember: do unto others as you wish them do to you), it’s a shame when the adherence to community values is considered to be newsworthy.

The emphasis from the Daily Mail on Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May’s legs, rather than the matters they were discussing, take us back to the days where a show depicting a lecherous older man running around after young women was considered to be good ‘prime-time’ television. While there were others – most will remember the Benny Hill Show as a good example. The Daily Mail’s excuse for that behaviour – it was just a joke – is also of the same era and was correctly called out by a number of commentators. The Mail calling the commentators ‘left wing’ could be seen to be a demonstration of conservative views of common decency.

The saga of Section 18C also demonstrates the point of conservative values. Let’s use the example of Bill Leak. His employer, The Australian, seemed to be one of the driving forces for the failed attempt to water down the legislation. Leak drew a cartoon depicting a generalisation that is a racist slur against a group of Australian citizens. Members of the group that were slurred correctly protested at the implication. Leak and his employer then claimed that his comments were free speech. However, the comments by others suggesting that Leak unfairly offended them is unacceptable. Hardly fair and reasonable, is it? While Leak may have been trying to make a point that he or his employer considered to be valid; there are a number of ways to make the argument without intentionally or unintentionally insulting an entire group of Australians.

It’s the same with Brandis in the Senate. While Brandis may pine for a return to the ‘good ole days’ when Benny Hill was considered to be good entertainment on the black and white tellie, the reality is that he is a powerful white man and can humiliate and offend anyone he wants to in the Australian Senate. As Bernard Keane suggests in Crikey
Commercial free-to-air TV broadcasters, who like to invoke free speech whenever regulation of advertising is proposed, have admitted they refuse to air ads they think might alienate powerful advertisers. And News Corp’s interest in free speech only extends to its own and that of those it perceives as allies, no one else. The editor of that doughty defender of free speech The Australian, Chris Mitchell, threatened journalist Julie Posetti with legal action over her coverage of the remarks of a former employee of his. The Australian used Victorian courts to prevent the release of an Office of Police Integrity report highly critical of the newspaper over its pointless “scoop” about anti-terror raids in 2009. That newspaper outed a pseudonymous progressive blogger, and tried to damage his public service career. Andrew Bolt — suddenly thin-skinned about racism — demanded an apology from the ABC over remarks by academic Marcia Langton.
While it looks as though you have to be a media conglomerate to influence the law of the land, really you don’t. In a classic case of the ‘look over there’ defence, those who are complaining that they too have the right to free speech are invariably those who feel that they have the right to offend, humiliate and insult others at will. As the YouTube boycotts and Bernard Keane point out, the same groups of people will self-censor on purely economic grounds, so why won’t they self-censor on moral and ethical grounds? Is it because the typically powerful white people that run these organisations believe they are somehow superior to others?

The first TPS post this year suggested that we should be the change we want to see. The premise of that article was don’t sit there and take the status quo you don’t believe is fair, but to actively work to change it. Demonstrably, people like you and I do have a voice and engaging with the organisation that knowingly or unknowingly supports the bully by ‘supporting’ the xenophobic YouTube clip or boorish talking heads such as Latham clearly does have an effect. Social media can amplify small voices beyond a local community.

The reactions from the general public to Latham’s boorish (or worse) remarks, YouTube’s lack of self-censorship, the Daily Mail’s coverage of Sturgeon and May’s legs and the conservative campaign to water down protections of the Racial Discrimination Act show that consumers can influence government and the largest companies on moral and ethical issues. The winds of change in the morals and ethics of large companies are starting to appear driven by people’s stated opinions. Long may it continue.

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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Fake outrage


You may have noticed some of our more conservative politicians reacting to the recent terrorist attacks in London and Europe by calling for bans on the Islamic religion or the expelling of all those who have similar beliefs. Apart from the lack of logic that is implied by suggesting that somehow ‘the authorities’ have some way of reading or controlling people’s minds, how do you differentiate between the person with the ‘suspicious’ name who has been resident in a country for two years and the person with the ‘suspicious’ name who has generations of ‘local’ heritage.

The shrill argument goes along the lines that people who have been radicalised by Islamic preachers will cause a catastrophe in Australia. While they might be right, statistically they are more likely to be completely wrong. To claim that terrorism being justified (falsely) by religion is a new or ‘Islamic’ thing is also completely wrong. It is also hypocritical for those like Hanson to suggest that this is a new problem, as she was alive and well when Christians were the terrorists.

As recently as 1996, the Irish Republican Army was using terrorism as a means of forcing the UK to relinquish control of Northern Ireland and cede it to the Irish Republic. The original split that formed the Irish Republic occurred in the 1920s and the Irish Government has traditionally been dominated by those of the Catholic branch of the Christian faith tradition. The area the UK retained, known as Northern Ireland, was populated predominately by non-Catholic members of the Christian religion. The ‘modern day’ Irish Republican Army is not to be confused with
an earlier IRA organisation that evolved out of the struggle for independence. The first IRA was founded as the military of the “Irish Republic,” a state proclaimed in 1916 by the leaders of the Easter Rising, which Sinn Fein, a nationalist party, claimed allegiance to. When Sinn Fein won a majority of Irish seats in the 1918 British elections, they refused to sit in Westminster and instead formed an Irish Assembly and de facto government. Shortly thereafter fighting broke out and the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921) began. It ended with the Anglo-Irish Agreement and formation of the Irish Free State, but a large minority within the IRA couldn’t accept the compromise peace.
Rather than publish a history of Irish independence since 1921, we’ll move forward to the 1970s where
Northern Ireland was wracked by sectarian violence, instigated by extremist Protestant elements. Catholic neighbourhoods were under siege and IRA volunteers in the North wanted to take action and use the destabilisation as a pretext to launch a new campaign against British rule.

However, the leadership, which was based in Dublin, had adopted a Marxist position and wished to move beyond sectarianism and ethno-nationalism to a more class conflict oriented position (they supported a united Ireland too of course, but to them it was less important than “the Revolution”). Finally, for the northern members the armchair Marxism of their Dublin-based leaders became too much and the group split (into the Provisional IRA and Official IRA). As the Provisional IRA was based in Northern Ireland it got most of the organisation’s guns and members, while the Official IRA struggled for relevance afterwards.

The atheistic communism of the Official IRA leadership didn’t rub many practicing Catholics in the North the right way either, even though the Provisional IRA itself had a left-wing, socialist ideology. The Provisional IRA went onto launch an urban guerrilla/terrorist insurgency against the British state and fell into a pattern of tit-for-tat sectarian murders with the loyalist paramilitaries, while the Official IRA tried their hand at terrorism for a few years, feuded with the Provos a lot, and gave up insurrection by the late 70s.

The period of Provisional IRA and loyalist violence is known as “the Troubles,” 1969–1998 and saw thousands die.
The point here is that the 1970s and later version of the IRA pitted different groups of the Christian faith against each other claiming it to be a religious issue, but the real aim was significantly different.

In July 2016, we looked at religious difference on The Political Sword with an article entitled Johno goes to heaven. In the article, there is a link to an opinion piece in The Guardian written by Nick Earls. Earls notes that
I was passing through airport security somewhere in North America in October 2001 when I realised it: I was no longer the face of terrorism, and might never be selected for one of those comprehensive “special clearance procedures” again.

Until then, that’s what a passport with a Northern Irish birthplace had got me – it happened often enough anywhere in the world, and was almost inevitable at airports in the UK. I’d be taken away to a side room, physically searched, swabbed for explosives and asked to unpack my suitcase entirely. Sometimes I even had to unball my balled-up socks. I’d adjusted to it being the price of travel for someone with a birthplace like mine.
After the September 11 (2001) attacks on the World Trade Centre, there was obviously a quick re-assessment of ‘potential risk’ to the USA, continuing to President Trump’s current crusade to victimise citizens of a number of middle eastern countries. Trump has signed two Presidential Orders to ban people from certain middle eastern countries entering the USA. Last January, after the first ban was overturned, the New York Times reported,
But the order is illegal. More than 50 years ago, Congress outlawed such discrimination against immigrants based on national origin.

That decision came after a long and shameful history in this country of barring immigrants based on where they came from. Starting in the late 19th century, laws excluded all Chinese, almost all Japanese, then all Asians in the so-called Asiatic Barred Zone. Finally, in 1924, Congress created a comprehensive “national-origins system,” skewing immigration quotas to benefit Western Europeans and to exclude most Eastern Europeans, almost all Asians, and Africans.

Mr. Trump appears to want to reinstate a new type of Asiatic Barred Zone by executive order, but there is just one problem: The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 banned all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin, replacing the old prejudicial system and giving each country an equal shot at the quotas. In signing the new law, President Lyndon B. Johnson said that “the harsh injustice” of the national-origins quota system had been “abolished.”
It’s ironic that the Democratic Party US President that led his and our nation into the Vietnam War had a better sense of justice than a Republican Party President in 2017. The second Order was also overruled.

Trump and other popularist politician’s xenophobic cries to somehow ban Muslims also has a precedent in medieval history. Commencing in 1095, armies of Christians went to the middle east (then known as the Holy Land) to reclaim Jerusalem at the ‘request’ of the Pope. While the first crusade was claimed to be a success when Jerusalem was reclaimed in 1099, there were a series of crusades up until the end of the 13th Century. Really it was a land grab and one could suggest similar tensions are still in play today between Israel and Palestine.

In response to the recent ‘terrorist’ attack on the UK Houses of Parliament, those who clearly have no hesitation in attempting to push a political point regardless of the facts, claimed that Australia needed to manage what they believe is the almost certain potential for an Islamic attack on our shores. Pauline Hanson went one further, advising we should vaccinate against Islam. You would think that Hanson would have learnt her lesson about talking about vaccination – earlier in March she was claiming that parents should ensure their children have the test to see if they will ‘catch autism’ if subjected to the routine childhood vaccinations. There is no ‘test’, and no evidence to suggest that autism is a possible side effect from routine vaccinations.

The Daily Mail reported soon after the Westminster attack that
The British-born jihadi who killed four and injured 29 in Westminster was last night revealed to be a middle-aged criminal career who MI5 had investigated in the past and had a previous conviction for stabbing a man in the nose.

English teacher Khalid Masood, 52, a 'lone wolf' attacker, who was living in the Birmingham area, had a series of convictions for assault and other crimes.

Scotland Yard revealed how Masood was known by a number of aliases and MailOnline can reveal he was born Adrian Elms to a single mother in Kent before his religious conversion. Masood has used the names Khalid Choudry and Adrian Ajao among others.

He grew up in a £300,000 house in the seaside town of Rye, East Sussex and had a long criminal history.

His first conviction was for criminal damage in November 1983, when he was just 19.

His last was for an attack in 2003, where he stabbed a 22-year-old man in the face, leaving him slumped in the driveway of a nursing home in Eastbourne. The victim was left needing cosmetic surgery after the vicious attack.

Masood is understood to have spent time in Lewes jail in East Sussex, Wayland prison in Norfolk and Ford open prison in West Sussex, The Times reported.

He was sentenced to two years for wounding in 2000 and sent back to jail in 2003 for the attack in Eastbourne.

. . . It also emerged today the attacker was known to MI5 after an investigation many years ago, but was considered 'peripheral'

Masood had never been convicted of terror offences, although Theresa May revealed this morning that he had been on MI5's radar a number of years ago.

Police insist there was no intelligence suggesting he was about to unleash a terror attack.

Masood was a married father-of-three, and a religious convert who was into bodybuilding, according to Sky News.
While the Daily Mail reported that ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack, ISIL have not provided any evidence to support their claim. Without evidence, the claim has as much credence as Malcolm Turnbull claiming to have solved the budget ‘crisis’.

The reality is that the majority of followers of the Muslim, Christian or any other religion do not subscribe to or wish to be a part of the actions of radicals who are using the name of the religion to further their own purely secular aims. To suggest that Australia should somehow ban Muslims (from what exactly) is as crazy an idea as suggesting that all Catholics alive in the 1970s and 1980s supported the actions and ideals of the IRA, or Halal labelling of Australian food is a plot to ‘convert’ everyone who eats it to Islam rather than a marketing tool to increase sales in Asia and the middle east.

The majority of people, regardless of their skin colour, religion (or lack thereof), or any other characteristic just want to live in peace with those around them. Perhaps we should feel sorry for Hanson’s supporters; not because they actually believe the pronouncements of their leader; but because they have a real problem either way, according to a recent headline in The Shovel on-line (satirical) newspaper - Tough Choice For One Nation Supporters, After Muslim Vaccination Linked To Autism

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