About this time of the year the all-year-round residents of Canberra enjoy a reprieve from the hot air produced on Capital Hill. Pity is that this usually combines with winds that come from the Antarctic via the Snowy Mountains to make Canberra shiver through another winter of sub-zero mornings! The politicians usually leave town, return to their offices and try to remind their electors why they should be returned to parliament next time with a thumping majority. It seems to be a bit different this year — government front benchers are hardly to be found.
They could be busy searching for a ‘wind farm commissioner’ who has the similar beliefs to the LNP. You may have seen our esteemed treasurer complaining about the ‘visual pollution’ from wind farm towers
last September. While Hockey is entitled to his opinion, did anyone ask him why open cut coal mines, telecommunications towers, or power stations are less visually obtrusive? Abbott is clearly of the same opinion
but he claims they are noisy as well!
At least wind tower poles are designed to be aerodynamic — which also brings symmetry and aesthetics to the design. The approved-this-month Shenhua open cut coal mine near Gunnedah will have approval to flatten 771 hectares of endangered local ecology
, most of it box gum woodland, and no doubt carve a scar in the ground some kilometres long — clearly a better look than a wind farm in the view of Abbott, Hockey and Environment Minister Hunt.
During December 2014, the government body (in Hockey’s department) that decides which groups are permitted to claim ‘charity’ status and receive tax deductible donations revoked the Waubra Foundation’s
ability to process tax deductible donations. While the reasons are not made public, the Waubra Foundation exists to claim that wind farms have health implications. The results of a study of 4000 investigations into the noise from wind farms reported last February
that there was no conclusive evidence to suggest that wind farms create any health concerns — despite evidence from a Dr (her speciality is not specified) Judy Ryan:
The slow corruption of science education so that people could be fooled by the oxymoron ‘scientific consensus’ is part of politically driven global agenda orchestrated by the United Nations. We should crawl out from under its thumb and treasure our nationhood and democracy.
And this sterling contribution from Alan Scott:
The time has come for Australian politicians from all warring camps to speak the truth to their electors, rather than mouthing the party lines handed down to them by their United Nations masters.
(The links to the actual submissions are contained in the SBS News article above.)
Perhaps instead of giving conspiracy theorists the time of day, Australia’s Wind Farm Commissioner, when appointed, should start an enquiry into how to harvest the hot air emanating from Capital Hill using a number of wind farm turbines and storing it in available battery technology
. S/he could determine if Parliament House could be removed from the National Electricity Grid. Even better, if all the staff and politicians caught buses to work, the batteries could be installed in the car parks to retain the aesthetics of Capital Hill (as well as allowing the ACT government to reduce the subsidy to its bus operations).
Clearly the Wind Farm Commissioner is required urgently and cannot be delayed due to the winter hibernation in Canberra as this clip explains
The cultural war against the ABC is clearly top of mind for our government. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation hasn’t comprehended it is supposed to be the government’s media mouthpiece in the same way that Pravda
was to the old USSR.
It seems that the ABC is a thorn in the side of most sides of the political landscape at times — as Mark Scott (ABC Managing Director) has correctly pointed out
in response to the ‘crime’ of allowing a person with a less than impeccable past to ask a live question of a government minister on the Q&A
program late in June.
After the ABC followed their normal process and ran a repeat of the show in question during daylight hours a couple of days later on one of their digital channels, Abbott was very quick out of the blocks to demand that heads roll for the gross insult (do you suspect he wanted to use the word ‘insubordination’?). As Scott noted in the same speech to the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs:
"But even for the ABC, things seemed to have been taken to a new level when on Wednesday we scored four covers in one day in the News Limited tabloids, complete with photoshopped ABC flags being waved by jihadi protestors," he said.
Scott went on to question why ‘the question’ was such an outrage when the same person had featured in articles in The Australian
and The Courier Mail
(both News Corp products) in the past few years with no apparent controversy.
Nevertheless, the Abbott government wants (the presumably lefty pinko) metaphoric head of the ABC on a platter and announced there will be an inquiry. The ABC Board gets in first and appoints Ray Martin (former reporter, tabloid current affairs and chat show host) and Shawn Brown (former SBS managing director) to investigate if there is any bias in the Q&A program
. Abbott bans ministers from appearing ‘for a while’ — probably until the inquiry is completed or the Q&A
show is transferred into a different division of the ABC that has a different view of balance and equity.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce was the first ‘victim’ of the boycott on 6 July
and Malcolm Turnbull also complied on 13 July — John Hewson was invited to take his place as he is not susceptible to Abbott decrees. The ALP has a history of boycotting media as well: in 2012 it boycotted the 2GB radio program hosted by Alan Jones after he made a particularly cruel and heartless attack on the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard. At the time, then Opposition Leader Abbott said the comments were offensive
But when asked whether he would boycott Jones' show, he said he would not. It was all about the numbers.
"I am certainly not going to ignore an audience of half a million people in Sydney," Mr Abbott said.
Joe Hockey, then the shadow treasurer, agreed.
Ray Martin, in a guest hosting spot on Channel 7’s Sunrise
program early in July called the Q&A
’ and almost immediately faced calls from two coalition senators to stand down from the inquiry:
Senator McGrath said: "I think he should step aside. His comments make him appear to be an apologist for Q&A rather than someone who will conduct an independent review."
Senator Macdonald said: "Ray Martin has respect in the community but these comments make you question whether he is the right person to conduct an independent review.”
News Corp joined in the baying for blood by publishing a piece from their well known balanced, considered and independent writer/broadcaster Andrew Bolt
, as well as the front pages referred to by Mark Scott above.
Our frontbenchers would probably not be in Europe on a ‘study tour’. You also may have noticed in the news there are economic problems in Greece that may affect the European Community. The Greek public recently voted against further austerity so that the country could start to repay debt to a consortium of banks. The ‘anti-austerity’ Greek government then went into negotiations with the rest of the EU and agreed to harsher restrictions
than the public rejected! Regardless of the final outcome of the ongoing story, elected Australian frontbenchers wouldn’t want to be stuck anywhere near the south of Europe while there is considerable instability. Apart from the lack of things to study in a country that apparently can’t pay its debts (remember the ‘debt and deficit’ disaster is ‘so last year’ in the view of Hockey and Abbott), who knows, they may not be able to get back to Australia in time for the resumption of hostilities on Capital Hill next week.
There is continual brouhaha regarding marriage equality? Senator Wong bluntly reminded Senator Abetz recently that the majority of Australians don’t think you need either a marriage certificate or a traditional mother and father role to successfully raise children
The Labor senator said the debate in the Australian community about gay marriage was currently “much more charitable, much more respectful, much more tolerant and much kinder in many ways on this issue than the members of our parliament”.
Seeing the failure of that particular argument staring them in the face, the government retired Senator Abetz from the play and substituted Barnaby Joyce. Joyce’s argument held even less credibility
Some parts of south-east Asia could view Australia embracing same-sex marriage as “decadence”.
While news may take a while to reach the north west of NSW, which Joyce now calls home, New Zealand, Canada, and the US, amongst other countries, have marriage equality — in some cases for periods of up to a decade — and South East Asian countries still trade and deal with these ‘decadent’ countries on a daily basis. Regardless, it does take time and resources for government frontbenchers to make such informed comment to the debate that the majority of Australians seem to regard with a ‘meh’.
Are the frontbenchers sitting on the sidelines waiting to make a valuable contribution towards justification of the new Border Force Act
? The Act apparently contains ‘secrecy’ laws around the possibly legal offshore detention policy for asylum seekers — a concept supported to an extent by both sides of politics. Apparently if anyone in Australia reports (one assumes unfavourably) on the conditions or treatment of asylum seekers held by the Australian government in Nauru or Papua New Guinea, they can be imprisoned. The government, through the newly named Australian Border Force Agency, disputes this
. George Newhouse, writing in The Guardian
(based in the UK), however, answers the government’s claims here
Bill Shorten (Opposition Leader) faced the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption during July. While Shorten didn’t come out unscathed — there is the matter of the $75,000 donation
to his election campaign eight years ago that wasn’t declared until early in July 2015 — Katherine Murphy writing for The Guardian reported
This is how politics works, Shorten told the commission with a resolute tone and nothing approximating a flinch or a flicker of self-doubt. He’s absolutely right. This is how politics works. This conduct, and other conduct like it, is widespread and endemic. If you lack the self-belief to hustle, if you lack the network to fundraise, and if you lack the stomach for inhabiting a universe crafted in a material called grey area and powered on compromise, you really aren’t party or government material.
You could suggest that the strategy to discredit Shorten worked ... until someone looked at Speaker Bronwyn Bishop’s travelling allowance claims.
Bishop the elder should have known better than to charter a chopper at taxpayer expense for an 80km flight
above the freeway from Melbourne to Geelong to attend a party fundraiser. The helicopter memes that have appeared everywhere from Facebook to News Corp papers in the last week or so are clever but starting to get a bit obvious.
Now the discussion is turning to who else has their ‘snouts in the trough’. A prime candidate seems to be Treasurer ‘it doesn’t pass the sniff test
’ Hockey who is accused of paying rent on a Canberra house where the landlord is his wife
and making a number of trips to Cairns while shadow treasurer with time allowed to inspect his (now on the market) property near Malanda on the Atherton Tableland, west of Cairns
. Here’s a hint to Hockey: when Andrew Bolt is ‘oh dearing’ a conservative MP such as yourself, you have a problem.
The Premiers and Chief Ministers joined Abbott for a COAG retreat to reinforce our commitment to act against the threats to our community from violent extremists, family violence and the drug ice
. New South Wales’ Premier Baird (who doesn’t have to face an election for nearly four years) opened a discussion on increasing the GST rate to 15% — strangely enough you can probably guess the headlines after the press conference
which was also notable for the display of nine flags to signify greater importance than other announcements with less flags in the background!
The ALP held its National Conference in Melbourne last weekend. Shorten announced before the conference that the ALP would aim for a mandated 50% renewable energy use
by 2030 as well as supporting an asylum seeker boat turn back policy
as if they were done deals. If the outcomes are known before the conference starts, why the display of discussion and debate unless the party wants to further the impression that they do not agree on everything. Their media friends also get the chance to use headlines such as ‘Bill Shorten wins freedom to use boat turnbacks, but leadership split on issue
’ without having to chase ALP leaders all over Australia for comment.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce did come out of hiding to disagree with the approval of the Shenhua mine (which is inconveniently in his electorate). Abbott claimed that Joyce was speaking as the local member — Joyce disagreed
. Maybe Joyce doesn’t really see the difference between the aesthetics of wind farm towers so hated by Abbott or Hockey and open cut mining scars in the ground.
If you’ve got this far, you may wonder why anyone would be concerned what our elected officials do while there are long recesses in Canberra. There is a really simple answer. Towards the end of June, I sent an email to a ‘frontbench’ senator in my state as well as my local ALP MP. At the time of writing this I don’t have a reply from the senator, which I believe I deserve, as effectively I am one of the two million or thereabouts electors in Queensland who employ this senator. The MP has rung me to discuss the email I sent.
Frontbench senators could not be rude enough to ignore an elector’s genuine question, could they? Is the senator so caught up in waiting for instruction from LNP HQ on when he can leave the imposed seclusion to fire the next salvo in the political war, he hasn’t had the time to develop a factual and honest answer to a simple question regarding funding for an enquiry into the ABC? Although he could also just be dusting his bookshelves.
What do you think?
As 2353 suggests there are many issues to talk about but few heads appearing above the parapets, and yet they are so busy they don’t have time to answer his email. Well, next week they will be back in Canberra and will have to show their faces and be accountable.
Next week Ken takes a look at the latest craze, ‘Doin’ the GST-a-rosy-rag’ in which politicians seem to take turns to place changes to the GST back on the agenda.