Dutton for PM – no thanks


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inequality amblyopia



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

Shorten is on a winner.




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

Do you believe inequality is increasing in this nation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not ok: and here’s why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is Donald Trump mad?



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Is this behaviour an example of an unbalanced person?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



I’ve made up my mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Look out for dinosaurs


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Coalition needs an Abbott-proof fence



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

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

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

How can he be stopped?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Although still burning with anger about Christopher Pyne’s ‘revelation’ that he had never voted for Abbott (leaked to Andrew Bolt), he was in Brisbane the next day reiterating his alternative political manifesto at an Institute of Pubic Affairs event, as reported by James Massola in The Sydney Morning Herald
“He outlined three energy policy measures - freezing the renewable energy target at 15 per cent, a moratorium on new wind farms, and for the federal government to potentially go it alone and build a new coal-fired power station - to put downward pressure on power prices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can Turnbull and his loyalists counter Abbott?

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

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

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




She said what!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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?

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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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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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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.

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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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