Month: June 2015

Mafia in Australia: Lawyers call for reforms to donation laws after links to politicians revealed. Are Newscorp advertorials run by Andrew Bolt donations?

Geoffrey Watson

Updated about an hour ago

Lawyers are calling for reforms to the country’s political donation laws after the ABC’s Four Corners program uncovered links between Mafia figures and senior politicians.

Four Corners revealed that in 2005 Mafia money may have played a role in helping to lobby the then-immigration minister Amanda Vanstone to grant a visa to senior Calabrian Mafia figure.

That figure was Frank Madafferi, a man with an extensive criminal history back in Italy who was set to be deported.

But Madafferi’s Mafia connections paid tens of thousands of dollars into the Millennium Forum, a now-defunct fundraising body connected to the Liberal Party.

Ms Vanstone’s decision to allow him to stay came after those donations.

The Calabrian Mafia is a ruthless and violent criminal organisation that looms large in the Australian underworld.

Clive Small, a former assistant commissioner with NSW Police, said it never donated money without expecting favours in return.

“The Calabrian Mafia doesn’t give anything away. Any penny, any cent they spend is because they expect two cents back,” Mr Small said.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

Audio: Listen to Michael Edwards’ report. (AM)

In response to the findings, NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson SC called for Australia’s political donation system to be overhauled.

“This is a case study of what’s wrong with the system. Well, it’s seriously wrong,” Mr Watson said.

“The point is that for no better reason than the making of donations to a political party, specific representations were able to put [Mafia figures] amongst the most powerful politicians in the land — access which you and I couldn’t get except if we made substantial donations ourselves.”

New rules needed to improve transparency, expert says

A 2009 Australian Federal Police (AFP) report described a “lack of checks and oversight” in the Australian political donations system as “significant” failings.

“As it stands, political parties and candidates can receive significant support and financial contributions through avenues not covered by the statutory disclosure regime,” the report said.

It added that “loopholes” in the oversight system meant it was “difficult to identify any bribery in the form of political donations”.

But Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said the AFP also found there was nothing further to pursue.

“It is important that we have a strong system that has the right checks and balances and is transparent, and I think transparency has improved significantly over the years,” Mr Morrison said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor was prepared to have another look at tightening donation rules.

“Labor is up for reform of political donation laws. We asked Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party to join with us to further improve confidence in our democratic system.”

Professor Ian Ramsey, the director of the Centre for Corporate Law at Melbourne University, said new rules were needed to ensure complete transparency.

“For quite a number of years now, many people, myself included, have really seen significant limitations in terms of our existing disclosure requirements,” Professor Ramsey said.

“In particular, there are important issues about the transparency, how much is disclosed, and also how quickly that information is disclosed.

“Certainly I think there is a real need for improvement.”

Ms Vanstone has been contacted by the ABC but has yet to comment.

You can watch Four Corners — The Mafia in Australia: Drugs, Murder and Politics on ABC iView.

“Tony Abbott has never apologised for the lies he told the Australian people” That’s the difference.

Bill Shorten lets fly in Parliament (image from abc.net.au)

I have always been among the first to be critical of Bill Shorten, but when he deserves more favourable recognition I want to be among the first to offer it. And he certainly deserves recognition for his speech on Matters of Public Importance in Parliament on June 25 when he unleashed probably the best attack on Tony Abbott since Julia Gillard’s famous ‘misogyny speech‘. But it was not just the grunt shown by Shorten; it was probably the best summary of Tony Abbott’s style of lying and deception ever captured.

You can watch the speech on The AIMN’s Facebook page but to my knowledge it is not yet available on YouTube (yes, I’ve searched). So far only 40,000 people have seen the video—which is clearly not enough. This needs to be ‘out there’.

If you’re not on Facebook and can’t share the video I’ve copied the transcript. Please, let’s help get this ‘out there’ too . . .

Mr SHORTEN (Maribyrnong—Leader of the Opposition) (15:12):

Another question time and again no answers—another day like every day under the Abbott government. New Liberal lies—new Liberal lows. Every day we see the quality of the parliament and the debasement of the government of Australia continue downwards. There will be six weeks away from this place when we will all have the opportunity to be amongst the Australian people. But we know what the Liberals will be up to. We know that those opposite will continue their trademark politics of fear and smear. We know that the bar is never too low for those who sit opposite. Look at their form in Victoria. Never in my wildest imagination did I imagine that the Liberal Party of Australia or any of its divisions would stoop so low, crawl so low, as to be raising money on the back of national security fear. Frankly, the Prime Minister gave an unsatisfactory answer. He said that of course one would go down to ASIO for briefings—probably true; of course that may be true—but he could never explain why he needed a TV camera in tow. When the opposition legitimately questioned him on these matters, he said it was an attack on ASIO. This man is addicted to wrapping the flag of patriotism around him and then saying no-one has the right to ever question the judgements of this government on that basis.

We know that every dirty trick will be played by this government, by this Prime Minister, in the next 12 months. They will keep going on the low road of character assassination. They will stick with the same bullying, the same base politics of division and suspicion. The last day of this sitting fortnight has been typical of every day under this government. This government and Mr Abbott will say anything to get your vote. They will say anything; they will do anything; they will promise everything. But his words mean nothing. His promises mean nothing. Let me tell the government and Mr Abbott about this. If he wants to lecture us about lying, if he wants to keep on talking about keeping promises, if he wants to make the next election about trust, he should have a go—give it a try. Bring it on.

Today Mr Abbott postured in question time, in the style which only he thinks befits a Prime Minister of this country, with his faux indignation and finger wagging, about an interview I did with Neil Mitchell two years ago. As I have said more than a couple of times, I made a mistake and I regret it. I did, though, what Tony Abbott is incapable doing. I have apologised. Tony Abbott has never apologised for the lies he told the Australian people. He has never apologised for the fraud he perpetrated on millions of hardworking people who trusted him with their vote. He never apologised for saying, on the eve of the election, right down the barrel of a camera—probably capable of tricking even polygraph—’no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no cuts or changes to the pension, no cuts to the ABC or SBS’. That is five broken promises in 10 seconds—one lie every two seconds.

The problem is that Mr Abbott’s lies have real consequences for all Australians. His lies are hurting people every day— $30 billion cut from schools and $50 billion cut from hospitals. Once and for all, will the government finally acknowledge the authorship of their own budget papers which demonstrate the change in their spending profiles and the cuts behind them? This Prime Minister thinks that Australians are as silly as some of the people who backed him in his parliamentary party. The truth is in black and white, green and blue. He has hurt 300,000 pensioners in this last sitting week—people on modest incomes. He talks about some people who get $30 a fortnight being better off. But he presses the ‘delete’ button at that point. He never mentions 330,000 pensioners who are having their pensions cut. He said before the election, ‘no cuts to pensions’. But 330,000 people are going to have their pensions cut. He says that because it does not happen until a certain date it is not really a broken promise. This man has too many excuses and not enough truth in his election promises. He has frozen the superannuation of 8.4 million Australians. He said that there are no adverse consequences that they would administer on superannuation, but he has frozen superannuation for 3.5 million low-paid Australians. He has taken away their tax support for the superannuation contributions they make. But it goes further than that. The Prime Minister for Indigenous matters has cut half a billion dollars from Aboriginal services. The Prime Minister for women has cut $270 million from community services, including counselling for the victims of family violence. And we know this is just the beginning. This is a most miraculous government. They get their public servants, paid by taxpayers, working for months to talk to other senior officers all around the country.

They prepare a federation green paper, and then they say, ‘It’s just a sensible discussion’. Prime Minister, there is nothing sensible about an option which says you will take every dollar out of public hospital funding. Prime Minister, there is nothing sensible about cutting the 15-hour minimum per week guarantee to four-year-olds. There is nothing sensible about means testing public schools and the parents who use public schools.

The Prime Minister has form on this. Before the last election he said there would be no cuts to health. In fact, he continued to say it all around the streets of Brisbane, before the Griffith by-election, when he said of his GP tax on the sick and the vulnerable: ‘nothing has been proposed and nothing has been considered.’ Nothing has been considered, nothing has been proposed and nothing is planned. Mr Abbott’s pattern is the same: all things to all people before an election; afterwards, ‘Please don’t bother me. I’m about to break my promises.’ I know what the next six weeks will be like with the government members. They will get out there and they will whip up fear. They will whip up smear. They will make it such that Australians feel more worried about their future than they even should be. Indeed, this is a government who is obsessed with the opposition. They do not want to stand up for Australia and fight for a vision of the future. The Prime Minister is never any happier than when he is attacking us. But he is never more unhappy than when he actually has to run the government in the interests of the Australian people. They are fixated on the past. They are spending $80 million of taxpayer money trying to denigrate the reputation of the union movement. They are trying to turn baseless allegations into a headline.

On this subject, let me say to the most appalling Acting Minister for Employment that this Commonwealth has ever had the misfortune to have serve in that position. He has said more than once in recent weeks of my time in the AWU representing working people, ‘He was there for the good times in Beaconsfield’. He has implied that somehow Beaconsfield was a good time. Well, Christopher Pyne, I was at Beaconsfield. A man died and two men were trapped for 14 days not knowing whether they would be rescued. For the first five days their families did not know if they were alive and, for the next nine days, ordinary men dug through hard rock to rescue them. It was a remarkable effort by hundreds of people. Their families went to hell and back. And Christopher Pyne is so out of touch that he says they were the ‘good times’? How dare you, Christopher Pyne. You are not fit to tie the shoelaces of those people in that rescue.

I say to the Prime Minister and to the government: we will never apologise for standing up and giving service to working people. Every day you talk about Labor, every day you talk about me, every day you look back to yesterday, is another day that confirms you have nothing to say about the future. You have nothing to say about Australians, their concerns, their priorities and, indeed, the future of this country. Labor is better than that. It lasted a day. We saw the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection getting back into the gutter with his interjections and mindless contributions. Yesterday we were his best friends because they needed Labor to do the right thing for the nation. But these people have short memories, as I predicted yesterday. But we are different. We will support budget measures that we think are in the best interests of the nation. We will not be mindlessly negative, as this Prime Minister made his trademark of opposition. We are interested in the Australia of the future and setting up Australia for the future. That means making sure that there are jobs and skills for the workforce of the future and our young people of today. We want great schools and yes, we want great coding in our schools. We want proper funding for our hospitals—not these rubbishy federation green papers which you propose, with your madcap options. And we want universal Medicare. Australians are sick of you trying to wreck the Medicare system. We want accessible and affordable universities, not $100,000 degrees. We will fight youth unemployment and we will back TAFE all the way—training and apprenticeships. We believe in a fair pension and we believe in strong superannuation.

In the next six weeks we will outline our positive agenda. You can play your cheap political games all you like. You can take the low road, you can do your very worst. But we will see you off. We will not only endure; we will most certainly prevail.

Australia Not Ready To Join 21st Century Just Yet, Abbott Says

same sex marriage

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says his views on joining the 21st Century haven’t changed.

“I think it is inevitable that Australia will one day join the current century. But my views on this matter are well known. And as I’ve said many times before, it’s not something I’m entirely comfortable with, and it’s certainly not going to be something I lead”.

He said there was no need to rush. “Why charge into this unfamiliar era, when we can stay here in the comfort of the 1950s a little longer?”

A spokesperson for the Government said it was important not to make rash decisions. “We certainly wouldn’t want to just charge in and blindly follow what America does”.

Religious Right Hospitalized After Choking On Compassion And Equality

intensivecare

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mr. Religious Right has been hospitalized in the nation’s capital today after a week-long assault by liberal thugs on the side of hope, compassion, and equal treatment under the law. Physicians say his condition is stable and are confident that he will pull through.

“Mr. Right is a resilient soul who has had to make adjustments in the past when it became apparent that his Neanderthal views on women’s suffrage, civil rights, and interracial marriage were about as popular as a turd in a punch bowl,” said Dr. Emilio Lizardo of George Washington Hospital, who is caring for the stricken Right.

“So we think that Mr. Right will eventually come around and join the majority of people in the country who are actually fine and decent human beings.”

The attacks on Right came hot and heavy throughout the week, with the removal of his beloved Confederate battle flag from state capitals and two supreme court decisions regarding health care for the less fortunate and marriage equality for all citizens being shoved into the yawning chasm of his mouth and down into his esophagus.

Dr. Lizardo told reporters that he was unsure how long Mr. Right was deprived of oxygen, but he felt that there was little damage done to Right’s brain.

“His brain is actually more similar to that of a reptile than a human being,” said Lizardo, “and we all know that many reptiles can go a long time without fresh air. So, I think he’ll be OK in the long run and go on to lead a somewhat normal life, albeit in the shadows of a more progressive and enlightened society.”

Mrs. Religious Right has been at Mr. Right’s bedside since he was admitted to the hospital, but she has declined to speak with reporters because she knows she was put on earth to be a helpmate to her husband and keep her mouth shut, which is why she was unaffected by the tsunami of good news this week.

Terrorism and the dangers of fearmongering; Bolt continues the Tea Party war cry of war against Islam.

The weekend atrocities in Tunisia, Kuwait and France, in which dozens of lives were lost in brutal attacks, are shocking. They have generated precisely the kind of fear terrorists seek to instil. Against the background of such attacks, the Charlie Hebdo rampage in January, and others, it is little wonder Australians see terrorism as a significant threat.

The danger is real. But the Abbott government should resist the temptation to play politics with this understandable fear. Prime Minister Tony Abbott was quick to distance himself last week from a lamentable choice by the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party to solicit donations with a call to support a “safer Australia”. He was right to do so. But Mr Abbott has himself been needlessly inflammatory in recent months with some of his own rhetoric, raising suspicions he sees electoral advantage in a national security debate, rather than making a genuine effort to reassure and protect a worried public.

Our concern goes far beyond the choice of words, to areas of law. It is the job of politicians to legislate, but it is notable that in response to the terrorist threat – not just in recent times, but since the attacks on America in 2001 – Australia has seen more than 60 laws passed to provide stronger powers to police and security agencies. Our leaders should tread more warily. The cost of new powers can sometimes – often – be measured by a loss of individual rights. There must always be careful efforts not to tilt the balance too far away from the prize of liberty.

The Age supports the stated intent of the latest legislative proposal to strip the citizenship of dual nationals who choose to take up arms against Australia by joining a declared terrorist group. This is a sensible recognition of the modern and transnational nature of terrorist threats. But the law must be precise. If the broad category of damage to Commonwealth property becomes a basis for revoking citizenship, and if that provision captures a person who scrawls graffiti on the Parliament building, the punishment would be excessive. The ill-defined notion that citizenship is forfeited “if the person acts inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia” must also be given special scrutiny as the amendments are considered

A similar problem of unintended consequences arises with the recent law on disclosing a special intelligence operation, which could result in journalists being jailed. Or the bill for the retention of metadata, which casts a vast surveillance net across the community. Or the declaration of a prohibited area, which reverses the onus of proof and could see a person punished for merely being in the wrong place, without evidence they have done wrong. When such measures combine with existing dubious powers, such as so-called “preventative detention orders” that allow a suspect to be held for up to 14 days without charge, a disturbing pattern emerges, in which hard-won individual rights have been sacrificed.

When the Coalition took office, carrying an ideological aversion to “red tape”, it planned to abolish the position of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor – a misguided proposal, thankfully abandoned. Bret Walker, the Sydney barrister who previously held the role, has remarked on the “odd culture” in modern Australia, where “we really do think problems are addressed by passing laws about them”.

Terrorism is a different type of threat, requiring measures to pre-empt fanatics who may be willing to die for their misguided beliefs. But more faith is required in the ability of police and security agencies to use existing laws to thwart the danger. There is little to be gained – and much to be lost, by way of the freedoms that distinguish our democracy – by constantly redefining the boundaries of the crime. Unless, that is, politicians have another purpose in mind.

Super changes ‘purely ideological’: unions

Money changing hands


By Mark PhillipsEditor of Working Life

Friday, 26 June 2015

WHEN you have a world-leading model for retirement savings that consistently delivers higher returns to its members than banks can, why would you mess around with it?

The answer seems to be politics and ideology.

Today the Abbott Government has unveiled proposed changes to the governance of the funds that manage Australia’s $2 trillion superannuation system in what is a thinly-veiled attack on the strong relationship between the not-for-profit industry super funds and the union movement.

Under the changes, the unions and employer bodies who established the not-for-profit sector would be forced to give up much of their oversight of how industry funds are run, and be replaced by independent trustees or directors.

Under the current system, unions and employer bodies usually have an equal number of seats on the boards of industry superannuation funds.

While the changes would apply to all super funds regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, including corporate, industry, public sector and the bank-owned retail funds, there is no doubt it is the role of unions as custodians of workers’ retirement savings that is the true target.

According to the latest SuperRatings monthly data, industry super funds easily outperformed the bank-owned super funds, returning an average of 12.14% over the past 12 months, compared to the banks’ 10.57%. Over five and 10 years, the outperformance increases to 1.96%.

Faultlines exposed

The proposed changes have exposed major faultlines between the not-for-profit industry super sector and the profit-based retail sector that is owned by the big banks and financial services companies.

Announcing the changes this morning, Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was careful to frame them as strengthening the system of fund governance.

“Given the size of the superannuation system, and its importance in funding the retirement of Australians, good governance is absolutely critical,” he said.

But unions said the changes were ideologically driven.

The ACTU said not-for-profit industry super funds have lower fees and have outperformed the retail sector by delivering two decades of strong returns almost 2% higher than the retail funds.



ACTU President Ged Kearney said there was no evidence to show equal representative governance was failing workers, or that reform was needed.

She said the Abbott Government would be better focusing its attention on the financial advice scandals that have engulfed the big banks.

“It’s simply ideology,” she said.

“This government can’t bear it that the trade union movement, along with employer associations, has overseen an amazing success story in superannuation.

“This is a political attack on unions and on the idea that working people should have a voice in how their savings are managed and invested.”

One-size-fits-all approach

Industry Super Australia said it was “astounding” that anyone would be seeking to interfere with the governance model of the “all profits to members” super funds, and cautioned against a one-size-fits-all approach.

“The watchful eye and questioning minds of industry super fund directors have not only delivered the best performing funds, they have avoided the widespread consumer loses and scandals which have engulfed the major banks and wealth managers over recent years,” said ISA deputy chief executive Robbie Campo.

The Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees said while it was not opposed to independent directors, there was no evidence to suggest they should be mandatory.

But other industry bodies were more sanguine.

The Financial Services Council, which represents the retail funds, has been pushing to break down the industry super model of union and employer trustees since 2013, and welcomed the changes, as did the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia.

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE also endorsed the changes as giving consumers greater security in superannuation, but did not provide any evidence that the current system was not working.

The draft exposure legislation has been put out for public comment, with submissions closing on 23 July.

Industry super caught in political crossfire

piggy bank fight

By Giri Sivaraman and Alana Heffernan

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

WITH all the recent controversy about industry super funds, it would be easy to forget that superannuation has been embedded in Australia’s industrial landscape since long before Keating’s introduction of the Superannuation Guarantee in 1992.

Prior to Keating, superannuation was guaranteed for some workers: those workers who had a trade union active in their workplace to negotiate a collective entitlement to superannuation.

In 1992, in response to the ageing population and submissions by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Keating government mandated superannuation contributions by employers. This provided an important, and universal, savings mechanism for workers and the economy in the face of the anticipated strain on the aged pension scheme.

At the time it was introduced, there was widespread criticism and fear mongering by big business and their representatives. Trade unions on the other hand, who had been involved in superannuation for some decades, argued it was a win for workers and the economy.

Industry funds are clear outperformers

Superannuation funds generally fall into two categories: industry funds, established and operated by trade unions and employers together, and retail funds established and operated by financial institutions.

A key difference between industry funds and retail funds is the direction of the profits. Industry funds are not-for-profit organisations that exist solely for the benefit of their members as opposed to shareholders. On the contrary, retail funds have shareholders to whom they answer and direct the profits.

More often than not, industry funds perform better than retail funds and represent a more beneficial option to employees. Industry funds have, on average, outperformed retail funds for at least 10 years.

Despite the favourable intention and performance of industry funds, they have been caught in the crosshairs of an ideological war against trade unions.

First, in 2006, WorkChoices outlawed the inclusion of clauses relating to superannuation in industrial awards. Existing award clauses that related to superannuation were taken to have no effect. This allowed for more employers to nominate retail funds as their default fund, which has often resulted in employees being members of retail super funds, regardless of the fact that they may be better served by an industry fund.

When the Fair Work Act was introduced, it removed the prohibition of superannuation clauses in industrial awards.

Subsequently, the 2010 industry award modernisation process represented a big win for industry super funds and workers: now awards specify the super funds that an employer can choose from to nominate as their company’s default fund. None of the default funds are retail funds.

However, industry funds have recently found themselves the focus of the royal commission into trade unions.

The royal commission was established to uncover alleged widespread trade union corruption and governance issues and its terms of reference did not specifically include industry funds. Despite this, counsel assisting the royal commission has attacked industry funds and made claims that industry funds are controlled by trade unions and harbour a “corrupt culture”.

These attacks have gained political momentum.

Employer associations, such as the Australian Industry Group, are campaigning for regulatory changes to limit the ability for companies, their employees and trade unions to negotiate agreements providing for compulsory contributions to superior performing industry funds.

This not only undermines the right for employers and employees to negotiate work-related matters, but directly contradicts AIG’s previous rhetoric about regulations unnecessarily interfering with the flexibility associated with negotiating agreements.

This backflip on their usual calls for less regulation and more freedom to negotiate is a very transparent shot at trade unions, and the organisations with which they associate.

Furthermore, AIG is pushing for significant increases to the governance requirements of industry funds (though there is no push for similar increases to the governance requirements of retail funds).

These measures combined would, according to AIG and its supporters, cure the alleged corrupt culture and ensure employers are not “coerced” into contributing to “union-backed” industry funds.

To add fuel to the fire, Josh Frydenberg, the new Assistant Treasurer, said this week that he feels the current system “leaves retail funds and small industry funds at a disadvantage” and has insisted that default funds be opened up to include all MySuper products, which has no performance requirements, or assessment mechanisms, for member funds.

The banks will be the winners from any changes

Through these attacks, some very important facts are being forgotten: (a) industry funds are non-profit and exist for the benefit of their members as opposed to shareholders; (b) the joint governance of industry funds is a great example of employers and trade unions working together; (c) if it weren’t for the trade union movement, employees and the economy would not have the benefit of compulsory superannuation; (d) for at least the last 10 years, industry funds have , on average, outperformed retail funds.

None of the attacks on industry funds appear to relate to the benefits received by the funds’ members: there have been no findings that members of industry funds are disadvantaged, especially when compared to their retail fund counterparts, and in fact, there couldn’t be.

Nevertheless, the attack on industry super has come at a very convenient time for the large financial institutions. Joe Hockey’s financial system inquiry, headed up by a former Commonwealth Bank CEO, has made several recommendations in relation to the superannuation industry.

Of note, the recommendations include stripping away the representative model of industry funds by requiring their boards to include a majority of “independent” members, as well as an “independent” chairperson, who neither represent trade unions or industry employers.

The finance sector is likely to use this opportunity to continue its push for modern awards to include retail funds in their lists of default funds.

If this occurs, employers will once again be able nominate retail funds as their default superannuation fund. This will mean that banks, who own and operate most retail funds, will again have unfettered access to employees’ superannuation.

If the employer associations and financial institutions get their way, the management of industry funds will be debilitated by onerous and incomparable governance requirements, while banks reap the rewards of again being default super funds. It will not only benefit the big banks, but also those invested in the ideological war against trade unions.

The only people who don’t appear to benefit from these changes are employees, who are supposed to be the benefactors of the superannuation system and to whom only industry funds are answerable.

Giri Sivaraman is a Principal and Alana Heffernan a lawyer in Maurice Blackburn’s employment and industrial law team.


Superannuation shake-up: Government’s proposed rule changes a political stunt, industry fund executive says . Forced privatisation of Industry Funds is worse than forced Socialisation just for the Fees which will increase. $ 20 bill not good enough

Super fund manager Garry Weaven speaks to Inside Business.

Superannuation shake-up: Government’s proposed rule changes a political stunt, industry fund executive says – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

A Group of Washington Teens Took the State to Court Over Climate Change — and Won

By Rob Verger

June 27, 2015 | 7:05 am

VICE News is closely tracking global environmental change.Check out the Tipping Point blog here.

A court in Seattle has handed a legal victory to a group of young petitioners asking that the state of Washington do more to fight climate change.

Eight children, between the ages of 11 and 15, filed a petition last year to the state’s Department of Ecology, requesting that the agency initiate a process of rulemaking to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in Washington.

The petition specifically calls for a goal of getting the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere down from the current level of more than 400 to 350 parts per million by the year 2100. The document also references the personal experiences of the plaintiffs, asserting examples of the ways in which the young Washington residents are already seeing the effects of climate change.

“What we asked is that [the Department of Ecology] implement their existing statutory authority to promulgate a rule regulating carbon dioxide emissions,” Andrea Harris, of the Western Environmental Law Center, and the plaintiff’s attorney, told VICE News.

The Department of Ecology denied the petition last year. But the King County Superior Court ordered them on June 23 to consider it again, and that they must also consider a climate change report that the department had itself issued after they rejected the petition, as well as review other current climate science, Harris says. The Department of Ecology has until July 8th to decide what to do.

“The next two weeks are critical, becauseby July 8, they need to decide whether or not to grant our petition for rulemaking,” Harris said. Now is the time for the state’s governor, Jay Inslee, to act, she said. “Hopefully Governor Inslee will do the right thing, and tell his agency, and his staff, ‘Get to work and start regulating carbon dioxide emissions,’ instead of sitting around and hoping that somebody else will do something about it.”

A spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Ecology told VICE News that they didn’t have anything to say yet on the issue, but that they were happy that people were “engaged with climate change.”

“It’s a very nice win for the plaintiffs,” Michael Gerrard, who direct the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, told VICE News. However, he noted that what comes next is unclear. “We don’t know whether the state will change its standards after it reviews the evidence.”

The court decision in Washington came just a day before a much bigger ruling in the Netherlands, when a court said on June 24 that in order to ensure the health of its citizens, the Dutch government must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent.

While Gerrard downplayed the legal significance of the decision in Washington state, he said the court case in the Netherlands has huge import.

“I wouldn’t call it legally pathbreaking,” Gerrard added. “Court orders that administrative agencies consider new data are not rare.” Nonetheless, he called the decision a “positive step.”

“The Dutch case, if it survives appeal,” Gerrard said, “will be one of the most important climate change decision ever rendered, and I would say it already is the most important climate change decision rendered outside of the United States.”

That’s because, he says, it’s the first time any court — in the United States or elsewhere — has ordered a government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The case in the Netherlands had, at its center, the idea that the Dutch government has a “duty of care” to protect its citizens from the adverse effects of climate change, Gerrard says.

A case like it in Belgium is currently underway, and Gerrard says that one is coming down the pike in Norway, too.

“There’s been discussion of this kind of [case] for several years, in a number of different countries,” he added. “Now that the somebody has actually won one, I think that that’s going to embolden lawyers in a number of other countries to try [to take a similar strategy].”

Gerrard added that it will be worth keeping on eye on the Netherlands to see how — and if — they are able to reduce the country’s emissions to the court-ordered levels. Ideally, he says, that won’t happen by the nation simply bringing in “dirty” electricity from outside its borders.

“If they can really pull it off,” he added, “that then does become a model for other developed countries.”

Pope Francis Says Those Who Deny Migrants Should Ask God for Forgiveness

By Arijeta Lajka

June 18, 2015 | 8:25 am

Pope Francis made an appeal to the public on Wednesday, saying that “people and institutions” who close their doors to asylum seekers should ask God for forgiveness, with the spiritual leader addressing the matter as European leaders scramble to provide solutions for the migrant crisis.

The pope’s comments come amid the dire migrant situation across Europe as a record number of migrants are fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and strife in Africa and heading over to Europe. The pope urged nations not to close their doors on migrants, and for governments to unite together and combat forced migrations.

“I invite you all to ask forgiveness for the persons and the institutions who close the door to these people who are seeking a family, who are seeking to be protected,” the pope said. “These brothers and sisters of ours are seeking refuge far from their lands, they are seeking a home where they can live without fear.”

The pope voiced his perspective after a string of deadly migrant boat accidents have caught global attention in recent months, as asylum seekers fleeing conflict, unemployment, oppression, and civil unrest cross into Europe — largely from the Middle East and parts of Africa — at record rates. As of June 8, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that the number of migrants arriving to Europe has already surpassed 100,000 in 2015. Meanwhile, the death toll of individuals attempting to reach Europe hit 1,800 people in just the first five months of the year.

Pope Francis’ plea for countries not to shut out migrants comes just one day after European Union (EU) leaders failed to reach an agreement regarding an emergency plan to redistribute 40,000 new migrants who have flowed into Italy and Greece this year. According to EU policy, refugees are supposed to register and seek asylum in the first EU country they reach, with Italy and Greece bearing much of this burden. However, migrants are often simply trying to pass through these countries without registering, as they attempt to move north to look for better employment opportunities in other parts of Europe.

This issue came to a head on Tuesday when migrants trying to make their way out of Italy clashed with police at the French border. For five days, dozens of migrants camped out on the Italian side of the border in hopes of moving further north and crossing into France. The scene grew chaotic as French authorities denied entry to the migrants — mostly from Sudan and Eritrea — and forcibly removed them from the border.

Amid the migrant crisis, leaders across Europe are grappling with how to handle the upheaval, with countries considering efforts ranging from shifts in border control methods to new legislation to even building physical obstacles. As seen in Tuesday’s clashes, France has moved towards stricter border control, along with Austria and Switzerland. France and Switzerland have stopped allowing migrants entry from Italy.

After landing in France, many migrants with pending asylum applications have resorted to temporarily living in dismantled slums and tents. Earlier this month, the French evicted nearly 400 migrants from the crowded camps. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced on Wednesday that France will crackdown on smuggler networks and create 11,000 places for migrants and housing in an attempt “to provide long-term solutions.”

Related: Tucked Beneath a Paris Nightclub, Migrants in a Tent City Try to Survive

While the EU has failed to carry out its plan to distribute asylum seekers equally across its 28 member states, Hungary — another prominent passing point for migrants — announced plans to tighten up on border control. This year alone, more than 53,000 people have requested asylum in Hungary. With the country looking for options to keep migrants from crossing over into its territory, a Hungarian official announced on Wednesday that the country is considering to build a fence along the Serbian border in order to halt the influx of migrants.

“The pressure of migration which presents serious difficulties for Europe affects Hungary the most among EU member countries,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said. “Hungary cannot allow itself to wait any longer. Naturally, we hope there will be a joint European solution.”

The foreign minister claims the fence would not interfere with any legal issues, since Serbia is considered an EU candidate. Szijjarto said the government would classify EU members or candidates — like Serbia — as “safe countries,” requiring them to take responsibility for the migrants that have reached their borders who are attempting to cross into Hungary. Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban remarked that the EU proposal to distribute migrants “borders on insanity,” Reuters reported. Officials said that they will block the flow of migrants coming into Hungary from safe countries.

“The Hungarian government is committed to defending Hungary and defending the Hungarian people from the immigration pressure,” Szijjarto said, mentioning that Greece and Bulgaria have constructed fences along their borders with Turkey to halt migrants from moving through.

The UNHCR emphasized that walls and fences would only put migrants in the hands of smugglers.

“We are against walls and fences. Erecting a fence on the Serbian border could be a barrier to the right to seek asylum in Hungary — and the right to seek asylum is an inalienable right,” Kitty McKinsey, a spokesperson for UNHCR in Central Europe, told VICE News. “When countries introduce barriers like fences, this may lead refugees and asylum seekers to undertake more dangerous crossings and place refugees at the mercy of smugglers.”

While Hungary and France are working to restrain migrants from moving in, one nation expected to take legislative action on the migrant issue this week is Macedonia. After enduring immense criticism for its treatment of migrants and for putting them at risk of being robbed, kidnapped, and killed as a result of unsafe routes taken to avoid encounters with authorities, Macedonia is expected to pass a bill that will grant migrants three days to safely move through the country, Balkan Insight reported.

“The current situation and circumstances demand an emergency session,” Macedonia’s parliament speaker Trajko Veljanoski announced on Wednesday.

Related: ‘The European Asylum System Is Dysfunctional’: UNHCR Speaks to VICE News About the Migrant Crisis

The bill, expected to get parliament approval on Thursday, is aiming to divert migrants away from unsafe routes, such as the railway tracks that start in Greece before extending through Macedonia and on to Serbia. Dozens have died while walking along these tracks after being hit by passing trains.

Authorities are currently launching an investigation in Macedonia regarding a report that surfaced earlier this month alleging that gangs were kidnapping migrants, many of who are fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. In addition, migrants that were held in camps in the country’s capital Skopje were reduced to severely crowded rooms that were in scant and unsanitary conditions. Police spokesperson Ivo Kotevski said Macedonia is struggling to deal with the migrant crisis, noting that around 8,500 migrants entered Macedonia from Greece in one week alone in order to pass through Serbia, Hungary to ultimately reach Western Europe.

Around 2,000 migrants have died or went missing en route to Europe this year. After the EU ministers failed on Tuesday to agree on the plan to share the placement of 40,000 new migrants in Italy and Greece, the leaders are set to discuss the plan when they meet in Brussels later this month, and revisit the issue again when they meet in July.

Israel in focus: Netanyahu closes Palestinian TV, Foreign Investment Plummets,Israelis Burn Christian Church

My Thoughts on the Week . A week when Abbott and his attack dogs further eroded the principles of decency and divided the nation with its crass political language.

Image from thegaurdian.com

  • June 27, 2015
  • Written by:
  • Saturday June 201 “Suspected terrorists fighting abroad should have their citizenship revoked because a court of law might let them off if they are tried”, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.

    Yes, the Prime Minister of Australia said it. Unbelievable.

    2 Why is it that folk who have wind turbines on their properties and make money from them never seem to suffer any ill health yet those close by and don’t benefit financially do? Rather odd that.

    3 In a speech to the NSW Liberal Party faithful in Sydney on Saturday, Abbott attacked Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s handling of the allegations, referring to boat turnarounds, and in the process, came perilously close to admitting they were true.

    “On Monday, Mr Shorten attacked us for allegedly doing something to turn around boats, which it turned out that he had done exactly the same”, Mr Abbott said. Adding:

    “Only it didn’t work when they tried to do it. Because they never turned around a single boat”.

    Sounds like a confession to me.

    4 “What the Pope points out in it is that young people have become estranged from – not just from the church but also from governments and people in positions of power, because they feel that their elders are not taking these things seriously”, said Malcolm Turnbull in reponse to the Pope’s calls for urgent action on climate change.

    Turnbull En

    Turnbull went on to say that he thought the PM would respect the Pope’s encyclical which argues that concern for the protection of nature is incompatible with the justification of abortion. He also comes out strongly against the sale of “carbon credits”, which would cover emissions trading schemes and possibly some of the Coalition’s direct action policies as well.

    Tony Abbott, remember, once said that although he was a Catholic “Let’s be under no illusions: the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism”.

    Where Tony Abbott wanted to lower the Renewable Energy Target to even lower levels, the Pope argues that fossil fuels need to be ‘progressively replaced without delay’. Where Abbott famously referred to carbon dioxide as an odorless, colorless and weightless gas … the Pope calls for urgent action to reduce emissions by “developing sources of renewable energy”.

    Sunday June 21

    I was reflecting on the previous week in politics on Sunday and what occurred to me was that we have elected a Parliament that has very little interest in servitude. Of governance for the common good. Instead what we have are politicians more interested in expressing hatred toward one another, opposition for opposition’s sake and ideological self-interest. They are destroying our democracy with their lack of respect for each other and their inability by way of intellectual argument to advance policies. The debunking of science and the trashing of fundamental law are shining examples. Our characterless Prime Minister leads the way with his insistence that policy debates are won by being at the throat of the other person rather than superior argument that wins the people over. That is not leadership. Almost two years in Government Tony Abbott has still not expressed a narrative that expresses just where he is taking the country. What we have is government for those who have as opposed to those who have not.

    Monday 22 June

    1 The Government is running in all directions on education policy.

    “Charging wealthy parents for their children to attend public schools is not the government’s policy. I don’t support it”, Education Minister Christopher Pyne tweeted.

    But the report came from the PM’s Office.

    Pyne has said the government believes it has a particular responsibility for independent schools that it doesn’t have for public schools.

    Yes it thinks it has every right to give the taxes of the poor to rich schools.

    Inequality

    But on Monday, Mr Pyne tweeted: “If the states and territories want to charge wealthy parents fees for public schools that’s a matter for them.”

    Mr Abbott said the federal government did not have “any role at all” in the running of public schools.

    But insists on formulating the curriculum.

    2 I watched the Prime Minister’s weekly YouTube address and he appeared somewhat under the weather.

    3 The peak welfare lobby ACOSS group says inequality between the richest and poorest has grown alongside the nation’s run of nearly a quarter of a century without recession.

    It’s true: The richest 20 per cent now earn around five times as much as those in the bottom 20 per cent and from whatever angle you look at the figures, it is getting worse.

    God only knows why Labor doesn’t rip into them on this front.

    4 An observation: Politicians these days can’t see beyond the next one.

    5 Bronwyn Bishop is seriously the rudest women I have ever seen. After some verbal abuse from her in question time she said to Tony Burke. “I assume your point of order is on relevance”. Burke replied “I find using the word futile”

    Bronny

    Tuesday 23 June

    1 Australia is set to announce its post-2020 Emissions targets in July – possibly at the Major Economies summit in the U.S. On July 16. It is rumored that the PM wants a target more in line with mainstream targets. The problem is that it cannot be done with a Direct Action policy. Well I’m yet to hear an economist, scientist or environmental expert say so.

    Remember what Malcolm Turnbull said:

    “So as I am a humble back bencher I am sure he won’t complain if I tell a few home truths about the farce that the Coalition’s policy, or lack of policy, on climate change has descended into.”

    “First, let’s get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money. It’s just bullshit”.

    Abbott also needs to tell us how much of our money he is going to waste on this futile pursuit.

    The fact is that is that while this insipid Government moves to rein in renewable energy in its electricity generation mix, Germany is doing the opposite.

    2 “There is no greater need than the need for equality of opportunity in education”.

    3 The PM has backed down on legislation that would give Dutton final say on citizenship but only after making terrorism front and center for the best part of a week. Anyway it’s as well a failed minister like Dutton has had the possibility withdrawn.

    Wednesday 24 June

    1 Andrew, Andrew where are you? We need you to defend Zaky Mallah’s right to free speech. And didn’t George say that everyone had a right to be a bigot.

    2 This week’s Essential Poll has Labor 52/48 unchanged from the previous week. Nothing the PM says seems to move it his way.  Its weekly survey, which asks interesting questions on a variety of issues, also has the ABC as the most trusted news outlet by a country mile.

    3 At the conclusion of The Killing Season one comment hits you in the face with all the subtly of a rhino charge. It came from former Tony Blair advisor and UK Labour Party MP, Alan Milburn:

    “The hard question that the Australian Labor Party has to ask itself is this: how is possible that you win an election in November 2007 on the scale that you do, with the goodwill that you have, with the permission that you’re gifted by the public and you manage to lose all that goodwill, to trash the permission and to find yourself out of office within just six years? I’ve never seen anything quite like it in any country, anywhere, anytime, in any part of the world. No-one can escape blame for that, in my view”.

    4 Indian coal giant Adani has halted engineering work related to Australia’s largest proposed mine, say industry sources, raising speculation that the company is set to abandon the contentious project.

    There are a number of factors involved but it does point to the fact that coal is fast becoming unpalatable for investors.

    5 Did you know that Murdoch papers, with roughly a 60 per cent share of Australian daily circulation, are now bought by about 4 per cent of the Australian population? And that the 4% are mostly elderly. So who is influencing who in Australian politics?

    Read this.

    A MID MORNING THOUGHT

    In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, Tony Abbott said:

    “I accept that in the course of having a robust democracy a lot of people will be offended, a lot of people will be insulted”.

    It seems he has no objection to free speech so long as it’s only people like Andrew Bolt who express it.

    Thursday 25 June

    THIS IS NOT THE AUSTRALIA I GREW UP IN

    1 The PM gets what he wants from The Murdoch papers. An utter disgrace. He knows whose side Rupert is on. Front pages of The Courier Mail, The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph are totality reprehensible and a leader with any character would say so.

    Courier mail 1

    When asked about the tabloid graphics Gerard Henderson said they were “Just fun”.

    2 A week is a long time in politics. Last week in parliament the PM was enthusiastic in his praise for the ABC’s production of The Killing Season. This week he wants to know whose side they are on. Pathetic hypocrisy but totality predictable. I note that Peter Greste says Q&A with Zaky Mallah ‘didn’t cross the line’ to incitement. He says the government is shooting the messenger in slamming the program.

    Courier mail 2

    I thought Richard Ackland got it right with this quote:

    “The hysteria over Zaky Mallah on Q&A would make Joseph McCarthy proud”.

    Come on, Aunty defend yourself.

    The public have faith in the ABC, as shown by this week’s Essential poll, which found the most trusted media were ABC TV news and current affairs (63%), SBS TV news and current affairs (61%) and ABC radio news and current affairs (58%).

    3 “Q&A stoush: Nauruan government accuses ABC of conspiracy” It is to be hoped that The SMH can do better than this headline.

    4 Tony Abbott has certainly had a surge in poles if you take my point. I would have thought his support was flagging.

    Flags

    5 I am assuming Andrew Bolt will come out strongly in support of Zaky Mallah’s right to free speech in his column this week.

    6 Speculation about a premature election is in itself a good argument for fixed terms.

    Friday 26 June

    1 The deceit behind the citizenship changes. Are you aware that under Abbott’s new legislation those who support terrorism, even tangentially or unwittingly, are off Team Australia? You’re no longer a citizen. So, apparently, are protesters who damage federal government property. But Genocidal war criminals, mass murderers and paedophiles – though – are on the team. In the bill, there is no provision for them to stripped off citizenship, even with a criminal conviction.

    Ten years ago, 31.3% of Australians 14+ agreed with the attitude statement: “Terrorists deserve the same rights as other criminals”. As of March 2015, that figure sits at 30.3% of the population.

    2 And Abbott is facing a push from inside the Liberal Party to prevent Australia signing up to any binding emissions reduction targets at the upcoming Paris climate talks. God it never ends, this debunking of science. It seems there are enough deniers to bring on an internal debate this weekend.

    A Liberal moderate who will attend the federal council meeting said the group of elected Liberals and members behind the motion should be given an audience with the Pope so they can be “brought up to speed by a new age person living in this century”.

    Another said This sort of talk takes us back to the Neanderthal age. It’s flat earth stuff”.

    He is not wrong.

    3 Guess who said this:

    “I also remember questioning whether God was real at a similar time. Unlike the Santa question, this ended a little different. It was more along the lines of, “If you don’t believe in God, you will go to hell,” followed by a descriptive definition of demons, fire and all sorts of things which filled me with fear. So much fear that I essentially believed the boogie man was coming to get me, would pull the blankets over my head and pee the bed.”

    “Now, many years later, I see the same ruling-by-fear tactics being handed down through the media by our own prime minister and attorney general.”

    4 Question time Thursday we find the PM lecturing the Opposition Leader about Lying. Occasionally I am lost for words. This is one of them.

    Dumber than dumb.

    5 The PM visits ASIO, maps are laid out in full view of cameras for all to see. The PM’s response.

    “The suggestion coming again and again from members opposite that somehow the director-general of ASIO that senior officers of ASIO would have permitted classified material to be photographed is just ludicrous”.

    MIDDAY THOUGHTS

    1 Mark Scott makes a spirited defense of the ABC as Abbott and Turnbull go for its throat. It seems the principle of free speech is one that is reserved for those on the right and their defense of it by Bolt and others is aggressive. However, their voices go silent when opinions opposite to theirs are expressed.

    The Governments lead head kickers Abbott, Dutton and Pyne have called for heads to roll. Are they setting up their own death cult?

    Chris pyne

    It seems like Abbott and his minister’s wake up each morning with hate in their hearts and negativity on their lips, wondering what individual, institution or part of our democracy they can attack. Their negativity spreads like rust throughout the community. The Prime Minister seems to delight in the verbal abuse of anyone who disagrees and his lying has degenerated, if that’s possible, to being no longer able to discern the meaning of truth.

    2 The PM has decided to ban appearances of Government MPs on Q&A. His hate knows no bounds.

    3 Thursday was significant in as much as Bronwyn (the anti-democracy speaker) Bishop ejected the 400th Labor member from Question Time. Arguably the most biased speaker ever.

    4 Does Joe know what he is doing?

    Rather than obsessing over getting back to surplus as soon as is humanly possible, he should be borrowing more money, raising the GST, and cutting tax concessions to the rich.

    That, at least, is the view of the International Monetary Fund, the body that acts simultaneously as the world’s insurance policy and its economic policeman.

    5 Fridays Reachtel Poll of 2907 people put Labor on 52% and the LNP on 48%

    Preferred Prime Minister Shorten 56.3 I kid you not and Abbott 43.7

    And this is the week that was. A week when Abbott and his attack dogs further eroded the principles of decency and divided the nation with its crass political language.

     

An Open Letter to Tony Abbott June 27, 2015 Written by: Victoria Rollison 30 Replies Flea Tony Abbott

Flea Tony Abbott

Dear Tony Abbott,

I will try to keep this letter brief as I know you have a short attention span and since you’ve never responded to my previous correspondence, I can only guess it was because they were longer than your brain capacity could absorb. The main topic of this letter is to let you know that I think you’re an opportunistic, petty, vindictive creep and that you’re running the country as if you would like to imagine that all Australians are equally as petty and vindictive as you. But we’re not. And you’re not going to win your soon to be announced election because we’re better than that.

Over the last 24 hours, Barack Obama, the greatest President America has ever had and possibly the best leader the world has ever seen, has once again shown what it is to be a visionary, compassionate, highly intelligent, gracious, composed and dignified statesman. He sang Amazing Grace at the funeral of Charleston murder victim Rev. Clementa Pinckney as if it was the most natural thing in the world for him to lead the chorus. He celebrated the decision by the US Supreme Court to recognise the constitutional legality of gay marriage by tweeting with hashtag #LoveWins. Obama is a giant of our world, whether you agree with his politics or not. And next to him, your pettiness, your aggression, your predilection for the path of least residence to the lowest common denominator makes you a meaningless flea. A blip that will be forgotten by history as a negative, sloganeering, fear-inducing, mean spirited low point of Australia’s history.

In the last 24 hours, you and your government have shown your true colours. With three terrorism attacks overseas in France, Kuwait and Tunisia, the pleasure in your eyes, the excitement at having a scare mechanism, the opportunity for you to use these events politically, make me feel ill. You’ve said the death cult is coming for Australians. You’re ramping up the rhetoric on threat levels which have absolutely no grounding in reality. You’re using the deaths of innocent people at the hands of barbaric, violent, evil, yet distant, criminals to further your own political cause. If you can’t see how low it is that you enjoy, and take pleasure out of these opportunities to be a scaremonger, let me tell you, it’s unedifying to the extreme. We know you’re only talking about national security because you’ve comprehensively failed to deliver vision, policies, negotiation, competency and functional government in any policy area so far in your dysfunctional term as Prime Minister. You therefore rely on plane crashes, on sieges carried out by mentally ill lone-wolves, and on the tragedies of people in far-away places to make yourself feel better about yourself. To keep your flag collection multiplying. For opportunistic photo stunts. Petty. Vindictive. Creepy.

And of course, everything you do, everything you have ever done in opposition and seamlessly into government is just about wrecking progressive policies with your negative ‘always on’ election campaign. We hear this morning that you’ve already produced negative attack ads about Bill Shorten. Is Shorten the first thing you think about when you wake up? I bet he is. You are the Prime Minister of arguably the best country in the world and all you care about is bashing your political rivals. Of giving jobs to your boys. You want to unpick every good progressive policy this country has ever delivered and take us back to a yesterday that none of us are interested in revisiting. Wrecking health and education funding. Destroying technological advancement. Wrecking environmental policy. Wrecking whole industries and destroying thousands of jobs. Depressing consumer confidence and in turn destroying economic growth. Wrecking social security. Dog whistling about asylum seekers while they are treated in detention centres no better than captives of the ISIS ‘death cult’. Attacking the union movement. Your nasty little thought bubbles on user-pays public education and wielding your wrecking ball into highly successful industry super funds are just the latest of the daily onslaught of terror you wreck on ordinary Australians. And why do you do it? For the same reason as a dog licks his balls. Because he can.

I dare you to go to an early election Tony Abbott. I dare you to believe that Australia wants to give you another chance to do even more damage to the fabric of our community. While you use national security as your play thing, we can see what you’re trying to do. Your leaked memo made that very clear. And when I compare you, the petty, vindictive, creepy flea, to the likes of Barack Obama, I want to cry with frustration. The sooner you give me and the rest of Australia the chance to vote you out, the better.

Yours sincerely
Victoria Rollison

Gigantic Scrotum On Collision Course With Earth

asteroid

HONOLULU – (CT&P) – Less than one hour after the Supreme Court issued its ruling on marriage equality, astronomers at the Maui Space Surveillance Site detected a huge asteroid hurtling towards earth.

The scrotum-shaped rock is roughly the size of Texas and is traveling about 30 kilometers per hour. Scientists have calculated that the asteroid will strike somewhere near the geographic center of the lower 48.

Officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed the siting and told CNN that the asteroid is weird in that it appears to be piloted by a 2000 year-old dude of Middle Eastern descent with a beard and flowing robes.

On May 1st, End Times broadcaster Rick Wiles warned his unbalanced and bigoted audience that just this thing was going to happen. When reached for comment Wiles said “I told you so! This is what happens when you offer health insurance to the poor and let gay people get married. God is angry and is going to cleanse America of sin with this flaming fireball of divine justice.”

The Right Reverend Franklin Graham, who called for “spiritual warfare” against pro-gay businesses recently, told Fox News that he didn’t quite expect such a rapid response from the all-loving deity, but was happy to see it just the same.

“I think it’s great that God has decided to immolate the United States,” said Graham. “When you go against the teachings of old book written before we knew that our own excrement should not be disposed of in our water supply, bad things happen.”

Reverend Graham was later seen preparing to abandon his flock and get the hell out of the United States on his private jet.

Some religious leaders expressed disappointment that Alaska and Hawaii had apparently been spared the destruction, but they all rejoiced when JPL announced they had detected a giant penis-shaped comet aimed at Anchorage and a huge cloud of space debris resembling a vagina speeding towards the Pacific island chain.

Australia Will Run Out Of Flags By 2020 At Current Consumption Rates, Modelling Shows By The Shovel on June 25, 2015

tony abbott flags

The Federal Government today announced a $2.2 billion boost in funding for the flag industry, after analysis revealed Australia could run out of flags entirely within five years if consumption continues at its current rate.

Announcing the new spending measures this morning, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was a critical investment in Australia’s future.

“While it might be hard to imagine now, by 2020 it is predicted that the average media briefing will use two hundred flags. By 2030, a thousand. Even by this time next year, you can expect to see 80-90 flags behind me for a run-of-the-mill security announcement. So continued investment in the flag industry is vital. What this new funding does is secure our future for the next 30-40 years”.

Mr Abbott said the rise of terrorist groups such as ISIS, and challenging poll numbers, meant Australia’s flag consumption habits were changing. “We need to protect our borders; we need to protect our citizens. And the best way to do that is with lots and lots of big flags,” he said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson revealed that the Government has already started to ration its use of flags in anticipation of a shortfall. “Just as an example, this week’s citizenship policy announcement was supposed to be a thirty-flag event. We had to cut it back to ten. We got away with that one, but if there’s an unexpected drop in approval ratings, we could be left well short of the optimum number of flags required”.

The funding was rushed through Parliament today, with support from Labor.

Satan Delighted With Supreme Court Ruling

satanhappppy

THE RIVER STYX – (CT&P) – According to sources close to Satan, the Lord of the Underworld is absolutely delighted with the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states.

Satanic Press Secretary Lord Balthazar told reporters this afternoon that “His Majesty could not be happier. He hasn’t quit smiling since the decision was announced. In fact, he’s given all us demons three days off in order to celebrate.

“I honestly can’t remember Lucifer being this happy since the Spanish Inquisition. I mean, he just sat there and laughed his ass off when all those hypocritical religious kooks on the right starting Tweeting their responses. He thought it was a riot.”

fred-phelps-sr-ap0603190293

When Balthazar was asked what Beelzebub’s immediate plans were in light of the decision, the press  secretary explained that it would really just be more of the same.

“We plan to send some extra demons up to possess some more religious and political figures so we can give people like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee a hand spewing their hate filled rhetoric, and we also want to encourage self-righteous assholes like Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson to keep up the good work!”

When a reporter asked if Satan had any plans to try to capture right-wing Christian souls and drag them down to Hell, Balthazar said “Are you kidding, they’re already doing such a great job damning themselves I really don’t see how we could make things any better.”

Balthazar said that “The Boss” was so damn happy that he’s throwing a party tonight and the guest of honor will be former Pastor Fred Phelps.

“Rumor has it that we’re all going to get a turn ramming a red-hot poker up his ass,” said Balthazar. “I can’t wait.”

The Australian Government Has Stopped Governing. It’s Dirt Brigade Has Now Turned Their Focus On The Opposition And Away From Policy

  • The role of the opposition is to oppose the government to prevent an undemocratic overreach
  • The role of the Government is to generate policy and negotiate bills to be passed
  • This Government prefers to be in opposition and is negotiating nothing
  • Abbott’s focus is now opposing the opposition and not governing
  • It’s all he knows

Understanding Abbott : A Message for us.

abbott 2

Tony Abbott came to power on a very clear platform.

He stands for small government.

Unless we are talking action on climate change where, rather than a market-based mechanism that was raising revenue and cutting emissions, he prefers the hugely expensive bureaucratic and logistical nightmare of an emissions reduction fund.  Rather than a dedicated army of volunteers involved in Landcare programs, he prefers paying middlemen to conscript the unemployed into his Green Army.  Rather than assisting the burgeoning renewable energy industry with the profitable Clean Energy Finance Corporation, he has set aside $5 billion to loan to mining companies to build their infrastructure because no-one else will back them.

He is cutting red tape.

By eliminating the need to turn your mobile phone off during takeoff and landing, Tony has saved the nation over $18 million.  How, you say?  How indeed!  Who would have thought we could save so much.

But this is only one small example of money saved by red tape reduction.  Getting rid of environmental laws was a great start.  Giving Ministers sole discretion over decision-making and removing any right of appeal was a master stroke.  Courts so often get it wrong in their blind adherence to the law – bypassing the judicial process will save a fortune.

He sees paid parental leave as a workplace entitlement where anything less than replacement wages plus superannuation for six months is discriminatory.

Unless he has to pay for it.  And come to think of it, the government is already shelling out too much to these fraudulent double-dipping rorters.  Why should we give them anything at all when their employer is already paying them?

Tony promised to stop the waste.

His lifestyle choice to live at Kirribilli House cannot be considered wasteful (even though it means empty jets fly backwards and forwards, often several times a day, to transport him to different photo opportunites), because it allows him to present his daughters to royalty and cricket teams in a fitting setting.  Hugh and Deborah like it too, and the press in Sydney are so much more fun to entertain than that Canberra lynch mob.

Paying off your investment property with your accommodation allowance is entirely within guidelines, as is claiming for networking at weddings and football grand finals.  George is entitled to his bookcases to house all the books he is entitled to buy.  Unlike defence personnel and frontline officials in Immigration and Customs because we simply cannot afford to allow their conditions and entitlements to continue.

And paying tens of millions to find out what people are saying on social media is a good investment, as are the thousands of spin doctors, image consultants, advertising and PR people employed to manipulate, sorry, gauge public opinion.  Polls and focus groups are essential because policy has to come from somewhere and we all know that experts can’t be trusted.

Tony promised to stop the boats.

To keep the message simple he left out the rest of the sentence – that he would stop the boats getting to safety.  If that means setting people adrift with insufficient fuel and water and no amenities, or leaving them to drift around the ocean indefinitely with nowhere to land, or towing them until their boat falls apart, that’s their own fault.  We never said we’d stop them setting sail.  Indonesia needs to tighten up security of their 54,720 km of coastline.

Tony is a champion of free speech.

It is far more important than the disabled.  It is the cornerstone of our democracy.  Transparency allows people to judge for themselves.  Even though we may disagree with them, or be offended by them, everyone has a right to express their opinion.

Unless they are a public servant.  Or they want to talk about children in detention or the consequences of new citizenship laws.  Or they are discussing anything to do with operational matters, unless it’s the addresses of suspected terrorists in which case a map will be provided.  Or freedom of information requests about government spending. Or climate change (What were you thinking Barak?).  And especially anything on the ABC unless it’s the Killing Season.

There will be no new taxes under a Coalition government.

We won’t be raising the GST – blame your premiers when it goes up.  We won’t be charging a co-payment – blame your doctors and chemists when they charge more.  And you know that 1.5% levy on big business – we were just kidding, we won’t need it now.  And the 2% tax increase on high income earners is only temporary so it doesn’t count.  And increasing the fuel excise isn’t really an increase because it’s only going up by the CPI so really it’s staying the same – unlike pensions which are increasing generously with the CPI twice a year.  And we won’t be increasing income tax rates – bracket creep will work nicely to get us back on an (in)credible path back to surplus.

And Tony will fix the debt and deficit disaster.

Even though Tony said “I have never been as excited about economics as some of my colleagues; you know, I find economics is not for nothing known as the dismal science,” we can rest easy that the genetic makeup of the Coalition makes economic success assured – it’s in their DNA.

Eliminating the debt ceiling was a strategic first step in reducing the debt.  Increasing the CGS on issue to $370 billion may look like the debt has increased but it’s less than what it would have been in ten years’ time if Labor had stayed in power and adopted Coalition policies.

Whilst the projected deficit has blown out with each fiscal statement, Tony’s strategy of pumping government money into coal, and flooding the market with iron ore, is sure to make the prices go up because coal is the future that will lift the world’s masses from poverty provided they can pay premium price for it.

And small business owners buying new coffee machines is sure to solve the unemployment problem at Harvey Norman for a month or two.  The building of the submarine strike force and squadrons of fighter jets will employ thousands of people and inject hundreds of billions into the economies of our best friends Japan and the US.

When Tony promised no cuts, it should have been obvious that, in this time where we are all pulling together to fix Labor’s mess, no one would be immune from efficiency dividends.

Except defence, national security, intelligence agencies, the AFP, border security, and all those involved in Tony’s unrelenting war to keep us afraid, I mean safe.

We must all contribute our fair share.

Unless you are a big corporation in which case you can give your share to your accountants.  Due to the danger of corporations being kidnapped

, we have decided they no longer need to declare their income should they have any left after loaning themselves money and paying themselves exorbitant interest.

I hope this has been helpful in understanding the vision that Tony Abbott has for his future and has reassured you that he means whatever he says that day and will do whatever it takes to be re-elected.

Retrospectivity or Why “Heads Should Roll” At The ABC

Liberal Party

As I flicked through the Murdoch Muckraker this morning, I spied a headline where I had difficulty deciding whether the sub-editor had a sense of irony, or no understanding of ambiguity:

TIME TO ACT ON ABC LYNCH MOB

Was this a change of heart from Andrew Bolt telling us that we should put a stop to this attack on the ABC’s independence? No, apparently it’s Q & A, that’s the lynch mob, not the media or the government. As the Prime Minister so eloquently put it:

“Now frankly, heads should roll over this, heads should roll over this.”

Which given that we’re talking about IS, I found a rather unfortunate choice of phrase. Beheadings are uncivilised, but heads rolling is apparently ok.

Mr Abbott wants an inquiry. And not an ABC inquiry because he’s afraid that they won’t find themselves guilty. He wants an inquiry that decides that heads need to roll. Which makes one wonder if there’s any actual need for an inquiry at all. Why not just ask Andrew Bolt:

‘No wonder that Abbott on Tuesday told his MPs: “We all know that Q&A is a Leftie lynch mob and we will be looking at this.”

But where’s the action?

Will the Government sack the board for the ABC’s failure to observe what it admits is its “statutory duty to ensure that the gathering and presentation of news and information is impartial”?

And will it cut the vast ABC, with its five radio stations and four television stations, to a size less dangerous to democracy?’

See the ABC, by allowing someone into the audience has shown that it’s not impartial. What was it that Tony said :

“I think many, many millions of Australians would feel betrayed by our national broadcaster right now, and I think that the ABC does have to have a long, hard look at itself, and to answer a question which I have posed before – whose side are you on? Whose side are you on here?”

So we have a national broadcaster that is meant to be impartial, and not take sides. Except, of course, they should be on the government’s side. In a totally impartial way.

Now, many of you may not have watched Q & A, so they wouldn’t heard the response to Mr Mallah’s question, “What would have happened if my case had been decided by the minister himself and not the courts?”

“From memory, I thought you were acquitted on a technicality rather than it being on the basis of a substantial finding of fact,” Mr Ciobo replied.

“My understanding of your case was that you were acquitted because at that point in time the laws weren’t retrospective.

“But I’m happy to look you straight in the eye and say that I’d be pleased to be part of the Government that would say that you were out of the country.

Let’s sum up:

  • Abbott and Dutton were suggesting a few weeks ago that the Minister should have the sole power to cancel the citizenship of a dual national, with Abbott arguing that if it were left to the courts, the person might be found not guilty.
  • As Steve Ciobo pointed out, this person was only found not guilty on a technicality. That is, at the time of the offence, the offence wasn’t an offence, so he was really guilty and it was the court’s insistence that it apply the law rather than arbitrarily decide that “We shall decide who stays in this country and we should be allowed to pass laws retrospectively so that we can claim that the only reason that you haven’t been convicted of anything is that there isn’t a law against it yet, but by tomorrow, you’ll be charged with possessing an annoying attitude and we’ll introduce a mandatory sentence for you whether you’re found guilty or not!’
  • Abbott wants his own inquiry into the ABC because allowing the ABC to run their own inquiry might result in them not finding themselves guilty of treason, whereas every inquiry Mr Abbott has set up has resulted in findings completely in agreement with his own views.
  • The ABC is meant to demonstrate their “impartiality” by not allowing certain undesirable people to ask questions on Q & A. Tony Abbott is concerned that Q & A have provided a platform for people like Mallah and Malcolm Turnbull.

So, after being told that Stevy Ciobo would happily throw him out of the country, did Mr Mallah becoming violent? Threaten him? Urge us all to boycott “Masterchef”, or something else unpatriotic?

No.

He said:

“The Liberals have just justified to many Australian Muslims in the community tonight to leave and go to Syria and join ISIL because of ministers like him.”

Mm!

Well, if heads must roll, then heads must roll.

Chinese Hackers Disappointed With Fed Workers’ Sex Lives

chinesehackers

BEIJING – (CT&P) – Chinese government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity lest they be arrested and executed, told Xinhua, the People’s Republic official press agency, that so far the treasure trove of data gleaned in the recent hack of U.S. Office of Personnel Management has yielded little useful information.

The cyber breach, which affected the data of nearly 18 million former, current, and prospective government workers is apparently almost four times greater than what the government originally announced.

FBI Director James Comey gave the 18 million estimate in a closed-door briefing to Senators in recent weeks, using the OPM’s own internal data, according to U.S. officials briefed on the matter. Those affected could include people who applied for government jobs, but never actually ended up working for the government.

chinesehacker2

Despite the huge numbers of individuals affected, Chinese generals have so far been really disappointed with the quality of the information obtained, calling it “boring” and “unfit for blackmail purposes.”

A Chinese hacker known as “Dragon Scrotum” told the Chinese News Service that his superiors were shocked by the lack of creativity and adventure shown in American worker’s choice of porn, among other things.

“Americans have many sexual hang-ups,” said Dragon Scrotum. “They talk a good game, but about the most exciting thing they do is switch positions every once in a while. There were some interesting websites involving barnyard animals, but as far as we could tell these guys just stare longingly at goats and sheep and stuff and never do anything about it.

“There were a few illicit office relationships that we stumbled across, but nothing as exciting as the ones involving Bill Clinton, and hell that’s old hat. About the best we could do was turn over some e-mail exchanges between mail carriers that said things like ‘I can’t wait to go postal on you after work today baby!’

“I’m told our leaders hope to use it to disrupt mail service in the D.C. area.”

Peta Credlin Named New ABC News Anchor By The Shovel on June 26, 2015

peta credlin satire

The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Peta Credlin will present the ABC’s seven o’clock bulletin from next week, in a move designed to ensure Australians hear the right news.

Ms Credlin – who will take on the role in addition to her existing responsibilities – has extensive media experience and is seen as having a better grasp than her predecessors of the types of stories Australians should hear.

“She’s got her finger on the pulse, that’s for sure,” one colleague said of Ms Credlin today, noting that she had an uncanny knack of getting wind of the most important stories of the day before anyone else.

“The issues she’s talking about today will be the ones our politicians will be talking about tomorrow. The ABC will really set the agenda with Credlin behind the desk,” the colleague said.

A senior ABC executive said it was a positive step for the national broadcaster, and part of the ABC’s vision to appeal to a broader range of Australian MPs. “I think it’s true that we have become a bit niche. I think it’s true that we’ve been slow to modernise. And I think it’s fair to say we’ve lost sight of what Australian Governments in the 21st Century want from their news”.

How come we wound up with Andrew Bolt

Cheers and cries of pure joy erupted as the judge handed down the ruling in the world’s first ever climate liability suit.

886 Dutch citizens, including teachers, entrepreneurs, grandparents and students united to sue their government for its inaction on climate change. In a decision likely to reverberate across the world, the court ordered the state to reduce emissions by 25% within 5 years to protect its citizens from climate change.

A HUGE congratulations to all involved, including Urgenda, the group that brought the suit on behalf of the citizens.

Silicon Valley CEO Slams WSJ Over Editorial About Charleston: ‘F**k You’

Posted on Jun 23, 2015

Stewart Butterfield / Twitter

Choosing a fitting communication platform to underscore his Silicon Valley background, Flickr-cofounder-turned-Slack-CEO Stewart Butterfield excoriated The Wall Street Journal editorial staff in a series of tweets Sunday evening.

The WSJ’s right-leaning editorial board drew Butterfield’s eye, ire and fire with an opinion piece published last Thursday about the hate-fueled shooting that claimed the lives of nine African-Americans on June 17 at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

“It is inevitable that when nine black men and women are shot to death inside their church by a 21-year-old white man in Charleston, S.C., the issue of race in America will be raised,” the Journal’s piece began, before reaching the baldly inaccurate conclusion that “[t]oday the system and philosophy of institutionalized racism identified by Dr. [Martin Luther] King no longer exists.”

Granted, it has gotten to the point where readers are obliged to take an extra step on their end to most accurately access the true meaning of the WSJ’s editorial articles—one that involves tacking the phrase “for The Wall Street Journal’s editorial staff” or “for Rupert Murdoch” onto the end of bewildering statements such as that last quote cited above.

However, Butterfield was inspired to go even further by pulling the curtain aside to expose the inner workings of Murdoch’s machinery in his takedown on Twitter. “I get that it’s a business & this is something like professional wrestling or reality TV. WSJ editorials are meant to be spectacle,” Butterfield began.

After zooming in on the article’s pronouncement that the U.S. has moved on from its racist past, the Slack exec continued: “Pretending it doesn’t exist is, cognitively, really hard work. And it is dishonest and unfair and cruel work too. It’s its own violence.”

Butterfield laid out his argument insistently before reaching a point where civil discourse apparently no longer served his cause.

Click here to read the rest.

—Posted by Kasia Anderson