Abbott continues to tell porkies


I was surprised during last December (and again in the past week after the unsuccessful spill motion) when Abbott and his ministers reverted to the line that the LNP government had inherited a huge budget deficit from Labor.

Early in December they were claiming that Labor had been deceitful by going into the 2013 election claiming that the deficit was only $18 billion whereas when the Liberals gained the treasury benches it was shown to be $46 billion (and I noticed in Abbott’s appearance at the National Press Club at the beginning of February that he had rounded this up to $50 billion). That attack, in itself, was part of Abbott’s resetting of the agenda after his ‘ragged week’ and was obviously intended to turn attention back on Labor and away from the problems his government was facing: there is no doubt that approach will continue.

The first lie is the $18 billion deficit. That was the figure in the last Wayne Swan budget in May 2013 but Swan also made an ‘Economic Statement’ in August (during the election period) as the terms of trade deteriorated and economic activity slowed, reducing government revenue. By the time of the PEFO (Pre-election Financial Outlook) the deficit was actually $30 billion, which had been revealed slightly earlier in Swan’s ‘Economic Statement’. The $12 billion increase came from slowing GDP growth, and the subsequent decrease in revenue, and only $373 million (about 3% of the increase) arose from policy decisions by Labor. So Abbott’s claim that there was a $28 billion increase in the deficit is a fiction created by adopting a set of figures that had already been superseded before he was elected (although semantically it was the figure ‘going into the election’ — so perhaps Abbott is just playing with words again).

Abbott’s claim, however, was also dealt with at the time and found to be false. In June last year, Chris Bowen said that Joe Hockey had doubled the deficit by changes to government spending and changes to government economic assumptions and parameters: the ABC’s Fact Check found that Bowen’s statement — ‘checks out’. Other economic commentators also pointed to the spending and revenue decisions made by the Abbott government as making a major contribution to the increased budget deficit.

Although it has been done before, I will go through the details of the government’s finances. Please bear with me, as I will have to provide quite a few figures in explaining the situation, using the 2013-14 PEFO and MYEFO (Mid-year Economic and Financial Outlook), with some minor reference to the last two budgets. And it should be noted that the PEFO is the only financial document that is put out by Treasury and the Department of Finance. MYEFO and the budget are products of the government of the day after, of course, taking advice from the financial departments, but the final shape of those documents is always a result of government decisions. PEFO simply sets out the current situation based on the ruling assumptions and existing policies.

Firstly, we do need to understand that treasury forecasts are simply that — they are ‘estimates’ and ‘projections’. As such, they are subject to many qualifications and assumptions. Treasury itself states that:

The forward estimates of revenue and expenses … incorporate assumptions and judgments based on the best available information at the time of publication together with a range of economic assumptions and other forecasts and projections.

Major taxes such as company and individuals’ income taxes fluctuate significantly with economic activity. Capital gains tax is particularly volatile and is affected by both the level of gains in asset markets and the timing of when those gains are realised.

In addition revenue forecasting relies heavily on the observed historical relationships between the economy, tax bases and tax revenues. Such relationships may shift over time as the economy changes, presenting a further risk to the estimates.

(In relation to that last statement, the economy is currently undergoing changes as the mining boom ends and, therefore, there is an increased risk to the surety of the estimates.)

The MYEFO gives examples of the potential impact of certain hypothetical changes. If commodity prices fall, impacting the terms of trade and causing GDP to fall by one per cent, then government revenue could be reduced by $5.5 billion. On the other hand, if there is a 0.5 per cent improvement in both labour productivity and workforce participation, government receipts could increase by $3.7 billion.

Those examples are important because Treasury also explains the ‘confidence levels’ of the economic and fiscal forecasts. For example, although MYEFO forecast GDP growth of 2.5%, the 70% confidence level places growth anywhere between 1.75% and 3.25%, and the 90% confidence level between 1.5% and 3.5%, which means the preceding hypothetical examples actually fall within the range of possible forecasts.

With those provisos in mind, we can consider the actual figures and what went into increasing the budget deficit. If we believe Abbott the increase was $28 billion but only $16 billion if we believe PEFO. Or we can also look at the accumulated deficit over the forward estimates (to 2016-17) which increased from $54.6 billion to $122.7 billion, a difference of $68 billion. I will work on the last figure because that provides the full impact of Abbott government decisions.

Firstly, you will probably recall Hockey’s payment of $8.8 billion to the Reserve Bank, something the economic commentators said was not sought by the bank and was unnecessary. That leaves $59.2 billion to account for.

Abbott’s big ‘policy’ of repealing the carbon ‘tax’ was a major contributor to the loss in government revenue, to the tune of $13.7 billion over the forward estimates. That leaves $45.5 billion.

Repeal of the mining tax saw the loss of another $3.3 billion. That leaves $42.2 billion. (Those three big ‘decisions’ by the Abbott government cost the budgets over the forward estimates a total of $25.8 billion.)

There was another set of significant losses to revenue that many of us would not have heard about. Apparently there were 92 taxation and superannuation changes that had been announced by previous governments but not yet implemented. Abbott and Hockey decided to proceed with only 34 of those changes, foregoing another $3.1 billion in revenue. That leaves $39.1 billion.

The ABC Fact Check explains changes to a couple of the assumptions and parameters better than I can:

  • a change to the terms of trade methodology, reducing the economic growth forecasts, causing a $2 billion hit to the bottom line over the forward estimates
  • a change in the projected unemployment rate, leading to higher benefits payments totalling $3.7 billion extra
That leaves $33.4 billion.

But there was also a projected slowing of the economy: GDP growth figures were lowered. While this is something over which neither the Labor nor Abbott governments have much control, the Treasurer does have a say in selecting which figure to use for the forecasts (see the earlier paragraph on confidence levels). In MYEFO, the slowing economy was projected to reduce taxation receipts by $37 billion over the forward estimates.

So Abbott government decisions had actually increased the potential deficit by $71.6 billion over the forward estimates and it had to juggle the figures even to keep the increase to $68 billion. Even allowing that some of the worsening of the deficit would have happened no matter who was in government, Abbott government decisions directly added about $29 billion to the deficit (and up to $34.6 billion if we add the government influence in changing parameters).

Offsetting those losses, Abbott and Hockey had proposed abolishing the benefits introduced by Julia Gillard that were to be funded from the carbon and mining taxes. That would have decreased spending by $9.5 billion or reduced the deficit by that amount: but, of course, he has not been able to abolish all of those measures, so the deficit remains higher. Even if they had passed the parliament, the deficit would still have increased by $62.1 billion of which at least $20 billion would have arisen from decisions by the current government.

Estimates of government revenue for 2013‒14 were continually revised downward from the 2013‒14 budget through to the 2014‒15 budget:

  • $376 billion in the 2013‒14 budget
  • $369.5 billion in the PEFO
  • $364.9 billion in the MYEFO
  • $363.5 billion in the 2014‒15 budget
Despite that continual revision, the actual figure for the 2013‒14 financial year was lower still at $360.3 billion, $15.7 billion below the original budget estimate in May 2013 and even $3.2 billion below Hockey’s budget estimate in May 2014. So there are clear revenue problems for the government that have nothing to do with decisions by the former Labor government.

(As a postscript, Hockey’s more recent MYEFO in December 2014 also showed that revenue was continuing to decline in 2014-15; down $6.3 billion since his own budget estimate and down almost $21 billion on the forecast in Swan’s last budget.)

You would think that if a government takes decisions that decrease revenue it would also take other measures to increase revenue (not focus solely on cutting costs) but Abbott’s government has locked itself into the neo-liberal position of reducing taxes and so has very little room for manoeuvre. During the election campaign, it could be argued that Abbott lied by omission by not detailing how he would make up the foregone revenue ($17 billion) of his promises to abolish the carbon and mining ‘taxes’. People were left to believe that the ‘taxes’ could be abolished and nothing more need be done. I would suggest that Abbott knew that at the time and, given his promise not to raise taxes, already knew that he would undertake significant spending cuts to make up the shortfall — but of course he wouldn’t discuss that in any detail. And then, to justify the cuts, his government artificially increased the deficit and blamed it on Labor.

If Abbott and Hockey had really wanted to increase revenue to improve the budget position they would have kept Labor’s tax on annual superannuation earnings above $100,000 and the reduction in the fringe benefits tax concession on novated car leases: or have considered similar measures on other ‘tax expenditures’. Tax expenditures are foregone taxes when government provides certain benefits without taxing them or allows concessional tax rates: for example, military personnel receive a number of allowances and benefits that aren’t taxable although legally they are ‘income’. (It is only the tax foregone, not the full cost of the benefit that is counted.) Changing tax expenditures allows governments to increase revenue without increasing income tax, although there would obviously be vested interests who would ‘lose’ from such changes — such as the outcry from vehicle retailers and manufacturers when the change to the taxation of novated car leases was first announced.

In the 2013-14 budget the cost (foregone revenue) to government of tax expenditures was about $120 billion and was projected to rise to $146 billion in 2016-17 (which is the equivalent of 8% of GDP or about a third of projected government revenue in 2016-17).

While many concessions would be considered socially beneficial, there are others that appear to be of most benefit to those on higher incomes — superannuation is the one most commented on in that regard. In 2013-14 it was estimated that the concessional tax applying to superannuation cost the government $35 billion in revenue and that was projected to rise to $51 billion in 2016-17, or a total of $170 billion over the forward estimates. Eliminating the concessional tax rate for the earnings of superannuation funds would raise $65 billion over the forward estimates, and eliminating the concession for employer contributions would raise $62 billion, a total of $127 billion. While it would somewhat defeat the purpose of compulsory superannuation (to reduce old age pension payments) to entirely eliminate concessions, there is certainly scope for changes that could easily raise a few billion dollars: for example, even to raise the concessional tax rate from 15% to 17.5% could potentially raise $4.25 billion over the forward estimates: or $8.5 billion if raised to 20% — that is still a ‘concessional’ rate of tax but just not as generous.

Why isn’t Abbott considering such measures? Instead, he is even scrapping the changes that Labor made that would have helped revenue.

He is blaming the deficit on Labor when it is clear that about half of the increase in the deficit comes from a ‘natural’ fall in taxation receipts as the economy slows and transitions away from the mining boom, and the rest from decisions by Abbott and his government after it came to power. Other commentators, more expert than I, have already shown his claim is false and yet he returned to it in December, and again in the past week, obviously taking the view that because it was disproved six to eight months earlier most voters would not remember. That is probably partly true but it is also pure propaganda, no longer just ‘spin’: ‘spin’ is about putting the best possible light on a bad situation, not about blatant lies. Abbott, as he did in opposition, appears to be operating on the principle that if he tells the same lie often enough, people will believe it.

What do you think?

About Ken Wolff

Ken says that although this is old news he will have to keep returning to it because that is what Abbott and Hockey keep doing.

Next week we will continue the financial theme and how to raise revenue with 2353’s discussion of ‘Tax reform’.



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Ad astra

15/02/2015Ken What an important and well-documented piece you have written. You, along with other commentators and economists, are saying the same thing: the government is mendacious when it repeatedly recites its mantra about the ‘debt and deficit disaster’ Labor allegedly left it. You have exposed with facts and figures how wrong this vicious accusation is. The word ‘porkies’ is a gentle description of what is downright and deliberate lying with the intent to deceive the public about the state of the nation’s finances now and over the forward estimates, and beyond to the next generation. Goebbels is the acknowledged master of the lie. It was he who said: [i]“If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”[/i] and [i]“The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed”.[/i] He also said: [i]“That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result. It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.”[/i] and [i]“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”[/i] Don’t these sayings strike a resonant note with us all! Whether it knows it or not, the Abbott government is using the Goebbels technique to the letter, and more and more of the public now realize this. The government’s porkies know no limit. Even in the heat of the leadership spill, when deception would almost certainly be exposed, Abbott still gave his SA Senator false reassurances about submarine tendering. As habitual liars extend their habit, they find it increasingly difficult to distinguish lies from the truth. Abbott, Hockey, Cormann and several ministers are well down the path of untruthfulness, from which there is no return.

Wun Farlung

15/02/2015Ken As astra commented well written and easy to understand piece of Journalism. Sadly most who call themselves journalists wouldn't dare to publish similar if they want to put food on their tables and a roof overhead such is the reach of Murdoch's Newscrap. Just one issue I would like to point out. The mining boom has not ended, sure the commodity price has dropped but the outputs are hitting all time highs. A common misunderstanding is the difference between mining construction,which is slowing predictably and the business of digging and shipping. During the past decade I have been working on the construction of some off the largest capital investments in mining, oil&gas that have ever been made. These investments are beginning to pay dividends. There is an urban myth aided by mining industry propaganda and the MSM that leads people to think that there are millions of people employed actually digging and it is just not true. It surprises people when I tell them how few people are actually needed to operate a mine. Most of the people involved (including myself) 'mining'in the past decade are actually construction workers making good wages (due to the bidding war between the construction companies) on jobs that have no security, may last 2 years if that and then we have to move on to the next one as we say in the construction industry. This was something the previous ALP government was aware of and in the end was scrapped by the current mob of corporate lickspittles

Ken

15/02/2015Wun Farlung Welcome, or welcome back to TPS. Glad that you found it easy to understand - not always easy to write when dealing with so many figures. I accept that the mining boom isn't really finished but the drop in prices affects our terms of trade (and hence GDP and government revenue) and, as you say, the completion of major construction projects also lessens GDP unless there are other projects to go to. (And the only major projects Abbott seems to be interested in, is building roads.) I know about the mining industry using few workers. I kept pointing that out years ago in Aboriginal affairs where some people (including politicians) seemed to think that the "mining boom" was the answer to Aboriginal employment in remote areas. I produced the figures then to show that even if every job in the mining industry in the NT, WA, QLD and SA was "aboriginalised" there would still be a few thousand Aboriginals unemployed. Mining ranks high on the list when it comes to earning income for the country but low on the list of industries that provide employment.

Casablanca

16/02/2015[b]The Lies Heard Round the World[/b] Bill Adair and Maxime Fischer-Zernin. Feb. 14, 2015 LYING may be an age-old part of politics, but it’s becoming easier to spot the fibs, fictions and falsehoods. A growing army of fact-checkers around the world is busy debunking falsehoods from presidents, prime ministers and pundits — and if their results are indicative, 2014 was a banner year. Some of the claims were so absurd that fact-checking groups honored them with awards, like [i]Australia’s Golden Zombie[/i] and Italy’s Insane Whopper of the Year. Such lies are fun to read, but identifying them is serious business: Misinformation, unchecked, can turn elections, undermine public health efforts and even lead countries into war. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/opinion/sunday/the-lies-heard-round-the-world.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region&_r=0

Libbyx33

16/02/2015Thank you Ken for an easy-to-read & comprehend piece. And then there's all this throwing around of our money, as documented by IA. It's a must-read, and it's just gob-smacking! Here is a wasteful spending Top 40. It is not exhaustive: 9. Marble for Canberra buildings Defence is spending more than $500,000 on marble panelling. Carrara marble, from Italy. 10. Other bizarre defence outlays These include celebrity speakers and a full tendering process to acquire a multipurpose knife for camping out. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/waste-of-space-joe-hockeys-budget-fail-all-abbotts-fault,7377 Such stupid waste!

Libbyx33

16/02/2015The air smells cleaner now that the moron Newman was flogged up here in Qld. Not one person I've ever spoken to has had a good word to say about him for months & months. And government advertising was over the top even beofre the election ads started. See here: [quote]The Campbell Newman LNP Government’s own figures and statements show it is set to spend nearly $20 million of Queensland taxpayers' money on advertising between November this year and the election.[/quote] https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/here-we-joh-again-newman-to-spend-20m-in-pre-election-ad-blitz,7208 One opinion piece by a columnist in Murdoch's rag said we QLD'ers turned up with uzi's. Haha! And the more The Courier Mail supported Newman & the disastrous LNP the angrier people got. First Victoria, then QLD, maybe a rout coming in NSW, then we'll fet the hapless Feds too! Amen!

Casablanca

17/02/2015[b]LIBERAL LEADERSHIP[/b] 1. This is the end, my friends Nicholas Stuart. February 16, 2015 - 8:34PM If you're just normally interested in politics, Tony Abbott's decision to sack of Liberal Party whip Phillip Ruddock, 71, probably doesn't seem like a big thing.... The point is, though, if Abbott can't work with him he's lost the conservative core of the party. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/this-is-the-end-my-friends-20150216-13g182.html 2. Turnbull: too left to be right for the Liberals? Paula Matthewson. 16 Feb 2015, 8:54am There's more than just Tony Abbott standing between Malcolm Turnbull and the PM title. If he wants the top job he'll need to contend with the Liberals' hard-right faction - and time is running out. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-16/matthewson-turnbull-too-left-to-be-right-for-the-liberals/6114396 [b]CLIMATE CHANGE[/b] 3. Jury in on climate change, so stop using arguments of convenience and listen to experts Brian Schmidt. February 16, 2015 - 8:23AM As a Nobel Prize winner, I travel the world meeting all kinds of people. Most of the policy, business and political leaders I meet immediately apologise for their lack of knowledge of science. Except when it comes to climate science. Whenever this subject comes up, it never ceases to amaze me how each person I meet suddenly becomes an expert. Facts are then bandied to fit an argument for or against climate change, and on all sides, misconceptions abound. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/jury-in-on-climate-change-so-stop-using-arguments-of-convenience-and-listen-to-experts-20150215-13et0j.html 4. The science of climate change Australian Academy of Science. February, 2015. This publication from the Australian Academy of Science aims to address confusion created by contradictory information in the public domain. It sets out to explain the current situation in climate science, including where there is consensus in the scientific community and where uncertainties exist. The document is structured around nine questions: https://www.science.org.au/climatechange Sadly, Professor Mike Raupach FAA FTSE, one of the Co-Chairs who wrote this publication of the Australian Academy of Sciences, died last week. The Conversation published the following tribute. 5. Mike Raupach: the scientist who tallied the world’s carbon budget Helen Cleugh, John Finnigan and Pep Canadell. 13 February 2015, 3.54pm AEDT Mike was a brilliant and outstanding scientist. He was one of the nation’s foremost climate researchers, focusing on interactions between the climate, the carbon cycle and humans. Crucially, he excelled in communicating with the broader Australian and international community. His legacy lives on through the Global Carbon Project https://theconversation.com/mike-raupach-the-scientist-who-tallied-the-worlds-carbon-budget-37575 [b] FORGOTTEN CHILDREN[/b] 6. Forgotten children: I was shocked by what I saw Elizabeth Elliott . 13 Feb 2015, 5:02pm Imprinted on my mind is the vision of a 12-year old girl on Christmas Island who rationalised that one way to escape detention was to starve herself to death http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-13/elliott-forgotten-children-i-was-shocked-by-what-i-saw/6092912 7. The Forgotten Children in Detention Rev Dr Peter Catt and Sr Brigid Arthur. 15th February, 2015 It is the simplest of instructions to followers of Christ: “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). It speaks to our moral obligation to the most vulnerable in our society; an obligation that is central to our beliefs and one that should inform our actions. How devastating then to read of the horrors that child asylum seekers have experienced in Australian detention centres in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report, The Forgotten Children. http://www.sightmagazine.com.au/stories/essay/children14.2.14.php [may need to scroll down] 8. Kids In Detention: A Choice No Parent Should Have To Make Katie Robertson. 15 Feb 2015 Celebrate your baby's first birthday behind the wire, or take the deal and leave her father - your husband - behind. What would you choose? https://newmatilda.com/2015/02/15/kids-detention-choice-no-parent-should-have-make [b]THE DEATH PENALTY[/b] 9. Indonesia’s stance on the death penalty has become incoherent Tim Lindsey. 16 February 2015, 12.07pm AEDT Dr Lindsey is Malcolm Smith Professor of Asian Law and Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at University of Melbourne https://theconversation.com/indonesias-stance-on-the-death-penalty-has-become-incoherent-37619 10. Jokowi should halt executions under Indonesia’s corrupt judicial system Asmin Fransiska. 16 February 2015, 6.34am AEDT Lecturer in Human Rights at Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia https://theconversation.com/jokowi-should-halt-executions-under-indonesias-corrupt-judicial-system-37463 [b]NATIONAL SECURITY[/b] 11. Tony Abbott overplays the national security card Michael Gordon. February 16, 2015 - 8:37PM When Tony Abbott rises in Parliament to make his statement on national security next Monday, he should begin by answering the grave questions raised in his provocative weekend video. A starting point would be to justify the claim that, "all too often", we have been "played for mugs" by bad people who wish us harm. What is the evidence? http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/tony-abbott-overplays-the-national-security-card-20150216-13g89i.html 12. The real threat of terrorism to Australians, by the numbers Bernard Keane Sep 04, 2014 1:00PM Terrorism kills fewer Australians than even the most exotic causes of death, yet we’re obsessed with it. The numbers show why we’d be better off focusing on less glamorous subjects. Since the 1978 Hilton Hotel bombing in Sydney, there have been 113 Australian victims of terrorism. That includes Australians killed overseas in terrorist attacks as well as non-Australians killed here, such as the Turkish consul-general murdered in Sydney in 1980. For the purposes of comparison, 230 people died falling off ladders from 2003-12; 190 Australians died from accidental gun discharges; 137 rural workers and farmers died falling off or rolling in tractors; 206 died from electrocution, which like tractor accidents is a tragically all-too-common form of workplace fatality. That’s starting to get close to terrorism, but you have to get very specific to find a cause of death that has claimed fewer lives than terrorism. Lightning, for instance, has killed 10 Australians in the period 2003-12. http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/09/04/the-real-threat-of-terrorism-to-australians-by-the-numbers/

Ad astra

17/02/2015Folks I have just now posted [i]Angry Abbott[/i]: http://www.tpsextra.com.au/post/angry-abbott

Ad astra

17/02/2015Folks Today’s [i]Essential Report[/i] makes interesting reading. The 54/46 TPP in Labor’s favour has not shifted during February. [i]Spill motion:[/i] 40% approve of the Liberal Party’s rejection of motion to spill the leadership positions and 40% disapprove. 71% of Liberal/National voters approve. [i]Tony Abbott as LNP leader[/i] 39% think that Tony Abbott should be replaced as leader of the Liberal Party as soon as possible and 22% think he should be given six months to improve his performance. 28% think he should remain leader until the next election. 48% of Liberal/National voters think he should remain leader until the next election and 34% think he should be given six months to improve his performance [i]Who will win next election?[/i] 49% think the Labor Party is most likely to win the next election and 23% think the Liberal/National Party is most likely to win. 28% could not give an opinion. This represents a shift toward the Labor Party since this question was asked in December. 87% (up 3%) of Labor voters think the Labor Party is most likely to win and 57% (down 7%) of Liberal/National voters think the Liberal/National Party will win. [i]Tony Abbott as LNP leader at next election?[/i] 61% (up 10% since December) think that Tony Abbott is unlikely to still be leader of the Liberal Party at the next election and 20% (down 9%) think it is likely. 79% (up 7%) of Labor voters and 70% (up 2%) of Greens voters think it is unlikely and 36% (down 14%) of Liberal/National voters think it is likely he will still be leader. [i]Which Party to Trust?[/i] The Liberal Party is trusted more to handle security and the war on terrorism (+19), management of the economy (+17), controlling interest rates (+13) and treatment of asylum seekers (+13). The Labor Party is trusted more to handle a quality education for all children (-10), ensuring the quality of Australia’s health system (-10), a fair industrial relations system (-10) and Australian jobs and protection of local industries (-9). There have been no substantial movements since this question was asked in June. Main changes have been an improvement for the Liberal Party on education (up net 5 points), the economy (up 4) and treatment of asylum seekers (down 4). [i]Retaining phone and Internet records[/i] 40% (up 1% since August) approve of the government proposal to require telecommunications companies and internet service providers to retain records of your telephone and internet activity for intelligence and criminal investigation purposes and 44% (down 7%) disapprove. 62% of Greens voters and 54% of Labor voters disapprove while 60% of Liberal/National voters approve. 52% of respondents aged 18-24 disapprove while 50% of those aged 55+ approve. [i]Building submarines in Australia[/i] 37% think that Australia’s replacement submarines should be built in Australia even if it costs more than having them made overseas. 34% think they should be built in Australia if the cost is similar or less and only 12% think they should only be built in Australia if the cost is less. Those most likely to think they should be built in Australia even if they cost more were aged 55+ (48%) and living in South Australia (60%). http://essentialvision.com.au/category/essentialreport Much of the above was fairly predictable, except that despite the budget shambles we have seen now for almost a year, those polled still rate the LNP well above Labor in management of the economy, and despite interest rates being lower under Labor, those polled still rate the LNP better at keeping interest rates down! It seems as if those beliefs are entrenched and very difficult to change.

Ad astra

17/02/2015Libbyx33 How good to see you again on [i]TPS[/i]! Thank you for your comments. I see you are one of the many happy to see the end of Newman and his government.

Ad astra

17/02/2015Casablanca I'm looking forward to trawling through your very exciting set of links.

Casablanca

17/02/2015[b]Is Malcolm Turnbull's appearance on Q&A an early sign of impatience?[/b] Mark Kenny.February 17, 2015 - 2:06PM As Monday night's Q&A so graphically demonstrated, interest in federal politics has shifted from the grimly predictable Coalition/Labor argument to the more colourful contest between Tony Abbott the actual Prime Minister, and Malcolm Turnbull, the widely agreed Prime Alternative. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/is-malcolm-turnbulls-appearance-on-qa-an-early-sign-of-impatience-20150217-13gzb6.html

2353

17/02/2015Casablamca - the change of focus to internal leadership rumblings certainly won't be helping the LNP become a 'good government'.

Ken

17/02/2015Libbyx33 Like Ad, I welcome you back and thank you for your kind words. I originally intended to repond to you last night but was having computer problems. While I could open websites, I then couldn't take any actions or use links. Because I was out for much of today, I have only sorted the problem in the past couple of hours. Government waste is interesting and some of it (I emphasise 'some') is a result of the way the system works. When I first joined the public service, it was common for some very strange projects to be funded or items purchased in the last six or so weeks of each financial year. That was because any money a department had left at the 30th June went back to consolidated revenue. And Treasury would also argue that if a department could not spend all of its budget then it obviously didn't need as much money the next year. That led to frantic efforts to spend money at the end of each year. That has changed slightly and departments can now roll over some money but it is limited, so there can still be a panic at the end of each financial year to get rid of any unspent money. Unless that system changes there will continue to be additional wasteful spending at the end of each financial year.

Casablanca

17/02/2015Antony Green ‏@AntonyGreenABC 4h4 hours ago Remarkably Labor's 2PP votes in 2015 is higher than when Anna Bligh was re-elected in 2009 #qldvotes http://ab.co/1vB0n1G #qldpol

Casablanca

18/02/20151. Abbott’s stoking of terrorist fears may be a political sideshow Matt McDonald and Suzanna Fay-Ramirez. 17 February 2015, 6.35am AEDT Prime Minister Tony Abbott looks set to make a case for further sweeping national security changes in the wake of recent terrorist attacks and arrests. Speaking in advance of a statement to parliament…While a way of refocusing domestic attention, there is also a basis for suggesting that emphasising national security threats and responses serves the government’s political agenda more directly.... The logic usually goes something like: “the world is dangerous”, “we need to be vigilant”, “only this government can be trusted to make the difficult decisions necessary to protect you and your loved ones”. This is a trope particularly favoured by conservative political leaders. https://theconversation.com/abbotts-stoking-of-terrorist-fears-may-be-a-political-sideshow-37641 2. Abbott Determined To Get On With Serious Business Of Saying ‘Death Cult’ The Shovel. February 17, 2015 Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he will not be distracted by leadership speculation or policy development and is firmly focused on the day-to-day task of saying ‘Death Cult’. “If the media and others want to get caught up in the side show of leadership talk and health care policy, that’s their prerogative. But I’ll be here, day in day out, putting the phrase ‘Death Cult’ into as many sentences as humanly possible,” Mr Abbott said. http://www.theshovel.com.au/2015/02/17/abbott-determined-to-get-on-with-serious-business-of-saying-death-cult/ 3. Tony Abbott’s national security rhetoric is cynical dog whistling and all about his unpopularity Paul Syvret. February 17, 2015 Now Tony is declaring a war on people of dubious ’Strayan-ness who may or may not be bludging off benefits and for whom normal legal niceties such as (the suspiciously foreign sounding) onus probandi need not necessarily apply. http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/tony-abbotts-national-security-rhetoric-is-cynical-dog-whistling-and-all-about-his-unpopularity/story-fnihsr9v-1227221694565?sv=b76c7b737aa4d915f30c76f12fdc8b56 4. We can't afford to further politicise national security Tim Mayfield 16 Feb 2015, 2:40pm The Prime Minister must carefully and methodically make the case that the tragedy of the Sydney siege justifies further legislation, because matters of life and liberty are at stake http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-16/mayfield-we-cant-afford-to-further-politicise-national-security/6118002 5. Deconstructing a dog whistle ozfenric. February 16, 2015 Or you could go for the approach of sowing distrust and disunity, painting an amorphous group as the “Other” in order to convince Australians that you are “One of them” and being strong to protect them from the forces of darkness. This is a skill-set and a rulebook Tony Abbott inherited from his great hero John Howard and this weekend’s video message shows that he has enthusiastically embraced it. http://theaimn.com/deconstructing-dog-whistle/ 6. Tony Abbott's dual citizenship: Stop asking questions — he's the PM! Ross Jones February 2015, 1:30pm When Tony Magrathea called the office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet last week to ask why he had received no reply to his correspondence regarding the PM's potential dual citizenship, the response was quite extraordinary..... "Because the prime minister is the prime minister and he is an Australian citizen and that is a far as the conversation is going!" Doth the lady protest too much? https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/tony-abbotts-dual-citizenship-stop-asking-questions--hes-the-pm,7382 7. “We’re facing a vicious cycle”: Robert Reich unloads on inequality, TPP & the real economic story Elias Isquith 17 February 2015 Former labor secretary tells Salon why new free-trade behemoth shanks workers -- and helps big corporations... The market for clearly, cogently and concisely explaining why American society is so riven with economic inequality — and why it’ll be so hard to reverse — is, unfortunately, booming. http://www.salon.com/2015/02/17/were_facing_a_vicious_cycle_robert_reich_unloads_on_inequality_tpp_the_real_economic_story/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow 8. Malcolm Turnbull plays convincing role as the man who is not Tony Abbott Gabrielle Chan. 17 February 2015 On Q&A the potential challenger for the Liberal leadership pointedly distanced himself from Abbott, without directly criticising http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/feb/17/malcolm-turnbull-plays-convincing-role-as-the-man-who-is-not-tony-abbott?CMP=share_btn_tw 9. Attacks on Commission unbefitting our government Ben Saul 16 Feb 2015, 1:24pm The Federal Government should have owned up to the damage being wrought on innocent children in detention. Instead, it launched an extraordinary and grossly inappropriate attack on the messenger http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-16/saul-attacks-on-commission-unbefitting-our-government/6115078 10. In defence of Sarah Ferguson and open scrutiny Alan Sunderland 17 Feb 2015, 5:23pm ABC News doesn't believe Sarah Ferguson's budget interview with Joe Hockey breached any editorial guidelines. So how did that become the headline? http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-17/sunderland-in-defence-of-sarah-ferguson-and-open-scrutiny/6130606 11. We're Calling It: Professor Gillian Triggs Is A C-Word Mathew Kenneally Gillian Triggs has done it again. Her report, The Forgotten Children, detailing the psychological damage caused to children in detention, has unleashed yet another wave of hurt among Federal Coalition MPs. I for one think its time something is done to stop this woman from menacing these clearly vulnerable men. https://newmatilda.com/2015/02/17/were-calling-it-professor-gillian-triggs-c-word 12. As The Coalition Tried To Distract From Children In Detention Report, It Was Moving Kids Back To Nauru Max Chalmers Advocates against the mandatory detention of children asylum seekers are furious at the latest outrage from the Abbott Government, implemented with the backing of Labor... The removal took place less than a day after the release of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Forgotten Children report. https://newmatilda.com/2015/02/17/coalition-tried-distract-children-detention-report-it-was-moving-kids-back-nauru

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18/02/2015Correct me if I'm wrong - but didn't Abbott promise a week or two ago that good government started at that point? So whats with the statement today saying that the two Australians on death row in Bali should be free because Australia gave considerable aid some years ago during a natural disaster in Indonesia? Without going into the morals and ethics of the death penalty from an Australian viewpoint - the two matters are not related. Australia 'helped a mate' during the Tsunami that Abbott refers to which is something that people should do without question when help is needed. It has always been my belief that you 'help a mate' when they need it and the gesture is done altruistically, not looking for a 'return favour' at some point in the future. I have a great deal of sympathy for the families of the two men involved and hope they can find some peace - Abbott's 'diplomacy' certainly won't help their case.

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18/02/2015Casablanca I have enjoyed today's and yesterday's links very much. They have given me the impetus to write the next piece. Thank you.

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18/02/20152353 Is this another of Abbott's ill-advised 'captain's calls'. Judging from reactions from Indonesia, it looks like it. From where does this man get his advice? Does he ask anyone? Does he listen to anyone? Does he seek advice only from those who will say what he wants to hear? Whatever he does, he seems to mess up with monotonous regularity. Does Peta try to stop him making silly mistakes, or does she propel him towards them? Is she perhaps less powerful than we've been led to believe, and is unable to save Abbott from himself? Does anyone all know?

Casablanca

19/02/20151. Freedom Riders Ann Curthoys and Brian Aarons reflect on NSW Ride 50 years on Ann Curthoys and Brian Aarons. 18 February, 2015 Fifty years ago, from February 12 to 26, 1965, Charles Perkins led a group of students, including us, from the University of Sydney on a freedom ride. Although we had done our best to prepare, the non-Aboriginal students were shocked by what we found: desperately poor living conditions on fringe settlements, missions on which white managers controlled every aspect of Aboriginal people's lives, white people convinced of their racial superiority, and exclusion of Aboriginal people from the basic amenities of a country town. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-18/freedom-rides-remembered/6130544 2. Have we forgotten what Turnbull was like as leader? Peter Lewis and Jackie Woods Malcolm Turnbull may be favoured to replace Tony Abbott as Liberal leader, but a look at polling history reminds us how badly the Turnbull leadership experiment ended the first time.... Viewers of this week's Q&A would have been reminded about the best and worst of our potential next leader. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-18/lewis-woods-have-we-forgotten-what-turnbull-was-like/6137198 3. What do you do when monetary policy falls flat? Greg Jericho Looking at the ability to provide stimulus in the economy requires both monetary and fiscal action, but our changing economy means these aren't the powerful tools they once were http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-18/jericho-what-do-you-do-when-monetary-policy-falls-flat/6137930 4. Sarah Ferguson had no choice but to push the envelope when interviewing Joe Hockey Quentin Dempster. February 17, 2015 - 10:26PM The adversarial TV and radio political interview has been contentious in Australia from the start. The audience phone-ins that follow scream bias and rudeness. Or, in some cases, condemn the interviewer for being too soft. Why is it adversarial? http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/sarah-ferguson-had-no-choice-but-to-push-the-envelope-when-interviewing-joe-hockey-20150217-13h08e.html 5. Crying Bias A Tired ‘Old Media’ Story Tracey Spicer February 18, 2015 Bias is in the eye of the beholder. Journalists are accustomed to being called both a “mad lefty” AND “right wing apologist”, all within 24 hours. This is why regulation is required, to maintain appropriate objectivity. However, when this restricts an interviewer from extracting an answer, it’s nothing less than an attack on democracy. This is what happened in the review of Sarah Ferguson’s interview with Treasurer Joe Hockey on ABC TV’s 7.30, upon the release of last year’s budget.... Ms Ferguson used a common technique: asking the toughest question first. The aim is to knock the interviewee off balance, eliciting an honest response. http://thehoopla.com.au/crying-bias-tired-old-media-story/ 6. Defending Gillian Triggs Binoy Kampmark February 17, 2015 A group of 50 academics has pointed out that 'Independent public office holders are an important part of modern democratic societies.' The Australian Bar Association and the Law Council of Australia have similarly argued that the personal attacks on Triggs amounted to an undermining of justice and the protection of human rights. It is a point the Abbott Government neglects to its peril. http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=42602#.VOPjji74hM4 7. Before you call for penalty rates to be cut, try working a few Sundays Dan Woodman. 19 August 2014, 10.01am AEST Not for the first time this year, Workplace Minister Eric Abetz has been forced to calm the rumblings after another government minister weighed in on penalty rates, and why they should be cut. https://theconversation.com/before-you-call-for-penalty-rates-to-be-cut-try-working-a-few-sundays-30594 8. When talking about terrorism, let’s not forget the other kind Igor Primoratz. 18 February 2015, 6.05am AEDT To overcome the kind of relativism captured by the cliché “one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter”, we need to define terrorism independently of who is employing it. Here is the definition that does the job. Terrorism is violence against some innocent people aiming at intimidation and coercion of some other people.This definition says nothing about the identity of terrorists. They can be insurgents or criminals. But they can also be members of the military or of some state security agency. https://theconversation.com/when-talking-about-terrorism-lets-not-forget-the-other-kind-36360?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+18+February+2015+-+2453&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+18+February+2015+-+2453+CID_347da49b01e972828a2f78fda5c9be52&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=When%20talking%20about%20terrorism%20lets%20not%20forget%20the%20other%20kind 9. Bulk billing: Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley won't guarantee savings will go into medical research fund Eliza Borrello, 18 Feb 2015, 12:18pm Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says she will not guarantee savings from the Government's new bulk billing plan will go towards the Medical Research Future Fund. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-18/federal-health-minister-refuses-guarantee-bulk-billing-savings/6135062 10. A remarkable change of political fortunes John Warhurst. February 18, 2015 - 6:13PM Palaszczuk, born in 1969, entered Parliament in 2006, following her father, Henry Palaszczuk, into the safest Labor seat in the state, Inala. She has had a wide-ranging political career, having previously served as a political adviser, and was Minister for Transport in the Bligh government. She also has a wide-ranging educational career in arts and law at the University of Queensland, the London School of Economics and the ANU. So there is a Canberra connection. Following ANU training to be a solicitor, she graduated with a graduate diploma of legal practice. She also tutored first-year students in political science at ANU at that time and I remember her well as a pleasant, no-nonsense sort of person who got the job done without fuss. If she brings the same approach to being Premier she will do well. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/a-remarkable-change-of-political-fortunes-20150218-13hfhs.html 11. A day of firsts for women in politics, and one in particular Karen Struthers 16 February 2015, 10.02am AEDT It’s a historic day for politics and women in Australia – and even more remarkable for one woman minister, who is also Queensland’s first ever Indigenous woman MP. https://theconversation.com/a-day-of-firsts-for-women-in-politics-and-one-in-particular-37115 12. "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken": Geraldine Doogue's take on women in power Lucia Osborne-Crowley / Feb 18, 2015 9:45AM This morning, at the last Network Central breakfast before it is handed over to us at Women’s Agenda, Doogue explained that it was watching our former prime minister endure persistent attacks on her legitimacy based on her gender that inspired her to write her new book, The Climb: Conversations with women in power. “I was extremely angry with the turn of events. I was in a useless fury, and I needed to do something with the emotions I was feeling on behalf of our prime minister,” she said. http://www.womensagenda.com.au/talking-about/top-stories/be-yourself-everyone-else-is-taken-geraldine-doogues-take-on-women-in-power/201502175314?utm_source=Women%27s+Agenda+List&utm_campaign=cc6eeb4e69-Women_s_Agenda_daily_07_11_201402&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f3750bae8d-cc6eeb4e69-30634093#.VOSZOy74hM5 13. Abbott orders APS: get it done Noel Towell. February 18, 2015 - 11:32AM Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sent a blunt warning to departments caught up in his government's latest public service reshuffle: get it done....The unusual prime ministerial edict is believed to reflect government frustration at the glacial pace of the massive "machinery of government" (or MoG) changes it put in place in 2013 and 2014. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/abbott-orders-aps-get-it-done-20150218-13gxet.html 14. Selling Treasury building could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions Phillip Thomson February 18, 2015 - 11:54PM Selling the Commonwealth-owned Treasury building in Canberra could pit the Abbott government against previously damning evidence from an audit report and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the long run in rent. A 14-year-old audit report shows how the Commonwealth lost out badly when the Howard government sold the Department of Finance's RG Casey building in 1998. Taxpayers have since been footing DFAT's above market rate rental bill which has now reached well over $20-million-a-year following a lease renewal in December. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/selling-treasury-building-could-cost-taxpayers-hundreds-of-millions-20150218-13h0yp.html 15. Why Finland and Norway still shun university tuition fees – even for international students Jussi Välimaa. 17 February 2015, 5.13pm AEDT All the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – provide higher education free of charge for their own citizens and, until recently, international students have been able to study free too. But in 2006, Denmark introduced tuition fees for international students coming from outside the European Union and European Economic Area. In 2011, Sweden followed suit. Now only Finland, Norway, Iceland and Germany do not collect tuition fees from international students. https://theconversation.com/why-finland-and-norway-still-shun-university-tuition-fees-even-for-international-students-36922 16. Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Kaye Lee February 18, 2015 When Tony Abbott chose his Ministers one can only wonder at his motivation...But perhaps the cruellest appointment of all was putting Christopher Pyne in charge of education. What sort of a myopic dilettante is this man? In an arrogant display of petulance he threatens that if he doesn’t get his way he will refuse to use our money to invest in the innovation and research that will contribute to our future. http://theaimn.com/education-is-the-most-powerful-weapon-which-you-can-use-to-change-the-world/ 17. Calls for clear political narratives ultimately demand greater honesty Dennis Altman, La Trobe University Whenever an Australian government runs into trouble we hear calls for a clearer narrative. The latest contribution comes in a thoughtful article from Waleed Aly. Aly points to the similar undermining of… https://theconversation.com/calls-for-clear-political-narratives-ultimately-demand-greater-honesty-37407 18. A society for the common good – that’s what I want John Lord. February 18, 2015 When, many years ago, the lady with the bad hair do uttered her famous and dispassionate condemnation of the human species “There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals making their way. The poor shall be looked after by the drip down effect from the rich” (paraphrased). http://theaimn.com/a-society-for-the-common-good-thats-what-i-want/

Casablanca

19/02/2015Ad Astra Pleased that you enjoyed those recent links. I saw a tweet today which claimed that Abbott opposed the aid to Indonesia following the tsunami. I have had a chance to google this. It would have been in character for him to have done so. I also read a piece recently about his objection to the plain packaging legislation where he said wtte, both of his parents smoked heavily and that was their right to do so, even defending their right to smoke in the car when he & his sisters were on board. Such a contrarian.

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19/02/2015So David Hicks 'terrorism' conviction was overturned last night in a US court. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/david-hicks-wins-challenge-to-terrorism-conviction-in-us-military-court-20150218-13ipkc.html I suppose Abbott, Brandis and the rest of them will now be apologising to Hicks and the Australian community for the comments they have made over the past few years? Oh - and to mangle the words of Monty Python "[David's] not a terrorist, he's just a very naughty boy". Casablanca - I wouldn't be surprised if Abbott opposed the aid to Indonesia when it was given. He doesn't know the meaning of the word altruistic - as every thing he does has 'an angle' for publicity, whether it be charity bike rides or bush fire fighting. Genuine 'community service' is done without seeking reward through either payment in cash or kind (read publicity).

Casablanca

19/02/2015[b]Do not pass Go but proceed to read this article immediately![/b] [b] Quietly un-signing the Magna Carta [/b] Desmond Manderson*. February 18, 2015 - 11:55PM Courage, they say, is grace under pressure. They don't say what happens when the graceless are under pressure, but the opposite of courage is cowardice. We saw a lot of that in the last week of Australian politics: Mr Abbott going madly off in all directions, scapegoating, shooting the messenger. It is important not to ignore what is really at stake: the rule of law in Australia. The rule of law is about the separation of power in this country; it is about ensuring that each separate part of the legal system is able to go about its business without undue political interference...This government seems uninterested in the rule of law. Everything comes down to politics for them, and nothing but winning matters. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/quietly-unsigning-the-magna-carta-20150218-13hfr1.html [i]* Professor Desmond Manderson is an expert in theories and histories of justice, jointly appointed in the ANU College of Law and the Humanities Research Centre at Australian National University. [/i]

Ken

19/02/2015Casablanca The Manderson article was well worth the read. A slightly different take on the Abbott government but, on the other hand, we saw exactly the same with Newman in Queensland (but he was even more blatant about it).

Casablanca

19/02/2015Another slapdown of Abbott from the Jesuit Magazine... [b]Chris Kenny's Don Quixote moment[/b] Andrew Hamilton. 18 February 2015 [Chris Kenny's]...sentence full of defiance, of self-assurance, of disdain for naysayers. To me it evoked the image of a gold braided and bemedalled captain on the bridge, proclaiming the sea-worthiness of his ship, and saluting as the sea rises to meet his nose while the wailings and scrabblings for the lifeboats by lesser mortals die into silence....The amplitude of such gestures expose the hollowness of ideologies that subordinate personal conscience and freedom to the absolutes of security, identity, economy and public opinion...Our problem with the Abbott Government is that it has consistently placed abstractions like border security and economic orthodoxy above the lives of people, and so has been led to devise unfair policies and to act unjustly. http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=42457#.VOVr_C74hM4

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19/02/2015Folks I have posted a new piece on [i]TPS Extra: Awaiting Hockey's Awakening[/i]: http://www.tpsextra.com.au/post/awaiting-hockey-s-awakening

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19/02/2015Casablanca What a great article was that from Desmond Manderson. As I read it, I reflected on how fragile a just society is, how easily those who seek to manipulate it can bring about its decay and eventual demise. We are currently listening to a ‘talking book’ as we drive, namely Arthur Miller’s [i]Timebends: A Life[/i]. In today’s chapter Miller described his experience being hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the days of McCarthyism. It was appalling to hear how committee members did their darnedest to find him guilty. They behaved like the very fascists he condemned when he signed numerous petitions opposing them. He was labeled a Marxist and therefore an enemy of America. They threatened to jail him for expressing his views in his writings. They condemned him with their acerbic, judgmental words, and had they succeeded, would have suppressed his right to free speech. We are seeing our own brand on McCarthyism here, perpetrated by Abbott and Brandis. Just this week it was directed against two Australian citizens still to be charged with ‘terrorist’ activities; and against the Human Rights Commission and specifically its highly respected chair, Professor Gillian Triggs, whom Brandis asked to resign, because the Commission’s report displeased him. What are we coming to? We should be ‘alert and very alarmed’!

Ken

19/02/2015Ad and Casablanca The idea of justice and the Abbott government riding roughshod over the 'rule of law' also relates to poverty and equality. The American human rights lawyer who is out here (I think he was on Q&A, although I can't bring his name to mind) has a saying that 'the opposite of poverty is not wealth, it is justice'. Which he explains means equal rights before the law for rich and poor. In that context, I think it is possible to tie Abbott's approach together. He has no respect for the genuine rule of law because it would mean equality, something he does not believe in.

Casablanca

20/02/2015Ken, The human rights lawyer is Bryan Stevenson, Equal Justice Bryan Stevenson, Equal Justice Initiative.

Casablanca

20/02/20151. Quietly un-signing the Magna Carta Desmond Manderson*. February 18, 2015 - 11:55PM Courage, they say, is grace under pressure. They don't say what happens when the graceless are under pressure, but the opposite of courage is cowardice. We saw a lot of that in the last week of Australian politics: Mr Abbott going madly off in all directions, scapegoating, shooting the messenger. It is important not to ignore what is really at stake: the rule of law in Australia. The rule of law is about the separation of power in this country; it is about ensuring that each separate part of the legal system is able to go about its business without undue political interference...This government seems uninterested in the rule of law. Everything comes down to politics for them, and nothing but winning matters. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/quietly-unsigning-the-magna-carta-20150218-13hfr1.html *Professor Desmond Manderson is an expert in theories and histories of justice, jointly appointed in the ANU College of Law and the Humanities Research Centre at Australian National University. 2. Doctors for Divestment: Climate Change and Public Health Matthew Rimmer Professor Fiona Stanley has been a key leader in the debate over public health and climate change, delivering a Monster Climate Petition to the Australian Parliament. https://medium.com/@DrRimmer/doctors-for-divestment-climate-change-and-public-health-ec2d052883d1 3. Chris Kenny's Don Quixote moment Andrew Hamilton. 18 February 2015 [Chris Kenny's]...sentence full of defiance, of self-assurance, of disdain for naysayers. To me it evoked the image of a gold braided and bemedalled captain on the bridge, proclaiming the sea-worthiness of his ship, and saluting as the sea rises to meet his nose while the wailings and scrabblings for the lifeboats by lesser mortals die into silence....The amplitude of such gestures expose the hollowness of ideologies that subordinate personal conscience and freedom to the absolutes of security, identity, economy and public opinion...Our problem with the Abbott Government is that it has consistently placed abstractions like border security and economic orthodoxy above the lives of people, and so has been led to devise unfair policies and to act unjustly. http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=42457#.VOVr_C74hM4 4. Making a difference in the age of high-speed politics Zac Alstin. 16 February 2015 Australia has seen two of its rulers 'killed' in succession since 2010, with a third and current prime minister now perilously close to extinction. In each case the people have provided not the mechanism but the motive, with plummeting opinion polls driving internal party revolt against elected leaders. Are we approaching a point where the highest expression of political wisdom would be not to run for leadership at all?.. In general, our politicians give the impression of being full of ambition with a powerful sense of individual worth. Success in politics requires such qualities, yet these qualities can also blind people to the harms and the costs of success in a politically dysfunctional era. http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=42599#.VOVvwy74hM4 5. Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg shifts his work super into union-backed industry fund Heath Aston. February 19, 2015 - 3:47PM Josh Frydenberg nominated busting the grip of unions over Australia's $1.9 trillion superannuation industry and giving a leg up to retail super funds as one of his first priorities upon becoming Assistant Treasurer. But the star recruit of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's recent cabinet reshuffle has not exactly put his own hard-earned money where his mouth is on creating a level playing field for commercial and industry super. An update to Mr Frydneberg's pecuniary interests register shows the Kooyong MP has switched his work super out of an AMP super fund (retail) into Australian Super (industry)... In January, the Australian Financial Review reported unions had been "put on notice" that their influence over super would be dramatically scaled back under Mr Frydenberg. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/assistant-treasurer-josh-frydenberg-shifts-his-work-super-into-unionbacked-industry-fund-20150219-13j49f.html 6. Fairness, Opportunity and Security – Filling the policy vacuum John Menadue ...the public is exercised by a worry that both the government and opposition keep playing the political and personal game at the expense of informed public discussion of important policy issues. ‘We have become concerned about the trustworthiness of our political, business and media elite. Insiders and vested interests are undermining the public interest. Money is unduly influencing political decisions. There is gridlock on important issues like climate change and taxation.’ http://johnmenadue.com/blog/?p=3247 7. Privatisation – a worn-out ideology John Menadue ...it’s not just voters who are not keen on privatisation. ‘Economic research also tells us that the evidence in favour of privatisation is not conclusive. Conservatives claim that privately owned businesses are better managed than public ones, but I suggest that the main reason for increased productivity of businesses that are sold is not privatisation but the deregulation of the market, offered at the same time or in anticipation of privatisation.’ http://johnmenadue.com/blog/?p=3286 8. How will history judge us for our detention policies? Hugh Mackay 19 February, 2015 Unlike the Stolen Generations and the abuse of children by priests, when historians look back on our treatment of asylum seekers they won't be able to say, "most people didn't know what was going on" http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-19/mackay-how-will-history-judge-our-detention-policies/6137758 9. 'Good government' gets lost in the pursuit of national security Gabrielle Appleby. 19 February 2015, 6.07am AEDT Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made two key pledges in recent weeks – to begin “good government” and to no longer give “the benefit of doubt” to people suspected of planning terrorist activities in Australia... If Abbott is serious about these promises, and the return to national security is not a politically motivated diversionary tactic, his government’s 2014 record provides two important lessons for his 2015 legislative agenda in this field. https://theconversation.com/good-government-gets-lost-in-the-pursuit-of-national-security-37627?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+19+February+2015+-+2456&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+19+February+2015+-+2456+CID_d4d513cf64fbfe0029c28781dbedfbdd&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Good%20government%20gets%20lost%20in%20the%20pursuit%20of%20national%20security 10. Australia is not a country of rorters: our tax system is sound Sinclair Davidson. 19 February 2015, 6.07am AEDT The Henry Tax Review identified 125 taxes within Australia levied by all levels of government. Of those 125 taxes, just 10 taxes raised 90% of all tax revenue. The company tax is the second largest source of revenue to the Commonwealth. This consideration immediately suggests two points: http://theconversation.cmail2.com/t/r-l-qjjkklt-trhltityg-d/

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20/02/2015Casablanca Thanks for another great set of links, all good reading. For an academic, Sinclair Davidson's arguments lack strength. When he says: "[i]All up, the integrity of the Australian company tax system is sound. That isn’t to say that there aren’t some companies that cut corners and evade tax when they should be paying tax, but there is precious little evidence of systematic rorting of the company tax system."[/i], he avoids the vexed issue of multinational corporations shifting profits around the world to low tax environments, companies such as Apple and Google, who avoid billions in tax they ought to pay. That's where the big problem is. Sinclair puts up a straw man, knocks it down, and gleefully shouts 'Hey Presto'!

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20/02/2015Folks Our esteemed PM seems to have put his foot in it yet again! Splashed all over the front page of the Melbourne [i]Age[/i] is a story about the damage it is believed Abbott has done to the case for sparing the two Australians scheduled for execution in Indonesia. Here is the gist of the story: “[i]Some of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's senior colleagues are concerned that his tough talk with Indonesia may have undermined a carefully crafted strategy to save the lives of two Australians on death row. “Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has been leading what officials describe as a "massive" private and public diplomacy campaign to persuade Indonesian leaders to halt the execution of drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, convicted of trafficking heroin. “The strategy involves showing respect for Indonesia while outlining deep flaws in the legal and diplomatic policy processes, as excessive pressure could prove to be counterproductive. “Faint hopes of clemency have been kept alive by Indonesian leaders agreeing to delay the executions and hold a press conference to face questions, which appeared to demonstrate that Australian concerns have been taken seriously. “On Wednesday, however, Mr Abbott appeared to depart from the diplomatic script to promise an "absolutely unambiguous" response if the executions went ahead. Mr Abbott linked the threat to Australia's generous humanitarian aid program following the Aceh tsunami of a decade ago. “Mr Abbott's comments not only attracted a heated response from Jakarta but have also caused dismay at senior levels of the Australian government, including inside cabinet. "It's awful," said a senior source, requesting anonymity. "It undid a lot of the good work," said another. “Tim Lindsey, director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at Melbourne University, said Ms Bishop had been consistently and respectfully articulating Australia's interests while "elegantly" pointing out deep legal and policy flaws in the Indonesian position. “Mr Abbott's comments, on the other hand, were "probably counterproductive" and certainly "unnecessary". "Rightly or wrongly, when it comes to diplomacy, Indonesia can respond positively to measured persuasion and historically it has always responds very negatively to threats," said Professor Lindsey. “Mr Abbott yesterday clarified that he was not imposing conditions on Australia's generous aid program.”[/i] [b]As the piece [i]Angry Abbott[/i] asserted, Abbott knows no other strategy than fighting, bullying, and making threats of retribution. Here he is at it again, in an arena where not only does this approach not work; it is counterproductive, regrettably in this instance possibly lethally so. This man will not, indeed cannot, learn a different approach. Why do his colleagues still tolerate him? Clearly Julie Bishop is exasperated; who know what expletives are being uttered by his other colleagues![/b]

Patriciawa

20/02/2015Ad Astra, I'm somewhat out of touch with things political, here and in the wider world, but after reading Ken's article and just now your commentary, I'm wondering if there's a solution to what you see as the [quote]vexed issue of multinational corporations shifting profits around the world to low tax environments, companies such as Apple and Google, who avoid billions in tax they ought to pay.[/quote] Is there anywhere a party or individual who are fronting it?

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20/02/2015Folks I hear tonight on TV that Julie Bishop has had to smooth feelings with ministers in Jakarta after Abbott's inappropriate linking of tsunami aid with a request to spare the Australians facing a firing squad. With a PM like Abbott, who needs enemies? Bishop must despair about her 'leader'.

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20/02/2015Patricia WA I think all parties except the Greens are unwilling to confront this issue squarely. The Liberals say they are. Let's see!

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21/02/2015Folks This morning on ABC radio there was more of the story about Julie Bishop needing to smooth ruffled feathers in the Indonesian government, upset by Abbott's tsunami remarks. President Joko Widodo was about to ring Abbott about his remarks, but Bishop spoke to his deputy, saying it was a misunderstanding, and averted a diplomatic event. Abbott is a menace internationally as well as locally whenever he opens his belligerent mouth. How long can Bishop and his ministers and backbench tolerate this man?

Ken

21/02/2015Even Murdoch wants to get rid of him with The Australian carrying the story that he had suggested to the top brass of the military that Australia could unilaterally send a few thousand troops to Iraq. Whether or not the story is true, I think the important point is that it is a Murdoch paper putting it into the public arena. I would suggest that we can probably expect a few more such stories from the Murdoch press - whether they are true or not.
How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?