Where does Abbott really stand on national security?


The idea of ‘national security’ arises from the ‘social contract’ referred to by political philosophers. The concept is that the people gave the power to enforce rules and punishments to their leaders, whether monarchs or elected governments, in return for ‘protection’. Otherwise, in going about our daily business we would also have to build into our day the need to protect ourselves and our families and property from any threats that may emerge.

So in a functioning society, we say I will largely divest myself of my right to defend myself and grant that power to our leaders, leaving me free to go about my business without those additional security concerns. The quid pro quo is that the government defends my other rights and my property, as well as my security. (I won’t go into the issue of protection of property as that is the dominant theme of neo-liberals and, in my view, is somewhat contentious for reasons that would make this piece two or three times as long.)

There are two aspects to protection: one from external threats and one from internal threats. As I recall, in international relations, one trait that was used in defining a nation state was its capacity to protect itself and defend its borders. Hence the need for a standing army or these days also a navy and an air force. And ever since the Middle Ages, there have also been spies and intelligence services as a means of gaining advance warning of potential threats and what one’s enemies may be up to. Note, however, that these are meant to protect us from external threats.

For internal threats the protection comes primarily from the police which also has a key role in protecting our rights — and, in fact, the main internal threats do relate to our rights. Our rights link to the basic John Stuart Mill tenet that freedom is about ‘pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to attain it’. Thus we allow our governments to create rules that protect that freedom and, importantly, also stop us from impinging upon the freedom of others. Stealing, assault and fraud, for example, each deprive someone else of their rights and so are subject to punishment by the rules we create. That is where the police and the courts come in. We have many freedoms or rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of movement which we consider important to our everyday lives (even if we sometimes take them for granted). Franklin D Roosevelt also spoke of freedom from want and freedom from fear — two that I think we do not hear enough about.

Of course, over time, societies can change their emphasis on some of these rights, considering one more important than another, and hence also change the rules that support or enforce them. And in times of genuine external threat, such as during World War II, we may accept the need to forego some of our freedoms in the name of national security.

So we come to the Abbott government’s view of national security.

Firstly, the so-called ‘boat people’. Are 50 or 100 people in a leaky wooden boat an external threat to our national security? I doubt any reasonable person would say so but Abbott dresses the Australian response to the ‘boat people’ in security terms. He created a secret operation (‘operation’ being used as military jargon) and refuses to provide any details because these are ‘operational’ or military or intelligence matters. That may be justified in time of war when a heavily armed invasion fleet is menacing the country but does not appear so when we are talking about boat loads of refugees.

Are we merely protecting our borders? That is a safer argument to make, at least up to a point. Yes, the boat people may be breaching our borders but only if they come within 12 nautical miles (22km) of our coastline (including off-shore islands). Beyond that, they are in international waters and should be free to move as they wish. They may come within our 200 nautical mile (370km) ‘economic zone’ but that applies only to economic activities such as fishing and also restricts the right of other nations to search for or exploit other natural resources within that zone — I don’t think the boat people are there searching for oil so that doesn’t apply. So the argument must be that our ‘intelligence’ suggests that these boats will breach our borders if they are not stopped in international waters — which, on the surface, is a valid argument.

The UN convention on refugees, however, does give people the right to breach borders in certain circumstances — when we recognise that their own government is failing to protect them and their rights. We have processes to assess such people to distinguish ‘genuine’ refugees from economic migrants who may simply be trying to skirt the immigration programs that most countries have.

So can Abbott justify that a major military-style operation is necessary to stop ‘breaches of our border’? Certainly not in a philosophic sense. It was Howard who said ‘we will decide who comes to our country and the circumstances in which they come’ and Abbott has basically continued that approach. It is ‘son of the White Australia policy’ and plays on the same fear of being over-run by hordes of ‘Orientals’, now refugees, who may bring with them a different life-style. Abbott ramps up those fears in the populace by exaggerating the threat to one akin to a military invasion, requiring military responses and the language of national security — all in the name of stopping a few leaky boats.

Logic would suggest that controlling the flow of refugees actually requires actions to manage the flow, and steps to reduce the flow, at their source. That would require assisting in the processing of refugees in refugee camps (as was done by the Fraser government for Vietnamese refugees) and providing aid that may improve the circumstances in countries of origin, so diminishing the need for people to leave. We are doing nothing on the first and actually cutting our international aid on the second. Therefore, it can only be a political decision to ignore measures that may reduce the problem at its source and instead focus on creating a situation where our government can react with overwhelming power on the basis of national security — it would not suit its political agenda to take pro-active measures. It also follows that this is only a ‘border security’ issue because the government chooses to make it so and it is the proverbial sledge hammer to deal with a mosquito.

Then we have the internal and external threat of ‘terrorism’. There is no doubt that this is a real threat but how great a threat to Australia and how far should we go in dealing with it?

Genuine terrorism is based on the premise that by creating terror and fear in a population, its government will be forced to change its policies in a way that meets at least some of the political objectives of the terrorists. Thus the IRA conducted a ‘bombing campaign’ on mainland Britain in an effort to change the British government’s policy on Ireland (this was done twice, once in the 1940‒50s and again in the 1970s). For a long time, the British government treated captured IRA members as criminals: they were tried under normal criminal law. It was the IRA itself that campaigned for its members to be treated as political prisoners or prisoners of war. It was an approach that refused to acknowledge publicly the politics of the situation and, as far as it went, down-played the threat (and the fear) by treating the acts as mere acts of criminality.

What terrorist threat does Australia actually face? The biggest threat at the moment appears to be the possibility of ‘lone wolf’ attacks inspired by radical Islamic and IS propaganda. There was the stabbing of the two police officers in Melbourne and a small number of threats that have allegedly been stopped before being carried out.

Abbott likes to refer to Monis at the Lindt Café siege as an example of terrorism reaching our shores despite evidence suggesting that Monis was mentally unstable and an attention-seeker wanting to link himself to IS. Reports emerging from the inquest indicate that there is no evidence of him ever having been in contact with any terrorist group and, when even a bikie gang found him ‘weird’, you do have to have some doubts that he was a genuine terrorist with political motives.

While we may find any single event terrible, we must keep a sense of perspective. We have had mass murderers with no political intent, such as Martin Bryant, and they do not generate the same degree of fear. We may be shocked but we perceive such events as a ‘one-off’, even if, as in the US, they occur on a regular basis. Terrorists, on the other hand, are trying to convince us that they are capable of carrying out their attacks again and again. If we perceive some events as worse because we also perceive them as ‘terrorist’ events, then the terrorists are winning the battle for our minds.

It was George W Bush who declared the ‘war on terror’ after the 9/11 attack on the twin towers. As horrific as that event was, taking the US to ‘war’ was giving Al Qaeda a status beyond its real power. Abbott is now doing the same in Australia, describing IS as a ‘death cult’ which really, as Abdul-Rehman Malik who runs an outreach group for young Muslims said, is accepting the IS propaganda and giving it an inflated status:
The propagandists of the Islamic State, when they hear themselves referred to as a death cult hell-bent on global domination, are patting themselves on the back because you know what? You’ve bought in to their narrative.
We seem to be adopting the former British approach but only in part. We tend to ignore the politics of radical Islam but we accept its proponents as political enemies whom we must engage in war. Can anyone else see the inconsistency in that? War is sometimes said to be an outcome of the failure of diplomacy but if we refuse to recognise the political elements of our enemy, which rules out diplomacy, and don’t treat them merely as criminals, then war becomes the only recourse — as it seems to be now. (There is little doubt IS is playing a similar game.)

In the case of IS, war may be justified because it does have some components of a ‘state’ in the areas it occupies and does see itself as forming an Islamic government of a caliphate. But as a ‘state’ it is not yet a direct threat to Australia. We can, if we so choose, be involved in supporting other states who are threatened by it: so there can logically be some justification for our current involvement in Iraq — it is a political or diplomatic decision to support another state.

Abbott, and Howard before him following 9/11, have used this so-called threat to our national security to curtail our rights. These laws are justified on the basis of our fear of terrorism and the need to protect us. The extent of that protection is driven by the intensity of the fear but, as suggested above, the level of fear being expressed by the government seems to outweigh the real extent of the danger.

Under laws that have been introduced to address ‘terrorism’:

  • ASIO can detain people for up to seven days and it is illegal to speak of that detention afterwards. You can be detained merely for questioning about your possible knowledge of an event even if you were not involved and you may not be told why you were detained. The warrant for your detention is decided merely on security advice without your presence and with no opportunity to challenge it. It sails very close to arbitrary detention.

  • ASIO has the power to monitor computers but that is now defined as including a network. At its broadest it means the internet can be treated as a single network: it is more likely to relate to smaller networks but that may still capture the computers of many people who are not directly under investigation. It also has the power to alter and delete material from those computers and you will not be told.

  • Journalists cannot report ASIO activities that involve Special Intelligence Operations (SIOs) but there is nothing to allow identification of which ASIO operations are SIOs and which just normal activities. Effectively, journalists are barred from reporting on ASIO with the threat of 10 year gaol sentences.

  • There are ‘control orders’ that can limit a person’s movements and who they can meet and again these can be decided without any other parties being present or able to challenge the decision. They can be likened to bail conditions except that the person has not been charged and may never be tried.

  • There are also travel bans under which it is an offence, also carrying a term of up to 10 years imprisonment, to be in areas ‘declared’ by the Foreign Minister as areas where terrorist organisations are operating. There are exclusions for legitimate purposes, such as providing humanitarian aid, but the presumption of innocence is reversed: the onus is on the individual to prove they were there for a legitimate purpose, and prove it was the sole purpose for their presence.

  • We also have laws that people can be charged for ‘planning a terrorist act’. It takes us into dangerous territory. There is a difference between planning an action and being about to carry it out (which is when police often act if they have advance intelligence). Also, what constitutes a ‘terrorist act’ is not clearly defined, so how far could this law go?
Some of our traditional rights that are affected by these new laws include freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of association and the right to a fair trial, procedural fairness and judicial review. The danger is not just from the current laws (which we may think won’t affect many people) but the precedent they set. We must always be vigilant of our rights and remember that the elected Nazi government began with small limitations to freedom in the name of maintaining social stability.

These approaches are also tearing up the ‘social contract’. Our national security actually depends on the social contract — a binding trust between the government and the people. If governments ignore their part of the bargain by undermining the rights they are meant to protect, then people may begin to question the value of the social contract and the role of government. Isn’t that exactly what the terrorists want us to do?

Finally, I return to Roosevelt’s ‘freedom from fear’. That is one of the rights that is supported by government when it provides for our protection. When, however, it is the government itself that is generating fear, and using that fear to weaken our rights and renegue on its side of the social contract, isn’t it actually the Abbott government that is threatening our national security? Isn’t it actually the Abbott government that is behaving like a terrorist organisation by creating fear to achieve its political objectives?

What do you think?
Are ‘terrorists’ just common criminals on steroids used to promote governments’ ‘law and order’ platforms? Why are asylum seekers labelled with the same description? With the increase in security measures - where are the corresponding increases in safety, or any scrutiny, checks and balances to ensure that the additional powers are used wisely or correctly? Ken’s piece is timely and relevant given the current discussion of the ‘race’ of ’terrorists’.

Next week Ken continues the national security and terrorism theme when he discusses the young Australian suicide bomber Jake Bilardi but comes to a very different conclusion in his piece ‘A failure of the Left’.


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27/06/2015Ken Thank you for so lucidly setting out for us the underpinnings of Abbott's position on national security. Having observed this man for years, I am confident in asserting that there is only one reason for Abbott's stance, and that is political. He has learned from history, and from his mentor, John Howard, that it is politically advantageous to generate fear in the populace, so long as protection from fearsome threats is guaranteed. Abbott knows full well that it is easy to stir up fear, to generate apprehension about external or internal threats, whether they exist or not. We see him at it day after day. He knows too that a section of the electorate is susceptible to his stirring, a core who will believe his mendacious rhetoric, who will pat him on the back with: "good onya Tony", and will applaud any move he makes to counter the threats he talks about endlessly. He knows that he is on safer ground rabble-rousing on security than talking about the economy, about which he knows so little. So to me 'Where does Abbott really stand on national security?' is a simple question to answer. He stands for making as much political mileage out of security scaremongering as he can. His only interest is political, he has no inherent interest in security; it is only what political advantage he can squeeze from it; only what votes he can scrounge; only what it does for him towards winning the next election, that counts. It's as simple and as cynical as that! On cue, Abbott is out this weekend making what he can of the recent terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Paris and Kuwait. He never misses an opportunity to push the scare button; the insinuation, even if unspoken, is that terrorism could strike here at any time, but he's here to protect us all, so long, of course, as we keep him in power. I'm not the only one who thinks as I do: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/caught-redhanded-how-tony-abbotts-national-security-push-is-being-used-for-political-gain-20150625-ghx6gm.html Thank you for addressing this question. I will be interested to read the comments that follow.

Casablanca

29/06/20151. ASIO should refuse to be used as a prop for Tony Abbott's campaign Jack Waterford 26 June 2015 'Whose side are you on?" asked the prime minister, rhetorically of the ABC this week. The direct suggestion was that the ABC was on the side of Australia's enemies in the war against terror. But the innuendo, lubricated by the word "stitch-up", was that it was on Labor's side, which probably troubles Tony Abbott more. The ABC is, like Labor, soft on terrorism, and is un-Australian in failing to become a loyal and uncritical member of Team Australia. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/asio-should-refuse-to-be-used-as-a-prop-for-tony-abbotts-campaign-20150626-ghw99r 2. Banishment from the Kingdom Eva Cripps 26 une, 2015 The Allegiance to Australia Bill introduces an ingenious form of government control that we all should be concerned about... The new Allegiance to Australia Bill ingeniously includes a new way to punish those who threaten the Government and the sanctity of the white, conservative, capitalist Australia. And the best part about it is that for certain provisions, the Government doesn’t have to prove a thing. http://theaimn.com/banishment-from-the-kingdom/ 3. Why is Bronwyn Bishop meddling in matters that don't concern her? Irfan Yusuf June 19, 2015 The Commonwealth produced a colourful booklet entitled The Speaker of the House of Representatives 2nd Edition in 2008. You can find on page 5 of that booklet the following statement: "… the Speaker is the servant of the House and not of the Crown/executive". If the executive is making decisions or attempting to implement policies which are the subject of heated debate, it is not the Speaker's role to act as a spokesman for the executive or to defend the proposed decision or policy. Division and unnecessary intervention are not exactly the features one would expect from a Speaker of the House. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/why-is-bronwyn-bishop-meddling-in-matters-that-dont-concern-her-20150619-ghs7as.html 4. You've lost the plot, Barrie': Malcolm Turnbull defends government attack on ABC Lisa Cox and David Wroe. June 28, 2015 - 2:14PM Malcolm Turnbull has compared the ABC to an "undergraduate playing at tabloid journalism" after a former terror suspect was allowed into the Q&A audience. And the Communications Minister says a government inquiry into the incident is not an attempt to undermine the broadcaster's independence. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/youve-lost-the-plot-barrie-malcolm-turnbull-defends-government-attack-on-abc-20150628-ghzn8k.html 5. Tony Abbott echoes Egypt in call to take sides Paul Malone June 27, 2015 I don't feel betrayed by the ABC broadcasting the views of an obnoxious criminal but I do fear for freedom of speech in this country... The ABC is not and never has been a government mouthpiece. It is not The Voice of America. It is not Pravda. It is not Xinhua. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/abbott-echoes-egypt-in-call-to-take-sides-20150627-ghxiao 6. Listen up: democracy means even jerks get a say Annabel Crabb June 27, 2015 Prime Minister Tony Abbott can't seem to decide whether he favours free speech or not... For the on-again, mostly off-again relationship between the PM and the ABC, though, the past week was mainly about fury, after Tony Jones' Q&A program went to air with serial jerk and convicted criminal Zaky Mallah participating live from the audience. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/annabel-column-head-here-pls-20150627-ghymhe 7. The Abbott gang's damaging war on the ABC Bob Ellis 27 June 2015, 7:00pm Tony Abbott's war on the ABC will cause him far more hurt than it will cause the ABC .. All over, this threat to the ABC went down badly. Eighty-eight percent of people say it does a good job. Twice as many people support it as support the Liberal Party. Seventy-eight percent don't want any part of it changed. Many noted Abbott's praise of it – on the floor of the House, hands beseeching the heavens – for The Killing Season. This was ten days ago. And they note now his preference that it be mutilated and reassembled. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/the-abbott-governments-idiotic-war-on-the-abc,7870 8. The Mallah brouhaha puts the spotlight on our civil liberties Arrin Chapman 27 June 2015, 12:30pm In the brouhaha following Zaky Mallah's appearance on Monday's Q and A, little attention has been given to MP Steven Ciobo's part in the exchange. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/the-mallah-brouhaha-puts-the-spotlight-on-our-civil-liberties,7868 9. Understanding Abbott Kaye Lee Tony Abbott came to power on a very clear platform. He stands for small government. Unless we are talking action on climate… I hope this has been helpful in understanding the vision that Tony Abbott has for his future and has reassured you that he means whatever he says that day and will do whatever it takes to be re-elected. http://theaimn.com/understanding-abbott/ 10. “Tony Abbott has never apologised for the lies he told the Australian people” Roswell June 28, 2015 I have always been among the first to be critical of Bill Shorten, but when he deserves more favourable recognition I want to be among the first to offer it. And he certainly deserves recognition for his speech on Matters of Public Importance in Parliament on June 25 when he unleashed probably the best attack on Tony Abbott since Julia Gillard’s famous ‘misogyny speech‘. But it was not just the grunt shown by Shorten; it was probably the best summary of Tony Abbott’s style of lying and deception ever captured. http://theaimn.com/tony-abbott-has-never-apologised-for-the-lies-he-told-the-australian-people/ 11. Abbott's Escher Australia David Donovan 28 June 2015, 2:00pm Looking at the work of the Abbott Government is like perusing a drawing by M.C. Escher... At first glance, it looks like a normal construction, but when you look more closely, it defies logic and credulity — it couldn’t possibly work. It doesn’t make sense. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/abbotts-escher-australia,7871 12. Malcolm Turnbull says US gay marriage judgment adds to momentum in Australia Pallavi Singhal. June 28, 2015 - 4:58PM "All of the English-speaking countries that we are closest to, Britain, Ireland, Canada, the United States, New Zealand, South Africa, they all allow gay marriage," Mr Turnbull said. "Yes, my view is that we should have a free vote. "If there is a free vote, I would vote for gay marriage." http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/malcolm-turnbull-says-us-marriage-equality-judgment-clearly-adds-to-momentum-in-australia-20150628-ghzths.html 13. Gay Marriage and why Australia is the developed country left behind Paul McMahon. June 27, 2015 While many Australians are also celebrating the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the United States, they are appalled that our own government treats this as an issue they consider irrelevant to our society. http://theaimn.com/gay-marriage-and-why-australia-is-the-developed-country-left-behind/ 14. Is the ‘nanny state’ so bad? After all, voters expect governments to care Neil Levy. June 26, 2015 4.21pm AEST David Leyonhjelm's parliamentary inquiry into what he calls “the nanny state” reflects a view of human beings as essentially independent individuals. But that's not kind of society most of us want. http://theconversation.com/is-the-nanny-state-so-bad-after-all-voters-expect-governments-to-care-43914

Casablanca

29/06/2015The Monthly & The Saturday Paper are subscription based but do allow limited access. 1. Of clowns and treasurers: Joe Hockey and the myth of Coalition economic management Richard Denniss. July 2015 While economics provides a bunch of simple tools to help break down complicated problems, the language of economics is more frequently used to confound and confuse. Especially when it’s politicians talking about economics. The primary purpose of the econospeak that fills our airwaves, most of which is complete nonsense, is to keep ordinary Australians out of the big debates about tax, fairness, climate change and the provision of essential services. http://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2015/july/1435672800/richard-denniss/clowns-and-treasurers 2. Asylum-seeker policy a dark spot in Australia’s history Tony Windsor. Jun 27, 2015 The last thing the PM wants is a genuine consensus on the asylum-seeker issue. His entire life in politics has been based on encouraging and fanning division. http://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2015/06/27/asylum-seeker-policy-dark-spot-australias-history/14353272002050 3. The Abbott government's use of ‘strategic racism’ Norman Abjorensen. Jun 21, 2014 Has the Coalition employed ‘strategic racism’ to win elections? The hardline stance by the Abbott government on asylum seekers – and let’s call it for what it is: a blatant appeal to racial prejudice thinly disguised as “border protection” – has served the Liberal Party well. But rather than racism driving the policy, as has been suggested, there might well be other agendas at play. Consider the political advantages that the Liberals have won from the propagation and exploitation of fear. http://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2014/06/21/the-abbott-governments-use-strategic-racism/1403272800#.VZAQhEb4hM4 4. Abbott government weakens FOI and public service disclosure Sophie Morris. Jun 20, 2015 Shutting down the office of the information commissioner is the latest gambit in the Abbott government’s quest to avoid scrutiny. http://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2015/06/20/abbott-government-weakens-foi-and-public-service-disclosure/14347224002030#.VZARC0b4hM4 5. Tobacco industry playbook used to kill renewables Mike Seccombe. Jun 27, 2015 Anti-renewable lobbyists have infiltrated politics, and are exploiting the tricks learned from Big Tobacco. http://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2015/06/27/tobacco-industry-playbook-used-kill-renewables/14353272002054 6. Green groups feel squeeze over tax-deductible donations probe Samantha Trenoweth. Jun 27, 2015 A new inquiry into environmental groups’ eligibility to receive tax-deductible donations appears to be the latest salvo in a sustained campaign to crush the green movement and starve it of funds. http://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2015/06/27/green-groups-feel-squeeze-over-tax-deductible-donations-probe#.VZAR0Ub4hM4

2353

29/06/2015Casablanca, Thanks for "The Saturday Paper" and "The Monthly" links. I subscribe and they are always worth a read.

Casablanca

29/06/2015 Australia Not Ready To Join 21st Century Just Yet, Abbott Says The Shovel, June 28, 2015 “I think it is inevitable that Australia will one day join the current century. But my views on this matter are well known. And as I’ve said many times before, it’s not something I’m entirely comfortable with, and it’s certainly not going to be something I lead”. http://www.theshovel.com.au/2015/06/28/australia-not-ready-to-join-21st-century-just-yet-abbott-says/

Casablanca

29/06/2015I rather like this billboard: 'The rich and powerful piss on us and the media tell us it's raining' Two of the rejoinders were also rather good:. . It will fertilize the inevitable bloody revolution #auspol . Eventually the rest of us will piss back. They be praying for Noah. https://twitter.com/johndory49/status/615280080000913408/photo/1

Ken

29/06/2015Casablanca Thank you. Still working through them but I like your last short burst of twitter.

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30/06/2015Casablanca I'm looking forward to reading all your links today. Yesterday was spent on a pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef enjoying the natural beauty there in sunny conditions. Today is a day for reading. Apropos this piece, it seems that Ken has propelled [i]TPS[/i] ahead of the pack with this piece. Others are now joining the chorus. On yesterday's [i]The Drum[/i], Eleanor Hall picked up on the comment by Joel Fitzgibbon that we are headed for a 'khaki election' with Tony Abbott's politicisation of the 'terror threat', and asked the panel for its opinion. In her inimitable style, Annabel Crabb skipped around the question; Tony Wright left no doubt that he believed that this was what Abbott was up to; and even Paul Kelly conceded that Abbott was pushing the terror threat to gain political advantage. Others are now tuning in. Tony Windsor's piece on asylum seekers contains these words: [i]"Abbott’s desire for military involvement in Syria and Iraq is apparently about the human rights of the persecuted, mainly of the Muslim faith, but domestically they are a target for dog-whistling fear, distrust and wedge politics."[/i] That strategy is precisely what he is using, day after day. He seeks to gain political advantage by inflating the terror threat, thereby wedging his opponents. To repeat what I said in my initial comment: Abbott has no inherent interest in terrorism, but will ruthlessly use the terror threat and the fear it generates to garner votes. His strategy is as plain as a pikestaff, but of course will be denied by his faithful sycophants. Watch for other journalists to pick up on this theme!

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30/06/2015Casablanca The article by Richard Denniss: [i]Of clowns and treasurers: Joe Hockey and the myth of Coalition economic management[/i], was visible only in part to non-subscribers, but what I could read was fascinating, confirmatory as it was of my feelings about Joe Hockey and many economist-commentators. This paragraph excited my imagination: [i]"Economists often speak in Latin, and in Greek. We love to wear folk down with a few deltas and gammas before finishing them off with a bit of ceteris paribus. But one of our best tricks is to use words that sound like English but to which we attach our own very specific meaning. We use simple-sounding words like “efficiency” and “unemployment” to draw the unsuspecting into our conversation. Then we slam the door on their fingers when they admit to thinking that unemployment is measured by the number of people on the dole (it’s not) or that efficiency means....[/i]" There it finished! I'll get a copy when I return to the mainland. Personally, I find Saul Eslake, described as: [i]"...one of the few names across the Australian economic landscape that most agree commands economic gravitas"[/i], a most lucid and convincing commentator. He seems never to push a particular economic theory, and is able to make any economic situation understandable. Many commentators espouse a particular theory or take a particular political line; they are more interested in compressing the economic data into the Procrustean bed of their own making than in elucidating the truth. Thus economics suffers as it is strangled by theorists who have scant regard for the hard data. It is only when the data is collected, analysed and interpreted over long periods, such as did Thomas Piketty, that the 'truth' eventually emerges. Oh, for more competent economists who could give us sound counsel about the global economy. Where are they? Perhaps Richard Denniss tells us in his article!

Totaram

30/06/2015On a (slight) tangent: Please note from the photo at the top of the article, that the weapon held by the policeman is of US design and manufacture. Our ADF uses the Steyr (manufactured in OZ under licence). Why not have the same weapon in both cases, especially when one of them is manufactured locally? Can anyone explain?

Ken

30/06/2015Ad Abbott's approach is all about mind control - or what these days is called 'framing'. Language and the words used are important, just as the refugees arriving in boats no longer represent a "humanitarian" problem but a "border security" problem. Howard and Abbott managed to completely change the way the problem was seen. And as I pointed out in the article, the British approach was to treat the IRA as criminals. It refused to recognise their status as an "army" or as "terrorists". Instead of trying to keep our population calm in the face of a threat that is real Abbott actually exaggerates the threat. The "coming to get us" phrase is a perfect example. And he is not interested in alternative solutions. During his current visit to Singapore he visited a mosque running a deradicalisation program but his reponse was that "he wasn't sure if those kinds of efforts could work in Australia, but that he was heartened by their belief that community programs could be effective". I have also recently read of the Pakistani iman who is visiting Britain to encourage the preaching in mosques of the alternative interpretations of the Koran to counter those put by the radical preachers. Abbott isn't interested in such measures because he wouldn't be able to control the narrative if he actually had solutions. Fear only works when people cannot see a solution - so Abbott won't offer one other than security. But security doesn't work because security agencies cannot monitor everyone (unless we go to a totally 'secure' state devoid of all rights). The attack in Tunisia was by someone not known to their police or intelligence agencies. And the one in France by someone who had been noticed years earlier but since dropped off the radar. So the best security won't stop such attacks. But adopting approaches that change the preaching in the mosques might. Adopting milder language might because it may draw our muslim community back into the equation and they can help in reducing if not stopping the radicalisation. But no, we can just look forward to more 'fear'.

Ken

30/06/2015totaram Short answer is 'no'. Obviously the AFP and the ADF do their own purchasing and don't talk to each other. Related to that, you may recall that there were comments after the Lindt Cafe siege that the NSW police involved had used the wrong ammunition for such a location. The military anti-terrorist squads have different types of ammunition for different situations. It was said that in the Lindt Cafe, with many hard surfaces, they needed an ammunition that would not ricochet as much off all the marble surfaces. If one lot of our anti-terrorist people know that why doesn't everyone. I think that your question actually raises questions about how well co-ordinated our anti-terrorist activities really are.

Casablanca

1/07/2015Totaram. You ask, 'Why not have the same weapon in both cases, especially when one of them is manufactured locally? Can anyone explain?' Rest assured our Government and Defence Top Brass have their finger on the pulse. Why only this week they decided that everyone in Defence, throughout our glorious Commonwealth, will wear a black lanyard bearing the word 'Defence' in white. This will clearly strike terror into the heart of any 'Death Cultist' in the world, thus your question about standardised armaments is of lesser importance. I'm sure that the question of weapons, ie US guns vs Steyr will be on the agenda for a future conference. Defence rules one lanyard to rule them all Australia's security cannot be defended with everybody wearing different coloured lanyards, the top brass concluded. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/defence-rules-one-lanyard-to-rule-them-all-20150626-ghy8n5.html

Casablanca

1/07/20151. #ICantAppearOnQandA: Nobody to the rescue for ABC's Q&A panel show Michael Koziol. June 30, 2015 - 1:07PM It was the Latin poet Catullus who wrote so rawly of his conflicted emotions: "I hate and yet love. You may wonder how I manage it. I don't know, but feel it happen, and am in torment." The same might be said of Australia's relationship with Q&A, oscillating as it does between love and hate, admiration and disgust, dependency and disregard. After seven years, it can still attract close to a million viewers to watch politicians avoid answering questions. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/icantappearonqanda-nobody-to-the-rescue-for-abcs-qa-panel-show-20150630-gi13ud.html 2. Labor set to abandon Kevin Rudd's leadership rules Latika Bourke. June 30, 2015 - 12:00PM Labor has left the door open for the caucus to reverse Kevin Rudd's rule that makes it nearly impossible for the party's elected leader to be toppled in a midnight coup. The Australian Labor Party's draft national constitution, published on its website, includes changes made to the way the leader is elected - by an equally weighted ballot of caucus and party members. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/labor-set-to-abandon-kevin-rudds-leadership-rules-20150630-gi16w2.html 3. Joe Hockey To Use $200k Defamation Money To Buy 10 Exclusive Meetings With Himself The Shovel, June 30, 2015 Treasurer Joe Hockey will use the $200,000 he won in his defamation case against Fairfax Media today to buy exclusive access to Treasurer Joe Hockey, it can be revealed. A range of intimate meetings will take place in VIP private boardrooms in Sydney and Canberra, with personal business ventures likely to be discussed. http://www.theshovel.com.au/2015/06/30/joe-hockey-to-use-200k-defamation-money-to-buy-10-exclusive-meetings-with-himself/ 4. It’s time for the new Great Barrier Reef expert panel to wade into the issue Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, The University of Queensland The government's plan to save the Great Barrier Reef hinges on hitting a series of pollution and conservation targets within just a few years. A new expert panel will advise on how best to get there. http://theconversation.com/its-time-for-the-new-great-barrier-reef-expert-panel-to-wade-into-the-issue-44005 5. Forget the G7, the world needs a new alliance to lead it in the 21st century Lorenzo Fioramonti, University of Pretoria The world needs an alliance of leading well-being economies, a WE7, to lead it in the 21st century. It would be the first step towards a global network committed to a sustainable future for the planet. http://theconversation.com/forget-the-g7-the-world-needs-a-new-alliance-to-lead-it-in-the-21st-century-43978 6. $8.8 million isn’t a lot of money, but apparently $66,000 is! Michael Taylor. June 30, 2015 It doesn’t seem that long ago that the Liberal Party was complaining (via a booklet, of course) that $66,000 was spent on The Lodge for then Prime Minister Julia Gillard.... It’s worth taking a look back at this article because with the passage of time their claims look even more ludicrous and above all, it shines a very bright light on their breathtaking hypocrisy. You will be gobsmacked when you consider what they now do themselves in office. The same things, on a grander scale, they criticised Labor for in their glossy publication. http://theaimn.com/8-8-million-isnt-a-lot-of-money-but-apparently-66000-is/

Ken

1/07/2015Perhaps Hockey should believe his own rhetoric and 'donate' his $200,000 to reduce the government debt. :-)

totaram

1/07/2015Ken, Casablanca: Thanks for enlightening me. I suppose now that the lanyards have been made uniform perhaps the weapons will as well. Ooops! the AFP weren't included in the lanyard integration were they? That's next I'm sure. Then, on to the weapons, and then to the ammunition to be used in different situations. Methodically step-by-step. Rome wasn't built in a day you know!

Ken

1/07/2015totaram It's a bit like the teevee show "Utopia" except, unfortunately we are dealing with our defence and policing.

Casablanca

2/07/2015Ken, That was a good suggestion for Hockey to donate his money to consolidated revenue but I suspect that he prefers the suggestion in from the Shovel (No 3 above) namely, 'To Buy 10 Exclusive Meetings With Himself'. That way he has a deposit on another house. Utopia is so good that it is painful to watch. I've seen two episodes this week.

Casablanca

2/07/2015Totaram, You forgot the new Border Security Force launched today in Canberra by our fearless leader. There were so many flags, singing of the National Anthem and the glint of gold braid that I did not see guns or lanyards for that matter. There was, strangely enough, an Australia Flag with Customs blazoned across the lower quadrant. Abbott uttered 'Good Bless you' so many times that I thought he was auditioning to be President of the US.

Casablanca

2/07/20151. Laudato Si’: A political reading Robert Manne “Some right-wing critics have claimed that the encyclical reveals that the Pope is a secret Marxist. This seems to me preposterous. Marxism is a materialist philosophy if it is anything. The encyclical is an expression of religious thought throughout and, philosophically speaking, of idealism. If a concern for the poor, or the rejection of radical inequality, or suspicion about the self-interested behaviour of the mega-wealthy is to be regarded as Marxist, there exists a global army of Marxists far mightier than I have ever imagined it to be.” http://themonthly.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=04a8a28afded33a63164e316f&id=05db621c03&e=ca60273192 2. Tony Abbott's national security scare campaign hides the truth: he's making a hash of the economy Ross Gittins. June 30, 2015 Am I the only person who isn't cringing in fear, looking for a rock to hide under and hoping Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton will save us from the tide of terrorism surging towards our shores?... Precisely. And I'll tell you why. Because he's discovered he's not much chop at leadership - at inspiring us with a vision of a better future, at explaining and justifying necessary but unpopular measures - but he is good at running scare campaigns, to which the Aussie punter seems particularly susceptible. But, above all, because he wants to divert our attention from the hash he's making of managing the economy. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/tony-abbotts-national-security-scare-campaign-hides-the-truth-hes-making-a-hash-of-the-economy-20150630-gi16ie.html 3. Tony Abbott: the human face of evil Jennifer Wilson. July 1, 2015 More than forty current and former workers at Australia’s detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island are challenging Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton to prosecute them under the new secrecy laws for speaking out over human rights abuses. What, exactly, is the government going to do to these forty… http://theaimn.com/tony-abbott-the-human-face-of-evil/ 4. Government Welfare Spin Draws Community Outrage June 30, 2015 A Daily Telegraph article on social welfare (“Australia’s welfare bill to top $190b with taxpayers funding 240 million payments a year” by Daniel Meers, 29/06/15) has been condemned as misleading by the March Australia people’s movement. “It’s spin, pure and simple” said March Australia volunteer Loz Lawrey. “This is a public relations exercise designed to belittle and demonise welfare recipients, portraying the most struggling and disadvantaged in our community as lazy cheats stealing hard-earned tax dollars. http://theaimn.com/government-welfare-spin-draws-community-outrage/ 5. Immigration workers ask to be charged under new Border Force gag laws Concerned Australian immigration detention centre workers. 1 July 2015, 11:30am Scores of current and former workers at Australia's immigration detention centres write an open letter to Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton and Bill Shorten, chall [...] https://independentaustralia.net/australia/australia-display/immigration-workers-ask-to-be-charged-under-new-border-force-laws,7885 6. Tony Abbott and his abusive government Lyn Bender 30 June 2015 Australia is like a battered victim being held in the thrall of a vicious abuser Now it's time to kick the bum out of the House. The Australian electorate is like a woman or man held in thrall by an abuser, or someone choosing the known devil. It reflects that Australia has not grown up yet. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/abbott-and-his-abusive-government,7877

Casablanca

2/07/20157. Our jobs no longer define how we vote Peter Lewis 1 July, 2015 Our latest polling shows the type of work we do no longer defines how we vote. And with this change comes a shift in how politicians see us and how they might appeal to us.. There are a bunch of delicious new political storylines embedded in these findings. • The split between the professionals and the managers implies a new fault-line among the higher-income groups. • The shift away from the major political blocs to independents and single-issue micro-parties led by those in the trades and the unemployed. • The ambivalence of the semi and unskilled workforce, with neither side of politics providing a compelling story of how the economy will work for them. • The drift of retirees away from the Coalition in the wake of the pensions debacle in last year's budget. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-01/lewis-our-jobs-no-longer-define-how-we-vote/6585894

Ken

2/07/2015Casablanca Yes, my Hockey suggestion was in reponse to The Shovel's suggestion - an alternative he could consider. Really enjoyed the Manne, Gittins and the Lewis articles. I think Manne misses that the Pope's approach is very consistent with the Jesuit approach. The Jesuits themselves demonstrate a dichotomy by being "warriors in defence of the Faith" but also warriors for the poor and downtrodden and the fact that this Pope took his papal name from Francis of Assisi was an indication of his approach. Gittins, like me and many others now, recognise that Abbott is over-blowing the "security" threat for political purposes and to divert voters from other issues. And Lewis piece may inspire me to do some additional research on voting patterns and apossible future piece. Keep up the excellent work.

As astra

2/07/2015Casablanca Your links made superb reading. The sheer effrontery of the Abbott government on so many fronts make it difficult to guess which of its grotesque manoeuvres will eventually bring it down. Here's a long shot: Will Abbott's resistance to same sex marriage be pivotal? The public want it, but his ultra right party members, Abetz, Bernardi, et al, who strongly oppose even debating it, outnumber the pro group in the party. So if he gives way to public opinion, the ultra right in his party may throw him out; if he gives way to the ultra right, the electorate may throw him out. To use a tired but appropriate cliche, 'Watch this space'.

Casablanca

3/07/20151. Abbott's sister challenges PM James Massola and Judith Ireland. July 2, 2015 - 9:48PM Tony Abbott's sister, Christine Forster, has directly challenged the Prime Minister to allow his MPs a free vote on a cross-party same-sex marriage bill, as Liberal Party divisions erupt and the government's leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, warns ministers who wanted to vote for the legislation to quit the frontbench. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tony-abbotts-sister-christine-forster-challenges-him-to-allow-conscience-vote-20150702-gi3l3y.html 2. How Tony Abbott Changed My Thinking On Gay Marriage Rossleigh. July 2, 2015 So after listening to Tony and Eric, my final understanding of the position I should have is this: 1. Gay marriage legislation does not belong to any political party. 2. Gay marriage legislation does not belong to private members. 3. Gay marriage legislation does not belong to the public. 4. Gay marriage legislation does not belong to a group of judges. 5. Gay marriage legislation does not belong to anyone and therefore we can’t make a decision on it. http://theaimn.com/how-tony-abbott-changed-my-thinking-on-gay-marriage/ 3. The Government's 'allegiance' law sends us back to the Middle Ages Michael Bradley July 2, 2015 By inserting the requirement for "allegiance to Australia" into the proposed citizenship laws, the Government is invoking an idea that hasn't really existed since medieval times... One thing's for sure: the Government's legislative program on national security is not being driven by thought bubbles. This is deliberate, and it will change our nation irrevocably. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-02/bradley-allegiance-law-sends-us-back-to-the-middle-ages/6588594 4. When Malcolm Turnbull makes excuses for bad journalism, democracy suffers Tim Dunlop 2 July 2015 The Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, made an extraordinary comment on the weekend. Speaking in light of the controversy over last week's episode of Q&A, he said: '[The ABC] is independent of government, but it has a higher duty, it has a duty of objectivity that the rest of the media does not. They can be as opinionated as they like.' Just let that sink in: according to the actual Minister for Communications, a man who is often lauded for his reasonableness and intelligence, the non-ABC media are allowed to be as opinionated as they like. Only the ABC has a higher duty to objectivity. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-02/dunlop-dont-make-excuses-for-bad-journalism/6587196 5. Tracking Abbotts Record: June Update John Lord. 2 July, 2015 THE LIST Tony Abbott has been in power since 7 September 2013. From that moment, he and his government have broken promises and hurt Australians. This post will be regularly updated to keep track of the Abbott Government’s broken promises and everything his Government does to hurt Australians. Each separate item http://theaimn.com/tracking-abbotts-record-june-update/ 6. Coalition tanks welfare Keith Davis. July 2, 2015 We must stop their efforts to divide Australians. I am not for a second saying that Coalition voters are beyond the pale. Nor are ALP voters for that matter. Nor are Independent voters. Nor are Green’s voters, of which I happen to be one. As Australians we agree to disagree on policy issues but generally we do so in a peaceful and moderate manner. That is one of our strengths as a people. But the current crop of Coalition politicians in Canberra really take the cake. Their public utterances are nothing short of downright divisive. http://theaimn.com/coalition-tanks-welfare/ 7. Shorten's trust deficit is limiting Labor's opportunities Jim Middleton 2 July 2015, 12:30pm No-one could disagree that Tony Abbott has set the record for lies by a Prime Minister. But Shorten hasn't built the profile that renders him prime minister-in-waiting, rather than whinger-in-chief. https://theconversation.com/shortens-trust-deficit-is-limiting-labors-opportunities-43994 8. Following Dutch footsteps, activists to sue Abbott Government on climate Common Dreams 2 July 2015, A landmark Dutch ruling has roused the Australian community to use human rights as a legal basis to sue the Abbott Government for its notorious inaction on climate change. https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/following-dutch-footsteps-activists-to-sue-abbott-government-on-climate,7884 9. Hockey’s defamation win is dark news for democracy and free speech Michael Douglas, Curtin University The elephant in the room in the just-concluded defamation case between Joe Hockey and Fairfax Media was the actual story being attacked. Media organisations ought to be able to instigate the debate without fear of reprisals by litigious politicians. http://theconversation.com/hockeys-defamation-win-is-dark-news-for-democracy-and-free-speech-44129 10. Australian diplomacy runs on twin tracks that may be heading in different directions Mark Beeson. July 2, 2015 4.52pm AEST It has become commonplace to observe that Australian policymakers face a major challenge trying to reconcile the strategic and economic aspects of foreign policy. But while we might have become used to the idea that doesn’t make it any less difficult to resolve. http://theconversation.com/australias-twin-track-diplomacy-44189

Ad Astra

3/07/2015Casablanca Thank you for another set of very interesting links, which I shall enjoy reading this morning. Apropos the dilemma that Abbott faces over same sex marriage that I mentioned yesterday, take a look at Barrie Cassidy's piece in The Drum: Same-sex marriage: even if Abbott wins, he loses: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-03/cassidy-same-sex-marriage-even-if-abbott-wins-he-loses/6591030

TalkTurkey

3/07/2015Greetings my dear Comrades of the Sword. I am so sorry I've lost my mojo lately. In face of such a legion of horrors as are being unleashed daily by this mob of criminals running the country now, I just explode with rage inwardly. It all seems so bloody hopeless at the moment* - writing and hoping to have some influence on the National Opinion, as we all used to feel. Right here on TPS, ever since I started writing here, we have had the sanest of dialogues to be found anywhere in this nation. Everybody respects this site for of that: the views expressed here have always shown maturity and insight, where the hostile Mass Media has employed every journalistic trick to confuse and dismay the public. For many,TPS and the other good sites represented confirmation of our own sanity and also of our relevance. Since Abborrrtt's election that is mostly ashes. All of those wonderful thoughtful contributions here and elsewhere, all the wisdom and goodwill, the humour and passion, all laid waste by this senseless posturing buffoon and his masters. Now he is posturing as Defender of National Security. "Defence" so called, what a farce. Against whom? The astronomical amounts of money spent on defence hardware absolutely dwarf every other infrastructure budget, yet we won't even have the first of the $35 billion's worth of "joint strike fighters" until some time in the 2020's ... and we are told that they are going to be flying lemons. Our fleet of Collins Class subs is I think almost unusable and the next lot are not even on the drawing board yet. That doesn't make me feel insecure from our enemies but it sure gives the lie to any claim of urgency. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czUx2gvjdJk *Note: I said At the moment. We must get all our mojos back before the Election, unite against The Enemy whatever our feelings towards a seeming somnambulistic Labor Party. WE MUST NOT LOSE! VENCEREMOS!

TalkTurkey

3/07/2015http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/central-coast/outspoken-church-leader-joins-protest-over-asylum-seeker-policy-job-cuts-during-pms-coast-visit/story-fngr8h0p-1227425566697?sv=2f15079ab16949c9b0901ae041289309#.VZTqDuOFD-M.twitter If you hate him and you know it turn your back If you hate him and you know it turn your back If you hate him and you know it Then you know the way to show it - If you hate him and you know it TURN YOUR BACK!

Ad Astra

3/07/2015TT You express the frustration that so many of us feel about this ragtag collection of mendacious incompetents that masquerade under the tag: 'Abbott government'. 'Abbott', yes, but 'government', no. Those antagonistic to the prospect of an Abbott government predicted disaster, but even they could not have anticipated the extent of its mendaciousness, the degree of incompetence that we have seen from these purportedly 'grown-up', 'adult' economic wizards. A novelist seeking to paint the most dire picture of what an Abbott government would be like, could not have envisaged such a deplorable outcome. But be of good cheer. Every day Abbott and Co. fuel the furnace of discontent in the electorate. Voting intention, which points to a comfortable Labor win, has not shifted for months, and Abbott's popularity remains in the doldrums, where it belongs. Pity it is that Shorten is making so little impact. Abbott is digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole from which he cannot escape. Every day he digs deeper. Now even the issue of same sex marriage is haunting him. We in the Fifth Estate need to keep plugging along. Every day Abbott gives us ammunition. VENCEREMOS. WE WILL NOT LOSE!

Ken

3/07/2015I was just listening to a 'terrorist expert' on the radio who made the same points as I do in my article: namely that the terrorist threat to Australia is not as great as is made out and that the fear created by politicians and the media is the same as a terrorist act. TT I hadn't heard much about Abbott's trip to the NSW Central Coast. As the article points out, he still makes such visits but now avoids meeting the people preferring to see only businessmen and Liberal party hacks - a sign he is running scared. The fact that the people were there demonstrating against him should support our hopes for the future even if Shorten likes to dampen them a bit. Although it does appear that Shorten and the ALP strategists have made a deliberate choice to avoid any comparisons with Abbott when he was in opposition: so they do not oppose everything the government puts up; they are not as strident in their opposition to what they do oppose. That may not only be a tactic to differentiate them from Abbott's style, and to present an image of a responsible party ready for government, but also a strategic ploy to make it more difficult for a future LNP opposition to again adopt Abbott's tactics. I think they may well be trying to convey to the public a different style of opposition which will then become the expectation when the LNP moves back into opposition next year.

Casablanca

3/07/20151. Calls for Liberal same-sex marriage supporters to resign 'not helpful', Christopher Pyne says Peta Donald. 3 July, 2015 Senior federal minister Christopher Pyne said it was "not helpful" for one of his colleagues to suggest Liberal frontbenchers who support same-sex marriage should resign as ministers. The divide: Where Coalition members stand on gay marriage http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-03/same-sex-marriage-comments-not-helpful-pyne/6592396 2. My fight for marriage equality is personal. I want to make my first boyfriend proud Kristina Keneally. 3 July 2015 Perhaps no other civil or human rights issue has progressed as fast as marriage equality. The change in community attitudes has come swift and sure, sometimes startlingly so, for legislators....A bill to amend the Marriage Act to allow for same–sex marriage will be introduced to the House of Representatives on 11 August. Co-sponsored by Liberal, Labor and independent MPs, this bill represents the best chance to date of securing passage by the federal parliament. The leader of the opposition, Bill Shorten, who sponsored similar legislation earlier this year, deserves credit for pushing the issue forward, and even greater credit for his graciousness in standing aside for the cross-party bill.... The weeks ahead in Australia will likely be fascinating, exciting, distressing, emotional, anticipatory, and, at times, challenging. I hope the debates in the days ahead are conducted with the best of ourselves seeking the best for all our citizens. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/03/my-fight-for-marriage-equality-is-personal-i-want-to-make-my-first-boyfriend-proud?CMP=ema_632 3. Tony Abbott digs in to frustrate any possibility of same-sex marriage vote Katharine Murphy. 2 July 2015 The Abbott government is playing out an identity game over hearts and minds, ideology and values. Is it liberal, is it conservative, is it both, is it neither?.. Internal tensions have been brewing on this issue for weeks, and they have now boiled over spectacularly. Regardless of the source, as J.K. Rowling might say, this was mischief managed. Same-sex marriage rocketed to number one in political discussion at a time when the government (that is, the prime minister) wanted national politics to be dominated by Bill Shorten’s (abundant) woes, stumbles and challenges. http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/jul/02/tony-abbott-digs-in-to-frustrate-any-posibillity-of-same-sex-marriage-vote 4. Same-sex marriage: even if Abbott wins, he loses Barrie Cassidy. 3 July, 2015 Tony Abbott must hate the same-sex marriage issue. A Government otherwise so adept at controlling the agenda is powerless to prevent the issue periodically flaring up. Conservatives in the Coalition see a procedural delay as the best short-term strategy to deal with the proposed private members' bill. But if the issue is killed off in that way, the issue could take the Abbott Government from already apparent internal divisions to something a whole lot worse. And even if the Prime Minister wins on the issue, he loses. http://www.abc.net.au/news/barrie-cassidy/167106 5. Abbott will look tricky if he tries to abort the same-sex marriage bill he encouraged Michelle Grattan, 3 July, 2015 The prime minister is suddenly looking like a throwback to Tony Abbott, health minister, when he was fighting trenchantly against losing ministerial power over the abortion drug RU486... Abbott appears to be digging in against giving parliament a chance to consider same-sex marriage....Worse, Abbott is trying to do this by trickiness, suggesting the cross-party bill to be brought forward by Liberal MP Warren Entsch is likely to die the natural death of most private members' bills. And that is despite giving the go-ahead to Entsch for negotiations on such a bill, and leaving the public impression that he would play fair on the issue. His critics are already seeing it as Abbott going back on his word. https://theconversation.com/grattan-on-friday-abbott-will-look-tricky-if-he-tries-to-abort-the-same-sex-marriage-bill-he-encouraged-44191

Ad astra

3/07/2015Casablanca Isn't it fascinating how quickly articles have appeared on the debate about marriage equality, about the divisions in the LNP, and on Abbott's latest bout of mendaciousness. The momentum has accelerated so sharply that Abbott will be hoping it will die down over the long winter recess so he can dog whistle national security and talk on the economy, about which he knows so little beyond pious platitudes about more jobs. I suspect it won't. When journalists like Michelle Grattan and Katharine Murphy get their teeth into the back story, when dissent in Liberal ranks and the ever present threat of another challenge to Abbott's leadership is in the air, like Pavlov's dogs, other journalists will salivate at the chance to get their teeth into it also. Tony will have no peace. Thank you again for giving us such a reading feast.

Ken

3/07/2015It's not just in Oz that marriage equality is causing problems among the conservatives. Even after the US Supreme Court decision, there are some who are still fighting it. This from "The Daily 202" an e-mail summary of US political news I currently get from the Washington Post. By James Hohmann THE BIG IDEA: The Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision cleaves conservatives, as forecasted in this space on June 22. After a New Hampshire town hall last night, Chris Christie broke with social conservatives over conscience exemptions to protect clerks from issuing gay marriage licenses. “While many conservatives have called for steps to protect government employees who have objections to Friday’s same-sex marriage ruling from the Supreme Court, the New Jersey governor said those who work for the government should abide by their oaths,” per Time Magazine’s Zeke J. Miller in Bristol. “I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” he told reporters, noting there are laws that he enforces as governor that he disagrees with. Bobby Jindal’s counsel issued a memo earlier this week saying Louisiana employees with objections should be protected from issuing licenses, similar to a position espoused by Mike Huckabee on Sunday. Jindal is itching for the brewing legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union, which will raise his profile and help with evangelicals in Iowa. George Will’s column in today‘s paper warns of a “perilous moment” for Republicans and slams Ted Cruz for reacting irresponsibly to the SCOTUS marriage ruling. He notes that Cruz endorsed judicial retention elections and calls it “especially disheartening” that the Texas senator, “who clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist and who is better equipped by education and experience to think clearly about courts, proposes curing what he considers this court’s political behavior by turning the court into a third political branch. Imagine campaigns conducted by justices. What would remain of the court’s prestige and hence its power to stand athwart rampant executives and overbearing congressional majorities? Sixteen months before the election, some candidates are becoming too unhinged to be plausible as conservative presidents.” Cruz defenders will seize on this disclosure at the end of George’s column: “This columnist’s wife, Mari Will, works for Scott Walker.” Walker, according to Will’s column, supports a “minimalist” amendment to the Constitution, “concerning process rather than policy,” which “would restore the traditional state control over marriage law.” For context, 98 percent of the U.S. population lives in counties where same-sex marriage licenses are currently available, according to an ongoing analysis from Ballotpedia. 2 percent live in counties where licenses are not being issued or being delayed. Alabama had the highest proportion of a state population without access to licenses. A county clerk in Texas who publicly said she would refuse to issue license walked it back last night in the face of likely legal challenges. She now says she won’t “personally” do it, but her office will. The Dallas Morning News has a good graphic showing which Texas counties are not issuing licenses and the explanations they’re offering.
What does two plus 1 equal?