Month: October 2014

Australians think Muslim population is nine times greater than it really is

Muslims in Australia: Lakemba mosque

Australians believe Muslims make up 18% of the country’s population, when their actual proportion is just 2%. Photograph: Michele Mossop/Getty Images

International Ipsos Mori poll shows Australians are also wildly wrong in their estimations on teen pregnancy, immigrants and unemployment

• How well do you know Australia? Take the quiz

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/quiz/2014/oct/30/quiz-how-well-do-you-know-australia

Australians believe the proportion of Muslims in the country is nine times higher than it really is, according to a new international survey comparing public perceptions with actual data.

The Ipsos Mori poll conducted across 14 countries also showed Australians are wildly wrong in their estimations of the number of pregnant teenagers, unemployed people, immigrants and Christians in the country.

Australians said the murder rate was rising, when the data shows it generally falling.

Swedes were found to most accurately perceive their society, ahead of Germany, Japan, Spain and the UK. Australia came in sixth, while Italians, Americans and South Koreans ranked worst in the survey’s index of ignorance.

Australians said that Muslims made up 18% of the country’s population, far higher than their actual proportion, just 2%.

Similar overestimations were made by Americans, Canadians, Belgians and the French. The latter believed nearly one in three of their compatriots were Muslim, when the real figure is 8%.

Bobby Duffy, managing director of Ipsos Mori, said the misperceptions “present clear issues for informed public debate and policy-making”.

“For example, public priorities may well be different if we had a clearer view of the scale of immigration and the real incidence of teenage mothers,” he said.

Australians meanwhile understate the proportion of Christians in the country, believing 67% of people identify with the faith, when it is actually 85%.

On another hot-button issue – immigration – our perceptions are a little less skewed. Australians believe immigrants make up 35% of the country – higher than the true number, 28%, but among the most accurate guesses of the 14 countries polled.

Italians and Americans both said immigrants make up one in three of their populations, instead of 7% and 13% respectively.

Australians believe a whopping 23% of the population is unemployed, when the data says 6%. Even more pessimistic were the Italians, who guessed that nearly half their population couldn’t find a job, the reality being a still-high 12%.

What proportion of girls aged between 15 and 19 give birth each year? Australians said 15%, more than seven times higher than the reality at 2%. That figure is 3% among Americans and Britons, but they guessed 24% and 16% respectively.

Also polled were Australian perceptions of the number of voters in the last federal election (underestimated), the number of people over 65 (overestimated) and the average life expectancy (spot on at age 82).

Speculating on the reasons behind the wide gulf between the world’s guesses and the facts, Duffy said “emotional innumeracy” played a role. When answering questions about our social environments, “we are sending a message about what’s worrying us as much as trying to get the right answers”, he said.

Also at play are flaws in the way people remember information, “where vivid anecdotes stick, regardless of whether they are describing something very rare”, he said

Print Email Facebook Twitter More Islamic State: Militants release 25 kidnapped Kurdish schoolchildren; execute dozens of tribesmen in Iraq

islamic state militants set up billboards in syria declaring victory against coalition

Photo: Islamic State militants erect billboards in eastern Syria stating; “We will win despite the global coalition”. (Reuters: Nour Fourat)

Islamic State (IS) militants have released 25 Kurdish schoolchildren who were kidnapped by fighters in northern Syria in May, a rights group says.

IS militants abducted more than 150 children, aged 13 and 14, as they were returning to their hometown of Kobane after sitting exams in Aleppo, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.

The 25 were the last of the children to be freed by the jihadists.

Five others were allowed to leave earlier this week before the final group were released on Wednesday, the SOHR said.

“It is true. They were released from (the Syrian town of) Minbij. This is the last part of the releases,” Idris Nassan, deputy foreign minister of Kobane district, said.

He said he did not know why the children had been released, but suggested it could be part of a “propaganda” campaign.

Fifteen children were released in June as a hostage swap to free three IS militants held by Kurdish forces, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Two boys who escaped captivity told local media the IS group was forcing the children to undergo lessons in jihadist ideology, the rights group said.

The children’s release comes on the same day IS fighters executed more than 40 members of a tribe that fought against them in Iraq’s Anbar province, officials said.

The men from the Albu Nimr tribe were killed in Hit, northwest of the capital Baghdad.

A police colonel and a leader from the anti-jihadist Sahwa forces confirmed the killings.

IS has overrun large areas of Anbar, and the killings are likely aimed at discouraging resistance from powerful local tribes, who will be key to any successful bid to retake the province.

Pro-government forces have suffered a string of setbacks in Anbar in recent weeks. That has prompted warnings the province, which stretches from the borders with Jordan and Saudi Arabia to the western approach to Baghdad, could fall entirely.

IS militants have spearheaded an offensive that has overrun much of the country’s Sunni Arab heartland since June.

home » India-News » India Australia: Gurdwara in target of anti-Islamic slurs

 

Australian readers of News Corp are the pride of Aussie bigotry they found the Muslims they were looking for. I think they had their hoods on back to front.

A newly-built Sikh gurdwara has been vandalised and painted with obscene messages and anti-Islamic slurs in Australia’s Perth city.

The multi-million dollar gurdwara in Bennett Springs was painted with the words like “Aussie pride” and “go home”, ABC reported. Security cameras of the gurdwara were also damaged. “We are from India, particularly from Punjab, we have got no relation with any other religion.

We are Sikhs and our religion is totally different from any other religion,” said the pastor Satjit Singh.

He said the vandalism was very upsetting and the damage could cost up to $50,000 to repair. I’m ashamed because I’m also a citizen and someone who is a citizen here has done it, he said. “It hurts me, and I believe it’s insulting to the Australian community and the people.”

The treasurer of the gurdwara, Aman Deep Singh, said it was very hurtful. “Whoever has done this, he has done a shameful act, and also, please get your knowledge right,” Aman Deep said. “Make the difference between Arabs and Sikhs and above all we all are here, we have left our businesses, jobs. They have done so much damage.

They have not actually just done the damage to this temple, they have done the damage to the whole country,” he said. He said these “shameful acts” damaged the progress of the country.

Labor MP Margaret Quirk said the racial slurs showed “complete ignorance”. “Most of the people that worship in this temple are in fact Australian citizens and this of all weeks; it’s particularly shocking,” she said. Sikh soldiers were beside Aussie soldiers at Gallipoli and so this week of course we remember that it’s the centenary of our soldiers going to Gallipoli and we serve next to many soldiers who were of the Sikh religion, she said.

“It would be no less acceptable if this was done on a mosque but it does show the calibre of the people that are doing this graffiti. I think racially and religiously motivated vilification and graffiti should be stamped on immediately,” she said.

“On behalf of the West Australian community I certainly want to apologise to my friends in the Sikh community that they have to put up with this rubbish,” she added. The incident has occured few days after two Perth mosques and an Islamic school were vandalised and had been painted with slogans against Islam.

Kurdish convoy heads to Syria to take on Islamic State. What do these Kurds have to do?

A convoy of peshmerga vehicles is escorted by Turkish Kurds on their way to the Turkish-Syrian border, in Kiziltepe near the southeastern city of Mardin October 29, 2014. REUTERS-Stringer

(Reuters) – A convoy of peshmerga fighters from northern Iraq headed across southeastern Turkey on Wednesday towards the Syrian town of Kobani to try to help fellow Kurds break an Islamic State siege which has defied U.S.-led air strikes.

Kobani, on the border with Turkey, has been under assault for more than a month and its fate has become a test of the U.S.-led coalition’s ability to combat the Sunni Muslim insurgents.

Weeks of air strikes on Islamic State positions around Kobani and the deaths of hundreds of their fighters have failed to break the siege. The Kurds and their international allies hope the arrival of the peshmerga, along with heavier weapons, can turn the tide.

The Kurdish fighters were given a heroes’ welcome as their convoy of jeeps and flatbed trucks, some bearing heavy machineguns, snaked its way for around 400 km (250 miles) through Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast after crossing the border from northern Iraq.

The presence of Kurdish forces passing with government permission through a part of Turkey which has seen a three-decade insurgency by local Kurdish PKK militants was an extraordinary sight for many residents.

Villagers set bonfires, let off fireworks and chanted by the side of the road as the convoy passed. Thousands took to the streets of the border town of Suruc, descending on its tree-lined main square and spilling into side streets, some with faces painted in the colors of the Kurdish flag.

“All the Kurds are together. We want them to go and fight in Kobani and liberate it,” said Issa Ahamd, an 18-year-old high school student among the almost 200,000 Syrian Kurds who have fled to Turkey since the assault on Kobani began.

An initial group of between 90 and 100 peshmerga fighters arrived by plane amid tight security in the nearby city of Sanliurfa early on Wednesday, according to Adham Basho, a member of the Syrian Kurdish National Council from Kobani.

Saleh Moslem, co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), said the peshmerga were expected to bring heavy arms to Kobani – known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic.

“It’s mainly artillery, or anti-armor, anti-tank weapons,” he said. The lightly armed Syrian Kurds have said such weaponry is crucial to driving back Islamic State insurgents, who have used armored vehicles and tanks in their assault.

Kurdistan’s Minister of Peshmerga, Mustafa Sayyid Qader, told local media on Tuesday that no limits had been set to how long the forces would remain in Kobani. The Kurdistan Regional Government has said the fighters would not engage in direct combat in Kobani but rather provide artillery support.

RADICAL ISLAM

Islamic State has caused international alarm by capturing large expanses of Iraq and Syria, declaring an Islamic “caliphate” that erases borders between the two. Its fighters have slaughtered or driven away Shi’ite Muslims, Christians and other communities who do not share their ultra-radical brand of Sunni Islam.

Fighters from the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s official affiliate in the Syrian civil war, have meanwhile seized territory from moderate rebels in recent days, expanding their control into one of the few areas of northern Syria not already held by hardline Islamists.

Nearly 10 million people have been displaced by Syria’s war and close to 200,000 killed, according to the United Nations. A Syrian army helicopter dropped two barrel bombs on a displaced persons camp in the northern province of Idlib on Wednesday, killing many, camp residents said.

In Iraq, security forces said they had advanced to within 2 km (1.2 miles) of the city of Baiji on Wednesday in a new offensive to retake the country’s biggest oil refinery that has been besieged since June by Islamic State.

Islamic State has threatened to massacre Kobani’s defenders, triggering a call to arms from Kurds across the region.

The U.S. military conducted 14 air strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command. Eight of the raids destroyed Islamic State targets near Kobani, it said.

At least a dozen shells fired by Islamic State fighters fell on the town overnight as clashes with the main Syrian Kurdish armed group, the YPG, continued, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It said preparations were being made at a border gate which Islamic State fighters have repeatedly tried to capture before the arrival of the peshmerga, while YPG and Islamic State forces exchanged fire in gun battles on the southern edge of the town.

The Observatory also said 50 Syrian fighters had entered Kobani from Turkey with their weapons, though it was unclear which group they belonged to. Turkey has pushed for moderate Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad to join the battle against Islamic State in Kobani.

Rebel commander Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi said he had led 200 Free Syrian Army fighters into Kobani but there was no independent confirmation of this. The FSA describes dozens of armed groups fighting Assad but with little or no central command. It is widely outgunned by Islamist insurgents.

DELICATE PARTNERSHIP

The Iraqi Kurdish region’s parliament voted last week to deploy some peshmerga forces to Syria and, under pressure from Western allies, Turkey agreed to let then cross its territory.

The United States and its allies in the coalition have made clear they do not plan to send troops to fight Islamic State in Syria or Iraq, but they need fighters on the ground to capitalize on their air strikes.

Syrian Kurds have called for the international community to provide them with heavier weapons and munitions and they have received an air drop from the United States.

But Turkey accuses Kurdish groups in Kobani of links to the militant PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), which has fought the insurgency against the Turkish state and is regarded as a terrorist group by Ankara, Washington and the European Union.

That has complicated efforts to provide aid.

A Syrian Kurdish official said in Paris on Wednesday that France, which has taken part in air strikes in Iraq and given Iraqi peshmerga fighters weapons and training, had yet to fulfill a promise to give support to Kurds in Syria.

France has said it was ready to help the Kurds, but we haven’t been received by the French authorities. There has been no direct or indirect contact,” Khaled Eissa, representative in France of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), said.

French officials confirmed there had been no meetings in large part due to concern about historic links to the PKK.

Ankara fears Syria’s Kurds will exploit the chaos by following their brethren in Iraq and seeking to carve out an independent state in northern Syria, emboldening PKK militants in Turkey and derailing a fragile peace process.

The stance has enraged Turkey’s own Kurdish minority, about a fifth of the population and half of all Kurds across the region. Kurds suspect Ankara, which has refused to send in its forces to relieve Kobani, would rather see Islamic State jihadists extend their territorial gains than allow Kurdish insurgents to consolidate local power.

Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes and were ready.

Man who sparked Bali flight hijack scare ‘mistook cockpit for toilet’

Matt Christopher Lockley, 28, tells court he knocked on wrong door amid panic attack on flight from Brisbane to Denpasar

man who sparked a hijack scare on a flight to Bali says he felt disoriented and sick when he mistakenly knocked on the cockpit door, believing it led to the toilet.

Matt Christopher Lockley, 28, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to interfering with crew members on a Virgin Australia flight from Brisbane to Denpasar last April.

Flight crew triggered an “unlawful interference” alarm when the plumber from northern New South Wales allegedly tried to enter the flight deck.

The alarm placed Indonesian military on alert for a hijacker.

Lockley told his Brisbane trial he had suffered a panic attack several hours into the flight and had needed to go to the toilet.

“I felt like I was going to faint, felt like I was going to throw up,” he told the Brisbane magistrates court.

“I felt totally disoriented and what I thought was the toilet door later I’ve found out to be the cockpit door.”

Lockley said he was not drunk or under the influence of drugs but a passenger who helped subdue him said the plumber had confided he’d been “doing drugs” in the past week.

Businessman Stephen McDonald testified that a remorseful Lockley told him he had been trying to talk to the pilots about “getting medication from his bag”.

The court heard Lockley had been behaving strangely beforehand and had asked flight attendants to throw away some vitamin bottles he had because he suspected they had been tampered with by other passengers.

At the same time flight attendants were dealing with Lockley, a passenger suffered a suspected heart attack.

Flight attendant Jenni Manning said she was forced to break protocol and leave the semi-conscious patient alone briefly to get oxygen as there was no other cabin crew free.

Soon after the medical emergency, Lockley was seen pounding on the cockpit door, rattling the handle and yelling “let me in”, the court heard.

Feeling threatened, flight attendant Angela Demo dialled the cockpit and uttered a coded phrase that signalled a hijack or unlawful interference, which prompted pilots to alert air traffic control.

“I was frightened,” she said.

“He seemed aggressive towards the flight deck door.”

Pilot Neil Cooper said he had heard the loud noises but was nt aware of the exact situation when he raised the alarm.

“We have protocols in place and … if that phrase is used we follow those drills,” he said.

On landing, Indonesian military and police boarded the flight and escorted Lockley off in handcuffs.

He was held for questioning but released without charge three days later and sent back to Australia.

Magistrate Judy Daly is due to deliver her verdict at 9.30am (AEST) on Friday.

National Police Freedom Laws are in place

G20 police from outside Queensland will be exempt from local investigations

It will be ‘close to impossible’ to resolve complaints against 1,500 police brought into Brisbane for the G20, lawyer says

The 1,500 New Zealand and interstate police sent to bolster G20 security in Brisbane will be exempt from local investigation of public complaints.

Any allegations of mistreatment by those officers, who will make up a quarter of the largest peacetime security force in Australian history, would instead have to be pursued with oversight bodies in Auckland, Sydney and elsewhere.

While outside officers are slated to play a background role, lawyers say their legal status affords them virtual immunity from disciplinary action over any involvement in rogue policing that, along with violence from protesters, marred previous summits.

The NZ and interstate police, who will don G20 police caps while retaining their own respective uniforms, will be sworn in temporarily as Queensland police.

But it is understood those contingents will carry their own officers to handle public complaints while in Queensland, with the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) retaining oversight “in limited circumstances”.

A CCC spokesman said this could include scenarios where “their conduct adversely affects the performance of functions or exercise of powers of the Queensland police service or a QPS officer”.

“The CCC understands that interstate and New Zealand police jurisdictions will have officers in Queensland to manage any complaints that may arise which could affect seconded officers,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) in NZ said it would “retain jurisdiction over any New Zealand police officers for scrutiny of their conduct in the G20”.

“Members of the public wishing to pursue a complaint about any alleged misconduct by an NZ officer seconded to the QPS could complain to the IPCA,” she said.

A prominent Queensland criminal defence solicitor, Michael Bosscher, who is admitted to practice in four other states and territories, said the prospect of resolving a complaint against outside police was “close to impossible”.

“Trying to follow through a complaint in relation to a non-Queensland police officer, either interstate or internationally, would be an onerous task and unlikely to generate a reasonable outcome,” he said.

“Any person operating as a law enforcement officer in Queensland, regardless of where they come from, should be subject to the same scrutiny and oversight as a Queensland police officer or an Australian federal police officer.”

Legal observers are critical of the wide-ranging powers given to police under the G20 security act. Officers can declare assemblies unlawful if they disrupt the summit or if one person in a crowd commits a property crime, such as graffiti.

This raises another concern about the lack of scrutiny of the lawfulness of arrests of people who might be released without charge, or receive notices excluding them from the city centre without having to appear before a magistrate.

Bosscher said police had been given “unprecedented powers under this piece of legislation and as is nearly always the case, the necessary checks and balances that accompany those types of powers have not been put in place”.

“This leaves members of the public open to wrongful arrest with no right of recourse and heavy-handed tactics and abusive actions by police not subject to disciplinary proceedings,” he said.

A team of 60 Queensland solicitors has undergone training to act as independent legal observers, in part to head off a repeat of scenes during Toronto and London G20 summits when police removed identification during clashes with protesters to evade complaints.

The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties has raised concerns that lack of awareness of the depth of police powers during G20 could lead to arrests of peaceful protesters and ordinary citizens.

Many of the 1,100 people arrested in Toronto in 2010 were held for periods of up to 17 hours before being released without charge.

The Toronto Star documented complaints ranging from heavy-handed arrests of uninvolved people caught on the fringe of protest scenes to alleged rape threats made to an independent journalist.

In Brisbane, as in Toronto, judicial oversight will only extend those who are charged and appear via videolink before magistrates working 24-hour shifts from 10 to 17 November.

The chief magistrate, Ray Rinaudo, has ordered that arrangements be made for televising proceedings via videolink while the courts are physically closed to the public from 15 to 17 November.

His office has not yet released details of how proceedings will be viewed remotely.

The assistant police commissioner Katarina Carroll, who is overseeing police operations for G20, has said authorities want those arrested “processed and in front of a magistrate as soon as possible”.

She told the Courier-Mail on Tuesday the 24-hour courts were set up “so that those arrested are not detained for longer than is necessary.”

Carroll also revealed this week that at least two people would be banned from the “declared area” in Brisbane’s city centre. The “prohibited persons” have the option of appealing against the decision.

But under the G20 act, police may choose not to reveal the reasons for their decision if that would threaten national security, the safety of informants, relations with another country or break Australian laws.

If police cannot locate those they have banned, they are permitted under the act to circulate their names and photographs to media for publication.

66% of print media controlled by News Corp advocate for the Abbott Gov . Chris Pyne needs to ratchet down Aus education so democracy will be a history subject.

Latest Polls Show America Not Yet Ready For Democracy

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THE CABIN ANTHRAX, MURPHY, N.C. (CT&P) – After analyzing the results of a new Pew Research Center poll conducted just last week, experts have concluded that the United States is not yet ready for a democratic form of government. The finding is particularly troubling considering the midterms are less than one week away.

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“It looks as if we are in real trouble,” said Dr. Frank Black, who headed the Pew Research team. “There are just too many people out there who don’t possess enough innate intelligence to function in everyday life, much less determine their own fate by voting for their own representatives.”

“We found that only 32% of Americans believe that evolution is ‘due to natural processes such as natural selection,’ and fully one-third of Americans are so stupid that they utterly reject the theory of evolution and believe instead that humans ‘have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.’”

“And that is only one example,” continued Black. “The American public’s lack of basic scientific knowledge is mind-boggling.”

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“Only 20% of Americans believe in the ‘Big Bang,’ only 50% believe in climate change, and an overwhelming number of Americans want to ban incoming flights from Africa because of the Ebola crisis when most American citizens have no fucking clue what a virus even is.”

“Hell,  do you realize that fully 40% of Americans think that they are going to be lifted up into heaven in some sort of Rapture event? It’s really depressing.”

“The state of affairs is equally miserable when it comes to progressive government policy. America has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century as regards gay marriage, equal pay for women, immigration, and sane firearms policies.”

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“Given the recent track record, whole swathes of the United States should really not be allowed to vote,” said Black. “The rise of the Tea Party to prominence in recent years should make that obvious. Take Texas and Florida for example. When a one state elects a dolt like Rick Perry and the other an ancient Aztec snake god as governor, we have real problems.”

Dr. Black suggested that since America was not yet ready for any type of representative government that possibly the best alternative would be some form of benign dictatorship.

“If we could get someone in the White House who would dissolve Congress and ratchet up public education to at least Third World standards, then that would be a good start,” said Black. “The money is there if we could just redirect it. Instead of invading Muslim countries every other week, we could use some of those trillions to teach our offspring some basic science, civics, and history. It will be a long, hard slog, but I think the future of North America depends on it. After all, do we really want half of our kids believing that we are being observed by aliens in UFO’s? I don’t think so.”

The Coalition’s Looming Debt and Deficit Disaster

drunk

  • October 30, 2014
  • Written by:
  • They’re spending like drunken sailors.

    When you voted in the federal election last year, were you concerned about Labor’s debt and deficits, and did they effect how you voted? Did you think that Labor’s spending was unsustainable and had to be stopped?

    Because if the answer is yes, the news is not good. The Coalition, right now, is on track to double Labor’s debt by December next year.

    In the first three months of this financial year (2014-15) net debt increased from $202.46 billion to $221.33, a jump of 10 per cent. But that’s only part of the story. All the economic forecasts were projecting a net debt at the end of 2013/14 to be $178.10 billion.

    So the actual figure of $202.46, realistically, is the true figure for which Labor must accept responsibility. If we accept that the $202.46 billion belongs to Labor, that still means that the Coalition have been spending like drunken sailors since June 30th 2014.

    If we want to be relentlessly selfish and insist that the original Treasury projection of $178.10 is Labor’s to wear then the Coalition have thus exceeded Labor’s spending this financial year by $43.2 billion (up 24.3%).

    debtEither way they are no better in managing the economy and based on future projections, they are on track to be a lot worse.

    Since June this year the Coalition has borrowed $19 billion which, if maintained each quarter from now until December 2015 will double the debt they inherited in 2013.

    Remember, this is net debt, not gross. The gross debt on which we pay interest is now $339.4 billion. When Labor lost office it was $284 billion. It seems extraordinary that Tony Abbott still happily refers to the need to fix the budget and to curtail Labor’s debt and deficit disaster when his own government is not only heading in the same direction, but is doing so at a faster rate than Labor.

    It is worth noting that the repeal of the Carbon Tax left a gaping $2.8 billion hole and is further compounded by the repeal of the Mining Tax, the projected Paid Parental Leave Scheme and the Direct Action Plan. Yet, they are determined to push ahead on both.

    myefoMuch of the Coalition’s projections in the 2013 Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) were independent of Treasury advice and we know they took some liberties with those figures to make Labor look bad. But, if they thought that was clever then they are in for an unholy awakening in the coming 12 months as revenues continue to decline and their spending continues to blow out.

    So one has to wonder how it will be possible to avoid a looming debt and deficit disaster greater than the kind they accused Labor of, without some savage adjustments to revenues and expenditures. With the current budget impasse in the senate, the Coalition is going to have a lot of explaining to do as the months roll on and ever more embarrassing information is released.

    One wonders how long the MSM can hold off reporting on the state of the economy and comparing it to Labor’s. We all remember how diligent they were during the Rudd/Gillard years. The October and November updates will be interesting reading as will the December quarter. As the position continues to worsen surely someone in the MSM will say something….won’t they?

    bankruptIn reality, if all the rhetoric about debt and deficit were true we should have gone bankrupt in the 1980’s when all the indices were far worse than they are now. The Howard government inherited a paltry $96 billion back in 1996. Hardly worth getting upset about today.

    It might be worth taking a look at the Liberal Party website where they detailed their plan prior to the last election. It will be the standard by which we can measure their success. As things get progressively worse, it might suddenly disappear before too long.

Will Murdoch’s great unwashed youths rise up? Left in Team Australia’s dust

Left in Team Australia's dust

Even Rupert Murdoch can sense a broad feeling of unrest and deep dislocated disturbance for a generation left in Team Australia’s dust.

By ABC’s Jonathan Green

Rupert Murdoch’s warning of the “inevitable social and political upheavals to come” might very well be spawned from the masses of underemployed youth who are left in Team Australia’s dust, writes Jonathan Green.

His somewhat counterintuitive observations on growing income inequality may have taken the headlines, but what exactly might Rupert Murdoch have had in mind when he spoke of the “inevitable social and political upheavals to come”?

A telling line there from his speech to G20 finance ministers, a reflection on the possible consequences of a generation of young people, from bereft and penniless pockets across the affluent West, left without jobs, prospects, hope or connection.

Whatever mayhem is in store will no doubt be grist for the inflated daily misanthropies of his tabloid press, so there’s a positive, but Murdoch seems genuinely alert to a deepening social divide and the gathering dysfunction that straddles it.

As Paul Kelly wrote in The Australian, reporting his proprietor’s address:

The lack of opportunity for the next generation was “especially troubling” along with the “inevitable social and political upheavals to come”. This was because the unemployment rate for people under 25 years in the US was 13 per cent and in the Eurozone was 23 per cent. It was twice as high in Spain and Greece and parts of France and Italy.

And here?

The Brotherhood of St Laurence crunched the numbers in early September.

It found that 15 per cent of Australian 15-24-year-olds were underemployed: they had some work, but not as much as they either wanted or needed. The rate was the highest it has been since 1978, when the Australian Bureau of Statistics began compiling numbers around youth underemployment.

And actual joblessness? Among the 15-24-year-olds the rate is rattling pretty stubbornly at about the same level of 15 per cent. Combine the two, and according to the Brotherhood, “more than 580,000 young Australians are now either underemployed or unemployed. Overall, this represents more than a quarter of 15 to 24-year-olds in the labour market.”

According to the Government, this is an issue of industry and motivation. While they might dream of “lifting” the young un and underemployed are presumably “leaning” for the moment.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews may have ruled out drug testing them, but still wants them to work harder for their meagre unemployment benefit, a rate of benefit they won’t be able to access in full until the age of 25; never mind the six month wait for benefits and job search diaries that will fill libraries.

According to Treasurer Joe Hockey, “We need people under the age of 30 to earn or learn.”

“There isn’t a crisis,” says Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

Try fruit picking, says Employment Minister Eric Abetz:

There is no right to demand from your fellow Australians that just because you don’t want to do a bread delivery or a taxi run or a stint as a farmhand that you should therefore be able to rely on your fellow Australian to subsidise you.

Meanwhile, there are 580,000 young Australians with no good reason to get up in the morning.

They’re across the country, in regional centres stripped of life and purpose, in outer suburban sweeps detached from the jobs, infrastructure and resource lifeblood of the cities of which they are only nominally a part.

Is it here, in the great boondocks of welfare dependent apathy and creeping disdain that Mr Murdoch’s “inevitable social and political upheavals” will arise?

Will it be among a growing and increasingly hopeless underclass, a quarter of our young population who lack even the humdrum social connection of work, never mind an instinctive affinity with Team Australia.

The outcome? Some will turn to drugs. Some to crime. Some to simple indolence. Some will struggle desperately against a conspiracy of circumstances. Some will succeed. Some will be radicalised, their heads filled with talk of jihad and visions of violent glory.

National security legislation whistles through the parliament, unspecified foreign destinations are proscribed, the capacity of the media to reflect on the operations of our secret police is constrained … all of it deemed essential to subdue the threat of terror, particularly the challenge of the “lone wolf”.

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of dollars are pulled from GP-based mental health programs. Program funding in youth psychosis services is cut or uncertain, the entire provision of mental health is a place of policy limbo pending review.

And what do we know about the most recent lone wolf, the man who ran amok in the Canadian parliament? That his actions were as likely the result of drug and mental health issues as radical Islam.

We’ve been asked to take the parallel to heart.

Stopping radicalised young Australians from boarding whatever flight it may be that runs direct to Damascus is one thing, nipping the deep social roots of radicalisation and disturbance is another.

It may be that these men act out their violence not because, as is so often argued, they hate the things we are … it could be because those things “we are” are applied with such inequality, or in some places not at all.

The result will be illness, anger, despair and perhaps jihad … but it might also be a broader sense of unrest and deep dislocated disturbance for a generation left in Team Australia’s dust.

Even Rupert Murdoch can see that.

Murdoch discovers inequality, but he’s not on ‘Team Australia’ …

Rupert Murdoch’s special address to an exclusive meeting of the world’s most powerful finance ministers got a second airing this week.

In a breathless front-page “exclusive” in The Australian, Paul Kelly reported that his boss warned the world’s financial grandees their policies were serving to widen the gap between rich and poor, which was leading to social polarisation.

Kelly’s article was not an “exclusive” – others had reported the same speech on October 17 – and it was not “news” as the dinner had been held on October 9.

While the headline – Equality at risk in the West – suggested that “Citizen Murdoch” had astonishingly morphed into “Comrade Murdoch,” a careful reading of the article reveals his prescriptions for global prosperity were the standard Murdoch fare of deregulation and reducing corporate tax rates.

Presumably, the newly-formed wealth created by these policies will trickle down to the poor of the earth. This argument was refuted almost immediately by Alan Kohler in Business Spectator, who pointed out that:

“Rising inequality began in the 1980s and was the direct result of Reganomics” and his pursuit of tax breaks for the rich.

Murdoch also segued into the evils of tax avoidance, and particularly the unprincipled tactics used by Google. He went on to explain that Google paid hardly any tax in the countries where it made its profits, instead using complex corporate structures to transfer those profits to tax havens.

Certainly companies that sell over the internet have invented new ways of reducing their tax bill. In the case of Google, it books profits from sales made in Australia to overseas subsidiaries that are located in low-taxing countries. As a result, in 2011 Google paid US$74,000 tax, rising to US$7.1 million in 2013 from a revenue base of $1.8 billion.

Other tech companies, Apple and Microsoft in particular, have used similar strategies to reduce the amount of tax they pay.

This was dangerous territory for Murdoch to step into as News Corporation (operating under the umbrella of 21st Century Fox) has engaged in some creative tax engineering of its own. According to a report by the Tax Justice Network Australia, Murdoch’s companies paid the Australian Tax Office a miserly 1.1% on pre-tax profits of A$5.54 billion over the period 2004-2013, which was helped by complex financial transactions among its 146 subsidiaries, including 25 in the Virgin Islands and 19 in Mauritius.

Murdoch’s mauling of Google came as no surprise, as for years he had been feuding with the internet behemoth, a cause that has been predictably picked up by his newspapers, led by the Wall Street Journal.

In his speech, Murdoch accused Google of “piracy”. Behind his rhetoric, Murdoch fears Google is eroding his profits by aggregating free news sources and supporting his competitors, and is limiting the visibility of his company’s news sites because their content is hidden behind paywalls.

Google has not taken these attacks lying down and has created a blog, cheekily titled Dear Rupert, refuting his allegations of piracy.

Vested interests

What the world economic policy elite made of Murdoch’s use of their forum to pursue a commercial feud was not reported, although they must have been scratching their heads on how this was relevant to returning the world to prosperity.

Murdoch’s entry on the international stage is a timely reminder some in the business community will use every opportunity to pursue their own vested interests. In most cases they will cleverly dress them up as sound policy, but in this instance Murdoch carelessly let the veil fall as he used the occasion to savage a commercial competitor.

The question left hanging is whether Hockey supports Murdoch’s narrow view on tax avoidance and whether he is promoting it among his G20 colleagues. Does this signal that he is unlikely to support aggressive policies by the G20 to end old-fashioned tax avoidance by multinational firms, as expertly executed by transnational firms like News Corporation, and only focus on the new kids on the block, who have found new ways to game the system?

Up to now, the G20 has only agreed to automatic exchange of tax information, but has not yet shown it has the stomach to seriously tackle the widespread use of tax havens and transfer pricing, and ensuring profits are taxed in the location where the economic activity takes place.

As the host of the G20, Australia is in a position to lead the way. However, it sent out all the wrong signals by allowing Murdoch to lecture the world’s leading finance ministers on tax.

Australians for Honest Politics set for a revival?

abott queen

As reported by John Kelly in September, there has been an ongoing investigation into Tony Abbott’s eligibility to enter Parliament as dual citizenship precludes you from running for office.

Tony Magrathea filed a Freedom of Information application to the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Peta Credlin rejected his request stating, “The document you have sought is not an official document of a Minister and therefore there is no right of access to the document under the FOI Act.”

Ninemsm also asked for confirmation that the Prime Minister had renounced his British Citizenship. They were advised by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that, “The Prime Minister is an Australian citizen and does not hold citizenship of any other country.”

Robert McMahon, Assistant Secretary of the Parliamentary and Government Branch, apparently disagrees with Credlin’s stonewalling.

On October 8 he responded to a FOI application lodged by Jan Olsen with the following:

Having regard to my knowledge of where documents potentially relevant to the applicant’s request would be held, if they existed, the following locations were searched:

  • The Department’s file management system
  • The Department’s current and former ministerial correspondence database
  • Computer drives of relevant branches in the Department
  • Email accounts of current officers in relevant branches in the Department

As a result of these searches, no relevant documents were found in the Department.

I am satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to identify documents relevant to the applicant’s request and that no documents relevant to the request are in the possession of the Department.

The British Home Office, following a FOI request, have also been unsuccessful in finding Tony’s RN form which relinquishes British citizenship.

I wonder where Credlin gets her information from and why she is keeping it a secret.

And now another rather ironic possible connection has emerged.

In the Sue vs Hill case, Henry Sue, a voter from Queensland, disputed the election of Hill and filed a petition under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 in the High Court of Australia, sitting in its capacity as the Court of Disputed Returns. Sue argued that on the date of Hill’s nomination to the Senate she was still a citizen of the United Kingdom and thus, because of the operation of section 44 of the Australian Constitution, was ineligible to be elected to the Parliament of Australia.

Terry Sharples, a former One Nation candidate who had stood for the Senate in the 1998 election as an independent candidate, made a similar petition. Because both cases involved constitutional questions, and were substantially identical, they were heard together from 11–13 May 1999.

In 1998, Abbott privately agreed to bankroll Terry Sharples, a disaffected One Nation member, to take legal action against Pauline Hanson.

Less than 2 weeks later, he categorically denied to the ABC that he had done so, and 18 months later he repeated the lie, this time to the Sydney Morning Herald’s Deborah Snow. But when she confronted him with his signed personal guarantee, he said that:

‘…misleading the ABC is not quite the same as misleading the Parliament as a political crime’.

He then created a slush fund he called Australians for Honest Politics and raised $100,000 for it from 12 people he declined to name. The fund began bankrolling more court actions against Hanson and her party.

Could Tony’s slush fund have financed the Sharples vs Hill case?

I wonder if Geoffrey Robertson might be interested in taking on a crowd-funded People vs Abbott case?

Yesterday’s bogeyman and the petrol tax

Bob Ellis

The terrorism scare isn’t going very well for the Abbott Government lately, with people more worried about the cost of living than ISIL, writes Bob Ellis.

THE HOME-GROWN ISIL BOGEYMAN isn’t playing very well for the Liberals lately.

The boy they shot dead was seventeen. The boy in the recruiting video was a teenager too — red-haired and blue-eyed and clearly naive. It seemed wrong he should go to gaol for twenty-five years, or be targeted for assassination by drone in Iraq or Syria. And the Australian master terrorist Mohammad Ali Baryalei, now reportedly dead – killed perhaps by a fighter bomber ASIO gave information to – didn’t kill any of us, though he probably wanted to.

So the score, thus far, is two of them dead, none of us.

And yet no Australian on Australian soil has died of ‘terrorism’ since January 1915 — three months before Gallipoli, 100 years ago.

And so little is the issue resonating that a rise in the price of petrol of 40 cents a week has overwhelmed it.

People feel safe enough with the Muslims they know and they’d rather gripe about petrol prices.

In Queensland, where it should be playing up big (APEC, old white Christians, and so on) Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has overtaken Newman for the first time as preferred Premier. In New South Wales, a by-election occurred which, if duplicated federally, would leave the Abbott-Truss government with one seat, not their own. In Victoria, a poll out this morning shows Labor gaining a majority of twenty-five seats.

It’s usually thought a national security scare helps the leader then in power. And it usually does. But Abbott is so creepy and sneaky and malodorous (would you buy a used pregnant bride from this man?) that anything he says is now suspected.

We have found MH370. Putin is behind the shooting down, and I will shirtfront him and say so. I broke none of the eighteen promises you mention, you just didn’t hear them right.

And none of the narrative is working very well.

No Australian troops are in Iraq yet and half the army there is AWOL, or buying their way out of battle, as rich young men did in Lincoln’s time. We are defending crooks and cowards against people we call ‘terrorists’.

There will be minimal precautions at the Whitlam funeral, which everyone famous is going to. There are no body-searches, none, on suburban trains. In October, 500 million train journeys occurred unpoliced. We are hysterical about the Cenotaph, where an attack is unlikely, and blasé about trains, where most terrorist acts, historically, occur.

One of the problems about the whole thing is that ‘terrorism’, lately, has either no meaning, or too much.

A divorced husband who holds his wife and children at gunpoint in a siege while police bellow at him with loud hailers is, logically, a terrorist. A papparazzo with nude photos of a princess he proposes to sell back to her is a terrorist. A U.S. drone bombing a village containing ‘suspected militants’ in Pakistan is practising terrorism. Everything Israel does in Gaza is terrorism. Most of what the CIA does in Homeland is terrorism. Most of the debt-collecting industry is a form of terrorism — inciting fear in a chosen victim, the fear of a worse lifestyle than the one now enjoyed.

View image on Twitter

And to call a terrorist someone who has merely talked about blowing things up, as most young men do in their adolescent years, and to put them away for twenty-five years if they do, is to take on the colouring of a South American police state, or Putin’s Russia, or a harsh, provincial, peasant religion punishing women for wearing lipstick, or men for swearing, by flogging them or putting them in the stocks.

There are already laws against killing people. There are already laws against conspiracy to murder. There are laws against attempted murder. There are laws against causing grievous bodily harm. There have been no deaths caused by Muslim ‘terrorism’ on our soil in a hundred years — except the boy we shot in the head three weeks ago.

Let’s leave it at that, shall we.

View image on Twitter

I’m a Muslim with a beard. What’s so scary about that? As you say at the end ‘who cares’

Areeb Ullah with beard

People stare. Sometimes, on the tube, they cross the carriage to create a space between us. There is something about me some people don’t like, or it makes them uneasy. It’s my beard.

My beard is about three and a half to four inches long now. I started growing it nearly a year ago; the result of a number of things coming together. One – if I am honest – was laziness. It also began not long after an incident at my university, King’s College London. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was guest of honour at a reception. I went along in traditional dress, thinking: “This is Desmond Tutu. He fought against discrimination and oppression. I can be myself because everyone will be welcoming and open.” Then I was stopped by security and they demanded to know it I had actually been invited. From then I just thought: “Why not?”

Slowly, I became more and more fascinated with having a beard. I can only liken it to the experience of black women who relax their hair and then one day stop relaxing their hair and find it opens up a brand new world to them. There are all these beard products, oils, shampoos, combs. People even blog about them.

Once I grew my beard, there was an immediate effect. Muslims are more open to me; others with beards notice me because they understand what I’m experiencing.

Of course, there is also the other issue that beards are big in mainstream popular culture. People started coming up to me and saying “Great beard”. Within my own community, it gives me a sense of solidarity; outside, there is a feeling of specialness. Some people ask: “Are you growing that for religious reasons or because it is fashionable?” At first, I would feel I had to justify it. I would say it was fashionable and then religious. But then I stopped doing that. If I was a white guy with a ginger beard, no one would ask those questions of me.

My mum is keen that I get rid of it. My dad thinks I should shorten it. Mum worries in the current climate about how people will perceive it. But for me it is quite empowering. I love it when another Muslim sees me and comes and says “Salam” on the street. It is a subculture I am tapping into; a sense of pride in my identity as a Muslim. Beards play a massive role as a key identifier of whether you are a Muslim or not. It gives a sense of community.

As someone who has a bit of a public profile because of the role I play at university, a beard can also help to normalise the presence of a visible Muslim. It helps me to demonstrate to people “If I can do it, you can do it; you can be yourself.” They see a Muslim outwardly practising.

There is an assumption in our communities that if you are in the public sphere, you sell out a little and lose the things that make you who you are. By growing my beard, I debunk that a bit. My face has been everywhere because of freshers week and the fact that so many Muslims have been coming up to me and talking about issues they were facing was really a milestone for me.

I think the benefits of having my beard – not least that it covers up my eczema – outweigh the disadvantages. Some people grow them for religious reasons, others because it is comfortable, others because they are hipsters. Who cares?

Red Cross medical leader embarrassed by Australian Government’s Ebola response

Red Cross leader Amanda McClelland

Updated about 2 hours ago

The senior health adviser for the Red Cross in Sierra Leone says she is embarrassed by the Australian Government’s response to the Ebola crisis.

Australian Amanda McClelland runs the organisation’s treatment Centre in Kenema, and told The World Today she was surprised the Government was not sending medical teams into Sierra Leone, and by its blanket ban on issuing visas to people travelling from those countries.

West African states have criticised the decision to shut Australia’s border, saying the move stigmatises healthy people and makes the fight against the disease more difficult.

“I am surprised … but more embarrassed, to be honest,” she said.

“It’s difficult to be here and sit with the Sierra Leone government and have them today ask me, ‘am I going to be allowed to come home?'”

She said it was particularly galling for her as she was desperately short staffed and was now calling on Ebola survivors to help.

“I’m asking taxi drivers and students to deal with Ebola, and the Australian Government is not sending doctors and nurses with 16 years of education,” she said.

“And to be honest, I’m a bit embarrassed that we don’t feel that our health system and our health personnel are qualified and professional enough to manage this.

“I mean, the Australian health care system is more than robust enough to respond quickly – if and when – a case came.

“And I think we have some of the best medical professionals in the world and experience in working in these types of environments.”

Ms McClelland was training Ebola survivors to help treat their country men and women with the deadly disease.

One of the nurses, Hawa Jollah, told The World Today she feared she would die when she caught the virus in June.

“I was vomiting profusely. I was having red eyes. I cannot recognise people. I can recognise you from your voice, but I cannot see you,” she said.

Survivors fighting spread of Ebola

Edwin Konuwa, an Ebola survivor and nurse, was working in the Kenema Ebola centre.

“Everybody was crying for me and were told I am dead. Overnight my condition changed and I could eat and have water,” Mr Konuwa said.

He said he was not scared of Ebola anymore and wants to help patients.

“It’s not difficult for me because I know procedures and my precautions.”

Amanda McClelland told The World Today 12 of the new trainees were former nurses, all of whom were Ebola survivors.

“And we’ve actually had several survivors, [who] are not nurses, come back to the unit in the last two days and ask if they could help as well.”

The great advantage of training survivors was that they had more immunity to the disease, and could help others, particularly the children of Ebola victims, without as much fear of infection.

“We had a terrible situation last week where we had a mother with two small children, there was no-one left in the family,” Ms McClelland said.

We had a large cluster of cases after an unsafe burial, and the whole family was sick or had already died. And no-one in the community would take these children.

Amanda McClelland

“We had a large cluster of cases after an unsafe burial, and the whole family was sick or had already died. And no-one in the community would take these children.

“The mother was dying and the children were in there. We saw the children were covered in their mother’s faeces, and we went straight in and we cleaned them up.

“The little boy is Ebola free – amazingly enough – which is a huge benefit for us morally and amazing for the kids involved.”

Ms McClelland had a full staff roster but that was a week-to-week proposition.

“To be honest, we’re ok for this week but we’re not ok for next week. And we’re definitely not ok as we get closer to Christmas,” she said.

The Sierra Leone and Liberian governments condemned the Australian Government for generating unnecessary panic about Ebola.

Ms McClelland said she was concerned at least three health professionals, who were due to fill her roster next week, may now not come.

But she said health professionals knew the science and were not put off by the scare-mongering, though their families were.

“I feel quite safe here. It’s not like Mogadishu or other places I’ve been. It’s not so much ‘brave’ as ‘just needs to be done’, I guess.”

How the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror), Wealth redistribution

1“Many antique collectors unwillingly support terrorists like Islamic State, ” Michel van Rijn, one of the most successful smugglers of antique artifacts in the past century, told German broadcaster Das Erste this month.

And smuggling is booming in Iraq and Syria right now. In Iraq, 4,500 archaeological sites, some of them UNESCO World Heritage sites, are reportedly controlled by Islamic State and are exposed to looting. Iraqi intelligence claim that Islamic State alone has collected as much as $36 million from the sales of artifacts, some of them thousands of years old. The accounts data have not been released for verification but, whatever the exact number is, the sale of conflict antiquities to fund military and paramilitary activity is real and systematic.

Grainy video from soldiers fighting for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime at Palmyra, an ancient capital in what is now Syria, shows delicate grave reliefs of the dead, ripped out, gathered up and loaded into the back of their truck. The soldiers present the heads of decapitated statues to the camera. Other stolen Palmyrene treasures were exposed by an undercover reporter for The Sunday Times. Sculptures, pillar carvings and glass vessels were found to be on sale for knock-down prices in Beirut, Lebanon. Roman vases had been robbed from graves and were being sold by the box.

3Across the disintegrating border, every party to the conflict is party to the plunder. Beyond Palmyra, the ancient city of Aleppo and hundreds of other sites in Syria have been looted by one armed group or another.

Smuggler Abu Khaled told Time that the Assad regime was selling antiquities to pay its henchmen. Senior Free Syrian Army fighters told the Washington Post that looting antiquities was “a vital source of funding.” Another smuggler told Le Temps that Islamist fighters take control of trafficking when gaining territory.

How much — and even what — has been bought and sold isn’t known for sure, but entire sites are being lost.

The International Council of Museums’ Emergency Red Lists, which document cultural objects at risk of looting in Iraq and Syria, include clay tablets that preserve some of the earliest writing in the world, intricate stone carvings and coins, in addition to the other items mentioned above.

Penn Cultural Heritage Center’s Brian Daniels revealed to the New Yorker that he had seen such items for sale in border town markets in Turkey.

Of course, it is hard to prove how many of the looted antiquities have made it to the West. And Kate Fitz Gibbon, a lawyer who advises antiquities collectors, argues that there is “no credible evidence that looted art is coming from Syria to [the] U.S.” and that, rather, it is flowing “unchecked to Turkey, the Gulf States and other nearby nations.”4

Still, experts have shown a 145 percent increase in American imports of Syrian cultural property and a 61 percent increase in American imports of Iraqi cultural property between 2011 and 2013, which suggests that the illicit trade is reaching American consumers by ‘piggybacking’ on the legal trade. Furthermore, archaeologists Jesse Casana, Mitra Panahipour and Michael Danti have found evidence that looters are specifically targeting Classical antiquities in order to supply what is mostly a Western demand for Greek and Roman art.

An investigative report by the German broadcaster NDR documented evidence that antiquities looted by terrorist groups were being sold through German auction houses. The report revealed how Syrian conflict antiquities were smuggled as handicrafts, laundered with obscuring or outright false documentation, and then sold on the open market. It also exposed the transfer of antiquities to Gulf States, where they were laundered for resale in Western markets.6

We must not be misled by antiquities collecting lobbyists’ insinuation that Syria or Iraq’s antiquities are better smuggled than burned by the various groups of militants – the smuggling pays for the burning. Paramilitary profits from looting and smuggling underwrite the cost of war, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

So what can be done to stop this?

An emergency ban on trading in undocumented Syrian antiquities may help Syria now, but it will be no more effective against the perpetual, global threat than the ban on trading in undocumented Iraqi antiquities that preceded it.

Instead, it would make more sense for other nations to copy Germany’s law that will oblige dealers and collectors to present an export licence from where the object is coming from, in order to receive an import licence for any ancient artifact. That will cut the supply of illicit antiquities to the market, and thereby cut the flow of money to looting and smuggling mafias and militants.

There’s real urgency here. These glimpses into our past are disappearing before we can learn from them or they can be shared with their creators’ descendants. They will end up as art divorced from its culture – some in unscrupulous museums that hope they have been laundered just enough to appear clean, many more displayed as talking pieces in the homes of the wealthy or secreted away in private collections.

Is Abbott’s Pope a Marxist? …Pope urges land and jobs for the poor…It would seem so

Pope Francis

Pope Francis says the poor need a roof over their head and work, but he’s not preaching communism. Source:

POPE Francis has delivered an off-the-cuff, mini-encyclical on the poor, labour injustices and the environment, saying he’s not preaching communism but the Gospel.

FRANCIS’ remarks to the World Meeting of Popular Movements, delivered on Tuesday in his native Spanish, ran for more than six pages, single-spaced. It was one of his longest speeches yet and a clear sign that the issues are particularly close to his heart.

Francis said the poor need land, a roof over their head and work, and said he knew well that “some will think that if I talk about this, the Pope is communist.” He said: “They don’t understand that love for the poor is at the centre of the Gospel. Demanding this isn’t unusual, it’s the social doctrine of the church.” Francis has already been branded a Marxist by conservative US commentators for his unbridled criticism of capitalist excesses, for his demand that governments redistribute social benefits to the needy, and his call for the church to be a “poor church, for the poor.” His speech on Tuesday broadened his concerns to include the environment, the rights for farmers to have land, and for young people to have work. He promised that the concerns of the poor would be highlighted in his upcoming encyclical on ecology and the environment. “Today I want to unite my voice with yours and accompany you in your fight,” he said. Among those in the audience were Argentine “cartoneros,” who sift through garbage looking for recyclable goods. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was particularly close to the cartoneros; as Pope he has maintained his support for their plight.

Going round in circles, our fickle world. Has Abbott even thought about feeding refugees facing winter No!!!

Going round in circles, our fickle world. 53856.jpeg

Don’t bomb it

-Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

We have two separate humanitarian crises looming, quite apart from the devastating Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa, with its tentacles reaching far and wide; Islamic State in the Middle East, spreading terror, hatred and death…with its tentacles reaching far and wide. So where is the story on two different potential catastrophes?

A Putsch takes place in Ukraine, Fascists are among those taking power, anti-Russian and anti-Jewish slogans are chanted, Russian-speakers are tortured and attacked, massacres take place against Russian-speakers. The West backs the perpetrators and imposes sanctions against Russia. Russia tries to broker a peace deal and a ceasefire in a foreign country, in which according to its “Government”, Russia has no jurisdiction. The West increases the sanctions and continues to back those who committed massacres. Just like they did in Syria, until their little darling (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State) turned into a monster.

So rather than imposing sanctions and spreading division, sowing the seeds of hatred, why doesn’t the West use its energy concentrating on development, instead of deployment, and why doesn’t it use its political clout to pull the world together instead of tearing it apart?

While everyone is speaking about the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (now that it has started to make inroads into Western countries), where is the story on the impending food crisis in West Africa? Kanayo Nwanze, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, has warned that urgent action is needed to stave off an impending food crisis.

Speaking on World Food Day on October 16, in an interview with the UN News Center, he stated that eighty per cent of the food eaten today in the developing world is produced by smallholders on family farms. Here, he claims, is the danger because these farmers are most at risk from cycles of hunger and poverty. “We should actually decide to take action beyond words,” he warns.

He said that unless we start to invest in the real infrastructure which supports agricultural production, which means people, there could be a shortage of food in the coming years.

Fast forward a few thousand miles to the East, the UNO is warning of “an immense humanitarian crisis” this Winter in Iraq, the country destroyed by, who else, NATO back in 2003, when it was invaded illegally, outside the auspices of the UNO, in a murderous invasion causing the deaths of some one million people, in which military hardware was deployed against civilian structures.

In the words of Rashid Khalikov, director of the UN Office in Geneva for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “an immense humanitarian emergency is unfolding in front of our eyes”.

Officials from the UNO and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation found a potentially calamitous situation in the areas they visited, ravaged by the conflict caused by Islamic State, created in the void caused by the invasion led by, who else, Washington and poodle in chief, the top lapdog, London. They found 850,000 people displaced in Kurdistan, they found 90,000 people living in the open in Dohuk Governorate. As a harsh winter approaches, nearly one million people are in urgent need of food and shelter, while 5.2 million Iraqis need assistance, 1.8 million of these being children.

Those responsible are not only Islamic State, it is the United States of America and the United Kingdom, who in one of their imperialist ventures, destabilized a State and did not think the consequences through. The onus lies on these two countries, the ones who have been the motor behind the sanctions against Russia, to take a good look at their own foreign policy, man up to their responsibilities, and change tack.

Next story: a humanitarian crisis in Libya. Caused by guess who?

The anti-politicians are not helping

RussellBrandWealthInequality

  • October 29, 2014
  • Written by:
  • Anti-politicians are everywhere. Clive Palmer is the left’s current favourite anti-establishment politician because he is blocking some of Abbott’s nastier budget policies. Palmer has broken progressive hearts before, such as when he stood next to Al Gore and promised to help repeal the Carbon Tax only if it was changed into an ETS; he followed through on the repeal bit but failed to save the ETS. This time we’re all really hoping he sticks to his guns on higher education policy after disappointingly letting Abbott’s do-nothing Direct Action policy through today. It’s easy to forget, while appreciating Palmer’s Abbott-blocking ability, that this was the man who fought tirelessly to destroy two of the previous Labor government’s most important progressive policies – the mining tax and the Carbon Price. So Palmer’s not a progressive politician, even if he does have some really interesting ideas about asylum seeker policy. Just ask the people who voted for him – those people he’s ultimately beholden. Or look at how he makes his money.
  • Many left wing independents or minor parties spend most of their time bemoaning that the incremental improvements of the major progressive party aren’t fast enough, large enough, or anywhere near revolutionary. And they often spend most of their time fixated on one or two causes which they feel effectively differentiate them from the progressive major party. However, a pragmatist would say that in a country where an extreme right wing conservative such as Abbott can be elected as Prime Minister by a healthy majority and go about undoing Labor’s policy reforms (such as mining tax, Carbon Price, Medicare, ABC funding, health and educational funding, a social safety net just to name a few), it’s unrealistic to believe you’ll achieve any progress by throwing your weight (and lack of vote) behind an ideologically pure revolution, or a single policy ideal, that has no hope of success, and no hope of changing anything. And it’s unhelpful to spend all your time, energy, campaign dollars, talent and voice in the community bagging the progressive option when it’s the option you really want if you really do value progress.

    You might not like everything a major party like Labor does, and the flash and colour of an independent or a minor party who promises you the world without any hope of delivering might seem like a tempting option. There’s no reason why these colourful and passionate people can’t contribute to the debate and provide fresh ideas – and sometimes some great blocking skills. But ultimately we need the workhorse – the progressive major party – to be in power if we don’t want the country run by conservative neoliberals. So who are you supporting in the 2016 election? I hope Australian progressives are realistically ready for the fight.

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Red Tape protects individuals more than hampers them but with this government they run second to business.

Business costs itself billions in internal red tape

Updated about 9 hours agoWed 29 Oct 2014, 9:54am

Red tape has long been blamed for whittling away company profits in Australia, but global accounting firm Deloitte says internal red tape and self-imposed rules are costing businesses twice as much as government regulations.

Deloitte has put the total cost of compliance for Australia’s economy at $250 billion a year.

The Federal Government has embraced demands from business lobbies to do away with rules blamed for holding back Australia’s growth.

Today, the Government plans to repeal 1,000 regulations it says do more harm than good. It scrapped another 10,000 federal level rules earlier this year.

However, Chris Richardson from Deloitte Access Economics told AM that businesses need to take a closer look at their own rule books.

“A lot of businesses like to whinge about governments and their regulations. At least governments recognise that there’s a problem that needs working on,” he said.

“The actual amount of money tied up in the red tape inside businesses – HR, finance, IT, executive and governance compliance, legal, marketing – that’s where the biggest dollars are.”

Deloitte has surveyed Australian businesses about the cost of compliance. It estimates that companies spend about $95 billion a year to keep in line with government regulation.

However, the cost of following their own rules is much higher – almost $160 billion.

“Our survey found that the average worker spends essentially a day a week jumping through the hoops of this self-imposed red tape,” he observed.

Some regulation ‘a good thing’

Chris Richardson noted few reasons for the unwillingness of businesses to change their ways.

“Partly it’s because businesses never look back. You know, they don’t do the audit,” he said.

“They don’t do that project why and say, ‘why are we doing this, you know, not just this new rule, but all our rules, do they actually make sense anymore?’ People in business, in government, don’t like taking risks.”

Chris Richardson acknowledged that not all this red tape is necessarily unimportant and unproductive.

“Much of it is a good thing. To take a simple example, over the past decade, miners and the construction sector have become safer. Industrial accidents have gone down,” he said.

“To be clear, we’re not saying no rules. What we are saying is that our existing rules are costing us a fortune; they’re not necessarily making us that much better off, or that much less risky.”

Chris Richardson observed that enforcing rules had become a major source of employment in Australia.

“Compliance is a massive business. Compliance workers are now one in every 11 workers in Australia’s workplace,” he said.

“As a conservative, I’m not inclined to force reforms on an unwilling people – rather I’m inviting our people to discuss how we can grow and be our best selves”. BS “we don’t force reforms”

Abbott says tax and federalism changes will be a long fight

Tony Abbott has declared he will make the case for changing the tax system and the federation, but said the outcome will depend on community acceptance.

Again striking a cautious note as he tries to pave the way for big reforms, Abbott told a Business Council of Australia dinner:

“As a conservative, I’m not inclined to force reforms on an unwilling people – rather I’m inviting our people to discuss how we can grow and be our best selves”.

The Prime Minister this week has pressed the need for a broad overhaul of the federation, while also indicating it might in the end prove too hard. He’s also opened the prospect of changing the GST, but told the Coalition parties today that would only happen if all states agreed.

He said tonight: “The white paper on the reform of Australia’s tax system is not about extracting more revenue and the white paper on the reform of the federation is not about more power to Canberra.

“Instead, reform aims at a simpler and fairer tax system with more incentive for all Australians to follow their dreams. Reform aims at a simpler and more efficient system of government where people know who does what and know who to blame when things go wrong.”

He said the lesson of history showed that serious reform took time. “That’s why it must start now if it is to come to fruition within the next five years.”

He invited the Labor Party “to join Team Australia and think of our country and not the next election”.

But Labor this week has homed in on Abbott raising the GST as foreshadowing another broken promise. Before the election he promised no change in the GST “full stop”.

Abbott said the last time Australia had big tax reform, the BCA “was leading the charge”, and asked what it would do now to make tax reform and reform of federalism happen.

“We will only get change if the people who do believe in it are prepared to fight for it.”

Introducing Abbott, BCA president Catherine Livingstone said tax reform and reform of the federation were a “critical complement” to other initiatives the government had underway.

“The Business Council will continue to do all that we can to facilitate well-informed national discussion and the identification of common ground that makes change possible,” she said.

“The next five years will be crucial to the Australian economy making a successful transition – to having the sustainable capacity to generate the jobs of the future.”

In parliament, Treasurer Joe Hockey said he had tried to obtain from Treasury modelling on changing the GST and the household impact after it had been in the media. But Treasury had told him it was done for the former government and he could not have it.

Candy for the BCA what BS

Will Australia fight Islamic State alongside Iraq’s army, or militias sponsored by Tehran? What Abbott doesn’t tell us

Iraq army recruits march during their training at Baghdad Combat School, Camp Taji, in Taji, Iraq.

SAS according to Abbott were waiting for the lawyers to start our war. Further we were to train the Iraqi army to fight not the Sunni tribes or the Iran backed Shiia militias who don’t even want us there. Now it seems we are there to train the most unreliable , corrupt rag bag army from the top down one could imagine. How long will that take? They are so unreliable the Sunni tribes and the Iran backed militias want nothing to do with them either as they can’t be trusted

It appears of the 300,000 only half can be found of those 11,000 were missing in action and 10.000 were known to have been killed. Even the country’s most vaunted Special Ops have 35% unaccounted for. So are we there to aid the Iran backed army or are we there just for Abbotts political ride.

When the northern city of Mosul fell to so-called Islamic State forces in June, the world wondered what had happened to the billions invested by the West in Iraq’s army. But it was what happened a few days later at a place called Camp Speicher that showed the true scale of the problem.

When hundreds of Iraqi officers fled Speicher to save their skins, thousands of terrified recruits left behind decided their best option was to open the gates and then to set out on foot for Baghdad, 180 kilometres to the south.

Leaderless and naive, they walked into the arms of IS forces who trucked them off to their death squads. IS boasted that it had massacred as many as 1700 of the young men, releasing gruesome video of some weeping and others begging to be spared before being gunned down in shallow desert trenches.

Yet in a cruel irony, when IS finally attacked the former US base at Speicher, the handful of officers and men who stayed on – including commanding officer Lieutenant-General Ali Furaji, 44 – fended off their attack.

The collapse of its military leaves Iraq at a crossroads.

Just as the democratic framework left by the US and its coalition partners, including Australia, is driven more by the imperatives of Shiite Islamist political parties, the defence of the country could now fall into the hands of the militias of those same parties, who take guidance and arms from neighbouring Iran and are already comfortable issuing orders at joint command meetings, according to a senior Iraqi intelligence source.

These militias are impatient with the Iraqi Army and with the air strikes by a new US-led coalition, again with Australia along for the ride. They complain the strikes are too casual and infrequent, and seemingly are more about surveillance than about dropping munitions that might repel IS.

Some of Iraq’s Sunni tribes have declared war on IS, but they hesitate to line up with the Iraqi authorities in Baghdad. When Mosul fell, Sunni tribal chief Sheikh Ali Hatem al-Suleiman al-Dulaimi told local reporters the tribes in western Anbar province “consider [former prime minister Nouri al-] Maliki more dangerous than IS”.

If the real battle against IS is to be waged by Shiite militias, how do Washington and other Western capitals finesse the reality that in fighting alongside those militias, they become de facto allies of Tehran, with which they are in bitter conflict on almost every key issue in the region? Is the Australian Defence Force going to war with a disciplined, professional military loyal to its government, or with an unruly, self-willed band of militias more aligned with the near-pariah state next door?

An army for the highest bidder

Analysts in Baghdad and other informed sources, including a recently retired army general who cannot be named for reasons of security, confirm that for many in the officer corps and the ranks, the army is a milch cow, not a fighting force.

During and after the collapse at Mosul, the army lost five of its 15 divisions and ceded huge stores of US-supplied weapons and equipment to IS. By the reckoning of analyst Hisham al-Hashimi, only half of the army’s 300,000 establishment can ever be counted as genuine “boots on the ground”.

“About 11,000 are missing in action, 10,000 were killed in action and most of the rest are simply absent without leave,” Dr Hashimi said. Even the country’s vaunted Special Operations forces were depleted by 35 per cent, he said.

Another source who had observed the Iraqi Army at close quarters for some years explained the concept of the military “alien”, a soldier who, even in the midst of a national security crisis such as that now facing Iraq, cuts a deal with his senior officers to split his salary in return for not having to front for duty.

In Anbar, the vast western province that IS is on the verge of capturing, the “alien” problem means the official strength of the army divisions in the fight is 60,000 – but only 20,000 men are actually on the ground.

Soldiers also buy days off duty, paying the equivalent of $US20-$US30 a day to their officers for permission to absent themselves.

Most senior officers pay $US1 million or more to buy their rank – and the opportunities for patronage and corruption that go with it. The retired general told me: “It’s like a market – supply and demand. You have something that hundreds want, so of course they’ll pay.”

Citing well-heeled areas of Baghdad like Mansour and Karrada, another source explained: “Competition for officer positions in wealthy areas is especially fierce. That’s where there are liquor stores, parking lots and many shops – they extort money from all. The operator of a parking lot could pay $US2000-$US5000 a month to have the military direct all vehicles into his lot; and the liquor seller pays just so that he won’t be harassed.”

These commanders-turned-entrepreneurs regularly set revenue targets that had to be met by their subordinates, which resulted in many in the ranks having to buy their own food. In the 50-degree heat of summer some soldiers got only two to four 500ml bottles of drinking water a day.

And the US had a hand in this state of affairs, too. In the early days of the occupation in 2003, the decision was made by US officials that all division commanders would have their own budget to acquire food and other necessities from local private enterprise. The officers soon worked out that highway checkpoints were readymade “toll stations”, at which truckers were forced to pay a levy to pass.

All this explains a litany of local reports of army bases around the country surrendering while besieged by IS, and troops complaining later that their pleas for food, water and ammunition went unanswered. “When’s the last time you heard of IS being surrounded by Iraqi forces and running out of ammunition?” one source quipped.

Retired US general Jim Dubik, who led the US effort to train Iraqi forces in 2007-08 and who is now with a Washington think tank, told Reuters in June: “Their leadership has eroded. If you’re a fighter and you think your side’s going to lose, you don’t fight until the last man. You save yourself.”

But Anthony Cordesman, with the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, takes General Dubik’s training program to task: “The US tried to impose too many of its own approaches to military development on an Iraqi structure, and Iraq lacked the internal incentives, and checks and balances, necessary to make them function once US advisers were gone.

“As in Vietnam and Afghanistan, the US accomplished a great deal. But it tried to do far too much, too quickly with more emphasis on numbers than quality, and it grossly exaggerated unit quality in many cases … Successful force-building takes far longer than the US military was generally willing to admit, and US efforts to transform, rather than improve, existing military cultures and systems have often proved to be counterproductive and a waste of effort.”

The two generals who openly abandoned their troops in Mosul with hardly a shot fired were retired without charge and within days. One of them, Abboud Qanbar, shamelessly toasted the Baghdad establishment as he presided over a lavish wedding for his son at the Hunting Club in suburban Mansour. There are vocal calls for punishment, but none of the derelict officers has been formally charged, though many of Mr Maliki’s hundreds of personal appointments to the officer corps could be sidelined in a review of the military leadership promised by Iraq’s new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi.

The 2003 decision by Paul Bremer, Washington’s envoy to Iraq, to completely disband the military required that it be rebuilt from the ground up – a “reckless decision that had huge negative impact”, one militia leader told me.

Again and again I was told the training by US and other coalition countries for the new force was inadequate – “it was all too brief, it was not reinforced and the army was deployed for too long doing what essentially was police work – manning checkpoints and the like weakened their morale”.

On the prospects of rebuilding the force, the retired general ruefully asked: “Do you think you can rebuild in two years what previously took 80 years to build? An army has to rise above religion and party policy, but the government wants to work with the militias that agree with its ministers.”

The confidence men

At the Defence Ministry headquarters on the banks of the Tigris River, a visitor is struck more by indolence than a sense of urgency. But chief spokesman Brigadier-General Mohammad al-Askari speaks with confidence – he acknowledged much of the fight was being taken to IS by the militias and tribal fighters, but he insisted too that reports that the capital might soon fall to IS were wildly exaggerated.

“IS does have sleeper cells in Baghdad, but what is their size? If they have tens of people in a city of millions, it’s not the same as the city being surrounded. Baghdad is secure and we have more troops here than we need.”

General Askari argued Iraqi Army units were mounting a serious challenge to the IS rampage across Anbar, a vast desert expanse stretching west from Baghdad to the Jordanian and Syrian borders.

“We control three major bases and we’re slowly expanding our area of operations,” he claimed, despite reports of a more tenuous ebb and flow in the Anbar fight. “We still need more troops and a lot of international cooperation – logistics and air cover.

“But we’re better off than we were – we are on the offensive and things will start to improve.”

At the same time, he acknowledged that “Iraq was saved” in June when leading Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a fatwa urging Iraqis to volunteer to fight, thereby swelling the ranks of the militias more than those of the Iraqi Army.

“Everyone was abandoning the army, morale was in freefall, but the fatwa brought balance, nationalism and a sense of patriotism for the Shiites and Sunnis – our blood is mixed on the battlefield.”

Some battlefield success may bring a glimmer of hope. But in iconic contests, like the defeat in September of the IS siege of Amerli, 180 kilometres north of Baghdad, it was the banners of four militias, not that of the Iraqi Army, that were cheered by locals, and little was made of the US air cover that sealed the town’s relief.

Sheikh Abdul Hamid al-Juburi, described as being in control of all the Sunni tribes in central Salaheddin province, still has reservations. Over a grand tribal lunch, he told me: “The government troops are not up to this fight, they’re standard military fighting gangsters and because they don’t have sufficient numbers they disperse when they feel the heat.”

The sheikh, who has hundreds of his tribesmen fighting in wild clashes with IS across the province, likened the force of IS to water behind a dam, adding hopefully: “When we collapse the dam, there’s a huge gush of water, but then it becomes a small, manageable stream.”

The country has a new prime minister who is promising change and reform. But some Iraqi observers are not holding their breath. “The same players are there as he reshuffles the seats – and IS just carries on, like a professional boxer attacking a bunch of kids,” one said.

Upside down downunder

downunder

We sure do things upside down downunder.

Tony Abbott’s chief business adviser first tells us we are unprepared for global cooling, followed by lashing out at the UN response to the Ebola outbreak and labelling the world body a “refuge of anti-western authoritarians bent on achieving one-world government”.

Newman wrote an opinion piece for the Australian newspaper in which he said the UN’s “leanings are predominantly socialist and antipathetical to the future security and prosperity of the west”.

“The philosophy of the UN is basically anti-capitalist,” he writes. “Countries that pay the most dues, mostly rich Anglo countries, are those to which the world body shows the greatest disdain.”

Is he suggesting that we should receive foreign aid in thanks for using up all of the world’s resources while killing the planet?

Aside from Maurice Newman’s bizarre ravings, our inaction on climate change, our inadequate response to the Ebola crisis, the chief executive of Whitehaven Coal telling us that coal “may well be the only energy source” that can address man-made climate change, and the sheer bastardry of cutting real wages and entitlements to defence personnel as we send them off to war…..we are also ignoring the call from the rest of the world to take action to address income inequality.

Despite being one of the richest nations on earth, one in seven Australians are living in poverty.  Thirty per cent of Australians who receive social security payments live below the poverty line, including 55 per cent of those on unemployment benefits. Fifteen per cent of aged pensioners live in poverty.

So it seems unfathomable as to why these people would be targeted when the government is looking for savings.

Since 1980, the richest 1 percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which the IMF have data.

In the US, the share of income taken home by the top one percent more than doubled since the 1980s, returning to where it was on the eve of the Great Depression. In the UK, France, and Germany, the share of private capital in national income is now back to levels last seen almost a century ago.

The 85 richest people in the world, who could fit into a single London double-decker, control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population– that is 3.5 billion people.

With facts like these, it is no wonder that rising inequality has risen to the top of the agenda—not only among groups normally focused on social justice, but also increasingly among politicians, central bankers, and business leaders.

Our politicians are telling us that they want to provide the opportunity for each person to be their best selves but the reality is that we do not have equal opportunity. Money will always buy better-quality education and health care, for example. But due to current levels of inequality, too many people in too many countries have only the most basic access to these services, if at all. Fundamentally, excessive inequality makes capitalism less inclusive. It hinders people from participating fully and developing their potential.

Disparity also brings division. The principles of solidarity and reciprocity that bind societies together are more likely to erode in excessively unequal societies. History also teaches us that democracy begins to fray at the edges once political battles separate the haves against the have-nots.

A greater concentration of wealth could—if unchecked—even undermine the principles of meritocracy and democracy. It could undermine the principle of equal rights proclaimed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Redistributive policies always produce winners and losers. Yet if we want capitalism to do its job—enabling as many people as possible to participate and benefit from the economy—then it needs to be more inclusive. That means addressing extreme income disparity.

One way to address this is through a progressive tax system but instead, our government is looking at regressive measures like increasing the fuel excise and the GST. These will impact far more greatly on low income earners.

Another avenue is to expand access to education and health but instead, our government is cutting needs-based education funding, making the cost of tertiary education prohibitive, and introducing a co-payment to discourage people from seeing the doctor.

Abbott, Hockey and Cormann assure us that if we make the rich richer we will all benefit. Everyone from the Pope to Rupert Murdoch knows this is rubbish.

Two weeks ago In Washington, in a speech to the world’s most powerful finance ministers and central bankers, Rupert Murdoch accused them of making policies to benefit the super rich.

In it, he blamed the leaders for increasing inequality, said the ladder of generational progress was now at risk, and warned that a moment of great global reckoning had arrived.

I note that his criticism of poor policy does not stop him from taking advantage of said policies. “I’ll only be as good as you make me be” seems to be the prevailing principle.

Hockey’s response to Murdoch’s barrage was interesting.

“Certainly, as he says, loose monetary policy has helped people who own a lot of assets to become richer, and that’s why loose monetary policy needs to be reversed over time, and we’ll get back to normal levels of monetary policy, normal levels of interest rates,” Mr Hockey told AM’s presenter Chris Uhlmann.

“Governments, on the other hand, have also run out of money and can’t keep spending money – particularly on the credit card – to try and stimulate growth.

“So, if loose monetary policy is not available and actually makes the rich get richer, and governments have run out of money, how are we going to get growth going in the world economy over the next few years? And the only way to do it is through structural changes that make us better at what we do.”

The structural changes suggested by Mr Hockey will increase inequality and send more people into poverty which is indeed what Coalition governments are good at doing.

Pope Francis recently tweeted “Inequality is the root of social evil.”

In last autumn’s essay, Evangelii Gaudium, Francis wrote that: “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘Thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills … Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalised: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.”

The claim that human beings have an intrinsic value in themselves, irrespective of their usefulness to other people, is one that unites Christianity and socialism. But if you think the market is the real world, it makes no sense at all, since in the market, value is simply the outcome of supply and demand.

A recent article by Lissa Johnson discusses decades of research into political psychology.

“Another ubiquitous finding is that conservatism is inversely related to the pursuit of social and economic equality. Conservatism correlates strongly with a preference for fixed social hierarchies entailing inequality between social groups, along with punitive attitudes towards marginalised and/or non-conforming members of society, who are seen as destabilising elements that threaten social cohesion.”

Australia is indeed a wondrous place where coal will save us from climate change, where helping the rich to get richer will make us all happier, and where the poor will be asked to pay off the nation’s debt.

The new act in the Question Time pantomime: Federation and the GST

The Abbott Government has finally revealed what it has long denied: the Plan B to its savagely unfair Budget raising the GST.

As I predicted in a remarkably prescient piece written within three days of the Abbott being elected, a rise in the GST was always coming. Despite being a clear broken election promise and still a vicious attack on the poor and underprivileged, it will nevertheless be used by Abbott as political camouflage as he works towards being re-elected in 2015.

But now Credlin has, almost mercifully, added a new act.

Now, in response to questions about the Government’s obvious plans to raise the GST, Tony Abbott has this week arisen to intone solemnly about the need for a new debate about “reforming the Federation”. Something this 56 year-old man child says should be done “constructively”, in a “mature and measured fashion” and in a “spirit of bipartisanship”.

Yes, anyone who saw Abbott as Opposition Leader knows just how constructive, mature and bipartisan he can be.

The truth is, this has nothing to do with the “future of our Federation” ‒ Abbott couldn’t give a rat’s clacker about states’ powers, except insofar as they limit his own ‒ but rather is a cynical ploy to raise revenue and put pressure on the Opposition.

It is passing ironic that a PM who, as opposition leader, derided the then Government for a carbon tax, which he described as a “great big tax on everything” ‒ and which was anything but, given it only applied to big polluters ‒ to hike up an actual great big tax on everything that was implemented by a government in which he was a cabinet minister.

To raise the GST, Abbott will first blame the Opposition for not passing the Budget. He will then gain the rubber stamp approval of the states – who will, of course, jump at any proposal to rescue their uniformly parlous financial positions – and which he will hide behind, claiming the decision was an act of inclusive “federalism”.

This proposal he will take this into the next election, claiming it is necessary to solve the debt that is ballooning under his profligate, war-hungry Government — but which he will, of course, all blame on the Opposition.

The tactics are fairly obvious.

And the electorate may well buy it at the next election, because a 2.5% rise may not seem to them so much — not when compared, say, against losing their dole, or paying a GP tax, or losing their disability support. And it will be accepted by Australia’s dull, complicit mainstream media and policy commentariat as the “least of all evils” and not a broken election promise at all.

Creative Commons Licence

Charges considered against SAS corporal who removed hands of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Special forces soldier

In August last year, the ABC revealed a group of soldiers from the elite SAS Regiment were under investigation for cutting off the hand of at least one Afghan insurgent.

The ADFIS officer told them it did not matter how the fingerprints were taken and that it would be acceptable to chop off the hands of the dead and bring them back to base for identification purposes.

The ABC understands it took three days for the senior command at Tarin Kowt to realise what had happened, but as soon as it was known an operation pause ( paws ) was put in place.

Article 15 of the Geneva convention states: “At all times, and particularly after an engagement, Parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled.”

After the publication of the initial story in August last year, the ABC was informed that an AFP investigation would be launched to identify the source of what was described as an unauthorised disclosure of information.

Petrol prices to go up as government increases fuel excise despite rise being blocked by Parliament

http://media.smh.com.au/national/selections/petrol-prices-to-rise-5926710.html

Senator Cormann said he was confident of Parliament passing the bills within a year and warned that if it failed, the revenue would be returned to the oil giants and not motorists.

“It will go back to fuel manufactures and to fuel importers who would essentially have a windfall gain at that time,” he said. “There’s no obligation on those fuel importers or fuel manufacturers to remit that money to users.”

Hasn’t the government forced us to subsidise the fuel industry by stealth? What would have Ford & Holden done with a windfall like that?

Bye Bye Coal and Coal-ition

Ceramic Fuel Cells indoor installation

An Australian company which invented a renewable energy electricity generator says it was forced to move its operation to Germany because of a lack of opportunities in Australia.

Germany embracing renewable energy

Power production from renewables has tripled in Germany within the past decade, mostly from wind and solar.Last year, renewables accounted for 24 per cent of the country’s electricity.The German government introduced generous subsidies to kick-start the sector, amounting to 16 billion euros last year.But the government claims the program has already saved billions in fuel costs for the heavily import-reliant country.

“We have created new businesses worth 40 billion euros per year,” Ecologic Institute analyst Andreas Kraemer said.

Germany’s energy transition

  • 80 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2050
  • Nuclear plants shut down by 2022
  • Carbon emissions cut by up to 95 per cent of 1990 figures by 2050

“We have created additional employment for up to 400,000 people. They all pay taxes, they all pay social security charges.”German households and small business pay the largest share for the renewable turnaround.They pay around 29 euro cents per kilowatt hour and much of that goes towards a renewable energy surcharge.Big industrial users are exempt from the surcharge and pay just 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour.Most of the subsidies are spent on first-generation solar and wind parks that are locked in high feed-in tariffs of over 40 cents per kilowatt hour for the next 20 years.But there are calls to phase them out all together.

Investors look for exposure to renewables market

The makeup of the German energy market already looks very different, with hundreds of companies and cooperatives being formed in a decentralised industry.While banks, industry, and project developers own 40 per cent of renewable installations, farmers and private investors own half.A number of new investment vehicles have formed to take advantage of the new industry.Crowd funding start up Bettervest has financed 14 projects since its inception a year ago.Company spokesman Julien Schroder-Gianoncelli said investors are attracted by the projects and the returns.”We are offering 5-10 per cent in interest, which is pretty good at the moment,” he said.

Ceramic Fuel Cells believes Germany’s regulations, incentives and market make it the place to be.Mr Obernitz said that, for the time being at least, there are no incentives available in Australia.”I’m not sure if that is going to change,” he said.”We would favour that because we have invented the technology in Australia, and it’s something that will change the world.”

I politics in Australia I go Abbott,Morrison,Brandis and Corman In Media Bolt Jones and Devine get my award

Christie Proves He’s Got What It Takes To Be Republican Nominee

horseass1

THE CABIN ANTHRAX, MURPHY, N.C. (CT&P) – Most right-wing pundits and political strategists  believe that because of his recent actions regarding the Ebola non-crisis in the United States, New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie has proven his bona fides and will become the frontrunner in the race for the nomination.

anncoulter_1

Celebrated Republican strategist Karl Rove told Sean Hannity during an appearance on his show that Christie “proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he should be the frontrunner.”

“Governor Christie’s ability to deflect blame onto others during Bridgegate was positively Reaganesque, said Rove. “And by locking up that brave Ebola-fighting nurse he showed that he can act recklessly and with complete disregard for science, reason, and the opinions of experts. That’s exactly what we expect out of a Republican president. I think his future is bright indeed.”

Ann Coulter, rabid right wing pundit and concentration camp survivor, also appeared on Hannity’s show.

“Christie’s actions show a real lack of reasoning and restraint, and we’ve sorely missed that erratic and impulsive behavior over the last six years,” said Coulter. “His complete lack of compassion and empathy with health care workers desperately fighting to stop the Ebola epidemic shows that he can be a real prick and a giant horse’s ass, and that really turns me on!”

The nation’s most prominent horse’s ass, Bill O’Reilly, agreed with Rove and Coulter.

horseass2

O’Reilly told his elderly and weak-minded viewers that “I recognize a fellow horse’s ass when I see one, and Christie is one of the largest I’ve ever come across. Christie is a man who will act first and ask questions later, and that’s the kind of guy we need with his finger on the nuclear trigger.”

“I think Christie will be an articulate representative for our side in the upcoming election,” continued O’Reilly. “He’ll be able to express our policies of demonizing immigrants, gays, and poor black people in way that even the dumbest American will be able to relate to.”

The most recent polls of registered Republicans show that as a result of Christie’s recent hasty and uninformed decision-making, he has passed Texas Governor Rick Perry in popularity. Most of those being polled cited Perry’s low IQ as being a major stumbling block in the upcoming race. However, Perry continues to be the favorite among Tea Partiers and gun nuts.

Some hard facts about terror

Some hard facts about terror. 53847.jpeg

We are having an outbreak of reports in the Canadian press about “home grown” terrorists, “radicalized” young men of Muslim faith traveling out of the country to participate in extremist groups abroad – a relatively insignificant phenomenon which has received inordinate publicity. In any event, if you give the matter some thought, you realize that this “news” is a kind of empty publicity, noise about something as old and familiar as human life itself, although it has been bestowed with a new name intended to frighten us into supporting measures outside the framework of a society of laws.

The truth is that young men, at least a certain portion of them, have always traveled abroad to join causes and wars. It’s about as ordinary a phenomenon as playing team sports or joining clubs. In many cases, we end up praising them for their bravery and idealism, as was certainly the case with the many thousands of Europeans, Americans, and Canadians who traveled to Spain in the 1930s to volunteer in the civil war against General Franco. In other cases, we condemn and imprison them and sometimes even execute them as part of the losing side, as America has been doing in its rampage through the Middle East.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the emergence of new, independent nations from the British Empire drew thousands of young men to Africa to fight as mercenaries or volunteers. Apartheid South Africa used to run classified ads in newspapers abroad to attract young men in its battle against the African National Congress. Young Jewish men in the past went to Israel to join the IDF out of some sense of brotherhood, and they do so still. The French Foreign Legion gained almost mythical status as a place for young men to leave things behind, embracing an undefined sense of purpose and brotherhood. Young European adventurers, often young noblemen with hopes of gaining glory, sailed across the Atlantic in the 1770s to volunteer in the American colonies’ revolt against the British Empire, far more of them than Washington’s meagre army could use

Magnetic leaders like Napoleon or Castro or Nasser attracted countless volunteers from abroad in their heyday. Our history books don’t dwell on the fact but large numbers of young men from many countries volunteered for Hitler’s invading legions. The phenomenon does not depend on the high or noble nature of the cause, although the luster and publicity around grand causes undoubtedly attracts a still wider range of young men.

 

Young men often just want to escape from every-day, humdrum life, a boring marriage, a nothing job, or, as in the case of the Foreign Legion, to leave a criminal or failed past behind in hopes of high adventure, a new identity, and a fresh start in life. The genuine nature of a cause often matters little because young men’s fantasies convert grubby deeds into mythic stuff at least for a time. Young men in the Foreign Legion were actually fighting for a brutal imperialism in North Africa. Volunteers to the IDF only assist in the oppression of an abused people, not in the protection of the Jewish people. Those who joined Napoleon thought they were spreading liberté, égalité et fraternité across a mummified old-order Europe, but they were helping one of history’s great bloody soldier-conquerors glorify himself and do what it was he lusted after doing.

Mental illness also intrudes into terrorist matters, all things unusual or different being grist for the big dumb mill of the press. In Canada, during the wave of empty chatter about “home-grown terrorists,” there were two isolated incidents of murder in different parts of the country, one of a policeman and one of a reservist in the military. Immediately the press began a completely uninformative and patience-exhausting round of speculation about the dark nature of the perpetrators, complete with interviews of various self-proclaimed “terrorism experts,” men, as it generally turns out, who run security firms and are out drumming up business. In both cases, we finally learned through the fog of misinformation generated by the press, that the young dead men were deeply mentally disturbed, their acts having no more political significance than the crazed men set on suicide who first kill their wives or children or the boys who periodically show up heavily armed at school, shooting their way through classmates.

And of course, it is almost invariably males who do these things, our prisons containing about ten men for every woman. The violence we see in professional football, hockey, or boxing being almost an exclusive male domain. Woman rarely commit murder, males being responsible for almost all of it, with young males being responsible for an extraordinarily disproportionate share.

Aside from the psychotic and deeply depressed, there is a certain segment of young men in every society who are simply attracted to opportunities for legal killing, rape, and mayhem – this being the truly ugly side of every war and conflict that we never mention in our sentimental world-war memorial services or high school textbooks. These men are variously termed sociopaths or psychopaths, and they appear to exist naturally in some proportion in any population. They enjoy killing, inflicting pain, and the sense of supreme power over the lives of others, and they are incapable of sympathy for their victims or remorse for their acts. They only fear being caught, and war provides a wonderful legal playground for them.

The bloodiest, most brutal and pointless war of the last half century, America’s grotesque slaughter in Vietnam, attracted thousands of volunteers from other countries to join in the gruesome fun – acts which included everything from raping girls and then shooting them to throwing men out of helicopters. Even then-peaceful Canada, whose prime minister, Lester Pearson, bravely turned down Lyndon Johnson’s bullying demands to send troops (charmer that Johnson was, he is said to have grabbed our Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader by the lapels during a meeting and pushed him against a wall), saw hundreds of adventure-seeking young men, on their own, join the American holocaust, which would see three million horribly slaughtered, countless wounded, and an ancient agricultural land overwhelmed with America’s landmines, cluster bombs, and poisons.

Today we call people terrorists as easily as we more accurately might have called them reckless or mad. The word terrorist has been given an almost frightening, superstitious connotation much resembling the word witch in the seventeenth century when any poor old soul who suffered from a mental illness like schizophrenia might be burnt alive for her mumblings and delusions. Today, the same people we once burnt would be sent to a homeless shelter or a psychiatric hospital. Another aspect of the word terrorist is related to what Stalin used to say when he expected his officials to launch a new purge to keep the country terrorized into submission. The Vozhd would say something about “wreckers” or “wreckers of the revolution” and his minions would busy themselves demonstrating alacrity in finding large numbers to consign to prison or death. All of our press and government spokespeople now use terrorist with those two meanings, and to the extent that they do, we should recognize the foolishness of their speech and its danger to a free society.

Of course, anyone who commits violent crime needs dealing with, and we do have laws covering every form of violent crime and what is judged the degree of culpability. But creating a special class or type of crime, somehow understood to be different in nature from other crimes, and thereby requiring extraordinary measures of espionage and policing and imprisonment and standards of evidence, is a shabby, dishonest, and cowardly political act. It is a political act in exactly the sense best explained by George Orwell.

The template for this kind of state activity comes directly from Israel. It long ago succeeded in changing the outside perception of events since 1948 from that of a relatively powerless people having their homes and lands taken with great brutality. Everyone knows instinctively that people treated in that fashion have every right in international law and custom to fight their oppressors. We call them at various times and circumstances freedom fighters, guerillas, resistance fighters, or irregulars. But in this case, they were transformed into terrorists who seek only to destroy law-abiding, democratic Israel – unspeakably evil beings intent on attacking the imported Ozzie-and-Harriet peacefulness of white-picket fence neighborhoods constructed on other people’s property. It truly is a case of the world turned on its head.

It does make things so much easier when you shoot someone or bulldoze their home or send them to prison indefinitely with no trial and subject to torture, if you first have demonized them, much as in the case of witches or wreckers, with terrorist being this generation’s choice demonizing word. And when Israel kills some people whose identity as “terrorists” might be seen as very doubtful, the victims magically become militants, a Newspeak word which strives to make the killing of anyone from boys to grandfathers palatable, our shabby press in the West having adopted the word in its reportage without so much as blinking an eye, much less asking a question. This has been Israel’s day-in, day-out pattern of government for decades, but now it has managed to export to the United States the same pattern of behavior. The United States, after all, is a nation given to Captain Ahab-like obsessions, as it has demonstrated many times in its history, Muslims now having displaced the Communists it pursued with relentless fury for decades at home and abroad. And when the United States embraces a new obsession, its dependants in Europe, Canada, Australia, and other places are bullied into embracing it too. America has many avenues for pressuring the acceptance and recognition of its latest craze or special interest or dark operation and to quiet the criticism which would naturally flow from those who disagree and think for themselves.

Were America not enthralled with this voodoo about terror, Europe and others would quickly fall away, and Israel’s ugly behavior would be left in a glaring spotlight, much as South Africa’s once was.

It is the force of these considerations in part which leads so many to question the true nature of what happened on 9/11, for that set of events was pivotal in having American public opinion embrace extraordinary, anti-democratic, and anti-human rights measures. I do not subscribe to the (not-uncommon) conspiracy notion that the American government was complicit in 9/11, using it as a kind of Nazi Reichstag Fire to ignite the mindless war on terror and a crusade through the Middle East to overturn governments unfriendly to Israel. I do very much believe though that the full story of that event has never been told, and, as always, that can only mean highly embarrassing or compromising facts are being suppressed. The immense body of confidential information in Washington on all matters of state – literally tens of billions of documents – would largely disappear if it weren’t for considerations of embarrassment and compromise, the need for genuine government secrecy being much rarer than many assume.

A free society does not recognize crimes deemed in some way to be different or more heinous or extraordinary: it maintains and enforces sensible, well-reasoned laws which apply equally to all. It does not create criminal laws which reflect political pressure or special interests. The United States, now on a new hunt for a great white whale, has virtually re-created East Germany’s dreaded Stasi, only in a much more sophisticated and far-reaching form. It meshes with the all-pervasive secret state police apparatus Israel has constructed in the Middle East with infinite care since 1948. Now, over all our lives there is something, not answerable to any electorate, working to dissimulate, to intimidate, and to generate fear as nothing of which the Soviet Union was remotely capable. It influences all of our laws and customs, even attempting to shape the way we speak and think.

John Chuckman

University musings

University

I read with interest Don Watson’s crie de coeur from 2012 from the archives of The Monthly, which posted it on Twitter recently, about the horrors of managerialism in Australian universities. By this he means the imposition of a powerful management body led by a Vice Chancellor who is effectively a CEO, that overrides academic skills and knowledge, keeps discipline under tight control and is driven by efficiency, external accountability and monitoring, and an emphasis on standards measured by metrics. It replaces a system of collegiate governance, where academics themselves made the major decisions in the university, the Vice Chancellor being essentially the first among equals. I would have read Watson’s article anyway, but I was particularly interested because I lived through the changes he is discussing from collegial governance to the current managerial model, and experienced some of the pros and cons of both systems. And while I find much to agree with in Watson’s critique, there are important things he leaves out. And could he ever have imagined how much worse things could get?

I was, like Watson, at La Trobe University in its early days in the 1960s, though as a post graduate student, not an undergraduate as he was. I also remember the academic he mentions as even then warning against the power of the university administration; he was for a time technically my PhD supervisor. He was a lovely man, but I can’t remember that he made any contribution at all to my thesis; it wasn’t his field, and I rarely saw him. It was sink or swim back in those days for higher degree candidates, and the academic staff couldn’t have cared less. I’m not sure it’s any different today, but it was certainly no golden age then for students – as Watson would surely agree. For a time I was also a tutor at La Trobe, and as clueless about teaching as I was about the topics I was meant to be tutoring in. No one thought that teaching was something you needed to learn about; more sinking or swimming, but this time with implications for the poor undergraduates in my tutorials. I wonder if Watson was one of them? I think I got better in time, but little thanks to the senior academic staff.

Having struggled through the PhD, I became a tutor in another university. After five years, I had to leave, simply because that was the rule in those days. You couldn’t go on tutoring unless the department found the money for a senior tutorship. And this raises an issue that Watson doesn’t mention; the old collegial system was run by men for men. The rule allowing tutorships to last only five years was inherently sexist. Women were not free to move around the country chasing jobs if, like me, they had a partner whose job couldn’t just be picked up and taken somewhere else. And a man’s job nearly always came first. The senior tutorship role, where it existed, was almost universally filled by women, who organised a lot of the undergraduate teaching, and were often the main point of student contact, leaving the men to get on with their research, to get promoted, and to perpetuate the system. An awful lot of female talent got wasted.

I’m not arguing that increasing managerialism was a good way to fix discrimination. But the imposition of some limits to the collegial system was needed in order to make change happen. To most male academics – or at least the ones I came into contact with – administration was ‘housework’ – and I’m quoting here – ie something lesser, done by women. They deeply resented the requirements of the Affirmative Action Act (1986) by which a member of the administrative staff could question their appointment processes – a central pillar of collegial governance and also of the informal boys’ club that so effectively reproduced itself. I know, because I was that member of the administrative staff; I know, because I had stopped being an academic and had gone over to the dark side to be one of those awful administrators. It was bureaucratic nonsense, the thin end of the wedge, they cried … It wasn’t really. I couldn’t affect who they chose to appoint; I could only ask them to face up to their own prejudices. And why shouldn’t heads of department be responsible for the behaviour of their staff in areas like sexual harassment and discrimination? Someone had to hold staff members to account.

Looking back, I can see that the movement for equal opportunity for women probably suffered from being tied to the increasingly managerial functioning of university administration. Seeking legitimacy, it tied itself to the catch cries of efficiency and effectiveness, for example, when it might have been better off sticking with social justice. But would university administrations have cooperated – whatever the legal requirements – if they didn’t see it serving their agenda as well?

Watson is certainly aware that abuses existed alongside the freedoms academics enjoyed. And I agree with him that an unduly bureaucratic world view overwhelmed the participatory system of governance. I remember in particular being lectured by executives of the State Bank on the virtues of amalgamation of institutions, which was excruciating at the time and funny in retrospect, given the debacle of the State Bank collapse. I also remember being told that only the psychologically damaged oppose change – irrespective of the nature of that change. What rubbish!

Maybe something could have been saved from the wreck of collegial governance if academics and administrative staff of good will had been able to treat each other as equal partners in the enterprise. The people on the ground doing the housework might have appreciated not being condescended to by the academic staff, and might have fought to preserve the best features of the old system.

But maybe not. For the biggest challenge for universities in those years is one Watson doesn’t specifically mention. And that is the expansion in student numbers. In 1970, only 3% of Australians held bachelor degrees. Today, almost 37% do. And universities, as everyone knows, haven’t been funded properly to deal with the increase. Collegial governance, where academics took the major decisions relating to the academic directions of the university, was pretty well inevitably overwhelmed by the need to attract fee-paying overseas students, to be accountable for time and money spent, to attract increased research funding, and to report all this to the commonwealth funding body. And with so many more students – some of which, as Watson asserts, are poorly prepared – to say nothing of the pressure to publish, what academic has time to contribute to running an increasingly specialised administration?

It may be that if the Abbott government’s higher education ‘reforms’ are passed by the Senate, the old days of fewer students and more money for at least some universities will return. Some may be able to regain the elitist position they once held. Others will be forced into offering only cheaper courses, probably of poor quality to more students. Others still may close, or become regional campuses of city universities. Fear of indebtedness will keep many students away, especially the older ones who often contribute most to tutorial discussion, and the poorer ones. But I doubt this will usher in a new era of excellence; fewer doesn’t mean brighter. And I doubt whether academics will ever again enjoy collegial governance; the likely outcome of Abbott’s changes is greater corporatisation, not less. And the picture for Australian universities looks even bleaker than it did on 2012.

Politicians’ pay rises outstrip soldiers’ by 140 per cent . 1.5% increase p/a for the next 3 years.

Politicians’ pay rises have outstripped those of Australian soldiers by more than 140 per cent over the past two decades, according to new research by a leading military think-tank.

And the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says the government could afford to give sailors, soldiers and air force personnel a pay rise to match inflation without reducing other military spending programs.

The government put its offer of a 1.5 per cent pay rise for each of the next three years in exchange for a reduction in leave entitlements and other allowances before the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal this week amid a storm of controversy.

More than 11,000 service men and women and their families contacted their advocacy group the Australian Defence Welfare Association, most of them expressing anger at the deal and some of them labelling it “outrageous” and “a joke”.

The military’s top brass were forced onto the defensive with the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, telling the nations’s 57,000 men and women in uniform that it was the best outcome he could negotiate in the current budget climate.

After the tribunal reserved its decision on Wednesday, the Strategic Policy Institute’s senior analyst Mark Thompson has found that the wage offer will leave ADF members and their families more than 2.6 per cent worse off over the next 36 months with inflation running at 2.5 per cent per year.

“Compared with the remainder of the labour force, the picture is worse still,” Mr Thompson wrote in his analysis.

“The government projects that the wage price index will run at 3 per cent over the next two years.”

The Defence economics expert wrote that with the Defence budget indexed at 2.5 per cent to keep pace with inflation, a better pay rise was within the government’s means, even under its hardline public sector industrial policies.

“ADF workforce has been quarantined from efficiency dividends under the current and previous governments.” Mr Thompson wrote.

“It follows that an inflation-matching salary increase of 2.5 per annum could be afforded from within existing funding without redirection from other programs, consistent with the government’s 2014 Workplace Bargaining Policy.”

The analyst found the base pay of a federal parliamentarian had grown more than 250 per cent since 1991 while the average adult weekly earning was up by just over 160 per cent.

But the salaries of ADF members, and their civilian colleagues in the Department of Defence, had grown only about 110 per cent.

“The salary plus service allowance for a sergeant in the army roughly equates with average adult full-time earnings in Australia, $78,000,” Mr Thompson wrote.

“Looking over time, ADF salary increases have consistently outpaced inflation; and growth in average weekly full-time ordinary earnings has done the same, but by a wider margin.

“Defence APS salaries and ADF salaries are bootstrapped onto each other, thereby explaining their overlapping trajectories.”

Mr Thompson acknowledged the government had frozen the pay of politicians and senior public servants this year.

“However, this needs to be seen in the context of the 31 per cent pay increase awarded to parliamentarians in 2012, along with the 27 per cent increase in remuneration awarded to the Chief of the Defence Force and a similar rise for departmental secretaries over the period 2012 to 2014,” he wrote.

The technical union Professionals Australia, which represents many members of the Defence establishment, said the research highlighted the “hypocrisy” behind the low wage offer.

“It is also clear that increases to the Defence budget could comprehend fair and reasonable increases for all Defence personnel,” union official Dave Smith said.

“This is why it is outrageous that ADF personnel are expected to take a pay offer well below CPI and lose important conditions and it is hypocritical for their political masters to tell them to tighten their belts.”

 

ISIS is a scenario to destroy Russia. Black and White spies

ISIS is a scenario to destroy Russia. 53724.jpeg

The UN Security Council unanimously, which is a rare occasion during the recent years, adopted a resolution on the fight against terrorism. Pravda.Ru interviewed executive secretary of the Presidium of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Araik Stepanyan, about old and new threats in the Middle East and in the whole world.

“Why did Russia support the United States? Not that long ago, there was heated debate on the USA’s interference in the internal affairs of Syria and Ukraine. In fact, the United States wants to destroy Russia by the hands of Ukrainian fascists. Yet, Russia supported the States. Why so?”

“Russia has its list of terrorist organizations. Some of them, included on our list, are not included on the list of the United States. They consider them fighters for freedom and democracy and support some of them. Russia calls for the coordination of databases of terrorist organizations, so that they are clearly considered as terrorist organizations for the whole world. In this case, it would be possible to catch members of such organizations and bring them to trial, rather than simply bomb sovereign states. Russia voted for coordinated legal international action.”

“Do we have a certain interest at this point?”

“Of course. The USA and Turkey did not consider ISIS a terrorist organization. Russia does not consider the Kurdistan Workers’ Party a terrorist organization, but the Americans consider them as such. Russia considers the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, but the Americans do not. We have different opinions. Even Egypt found Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. So we do have our own interests here. Moreover, Russia may even restrict the Americans in their actions to a certain extent. It is very hard to convince the Americans to give up their positions. They are stubborn, even if they are wrong. This is their view and their policy.”

“Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov diplomatically did not name those who are directly responsible for the growing threat of the Islamic State. He said that the bombing of Libya and the Syrian conflict led to the fact that ISIS now poses a huge threat to the world. He does not call Western countries responsible for that. Is it a part of covert struggle to change the Americans’ position on Ukraine, support the USA in the fight against ISIS and obtain their neutrality in Novorossiya?”

“The rhetoric of the Russian foreign minister represents Russian diplomatic school. His remarks are indeed diplomatic. He is absolutely correct not to name responsible sides specifically, because it includes the entire intelligence network of the United States represented by Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra, from which ISIS broke away. These are the structures that the Americans created.

“They invested from three to nine billion in Bin Laden. Where did Al-Qaeda go? Each of those organizations performs a specific function. Al-Qaeda let the Americans invade the Middle East, Afghanistan and farther – they have bases on the territory of the former Soviet Union already. Al-Qaeda quietly disappeared. But first, the American leadership was using Al-Qaeda to intimidate the world and the American society. Records of Bin Laden’s threats would appear regularly. Today, instead of audio recordings, the world watches video, in which terrorists behead hostages. And once again, the United States starts shaking the international community, convincing all and everyone that one has to bomb them and so on and so forth.”

“Do you think all of this is staged?”

“All of this is a game of the USA. They punish the forces that do not want to obey the Americans. Those who do, receive support and help from the USA. American schizophrenic McCain always speaks cynically and impudently. This is the style of American diplomacy – hypocritical and cynical diplomacy. McCain says that he is constantly in touch with American partners, that the United States considers them fighters against the regime of dictator Assad. They put Assad on a par with these ISIS thugs. If everything goes according to the American scenario, they support them. If someone goes against the US line, the Americans punish them.”

“What is the ultimate goal of this scenario?”

“Of course, the goal of the American foreign policy is to destroy Russia. Another goal of theirs is China. All of these processes that take place in the Middle East were launched in the United States targeting Russia and China.”

“Is the current bombing of ISIS in Syria a start of the operation that will then proceed to the destruction of Bashar Assad?”

“Of course. The Americans supply weapons to the so-called Liberation Army, but it is very weak. An-Nusra, ISIS and other groups captured warehouses of that army. There are no Syrians in those organizations, because the Syrians do not want to destroy their country. There are mercenaries from all over the Islamic world, from the former Soviet Union.

“By bombing, the Americans want to strengthen the organization that they control, so that this organization defeats Syria afterwards. There is a version that the head of the Islamic State, al-Baghdadi, is a citizen of Israel, who was put into that organization. He had been in American prisons, but then the Americans freed him and made him a leader. The Americans were trying to do the same with al-Nusra, but failed. Those guys were more ruthless, more cunning, more daring. ISIS crushed the Syrian opposition and an-Nusra because they had a universal ideology. Now they have territory, caliphate, leader, money, army.

“ISIS has something from everything. It has something from Jehovah’s Witnesses, from archaic Judaism, from the criminal world … That is, they built a fine, universal and simple ideology. The main idea of ​​it is the false understanding of the end of the world. To be saved, one needs to unite and go to the end of the world together. In another world, they will have beautiful women, etc.”

“If this is a script for the destruction of Russia and China, why is the Russian government being so inactive in its responses? Why doesn’t Russia ship arms to Assad? Why doesn’t Russia protest against the bombing of Syria? Where did this protest go?”

“For many years, our country was running the foreign policy of total retreat and defeat. During this time, a part of the liberal elite has penetrated into the structures of power, there is a very powerful force in oligarchic circles that do not support Russia’s national interests. They support Western policies. Our leadership is fragmented, so it can not be more confident, more rigid in its actions.”

“Probably, it could also be due to the fact that Russia is economically weak compared to America. Have sanctions put pressure on us?”

“They did, but Russia is a self-sufficient country. It has all resources that one needs. The main thing is how to organize them. If it wasn’t for those saboteurs, who had been investing in Western banks for 25 years, rather than the Russian economy, science and education, we would be the most prosperous country in the world. We have so many opportunities. Despite the brain drain during the 1990s, Russia still has a scientific and technical potential. Yet, those, who sympathize with the West, do not want that to happen. It is convenient for them to make money here and then invest it in the West. Their children study in the West. Money is invested there.

“The West accuses Russia of corruption. Where do Russian corrupt officials go? Has any of them escaped to India or China, for example? No. All of them escaped to the West. Westerners take what they want. They declared Muammar Gaddafi’s money the money of a dictator and put a trillion dollars into their pockets. They can do just the same to the money of Russian oligarchs. Just as easily, they can arrest accounts and confiscate all money. The Americans clearly gave a signal to Russian oligarchs: kill Putin or remove him by any means, and we will continue welcoming you.”

“Why doesn’t Putin respond to that?”

“We have neither NKVD, nor Gestapo. One needs to have it done in a civilized way, not to shock the society. Vladimir Putin gave a clear signal that Russia won’t let down Syria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the Crimea. The Americans understand that Russia is becoming stronger.”

Abbott government rips up the rulebook for the ATO’s new building

Coalition making good on election promises: Mathias Cormann.

Reporter for The Canberra Times

The Abbott government will ignore Commonwealth value-for-money rules on official real estate as it forces the Australian Taxation Office to spend millions on new offices in regional NSW.

The ATO has confirmed there has been no business case or cost-benefit analysis, as required by the Finance Department’s rules, for the plan to build a 6500-square-metre office block in downtown Gosford on the state’s central coast.

The Taxation Office has 6200 desks sitting empty in its buildings around Australia, is shedding up to 4700 jobs and is trying to get out of leases on office space equivalent to two-and-a-half times the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground’s playing surface.

"It risks looking like naked pork-barrelling": Andrew Leigh. “It risks looking like naked pork-barrelling”: Andrew Leigh. Photo: Jeffrey Chan.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says the government is keeping an election promise by going through with the building but the opposition says spending tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money without due process looks like “naked pork-barrelling”.

The Taxation Office has confirmed the project will go ahead, calling for expressions of interest from developers to build the building, but ATO bosses still cannot say what it will be used for.

But Taxation confirmed this week that neither the business case nor cost-benefit analysis, required by the Finance Department for large public service property procurements, was not undertaken for the Gosford project.

The agency plans to move 300 of its public servants into the building when it is completed in 2017 but it is unclear who will occupy the rest of the floors.

The ATO had previously said it had been making progress in reducing the amount of excess offices it rents from private landlords and had plans to offload about 50,000 square metres of space, about two-and-a-half times the playing surface of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Labor’s shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh said on Thursday that it looked as if the Coalition was spending taxpayers’ money to make good on promises made before the 2013 election solely to win the federal seat of Robertson.

“Without a business case or any kind of cost-benefit analysis for this building, it risks looking like naked pork-barrelling,” Dr Leigh said.

“If the Abbott Government actually consulted with the tax office, the agency would rather keep some of the 4700 staff that are being forced out the door than spend money on a brand new building when it already has thousands of desks sitting idle.

“If Joe Hockey is so keen to make investments in the tax office, he should start by rethinking the retrenchment of 500 auditors, some of whom will doubtless now be employed to help companies minimise their tax bills.”

But Senator Cormann said the ATO was observing procurement rules by undertaking the expressions of interest process.

“The Government is delivering on its election commitment to open a new building on the New South Wales Central Coast, with the Australian Taxation Office leading this initiative,” Senator Cormann said.

“Submissions to the expression of interest will be evaluated in line with normal processes.

“That is, expressions of interest will be shortlisted and then a more detailed request for final proposals will occur later this year.

“This is normal practice to ensure the best possible value for taxpayers’ money.”

Audits clear ABC of bias, but don’t expect Rowan Dean agrees Bolt wont

Two ABC audits have found no widespread bias in the national broadcaster’s news coverage. But a clean bill of health for the ABC is unlikely to soothe its detractors.

Last December, ABC chairman James Spigelman said the public broadcaster would begin conducting four audits a year looking for bias in its news coverage. Spigelman told the National Press Club:

Since my appointment I have naturally been concerned with the frequency of allegations of a lack of impartiality. I do not accept that it is systematic, but I do accept that it sometimes occurs. Every news and current affairs program endeavours to ensure balance, whilst avoiding the pitfall of irrelevant dullness.”

This morning, the first two reviews were released, and they pose little to worry about for the public broadcaster. One of this morning’s audits, by the BBC’s former chief editorial policy adviser Andrea Wills, dealt with ABC radio’s coverage of the 2013 election. While it made some suggestions, it concluded that the ABC had done no wrong:

On the whole interviewers asked well-informed and relevant questions that their audience would reasonably expect to hear, and they were robust and consistent in their dealings with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. I have to say that it was impossible to detect any actual ‘pre-judgement’ or personal positions of interviewers in this sample.

Finally, I concluded that the 23 items analysed for this editorial audit were duly impartial within themselves and complied with Section 4 of the ABC’s Editorial Policies.”

Another audit, by former SBS director (and Coalition appointee) Gerald Stone, dealt with the ABC’s coverage of asylum seekers on Lateline and 7.30. This review was more critical — finding four reports (out of a total 97 examined) where editorial standards appeared to have lapsed — but it also cleared the ABC of biased reporting on the issue in its conclusion:

In the course of this audit I have routinely checked for indicators of bias as typical TV viewers might believe they have detected it. Were interviewers tougher on some and notably softer on others? Did there appear to be an uneven distribution of time given to one topic or another? One political side or another? To academics and other expert commentators espousing humanitarian views as opposed to those more concerned with the practical need to protect Australia’s borders and deter people from resorting to people smugglers?

As an independent observer, I found no grounds for concern in any of those measurements.

The overall coverage of both programs included as wide a range of opinions as practical. Meanwhile, the air time given to any particular topic was in keeping with the newsworthiness of the asylum seeker debate as it progressed through the weeks nominated for this audit.”

Most concerning to Stone was a 2012 Lateline report in which Helen Brown visited an impoverished Indonesian fishing village, home to people smugglers held in Australian jails. “The segment appeared to have only one purpose — to exploit the bias of imagery to evoke sympathy for crew members of people-smuggling vessels,” Stone wrote.

He also criticised the interview with the people smugglers’ lawyer, who he said made dubious claims without being questioned on them. “It portrayed them — without any semblance of proof — as frequently misled as to their real mission and too naive to understand why they are offered more money for one voyage than the average Indonesian fisherman makes in a year,” he wrote. ABC news director Kate Torney accepted the criticism that more scrutiny should have been applied.

Another Lateline story came in for criticism from for supporting the claim that Australia’s treatment of Tamil refugees is so inhumane that it should not sit on the UN Security Council (Stone said many countries with far worse human rights records sat on the council).

Another segment, aired on 7.30, was deemed not to have made it clear that a Tamil asylum seeker’s claims about being tortured by Sri Lankan intelligence officers had not been proven, with the asylum seeker himself saying he couldn’t be sure who tortured him. Stone said the story should have used the word “alleged” in relation to the claim — the program responded that it wouldn’t have fit its conversational style.

Another segment, also with Tamil asylum seekers, did not probe their responses enough, Stone wrote.

Stone’s review only considered reports aired from August 2012 and December 2013. This means the most controversial ABC story on the issue — George Roberts’ piece reporting claims that the Australian navy had burnt the hands of asylum seekers en route to Indonesia — was not examined in the audit. It aired on January 22 this year.

Spigelman has welcomed both audits, saying they showed “95% of the content examined attracted no criticism or concern”:

Consistent with other processes, these reviews have once again demonstrated that against the background of thousands of stories produced … The error rate is quite small.”

The next review, the chairman revealed, will be into how well the ABC’s daily radio programs cover the issues that matter to their audiences.

Michael Gawenda, a research fellow at the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne, says it’s no wonder the ABC is happy with the result. “And why wouldn’t they be? The radio review basically said everything was hunky dory. The other one found four programs had some problems. But even with those, once the reviewer went back and spoke to the executive producers, there were explanations for a lot of the problems,” he said.

This raises another question. The audits were released by the ABC, and while the people writing them weren’t ABC employees, how much can we trust reviews commissioned by the organisation being reviewed? Matthew Ricketson, professor of journalism at the University of Canberra, says that self-scrutiny doesn’t come easily to many people, and that’s especially true for media organisations. Nonetheless, he told Crikey: “The ABC does it better than any other mainstream media organisation in this country.”

Will this be enough for the ABC’s critics? Gawenda reckons: not a chance.

But Ricketson thinks we shouldn’t be so cynical. “The ABC’s critics are not a monolithic group. A large news organisation will always have critics because of the sheer volume of material created, because of the difficulties of creating journalism against tight deadlines and because of the contentious subject matter that serious journalism necessarily delves into,” he said.

Open-minded critics will, I believe, welcome the ABC’s commitment to reviewing and improving its practices. Close-minded critics of the ABC will find material that is grist to their mill.  As Daniel Okrent, former public editor of The New York Times, once put it: such people are able to identify all biases except their own.

Tunisian Islamists concede election defeat to secular party, It is achieveable

Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist party Ennahda, waves the party flag outside Ennahda's headquarters in Tunis  October 27, 2014. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

(Reuters) – Tunisia’s Ennahda party, the first Islamist movement to secure power after the 2011 “Arab Spring” revolts, conceded defeat on Monday in elections that are set to make its main secular rival the strongest force in parliament.

Official results from Sunday’s elections – the second parliamentary vote since Tunisians set off uprisings across much of the Arab World by overthrowing autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali – were still to be announced.

Tunisian militant fighters have long been prominent among jihadis in foreign wars dating back to the 1980s Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and more than 3,000 are estimated to be fighting for Islamic State now in Syria and Iraq.

While the role of Islam in politics overshadowed the first election in 2011, jobs, economic opportunities and Tunisia’s low-intensity conflict with Islamist militants were the main concerns of a country heavily reliant on foreign tourism.

First speaker in the mature debate

poke

Dear Mr Abbott,

I welcome your call for a mature debate on taxation. I too deplored the “screaming match” that surrounded the introduction of carbon pricing and am pleased you realise how counterproductive that sort of approach is to constructive governance.

As a concerned citizen I would like to make a few suggestions to get the ball rolling.

Your opening gambit is to increase the GST. This is a regressive tax which will, once again, disproportionately hit lower income earners.  Treasury modelling done for the previous government showed that even a modest increase in the rate to 12.5 per cent – along with removal of exempted items such as food, health, childcare, and school fees – could hit a two income two-child family by as much as $205 per fortnight.

Perhaps there is a better way.  For example:

Fossil fuel subsidies

The Australian Government is set to spend over $40 billion in the form of tax rebates and concessions, foregone revenue and expedited write downs of assets per year from 2013/14 to 2016/17. This assessment only includes tax measures, and does not include direct grants or State Government measures, which could add billions more to the annual totals.

The proposed replacement climate policy, the Emissions Reduction Fund, relies on paying companies as an incentive to reduce their emissions. A fundamental contradiction exists between such a policy and the continuation of a range of existing fossil fuel subsidies. Many subsidies significantly reduce the economic signal for companies to identify efficiency opportunities.

Polluter handouts are also highly inequitable. For instance, the mining industry receives a 32c per litre discount on fuels such as petrol and diesel for off‐road use. So while most Australians are paying full price for their fuel at the bowser, their taxes also cover the cost of a huge discount to the mining industry. In all, this handout costs Australian taxpayers $2 billion each year.

Australia, along with all other G20 nations, committed in 2009 to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term. In his recent State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama reiterated the need to phase out tax‐based fossil fuel subsidies. Other organisations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations and the International Energy Agency are also calling for nations to end fossil fuel subsidies.

In 2009, the Commonwealth Treasury identified $8 billion in annual savings that could be made if Australia fulfilled this commitment. This money could be used to fund a wide range of nation‐building projects, yet to date we continue to use these funds to line the pockets of polluting, and in many cases highly profitable, industries.

Prime Minister Abbott has said that there is to be an end to corporate welfare. Statements by Treasurer Joe Hockey have warned that “the age of entitlement is over,” and that “everyone in Australia must do the heavy lifting now.” It is critical that this rhetoric, if applied, is applied consistently.

Superannuation tax concessions

A study by the Australia Institute found the rate of growth of super tax concessions is greater than that of the pension despite the ageing population, meaning the cost of the tax concession will soon overtake the pension to become ”the single largest area of government expenditure,” by 2016-17.

”’The age pension currently costs $39 billion and superannuation tax concessions will cost the budget around $35 billion in 2013-14,” the study found.

It notes that the Commonwealth bill for these concessions is projected to rise at a staggering 12 per cent annually to be $50.7 billion in 2016-17.

”The overwhelming majority of this assistance flows to high-income earners,” the report finds.

”Low-income earners receive virtually no benefit. The combined cost of these two policies will be $74 billion in 2014 alone.”

Negative gearing

The Grattan Institute’s report, Balancing budgets: tough choices we need, included a section on abolishing negative gearing, which it claims would save the Budget around $4 billion per year initially, falling to a saving of around $2 billion per year over the longer term.

Grattan highlights a number of non-budget (social) benefits from reforming negative gearing, namely:

1.increasing home ownership rates by reducing returns at the margin for landlords relative to first homebuyers; and

2.increasing investment in other more productive assets.

The report also debunks claims that reforming negative gearing would raise rents, since “for every landlord that sells, there would be a renter that buys and becomes a home-owner. The supply of rental properties would fall at the same rate as the number of renters”. It also does not believe that the construction of dwellings would be materially affected, since “almost all of investment property loans are now for existing dwellings”.

Tax avoidance

A report by the Tax Justice Network – an international group focused on investigating tax avoidance – and the United Voice union says almost a third of companies listed on the ASX 200 pay 10 per cent or less in corporate tax.

This is substantially less than the statutory 30 per cent corporate tax rate.

Some companies, such as James Hardie and Westfield Retail Trust, pay zero tax.

Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox pays 1 per cent tax and casino group Echo Entertainment pays 5 per cent tax.

The report says the government is losing out on at least $8.4 billion in tax each year, which is substantial but may be the tip of the iceberg.

According to the research, 57 per cent of all ASX 200 companies have subsidiaries in tax havens.

Several big-name companies, such as 21st Century Fox, Westfield, Toll Holdings and Telstra, have more than 40 entities in well-known tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.

Fourteen in the 20 top companies, including two of the country’s big banks, also hold entities in these locations, according to the report.

“Secrecy jurisdictions play a key role in multinational tax dodging and undermine the ability of democratically elected governments to levy taxes in a just and fair way,” the report’s authors say. “Corporate tax avoidance must be addressed.”

Financial transaction tax

Introduce a Financial Transactions Tax on various categories of financial transactions including: stocks, bonds and currency. If implemented on a global basis, its projected revenue could be as much as US$400 billion a year, depending on the size of the levy imposed, the size of the reduction in trading (if any), and the number of implementing countries/jurisdictions. In the US alone it has been estimated that annually, between US$177 and $353 billion could be raised.

A flat rate of 0.05% has been proposed on all financial market transactions, many experts actually advise vary rates (of between 0.01 and 0.5%) depending on the transaction (stocks, bonds, currency, commodities, swaps, derivatives, etc). The UK stock exchange, one of the largest in the world, already has a 0.5% tax on share transactions.

(1) An FTT will reduce the instability in the global financial system by reducing the volume of trading in financial markets, especially the sort of trading that increases market instability and has led to the turbulence in the financial markets over the last decade.

(2) An FTT will provide an effective way of raising revenues for both domestic purposes, such as assisting governments help pay for the costs of post-financial crisis bailouts, as well as for spending for international public goods, such as the funds needed for climate change adaptation, and to assist countries in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

The tax is specifically designed to target high frequency traders, especially of securities, where the average holding period is often minutes or seconds. High-frequency traders currently account for 70% of US equity market trading and 30-40% of the volume of trading on the London Stock Exchange.

The tax will only affect financial institutions and funds to the extent that they are involved in this type of high-frequency trading.

Australia is a leading player in global finance in its own right: the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is the ninth largest stock exchange in the world. Australian support of the FTT would be a significant boost to the cause of the global campaign. Moreover, Australia is a G20 country and plays a significant role in the group whose endorsement would effectively make the FTT a reality.

You could always keep the mining tax and close the rorting of FBT car leases and…dare I say, bring back the carbon tax…if you are mature enough to admit when you are wrong.

So let’s have some mature debate on these issues Mr Abbott before we jump to charging pensioners more for their bread and single parents more for childcare and sick people more for their medicine.

Over to you……

A Week is a Long Time in Politics

 gough

If ever a week in politics supported a headline it was the week that Gough Whitlam died. In the main the death of this, undeniably charismatic, but gifted man was met with sadness by both supporter and foe alike.

The exceptions who didn’t were Bolt and Jones. Yes, the two who write and comment outrageously on the basis of payment for controversy didn’t but eventually they will pass on as Gough did.

They will be quickly forgotten but he will go down in the annals of Australian history as a decent, sanguine, passionate and sagacious Prime Minister who made an enormous contribution to Australian society.

Something they could never aspire to do.

Yes the week was filled with controversy that only a government devoid of any semblance of leadership could muster.

barnaby joyceIn Parliament the Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce (The probable deputy PM if Abbott wins the next election) got the details of how many Australians have received drought assistance completely and utterly wrong.

Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon called him out but as you would guess, Bronny Bishop ruled he didn’t have to answer. It wasn’t until early evening he skulked back into the chamber and quietly corrected his answer. It’s hard to explain what Barnaby said. If you can decipher it you deserve a medal.

“…you actually get the money until the department decides that you are not allowed to get the money, and at this point in time. So you keep on getting the money, you keep on getting the money, until such time as, on the application being assessed, they decide you are not eligible for it. But it is not the case that you apply for the money and then you have to wait for your application to be approved, you actually get the money straight away.”

Anyway on Tuesday of this week he got a whiff of his own ineptitude and tried to change the official Hansard record.

com bankThen the Government for a Royal Commission into anything Labor refused to hold one into the Commonwealth Bank of Australia as part of its response to a landmark Senate inquiry. This is one of the worst scandals in Australian corporate history. It has ruined the lives of thousands of people but the government’s approach seems to be to let financial planners proceed as if nothing has happened.

During all this the boss of the corporate regulator, ASIC said.

‘’Australia is too soft on corporate criminals and increased civil penalties including more jail terms are needed.’’

“Australia is a paradise for white-collar crime.” He said.

On Royal Commissions that are politically motivated John Howard had this to say.

“I’m uneasy about the idea of having royal commissions or inquiries into essentially a political decision…”
“I don’t think you should ever begin to go down the American path of using the law for narrow targeted political purposes.”

Abbott obviously believes in the total obliteration of one’s opposition and will even provide cabinet papers if he has too.

tell tonyIn senate estimates we heard from treasury officials that the Prime Ministers Paid Parental Leave Scheme has ground to a halt. According to senior insiders, it is in serious trouble and loathed by virtually every minister in cabinet.

Our Prime Minister once again showing that he is incapable of governance for the common good.

turnbullIn the midst of all this we had talk of Malcolm Turnbull replacing Hockey as treasurer.
“It’d be a game changer,” one minister summarised. No one disagreed with the soundness of the idea. True, he would bring competence and authority to the Treasury portfolio. He has the ability to articulate a message clearly and forcefully.

But the mere suggestion that this might happen is a reflection of the total incompetency of this Abbott led bunch of out of touch morons.

freya newmanWe were greeted with another headline that the whistle-blower Freya Newman had had her sentence deferred until November. Did she break the law? She did, but in so doing revealed yet another instance of the Prime Ministers use of his office for personal gain further defining his personal lack of integrity. As if it could degenerate any further.

The curriculum taught in our schools never seems to go away when conservatives are in power.

barry spurrFor its review the coalition appointed its usual array of religious zealots and those of indigenous indifference, all sympathetic to the government’s point of view. But this time one of the appointees, Professor Barry Spurr, further advanced his expertise in all things conservative with some emails that could only be describes as indecent. He said they were part of a ‘linguistic game’. Ah the games people play.

Perhaps the PM might consider some people of independent mind for future inquiries instead of the usual hacks.

But there’s more. It was a long week.

indexscott morrisonIt seemed that Scott Morrison wanted to be the minister for everything. When interviewed on AM he denied that other ministers were resentful of him trying to take over part of their portfolios. But members of the press gallery confirmed it.

When asked in question time how his portfolio crossed over with Foreign Affairs, Defense, Agriculture, Health, Defense, Attorney-Generals and Prime Minister and Cabinet it wasn’t only the Labor side of the chamber laughing at him.

But Bronny Bishop ruled he didn’t have to answer.

And to add to the weeks worries the Government still cannot get its budget passed. To quote Lenore Taylor in the Guardian.

budgetThe Abbott government’s “Operation Budget Repair” appears to have morphed into “Operation Let’s Salvage What The Hell We Can”.

Kevin Andrews said he would consider “any reasonable offer” from crossbench senators in a last-ditch bid to get at least some of his $10bn in stalled welfare changes through the Senate. On top of that there is the fuel excise, that Medicare co-payment and the dramatic changes to higher education. What a bloody nightmare. It’s a pity Abbott doesn’t have the negotiating skills of Gillard.

He and Joe have never been able to admit why the electorate so comprehensively rejected the budget? We all know that the savings fell heaviest on those least able to pay. Now they are saying they will reveal more in the mid-year budget update. This can only mean more unpopular cuts. Or a mini budget.

essentialThe Essential Poll during the week found 72% felt the cost of living had become worse in the past 12 months and 48% believe that over the past two years their income has fallen behind their cost of living. That figure rises to 57% for those earning less than $1,000 a week.

It was the worst received budget in many decades. Spending cuts have to be fair, and be seen to be fair, but people also need to understand the overall plan, the purpose, dare we call it the program.

Later in the week when talking about Federal and state responsibilities Abbott said.

“It is in this great country of ours possible to have a better form of government”

I would have thought a good place to start would be to stop telling lies.

retHaving appointed a group of climate deniers to report on the Renewable Energy Target and Tony Abbott wanting it removed altogether the government, in the face of public opinion, now finds itself in a dilemma. It wants to compromise on the 20% target saying electricity usage has already declined. Shorten should not fall for that nonsense. Add in their ridiculous Direct Action policy and you can see we have, in spite of their various university degrees, a bunch of dunderheads governing us. Perhaps I should have said dickheads.

To be honest I could go on for another couple of thousand words but I’m exhausted. I haven’t mentioned Bishops aspirations for leadership, the credit card negotiations with the banks on welfare payments and fact that his sisters have joined the chorus of condemnation for a privately owned aged-care facility on public parklands at Middle Head.

Then there’s the criticism of the proposed Medibank float that has been described as laughable. Oh, then of course reports that Chrissy Pyne was backing down on his university policy. He said he wasn’t but then I’m not that sure he would know himself.
Goodness I have left out the most serious issue of Ebola. The government’s response has been abysmal to say the least. Just another example of their ineffectiveness. The AMA was right to give Abbott a serve.

In an effort to sound amusing and to allay the fears of those who think I am being overly negative I will close with this.

indexCarbon tax celebrationI promise this is true. Greg Hunt, is the man who some people refer to as the Environment Minister.

In Opposition he advocated for the protection of the Tasmania Tiger, extinct since 1936. In Government he’s turned his attention to the Antarctic Walrus – population: zero. Walruses live in the Northern Hemisphere.

Oh wait, bugger I almost forgot. Were you also aware that Catherine King exposed how it would soon cost up to $2,207 for someone to have their liver metastasis diagnosed? Tony Abbott refused to say how many people will miss out on being diagnosed as a result of the hit to imaging and diagnostic services.

But the week did began with the Speaker announcing she would not continue with the policy of segregation which had been announced as Parliament rose a fortnight earlier.

Hopefully we can now go back to segregation being something kids learn about in the courtroom scenes of To Kill a Mockingbird not during their excursion to Canberra.

The final word for ‘’A week is a Long Time in Politics’’ must go to Newspoll which had the Opposition six points up on the Government without so much as them striking a blow.

Assad’s warnings start to ring true in Turkey. Will we declare Turkey a criminal State backing ISIS?

Kurdish refugees from Kobani watch as thick smoke covers the Syrian town of Kobani during fighting between Islamic State and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border  in Sanliurfa province October October 26, 2014.  REUTERS-Yannis Behrakis

(Reuters) – When Sunni rebels rose up against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in 2011, Turkey reclassified its protégé as a pariah, expecting him to lose power within months and join the autocrats of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen on the scrap heap of the “Arab Spring”.

Assad, in contrast, shielded diplomatically by Russia and with military and financial support from Iran and its Shi’ite allies in Lebanon’s Hezbollah, warned that the fires of Syria’s sectarian war would burn its neighbors.

For Turkey, despite the confidence of Tayyip Erdogan, elected this summer to the presidency after 11 years as prime minister and three straight general election victories, Assad’s warning is starting to ring uncomfortably true.

Turkey’s foreign policy is in ruins. Its once shining image as a Muslim democracy and regional power in the NATO alliance and at the doors of the European Union is badly tarnished.

Amid a backlash against political Islam across the region Erdogan is still irritating his Arab neighbors by offering himself as a Sunni Islamist champion.

The world, meanwhile, is transfixed by the desperate siege of Kobani, the Syrian Kurdish town just over Turkey’s border, under attack by extremist Sunni fighters of the Islamic State (IS) who are threatening to massacre its defenders.

Erdogan has enraged Turkey’s own Kurdish minority – about a fifth of the population and half of all Kurds across the region – by seeming to prefer that IS jihadis extend their territorial gains in Syria and Iraq rather than that Kurdish insurgents consolidate local power.

Turkey is thus caught between two fires: the possibility of the PKK-led Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey reviving because of Ankara’s policy towards the Syrian Kurds; and the risk that a more robust policy against IS will provoke reprisal attacks that could be damage its economy and the tourist industry that provides Turkey with around a tenth of its income.

Internationally, one veteran Turkish diplomat fears, IS “is acting as a catalyst legitimizing support for an independent Kurdish state not just in Syria but in Turkey” at a time when leading powers have started to question Turkey’s ideological and security affiliations with the West.

Great Barrier Reef protection plan ‘ignores the threat of climate change’

Great Barrier Reef

Scientists warn the government’s strategy is likely to prove ineffectual as ‘unless Australia cuts back on carbon dioxide emissions we won’t have much of a Great Barrier Reef left’

he Australian government’s multimillion dollar plan to halt the worrying decline of the Great Barrier Reef does nothing to address the leading threat of climate change and is likely to prove largely ineffectual, scientists have warned.

In its formal response to the Reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan, which was drawn up by the Australian and Queensland governments, the Australian Academy of Science states the strategy is “inadequate to achieve the goal of restoring or even maintaining the diminished outstanding universal value of the reef”.

A spokesman for Hunt said the 2050 reef plan is based on the “best available science to ensure it responds to new and emerging issues”.

“We have a clear plan and a strong commitment to ensure the reef is healthy and resilient – and we are making strong progress,” he said.

“The Great Barrier Reef remains an incredibly diverse and rich marine environment. We know the reef still retains the values for which it was listed as world heritage.

“The Australian and Queensland governments are jointly investing approximately $180m a year in the reef’s health – that’s billions of dollars over the next decade.”

Unesco’s world heritage committee will decide next year whether to place the Great Barrier Reef on its “in-danger” list. Unesco has called for port expansion to be limited in order to safeguard the health of the reef.

Our boys in ASIO , AFP and Police are in training for no knock raids as we speak. They have tried a few and have managed to arrest and free a number of suspects. It takes a while to memorize the new laws though.

Police Converge Mass

Habersham County Cop Wins Coveted “NAZI Stormtrooper Of The Year” Award

ATLANTA (CT&P) – Bubba “Catfish” McDim, the Georgia SWAT team member who tossed a stun grenade into a baby’s crib during a drug raid this spring, has been awarded the NAZI Stormtrooper of the Year Award according to Haberham County Sheriff Joey “Heinrich” Terrell.  Although no drugs or weapons were found during the raid, McDim managed to melt the infant’s face and disfigure him for life, an achievement that brought praise from law enforcement agencies from across the country.

hitler

“We shore are proud of our Catfish,” said Sheriff Terrell. “All those hours of practice throwing fragmentation grenades at Messican farm workers and carloads of negra teenagers really paid off. Bubba sets a sterlin’ example of just what can be achieved when using deadly force against unarmed civilians.”

McDim will be honored at a gala banquet in Atlanta over the Christmas holidays. The yearly banquet honors militarized police thugs from all over the country who perpetrate abominations on the American public in the name of the “War On Drugs.”

Below is a synopsis of the Habersham SWAT team’s actions that the awards committee used to determine this year’s winner:

 

swat99

Of all the botched drug raids that have occurred in 2014, the most appalling took place in Cornelia, Georgia on May 28—when narcotics officers carried out a paramilitary no-knock SWAT raid at 3 AM at the home of Alecia Phonesavanh. The person they were looking for, Phonesavanh’s nephew Wanis Thonetheva, was suspected of making a $50 methamphetamine sale. Thonetheva, however, didn’t even live in Phonesavanh’s home and was nowhere to be found during the raid. But Phonesavanh’s 19-month-old toddler, Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, was home. After breaking down the door of the Phonesavanh home, one of the brave cops, Officer Bubba “Catfish” McDim, tossed a flash-bang grenade which landed in the baby’s crib, exploded and caused the toddler extensive injuries (including severe burns, disfigurement and a hole in his chest that exposed his ribs). No drugs were found in the home, and Wanis Thonetheva was subsequently arrested without incident.

stormtrooperoftheyear

Habersham County officials announced in August that the county would not be giving the Phonesavanh family any assistance with the baby’s huge medical expenses. Members of the SWAT team escaped any criminal charges for the botched raid on October 6 when a grand jury, under threat of lifelong police harassment, found no fault with police procedure on the raid.

“We are here to support our officers no matter what kind of abomination they may perpetrate,” said a trembling Billy Bob McSneed, the jury foreman.

Mildred Fatback of Clarkesville agreed.

“I just don’t see how anyone could ever criticize our brave police officers,” she said, as she looked around nervously, “why, only last week one saved my life by giving me a ticket for going 3 MPH over the speed limit. He also confiscated 53 bucks from me that I could have used to purchase drugs if I actually used them. I’m very grateful.”

Sheriff Terrell told WSB News that the grand jury “did good” and more heinous and deadly “no-knock” raids were planned in the near future.

“There just ain’t no telling what’s goin’ on out dere,” said Terrell. “We may need raid every home in the county just to make sure no one ain’t doin’ nothin’ wrong. Who knows what we might find? I know some of the boys are needin’ some new appliances and stereos, so this no-knock thing might just be the ticket for ‘em.”

News > World Aboriginal Deaths in Australian Prisons Due to Jailers’ ‘Indifference’

“No room for racism.” Protesters in Sydney demanded action on Indigenous deaths in custody on October 23. (Photo: Peter Boyle/ Green Left Weekly)

“No room for racism.” Protesters in Sydney demanded action on Indigenous deaths in custody on October 23. (Photo: Peter Boyle/ Green Left Weekly)

The suicide of an Aboriginal man in a Western Australian prison has sparked renewed controversy over the decades old issue of Indigenous deaths in custody. To find out more, teleSUR English spoke to the head of the Indigenous Social Justice Association, Ray Jackson.

Indigenous leaders in Australia have warned that the levels of Indigenous deaths in custody remain at “outrageous” levels, more than 20 years after a royal commission sought to end the tragedies.

“There is, however, a need to look at the jail systems across Australia and their indifference to the removal of hanging points from all the jail cells,” Ray Jackson, of the Indigenous Social Justice Association told teleSUR English in an exclusive interview on Saturday.

In 1991 a royal commission into spiraling rates of Indigenous deaths in custody demanded prisons across the country examine cells for points where prisoners could hang themselves, and remove them.

The royal commission was established in 1987 in response to an outcry from the public over allegations Indigenous Australians were dying in prisons at a vastly higher rate than non-Indigenous prisoners.

Although the commission found no evidence Indigenous prisoners died at a higher rate than the wider prisoner population, it did conclude Indigenous Australians are imprisoned at a far higher rate than the general population.

Many Indigenous deaths were attributed to self-harm and suicide. The commission issued over 300 recommendations to prison authorities to reduce deaths, but still today Indigenous rights advocates say many recommendations have gone unheeded, and Indigenous deaths in custody have only increased since the commission.

In 2013, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) found Indigenous deaths in prisons had spiked over the five preceding years, despite deaths in custody for non-Indigenous prisoners remaining stable.

The AIC found most deaths were caused by heart conditions and other medical problems, though self-harm remained high.

The latest death occurred on October 22, when an Indigenous man referred to only as Mr Wallam hung himself in Perth’s Casuarina Prison.

Mr Wallam cannot be further identified for cultural reasons. According to a report by The Australian on Sunday, Mr Wallam was just three months away from being released.

News of the man’s death hit local media as thousands of Australians were taking part in marches to protest Indigenous deaths in custody on October 23.

“It is ironic that as hundreds were marching around this country to raise our concerns of the outrageous number of death in custody of Aborigines an unnamed 31 year old Aboriginal man is reported to have suicided in Casuarina Jail,” Jackson said.

Jackson argued prison authorities urgently need to take action to curb Indigenous deaths, and he isn’t alone. Peter Boyle from Australia’s Green Left Weekly newspaper told teleSUR, “There have been 340 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the end of the royal commission.”

“Most could have been prevented if the (commission’s) recommendations were all implemented,” he said.

Head of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee Marc Newhouse told The Australian newspaper there were allegations prisoners at Casuarina were mistreated, and that the prison was overcrowded.

“Two decades after the royal commissions, why are there still hanging points in jails?” Newhouse asked. During the protests the day after Mr Wallam’s death, Western Australian premier Colin Barnett told crowds in Perth he would make a “personal commitment” to reduce Indigenous prisoner deaths.

“I will do that, you then judge me on whether I succeed or not, but I give you that commitment today,” Barnett stated, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

However, Barnett’s comments weren’t in response to Mr Wallam’s death, but yet another Indigenous prisoner in the state.

Julieka Dhu died on August 4 while being held in custody at the South Hedland Police Station in Western Australia.

Dhu was being held in a process referred to as “paying down” fines. She reportedly carried around AU$1000 (US$880) in unpaid parking fines, which she was paying off by serving time in prison.

While other states such as New South Wales have long abandoned forcing people to pay off fines they can’t afford with prison time, as Jackson put it, in Western Australia “the old law still stands.”

One in seven prisoners in Western Australia between 2008 and 2013 were incarcerated purely to pay off fines, according to a report by The West Australian newspaper.

“It’s doubly wrong because the state and the taxpayer are losing the revenue from the fines and the individuals who are making no contribution are actually costing us. It costs to put people in prison,” the state’s shadow corrective services minister Paul Papalia said, according to the newspaper.

However, Jackson argued the measure amounts to a “Dickensian and brutally uncaring process of jailing the poor.”

“Those who cannot pay the fines placed upon them are doubly punished,” he stated.

Abbott seems to have crossed the road on seeing the USA coming down the street when it comes to Ebola and Climate Change

Samantha Power meets officials at the Guinea Ebola Co-ordination Centre in Conakry.

Samantha Power begins tour of worst-affected countries with criticism of international efforts

Ebola: US ambassador hits out at countries failing to help west Africa

The US ambassador to the United Nations has criticised the level of international support for nations hit by Ebola as she begins a tour of west African nations at the epicentre of the deadly outbreak.

Samantha Power said before arriving in Guinea on Sunday that too many leaders were praising the efforts of countries like the US and Britain to accelerate aid to the worst-affected nations, while doing little themselves.

“The international response to Ebola needs to be taken to a wholly different scale than it is right now,” Power told NBC News.

She said many countries were “signing on to resolutions and praising the good work that the United States and the United Kingdom and others are doing, but they themselves haven’t taken the responsibility yet to send docs, to send beds, to send the reasonable amount of money”.

Besides Guinea, Power will travel to Sierra Leone and Liberia – the three nations that account for the vast majority of the 4,922 deaths from the Ebola epidemic.

More than 10,000 people have contracted the virus in west Africa, according to the latest World Health Organisation figures.

Another country in the region, Mali, is scrambling to prevent a wider outbreak after a two-year-old girl died from her Ebola infection following a 600-mile bus ride from Guinea. She was Mali’s first recorded case of the disease.

An adviser to the Malian health ministry said the 43 people placed under medical observation in Kayes in western Mali – where the girl died on Friday – showed no signs of the illness.

About a dozen other people were also being observed in the capital, Bamako, where the girl had spent about three hours visiting relatives on the way to Kayes.

Mauritania meanwhile reinforced controls on its border with Mali, which effectively closed the frontier, according to local sources.

The Hysterical Tania Plibersek

It’s always worth remembering the origins of the word “hysteria”.

I actually can’t at the moment, but I do know that it stems from the same word family as hysterectomy. And, just as a man can’t have one of those, we should remember that only women can be hysterical.

So, Mr Dutton – who clearly can’t be accused of hysteria, because he’s a man – calls for a measured response to the Ebola crisis. After all, it’s not like the “debt crisis” or the “budget emergency”, this is only killing a few thousand people in Africa, so there’s really no problem.

Mr Dutton – for those of you who’ve never heard of him – is our Health Minister, and as such is a very measured person. He’s so measured that he didn’t ask a single question about his portfolio while he was Shadow Minister for Health.

Mr Dutton pointed out the problems with Tania Plibersek’s response:

“This has to be done in a sensible, rational way, not an emotional way that put people in harm’s way … Mr Shorten seems to have maintained his composure, whereas Ms Plibersek is quite hysterical, which is not the leadership you need in these crises.”

Plibersek, on the other hand, urged immediate action, suggesting:

“The predictions are that if we don’t get Ebola under control in the next two months or so, the spread of the virus will be completely unpredictable and very difficult to handle. We’ve had calls from around the world for Australia to send help.

“We must stop this in West Africa, and Australia must be part of an international effort. If Ebola gets to Asia there’s no guarantee of Australia’s safety.”

See, hysteria!

But that’s just typical of the Labor Party! I mean in Parliament today, they were rabbiting on about Mr Abbott’s so called promise about not changing the GST. As Mr Abbott suggested, they are incapable of having a mature, adult conversation about broken promises without tossing words like “broken promises” into the discussion. How childish!

No, we need less hysteria about things like Ebola and climate change. After all, hysteria about the end of the planet led to the carbon tax which nearly wiped Whyalla off the map and if it wasn’t for its abolition Australia would have had all its mines shifted offshore.

As Andrew Bolt wrote today, while singing the praises of another Dutchman, Van Gogh (It’s a shame these people from other countries can’t actually praise good Australian artists. Pro Hart, for example, sold more paintings than Van Gogh, so surely he must be better. If Van Gogh were in Australia today, he’d want a subsidy, but thankfully we could just say piss off back where you came from, Dutchie!):

“I quit journalism twice, thinking I’d never get the hang of it.”

Of course, once he realised that he could write for the Murdoch press without the need for journalism, he became the man he is today. Which, of course, means that he could never be called hysterical.

After all, as I just said, he’s a man. And an adult.

Unlike Tania Plibersek, who seems to think that Ebola would be a problem if it spread to Asia. Doesn’t she realise that we have much better ways of dealing with Ebola and it’d be no problem if it spread to Australia. It’d only be a problem if one of the volunteers in Africa contracted it, because we don’t have any agreement for evacuation, and, as we should have learned from World War Two, Britain’s entry into the Common Market and Tony Abbott, when it comes to helping out Australia, there’s no way we should rely on the English.

The Bill of Horror

once again apologies

speakupforthose

Convention mapAs well as the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas, which leave refugees in constant statelessness and fear of being returned to persecution, the Australian Minister for Immigration is proposing changes to the Migration Act which are utterly alarming.  The ‘Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014’ removes references to the UN Refugee Convention to allow Australia’s domestic law to ignore Australia’s obligations under international law. It also removes the ability of the High Court to challenge refugee and asylum seeker policy and operations.

The bill exempts vessels involved in Operation Sovereign Borders from the appropriate maritime laws. There will be nothing to stop fuel, food, water and safety devices from being removed from intercepted boats. The Government will have the power to send boats or individuals anywhere it chooses.  The bill removes the need for Australia to have a Memorandum of Understanding in place…

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Scott Morrison aims to remove all refernce to the UN Refugee Convention to allow domestic law to ignore Auatralia’s obligations un der international law. It also removes any High Court challenges.

The Bill of Horror

Convention mapAs well as the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas, which leave refugees in constant statelessness and fear of being returned to persecution, the Australian Minister for Immigration is proposing changes to the Migration Act which are utterly alarming.  The ‘Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014′ removes references to the UN Refugee Convention to allow Australia’s domestic law to ignore Australia’s obligations under international law. It also removes the ability of the High Court to challenge refugee and asylum seeker policy and operations.

The bill exempts vessels involved in Operation Sovereign Borders from the appropriate maritime laws. There will be nothing to stop fuel, food, water and safety devices from being removed from intercepted boats. The Government will have the power to send boats or individuals anywhere it chooses.  The bill removes the need for Australia to have a Memorandum of Understanding in place, or for the country to be a signatory to the Refugee Convention.  The bill will allow boats to be towed outside of Australian waters and left there without regard for the safety of passengers.

The bill proposes a fast track assessment process which removes access to the Refugee Review Tribunal. Fast turnaround processing was ruled illegal in the United Kingdom earlier this year due to an “unacceptable risk of unfairness”.  The bill seeks to change the definition of ‘refugee’ to allow the government to reject a refugee status application if it decides that there is a ‘safe area’ in the country of origin, or that the nation’s police force is ‘reasonably effective’.  This is nothing short of playing with people’s lives.  It will allow the Australian government to send back asylum seekers, regardless of whether they face a real chance of torture or execution on return.  What does Scott Morrison think happens to Hazara people when they are returned to Afghanistan or to Tamil people who are returned to Sri Lanka?  Does he really believe that members of the Taliban or Rajapaksa’s regime are unable to travel to target their victims?  If he had converted to Christianity in Iran, or spoken against the Iranian Government,  would he really trust the Iranian police force to protect him?

Children born in Australia, to asylum seekers who arrived by boat, will be classified as “transitory persons”, creating a new generation of stateless people, and giving them no access to permanent residency or citizenship.  Does Scott Morrison really believe that these babies pose a serious threat to Australia as we know it?  Or is his distain, even hatred, for asylum seekers so great that detaining innocent children indefinitely doesn’t satisfy his lust for vengeance;  does he feel the need to ensure that his punishments will continue for each of their lifetimes?

The ‘Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014′ gives the Australian Government, under domestic law, the power to ignore international law and to engage in state-sanctioned human rights abuses. It will allow Australia to be complicit, even collaborative, in the persecution, torture and execution of innocent people. The Minister for Immigration will have absolute power, and his actions under Operation Sovereign Borders will not be brought to account by Australia’s justice system.  He will become untouchable. This sets a very dangerous precedent for Australian politics and law.

I see so many people ‘liking’ and sharing messages about Australia’s terrible mistreatment of asylum seekers, on social media.  I read the comments they write, pouring out their outrage and their grief.  Yet, when it comes to asking them to take the time to write to politicians to urge them to oppose this horrific bill, the passion and the anger appear to evaporate.  I for one, need to know that I have done everything in my power, and then some, to persuade the Senators to vote against this bill.  Will you join me in writing to them?  You don’t need to produce a perfectly crafted, eloquent letter; you just need to write!  A few lines will do.  If you are an Australian citizen, tell them that you cannot support politicians who sanction human rights abuses.  If you are an expat, tell them how horrified you are at what Australia has become while you have been away. Most of all, tell them to oppose this bill.

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