Tag: Coalition

Climate change: Josh Frydenberg criticised by Bridget McKenzie over net zero emissions targets

Bridget McKenzie says too many MPs want to be fashionable about climate change.

The L/– NP

198 View all comments Advertisement Nationals cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie has taken a swipe at her Liberal colleagues, including Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, labelling their support for a carbon neutral economy by 2050 the “worst kind of vacuousness over values”. The Victorian senator, who holds several regional-based policy portfolios, says too many federal MPs were worried about being “cool” rather than “the consequences of their decisions”.

Source: Climate change: Josh Frydenberg criticised by Bridget McKenzie over net zero emissions targets

The Coalition governs for those that have, and the have-nots are left far behind – » The Australian Independent Media Network

My thought for the day Economics and society are so inextricably interwoven that we cannot ignore the human cost in our decision making. Conservatives should consider that. ( John Lord )

Source: The Coalition governs for those that have, and the have-nots are left far behind – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Where there’s a bill there’s a way: Rex Patrick’s dogged fight against Coalition to repeal billionaires’ loophole – Michael West

Secret Rich List, 1995 exemption, grandfathered billionaires

It’s been quite the innings for some of Australia’s wealthiest billionaires. Certain large proprietary companies owned by the establishment – Secret Rich-Listers as we call them – have been cloaked in darkness by government legislation for more than a quarter of a century. Luke Stacey reports how South Australian Senator Rex Patrick is fighting to buck the trend and demolish Australia’s Secret Rich List once and for all.

Source: Where there’s a bill there’s a way: Rex Patrick’s dogged fight against Coalition to repeal billionaires’ loophole – Michael West

The only jobs the Nats are concerned about are their own – » The Australian Independent Media Network

When you have a leader whose most memorable contribution has been a rather tragic Elvis impersonation, I guess it’s understandable that the natives might get restless. But in the last few weeks, the Nats have gone so far off reservation they seem to be occupying a totally different universe.

The only jobs the Nats are concerned about are their own – » The Australian Independent Media Network

UK-US trade deal under threat unless Iran stance changes, says Trump ally | World news | The Guardian

Boris Johnson

America and it partners 1) Don’t tell them what you’re doing when committing murder 2) tell them to jump and insist on how high. 3) if they don’t comply turn your backs. (ODT)

via UK-US trade deal under threat unless Iran stance changes, says Trump ally | World news | The Guardian

EDITORIAL: Something stinks in the Coalition and it’s not just dead fish

Murray-Darling gross mismanagement

While then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Barnaby Joyce was busy building up his “private” media brand enough to rival the Kardashians, under his watch, management of the Murray-Darling Basin was steadily careering out of control.

Perhaps the most damning part of this whole stinking mess is best summed up with this one little detail concerning the chief beneficiary of Coalition Government water policy, Webster Limited:

‘Webster, a Tasmanian company, is also one of Australia’s biggest water traders. Its shareholders include Australian Food and Fibre, which is controlled by the Robinson family, a major donor to the National Party.

via EDITORIAL: Something stinks in the Coalition and it’s not just dead fish

73% of Australians wrong according to climate denying COALition

Does the Coalition really think it is on the right track ignoring farmers, scientists, tourism operators, firefighters, surf lifesavers, the Australian Defence Force and 73% of the Australian public on climate change? Simon Black reports.

via 73% of Australians wrong according to climate denying COALition

The cost of the media’s abject failure to report Barnaby’s ‘private’ life 

 

Media silence enabled a successful attempt by the Government to withhold information from the New England electorate in order to achieve an outcome favourable to that government. Is there much more worthy of investigation, one has to ask, than the deliberate withholding of information from voters in order to influence the outcome of an election?

via The cost of the media’s abject failure to report Barnaby’s ‘private’ life 

The myth of Coalition economic management

Very few people ever called out the Howard government's economic failings.

We need to stop passively accepting “truisms” that long ago ceased to be true, and we should start with the myth about the Coalition’s superior economic credentials, writes Tim Dunlop.

Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are on track to destroy one of the most commonly held beliefs in Australian politics, namely, that the Coalition are better economic managers than Labor.

Indeed, smashing this “truism” may be one of their few lasting legacies.

Still, even as they undermine it, it is remarkable to see just how sticky the myth is. For instance, during his recent speech at the National Press Club, Mr Abbott intoned:

This government will deliver Australia’s economic future because only a Coalition government can. As Liberals and Nationals, sound economic management is in our DNA. We’ve done it before and we are doing it again.

What’s remarkable about this is not that he said it, or even that he believes it, but that his assembled audience of media heavyweights didn’t burst out laughing.

I mean, what exactly does the government have to do before the press gallery and other distinguished commentators not only stop playing along with this little fantasy, but acknowledge that the Abbott Government is on track to be one of the most useless economic managers of modern Australian history?

It’s not just that unemployment is rising and that the budget deficit persists; nor is it simply that the budget is stalled and in a complete shambles (imagine the conniptions sections of the media would be having if Labor were in this mess). It is that the Government simply don’t seem to have a clue about what they are doing.

Take the Medicare co-payment. This was simultaneously sold as a way of staunching the budget deficit and as a way of creating a medical research fund. Talk about magic pudding logic.

The health portfolio is now onto its second minister and there have been, what, three other variations on the copayment theory? Tony Abbott now says the copayment itself is “dead, buried and cremated”, but Tony Abbott says a lot of things.

Or take industry assistance. The government patted itself on the back about not offering grants to struggling industries and assured us that this was part of their tough, no-nonsense approach to curbing expenditure.

Great, except that as of this week, they’ve changed their mind. They are now providing up to half-a-billion dollars for the car industry, and as Laura Tingle noted on Twitter, they did it without so much as a press release.

These are not just adjustments brought on by a measured rethink or changed circumstances: they are incompetence, plain and simple, brought on by desperation and confusion.

But wait, there’s more. Delayed payments for those on unemployment benefits is being reconsidered by new minister, Scott Morrison. The PM’s precious “captain’s call” parental leave scheme has been dropped. Defence have got the pay rise the government said they wouldn’t get.

And this doesn’t even include the measures that are simply being blocked by the Senate such as the inequitable higher education funding arrangements. The Government seems to have no clue as to what to do about that.

To top it all off, Joe Hockey has been “floating” little ideas about changing the way we access our superannuation. Tony Abbott has said that it is a “perfectly good and respectable idea”, but even Peter Costello groaned:

We went through all of this back in the mid ’90s. We had a look at it, we decided, because we thought superannuation should be for retirement savings, we decided not to allow superannuation to be available for housing.

At this stage it is less the efficacy of the policies themselves that matters than the fact that the government flits like a drunken butterfly from one measure to another and back again, and back again, without any apparent governing logic.

Look, it is important to stop retelling ourselves this ridiculous fable about the Coalition’s economic credentials because it distorts so much of the rest of our political debate. Indeed, one of the reasons people are shocked – to the point of denial – about how bad the Abbott Government is at running the economy, is exactly because very few people ever called out the Howard government’s economic failings.

As economist Stephen Koukoulas noted back in 2012, Howard and Costello were accorded a respect their actual economic record didn’t deserve:

The budget papers … show that the Howard government was the highest taxing government in Australia’s history. In 2004-05 and 2005-06, the tax to GDP ratio reached a record high 24.2 per cent. In addition, there have been only seven occasions where the tax to GDP ratio has been in excess of 23.5 per cent of GDP and all seven were under the Howard government.

In a similar vein, in the last 30 years, there have been 10 occasions when the tax to GDP ratio has been below 22.0 per cent of GDP and all 10 were under a Labor Government. To put simply, the Howard government was a high taxer, while the current Labor Government is a lower taxer.

In terms of government spending, there have been only five years in the four decades leading up to 2012-13 when real government spending was cut in real terms. None of those cuts were delivered by a Coalition government.

Maybe if these facts were better known, if they were hammered by the media in the same way they hammered 20-year-old stories about Julia Gillard’s time as a lawyer, the incompetence of Messrs Hockey and Abbott would not have been such a well-kept secret.

So here’s a suggestion. Who leads the government is an important matter and the media are right to cover it. But Tony Abbott’s dying swan routine is one thing: the underlying incompetence of his government is something else altogether.

So can we reprioritise a bit? Can we please stop talking quite so much about the leadership mess that the government is in because in the end, it doesn’t much matter who leads a bad government.

Let’s instead start telling the truth about how bad they actually are, and let’s begin by not passively accepting “truisms” that long ago ceased to be true. Let’s actively challenge this damaging, childish myth about the Coalition’s superior economic credentials.

It’s great that some journalists are calling them out, but it is not enough as long as the myth persists.

The truth is, the only sense in which the Coalition are the better economic managers is the sense in which every parent thinks their kids are smarter and better looking than everyone else’s kids: they may believe it in their hearts, but it doesn’t necessarily stand up to objective, unsentimental analysis.

Tim Dunlop is the author of The New Front Page: New Media and the Rise of the Audience. He writes regularly for The Drum and a number of other publications. Twitter: @timdunlop.

Tony Abbott is in trouble because he never let the junkyard dog go : This week has proved that unlike his political hero, Churchill, the Australian prime minister did not grow once he had the power he scrapped and fought for

Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott has a memorable way of talking about himself as a dog.

Years ago when he entered parliament he told the world he was keen to be a “junkyard dog savaging the other side”.

He was, magnificently.

He talked dogs again while in exile on the backbench after the downfall of the Howard government. He warned ambitious politicians of finding themselves, “like the dog who catches the car. What do you do when you finally get that great office for which you have striven all these years?”

This week is proof positive that he never really found an answer to that question. True, there are things he wants to do, backers he has to satisfy and promises he has to keep. But when his survival depended on convincing Australians he was the leader for them, he delivered stump speeches about little more than averting economic catastrophe and dealing with terrorists.

Yes, of course. But what about the rest?

The failure which may carry Abbott out of public life on Tuesday is his failure to grow. In thoughtful interviews over many years he claimed to be so much more than the savage dog of his party. There were values, deep values waiting to be expressed once he had the chance to lead.

Twenty years of political brawling in Canberra didn’t touch Abbott’s romantic notion that he would grow once he had power. From childhood his heroes had been men like Churchill who transformed themselves when they came to office.

In the belief this would happen, a chunk of the electorate was willing to vote for this startlingly limited man in 2013. They took him at his word: that he would be able to dig down to his better self and be the leader the nation needed.
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But it didn’t happen.

The junkyard dog united a shattered Coalition and proved himself the most resourceful leader of an opposition in 50 years. But no transformation followed. The prime minister’s problem is not the captain’s picks, not his failure to consult, nor the micromanagement of the cabinet by his office. He failed to grow.

That’s what made his quixotic knighting of the Duke of Edinburgh so devastating. It was not just the act of a leader more alert to the romance of the crown than the feelings of his country. It was so un-grown up.

Abbott is not the brawling kid he was at university. Life and politics have taught him a great deal since then. But to an uncomfortable degree he remains the man recruited in his teens by the conservative fanatic BA Santamaria to save the nation from the future.

Stopping things became his forte: stopping student radicals, stopping the republic, stopping Pauline Hanson, stopping Rudd and Gillard, stopping the boats. He is very good at it. His greatest boast at the Press Club was the list of all he had stopped.

And what’s it all for?

Pundits reckon he needs to find a narrative for his government. He has that. As he has said so often since the night he was elected, Australia is open for business again. That’s the story. But that isn’t winning Abbott the nation’s regard.

Deeper than policy is the problem of him. What he needs to survive now – if the numbers haven’t already moved against him – are the bigger sympathies of a leader able to speak, an adult to adults, about the country he leads.

And if he can’t, the dog metaphors are too grim to contemplate.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott to reshuffle cabinet, Sussan Ley expected to be second woman in upper ministry

Sussan Ley

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to announce a ministerial reshuffle this afternoon in Canberra.

The changes have been prompted by a decision from Arthur Sinodinos to resign as Assistant Treasurer.

It is expected Mr Abbott will promote the Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley into Cabinet, making her the second woman in the upper ranks of the ministry.

Current Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Josh Frydenberg, is also expected to go into the ministry.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told Sky Agenda, he would do whatever job Mr Abbott asked him to do.

“Obviously in the lead up to the next election, or the next year, it will be important to have the best team on the ground and we’ve had a very good team over the past 14 or 15 months,” he said.

“I’m sure the Prime Minister will make the necessary decision to make sure we’ve got the best possible team in 2015 and beyond.”

How bad is the current LNP. As bad as it gets when Andrew Bolt wants government by News Corp

Government behind 46 to 54. But here’s how it can recover

Andrew Bolt December 15 2014 (7:11am)

A profound reset is necessary for the Government that has achievements and broadly the right direction – but not the votes:  He is simply calling the Australian electorate blind  idiots.

The latest Newspoll, conducted exclusively for The Australian at the weekend, shows the opposition goes into the summer recess with a two-party-preferred lead of 54 to 46 per cent — almost the reverse of the election result 15 months ago.

Those of us concerned about the national interest will cheer this part:

…national support for the Palmer United Party is less than 1 per cent.

To repeat and repeat and repeat: Scare Scare Scare. Casualise Jobs and lie

– it’s the economy. No Budget repair, no government.

– the money’s gone. Cut the promises to spend more of it, starting with the paid parental leave scheme. Keep the message simple and consistent.

– the money’s gone. Explain. I’m going to take my family to Bali then Europe Na Na Na

– the money’s gone. Blame Labor again and again. After 15 months cook the books make things worse and keep blaming Labour. Forget the truth it wins nothing

– Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is the Minister most associated with fixing problems and toughness. Give him something more to do now the boats have stopped – and make it something where he can train his fire on the Opposition. What???  easy to say

– Freshen up the team. Cut Arthur Sinodinos loose. Dump two others. Bring in the feistiest fighters (including at least one woman). Put a face to this reset. Who??? easy to say

– Get a communications chief equal in stature to Peta Credlin, the chief of staff, to fix a glaring weakness and to deflect heat from the capable Credlin. Choose from among MPs if possible. Sack Credlin get a media man….News Corp they are right wing

– Get a very senior journalist as well (not instead of) to deal with the media. Get more media men News Corp their onside

– Get in professional pollsters and strategists. Get more media men News Corp is sacking staff

– Get friends. Work on third party endorsements. Get media men as lobbyists News Corp would be good.

– Get Abbott friends, too, and give him context. Show him with more of his kind of people, like the lifesavers he was with yesterday. Show him with the people he best represents – the doers, the volunteers, the quiet problem solvers, the helping hands. Get more media men News corp could produce a government office and give it to you as they do The Bolt Report For Ch 10

– Speak to the public. Level with them. Explain. Fewer bullet points and more discussion, A Bolt Report for the LNP

– Get a strategy committee, focussed on communications. More News Corp people

– Give the MPs something to fight for – something they believe in. News Corp training personel would help

– Inspire the base, which includes the back bench. Give them something to fight for, too. Tupperware does it  Scientology does it News Corp can to put aside 2 days a month Brainwash Sunday’s and barbie

– Don’t give the Left peace offerings, hoping to be liked. It will just sneer at your weakness and kick you even harder. No more wealth taxes, tributes to Labor heroes, abandonment of free speech reforms, appointments of Natasha Stott Despojas, speeches on constitutional recognition of Aborigines, grants to Leftist activists such as Recognise and big donations to UN climate funds. This just loses Liberals their old friends without winning any from the implacable Left.  Get rid of the moderates

– express the moral cause that makes Liberal the moral choice. Don’t look to the Left for that cause. Validate your own philosophy. Become News Corp Watch Fox News and learn

– drop the undoable, particularly when dealing with the Senate. Don’t look helpless. Be O’Reilly Hannity, News Corp Gods

– stop talking about yourselves and Peta Credlin. Just shut up. Don’t show our weaknesses

– Assert, don’t defend. Fight, fight, fight. Be News Corp the world is ours for the overtaking

Oh, and do all this by February at the latest.

UPDATE

Mark Textor, former long-time polling guru for the Liberals:

Most know Australia has been on the economic couch … [and] almost all now know that any armchair ride is over.

Most know they must adapt to these circumstances, or dig in and respond to them, but don’t yet have a coping mechanism for the stress… In the case of economic anxiety, the pill should certainly not be disingenuous reassurance by governments that things will be OK. That false political chemistry will fail to either help Australia resolve or deal with changing economic conditions….

Step one: more rebooting of budgets – voters want to stop excessive spending on things that won’t help us cope with economic change. With major public investments they want to know they are properly planned. They also want more regular budget updates from governments. Once a year doesn’t cut it.

Two: voters want debt paid off; they see it as a major sign of a loss of national financial control and sovereignty

Three: voters want to be better educated about our economic conditions. As anyone suffering from a major disease has learnt, there is a comfort in knowing more. Mystery is threatening not comforting.

Four: Australians want to hear more from outside economic experts, not just from politicians and the semi-economists in the media

More tips from Textor here, including just get stuff done and fight less with the states. As I’ve said before, Abbott could do a lot with Victoria’s new Labor Premier to the advantage of both. Privatise the LNP and make it a subsidiary of News Corp International. Andrew Bolt recommends Mark Textor as the new CEO Abbott President

WA News Female priest strip searched for drugs and firearms following sit-in

Reverend Lorna Green alleges her and a group of peaceful protesters were strip searched for drugs and firearms

Reverend Lorna Green alleges her and a group of peaceful protesters were strip searched for drugs and firearms

A female priest claims to have been strip-searched following a sit-in protest at Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s Subiaco electoral office on Wednesday.

Anglican priest, the Reverend Lorna Green, said she was outraged to be stripped naked and searched for drugs and firearms.

Rev Green was among a group protesting at the alleged transfer to Nauru of a number of asylum-seeking mothers, family members and new-borns who had been brought to Australia from detention centres for the births.

She said they were simply buzzed in at Ms Bishop’s offices, where they sat and prayed while police tried to get them to leave

After several hours they were taken to the Perth Watch House in three police vans.

The grandmother-of-one said she and her group objected strongly to a strip search but were taken into a private room where the procedure was carried out by female officers. She added they were held in cells until they were charged and released.

Despite her outrage at the alleged intrusion, she said: “I’m even more outraged at the way our government is treating helpless babies”.

Rev Green, Rector of the Anglican Parish of Serpentine-Jarrahdale and Chairperson of the Anglican Diocese of Perth Social Responsibilities Commission, and seven others were charged with trespass.

A hearing is scheduled for December 31.

Speaking about the incident Julie Bishop said: “The protestors were allowed to remain in my office for nine hours and offered tea and coffee.

“They were encouraged to leave peacefully before WA Police arrived to remove them at the end of the day.”

 

The group was part of the “Love Makes A Way” movement’s national day of action that targeted MP’s offices across Australia including that of Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison. More than 50 Christian leaders were arrested or removed from their peaceful sit-ins.

Participants in the Perth sit-in also included a Uniting Church minister, Pentecostal and Churches of Christ pastors and lay leaders.

The Department of Immigration was approached for comment on the future of the detention of babies but no response had been received at the time of publicaton.

No more sit-ins are planned for this year.

Breaking ranks: Hockey, Bishop,Turnbull and Morrison were all over ambitious according to Andrew Bolt and needed to be put in their place. This always occurred when attention was drifting away from Abbott. Bolt always knows “the Facts” better than any ministers and will tell them so. He also is a braggard.

The electorate was hoping for something better By ABC’s Barrie Cassidy

The Government needs a clear economic message. There is none.

Self-serving rhetoric in opposition and mixed messages in government make it very hard for the Abbott Government to get back on track in 2015, writes Barrie Cassidy.

The Abbott Government’s first full year in office has ended with the Prime Minister drowning in his own rhetoric and the Treasurer torn between talking the economy up and talking it down.

Tony Abbott’s “mea culpa” news conference this week, designed to reset the Government on the cusp of Christmas, served only to push him under

Self-serving rhetoric in opposition and mixed messages in government make it very hard for the Abbott Government to get back on track in 2015, writes Barrie Cassidy.

The Abbott Government’s first full year in office has ended with the Prime Minister drowning in his own rhetoric and the Treasurer torn between talking the economy up and talking it down.

Tony Abbott’s “mea culpa” news conference this week, designed to reset the Government on the cusp of Christmas, served only to push him under another wave as he tried to explain away broken promises. The moment he said “things have moved on – circumstances are different”, the public’s cynicism meter went off the charts.

That hackneyed and derided excuse effectively makes a mockery of all promises and devalues the currency into the future.

Julia Gillard said the same thing after ruling out a carbon tax before the August 2010 election and then, once in government, “making some changes in order to work with the parliament that Australians voted for”.

“Yes, I did say that,” she told the Nine Network, “and circumstances have changed.”

Now it is Abbott who must ride that monster wave through to the next election, a task made even more difficult because he cut Gillard no slack when she offered the same rationale.

Quite apart from that, he promised “no excuses, no surprises” and left an impression in the minds of the electorate that he could balance the budget without cutting into health and education or raising new taxes.

Falling commodity prices? No excuses. Senate obstructionism? No excuses.

Abbott now has to steer a path through his own rhetoric.

He told Karl Stefanovic on Nine this week:

Sure it gets tougher when you’ve got to negotiate your legislation past your political opponents in the Senate, and I wish the Labor Party wasn’t in such a feral mood…

Stefanovic responded:

With respect, you were fairly feral in opposition, weren’t you? … And if it worked for you, why would he (Shorten) do anything different?

Against that rhetorical handicap, the Government has to go into budget planning early next year with unfinished business from this year overlapping their deliberations.

And hardest of all, the Treasurer has to find a way to persuade voters that the situation is so dire that tough measures need to be taken, and that those measures are fair and equitable.

Respected columnist Paul Kelly insists Hockey must use the MYEFO statement to convince the public that the country faces serious long-term problems. The document needs to be a circuit breaker that leads to a greater acceptance of fiscal tightening.

But that would require a clear and unambiguous message, and there is none.

On the one hand, Hockey talks about a budget emergency but on the other he seems loath to accept the economy is in trouble.

At a news conference this week, he told journalists that he had that day spoken to a global banker who briefed him on the challenges facing international economies “and Australia is in a stronger position than many of the comparable economies in the world”.

Why then, Lenore Taylor asked, “is the government saying economic prospects are good and they should continue to spend up to Christmas, but on the other hand the government is saying economic prospects are bad and that’s why it’s crucial the Senate pass reforms and budget savings? Can you explain why the messages aren’t contradictory?”

Hockey couldn’t. He went on to argue that the Government’s income has fallen below expectations “precisely because we have falling commodity prices and weaker wage growth… (but) … the Australian economy is going to strengthen”.

Then the next morning he told Chris Uhlmann on AM:

I don’t want this idea starting to spread as a result of poorly informed commentary that Australia is going to have a tough 2015. It will get better.

So no softening up there; no preparing the groundwork for the type of medicine that has to be swallowed if the deficit is to be reduced.

“Will the next budget have to be more severe (than the last) to make up for lost revenue?” Hockey was asked.

“I’m not sure you should assume that,” he responded.

Next year has to be the year of recovery, both politically and economically.

But because of Abbott’s self-serving and opportunistic rhetoric in opposition, and Hockey’s muddled mixed messages in Government, that is going to be hard to achieve.

Those contradictory responses encapsulate the government’s middle-distance dilemmas and diabolical choices.

Barnaby Joyce Thursday described the year as “a dogfight in the fog. It’s loud, it’s noisy and it’s furious.”

After the chaos, the confusion and the nastiness of the previous few years, the electorate was hoping for something other than a dogfight in the fog. But Barnaby’s right. That’s what they got.

Barrie Cassidy is the presenter of the ABC program Insiders. View his full profile here.

Free Advice for Josh Frydenberg

Frydenberg

Below are Josh Frydenberg’s Ten Lessons to Get Liberals Back on Track, following the defeat of the Napthine government last Saturday. But maybe the Secretary to the Prime Minister is giving his boss a bit of advice as well. Couldn’t help myself …

One: Develop a clear narrative consistent with Liberal philosophy. Well, First Dog on the Moon’s got that one sorted. ‘Kill the Poor’ is probably my favourite of his suggestions. The Liberals already have a perfectly clear and consistent narrative: take from the poor and give to the rich, otherwise known as supply side economics. The problem is that if this narrative were actually spelt out, it would be deeply unpopular electorally. If you want an alternative economic narrative, read this article about how we need to build a combination of business capital, infrastructure, human capital, intellectual capital, natural capital and social capital.

Two: Communication is key. Possibly, but it depends on what you’ve got to communicate. As pollsters Lewis and Woods report, the budget, for example, ‘has been perceived as being unfair from day one, the perception being that the delivery on the promise to cut the debt was actually a fig leaf for wider ideological indulgences.’ Hard to polish a turd.

Three: Challenge the right of partisan unionists to openly campaign in uniform against the sitting government. Public servants identifying themselves as such at polling booths – not cricket, eh Josh? So are we going to challenge the right of partisan big miners to take out paid advertisements against a government policy? To say nothing of the partisan media. The Liberals have only themselves to blame. They have politicised the public service by forcing cuts to services which those who are supposed to deliver them know are essential. If they aren’t going to shut up about it, well, chickens do fly home to roost. The sky is dark with them.

Four: Never let the public forget the failures of your political predecessors. How’s the ‘blame Labor’ mantra working for you fifteen months after the election? By all means choose to go on as you started – negative and vindictive. But I think you’ll find voters can be inspired by policies that promise a better future.

Five: Disunity is death. You’re probably right. But it’s hard to stay united when backbenchers see the destructive policies of their leaders eating away at their electoral support. Watch this space.

Six: Avoid the fringe and play to the middle. And just how is the Liberal government doing on that one? Trying to destroy Medicare, opposing effective action on climate change, cutting the ABC, trying to make higher education prohibitively expensive for ordinary students – all of this is motivated by basic right wing ideology, much of it set out well before the election by the right-wing think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs. The Abbott government is doing its best to tick off all seventy-five items on their wish list. Parties should avoid opening up damaging debates on issues already settled, you say. Really? Trying to water down section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act fits in with this advice how?

Seven: Incumbency is providing a diminishing return. Possibly, but hardly a rule of political life, and only if incumbency includes breaking promises and bringing in legislation that helps your mates and hurts everyone else. The Liberals totally negative election agenda got them elected – but isn’t proving an asset in government.

Eight: Don’t leave election announcements too late because more people vote early. OK. But expect a high degree of cynicism about election policies whether they are announced early or late in the campaign. ‘No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.’ Recall those promises Josh? More like lies, really, made to be broken. Who’s going to believe anything you say next time? A record of meaningful achievement is worth more than a few carrots at election time.

Nine: Regroup, renew. I’m betting there will be a Federal Liberal government redistribution fairly soon. Again, watch this space. But you don’t get much renewal when you stick to the same inequitable and punitive policies that have got you into trouble in the first place.

Ten: There is always a silver lining. Hmm. It’s true as you say that the Greens are splitting the progressive vote, but there are a very limited number of areas where Labor will vote with the Liberals against them. Hardly a recipe for future Liberal success. And if I were you Josh, I’d be paying a bit more attention to the Nationals. Lots of country people – National voters up till now – are realising that climate change is their very real enemy and that renewable energy is their friend. No wonder the big end of town is getting upset by GetUp’s new ad showing rural support for wind energy.

While we’re on an advice-giving kick, can I suggest Eleven, Josh? Don’t rely on your mates in the Murdoch press to guarantee you a smooth ride. It’s dangerous on two fronts. First, they hate failure and turn against you if there’s a sniff of it. Second, they are becoming increasingly irrelevant as newspaper sales fall and people look elsewhere for news and opinion. As you say, ‘advertising via Facebook and Google is often more likely to connect with the swinging voter’. But you need to have something to say that they want to hear – and maybe these people who use these platforms think that a fiber to the node NBN wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

I don’t blame you for trying to take lessons from the history. As your quote from Aldous Huxley, ‘That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history,’ is probably spot on. But I think I’ll go with a different one: Talleyrand, of the Bourbons – read the Abbott government – ‘They learned nothing and forgot nothing’.

  1. Interesting that Frydenberg should quote Aldus Huxley. He’s the one that said in 1934 that ‘Universal education has created an immense class of what I may call the New Stupid.’ Universal education is clearly what current Liberal policy on university fees is seeking to avoid. Must be worried about the new stupid.

This is the mind set of Lib/LNP Mind set….the Coalition way in Qld

Jeff Seeney

Jeff Seeney: Queensland deputy premier caught own officials by surprise with retrospective law change preventing possible prosecution of LNP donor

Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney caught government officials off guard when he ordered a last-minute law change that prevented the possible prosecution of a major LNP donor for what senior bureaucrats deemed illegal river quarrying.

Emails, briefing notes and other correspondence between senior officials and Department of Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps show no discussion about a change to the law before Mr Seeney ordered the amendment to the Water Act in early April.

The retrospective law change allowed Karreman Quarries to continue to extract millions of dollars worth of sand and gravel from the bed of the Upper Brisbane River at Harlin, north-west of Brisbane.

Karreman Quarries gave $50,000 to the Queensland LNP in 2011-12, putting it among the party’s top dozen donors. It gave $25,000 to the LNP the previous year.

Do you know more about this story? Email investigations@abc.net.au

It has also emerged that, since 7.30 revealed Mr Seeney’s role in June, the State Government allocated $1.6 million of taxpayer funds to restoring the slumped river banks of properties on the Upper Brisbane River, where for 20 years the owners have blamed quarrying for the damage.

Karreman Quarries told the ABC a consultant had advised it the operation was causing only “minimal impact” upstream.

Mr Seeney strongly denied the claims that he acted inappropriately and said that “to this day I have never spoken to the owners of this property about this issue”.

He said the change to the law was part of a long-held LNP policy goal to redress a state-wide problem over how watercourses are defined.

But documents obtained under Right To Information laws show officials worked for months to get Karreman Quarries to comply with the Water Act and stop quarrying the river bed, and there was no discussion of any prospective legislative change.

An aide to Mr Seeney even drafted a letter for him to sign on March 31 warning quarry owner Dick Karreman he lacked the permit required since 2010 for such quarrying. The letter was never sent.

Instead, just days later, Mr Seeney ordered an amendment be drafted that made prosecution of Karreman Quarries impossible and authorised the company to extract sand and gravel at Harlin for a further five years.

Karreman Quarries had told officials a court ruling in 2006 gave it rights to work the river bed.

“Looks like an amendment to fix a court ruling? Water Act or something?” wrote Andrew Freeman, chief of staff to Mr Cripps, in an email to colleagues on April 3 after hearing of the planned amendment.

Seeney and Newman promised to investigate quarrying claims

In ABC interviews in June, Mr Seeney and Premier Campbell Newman promised to investigate farmers’ claims that quarrying was causing the damage to their properties.

Mr Seeney said he had since sought briefings from the departments of Mines and Natural Resources and Environment and their ministers, and there was “no evidence of any connection at all” between the damage and the quarrying.

“What’s happening up there is a pretty typical example of bank slumping,” Mr Seeney said.

Bank slumping happens when slabs of the riverbank collapse. It can be caused by the removal of trees from the top of the bank, the deepening of the channel by erosion or dredging, or by the rapid lowering of flood waters after the saturation of the bank.

The farmers’ position is backed by eminent geomorphologist John Olley of Griffith University, who said Karreman Quarries was “effectively mining the upstream properties” because holes dug in the river bed inevitably migrated upstream as the channel sought equilibrium.

Mr Olley also warned that quarrying at Harlin dumped sediment into Lake Wivenhoe, the main supply of drinking water for Brisbane, increasing annual water treatment costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He said Victoria and New South Wales had recognised the damage caused by this type of extraction and banned it 20 years ago.

Karreman Quarries said it had received legal advice that it had “accrued rights” to operate based on its history of extracting at Harlin. Allegations about the lawfulness of its operation and its impacts “were often made without a full appreciation of the legal position and have included factual inaccuracies”, it said.

However, according to the internal government documents, company owner Dick Karreman knew he would be breaking the law unless extraction stopped.

An official noted after Mr Karreman met Mr Cripps on March 11 that the quarry owner was “conscious that he would be committing an offence if he continues”.

Lawyers for Karreman Quarries have confirmed that the documents were an accurate record of the meeting.

But they said the company had told the Government it believed the removal of its rights by previous amendments to legislation was legally ineffective.

Emails warned of potential for court action

Emails show that government legal advisers, the director-general of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines and Mr Cripps worked together for months on a plan to go to court if needed to stop Karreman Quarries at Harlin.

“There is the potential for this to escalate to court action,” executive director in the south region Wally Kearnan wrote to director-general Brett Heyward on October 13, 2013.

On March 26 of this year Mr Kearnan wrote in an email to Mr Cripps: “No matter which way I tackle this it ends up back under the Water Act – hence why we did what we did. Anyway I have the surveyors working on a last ditch strategy but not hopeful.”

A site inspection on March 28 confirmed the extraction was still going on despite two departmental compliance notices.

Careful consideration will need to be given to how this outcome is communicated to the complainants, given they are … still unaware of this action and its failure to meaningfully address their concerns.

Department of Natural Resources and Mines investigator Fred Hundy

Mr Seeney told the ABC in June that it had always been LNP policy to amend the Water Act to clear up what he said was confusion left by reforms by Labor in 2010 about the definition of river banks.

But documents show that after the amendment had become law in May, officials were still unclear about the definition of “lower bank” and how the new provision would affect Karreman Quarries.

“We agree that further advice should be sought from those responsible for drafting the provisions as to what they had in mind for a ‘lower bank’,” department investigator Fred Hundy told regional manager Paul Sanders in an email on June 4.

Officials also had concerns about how the farmers would react to the unannounced change.

“Careful consideration will need to be given to how this outcome is communicated to the complainants, given they are, to my knowledge at least, still unaware of this action and its failure to meaningfully address their concerns,” Mr Hundy wrote.

Mr Seeney said the amendment was to prevent businesses that had operated for years being shut down by changes made by the previous Labor government in 2010.

“It’s a matter of property rights, it’s a matter of respecting the rights of property owners to not have their ownership eroded by a definitional change by government,” he said.

There is no mention in the correspondence of any risk to the viability of Karreman Quarries, one of Australia’s biggest quarry operators, or any other company.

Mr Seeney was unable to name any other company affected by the change to the law.

HOCKEY FINALLY ADMITS THAT THE COALITION WANTED CAR MANUFACTURING TO CEASE IN AUSTRALIA IN ORDER TO SECURE FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS. Economic rationalists will throw loyalty out the window and China knows who their dealing with…

Hockey told ABC radio this morning that the Coalition would not have secured its recent free trade agreements if the government hadn’t presided over the demise of local car manufacturing. (He’s quite correct on that point, but I doubt Australian car workers currently in the process of being retrenched will appreciate the fact they have been sacrificed in order for Australia to lock down an FTA with China and Korea.) The treasurer was quite clear this morning that was the transaction – there would have been no free trade agreements if we hadn’t made the hard decisions on industry assistance at the beginning of the year.

What Incompetent Amateurs.

Happy bedfellows. Picture courtesy of The Age. Photo: Alex Ellinhausen

After a disastrous first budget, Joe Hockey looks to be a man without ideas. So too his dear leader Tony Abbott who, in what appears to be an act of desperation, has pleaded with the business community to help him.

In what could be interpreted as a cry for help, Abbott has called on business leaders and state governments to be the drivers of a new wave of economic reform. Speaking at a Business Council of Australia dinner, this week, the Prime Minister signalled out taxation as the most urgent of the nation’s woes. Really?

One can rightfully ask if this is analogous to waving the white flag. As well as the business community, Abbott has included the Labor party in this invitation and all state governments, “to join Team Australia and to think of our country and not just the next election.” Could it be the Prime Minister is telling us he doesn’t know how to govern the country?

What? These magicians of spin, these production wonder boys, these wealth creation gurus, these self-proclaimed ‘budget emergency’ busters who conned so many of the electorate into thinking they were our economic saviours, are they now giving up?

teamThese lying, deceitful cretins who supposedly had the answers to all our problems are now asking members of the former government who saved us from the GFC to come on board as partners in ‘Team Australia’?

What a pathetic way for a national leader to acknowledge that he and his treasurer are no longer up to the task. And if that is true, they should hide their heads in shame and go back to the people.

Abbott’s plaintive call to 400 of the country’s leading executives came after another week of management failures that covered a range of areas involving his own stupidity, his Defence Minister’s stupidity, and the Communication Minister’s stupidity.

It came after a week that included other ministers sending mixed signals about dumping the $7 GP co-payment, which itself came right on the heels of some disastrous fiscal projections from the Parliamentary Budget Office concerning the ever ballooning deficit.

Laura Tingle of the Australian Financial Review notes that “Prime Minister Tony Abbott finds himself defending the indefensible, or the already mortally-wounded, on three different fronts”. She is referring to a now dead budget strategy, the ABC broken promises parody and Defence Minister, David Johnson’s ‘rhetorical flourish’.

With the government’s Senate option’s now even harder to negotiate, little wonder Abbott is showing signs of desperation. How humiliating it must be for him to ask for Labor’s help. Particularly, as Laura Tingle explains, the markets and the business community now see the budget impasse as “a disaster of the Coalition’s own making.”

In a quite feeble defence, the government has also called on Labor to say what it would do to ‘fix the budget’. Once again, they seem to forget that they are no longer in Opposition.

budgetAnd, seen through their narrow-minded neo-liberal eyes, what a fix it needs. Just last May, Hockey projected a budget deficit of $29 billion for 2014-15. The report just released by the Canberra-based consultancy Macroeconomics suggests that on current trends the deficit will more likely be $47 billion. Worse still, they are projecting a deficit of $24 billion in 2016-17 against Hockey’s projected $2.8 billion.

How vindicated must Wayne Swan be feeling right now as he witnesses these incompetent amateurs stumbling around in the dark desperately trying to spin their way out of their own ineptness.

Meanwhile the Parliamentary Budget Office has released an analysis emphasising the “sensitivity” of the economy to the areas of productivity growth, the labour force participation rate, and the terms of trade and the likely outcome on revenues if the present targets are not met. Take a look. It isn’t pretty.

missingThere are some dark days ahead for Hockey, right up to the next election. But Abbott’s position is worse. He has all but lost credibility within his own party. As Laura Tingle puts it, “As Abbott’s credibility is under deadly assault, and the authority of his senior ministers is missing in action, the resolve of both Labor and cross benches to stand their ground only increases.”

They say what goes around, comes around. Surely that Sydney Daily Telegraph front page headline of the 5th August 2013, urging the electorate to “kick this mob out” must certainly be resonating around the country right now. If asking Labor to help get it out of its fiscal mess is any guide, perhaps it is also resonating from within the Coalition.

The year of ruling dangerously. What noteworthy things has this government done even the best seem tarnished

So what has the government actually done,” asked News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt in early August, “to reassure the party faithful that, yes, this is a Liberal government?”

It was a testament to how badly Tony Abbott’s government was faring, as it approached its first anniversary, that even its most strident ideological supporters were starting to sheer off in anger and disappointment.

The previous week had been a disaster. After Employment Minister Eric Abetz denied the scientific consensus on abortion and women’s health, Attorney-General George Brandis displayed the policy grasp and tech savvy of an insistent drunk at the bar, and Treasurer Joe Hockey complained that everyone was against him, it was clear the nation wasn’t going to unite around Team Australia, not that week anyway.

The only answers that Bolt came up with to his own rhetorical question were the repeal of the carbon tax and stopping the boats. And it’s not as if Bolt was omitting achievements not to his liking (knights and dames notwithstanding). After almost a year, the Abbott government has repealed one tax, a move that left the nation without a climate-change policy but had no discernible impact on prices, and implemented an increasingly inhumane, secretive and quite possibly illegal asylum-seeker regime designed in large part by the ALP.

At the time of writing, it had passed a total of six pieces of legislation.

“Of course, the government is not Labor, a virtue in itself,” Bolt added, trying to console himself and loyal readers.

Bolt was ignoring some of the government’s work, though. The Coalition may not have many achievements, but it has been good at undoing things. It has cut funding to social, educational, health, research and advisory bodies. Any and every environmental action, movement, organisation or legislation has been made a permanent target.

Now consider what the government has not done – what it has attempted but failed at, or allowed to fail through inaction.

In the first few weeks after the federal election in September 2013, evidence of travel rorts came to light. Initially the government denied there was a problem, leaving it to fester. Then the government acknowledged serious breaches had occurred, and promised to deal with them, but did nothing substantial. This response was indicative of much of what was to follow.

Despite the pledge that this was a grown-up government “open for business”, its first important foreign investment decision, to block a $3.4 billion American takeover of GrainCorp, said the opposite.

Abbott and team then had brief moments of ideological coherence as they argued for the end of corporate welfare, but the net result was the end of the auto-manufacturing industry in Australia. Qantas and SPC Ardmona survived, but the government still lacks industry and jobs policies for those out of work.

Christopher Pyne’s attack on the Gonski reforms undermined any sense of careful, considered government. Contrary to all previous commitments, Pyne bravely strapped on an Abbott-approved vest, stepped into the education sector and blew himself up.

It was a pattern of behaviour that would become familiar: an act with purely ideological motivation that neither the public nor industry supported; a minister without a detailed plan for reform; a leadership unprepared for the backlash; and no way forward. The government retreated within days, humiliated.

Brandis’ attempt to amend the Racial Discrimination Act was more of the same.

The announcement in May of the federal budget, a key moment in the first year of a government, was the epicentre of the Coalition’s political disasters. The public was prepared for a bitter pill and would have taken it – just as they had supported John Howard and Peter Costello’s tough first effort in 1996 – if the budget had been remotely reasonable or equitable. It was neither, and everyone knew it. The slew of broken election promises was equally damaging. Subsequent refusals to admit that they had misled the public only made Abbott and his colleagues appear more untrustworthy.

Many of the proposed measures seemed designed to punish the ordinary Australian. These included university-fees deregulation; health cuts and cost-shifting to the states; a Medicare co-payment; increased petrol excise; and changes to the family tax benefit, unemployment benefits and pension indexation. Some measures, such as privatisation plans (“asset-recycling”) and cuts to the ABC and SBS, have never had public support and probably never will.

The changes to the unemployment scheme were the government’s attitude to poor people writ large: gratuitously cruel. At the same time, the budget did nothing to reduce the tax concessions and industry subsidies that the rich and well-connected enjoy.

Most of the budget measures are in legislative limbo, for the same reason that the paid parental leave scheme and Direct Action climate-change plan stalled: the government doesn’t have the public backing. It hasn’t managed to mount substantial arguments for most measures. The Coalition lacks the political competence to build a case for anything unpopular – it has already forfeited the trust of the public and of most crossbench senators.

In an effort to head off growing criticism, the Liberal brains trust issued new talking points, stressing pragmatism and openness to negotiation.

“The groaning burden of buyer’s remorse has been acknowledged by the Abbott government,” wrote Malcolm Farr on news.com.au, “and the prime minister last week began steps to placate his political customers.”

But either the message wasn’t received in time by many commentators or it wasn’t enough to sway them. Paul Kelly and Dennis Shanahan of the Australian had already penned columns acknowledging that the Abbott government wasn’t doing at all well.

“Abbott is struggling to deliver on the style of government he pledged: an adult government of consistency, traditional cabinet process and ‘no surprises’,” observed Kelly. Both he and Shanahan invoked the dysfunction of the Rudd–Gillard era. In their eyes, what could be worse?

Bolt, however, was intent on resoldering the government to its ideological base. Sensing a government wavering over its ideological commitments, he leapt in, along with his fellow travellers at the Institute of Public Affairs, to criticise the Coalition for everything from dropping its plans to amend the Racial Discrimination Act (“frightened off by the Muslim lobby”) to over-funding the ABC. He was trying to drag it back out to the right, regardless of what the public want.

And here’s the rub: with the government labouring to achieve anything substantial, with its agenda mired and morale shaky, supporters, commentators and party members are all urging radically different paths back to electoral popularity.

Where does it go from here?

Process is clearly a problem for the Abbott government. It’s not just Abbott’s “captain’s picks” or the whims of ministers and their boosters (the bigot laws for Bolt or marriage-counselling vouchers courtesy of Kevin Andrews). The government also seems to rely heavily on the findings of stacked inquiries and responds to the lobbying of vested interests, whether in the media, banking, mining, gambling or retail. But it rarely acts in response to scientific or policy evidence. This might not be a problem if it had the talent to override the normal laws of politics, but every single one of the government’s main spokespeople, except perhaps Malcolm Turnbull and the sole woman, Julie Bishop, has damaged themselves badly, some perhaps irreparably: Eric Abetz, Greg Hunt, Kevin Andrews, Christopher Pyne, Peter Dutton, David Johnston, Scott Morrison and George Brandis. This, mind you, is their “A-team”.

Hockey was once thought to be an effective politician, but his reputation is now in tatters. He gives the impression that he wouldn’t know a poor person if he drove past one. Hockey and Mathias Cormann provided the defining image of the Abbott government’s first year. Kicking back outside a Parliament House office with their cigars, the treasurer and the finance minister were congratulating themselves on a job well done before they’d even delivered their first budget. Entitlement, that’s what it’s called.

Unemployment, now at a 12-year high, is rising. The budget is blowing out. The “infrastructure prime minister” has built nothing. The outlook for the government is bleak, because the Opposition and crossbenchers have no incentive to start co-operating, especially on unpopular budget items. Beyond the budget, it’s unclear whether the government has a legislative agenda of any kind. Perhaps this explains recent efforts to reposition Abbott as an international statesman, in charge of keeping Islamic terrorism, Russian tyranny and Scottish independence at bay. He needs to be above the fray, because domestically his troops are stuck in the trenches, and they’re starting to turn on one another. They must be relieved the Opposition is showing no stomach for a fight.

Government and White collar crime good for our health

cyniciam

Richard Nixon

I, like many others, was bemused by our government’s tardy response to the Ebola crisis.  I know they were advised that infected health workers might not survive a 30 hour plane trip back to here but they seemed to do little to find a solution.

Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT) are multi-disciplinary health teams incorporating doctors, nurses, and allied health staff.  They are designed to be self-sufficient, experienced teams that can rapidly respond to a disaster zone to provide life saving treatment to casualties, in support of the local health response.

Instead of deploying these teams, we sat back as the infection rate grew exponentially, and brave volunteers who recognised the necessity of rapid response chose to go and help without government support.

Belatedly, Abbott announces a deal has been made (more than a fortnight after it was offered), but outsources our response effort to Aspen Medical without going through any form of tender process.

Call me cynical, but whenever this government begins outsourcing, I start wondering who will make money out of the deal.

SMH November 7, 2014

Canberra-based Aspen, with a workforce of 2200, has become a regular recipient of government contracts, particularly from Defence.

In 2009, it signed three contracts worth $130 million to provide assistance to the regional mission in the Solomon Islands. This year it received another $26.5 million for regional assistance.

The company was officially opened in 2004 by the then Howard Government Health Minister Tony Abbott.

Electoral records show it donated $11,000 to the Queensland LNP last year.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has asked Australia and Canada to justify their decisions last week to suspend migration from Ebola-hit countries.

“These are measures that go beyond the recommendations of the WHO’s emergency committee,” said Isabelle Nuttall, who heads WHO’s alert and response department.

Australia on October 27 became the first Western nation to suspend migration from Ebola-hit West African nations, and Canada followed suit four days later.

Lateline November 7, 2014

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade awarded the $20 million contract to Aspen, bypassing Australian medical assistance teams or AusMats who are specifically trained to deal with this kind of crisis.

EMMA ALBERICI: So was this an open and competitive tender process?

GLENN KEYS: I can’t really talk to that because I’m not inside government, but I can say that because of our background in previous experience in deployments, as well as our experience in Liberia, I think we’re really well suited for the provision of these services to the Australian Government.

EMMA ALBERICI: Is there any level of Australian Government logistical support for your efforts?

GLENN KEYS: No, they’ve contracted us to provide all of the services.

EMMA ALBERICI: What I’m asking you, I guess is that you’re the people who are recruiting and providing the supports and the Government of Britain is giving you that logistical backup. What I’m asking you is beyond the money, the Australian Federal Government isn’t really providing anything else, is that correct?

GLENN KEYS: Well, they’re providing us, and I think that’s the thing that is important because we will be and have been already canvassing Australian health worker whose will help, as well as logistics officers and environmental health officers, and we will be putting that team together as part of that delivery of service.

And I think that’s going to be great, that there will be Australians helping deliver care to the people of Sierra Leone.

EMMA ALBERICI: So what proportion of Australians compared to overseas people will you be employing to man this treatment centre?

GLENN KEYS: It will be 10 to 20 per cent

A visit to the Aspen Medical site provides the following information:

“Founded in 2003 by Glenn Keys and Dr. Andrew Walker, Aspen Medical is an Australian-owned, multi award-winning, global provider of guaranteed and innovative healthcare solutions across a diverse range of sectors and clients including Defense, Mining & Resources, Oil & Gas, Government and Humanitarian.

Our competitive advantage lies in superior project management and the quality of our team. We pride ourselves on a customer-centric approach and a ‘can do’ attitude.”

So I decided to look into “the team”.

Aspen Medical co-founder and Managing Director, Glenn Keys, has been appointed to the board of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), formerly known as DisabilityCare Australia.

Glenn is the only appointment from the ACT. The NDIA is an independent statutory agency, whose role is to implement the national disability insurance scheme (NDIS), which will support a better life for hundreds of thousands of Australians with a significant and permanent disability and their families and carers.

SMH April 16, 2014

“Medical entrepreneur Andrew Walker has been accused of defrauding creditors by hiding $15 million worth of shares in tax haven the British Virgin Islands.

The liquidator of Dr Walker’s investment company, Apsara Capital, on Friday launched legal action against Dr Walker and Singapore-based businessman Georges Daniel Mercadal over the transaction.

He alleges Dr Walker ”improperly used his position to gain an advantage for himself or someone else, or cause detriment to Apsara”.

Mr Mercadal either ”wilfully shut his eyes to the obvious” or, together with Dr Walker, was part of ”a dishonest and fraudulent design” to divert the shares, he said.

The liquidator asked the court to order Dr Walker and Mr Mercadal to pay damages and return the proceeds of the alleged diversion.”

The article goes on to say

“Since founding healthcare group Aspen Medical in 2003, Dr Walker and school friend Glenn Keys have built the company into a profitable enterprise that employs 2200 people and boasts former health minister Michael Wooldridge on its board.”

SMH December 13, 2013

A Federal Court has found the directors behind failed nursing home empire Prime Trust, including former federal health minister Michael Wooldridge, breached their corporate duties by overseeing a $33 million fee to the trust’s founder.

Justice Bernard Murphy ruled on Thursday that Dr Wooldridge and four other directors, including former Places Victoria chairman Peter Clarke, failed to act in members’ best interest by approving the fee to founder and director Bill Lewski.

Prime Trust collapsed in 2010 owing $550 million to investors. The managed investment scheme owned retirement villages in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has asked the court to disqualify the five men from being company directors and order them to pay a penalty.

Dr Wooldridge is a director on a number of company boards, including Aspen Medical, Oral Health Australia and Australian Pharmaceutical Industries, owner of Priceline.

Penalty hearings for the directors will begin early next year.They face fines of up to $200,000 and bans from company boards.

ASIC Commissioner Greg Tanzer said the Federal Court’s decision was a significant outcome for investors. ”The conduct of the APCHL board was unacceptable and today’s judgment reflects that,” he said.

SMH December 9, 2013

The tax office is deciding whether an anti-wind farm group linked to former Liberal MPs should retain its favourable tax treatment.

The Waubra Foundation has been classified a ”health promotion charity” by the tax office, meaning its ”principal activity is promoting the prevention and control of disease in humans”.

It has also been granted deductible gift recipient status by the Australian Taxation Office, and donations of more than $2 to it are tax-deductible.

Donations to Waubra have helped fund legal challenges against wind farm developments.

Former health minister Michael Wooldridge is a director of Waubra, and former MP Alby Schultz is its patron.

The foundation says its main aim is to ”educate others about the known science relating to the adverse health impacts of infrasound and low-frequency noise.”

The Age June 27, 2012

A lack of timely access to doctors is a common complaint these days as waiting times blow out and people must go further afield or to bulk-billing clinics in search of medical help. This shortage of doctors can partly be traced to a 1996 decision by the Howard government, under then health minister Michael Wooldridge, to reduce funding for medical education places and to cut Medicare rebates for some doctors. The government relied on figures that forecast an oversupply of doctors by 2015.

Dr Brian Morton, a Sydney GP and chairman of the Australian Medical Association’s Council of General Practice, says: ”The information that the [Howard] government had was grossly inaccurate and shortsighted. Despite the [contrasting] figures that the AMA had at the time, the government wasn’t listening. The community is paying for that now.”

One consequence of the cuts in the ’90s has been that overseas-trained doctors have been brought in to fill the gap. A quarter of doctors practising here were qualified overseas.  In 2009-10, 4700 visas were granted to medical practitioners – double the number of medical students who graduated from Australian universities. Health Workforce Australia found that by 2025 there will be about 2700 fewer doctors than Australia needs. (The shortage of nurses will be even more dramatic, with a gap of 110,000 in the same period.)

So, in summary, our Government is still doing nothing about the Ebola crisis except paying $20 million to a private company (who is a party donor and who was officially opened by Tony Abbott) who will give local Africans a ten day training course. The company’s co-founder stands accused of “improperly using his position to gain an advantage for himself” and of “defrauding creditors” by using tax havens to hide shares.  Their company director, a former Liberal Minister who is largely responsible for the acute shortage of doctors in Australia and who is the director of a charitable organisation devoted to campaigning against wind farms, is now facing a ban from being on company boards for breaching his corporate duties and failing to act in members’ best interests by overseeing huge kickbacks to mates.

And they wonder why I am cynical