Fake news – or lousy reporting


A few weeks ago, there was another mass murder in the USA. This time the shooter, a 64-year-old male, holed himself up on the 32rd floor of a casino hotel complex in Las Vegas, Nevada and massacred 60, including himself, and injured more than 500 (at the time of writing). All the victims did wrong was attend a country music concert along with 22,000 or so other people on the Las Vegas ‘casino strip’.

While some may consider country music a crime, most Australians consider the apparent ease of gun ownership in the USA pure insanity. Both of these subjects have been done to death in the past and the reality is that even if the entire 24 million or so of us on this side of the Pacific told the USA’s lawmakers they were crazy to allow the current lax gun laws to continue, it wouldn’t make a scrap of difference. All we can really do to avoid a perceived safety risk is to choose to holiday in an area that you would feel safe in such as North Queensland or Tasmania, New Zealand or Canada — the land of unarmed Americans with universal health care. (No, it’s not original, you can get the coffee mug or t-shirt here). As for country music — well it ain’t gunna kill you!

What we should be concerned about is the reporting of the Las Vegas massacre as it does affect us and how we live. As you would expect, Facebook and Google reported the Las Vegas massacres on their ‘newsfeed’, as obviously, people were ‘reporting’ the incident live on their social media accounts. Media outlets would also be looking at this traffic along with the reports from the police in the Las Vegas area. In this world of instant communication, there is an imperative to be first with the news — in this case who was the person that committed this heinous crime and why did they do it?

Both Google and Facebook promoted incorrect information — including the incorrect identification of the murderer.
Police have identified Stephen Paddock as the suspect who opened fire from a high-rise hotel room, killing scores and injuring hundreds more. But before authorities named the 64-year-old Nevada man, some on the far right falsely identified the man behind the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history as Geary Danley. It’s unclear where exactly the hoax originated, but right-wing users aggressively promoted his name, seizing on evidence that he was a liberal.

On 4chan, the anonymous message board and a favourite platform of the “alt-right”, some noted that Danley was a registered Democrat. Soon after, Gateway Pundit, a conspiracy-laden blog that earned White House credentials under Trump, published an evidence-free story headlined, “Las Vegas Shooter Reportedly a Democrat Who Liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org and Associated with Anti-Trump Army”. The piece was based on a review of Facebook “likes”.

Despite the fact that the claims were unproven and coming from non-credible sources, Facebook’s “Safety Check” page, which is supposed to help people connect with loved ones during the crisis, ended up briefly promoting a story that said the shooter had “Trump-hating” views, along with links to a number of other hoaxes and scams, according to screenshots. At the same time, Google users who searched Geary Danley’s name were at one point directed to the 4chan thread filled with false claims.

The right-wing users’ successful manipulation of social media algorithms to politicize a tragedy speaks to a relatively new pattern of online abuse. While users of Twitter and Reddit memorably misidentified the suspect behind the Boston marathon bombing in 2013, fake news during global tragedies and terrorist attacks over the last year has increasingly gone beyond careless reporting and retweeting to overt exploitation and targeted disinformation campaigns.
Danley’s political views may be to the left of the ultra-conservative blogsites, but his only real ‘crime’ is being the ex-husband of the real murderer’s partner, an Australian citizen Marilou Danley, who was in the Philippines at the time of the crime.
She was later cleared of any involvement but on Wednesday police still described her as a "person of interest" who they had many questions for.

She flew into Los Angeles on [the following] Wednesday afternoon and was met by FBI agents.
In the days before instant communication, there is a reasonable bet that had the Las Vegas shootings happened there would be little knowledge of the event until the news was phoned around the world by reporters. The reporters would have typically checked the facts before sending the reports out. While the spread of news would have certainly been slower, the degree of accuracy would have been significantly greater.

Social media sources such as Facebook and Google claim (rightly or wrongly) that their newsfeeds, where content is usually generated by computers running data quickly through complicated algorithms, can approximate the importance of the news to their customers. To an extent, it does work as the murder of a number of innocent people in Las Vegas is more important to the majority of people than all the cat photos or menu choices that were posted on social media at the same time. The problem with algorithms is if people can construct them, other people can deconstruct them. As The Guardian’s report above suggests, either the algorithm is incapable of sorting fact from fiction as it uses non-credible sources or the non-credible sources have deconstructed the algorithm sufficiently to skew the results.

Social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google are large. Accordingly, they need lots of revenue to survive. As their business models are based on a ‘free’ service, they rely on advertising and selling their intellectual property such as search optimisation products to generate the revenue. So, the longer you ‘read’ Facebook or one of its competitors each time you access it, the more advertising you see. The social media company can then demonstrate that ‘another set of eyes’ has seen the advertising for something than may vaguely interest you (again served up to you based on an algorithm of what you access when looking at your social media accounts) and charge the advertiser a small additional amount. For the business model to work, they have to convince you to turn to them frequently to catch up on ‘news’ that is relevant to you at the time, rather than turn on the radio, buy a paper, look at the website of a ‘traditional’ media organisation such as the ABC or watch the news on TV, so immediacy seems to be of a higher rating within the algorithms than accuracy. It is how they make the money. They also have to confirm your existing bias, so for example if you love cats and dislike budgies, your ‘newsfeed’ on your favourite social media application will serve you up stories of cute cats and their goings on rather than videos of budgies behaving badly. Again, it is all about ensuring you interact on their product, rather than the opposition.

Facebook recently sent a senior employee, Adam Mosseri, to Australia to discuss ‘fake news’, how the news feed worked and other related issues with a number of media organisations such as Fairfax and News Corp.
"It is bad for business," Mosseri told journalists at a briefing. "It [fake news] erodes trust in our platform, not only with people, but with publishers and with advertisers. We are an ad-based business, and that can be really, really painful."

Fake news shot to prominence during the US presidential election campaign when sites masquerading as authentic news outlets published completely untrue stories — that the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump, or that the Democrats were operating a human trafficking ring from a DC pizza joint — that subsequently spread like wildfire on Facebook.
Despite the claim they are an ‘ad-based business’, Facebook and others curate a newsfeed where reports of mass murders in the USA can be incorrectly attributed to the wrong person for a considerable time after the correct information is widely available
A full three days after the incident, it wasn't hard to find questionable, hyper-partisan content from the US related to the Vegas shooting incident on Facebook.

A quick search I did on the social network brought up a story claiming that an Australian eyewitness had indirectly revealed the "SHOCKING TRUTH" about the attack — that it was part of a vast conspiracy involving a New World Order and the corporate media.

Another post, published in August, but which seemed to have resurfaced in the wake of Las Vegas, said Australia's gun control laws were "collapsing".
This is the problem for Australia and critical analysis of what passes for news in the current environment of hyper-partisan politics. Claims that gun laws are failing in Australia are false but those that want to believe it usually won’t double check with an independent source, especially from across the Pacific. While ‘dumb luck’ may be a very small part of the success of political parties such as One Nation, marketing and ‘suitable' content keep the interest going. They too have the ability to purchase the intellectual smarts to understand their target audience and reach out to them through social media. In the past few weeks, the Queensland division of One Nation announced a series of policies for the upcoming state election.
These include “no body, no parole” laws for homicide convictions that Labor passed this year and mandatory sentences for possession of illegal weapons such as sawn-off shotguns that were passed by the former Liberal National party government.
Regardless of the worth of the particular measures, empty announcements such as the ones by One Nation in Queensland do make it onto social media platforms, through advertising if nothing else. The social media companies know and understand your likes and dislikes and feed you product placements to confirm your biases (it is how they make money). One Nation’s Queensland followers will be served information via social media claiming One Nation is responsible for the measures rather than one of the two larger political parties in Queensland. If someone dared dispute the real ownership of the policy to this group, it would likely be declared to be a conspiracy or ‘fake news’.

According to Roger McNamee, an early investor in both Facebook and Google
Facebook and Google get their revenue from advertising, the effectiveness of which depends on gaining and maintaining consumer attention. Borrowing techniques from the gambling industry, Facebook, Google and others exploit human nature, creating addictive behaviours that compel consumers to check for new messages, respond to notifications, and seek validation from technologies whose only goal is to generate profits for their owners.

The people at Facebook and Google believe that giving consumers more of what they want and like is worthy of praise, not criticism. What they fail to recognize is that their products are not making consumers happier or more successful. Like gambling, nicotine, alcohol or heroin, Facebook and Google — most importantly through its YouTube subsidiary — produce short-term happiness with serious negative consequences in the long term. Users fail to recognize the warning signs of addiction until it is too late. There are only 24 hours in a day, and technology companies are making a play for all them. The CEO of Netflix recently noted that his company’s primary competitor is sleep.
While ‘fake news’ is an indecisive term and based heavily on your personal beliefs and opinions, it seems lousy reporting relies on algorithms and machine learning to verify the news rather than people.

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

Related Posts
Twenty Twenty-Four – our Orwellian destiny?
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 12 March 2017

Have you ever felt overtaken by the velocity of world events? Have your ever felt overwhelmed by the pace of change? Have you ever wondered what the world will be like in Twenty Twenty-Four, forty years after George Orwell’s prophetic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four?
More…

Does social media influence politics?
2353NM, The Political Sword, 22 March 2015

The new fashion in Australian politics seems to be leadership change. In the past ten years, we’ve seen Rudd overthrown by Gillard (only to succeed in a subsequent challenge a couple of years later), three federal opposition leaders in the Rudd/Gillard government era More…

The democratisation of opinion
Ken Wolff, The Political Sword, 7 August 2016

With the rise of the internet and social media almost anyone can express their opinion to an audience in the thousands, even hundreds of thousands, no longer just to a circle of people who are physically present to hear the opinion. While that provides the democratisation of opinion More…

What’s wrong with PM Turnbull?



As a weary electorate approaches yet another holiday season, looks back over the year and asks: ‘How has our federal government improved life for ordinary Aussies’, the answer is depressing.

Our self-styled ‘adult government’ has achieved so little for so long. We have had to endure indecision, poor planning, stultifying policies, governmental chaos, the dual citizenship shemozzle, infighting, and worst of all, inept decision-making and ineffectual leadership.

While the members of the Coalition must take much of the blame, the one who must shoulder most is the nation’s leader – Malcolm Turnbull. What on earth is wrong with PM Turnbull?

The question is redundant – we already know what’s wrong. We have watched Turnbull for many years now, have written about him over and again, and have predicted just what we are now seeing. A review of The Political Sword Archive reveals over twenty pieces that have been penned about Turnbull with links to many more, dating back nine years to 2008. We ought not be surprised at the Turnbull we now witness and tolerate uneasily.

We had expected so much more from him. Memories of his earlier failures faded during the reign of the awful Tony Abbott. So gross was Abbott that when the intelligent, urbane, personable, cultured, well-spoken, well-presented, persuasive and credible Turnbull toppled him in a cleverly organized coup, the electorate breathed a collective sigh of relief, and, with high hopes, welcomed him warmly. Surely, anyone would be better that the nasty, combative Abbott, whose legacy of destruction lives with us still through the damage he did to energy policy, the NBN, the marriage equality debate, and the damage he still does day after day to the government of which he is a member, and to its elected leader.

The electorate was prepared to give Turnbull a ‘fair go’, hoping that having achieved his life-long goal of prime ministership, we would see a new side of him. We knew of his achievements in business as co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, his success with the ISP OzEmail, his brilliance as a barrister in the famous Spycatcher case where he defeated the UK government and when he defended Kerry Packer (the goanna), his record as a journalist, and his involvement in the unraveling of the corporate failure of insurance company HIH.

We also had memories of Turnbull’s devotion to the Republic, his enthusiasm for combating climate change, his support for marriage equality, and his intention to deliver fast broadband. Sadly he has let us down as Abbott slammed the brakes on these initiatives. You can read the gory details in Abbott's legacy of destruction.

So let’s look back a while and observe how the Turnbull of today was completely predictable many years ago.

As far back as December 2009 The Political Sword featured a piece: Opposition ship docks for repairs that concluded: ‘A combination of lack of purpose, weakness of character, insufficient muscle and diminishing authority, and an ego-centric certainty of the correctness of his own position coupled with an unwillingness to listen, is lethal in a leader. How long can he [Turnbull] last before the murmurings among his crew and the critics begin to further erode his position’.

These sentiments echo still!

Even before that, in April 2009, in Why is Malcolm Turnbull so unpopular?, there were these words:
‘There’s not much need to emphasize Turnbull’s contemporary unpopularity – it’s all over the air waves and the papers. It takes only a few metrics to quantify it. He leads a Coalition that Possum’s Pollytrack currently shows has an average TPP vote of only 40. Pollytrack shows 60/40 in Labor's favour across several polls, and Pollytrend shows a steady trend away from the Coalition.

The latest Newspoll PPM ratings show 67/18. As primary votes are running at 47/36, it means that half of Coalition voters don’t prefer Turnbull as PM.’
In June 2009, a TPS piece: Stop at nothing – Malcolm’s fatal flaw? reviewed Annabel Crabb’s Quarterly Essay about the ’Life and Adventures of Malcolm Turnbull’ – Stop at Nothing. Referring to the 1984 Costigan Royal Commission convened to investigate the activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, Crabb concluded:
From the Costigan affair we can draw some preliminary conclusions about the young Turnbull. The first is that he has no regard for orthodoxy,... and this refusal to ‘play by the rules’ is something of a lifelong pattern for Turnbull; it explains much of his success, but also accounts for the worst of his reputation...The second thing we learn from Costigan is that violent tactical methods are not just something which Turnbull will contemplate turning on if sufficiently provoked. It’s not enough to say that Turnbull is prepared to play hardball. He prefers to play hardball – that’s the point. It is impossible to rid oneself entirely of the suspicion that Turnbull enjoys the intrigue – the hurling of grenades...
It seems though as if Turnbull has lost his aggressive mojo when it comes to standing up to the ultra-conservative rump in his party that threatens his leadership if he does not comply with their every wish. So much for Turnbull’s desire to play hardball! He is unable or unwilling to risk his leadership by defending his long-held ideals. For him, survival always trumps principle!

After Turnbull, written in October 2009, begins: ‘Despite the caution implicit in Mark Twain’s statement about his reported death being an exaggeration, columnists are almost universally predicting Malcolm Turnbull’s political demise.’

They are still.

Way back in 2009, Andrew Bolt wrote: ‘No hope, no real leader, no real successor – could it get any worse for the brawling, broken federal Liberals?’

Today, nothing’s changed except the date!

The only factor protecting Turnbull now is the paucity of replacements.

Shock jocks Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and Andrew Bolt would have him replaced in a flash by Tony Abbott, whom they believe should never have been upended as he was.

Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher too was predicting the end of Malcolm Turnbull. In a video he recorded he opined that Malcolm Turnbull “...is in a terminal condition as the Liberal leader”. Hartcher goes on to predict “...the inevitable collapse of the Turnbull leadership,” insisting that “...Turnbull is in the political killing zone.”

Remember, we’re harking back to October 2009, exactly eight years ago!

In July 2016, there was a piece on TPS written in the wake of the 8 July Federal Election when the result was still uncertain: How has it come to this? It began: ‘Far from fulfilling his oft-repeated promise of stable government and sound economic management; far from avoiding the “chaos” of a close result, Turnbull seems unlikely to achieve either. The consensus among those analysing the election results, the commentariat, and the social media, is that the outcome will be a narrow LNP majority.’

It turned out to be a majority of one! Turnbull’s attempt to regain momentum was a flop.



The piece went on: ‘While acknowledging that multiple factors bring about any election outcome, I propose that this time five significant factors have been in play: the Turnbull character; Medicare; Inequality; Turnbull reversals on the NBN, marriage equality, global warming and the Republic; and insensitivity towards the Coalition’s constituency.You can read the details here

Has anything changed since then?

Again, going back to March 2009, in a TPS article titled The Turnbull Twist is this:
This piece proposes that forces within his party regularly pull and push him away from his own considered opinion. As he dances to others’ tune, we see him sometimes gyrating violently, sometimes swaying gently, and sometimes lurching precipitously – this is the ‘Turnbull Twist’.

Turnbull lacks nothing in self-confidence. It was he who said at the Federal Liberal Party Council meeting at the weekend “I am the man to lead Australia”. So why does he twist and turn so often? The answer seems to be that despite his unassailable self-confidence, he has less than supreme confidence in the loyalty and support of his party room. Persistently poor polls since his election to leadership six months ago, his disinclination to seek the views of the party room…and being unable to land many blows on Rudd and his ministers despite his splendid oratory, are among the factors that have eroded party room support.
Again, remember that this was eight years ago!

I have written many times that when Turnbull has his heart in a matter, he can speak eloquently and plausibly. When he has doubts; when he is trying to watch every word that his enemies might seize upon to berate him, he becomes hesitant to the point of being inarticulate, at times almost mute! This is his answer to Sabra Lane during a recent interview on AM about his proposed new laws on national security”
SABRA LANE: Why aren’t existing laws sufficient?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, they just aren’t. There's not the, you need, you also need very clear, clear laws. It’s, it’s important to make sure that you give the police a very clear offence that makes, so that there’s no ambiguity or grey area.
It’s hard to believe that a man whose ability to wax eloquently is widely acknowledged, could be reduced to such a stuttering, almost incoherent state.

Malcolm Turnbull is rattled. He clings by a thread onto his leadership. He is obsessed by the spectre of his conservative enemies, lead by the viciously vindictive Tony Abbott, the very one who, at the time Turnbull upended him promised: “There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping”, yet who thereafter proceeded to do all three, repeatedly!

In October 2009, as storm clouds became threatening, in What will Turnbull do now? you will read these opening words: ‘“Keep on punching Malcolm” is what his father advised. Malcolm Turnbull’s doggedness is legend, but so is his intelligence. Someone as intelligent as all his reviewers insist, must be smart enough to know when to throw in the towel, how to avoid a humiliating knockout. The key is to know when the knockout is imminent.’

The piece concluded:
Has Turnbull enough commonsense and political nous to see that all that lies ahead is more dissent, more corrosive comments,…more desire for another leader if only there was one around,…more media speculation about leadership, its favourite sport, more ridicule from Rudd and his ministers pointing to the rabble he’s trying to lead but can’t,…more poor polls, and almost certain electoral defeat and loss of seats? I suspect he has. His doggedness may well be tempered by an intense desire to ease the pain and call it quits. And if he can do that in a spectacular and relatively face-saving way, he might choose that out.
Here we are eight years later and nothing has changed. PM Turnbull is still the same old Malcolm we have come to know. His characteristics and behaviour are identical to those of eight years ago.

In Turnbull – Abbott from a better postcode? written a year ago, 2353NM concludes:
When Turnbull became prime minister, there was a hope that he would bring the claimed decency and ability to appeal to the middle ground that was so lacking with Abbott. After 13 months, it hasn’t happened. There are two possibilities: Turnbull is just as bad as Abbott (except for better clothing choices and living in a ‘more expensive’ postcode); or, to coin a phrase, Turnbull ’doesn’t have the ticker’ to promote and implement policy and legislation that isn’t approved by his conservative rump thereby ensuring his longevity as prime minister. Either way, the rest of us as Australian citizens will continue to suffer as a result.
We are a forgiving lot. We want to give everyone, even our politicians, a ‘fair go’. We have this pitiable faith that in the end they might come good. We want them to, as their decisions affect us all. Our scepticism about them is tempered by our good nature and our cherished hopes.

Yet they let us down again and again, as is testified in numerous pieces on The Political Sword, too many to enumerate in this single piece.

PM Turnbull came to office buoyed by a surge of goodwill from much of the electorate – we wanted him to succeed after the bitter experience of the belligerent and destructive Abbott. All he had to do was to ride the wave of electoral support and enthusiasm, and then perform. We would have cheered him on.

But once again he has failed, and does so day after day as he struggles to find coherence, flounders as he fights with his own backbenchers, tries vainly to plan effective policies to fill the legislative void, falters as he attempts to achieve anything positive, and makes hard work of improving his standing with the people.

He leaves the electorate gasping for relief from cost-of-living pressures, desperate for forward-looking policies that will enrich our society and each of us individually, all the time hoping for a government that looks as if it knows what it’s doing.

He has botched his leadership yet again. Looking back over the last decade we ought not to be surprised. Nothing has changed but the timeline. What’s wrong with PM Turnbull? Simply, whatever his other attributes, as a Prime Minister Turnbull is a disappointing dud.

We all should have realized that long ago.




What do you think?
Is this a fair assessment of PM Turnbull?

Let us know in comments below.

Related Posts
How are the ‘adults’ managing our economy?
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 12 April 2017

Who will ever forget the insults, the slurs, and the slander that the Coalition heaped upon Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan as they managed the economy through the Global Financial Crisis and beyond? They were depicted as incompetent children playing games in an economic sandpit with no idea of what they were doing, making one catastrophic mistake after another. Remember how the Coalition boasted that the children should get out of the way and let the adults take over, insisting as they did that they were the experts at economic management. More…

The report card
2353NM, The Political Sword, 23 April 2017

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. More…

How has it come to this?
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 10 July 2016

The MSM and blog sites abound with critiques of the election and tentative predictions of the political outcomes. So why bother writing yet another to explain how it has all come to this? You will judge whether this analysis adds anything useful. More…

Thirty pieces of silver
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 5 March 2017

Disappointment, disillusionment, disgust, desperation, desolation, despondency, and above all simmering anger - these are the emotions so many Australians have had, and still are experiencing when they reflect on Malcolm Turnbull’s period as prime minister. And this applies to many Labor supporters, who welcomed Turnbull’s overturning of Tony Abbott. Surely, they thought, nothing could be worse than the appalling Abbott. More…

Football, meat pies, kangaroos and political storms


Last weekend, we saw the grand finals for both the Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League (NRL). Coincidently it was also a long weekend in the Eastern States which probably allowed those with a particular allegiance to return to some semblance of normality before they had to go back to work on Tuesday.

There has been a week for all those who know something about football to comment on who won the finals, how well (or badly — depending on your opinion and if you supported the winners or the losers) they played and how this will translate into the 2018 season. Given that this is a political blog, rather than a sporting one, apart from not having a clue, the decision has been taken not add to the hysteria.

Over the years, there has been an increased amount of glitz and glamour at both codes’ end of season celebrations. A cynic could suggest that in part the additional ‘inducements’ such as half-time entertainment, aircraft flyovers and so on attempt to justify the high prices of admission to the MCG or Stadium Australia on the respective Saturday or Sunday.

It was hard to ignore that an American rap singer named Macklemore was booked to sing at the NRL grand final last Sunday thanks to self-appointed Prime Minister in waiting Tony Abbott again making a comment before putting brain in gear. Abbott’s twitter comment was ‘Footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicised grand final. Sport is sport’. Abbott was supporting a Change.org petition by a former NRL player Tony Wall (with a record of 12 NRL games) asking the NRL to re-consider their ‘political’ position.

The reason for the petition was that ‘half-time’ NRL final entertainer Macklemore released a song in 2012 called ‘Same Love’. Apparently it is about same sex marriage, and it was announced that he would sing that plus a couple of other songs in front of 80,000 people at the 2017 NRL grand final. It seems obvious that the NRL have some statistic to link Macklemore and those that are either attracted to (or the NRL would like to attract to) watching Rugby League on a regular basis. It would be standard practice that Macklemore was booked by the NRL after contract negotiations and some agreement on what each party (Macklemore and the NRL) would bring to the day and the decision was made a considerable time ago to fit the artist’s commitments. Considering Turnbull only called the plebiscite (oops! Survey) a few months ago, it stands to reason that the NRL booking was made considerably earlier than Turnbull’s announcement of the survey process.

So when Abbott was on the medal presentation dais (getting booed by the way) at the end of the 2014 NRL grand final he wasn’t politicising sport? OK, we’ll give him the exception that proves the rule. But on second thoughts, how about media interviews in football stadiums, at AFL presentations, at the cricket with then NZ Prime Minister John Keys, with the Australian Woman’s Cricket Team, the Indian Cricket Team, the Australian Soccer Team, when the Australian Rugby Union gave him a named jersey, or in the ABC Cricket commentary box. All of these ‘exceptions’ are lovingly detailed by Buzzfeed here, along with pictures and a link to Macklemore’s subversive and political song which was released five years before Abbott probably knew who Macklemore was.

Abbott’s problems don’t end there. As Attorney-General George Brandis pointed out, Macklemore (as well as the rest of us) have an implied right of free speech, while calling Abbott’s comment ‘bizarre’. Even Abbott’s daughter, Frances (who has appeared in pro same-sex marriage advertising) bought into the discussion
I still remember the first time I heard this song. I was sitting in my car, about to get out and go to work ... but stopped and listened. And that same day I went and bought the album and kept it in my car and listened to it over and over again.

I can’t think of a better song for all the hundreds and thousands of people to listen to on Saturday. This is what we need right now.

Go harder @macklemore.
Go harder’ is another Macklemore song performed last weekend and Frances Abbott’s sentiment was supported by the NRL and the singer
Macklemore himself and the NRL also refused to back down. The rapper said he would “go harder” as a result of the criticism.
The myth is that a gold fish has a three second memory. The myth is wrong but Abbott must think that Australians can’t remember when he was trying to remove Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act a couple of years ago. The problem came about when fellow ultra-conservative and media commentator Andrew Bolt was found guilty of breaching the Act. Abbott claimed:
Any suggestion you can have free speech as long as it doesn’t hurt people’s feelings is ridiculous,” he said as opposition leader.

If we are going to be a robust democracy, if we are going to be a strong civil society, if we are going to maintain that great spirit of inquiry, which is the spark that has made our civilisation so strong, then we’ve got to allow people to say things that are unsayable in polite company.
The Guardian article linked above also reports a speech made by Abbott to the Institute of Public Affairs in 2012, while still Opposition Leader
[freedom of speech] is not just an academic nicety but the essential precondition for any kind of progress

A child learns by trial and error. A society advances when people can discuss what works and what doesn’t. To the extent that alternatives can’t be discussed, people are tethered to the status quo, regardless of its effectiveness, he said.

Going further, Abbott added that without “free speech, free debate is impossible and without free debate, the democratic process cannot work properly.

Freedom of speech is part of the compact between citizen and society on which democratic government rests, he said.

A threat to citizens’ freedom of speech is more than an error of political judgment. “It reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the give and take between government and citizen on which a peaceful and harmonious society is based.

Abbott in 2012 would not only support things being said that he agreed with:
“It’s human nature of course, to support free speech, as long as it’s agreeable. The trouble is deciding which opinions can be censored.”
Current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked on Channel 10’s The Project for his opinion on the call to ‘ban’ Macklemore’s ‘Same Love’.
The Prime Minister described the American as a "great artist", who should be allowed to sing all his hits at Sunday's NRL grand final, despite calls for one song to be banned.

"He should perform whatever he wants to perform, I mean for heaven's sake, it's the half-time entertainment at the grand final," Mr Turnbull told the Ten Network.
Conservative Tasmanian Liberal Party Senator Eric Abetz was on ABC News Breakfast last Sunday making the case that because the Australian Parliament couldn’t make the right decision (i.e. repeal of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act), it can’t be trusted to make the decision on marriage equity. What Abetz and Abbott, to name two, don’t get is that the discussion should be about equity, not equality or the current reality.


As the graphic demonstrates clearly, there is a large gap between the concepts. Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination based on a person’s race, colour, ethnic or national origin. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to disagree with Senator Abetz because you have a different view of the necessity for the words ‘offend ‘and ‘humiliate’ to be in Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, but it isn’t acceptable in the eyes of the law to disagree with Senator Abetz solely because one of his ancestors had links to the Nazi Party in World War 2 Germany, and nor should it be. Abetz claimed that some of his Senate colleagues were discriminated against in 2016 as they were labelled with a number of uncomplimentary terms including ‘angry white males’ in a Fairfax media report written by Mark Kenny. They weren’t as it was the opinion of the writer being expressed based on facts (the Senators in question are male with white skin) — not a criticism of the respective Senator’s beliefs based on their race, colour or origin.

At least the conservatives are consistent on this. Both the marriage equity and Section 18C debates have been about equity — the concept that not everyone is equal and we as a society should attempt to redress this. The debate (thankfully lost at the moment by the conservatives) was to make it legal to humiliate or offend people solely because they had a different skin colour or came from a certain ethnic or national group. The current debate is to refuse to allow two people who love each other to marry, despite the couple not necessarily fitting into the traditional concept of marriage. In both cases, they are arguing for the entrenchment of the rights of ‘the angry white men’ to continue as the dictators of what is right and acceptable in our society. This is not equality, it’s certainly not equity and it’s also not fair to the people in our society that are not ‘angry white males’.

Not everyone is the same. If everyone had the same aspirations and beliefs, General Motors and Ford would still be rolling Commodores and Falcons down the production line and making squillions, there would only be three or four television channels and only the well-off would be able to travel overseas. Instead we have a large number of vehicle importers, there are numerous options to use various forms of electronic media for education and entertainment and there are full aircraft bound for New Zealand, Bali (volcanos permitting) and beyond daily attesting to the change in demographics of people that can afford to travel overseas.

It is easy to argue that Abbott and Abetz are wrong — the Parliament did actually comply with the wishes of the Australian people on the proposed removal of Section 18C and, based on the opinion polls, the Australian Parliament would have been correct in believing that the majority of Australians either want or don’t care about the removal of gender stereotyping in the Marriage Act. Should there have been a vote without wasting $122 million of your and my money in a non-mandatory, non-binding survey of voters? While the two gentlemen concerned are entitled to an opinion (and for the record I won’t be marrying someone of the same gender any time soon either), none of us have the right to attempt to restrict equity of our society as Abbott, Abetz and their fellow travellers seem to want to do.

Abbott said in 2012 while Opposition Leader, ‘without free debate, the democratic process cannot work properly.’

The NRL (and AFL) have declared that at a corporate level, their respective sports favour marriage equity and according to Abbott in the past, they have the right to proclaim that publicly. While he has the right to proclaim the concept that allowing marriage equity will result in a Pandora’s box of atrocity (which is factually wrong based on experience in any other jurisdiction that allows marriage equity such as New Zealand, the USA and Ireland), Abbott according to his own statement, doesn’t have the right to criticise anyone for publicising an opinion different to his.

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

Related Posts
May your god go with you
2353NM, The Political Sword, 27 March 2016

It seems that the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is the keeper of the morals and ethics of a number of conservative politicians in this country. So does the ACL really represent the views of Christian Australia, or is it an attempt to enforce the views of a small group of people upon the majority?

To look at the views of the ACL, we need to do a bit of bible study. Those who will tell you that the bible is an accurate historical document have a fundamental problem in that the New Testament (the bit about Christianity) was written sometime after the More…

When you’re in a hole, stop digging
2353NM, The Political Sword, 9 September 2017

In the next week or so, we’re all supposedly getting a letter from the Australian Bureau of Statistics so we can (if we choose) ‘advise’ our Parliamentarians how to vote on the issue of same sex marriage. Be still my beating heart!
More…

How has it come to this?
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 10 July 2016

The MSM and blog sites abound with critiques of the election and tentative predictions of the political outcomes. So why bother writing yet another to explain how it has all come to this? You will judge whether this analysis adds anything useful. More…

The enduring blight of inequality



How much longer are we prepared to accept the level of inequality that exists in the world?

How much longer are we prepared to accept the level of inequality we now suffer in this country?


If any reader out there still doubts the extent of inequality here, do read a July 8 article in The Conversation by Nicholas Biddle, Associate Professor, and Francis Markham, Research Fellow at the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences titled: What income inequality looks like across Australia.

They begin: 'With affordable houses increasingly out of reach, wage growth slow and household debt high, Australians are certainly feeling poor.' They conclude: 'Australia has prominent examples of economic policies that disproportionately benefit the upper-middle class, such as the capital gains tax discount and superannuation tax incentives. It also has a geographically concentrated income distribution, with the rich living in neighbourhoods with other rich people. The poor are also more likely to live in close proximity to people who share their disadvantage.'

Treasurer Scott Morrison though insists that inequality is lessening!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote Inequality ambylyopia to highlight the blindness of conservatives, notably our own Treasurer, to the reality and the extent of inequality in this country. The piece argued that while the facts about inequality were abundant and visible to everyone, by the time the evidence reached their visual cortex it had become invisible, just as images transmitted by an amblyotic (lazy) eye are not interpreted properly.

Bill Shorten predicts that inequality will be an issue at the next election. This prediction is not new. In April of last year, before the 2016 federal election, I made the same prediction and wrote Inequality will be a hot button election issue.. It didn’t turn out that way; Shorten is hoping that by the next election inequality and its awful consequences will be burned into the minds of voters, and will influence their voting as he guarantees to do something about it. He will need a sound plan, an understandable and plausible set of objectives, and some appealing slogans to attract attention.

Inequality is omnipresent and persistent. To remind us of this it is worth looking back a little to ascertain if anything has changed.

It is now well over a year since Inequality will be a hot button election issue was published on The Political Sword. It began:

‘Inequality’ is a term used by economists. Joseph Stiglitz has been writing for years about its damaging effect. His book: The Price of Inequality is a classic. More recently, Thomas Piketty entered the arena with his Capital in the Twenty-First Century and hypothesised about the genesis of inequality. He asserted that the main driver of inequality, namely the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth, threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. He reminded us that political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past and could do so again. But is anyone listening?

No matter who writes about inequality, the conclusion is the same: the gap between those at the top and those languishing at the bottom of the pile is widening in many countries, ours among them.

A more familiar way of talking about inequality is to talk about ‘fairness’, a concept every Aussie understands. The ‘fair go’ is valued by most of us. Who would argue against the idea that everyone should have a ‘fair go’?

So look out for emphasis on fairness during the election campaign. You will hear it from Bill Shorten and Labor people; you might not hear much about it from LNP people, although PM Turnbull has often insisted that whatever changes his government makes to the tax system, they must be ‘fair’. We are still waiting to see his version of fairness. Although aware of the angry reaction of the people to the unfair 2014 Abbott/Hockey Budget, he is still seeking approval of many of the elements of it in the Senate. Treasurer Morrison does not seem to have 'fair' in his vocabulary.

Have you noticed that ordinary people are becoming increasingly fed up with the inequality we see day after day where those at the top of the pile gain advantages over those at the bottom? In the past few weeks we have seethed as we saw instance after instance of this. More of this later!

If you question whether inequality really is a problem in this country, take a look at these statistics, which are based on a 2015 ACOSS study: Inequality in Australia: a nation divided:

• Inequality in Australia is higher than the OECD average.
• A person in the top 20% income group has around five times as much income as someone in the bottom 20%.
• There is an urban and regional pattern to income inequality, with people in capital cities more likely to be in the top 20%, while those outside capital cities are more likely to be in the bottom 20%.
• Wealth is far more unequally distributed than income. A person in the top 20% has around 70 times more wealth than a person in the bottom 20%.
• The top 10% of households own 45% of all wealth, most of the remainder of wealth is owned by the next 50% of households, while the bottom 40% of households own just 5% of all wealth.
• The average wealth of a person in the top 20% increased by 28% over the past 8 years while for the bottom 20% it increased by only 3%.

In other words inequality is steadily increasing.
To read the rest of this piece click here.

What is your opinion?
What are views about inequality?

Will it be an election issue?

Let us know in comments below.

Related Posts
Inequality amblyopia
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 6 August 2017

Inequality amblyopia is a condition affecting some conservatives, who simply cannot see inequality when looking directly at it. The facts and figures that convince objective observers that there is increasing inequality in our nation, are simply not visible to them. More…

Inequality is an invasive global cancer
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 9 November 2016

Inequality has been the subject of several pieces on The Political Sword. They have focussed primarily on income and wealth inequality, which afflicts massive swathes of the world’s peoples, consigning them to constrained lives where poverty, underprivilege, disadvantage, and lack of opportunity has blighted individuals, families, communities, and in some instances, whole nations. Such inequality is divisive, disruptive and destructive to civilized society. More…
Trickle down thinking breeds inequality
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 11 May 2016

In a piece published on 13 April, I predicted that inequality would be a hot button issue in the upcoming election. Now that we have had both Scott Morrison’s budget speech and Bill Shorten’s speech in reply, we can see how this issue will play out in the election. Although the word ‘inequality’ has not assumed the repetitive status of the ‘jobs and growth’ mantra, it is subtly pervading the political discourse. More…

Inequality will be a hot button election issue
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 13 April 2016

No matter who writes about inequality, the conclusion is the same: the gap between those at the top and those languishing at the bottom of the pile is widening in many countries, ours among them.

A more familiar way of talking about inequality is to talk about ‘fairness’, a concept every Aussie understands. The ‘fair go’ is valued by most of us. Who would argue against the idea that everyone should have a ‘fair go’?
Read more here:

Power to the people

(Demolition of Tennyson power station in Brisbane — now the site of the Brisbane Tennis Centre.)

Technically it would be harder to have a hot potato issue without electricity. Amongst other things, electricity makes it far easier to create the hot potato in the first place, as well as light, heating and cooling, traffic control, transport and giving you the ability to read this article.

However, if you listen to the Coalition who, in their best Hanrahan, are crying ‘we’ll all be rooned’ if any more of the coal fired power stations around Australia are allowed to close. The justification is that we need power that we can switch on and off like a lightbulb (pun intended). The problem with the justification is that there are other and better ways of getting power on demand.

Turnbull and his Coalition colleagues are not even sure what they want. At the Australian Forest Products Association Industry dinner in Canberra on 12 September 2017, Turnbull’s remarks included
So we’ve taken action. Recently we commissioned the energy market operator AEMO, to analyse the future of dispatchable power in our energy market, in the immediate, short term, medium term and longer term.

Their finding, that you’ll have all read about in the news, is that the closure of Liddell power station in New South Wales in 2022 will create a large gap in reliable baseload power, in the national electricity market, the east coast essentially and South Australia.

I’ve made it clear that we will not allow this gap in baseload power to occur.

So naturally we are exploring all options to fill this gap. We cannot have another event like the closure of Hazelwood, which whatever you may think of the Hazelwood power station, its closure at such short notice, taking so much dispatchable power out of the energy market, caused a dramatic rise in wholesale energy prices.

In New South Wales alone, it was over $50 a megawatt hour, nearly double the wholesale price of electricity. So you know ideology and good intentions are not enough; you have to be very hard-headed about this.
Apart from the illogical leaps of faith, the fundamental problem with Turnbull’s speech is that the use of the terms ‘dispatchable’ and ‘baseload’ in connection with power production are not interchangeable.
Dispatchable power can be quickly turned on and then off when the demand for electricity surges or at those times when the wind's not blowing. It's best provided by hydro-electricity, or gas.

Baseload power (usually provided by coal) isn't particularly dispatchable. It's always on, whatever the need. It's one of the reasons off-peak power is cheap overnight. Baseload generators needed to get rid of the stuff. As the energy market operator put it in the letter to minister Josh Frydenberg that Turnbull claimed to be acting on, baseload power is in general "not well suited to respond to rapidly varying energy system needs".
The Coalition government seem to have been caught out by the closure of the Hazelwood power station in Victoria which, apart from its age requiring its owners to fund major upgrades, was one of the most polluting power stations in the world. Possibly as a sop to their own right wing climate science denialists (and to potentially pick up a seat or two in the Hunter Valley based on a local jobs ‘Fear Uncertainty Deception' campaign), Turnbull’s government appears to have decided to draw the line in the sand over AGL’s announcement that the 46 year old Liddell power station in the Hunter Valley would be decommissioned in 2022.
The engineer familiar with Liddell said the plant routinely had at least one of its four units out of operation, and that half of the rated 2000-megawatt capacity was suddenly unavailable on February 10 – the first day of a record NSW heatwave – due to leaks in boiler tubes. That poor performance was despite its turbines being replaced about a decade ago.

On three occasions, the plant's equipment had oil supply failures that led to turbines grinding to a halt in about 10 minutes, compared with 40 minutes under normal conditions; "basically wrecking" the machinery.

AGL, which valued Liddell at zero dollars when it bought it in 2014, said in a statement: "Liddell has four units that, due to age and reliability issues, are rated at 420MW".

"Safe generation levels at Liddell are driven by a number of factors including market demand, plant outages and maintenance but more critically at present access to coal supply."

Dylan McConnell, a researcher at Melbourne University's Climate & Energy College, said Liddell operated at just 39.6 per cent capacity in August.

That level was about half the capacity utilised of Victoria's aging Hazelwood power plant in the final year before its closure in March.

Stephen Saladine, the managing director of Macquarie Generation at the time AGL bought both the Bayswater and Liddell plants, said the then state-owned corporation had planned for Liddell's closure "in the early [20]20s".
And even if the two generators were available during the heatwave last February, clearly they can’t be ‘switched on’ immediately. Ironically, AGL bought the power stations from a Liberal Party controlled NSW State government.

Meanwhile in Western Australia, which isn’t connected to the ‘National’ Grid, the Barnett Liberal Party government decided in 2009 to complete a major refurbishment of the coal fired Muja AB power station which was
. . . 43 years old and mothballed. Reviving it was meant to cost $150m, paid for by private investors who would reap the benefits for years to come. But costs and timeframes blew out. An old corroded boiler exploded. The joint venture financing the project collapsed; a wall followed suit. The bill ultimately pushed beyond $300m, much of it to be stumped up by taxpayers – and once completed, the plant was beset with operational problems. It ran only 20% of the time.

By April 2016, the government acknowledged it was subsidising more generation capacity than it needed and predicted demand for coal power would fall over the coming decade. In May this year the new Labor administration confirmed Muja AB would shut early next year.
Apparent dual citizen and current Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was recently on the ABC’s 7.30 talking about the Clean Energy Target – and putting another line in the sand that coal had to be included to get the approval of his political party.
LEIGH SALES: Is there any form of a Clean Energy Target that the National Party would accept?

BARNABY JOYCE: Look, I think we have to be part of the negotiations most certainly Leigh and obviously the higher the level, the more it brings in coal-fired power.

Leigh, we are easy to understand in this one, we want to make sure we keep coal base load fired power stations going. Because the reality is that that is how you get the base load power onto the system to keep power prices down to make sure that we keep manufacturing workers in a job and to keep coal workers, to keep power workers in a job.

We've seen what happened in South Australia under the Labor party, it was a fiasco. They are doing it now in Victoria.

We don't want it to happen to our nation, power's overwhelmingly driven by the states but we've got a role in this and we've got to try and do our bit to try to keep these people in a job and keep the people in the weatherboard and iron with a power bill they can afford.

LEIGH SALES: Just to ask a first principles question, does the National Party accept that over time coal will be replaced by renewable sources of energy?

BARNABY JOYCE: We accept over time that you have to keep it renewable sectioned in to meet your international commitments. We understand that.

LEIGH SALES: But I mean just broader than that though sorry. I just mean you know generally, like over time, you know whether it is 50 or 100 years does the National Party believe at some stage coal will be replaced by renewable energy?

BARNABY JOYCE: I accept over time that technology goes ahead and if you can use coal more efficiently then you will use coal more efficiently and that Leigh won't be remarkable you know, because you know cars are more efficient.

You think of what you go around on a tank of fuel today and what you went around on a tank of fuel 50 years ago, it is vastly different.

If we can do this in a vastly more economic way, then we should let technology be the presiding judge as to what form of power is driven, not religion.

And that's the thing where we stand against the National Party. When someone says, "We're going to have a 50 per cent renewable target".

And say, "Well that's great China plate, exactly how does it work?" And we find out from South Australia that it doesn't work very well and we know what happens if it doesn't work. Your lights go out, your lifts get stuck, operations stop in hospitals and people at that moment will completely change their views in the power debate and that mightn't be a good idea even for the renewable energy sector. I have said that to the renewable energy sector. If the lights go out in Sydney and the lights go out in Melbourne, this is going to be a bad day for all of us.

John Hewson is a former federal Liberal Party leader who, amongst other things, occasionally writes articles in the media. In a recent article published by The Guardian, he observes
. . . neither the government, nor the opposition, has yet produced a believable and deliverable energy policy. That is, a policy to specify the path forward to a low-carbon society, demonstrating a genuine capacity to lower power prices and to guarantee supply.

The bottom line is an outcome you might reasonably have expected that they would have wanted to avoid. While consumers are totally confused about what our pollies are doing, they get their regular power bills, which they can’t understand, and the power companies certainly don’t help them in this respect, so they remain absolutely convinced that they are being “ripped off”, which of course they are!

One of the most disturbing aspects of all this is that the government seems to have lost its sense of what it stands for – or at least what the electorate had come to accept that it stood for.

For example, as a Liberal government supposedly believing in small government, little regulation, market processes and private enterprise, they now feel at home “shirtfronting” the board and management of a significant power company, AGL, pressuring them to reverse a board decision to close the Liddell power plant in 2022.

This has come on the heels of them pressuring gas companies to “reserve” a proportion of their output for the domestic market, rather than for the exports that they had been encouraged to pursue in the past.
Of course, self-appointed Prime Minister in waiting Abbott has an opinion
Abbott declared the government should end all subsidies for renewable energy, and that would mean there was no need to subsidise coal.

Despite leading the successful political campaign to scrap the former Labor government’s market mechanism, the carbon price, Abbott declared on Thursday afternoon: “I don’t want to see subsidies, I want to see a market”.

“I say let’s not subsidise anymore renewables, and if we don’t subsidise anymore renewables, we won’t need to subsidise coal, because coal in a normal market is the cheapest way of providing reliable power.”

“It is vastly cheaper than wind and solar and considerably cheaper than gas.
While Abbott’s opinion is wrong according to Ross Garnaut at least he is ‘suggesting’ a return to a free market and Liberal Party tradition.

There are a few of things here to ponder further.

First, the ‘market’ so beloved of Abbott and (up until recently) Turnbull is clearly telling the government that a new coal fired power station is as likely as most of us winning big on Lotto last night, in short, it just ain’t gunna happen.

Second, the war between the conservative and progressive factions of the Liberal Party, as represented by Abbott and Turnbull, is just as destructive and dangerous to the rest of us as the ALP power wars of the past 10 years.

Third, if I was the owner of coal fired power generator in Australia, I would be either selling now or advising the government at the last possible minute of my plans to close it down, rather than manage an orderly transition with the Energy Regulator and Unions. No one would willingly replicate the problems that AGL is currently having by being the proxy in an ideological war within the Liberal Party.

Fourth, yes there will be readjustment in people’s lives as their jobs in coal mines and coal fired power stations do slowly evaporate over the next 40 years as the coal powered generators close down. A similar thing happened when horses were swapped for internal combustion engines in a generation early in the 20th century as well as when steam engines were converted to diesels in the mid-20th century. While the job losses will inevitably make the headlines, the ‘unemployment rate’ in Australia usually bounces around within a couple of percent from one year to the next. As the Brisbane Times recently reported
The number of Queenslanders who found a job last month would more than fill a packed out show at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics seasonally adjusted figures show 16,700 Queenslanders found work in August.

The arena at Boondall seats 13,500.
The adjustment is happening already.

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

Related Posts
The challenge of renewables
2353NM, The Political Sword, 30 August 2015

Later this year a conference will be held in Paris that will determine the global response to climate change. While the international jockeying has commenced, it seems there is a ‘tipping point’ that, if exceeded, will ensure that the world will never be the same again. Australia’s contribution is being keenly watched.

Australia was one of the first to introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme More…

Planning - Turnbull’s black hole
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 19 October 2016

Let’s stand back from the daily tumult of federal politics momentarily, hard though it is to ignore, and look into the distance. What do we see? Given that politicians believe their role is to make this nation a better one for us all, where is the evidence of them planning to make it so? Where is the Turnbull Team's much touted 'Plan for a Strong New Economy' that the logo promised? More…

More power to you
2353NM, The Political Sword, 15 July 2017

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, More…

Who thought Trump couldn’t get worse?



Just when we thought Trump couldn’t possibly get worse, he has. Almost every day he exhibits more grotesque behaviour. It astonishes his colleagues, the media, the US electorate, world leaders, and indeed the entire world.

Back in May The Political Sword published America – what have you done?, which described the contemporary chaotic scene in the White House: That was at the time of Trump’s discussion with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office, during which he foolishly exchanged vital intelligence with him. Trump subsequently denied this but later admitted that it had occurred, excusing his mistake on the grounds that he was entitled to do so!

America – what have you done? was published around the time that Trump fired FBI chief James Comey. The story behind this changed by the day. It emerged that Trump had tried to get Comey to wind up the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn who had resigned after being confronted with the fact that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office. Trump maligned Comey viciously, calling him incompetent, a ‘grandstander’ and a ‘showboat’. He said he was ‘crazy, a real nut job’, extraordinary language from the President of the United States.

Next, gaffe-prone White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was fired and replaced with the sycophantic Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Spicer was fired because he had objected strongly to the appointment of ex-hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director to whom Spicer was to be subservient.

Then Trump fired Reince Priebus, White House Chief-of-Staff, and replaced him with homeland security secretary, General John Kelly. Priebus had been Trump’s campaign advisor and loyal supporter, but he still got the chop – loyalty runs in only one direction in Trumpland.

Shortly afterwards, Trump fired the foul-mouthed Anthony Scaramucci who had made a profane outburst against Priebus. Scaramucci lasted just ten days.

Steve Bannon, previously executive chair of Brietbart News (a far-right American news, opinion and commentary website), who became Trump’s chief White House strategist, was already on thin ice with Chief-of-Staff John Kelly who was unhappy with the influence he wielded in the White House. Asked about Bannon’s future, Trump was initially equivocal with: ‘We’ll see’, but within days Bannon had been fired. Trump said this ‘was a great day at the White House’. Bannon though had the last say as he returned to his old position at Breitbart News. He told The Washington Post: ‘No administration in history has been so divided among itself about the direction about where it should go.'

Take a look at Trump's firings/replacements/resignations/departures/job changes in his first six months, up to 1 August. There have been more since:


By the end of August Trump had also sacked White House adviser Sebastian Gorka. Gorka, a close associate of Steve Bannon, had generated controversy with his combative interviews and anti-Muslim views. No doubt Gorka will not be the last to exit.

In the same press release, on the Friday evening that Hurricane Harvey was headed for Texas, Trump announced that he had signed a directive to reinstate the ban on transgender troops in the military.

The riots in Charlottesville marked another low point in Trump’s presidency. They were initiated by far-right, white supremacist, Nazi sympathizers with connections to the Ku Klux Klan, who objected violently to the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee, an American general who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

Lee had married into one of the wealthiest slave-holding families in Virginia and took over the estate. He was cruel. He encouraged his staff to severely beat slaves who were recaptured. One slave described Lee as one of the meanest men she had ever met.

The extreme right clearly supported Lee’s behaviour and actions and resisted removal of this symbol of him. Anti-racist groups staged a peaceful counter protest, but the extremists, spoiling for a fight, began a violent pitched battle that left many injured and one dead.

It was Trump’s reaction though that landed him in deep trouble. At first, instead of roundly condemning the extremists for initiating the riot, he condemned both sides. Then, realizing that he had upset many of his colleagues and much of the electorate, he reversed his stand in a hastily-arranged press conference, where through gritted teeth he read a carefully scripted statement condemning the extremists and their bigotry, naming them all: ‘Racism is evil. Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.’



It was obvious this ran contrary to his real feelings, so much so that he soon reversed this balanced statement with a now-typical Trump rant, this time about both sides being to blame. He defended the far-right protesters at the Charlottesville rally, saying they were not all neo-Nazis and white supremacists and laid the blame for the violence equally on what he called the ‘alt-left’: ‘You had a group on one side and group on the other and they came at each other with clubs – there is another side, you can call them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. You had people that were very fine people on both sides.’ Trump’s attempts to claim ‘moral equivalence’ enraged not just Democrats and those opposing the provocateurs, but also his Republican colleagues, who came out in numbers to condemn him in strident terms.



Not satisfied to leave the Charlottesville episode to fade out of conversation, he stirred the pot again at a rally in Phoenix where he ‘sought to portray himself as the real victim, and launched an all-out assault on the media, branding journalists who “do not like our country” as the true source of division in America….The crowd – some scowling, some laughing – turned and jeered at journalists in the media enclosure and chanted: “CNN sucks! CNN sucks!” Even as he spoke protesters outside the Phoenix Convention Center had gathered to voice anger at his presence.’

Since then Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have devastated his region. They will cost his nation billions of dollars in restitution. Trump’s initial reaction showed little regard for the victims, whom he met only on his second visit to Texas; he seemed more concerned with the size of the crowd that attended his rally. He promised lots of money and praised emergency workers.

Recently, he created controversy by his move to end President Obama’s DACA program that protected 800,000 ‘dreamers’ who had entered the US as children of illegal immigrants, who now live and work there. Trump gave Congress six months to ‘legalise’ the program, then did a deal with the Democrats to address this issue, much to the chagrin of the Republicans. The White House then gave contradictory accounts of what had transpired, confirming then denying the deal - typical Trump somersaults.

This man, who conducts international diplomacy via early morning tweets, managed to annoy PM Theresa May after the recent bomb event on London’s underground, with his tweet: “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!” May angrily retorted: “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.”

Trump is incorrigible. His inner feelings always burst out. He generates discord whereever he goes. Commonsense and diplomacy are anathema to him. In business he called the shots and said whatever he liked. Now he cannot abide the constraints that the most powerful man in the world ought to accept. The only time he showed any constraint was when he was mugged by the reality of Afghanistan, and although it broke a pre-election promise, he took the advice of his generals and decided not to withdraw from that hell-hole.

Reflect on these events, which have occurred in the few months since America – what have you done? was published. Ask yourself if Trump’s behaviour has made the analysis offered at that time more or less valid. Let me quickly remind you of my thesis about Trump:

The following were held to be Trump’s underlying personality defects, which evoke his extraordinary behaviour:

Lack of insight
Paranoia
Delusions of grandeur
Narcissistic personality disorder
Overbearing, punitive, bullying and ruthless behaviour patterns
Willful ignorance

Each was elucidated.

It was this analysis of the personality and behaviour of Trump that evoked the piece: America – what have you done?

Do you think his subsequent behaviour has made this assessment more or less valid?

Take another look at: America – what have you done?, and tell us what you think.


What is your opinion?
What do you feel about President Donald Trump seven months in?

How do you expect him to extract himself from the mess he has created?

Let us know in comments below.

Related Posts
Is Donald Trump mad?
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 23 July 2017

No, I don’t mean ‘hopping mad’. We know that he is hopping mad with the media and its ‘fake news’, with CNN particularly, and with some of its commentators whom he has chosen to label as intellectually deficient, and unpleasant to the eyes (bleeding from a face lift!).

We know he is hopping mad about the criticism he attracts…. More…

The face of willful ignorance
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 30 April 2017

To whom do you believe I’m referring? There are no prizes for correct answers! I’m referring to someone who I believe is guilty of immoral ignorance. His actions have the potential to destroy our civilization, not today or next week, but in the foreseeable future – we don’t know when, nor does he. I am referring to Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America. More…

A pound of flesh
2353NM, TPS Extra, 16 March 2017

Well inside his first 100 days, President Trump is facing a revolt from his core constituency. Trump promised a number of ‘initiatives’, from ‘flushing the swamp’ (a reference to the political class in Washington DC), to building a wall to keep Mexicans in Mexico and repealing Obamacare, more formally called the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’ a program implemented by the Obama Administration to ensure health care was affordable for Americans that were not on large incomes. More…

When you’re in a hole, stop digging


In the next week or so, we’re all supposedly getting a letter from the Australian Bureau of Statistics so we can (if we choose) ‘advise’ our Parliamentarians how to vote on the issue of same sex marriage. Be still my beating heart!

Why do we have to advise the Parliament on how we want them to vote on a particular issue? We don’t on potentially going to war ‘in support’ of the USA against ISIS or North Korea, we don’t on giving business a $50 BILLION plus tax cut when Australian residents are facing greater economic inequality, and we certainly didn’t when Prime Minister at the time John Howard inserted the ‘man and woman’ clause into the Marriage Act in 2004.
Less than an hour after Prime Minister John Howard announced the changes to the Marriage Act, the government rushed legislation enabling the changes into parliament.

Mr Howard said the Marriage Act would be changed to include a definition of marriage as the `voluntarily entered-into union of a man and a woman to exclusion of all others'.

The laws currently do not define marriage.

"We've decided to insert this into the Marriage Act to make it very plain that that is our view of a marriage and to also make it very plain that the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament of the nation," Mr Howard told reporters.
Howard went on to suggest
(It should) not over time be subject to redefinition or change by courts, it is something that ought to be expressed through the elected representatives of the country.
As recently as last year
Speaking on radio host Alan Jones’ 2GB breakfast show, Mr Howard also reasserted his opposition to a plebiscite on same-sex marriage saying the matter should have been resolved in Parliament.
And Howard’s right. Regardless of the result of the survey, the only vote that can remove the ‘man and woman’ clause from legislation is the vote of those who inhabit the red and green chambers of Parliament House in Canberra. The survey is an expensive ego trip forced on Australia by a small group of ultra-conservative members of Parliament. You could probably put money on them also ignoring the result if it isn’t what they want.

The original plan by the conservative faction of the Coalition government was for a plebiscite to be run by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), but that was voted down twice in the Senate. Notwithstanding the small matter of the majority of the senate (which the Coalition doesn’t control) suggesting by those two actions that the plebiscite is really a bad idea, the Coalition Government went behind the Senate’s back and decided to require the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to run a ‘survey’ of all on the electoral roll to determine the issue. As the ABS is running the survey it is not compulsory, giving hope to those in Parliament who will vote no anyway that there will be a ‘get out of jail’ moment when even a high percentage of ‘yes’ survey results can be discounted because (in their mind if nowhere else), some group or other was not properly represented in the plebiscite postal survey. There is an upside however — Australia Post’s letter business should be profitable this financial year — even if the ABS gets a substantial discount for posting over 15 million letters!

The announcement of the plebiscite postal survey found John Howard, despite his statement last year, campaigning for the ‘no’ case with Tony Abbott, as joyfully reported by conservative blog The Wentworth Report.

The cost of the plebiscite postal survey is estimated to be $122 million, which would have been a significant down payment on a number of projects around the country including Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, the proposed rail link to a second airport in Sydney at Badgerys Creek, or perhaps to fund eight new schools (it cost WA $112 million to build eight schools in 2014).

As far back as 2014, a Crosby-Textor poll found that 72% of Australians would support same-sex marriage. Turnbull of all people should be a believer in the ‘evident wisdom’ of opinion polls. Thirty ‘poor’ opinion polls is one of the reasons he challenged Abbott for the Prime Ministership in 2015. It hasn’t done the LNP much good however — Turnbull has been running behind the main opposition party for a considerable period, as demonstrated by William Bowe in his excellent Poll Bludger blog on the Crikey website.

The Guardian recently argued that an opinion poll may have greater accuracy than a postal survey — and be a lot cheaper

Their argument against postal surveys is:
A voluntary postal ballot would reach a large number of people but the results would be skewed towards the type of people who are inclined to read their mail, those who decide to take part in such a ballot, and those who have their current address on the electoral roll. Essentially, the people who respond would not necessarily be representative of the entire population.
Additionally
As it turns out we already have a large, government-funded survey that has asked Australians for their views on marriage equality. The latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey, conducted by the University of Melbourne, found that the majority of Australians believe homosexual Australians should have the same rights as heterosexual Australians, with 59% of men supporting equal rights and 67% of women.
Probably the real issue here isn’t opinion polls, marriage (or any other version of) equality or anything Turnbull has or hasn’t done. The issue is John Howard, Tony Abbott and their band of ultra conservative bigots. You may remember that Abbott (sounding in less than fine health) fronted the assembled media at the doors to Parliament House the day after the plebiscite that isn’t a plebiscite was announced and gravely intoned:
I say to you if you don't like same-sex marriage, vote no," said Abbott. "If you're worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote no, and if you don't like political correctness, vote no because voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks.
While Abbott is entitled to an opinion, the fundamental problem with his statement is that the question is not about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, political correctness or any other issue other than allowing people who love each other to have the option to publically proclaim their love through a custom called marriage, regardless of the gender of the partner. Lenore Taylor, the editor of The Guardian in Australia, wrote an article discussing their editorial policy on 12 August 2017 advising
As we start this unnecessary, voluntary, snail mail survey-thingie, the “no” case is loudly demanding the media run “both sides” of the question.

That makes it critical to precisely define the “question” itself. Because running both sides of the actual question is not the same as running “both sides” of all the other spurious “questions” the anti-equality case is setting up as obfuscations.
Taylor then goes on to discuss the ‘list of the arguments this is not about, and to which Guardian Australia will definitely not be giving “equal time” or attention.’

Notwithstanding the issue of the High Court challenge, the yes and no campaigns are underway. The no campaign started off a while ago with a television commercial which the Seven and Ten networks refused to air. More recently, the no case is claiming on their advertising amongst other things that a boy was told he could wear a dress to school if marriage equality is allowed in Australia. Pity the school’s Principal has stated that it never happened. Asking what you are wearing may have broken up a few marriages over the years, but how does a survey for same sex marriage logically link to a discussion on what a boy wears to school in any event?

The thing is that it doesn’t have to. Fairfax has researched what is allowable in the advertising for and against same sex marriage. According to Fairfax, the advertising surrounding the same sex marriage survey is political — meaning the usual rules regarding accuracy and discrimination don’t apply. This clearly suits the ‘no’ camp, as demonstrated by the false claims in the television advertisement. You may recall that the Coalition was going to legislate for fairness and equity in the advertising campaigns. Apparently they will, after the High Court decides if the plebiscite postal survey is legal, leaving room for a large number of ‘free kicks’ containing little if any accuracy before the High Court judgement. It isn’t like the doubtful accuracy of the no case should be a surprise as News.com.au was reporting on the advertising used when the Irish went to the polls (as they had to) in 2015.
. . . look no further than Ireland where some alarming — as well as amusing — advertisements from both sides of the campaign aired during the run up to the 2015 referendum on gay marriage.

Irish voters saw ads that suggested a yes to marriage equality would lead primary schoolchildren being taught about cross dressing, a man asking four million people if he could marry his girlfriend and even a couple fearful of the end of the world as gay marriage dawned.

Generally, the Yes campaign used Ireland’s renowned sense of humour and pulled on the heartstrings to get their vote out. The No side relied on bible scripture as well as arguments that are already being bandied about in Australia, that a vote in favour of gay marriage could adversely affect children.
The thing is that this method of campaign suits Abbott and his minions well. Remember the $100 lamb roast, the towns that would be deserted and the other perils of ‘the carbon tax’ if it came to pass? Not only were all the predictions proven to be wrong, Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, later admitted the price on carbon was not a tax, and Abbott’s destabilisation had caused a decade of inaction on energy policy leading to increased domestic power prices and large companies choosing to invest their money in infrastructure overseas where there is certainty.

Turnbull claims he will vote ‘yes’ assuming the survey goes ahead, but at the same time he seems to be quite comfortable with the continual interference from Abbott and groups such as the IPA on this or any other issue. If he is the ‘strong’ leader of the country, he should be seen to be standing up to someone who is continually undermining his authority while claiming to be on the same side. Turnbull isn’t. While Abbott is entitled to his opinion, he is not entitled to spend $122 million of our money to find a reason to be obstructionist if and when the issue does come to Parliament, where it has to be resolved anyway.

There are some influential members of the Liberal and National Parties who aren’t afraid of ‘the big bad Abbott
Former NSW premier Nick Greiner, Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle and Howard government cabinet minister Amanda Vanstone will lead the "Libs and Nats for Yes" campaign, while cabinet ministers including Kelly O'Dwyer and Simon Birmingham are also set to play a big role in the campaign
If they can do it — why can’t Turnbull?

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

Related Posts
May your god go with you
2353NM, The Political Sword, 27 March 2016

It seems that the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is the keeper of the morals and ethics of a number of conservative politicians in this country. So does the ACL really represent the views of christian Australia, or is it an attempt to enforce the views of a small group of people upon the majority?

To look at the views of the ACL, we need to do a bit of bible study. Those that will tell you that the bible is an accurate historical document have a fundamental problem in that the New Testament (the bit about Christianity) was written sometime after the events occurred.

Read more here:


The politics of marriage
2353NM, The Political Sword, 10 September 2017

While Australia had a uniform Marriage Act from 1961 until 2004, there was nothing specific (except for common law) that prohibited marriage of two people of the same gender. The requirement that marriage was between a man and woman was only inserted into the act by the Howard Government. The government at the time claimed the change was to clarify the term ‘marriage’. The 2004 amendments were introduced in the final two sitting weeks of parliament and only a few months after the UK introduced its Civil Partnership Act. The Australian amendments were supported (nominally at least) by all political parties except the Democrats and the Greens. More…

Let’s talk about ‘traditional’ values
2353NM, The Political Sword, 16 October 2016

Donald Trump, in his mind anyway, is the next President of the United States of America. Last week, he was in deeper hot water than usual when a tape of a conversation between Trump and a reporter from Access Hollywood regarding his sexual exploits with women, made a decade ago, was released. Trump released an apology around midnight on 7 October: “I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words, and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women.” More…

For Recent Posts on The Political Sword, click here.

Mal’s Coalition cascades into chaos

When we posted How are the ‘adults’ managing our economy? on The Political Sword in April it seemed as if Turnbull’s administration of his Coalition couldn’t get any worse. We were wide of the mark! Now he sits apprehensively and indecisively on his house of cards, on tenterhooks lest he lose his balance, praying it doesn't collapse.

That piece was written as the 2017 Budget was being prepared. Scott Morrison was warning us about what we might be in for. Knowing that debt would increase, he tried to butter us up with talk of ‘good debt’ (spending on infrastructure) and ‘bad debt’ (recurrent spending on, for example, welfare). With his credibility in the doldrums, it is doubtful if anyone listened, let alone believed him.

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

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

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

Since their election in 2013 they have had their chance to show their much-vaunted expertise under the skilled management of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, and then Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, with Mathias Cormann a consistent shadowy presence. How have they done?
We know how they have done – appallingly. The Coalition’s incompetence and mal-administration is now legend.

Here are some contemporary facts:

Wages growth is the weakest on record, dating back to the late 1990s. Underemployment remains high with an increasing trend towards part-time work, creating the “gig” economy.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe warns that record high household debt and record low wage rises are constraining consumer spending and hurting the economy.

The economy is under performing and will continue to do so through 2017 and beyond.

Stephen Koukoulas summarized the situation in The Guardian as follows: 
Based on the performance of the economy since the last fiscal update in December 2016, the budget is likely to confirm that this is a big-spending, big-taxing government with a strategy for continuing budget deficits and rising debt as it funds some of its pet projects.

It is all but certain that government debt will remain above 25% of GDP in 2017-18 and the forward estimates, meaning the government will be the first in the last 50 years to have spending at more than a quarter of GDP for eight straight years.

At the same time as spending is entrenched at high levels, the tax to GDP ratio is set to exceed 23% of GDP for only the eleventh time in 50 years. Tax revenue is growing solidly, in part in line with the expansion in the economy.

It is also close to certain that the level of net government debt will be projected to reach 20% of GDP, up from 10% when the Coalition won the 2013 election and the highest since the 1940s when the war effort boosted borrowing to record highs.
At as 30 June 2016, gross Australian government debt was $420 billion. In June 2017 the Turnbull government breached the $500 billion mark, (expressed alarmingly by some economists as half a trillion dollars) thereby doubling the deficit it inherited from Labor. Gross debt is projected to exceed $550 billion this year. Morrison is hoping to recoup some of this in this year’s budget with his $6 billion tax on the banks, but still intends to give a $65 billion of tax cuts to business!

We all know that housing affordability is worsening, locking out of the market young folk who do not have wealthy parents. The Coalition refuses to do anything about this as it sticks to negative gearing and the generous tax concessions around capital gains, thereby perpetuating the advantage moneyed investors enjoy over the young.

And as for the NBN, it continues to be a hybrid, copper-dependent mess that is not delivering what business needs, is rolling out far too slowly, and eventually will cost more than Labor’s superior FTTP design. It has been an Abbott/Turnbull debacle from the moment Abbott instructed Turnbull, then communications spokesman, to ‘Demolish the NBN’. Will it ever recover from that?

Need I give you any more evidence that our nation is steadily going backwards under the mal-administration of our economy by the Turnbull government?

On top of all this financial ineptitude, we have witnessed chaos writ large as Turnbull and the fractious conservative right squabble about how to handle the issue of same-sex marriage.

The chaos intensified when a postal ballot that will cost $122 million, was chosen. Astonishingly, the ballot won’t be carried by the Electoral Commission, but by the Bureau of Statistics, which has shown that it can’t carry out even a routine census proficiently. The High Court will decide if such an arrangement is constitutional. How the ABS will conduct the ballot is a mystery, as it’s a statistics-gathering organization. Long delays are likely before we will know the outcome of yet another Turnbull government stuff-up.

Then, as if that shemozzle wasn’t enough, Turnbull and his ministers have become entangled in the dual citizenship fiasco. They have been quite unsure how to handle it, and woefully inconsistent in their approach. Turnbull was only too ready in his characteristically sarcastic style to lampoon the Greens after Scott Ludlum and Clarissa Waters discovered their dual citizenship and resigned. “It shows incredible sloppiness on their part” bellowed our PM in parliament. Now, with several of his own ministers, no less the Deputy PM, the Deputy Leader of the Nationals, and his Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science all caught up in the saga, Turnbull’s barefaced inconsistency has been exposed. Canavan has been excluded from ministerial duties, while Joyce and Nash are permitted to continue as if nothing had happened!

All the time Turnbull is fighting a guerrilla war with the hard-right agitators in his party room, who threaten him with retribution unless he follows their dictates. He is so shackled, hog tied, clapped in irons – use whatever metaphor you like – that he is rendered impotent strategically, administratively, politically, and as a leader.

The voters continue to be unimpressed. We have now had the eighteenth Newspoll in a row where the Coalition trails Labor, this time by eight points: 54/46. If this trend continues, by February of next year Turnbull will have passed Abbott’s infamous record of thirty bad polls in a row, Turnbull’s raison d'etre for upending him.

Essential poll shows the same result. Turnbull’s satisfaction score continues on its poor trajectory, now minus 20. The Guardian features images from the Essential Report that illustrate Turnbull’s dilemma graphically.

Now that the Coalition sees defeat coming at election time, worried that Shorten’s “inequality” meme is biting, Mathias Cormann was sent out to launch a panicky attack on him in a speech at the Sydney Institute.

Writing in The Age in an article titled: 'Socialist revisionism': Mathias Cormann's doomsday warning of 'success exodus' under Bill Shorten, James Massola says: ‘Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has painted a doomsday scenario of Australia under a Shorten government, claiming a "cocky" Labor leader is relying on the politics of envy to propel him to the Lodge as people forget the failures of socialism. In an extraordinary speech …Cormann charged Shorten with making a "deliberate and cynical political judgement that enough Australians have forgotten the historical failure of socialism" and exploiting the politics of envy’, even describing Labor’s policies as akin to communist East Germany.  

Need I go on further to convince you of the widespread paralysis that is afflicting Mal's Coalition? You may care to remind yourself of what we published in April, just four months ago, in How are the ‘adults’ managing our economy? To do so click here.

The piece concluded:

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

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

How has it come to this with the adults in charge?
Has the situation improved? You be the judge. Click here.

What is your opinion?
How do you assess the Coalition's performance?

Can it regain traction before the next election?

Let us know in comments below.

Related Posts
Economic geniuses perform epic back flip
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 17 May 2017

The sheer effrontery of our politicians never ceases to astonish me. To them black can be white, and in an instant white can be black. It is not just the monumental back flip that such a change of language involves that astonishes me, it is the bald-faced nerve they exhibit when they change course to the opposite direction, as if nothing had happened! The 2017 Budget starkly exemplifies this. More…

So we do have a revenue problem after all – now Moody’s says so
Ad astra, TPS Extra, 20 April 2016

Who could ever forget Scott Morrison’s astonishing statement when he became our nation’s treasurer: Australia doesn’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem! Balanced economists were aghast. Read more here:

How are the ‘adults’ managing our economy?
Ad astra, The Political Sword, 12 April 2017

Who will ever forget the insults, the slurs, and the slander that the Coalition heaped upon Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan as they managed the economy through the Global Financial Crisis and beyond? They were depicted as incompetent children playing games in an economic sandpit with no idea of what they were doing, making one catastrophic mistake after another. Remember how the Coalition boasted that the children should get out of the way and let the adults take over, insisting as they did that they were the experts at economic management. More…

Where’s your daddy from?


In winter 2017, the latest fashion in Australian Federal politics seems to be having dual citizenship. At the time of writing, there are six members of the current Parliament who have been referred to the High Court to determine, amongst other things, if they were ever validly elected. Potentially, they could have to repay their salary, legislation they voted on may be invalid and so on. What happens from here is unknown and there are various claims and counter claims being made by ‘interested stakeholders’ including the Prime Minister.
The government is moving closer towards unilaterally referring four Labor MPs to the High Court to have the validity of their election tested, in a move that would mark a dramatic escalation of the citizenship stoush that has so far seen six MPs - Nationals Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan, former Greens Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, One Nation MP Malcolm Roberts and Nick Xenophon - referred to the High Court to have the validity of their election examined.
The four ALP MP’s have immigrant backgrounds, however
A senior Labor source warned: "if we go down this path, it will destroy them."

The ALP was, the source said, "confident in our vetting processes, while they don't have one, that's why they need the High Court".
Others have the resources to cover the ins and outs of this brouhaha with far greater timeliness that this blogsite, but they probably don’t get time to look at the demonstration of the morals and ethics displayed by the various players in this confected circus.

First up, Section 44 of the Constitution is there for a reason. Depending on your point of view it could be as relevant today as it was in the 1890’s or it could be a throwback to the days of the white Australia policy and should be repealed. Bill O’Chee (former National Party Senator in the 1990’s) seems to think there is a valid reason for the exclusion of dual citizens from the Parliament — the article is one point of view. Regardless, given that transport and communication around the world is considerably faster than it was in the 1890’s, it’s not so hard to understand that the chances of someone being a dual citizen (and being found out if they are) are significantly greater now than they were 120 years ago or thereabouts. All who nominate for Federal Parliament are reminded of their obligation in the Australian Electoral Commission’s nomination form, so there is clearly no excuse for suggesting that anyone who chooses to run is not aware of the requirement to renounce any other citizenship.

The list of those that have been ‘found out’ as well as those that have questions surrounding their nationality continues to grow. There seems to be two groups of people caught up in this mess: those that are a victim of circumstance, and those that are not. The second group include Scott Ludlam, Malcolm Roberts and Matthew Canavan. Ludlam was born in New Zealand, immigrated to Australia and should have known that at some stage of his life he was a New Zealand citizen. Malcolm Roberts has a history of deliberate vagueness and irrationality, this being no different to his attitude to climate change. Matthew Canavan’s excuse that his mother signed him up to be an Italian citizen in his 20’s has as much creditability as Shane Warne’s defence when he was temporarily banned from high level cricket for taking a banned diuretic drug in the early noughties, the dog ate my homework, it’s only a flesh wound and many other worn out clichés.

Which leaves us with those with similar claims to Larissa Waters, Nick Xenophon and Barnaby Joyce, who seem to be victims of circumstance. While Waters was born in Canada to Australian parents studying in Winnipeg, she apparently was unaware that her birthplace gave her automatic Canadian citizenship according to their law. Waters left Canada when she was 11 months old. Ironically, the Canadian law was changed a week after her birth to an ‘opt-out’ system. Joyce holds New Zealand citizenship by virtue of his father being born there, according to New Zealand law (since repealed). Xenophon is a dual Australian/UK citizen by virtue of his father, a Greek Cypriot. When his father emigrated to Australia in the 1950’s, Cyprus was a British Dominion and his father (despite trying to ’escape’ the British), travelled to Australia on British travel documents.

The High Court is the place for the various claims and counterclaims to be determined, not a blog site, or for that matter by the pronouncements of Malcolm Turnbull, a relatively successful and prominent lawyer who appeared in front of the High Court, who has subsequently struggled as Prime Minister:
Based on advice from the solicitor-general, the government is very confident the court will not find that the member for New England [Joyce] is to be disqualified from the parliament
A blog site is in contrast, the place to make some observations about the way the various political parties are handling the dual citizenship matter. The basic issue here is does every Australian Federal Parliament representative meet the requirements of Section 44 of the Australian Constitution? In the case of the Greens, Coalition and One Nation — the answer is on the face of it, apparently they don’t.

The ALP claims:
We are confident that every member of the Labor caucus has been properly elected,” ALP Acting National Secretary Paul Erickson said.

The Labor Party works closely with all our candidates to ensure that their nomination is sound and compliant with the constitution.

This is a critical part of our nomination processes.
At the time of writing, the ALP’s statement seems to be correct in that no ALP MP or Senator has been confirmed as a dual citizen, something that Manager of Opposition Business, Tony Burke, went some way towards explaining in Parliament a week or so ago:
"Every member of the Labor caucus has been properly elected. We have processes in place, that go back to grandparents, making sure that wherever citizenship needs to be renounced, that the full requirements of the Constitution are taking into account."
It didn’t stop Shorten slapping the Greens administration practices with a wet lettuce leaf:
"I think Australians will say 'what is going on with the Green political party? Are they ready to be serious political operators? Are they up for the job?' And so I think that this sort of inadvertently damages people's confidence."
Turnbull’s initial reaction was less that sympathetic.
"Obviously Senator Ludlam's oversight is a pretty remarkable one when you think about it — he's been in the Senate for so long," Mr Turnbull said.

In a separate interview with Channel Nine, the Prime Minister said:
"It is pretty amazing, isn't it, that you have had two out of nine Greens Senators didn't realise they were citizens of another country.

"It shows incredible sloppiness on their part. You know, when you nominate for Parliament, there is actually a question — you have got to address that Section 44 question and you've got to tick the box and confirm that you are not a citizen of another country.
When it came to Joyce’s bona-fides being questioned a few days later, the situation was apparently completely different and the attack dog in Turnbull surfaced:
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has accused Labor leader Bill Shorten of "conspiring with a foreign power" to steal government, as he fights for survival following Barnaby Joyce's citizenship bombshell.
The reality is that Fairfax media had been ‘sniffing around’ the issue for a while, at the same time as a member of ALP Senator Penny Wong’s staff asked a friend in the New Zealand Labour Party (and member of the New Zealand Parliament) about citizenship matters. The New Zealand Parliamentarian asked a question in Parliament which was later called inappropriate. Turnbull criticising two people networking while not touching the elephant in the room — Fairfax was going to publish the story anyway — is interesting. The Coalition claim to promote business, and should understand that networking is a large part of successful enterprise!

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop went hysterical:
"New Zealand is facing an election," Ms Bishop said. "Should there be a change of government [to Labour], I would find it very hard to build trust with those involved in allegations designed to undermine the government of Australia."
As Fairfax media reports:
However, NZ's Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne [and leader of the United Future Party] said the rhetoric around NZ Labour was completely overblown.

‘This is so much utter nonsense - while Hipkins' questions were inappropriate, they were not the instigator. Australian media inquiries were,’ he said, referring to persistent questions from Fairfax Media.
The Australian High Court is the final arbitrator of who can legally sit in Australia’s Federal Parliament. The increasing list of Federal Parliamentarians who have fallen foul of Section 44 of the Constitution through either citizenship or ‘receiving profit from the crown’ issues will have their day in court. The Greens Senators that have been affected by Section 44 of the Constitution announced their resignation from the Senate. The same can’t be said for the National Party or One Nation Senators and Members of Parliament — Canavan resigned from the ministry (his portfolio being taken over by Joyce) while Joyce and Senator Nash have retained their ‘responsibilities’ while under investigation. One Nation Senator Roberts has not resigned, neither have Xenophon or the Coalition MP and Senator who may have a case to answer over the subclause of Section 44 prohibiting MPs and Senators from receiving income from ‘the crown’.

Since
Perth barrister, Dr John Cameron, brought down the first section 44 scalp, the Greens senator Scott Ludlam, by sending evidence of his New Zealand citizenship to the clerk of the Senate last month, an uneasy political detente held.
Xenophon claims that ‘platoons of parliamentarians and their staff are now at work trying to knock each other out of the game’. If Xenophon is correct, we all have to question the calibre of those that the political parties consider suitable for public office, as they should be using their taxpayer provided resources for the public good rather than settling of personal grievances. Politicians in general need to understand that others do have differing opinions on certain issues (heck even some in their own faction do) and nobody has the absolutely correct answer to every problem. There is nothing wrong with opinions being different — the problem is when opinions are forced down people’s throats as immutable facts. The Hawke era is still a demonstration of consensus between different groups generally resulting in a better outcome for all. The concept seems to have been lost since the 1980’s probably due to slick political marketing and politicians playing to win at all costs overwhelming the discussion of ideas and concepts for the betterment of Australia. Maybe the ALP does have bullet proof pre-selection processes or maybe they have just been lucky to date. Either way, maybe they are have learnt from past experience that ‘sitting back, observing and eating the popcorn’ is sometimes a much better strategy than throwing petrol onto a burning fire.

While the ALP was implicated, Fairfax media was going to run the story on Joyce’s dual citizenship anyway, so the massed indignation of political interference was good theatrics — and that’s about it. The Coalition, instead of admitting they had a problem and addressing it (as the Greens did through their Senators resigning from their job) thrashed around looking for someone else to blame for their own less than robust administrative process. Despite overwhelming evidence that the fan was starting to rotate anyway due to the investigations of Fairfax media, the Coalition tried to blame their political opposition. So much for the ‘adult government’ that are the only people with the skills necessary to govern the country. They can’t even take responsibility for their actions — while not being afraid to give advice to the Greens on their administration practices less than a week earlier! What’s that saying about pots and kettles?

The High Court will make their decision and depending what it is, the next few months could be really interesting to watch.

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

Related Posts
An ode to Mal Brough
2353NM, The Political Sword, 20 March 2016

Malcolm Thomas Brough was born in December 1961. He is the current Member of Parliament for the seat of Fisher – based on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Between 1996 and 2007, he was the Member for Longman – based on Brisbane’s outer northern suburbs. Brough recently announced his retirement from Parliament would take effect at the next election. Read more here:

And the Robbie nominees are. . .
2353NM, TPS Extra, 4 March 2016

Welcome to the 2016 Australian Federal Election Awards. We are here tonight to present the nominations for the tri-annual awards, based on form and practice during the past two years leading up to the scheduled election this year. Read more here:

Recent Posts
Inequality amblyopia
Ad astra, 6 August 2017
Inequality amblyopia is a condition affecting some conservatives, who simply cannot see inequality when looking directly at it. The facts and figures that convince objective observers that there is increasing inequality in our nation, are simply not visible to them.

As in childhood amblyopia, or ‘lazy eye’ as it is called colloquially, there is nothing wrong with the eye. Amblyopia results …
More...
Dutton for PM — no thanks
2353NM, 13 August 2017
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 …
More...
Are algorithms ruling your world?
Ad astra, 20 August 2017
A year or two ago, how many would have known what the word algorithm meant? Now it is a word in common use. It crops up whenever automation or artificial intelligence is mentioned.

The term ‘automation’ once conjured up images of robots doing manual tasks; now it encompasses intellectual or cognitive tasks being undertaken automatically. We are told that …
More...

Are algorithms ruling your world?



A year or two ago, how many would have known what the word algorithm meant? Now it is a word in common use. It crops up whenever automation or artificial intelligence is mentioned.

The term ‘automation’ once conjured up images of robots doing manual tasks; now it encompasses intellectual or cognitive tasks being undertaken automatically. We are told that already the majority of financial transactions are carried out not with pencil and paper and calculators, but via algorithms.

The images of robots scurrying round the factory floor building motor vehicles or fulfilling customer orders in a vast warehouse, as happens in the Amazon organization, are easy enough to envisage and understand, although the programming behind these activities would be a mystery to most of us.

How many understand how an algorithm works, or even what is it?

Although the concept of an algorithm dates back to the 9th Century, it has come into its own during this century as we seek to automate a multitude of tasks previously done manually.

A simple definition of an algorithm is a self-contained sequence of actions to be performed, beginning with inputs and finishing with outputs.

In computer parlance, an algorithm is a well-defined procedure, a sequence of unambiguous instructions that allows a computer to solve a problem. Algorithms can perform calculations, data processing and automated reasoning tasks.

The most familiar algorithm is a kitchen recipe. It comprises the ingredients (the inputs) and the directions, instructions about how to combine the ingredients to produce the dish (the output).

Wikipedia provides an example of a simple algorithm in mathematics – a set of instructions to find the largest number in a list of numbers arranged in random order. Finding the solution requires looking at every number in the list. This simple algorithm, stated in words, reads:
  1. If there are no numbers in the set then there is no highest number.
  2. Assume the first number in the set is the largest number in the set.
  3. For each remaining number in the set: if this number is larger than the current largest number, consider this number to be the largest number in the set.
  4. When there are no numbers left in the set to iterate over, consider the current largest number to be the largest number of the set.
For computer processing, those instructions are written in computer language, for example using ‘if – then – else’ propositions: IF 'such and such is so’ THEN 'do this’, ELSE 'do this'.

Such straightforward mathematical algorithms seem harmless enough. An input is processed and the output is reliably produced.

Now though these mathematical calculations are used in commerce and finance, for example in stock market transactions where the computer programs of stock brokers compete with one another to accomplish the most advantageous transactions for their clients. There are stories of stock broking firms using faster and faster computers and building faster and faster transmission lines to the stock exchange to outdo their competitors. Even a few thousandths of a second faster transmission can make all the difference.

At times the speed and number of such competing automated instructions have brought the stock market to a halt – the ‘flash crash’.

We need though to get away from the notion that mathematical algorithms are pure and free from bias because they use the science of mathematics. Cathy O’Neil, a Harvard PhD and data scientist tells us why in her recently published book: Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, published by Crown. Her experience working for a hedge fund at the time of the global financial crisis informs her views and her writings.

In an article in The Guardian last October by Mona Chalabi titled Weapons of Math Destruction: Cathy O'Neil adds up the damage of algorithms, Chalabi points out that algorithms that started as rule-based processes for solving mathematical problems are now being applied to more and more areas of our lives. She continues:

This idea is at the heart of O’Neil’s thinking on why algorithms can be so harmful. In theory, mathematics is neutral – two plus two equals four regardless of what anyone wishes the answer were. But in practice, mathematical algorithms can be formulated and tweaked based on powerful interests.

O’Neil saw those interests first hand when she was a quantitative analyst on Wall Street. Starting in 2007, she spent four years in finance, two of them working for a hedge fund. There she saw the use of weapons of math destruction, a term O’Neil uses to describe “algorithms that are important, secret and destructive”.

The algorithms that ultimately caused the financial crisis met all of those criteria – they affected large numbers of people, were entirely opaque and destroyed lives. O’Neil left the hedge fund: “I left disgusted by finance because I thought of it as a rigged system and it was rigged for the insiders; I was ashamed by that – as a mathematician I love math and I think math is a tool for good.”
According to O’Neil, algorithms can be used to reinforce discrimination and widen inequality, by ‘using people’s fear and trust of mathematics to prevent them from asking questions.’ This can occur when aspects of life other than objective mathematical propositions are the inputs to the algorithm.

Her book explains how algorithms can do this – such as the ones used to measure the likelihood a convicted person will relapse into criminal behaviour: ‘When someone is classed as “high risk”, they’re more likely to get a longer sentence and find it harder to find a job when they eventually do get out. That person is then more likely to commit another crime, and so the model looks like it got it right.’

O’Neil tells us that ’…contrary to popular opinion that algorithms are purely objective, “models are opinions embedded in mathematics”. Think Trump is hopeless? That will affect your calculations. Think black American men are all criminal thugs? That affects the models being used in the criminal justice system.’

But O’Neill tells us that sometimes it’s hard for non-statisticians to know which questions to ask. Her advice is to be persistent. ‘People should feel more entitled to push back and ask for evidence, but they seem to fold a little too quickly when they’re told that it’s complicated.’ She adds: ‘If someone feels that some formula has affected their lives, at the very least they should be asking, how do you know that this is legal? That it isn’t discriminatory?’

Algorithms have the capability to sort through vast amounts of data – so-called big data. But what data should algorithms be sorting?

Writing in The Guardian, in a article titled: How algorithms rule the world, Leo Hickman says: ‘From dating websites and City trading floors, through to online retailing and internet searches (Google's search algorithm is now a more closely guarded commercial secret than the recipe for Coca-Cola), algorithms are increasingly determining our collective futures. Bank approvals, store cards, job matches and more all run on similar principles. The algorithm is the god from the machine powering them all, for good or ill.’

We are becoming aware that our Internet browsing history, our Google searches, our contributions to Facebook, Twitter and other social media are being monitored and fed back to us in the form of suggestions about what we might buy or eat or how we should vote.

The values and the objectives of those who design algorithms are reflected in the data collected and the algorithms used to process the data.

In The Guardian article: How algorithms rule the world Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, professor of internet governance and regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute, warns against humans seeing causation when an algorithm identifies a correlation in vast swaths of data.

He cautions us about: ‘… the possibility of using big-data predictions about people to judge and punish them even before they've acted. Doing this negates ideas of fairness, justice and free will. In addition to privacy and propensity, there is a third danger. We risk falling victim to a dictatorship of data, whereby we fetishise the information, the output of our analyses, and end up misusing it. Handled responsibly, big data is a useful tool of rational decision-making. Wielded unwisely, it can become an instrument of the powerful, who may turn it into a source of repression, either by simply frustrating customers and employees or, worse, by harming citizens.’

Mayer-Schönberger presents two very different real-life scenarios to illustrate how algorithms are being used. He explains how the analytics team working for US retailer Target can now calculate whether a woman is pregnant and, if so, when she is due to give birth: ‘They noticed that these women bought lots of unscented lotion at around the third month of pregnancy, and that a few weeks later they tended to purchase supplements such as magnesium, calcium and zinc. The team ultimately uncovered around two-dozen products that, used as proxies, enabled the company to calculate a “pregnancy prediction” score for every customer who paid with a credit card or used a loyalty card or mailed coupons. The correlations even let the retailer estimate the due date within a narrow range, so it could send relevant coupons for each stage of the pregnancy.’

‘Harmless targeting, some might argue. But what happens, as has already reportedly occurred, when a father is mistakenly sent nappy discount vouchers instead of his teenage daughter whom a retailer has identified is pregnant before her own father knows?’

Mayer-Schönberger's second example of our reliance upon algorithms throws up even more potential dilemmas and pitfalls: ‘Parole boards in more than half of all US states use predictions founded on data analysis as a factor in deciding whether to release somebody from prison or to keep him incarcerated.’

Awareness of the useful potential of algorithms is valuable, but so is their propensity for doing harm in the wrong hands or for the wrong reasons. But how many of our citizens are aware?

Will we all awake one day and find that our lives are being controlled secretly by forces whose self interest, not ours, is being served? By forces that want us to buy in a certain way, transact our business in a certain way, view cultural and travel offerings in a certain way, vote in a certain way, behave in a certain way, and even think in a certain way? By forces that selectively benefit those at the top and penalize those at the bottom? By forces that increase the inequality that afflicts the world today?

Does that sound like George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four?

We ought to be afraid. We ought to resist strongly our lives being taken over and controlled by algorithms.

But who will listen? Are our politicians aware of the threat of algorithms? More significantly, are they capable of altering this surreptitious take over of our world?

Do you use Google, Bing or Yahoo as online search engines? Do you respond to emailed requests to take a quiz or respond to an online opinion poll? Are you attracted by offers of a prize if you respond to a survey? Do you enter contests that promise alluring rewards? Do you use YouTube or Netflix or Stan? Have you used iTunes or Google Play or Amazon online to order items?

Have you noticed that your online searches often mysteriously throw up the very things that interest you?

If so, chances are that you may already be in the thrall of the algorithm creators, already slaves to the algorithm.

Are algorithms ruling your world?


What is your opinion?
Do you feel you are being manipulated through your Internet searches?

Have you had any troublesome experiences using the Internet?

Let us know in comments below.

Recent Posts
Dog whistling in the park
2353NM, 30 July 2017
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 …
More...
Inequality amblyopia
Ad astra, 6 August 2017
Inequality amblyopia is a condition affecting some conservatives, who simply cannot see inequality when looking directly at it. The facts and figures that convince objective observers that there is increasing inequality in our nation, are simply not visible to them.

As in childhood amblyopia, or ‘lazy eye’ as it is called colloquially, there is nothing wrong with the eye. Amblyopia results …
More...
Dutton for PM – no thanks
2353NM, 13 August 2017
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 …
More...

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.

Recent Posts
Is Donald Trump mad?
Ad astra, 23 July 2017
No, I don’t mean ‘hopping mad’. We know that he is hopping mad with the media and its ‘fake news’, with CNN particularly, and with some of its commentators whom he has chosen to label as intellectually deficient, and unpleasant to the eyes (bleeding from a face lift!).

We know he is hopping mad about the criticism he attracts. We know he prefers admiration, adulation, even reverence. We …
More...
Dog whistling in the park
2353NM, 30 July 2017
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 …
More...
Inequality amblyopia
Ad astra, 6 August 2017
Inequality amblyopia is a condition affecting some conservatives, who simply cannot see inequality when looking directly at it. The facts and figures that convince objective observers that there is increasing inequality in our nation, are simply not visible to them.

As in childhood amblyopia, or ‘lazy eye’ as it is called colloquially, there is nothing wrong with the eye. Amblyopia results …
More...

Inequality amblyopia



Inequality amblyopia is a condition affecting some conservatives, who simply cannot see inequality when looking directly at it. The facts and figures that convince objective observers that there is increasing inequality in our nation, are simply not visible to them.

As in childhood amblyopia, or ‘lazy eye’ as it is called colloquially, there is nothing wrong with the eye. Amblyopia results from a developmental problem in the brain, not the eye. The part of the brain that receives images from the amblyotic eye is not stimulated properly.

In conservatives that part of the brain is where political concepts, ideology and entrenched beliefs live. So ingrained are these beliefs that no contradictory facts or figures can erase them. The beliefs are unshakable. Evidence has no impact; it is invisible.

This is why Scott Morrison was able to argue that rather than increasing in Australia, inequality was decreasing! He said: “The latest census showed on the global measure of inequality, which is the Gini coefficient, that is the accepted global measure of income inequality around the world, and that figure shows it hasn’t got worse, it has actually got better,”

Even if Morrison actually understood how the Gini coefficient was computed, what it measured, and the nuances that surround it, he is pushing his luck to base his refutation of Shorten’s inequality claim using only the Gini to 'prove' that inequality is decreasing, not increasing. More of this later.

For those not familiar with this measure of inequality, the following explanation extracted from Investopedia may be of value.
The Gini index or Gini coefficient is a statistical measure of distribution developed by the Italian statistician Corrado Gini in 1912. It is often used as a gauge of economic inequality, measuring income distribution or, less commonly, wealth distribution among a population. The coefficient ranges from 0 (or 0%) to 1 (or 100%), with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing perfect inequality. A country in which every resident has the same income would have an income Gini coefficient of 0. A country in which one resident earned all the income, while everyone else earned nothing, would have an income Gini coefficient of 1.

The same analysis can be applied to wealth distribution (the "wealth Gini coefficient"), but because wealth is more difficult to measure than income, Gini coefficients usually refer to income and appear simply as "Gini coefficient" or "Gini index," without specifying that they refer to income. Wealth Gini coefficients tend to be much higher than those for income.
Morrison has likely made his assertion after reading the 12th iteration of The University of Melbourne Melbourne Institute’s annual study of The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey (HILDA). The preface to the HILDA Survey explains that it ‘…seeks to provide longitudinal data on the lives of Australian residents. It collects information annually on a wide range of aspects of life in Australia, including household and family relationships, child care, employment, education, income, expenditure, health and wellbeing, attitudes and values on a variety of subjects, and various life events and experiences. Information is also collected at less frequent intervals on various topics, including household wealth, fertility-related behaviour and plans, relationships with non-resident family members and non-resident partners, health care utilisation, eating habits, cognitive functioning and retirement.’

The important distinguishing feature of the HILDA Survey is that the same households and individuals, 17,000 persons in all, are interviewed every year, allowing the study to see how their lives are changing over time.

Of relevance to this piece is one of the findings of this year’s HILDA: ‘The Gini coefficient, a common measure of overall inequality, has remained at approximately 0.3 over the entire 15 years of the HILDA Survey.’

The flakiness of using this measure to support a political point of view about the level of inequality in Australia is illustrated by Figure 4.2 on page 48 of the 2017 HILDA Survey, which details the Gini coefficient up to 2015 for males and females based on the weekly earnings of full-time employees. The graphs show a tiny downward flick for males (indicating less inequality), but there is a larger upward flick for females (indicating more inequality). The movements are so small that to claim inequality is decreasing is patently dishonest, particularly as the Gini for males and females go in opposite directions, females more than males.

Do take a look at Figure 4.2 below to convince yourself of Morrison’s deception.


The OECD Economic Survey Australia 2017 also comments on the Gini. It states: ‘The Gini coefficient has been drifting up [towards inequality] and households in upper income brackets have benefited disproportionally from Australia’s long period of economic growth. Real incomes for the top quintile of households grew by more than 40% between 2004 and 2014 while those for the lowest quintile only grew by about 25%.

You may care to look at Figure 3 on page 8 of this report that compares the Gini coefficient of Australia, Canada and the US. It shows how much the income of the top 1% has grown, as it benefitted most from the economic boom.

So let’s dismiss any serious claim that Gini ‘proves’ that inequality is decreasing in Australia. There is so much other evidence to the contrary that inequality amplyopia must be affecting the brains of those who argue so.

Conservative commentators too, such as Adam Creighton, economics correspondent for The Australian, and Paul Kelly, editor-at-large, were quick to attack Shorten’s call of inequality. Creighton wrote a headline in The Weekend Australian of July 22-23 that read: ALP’s ‘false’ pitch on inequality. He goes on to assert that Shorten’s claim that inequality is at a 75-year high is ‘patently false’. Creighton supports his argument by quoting Professor Roger Wilkins, author of HILDA, who told an Economic and Social Policy conference that “Inequality is still relatively high by modern standards but the narrative that says inequality is ever rising is patently false…”, and that the proportion of Australians over 15 with incomes less than half the median level of income had fallen to about 10%, adding “That if anything inequality has been declining”.

So the game, as always, is to quote the data, or the person that supports the argument being made. This is what Morrison, Creighton and Kelly have done, shamelessly, although it flies in the face of the facts and figures.

Yet, ask the average person in the street whether they believe that they, or Australians in general, are becoming better off or worse, and the predominant answer will be ‘WORSE’.

Writing in Crikey, political editor Bernard Keane says: ‘We're missing the point on inequality. Arcane debates about measures of inequality don't deal with the day to day perceptions of voters of an economic system that has stopped delivering for them.’

He goes on: ‘Is inequality in Australia getting worse? Is the Gini coefficient going up or down? Who’s right, Bill Shorten or Scott Morrison and the conservative newspapers beating the bushes for academics who’ll back them up? It doesn’t matter, and the longer the government and its media allies debate it, the more they’ll play into Shorten’s hands on what will become a key issue for the next election.

'Inequality is a central outcome of the kind of market-based economic reforms we’ve pursued since the 1980s. That’s how neoliberalism works. It has made us all wealthier – even the poorest Australians are wealthier than they were 30 years ago, in real terms. But the wealthiest have benefited more than the rest of us. This is indisputable.'

Writing in the same issue of Crikey Helen Razer says Inequality IS the point’. She continues: ‘Inequality has reached a crisis point in Australia, no matter your definition. The poor can't afford homes or electricity, and something has to be done. Rising inequality, says the Leader of the Opposition, is a terrible fact of Australian life. Rising inequality, says the Treasurer, is a non-fact that opposition leaders evoke when what they really want to do is stunt economic growth.

'The Herald Sun says that everyone should just shut up about rising inequality, because causing people to worry about what they don’t have and can’t get is a destructive “politics of envy”. There’s no point in scrutinising the odd claims of the Herald Sun – it’d be a bit like arguing with my Aunty Dot about global warming three sherries in. But there must be a point in scrutinising what is meant by “inequality” and how much of it we have, or don’t have, in this nation.’


Also in Crikey Alan Austin writes: ‘ Company reporting season begins this week with confidence sky high that record annual profits will be achieved. With these will come exciting news of higher executive salaries, well-earned performance bonuses and, of course, increased shareholder dividends. These are already being hailed by the corporate media as proof that all is well with the world. Meanwhile, data on Australia’s economy published in July confirms two things. First, that much of the increased income and wealth accruing to rich corporations and individuals is taken from the poor and the middle. And second, that this rate of transfer is accelerating.

Peter Martin, economics editor at The Age frontally addresses the disparity between Shorten’s claims and Morrison’s in his article: HILDA. Why we're suddenly concerned about inequality. Things have stopped getting better.

Martin begins: 'Bill Shorten's on to something. Not the pointless debate over inequality – whether it's rising or not depends on what you measure – but the truth that lies beneath the debate. It's that, unusually, life is getting harder.'

He goes on: 'In all but four of the past 15 years, things were getting better. Two of those four years followed the global financial crisis. The other two were the two most recent years for which we have data: the first two full years of the Abbott-Turnbull government. It means that whereas before the election of Tony Abbott, a typical Australian family took home about what it did in 2009, it now takes home less, after adjusting for inflation.'

He quotes Shorten: ‘As Shorten put it in a speech that purported to be about inequality but was actually about declining real incomes, "It feeds that sense, that resentment, that the deck is stacked against ordinary people, that the fix is in and the deal is done." We didn't get that sense when ordinary incomes were rising, even though inequality was widening. Only now, when real incomes are slipping, do we feel resentful. And it's mainly men who are resentful. Female earnings are trending up, especially those of women employed full-time. Male earnings are trending down.’

Can Morrison or Creighton or Kelly counter these feelings? Especially when the average Joe sees corporate high fliers sitting on salaries and bonuses that often run into millions. No, not with their amblyotic vision! The visual centre in their brains can’t process the facts and figures that we all can see.

Let’s look at some of the facts that Martin extracted from HILDA:

Education:
University graduates earn much less than their predecessors used to ($1023 a week, down from $1468) and they are much less likely to be in full-time jobs four years later (73 per cent, down from 91 per cent). Australians with only a high school qualification are even worse off. When the survey started, 81 per cent of them were employed full-time within four years. Now it's 62 per cent.’

Work:
As more and more of us work in part-time rather than full-time jobs, an increasing proportion are combining part-time jobs in order to work full-time. This means that part-time jobs are more common than the Bureau of Statistics survey suggests and that full-time jobs are harder to get.

Australians are working longer without waiting for the pension age to rise. The typical retirement age has climbed from 62 to 66 for men, and for 61 to 64 for women. And retirement is less likely to be a one-off event. Thirteen per cent of men who retired between the ages of 60 and 64 find themselves back at work within a year, up from 9 per cent. Seven per cent of the women who retired between 60 and 64 find themselves back at work in a year, up from 4 per cent.’


Superannuation:
‘Even now, a quarter of a century after the introduction of compulsory superannuation and 15 years after compulsory contributions of around 9 per cent, the balances of retirees are surprisingly low.

‘Thirty per cent of men retire without super, and 29 per cent of women. The men who do have super retire with a typical balance of $325,200; the women with $110,952. That typical balance is the median, meaning half of the retirees will have more, and half less. The mean (average) is much higher, pushed up by very big retirement balances at the top.

‘Retirees with low balances are highly likely to use them to pay off debts, obliterating 58 per cent of their super (men) or 70 per cent (women) in one go.’


Home ownership:
’Home ownership rates for the under-40s have collapsed. In 2002 when the survey began, 32.5 per cent of 18- to 39-year-olds owned a home. It's now 24.9 per cent.

‘The proportion of men in their early-20s living with their parents has jumped from 43 per cent to 60 per cent. The proportion of early-20s women staying at home has jumped from 27 per cent to 48 per cent.

‘Those who can buy houses find it hard to pay them off. The average mortgage taken out by a young homebuyer has almost trebled – jumping from $120,813 to $330,687. Going back to the same homeowners year after the year the survey finds that in most years the amount owed climbs as a substantial minority of young homeowners refinance or redraw or fall behind on their loans. HILDA author Wilkins says if they continue like this – using their mortgages to fund day to day expenses – there will be "real implications for future aged pension liabilities".’


Martin concludes: 'Australia remains a wealthy country. But it isn't absolute wealth (or even relative inequality) that matters most when it comes to our feelings. It's whether or not things are getting better. HILDA suggests they are getting worse.'

The following McCrindle image of Australian Income and Wealth Distribution 2016 summarizes inequality in this country graphically:



Morrison, his Coalition colleagues, and their conservative cheerleaders in the media are petrified about the impact of Shorten’s inequality message. No matter what counter messages they shout over the airwaves or through the Murdoch media, they know that the people out there, most of whom have never heard of the Gini coefficient, let alone its variations over time, realize that they are worse off than before, know that life is getting harder for them as their wages stagnate while the costs of living continue to rise. They know that as they struggle to pay off their mortgage and their rising power bills they have less and less for food and other essentials. No amount of tough talk from Morrison and Co., no amount of quoting Gini, no amount of slick political blather will convince them otherwise.

The sad fact is that despite these verifiable facts, Morrison and his Coalition colleagues are incapable of processing what everyone else can see, now reinforced by HILDA data. They can see the facts just as anyone else can, but because of their inequality amblyopia their brains cannot process these facts, distorted as their thinking is by inbuilt ideological biases and deeply entrenched beliefs. Their eyes see the facts; their brains cannot, and never will.

Only by recognizing this form of amblyopia will ordinary citizens ever be able to understand how conservatives can deny that life is getting more difficult for so many, how they can deny that inequality is increasing.

Shorten is on a winner.




Postscript: If any of you doubt the soundness of the 'inequality amblyopia' allegory, you might be interested to read a pertinent article in Friday's issue of The Conversation: How do you know that what you know is true? That’s epistemology by Peter Ellerton, Lecturer in Critical Thinking at The University of Queensland.

Do you believe inequality is increasing in this nation?

Let us know what you think in ‘Comments’ below.

Recent Posts
Look out for dinosaurs
2353NM, 9 July 2017
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 …
More...
More power to you
2353NM, 16 July 2017
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 …
More...
Is Donald Trump mad?
Ad astra, 23 July 2017
No, I don’t mean ‘hopping mad’. We know that he is hopping mad with the media and its ‘fake news’, with CNN particularly, and with some of its commentators whom he has chosen to label as intellectually deficient, and unpleasant to the eyes (bleeding from a face lift!).

We know he is hopping mad about the criticism he attracts. We know he prefers admiration, adulation, even reverence. We …
More...

Dog whistling in the park


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.

Recent Posts
Look out for dinosaurs
2353NM, 9 July 2017
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 …
More...
More power to you
2353NM, 16 July 2017
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 …
More...
Is Donald Trump mad?
Ad astra, 23 July 2017
No, I don’t mean ‘hopping mad’. We know that he is hopping mad with the media and its ‘fake news’, with CNN particularly, and with some of its commentators whom he has chosen to label as intellectually deficient, and unpleasant to the eyes (bleeding from a face lift!).

We know he is hopping mad about the criticism he attracts. We know he prefers admiration, adulation, even reverence. We …
More...

Is Donald Trump mad?



No, I don’t mean ‘hopping mad’. We know that he is hopping mad with the media and its ‘fake news’, with CNN particularly, and with some of its commentators whom he has chosen to label as intellectually deficient, and unpleasant to the eyes (bleeding from a face lift!).

We know he is hopping mad about the criticism he attracts. We know he prefers admiration, adulation, even reverence. We know he craves the hero worship he received as host and star in his TV reality show The Apprentice. We know he needs his image to be polished endlessly. Fame is almost more important to him than fortune.

No, I mean ‘mad’ in the clinical sense, in the sense of the many synonyms of the word: mentally disturbed, insane, lunatic, maniacal, even crazy or crazed. Some peri-clinical synonyms of ‘mad’ too might be applicable: unstable, erratic, unsafe, dangerous, perilous, foolish, senseless.

‘Mad’ derives in part from the Old English ‘gemædde’: ‘out of one’s mind’, ‘extremely stupid’, ‘insane’ or ‘foolish’.

Do you see a nexus between these words and Trump’s behaviour?

Let me present you with some evidence so that you can make up your own mind about whether Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America is indeed ‘mad’.

First, look at a report in The Guardian of what ABC political commentator Chris Uhlmann had to say at the conclusion of the recent G20 meeting in Hamburg. Do watch the video; it will become a collectors’ item.
Speaking on Sunday from the G20 conference in Hamburg, Uhlmann said Trump had shown ‘no desire and no capacity to lead the world’ and was himself ‘the biggest threat to the values of the west’.

He was an uneasy, lonely, awkward figure at this gathering and you got the strong sense that some of the leaders are trying to find the best way to work around him, Uhlmann said.

Where was the G20 statement condemning North Korea which would have put pressure on China and Russia? Other leaders expected it, they were prepared to back it, but it never came.

Uhlmann said Trump was obsessed with ‘burnishing his celebrity’ and had ‘diminished’ his own nation to the benefit of Russia and China.

We learned that Donald Trump has pressed fast-forward on the decline of the United States as a global leader. He managed to isolate his nation, to confuse and alienate his allies and to diminish America.

[He is] a man who barks out bile in 140 characters, who wastes his precious days as president at war with the west’s institutions like the judiciary, independent government agencies and the free press.
So astute was Uhlmann’s analysis that the video of it soon became viral, drawing complimentary remarks from observers of international politics.

Look at the essence of his analysis. Keep in mind that he is referring to the man who occupies the most powerful position in the world, a position that demands leadership in today’s complex global environment where everything is interconnected.

First, Uhlmann concludes that Trump has 'no desire and no capacity to lead the world'. The world’s media reaction to Uhlmann’s analysis was strongly affirmatory; clearly many agreed. How can a man in Trump’s position eschew leadership and show no capacity for it? Does this fit synonyms of ‘mad’ such as: ‘foolish’, ‘senseless’, ‘ill-advised’, or even ‘unsafe’, ‘dangerous’ or ‘perilous’?

Uhlmann concluded that Trump had 'managed to isolate his nation, to confuse and alienate his allies, and to diminish America.' He went onto say that this defect rendered Trump 'the biggest threat to the values of the west'. What words apply to this assertion? Mentally disturbed, even insane?

Writing in news.com.au, in an article titled: Radical new plan to remove ‘incapacitated’ President Trump, Liz Burke makes this assessment:
US politicians are so seriously concerned about President Donald Trump’s sanity they are making a plan that could see him removed from the White House over it.

A group of Democrats has put forward a bill to propose a committee that could declare Mr Trump ‘incapacitated’ and remove him from office.

The increasing level of concern over the deteriorating situation in the White House comes as questions have been raised over the President’s state of mind following a series of bizarre and even aggressive tweets.

Mr Trump at the weekend shared a violent video in which he was shown wrestling to the ground and repeatedly striking a man whose face was covered by a CNN logo. This followed a series of personal attacks on a female journalist, and railing against the MSNBC breakfast program she hosts.

In another tweet, the President conceded his use of social media was 'not presidential', but declared a new term for his style: ‘MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL’.

Others have declared it crazy, unusual, and concerning, and are making moves to use his unusual behaviour to end the celebrity businessman-turned-politician’s presidential term.
The evidence suggesting ‘madness’ accumulates.

David Renmick, editor of The New Yorker in an article titled American Dignity on the Fourth of July writes inter alia:
Donald Trump...has no interest in the wholeness of reality. He descends from the lineage of the Know-Nothings, the doomsayers and the fabulists, the nativists and the hucksters.

The thematic shift from Obama to Trump has been from ‘lifting as we climb’ to ‘raising the drawbridge and bolting the door’. Trump may operate a twenty-first-century Twitter machine, but he is still a frontier-era drummer peddling snake oil, juniper tar, and Dr. Tabler’s Buckeye Pile Cure for profit from the back of a dusty wagon.
Further on Renmick writes:
Trump is hardly the first bad President in American history – he has not had adequate time to eclipse, in deed, the very worst – but when has any politician done so much, so quickly, to demean his office, his country, and even the language in which he attempts to speak?

Every day, Trump wakes up and erodes the dignity of the Presidency a little more. He tells a lie. He tells another. He trolls Arnold Schwarzenegger. He trolls the press, bellowing ‘enemy of the people’ and ‘fake news!’

He shoves aside a Balkan head of state. He summons his Cabinet members to have them swear fealty to his awesomeness. He leers at an Irish journalist.

Last Thursday, he tweeted at Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, of MSNBC: 'I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came . . . to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!'

The President’s misogyny and his indecency are well established. When is it time to question his mental stability?
Returning to the G20, what was Trump thinking when he delegated his 35 year old favourite daughter Ivanka to sit in for him among world leaders: Xi Jinping, Angela Merkel and Recep Tayyip Erdogan? Usually high-ranking public officials are delegated this task. Historian Anne Applebaum took to Twitter to denounce what she described 'an unelected, unqualified, unprepared New York socialite' being seen as 'the best person to represent American national interests'.



Trump defended
his action with these words: 'I’m very proud of my daughter, Ivanka – always have been, from day one I have to tell you, from day one...She’s always been great. She’s a champion. If she weren’t my daughter, it would be so much easier for her. Might be the only bad thing she has going, if you want to know the truth.'

Ivanka was given the official title of 'First Daughter and Advisor to the President' early in the administration, amid outcry that an unofficial role exempted her from ethics rules.

Is this behaviour an example of an unbalanced person?

Read what another writer at The New Yorker, Evan Osnos, had to say in an article written back in May: Is political hubris an illness? He begins: 
In February, 2009, the British medical journal Brain published an article on the intersection of health and politics titled Hubris Syndrome: An Acquired Personality Disorder? The authors were David Owen, the former British Foreign Secretary, who is also a physician and neuroscientist, and Jonathan Davidson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, who has studied the mental health of politicians. They proposed the creation of a psychiatric disorder for leaders who exhibited, among other qualities, 'impetuosity, a refusal to listen to or take advice, and a particular form of incompetence when impulsivity, recklessness and frequent inattention to detail predominate.'
Sound familiar? Do these words apply to Trump?

Further on Osnos uses these words:
President Donald Trump, in the months since he entered the White House, has become a kind of international case study of mental health’s role in politics. To his friends and allies, he elicits an array of anodyne, even appealing, adjectives: unpredictable, fearless, irascible, sly. Many of his counterparts in diplomacy, and in American politics, are rapidly shedding the euphemisms that they once used to express their appraisals, however.

When Trump, after a confused viewing of a Fox News segment, urged people at a rally 'to look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?', suggesting that an incident – which no one could identify; nothing notable had happened the night before – had something to do with Sweden being overrun by refugees, Swedes reached a judgment. 'They thought the man had gone bananas', Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former Prime Minister and foreign minister, told Susan Glasser, of Politico, in an interview published this week. 'It was a somewhat unsettling thing to see the president of the United States without any factual basis whatsoever lunge out against a small country in the way that he did.'

Though politicians often accuse each other of being crazy, Trump has inspired a more clinical and sober discussion. (In the magazine this week, I write about proposals in Congress to assess the President’s mental health.) In recent days, the discussion of Trump’s stability has entered a blunter phase.

Over the weekend, Trump made a series of bizarre comments, including questioning the history of the Civil War, saying he was ‘looking at’ breaking up banks (prompting a stock-market slide), and demonstrating unfamiliarity with basics of the health-care bill known as Trumpcare. The Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told an interviewer that it was 'among the most bizarre recent twenty-four hours in American Presidential history', adding, 'It was all just surreal disarray and a confused mental state from the President.' Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman, told his television audience, 'My mother’s had dementia for ten years…That sounds like the sort of thing my mother would say today.'
Finally let’s hear from our own Julia Gillard, recently appointed head of Beyond Blue, who cautions against throwing around the charge of being mentally ill as an insult. But she did weigh into Donald Trump’s odd Twitter behaviour, acknowledging there will be questions about his mental health, acknowledging that some had a genuine concern for the president: 'I know that some people in the US, some commentators are not proffering that analysis by way of insult, they’re actually saying it because they are genuinely concerned. But I do think if President Trump continues with some of the tweeting etcetera that we’ve seen, that this will be in the dialogue.'

Let’s end on that sober note before this piece becomes too long.

With the evidence and the opinions quoted above, what do you make of it all? Recall the words that are used to describe ‘madness’: mentally disturbed, insane, lunatic, maniacal, crazy, unstable, erratic, unsafe, dangerous, perilous, foolish, senseless, and impractical.

Ask yourself, does Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America, show signs of madness as described above?



I’ve made up my mind.

Let us know what you think in ‘Comments’ below.

Recent Posts
The Coalition needs an Abbott-proof fence
Ad astra, 29 June 2017
If you were to ask Malcolm Turnbull to tell you honestly what was his most demanding and persistent political problem, Tony Abbott would most likely be his answer.

We are well aware of the legislative issues Turnbull faces, and the exultation he exhibits when finally he achieves a success – the passage of Gonski 2.0 is a recent example. We know too that he has …
More...
Climate wars all over again
Ad astra, 2 July 2017
Only a naive optimist could believe the contemporary rhetoric that the Finkel Review might bring the climate wars of the last decade to an end.

As long as Tony Abbott lurks in the wings there will be war over climate. His whole persona is warlike, his political book is even titled Battlelines. A pugilist since student days, he has carried unremitting combativeness into his political life …
More...
Look out for dinosaurs
2353NM, 9 July 2017
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 …
More...

More power to you


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.

Recent Posts
The Coalition needs an Abbott-proof fence
Ad astra, 29 June 2017
If you were to ask Malcolm Turnbull to tell you honestly what was his most demanding and persistent political problem, Tony Abbott would most likely be his answer.

We are well aware of the legislative issues Turnbull faces, and the exultation he exhibits when finally he achieves a success – the passage of Gonski 2.0 is a recent example. We know too that he has …
More...
Climate wars all over again
Ad astra, 2 July 2017
Only a naive optimist could believe the contemporary rhetoric that the Finkel Review might bring the climate wars of the last decade to an end.

As long as Tony Abbott lurks in the wings there will be war over climate. His whole persona is warlike, his political book is even titled Battlelines. A pugilist since student days, he has carried unremitting combativeness into his political life …
More...
Look out for dinosaurs
2353NM, 9 July 2017
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 …
More...

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.

Recent Posts
All you need is love
2353NM, 4 June 2017
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 1967 was the summer of love where it is claimed that up to 100,000 people congregated in the Haight-Ashbury …
More...
Trump becomes irrelevant
Ad astra, 11 June 2017
We saw it coming, even before his election as President of the United States of America. Few gave this man any credence as he campaigned against Republican after Republican for the GOP nomination. His ideas lacked substance, his policies were threadbare, even nihilistic, and …
More...
Respect the culture
2353NM, 17 June 2017
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 roadmap for the future of all Australians. Sean Kelly …
More...

The Coalition needs an Abbott-proof fence



If you were to ask Malcolm Turnbull to tell you honestly what was his most demanding and persistent political problem, Tony Abbott would most likely be his answer.

We are well aware of the legislative issues Turnbull faces, and the exultation he exhibits when finally he achieves a success – the passage of Gonski 2.0 is a recent example. We know too that he has dissention among the hard right elements in his party room. Cory Bernardi has already abandoned the Liberal Party to establish his Australian Conservatives, but Turnbull still has Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Ian Macdonald, Craig Kelly, Andrew Hastie, Chris Back, Rowan Ramsay, Angus Taylor, Tony Pasin, Michael Sukkar and Zed Seselja, regular irritants led by the pernicious and vengeful Tony Abbott.

But even without his henchmen, Abbott alone is a destructive force that bursts out into the open whenever an opportunity presents. If Abbott senses that he can make political capital out of anything that Turnbull does, or says, or proposes, he is out there shafting his leader.

How can he be stopped?

If you need any reminding, here are some media accounts of Abbott’s recent assaults on his leader:

In an article by Katharine Murphy in The Guardian on 24 February titled: The postie always rings twice: Abbott and Fahour give Coalition the smell of death, after dealing with the resignation of Ahmed Fahour’s from Australia Post, she gets to Tony Abbott after his unwanted intervention in the energy debate with these words:
“The right in Australian politics is currently hell-bent on consuming itself. Civil war keeps erupting before our very eyes.

“Tony Abbott dished it out to Malcolm Turnbull in a most extraordinary fashion, using a book launch to unveil a sweeping conservative manifesto for the next federal election, declaring the Coalition needs to cut immigration, slash the renewable energy target, abolish the Human Rights Commission, and gut the capacity of the Senate to be a roadblock to the government’s agenda.

“In a provocative speech that contained several pot shots at his successor, he warned that the government won’t win the next election unless it wins back the conservative base, declaring that “Politics can’t be just a contest of toxic egos or someone’s vanity project.”
Murphy goes on:
“His intervention was a precision strike against the man who took his job, with Newspoll in the field over the weekend, and federal parliament returning next week.

“Abbott wasn’t actually talking to the colleagues, which is probably wise, given many of them want to lock him in a cupboard and throw away the key.

“It was more vicious than a conventional party room courtship exercise.

“He looked over their heads, and spoke instead to the voters Malcolm Turnbull is currently intent on trying to woo back: white working-class voters in regional areas stranded at the fag end of the mining boom – the folks drifting dangerously in Hanson’s direction because they’ve had a gutful of the circus in Canberra.

“Abbott had one simple message for those people: the emperor has no clothes.

“He took the central pitch of Turnbull’s New Year strategy to put a floor under the Liberal party’s ebbing primary vote – the energy security offensive and the government’s big coal pivot (which resonates in the post mining boom regions) – and he demolished it.

“He said the government’s policy on climate and energy was an incoherent crock.

“Not content with yanking the rug out from under Turnbull and the government’s political ‘recovery’ strategy for 2017, Abbott then upped the ante in the political arms race for disaffected conservatives.

“He put immigration on the table. Apparently we need to cut immigration to help housing affordability – a complete nonsense, and incendiary to boot – but designed to hit the front bar ‘nod’ test. (“So that’s why I can’t afford a house. Bloody immigrants. Hogging Aussie houses.”)

“It’s a little fire you light in fractious times, and watch the embers burn. If voters have logged the substance of Abbott’s pitch, rather than just consumed it as colour and movement, his message will certainly resonate in some parts of the country, and it also reflects one view inside the government.

“The chairman of the government’s backbench committee on environment and energy, Craig Kelly, just to take one voice, agrees with most of what Abbott said on Thursday night, including the desirability of lowering the immigration rate.

“The Abbott 2.0 manifesto does, however, generate one obvious response for those of us still trying to reside in a fact-based universe: if this is the answer to what ails Australia, why didn’t you do it yourself? When you were ... you know ... the prime minister. With power.

“Abbott’s speech was, in a fact-based universe, mildly delusional, and almost entirely hypocritical. But as acts of rank political bastardry go, it was comprehensive.

“There is only one conclusion to take away from the performance, and that is that Abbott is hell-bent on Turnbull’s destruction, never mind the cost, never mind the casualties. If he can’t take him out in the party room because he’s a general without an army, then he will take him out with the conservative base, and drive a cleaver right through the heart of rightwing politics.

“If the political right shatters into shards, so be it. At one level it’s pure nihilism.”
In another article in the The Guardian, this one on 17 April, Gareth Hutchens begins:
"The former prime minister Tony Abbott has again spoken out publicly, urging the Turnbull government to make changes to reconnect with the electorate and offering a plan to stop Labor winning the next election.

“In an opinion piece in News Corp Australia tabloids, and in a follow-up interview on Sydney’s 2GB radio, he outlined measures to stop Labor’s momentum.

“We have to do something about housing affordability, and I think scaling back immigration until housing starts and infrastructure has caught up would be a good way of doing that,” he told 2GB.

“We’ve got to do something about political correctness, because we’ve got political correctness running riot in our country right now.”
In response, veteran Liberal MP Warren Entsch called on Abbott to shut up or quit after he again offered his views on the performance of the Turnbull government.

“He was going to step down graciously, he was going to serve in the best interests of the country but he was not going to do a running commentary, he was not going to be critical. Well it has been anything but that.”

Entsch said that Abbott’s actions were ‘reinforcing all the negative aspects of his time’ and seemed aimed at getting back at Malcolm Turnbull who ousted him from the prime ministership.

Abbott made it quite clear when he left office that he would not be a Kevin Rudd, that he would not provide a running commentary, he would positively contribute. He was very specific when he said that – and most of us believed him.

“But what he’s doing now is reinforcing all the negative aspects of his time. And if it continues like this, this will be his legacy – and he won’t be remembered fondly. He’ll just be seen as a wrecker, hell-bent on destroying an individual.”


Writing in news.com.au the next day, Malcolm Farr in an article titled: Why Tony Abbott wants Malcolm Turnbull to become his clone had this to say: 
”Tony Abbott isn’t after Malcolm Turnbull’s job but he does want a new entity in the Prime Minister’s office – a Tone Clone.

“Mr Abbott is seeking that marvel of the science of politics, a full body policy transplant. He wants an Abbott-like figure doing the things he attempted as leader and at times failed to implement, a figure indistinguishable from his current self apart from the physical presence.

“His explosive column in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph confirms previous reports that Mr Abbott had accepted he would not succeed Mr Turnbull – at least not before the next election – and his sensible view was that a leadership change would further wreck the government’s chances of being returned.

“All delivered with an offhand barb: “Of course people are disappointed with the government ...”

“He has told colleagues he fears a Coalition wipe-out in Queensland producing a national rout. The Abbott answer is for Mr Turnbull to adopt the policy clobber of Tony 2017 and be quick about it.

“This message has developed to uninterrupted background noise of comparisons between the Abbott government and the Turnbull venture, from Mr Abbott himself and surrogates ranging from Eric Abetz to Peta Credlin.”
Let’s jump to more recent Abbott interventions:

When the Finkel Review surfaced, there was Abbott ready to exploit any opportunity to counter its recommendations and criticise his nemesis.

Writing on 12 June in The Guardian in Tony Abbott fears Finkel's clean energy target could be 'a magic pudding', Katharine Murphy and Gareth Hutchens write: 
“Tony Abbott has declared that the new clean energy target proposed by the chief scientist, Alan Finkel, sounds like a 'magic pudding' and he says the Coalition must not adopt a new tax on coal.

“Ahead of a discussion of the Finkel recommendations by the Coalition party room on Tuesday, the former prime minister used his regular radio interview on 2GB to sound a warning about the reforms proposed by Finkel to the prime minister and the premiers last week.

“My anxiety listening to reports of the [Finkel] review, and this statement [that] they are going to reward low-emissions fuels while not punishing high-emissions fuels, is [that] it is going to be a magic pudding,” Abbott said on Monday.

“If you are rewarding one type of energy, inevitably, the money has got to come from somewhere – either consumers or taxpayers.

“If it is from consumers, it’s effectively a tax on coal, and that is the last thing we want.”
How can Turnbull keep this man at bay? Abbott never gives up. He is determined to undermine his leader every time he can.

Just a few weeks ago, Abbott was at it again, this time in the terrorism arena. An article in Crikey by Michael Bradley: Tony Abbott is helping the terrorists win Bradley begins:
"There’s a lot of competition these days for the title of Politician Most Likely to Exploit Terrorism in an Appalling Manner, what with Trump, Farage and Hanson all jumping on the latest London atrocity in a matter of minutes to demonstrate their particular brands of hate. Still, Tony Abbott remains special for his ability to combine clarity with idiocy.

“Abbott’s been all over the media since London, just being helpful you know. He has two Big Ideas this time: militarising Australia’s response to terrorist attacks, and creating special courts to deal with suspects. Not new ideas, but they approach the outer edge of a response structure, which would ensure that terrorism achieves its ends.

“Abbott wants the Australian Army to be ‘the lead agency’ in cases of ‘multiple or complex terrorist incidents’. The vagueness of his prescription is no surprise; the point is its apparent robustness. Not for Abbott any of the constitutional or operational complexities of sending in the troops to deal with what are, when the rhetoric is put aside, crimes of violence rather than acts of war.”
Of course, fervent Coalition promoter, retired General Jim Moylan, backed Abbott's bizarre ideas to the hilt!

Even last week Abbott was out again, this time calling Christopher Pyne disloyal and treacherous because he suggested at a private Liberal Party function that same sex marriage would pass parliament ‘sooner than we thought’. Abbott was also outraged that his delaying tactic of a plebiscite was under threat, forcing Turnbull into a hasty disclaimer.

Although still burning with anger about Christopher Pyne’s ‘revelation’ that he had never voted for Abbott (leaked to Andrew Bolt), he was in Brisbane the next day reiterating his alternative political manifesto at an Institute of Pubic Affairs event, as reported by James Massola in The Sydney Morning Herald
“He outlined three energy policy measures - 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 - to put downward pressure on power prices.

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

“Mr Abbott warned the Coalition can only win the next election if it draws up new political battlelines that will give the conservative side of politics something to fight for and, in a down-beat assessment of the nation, Mr Abbott said Australia "plainly, is not working as it should" and that "we are letting ourselves down".

“For conservatives: "our challenge is to stay the course, to keep the faith and to fight the good fight".
For his misdemeanour, Pyne is now being attacked ferociously by Abbott's conservative base, who are demanding nothing less than his removal from Turnbull's Ministry.

I could go on quoting example after example of Abbott’s treachery – my file on Abbott is loaded with examples, but these are enough.

Abbott sees himself as the protector of Abbott initiatives, of his own legacy, and of conservative values, and even if he can’t replace Turnbull, he wants at least to diminish him, embarrass him, humiliate him, and render him impotent, even if that results in the Coalition losing the next election, when the opportunity to oust him, and replace him, would arise.

Abbott’s venom towards Turnbull is inexhaustible. He flaunts it unremittingly.

But does Abbott realize what thin ice he's skating on? Has he got the electorate behind him? If he thinks so, he's seriously deluded! Of almost a thousand visitors to the AIMN blog site, 61% voted Abbott as the worst ever PM out of nine choices from Whitlam on! Only 19% voted Turnbull the worst.

How can Turnbull and his loyalists counter Abbott?

Whilst it might seem comical to suggest it, perhaps a hypothetical ‘Abbott-proof fence’ might do the job!

Like Trump, Turnbull's Coalition is unlikely to cough up the funds for such a fence! Crowd funding may be the only way.

Donations for its erection can be forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Contributions of $2 or over are tax deductible.




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.

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

Recent Posts
All you need is love
2353NM, 4 June 2017
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 1967 was the summer of love where it is claimed that up to 100,000 people congregated in the Haight-Ashbury …
More...
Trump becomes irrelevant
Ad astra, 11 June 2017
We saw it coming, even before his election as President of the United States of America. Few gave this man any credence as he campaigned against Republican after Republican for the GOP nomination. His ideas lacked substance, his policies were threadbare, even nihilistic, and …
More...
Respect the culture
2353NM, 17 June 2017
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 roadmap for the future of all Australians. Sean Kelly …
More...

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.

Recent Posts
America – what have you done?
Ad astra, 28 May 2017
If Leo Tolstoy were alive today, instead of creating Anna Karenina he might find writing Donald John Trump more intriguing. I suspect he would again begin with similar memorable words: "Happy presidencies are all alike; every unhappy presidency is unhappy in its own way." …
More...
All you need is love
2353NM, 4 June 2017
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 1967 was the summer of love where it is claimed that up to 100,000 people congregated in the Haight-Ashbury …
More...
Trump becomes irrelevant
Ad astra, 11 June 2017
We saw it coming, even before his election as President of the United States of America. Few gave this man any credence as he campaigned against Republican after Republican for the GOP nomination. His ideas lacked substance, his policies were threadbare, even nihilistic, and …
More...

Trump becomes irrelevant



We saw it coming, even before his election as President of the United States of America. Few gave this man any credence as he campaigned against Republican after Republican for the GOP nomination. His ideas lacked substance, his policies were threadbare, even nihilistic, and his persona unbefitting such high office. He was bereft of the attributes necessary to become the world’s most powerful person. Not many gave him a chance; even the pollsters wrote him off.

Yet against the odds he prevailed and assumed the mantle, to the astonishment of most of the world, but to the delight of the millions who voted him in on the strength of his promise to ‘Make America Great Again’, to restore her to her former glory, to retrieve American jobs lost to other countries, and to restore prosperity to those who felt emasculated and disaffected: the unemployed middle class male workers in America’s rust belt. Desperate for a job and a better life, they grasped at his promises, clung to his garments, believed his every word. Most of them still do.

Since his election though they have been confronted by many moments of truth. Now his supporters are beginning to realize that Trump’s promises are without substance.

They saw him try yet fail to demolish Obamacare and replace it with Trumpcare. The saga goes on even now. They saw him retreat from building the Mexican wall at Mexico’s expense, a massively expensive and pointless project that will never be funded by Mexico, and will likely never eventuate. They saw him promise to block the immigration of people from six predominantly Muslim countries, saw him flamboyantly sign an Executive Order to action this, only to have it blocked in court after court as unconstitutional. Now he’s threatening to appeal to the Supreme Court where he has a majority of Republican appointees, hoping it will uphold his Orders. To do so though will require the learned judges to deem that his Orders are in fact constitutional – a massive ask of these high ranking and very responsible public officials.

His supporters will be watching him as he presents to the House a gargantuan budget that is exceptionally punitive to the least well off, while giving massive tax cuts to the top end of town. They will be watching him as he tries to fulfill his promise of gigantic infrastructure spending. Yet all along the way he is encountering resistance from his own party as well as the Democrats. At town hall meetings GOP members are reeling from the reactions of their constituents to Trump’s agenda, and already fear an electoral backlash at the mid-term elections.

Just when it seemed that Trump was incapable of keeping any of his promises, along came the Paris Climate Change Accord, which he promised America would abandon. This time though, with these historic words uttered on 2 June 2017 in bright sunlight in the White House Rose Garden, Trump fulfilled his promise to pull out of the accord, which he has described as a job killer: “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. So we’re getting out but we’ll start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”

Trump, at his paranoid worst, claimed that other nations were ‘laughing’ at America and that the accord was “about other countries gaining an advantage over the United States.”

He added that the US would endeavour to either re-enter the Paris accord or propose a new deal: “…on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. As President, I can put no other consideration before the wellbeing of American citizens. The Paris climate agreement is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers, who I love, and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.”

The decision means the US will pull out of the Green Climate Fund, which Trump insisted cost the country ‘a vast fortune’.

Immediately the fractures began to appear.

Even the White House is divided. While his daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all opposed Trump’s exit, neo-fascist adviser Stephen Bannon of Breitbart ill repute, climate denier Scott Pruitt, Trump’s so-called Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, and even ‘alternative facts’ Kellyanne Conway manoeuvred to have Trump withdraw, and when he did, applauded his move, as did the hand-picked crowd in the Rose Garden. Dutifully, Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump’s decision, calling the issue of climate change ‘a paramount issue for the left’!

Throughout the world, leaders expressed disappointment and dismay at Trump’s announcement, and vowed to continue their efforts to combat global warming as per the Paris Accord. Their message was clear: if you want to go it alone, count us out. Here is an abbreviated account of their reactions extracted from the Sydney Morning Herald of 1 June: 
“EU climate action commissioner, Miguel Arias Canete, said: ”…the bloc deeply regrets the unilateral decision by the Trump administration” but went on to vow: ”…the world can continue to count on Europe for global leadership”.

“Following his announcement, Trump spoke by phone to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Prime Minister Theresa May to explain his decision.

“Italy, France and Germany said they regretted Trump's decision and dismissed his suggestion that the global pact could be revised. In a rare joint statement they said: "We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies."

“In a five-minute direct exchange French President Emmanuel Macron told Trump that while France would continue to work with Washington, it would no longer discuss climate issues with the United States.

“Macron, who made a televised address in French and English, said Trump had “…committed an error for the interests of his country, his people and a mistake for the future of our planet. I tell you firmly tonight: we will not renegotiate a less ambitious accord. Don't be mistaken on climate; there is no plan B because there is no planet B.”

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel and India's leader, Narendra Modi, pledged their support for the climate accord during meetings in Berlin.

“Justin Trudeau said he was deeply disappointed at the US decision. “Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth.”

“The Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, called it ‘a brutal act.’ Five Nordic countries wrote a last-minute letter to Trump, saying the Paris accord was a commitment ‘to our children’. “We must reduce global warming”. The leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden said in a short, joint missive: “The effects are already visible in all parts of our planet. It is of crucial importance that all parties stick to the Paris Agreement.”

“The Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, called it ‘a brutal act’.

Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, told the Italian daily La Repubblica that a withdrawal from the agreement amounted to “a disaster for everyone”.

“Premier Li Keqiang of China, in Berlin for meetings with Merkel, said before Trump's decision that his country remained committed to the fight against climate change and to participating in international efforts for a greener world. China, the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, stands to gain international credit for standing by the Paris Agreement, but it would not be able to fill the void on its own with the US abandoning the treaty. “China will continue to uphold its commitments to the Paris climate agreement”…confirming a position his country agreed to alongside the United States in 2014, in what proved to be a watershed moment for the ultimate passage of the landmark accord the following year.

“Jane J. Chigiyal, ambassador from the Pacific island nation of Micronesia, said her people were already feeling the acute impact. She called sea rise “…an existential issue. Our contribution to this problem, this challenge, is very small, yet we will continue to do our part.”
At home, Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, fearful of upsetting Trump, said that Australia was ‘disappointed’, but remained committed to the Paris Agreement, and confirmed that they still believe Australia's targets are achievable.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “The decision was a major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “…remains confident that cities, states and businesses within the United States - along with other countries - will continue to demonstrate vision and leadership by working for the low-carbon, resilient economic growth that will create quality jobs and markets for 21st century prosperity”.

Even in the United States, significant people spoke out strongly.

Picking up on his attempt at alliteration: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”, the Mayor of Pittsburgh reminded him that in Pittsburgh only 20% voted for Trump, adding: “I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy, and the future.”

The Mayor of Pittsburgh was not alone. Washington Governor Jay Inslee told reporters that states are free to act on their own to reduce pollution and added that Washington State, New York and California are forming the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene states committed to working to uphold the Paris climate agreement. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said Mr Trump’s decision was a ‘disgrace’.

The US Conference of Mayors said it strongly opposed Trump's action and vowed that American mayors would continue efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

There is more, as reported in news.com.au
”Barack Obama said the withdrawal meant the Trump administration had made the US one of “a small handful of nations that reject the future…I’m confident that our states, cities and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got”.

“Al Gore, who created the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth, said the decision was “reckless and indefensible, undermined America’s standing in the world and threatened to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time… but make no mistake: if President Trump won't lead, the American people will.”

“Even oil companies voiced opposition to pulling out of the agreement, with Exxon Mobil Corp and ConocoPhillips arguing that the US is better off with a seat at the table so it can influence global efforts to curb emissions.

“Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger and Tesla boss Elon Musk both announced their resignation from the President’s Council over the withdrawal.

“Weather.com mocked the President today with sarcastic headlines splashed across its homepage. “Hmm, I did not see a forecast for shade when I checked the Weather Channel app this morning. Yet here it is!, tweeted Politico senior editor Alex Weprin.

“UK environmental law firm ClientEarth’s chief executive James Thornton said: “Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement is an act of vandalism that has the potential to do great harm to current and future generations.”

“Critics argued that Mr Trump’s decision amounts to the US shirking its responsibility as the leader of the free world.”
Applause for Trump was confined to a handful of his advisers, his ardent followers in Trumpland, and disappointedly, to a handful of climate denier conservatives here, the usual suspects: Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly, Ian Macdonald, Chris Back, Tony Pasin, Ian Goodenough, George Christensen and of course the arch-denier, One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, all of whom would have Australia follow Trump.

Adam Bandt was the only politician who exhibited guts, calling Trump a ‘climate criminal’ who should become a ‘world pariah’. "Trump has just threatened our security and our way of life. Time to dump Trump. Trump's 'axis of denial' is a greater threat to global security than terrorism."

So where does Trump’s action leave him? The Emperor with no clothes?

Hans Christian Anderson’s tale is an allegory that portrays a situation where many people believe something that is not true. The nub of the story is that, knowing the Emperor’s love of the finest clothes, two swindlers claiming to be weavers entered the Emperor’s city and proclaimed they were capable of making the finest, lightest, most magnificent cloth the world has ever seen. So extraordinary was this cloth it was invisible to anyone who was incompetent or stupid.

The latter day Emperor, Donald John Trump, believing the climate denier swindlers, dressed in their invisible ‘climate change is a hoax’ finery and appeared before the people of the world to announce his retreat from the Paris Accord. His ardent supporters, not wanting to be seen as incompetent or stupid, wildly applauded his bold announcement.

But far from it being left to a small boy to exclaim: “But the Emperor has no clothes”, leaders from around the world, and even in his own country, seeing how naked was Trump, and knowing that they were neither incompetent or stupid, quickly pronounced in unambiguous language: “The Emperor has no clothes”.

Although nominally the most powerful person in the world, he now stands naked and exposed.



Trump has become irrelevant.

What is your opinion?
Let us know in comments below.

Recent Posts
Economic geniuses perform epic back flip
Ad astra, 17 May 2017
The sheer effrontery of our politicians never ceases to astonish me. To them black can be white, and in an instant white can be black. It is not just the monumental back flip that such a change of language involves that astonishes me, it is the bald-faced nerve …
More...
Falling through the cracks
2353NM, 21 May 2017
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 …
More...
America – what have you done?
Ad astra, 28 May 2017
If Leo Tolstoy were alive today, instead of creating Anna Karenina he might find writing Donald John Trump more intriguing. I suspect he would again begin with similar memorable words: "Happy presidencies are all alike; every unhappy presidency is unhappy in its own way." …
More...