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.

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Respect the culture


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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All you need is love


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joyce seems by contrast to be on to something.

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

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

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

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

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America – what have you done?



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."

Just beyond its three-month mark, Trump’s presidency is already uniquely unhappy, sad, chaotic, unpredictable, reckless, irrational, erratic, and ignorant. His Republican colleagues find it bewildering and jarring; much of the American electorate find it bitterly discouraging; and the rest of the free world, extremely dangerous.

And even as the Trump saga is being wrapped in words by the media, day after day, hour after hour, it is becoming more grotesque, more astonishing, and more alarming.

Trump is in the midst of a diplomatic firestorm centred on what he did or did not say to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office. His account of it varies depending upon what random thought happens to be traversing his unruly mind when he speaks or tweets.

At first there was denial of the Washington Post report of Trump’s disclosure of intelligence information that could jeopardise a crucial intelligence source, in this instance probably Israel. Like a small child showing off his toys, he even boasted to Lavrov “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.”

Then, when Trump realized that the truth could no longer be denied, he declared that he had every right to disclose such intelligence, and that his actions were ‘wholly appropriate’. This seemed to fly in the face of the outright denial by National Security Advisor H R McMaster “The President engaged in ‘routine sharing of information’ and nothing more…the story that came out tonight is false. I was in the room, it didn’t happen.” Time will expose the truth, which any sane president ought to know. Even crooked Nixon knew that!

Then there was the sacking of FBI chief James Comey. The story changed by the day. Trump said Comey asked to have dinner with him, a highly improbable scenario. Then Trump said Comey asked him that he keep his job, an implausible tale. Then he said that Comey reassured him three times that he was not under investigation. It is beyond belief that an FBI director would reveal such information even if it were true, which it was not.

Then Trump allegedly asked Comey to wind up the investigation into former national security adviser, Michael Flynn with: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go…He’s a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” General Flynn 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.

While Comey has not commented on Trump’s request, his colleagues know that he is a fastidious note taker and almost certainly has a written record of his encounter with Trump, which will now be revealed at a Senate intelligence committee that has requested that notes of the meeting be out in the open. He has been invited to testify in both open and closed-door hearings. What will Comey say?

Having been described by Trump as a “grandstander” and a “showboat”, that he was "crazy, a real nut job”, and having accused him of incompetence: “Because he wasn’t doing a good job. Very simply, he was not doing a good job.”, Comey is unlikely to be favourably disposed to bailing Trump out. Not satisfied with demeaning Comey publically, Trump took to threatening him via Twitter: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.”

Alongside this development, the US Justice Department has appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special prosecutor to oversee an investigation into Russia’s influence on last year’s US presidential election. Trump denies any influence.

And this extraordinary saga has emerged in just the last couple of weeks, dwarfing Trump’s previous transgressions! His recent misdemeanours may be the ones that will land him in trouble with the law, or possibly a move to impeach or remove him.

In an opinion piece Fear and loathing inside the beltway in the May 20 edition of The Weekend Australian, conservative commentator Chris Kenny, in an article that is largely defensive of Trump, writes:
…his character was so obviously flawed, policies so contradictory and utterances so impetuous that his promise of much-needed change seemed far too risky…Four months into his presidency, Trump does not seem to have had a single comfortable day in the Oval Office. His self-inflicted problems include: random tweeting that ranges from barbs about television shows and shots at opponents to serious policy announcements and foreign policy posturing; difficulty implementing his agenda, such as his migration controls, caused partly by his previous loose language; and poor selection of staff, from his since-departed national security adviser Michael Flynn to spokesman Sean Spicer, who is often as incoherent as the President he seeks to clarify.”
If a conservative like Kenny thinks this way, is it any surprise that less favourably disposed journalists are so vitriolic in their criticisms of Trump?

This piece could go on and on detailing Trump’s words, deeds, tweets and behaviour since his inauguration, indeed from the time he entered the presidential race. This is not my purpose. You have read about these matters or seen them on TV ad nauseam; you need no reminding. My purpose is to explore what’s behind Trump’s behaviour.

Here is my assessment, my opinion. You may have another viewpoint, which you can express in Comments below.

To me the following seem to be Trump’s underlying personality defects, which evoke his extraordinary behaviour:

Lack of insight
This seems to be the most cogent explanation of his behaviour.

He seems to have little idea of the impact on others of his demeanour, his language, the words he uses, his verbal and non-verbal expressions, his constant use of Twitter, his body language, his use of hand gestures, and his manner of dress and deportment.

He seems not to comprehend that he has become an object of ridicule, a laughing stock the world over in the eyes of journalists, commentators, politicians and the general public.

Have we ever experienced an American President who has been so unfavourably received? His approval ratings in the US are the worst ever for a president so soon after inauguration, and steadily getting worse. And don’t forget this is despite him still attracting a large coterie of fervent supporters, who will seemingly go on supporting him no matter how badly he behaves, no matter how ineffectual he is, no matter how many promises he breaks.

Sadly, lack of insight of this magnitude is virtually incurable. So used has he become to having extravagant accolades heaped upon him by the sycophants with whom he surrounds himself, in his reality TV shows and in his business world, that the lack of them in the rough and tumble world of politics and news reporting is unnerving for him.

For Trump, deprivation of praise and admiration for his words and actions is distressing in itself, but combined with penetrating and persistent questioning from the media, and robust criticism of his behaviour and his decisions, it is all too much for him, causing him to declare publically that “I have never seen more dishonest media, frankly than the political media.” He has repeatedly described media criticism of him as "fake news", labelling the media as the "opposition party".

He insists that he is the subject of “…the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”, and after a special counsel was appointed to explore the involvement of Russia in his election campaign, he protested angrily that “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign and Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!”

Observers see this whingeing about his own predicament as hypocrisy writ large when they reflect on how in the election campaign they saw him repeatedly condemn Hillary Clinton, call her ‘The Devil’, a ‘nasty woman’, ‘a disgrace’, ‘a liar’, and then threatened her with a special counsel to look into her use of a private email server if he were president, going on to insist that she should be in jail, which evoked the ‘Lock her up’ chant from his followers.



Paranoia
As the paragraphs above signal, Trump appears to have a deep-seated paranoia. He fervently believes that people are out to ‘get him’: the media, his opponents, some of his colleagues, and even his staff, whom he accuses of ‘leaking’ against him. As a wise colleague once reminded me; “If it’s true it’s not paranoia”, and certainly it is true that many people are out to get Trump. But the extent to which he believes this is abnormal.

Definitions of paranoia include:
A tendency on the part of an individual toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others.

A mental condition characterized by delusions of grandeur or persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically worked into an organized system. It may be an aspect of chronic personality disorder… in which the person loses touch with reality.

Do some of these describe Trump’s behaviour? You be the judge.

Delusions of grandeur
Who could ever forget Trump’s ‘Let’s make America Great Again’? How many times has he adorned his initiatives with words that indicate they will be ‘great’? How often has he insisted that he will ‘drain the Washington swamp’ a mammoth task that no other has attempted, much less achieved? Yet he has vowed that he will.

Delusions of grandeur are related to paranoia. They are a fixed, false belief that one possesses superior qualities such as genius, fame, omnipotence, or wealth. In popular language, this disorder is known as “megalomania,” but is more accurately referred to as “narcissistic personality disorder” if it is a core component of a person’s personality and identity. In such disorders, the person has a greatly out-of-proportion sense of their own worth and value in the world.

Narcissistic personality disorder
Many commentators have labelled Trump as narcissistic; his behaviour fits that description.

The symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include: a grandiose sense of importance, a belief that one is special and unique, a requirement for excessive admiration, and a strong sense of entitlement. The narcissist is exploitative, lacks empathy, is arrogant, and is envious and jealous of others.

Trump’s egotistical, bombastic behaviour matches most of these attributes.

Overbearing, punitive, bullying and ruthless behaviour patterns
Trump is an angry man. When he doesn’t get his way, or feels he has been let down, he reacts furiously. Trump is well known for “Your sacked”, not just in his reality TV show, but now with his colleagues and staff, as past-FBI Director Comey knows only too well.

Trump is known for getting his own way. He is combative and belligerent. Those who displease him are removed. His White House staff lives under the cloud of instant dismissal if they do not perform. The poorly performing Press Secretary Sean Spicer must fear coming to work every day.

Even the way he signs and then displays his signature on his Executive Orders, with his sycophantic staff looking on and politely applauding, highlights his arrogant and attention-seeking disposition. In this regard he reminds us of Kim Jong Un and his sycophantic generals clapping their ‘Dear Leader’.

We know too that Trump is a habitual liar. He finds no virtue in sticking to the facts and speaking the truth. Having an honest conversation with him is a challenge both for his staff and the media.

Willful ignorance
Throughout his short presidency, Trump has shown lamentable ignorance.

He is ignorant of legislative processes, which delayed passage of his replacement of Obamacare. He seems to have little idea about how to address his other signature policies: large corporate tax cuts and infrastructure development. As a result the stock market went up in anticipation of action; now it’s down again as nothing is happening. He is not used to negotiating with politicians, despite his boasting about his skill in ‘closing a deal’ – he’s even written a book about it!.

He is ignorant of international politics and diplomacy, and so puts his foot in it regularly. His naive and rude treatment of Angela Merkel is a case in point.

What is more alarming is his disinclination to take expert advice. He finds briefings boring, insisting that he doesn’t need to be briefed every day about the same things, as he is “very smart”. He seems to have a restricted attention span. His staff and colleagues were petrified about what he would do and say on his first overseas trip to sensitive political places. His indiscretion about passing onto the Russian foreign minister sensitive intelligence about ISIS activities scared everyone about what might happen abroad. In the end, although there were some Facebook-worthy visuals, some embarrassing moments with world leaders, and some defiant utterances, there were no grave faux pas. Middle East experts though are unimpressed, and find his new tune on Islam unconvincing.

He is willfully ignorant about climate science, global warming, the need for environmental protection, and is ready to let fossil fuel producers do their worst. He is threatening to pull out of the Paris agreement on global warming.

He is ignorant about the nuances of free trade agreements and has indicated that the US will withdraw from NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement. He boasts that he will bring jobs back to America from countries to which they have disappeared. He has no idea of how complicated that is, nor the effects of automation on international job transfer.

For the most powerful man in the world to be so dangerously ignorant, yet so arrogantly assured of the rightness of his own opinion is hazardous for all countries that trade with America, and all the others that will be affected by global warming.

The man is an unsafe ignoramus, who seems to have little or no insight into his condition.

So there it is – my analysis of the personality and behavioural defects that afflict Donald John Trump.

If Leo Tolstoy was to be reborn today and set about writing a play about this man’s presidency, how would it unfold? I suspect that Tolstoy’s portrayal of the bizarre unreality of Trump’s unhappy presidency would evoke an accusation that, as an author, he was guilty of outrageous fabrication - surely no presidency could be this weird!

America – what have you done to us?

To many Americans, Trump behaves like a dangerous out-of-control lunatic. Now though, even some of his own supporters are attacking their Republican representatives at town hall meetings over broken promises, and the media is scratching to find GOP members to talk in defence of Trump.

But he still has millions of devoted followers who dwell on his every word, which will support him until their dying breath.

It is these Americans that have done this to us. Frighteningly, they would likely do it all over again.



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

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Falling through the cracks


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

So burned into our neural networks are the slogans, the mantras, and the catchphrases of past eras that no change of heart, no change of language, no denial of history can ever erase them. Check your memory of the Abbott epoch to see if I’m right.

You will remember the Coalition’s sarcastic description of Labor’s economic team as being quite unsuited for the complex task of managing the economy during the Global Financial Crisis. It insisted they should stand aside and let the adults, the superior economic brains in the Coalition, the geniuses at economic management, take over. Labor’s team was depicted as kids playing games in a sandpit.

Let’s go back then to the time of the GFC, an emergency that threatened economies the world over.

You will remember that at that time the advice of Treasury Secretary Ken Henry to PM Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan was to provide economic stimulus, (which was plainly Keynesian) and to “go hard, go early, go households”.

They did, with cash handouts and infrastructure projects. The Rudd/Swan response was a spectacular policy success, tarnished only by poor implementation of the so-called ‘Pink Batts’ program by the Department of the Environment, during which the lives of four workers were tragically lost.

You will recall that while the Coalition supported the initial stimulus, although castigating the government for sending cheques overseas and to some deceased people, it reneged on supporting the second tranche – the bulk of the infrastructure stimulus. Prominent in that tranche was Julia Gillard’s ‘Building the Education Revolution’ that involved the construction of new and refurbished school halls, libraries and classrooms, science laboratories and language learning centres, covered outdoor learning areas, shade structures, sporting facilities and other environmental programs.

Infrastructure
You will remember the sarcasm that the Coalition heaped on these infrastructure projects, not only criticising elements of them, their suitability and their cost, but pouring contempt on the concept of infrastructure spending, which Tony Abbott and his Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey deemed a waste of money. Malcolm Turnbull too chipped in with his two-penneth. Yet that infrastructure endeavour not only gifted thousands of schools with much-needed amenities and facilities, which now enhance them splendidly, but it also gave local builders work and hardware suppliers business. It kept many a small town going at a time when many businesses were threatened with closure, and many workers were facing unemployment.

Now, in 2017, suddenly Treasurer Scott Morrison tells us that spending on infrastructure is fine as it accumulates ‘Good Debt’. To confirm his newfound belief in the value of infrastructure spending, his Budget features a plethora of such projects: road, rail, airport, hydro, and energy infrastructure, many with timelines stretching into the distant future. While there will be debate about the merits of some and their timing, Labor is not condemning them as a waste of money, as it has always appreciated what Morrison has just awoken to, that infrastructure spending, especially when interest rates are low, is good for the economy.

Here then is the first example of how the Coalition’s economic geniuses, after all their previous scathing condemnation of infrastructure spending, have finally had the scales fall from their eyes, have seen its value, and have endorsed it extravagantly. But have they acknowledged their epiphany? Of course not!

Debt and deficit
Next, let’s reflect on the ‘debt and deficit disaster’. Remember how almost daily newspaper headlines trumpeted: ‘Labor’s financial mismanagement’, ‘Debt spiralling out of control’, ‘Budget in freefall’ and ‘Labor's debt time bomb’. There was even a truck doing the rounds with ‘Labor’s Debt’ festooned on placards.

Joe Hockey was sarcastically indignant about budget ‘blowouts’ and revenue shortfalls. He revelled in lampooning a mining tax that raised no revenue. He insisted that a Labor government would never achieve a budget surplus. “It was not in their DNA”, he asserted. But of course it was in the Coalition’s DNA. It knew what to do. But as we know it didn’t. Year after year it showed it had no idea how to achieve a surplus! Now Morrison thinks he’s found the magic formula.



Scared of a downgrade by the rating agencies, Morrison’s magic formula for a surplus in the 2017 Budget curiously still includes a corporate tax cut for big businesses and multinationals, no longer costing $50 billion, but now $65 billion, still predicated on a mythical trickle down benefit for those at the bottom of the heap. Surprisingly, while he gives with one hand he takes away with the other by imposing a new tax on the five big banks, levied on various types of borrowing that banks use to fund their lending, including corporate bonds and large deposits. Good luck with that one!

Here is Alan Austin’s assessment of Rudd/Swan period in his October 2016 article in Independent Australia: Australia’s debt mismanagement under Turnbull: It’s worse than you think. 
Over the entire period of the first Kevin Rudd Government, debt was added at the rate of $2.85 billion per month. This was required to deal with the early onset of the global meltdown. This rate of borrowing increased slightly through Julia Gillard’s term until the GFC was over in early 2013. Through her last eight months, the gross debt added each month averaged just $1.02 billion. For Labor’s entire duration, the monthly increase averaged $3.06 billion.

Then came the appalling maladministration of Tony Abbott, during which $4.75 billion was added each month, without any justification related to global conditions. This resulted from wasteful spending on a colossal scale and refusal to collect taxes from the rich.
Further on, Austin writes:
Malcolm Turnbull then successfully challenged Tony Abbott for the prime ministership primarily because Abbott had “... not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs.”

So what happened thereafter? Did the new regime start to repay the debt, as it had been promising to do for years? Not at all! Further fresh debt was added in Turnbull’s early months at a rate just below Abbott’s figure. That has since blown out disastrously, with more than $8.5 billion borrowed per month over the first four months of this financial year. Turnbull’s total rate has been $4.78 billion per month.

Gross debt is now $450.79 billion. This is $173.4 billion higher than the $277.4 billion Labor left in September 2013, up 62.5%. Net debt has also risen alarmingly. We only have the figures until the end of August, but these reveal a rise of $15.9 billion just since June, up 5.35% in two months to $312.3 billion. This is $137.7 billion above Labor’s $174.6 billion legacy, up 78.9%.
This was written six months ago. The situation is even worse now. The adults, the economic geniuses, have produced the situation reflected in their latest Budget.

“We don’t have a revenue problem; only a spending one”: Morrison
For as good an analysis of the Budget as you could wish for, and a scathing assessment of Morrison’s mantra, do read Greg Jericho’s article in The Guardian: Federal budget 2017: the 10 graphs you need to see: 
There was a revenue problem after all!
After nearly a decade of saying the problem was all on the spending side, the 2017-18 budget is where the Liberal party has finally admitted that there is a revenue problem.

The 2017-18 budget estimates that by 2020-21 the budget will be firmly back in surplus, and it does it mostly off the back of government revenue returning to the level it was during the surplus years of the Howard government.

In the 11 years prior to the GFC, when the budget was either in surplus or balance, government revenue averaged 25.1% of GDP. In the nine years since the GFC, the highest it has been is 23.4%, and this year it was just 23.1%.

To give some context, 2% of GDP is around $34bn, so it’s a fair gap. But that gap is about to be reduced.

The budget predicts that by 2019-20 government revenue will reach 25.1% of GDP and in the following year a very healthy 25.4%. The last time we saw revenue at that level was in 2005-06.

To get there the budget anticipates revenue growing over the next 4 years by around 4.4% in real terms. That growth was not uncommon during the mining boom years, but has been reached only once in the past nine years.

And what is the revenue that is growing? Income tax.
In other words – revenue was a problem after all! The economic geniuses were wrong, again.

Morrison has now predicted that the long-wished-for surplus will first appear in 2019/20, four years from now! Let’s see if this prediction, based on very optimistic assumptions, is any better than his other predictions.

There it is. For years, the Coalition boasted about its prowess in economic management and denigrated Labor’s. For years, the Coalition decried infrastructure spending. For years the Coalition trumpeted the ‘debt and deficit disaster’, which it insisted that Labor created and turned into a ‘budget emergency’. For years the Coalition was adamant that it did not have a revenue problem, only a spending one.

Only now, with the 2017 Budget, has the Coalition and its financial geniuses tacitly admitted that infrastructure spending is ‘good debt’, that it has been even less effective at reducing debt and deficit than Labor, that it will not produce a surplus until 2019/20, and then only if its heroic assumptions come true, and that indeed it does have a spending problem, which it intends to solve with higher taxes on everyone.

It’s taken only four years to awaken to the bleeding obvious and back flip spectacularly. That’s real genius!

How much longer will it take these geniuses to wake up to the error of giving large tax cuts to the big end of town? How long will it be before they cotton onto what has been known for decades, namely that such largesse does not and never has trickled down to the masses?

How much longer though will it take for Morrison, Cormann, Turnbull, Abbott, Hockey and Co. to say: “We were wrong, very wrong”?

Don’t hold your breath!




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Turnbull applauds Obamacare repeal - what's next?



First an awkward handshake, having been stood up for three hours in New York by Donald John Trump while he celebrated his great ‘victory’ in the House with the passage of an Obamacare repeal Bill and its replacement with the American Health Care Act, then wearing a rictus grin that bespoke obsequiousness writ large, our Prime Minister applauded Trump with: ”Well done” and "It's always good to win a vote in the Congress, or the parliament as we call it, I've got to say, it's always satisfying to win a vote when people predict you’re not going to win it too. So keep at it, it's great."

Of course Turnbull apologists, such as Michael Stutchbury on this week’s Insiders, played down Turnbull’s remarks as a reflex response that carried no sinister implications. But Turnbull could have said: “You must be relieved”, or “It’s taken a long while”, or even “Sometimes passing legislation can be difficult”, but no, he congratulated him, as if he had done something praiseworthy.

Tweeter John Wren said it all with this acerbic tweet:

Behaving like a lapdog of the US President is undignified and unworthy of a representative of this nation. Trump’s demeanour is more deserving of the proverbial ‘bird’.

It was not just Turnbull’s obsequiousness that offended, it was his tacit acknowledgement of Trump's 'victory' in destroying healthcare for millions of Americans, as if that was a fine accomplishment.

The changes passed by the House are complicated to describe, but here’s an attempt. What follows are abridged abstracts from an article by Ross Barkan, a journalist who contributes to several US publications, titled: America's healthcare being driven off a cliff by nihilists published in the 5 May issue of The Guardian:
Ryan’s Republican Congress, after trying and failing to hold a vote on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) in March, has rounded up the votes to pass the American Health Care Act, perhaps the worst piece of life-altering legislation to ever see the light of day.

This bill won over a few so-called moderate Republicans because it now includes an amendment that would allow states to waive an ACA rule that forbids charging sick people higher insurance prices, as long as the states set up a special insurance pool for those people. The amount of money allocated for this? A paltry $8bn.

A quick recap: Ryan’s legislation (calling it ‘Donald Trump’s bill’ gives too much credit to a man wholly disinterested in anything that smells of policy) will scrap the ACA’s mandate to buy health insurance, substantially cut Medicaid, and hope somehow this doesn’t cause premiums to skyrocket.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that 24 million Americans would lose their health insurance under a version of the legislation considered in March. The CBO hasn’t had the time to score this bill. Republicans aren’t interested in finding out just how much of a disaster they’re going to inflict on regular people. They have a campaign pledge to fulfill, after all.

Were an alien to wander down to Earth and examine the functionality of American democracy in 2017, it would find an intellectual graveyard.

Lawmakers tasked with carefully considering remarkably complex legislation with the potential to significantly alter the lives of millions of people are instead rushing to vote for a bill that they know almost nothing about and that no outside expert has had the time to seriously assess. This is insanity.

The healthcare bill will funnel $100bn to states over a decade to stabilize what are sure to be markets wracked by chaos, assuming this legislation survives intact to Trump’s desk. Amendments provide another $30bn to states with few strings attached. If somehow all of this money is used just for the high-risk pools, it will come out to $138bn, which sounds impressive enough. But most healthcare researchers believe a competently run national high-risk pool would cost much more.

Factoring in lifetime caps on coverage and longer waiting periods, one 2010 estimate from two conservative health economists found such a pool would cost $150bn-$200bn over a decade. Other recent estimates believe the price tag to be much higher.
If you are keen to study the stark differences between Trump’s and Obama’s Healthcare Bill, read freelance journalist Joanna Walter’s account of them in 4 May issue of The Guardian: Obamacare v the revised Republican healthcare bill: the key differences.

I trust the above account of Trump’s American Healthcare Act is sufficient to appraise you of the devastating affects of repealing Obamacare in favour of this one: millions disenfranchised, and an estimate that many thousands will die as a result. An article in Vox is headed: The GOP plan for Obamacare could kill more people each year than gun homicides, and sub-headed: If 24 million people lose insurance, we'll see more than 24,000 extra deaths per year. The headings tell us plenty, but if you want the gory details, click here.

However, the Senate may prove to be a much bigger hurdle for Trump, who may find his ‘victory’ celebrations premature. Major changes to the Bill are predicted, months of delay are anticipated, and failure to pass ‘Trumpcare’ may be the eventual outcome.

Trump, in his usual careless style, added complexity to an already convoluted debate by saying: “We have failing health care. I shouldn’t say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia. You have better health care than we do.”

That was enough for Bernie Sanders to chortle on television: “Let us move to a Medicare-for-all system”, and then he tweeted: “Thank you Mr. Trump for admitting that universal health care is the better way to go. I’ll be sure to quote you on the floor of the Senate.” Again, Trump had put his foot in it to the chagrin of his Republican colleagues, who sought quickly to counter any suggestion that America could benefit from an Aussie Medicare system!

Let’s now get to the nub of this piece – ‘what’s next?’

We already know Turnbull’s sensitivity to any suggestion that he would tinker with our Medicare. Remember how outraged he was at Labor’s ‘Mediscare’ during the last election campaign, so much so that it was the centrepiece of his ‘victory’ speech. His complaint sounded like “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Turnbull’s apologists will argue that his New York comments were innocent, if not very prudent throw away lines, but his opponents will have it confirmed in their minds that Turnbull would like to rein in our universal healthcare scheme, which Australians value so much. Words seemingly said in jest often portray a deeper belief.

The cost of Medicare is one that Treasurer Morrison would dearly love to slash. The Medicare freeze they put in place was designed to cut costs by blocking the usual adjustment to Medicare rebates. To remind you of the nature of the freeze, initially from July 2014 and extended to 2020, here are some details from Helen Dickinson, Associate Professor, Public Governance, University of Melbourne, in The Conversation:
The extended freeze means GPs and other medical specialists will be reimbursed the same amount for delivering health services in 2020 as they were in 2014. Doctors will pay more for their practices, staff, medical products, utilities and just about anything else that goes into running a medical practice. But the amount paid for medical services will remain static.
Clearly the doctors were and still are the losers, not the Commonwealth. Labor vows it will lift the freeze completely. The recent Budget featured a glacial easing of the freeze over the coming two years, as documented in the Budget Papers
This will commence with General Practitioner (GP) bulk billing incentives from 1 July 2017, to ensure that GPs are incentivised to bulk bill children under the age of 16 and concession card holders.

From 1 July 2018, GP and specialist consultation items will be indexed, increasing the Government’s contribution to the cost of important health care services.

From 1 July 2019, specialist procedure and allied health items will be indexed and from 1 July 2020 certain diagnostic imaging items will be indexed for the first time since 2004.

In addition, the Government will maintain the bulk billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging services, including for blood tests, x-rays and scans.
The net outcome is that the Medicare freeze will continue until 2020, gradually easing in the meantime, hardly an enthusiastic endorsement of Medicare by the Coalition.

Because Turnbull is petrified of another Mediscare, the Budget has built in a ‘Medicare Guarantee Fund' in the following terms:
Guaranteeing Medicare
In this Budget the Government is guaranteeing and strengthening Medicare so that all Australians can continue to access timely and affordable health care.

Medicare Guarantee Fund
The Government will establish the Medicare Guarantee Fund to secure the ongoing funding of the Medicare Benefits Schedule and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme into the future.
The Fund seems to be no more than a holding account from which MBS and PBS costs are covered. How it will be used is not explained in the Budget Papers which simply say: The Government will establish a Medicare Guarantee Fund from 1 July 2017 to secure the ongoing funding of the Medicare Benefits Schedule and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, guaranteeing Australians’ access to these services and affordable medicines into the future.

Writing in The Conversation, Michelle Grattan says: Proceeds from part of the Medicare levy plus the amount of other income tax revenue needed to cover the costs will be paid into the fund. It’s more of a gesture than a real “guarantee”, but it reflects how frightened the government still is about last election’s “Mediscare”.

It looks to be no more than a paltry facade to counter any future Mediscare.

If you need any more evidence about the Coalition’s intentions with Medicare, reflect on these ill-fated reforms:
  • a A$7 co-payment for GP, pathology and imaging services that would offset a A$5 reduction in Medicare rebates
  • a ten-minute minimum for standard GP consultations
  • a A$5 reduction in the Medicare rebate for “common GP consultations”.
The Coalition has proclaimed them, in Abbott-speak, as ‘Dead, buried, and cremated’, but anyone who believes that is naive.

Turnbull’s inadvertent, carelessly fashioned comments in New York reflect a deep conviction that Medicare needs pruning. Trump’s American Health Care Act, that Turnbull has seen fit to applaud, would be a horrifying template for our country.

So after Turnbull’s adulation, it is essential to ask ‘What’s next’. Let’s hope that in Turnbull’s mind it’s nothing like ‘Trumpcare’!



Here's that awkward handshake that speaks volumes about Turnbull's fawning attitude to Trump, and Trump's indifference. Here is what body language experts say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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100 days of President Trump
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100 days of President Trump



It feels much longer, doesn’t it? He seems to have been in our face for eons. Of course he has been. As he relentlessly plied his way from rank outsider to winner of the presidential race, there never has been a candidate in recent history that has been thrust at us so disturbingly for so long. There has never been a presidential runner that has attracted so much attention.

He tells us often: “I won”. We know we are stuck with him for four years, maybe longer, unless something catastrophic overtakes him.

Why should we who live in the Lucky Country care? We care because he occupies the most dominant position in the world: ‘Commander in Chief’ of the most powerful nation on earth, both militarily and economically. We care because the curbs on his enormous power seem too limited for someone like him. We fear what his decisions might mean for us, indeed the whole world.

So how has he performed in his first 100 days as President of the United States of America?

There have been countless commentaries from the ‘experts’. I won’t repeat them here. If you’re inclined to read them, you’ll find some of them here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here.  

For what it’s worth, this commentary is by an ordinary Aussie, a retired medical academic with no political affiliations, who has been following politics closely for the last ten years.

Where should I start?

Much of what Trump has said and done seems inexplicable, at times bizarre, sometimes ridiculous. A glimpse at his personality might explain the Trump we have come to know all too well.

It’s not a secret that Donald John Trump is narcissistic and a megalomaniac. He is arrogant, bellicose and belligerent. He relishes power. He craves the capacity to make decisions and have them carried out. He is accustomed to giving orders and exercising authority (‘You’re fired’ is a favourite expression). He enjoys being in control, delights in being successful, and takes pleasure in making money, expanding his territory, and advancing his Trump Empire. For Trump, winning is everything. Just as importantly, Trump craves recognition, even adulation, for what he has accomplished, or believes he has.

In the public domain, he has sought and enjoyed fame, prestige, and admiration for many years. His TV reality show is a perfect forum for him to attract attention, respect, esteem, even veneration. He is billed as a star in his show The Apprentice, which by all accounts is successful.

As well, he has prospered in the world of real estate and has many ‘Trump Towers’ around the world to show for his success. He is a multi-billionaire, although we know little of his financial status and the tax he pays, a carefully guarded secret.

You may think that a reality TV star and successful businessman could be well placed to govern the mightiest nation on the planet. That might have been the case had it not been for his personality traits.

As President, Trump expects the same adulation to which he is accustomed in the business and TV world. It is to him a source of great disappointment, frustration, and at times anger that he has not received the praise he believes he richly deserves.

I could go back through the campaign period to give examples, but let’s stick to his first hundred days.

From the day of inauguration he was at odds with the media. His claim that the crowds were the greatest in history was quickly refuted by photos showing Obama’s crowd was much bigger. Not satisfied with objective evidence, he claimed that the photos were ‘fake’, and Kellyanne Conway presented her now infamous ‘alternative facts’ to ‘verify’ Trump’s claim.

This exemplified a pattern of behaviour in Trump. Facts, evidence and reports he did not like were condemned as ‘fake news’, and the media was roundly condemned as unfair, untruthful, even corrupt for promulgating them. The concept of the media holding politicians, even the President, to account for truthfulness is anathema to Trump. Has there ever been a politician who has so frequently and vigorously lampooned the ‘failing’ media for its reporting?

Even as his 100 days approached, he preemptively condemned the media in one of his omnipresent tweets, claiming that it would ‘kill’ his achievements, and at his anniversary rally in Pennsylvania he reinforced this with: “The media should be given "a big, fat, failing grade" over their coverage of my achievements during my first 100 days.

The media obliged by ‘killing’ Trump as he expected. The Guardian described Trump’s early tenure as “100 days of failure”, “a disaster for American democracy”, and referred to the President as a “megalomaniac” and a “serial liar”. If you think this is too harsh, read the catalogue of lies exposed through fact checking by The New York Times in an article: Fact-Checking President Trump Through His First 100 Days.

My first conclusion then is that in his first 100 days his deeply flawed personality has led him into serious error.

He has wrongly accusing the media for doing what it is expected to do: truthfully and accurately report, appraise, and comment on political decisions and actions. He has been angered that the media has not festooned his presidency with praise and admiration for what little he has done, even for flamboyantly signing executive orders, so far his most noticeable activity.



Another personality flaw is his flagrant disregard for facts, figures and evidence. It has been documented that he reads little, and is impatient with his daily briefings from his professional staff on international and domestic matters. He says he is bored with the briefings, does not need to hear them over and again, because he is ‘very smart’. He is said to have a dangerous paucity of background knowledge on a raft of domestic and international matters, which understandably curtails and perverts his thinking and decision-making. He needs all the information and advice he can get, and the capacity and motivation to absorb it, yet eschews it. Accustomed to making business decisions, he believes that this skill transfers seamlessly into governance of a mighty nation. He’s wrong, but he doesn’t know it.

So my next conclusion is that in Trump we have a dangerously ignorant man who feels little need to read, to seek advice, and to learn. His ignorance on matters of science, and in particular his hazardous ignorance about global warming were addressed in The face of willful ignorance.

His ignorance extends to domestic matters, trade, and international diplomacy. He scarcely knows how the Congress and Senate work, even as he vows to ‘drain the Washington swamp’. His ignorance and naiveté is exemplified in his recent astonishing concession: “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

His bungling in presenting and attempting to have passed his substitute for Obama’s Affordable Care Act demonstrated his ineptitude and ignorance about the processes of parliamentary procedure, and the roadblocks that arise, sometimes surprisingly.

He had little idea of how the ultra-conservative ‘House Freedom Caucus’ would frustrate and eventually block ‘House Republican Bill 1275’ that carries the flamboyant name: the ‘World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017’. He was not able to meet the Caucus’ radical demands for changes to the Bill, and so in the face of it almost certainly being voted down, House Speaker Paul Ryan withdrew it to avoid further embarrassment.

Having learned little, Trump is trying again, but the same opposition is mounting. He told a meeting of the nation’s governors: "Now, I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated." The Clintons certainly knew. Clearly he didn’t know, but should have.

Trump is not used to resistance to his will. He is unaccustomed to the democratic process, does not like it, and makes threats against those who oppose him (‘If you don’t vote for this, you may not get elected to your seat next time’).

My next conclusion is that Trump is ignorant of the processes of his own House and Senate, which Republicans dominate, and does not care for the democratic processes they use to make decisions. He resents having to listen to opponents, and hates not getting his own way.

On the international front he divides people in other nations into good guys and bad hombres. The latter are to be excluded, deported, or bombed out of existence.

On the international front, Trump condemned Obama’s diplomacy, no matter what Obama did.

Now in charge, at the one time he insists that it’s none of America’s business interfering in other places (“Syria is not our responsibility”), yet at another he takes radical action such as when Assad did something he disapproved of, namely attacking his citizens with nerve gases.

My conclusion is that Trump is impetuous, unpredictable and erratic. The combination of ignorance of international diplomacy, an unwillingness to listen to informed advice from experienced diplomats and military men, and a tendency to shoot from the hip and flip-flop on crucial issues, makes him a dangerous leader of the free world, as we have already seen in his handling of the threat from North Korea.

Trump has a reputation for making rash promises, ones it is improbable he will ever keep, even if he wished to. Perhaps the most extravagant is his promise to build a wall across the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants, criminals, drug dealers and rapists! And even more implausibly, to have the Mexicans pay for it!

Even at his 100-day anniversary rally, where once again in campaign mode he ‘felt the love’ of his supporters, he reiterated: “We’ll build the wall people, don’t even worry about it.” Yet it is estimated to cost $21.6 billion and take three years to build. He knows that Mexico will not pay for it; indeed he has asked Congress to approve funding for it, a major sticking point in his legislative agenda. Of course he boasts that Mexico will pay ‘eventually’!

He promised to begin the Obamacare repeal process on his first day in office, but it still languishes in the House. So far he’s accomplished nothing.

He has promised a massive corporate tax cut, from 35% to 15%, but has not revealed how the consequent revenue shortfall of trillions will be covered. It’s trickle down all over again, with tax cuts for the rich but with no guarantee that any benefit will reach lower income earners.

His exaggerated promises are matched by his exaggerated estimate of what he’s accomplished so far. He boasted: “No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days”.

Trump seems to think signing thirty executive orders are accomplishments. Many have been anti-science, anti-environment, pro-coal and oil, all of which are intended to undo Obama’s entire climate change agenda including crucial regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. He’s also signed orders to review fuel standards for vehicles, stifle energy development and begin the process of advancing oil drilling in the Arctic. Another order is to review national monuments that were set aside by previous presidents to limit use of public land for historic, cultural, scientific or other reasons. In other words, these orders are designed to dilute or erase all Obama’s attempts to protect the environment.

Some orders have been about border protection, particularly keeping Muslims out, but twice now they have been blocked in the courts by what Trump calls ‘so-called judges’. There’s no joy there for Trump.

My final conclusion is that Trump’s overstated promises are hollow and mostly incapable of realization. Whether he is deluded enough to believe his promises, or cynical enough to promise with no expectation of being able to deliver, is unresolvable for those who cannot fathom his mind.

I could go on and on, but that is enough.

To sum up, my assessment of Trump’s first 100 days is that his fatally flawed personality has led him astray and will continue to do so.

His wilful ignorance about matters scientific, his disregard of the threat of global warming, and his executive orders that reverse all that Obama did to protect the environment, cast him as culpably negligent.

His ignorance of political processes make his legislative efforts look childish, and render most of them fruitless.

His ignorance of international relations, and his reluctance to learn from those with experience, render him not just impotent, but dangerous in a volatile world where reckless leaders threaten destruction or even nuclear catastrophe.

His propensity for manufacturing unachievable promises portrays his untrustworthiness.

His exaggeration about his accomplishments makes him look foolish and naïve, and confirms his reputation as a habitual liar.

The first 100 days of Trump have been disappointing, frustrating and depressing. They have engendered a feeling of uncertainty and hopelessness among concerned Americans and citizens the world over, who are amazed that there were enough US citizens to elect this ignorant, implausible, incompetent and dangerous man to the most powerful position on earth.

Yet many in America still believe he is the one they want in charge despite the calamitous start to his presidency and all the ineptitude, stupidity and unreliability they have seen in his first 100 days.



Who can save us from this?


What's your opinion?
Let us know in comments below

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The face of wilful ignorance



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

What do you think of his climate change denialism?

What can be done to stop this behaviour?

Let us know in comments below

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The report card


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How are the ‘adults’ managing our economy?



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

Should he be replaced?

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

Let us know in comments below.

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The winds of change


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fake outrage


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How will those displaced by technology survive?
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How will those displaced by technology survive?



Twenty Twenty-Four – our Orwellian destiny? drew parallels between the disturbing prophesies in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and the disquieting situation we are now experiencing as sophisticated technologies – robots and algorithms – are enabling the collection of more and more personal data that is being used increasingly by companies and political parties to manipulate our thinking, our behaviour and our decision-making. This is alarming because it threatens the very fabric of our society. You can read the details in Twenty Twenty-Four – our Orwellian destiny?

There is though an even more distressing accompaniment to these technological advances – the displacement of human workers by robots and algorithms. This piece addresses this issue. It is rather long because the ramifications are so complex. Please be patient.

We have already seen in our own country robots enter manufacturing to do work that previously was done by people. Thousands have been displaced, and made redundant. The number displaced by algorithms though will be greater still. Just look at some relevant facts from Twenty Twenty-Four – our Orwellian destiny?:

In the coming 10 to 20 years around half of today's jobs will be threatened by algorithms.

Even today, algorithms perform 70% of all financial transactions.


People, who thereby earned a living to support themselves and their families, previously carried out those transactions. It won’t be long before virtually all such transactions will be algorithm-driven. The only ones left employed will be those who write the algorithms, and don’t be surprised if automatically generated algorithms appear that require even fewer humans.

As a result of automation and algorithm driven processes 40% of today's top 500 companies will have vanished in a decade.

Reflect on that – during the next ten years, by 2027, 200 of the top 500 companies will disappear.


The top 10 global companies listed in the Fortune Top 500, and their current revenues in millions of US dollars, are:
  1. Walmart $482,130 (i.e. $482.13 billion)
  2. State Grid Corporation of China $329,601
  3. 
China National Petroleum
 $299,271
  4. 
Sinopec Group 
(China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation) $294,344
  5. Royal Dutch Shell
 $272,156
  6. 
Exxon Mobil 
$246,204
  7. 
Volkswagen
 $236,600
  8. Toyota Motor
 $236,592
  9. 
Apple 
$233,715
  10. 
BP
 $225,982
Note that three are in China, one is the world’s largest electric utility company in the world (State Grid Corporation of China), five are oil companies, two are automobile manufacturers, one is a giant retail outlet, and one an IT company.

Imagine how many workers they employ to do both manual and cognitive work.

Nobody knows whether any of these will be among the 200 of the top 500 companies that will disappear in the next decade; the list is provided simply to illustrate the size and financial strength of companies in the Top 500, so that an idea of their current workforce can be contemplated.

When such companies disappear, what, if anything, will replace them? What will workers in those companies do after their employers have gone? Will there be alternative work? If not, how will they live? Are governments planning for this eventuality? Are there any who are doing so? Is our federal government doing so?

Futurists assure us that as old jobs disappear new jobs will be created; many will be jobs that have never been heard of. Even as that is the case, it seems inevitable that there will be a net loss of jobs. It seems inescapable that many, many millions of workers around the world will lose their jobs; Richard di Natale asserts that 5 million Australian jobs will be lost in the next decade. Unless alternative jobs can be created, there will be vast numbers of unemployed. Many may never be able to work again, earn again, support a family again, or prepare for retirement. As job opportunities dry up permanently, some will never have a job. The desolation will be stupefying, and deeply distressing.



None of us can escape this unfolding tragedy. Even those with a job will rub shoulders with those without a job – in the streets, in the supermarkets, in shopping centres, at sporting venues, at meetings, and at church. Society risks being fractured. Tensions will rise as those who work are called upon to support those who don’t and can’t. Governments will have more calls on their social welfare support than ever.

Given the magnitude of the emerging problem of an expanding body of unemployed, what can be done? The unemployed can’t be abandoned to wallow in poverty and sink into homelessness. Yet that is what is already happening. Did you see Four Corners on Monday 13 March: The Price of the American Dream produced by French film-maker Helene Eckmann?

The episode was promoted with these words:
"I never figured I'd be in this kind of situation, for my kids to be in this kind of situation...I'm dumbfounded."

"Make America Great Again!" was the catch cry that propelled President Donald Trump all the way to The White House. He tapped into the deep sense of unease felt by many Americans, that despite the nation's economic recovery after the global financial crisis, they have been left behind. "It's a struggle every day. How am I gonna make it today? How am I gonna make money to buy food, how am I gonna make money to cook my kids dinner at night?"
Four Corners portrayed the distressing story of those Americans desperately hoping for change – America's shrinking middle class – who are fast joining the swelling ranks of the working poor. You will be surprised and disturbed by what you see.

Yet this is just what we can anticipate in our own country.

What can and should be done?

The response of the LNP has been dismal. Where is the evidence that it even recognizes this emerging problem let alone is doing something about it?

Not satisfied with making matters worse for the poorest sections of our community via the punitive 2104 Abbott/Hockey Budget, the then employment minister Eric Abetz came up with the brilliant requirement that the unemployed be required to apply for 40 jobs a month, a hopelessly unrealistic impost (especially in Abetz’ home state of Tasmania), designed to further humiliate those without a job. Then along came the requirement that job seekers applying for Newstart or Youth Allowance, who have not been previously employed, should face a six-month waiting period of no income support before they are eligible for payments.

More recently we had the Centrelink's disastrous data matching program that targetted pensioners and the disabled demanding repayment of alleged overpayments. For a royal flush, add to these assaults the threatened Medicare co-payment system, and the LNP-approved reduction of penalty rates at weekends.

Why does the LNP do such things?

Because their political philosophy is grounded in the ‘Strict Father’ model of parenting that conservatives embrace, a concept explained in The myth of political sameness published on The Political Sword in December 2013. George Lakoff, who has studied American politics for decades, uses this metaphor:

The Nation is a Family.
The Government is a Parent.
The Citizens are the Children.

Building on the Nation as Family metaphor, Lakoff identifies two types of family based upon two distinct styles of parenting, which he assigns to conservatives and progressives respectively. When applied to the Nation as Family metaphor, they result in vastly different behaviours.

The two parenting styles are:
The Strict Father model, and
The Nurturant Parent model.

He’s what he has to say about the ‘Strict Parent’:
”In the conservative moral worldview, model citizens are those who best fit all the conservative categories for moral action. They are those who have conservative values and act to support them; who are self-disciplined and self-reliant; who uphold the morality of reward and punishment; who work to protect moral citizens; and who act in support of the moral order.

"Those who best fit all these categories are successful, wealthy, law-abiding conservative businessmen who support a strong military and a strict criminal justice system, who are against government regulation, and who are against affirmative action. They are the model citizens. They are the people whom all Americans should emulate and from whom we have nothing to fear. They deserve to be rewarded and respected.

“The American Dream is that any honest, self-disciplined, hard-working person can do the same. These model citizens are seen by conservatives as the Ideal Americans in the American Dream.”
By contrast, the unemployed, those who don’t or can’t work, are anathema to conservatives. They do not fulfill these criteria.

Lakoff summarises:
The conservative/liberal [progressive] division is ultimately a division between strictness and nurturance as ideals at all levels – from the family to morality to religion and, ultimately, to politics. It is a division at the center of our democracy and our public lives, and yet there is no overt discussion of it in public discourse. Yet it is vitally important that we do so if Americans are to understand, and come to grips with, the deepest fundamental division in our country, one that transcends and lies behind all the individual issues: the role of government, social programs, taxation, education, the environment, energy, gun control, abortion, the death penalty, and so on. These are ultimately not different issues, but manifestations of a single issue: strictness versus nurturance.
In Australia, an identical and just as fundamental division exists between the Coalition, the conservatives, and Labor and the Greens, the progressives. This division results in the striking differences in attitude, behaviour, rhetoric, policy, and indeed morality, which day after day define our own conservatives and our own progressives. It explains so much of the contrast we see.

How then will the unfolding tragedy of increasing and intractable unemployment be managed? What will the LNP do in the face of its overbearing conservative elements? What will progressives, such as Labor and the Greens, do? Will they simply follow the Strict Father and Nurturant Parent models respectively that so govern their behaviour?

Already we have seen the LNP punitively apply the Strict Father model to the unemployed and the never employed. They see them as ‘leaners’ and ‘dole bludgers’ who are uninterested in finding work, lazy about applying for jobs, fussy about what work they will do, quick to quit if they don’t like a job, preferring instead to sleep in, watch TV and drink VBs. They aggressively tell them, indeed all of us, that ‘the age of entitlement is over’. Except, of course, for them!

The LNP exhibits anger towards those without a job, believes that those who don’t have one are lesser beings that ought to be hounded, demeaned, humiliated, and left minimally supported. How on earth can the LNP, while harbouring such attitudes, manage the tsunami of job losses that we know is coming as automation and algorithms sweep across our nation and the globe? They have not uttered one word about this peril. Do they have any idea what to do? Will their Strict Father approach permanently disable them politically? Will they ever be able to offer a solution? I doubt it.

Yet there are solutions, there are ways of managing the inevitable changes to our society.

What then is possible?

Two concepts are gaining momentum:
A universal minimum basic wage for all working age citizens, whether or not they have a job.
A shorter working week, so that more people can be employed to do the work that is available.


Richard di Natale promoted the latter in his National Press Club address on 13 March. It’s an idea, but it is embryonic. I won’t expand on it here. Instead, I’ll focus on the concept of a universal basic wage as a counter to the rising unemployment resulting from automation.

In the July/August 2014 issue of Politico Magazine there was a seminal article by Nick Hanauer, billionaire investor in Amazon titled: The Pitchforks Are Coming – For Us Plutocrats

His long article that extends over several web pages, is well worth reading in full, but here are some excerpts:

He advocates a minimum basic wage for everyone. .

To highlight the need for it, he begins by contrasting extremely rich oligarchs like himself with the rest of US society to demonstrate the rapidly rising inequality there, something that will progressively worsen as job losses and unemployment due to automation bite:

"The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today, the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

"But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution!

"And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: "Wake up, people. It won’t last."

"If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when."
Here is his argument for a minimum basic wage:
"The model for us rich guys here should be Henry Ford, who realized that all his autoworkers in Michigan weren’t only cheap labor to be exploited; they were consumers, too. Ford figured that if he raised their wages, to a then-exorbitant $5 a day, they’d be able to afford his Model Ts.

"What a great idea. My suggestion to you is: Let’s do it all over again. We’ve got to try something. These idiotic trickle-down policies are destroying my customer base. And yours too.

"It’s when I realized this that I decided I had to leave my insulated world of the super-rich and get involved in politics. Not directly, by running for office or becoming one of the big-money billionaires who back candidates in an election. Instead, I wanted to try to change the conversation with ideas—by advancing what my co-author, Eric Liu, and I call “middle-out” economics. It’s the long-overdue rebuttal to the trickle-down economics worldview that has become economic orthodoxy across party lines – and has so screwed the American middle class and our economy generally. Middle-out economics rejects the old misconception that an economy is a perfectly efficient, mechanistic system and embraces the much more accurate idea of an economy as a complex ecosystem made up of real people who are dependent on one another.

"Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators. Which means a thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it. The middle class creates us rich people, not the other way around."
Subsequently, he was interviewed about his ideas on Lateline by Steve Cannane, which you may find interesting viewing.

Many are thinking along this line.

Another article you may enjoy reading is in The Guardian of 6 March 2017 titled: Utopian thinking: the easy way to eradicate poverty by Rutger Bregman, subtitled: Keeping people poor is a political choice we can no longer afford, with so much human potential wasted. We need a universal basic income..

He concludes: "It’s an incredibly simple idea: universal basic income – a monthly allowance of enough to pay for your basic needs: food, shelter, education. And it’s completely unconditional: not a favour, but a right. But could it really be that simple? In the last three years, I have read all I could find about basic income. I researched dozens of experiments that have been conducted across the globe. And it didn’t take long before I stumbled upon the story of a town that had done it, had eradicated poverty – after which nearly everyone forgot about it."

He goes on to describe what happened in the Canadian town of Dauphine, northwest of Winnipeg, beginning in 1974. It makes exciting reading.

Richard di Natale mentioned the concept in an answer to a question at his National Press Club address, the only federal politician I have heard to do so. He mentioned that it is being trialled in several countries, notably Scandinavian nations.

So there is an answer to the question: How will those displaced by technology survive?

One is the idea of a universal minimum basic wage for all whose income is insufficient to meet basic needs for food, shelter, education and healthcare.

Another is the idea of job sharing so that some who are overworked relinquish work to those who, displaced by technology, have none, or too little – Richard di Natale’s ‘shorter working week’.

There are solutions to the growth of technology-induced unemployment, ones that have already been shown to be effective, and others that are worth a trial.

But who is even thinking about the problem, let alone doing anything?

The Greens have begun, but what of our government and our opposition? So far, oppressive silence and indolence is all we have seen from the major players. With their Strict Father mindset, we can expect nothing from the LNP, but where is Labor with its Nurturant Parent mindset?


What do you think?
Does this scenario scare you?

What should governments be doing to prepare for the unemployment that technology will unleash?

Let us know in comments below.

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Thou shalt not hate


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Twenty Twenty-Four – our Orwellian destiny?



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?

Studying the facts and contemplating what the world will be like in just seven years is alarming, such is the pace of change we see all around us. We can avoid distress by burying our heads in the sand, or we can take a clear-eyed look at the future and reflect on how best to manage it. Many choose the more comfortable option; in this piece let’s choose the latter.

This piece draws heavily on an article in Scientific American on 25 February of this year Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, which carried the subtitle: We are in the middle of a technological upheaval that will transform the way society is organized. We must make decisions right now. The article was written by an illustrious group of authors: Dirk Helbing, Bruno S. Frey, Ger Gigerenzer, Ernst Hafen, Michael Hagner, Yvonne Hofstetter, Jeroen van den Hoven, Roberto V. Zicari and Andrej Zwitter. Their CVs are at the foot of the article.

Most of you will not wish to read the Scientific American article in full, as it is very long. To make this piece readable, I have attempted to distill the essence of it, but to portray its message accurately I have quoted much of it at length. Therefore, this is a rather long piece, but as it focuses on an issue of critical importance to our future, I have not attempted to oversimplify its content. I hope you will have time to digest it.

If you think that our society is light-years away from acting out Orwell’s fantasy, reflect on the current angry debate around clause 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, the way in which the Department of Human Services has given the media personal details of a complainant against Centrelink in order to punish her publicly, and on the recent emergence of ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ in the US.

To remind you of the plot of Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four, here is the beginning of a summary:
Winston Smith is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London, in the nation of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes, even his own home, the Party watches him through telescreens; everywhere he looks he sees the face of the Party’s seemingly omniscient leader, a figure known only as Big Brother.



The Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language. Currently, the Party is forcing the implementation of an invented language called Newspeak, which attempts to prevent political rebellion by eliminating all words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal. Such thought-crime is, in fact, the worst of all crimes.
The rest of the summary, provided by sparknotes can be read here.

First, some facts from the Scientific American article. Remember, some of these are predictions, and therefore may not be accurate. They may, indeed likely will, change over time.

As the digital revolution accelerates, how will it change our world? Here are some statements from the article:
The amount of data we produce doubles every year. In other words, in 2016 we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind through 2015.

Every minute we produce hundreds of thousands of Google searches and Facebook posts. These contain information that reveals how we think and feel.

Soon, the things around us, possibly even our clothing, also will be connected with the Internet.

It is estimated that in 10 years’ time there will be 150 billion networked measuring sensors, 20 times more than all the people on Earth. Then, the amount of data will double every 12 hours.
This is known in the artificial intelligence world as Big Data, a phrase we will hear more and more.

Everything will become intelligent; soon we will not only have smart phones, but also smart homes, smart factories and smart cities. Should we also expect these developments to result in smart nations and a smarter planet?

Artificial intelligence is contributing to the automation of data analysis. It is now capable of learning, thereby continuously developing itself.

Algorithms can now recognize handwritten language and patterns almost as well as humans and even complete some tasks better than them. They are able to describe the contents of photos and videos.

News content is, in part, automatically generated.

In the coming 10 to 20 years around half of today's jobs will be threatened by algorithms.

Today, algorithms perform 70% of all financial transactions.

40% of today's top 500 companies will have vanished in a decade.
Just reflect on that – during the next ten years, by 2027, 200 of the top 500 companies will disappear – 140 of them in the seven years to 2024!

What will replace them? What will workers in those companies do after they have gone? Will there be alternative work? If not, how will they live? Are governments planning for this eventuality? Are there any who are?


The article continues:
It can be expected that supercomputers will soon surpass human capabilities in almost all areas somewhere between 2020 and 2060.

Technology visionaries, such as Elon Musk from Tesla Motors, Bill Gates from Microsoft, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and physicist Stephen Hawking are warning that super-intelligence is a serious danger for humanity, possibly even more dangerous than nuclear weapons.

One thing is clear: the way in which we organize the economy and society will change fundamentally. We are experiencing the largest transformation since the end of the Second World War; after the automation of production and the creation of self-driving cars, the automation of society is next.

With this, society is at a crossroads, which promises great opportunities, but also considerable risks. If we take the wrong decisions it could threaten our greatest historical achievements.

In the 1940s, the American mathematician Norbert Wiener invented cybernetics. According to him, the behaviour of systems could be controlled by the means of suitable feedbacks. Very soon, some researchers imagined controlling the economy and society according to this basic principle, but the necessary technology was not available at that time.

Today, Singapore is seen as a perfect example of a data-controlled society. What started as a program to protect its citizens from terrorism has ended up influencing economic and immigration policy, the property market and school curricula.

China is taking a similar route. Recently, Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google, invited the military to take part in the China Brain Project. It involves running so-called deep learning algorithms over the search engine data collected about its users. Beyond this, a kind of social control is also planned. According to recent reports, every Chinese citizen will receive a so-called ”Citizen Score”, which will determine under what conditions they may get loans, jobs, or travel visa to other countries. This kind of individual monitoring would include people’s Internet surfing and the behaviour of their social contacts.

With consumers facing increasingly frequent credit checks and some online shops experimenting with personalized prices, we are on a similar path in the West.

It is also increasingly clear that we are all in the focus of institutional surveillance. This was revealed in 2015 when details of the British secret service's "Karma Police" program became public, showing the comprehensive screening of everyone's Internet use.
Is Orwell’s character ‘Big Brother’ now becoming a reality for us?

Under the heading ‘Programmed society, programmed citizen’, the article goes on to describe how all this happened under our very eyes:

Everything started quite harmlessly. Search engines and recommendation platforms began to offer us personalised suggestions for products and services. This was based on personal and metadata that has been gathered from previous searches, purchases and mobility behaviour, as well as social interactions. While officially users’ identity is protected, it can be inferred quite easily.

Today, algorithms know pretty well what we do, what we think and how we feel – possibly even better than our friends and family or even ourselves.

Often the recommendations we are offered fit so well that the resulting decisions feel as if they were our own, even though they are actually not our decisions. In fact, we are being remotely controlled… The more is known about us, the less likely our choices are to be free and not predetermined by others.
This is startling. It is only a small step from manipulating our buying behaviour to manipulating our political and social thinking and behaviour, just as happened to Winston in Nineteen Eighty-Four via the Thought Police.

The alarming predictions continue:
But it won't stop there. Some software platforms are moving towards ‘persuasive computing’. In the future, using sophisticated manipulation technologies, these platforms will be able to steer us through entire courses of action, be it for the execution of complex work processes or to generate free content for Internet platforms, from which corporations earn billions.

The trend goes from programming computers to programming people.
These technologies are also becoming increasingly popular in the world of politics:

Under the label of ‘Nudging’, governments are trying to steer citizens towards healthier or more environmentally friendly behaviour by means of a ‘nudge’ – a modern form of paternalism. The new, caring government is not only interested in what we do, but also wants to make sure that we do the things that it considers to be right.
The magic phrase is ‘Big Nudging’, which is the combination of Big Data and Nudging.

This appears to be a sort of digital sceptre that allows one to govern the masses efficiently, without having to involve citizens in democratic processes. Could this overcome vested interests and optimize the course of the world? If so, then citizens could be governed by a data-empowered ‘wise king’, who would be able to produce desired economic and social outcomes almost as if with a digital magic wand.
Can you imagine how George Brandis would use the metadata he insists he must gather to ‘protect us from harm’. The fact that he is unable to explain what metadata is leaves us exposed to the manipulations of others who do know.

‘Nudging’ is already happening here.

When Centrelink client Andie Fox wrote an opinion piece for Fairfax Media claiming Centrelink had ‘terrorised’ her while chasing her for a debt she believed she did not owe, as reported in ABC News, Fairfax published an article from the Government's perspective, suggesting Centrelink was being ‘unfairly castigated’. In the article Ms Fox's personal information, including her history of claiming the Family Tax Benefit and relationship circumstances was exposed. The Department of Human Services, with the approval of the Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, supplied the information. Subsequently, the Department defended its ‘right’ to expose such intimate details in defence of its position, thereby ‘nudging’ any other potential complainant to back off, or else!

There is a downside though to such ‘nudging’ behaviour.
The scientific literature shows that attempts to control opinions…are doomed to fail because of the complexity of the problem. The dynamics of the formation of opinions are full of surprises. Nobody knows how the digital magic wand, that is to say the manipulative nudging technique, should best be used. What would have been the right or wrong measure often is apparent only afterwards.

During the German swine flu epidemic in 2009, for example, everybody was encouraged to go for vaccination. However, we now know that a certain percentage of those who received the immunization were affected by an unusual disease, narcolepsy. Another example is the recent attempt of health insurance providers to encourage increased exercise by handing out smart fitness bracelets, with the aim of reducing the amount of cardiovascular disease in the population; but in the end, this might result in more hip operations.

In a complex system, such as society, an improvement in one area almost inevitably leads to deterioration in another. Thus, large-scale interventions can sometimes prove to be massive mistakes.

Criminals, terrorists and extremists will try to take control of the digital magic wand sooner or later – perhaps even without us noticing. Almost all companies and institutions have already been hacked.

A further problem arises when adequate transparency and democratic control are lacking: the erosion of the system from the inside. Governments are able to influence the outcomes. During elections, they might nudge undecided voters towards supporting them, a manipulation that would be hard to detect. Therefore, whoever controls this technology can win elections by nudging themselves to power.

In order for manipulation to stay unnoticed, it takes a so-called resonance effect, where nudging is customized to each individual, an ‘echo chamber effect’. In the end, all you might get is your own opinions reflected back at you. This causes social polarization, resulting in the formation of separate groups that no longer understand each other and find themselves increasingly at conflict with one another.

In this way, personalized information can unintentionally destroy social cohesion. This can be currently observed in American politics, where Democrats and Republicans are increasingly drifting apart, so that political compromises become almost impossible. The result is a fragmentation, possibly even a disintegration of society.

Owing to the resonance effect, a large-scale change of opinion in society can be produced only slowly and gradually. The effects occur with a time lag, but they cannot be easily undone.

It is possible, for example, that resentment against minorities or migrants get out of control; too much national sentiment can cause discrimination, extremism and conflict.
Are we not already seeing this play out before our very eyes as Hanson supporters and right wing bigots vent their spleen?

Let us suppose there was a super-intelligent machine with godlike knowledge and superhuman abilities: would we follow its instructions?

This seems possible. But if we did that, then the warnings expressed by Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Stephen Hawking and others would have become true: computers would have taken control of the world. We must be clear that a super-intelligence could also make mistakes, lie, pursue selfish interests or be manipulated. Above all, it could not be compared with the distributed, collective intelligence of the entire population.
Let’s jump to the end of this very long piece to give you ‘the bottom line’. Here is the heavily redacted conclusion written by Yvonne Hofstetter, lawyer and artificial intelligence expert: When intelligent machines take over societal control, Orwell style!

Cybernetics is the science of information and control, regardless of whether a machine or a living organism is being controlled. Cybernetics promises: “Everything is controllable.”

For Norbert Wiener, inventor of cybernetics, the digital era would be a paradise, as the world has never produced such amount of data and information as it does today.

In the digital age, machines steer everyday life to a considerable extent already. We should, therefore, think twice before we share our personal data.

Control refers to the control of machines as well as of individuals or entire social systems like military alliances, financial markets or, pointing to the 21st century, even the electorate. Its major premise: keeping the world under surveillance to collect data. Connecting people and things to the Internet of Everything is a perfect to way to obtain the required mass data as input to cybernetic control strategies.

Wiener proposed a new scientific concept for cybernetics: the closed-loop feedback. Feedback, such as the ‘Likes’ we give, and the online comments we make, is a major concept of digitization. Does that mean digitization is the most perfect implementation of cybernetics? When we use smart devices, we are creating a ceaseless data stream disclosing our intentions, geo position or social environment. While we communicate more thoughtlessly than ever online, in the background, an ecosystem of artificial intelligence is evolving. Today, artificial intelligence is the sole technology being able to profile us and draw conclusions about our future behavior.

An automated control strategy, usually a learning machine, analyzes our actual situation and then computes a stimulus that should draw us closer to a more desirable ‘optimal’ state. Increasingly, such controllers govern our daily lives. As digital assistants they help us making decisions in the vast ocean of options and intimidating uncertainty. Even Google Search is a control strategy. When typing a keyword, a user reveals his intentions. The Google search engine, in turn, will not just present a list with best hits, but also a list of links that embodies the highest (financial) value rather for the company than for the user. Doing it that way, i.e. listing corporate offerings at the very top of the search results, Google controls the user’s next clicks. This, the European Union argues, is a misuse.

But is there any way out? Yes, if we disconnected from the cybernetic loop. Just stop responding to a digital stimulus. Cybernetics will fail if the controllable counterpart steps out of the loop. Yet, we are free to owe a response to a digital controller. However, as digitization further escalates, soon we may have no more choice. Hence, we are called on to fight for our freedom and our rights afresh during the digital era and in particular with the rise of intelligent machines.
Is that frightening enough? It ought to be. Not only are we being subsumed in the cybernetic loop where we inadvertently give the very feedback that the manipulators of our choices crave, but also we are largely unaware that we are being categorized, manipulated, ‘nudged’ and inveigled into positions not of our choosing, but those chosen by others – chosen for their own purposes, whether they be commercial, or more sinisterly, political.

Be afraid, very afraid!

Big Brother is watching you!


Thirty pieces of silver



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.

Yet, despite Turnbull looking and speaking like a prime minister, in such stark contrast to the malevolent Abbott, with his reckless abandonment of the values and principles we all know Turnbull once embraced, in just over a year he has killed off any respect he initially had. We deplored so many of Abbott’s principles, but at least he stuck to them. Turnbull has turned out to be a shameful turncoat, ready to betray his beliefs for thirty pieces of silver.

We are astonished, dismayed and saddened.

This piece is a companion to the last published: Abbott’s legacy of destruction. It exposes the other side of the deeply tarnished Abbott/Turnbull coin. The two pieces need to be read in parallel.

Ten pieces of silver to abandon climate change action
Of all his fine principles, shall we ever forget Turnbull's stand on climate change!

He supported Kevin Rudd’s push for an emissions trading scheme – even crossing the floor to do so! You will remember his much publicized proclamation:

I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am.

What a tragedy it was that Rudd reneged on his promise to work with Turnbull to achieve bipartisanship to bring in an ETS. We could have had one many years ago. We now are as far away from an ETS as ever.

In December of last year, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg was foolish enough to utter the words: “…we know there’s been a large number of bodies that have recommended an emissions intensity scheme, which is effectively a baseline and credit scheme”. Hard right-wingers Cory Bernardi and Craig Kelly went ballistic, Tony Abbott chimed in to repeat his longstanding opposition, and Murdoch’s Chris Kenny wrote a column in The Australian warning Turnbull that it was ‘political madness’ to re-consider an ETS.

Turnbull’s retreat was rapid. Within 24 hours he was insisting: “We will not be imposing a carbon tax and we will not be imposing an emissions trading scheme, however it is called, an emissions intensity scheme is an emissions trading scheme. That is just another name for it. That has been our policy for many years now.”

Suitably chastened, Frydenberg soon echoed Turnbull’s words, adding apologetically: “I have never advocated for a carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme; that is why the Government won’t proceed with one.” Ben Eltham, writing in New Matilda commented: Somewhere...a rooster crowed twice.

Although we all remember Turnbull’s 2009 proclamation, he has made many other utterances, from which he has retreated. They can be found in the archives. Some may surprise you. Take a look at them: You will find them here:

Here are a few of them:
“Climate change is a global problem. The planet is warming because of the growing level of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. If this trend continues, truly catastrophic consequences are likely to ensue from rising sea levels, to reduced water availability, to more heat waves and fires.

“I do not believe we can effectively move Australia to a lower emission economy, which is what we need to do if we're going to make a contribution to a global reduction in greenhouse gases, without putting a price on carbon.”

“…some years from now if there's a global emissions trading scheme agreement, as many have hoped for, then I'm sure Australia would be part of it.”

“The question of whether or to what extent human activities are causing global warming is not a matter of ideology, let alone of belief. The issue is simply one of risk management.”

“If Margaret Thatcher took climate change seriously and believed that we should take action to reduce global greenhouse emissions, then taking action and supporting and accepting the science can hardly be the mark of incipient Bolshevism.”

“We are already experiencing the symptoms of climate change, especially with a hotter and drier climate in southern Australia - the rush to construct desalination plants is an expensive testament to that.”

“Look at countries like China, they are determined to dominate all clean technology areas, putting lots of money into wind, solar, electric vehicles and battery storage. America's political impotence, caused by their terrible partisanship, will see them left behind.”

“Many Liberals are rightly dismayed that on this vital issue of climate change we are not simply without a policy, without any prospect of having a credible policy but we are now without integrity. We have given our opponents the irrefutable, undeniable evidence that we cannot be trusted.”

"Direct Action is “a con, an environmental fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing” and a “recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale”.

“First, lets get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money. To get farmers to change the way they manage their land, or plant trees and vegetation all costs money. Somebody has to pay. So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, "bullshit." Moreover he knows it.”

“I believe that politicians should speak the truth all the time. Invariably there will be occasions when you make statements that are factually incorrect due to an error.”

“I've been around in public life for a long time. I think people know what I stand for. They know that I have strong convictions, committed principles and I'm prepared to stand up for them.”
How laughable! Turnbull has shown over and again that he will not stand up for his principles when members of his rabid right wing stamp their feet and demand that he toe the line he agreed to get their votes to topple Abbott. We have seen that time and again, but nowhere more flagrantly than over the issue of climate change.

The man who so strongly supported an ETS now refuses to have a bar of one.

After Turnbull replaced Abbott, climate pundits were excited. Corporate advisor, Paul Gilding, insisted that there was great support from Malcolm Turnbull on renewable energy and climate change: “Turnbull actually supports climate action and has long understood the economic implications of the transition required. And rather than being fearful of those implications he embraces them – seeing the inherent opportunity in a transition away from coal and towards a technology-driven transformation of the renewable energy system. The influence of this over time, on the business community and on public attitudes will be long lasting and leave a legacy for a generation.” How disillusioned Gilding must be now!

But as we have seen in the last couple of months, ever since September when in South Australia a ‘once in fifty-year storm’ tore up transmission towers and blacked out the entire state, Turnbull has become a fierce critic of the targets set for the adoption of renewable energy, initially blaming the state’s dependence on renewable energy for the disaster, later capitulating in the face of undeniable evidence to the contrary.

He and his minders, having decided that ‘energy security’ will be the defining issue in the months ahead, have attacked Labor and the Greens relentlessly as ‘ideologically driven’ incompetents whose ‘utterly unrealistic renewable energy targets’ will not be achievable, and will drive energy prices skyward. Turnbull has ruthlessly abandoned his long-held principles in the pursuit of political gain, for himself and the LNP.

Turnbull castigates those who seek to transition to renewables rapidly, and now supports coal mining. He even allowed his Treasurer to bring a lump of coal into parliament to mock Labor. He now talks of ‘clean coal’ technology, as if it was an imminent and financially viable possibility, which experts in the field insist it is not. His behaviour is no different from that of Abbott who proclaimed that ‘coal is good for humanity’ and would be around as a major source of energy for many decades!

He is Abbott personified, but without a skerrick of principle left!

Now, a coalition of eighteen business, energy, investor, climate and welfare groups, including the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Council of Social Services, and the ACTU, has called for an end to partisan energy politics and urgent action on global warming in the knowledge of its devastating effects on business, investment in energy, agriculture, the environment, and indeed life on this planet. But Turnbull and his government are not listening!

This whole piece could be about Turnbull’s shameful retreat from the urgency of global warming, but let’s visit some other of Turnbull’s inglorious retreats.

Ten pieces of silver to ‘demolish the NBN’
Who will ever forget PM Abbott’s infamous instruction to his then Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull: Demolish the NBN? Abbott wanted it destroyed only because Labor had proposed and designed it, a groundbreaking Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) proposal that would have placed Australia at the forefront of modern Internet communications, and would have given it a competitive advantage over its neighbours and overseas' rivals. After the Abbott intervention, thanks to the lily-livered, mendacious response of Turnbull, a tech-head who made his fortune in Internet communications with the sale of his OzEmail, we now rank a lowly 45th in the world for Internet speeds.

Although Turnbull knew full well that FTTP was the superior option, he messed around trying to convince us of the merits of a Multi Technology Mix (MTM) that included Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial (HFC), Fixed Wireless, and a Long Term Satellite Service, as well as Fibre to the Node (FTTN) where fibre was rolled out only to street corner boxes, with ageing copper wire making the connection to the premises. Turnbull’s selling spiel was that Labor’s FTTP was prohibitively expensive, too slow to roll out, and sotto voce unnecessary for Australia’s needs. FTTN, with its lower speeds, would be OK for this nation, which he continually implores to be ‘agile and innovative’.

The facts are that the FTTN rollout is arguably no faster than was planned for Labor’s FTTP, the speeds are poorer, and the cost is likely to be the same as for the FTTP, or higher. In other words, to placate the malevolent Abbott, Turnbull’s counterintuitive interference with the original FTTP plan has resulted in Australia gaining nothing, and we have lost a golden opportunity to be world leaders.

Once more, Turnbull has sacrificed his ideals, abandoned his technical know-how, and deliberately deceived the public about the touted merits of the Coalition’s FTTN MTM hotchpotch, leaving us no better off financially or logistically, but much worse off technically with an already out-of-date NBN that will soon need expensive upgrades.

Moreover, he has tried to convince us that the fast 100Mbps speeds promised by FTTP are not necessary, as many taking up the NBN are choosing slower speeds. But what about business and industry that need to send large files around the world; what about farmers who need to be in rapid touch with world prices and trends? Turnbull seems to be channeling the tech-ignorant Abbott who said that the speeds needed only to be good enough to send an email, or for his daughters to download a movie!

Turnbull, who does know the technical facts better than anyone else in his party, has sold his principles and values simply to gain political advantage for himself and his party. He has lied.

In answer to a question about the Coalition’s NBN on Q&A last year Turnbull obfuscated. Writing about it in Delimiter Renai LeMay said:
“On last night’s episode of Q&A, Turnbull did nothing to address persistent criticism of the Coalition’s NBN policy. Neither did he address – at all – Labor’s reworked NBN vision.

"Instead, what we got was a repeat of the standardised set of talking points which virtually every Coalition MP has been parroting about the NBN for the past two to three years.

"I find this insulting, to say the least.

"Turnbull is clearly aware that the NBN debate has moved on and that the country is now having a nuanced discussion of how the NBN project should proceed over the next decade, incorporating technologies such as HFC cable, FTTP and perhaps even new models such as Fibre to the Distribution Point.

"The Prime Minister’s failure to address that debate in any way, shape or form shows his lack of respect for the public; and also his determination not to meaningfully engage on the matter of the NBN. The increasing likelihood that the Coalition will not refine its NBN policy for the election reinforces that impression."
Once more Turnbull has recklessly sacrificed his ideals for a pottage of political advantage.

Ten pieces of silver to abandon marital equality
This piece is already long enough; so let’s conclude with Turnbull’s shameful retreat from his principles on this contentious matter.

Turnbull has always advocated marriage equality, and believes that a parliamentary vote would secure its legislative passage. Yet, despite public opinion strongly favoring marriage equality, and a majority in favour of a parliamentary vote to settle the matter, Turnbull will not budge from his commitment to the hard right of his party to have a plebiscite, which we all know was Abbott’s delaying mechanism that would give opponents the opportunity to disseminate emotive dissent, thereby creating doubt in voters’ minds, which the religious right hopes will result in a negative vote.

Turnbull has no religious, social or ideological objection to marriage equality – indeed the contrary is the case. Yet he is shamelessly sacrificing his long-held principles on the altar of political expediency, simply to placate the rabid religious right in his party, and thereby hang tenuously onto his prime ministership.

Do you need any more evidence that Turnbull has sold his political soul for thirty pieces of silver? On three crucial fronts: global warming, the NBN, and marriage equality, he has sold out so that he could grasp, and now cling doggedly onto leadership. There are many more of his values that he has sacrificed for silver: The Republic, Medicare, urban planning, and asylum seeker policy. But enough is enough.

What are voters feeling about him now, just eighteen months into his prime ministership?

Disappointment, disillusionment, disgust, disrespect, despair, despondency, desolation, and above all, intense anger.

What a political and personal price he has paid in return for his thirty pieces of silver!


What do you think?
What are your views about Malcolm Turnbull?

Have you other examples of how he has sold out his principles and values?

Let us know in comments below.

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