Sacred Cows

It’s time to kill some political and social sacred cows. (With apologies to members of the Hindu faith and vegetarians for the imagery.)

Politicians cannot change their mind

Of course they can and they shouldn’t be pilloried for it. Shorten recently suggested that he would be legislating to renege on some of the LNP’s business tax cuts should he get to the other side of the House of Representatives at the next election. If Shorten refused to answer the question, us ‘mug punters’ would have been hammered for days over Shorten’s refusal to answer a simple question. Regardless of the machinations of the ALP behind the scenes, clearly the discussion demonstrated to the Opposition (and that word is important) that there was considerable disquiet in the community should the repeal ever happen.

The thing is that Shorten leads the official Opposition political party in Australia. His job is to articulate the policy differences between the current government and the one that he would lead. Should it become evident upon (potential) election that the situation that allows his policies to be delivered changes significantly, he needs to again have the conversation with the Australian public prior to taking action. While most recent newly-elected governments claim that circumstances are not as they were told and change their pre-election policies, usually there is little evidence presented to justify the argument. You’re not ‘being lied to’, rather the management of the issue has been generally shoddy.

Sexist remarks can be ok

No they can’t. Apart from the illegality implicit in denigrating someone because of their gender, ethically and morally all people are equal and should be treated as such. Using the recent example of Senators Leyonhjelm and Hanson-Young, regardless of what he heard or claims he heard, Leyonhjelm was completely wrong in his responses to Hanson-Young. To go onto television and attempt to justify the indefensible only adds to the crime. He claims ‘freedom of speech’ which is a two-edged sword. Others can equally claim that Leyonhjelm is a politician with dubious ethics, representing a minor party with few followers, that needs the media coverage to stand a ghost of a chance of re-election without fear of retribution. If Leyonhjelm found the passage above to be insulting, he would be duplicitous as he claims to support absolute ‘freedom of speech’. The claims repeated above about Leyonhjelm are also factual — he is a politician from a minor party up for re-election at the next Senate election — unlike his attempt to impose his moral judgements (based on rumours and innuendo) in a sexist and hateful tirade to Hanson-Young and repeated endlessly when asked to repent for his crimes. Matt Holden wrote in The Age with much more eloquence than I can muster
What Leyonhjelm has tried to do to Hanson-Young would never be OK in any circumstances. That goes without saying, although it seems equally necessary to say it.

But his timing is exceptionally poor. Women are angry right now, and with good reason. They have plenty to say about the problems with men, and what they are saying is uncomfortable and confronting for men to hear. It’s easy to feel under attack.

But this charged moment, triangulated by #MeToo, Harvey Weinstein and the brutal deaths of young women including Eurydice Dixon and Larissa Beilby, is not the time for men to react defensively. It’s the time for men to shut up and listen, and to learn to sit with the uncomfortable feelings. They won’t kill us.
Adults found guilty of offences against children should be shown pity

No – they should be sacked from the position that gave them the access they used inappropriately. Resignation is the soft option. The administration of the various religious and sectarian groups that have or will have to deal with this issue are just as culpable if they don’t sack those that have demonstrably failed to adequately care for those placed into their care. They are in reality dismissing the findings of the legal process, demonstrating their true level of care for those that have been directly affected and, in some cases, allowing the offender the opportunity to offend again. As an example of inappropriate behaviour, the practice of the Catholic Church of transferring ‘suspect’ priests to another community was disgusting and demonstrated who really mattered to the hierarchy of the Church at the time.

Climate change is a conspiracy

It isn’t and if we do nothing, future generations will rightly condemn us and our immediate predecessors for fiddling while Rome burnt. It is also of interest here that the same conservatives who claim that climate change is a fiction because not all scientists agree on what is absolutely going to happen, in a lot of cases they also claim to follow religious principles. While a discussion on the reality of the various gods worshipped in various religions is way beyond the scope of a political blog, there is far greater agreement within the scientific community on the causes and effects of climate change than there is in the texts that are the central tenets of the Christian religion and others which, according to their dogmatic adherents, are the literal and absolute teachings of their respective gods. It is interesting and to the detriment of society that conservatives can accept contradiction and uncertainty in one area of their lives but expect absolute certainty in others.

Australia needs more coal fired electricity generation capacity

No it doesn’t and the stuffing around over the past decade by conservatives with a hidden agenda has cruelled it for all of us. On 11 July, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a report on the future of power prices with some sobering news for all of us. As reported in The Monthly’s daily email on 11 July
The truth is that the ACCC’s report on electricity prices does not help the coal huggers one little bit. Going by the 80/20 rule, there are some neat figures in the report: exactly 80 per cent of the cause of higher electricity prices over the last decade has nothing to do with green schemes, renewable subsidies, emissions reduction targets or any other culture-wars bugbear; exactly 20 per cent does. The largest single factor, as we all knew already, is over-investment in electricity networks (poles and wires), and that’s where the single biggest price reductions can be made by virtue of some neat proposals from the regulator.

Some plain facts, straight from the report: annual electricity bills have risen in real terms by 35 per cent in the decade to 2017–18, from $1210 to $1636 – an annual increase of $426. The biggest single component, higher network charges, is responsible for $148 or 35 per cent of the increase. The cause? The regulator’s “limited ability to constrain excess spending by network owners” (the gold-plating problem), and reliability standards being “set too high”. (Which is why experts like RenewEconomy say the NEG’s reliability standard will never be used. The ACCC report itself hints that “reliability shortfalls … may be infrequent”). Here’s where the ACCC calls for “decisive action”, as we’ll see.

The next biggest component is higher wholesale electricity prices, worth $96 or 22 per cent, which the ACCC attributes to a tightening of a market previously oversupplied with electricity generation, and higher gas prices as east coast LNG exports began. The third biggest component, costing $84 or 20 per cent, is made up of environmental schemes, particularly subsidies due to the renewable energy target, and excessively generous state feed-in-tariffs for rooftop solar, which have generally been wound back but which are still costing money. Higher retail margins ($68 or 16 per cent) and retail costs ($30 or 7 per cent) make up the rest.
The ACCC also looks at the relative costs of renewable (solar/wind generation and battery systems) versus coal powered generation to retain reliability and it’s not good news for the luddites in the LNP that want a new ‘high efficiency’ coal generation plant anywhere. Again from The Monthly:
In today’s AFR, columnist Matthew Stevens writes [paywalled] that new wind farms cost $50/MWh, batteries cost another $20/MWh, while new coal-fired power costs $90/MWh. If we let the market takes its course, it’s game over for coal.
So ‘the carbon tax’ that never really was didn’t increase electricity prices as much as gold plating and higher wholesale prices for electricity. Not that it will stop Abbott, Kelly and their kooky band of hangers-on from attempting to derail the discussion yet again when the compromise NEG is discussed with state leaders in August.

Governments never give me anything

Well actually they do. How about transport links, communication links, the ability to live in a country where wrong doers are actively detected and dealt with according to law, keeping the law breakers off the streets, subsidised education, subsidised healthcare, safety standards for your home, transport and a multitude of other items, consumer protection, assistance to those that society has deemed to need a hand such as families, the aged, the infirm and those that can’t find work? If you don’t qualify for any of these at this stage of your life, first consider how lucky you are and second contemplate if your needs will change as your life situation changes.

That’s not to say that the mix of government expenditure is correct. There is a fairly large proportion of the Australian community that would suggest the close to $5BILLION we have spent to keep humans in inhumane conditions on Manus Island and in Nauru between 2012 and 2017 is poor value for money. Others like Turnbull and his government would suggest that freezing Medicare rebates for GP visits and defunding the ABC is appropriate to ensure that other ‘needs’ can be met. Now your opinion on the choice of expenditure might be in accordance with the government or it may not — it is however your right to tell your elected officials what your opinion is.

Those with a scientific bent will have heard of a process known as titration. Basically, a known quantity of one chemical compound is added (carefully) to another compound. Nothing happens until the last drop is added, then a reaction occurs. It’s the same in real life — there is a point where the alternative viewpoint is actually noticed and acted upon.

There are a number of ways of doing this from sending your MP or the PM an email, through writing a blog post (it’s not that hard, trust me) through joining a lobby group or political party that shares the majority of your beliefs.

The sacred cows we’ve discussed here (and there are many more) have come about because those without vested interests have sat there under the impression they can’t change a thing. So let’s try and kill some sacred cows — stand up and say something. Tell the media that politicians can change their minds; call out sexist remarks and inappropriate behaviour as it occurs; tell our politicians that the current culture wars need to be over. It really is up to you to express your opinion and create the change you want to see.

What do you think?

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