Monday, August 22, 2011

Truepolitik In Recess

Hi, everyone

Truepolitik is going into hibernation for an indefinite period. It is likely that this will be my last post.

I have been a bit crook lately, with the flu, so I apologise for my lack of posts.

I note, however, that the so-called "Convoy of No Confidence" has a battery of Liberal / National Party organisers & promoters. This includes Mick Pattel, reportedly disendorsed by the Liberal National Party of Qld for the seat of Mt Isa; Alan Jones, former Liberal Party candidate in several seats in NSW; Barnaby Joyce, National Party Senator, and Liberal Party Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

I would like to know the level of involvement of Tony Abbott's staff, paid as public servants, in the organisation. Perhaps a media organisation will make a FOI request.

Meanwhile, Labor MHR Craig Thomson probably has some serious explaining to do to his pregnant wife and the Labor Party, at least. It has been alleged, with copies of credit card statements, that he used a union corporate card for "escort services" from a brothel. Leaving aside that that, in itself is not illegal, the use of a corporate card for personal non-work related items raises the question of ethics. And that is different from criminal. If the police investigate, it might possibly lead to a charge of fraud against teh union for whom he then worked.

Thank you to my followers. I hope that you will pick up the baton of helping to publicise the  shortcomings of politicians.

John
XOXOXOX


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Deal With Refugees On Our Turf: Fr Frank Brennan

[the following article is rewritten from a News Ltd story, referenced below. It is designed to show how media write their stories to create a particular opinion]

HUMAN rights intellectual and lawyer Father Frank Brennan says that we should deal with people (refugees by boat arrival) “efficaciously, quickly and on our on terms and on our own turf”. Father Brennan is professor of law in the Institute of Legal Studies at the Australian Catholic University, and professor of human rights and social justice at the University of Notre Dame Australia.
"Given that people will continue to do very desperate things for the most understandable of human reasons, what is the moral bottom line below which we will not descend as a nation in terms of the protection of our borders," he told ABC radio.

Father Brennan, a staunch opponent of the use of Nauru for processing of boat arrivals, acknowledged it worked to some extent in stopping the boats, in conjunction with other measures such as temporary protection visas. However, Fr Brennan went on: "To say that Malaysia is morally reprehensible is not to espouse Nauru. It's to say that yes, Nauru is the lesser moral evil.", but questioned whether it would work a second time around.
The prominent Jesuit priest said people in leaky boats would continue to arrive in Australia. "We should deal with them efficaciously, quickly and on our on terms and on our own turf”, he said.
Under the Malaysia plan, the Government wants to send 800 asylum seekers to Kuala Lumpur in exchange for 4000 already processed refugees. Father Brennan said Labor seemed determined to come up with something even more ruthless than the former government, conveying the message to asylum seekers that they would definitely would never get to Australia.

The Coalition says Australia should reopen the Nauru processing centre. But Fr Brennan said "I think it could well be ineffective. (the second time round)"

Meanwhile, no asylum seekers will be sent to Malaysia until a High Court case has been resolved, Federal Cabinet secretary Mark Dreyfus has confirmed.  Mr Dreyfus said the Federal Government would abide by the letter and the spirit of an interim injunction stopping the transfer of asylum seekers. Lawyers for up to 42 people who the Government intends to send to Malaysia have challenged the people swap arrangement.

The High Court will hear the case later in August."We're going to treat (the injunction) as applying to all the people who were to be transferred to Malaysia, even those who are not participating in this court case," Mr Dreyfus told Sky News today.
----


Here is the News Ltd version, with a promotional slant for the Coalition’s Nauru Solution. Note the first line – designed to reinforce Coalition’s policy on Nauru.
http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/nauru-lesser-evil-than-malaysia-deal-says-father-frank-brennan/story-e6frfku0-1226112194561 
HUMAN rights intellectual and lawyer Father Frank Brennan says the Nauru solution could be considered a lesser moral evil than the asylum-seeker swap deal with Malaysia.
Father Brennan, a staunch opponent of the use of Nauru for processing of boat arrivals, acknowledged it worked to some extent in stopping the boats, in conjunction with other measures such as temporary protection visas.
But he questioned whether it would work a second time around.
"Given that people will continue to do very desperate things for the most understandable of human reasons, what is the moral bottom line below which we will not descend as a nation in terms of the protection of our borders," he told ABC radio.
"To say that Malaysia is morally reprehensible is not to espouse Nauru. It's to say that yes, Nauru is the lesser moral evil."
The prominent Jesuit priest said people in leaky boats would continue to arrive in Australia.

"We should deal with them efficaciously, quickly and on our on terms and on our own turf," he said.
Under the Malaysia plan, the Government wants to send 800 asylum seekers to Kuala Lumpur in exchange for 4000 already processed refugees.
The Coalition says Australia should reopen the Nauru processing centre.
Father Brennan said Labor seemed determined to come up with something even more ruthless than the former government, conveying the message to asylum seekers that they would definitely would never get to Australia.
He said said the Opposition was promising a reopened Nauru processing centre would provide appropriate health and education, prompt processing with proper scrutiny and guaranteed resettlement.
"Then in that situation, the question would be second time round, would it actually work," he said.
"I think it could well be ineffective."
Father Brennan is professor of law in the Institute of Legal Studies at the Australian Catholic University, and professor of human rights and social justice at the University of Notre Dame Australia.
Meanwhile, no asylum seekers will be sent to Malaysia until a High Court case has been resolved, Federal Cabinet secretary Mark Dreyfus has confirmed.
Mr Dreyfus said the Federal Government would abide by the letter and the spirit of an interim injunction stopping the transfer of asylum seekers.
Lawyers for up to 42 people who the Government intends to send to Malaysia have challenged the people swap arrangement.
The High Court will hear the case later in August.
"We're going to treat (the injunction) as applying to all the people who were to be transferred to Malaysia, even those who are not participating in this court case," Mr Dreyfus told Sky News today.
----
Meanwhile Paul Maley, writing in The Australian, wrote:
“Father Brennan … said the Coalition's alternative policy of processing asylum-seekers on Nauru is the more moral option.”
At no stage, ever, did Fr Brennan say, or imply, that the Nauru solution was moral. He did refer to both the Malaysian Solution, and the use of Nauru, as “moral evil”
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/jesuit-priest-argues-malaysia-solution-worse-option-than-howards-pacific-solution/story-fn59niix-1226111970896

I believe that both News Ltd pieces from the Internet and from The Australian show sufficient bias and intent to manipulate public opinion that the News Ltd journalists have abrogated their responsibility to report impartially. They have certainly twisted the intent of Fr Frank Brennan’s opinion. Paul Maley, writing in The Australian, is worse, because he attributes the Nauru Solution as moral, when Fr Brennan described it as a “moral evil”. I believe my re-write is a more accurate representation of Fr Frank Brennan's position and arguments in the interview ... and I'm an amateur!

John

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Nile’s Unchristian Attack on Ethics

Fred Nile, speaking while introducing a Bill to remove ethics classes in the Legislative Council on 5-August, said:
''It's relative ethics, which is the basis of secular humanism,'' Mr Nile told parliament. ''I believe this is the philosophy that we saw during World War II with the Nazis and with the Communists.'' 1
He also asked a Question Without Notice to the Hon. Duncan Gay, representing the Minister for Education in the Legislative Council.2 The purpose of the question is to try to undermine ethics classes, which only began in Term 1, 2011. Information about the program can found at
Wikipedia 3 differentiates relative and absolute Ethics in the following terms:
There is a distinction between relative (or personal or cultural value) and absolute (or noumenal) value … Relative value is subjective, depending on individual and cultural views, and is therefore synonymous with personal and cultural value. Absolute value, on the other hand, is philosophically absolute and independent of individual and cultural views, as well as independent of whether it is apprehended or not.
Relative value may be regarded as an 'experience' by subjects of the absolute value. Relative value thus varies with individual and cultural interpretation, while absolute value remains constant, regardless of individual or collective 'experience' of it.
In terms of Rev. Fred Nile’s criticism of relative ethics, and his desire for absolute, God-commanded, morals/ethics, consider the following situation as told by Norman Anderson, and published on biblicalstudies.org.uk 4  (pp32-33):
“Imagine that I was standing on a lonely heath, where a single path divided into two―the one branch winding down into a wood and the other running up over a hill―when suddenly a little girl ran along and took the path into the wood, followed, some two minutes later, by a man with wild eyes who demanded to know which path she had taken. What should I do in such a situation? The ideal solution, perhaps, would be to take him home for a cup of tea or coffee; but he might not accept the invitation! The next best thing might be to engage him in conversation until he became calm and rational and the little girl had had plenty of time to get away. But suppose neither of these alternatives seemed feasible. In such circumstances I should myself unhesitatingly point to the path up the hill and tell him that she had gone that way―knowing perfectly well that I was telling him a downright lie. I hope, moreover, that I would realise that to tell lies is to go against a principle of abiding moral validity, and that it is intrinsically evil.”
Fred Nile would, guided by his absolute ethics/morals, be bound to tell the truth, almost certainly to the young girl’s peril. But he would have been ‘absolutely moral’ in telling the truth!  Of course, the most moral & the most ethical action is to lie, in order to ensure the girl’s safety, but this relies on Relative Ethics.  Rev Nile’s argument that relative ethics is the same as the philosophy used by the Nazis and Communism is nonsense, and unchristian in its proposed treatment of other people, in particular the students and parents. It is worth noting, too, that Rev Nile is bound by a Parliamentary Code of Conduct 5,  based on … relative ethics! I’m not sure how he feels about that.

As a Catholic, I'm offended by Fred Nile's stance on Ethics, by his attempt to impose a theocratic rules on secular, public education, and by his unchristian treatment of the people of NSW.

You can read more about the NSW Public School School Ethics Program at www.primaryethics.com.au  and http://parents4ethics.org
In preparing this post, I looked at:
  1. http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/nazi-ideology-in-ethics-classes-says-nile-20110805-1ifft.html#ixzz1UJLdw0UT
  2. http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LC20110803012?open&refNavID=HA8_1
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_(ethics)
  4. http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/vox/vol09/ethics_anderson.pdf
  5. http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/web/common.nsf/key/membersethics 
  6. http://www.primaryethics.com.au/building.html 
  7. http://parents4ethics.org/support-the-ethics-classes/

John

Thursday, August 04, 2011

NSW School Certificate Going

The NSW government has announced that 2010 is to be last year of the NSW School Certificate. It will be replaced by a statement of achievement when students leave in Years 10, 11, or 12. Students who complete Yr 12 and sit for public exams will still be awarded a Higher School Certificate.

The current requirement for students in NSW is that until they reach the age of 17 they must be:

  • studying at school, including Vocational Education & Training (VET) subjects. Some VET subjects can be studied at TAFE; OR
  • in “full time” employment of 25 hrs/week or more;OR
  • in full-time training eg at TAFE 

School and VET subjects are approved by the NSW Board of Studies. 1

The School Certificate has been reviewed several times, but the previous Labor Government continued to support its existence, even as other states recognised the declining value of theirs. Today, the announcement has finally been made. A brief summary about the school certificate can be found on Wikipedia 2

In preparing this post, I looked at:

  1. http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au 
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_Certificate 
John


    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    Media Inquiry and Privacy

    The actions in Britain involving News Corp, News International, its newspapers and journalists are mind-boggling in their alleged criminality. Phone hacking allegations already total in the thousands. Indeed, it has been reported that more than 4000 people have had their phones hacked to obtain private messages. Already several former editors have contradicted James Murdoch’s testimony to the British Parliamentary committee, and Rebekah Brooks, in her statement to News Of The World journalists said there were worse things to be revealed. Rupert Murdoch, in his testimony to the British Parliament, said that he could not know everything, and blamed those he trusted. He did not name them.

    In Australia, The Greens have called for a Parliamentary Inquiry in to Australian media. the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has said that Murdoch’s News Ltd has some “hard questions to answer”.1 News Ltd Chairman and Chief Executive, John Hartigan, responded, saying that     
    “The Prime Minister’s comments seek to draw a link between News Corporation operations in the UK and those here in Australia.
    "The comments were unjustified and regrettable.
    “There is absolutely no connection between events in the UK and our business in Australia
    . ” 2
    There is certainly an attempt by Mr Hartigan to distance himself from Rupert Murdoch’s British operations, but he does admit that he talks to (Rupert) Murdoch often.3  It has also been reported that Rupert Murdoch does travel to Britain to meet with his executives frequently. Those executives would have included his son James, Rebekah Brooks, and editors of his newspapers.
    In Britain, the New Statesman has reported on the meetings of new British PM, David Cameron, and media editors and executives. It notes that Rupert Murdoch was the first media executive Cameron met, and that he met not one BBC (equivalent to our ABC) executive. 4
    Meanwhile News Ltd and Fairfax media have indicated their opposition to proposed legislation to protect the privacy of individuals in Australia. As reported in The Australian 5, it has a heavy emphasis on News Ltd’s position/advice. (The Australian is a News Ltd / Murdoch-owned publisher) There are 3 references to News Ltd, 2 to Fairfax media and 1 to the ABC. Sandip Mukerjea, in the Sydney Morning Herald 5 gives a more balanced, but still opposing view.
    John Hartigan: News Ltd does not want an inquiry Roger Corbett: Fairfax does not want an inquiry

    So, are there hard questions for Australia’s media, including, but not limited to, News Ltd? Yes, and I believe it should encompass print, TV, radio, Internet, and social media used by media organisations.
    Questions should include:
    1. To what extent does any media organisation make, or attempt to make, the news? That is, not just report news, but actively try to create it. For example, what role have media organisations and/or their employees and/or their associates played in organising protests. Anti carbon tax rallies and the Cronulla riots 8  spring to mind.
    2. What is the political agenda that drives the reporting of mainstream media?
    3. To what extent have media misrepresented facts to suit their political agenda?
    4. With which politicians, when, and how often have media executives, editors and/or staff met in the last 2 years, including social functions?
    5. Should ‘news’ stories based on a politician’s press release be labelled as such?  eg ‘the following story is based on (or is) a press release from XYZ Politician. It might, or might not contain accurate information’
    6. How do media organisations’ Codes of Conduct compare? What are their shortcomings?
    7. Which private investigators have been used by Australian media, and for which of their investigations?
    8. Since 2002, were any of Australia’s Privacy Principles 6 violated by either the media, their staff, their private detectives or other associates? The Media were issued with a press release from the Privacy Commissioner in 2001.
    9. Does Australia need to amend the Constitution to provide protected freedom of speech, and protected privacy?

    In preparing this post, I looked at:
    1. http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2011/s3274170.htm 
    2. http://www.news.com.au/business/news-ltd-must-answer-hard-questions-pm/story-e6frfm1i-1226098298144 
    3. http://www.skynews.com.au/topstories/article.aspx?id=638142&vId= 
    4. http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/07/cameron-news-2010 
    5. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/media-groups-set-to-resist-privacy-law-move/story-e6frg996-1226099229742 
    6. http://www.privacy.gov.au/materials/types/infosheets/view/6541  
    7. http://truepolitik.blogspot.com/2011/07/politicians-and-media.html 
    8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Cronulla_riots 

    John

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Lord Abbotmort’s Horcruxes

    In the Harry Potter series, Lord Valdemort is the anti-hero. In his quest is to conquer two worlds: the Wizarding one, and eliminate any muggle heritage in the wizard world; and the muggle world. The Harry Potter series has multiple storylines, with multiple themes around good-evil; growing up; relationships; friendships.

    Lord Voldemort, also known as “the Dark Lord” has 7 horcruxes: dark, magical objects that hold a portion of a soul. Harry Potter is believed to have the power to kill him for good. The horcruxes retain parts of a soul, and provide life-force for Voldemort.

    In Australian politics, Tony Abbott is Leader of the Opposition. He desperately wants to be Prime Minister, and is reported to have told Independent MP’s after the last election that he would “do anything” to be Prime Minister.

    To that end, he has set about an endless “election campaign”, most recently centred on his opposition to the introduction of an interim carbon tax, designed to reduce Australia’s greenhouse carbon emissions, before it progresses to an Emissions trading Scheme. Like Lord Voldemort, ‘Lord Abbotmort’ has assembled a number of political horcruxes, to help him in his quest for all-consuming political power.


    Horcrux 1: News Ltd Media. They not only give him favourable coverage, but actively try to manipulate public opinion in favour of Tony Abbott. For its part, News Ltd will have helped secure a right-wing government, for the favour of Rupert Murdoch, and his family. It also shows all the maleficence towards public opinion as the Hound of the Baskervilles. (yes, I know that's a different story, but it it is an apt description)
    Horcrux 2: Radio Shock jocks - they breathe with the spirit of the right wing of the Liberal Party
    Horcrux 3: WorkChoices. While he tries to hide this one, and says it is dead, WorkChoices, or Industrial Relations power for employers, is deeply ingrained in every Federal Liberal & National Party MP and Senator. With it, Lord Abbormort has secured the backing of the right wing of the Liberal Party for his own position of power.
    Horcrux 4: Simple mantras, which are appealing, but when examined are found to be hollow, and devoid of policy. News Ltd and radio shock-jocks are active in repeating the mantras, extolling their virtues, while never examining their shallowness.
    Horcrux 5: Immigration, which is wrapped up as ‘security’, but which plays upon, and encourages xenophobia, even racism, among otherwise normal voters.
    Horcrux 6: Greed, so often appealed to by the former Liberal-National Government with its personal income taxes, and redistribution of wealth to those with more.
    Horcrux 7: The last, and unintentional horcrux, is the Australian Labor Party, and in particular the NSW Branch. It has just lost government in NSW, and its internal power-broking, machinations with developers, and partial privatisation of hitherto state-owned electricity assets made the Labor Party poisonous to voters in NSW.

    Many adults have read the Harry Potter books. I hope they, too, can recognise the villains in Australian politics.

    It is good, and right, to subject to scrutiny the Government's carbon tax policy, and treasury modelling. But we voters must be very mindful of Mr Abbott's assertions, and the personal greed, and political agendas of those who oppose the government's plan,  including those of business and the media itself.
    John

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Politicians And The Media

    Tony Abbott’s higher standing in the polls is a reflection of a number of things.
    1. The messages are simplistic slogans, repeated often. When he allows his Shadow Ministers to be interviewed, they are given simple answers to questions, and, almost regardless of the question, trot out the answer robotically.
    2. If asked an uncomfortable question, he will stop the journalist, and pick a more “friendly” journalist; or he avoids as much as possible the more probing current affairs programs, opting for the cream-puff shows that ask only soft questions. A straw poll of appearances, taken and reported  by Bruce Hawker in both the Courier-Mail1 and The National Times2  shows how Tony Abbott has avoided the inquisitorial current affairs shows, and headed for the conservative shock-jocks.  It also shows how Julia Gillard has largely avoided the conservative shock-jocks. (it should be noted that Bruce Hawker is a campaign adviser the Labor Party). The figures show the differences for a range of media up to May 2011:
    Julia GillardTony Abbott
    Inquisitorial Current Affairs
    12
    3
    Conservative Shock Jocks
    8
    42
    While these figures are not definitive, they are probably indicative.

    Radio Shock-Jocks:
    Alan Jones is a Liberal Party supporter, and 3-time candidate at NSW and Federal elections for the Liberal Party. 3 
    Other conservative shock-jocks used by Tony Abbott include Ray Hadley, Andrew Bolt, Howard Sattler, Steve Price.

    Television:
    “Current Affairs” shows generally fall into 2 categories: populist, shallow pulp; and inquisitorial. My own classification of some of them is below. The list is not comprehensive.
    Shallow PulpInquisitorial
    NameChannelNameChannel
    A Current Affair
    60 Minutes
    Today Tonight
    Ch9
    Ch9
    Ch7
    The 7:30 Report
    Agenda
    Q and A
    Meet the Press
    ABC
    Sky
    ABC
    Ch10

    Media Donations:
    Lawrence Bull, writing for New Matilda, trawled through the Australian Electoral Commission, and wrote on 1-February this year 4
    “Six-figure donations (from media companies) are common, and the relationships don’t end there - Labor has several major investments in media companies and the close relationship between former Fairfax CEO Ron Walker and the Liberals is well known.”
    A Summary of his findings is below:
    Donations 2000 - 2007
    Media Group / Significant Person
    Donations to  Liberal
    Donations to Labor
    News Corp (Murdoch)
    $88,500
    $15,000
    Dame Elizabeth Murdoch
    $120,000
    -
    Fairfax Media
    $90,000
    $20,000
    PBL Entities (Packer)
    $800,000
    $700,000
    TEN Network
    $650,000
    $400,000
    Austereo
    $100,000
    (2007 Election, as advertising)
    $100,000
    (2007 Election, as advertising)
    Paul Ramsey Holdings (Prime TV & Private Hospitals)
    $250,000
    -
    Prime
    $75,000
    $58,000
    Seven Network
    $35,000
    $35,000

    With the exception of Austereo and the Seven Network, the other media have significantly favoured the Liberal Party. I would expect a rigorous investigation to show that the funding bias reflects their editorial policies.

    Summary and  Conclusion:
    In short, there would appear to be a financial & editorial bias from many media organisations towards the Liberal Party. Furthermore, Tony Abbott’s use of soft, populist media, and supportive shock-jocks, is effective use of the media from a politician reported to to have said to the Independent MP’s that he’d “do anything” to be Prime Minister. He remains, however, evasive of more discerning questions, especially about his lack of policy detail.

    Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s poor polling results reflect her lack of attendance on the shallow, populist current affairs shows, and the aggressive pro-Liberal stance taken by popular shock-jocks. She is lighter on simplistic slogans, being more inclined to rational explanations.

    In preparing this post, I looked at:
    1. http://www.thecourier.com.au/blogs/national-comment/abbott-avoids-the-tough-questions/2176910.aspx
    2. http://www.nationaltimes.com.au/opinion/politics/abbott-cherrypicks-easy-interviews-to-avoid-tough-questions-20110526-1f692.html 
    3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Jones_(radio_broadcaster)
    4. http://newmatilda.com/2011/02/01/hold-front-page
    5. http://www.aec.gov.au/ 

    John

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Carbon Tax An Incremental Step

    The (Labor) Federal Government’s Carbon Tax Policy has been released today. Some details were provided by the print media, but the main show began at the midday press conference. The main speakers were Julia Gillard, Greg Combet & Wayne Swan.

    Summary:
    1. A flat-rate carbon tax begins 1-July-2012. It changes to an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in 2015.
    2. Carbon tax price is $23 per tonne of Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
    3. Approximately 500 companies will pay the tax. (those producing more than 25,000 tonnes of CO2)
    4. Household fuels are exempt.
    5. Significant changes to the tax system accompany the introduction of the carbon tax. Most taxpayers, and pensioners and self-funded retirees will be compensated.

    Comparison with the GST:
    Carbon Tax
    (Labor Government – to start July 2012)
    GST
    (Coalition Government – July 2000)
    Inflation Effect (CPI) 1
    • 0.7% (Treasury-Predicted)
    • 2.75% (Treasury-Predicted)
    • 3.0% (Measured)
    Targets
    • Big polluters – those that produce more than 25000 Tonnes of CO2 per year.
    • End-Consumers
    Exemptions 2
    • Facilities that produce less than 25000 Tonnes of CO2 per year.
    • Small Businesses
    • Forestry, Land, Agriculture
    • Fresh Food
    • Health and Medical Care
    • Health Insurance
    • Educational Supplies and Childcare
    • ”Specified Items”
    Compensations 3
    (reduce by 1.3% per year from 2013)
    • Income tax Cuts:
      Households, amount dependent on income
    • 94.5% Compensation:
      High-polluting trade-exposed industries (eg steel-making, cement) are more than 90% compensated
    • 66% Compensation:
      Lower-level polluting trade-exposed industries
    • 50% Compensation:
      Liquefied Natural gas producers
    • Income tax Cuts:
      Households, amount dependent on income

    The Politics:
    Politically, the government has tied tax reform to the carbon tax. This makes it harder for a future Coalition government to undo. It cannot undo the Carbon Tax / ETS without undoing the tax cuts, increasing rates of tax, or introducing new taxes to replace it.

    Meanwhile, News Ltd papers and websites continue their pro-Coalition, anti-climate change, campaign to influence public opinion, possibly with the lack of ethics his media have shown in Britain. Consider the following “Polls” 4 :
    1. ”Will the carbon tax change your energy consumption?”
      It’s a good question, and targets one reason for the carbon tax. (the other reason is as a transition mechanism to a market-based ETS)
      A reasonable person, and a person constructing a survey would expect a Yes/No answer only.
      Not so, Rupert Murdoch’s media: there are 4 options, the 4th one exists to further their agenda to create public opinion. The 4th option is “No,climate change is a myth”
      From a closed question requiring a Yes/No answer, News Ltd has managed to include an option to manipulate public opinion.
    2. “How would you describe the compensation measures”
      Again, a fair question, and you would expect responses like: Excellent, Good, Fair, Bad.
      Again, the long arm of Murdoch’s political agenda has intervened: the 4th option is “Disgraceful, we shouldn't have this tax at all anyway”.

    News Ltd polls are not used to gauge public opinion. Their existence is to help manipulate public opinion in favour of the Coalition.

    The Greens, Bob Brown and Christine Milne in particular, have been spruiking their contribution. 5 They have talked about “no new coal-fired power stations” being built. This is a possibility, but equivalent gas-fired power stations will be needed.  Hazelwood Power Station in the La Trobe Valley of Victoria uses brown coal and 6 x 200 MW generators to create 1200 MW (1.2 GW) of electricity. Brown coal is a very ‘dirty’ form of coal, and there are significant mines in Victoria. Since its electricity assets were privatised, I understand there has been little investment in power stations.

    The Effects:
    The intended effects of the carbon tax include: to promote investment in renewable energy sources,  to reduce carbon emissions, to move towards an ETS. The initial target is 5% reduction in CO2. This is a small, but achievable, target.

    For all the conservative and (some) media furore over the ‘great big new tax’, the bottom line is if you want to reduce your carbon tax, reduce your use of carbon-based energy. Heat your house to 18-20 degrees in winter, and cool to 24-25 degrees in summer. More tips to reduce energy use can be found at: http://www.yourhome.gov.au/technical/fs61.html and http://www.low-impact.net/index.php/20080128/reducing-home-electricity-consumption-simple-steps/

    The carbon tax is an incremental change towards changing our environment for the better. The inclusion of tax reform as part of the package is politically smart, making it harder for a future government to undo, and makes the package more significant and palatable.

    John

    In researching this post, I also looked at:
    1) http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1405&context=commpapers
    2) http://www.gstaustralia.com.au/what-are-gst-free-supplies/
    3) http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/07/10/3265775.htm
    4) http://www.news.com.au/money/money-matters/julia-gillard-unveils-her-plans-for-carbon-tax/story-e6frfmd9-1226091665916
    5) http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/carbon-plan/better-or-worse-verdict-on-the-gillard-governments-carbon-tax/story-fn99tjf2-1226091746969
    6) http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunrise/factsheets/article/-/9816119/kochie-your-guide-to-the-carbon-tax-and-compensations/

    Friday, July 08, 2011

    End Of The World – To Save Money

    Rupert Murdoch’s son, James, has announced that this Sunday, 10-July-2011, will be last edition of The News of the World (NOTW). NOTW is a British tabloid newspaper which has a prior history of making up the news, and most recently, allegedly hacking phones of up to 4000 people, including: public identities (‘celebrities’ and politicians), actors & actresses, families of men and women killed while serving in the military forces, and murder victims. James Murdoch indicated that closing NOTW was ‘the right thing to do’.

    Murdoch is staying loyal to Rebekah Brooks, the Editor of NOTW at the time of many of the alleged phone hacks. She has reportedly said she was “sickened” when told of the phone hack of a young murdered girls phone, including the deletion of voice mail messages so more could be left for the paper to report. As Editor, you would expect that she would have known what her journalists were doing (criminal), or incompetent, if she did not know. Rupert and James Murdoch must believe they have much to lose if she were to lose her job in their empire. Her inside knowledge would be priceless to another media organisation, and invaluable to police or a public inquiry.


    But, why close the paper? There are a number of possible explanations:
    1. public anger, which might lead to a drop in sales revenue
    2. loss of advertising revenue, as companies express their anger
    3. Murdoch is ruthless in his business, and his use of journalism. In 2007, Bill Moyers, writing on http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/07/02/the_problem_with_murdoch.php  wrote:
      (Murdoch’s) accustomed to using journalism as a personal spittoon. In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, he turned the dogs of war loose in the newsrooms of his empire and they howled for blood. … he’s not the first to use journalism to promote his own interests.  …  His tabloids sell babes and breasts, gossip and celebrities.”
    4. closing the paper, and transferring as many assets as possible from News International (the publishing company) to other parts of News Corp, so that any more people who sue NOTW, will be suing a company with insufficient assets to pay. With up to 4000 people/families who might sue, for say, £500,000 it would face a bill of hundreds of millions of ponds, even if News ‘settled’ out of court.
    Given Rupert Murdoch’s ruthless business acumen, my money is on option 4.
    I believe that closing NOTW is a business decision only, driven by money considerations and the desire to remove a problem. That is, the closure is designed to limit exposure to compensation and punitive damages claims. I believe it has nothing to do with “the right thing”, as James Murdoch expressed it.

    John



    In researching this article, I also looked at:
    1) http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjsavv_news-of-the-world-closes-amid-hacking-scandal_news
    2) http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/07/02/the_problem_with_murdoch.php
    3) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/press/behind-ruperts-throne-the-story-of-rebekah-brooks-2307512.html

    Sunday, July 03, 2011

    Abbott vs Economists

    Tony Abbott has continued his politically-motivated aggression against any price on carbon pollution. This time he has attacked Australian, and international, economists. They are in general agreement that a carbon tax is a good, simple, short term measure to reduce carbon pollution, before an ETS is introduced. Speaking at The Australian-Melbourne Institute Growth Challenge conference (of economists) in Melbourne, he said:
    “It may well be, as you say, that most Australian economists think that the carbon tax or emissions trading scheme is the way to go. Maybe that’s a comment on the quality of our economists.”
    It is classic political “shoot-the-messenger” response. He tried it, with only mixed success, on Ross Garnaut.  Of course, it does nothing for public debate, and is merely an assertion to be reported in the media. I’m not aware of any research on Australian media, but with Rupert Murdoch having significant interests in the UK, the USA and Australia, I’d hypothesise that the figures in the chart below would not be too different for the media & public opinion. (the chart also links to the original site)



    His figures for climate scientists consensus are supported by Anderegg, W. et al. in  Proceedings of the National academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) (Link 5, below)



    The Productivity Commission Report (http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/study/carbon-prices/report ) made the following points in its conclusion:
    “The cost effectiveness of these actions (carbon emissions reductions policies) in achieving abatement, and the amount of abatement actually achieved, also varies widely, both across programs within each country and in aggregate across countries.
    –  Explicit carbon pricing in the United Kingdom appears to have been a cost-effective way of achieving considerable abatement.
    –  At the other end of the scale, policies to encourage small-scale renewable generation are substantially less cost effective and have led to relatively little abatement.


    The relative cost effectiveness of a price-based approach is illustrated for Australia by stylised modelling that suggests that the abatement from existing policies could have been achieved at a fraction of the cost.”
    That is, a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme is a more cost-efficient way to use the tax system to reduce emissions than subsidies for small-scale projects, such as household solar panels, for example.

    John

    In researching this article, I also looked at:
    1)  http://www.petermartin.com.au/2011/06/impact-of-carbon-tax-will-be-how-small.html
    2) http://www.smh.com.au/business/productivity-commission-backs-carbon-pricing-20110609-1fu2j.html
    3) http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opposition-leader-tony-abbott-defies-economists-on-carbon-tax/story-fn961iy1-1226085675981
    4)  http://renegadeconservatoryguy.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Climate-Change-Infographic1.pdf
    5) http://www.theage.com.au/environment/climate-change/climate-debate-appalling-20110621-1gdms.html 

    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    Reith Lets Genie Out

    Last weekend Alan Stockdale was re-elected as President of the Liberal Party of Australia, despite the 4 vice Presidents supporting Peter Reith.
    Tony Abbott is reported, by Peter Reith, to have encouraged Peter Reith to run for the Presidency, but then voted against him, publicly showing his voting card to both Alan Stockdale & his Deputy, Julie Bishop. It precipitated something of a public dummy-spit by Peter Reith, who has hit the media, including radio shock-jocks with his message on IR. The message is: IR is in the Liberal Party’s DNA. He, other members of the Liberal Party executive, Tony Abbott, and Liberal MP’s all want a return to WorkChoices-style IR laws. That is: a deregulated labour market, removal of any ‘safety net’, a return to individual contracts dictated by employers.

    Jeff Lawrence, Secretary of the ACTU, writing in The Australian, said:
    “(The Liberal Party) remains fixated with removing unfair dismissal protection, undermining collective bargaining and handing employers power to dictate pay and conditions.
    It isn't just the presence of former Howard government IR headkicker Peter Reith, or the continuing role on the front bench of the chief Work Choices salesman, Joe Hockey. An entire new generation of Liberal MP's sees nothing wrong with taking away basic workplace rights.” (see link 4, below)
    Among Mr Reith’s suggestions for the Liberal Party is a “review” by The Institute of Public Affairs, with his people on the review panel, including Hugh Morgan, and Michael Chaney. Both are Liberal Party members, both supported WorkChoices.

    Person Membership IR Position More Information
    Hugh Morgan Liberal Party (Vic)
    Business Council
    Pro WorkChoices http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Morgan_(businessman)
    Michael Chaney Liberal Party
    Business Council
    Pro WorkChoices His bother, Fred, was a Federal Liberal MP
    Institute of Public Affairs Pro WorkChoices Liberal Party “think tank”, and one off the founders of the Liberal Party (see Link 5 below)

    Given the above information, it will come as no future surprise that the enquiry will recommend a return to WorkChoices-style IR. Peter Reith has acted as a classical politician: you can have an inquiry when you have a pre-determined result.

    But the IR genie, that Tony Abbott so desperately tried to keep hidden from public view, is now out of the bottle.


    Ordinary working Australians will be right to “be afraid, be very afraid”.

    John

    In preparing this article I also looked at:
    1) http://www.smh.com.au/national/reith-plans-think-tank-to-challenge-labour-laws-20110629-1gr1q.html
    2) http://www.smh.com.au/national/newsmaker-peter-reith-20110624-1gjiw.html
    3) http://www.smh.com.au/national/abbott-bows-to-reith-on-ir-20110628-1gpf1.html
    4) http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/the-libs-just-dont-get-it/story-e6frg6zo-1226084430812
    5) http://www2b.abc.net.au/tmb/Client/Message.aspx?b=33&m=8734&ps=50&dm=1&pd=3

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Abbott: “Tax Cuts are in our DNA”

    Yesterday, Saturday 25-July, Ton Abbott gave his speech to the 55th Federal Council of the Liberal Party of Australia. In it he criticised the current Labor government’s lack of achievements under PM Julia Gillard in the last 12 months, & in the seven and a half months since the last election.
    In proposing tax cuts, Mr Abbott said:
    “Tax cuts are in our DNA...”
    So, What else in in the Liberal Party's DNA? Tony Abbott made 6 references to the Howard government and its policies. Deep in the Liberal Party’s DNA, as implemented by John Howard’s government, of which Tony Abbott was a member, are the following:
    • Industrial Relations:
      • Guards & attack dogs on the wharves to attack a union, under the guidance of John Howard and Peter Reith. Reform was needed, but many question whether it needed guards drawn from military commandos and paratroopers, in black uniforms, wearing balaclavas, and with attack dogs. Peter Reith has just failed in his attempt to take over as President of the Liberal Party of Australia.
      • In NSW the (liberal-National) O’Farrell Government has introduced IR legislation to attack public service unions, and their members’ pay and conditions.
      • WorkChoices. Tony Abbott said ‘the term WorkChoices is dead’, but IR is still firmly on the agenda to further the cause of, mostly, big business, and the ideology of reducing workers pay to benefit business is prominent.
    • Tax:
      • introduction of the ‘never, ever’ GST. Yes, it replaced a mish-mash of other taxes, but the effect was to increase the amount of tax collected.
      • the use of tax cuts, and the 30% Health Insurance rebate, which were of most benefit to middle and higher income earners. That is, it was a redistribution of wealth from poorer to richer people.
    • Welfare:
      • increases in middle-class welfare, and reductions / harsher penalties for those less fortunate. Proposals for business welfare were made at the last election, as a means to be seen to do something about climate change, to the benefit of businesses and farmers.
    • Lies, mistruths and integrity:
      • the ‘never, ever’ GST was introduced months after voters were told it would not happen, and every Liberal member supported the new tax. Tony Abbott would have called it a “great big new tax on everything”, except his party did it, and it was, indeed a new tax on (almost) everything.
      • the children overboard mistruths, later shown to be lies, during the 2001 Federal election campaign
      • In its first term of government, the Howard Government introduced a Code of Conduct for Ministers, which included having to be truthful to Parliament, and to divest themselves of shares related to their portfolio. Between March 1996 and September 2007, 7 Ministers had to resign: Jim Short, Brian Gibson, Bob Woods, Geoff Prosser, John Sharpe, David Jull & Peter McGauran resigned because of breaches of the Code of Conduct.
      • The Code of Conduct was amended in 1999 to allow Ministers to retain shares that relate to their portfolio. So much for ethics and honesty.
    • Breach of International Law & obligations under UN Conventions:
      • the Tampa Affair, where Australia breached its obligations under international maritime law to a ship which had rescued people on the high seas.
      • “the Pacific Solution” for refugees was heavily criticised by the UNHCR. It was similar to the current Labor Government’s proposal for its “Malaysian Solution”, which also is not supported by the UN.
    • Reduction in Government Spending. Cuts were made to:
      • The Public Service, and resultant drop in government services to & for people.
      • Universities, to the point where they are now dependent on foreign, full-fee-paying students. It has caused ethical problems about student grades and marks at a number of universities, where people believed there was pressure to pass such students because the universities needed the money. HECS debts can be enormous for new graduates.
      • Funding to states for public education, at the same time redistributing more public money to private schools. Without wishing to enter into the debate about public vs. private education, there was a real redistribution by the Liberal Party of public money from public education to private entities. 
      • Welfare: (see 'Welfare' above)
      • Privatisation of Public Assets:
        •  Telstra: it is widely acknowledged among economists that the infrastructure should have been hived off before sale. ie only the retail arm of Telstra should have been privatised. It caused years of conflict among Telstra, other telcos which wanted access to the infrastructure the ACCC, the government, and the public.
        • Commonwealth Employment Service: remember that?? It was essentially privatised by disbandment, and its job-finding functions sold off to private entities who wanted not only the cost of the service, but profit as well. It was never done at 'cost-recovery' amounts.
        • The attempt to sell Medicare Private. It was stalled by political unpopularity, but Howard had a strong history of desiring, and pursuing, privatisation. See: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/media/pressrel/FBYI6/upload_binary/fbyi65.pdf;fileType%3Dapplication%2Fpdf
      As much as Tony Abbott wants us to wary of the current Federal Labor Government, we voters should be very mindful of that part of the Liberal DNA he is selectively NOT telling us, and which he wants to keep from public scrutiny.

      John

      Tuesday, June 21, 2011

      Abbott’s Plebiscite Another Stunt

      Tony Abbott has suggested a National Plebiscite to determine whether Australia should have a Carbon Tax.

      Plebiscites and Referenda are somewhat different. In Australia, we use the term ‘Referendum’ when a question of Constitutional change is put to the people. If it passes by a majority of Australian voters, AND a majority of voters in a majority (4 –6) states, then the Government is bound to implement the change. A Plebiscite, or Advisory Referendum, has no requirement for Government action, regardless of the voting result.


      Independent MP’s and Senators, the Greens, and the Labor Government have been critical of Abbott’s proposal. They have generally cited:
      1. the $80 Million estimated cost of a vote that does not require Government action
        and
      2. it is just a political stunt, being nothing more than an opinion poll.
      Independent Senator Nick Xenophon (SA) was less critical, saying the question to asked should be “neutral”, avoiding the word ‘tax’. You can almost see Tony Abbott, and his faceless advisers, wince with pain.

      There have been only 3 other national plebiscites:
      1916 Conscription LOST
      1917 Conscription LOST, but Billy Hughes introduced conscription anyway.
      1977 Change National Anthem Anthem Changed to Advance Australia Fair


      Tony Abbott has produced a media stunt derived purely from his own political pursuit of power. It would contribute nothing to debate about good policy: he wanted a question that effectively would have asked “Do you want to pay more tax? He did, however, admit that he would ignore the voice of the people if the vote went against him, while he would have insisted the Government follow the vote if it went against the Government!


      While researching for this post, I came across the following sites. The third one, about Billy Hughes, is an interesting, because he tried to use Plebiscites to change the attitudes of his own (Labor) party, and opposition Senators.
      1. Australian Electoral Commission information, at http://www.aec.gov.au/Elections/referendums/Advisory_Referendums/
      2. article from Peter Brent, in The Australian. You can see it at http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/mumble/index.php/theaustralian/comments/fielding_does_abbott_a_favour/
      3. Information about Billy Hughes’ plebiscites on Conscription at the Museum of Australian Democracy – Old Parliament House, at http://billyhughes.moadoph.gov.au/conscription/

      John

      Sunday, June 19, 2011

      Problems and Polls

      It has been a bad few days for the Federal Labor Party: its Primary vote in a poll is down to 27%; Kevin Rudd is preferred PM over Julia Gillard by 60% to 31%; Kevin Rudd had provided multiple media interviews about Thursday’s 1-year anniversary of being dumped as Prime Minister, and there are reports he will have an anniversary party to remember his “assassination”, as Prime Minister. Following the flurry of media stories, a number of Labor people have anonymously suggested he should be sacked as Minister for Foreign affairs & Trade.
      Kevin Rudd has been accused of being arrogant, and a bully. Tony Abbott has accused Julia Gillard of being arrogant. Tony Abbott is arrogant and a bully; and so was  John Howard. Many leaders, as with many elite sports people, have an arrogant, confident streak in them. However, it would have been in his party’s interests had Kevin Rudd declined all interviews about the events of June 2010, despite media interest. It is certainly not in his party’s interest for him to hold an anniversary of assassination party.
      Tony Abbott continues to effectively cause the government grief. His relentless use (misuse?) of the media for negativism has resulted in a significant rise in his, and the Coalition’s preference. The Labor Government’s problems include:
      Problem Concerns
      Immigration Off-shore processing proposals at Timor failed. Manus Island seems unlikely at this stage. The Malaysian Solution, with possibly 800 refugees being sent, with 4000 UN-determined refugees in exchange is seen as a ‘bad deal’, the UN has so far refused to sanction it and Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Human Rights. Nauru is being relentlessly pushed by Tony Abbott, because they used it when in government. This is why Labor will not use it. Abbott also does NOT mention the criticism from the UNHCR on its Pacific Solution. 
      Many voters have a perception that the Coalition is better/tougher on asylum-seekers than Labor, and Abbott's repetition is designed to reinforce that perception.
      Carbon Tax One of the problems here has been the required input from the Independent MP’s Andrew Wilkie and Rob Oakeshott; and The Greens. It means that the government cannot publicly discuss the details, and uncertainty is political poison.
      The Economy It’s not the Government’s fault, with so many external influences, and so much information being made available to people through news reports. However, the Coalition tries to trade on its perceived economic record, even though they caused considerable pain to homebuyers because the last 7 movements in interest rates were increases when the Coalition was led by John Howard.
      Factionalism The existence of Labor’s Left & Right factions is well known. At present, the right faction, which installed left-wing Julia Gillard, still dominates. While the same is true of the Liberal Party, they have hidden their power struggles better. The exception was in NSW in 2007, when the extreme Right, reportedly led by Alex Hawke, caused significant media problems for the NSW Liberal Party. While Labor’s factions are known about, even Tony Abbott acknowledged their use in the Liberal Party, in an interview with the ABC’s Tony Jones. http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2007/s2199048.htm The Liberal Party factions are currently showing more discipline than Labor.
      Media While Tony Abbott fronts the media almost daily with tightly-scripted, staged, TV & radio grabs, Labor is NOT responding with their own message, explanations and counters, or certainly not responding with effective coverage. Consequently,  people who see or hear any news, hear Tony Abbott, and the message is repetitive. They then see little of nothing from the government, and, understandably, they develop a perception that Tony Abbott is better.

      While these are not all the problems facing the Federal Labor Government, they are significant. Members of Julia Gillard’s Government need to display much more discipline, and loyalty to the party. Any chance at good government requires it, and less effort on internal factional business. Tony Abbott is running a small target campaign, with very little policy. It is a tactic that was very successful for Barry O’Farrell in NSW, and he has unleashed a right-wing attack early in his term. Public Servants and the IRC have been the main targets.They also need to work towards solving all of the above problems, else the right faction will lead Labor to defeat at the next election, even though Julia Gillard is from the left faction.

      John

      Monday, June 13, 2011

      In Search of a Moral Compass

      The Current Events
      Andrew Wilkie, MP, accused Labor of losing its moral compass on live exports (of cattle, in particular) and in its treatment of refugees. 

      The public backlash after 4-Corners graphic video report on the slaughter of cattle forced the government to impose a 6-month ban on live export of cattle to Indonesia. Joe Ludwig,  Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, had his hands full managing the new stories about the mistreatment of Australian cattle in some Indonesian abattoirs, and responses from the National Party, and cattle graziers from northern Australia. They depend heavily on live exports. He has not responded to the comments about Labor’s loss of its moral compass, but did respond to the 4-Corners report with a statement that read, in part,
      "I asked industry at the beginning of this year for proposals on how welfare outcomes could be improved, particularly after animals arrive in importing countries. I am currently considering these proposals.” Mr Ludwig’s full statement can be read at http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/special_eds/20110530/cattle/docs/statement_ludwig.pdf
      If true, this might go some way to answering Andrew Wilkie’s assertion about Labor’s moral compass. However, reports can take an indeterminate amount of time to consider, once in government hands, and the test will be how quickly Mr Ludwig responds, and in what manner.

      Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, was quicker to respond to the assertion that Labor had lost its moral compass. He told The Age
      ''everyone has got their own moral compass … the government's moral compass is driven by trying to avoid the risk of [people] getting on boats, and to increase our humanitarian intake''.
       http://www.theage.com.au/national/malaysian-deal-critics-slammed-20110606-1fpb5.html#ixzz1P3mawXfl

      So, exactly what is a “moral compass”?

      The terms ‘morals’ and ‘ethics are often used interchangeably. They are somewhat different.
      Morals represent the shared beliefs of a group or society about what is 'true’ or right in behavioural terms. Morals are not the exclusive domain of religions, or religious groups. Different societies have different moral codes, sometimes at odds with religious groups within their society.

      Ethics refers to a study of what is right & wrong; and how that determines our actions. Some things are deemed to be absolutely right or wrong. For example, murder, rape and child abuse are seen as absolutely wrong. However, in many cases, what is ethical behaviour is much more difficult to determine. Ethical behaviours are commonly written as “professional standards”.

      However, what is ethical, need not be moral, and neither might be legal. Extreme legislation such as that allowing slavery, or apartheid, made such actions legal, but almost everyone would say they were neither moral, nor ethical.

      The Centre for Defined Ethics says that
      “a Moral Compass promotes the intellectual idea of a moral vision that's based on a worldcentric vision and the necessity for care towards each other.” http://www.themoralcompass.co.uk/case.htm

      Do Governments & Political Parties Have a ‘Moral Compass’?

      If they did, I suggest they have lost it.
      Federally:
      Members of the ALP’s right-wing factions have said privately to journalists that if they don’t effectively demonise boat people, and send them to long-term detention, or off-shore, they believe they will not win the next election. Our society’s ‘morals’ are that these people do not deserve to be treated humanely, because they arrived by boat, and used people-smugglers to get here. Voters’ morals & ethics are not based on ethics requiring “the necessity for care towards each other”. Labor’s policy is based on matching, or being even harsher than, the Liberal-National Parties’ policy. The policy of both Labor and Liberal-National parties is based on what will get us elected. John Howard’s successful strategy was to demonise refugees, and it changed our society’s morals. Those morals have been reflected in the treatment of other refugees, such as those granted asylum after working for, and helping, Australian troops in Afghanistan. They have reportedly been vilified and subject to racial abuse in Queensland and Victoria. Labor’s policy on those asylum-seekers that arrive by boats is based on political expediency, and the desire to be re-elected, not on any moral compass.

      The Liberal-National Parties’ policy contributions, in Opposition, are confined to: ‘No’; and a burning, and largely unstated desire to return to the extremism called Howardism: demonising all asylum seekers; personal wealth at the expense of societal wealth; redistribution of wealth to those with more, and to private companies; and with IR controls in the hands of politicians and big business, not courts.

      In NSW:
      The previous Labor government passed the so-called Part 3A Planning legislation. It allowed the Minister for Planning to arbitrarily introduce regulations, over-riding local planning laws; environmental and heritage laws; and  put a straitjacket on the courts. It allowed approval of for example, the approval of a car park at the Barangaroo site without the developer having to clean contaminated soil; it allowed the approval of coal-seam gas extraction on farmland. There appears to be not much influence of a moral compass there.

      The current Liberal-National government in NSW proposes to introduce IR legislation that will straitjacket the IR court. Like the Part 3A Planning laws, a Minister will determine what judgement the court will make. It is motivated by a right-wing desire to attack public-sector unions. That is, it is based on political extremism. There appears to be not much influence of a moral compass there.

      Our political parties are not guided by any moral compass. They are guided by ‘spin doctors’ and party power-brokers whose only desire to gain political power, and to keep it.



      John

      Sunday, May 29, 2011

      Minchin–Party Over The People

      In an article published by the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, 28-May-11, Senator Nick Minchin outlines some serious flaws in our party-dominated system. The first clause in the first sentence is:
      “As I prepare to retire from 32 years of full-time service to the Liberal Party, …” (18 of those years was as Senator)
      Nick Minchin:
      worked for the party
      It could be said by a retiring Parliamentarian from any major party. Nick Minchin was elected as a Senator to represent the Constitutional interests of South Australia on 1-July-1993. He has been a Senator for 18 years. From 1977 to 1993, he worked for the Liberal Party's Federal Secretariat; he was Deputy Federal Director of the Liberal Party in 1983 and held senior positions in the South Australian Liberal Party. In his public life, and his 18 years in the Senate, Nick Minchin has always worked for the interests of the Liberal Party.
      Senator Minchin goes on:
      (Party) “success really lies in getting the balance right between Principle and Pragmatism -between the pursuit of good policy and the need to retain popular support”
      This is undoubtedly true, and Principle alone rarely leads to good policy. Even when policy is not good, Party Parliamentarians will still vote for the party, because it is in the Party’s interests. This is true of members from all major parties: Labor, Liberal, National; and minor parties like  the Greens. Consider the following:
      • the policy to deliberately breach International Law (the Tampa Affair) – Liberal Party
      • the Pacific Solution – using Nauru to hold asylum seekers, and to leave 1 person alone in detention for more than 2 years, and subject to UN criticism. Nauru is not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees – Liberal Party
      • the (proposed) Malaysian Solution – using Malaysia to take 800 asylum seekers, in exchange for 4000 UN-determined refugees. Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees – Labor Party
      • WorkChoices, a fundamentalist attack on the wages and working conditions on some of the very people the Liberal Party relied on to retain power - Liberal Party
      • Mining tax, which was poorly considered, and effectively gelded by a big-business-funded populism campaign – Labor Party
      In each case the party members did vote, or would have voted, for the policy, based solely on their party membership.

      This is where Independent Parliamentarians have a significant role to play. As much as the Liberal Party has tried to demonise Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, their role as Independent, non-party-political MP’s in a Federal Parliament with a minority government is invaluable. It makes the government, and to a lesser extent the Opposition, consider a position or compromise that will prevent or ameliorate fundamentalism and extremism. That is something members of the major parties rarely do on their own initiative.

      John

      Saturday, May 28, 2011

      NSW Steps Towards Dictatorship

      NSW Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell is trying to take NSW one step closer to being a dictatorship. He proposes to introduce legislation which will allow a Minister, under his direction, to introduce regulations that will determine the pay and conditions for public servants, including: public service staff; public teachers; nurses; hospital doctors; carers; public transport staff.

      The previous State Government introduced legislation (so-called Part3A Planning Laws) that allowed the Planning Minster to introduce ‘regulations’ approving Development Applications above a certain value. The Minster was able to act as Legislature (instead of Parliament), Executive (Minister) and Judiciary. Those ‘regulations’ were used to allow:
      • multiple wind-farms around Crookwell, Lake George and Cullerin, close to people's houses.
      • the development of Barangaroo, which was allowed to bypass City of Sydney planning laws; and environmental clean-up laws.
      • an approved development at Catherine Hill Bay, again contrary to local council planning laws, and contrary to the Minister's own departmental advice. 
      • coal seam gas extraction without reference to other local or state planning, environmental or heritage laws in the Illawarra, Camden, the Hunter Valley. There were/are plans for drills in the Southern Highlands, near Bowral.
      Photo: Groomgreens.org
      Many believe that "Government-by-Regulation" is wrong, including me. They are wrong because they diminish, or even reduce to zero, the Principle of Separation of Powers: that Parliament, Government and the Judiciary are independent. Especially the Judiciary.
      The current State Government made much of undoing the Planning Minister’s ability to introduce such regulations, and returning planning powers to Local Councils, saying that such regulatory powers were wrong.

      Now, it seems those same regulatory powers are OK! Mr O’Farrell intends to use the same “regulatory powers” again. Not for planning, but for Industrial Relations. Mr O'Farrell proposes legislation that will allow a Minister to be able to regulate the pay and conditions of public servants. That is, the Minister will introduce a regulation that effectively directs one or more judges of IRC to make a particular decision regarding pay and conditions. This removes the judicial independence from industrial court decisions. This “Government-by-Regulation” is exactly how the various contentious wind-farms were allowed, Barangaroo and coal-seam gas developments were allowed.


      While there is no direct enshrinement of the Doctrine of Separation of Powers - that Parliament, Government and the Judiciary are independent - in NSW’s Constitution, it is worth publicly noting that there are long-standing conventions regarding the Separation of Powers in NSW. Queensland’s Joh Bjelke-Petersen was found to have no concept of it during the Fitzgerald Inquiry, and the corruption in the government he led, and the Police Force he controlled, is well documented. This proposed Act will weaken the Separation of Powers in NSW because a Minister will the Legislature, the Executive, and will effectively make judgements on behalf of the Judiciary, who will be required to ‘rubber stamp’ them. Again, this means that one person, under the direction of Mr O’Farrell and any future Premier, will effectively be Legislature, Executive and Judiciary!

      Mr O’Farrell’s proposed legislation clearly breeches the Principle of Separation of Powers by action and intent, is unethical, weakens our democracy, and leaves open the opportunity for corruption by this, and future governments. It must be vigorously opposed.

      “Government-by-Regulation” was wrong for wind-farms and other large developments, not because they are wind-farms, or large developments, but because “Government-by-Regulation” allowed at least some  inappropriate developments, diminished our democracy, and allowed for possible corruption in future. The same is true for Mr O’Farrell’s “Government-by-Regulation” for industrial relations.

      The question for every NSW Parliamentarian is: will he/she be guided by good conscience and the interests of the people and of democracy, or will they let Mr O’Farrell take NSW one step closer to Dictatorship?

      Contact as many MLA’s and MLC’s as you can. See http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/members.nsf/V3Home

      John

      Sunday, May 22, 2011

      Gillard Defends Carbon Tax

      Julia Gillard has defended the budget, and the proposed carbon tax. Her comments, though, came only at the Victorian Labour Party State Conference.

      During her speech she attacked Tony Abbott’s credibility, and his thoughtless right wing agenda. She said:
      “We know climate change is real.
      We know we must cut carbon pollution.
      We know the cheapest, most efficient way to do that is to make big polluters pay.
      And we know that when big polluters pay that every cent of that money can be used to help families, protect jobs and fund programs to tackle climate change.
      Friends, it’s been said before now but it’s never been truer than of the fight to price carbon:
      This isn't a fight between right and left.
      It's a fight between right and wrong.”
      "We are fighting to price carbon to tackle climate change and to build a clean energy economy which is prepared and strong."
      Ms Gillard’s attack on Tony Abbott’s attempt at a climate change populism included:
      "We don't have time for politicians and shock jocks who deny the scientific conclusions of NASA and the CSIRO.
      We don't have time for made-up figures and shameless fear mongering.
      We don't have time to waste on a debate that lacks fact and reason.”
      "Our national efforts and energies must be focused...
      "We are a nation determined to do our bit to tackle climate change and urgently need to make a start to build the clean energy economy of the future."
      The full transcript of Ms Gillard’s speech of 21-May-2011 is at http://www.pm.gov.au/press-office/address-alp-victorian-branch-state-conference-melbourne
      It seems to me that these are the types of comment that Ms Gillard, As Prime Minister of Australia, should be making often in the media. She might not like that Tony Abbott is effectively running his negative 2013 election campaign in almost daily press releases, radio interviews with largely conservative media and set-up TV appearances, but they have been effective in raising not only Mr Abbott’s profile, but his approval rating. Many unthinking voters will say he’s doing a good job, simply because they do not see Ms Gillard using the media in the same way, with the same frequency, or countering Abbott’s negativity.

      Despite any, and all, governments saying they do not worry about the polls, they do. Their media advisers and their party strategists are all over the polls, and regularly and routinely use “focus groups”.

      Tony Abbott does not argue policy deliberately – he doesn’t want any policy scrutinised. His campaign is based almost exclusively on negativity. He does not want public debate, he wants perception of a “good job” because he makes frequent noises. But this is not public debate on policy directions, and Ms Gillard does not help the government by not taking the debate to the media daily. She needs to show some passion, even crankiness at Abbott, during any such media grabs.

      John