Karma is that feeling when you drive past someone beside the road obviously getting a ticket soon after they weaved around you and others on a busy highway. Others would call the feeling poetic justice or note that the situation was rather ironic. Either way, it is a feeling of someone getting their just punishment for a real or imagined transgression. If you ask why it doesn’t happen more often, it’s a good question. This blog site deals with politics in a couple of thousand words rather than presentation of a theorem in tens of thousands of words, so keep searching (and if you find anything perhaps a link in the comments for the rest of us would be appreciated).
Politicians usually aren’t around long enough to be publicly affected by karma. So far 2018 has been good for us who drive by the (usually unmarked) police car giving your dangerous driver a bit of summary justice. The obvious one to start with is the accidental disposal of a locked filing cabinet at a second-hand shop in Canberra. First of all, kudos to the purchaser of the filing cabinets for realising what they had and giving it to the ABC. The ABC should also be congratulated for keeping the identity of the donor confidential, as the donor has done nothing wrong here. They legitimately acquired some property (admittedly more than they bargained for) and dealt with it as they saw fit. The poetic justice evident in this situation is that we all now have some information from ‘secret’ cabinet files to pillory various politicians while they still have ‘skin in the game’. Waleed Aly, writing for Fairfax media discusses why we should be holding those that have been found to be responsible for making decisions against recommendations to account here
and it’s worth a read.
The ABC published a directory of information they felt should be in the public realm gleaned from the material in the filing cabinets
and subsequently allowed ASIO into some of their newsrooms to ‘secure’ the files pending negotiations on their return to Turnbull’s own Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
who admitted the filing cabinet should be in their custody. One suspects the ABC demonstrated considerable discretion in what it actually did publish, as well as balance in some embarrassing stories on the last ALP Government as well as the Abbott/Turnbull Government. While embarrassing to those who like keeping secrets, especially given that an Australian delegation was in Indonesia the same week discussing Australia’s expertise in securing confidential information
, by the end of the year it will probably be fodder for the ‘what happened in 2018’ television programs, and that’s about it.
Also to be considered as probable fodder for the end of year retrospectives is the actions of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission judges launching legal action in their own court over a NSW Government directive that the Commission will move from a heritage building in Sydney City to Parramatta
. The Government is suggesting
the commission has no power to stop the move because it is not an industrial matter and beyond commission powers
and while the Public Service Association lodged a notice in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission at the beginning of February suggesting
They have gone back on their word given in 2016 that they wouldn't undertake a move without consultation of the affected workers.
Possibly the first legal argument is if the judges can hear the dispute in the first place! It does have the potential to become very legalistic and messy poetic justice to the Government that promises but doesn’t deliver consultation with its employees.
You would have to expect that there was some discussion on inviting ‘traditional’ marriage advocate Tony Abbott to his sister’s marriage to her long-term partner. The karma for the rest of us is seeing news footage of a smiling (or is it grimacing) Abbott at the event
and wondering how he can maintain the position that same sex marriage is an abomination while his sister’s same sex marriage should be celebrated. In a similar way, Barnaby Joyce being upset by publicity when his personal life choices vary significantly from his public pronouncements that marriage is a life time commitment between a man and woman to the exclusion of all others at the time of the same sex marriage debate is also an example of poetic justice.
The punitive actions of the Abbott/Turnbull Government in relation to those that rely to a greater or lesser extent on some form of government assistance is well known. It is a continuing narrative that the ‘lazy’ and ‘leaners’ of our society are the only ones on ‘welfare’ and all of them are attempting to rort the system to avoid becoming productive members of the community.
One of the more punitive measures is the targeted introduction of the cashless welfare card, which allows access to the 80% of the individual’s assistance payment they cannot take in cash. The claim (and there is considerable evidence to suggest that the reasoning is false: here
in a Fairfax masthead and here
in The Guardian
) is that restricting access to cash changes behaviours by restricting access to drugs and alcohol amongst the unemployed. The system uses the electronic payment system and there is access to a website to check balances and obtain other information. The card has rolled out in a number of areas across Australia where there is a ‘high need’ to change behaviour according to the Coalition. Pity a number of those areas have relatively poor communications which limits the uptake of the equipment, such as smartphones, needed to use the website to manage the accounts.
The devil is in the detail. The cashless welfare card relies on technology to work, so when the power or communications goes out the card doesn’t work, as those who the card was inflicted on in the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory recently found out
to their detriment.
On the Tiwi Islands, around two hours ferry-ride north of Darwin, 2,000 mainly Aboriginal residents spent three days this week with no access to fuel, internet, or phones after a Telstra tower was damaged.
The single shop in Wurrumiyanga, on Bathurst Island, could not process non-cash sales, leaving many without food.
Residents told the ABC that most people in the community were reliant on Centrelink's "basics card", and everything from fuel to power must be pre-paid.
There is currently no alternative system in place for when the communication lines that fuel the cards go down, and the community is wholly reliant on repair crews coming from the mainland.
The Coalition Federal Ministers who signed this system off as fair and equitable are clearly delusional that the system in its current form benefits anyone but their own politically motivated ‘lifters and leaners’ narrative, rather than any sense of care and concern for those who need our help. Any adverse publicity on the Government is clearly karma.
Over the last 20 or so years, the outer suburbs of or larger towns and cities have been filled with large homes on small blocks of land. Colloquially, they have been named McMansions. Generally, these homes have been constructed with little concern for the cold in southern Australia or the heat of northern Australia. Part of the reason McMansions are so popular is that mechanical forms of heating and cooling technology are becoming cheaper, making it more likely for homeowners to consider ‘split system’ or ducted air conditioning to address the deficiencies of their home’s environmental design.
It didn’t have to be like that. People’s homes can be designed to suit the environment and it’s not hard, neither does it require considerable technology. Look at the typical Queenslander or the double brick homes in southern NSW or Victoria — they were designed and built to be in sympathy with their environment. For a number of years, reforms such as the ‘stars’ system were implemented to increase the efficiency of homes and appliances. Major appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators and so on were required to become more efficient over time, leading to the ‘3 star’ rated appliance from 2000 typically earning a less efficient rating in 2010
Efficiency standards for new appliances have been basically frozen in Australia since the Abbott government took office in 2013. The situation is worse for new residential buildings, with standards largely unchanged since 2010 — excluding a modest improvement in NSW last July — and unlikely to be revised before 2022.
The current six-star minimum energy rating imposed on new homes in most states and territories was already unambitious at its introduction.
As Fairfax Media reported on the construction of CSR House in late 2012, an eight-star rated house built in western Sydney showed how — for about $15,000 more — a new home could be designed to cut heating and cooling needs by half compared with conventional ones.
"The real tragedy of housing and buildings in Australia is they haven't kept pace with global trends and opportunities," Rob Sindel, managing director of CSR, says. He estimates most of Australia's 9 million homes would have just a one-star rating.
"People are getting these horrendous energy bills and are saying, 'my God!'. Exactly what we thought would play out, has played out."
As suggested, energy efficiency is not expensive in comparison to the continued expenditure on air conditioning inefficiently designed space. It is also worth noting that progress on energy efficiency ceased around the time some extremely conservative governments were elected at a state and federal level. These governments, who are now feeling the effects of power failures despite a ‘gold plated’ system, are blaming the replacement of inefficient and polluting coal fired power plants with renewables rather than their collective failure to act over the past 5 to 10 years. Most certainly another case of poetic justice.
Unfortunately, it always costs someone something when others observe, inwardly smile and think that karma is a bugger. It is a pretty sure bet that one or a number of probably fairly low ranking public servants will face some unwanted attention over the dispatch of the filing cabinet to the second-hand shop without opening it. The NSW Government might have saved itself a whole world of hurt by discussing the relocation of the Industrial Relations Commission, rather than dictating it. Abbott’s double standards should not have been the centre of attention at his sister’s wedding. By the same token, Joyce’s estranged wife and daughters don’t deserve the publicity that Joyce has recently forced on them.
Those on cashless benefit cards should not have to go without if the technology fails (remembering if you present a credit or debit card and the technology fails, a merchant usually has a backup paper-based option). Even if the failure wasn’t envisaged, clearly there was no effort put into some emergency relief for those on the Tiwi Islands. Clearly we are all paying for the inaction of various conservative governments over a number of years for the current level of power prices, while those that cause the problem are madly telling us there is ‘nothing to see here — look over there’.
Obviously mistakes happen. It is how the mistakes are rectified that demonstrates the character of those who are in charge at the time. Abbott’s double standard is writ large by his attempted triple pike with a twist explanation on why he could argue that same sex marriage is abhorrent — except when his family is involved. It is telling that the Coalition Government apparently did nothing when some people in what is allegedly a first world country couldn’t get food or electricity because their government-mandated and politically-motivated only acceptable payment method failed.
And lastly, that there is so little action on low hanging fruit such as building and appliance efficiency demonstrates the current government’s lack of care or concern with meeting emissions standards they agreed to in the Paris Accord. While the effect on your and my bank balance when we get a power bill might be horrific, the probable irreversible changes to our environment as a result of inaction is criminal. Not only is it Abbott and Turnbull’s failure — we are all to blame for allowing them to gamble with our environment and lifestyle.
What do you think?