Dutton for PM – no thanks


If the conservative ideologues get their way, Peter Dutton could be Prime Minister within a few months. If Dutton became Prime Minister, he would be the eighth person to be Prime Minister with double letters in his last name. For the record, if you get asked the question at a trivia night, the others are (in order) Cook, Scullin, Fadden, Rudd, Gillard, Abbott and Turnbull. The history of the last four is well known and in all cases their terms as Prime Minister are remembered more for the politics of gaining or losing power, associated with poor opinion polls, party infighting and a general sense of unease within the community, than their achievments.

So, were the first three any better? Apparently not.

According to the National Museum Australia website, Cook
. . . became Prime Minister following the general election on 31 May 1913. He led the Liberal Party to victory with a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives but he failed to win control of the Senate. He took up office as Prime Minister on 24 June 1913, and also served as Minister for Home Affairs from this date.

On 8 June 1914 Cook sought and obtained a double dissolution of parliament from Governor-General RC Munro-Ferguson, after the Senate had twice refused to pass the Government Preference Prohibition Bill. Before the election was held (on 5 August 1914), the UK declared war and over the next five years the First World War and its aftermath were the all-consuming political issues in Australian politics. The general election held on 5 September 1914 resulted in a strong win for Labor, which gained control of both Houses of federal parliament. Cook’s term as Prime Minister ended formally on 17 September when Andrew Fisher took office.
Post the 1914 election, Cook supported the government of the day’s war policies and his Liberal Party was merged with Prime Minister Hughes’ National Labor group to become the Nationalist Party after the Conscription Referendum in 1916. He was the Australian High Commissioner to the UK from 1921 until 1927, then he retired. Cook died in 1947.

Scullin to some extent was a victim of circumstances as well as poor political judgement. He became ALP leader in 1928, and won an additional eight seats at the election held in November of that year, despite disunity and a long running and violent waterside workers strike. In October 1929, Scullin led the ALP to victory in a general election caused by the fall of the Bruce-Page Government. Unfortunately, the US stock market crash happened a few weeks later; causing the ‘great depression’. Scullin, who didn’t have a majority in the Senate, was also the External Affairs and Industry Minister.
When his Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister, EG Theodore, stood down in July 1930 after being implicated for defrauding the government in the Mungana mines affair, Scullin also took on the role of Treasurer. During a seven-month period in this role, Scullin presented his government’s first budget to parliament on 9 July 1930. Scullin’s budget planned for increased expenditure to be met through increased income tax and postal charges and the introduction of a sales tax.

As a result of the government’s difficulty in meeting interest payments on overseas debts, Scullin agreed to invite to Australia a Bank of England delegation led by Sir Otto Niemeyer. Niemeyer formed a poor impression of Scullin’s grasp of economic issues. Scullin, however, was well read in conventional economics and had been horrified by the state of the economy he had taken over - with its high level of debt, falling export commodity prices and rising unemployment.

The Bank of England delegation met with Scullin and state premiers at a special premiers’ conference in Melbourne during August 1930. On Niemeyer’s advice, the conference agreed to a heavily deflationary package of measures (known as the Melbourne Agreement) for tackling the Depression. This involved balancing budgets, ceasing overseas borrowing until all external debts were paid, confining internal borrowing to income producing schemes, reducing government expenditure (including spending on social services) and cutting wages.
Scullin left Australia soon afterwards for four and a half months to attend an ‘Imperial Conference’ with the heads of government of other dominions of the British Empire. While he was away
. . . the ALP caucus was deeply divided over the implementation of the Melbourne Agreement. The Acting Prime Minister, JE Fenton, and Acting Treasurer, JA Lyons, supported by the absent Scullin, adhered to the Agreement. Opposing them were ‘inflationists’ (the group supporting Theodore’s views) and ‘Langites’ (the group supporting the New South Wales Premier’s position).
A ‘soap opera’ of events happened when Scullin returned to Australia, including the reappointment of Theodore to the Treasury, causing some to leave the ALP and align themselves with the Opposition members of Parliament. In addition, the head of the Commonwealth Bank refused the Government’s request for funding until Scullin cut pensions, leading to a second Premiers Conference in 1931 where an agreement was hammered out and subsequently passed in Parliament (albeit with 50% of Scullin’s ALP voting against it). This led to the eventual demise of Scullin’s Government late in 1931 with Scullin rejecting calls for an inquiry into allegations of corrupt distribution of unemployment relief by Theodore, causing the ‘Langite’ Labor members siding with the Opposition to pass a no confidence motion in the Government.

Scullin resigned the ALP leadership in 1935, to be replaced by John Curtin. He acted as a mentor for both Curtin and Chifley during their Prime Ministerships and retired from Parliament in the 1949 election. He died in January 1953 and the funeral service was conducted by Archbishop Daniel Mannix.

Fadden is the only member of the Country (now National) Party who was appointed Prime Minister in a permanent rather than acting capacity. Having said that, it didn’t last too long. His term was 29 August until 7 October 1941. A year earlier, Fadden was a compromise choice as Country Party leader, being appointed as ‘Acting Leader’ in October 1940. He was confirmed in the Leadership role in March 1941 and retained the role for 17 years.
Fadden served as Minister Assisting the Treasurer and Minister for Supply and Development in the Robert Gordon Menzies United Australia Party-Country Party coalition from March-August 1940, then as Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation from August-October 1940, and finally as Treasurer from October 1940-August 1941. He was a member of the war cabinet and economic cabinet from 1940 to 1941.

In January 1941 Fadden became Deputy Prime Minister for four months while RG Menzies was overseas. After increasing dissension within the UAP-CP coalition, Menzies resigned as Prime Minister on 28 August 1941 in favour of Fadden.

Fadden served as Prime Minister from 29 August until 7 October 1941. By October, he had lost support of two Independents who voted with Labor to defeat his government in the House, thus making way for John Curtin’s Labor government.

Except for the periods in office of three caretaker Prime Ministers (Earle Page, Francis (Frank) Forde and John McEwen), Fadden’s 40 days as Prime Minister was the shortest of any Prime Minister in the twentieth century.
Fadden went on to serve as Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer in the 1949 and subsequent Menzies’ Governments, retiring in 1958. He died in Brisbane in 1973.

They aren’t particularly awe-inspiring, are they? While it could be argued that politics is full of well – politics – it seems that all the Prime Ministers with double letters have come to prominence under atypical circumstances. Rudd, Gillard, Abbott and Turnbull all came to power by manufacturing a party room coup and ensuring they had ‘the numbers’ to succeed. Some of the problems they had in government were due to their concentration on foiling the attempts of others doing to them as they did to their predecessor. Dutton is being touted openly by some conservatives as a potential Prime Minister when Turnbull falls or is pushed onto his sword (whichever happens first), probably to see how much public support there is for the concept. As a result, Turnbull is apparently finding it difficult to distract his colleagues from navel gazing to actually deliver policy and legislation that is wanted by the majority of Australians, such as marriage equality, while being assured of retaining his current position.

Dutton has certainly shown he has the heart of stone necessary to forcibly inflict obscene and unusual punishment on people who have attempted to apply for refugee status in Australia. US President Trump liked how the Australian Government has managed the ‘refugee problem’ so much that he commented during that now infamous phone call
TRUMP: That is a good idea. We should do that too. You are worse than I am.
Turnbull went on to boast the only reason people were under Australian custody on Manus Island and Nauru
TURNBULL: Let me explain. We know exactly who they are. They have been on Nauru or Manus for over three years and the only reason we cannot let them into Australia is because of our commitment to not allow people to come by boat. Otherwise we would have let them in. If they had arrived by airplane and with a tourist visa then they would be here.

TRUMP: Malcolm, but they are arrived on a boat?

TURNBULL: Correct, we have stopped the boats.
Turnbull is too busy checking his back for knives from the conservatives in his party and media to run an effective and equitable government. If Dutton comes to be the LNP Leader by the same path as Rudd, Gillard, Abbott and Turnbull – will he be too busy checking his back for knives from the progressives in his party?

Regardless of the political party the Prime Minister comes from, they are supposed to govern for all Australians. In the 21st Century, we expect our politicians to act honestly and demonstrate equality for all. Neither Abbott or Turnbull have appeared to understand the concept of equality in recent history. Various surveys, including the one referred to in this Sydney Morning Herald report show
The divide between rich and poor is growing in Australia, according to a new national survey which found more than a quarter of households have experienced a drop in income.
We have also touched on marriage equality. Let’s just add that Howard (the Prime Minister who inserted the ‘man and woman’ clause in the Marriage Act) didn’t need a plebiscite, secret vote or any other delaying tactic to do so – so why can’t Turnbull remove it the same way? Probably because the conservatives, including Dutton, will mutiny if he does.

We keep people in inhumane conditions across the Pacific because they tried to get here by boat and claim refugee status (which is legal according to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 – signed by PM Menzies) rather than arrive by plane and overstay their tourist or study visa (which is illegal). Dutton is the enforcer of this process.

Dutton got his wish for a postal ballot on the proposed changes to the Marriage Act (a device that will require the Australian Bureau of Statistics to oversee a ’statistical survey’ that comprises a ‘yes/no’ answer, is not binding on Parliamentarians and costs Australia $122million) and he administers an overseas refugee policy which Turnbull admits to be selective, vindictive and driven solely by politics in his call with President Trump. If either Dutton or Turnbull have ethics and morals, clearly, they are subservient to what they believe to be winning politics.

Clearly, there is no evidence to suggest that Dutton, if he was to become Prime Minister, would be any better than the motley collection of those with double letters that preceded him. To retain the ’top job’, he would have to concentrate on the politics, hatred and spite rather than equity, equality, morals, ethics, compassion or betterment for all Australians. We are better off without him.

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

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It could be said that Senator Pauline Hanson and the other One Nation senators have ridden the coat tails of racism and bigotry to reach the lofty heights of the Red Chamber on Capital Hill in Canberra. Hanson will tell you that she sincerely holds those views and while it demonstrates her ignorance of how discrimination adversely affects the society we all live in, she and her fellow One Nation members are entitled to their opinion.

There are, however, problems when others such as the political parties that can actually achieve government in Australia adopt the dog whistling policies of fringe parties such as Hanson’s for the political expedience of winning an election over the ‘other guys’.

Like a lot of communities around Australia, the one I live in has a Facebook group that has the usual subject matter that you would expect, dining recommendations, local events, complaints about government services, who has spare moving boxes and other equally life changing issues. The group in my area has around 10,000 members and while it claims to represent a post code, there is considerable overlap to surrounding areas. The local politicians are active members and frequently comment on local issues that are discussed – suggesting that the group is seen as representing a reasonable cross section of the region it claims to support.

Recently on the local Facebook group, a mother posted a comment (in sorrow) reporting that her three year old son was playing in a local park and walked over to some other kids about the same age who were playing together. He asked if he could join the game. Apparently the response from the other kids was ‘we don’t play with Asians’.

As you would hopefully expect, most of the comments on the thread are comprised of various community members decrying the absolute racism and discrimination displayed by the group of young kids. They also rightly question where the parents were, why didn’t they step in or apologise to the mother or her child. All valid questions, and the parents of the other kids have been silent (assuming they are members of the Facebook group). However, there is a bigger issue here. Clearly the ‘jump to the right’ by the major political parties to attempt to win at all costs has made some people feel that teaching their pre-school kids to be racist is perfectly ok.

It’s not ok: and here’s why.

Every person in Australia is either an immigrant to this country or is descended from one. It doesn’t matter that your ancestors walked across a land bridge up to 65,000 years ago , floated in on a boat sometime since 1788 or arrived in more recent times in a plane – you are an immigrant.

According to Stanford University’s Tech Museum of Innovation, there are very few differences in people that are due to DNA
So what is the average amount of difference between people of different ethnic groups? Scientists have found that 85% of all human genetic variation exists within human populations while only 15% exists between all the different ethnic groups.

And most of these differences aren't what you'd think they'd be. A few are the obvious traits we've talked about -- hair and eye colour, eye shape, hair texture, etc. And a few we haven't talked about like lactose intolerance.
Therefore, while there is a good chance that there are genetic variations between you and your next door neighbour, it’s pretty certain that the variations are not due to different ethnic origin or religion.

Racism in Australia seems to be a common topic on Quora – a US domiciled blog site that seeks opinion and factual comment on questions posed by others. There is a ‘Racism in Australia’ subject on the site and frankly there is no consensus to form an opinion as there is a lot of personal opinion. However, this article by Jenna Price in The Sydney Morning Herald from June 2016 would suggest that Shannon Murdoch (apparently no relation to the proprietors of News Corp) has certainly experienced racism on a regular basis
Someone will clutch their shoulder bag more tightly. Or lock their door. Pull their kids away. Ignore her. Walk up to her as she browses in a shop and tell her as she examines something that 'you know, you have to pay for that'. Ignore her and make sure she knows she is being ignored.

"I don't understand how you can treat someone as if they are so different to you when it's just skin. At a systematic level, I understand it; at a historic level, I understand it. There are many levels at which I get it. It's not as if I am naïve to the stuff that is behind it. But as person-to-person, I don't know how you walk up to someone and say something so cruel, so demeaning, so dehumanising, that discounts their personhood."
Shannon Murdoch is an Australian citizen, an African American by birth and the holder of a PhD in Education.

But it shouldn’t be like this. While there was not universal approval, Australia generally has welcomed waves of immigration from various parts of the world for most of the 20th century. It probably isn’t a co-incidence that the majority of immigrants through various decades came from countries that Australia has fought wars against in the decade or two preceding the immigration events. As examples, in the 1950’s and 1960’s a large number of southern Europeans came to call Australia home, followed by refugees from the Vietnam War in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Interestingly, there was support for these programs from both major political parties.

It all changed with the federal election campaign in 2001. In the wake of the airliners being flown into the World Trade Centre in New York during September of that year, then Prime Minister John Howard, faced with an imminent loss, exploited the rescue of a number of refugees en route to Australia from a sinking fishing boat by a Norwegian freighter, the Tampa. Not stopping to contemplate the damage he would cause,
John Howard declared: "We simply cannot allow a situation to develop where Australia is seen around the world as a country of easy destination." Norway's Foreign Minister, Thorbjoern Jagland told the United Nations: "Australia's attitude to the refugee incident is unacceptable and inhumane and contravening international law."
The ultimate in the hypocrisy was Howard’s Liberal Party, in this ABCTV Lateline story claiming the Tampa had no influence
LYNTON CROSBY [Liberal Campaign Director]: The most important specific reason cited by voters for voting Liberal was our strength of economic and financial management.

SARAH CLARKE [ABC Reporter]: Lies, says the Opposition and the Democrats.

NATASHA STOT DESPOJA, AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS LEADER (MELBOURNE): For them to argue that it was simply about economic management or indeed any other broader domestic issues is false.

TIM GARTRELL, LABOR ASSISTANT NATIONAL SECRETARY (CANBERRA): This is quite simply not in line with what happened on election day.

This is post-election rewriting to say it was actually about economic management -- it wasn't.

SARAH CLARKE: In the final days before the election, Labor says polling had Kim Beazley narrowing the gap, gaining ground selling domestic issues. That is, until the asylum seeker debate again came to the fore.

TIM GARTRELL: We turned the corner on domestic issues.We were pretty much getting to a situation of neck-and-neck and I think the Liberal Party decided to hit the button -- hit that refugee button -- which is what they did.

And the facts speak for themselves.
Former Prime Ministers Rudd, Gillard and Abbott also campaigned against humane treatment of refugees by increasing the severity of Howard’s punitive measures. ‘Stopping the boats’ (AKA demonising refugees) is one of the claimed successes of the Abbott and Turnbull governments, despite the questionable tactic of not allowing refugees being able to claim asylum in a country of their choice. Ironically, NXT Senator Stirling Griff discovered during Senate Estimates Hearings this year there were approximately 65,000 visa overstayers resident in Australia. Overstaying a visa is actually illegal (unlike seeking asylum)
"Given that almost 20,000 illegal overstayers have been in Australia for more than 15 years, it makes a mockery of the border protection focus on so called boat people and their lack of Australian placement," he said.

"Most of these almost 65,000 would have travelled to Australia by air and the overwhelming majority have settled into Australian life, with little – if any – regard for our laws and responsibilities.

"The department stated that it was a fair estimate that 20,000 were also working illegally. That's at least 20,000 illegal overstayers taking Australian jobs."
It seems to be a direct result of ‘winner at all cost’ politics that victimises a small group of people who have attempted to seek asylum in Australia. Boat people are not illegally seeking entry into this (or any other) country, unlike those who overstay visas. However, the ongoing jihad against those that ‘look different’ or pray to a different God as demonstrated by asylum seekers sailing to Australia in unseaworthy fishing boats by elected and wannabe politicians has repercussions to Australian society now and in the future.

For those that couldn’t give a toss about morals and ethics, such as those politicians using refugees for political gain, there is also an economic cost to racism
Dr Amanuel Elias from the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI) has calculated racial discrimination cost the Australian economy an estimated $44.9 billion, or 3.6 per cent of GDP, each year in the decade from 2001-11.

Dr Elias explained that being able to quantify the cost of racism to Australian society is a crucial step towards addressing racial discrimination.

“Racial discrimination costs society in both a microeconomic sense, such as indirect costs related to the labour market; and a macroeconomic sense, such as intangibles related to negative physical and mental health,” Dr Elias said.
So much for the ‘better economic management’ of the Coalition Governments! The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported the contribution of various industries to the GDP in the 2012 Australian Year Book . The cost of racism in this country exceeded a number of services and took half of the benefit of the mining industry to Australia’s economy. Dr Elias went on to comment:
“In countries like Australia, where subtle interpersonal racism exists along with some forms of institutional discrimination, anti-discrimination interventions require relatively moderate spending.”

According to Dr Elias, the good news is that racial discrimination is a preventable social phenomenon.
The boy in the local playground was born in Australia, as probably were his tormentors. His genetics are similar to yours and mine (as well as those of his tormentors). It is a really strange society that obsesses over refugees who come by fishing boat, claiming they are potentially a risk to the security and well-being of the country and ignoring the elephant in the room presented by the 65,000 visa overstayers who probably received far less scrutiny than asylum seekers when they made their application to visit Australia.

The only good news here is that the local kid’s mum posted her message on Facebook late Saturday morning. By 3pm, an open playdate had been arranged by others to include the tormented boy at a local park, a local business was supplying some ‘party food’, another one provided a decorated cake and a third business provided a gift for the boy and another for his family. Thankfully the majority of my community can see through the blatant racism promoted by the two major political parties. Unfortunately, the actions of the three year old tormentors will continue to be a drain on the morals, ethics and economy of Australia for a considerable period into the future, unless our political leaders start to lead the anti-discrimination conversation.

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

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Rather than writing another article this week about the great Abbott versus Turnbull war on ideology, causing your and my excitement level to maybe rise sharply and rate as ‘slightly interested’, let’s look at some positive events that are occurring right here in Australia.

Even if you have been living under a rock for the past ten years, you have probably heard of Tesla. Elon Musk is the co-founder, CEO and product architect of the company which produces electric vehicles, solar roofs and battery products, and while he might not be the perfect human being, according to his Wikipedia entry, his $15.2 Billion wealth started with a $2,000 seed fund from his father.

In a number of countries around the world (including Australia and New Zealand), you can convert a 6-figure sum into a Tesla vehicle. Apparently, they are quite good albeit expensive. They even have a reasonable range from the battery. When you choose to take your car interstate, Tesla is building a network of ‘superchargers’ which will recharge your shiny new Tesla car in the time it takes to buy a coffee (with an optional smashed avo bruschetta?) as well as a network of chargers at destinations such as motels, tourist attractions and so on that can be used to top up the car while you are otherwise engaged.

While battery or hybrid (battery assisted internal combustion) engine cars are still a novelty in Australia, it isn’t necessarily the case elsewhere in the world. From 2019, all new Volvo’s will have electric assistance or be fully electric. Volkswagen also recently announced that they would be introducing a range of fully electric vehicles in 2020 claiming they had the skills and experience to take on Tesla because of their economies of scale and manufacturing know-how. Nissan, Renault and other companies also offer fully electric vehicles in some countries around the world. Nissan offers the fully electric Leaf in Australia.

The Tesla Model S was the best-selling individual car model in Norway (618 sales) in September 2013 followed by the Nissan Leaf (716 cars) in October 2013, primarily because the Norwegian Government (who wisely invested their mining revenue from oil rather than buying votes as the Howard Australian Government chose to do with the tax receipts from our mining boom) supports free charging stations, eliminates some taxes and vehicle usage charges and has legislated for electric vehicles to be able to use bus lanes. In January 2017, half the new cars registered in Norway were fully electric or hybrid. Certainly, the smaller distances travelled in Norway also helps, but most car trips in Australia are also within the range of most electric vehicles.

Elon Musk was recently in South Australia signing a contract to build ‘the world’s largest lithium battery’ in 100 days, to store the power generated by a wind farm there. He has promised that if the system isn’t working in the timeframe – it’s free (there is sadly no mention of free steak knives also being included if South Australia buys two battery farms). Musk probably has some idea of his chances – certainly you take risks in converting $2,000 into $15 Billion – but it seems the risks he takes pay off more often than they fail.

The first question to ask is – can he do it? While the battery will be considerably larger than the existing ‘largest battery in the world’, the apparent answer is ‘yes he thinks he can’. At the opening of the current ‘largest battery in the world’ installation at Ontario (California), again built by Tesla, their Chief Technical Officer commented
“Essentially, we can go and pour a slab and install the basic wiring, but each one of our Powerpacks is quite self-contained,” said J. B. Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer.

All of the batteries, cooling and safety systems, and other equipment are inside the casings, ready to load onto delivery trucks. “Our vehicle work lays a lot of the architectural foundation for this,” Mr. Straubel said. “It’s not as if we’re starting from scratch.”
In the same article, The New York Times reported
California is on track to have an overabundance of energy during the day, when its many solar panels are producing energy, but that supply drops sharply as the sun sets, precisely when demand rises, with residents heading home to use appliances and, increasingly, to charge cars.

The state’s aging nuclear plants have been closed or are being phased out, putting even more pressure on utilities to find other ways to feed the grid. Storage is a natural solution, utility executives say, helping to smooth variations in the power flow from rooftop customers and when solar falls off and conventional plants have not yet filled the gap.

Ronald O. Nichols, president of Southern California Edison, said the utility was looking for more ways to use that energy, instead of curtailing solar production, “which makes no greenhouse-gas-reduction sense.” By 2024, the California system is expected to have far too much energy for at least a few hours each day, he said, adding, “We want to find a way to use that energy productively, and battery storage is certainly a piece of that.”

The utility’s need for storage was amplified after the sudden closing of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in 2013. To fill that gap — and fulfill a state mandate to add storage to its energy portfolio — the utility awarded several contracts for battery storage.

When the scale of the 2015 leak at the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility in the San Fernando Valley became clear, the commission moved to streamline the process for storage projects. That led to the Tesla project at the Mira Loma substation and an electricity purchase agreement from a similar battery project that AltaGas had installed at its natural gas generator in Pomona. Another large battery installation that was part of the response, from a company called AES for a separate regional utility, San Diego Gas & Electric, is nearing full operation in Escondido.
Sounds like a similar situation to Australia, doesn’t it? It’s also pretty obvious from The New York Times report that California at least has ruled out building any more nuclear (or coal for that matter) electricity generation facilities. While Australia has no nuclear power generation, we do have an aging fleet of coal powered generation plant and the ‘sudden’ closure of the Hazelwood plant threw up a number of concerns that the demand for power especially in the Southern states might not be met during the summer of 2017/2018.

While Turnbull and Energy Minister Frydenburg and others are still bashing South Australia around the ears over energy security, the world is clearly moving on. Tim Hollo, the Executive Director of the Green Institute observed on The Guardian’s website recently
For months now, Malcolm Turnbull, Josh Frydenberg, various fossil fuel energy executives and media commentators like Paul Kelly have been rabbiting on about the “energy trilemma”. It’s their contention that energy policy must deal with cost, reliability and emissions, and that it is impossible to achieve all three at the same time. Conveniently, they choose to put emissions at the bottom of this list and bury it under a pile of coal, which they claim is cheap and reliable.

This is not true. Not even close to it. It doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny.

Renewable energy, which obviously wins on emissions, is now beating coal on cost. What’s more, with an energy grid managed effectively by people who want renewables to succeed, it is no less reliable than fossil fuels. The fact that arch-conservative, Cory Bernardi, was recently revealed to have installed rooftop solar panels demonstrates that these people do not even believe their own rhetoric. They have just chosen to throw truth onto the fire of climate change for political reasons.
While using wind generation to charge grid scale batteries is a new concept for Australia, California has demonstrated that the concept is not only practical, it’s working as renewable energy generation from solar panels on domestic household roofs is being stored in bulk for use in peak periods. Victoria thinks storage is an option as well. The Victorian Government opened a tender earlier this year for up to 100MW of grid-scale energy storage by 2018.

An increasing number of Australians also have solar panels on the roof at home and it is becoming increasingly common to read about large scale solar farms being established particularly in Queensland – near Toowoomba, at Valdora on the Sunshine Coast, near Clare in the Burdekin and near Gympie just to name a few. Origin Energy signed up to purchase all the energy produced from the farm near Clare so the energy resellers are on board as well.

Just as in the US, Australia seems to be embracing renewables, in spite of the government’s less than stellar support for renewable energy and meaningful emissions reductions. While Cory Bernardi claims his solar array installation is for self-sufficiency, solar panels don’t work at night unless there is a battery. According to RenewEconomy, Bernardi is looking at batteries as well
but not until he has monitored his solar generation profile for a while, to work out what size storage system he should get. Very sensible. More points to Bernardi.

Whatever he opts for – and we will keep readers posted on that – let’s hope it performs at a standard higher than the Senator’s opinion of grid-scale battery storage.

“Musk’s numbers and promises (on battery storage for SA) don’t stack up but the SA and federal governments are already taking the bait,” Bernardi wrote in a blog titled “Beware of the Smooth Salesman,” in March.

“After years of peddling fanciful green dreams and endorsing windmills and solar panels as the answer to our growing energy needs, they are close to admitting defeat.

“SA Premier Weatherill yesterday commissioned a new gas power plant and ‘battery storage’. While the proposed power plant isn’t big enough, if it does run out of juice I calculate that Musk’s batteries will provide several minutes’ worth of power before needing a recharge!” he wrote.
While Bernardi is going to install a battery system on his solar system to ensure he has power in the future, he doesn’t believe the same strategy would work on a larger scale. There seems to be a large disconnect between Bernardi’s personal and public actions. Turnbull also has a large solar array on his roof with battery storage.

At this stage who knows if Musk will be supplying Tesla’s battery system for a profit or for free, but the chances of the system failing to store the energy supplied by the wind farm are considerably less than Turnbull, Frydenburg and Bernardi winning the argument that renewable energy is less efficient or more costly than fossil fuelled alternatives.

Trump has justifiably faced scorn from around the world for choosing to withdraw the USA from the Paris Agreement to monitor and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. In reality Turnbull and Frydenburg are no better, supporting the fraudulent concept of ‘clean coal’ domestically, as Trump has done. Interestingly, Turnbull sided with the majority at the recent G20 Meeting in Hamburg, where the ‘G19’ didn’t support Trumps insistence on including ‘clean coal’ in the final communique.
In confirming a communique had been agreed, Dr Merkel took at pot shot at US President Donald Trump, saying she was pleased all countries – with the exception of the US – agreed the Paris climate accord was irreversible.

She said the remaining 19 countries had made a commitment to move swiftly to implement the accord, and that differences with the US had been "noted".
While Turnbull supports emissions reductions and climate protection measures while outside of the country, it seems he has a different message domestically. As is the case in Trump’s America, some states are going it alone and showing the Australian arch-conservatives up for the self-serving, self-interested rent seekers they really are.

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

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Look out for dinosaurs
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Look out for dinosaurs


Creationists will tell you that life on earth began around 6000 years ago when the good (Christian) lord decided to make a world over 6 days – because on the 7th, he rested. Other faiths and cultures also have mythical stories of how the earth was created, which probably suits the fundamentalists in most religious or cultural groupings. Evolution is a far more common belief. There are museums full of evidence of the process of evolution - how small simple structures became large complex structures, demonstrating the ebb and flow of different life forms at different periods of the earth’s history. Creationists have a leg each side of an interesting barbed-wire fence – having a literal belief in a religious text because they can’t cope with the uncertainty of the alternative but sufficient trust that they will be able to pay off their house from future earnings.

Those who have rationalised that evolution is far more probable that creationism would be aware that at some point in the past one hundred thousand years of the earth’s history a large meteor (Chicxulub) landed off the coast of current day Mexico and changed the world’s plant and animal life forever. The meteor is believed to have made a hole in the ground 180 km wide and 900 metres deep. Scientists attribute it to be the cause of the mass extinction of life on earth that, to a large extent, eliminated the dinosaurs. According to National Geographic
Exactly how the Chicxulub impact caused Earth's mass extinctions is not known. Scientists imagine three possible scenarios: Some think the impact threw massive quantities of dust into the atmosphere which blocked the sun and arrested plant growth. Others believe sulphur released by the impact lead to global sulfuric acid clouds that blocked the sun and also fell as acid rain. Another possibility is that red-hot debris from the falling asteroid or comet triggered global wildfires.
It is unfortunate in some ways that a dinosaur or other animal didn’t pick up a pen and paper to record the event to the extent required by those looking for ‘first person’ narratives. It may have made those who believe in creationism somewhat less sceptical of the existence of the world prior to the time of their cultural or religious belief. If nothing else, a narrative would have made it easier to rationalise the science surrounding evolution for those who need documentation and certainty.

Really it doesn’t matter for the sake of this conversation which theory is correct (or if there is an alternative), the upshot was that a lot of dinosaurs and other animals woke up that morning ready for another day of doing whatever they did – and the world changed completely by the time they died (or retired for the evening – depending what theory you believe).

There are a lot of similarities between the dinosaurs who never saw it coming and some notable personalities today when you think about it.

In recent weeks, former PM Tony Abbott has made speeches to well-known conservative ‘think tanks’, the IPA and Centre for Independent Studies, giving his recipe for the return of ‘genuine conservative values’ to the LNP Government. As Peter Harcher observes
Unpopular Abbott doesn't expect that he'd win the widespread acclaim of the people with backbench speech-making or political snarkery.

No, he's targeting the Liberal Party's conservative base as a way of building an internal campaigning energy.

He has proposed a lengthening list of policies. All stand in conflict with those of the government. Most stand in conflict with his own policies when he was prime minister.

But, as the old adage goes, never let the facts get in the way of a good story, and Abbott certainly seems untroubled by the jarring fact that his ideas today clash with the actual policies of his government yesterday.

Abbott in power pursued the national immigration intake around the standard annual equivalent of around 1 per cent of the population. This slows the ageing of the population, contains the blowout in federal health and aged care costs that come with ageing, and continues the historical trajectory of nation-building.

Abbott in pursuit of power now proposes cutting the immigration intake, perhaps by as much as half, to ease pressure on house prices and job seekers.

Abbott in power was unable to stop the relentless blowouts in government spending and debt. Today he demands there be zero new government spending, outside defence.

Abbott as prime minister wanted the next generation of submarines to run on diesel and to be built in Japan. Abbott as aspirant wants Australia to consider nuclear-powered subs, bought from the US, Britain or France.
In another Fairfax Media report, Abbott canvasses
three energy policy measures to put downward pressure on power prices: freezing the renewable energy target at 15 per cent, a moratorium on new wind farms, and for the federal government to potentially go it alone and build a new coal-fired power station.

Mr Abbott also called for immigration to be slashed temporarily to put downward pressure on house prices and upward pressure on wages, and advocated banning all new spending except on defence and infrastructure.

And he had a blunt message for people hoping he may quit politics: "I'm in no hurry to leave public life because we need strong Liberal conservative voices now, more than ever."

His comments at an Institute of Public Affairs event in Brisbane this morning are the clearest statement yet of an alternative policy program.
Those who can remember Abbott as Opposition Leader would be familiar with the pattern. Abbott was the one who promised to pay back the ‘government debt’, the ALP NBN was ’unaffordable’ (the LNP process was promised to be significantly cheaper), that Labor’s Emissions Trading Scheme would result in $100 lamb roasts and his immediate removal of same once in power would strip $500 per annum from domestic power bills. Of course, none of the promises were fulfilled.

It doesn’t stop there. Abbott has a philosophical objection to what are increasingly mainstream values such as same sex marriage, ‘foreigners’ taking over Australia and assistance for those that need a ‘leg-up’ in society.

Abbott is aided and abetted by conservative commentators such as Andrew Bolt – who went to town over the recent comments by ‘senior Cabinet member’ Christopher Pyne claiming that same sex marriage legislation was coming sooner rather than later because the ‘progressive’ side of the Liberal Party was in ascendance. We can only assume there was an interesting discussion between Pyne and Turnbull over how the comments would be seen just as there seemed to be some positive news coming from Canberra.

It’s almost as if winning the ideological divide in the Liberal Party is more important than government. Abbott is younger that Turnbull, so there is a reasonable assumption that, should he and the electors in his area choose, Abbott could be around far longer than Turnbull. He seems to be making a push for a return of the leadership to his ‘safe hands’ post Turnbull. In some ways, the games playing out at the moment are similar to the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years of the ALP, and we all know how that ended. Peace was declared only after the removal of both protagonists.

Perhaps surprisingly, the LNP is not the only political party that is facing internal warfare over policy and practice. The NSW Greens are a separate entity to the Australian Greens and NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon was recently excluded from federal party room discussions on contentious issues as she ‘authorised’ a publicity leaflet circulating in NSW critical of the Gonski 2.0 education funding package at the same time as she was participating in the party room discussion determining if the Greens should support the legislation.

With news reports discussing why the Greens across the rest of Australia call the NSW party ‘watermelons’ - green outside and red (communist) inside - and the NSW party calling the rest of Australia ‘tree tories’ as they will negotiate for an ideologically better but not necessarily ideologically pure outcome, you could probably put money on this really not ending well.

Both Abbott and Rhiannon would probably argue that they are the holders of the ideological hearts of their respective parties. They are entitled to their opinions. It does beg the question however why there is a line in the sand on ideological purity? Society changes opinion over time as circumstances change. Abbott will tell you that same sex marriage is against the doctrines of his particular Christian religion and he’s right – it is. However, the same Christian religion occasionally goes through a process of review and amending the doctrines, the most recent example being Vatican Council 2 in the 1960s. Who knows, the next review may change the Catholic Church doctrine on a number of contentious issues.

Rhiannon’s particular version of the Greens has roots in socialism rather than environmental activism so you could argue they are there for the battle rather than obtaining a compromise result.

Reality would suggest that there are few absolutes that will never change, based on new information or circumstances. Abbott may believe that his version of ‘conservative values’ is the ideal way to run a country and Rhiannon may believe that ideological purity on policy such as school funding is more important than incremental improvement. The concept is similar to deciding 20 years ago that you will only spend $300,000 on a house in one of the east coast capital cities once you have saved the cash to do so. Conceptually you now have your $300,000 burning a hole in your pocket and are ready to go. Practically, the cash you have saved will give you very little (if any) choice if you are not prepared to change your ideological purity to meet the current reality when you consider Brisbane, the east coast capital with the cheapest house prices, has a median price of $635,000.

Are people like Abbott (and his fellow travellers) and Rhiannon the dinosaurs of the current age? The dinosaurs had a small window to change when the meteor hit and those that could adapt; survived. While ideology is important, reality will suggest that your ideology does not necessarily equate with mine, or anyone else’s, or even be relevant when community attitudes change. Compromise is the essence of living in a society. To require absolute ideological purity according to your particular world view can only lead to one outcome – all the Liberal Party and Greens have to do is cast their minds back to the ALP of 2010 to 2013 to see their probable future.

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

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She said what!


Senator Hanson recently implied that children on the autistic spectrum should be shunted off to ‘special schools’. However Hanson wants to spin it, she said
These kids have a right to an education, by all means, but, if there are a number of them, these children should go into a special classroom and be looked after and given that special attention,

Most of the time the teacher spends so much time on them they forget about the child who is straining at the bit and wants to go ahead in leaps and bounds in their education.

That child is held back by those others, because the teachers spend time with them.

I am not denying them. If it were one of my children I would love all the time given to them to give them those opportunities. But it is about the loss for our other kids.

I think that we have more autistic children, yet we are not providing the special classrooms or the schools for these autistic children.
In case you believe the ABC is biased – this link will take you the same text in a Fairfax publication, or you could try The Guardian here.

Hanson claims she was taken out of context – the context seems pretty clear here. It is an attempt by an irrelevant media manipulator to be seen to have a position on the latest ‘hot button’ issue.

There has been lots of outrage, mostly by those who have some idea of what they are talking about including Labor MP Emma Husar who has a son with autism. It is well worth watching the entire clip.

Fairfax reports that a number of people who actually do have a clue absolutely disagree with Hanson’s ill-informed attempt at bigotry. For example
Children and Young People with Disability Australia chief executive Stephanie Gotlib labelled the Senator's comments "ill-informed and deeply offensive".

"Senator Hanson should also be mindful that access to inclusive education is a human right," she said.

"Ignorant remarks such as these demonstrate that she clearly needs to take up this offer as soon as possible."

Fiona Sharkey, chief executive of Amaze (Autism Victoria), accused Senator Hanson of "advocating for a more segregated school environment rather than an inclusive one".

In response to Senator Hanson's speech, Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, read out an email to Parliament from a parent of a child with an intellectual disability.

"To hear one of our parliamentarians argue that kids with disabilities don't belong in mainstream classes doesn't shock me - but it does break my heart all over again," he said.

"It doesn't matter how many times it has happened before I feel the knife twist again."
You would expect the Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, would be one of the first to decry Hanson’s attempt at relevance. He didn’t. Even though
Dr David Roy, a lecturer at the University of Newcastle's School of Education, said studies had shown "the exact opposite" of Senator Hanson's comments.

"Children with a disability may have a deficit in one area, but will often and regularly have an asset in the other so they can support other children in the classroom who aren't good with language or literacy, who aren't good with maths … and see an alternative way of doing something."
You see, Hanson’s political party which somehow claims to represent all Australians despite only receiving around 500,000 votes across the country (and attempting to justify a Queensland Senator, Malcolm Roberts, elected on 77 direct votes) is voting in favour of what is so far Turnbull and Birmingham’s single success – Gonski 2.0.

Gonski 2.0 is not as good as the ALP’s Gonski policy as significant funding has been removed from the plan to adequately fund school education across Australia - but it is a start. For some reason the ALP and Greens couldn’t see the wood for the trees and didn’t vote for something they could ‘re-adjust’ following a possible election victory inside the next couple of years – so Birmingham needed the Pauline Hanson’s One Nation xenophobic and narrow minded Senators to pass the legislation, as well as a number of other cross-bench Senators.

Sean Kelly, who writes for The Monthly, calls the Liberal Party response out for what it is – a complete abrogation of the requirement to govern for all. As Kelly suggests
That’s why you should ignore any Liberal MP expressing outrage this week about Hanson’s latest comments on autism. The comments should not have been a shock. She’s the same Hanson she was when Cash hugged her, when Abbott recorded a video with her, when Turnbull indicated his party might preference her, and when Sinodinos said her party had changed.

Hanson wants a royal commission into whether Islam is a religion. She has encouraged parents to “do their own research” on whether to get their kids vaccinated. She supports Vladimir Putin, whose government murders and assassinates people. And that’s before you get to the views of her other senators, or candidates.
Kelly goes on to comment
As with all of Hanson’s rhetoric, this was about the ugly, ugly politics of envy. It was classic Hanson: feeding off the resentment felt by those doing it tough towards those doing it even tougher. Hanson’s entire governing philosophy is that there is only so much sympathy (and government funding) to go around, and her voters deserve the lion’s share.
And he’s right. Hanson has been preaching hatred and bigotry against groups of Australians for years. It is all that she knows how to do. As far as representing ‘average’ Australians – that’s crap – Hanson and her party have been attached to the teat of public funding of election candidates for over a quarter of a century.

In the world according to Hanson, for you to be acceptable to the community you must be exactly like her. Despite claiming to be an ‘average’ Australian, her only real job for the past 25 years or so is running for political office. She attempts to divide our community on racial stereotypes and seemingly will do anything to get her name on the front page of the paper. If she isn’t just stupid, she is manipulating and conniving without any real demonstrated ability to put her policies into legislation.

At the very worst, any class with a mixture of non-ASD and ASD students would teach all the students the ability to understand and practice tolerance. Non-ASD kids may have to wait a few minutes longer for the entire class to finish a task, the ASD kids would learn that others don’t necessarily have an extremely detailed knowledge of subjects that are near and dear to them.

Fairfax reports that Autism advocacy bodies estimate that one in 100 Australians are diagnosed with autism and Emma Husar made the statement linked above outside Parliament House the other day – it finished with the following words, addressed directly to all the estimated 164,000 Australians who register on the Autistic Spectrum
even on the days that are hard – when you’re frustrated, and your disability makes you angry – you are still better than she is on her best day.
Husar is correct. Australians diagnosed with ASD are better on their worst day than Hanson is on her best. It’s high time the Liberal Party found a backbone and treated Hanson as the irrelevance she truly is, it might help them regain some popularity from the genuinely ‘average’ Australians who believe in tolerance and an inclusive society and who rightly believe Hanson will never speak for them’.

Disclaimer – the writer’s daughter has been diagnosed with ASD. She attends a mainstream high school and is achieving average or better academic and behavioural results in the same classes as her non-ASD age cohort.

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Respect the culture


Representatives of our First Peoples recently gathered at Uluru to discuss potential methods for recognition within the Australian Constitution. The final document is here and really worth a read, as it is an aspirational document that should be a roadmap for the future of all Australians. Sean Kelly from The Monthly recently wrote an article where a number of different ‘elders’ of society commented on how the Uluru Statement from the Heart was conceived and will affect our entire society going forward. Certainly there was politics involved in the process and seven delegates did walk out of the process, but in reality that was to be expected.

Our late colleague on this site, Ken Wolff, and blogmaster of The Australian Independent News Network, Michael Taylor, both have considerable experience in public policy in respect to the Australian First Peoples and, in all likelihood, will have forgotten more of the history and politics of the First Peoples than I will ever know, but it is ludicrous to suggest that there should have not have been a number of different groups suggesting different outcomes (or ‘pushing their own agendas’ to be blunt), because there is never a completely homogeneous group of people.

Those who manage fleets of mechanical devices (regardless of the device being vehicles, hospital beds or point of sale machines) will tell you that despite each individual device coming out of the factory meeting the same specifications, there are differences and some units will break down in different ways at different times. There are variations in the material used to construct the device, the actual methods used to build the device and the usage the device is put to. For example, a six-year-old Toyota Camry used as a taxi in a large city would exhibit considerably more distance driven and faults that a six year old Toyota Camry used by a private individual to travel around the local area.

If you think that any particular religion is completely the same around the world, consider this. ISIS recently claimed responsibility for a ‘terrorist’ attack in Tehran, Iran (which incidentally killed and injured more people than the similar recent attacks in London England). While the US issued a statement
in the President’s name that laid blame for the attack on Iran’s own “evil” policies. “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times,”
Iran also released a statement claiming
that Saudi Arabia and the United States were ultimately to blame, even as it acknowledged the claim by Isis.
reasoning that
Public opinion in the world, especially in Iran, recognizes this terrorist attack—which took place a week after a joint meeting of the U.S. President and the head of one of the region’s backward governments, which constantly supports fundamentalist terrorists—as very significant.” It charged that the isis claim of responsibility “reveals (Saudi Arabia’s) hand in this barbaric action.
Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are predominantly Muslim countries and, as such, follow the same holy book. In theory, they are the same religion, however, there are different ‘brands’ of the Islamic faith just as there are conceptual differences between the Christians who attend a Hillsong and a Catholic church each week. There are fundamental differences between the ‘brands’ of Islam the majority of the citizens of Iran and Saudi Arabia practice, as discussed in The New Yorker article linked above.

There is nothing wrong with difference. The world would be a very boring place if everyone that was 35 was married with 2 children, a Labrador and living in a suburban street in a city with over 1.5 million people. We recognise this in all sorts of ways. Toyota gives recommendations for maintenance on their products based on either time or distance driven so both the taxi and privately driven Camry’s can be kept mechanically safe and durability of the individual vehicle is to the level required by the individual owners. In a similar way, each of the 5 television networks broadcasting in Australia have a system where they multicast a number of different channels so you as a consumer can choose to watch either MasterChef or The Living Room on a Saturday at lunchtime – both broadcast by the same network. Others don’t drink coffee or like ‘smashed avo bruschetta’ breakfasts, some prefer to fly on Qantas aircraft, others don’t.

So why is it that we can tolerate differences in our choice of favourite beverage, breakfast, TV show, how we use our car (or in fact what brand of car we buy) but feel it necessary to hate or kill to ‘convince’ others to follow a particular brand of religion, determine that all living in an area have to subscribe to a particular set of cultural beliefs or follow a particular line of discussion when it comes to the current ‘hot button’ issue?

Logically we shouldn’t. Generally, people are the beneficiaries and victims of their upbringing. In the majority of circumstances, a person’s particular choice of homeland, religion as well as ethics and moral beliefs is that chosen by their ancestors. While some people actively choose to change religion, homeland or belief, most of us will generally conform to the standards, ethics and morals of those around us. Generally, a society will change values gradually based on compelling (to each individual) evidence being presented that there is a more logical or attractive view than the one previously held.

Yet some can’t see the forest for the trees. As an example, former Prime minister Tony Abbott came out swinging (pun intended) ahead of the release of the Finkel Report claiming as part of his motivation, “The last thing we want to do is let ‘electricity Bill’ off the hook”. Regardless of his views on the need to pump less carbon into the atmosphere, conserving a limited supply of fossil fuels by using renewable energy alternatives where possible is a logical argument. Abbott is obviously ‘out to get Shorten’ and if he gets Turnbull out of the way as well, that’s a bonus. Abbott has a history of being a bully to get his own way and you would have to suspect that his pre-emptive strike on the Finkel Report was really another example of his belief that he should have the keys to the Prime Minister’s Office, rather than any concern over the future of the environment we live in.

The human race should be better at the big things such as not stuffing up the environment to support those with interests in the mining industry, accepting that others worship a different ‘god’ or at least a different brand of the same ‘god’ or some groups have cultural needs that are not obvious to others – but are to the group concerned. We can happily accept that some people do purchase Toyotas over Holdens, or prefer coffee to tea but we apparently can’t accept that others have different cultural beliefs, skin colours or different opinions on fundamental issues. Ridiculous, isn’t it?

We all expect others to respect our culture, be it a culture of being in an alcohol induced haze or attending church services for the majority of the weekend. That’s fair enough and there is nothing wrong with it – however the reverse also applies. If you are the one attending church services you have no right be judgemental to those who choose to drink to excess. Both Turnbull and Shorten seem to be of a mind to bury the hatchet on emissions trading and while it obviously is a step too far for Abbott, it’s probably nowhere near far enough for Richard De Natalie of the Greens. If you drive a Rolls Royce or sit on a bus, you’re still going to get stuck in the same traffic jam on Monday if you take the same route to work. At times, you just can’t beat the law of averages.

When someone challenges your particular culture, it is normal to feel uncertain about the outcome and to attempt to defend it. Some changes have a greater ‘greater good’ than others and it’s probably fair to suggest that living in a peaceful society is one of the best reasons to accept that you have as much need to respect other’s culture as you need them to respect yours.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a roadmap to document that all citizens of this country respect the cultures of other groups that live here, as they should. First Peoples understanding of sustainable land management practices are just as important to the future of this country as the technology provided by the culture that immigrated here nearly 230 years ago. Australian First Peoples clearly can benefit from the benefits of ‘white’ civilisation and culture just as much as ‘white’ civilisation can benefit from First Peoples civilisation and culture.

We should all welcome and assist the Uluru Statement from the Heart to be gradually implemented, rather than obstruct it. There is a better option than political games to victimise and dehumanise others. How about we just respect each other’s cultures and beliefs, embracing everything that it will bring to all our lives? All our lives will be immeasurably richer as a result.

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

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All you need is love


The Beatles released ‘All you need is love’, written by John Lennon and Paul McCarthy, 50 years ago this month during the first global satellite television broadcast, Our world. June 1967 was the summer of love where it is claimed that up to 100,000 people congregated in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood in the city of San Franscisco. The two events are related as far as The Beatles by that stage were a studio only band and seeking alternative lifestyles.

While the words and motives of All you need is love might be seen as idealistic in 2017, with the bombing of a pop concert in Manchester and a gunman shooting 28 Coptic Christians in Egypt both occurring in the same week, on the face of it there isn’t a lot of love in the world at the moment. Perhaps there should be more love used to retain law and order, rather than the current approach of using a bigger stick.

Various news reports in the days after the Manchester bombing have stated that the British are ‘stoic’ people and will overcome the justified sorrow and questioning that occurs after events like the bombing. They probably will, considering the British people have a history of living with domestic terrorism that precedes the current fanatical claimed Muslim extremists, or the fanatical Irish Republican Army of the late 20th Century, the bombings of World War 2 and potentially also before the days of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators attempting to blow up the houses of Parliament in 1605.

However, when confronted with some form of rebellion (be it internal or external), the authorities seem to always resort to the use of a bigger stick. For example, when the USA and the USSR both developed nuclear weapons in the 1950’s; they boasted that if attacked, they would retaliate. In a concept known as mutually assured destruction, by the 1980s
. . . the Soviet Union had many more warheads, and it was commonly said that there were enough nuclear arms on Earth to wipe the planet out several times.
Clearly there is only one earth – so having the capability to destroy the planet more than once is wasteful and frankly ludicrous. In a similar way, there is logically a limit to the size of the stick. Larger and more complicated weapons designed to kill and maim probably makes millions for those who design and manufacture the implements, but at some point, there has to be a practical limit.

Guy Fawkes was seeking religious freedom, eventually granted in England, Rudolf Hess (Hitler’s second in command) flew to Scotland in 1941 to, in his mind at least, negotiate a peace treaty with Churchill and the IRA finally agreed to cease terrorist action when a negotiated power sharing arrangement was implemented.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was interviewed by SkyNews on 25 May and, as you would expect given the timing of the interview, he was asked for his opinion on the bombing in Manchester. After the usual (and correct) condemnation of the attack, Joyce went on to say (as reported by The Guardian)
These people have always been around and every religion has them at their periphery. I’m Catholic, in Northern Ireland we had the IRA, who decided they were going to change the world by murdering people. I don’t agree with that. These people believe they are going to change the world by murdering people. We have seen it in Buddhism, we have seen it in Hinduism. It’s murder. It’s wrong and we have got to make sure as a nation, people can go to the cricket, can go to the rugby, go down the street, go to the park, enjoy life, be Australian and leave other people alone to have their beliefs because they are probably different to yours. Don’t change the world by violence, change the world by argument, cogent argument.
Joyce went on to suggest
People say it all sounds a bit old fashioned but it’s not. If you really had an empathy for other people around you, you wouldn’t want to blow them up. You would say they’re just like me. Leave them alone.
Joyce makes a good point. Rather than using a bigger stick to alter people’s behaviour to something that suits your norms, why not try empathy.

Sean Kelly, writing for The Monthly on 26 May reports of an exchange between Senator Hanson and the head of ASIO, Duncan Lewis during the recent Senate Estimates process. When asked by Hanson about the threat of terrorism being introduced by middle eastern refugees,
Lewis, widely respected within his field, made the factual situation very clear, “I have absolutely no evidence to suggest there’s a connection between refugees and terrorism.”

Hanson asked about the burqa, to which Lewis said, “We’ve made it plain on a number of occasions, senator, that we have no security reason to be concerned about the wearing of a burqa – other than the requirement for individuals to identify themselves to authorities, and there are regulations in place for that.”

Hanson also asked whether all attacks and thwarted attacks since 2014 had been perpetrated by Muslims.

Lewis replied, “Of the 12 ... thwarted attacks, one of those, indeed, involved a right-wing extremist … So the answer is they have not all been carried out by Muslims … But I’ve got to stress, senator – this is very important – ASIO does not make its inquiries or its assessments on the basis of somebody’s religion. We are only interested in people who are exhibiting or offering violence, and to the extent that there is violent extremism – which is very frequently inspired by a warped version of Sunni Islam – that’s when our interests are invoked.”
Duncan Lewis deals in facts which apparently do not support the claims of Hanson et al. In a similar way, we have the current Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, claiming that refugees who were settled in Australia and not yet completed formal documentation processes are ‘fake’ and will be deported if their claims are not formally lodged by October this year (while reducing the ability of staff to process claims).

Joyce seems by contrast to be on to something.

In a headline that really is quite chilling; Cops in this City haven’t killed anyone since 2015. Here’s one reason why: Huffington Post describes the de-escalation process employed by Salt Lake City Police in the USA.
The officers being trained in de-escalation are encouraged to communicate and empathize with suspects, take stock of the factors contributing to a confrontation, and consider ways to disengage before the situation spirals out of control, leading to the use of force.
The Salt Lake City Police have identified 37 occasions where de-escalation has worked in preference to the use of lethal force in the past 18 months.

It would be a huge step for the Hansons and Duttons of this world to use empathy rather than try to wield the bigger stick. Unfortunately, I have a better chance of winning Lotto tonight. Australia has been fortunate that there have been no large scale terrorism attacks in our country since the Port Arthur event some years ago. Negotiation and giving some ground has been much more effective than ‘the bigger stick’ to solve disputes across history, as witnessed by the Truth and Reconciliation system in South Africa, the power sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland and the re-unification of Germany.

As the Salt Lake City (and other) police forces around the world are demonstrating, empathy and de-escalation are useful tools to reduce injury and death while permanently resolving conflict. Barnaby Joyce has a point, just as The Beatles did 50 years ago. Rather than Hanson’s racist rhetoric or Dutton’s ‘fake refugee’ comments, when will we learn the lessons of history?

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

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In amongst the budget, responses and ‘expert analysis’, you might have missed the news that so called conservative ‘warrior’ and MP for the seat of Dawson in Central Queensland, George Christensen, recently became a medical tourist to Asia. Christensen, who before the operation weighed in at 176 kilograms, went to Malaysia for an operation to remove 85% of his stomach.

While it is fair to suggest that this website hasn’t been overly friendly to Christensen in the past, he deserves due recognition for attempting to redress a health problem that he claims was due to the politician’s lifestyle of constantly being on the road and rarely eating at home. Like a lot of overweight people Christensen said he had tried “every diet under the sun”. Christensen apparently wants to outlive his grandmother who died at 96; and good luck to him with this ambition. According to the article quoted above, former politician Clive Palmer has also recently lost almost 60kgs in the last eight months.

Regardless of the reason for Christensen’s former weight, the lack of weight loss success with less invasive measures such as diet and exercise suggests there are some elements of an addictive personality resident in the head of George Christensen. He also apparently has the necessary finance available to fund not only ‘every diet under the sun’ but the costs of travelling to Malaysia and undergoing the operation.

It’s lucky in some ways that Christensen isn’t a job seeker and his particular addiction of choice was not to an illicit drug. Turnbull and Morrison’s second budget introduced the concept of drug testing Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients before they are able to receive benefits. Turnbull’s response to Buzzfeed’s question regarding the medical or scientific evidence that demonstrates this scheme would work was interesting
"Well, I think it's pretty obvious that welfare money should not be used to buy drugs, and if you love somebody who is addicted to drugs, if you love somebody whose life is being destroyed by drugs, don't you want to get them off drugs?"
On the face of it, Turnbull has a point. Generally, those who have family members would move heaven and earth to arrange for the affected loved one to come out of the end of a de-tox program as clean. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Christensen is the perfect demonstration that he knows he has a problem, has tried ‘every diet under the sun’ (presumably failed) and ended up taking an irreversible surgical option. In a similar way, taking money off those using illicit drugs will have a probable outcome of increasing petty theft and house breaking rates due to those who can’t pass a drug test ‘falling through the cracks’ by choosing to leave the welfare system. If he really wants to ‘share the love’, Turnbull should be funding de-tox centres and programs to ensure that those with an addictive personality who find themselves using illicit drugs (instead of food, alcohol or tobacco) can be taken through to fix the root cause of the problem – not the claimed anti-social effects of the problem.

The problem is that Turnbull isn’t funding appropriate treatment centres. According to The Greens, fewer than half those who need it, are able to access drug and alcohol treatment. Regardless of your view of The Greens as a political party, their leader Richard De Natalie is a General Practitioner who specialised in drug and alcohol abuse, so he probably has a better idea than you or I how well this country looks after those who ingest illicit drugs.
"It's time to recognise this is a health problem not a law and order one. We have to have an open, honest conversation about this and stop pretending we're winning this war – we're losing and losing fast."
In fact, Turnbull’s new policy is a demonstrated failure. A number of conservative states in the USA have been running drug testing programs for welfare recipients over a number of years. Most of them have been shut down by the Courts as unconstitutional. Time Magazine reported on drug testing welfare recipients in August 2014 quoting examples such as Florida, which tested welfare recipients for four months in 2011 (before it was struck down in court as being unconstitutional) and found that 2.6% of the recipients tested positive to the welfare based drug testing regimen.

As an estimated 8% of the population of Florida were using illicit drugs in that period of time, either the welfare recipients were good at hiding their health issue, they couldn’t afford illicit drugs or generally drug taking behaviour is significantly under-represented in the population of welfare recipients. Regardless, the evidence from the period Florida drug tested welfare recipients clearly demonstrates that conservative legislators aren’t letting the facts interrupt a good ‘druggies on welfare’ story.

There is an alternative to the draconian law and order solution to the ‘drug’ problem. Portugal decriminalised personal possession of drugs in 2001. Those found with drugs are offered support to enter and complete a treatment program.

ABC’s Health Report explained the concept in 2009
Ten years ago Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe. Heroin use was out of control and the rate of HIV infections in drug users became a humanitarian crisis. So what did Portugal do? They decriminalised all personal drug use in that country, crack, heroin, LSD, you name it. Drugs are still illegal, but it's no longer a crime to use them. Instead of jail, users and addicts are offered treatment and education.
Also in 2009, Time magazine reported on the results.
in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

"Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success," says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. "It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does."

Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal's drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.
The German media organisation Der Spiegel reported on the ‘Portugal experiment’ in 2013 (during the time of concern over the Portuguese economy) and concluded
"We haven't found some miracle cure," Goulão says. Still, taking stock after nearly 12 years, his conclusion is, "Decriminalization hasn't made the problem worse."

At the moment, Goulão's greatest concern is the Portuguese government's austerity policies in the wake of the euro crisis. Decriminalization is pointless, he says, without being accompanied by prevention programs, drug clinics and social work conducted directly on the streets. Before the euro crisis, Portugal spent €75 million ($98 million) annually on its anti-drug programs. So far, Goulão has only seen a couple million cut from his programs, but if the crisis in the country grows worse, at some point there may no longer be enough money.
Greens leader Richard De Natalie has a personal interest in drug reform and has visited Portugal to assess the effectiveness of the program.

Despite evidence to the contrary, Turnbull and Morrison chose to take the path where behaviour outside what they consider to be acceptable norms is punished severely, rather than assisting the victims to recover from an illness. When you think of it, Turnbull and Morrison’s policy of drug testing welfare recipients is not a new concept. Regardless of the reality, suggesting those on Newstart or Youth Allowance are ‘dole bludgers’ or ‘druggies’ will assist a conservative government to reduce assistance to this disadvantaged group of people in our society without a lot of their core constituency protesting that unemployed or underemployed are getting a raw deal.

It’s a similar concept to the 2014 budget attempt by Hockey to make those under 30 wait six months before they would receive unemployment benefits. There are also parallels to the ‘Basics Card’ (when some people’s welfare benefits are ‘income managed’ and paid directly to a EFTPOS card that cannot be used to obtain cash or purchase a host of items including alcohol, tobacco and gambling products) or labelling refugees as boat people, illegal immigrants, queue jumpers and so on as a justification for the horrific treatment (consisting of detention centres in foreign countries, legal fictions in regards to the Australian border and the actions of the black shirted militaristic ‘Border Force’).

Certainly, Turnbull’s response to the question, ‘why test welfare recipients for drug use?’ was more nuanced than the quote reprinted here – but there is clearly a better way than driving people who are abusing substances underground. It’s telling that George Christensen – presumably a victim of an addiction to a legal substance himself – has called for drug testing for welfare recipients (and politicians) over a number of years.

Perhaps it would be more appropriate for Christensen (who seems to have an addiction to food) and other similarly minded conservatives who have a ‘interesting relationship’ with alcohol to be musing on the axiom there but for the grace of God go I

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

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Those who know me are aware that I do a fair bit of travel around my home state for my employer. As my home state is Queensland, a considerable component of that is air travel as, for example, Brisbane to Cairns or Mt Isa is around the same flight time and distance as Brisbane to Melbourne in a 737. (As a side note – it’s actually a bit sad when you and your colleagues at work sit around at lunch time and knowledgably discuss which Queensland airports have the best cafes, or the smaller hire car queues!)

Sitting in yet another regional airport terminal recently waiting for yet another delayed plane got me to thinking about perceptions. Don’t get me wrong, I would much prefer a plane to be late so the ‘issue’ can be fixed. If nothing else, it increases the chances of me as a passenger falling to the ground in a controlled manner at the hoped-for destination where there are things like stairs to get me out of the metal tube, as well as amenities, somewhere to buy a coffee, connections with ground transport and so on. I’m equally happy when the pilot tells me that the landing is going to be delayed due to fog or other aircraft in the area – I’d much rather the pilot being able to see the runway they are planning to use and not hit another plane on the way down.

The other day, the plane was delayed about one and a half hours with no real explanation why the plane was late except ‘an engineering issue’ and ‘late arrival of the operating aircraft’ (after a half hour delay on the way there the previous morning was due to fog) and while most of those waiting had a conversation with someone on the other end of a mobile phone about delays, there was no real anger or adverse comment made by or to those around me in the airport waiting area.

The next morning, I went into the office on the local bus service. The bus was a few minutes late, which caused considerably more adverse comment than the plane delays I had encountered the previous few days. Obviously, there are certainly more buses on the roads in Brisbane than planes owned by both Virgin Australia and Qantas. As a result, there is a greater chance that the bus will be late than the plane. But the perception is that airline delays are forgivable (if not expected) while your local commuter transport service; be it a bus, train or ferry, has to be there on time every time.

Admittedly, keeping a plane in the air probably requires greater technical skill than keeping a bus on the road (although with the state of some Brisbane roads you would wonder how a bus wouldn’t shake itself apart), but in the case of the bus, the delay was only a couple of minutes and even in the worst case, there would have been another bus trundling past sometime in the next 15 to 30 minutes.

Drawing the relative perceptions out a bit more, most public transport delays are in reality safety issues. The service providers don’t make money if their vehicles are sitting in the depot, regardless of the vehicle being a 737, a suburban train or a commuter bus. Yet, if an airline service runs late or is cancelled there is little real concern as there is clearly a safety issue. If a bus or train is cancelled or doesn’t run, it is a competence issue. Just as I would prefer to fall out of the sky in a controlled manner at the pre-planned arrival point, I would prefer not to be on a bus that loses a wheel on the highway at 100kph or a commuter train where the external doors won’t open and shut on command.

It’s the same with Treasurer Morrison’s ‘good’ debt and ‘bad’ debt. It’s a perception thing. At least the Abbott era ‘all debt is bad’ argument seems to have been taken down a dark alley and quietly disposed of, but the current framing of the discussion is not much better.

While Morrison and others call funding welfare payments through debt as ‘bad’, if you were the recipient of a welfare payment funded through debt, you would probably consider it to be ‘good’, as at least you would have some funding to keep body and soul together. If you don’t need welfare payments and have little regard for those who do, you could argue that welfare payments shouldn’t be funded by borrowings (if indeed they are).

By the same token, those who believe that any government funding of infrastructure is a ‘good’ thing will support the government borrowing money to build a 400km (or thereabouts) rail line from the Galilee Basin to Abbott Point in Queensland so that Adani can ship it’s coal out of the country (assuming the mine is ever built). Those who believe that the proposed Galilee Basin mine is too big, greenhouse intense and supporting a dying industry would tell you that the proposed funding of the rail line is ‘bad’ as the money could be better used to fund renewable energy investments or other income producing infrastructure.

As Jessica Irvine points out in the article linked above,
the idea of distinguishing between "good" debt and "bad" debt is silly for several reasons, the primary one being that it's impossible.

If you think for even a moment about how taxes are collected and spent in this country, it's immediately apparent that all taxes get poured into the same bucket, from which they are spend [sic] on different things.

No taxpayer is given the option, when filling out their tax return, to assign a particular dollar of tax to a particular purpose, be it welfare to support fellow Australians or building railways.

It all goes into the same pot.
Irvine goes on to give her perception of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ debt
In reality, whether infrastructure spending is good or bad depends entirely on whether it's spent on productivity-enhancing investments, like a much-needed railway which relieves congestion on roads, or wasted on pork barrelling in marginal electorates.

Similarly, spending on education can be either good or bad, depending on whether it goes on things that genuinely enhance learning outcomes, or things that don't, like reducing class sizes beyond a certain point.
If there is a shortfall in the funds available for such work, clearly the government is not charging enough tax, the mechanism it uses to gain money from its citizens.

However, Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) would suggest the Australian Government has no debt anyway as it can issue as much money as it needs to pay for all goods and services it consumes. Before celebrating the potential for no taxes should MMT be introduced, The Washington Post (link at the beginning of this paragraph) suggests
This doesn’t mean that taxes are unnecessary. Taxes, in fact, are key to making the whole system work. The need to pay taxes compels people to use the currency printed by the government. Taxes are also sometimes necessary to prevent the economy from overheating. If consumer demand outpaces the supply of available goods, prices will jump, resulting in inflation (where prices rise even as buying power falls). In this case, taxes can tamp down spending and keep prices low.

But if the theory is correct, there is no reason the amount of money the government takes in needs to match up with the amount it spends. Indeed, its followers call for massive tax cuts and deficit spending during recessions.
While a currency issuing government (in our case the federal government – not state or local governments) can issue more currency to fund the difference between income and expenditure, households and business cannot. Households have all their financial eggs in one basket, have beliefs, wants, needs and cultural norms, and make decisions on spending and borrowing according to those criteria. While you may consider borrowing money to go on a holiday is a ‘bad’ choice, your neighbour may decide it is a ‘good’ choice that warrants adding to their debt. Neither you or your neighbour are necessarily right or wrong, you just have different perceptions. However, if a household or business continually spends more than it earns, sooner or later they will face bankruptcy as households and businesses cannot issue currency (unless they want to be convicted of fraud).

Treasurers back to Costello have played with people’s perceptions to make the claim that the government bank account is just like a household bank account claiming that the federal government also needs to be spending less than it earns while conversely offering tax cuts to various groups of people.

Morrison’s claim that there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ debt is just another attempt to justify social engineering to benefit the LNP’s core constituency while penalising the less well off. It is perception management, pure and simple. And, as we are talking about perceptions, your value judgement of the government’s ‘good’ debt expenditure is probably different to mine, despite the expenditure coming out of the same ‘bucket of money’ as the ‘bad’ debt we are continually conditioned to despise.

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

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Amongst the day to day news of who is going to challenge for the dubious honour of leading a political party, stories of government inaction, fires, pestilence and so on, you might have missed the March for Science; held the weekend before Anzac Day in up to 54 countries across the world. As reported on Fairfax websites
Thousands of scientists and their supporters, feeling increasingly threatened by the policies of US President Donald Trump, gathered on Saturday in Washington under rainy skies for what they called the March for Science, abandoning a tradition of keeping the sciences out of politics and calling on the public to stand up for scientific enterprise.
And they have cause to be concerned.
Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists, argued that Trump has appointed a "band of climate conspiracy theorists" to run transition efforts at various agencies, along with nominees to lead them who share similar views.

"They have been salivating at the possibility of dismantling federal climate research programs for years. It's not unreasonable to think they would want to take down the very data that they dispute,” Halpern said in an email. "There is a fine line between being paranoid and being prepared, and scientists are doing their best to be prepared … Scientists are right to preserve data and archive websites before those who want to dismantle federal climate change research programs storm the castle."

To be clear, neither Trump nor his transition team has said that the new administration plans to manipulate or curtail publicly available data. The transition team did not respond to a request for comment. But some scientists aren't taking any chances.
Sure, there is probably an element of concern about the unknown, however, Trump’s Administration has form in this area. They are the ones that appointed former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Scott Pruitt woke up Friday morning as Oklahoma’s attorney general, a post he had used for six years to repeatedly sue the Environmental Protection Agency for its efforts to regulate mercury, smog and other forms of pollution. By day’s end, he had been sworn in as the agency’s new leader, setting off a struggle over what the EPA will become in the Trump era.

Pruitt begins what is likely to be a controversial tenure with a clear set of goals. He has been outspoken in his view, widely shared by Republicans, that the EPA zealously overstepped its legal authority under President Barack Obama, saddling the fossil-fuel industry with unnecessary and onerous regulations.
Before you suggest the scientists protesting in Washington DC were the usual ‘ragtag’ bunch of ‘professional protestors’ who are still upset that Trump is the President rather than someone progressive like Senator Bernie Sanders, have a read of this article in The New Yorker. Clearly, they aren’t.

Blogmaster of The Political Sword, Ad Astra recently looked at Trump’s record to date in respect to environmental matters in his own inimitable style. The article is entitled The face of wilful ignorance and is well worth a read if you haven’t already done so.

Turnbull, who has also overseen severe budget cuts to the CSIRO, clearly has similar objectives to Trump. You might remember last year that South Australia had a state-wide blackout after a severe storm caused the physical destruction of some high voltage pylons carrying power from various power generators within the state, which coincided with planned maintenance for one of the interconnectors to the Victorian section of the National Grid. In essence, the South Australian power system ‘shorted out’ to protect itself. South Australia’s power generation facilities are fuelled by gas, wind and solar energy. The last plant using coal, Port Augusta, closed in May 2016.

Turnbull, despite knowing the facts, sheeted the blame for the state-wide blackout to a high usage of renewables.

Despite a number of experts claiming that the use of renewable power was not related to the type of fuel used for generating power (and here), Turnbull came up with a fake connection between the two events. As the News.com.au sub-editor for a Malcolm Farr article on the politics of climate change in Australia suggested
SOUTH Australia has copped a battering from gale-force winds over the past week. The last thing they needed from Malcolm Turnbull was a load of hot air.
Malcolm Farr observed in the same article
But somehow, in the Prime Minister’s public musings, the impression was it could all be explained by the fact South Australia had 41 per cent renewable energy output.

In his first comments, Mr Turnbull praised emergency workers but appeared to have little sympathy for the casualties of the power failure. The priority was the political attack.

On Thursday morning, Mr Turnbull, speaking to reporters, sprinted through the “immediate cause” of the blackout — “an extreme weather event that damaged a number of transmission line assets, knocking over towers and lines”.

He then saluted emergency workers, before abruptly getting to his priority with the words, “Now, turning to the issue of renewables …”

“There is no doubt that a heavy reliance on intermittent renewables — by which in South Australia we’re mostly talking about wind, there’s also solar but intermittent renewables — does place very different strains and pressures on a grid, than reliance on traditional base load power, whether it is fossil fuel or of course hydro, which of course as long as the water is in the dam is very reliable as well,” Mr Turnbull said.

“So these intermittent renewables do pose real challenges.”
It was a great story for the usual luddite cheer squad led by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and ‘One Nation’ Senator (elected on 77 personal votes) Malcolm Roberts. Meanwhile, in a part of the world that seems considerably more realistic about climate change, Britain confirmed late in April 2017 that it went for a day without burning coal to generate power, for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. While
Demand for electricity tends to be lower in the spring, when homes and offices turn off their heating and normally do not yet have a need for air-conditioning. It tends to be particularly low on a Friday and during the Easter holiday period.

But the trend away from coal as a source of electricity is structural, officials say, with coal-free days likely to become more common. Since 2012, two-thirds of Britain's coal-fired power generating capacity has been shuttered. Some plants have been converted partially to burn biomass, such as wood pellets. Last year, the share of coal in total power generation dropped to 9 per cent, down from 23 per cent in 2015 and 40 per cent in 2012.

Some countries have already left coal behind in power generation. In Switzerland, Belgium and Norway, "every day is a coal-free day", Carlos Fernandez Alvarez, a coal analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris, pointed out.
Interestingly, Vermont and Idaho in the USA also routinely don’t consume coal for electricity and California is close behind.

Clearly, Turnbull is as clueless as Trump – and the comparisons in other areas are just as odious. Trump has a ‘Buy American and hire American’ policy which as The New Yorker points out
was nearly entirely one of theatrics and not of substance. He held his talk in Kenosha, Wisconsin, at Snap-on Tools, a firm that buys Chinese and hires Chinese, Argentinian, Brazilian, and Swedish. Seventy per cent of Snap-on’s sales are in the U.S., but many of its plants are in other countries.
Turnbull supports an ‘Australia first’ policy that, according to various sections of the community including the union movement, are ‘a rebrand of a wildly unpopular policy’ that allows those from other countries to work in Australia under the 457 Visa system.

Trump will apparently risk a US Federal Government shut down over the funding for his ‘wall’ between the US and Mexico insisting that
he would “make Mexico pay” for the wall, which is estimated to cost billions.

“Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall,” the president tweeted, without offering a plan or timeline.
Turnbull meanwhile stands by while his Immigration Minister who (illegally in PNG) incarcerates thousands of people in detention camps on foreign soil whilst claiming that Australia has no direct control over the outcomes. Dutton, in the words of Fairfax media ‘stooped to a new low, even as he seeks to impose higher standards on prospective Australian citizens’, by attempting to link an attack on the detention camp on Manus Island (PNG) to an unsubstantiated claim in relation to refugees and a local boy.

Both Trump and Turnbull are independently wealthy men who, for reasons best known to themselves chose to enter politics. Both of them seem to have problems in understanding community expectations and the concept of the greater good. They also seem incapable of taking robust advice for the future good – rather they look for the populist short-term view.

It may appeal to certain sectors of the community to accept unfettered use of coal rather than sustainable alternatives, persecute immigrants who don’t arrive in the country with wads of cash in their pockets and similar views and looks to the majority of citizens. Generally, those who have spent many years researching and developing skills in economics and science will counsel against the short-term view. Instead, they look for evidence that is gained through exhaustive testing and then reviewed by their peers prior to them publishing their assertions.

Over the past few hundred years, science has a demonstrated track record in backing winners – examples include the device that you are using to read this article, (Wi-Fi was developed by the CSIRO). Scientists probably have a better view of what is likely to affect our ability to live and work on this planet in the future than those with a financial interest in industries that may have an unsustainable effect on our shared future. How many people died needlessly in the 50 or thereabouts years that it took for politicians to accept the indisputable scientific findings that smoking tobacco was actually bad for you? The international tobacco lobby is alleged to have used bribes, subsidies, tax revenue, specious arguments and attacks on scientific findings, along with doctored statistics of their own to minimise the case for any regulation or restriction.

Rightly, there seems to be considerable Australian concern regarding the future with Trump in power in the USA, however, Turnbull’s actions in Australia should be generating equal concern. Truly, they are peas in a pod.

What do you think?
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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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.

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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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In the words of The Monthly, If the name Milo Yiannopoulos means nothing to you, congratulations on being a normal, well-adjusted person. Yiannopoulos is someone we all aspire to be the complete opposite of. He was until very recently, an alt-right figurehead and said all the ‘right’ things. According to The Guardian he did a fine line in Islamophobia, misogyny, transphobia or harassment. Out Magazine, (which takes pride in its LGBTI heritage) called him a ‘super villain’. Recently, The Monthly reported:
Here in Australia, Yiannopoulos has many fans on the right. Andrew Bolt called him “fabulous” in one of his multiple appearances on The Bolt Report. Bolt's Herald Sun colleague Rita Panahi thinks Yiannopoulos is “razor sharp, insightful and funny”. Former Liberal MP Ross Cameron regards him as “an ancient form of genius”. Writing in the Spectator, Daisy Cousens described him as an “intelligent, charismatic, witty, stylish, and unbearably handsome powerhouse of a man”.
However, it seems that even the alt-right has boundaries. A Youtube video recently came out (pun intended – Yiannopoulos is gay) where he seemed to endorse intimate relations between older men and boys. He lost his job as a Senior Editor on the Breitbart (extremely conservative) news website, a book deal and some speaking engagements. Let’s give credit where it is due, those who severed connections with a person who seemed to endorse paedophilia did the right thing. However, it also brings into question why hate speech against religions, gender and those who have a different sexual orientation is permitted by the same organisations – as they are all just as abhorrent as the straw that broke the camel’s back on this occasion. Let’s face it, by supporting Yiannopoulos while he promotes hate speech, the organisations also gave implied support for his positions on those other issues. Severing the connection when Yiannopoulos seemingly ‘crossed the line’ demonstrates the principal.

The Guardian reported that during a meeting of an ultra-conservative group in North Carolina, the ‘Islamification of America’ was being discussed:
The Muslim Brotherhood, a culturally conservative organization founded in 1928 that briefly took power in Egypt after the Arab Spring, is the focal point of paranoid rightwing fears about a supposed Islamic plot to infiltrate and subvert American institutions from within and impose sharia law.

“A tactic that the Brotherhood has established over the years is establishing the presence of Islamic centers or mosques, which for them means a recruitment center for jihad, and forming a permanent foundation wherever they’re allowed to exist,” Jones said, continuing to read from Stakelbeck’s book [The Terrorist Next Door].

Jones’s presentation was repeatedly interrupted by comments about killing Muslims from Frank del Valle, a staunchly anticommunist Cuban immigrant, with little or no pushback from the others in the room.

“Can we not kill them all?” Del Valle asked, about 15 minutes into the presentation, during a discussion about the differences between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam.
But it wouldn’t happen in general society in Australia, would it? Well it does actually. Madonna King wrote an opinion piece for The Brisbane Times recently based on the reaction to Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s recent appearance on ABCTV’s QandA. You may remember that Adbel-Magied contradicted some of the more conservative panellists’ views on the Islamic religion and Sharia Law with some facts based on her understanding of the religion as a practising member of the faith. In the piece, King rightly labelled Australians as haters pointing out that while you and I certainly have the right to decide if we agree with Abdel-Magied’s opinion, she does have the right to vocalise it without people starting petitions for her to be sacked from her job presenting a show on ABCTV’s News 24 station, which is what happened on this occasion.

Let’s look at another example. Pauline Hanson was recently reported as suggesting that young women will deliberately get pregnant to receive some perceived advantage from the LNP Government’s proposed changes to family benefits. Quite probably she is partly right — generally a small minority will take any advantage that they can find and turn it to their perceived advantage. Hanson’s argument seems to be:
I’ve gone through a bloody tough life myself as a single mother and held down a part-time job. I had no assistance, no help from anyone. But we have such a welfare handout mentality.
Apart from the fact that single parent payments, family allowances and tax ‘breaks’ for families have been the practice of Australian Governments of all political persuasions for a number of decades, meaning Hanson could have received help if she met the criteria, her rhetoric seems as shallow and self-serving as her claim not to be a professional politician despite being first elected to the Ipswich City Council in 1994, followed by running for the seat of Oxley in the Federal Parliament in 1996, then failing to be elected at most elections between the end of that Parliament and the commencement of the current one.

The issue here is that considerably more young women will use the benefit as it was intended, to ensure that while babies and their parents are both going through a major change in their living and financial arrangements, there is some assistance from the rest of our society to make the financial transition slightly easier. Remember that the children who benefit from the government’s ‘largesse’ here are those who will be paying for the roads and medical services that the naysayers such as Hanson will consume in twenty to thirty years’ time when they are retired and contributing far less taxation (if any at all). All Hanson is really doing here is inflaming the anger in those who follow her particular brand of politics when they see pregnant women or young families walk past. It’s not healthy for the victims and certainly not healthy to the level of political conversation in Australia.

Of course, our ‘major’ party politicians wouldn’t stoop to using hatred to achieve political ends –would they? Don’t be silly, of course they do. As blogmaster Ad Astra recently noted in his article Abbott’s legacy of destruction, former Prime Minister Abbott’s opposition to action on climate change wasn’t a divine revelation that there was another and better way to mitigate the man-made influence on global temperature increase caused by increasing emissions of carbon dioxide, it was purely political. It is worth looking at Abbott’s head of staff’s (Peta Credlin) statement on Sky News again.
Credlin made her comments during an episode of Sky’s Sunday Agenda: “Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms but we made it a carbon tax. We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics and it took Abbott about six months to cut through and when he cut through, Gillard was gone.”
As Ad Astra wrote,
The article continued with Credlin's comments:
“It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know.

“Okay, okay, okay. Let’s just provide some context. Australia has a complicated history in trying to do what many countries have already done – put a price on carbon emissions.

“Emissions trading scheme proposals contributed to the demise of Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader in 2009 and Kevin Rudd as prime minister in 2010. Julia Gillard finally introduced a carbon-pricing scheme in 2011.

“It was Tony Abbott who re-framed Gillard’s scheme as a “carbon tax”, even though after the first year the price on carbon emissions was no longer fixed, and was instead set by the market.

“Abbott rode the anti-carbon tax movement all the way into The Lodge and eventually had everyone, including Labor and the media, calling it a carbon tax".
How about we call that for what it is. Abbott lied to get the Prime Ministership. He traded off the future liveability of this country for his personal ambition.

Both Hanson and Abbott (amongst a number of other politicians from all sides of politics) also support or have supported in the past the forcible incarceration of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru while claiming to uphold ‘good Christian values’ not only in their daily lives but in their public lives. While neither ‘Thou shall not hate’ nor ‘Do unto others as you wish others do to you’ are listed in the 10 Commandments, they both have some textual context in the holy book that Abbott, Hanson and others claim to follow. How is changing an environmental imperative to a political argument, denying a benefit the country can obviously afford on the basis that some may abuse it, or treating people poorly in the Australian detention camps, not demonstrating pure and utter hatred to those who don’t meet particular world views of some extremely narrow minded people?

It’s somewhat hypocritical to suggest that ‘good Christian values’ are a part of your life while overseeing hate speech, active persecution of others for daring to hold alternative beliefs or not caring for the world we live in and are leaving for our descendants. You would have to wonder how these people can live with the basic contradiction that is obvious to a large proportion of society – if you have good Christian values, you should live by them.

Someone who should have some idea of what represents ‘good Christian values’ is the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis. He has previously made statements on climate change, education, helping those who need a hand, paying your way in life and recently made a statement on refugees which has been widely reported. Even the extreme right wing Breitbart News (yes, the same august journal that accepted the resignation of Yiannopoulos) headlined their report with:
In powerful language, Pope Francis said Thursday that Jesus abhors hypocrisy and it is hypocritical to call oneself a Christian and at the same time not be welcoming to refugees, even if they belong to a different religion.
Pity those who routinely preach their ‘good Christian values’ will not put two and two together. Thou shall not hate.
What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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Climate change, power and coal


You may have noticed it’s been a bit hot lately. In fact, if you were born after 1985, you have never experienced a cooler than average month. Let’s just read that again so it really sinks in – if you were born after 1985, you have never experienced a cooler than average month.

The UK Government (amongst a lot of other experts in the field) states that Climate Change is happening, noting that
3 of the 14 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century and in the last 30 years each decade has been hotter than the previous one. This change in temperature hasn’t been the same everywhere; the increase has been greater over land than over the oceans and has been particularly fast in the Arctic.
It’s probably stating the obvious to suggest the UK Government is by nature conservative, as the Conservative Party is the ruling party at present. The same UK Government website goes on to list a number of detrimental effects of life (as they know it) changing in the UK as a result of climate change.

Regardless of the date you choose to start to measure from, and the scale of the graph you choose to draw, there is an upward line going to the right. Great if you’re looking at a company’s sales or share price, not so good if you are looking at the health of the world we want to leave for our descendants.

A number of scientists explain climate change as similar to pouring water into a bath. There is a lot of water in the bath and the water level is continually moving upwards. Dependent on where the spout you are using to pump water into the bath is located, there is a reasonable chance that the waves created by the water entering the bath will appear to reduce the height of the water in the bath on a momentary basis at points along the waveform; your brain will see though that the level is still rising. Climate change is where we are continually pumping chemicals into the atmosphere, which changes the way heat is dissipated. Let’s look at the UK Government’s website again:
Rising levels of carbon dioxide and other gases, such as methane, in the atmosphere create a ‘greenhouse effect’, trapping the Sun’s energy and causing the Earth, and in particular the oceans, to warm. Heating of the oceans accounts for over nine tenths of the trapped energy. Scientists have known about this greenhouse effect since the 19th Century.

The higher the amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the warmer the Earth becomes. Recent climate change is happening largely as a result of this warming, with smaller contributions from natural influences like variations in the Sun’s output.

Carbon dioxide levels have increased by more than 40% since before the industrial revolution. Other greenhouse gases have increased by similarly large amounts. All the evidence shows that this increase in greenhouse gases is almost entirely due to human activity. The increase is mainly caused by:
  • burning of fossil fuels for energy
  • agriculture and deforestation
  • the manufacture of cement, chemicals and metals
About 43% of the carbon dioxide produced goes into the atmosphere; the rest is absorbed by plants and the oceans. Deforestation reduces the number of trees absorbing carbon dioxide and releases the carbon contained in those trees.
So what does our ‘adult’ and ‘mature’ government do when South Australia again suffers electricity shortages? It claims that the fault for the outages is solely due to the state’s high (by Australian standards) use of renewable generation capacity. To emphasise the fact, Treasurer Morrison acts like a 5 year old taking his new toy to show and tell by bringing a lump of coal into Parliament.

Turnbull started this crusade when the entire South Australia power supply went down in September 2016. Turnbull claimed that the network was not secure:
Today, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said several state Labor governments — not just in SA — had set “extremely aggressive, extremely unrealistic” targets for renewable energy use.

“If you are stuck in an elevator, if the lights won’t go on, if your fridge is thawing out, everything in the kitchen is thawing out because the power is gone, you are not going to be concerned about the particular source of that power,” he told reporters in Launceston.

“You want to know that the energy is secure.”
While Energy Minister Frydenberg did acknowledge that the September 2016 power failure was caused by a significant weather event, ‘home town hero’ Senator Xenophon claimed that South Australia had become the laughing stock of the nation.

The reality is that the weather caused significant damage to not only the interconnector from Victoria and the national grid, it also caused significant damage to high voltage towers that took power from the base load generation equipment in South Australia around the state, as well as local cables that feed power into people homes. To make it even better, Turnbull knew that the September 2016 blackout had nothing to do with renewable energy.
Turnbull said: “What we know so far is that there was an extreme weather event that damaged a number of transmission line assets knocking over towers and lines and that was the immediate cause of the blackout.”

However, Turnbull also linked the blackout to South Australia’s use of renewable energy, calling it a “wake-up call” for state leaders who were trying to hit “completely unrealistic” renewable targets.

He said state governments needed to stop the “political gamesmanship” that had seen a state like Queensland set a 50% renewable target when renewables accounted for only 4.5% of its current energy mix.

“What’s the pathway to achieve that? Very hard to see it. It’s a political or ideological statement,” Turnbull said. “We’ve got to recognise that energy security is the key priority and targeting lower emissions is very important but it must be consistent with energy security.”
Seems that the facts weren’t allowed to spoil a good story, as this event preceded President Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway’s invention of the ‘alternative facts’ term by some months.

Fast forward to 8 February 2017 and 40,000 South Australians underwent the torture, euphemistically called ‘load shedding’ – where the electricity supply doesn’t meet the demand. Intelligent Energy Systems have suppled three graphs which explain the problem. The ‘National’ electricity grid (which doesn’t operate in the NT or WA) works on an economic free market system. The economic theory being that if the demand is there, various operators of the (generally) privatised power stations will bid for the ability to supply power. On 9 February, according to the ABC:
South Australian Treasurer and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis slammed AEMO for choosing not to turn on the second unit at Pelican Point on Wednesday.

"AEMO admitted that they got their demand forecast wrong in SA, and when they realised that, it was easier for them to load shed customers than turn new generators on," he said.

But Mr Koutsantonis also revealed that three generators were out of action due to technical issues.

"There were communication problems on Eyre Peninsula, which meant 75 megawatts of Port Lincoln baseload generation could not be dispatched into the system," he said.
Yes, you read it right, the market regulator chose to ‘load shed’ rather than ask a South Australian power generator to commence generation. In essence, the market regulator chose to withdraw power from 40,000 people rather than generate more power! And Turnbull claims it is because South Australia uses too many renewable energy sources. Isn’t the Liberal Party the party of small business – don’t they understand how the free market works? If they did (and actually wanted to ‘fix’ the problem), surely they would be asking the market regulator A(ustralian) E(nergy) M(arket) O(perator) why it is not allowing the market to operate?

Maybe there is an ulterior motive here. Remember Treasurer Morrison passing a lump of coal around Parliament a couple of weeks ago? Remember Turnbull’s ‘stirring’ speech accusing Opposition Leader Shorten’s apparent desire to live in a waterfront mansion? Remember the brouhaha surrounding the shortage of electricity in a state that does successfully generate a fair proportion of its electricity need from renewables? Perhaps, according to Paula Matthewson, writing on The New Daily’s website they are all related.
Onlookers may have been puzzled to see the coal passed along the government’s frontbench and then among its backbenchers (in direct contravention of the parliamentary rule against the use of props), but the purpose of the Treasurer’s behaviour was clear.

Mr Morrison set out to prove to agitating Liberal conservatives that, if there’s going to be a change of Liberal leader, he is the man to take the fight to Labor on totemic conservative issues such as coal-based electricity.
There are a few points to note here. Apparently Queensland has larger spikes in demand for power than South Australia does. Surely, if there is a reason to question how individual states manage the generation of power, all eyes should be looking at Queensland!
The vast majority of Queensland’s energy is supplied by coal and gas. In 2015, Queensland had just 4% of its supply coming from renewables, compared to South Australia, which had 41%.

“Clearly these figures show that other dynamics like market concentration and gas prices are contributing to these price spikes and volatility, not the penetration of renewable energy,” McConnell [Dylan McConnell from the Climate & Energy College at the University of Melbourne] said.

While the events in Queensland have not raised an eyebrow, the smaller volatility in South Australia last year hit the front page of newspapers around the country, with politicians and rightwing commentators blaming the state’s reliance on renewable energy, calling for a halt to renewable energy expansion.

The push against renewables was supported by the coal lobby too, with the Minerals Council of Australia saying the reliance on renewables “exposed families and businesses to higher prices, supply instability and greater reliance on imported power”.
The right wing of the Liberal Party also genuinely believes that climate change isn’t happening and carbon pollution reduction processes don’t work! Well, no it doesn’t actually:
Peta Credlin admits the climate change policy under Julia Gillard's Labor government was never a carbon tax, but the coalition used that label to stir up brutal retail politics.

Credlin, the former chief of staff to Tony Abbott when he was prime minister and now a political commentator for Sky News, said the coalition made it a "carbon tax" and a fight about the hip pocket rather than the environment.
And finally, Bloomberg New Energy Finance has calculated:
"Clean coal" plants that the Turnbull government has flagged could get clean energy subsidies, are more expensive than solar, wind and gas-fired power and would lead to higher electricity price rises, analysts have warned.

Support for what the government calls "clean coal" stations - ultra-supercritical plants, which still emit greenhouse gas - would also be at odds with a 2015 OECD agreement under which Australia agreed not to fund any type of coal power in developing countries if cleaner options were available.
What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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Alternative facts and transparency


Would you believe that I am a 25 year old self-made millionaire and spend my life travelling around the world — only if I can fly in an Etihad A380 equipped with “The Residence” three room suite (only plebs travel First Class apparently!). I also have bankers beating a path to my door to lend me money for my latest development proposal — after all anything I touch turns to a platinum - plated investment opportunity.

You’re right, the statements above are overblown and you could make the claim they are alternative facts (aka completely made up fantasies). The bio listed here is far more accurate, although the alternative facts I have presented sound far more appealing than getting on the bus most mornings to go to work. Rest assured that if I need to borrow money from a bank, I am the one approaching them, cap in hand and demonstrating that they have a better than equal chance of getting their money back one day. For some funny reason, banks seem to want you to prove that you are who you are and, more importantly, have the capacity to repay your debts. In case you’re interested, my credit card limit precludes me from even dreaming about Etihad’s ‘The Residence’ class travel.

Kellyanne Conway must live in that rarefied space where banks don’t look for evidence of a capacity to repay, airlines happily allow you to travel ‘at the pointy end’ and the facts are variable dependent on the message you want to give, regardless of the consequences. Conway is the ‘councillor’ to President Trump who defended some overblown claims by Trump’s Press Secretary (Sean Spicer) by commenting that Spicer’s defence of the claim that more people attended the Trump inauguration than anyone else’s were merely ‘alternative facts’.

If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny. Spicer was clearly wrong as the photos of Obama’s 2009 inauguration (above, on the left) and Trump’s 2017 version (on the right) demonstrate. As NBC (America) reported:
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gathered the press to deliver a five-minute statement Saturday in which he issued multiple falsehoods, declaring erroneously the number of people who used the D.C. metro on Friday, that there was a change in security measures this year and that "this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe."

"These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong," Spicer said Saturday.

Asked on "Meet the Press" why Spicer used his first appearance before the press to dispute a minimal issue like the inauguration crowd size, and why he used falsehoods to do so, Conway pushed back.

"You're saying it's a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that," she told NBC's Chuck Todd.

She then went on to echo Spicer's claim on Saturday that it wasn't possible to count the crowd, despite Trump's team's accompanying insistence that it was the "largest audience".
The problem is, as reported by NBC:
Conway also suggested that Todd's insistence on asking why Spicer delivered a demonstrably false statement could affect the White House's treatment of the media.

"If we're going to keep referring to the press secretary in those types of terms I think we're going to have to rethink our relationship here," she said.
Trump’s ‘counsellor’, Conway, is suggesting that if an NBC reporter doesn’t ‘toe the line’ and report what he is told to report, NBC may have difficulties in gaining access to the US President’s press conferences. It might be that limited or no access is actually a good thing as it would demonstrate that at least one US based news organisation didn’t (wasn’t permitted to) drink the same Kool-Aid as the rest of the press pack that surrounds Washington DC.

It’s probably a bit hard to ‘toe the line’ when a week later, Conway cited the ‘Bowling Green massacre’ when defending Trump’s 90 day ban on any immigration from certain middle eastern countries.

There was no massacre in Bowling Green USA:
Conway was referring to the case of two Iraqi citizens living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, who were arrested in 2011 and later convicted of attempting to send weapons, explosives and money to al Qaeda in Iraq for the purpose of killing American soldiers.

"Neither person is charged with plotting any attacks on American soil," David Hale, then U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, said at the time. "These charges relate to activities that occurred when they were in Iraq, first of all. Secondly, they relate to conspiracy to aid al Qaeda in Iraq."

The men, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi and Waad Ramadan Alwan, admitted to using explosive devices against U.S. soldiers in Iraq in the past, but there were no deaths connected to the plot they were involved in while living in Bowling Green.
When the (in this case inconvenient) truth was pointed out to Conway, she claimed that she was referring to the ‘Bowling Green terrorists’, and that Obama had also tightened immigration requirements for people coming from Iraq and what Trump was doing was no different.

Not only was the ban ‘stayed’ by a (US) federal judge in Seattle, as the judge agreed with the argument that the ban was unconstitutional, the ban does not affect all middle eastern countries. It’s entirely co-incidental of course that the ban doesn’t include countries where Trump has business interests. This is in spite of Saudi Arabian and Egyptian nationals being almost entirely responsible for the 9/11 attack in the US — which caused the death of over 3000 people.

Of course we don’t know for sure that Trump personally still has business dealings with Saudi Arabia and Egypt as he has yet to release his financial affairs — which is ironic as he was one of those screaming for the release of Obama’s birth certificate claiming that, as Obama was born outside the USA, he could not be President. (Obama was born in Hawaii.) Others however have gone into Trump’s business empire with some rigour. Published on The Guardian’s website, Aryeh Neier comments:
In identifying Muslim-majority countries from which refugees and visas will be blocked because of concerns about terrorism, Trump left out Saudi Arabia. Yet most of those who hijacked airliners to attack New York and Washington DC on 9/11, the deadliest terrorist episode in history, were Saudis.

Does Trump shy away from offending Saudi Arabia because he has business dealings with wealthy Saudis? Or because he expects them to curry favor by patronizing his new hotel in Washington? We don’t know. By refusing to release his tax returns and by refusing to divest himself of his businesses, he raises such questions.

Another country left off the list is Egypt. Yet the leader of the 9/11 hijackers was Mohammed Atta, an Egyptian. Was Egypt omitted because Trump is developing a warm relationship with the country’s brutal dictator, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi? Again, we don’t know
Trump has domestic problems as well with his less than transparent business dealings where Trump is the ultimate owner of a number of buildings and facilities that have leases in place with the US government. For a start, one of Trump’s companies has a lease over an old building owned by the US Post Office. His company has turned it into an expensive hotel. The property lease has a clause that specifically prohibits any ‘elected official of the government of the United States’ from holding ‘any share of part of this Lease’. While Trump has nominally handed his business interests over to his family to run, Trump can revoke the trust, which was amended three days before his inauguration, at any time according to The Guardian.

While the embellishments of the Trump Presidency in Washington DC really are not that important in Australia, there are some similarities with Australian politicians. The most notable of this ‘select’ group is former Prime Minister Abbott who led an opposition and government that promised $100 lamb roasts should the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme come into effect; a faster and more affordable NBN which clearly isn’t the case — fibre to the premises as originally promised by the ALP can cope with 100mbps or better — and a mature and stable federal government.

After refusing to discuss his donations to the Liberal Party prior to the 2016 election, Malcolm Turnbull (or President Trumbull if you believe the Trump administration) finally revealed that he donated a staggering $1.75million in the current financial year which means that his largesse did not have to be reported until sometime in 2018. Given the most recent election was on July 2, 2016, Turnbull must have made the donation on election eve or soon after the election to help pay his party’s election debts. Given that $1.75 million is a sum of money of far larger value than the majority of the Australian population will ever be in a position to give away, you would have to wonder about the state of the Liberal Party’s balance sheet and what influence the donation gets Turnbull over the workings of the Liberal Party and by association the Australian government.

Not that the Liberals are the only ones that construct alternative facts and hide relevant information. Pauline Hanson, who bills her ‘One Nation’ party as the party of non-politicians, was first elected to a political office as a councillor for the City of Ipswich in Queensland in 1994. She entered federal parliament in 1996. Twenty-one years later, Hanson is in parliament again after failing to be elected on a number of occasions over the past two decades. Nearly a quarter of a century in most professions would suggest that you are making a living from the profession. The only real change to Hanson’s divisiveness and negativity is that the Asians who were going to ‘swamp Australia’ in 1996 were replaced by Africans in 2006 and by 2016 they too had been replaced by the Muslims, still going to ‘swamp Australia’. Of course, Hanson has never had to actually demonstrate how she would implement her policies.

Trump is innately conservative and obviously has people around him who believe they can say anything and get away with it. He also seems to have a lack of understanding about the need for transparency and compliance with rules that have been developed to protect both the elected leaders of the USA and the people of the USA. Abbott, Turnbull and Hanson clearly believe in similar theories, as some of their actions demonstrate.

The issue for all of us is that people like this selling of simple naive political concepts, that translate well to media, diminish the standard and quality of political discourse for all of us — as it seems the only way to get the attention of those listening to the populism is to disappear down the same rabbit hole. So instead of having a rational debate over something as critical as efforts to mitigate climate change, we were treated to the then alternative prime minister of this country, Tony Abbott, running around the countryside in a hi-viz vest shouting no new taxes. While he did eliminate that particular ‘tax’ once he convinced some of the Senate crossbenchers to support the move (which took some time), he increased and implemented other taxes. Our current political leader is supporting a failed process that is scamming those in our community who have accessed social security benefits while supporting reductions in taxes paid by business.

Australia thankfully is not the USA. Australia can do better than a political leader who clearly doesn’t see a problem in being xenophobic, economical with the truth while brooking no discussion on issues that are relevant. How about we ask our politicians to treat us as adults and have a discussion, rather than repeat populist claptrap?


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

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Computer says ‘no’


Once upon a time, someone came up with an economic theory that robbery was good for the economy. The theory was along the lines that the robbers get some extra cash and most of it will reappear in the economy at some point soon after the robbery; the bank or shop is insured for the loss so it gets its money back; and as the number of robberies per annum doesn’t exceed the insurance premiums that banks and shops pay, the insurance companies are not out of pocket either. Of course, the theory is rubbish as stealing money (regardless of the rationale) is just wrong: staff and innocent bystanders who are the real victims of robberies are likely to need considerable physical and mental health support for a long time and so on.

Some apparently have a similar attitude to Centrelink benefits. In reality Centrelink pays out billions a year to those who qualify, according to some criteria or other, for financial assistance from the government. In any general population, there will be some who determine (for their own reasons) that their need is more important than others and, as this obviously not going to be met by compliance with ‘the system’, they will rort the system to get what they believe is their genuine entitlement. Centrelink’s billions are a good target as they have plenty more money to give away and a little extra won’t hurt.

In December 2016, Australia trundled off again to the silly season. It could be so named because of the number of public holidays, that people are nicer to each other than usual or there are a number of religious commemorations jammed into the month-long period. The ‘silly season’ is also a period when institutions (lets pick on governments and political parties here for examples) bring out unpopular announcements that they hope will be hidden by the decrease in attention generally shown by those who are searching for the latest toy at 2am in the morning, concerned about the results of the ‘summer of sport’ in their particular field of interest, or dreading the forced interaction with cousin Eric at the in-laws yet again. So what does the government try to hide in plain sight in December 2016? The obvious answer is that Centrelink unveiled their new ‘wizz-bang’ fraud detection system.

No one here is suggesting for a second that those who do commit fraud should get away with it. The concept is as silly as bank robbery being good for the economy. However, to be effective, a fraud detection system needs to have some rigour behind it to ensure that those who are doing the right thing are not unfairly targeted. Centrelink’s doesn’t.

When you apply for a benefit from Centrelink you are required to provide certain information regarding your financial affairs (as well as personal information so they can identify you). Some Centrelink benefits are targeted at those who ‘need a hand for a little while’ — such as those who have run out of sick and holiday leave while suffering a serious illness or the temporarily unemployed. It is highly probable that for a large proportion of the financial year in question, those that ‘need a hand’ would not qualify for a benefit as they earn too much (not that you have to earn much to disqualify yourself from most benefits). As you would expect, Centrelink looks at your income at the time a benefit is needed rather than the whole year’s income to determine if a short-term benefit is payable and the decision is made on that information.

All well and good you might suggest, and you’d be right, except that when Centrelink’s computer is given information from the Tax Office’s computer, which is only interested in your income for the year, there is a problem. The Tax Office may report that a person earned well in excess of the benefit cut off in a particular financial year (currently they are looking back six years). Centrelink’s automatic fraud prevention system then questions why you received a benefit for a part of the year. Rather than referring it to a person within Centrelink who can see that for three months of the year, the person was residing in the ICU at the local hospital, between jobs or in some other circumstance that determined that they ‘needed a hand’, the automated letter is sent out and a debt collector engaged.

And there’s the problem. Rather than quickly realise that a mistake has been made, correct the error and actively chase those who do defraud the system, Centrelink senior management and government ministers seem to be comfortable with something like 20,000 letters a week being dispatched with demands for payment being made prior to any discussion of the accuracy of the claim being considered and most of the letters being blatantly wrong. It could be considered to be a fraudulent business scheme; a swindle which is coincidentally the definition of a scam. Ironic really, when another section of the federal government runs the Scamwatch website. In fact, Deputy PM Joyce and acting ‘responsible’ minister Christian Porter are singing the praises of the system.

There are many others who have written about this issue and the seeming double standard surrounding parliamentary members’ travel claims — that frequently are in the tens of thousands. The co-incidence of now ex-Health Minister Sussan Ley being on the Gold Coast ‘for work’ when a unit she was interested in purchasing was up for auction has been done to death, as have the claims of a number of other ministers. The Shovel has an interesting take on the events as well, which given the history of this government, has that slight ‘ring of truth’ to it.

The interesting thing about Sussan Ley’s ‘impulse’ purchase of the unit on the Gold Cost is that it wasn’t a recent purchase. It was made in 2015 and while the reputed $800,000 unit on the Gold Coast may sound excessive to you, me and clearly most Australians, really the unit isn’t that expensive for where it is.

The real question is who mentioned the purchase to the media in the middle of public outrage over the government’s debt collection practices — regardless of whether the practices are legally or morally correct?

Of course, since the unfortunate relegation of Sussan Ley, others were jockeying (to a greater or lesser level of success) for the position of health minister. The ‘prime minister in waiting’ Tony Abbott did his chances no favour when he chose to speak out on the renewable energy target for 2020 (that his government implemented). Pauline Hanson certainly wants Abbott back in the Ministry, which may also be more of a hindrance than a help in the short and long term.

Turnbull has replaced Ley with Greg Hunt (former environment minister for both Abbott and Turnbull) who seems, in current LNP terms, a safe pair of hands. Environmentalists may decry his actions while environment minister, but he did generally keep environmental issues off the front page which is something other portfolios in the Turnbull government can’t seem to achieve:
Having been environment minister in the Abbott government, Hunt is used to difficult portfolios. In that role he oversaw the abolition of the carbon tax and the creation of the government-funded Direct Action scheme that pays polluters to reduce their emissions.

In 2016 he was named "best minister in the world" by the World Government Summit — an honour recognising his work to protect the Great Barrier Reef and his contribution to the Paris climate talks.
Ley has taken a bullet for the team and the world rolls on. Other ministers, including Bishop and Cormann, are also being questioned on travel expenses incurred on official business at what seem to be exclusive social events. Clearly there is more at play here than the ill-advised purchase of a unit on the Gold Coast.

Not being an insider, how does that work? Is there somebody somewhere who trawls through the workings of government looking for potentially embarrassing material that can be released at the opportune time to make a political point; is it sheer incompetence; or, worse still, is it a belief in one’s own importance so great that somehow thousands of public moneys used ‘on official business’ when you happen to go along to a property auction in your private capacity ‘while you’re there’ is acceptable practice?

In all probability, it is one of the latter two possibilities. Just before the 2015 ‘silly season’, you might remember that Treasurer Morrison announced that he was to delay the release of a taxation discussion until 2016. He would not rule anything in or out of the discussion paper which led to every interest group in the country urging the priority of their special interest as being more important than others’ special interests. The inevitable debate went on so long and hurt the government’s standing rolling into 2016 to the extent that they nearly lost the double dissolution election.

The Abbott/Turnbull government has been plagued with stuffups. From the NBN fail where the second rate hybrid system promoted by Turnbull (while communications minister) as cheaper and quicker while delivering slower and no cheaper service to Australians; through to the inhumane treatment of humans at detention centres owned and managed by the Australian government — where even the government Audit Office has reported that political expediency has overruled good governance in the supervision of the contractors engaged to do the work:
Out of $2.3 billion paid over 40 months, $1.1 billion was approved by officers without the appropriate authorisation and another $1.1 billion was paid with "no departmental record" of who had authorised the payments.

The ANAO also concluded the contracts themselves lacked effective guidelines and management mechanisms, owing partly to the "great haste" with which the detention centres were established in 2012‒13. Many faults persisted in later contracts, the ANAO said.
And to prove that this government will commit the same errors again and again, it appears that the current Centrelink debt collection system will be expanded to include those on disability, age and family related payments.

The Abbott/Turnbull government is out of touch with the reality of Australian life. The continual scandals, the exorbitant waste of money on things like detention centres and travel expenses while sending out debt letters to those who have needed to use their entitlements under the welfare system, while embroiled in continual argument over which faction of the Liberal Party should be running the country is unedifying at best. No wonder the Hansons, Xenophons and so on are getting some political traction.

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

Recent Posts
The barbie bigot looks back on the year
Ken Wolff, 18 December 2016
G’day ev’ryone. Welcome back to the barbie. The big news of the year has been elections, both here in Oz an’ in septic-land.

I’ve been a bit quiet since the election ‘cause, after all, the result was a bit hard to …
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In 2017 – let’s be the change we want to see
2353NM, 1 January 2017
Well look at that. 2016 is finished and 2017 has arrived to present us with more challenges. To be brutally honest, 2016 wasn’t the best of years for those who prefer progressive policy, equality and fairness for all. Later this month, Donald Trump becomes president of …
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Watch this space in 2017
Ken Wolff, 15 January 2017
As with most political issues, the following few questions are inter-related: Turnbull’s future may well depend on the economy, on whether or not a new conservative party forms and whether there is a Trump-inspired trade or currency war between China and the US; our economy may well depend on …
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In 2017 – let’s be the change we want to see


Well look at that. 2016 is finished and 2017 has arrived to present us with more challenges. To be brutally honest, 2016 wasn’t the best of years for those who prefer progressive policy, equality and fairness for all. Later this month, Donald Trump becomes president of the USA; at the time of writing Malcolm Turnbull still survives as prime minister of Australia; and the likes of Cory Bernardi and George Christensen seem to be in charge of the LNP’s policy settings, probably in spite of what Turnbull would like to think. In the past, articles at this time of the year have suggested that no one really cares about politics because the beach, tennis and cricket are too appealing. While the beach hasn’t lost its charms (depending on the weather and the crowds), the tennis has the same identities as 2016 and the test cricket is a matter of concern as 2016 concludes.

If it makes us feel any better, it seems that as 2016 ended, Turnbull was under the pump with the state premiers openly critical of Turnbull’s backdown on looking at pricing schemes to limit carbon emissions. Probably even more surprising was the Business Council of Australia slamming the government for ruling out such a scheme. It’s not often that ALP premiers and the Business Council agree on something so fundamental. On top of that, there are outbreaks of logic about the emptiness of Turnbull’s 'Jobson Grothe' (sorry, that should read ‘Jobs and Growth') slogan that nearly lost him the election held mid-year. While there have been 25 years of economic growth, the September 2016 quarter resulted in a 0.5% contraction, the first for 5 years. As the 'leftie elites' at the ABC reported:
The only way for millennials to save, for households to pay down their debts, for all of us to have good job prospects and more security and to avoid that credit crunch, is for the Government to go back on everything they have been saying for years, and to increase its spending.

An increasing number of experts are now going against the mainstream, and making the point that for the rest of us to save, the Government has to borrow.

"Voters have been force-fed this neoliberal line that is without foundation in theory, history, experience or practice," said Professor Mitchell.
Australia’s treatment of refugees is now an international talking point. The New York Times recently published a feature article on the issue noting that:
In Peter Dutton, the immigration minister, the country has its own little Trump. Last May he portrayed the asylum seekers as illiterates bent on stealing Australian jobs, and he has suggested “mistakes” were made in letting in too many Lebanese Muslim immigrants. His soft bigotry resonates with enough voters to sway elections.

At the same time, Manus and Nauru are a growing embarrassment to Australia, a party to all major human rights treaties. “There is an increasing realization that this is unsustainable,” Madeline Gleeson, an Australian human rights lawyer, told me.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull knows this and needs a way out. After Omid Masoumali, a young Iranian, burned himself to death on Nauru this year, a cartoon by Cathy Wilcox captured Australia’s shame. Above a man in flames was the caption “Not drowning.”
Before we all decide to give up amongst the doom and gloom, there are a few things we should try. According to Jay Rayner’s article in The Guardian, a tub of Haagen Dazs salted caramel ice cream may help. While I can’t offer any personal experience, it might be worth a try.

Or we can take the example of some notable Australians who have suffered greatly at a personal level and turned the suffering into a positive message for the greater good.

Daniel Morcombe was waiting for a bus on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in December 2003. He was going to a shopping centre to buy Christmas presents. He never made it to the shopping centre or home afterwards. Daniel was 13. For eight years, his whereabouts were unknown. In August 2011, a person who used to live on the Sunshine Coast was charged with Daniel’s abduction and murder and he was convicted in March 2014.

Bruce and Denise Morcombe are Daniel’s parents. They had every right in the world to retreat into their remaining family and mourn Daniel’s disappearance but they didn’t. In 2005, they set up the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, and pledged:
The Foundation's key role in the community is the education of all children about their personal safety. By directly assisting educators and parents through the funding and development of child safety educational resources as well as assisting young victims of crime, the Foundation continues to empower all Australians to make their local communities safer places for all children.

The Foundation is strongly committed to the development and education of Respectful Relationships for children and teenagers in our schools and communities and also assisting in reducing the over-representation of Indigenous Australians in the Child Protection sector.
The Foundation has developed and made freely available a number of resources and phone apps that target school children across Australia. Most of the material is free. The Daniel Morcombe Foundation also raises awareness through activities such as the 'Day for Daniel' where schools are encouraged to discuss 'stranger danger' and similar issues with students. Bruce and Denise Morcombe’s list of achievements is extensive and ongoing, with seemingly no chance of slowing down in the near future:.
The Daniel Morcombe Foundation remains committed to Child Safety Education and developing Harm Prevention resources that help educate children, teachers, parents, carers and their families to 'Keep Kids Safe'.

In addition, the Foundation now has a strong focus on building Respectful Relationships within our schools and communities through proactive education. Coupled with our core messages of Recognise, React, Report, this will enable children and young adults to act positively and appropriately while staying safe.

The Foundation continues to develop new cutting-edge resources that are required in our ever-changing cyber and physical world. We are committed to fund new projects and initiatives in partnership with Universities, Police, community and educational organisations to ensure an on-going commitment to child safety and respectful relationships. These resources will continue to be made available and accessible to all communities (free of charge) throughout Australia.
Clearly the Morcombe family made the decision to tell Daniel’s story rather than bottle it up. They had the good sense to gather people around them who knew how to get a story out, and publicise the story relentlessly. Like a lot of public good programs, no one can really say how many kids’ lives have been saved by the work of the Morcombes in the past 11 years and how many will be saved in the future, but the real point is this: instead of asking why it happened and blaming the bus company (the bus Daniel was going to catch broke down and a replacement one was full prior to getting to Daniel’s location, so it didn’t stop); the police for not finding Daniel immediately; themselves or any one of the other thousand or so coincidences that could have saved Daniel, they resolved to do something to 'fix it'. The Daniel Morcombe Foundation is successful and rightly so. I know my kids have been exposed to the 'Day for Daniel' message and are well aware of some protocols that may help them to escape a similar fate to Daniel’s — as are thousands of other school aged kids around Australia. Rather than being consumed by it, the Morcombes turned their grief and agony into a movement that clearly makes the society we live in a better place to be.

Rosie Batty was the 2015 Australian of the Year due to her work in countering domestic violence in Australia. Unfortunately, Batty has personal experience of domestic violence as well as witnessing her son being murdered by an ex-partner at Tyabb, Victoria, during 2014. As the website for the Luke Batty Foundation states:
Everyone in Australia was hugely affected by the manner in which Luke was killed and communities from far and wide responded generously by sending to Luke’s mum Rosie, hundreds of cards, an abundance of beautiful flowers, and donations, both large and small
The Luke Batty Foundation website and Batty’s telling of her story has certainly brought awareness of issues around domestic violence against both women and men in this country. Once there is awareness, there is the opportunity to take action to hopefully eliminate the problem from our society. Batty’s ongoing work will continue to promote solutions to the issue of domestic violence.

Like the Morcombes, no one would have blamed Batty if she had withdrawn into an environment where she had caring people around her and questioned how and why the events surrounding the murder of her son occurred. She hasn’t — obviously deciding that her suffering can be better used in creating a public good.

The Morcombes, Rosie Batty and others who have turned adversity into good can teach us all a lesson in relation what looks like the rebirth of the ultra-conservative/alt-right/delcons or whatever terminology you want to use.

There is a version of an old saying that suggests that if at first you don’t succeed — don’t try skydiving. While flippant, the answer to the excesses of those like Bernardi, Christensen and Dutton in pushing Australia into being a mean and dispirited collection of minions is to keep pushing the case for the alternative. You too are perfectly capable of writing an email or letter to a politician that is party to something that offends you. You too can write a post on a blog. There is no magical formula that is shared by 'the elite'. Should you choose The Political Sword as your media of choice we’ll even help you (just click on the 'Contact' link at the top of this and give us an idea of what you want to write about). You too can 'like', 'share' or post something on your social media account. A ground swell of support can work miracles.

Marketing experts tell us that personal recommendation has far more influence than advertising or statements by those who are not trusted as highly (such as politicians). The same people will also suggest that emails and correspondence critical of the actions of public figures and companies are read and if there is a sufficient volume, action will be taken to address the concerns. Some will tell you that you have no idea: ensure that you have some facts to back up your argument and be prepared to lay the facts out calmly and logically.

Bloggers and social media posters do get noticed. Greg Jericho enjoyed a quiet life blogging as 'Grogs Gamut' until Mark Scott, then managing director of the ABC read something Jericho wrote on his blog about the quality of journalism during the 2010 election. Scott used the comment in a missive to his staff about the quality of the election news coverage. Jericho now writes for The Guardian and the ABC websites after The Australian outed him claiming 'the public interest'.

So, in 2017 don’t just sit there and yell at the TV when Turnbull or his minders put yet another nail in the coffin of the society where people are supposed to be equal, where we care about each other and those who are not as well off as we are, and we care about the quality of life of those that follow us — do something about it.

Apart from being part of the change you want to see, you’ll feel much better if you do try to change the world.

If issues discussed in this article have affected you or those close to you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 44 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

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

Happy New Year from the people behind The Political Sword. The site is being regularly monitored so please keep it clean and play nice or we will be forced to use the delete button. Apart from an article scheduled to appear mid-January, our regular commentary recommences on 29 January. We look forward to your readership and active participation this year.

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The real bullies
2353NM, 4 December 2016
A Brisbane 13 year old committed suicide last week because, according to his mother, he was being bullied. He identified as being gay and apparently was being bullied at school. Rather than join the chorus of those who instantly know what was going on and speculate for a week or so until something else comes along, how …
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Ken Wolff, 11 December 2016
The old adage says 'the buck stops here' and it applies to managers, CEOs, government ministers and similar people when they take responsibility for what happens in their organisations, including mistakes. When applied in full it leads to people …
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The barbie bigot looks back on the year
Ken Wolff, 18 December 2016
G’day ev’ryone. Welcome back to the barbie. The big news of the year has been elections, both here in Oz an’ in septic-land.

I’ve been a bit quiet since the election ‘cause, after all, the result was a bit hard to …
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The real bullies


A Brisbane 13 year old committed suicide last week because, according to his mother, he was being bullied. He identified as being gay and apparently was being bullied at school. Rather than join the chorus of those who instantly know what was going on and speculate for a week or so until something else comes along, how about we look at the culture that seems to be genuinely regretful when a tragedy such as the death of a Brisbane school boy occurs but votes for and allows much greater crimes against our society to be celebrated.

Prime Minister Turnbull appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 a few weeks ago and left no one in doubt that in his opinion the ‘elite media’ at the ABC was keeping the issue of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in the public view. Now Section 18C is the bit of the legislation that doesn’t allow you to ‘offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate’ someone based on their race or ethnicity . The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has been a leading light in the calls for this section to be repealed since radio announcer and newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt was found guilty of an offence under the section in 2013 in regard to two articles he wrote in 2009. The IPA claims that Section 18C restricts ‘freedom of speech’. According to the IPA:
First, it has become a major touchstone for a growing debate about freedom of speech in Australia. Since the Bolt case in 2011 there has been a sustained campaign in favour of repealing 18C. This campaign was partly born out of the deep concern about the provision being used to silence a prominent and well-respected columnist in a mature liberal democracy such as Australia.

But it also brought to the fore the idea that governments have passed laws which restrict this most fundamental human right, and that something must be done to turn back that tide.

Second, political activists and their lawyers have come to realise that section 18C can be used to aggressively pursue political goals.

The case against Bolt was not merely a group of offended individuals making a legal complaint in an effort to remedy personal loss. It is possible that the complainants could have made out a defamation suit against Bolt. But the case was pursued using 18C as a battering ram because of the negative perception that would be created by a breach of the Racial Discrimination Act.
The problem with the IPA’s (and by association Turnbull and his conservative LNP colleagues) argument is the existence of Section 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act. According to the Human Rights Commission website:
Section 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act contains exemptions which protect freedom of speech. These ensure that artistic works, scientific debate and fair comment on matters of public interest are exempt from section 18C, providing they are said or done reasonably and in good faith.
In the same week as the schoolboy died in Brisbane, Australia’s Immigration Minister claimed that his predecessors (ironically from the same side of politics) in the 1970’s did the wrong thing by allowing refugees from Lebanon to enter the country because some of their grandchildren were now radicalised Muslims. According to news.com.au, Dutton made the argument:
Australians were “sick” of over the top political correctness, the Minister told media after a Greens Senator said his comments might be factual but they weren’t “productive”.

Mr Dutton rejected suggestions his comments were whipping up racism.

Instead, he blamed the “tricky elite”, Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Greens MPs for making the remarks a big deal to win political points.

“I want to have an honest discussion,” he said.
Dutton may have evidence to back up his original claim:
The advice I have is that out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim background …
But he conveniently overlooks the fact that every person charged with a crime in Australia since 1788 is either an immigrant or descended from immigrants. As news.com.au reported:
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten issued a statement calling on Mr Dutton to apologise for his remarks.

“Enough is enough,” Mr Shorten said.

“Our hardworking migrant communities shouldn’t have to tolerate this kind of ignorant stupidity and he needs to immediately apologise.

“It’s time for Malcolm Turnbull to show some leadership and pull his Immigration Minister into line.”
Shorten is right to a point: enough is enough and Turnbull should pull his Immigration Minister into line; however, Shorten’s political party still supports the indefinite detention of refugees in sub-human conditions, or their refoulment to their original country, contrary to the 1951 Refugee Convention (to which Australia is a signatory). Shorten is sitting on both sides of the ‘barbed wire’ fence here.

What is really interesting, however, is Turnbull and Dutton using the term ‘elites’ as an insult. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, elite has two definitions, although it is doubtful if Turnbull and Dutton are referring to the one involving typewriters. So we are left with one definition — broadly, the best part or the socially superior. Others have already done the Turnbull is ‘more elite’ than you or I thing seriously or in fun than it’s possible to do here, so it’s not worth repeating the blindingly obvious.

While Dutton may not as be as well off as Turnbull, he’s not going to be ‘short of a bob’ as he gets older — unlike a lot of those in Dickson he claims to represent. Dutton will be sitting on a parliamentary pension when he leaves parliament as well as his superannuation as a police officer (for which of course he has to wait until his late 50s or 60 to access, along with the rest of us) rather than eking the increasingly hard to get pension out until the next payment.

Paul Bongiorno, writing in The Saturday Paper suggested:
Whatever way you cut it, Australian politics in the past week travelled further down the low road of ignorance, prejudice and bigotry. It’s the new fashion propelled by the extraordinary success in Britain and the United States of politicians who push these buttons.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, already a practitioner in the dark arts, quickly took his cue in an interview with Andrew Bolt on Sky News. Bolt suggested that former prime minister Malcolm Fraser got the Lebanese refugee program wrong in the late 1970s. Dutton agreed “mistakes were made”. When parliament resumed, Labor wanted to know what these mistakes were. The answer was profoundly jarring.
Of course Dutton’s response was that a number of the people most recently charged with terrorist related offences were Lebanese Muslims, a failure of the Fraser Government. Bongiorno went on to suggest:
What should be remembered is that Dutton, who is fast becoming the leading conservative voice in the Liberal party, is a Queenslander. A clue to his approach could be the alarm at the spike in support for One Nation of which his fellow Queenslander, Attorney-General George Brandis, speaks. A hot microphone picked up his frank conversation with Victorian Liberal party powerbroker Michael Kroger this week. In what he thought were private remarks, Brandis revealed support for One Nation is already running at 16 per cent in the Sunshine State. He is convinced it will win seats at the next state poll.

In 1998, One Nation peaked at 22 per cent to capture 11 seats in the state parliament and deny the Nationals and Liberals government. Adding to the alarm is the Palaszczuk Labor government’s reinstatement of compulsory preferential voting. According to the sotto voce Brandis, this could lead to a split between the merged Liberal and National parties that form the LNP. The ABC’s election analyst Antony Green believes that had preferential voting existed at the last state election, Labor would have won a majority on Greens preferences.
Politicians playing politics is to be expected and both Turnbull and Dutton have been around long enough to be ‘good at their game’. However, as the leaders of the country surely they should be the moral elite as well as the financial elite. As Shorten suggested, Turnbull should have pulled his immigration minister into line. As Bongiorno wrote:
Fraser’s immigration minister, Ian Macphee, was scathing in his reaction to Dutton. In a statement released through the Refugee Council, he said the attack was “outrageous”. He said: “We have had a succession of inadequate immigration ministers in recent years but Dutton is setting the standards even lower. Yet Turnbull recently declared him to be ‘an outstanding immigration minister’. The Liberal Party has long ceased to be liberal.
From Turnbull, all we heard was crickets (nothing).

Not that the politicians are the only ones who seem to be practicing the ‘game’ of kicking groups of people while they are down. Fairfax reported in the last week of November that a number of Caltex franchisees seem to be paying their staff considerably under the award rate of pay for working all hours of the day or night in an environment that has a number of hazards to the physical and mental well being of the employees. Caltex isn’t the only organisation that has been accused of underpaying staff with, according to Fairfax:
One in four Australian workers who checked their pay through a union-run online wage calculator found out they were being ripped off, with staff in the restaurant business the worst affected.

Based on nearly 20,000 workers' pay details entered into the Fair Pay Campaign Calculator over three weeks, more than half of all restaurant industry submissions (60 per cent) showed staff were being denied minimum rates of pay.
And it gets worse:
"It's horrifying," said Maurice Blackburn employment principal Giri Sivaraman.

"It's horrifying to think that so many people across a wide variety of industries are getting underpaid.

"This isn't a case of a few bad apples — you can't isolate it to one type of job, one industry, or one employer — this is systemic wage theft, and it's just so widespread."

Another troubling result from the data related to employment in Australia's pubs and clubs, where nearly 92 per cent of casual staff who used the calculator to check their wages found out they were being underpaid.
Sivaraman is already assisting a number of people who were underpaid by 7-Eleven franchisees in the related scandal earlier this year.

It’s probably unfortunate for Caltex that they are a public company and under Australian listing laws, they operate in an environment of continuous disclosure. So we know their profit for 2014 was $493 million and the 2015 ‘record’ profit was estimated to be between $615 and $635 million at the time the Sydney Morning Herald reported in December 2015. Their franchisees and other smaller businesses (along with the corporate structure of 7-Eleven) have considerably fewer requirements for publicly reported financial results.

While Caltex is probably not responsible legally for the actions of its franchisees, it is responsible for the contracts it has with the franchisees and, as they have been in the industry for a long time, they should by all rights know the costs involved in the 24 hour a day operation of a petrol shop. In a similar way, 7-Eleven corporate should know the costs of running a corner shop or petrol shop. It seems on the face of it that either Caltex and 7-Eleven both charge the franchisees too much or the franchisees are greedy. Regardless, if you were a small shareholder in a large firm that was involved in underpayment of wages, you would have to be concerned at the senior management of the company who stood by and watched the business’s name be trashed due to taking advantage of those who could least respond to bullying and intimidation.

So how does all this relate to a Brisbane schoolboy who committed suicide?

According to the boy’s mother, he was bullied because he believed he was different to the ‘ordinary’. Regardless of the matter of the school knowing about the claims or acting on them, some of the students at the school seemed to think that it was acceptable practice to tease or bully someone who was ‘different’. Do you wonder where they got the idea that their actions were acceptable behaviour? Could it be they were following the behaviour of Turnbull or Dutton (or Abbott)? Surely the actions of big business of imposing conditions on contractors that conspire to ensure they cannot comply with Australian laws for the payment of staff while making a profit is also bullying.

It is a sad indictment on Australia, if at the same time as we rightfully decry bullying at schools and similar institutions, we allow our political and business elite (in the true sense of the word) to get away with bullying consumers of a certain media channel, grandchildren of migrants from the 1970’s or those who have to work in lower paying and (let’s face it) rather insecure employment.

Teenage boys who suicide should be mourned – and those that victimise or bully anyone should be called out. Pity our national elite seem not to think so.

If you or someone you know is suffering distress, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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

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Let’s welcome President Trump


Yes, you read the title correctly. Donald J Trump will be the 45th President of the United States of America after amassing more ‘Electoral College’ votes on 8 November 2016. It doesn’t matter that Clinton won the popular vote as the ‘Electoral College’ is where you need to outperform. The reality is that close to 45% of the population used their democratic right (in the US anyway) of not voting for any Presidential candidate. It’s easy to make the assumption that a lot of people either didn’t care, didn’t like the candidates or just couldn’t be bothered. Some of those may now be regretting their choice.

The internet is awash with articles by full time and citizen journalists telling us why Clinton lost or Trump won. To be honest, there is probably a grain of truth in a lot of the discussion. This isn’t another ‘we woz robbed’ or ‘wot went wrong’ monologue, history is history and Trump may last as President from 20 January 2017 to 20 January 2021 or beyond. Despite the apparently common theme in Australia that Trump is not a good thing, are we not seeing the wood for the trees here? Michael Moore of Bowling for Columbine and other documentary movies’ fame actually tipped not only that Trump would win the election last July, but which US states Trump would pick up:
You need to stop living in denial and face the truth which you know deep down is very, very real. Trying to soothe yourself with the facts — “77% of the electorate are women, people of color, young adults under 35 and Trump can’t win a majority of any of them!” — or logic — “people aren’t going to vote for a buffoon or against their own best interests!” — is your brain’s way of trying to protect you from trauma. Like when you hear a loud noise on the street and you think, “oh, a tire just blew out,” or, “wow, who’s playing with firecrackers?” because you don’t want to think you just heard someone being shot with a gun. It’s the same reason why all the initial news and eyewitness reports on 9/11 said “a small plane accidentally flew into the World Trade Center.” We want to — we need to — hope for the best because, frankly, life is already a s**t show and it’s hard enough struggling to get by from paycheck to paycheck. We can’t handle much more bad news. So our mental state goes to default when something scary is actually, truly happening. The first people plowed down by the truck in Nice spent their final moments on earth waving at the driver whom they thought had simply lost control of his truck, trying to tell him that he jumped the curb: “Watch out!,” they shouted. “There are people on the sidewalk!”
Moore suggested:
I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states — but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million). Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and tied with her in Ohio. Tied? How can the race be this close after everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it’s because he’s said (correctly) that the Clintons’ support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states. When Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the Michigan primary, he threatened the corporation that if they did indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars shipped back to the United States. It was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the working class of Michigan, and when he tossed in his threat to Apple that he would force them to stop making their iPhones in China and build them here in America, well, hearts swooned and Trump walked away with a big victory that should have gone to the governor next-door, John Kasich.
Moore also talks about ‘angry white men’ who can’t adjust to equality of race or gender, Clinton’s negatives, the Democrats who supported Sanders not necessarily supporting the Democrats eventual nominee with the same gusto as ‘their’ candidate and those who were always going to vote for Trump because doing so gives the royal finger to established politics.

And you know what, Moore is right. If you are a factory worker in Michigan who no longer has a job because the cars you used to make are now imported — or even a mining worker in the Hunter Valley or Central Queensland who has lost their job because of global markets either not requiring or finding a cheaper alternative to ‘their’ product — you too would think about destroying the system that on the face of it looks after itself, but not you.

Rightly or wrongly Clinton wasn’t a great candidate. Sure, she knew how the system worked and had the experience, as she has been a part of the system for a long time. Unfortunately, she also had made some decisions in the past that were marketed as demonstrating Clinton didn’t follow the rules when it didn’t suit her. The perception therefore is that she is there to look after herself, rather than the unemployed labourer or farm worker suffering because of changing economic circumstances.

So if you think that Clinton could refute Trump’s appeal, in the words of Moore:
… you obviously missed the past year of 56 primaries and caucuses where 16 Republican candidates tried that and every kitchen sink they could throw at Trump and nothing could stop his juggernaut.
Yes, from the other side of the Pacific, Trump is a xenophobe, narcissistic and seemingly will do what it takes to gather popularity. However, how about we look at this strategically?

Trump (and Hanson/Abbott in Australia, Farage in the UK and La Pen in France amongst others) is telling voters that if you vote for me, I will ‘fix’ your individual problem, be it health care, education, jobs, commodity prices or whatever else is the reason you are disaffected with the ‘political’ class. Trump has made that implied promise to something like 380 million people. Before he starts campaigning for his Presidential re-election campaign somewhere around 2019, he has to deliver on a lot of promises made to a lot of people. Given that it would be well-nigh impossible to understand the problems of a lot of the US population inside two years, there is Buckley’s chance of a solution being delivered. Let’s say that Trump ‘fixes’ imports, giving jobs back to the ‘rustbelt’ states that effectively elected him. Apart from the domestic replacements being more expensive and/or of lesser quality than the current import, imported products also have a supply line of distributors and resellers who would conceivably be worse off if the tap on imports is turned off. In a similar vein, a lot of those who rely on what are claimed to be ‘undocumented Americans’ to do the menial work around the home and so on would probably find themselves either doing the work or paying a lot more for a ‘documented American’ to perform the same tasks.

Trump has by implication promised to ‘fix’ the perceived personal problem of every person that has voted for him, as well as those who didn’t. It really doesn’t matter that there are a multitude of problems and, given all the good will in the world, some of the problems are so entrenched in the global economic system that they will never be ‘fixed’, Trump’s implicit promise is to ‘fix it’ and benefit all those US citizens who voted for him. When it comes time for other Republicans to challenge him for the 2020 nomination sometime in 2019, a lot of the disaffected that voted for Trump this time around will look at their individual circumstances and decide whether they are either worse or no better off. While Trump may not necessarily follow the usual political protocols, he can’t ‘fix’ everything he claimed to be able to manage in under 24 months. He is already ‘talking down’ his promise to cancel Obama’s Affordable Health initiative. Will these people (probably numbered in the hundreds of millions) accept Trump’s inevitable line that he is gradually turning things around? Or will they, to paraphrase a former Australian politician be waiting on the porch with a baseball bat?

We do have a precedent here. Campbell Newman came to power in Queensland promising to fix the state, and the people gave him a wallopingly large margin to do it (the Official Opposition, led by Annastacia Palaszczuk, could hold meetings in an eight-seater people mover and still have a spare seat). Newman instituted his vision of reform and not only did Palaszczuk form a minority government at the next election some two and a half years later, Newman lost his seat in the 89 seat Queensland parliament. You could also argue that the 2016 federal election result was a result of Abbott’s claims prior to 2013 that he would ‘fix it’ with a similar lack of actual ability to do so.

The beauty of Trump’s election is that from 20 January 2017, he is arguably the most important person in the world. The common belief is that if the US President says jump, the expected answer is ‘how high’. If Trump can’t make everyone happy in the next couple of years, do the Hansons and Farages of this world have any chance of doing so? In reality — probably not. Probably the easier question to ask is will every other political party in the world (apart from the ultra conservatives such as One Nation, UKIP, etc) be reticent about pointing out that Trump couldn’t fix it — so how on earth will Hanson, Farage or whoever else do better?

Trump in the view of a lot of people doesn’t deserve to be President because he worked outside the traditional rules of engagement. Rightly or wrongly, he convinced enough people in the right areas to trust him to deliver. While the jury is still out on the delivery of his promises, Trump is highly susceptible to claims that he is no better than the rest if each one of the implied promises he made to make things better for every American citizen isn’t happening by 2019. Trump will soon have in his command the established forces of the largest and most well-resourced democracy in the world to make the changes he considers necessary to the world’s political and economic systems. If Trump can’t do it (and the chances are he won’t in the minds of a lot of Americans) people like Abbott, Hanson and the other ‘like-minded’ people around the world have even less. Trump’s probable failure also should be concerning other political players who have been using similar arguments for a number of years — including Hanson’s One Nation Party.

Michael Moore managed to blitz the field with his tips for the 2016 US Elections. He still has one tip in play. As reported by Paste magazine, Moore appeared on American television on November 11, 2016:
During the sprawling 45-minute discussion, Moore said that he didn’t think Trump would last his whole term of office. Moore said:

This is why we’re not going to have to suffer through four years of Donald J. Trump, because he has no ideology except the ideology of Donald J. Trump. And when you have a narcissist like that, who’s so narcissistic where it’s all about him, he will — maybe unintentionally — break laws. He will break laws because he’s only thinking about what’s best for him.
In some ways, impeaching Trump would be a tragedy.

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

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