Category Archives: Politics

Five Stupid Things About Libertarianism

I couldn’t help but think of our current government.

Taxes and Welfare are not the problem in Australia

Our public representatives need to learn a thing or two about building healthy societies.

Why we should be angry about carrying Qantas

Today’s news from Qantas is being geared up as a gloomy one. Arguably locking themselves into an escalating war with Virgin ought to put much of the blame on the shoulders of the “brainiacs” on their board.

But that is no reason for us to get angry. We lost our airline back in 1993 when our elected bodies thought it prudent to start a rock-bottom garage sale of public assets.

Today, the Qantas mask hides a bunch of international part owners. Hopefully, we are now no longer mourning this and again, this is no reason to be angry today.

We ought to be angry with any suggestion that our taxpayer dollars can be held ransom to the investment activities of a private entity.

A debt guarantee does not benefit the public in anyway. Should their investments fail, the taxpayer suffers. Should their investments prove lucrative, the shareholder profits. There’s no benefit for guarantor, in this case, the taxpayer.

It is like the government handing over a blank check to a broke gambling addict.

If we are supposed to care about Qantas with any patriotism, stick a few old planes in various aircraft museums around the country. Don’t gamble with the Australian public pocket.

The age of entitlement is apparently over for Australians. This should also span big business, regardless of what façade it wears.

Qantas is no longer the Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service. Qantas is an international private entity. Profits are not our revenue. Qantas jobs are increasingly going abroad as well.

Should it sink or float is for the shareholders and senior board to work for and not the Australian public.

How to erode an economy and look good at the same time

The story below is certainly close to me. I grew up in Morwell, with my father working for CES.

The point here is the exact opposite to what politicians say. Privatization does not lead to increased competition with benefits to the community. Privatization strips local wealth and the quality of service. Privatization provides a small bumper in the budget but erodes long term financial revenue.

This is why Hockey suggested our retirement money should pay for what he should be paying for with tax payer dollars. The government is poorer largely because of the big cash grab of the former Howard government via their privatization actions as well as an inability to plan ahead in key areas.

Privatization does nothing for the community. Privatization is little more than an easy option for the fiscally inept. It’s a way to make the books look good without doing a good job. With the ramifications too far into the future, responsibility is never truly realised.

Senator Ludlam’s take on the Abbott government and his vision for WA


I can’t say I align with the Greens or any party in general. However, Ludlam couldn’t have hit the nail on the head more perfectly.

The government should stop throwing stones and answer the questions about the clash between naval personnel and asylum seekers

By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Defence minister David Johnston has stepped up the attacks on the ABC for their handling of the asylum seeker burns story. AAP/Nikki Short

What’s happening in the debate over asylum seeker allegations of mistreatment by naval personnel is extraordinary and alarming, both for public accountability and for journalism.

It’s also hard to credit the way the issue has unfolded.

We’ve seen concerted government and News Corp pillorying of the ABC over its report of claims that people had been made to put their hands on a hot engine pipe.

Tony Abbott has accused the ABC of being unpatriotic. The Australian has run enough pieces on the public broadcaster’s sins to wallpaper a small house. The government has refused to release the Navy’s account. Navy chief Ray Griggs has taken to Twitter, of all places, to reject the claims. Labor has been too nervous to push hard. After being criticised by its own Media Watch program, the ABC this week acknowledged its original reporting should have been “more precise”.

Fast forward to Friday’s Fairfax papers, in which Indonesia correspondent Michael Bachelard reports his in-depth interview with Yousif Ibrahim Fasher, who made the original claim. The crux of his allegation is that naval personnel restricted when people could go to the toilet and, during an altercation about this, grabbed the wrists of three men and forced their hands onto a hot pipe.

Fasher, the translator, who says he witnessed the contretemps, claims he was told: “Say to anyone: if you want to go to the toilet again, we will burn his hands”.

Fasher also alleged that two navy ships taking the boat back turned off their lights when close to the Indonesian shore.

Bachelard says two of the three men referred to refused to be interviewed; the third agreed but Indonesian authorities would not allow the interview in the hotel where he was being held and he wouldn’t leave it.

Defence did not answer 21 questions put by Fairfax. Immigration minister Scott Morrison responded that “the government does not give credibility to malicious and unfounded slurs being made against our navy personnel”.

However, defence minister David Johnston did appear on Friday (in another context) and it was a truly remarkable performance.

He explained he hadn’t said much about the ABC commentary on navy personnel because “I was extremely angry and have required a period of time to cool off”.

On the latest story and why Defence hadn’t answered the 21 questions, Johnston said border protection “is a civil public policy issue. It is not a military exercise”. Why didn’t the government put doubts to rest by investigating the allegations? “Because the ABC has a responsibility. If ever there was an event that justified a detailed inquiry, some reform, and investigation into the ABC, this is it.”

As the questioning went on, he said: “Let’s see the allegations first …. Let’s have more than just rumour, innuendo and hearsay”, adding that senior command had assured him there was nothing in the claims.

When asked whether he could explain the circumstances of the burnt hands, he said: “No I can’t. They are on-water matters that are not my responsibility because it is a civil public policy matter.”

Whatever the lines of responsibility in Operation Sovereign Borders, if the defence minister doesn’t have responsibility for the Navy, it’s a very odd situation.

The government has adopted the approach that if it simply denies everything, treats asylum seekers as people never to be listened to, and makes the ABC rather than the allegations the issue, it can get away with putting up the shutters.

Asked whether the navy should release material to settle any ambiguity, Abbott said: “What I am interested in doing is stopping the boats … I don’t want to do anything that might complicate that task.”

All usual practice is being flouted. Anyone who suggests more detail should be provided is apparently sledging stressed personnel who would never put a foot out of place. Yet when there were allegations of any irregular incidents involving Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, they were investigated by the authorities and reported on. And that was in a war situation. More recently, some personnel on a ship in Operation Sovereign Borders were taken ashore because of bad behaviour towards each other.

Morrison talks about “unsubstantiated claims”. Those sorts of claims are made all the time in different situations; if they are serious, they are looked into.

There are various possibilities here. That Fasher is a good liar (though as he said, it is not to his advantage to lie); that he’s a poor observer; or that what he says contains a greater or lesser degree of truth. The Bachelard story reinforces the strong case for having Navy release what it knows (including what inquiries it has made), and for Australian authorities to interview Fasher and properly investigate the allegations, making public the results.

Resorting to bluster, demonising, and flag waving doesn’t wipe away the questions. The government has succeeded in making this about the ABC’s credibility when its own credibility should be equally, and increasingly, in the frame. In these things the truth, good or bad, comes out in the end.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Direct Action on Healthcare; an informal proposal to Health Minister, Peter Dutton

While in opposition, the current government campaigned heavily against the price on carbon. They insisted that is was a damaging stick that punished business needlessly while their alternative, Direct Action provided a ‘carrot’ in the form of a cash incentive for self-managed carbon reductions.

On another subject, Terry Barnes, former adviser to Tony Abbott, has prosed a $6 fee on doctor visits to discourage unessential doctor visits.

I think the current government is missing a great opportunity here. What not apply Direct Action to healthcare?

A flat fee on doctor visits is quite obviously a stick, punishing all Australians, needless visitors and the genuinely sick alike. It threatens to inflict the greatest impact on those with a chronic disorder who require regular visits to GP’s and are not in a position to work full time.

Surely the whipping stick is equally abhorrent to the voting public as it is to big business?

Why not give people a cash incentive, relative to the length of time between GP visits? This would surely encourage people to avoid unessential GP visits while not attacking the genuinely sick.

Wage Explosions and the duped wage earners

Back in the middle of last month, I made the following prediction for the next twelve months;

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Maurice Newman and the Business Council chime ever louder the “findings” that the main problem in doing business in Australia is average wages.

“This will all be in the lead up to the Senate reshuffle after which will make life a lot simpler for the current government to make whatever changes they want.

“The hope will be that the Australian public is suitably primed for the “revelation” that we need to lower minimum wages or provide more power to employers or something similar and the government must act to save Australia’s prosperity…”

Today we have another individual brought in by this government, Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz, weighing into the conversation. In his words,

“we risk seeing something akin to the wages explosion of the pre-accord era when unsustainable wage growth.”

And,

“Employers and unions must be encouraged to take responsibility for the cost of their deals; not just the cost to the affected enterprises but the overall cost in relation to our economy efficiency and the creation of opportunities for others.”

It is starting to sound as though my prediction might hold some merit. And here I am, an amateur political commentator enthusiast (because, after all, what these people do on my behalf directly affects me and my family and friends).

The Australia Institute looked into Abetz’s concern of a potential wage explosion as well and found the following.

wage growth AI

Startling, I know.

Of course, there was no talk of the negotiated wages at the top end, that can be, as in the case of the CEO of Myer, 75 times as much as that of an employee on the shop floor.

No, the waste is the students, the mums and dads; the wage earners doing the actual work and, collectively contribute a massive purchasing potential, provided they have adequate wages to do more than struggle to make ends meet.

In the lead up to this previous election, this hopeful government assured Australian workers that they wanted to lighten the financial burdens placed on families, with the focus removing the carbon tax. Since they have come to power, they have worked to ensure each one of us has to pay any time we see a doctor, they have started to look at the GST – both moves that disproportionately affect poorer Australians than richer.

Likewise, the dialogue under the former government stressed the shortcomings of current government entitlements such as the pension, where this government thinks they are paying too much.

Minimum wage and worker rights are surely on the table as well. That the top end don’t get a mention is direct evidence that yes, yet again poorer Australians are being attacked.

The voting public were duped. Is this the beginning of WorkChoices v2? Time will tell

Abbott’s Davos Disaster

By Alan Austin                                                                                                      [h/t IA]

AUSTRALIANS WATCHED TONY ABBOTT fly off to Switzerland this week to deliver an important speech to world leaders with muted anticipation. Commentary in advance ranged between frank pessimism and outright dismay.

It is clear now the PM failed to live up to those expectations.

Fortunately, the damage done to Australia’s reputation was limited by most media declining even to mention the Abbott embarrassment.

The New York Times has extensive coverage of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, with a dedicated web page and many feature articles exploring the key themes and major players. None mentions Abbott — who, by virtue of the high regard for his predecessor, finds himself the accidental president of the G20 for 2014.

Le TélégrammeL’Humanité  and Le Parisien in France published stories from the WEF but completely ignored Abbott. L’Agence France-Presse filed multiple reports profiling the contributors, but excluding Abbott.

Le Figaro focussed on the speech by International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde who addressed constructively the new dangers – nouveaux risques – threatening global recovery. These are, she said, deflation in Europe, tapering of US monetary policy and distortions in global financial markets.

With an embarrassed cough, Le Figaro noted Abbott’s address as a footnote, quoting him as calling for more free trade, an idea that was a long way from the agenda – très loin de la thématique – of earlier gatherings.

Les Echos did mention the keynote speech, reporting that the thrust of Australia’s G20 presidency will be free trade. It noted it was odd Abbott didn’t mention the World Trade Organisation.

The Guardian in Britain headlined its piece “Does Tony Abbott always make the same speech?” andreported that it “struck a familiar tone and was criticised for being inappropriately partisan.”

Indeed, Abbott’s reputation as a buffoon appears to have preceded him to Davos.

The Financial Times UK’s economics editor, Chris Giles, tweeted:

‘Sign of the times. [Iran's President Hassan]Rouhani packed out the hall. Everyone is leaving before Tony Abbott explains Australia’s ambitions for the G20 in 2014.’

Abbott’s speech confirmed the nagging suspicions many have had since he assumed the prime ministership, following one of the most manipulated media campaigns in any democracy in living memory.

It repeated all the trite slogans that worked in Western Sydney:

“You can’t spend what you haven’t got.”

“Markets are the proven answer to the problem of scarcity.”

“No country has ever taxed or subsidised its way to prosperity.”

“People trade with each other because it’s in their interest to do so.”

“Progress usually comes one step at a time.”

Unfortunately, I am not making this up.

Riddled with indicators of ignorance, the speech confirmed Abbott knows little about contemporary economics.

He quoted, for example, statistical measures from China:

“China’s growth is moderating, but likely to remain over seven per cent.”

He seems quite unaware that economists no longer trust statistics from China.

All economies today use strategic borrowings, at different levels, from different sources and for different purposes. Managing borrowings is a major challenge. Abbott’s glib admonition “You don’t address debt and deficit with yet more debt and deficit” displayed a dismissive attitude to this complex reality.

There was no sense of understanding the challenges the WEF faces in 2014, let alone having insights into ways forward.

What little strategy Abbott advocated seemed contradictory. He asserted that the global financial crisis (GFC) “was not a crisis of markets but one of governance.”

And then boasted of Australia,

“To boost private sector growth and employment, the new government is cutting red tape …”

Okay. That makes sense.

The prize blunders arrived, however, when Abbott directly attacked the stimulus packages of the Rudd/Gillard administrations:

“In the decade prior to the Crisis, consistent surpluses and a preference for business helped my country, Australia, to become one of the world’s best-performing economies.”

Partly correct.

In 1996, Australia was the 6th-ranked economy in the world. But by 2007, after 11 years of a Coalition government, it had slipped back to 10th place. Still, that is one of the best.

Abbott continued:

All economies today use strategic borrowings, at different levels, from different sources and for different purposes. Managing borrowings is a major challenge. Abbott’s glib admonition “You don’t address debt and deficit with yet more debt and deficit” displayed a dismissive attitude to this complex reality.

There was no sense of understanding the challenges the WEF faces in 2014, let alone having insights into ways forward.

What little strategy Abbott advocated seemed contradictory. He asserted that the global financial crisis (GFC) “was not a crisis of markets but one of governance.”

And then boasted of Australia,

“To boost private sector growth and employment, the new government is cutting red tape …”

Okay. That makes sense.

The prize blunders arrived, however, when Abbott directly attacked the stimulus packages of the Rudd/Gillard administrations:

“In the decade prior to the Crisis, consistent surpluses and a preference for business helped my country, Australia, to become one of the world’s best-performing economies.”

Partly correct.

In 1996, Australia was the 6th-ranked economy in the world. But by 2007, after 11 years of a Coalition government, it had slipped back to 10th place. Still, that is one of the best.

Abbott continued:

“Then, a subsequent government decided that the Crisis had changed the rules and that we should spend our way to prosperity. The reason for spending soon passed but the spending didn’t stop because, when it comes to spending, governments can be like addicts in search of a fix. But after the recent election, Australia is under new management and open for business.”

Two stupidities.

First, it was precisely that extensive rapid spendingthrough the GFC which saw Australia rise from 10th-ranked economy in 2007 to the world’s top ranking by 2012, a reality all those present with an awareness of the G20 economies would have known.

Secondly, attacks on domestic opponents are never acceptable abroad.

In New York last October, Abbott was roundly condemned for a political attack on Kevin Rudd.

American Academic Clinton Fernandes said he created an image of

“… coarseness, amateurishness and viciousness.”

Political scientist Norman Ornstein surmised:

“Perhaps you can chalk it up to a rookie mistake. But it is a pretty big one.”

Clearly, Abbott has learned nothing from that humiliation three months ago.

Abbott then continued to spruik domestic politics — the commission of audit, paid parental leave, cutting the numbers of pensioners, and infrastructure, especially roads:

“… because time spent in traffic jams is time lost from work and family.”

He concluded with a final hypocrisy — following his attack on Labor for spending so much on infrastructure during the GFC.

He gobsmacked anyone still listening with this:

“Then, there’s the worldwide ‘infrastructure deficit’, with the OECD estimating that over 50 trillion dollars in infrastructure investment is needed by 2030.”

Several questions arise.

Why such an appalling performance? Where are his advisers? Does he think he needs no advice? Or is the whole Coalition this amateurish and oafish — or worse?

And why, as ABC News highlighted, is he still battling Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard?

Does this reflect self-doubt about his capacity in the role? They had a vision for the nation; he does not. They had plans to improve the prospects for pensioners, students and people with disabilities; he does not. They nurtured the economy; he cannot. They had character, integrity and authority; he simply does not.

Perhaps it confirms that Abbott knows deep down that the 2013 ‘win’ was illegitimate — that it was secured only by deception and dishonesty.

Perhaps it is time for his party to consider the matter of leader.

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A Robust Green Sector Supports Everything

Early last week, I had an article published in the Independent Australia journal. The feedback was a little surprising, I didn’t realise that others would take it as a lament. The article was only based on my personal reflections as a professional ideally suited for a green sector that has failed to eventuate in Australia.

If anything, the difficulties created by this has been valuable to my career. It has provided me avenues to develop a far more diverse skills set in a short amount of time and prove myself time and time again to be highly adaptive within roles with different policies and objectives and to be innovative.

There are no laments personally. I’ve made the most of my skills and managed to navigate a difficult career path to many personal benefits. The article instead expressed concern, based on my observations; concerns for budding professionals who may not be as resourceful (or at least, still trying to find their feet) and concern for a country that seems stuck with cultural preferences that are ever increasingly unsustainable.

This second point was the many focus of the article I had previously appear in the Australian science journal, Solutions; A Viking Legacy and Australian Cuisine.

We have a preference for primary food production that lingers on our largely European and Asian heritage that does not suit the low quality soils and harsher climates of Australia. All while other options are readily available and have proven themselves better suited to Australian agricultural landscapes.

The same must be said about our preference with urban design, which continually impacts and degrades landscapes while increasingly putting peoples lives and properties at risk from flooding and fire events.

For such reasons, the promised green sector should be front and centre in all we do. It’s not a debate about the reality or certainties of climate change, but simply doing what we do better. The green sector is, what I’ve found to be a taboo word in some corners; efficiency. It’s also resilience.

These two lead to increased prosperity. But no-one wants to talk about culture. This is why the failure of the green sector to take off in Australia has little to do with the political debate over climate change or the left-right / environmentalism discussions more broadly.

We lack the vision, the innovation and the confidence to tackle the necessary changes pro-actively.

Interestingly, a few days after I had this article published on IA, my manager approached me to say that with the current budget constraints, my contracted position needed to be downsized for the short-term, with the hopefully expectation that they may be able to offer me something full time in the coming months.

Being the sole earner, with a wife and young baby at home, this conversation was the death knell for this role. I simply couldn’t offer my family enough on a part time wage. Again, it would seem that I have to clean up my CV and hunt around. But, just as with this post and my article; sure, there are negatives and uncertainties ahead, but lingering on such misses the point and potential entirely.

The necessary conversations will not be had unless someone is willing to start, and persistently start, them. Each time I’ve had to move on, it had brought with it new faces, new challenges and exciting opportunities to improve and demonstrate my value. I haven’t had a single employer happy to see me go. Each would happily keep me if the certainty of the role hadn’t been exhausted.

In a small way, it’s a good sign that I’m doing my job well.

I’m certain I’ll do the next one well, as well, all the while seeking out avenues to press the point that Australia is a great place, but luck shouldn’t be expected and indeed runs out; we need to work at the core foundations of our way of life if we want to continue to consider ourselves the lucky ones. The foundations are of course embedded and supported by our landscapes. Having a robust green sector therefore supports everything.