Category Archives: politics

#Australia – everything you never wanted to know about the IPA

Apologies to my international friends, this rant is predominantly for Australians.

The IPA has been on the news a lot lately, but I didn’t really know what the hell it was. Until just now. IPA stands for ‘Institute of Public Affairs’.

Sounds kind of official, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. The IPA is a Liberal Right Wing think tank/lobby group that believes it knows what’s best for Australia. Those views are set out in a boring document called ‘Be Like Gough’:

https://ipa.org.au/publications-ipa/ipa-review-articles/be-like-gough-75-radical-ideas-to-transform-australia

Right at the end, however, are 75 suggestions for how Australia should be changed. I have not altered those 75 suggestions in any way. I have simply highlighted the ones that shocked me the most. Read them for yourself:

1 Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it. It will be one thing to remove the burden of the carbon tax from the Australian economy. But if it is just replaced by another costly scheme, most of the benefits will be undone.

2 Abolish the Department of Climate Change

3 Abolish the Clean Energy Fund

4 Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

5 Abandon Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council

6 Repeal the renewable energy target

7 Return income taxing powers to the states

8 Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission

9 Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

10 Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol

11 Introduce fee competition to Australian universities

12 Repeal the National Curriculum

13 Introduce competing private secondary school curriculums

14 Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)

15 Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’

16 Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law

17 End local content requirements for Australian television stations

18 Eliminate family tax benefits

19 Abandon the paid parental leave scheme

20 Means-test Medicare

21 End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education

22 Introduce voluntary voting

23 End mandatory disclosures on political donations

24 End media blackout in final days of election campaigns

25 End public funding to political parties

26 Remove anti-dumping laws

27 Eliminate media ownership restrictions

28 Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board

29 Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency

30 Cease subsidising the car industry

31 Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction

32 Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games

33 Deregulate the parallel importation of books

34 End preferences for Industry Super Funds in workplace relations laws

35 Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a percentage of GDP

36 Legislate a balanced budget amendment which strictly limits the size of budget deficits and the period the federal government can be in deficit

37 Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database

38 Repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food

39 Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities

40 Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools

41 Repeal the alcopops tax

42 Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:
a) Lower personal income tax for residents
b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers
c) Encourage the construction of dams

43 Repeal the mining tax

44 Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states

45 Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold

46 Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent

47 Cease funding the Australia Network

48 Privatise Australia Post

49 Privatise Medibank

50 Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function

51 Privatise SBS

52 Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784

53 Repeal the Fair Work Act

54 Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them

55 Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors

56 Abolish the Baby Bonus

57 Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant

58 Allow the Northern Territory to become a state

59 Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16

60 Remove all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade

61 Slash top public servant salaries to much lower international standards, like in the United States

62 End all public subsidies to sport and the arts

63 Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport

64 End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering

65 Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification

66 Rule out any government-supported or mandated internet censorship

67 Means test tertiary student loans

68 Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement

69 Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built

70 End all government funded Nanny State advertising

71 Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling

72 Privatise the CSIRO

73 Defund Harmony Day

74 Close the Office for Youth

75 Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme

As you read through these 75 points, you may recognize some that have been accomplished already, while others, like the privatisation of the ABC, have only just been aired in public. Taken as whole, however, these suggestions are aimed at two things:

  1. reducing or repealing anything that provides help or support to individuals, and
  2. promoting changes that will allow private industry to do whatever the hell it wants.

That, my friends, is not, and never has been, the Australian way. We don’t let people sink or swim on their own. We don’t put shareholder dividends above the well-being of the people, and we don’t believe corporations will do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts. We made it through the Global Financial Crisis [GFC]so well precisely because our financial institutions were regulated and couldn’t do whatever they wanted.

This all boils down to trust. The IPA seems to trust the Robber Barons. Who do you trust?

Meeka

 


Sam Dastyari – one rotten apple or just the tip of the iceberg?

I’ve been having a conversation over on The Passive Voice that has disturbed me greatly. Not because it was unpleasant or rude, but because it has made me feel terribly naive at the ripe old age of 65.

To backtrack a little, the conversation began as a discussion about Amazon. We’re all pretty much Indie writers on TPV so Amazon features rather often in our conversations. Anyway, these are the relevant bits of a recent conversation between myself and Felix J Torres:

FJT: ..They [Amazon] are definitely being demonized like Microsoft ca 1995.
Hopefully, unlike MS in those days, they have more than one part time lobbyist in DC and have a few bought and paid for politicians in their pocket.

Me: ..So cynical! I most sincerely hope Bezos is smart enough not to have to do business like that.

FJT: ..If he doesn’t Amazon will get the same treatment Microsoft got for not contributing enough corporate funds to the politicians….

All that is a matter of record.

As is the fact that MS now has one of the larger contingents in DC and regularly provide PCs and free software to Congress people…

Me: ..I’m not denying it happens under the label of ‘lobbying’, but Amazon succeeded despite not doing what all the other companies were doing. If Bezos caves to the soft-corruption game of ‘gifting’ politicians, the ones to suffer long term will be /us/.
Apologies but Amazon is the /only/ large company that I admire. [I am so cringing now]

FJT: ..Well, of course consumers suffer.
The cost added by the politicians and bureaucrats gets added to the sale price….

Once one player alerts the politicians there is money to be had in a market they don’t back off. Rather they descend en masse…

Bezos would have to be an idiot to hear all the baying dogs calling for a lynching of Amazon and do nothing despite of what happened to Microsoft.

And he isn’t.
Amazon’s publicly reported lobbying has been growing steadily. Even faster than their online sales are growing…

Me: ..So there is open corruption that everybody knows about and accepts as normal?
In certain much maligned countries that might be known as ‘baksheesh’.

FJT: ..

Oh, just because it’s common knowledge doesn’t mean it’s accepted.

But every once in a while a congressman gets caught and arrested with a brown bag with $30K. (Seems to be the going rate in the House. Senators are a lot more expensive.)

Most politicians aren’t that blatant and merely call it “serving their constituents”. And many wrap themselves in principle like “protecting competition” or “looking out for the little people”.

Me: ..A member of the Labor party here in Australia – Sam Dastyari – was caught getting cosy with some Chinese business man, twice. He was finally kicked out but now I wonder whether he wasn’t just the tip of the iceberg, the one blatant idiot who got caught.
Could I get any more disillusioned?
I will never understand why so many Americans picked a certain person to be their ‘champion’ against the swamp, but I’m starting to understand why they need a champion in the first place.

I have only quoted what I thought were the relevant parts of the conversation, but if you’re interested, you can find the whole thing here:

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2018/01/why-amazon-is-the-new-microsoft/#comment-408446

Just scroll down a bit.

So, is this something everyone else already knew except me?

I would like to think that Australia is less caught up in this nudge-nudge-wink-wink epidemic of greed, but I’m not a complete fool. How many more Sam Dastyari’s are there amongst our politicians? Do they all take bribes of one sort or another? Is that why, once the politics dies down, nothing is ever done to change this bloody situation?

I’ve long thought the  concept of lobbying was wrong: in a democracy, the only people influencing politicians should be the voters. And yes, I know lobbyists are voters too, as are CEO’s of huge corporations blah blah, but if this bribery is as rampant as it appears, then our democracy is just a great big off-colour joke. 😦

Not happy Jan.

Meeks


Politics – do we really care?

I’ve always had a problem with ‘-isms’ – communism, socialism, facism, capitalism, republicanism, you name it – because they all seem to miss the point about people. Homo Sapiens doesn’t give a flying fruit bat about politics until things go wrong.

I was a kid in the late Menzies era of Australia [1949-1966], and I remember hearing some adults moan about elections while others moaned about the general apathy of the Australian voter. You see, in Australia, we have compulsory voting…and the times were good.

In fact, by the early 60’s, the populations of the Western world were better off, generally, than they had ever been before. Not quite the age of surplus envisioned by Marx, but close, and some of us really were able to live ‘…from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.’ That’s what the Age of Aquarius, Flower Power and Free Love were really all about.

Yet, on an individual level, despite the lack of scarcity, we still suffered from greed and envy and other ‘first world’ problems as we see-sawed between co-operation and competition. Because that is how the human animal is made – neither saint nor sinner but a combination of both.

And in a roundabout way, our dual nature is exactly why compulsory voting should be mandatory in all representational democracies. Voters are human and apathetic…and the silent majority doesn’t give a shit. That is why we have to be forced into protecting democracy, because democracy only works if the apathetic majority moderates the extremes on both the Right and the Left.

If I had my way, I would do away with all career politicians entirely. Instead, I would replace them with ordinary people, plucked off the street as for jury duty. These reluctant amateurs would bring their own strengths and weaknesses to the table, but their very reluctance might result in some genuine ‘…government of the people, for the people, by the people’.

Human beings won’t change, ever. That’s why we have to devise better systems to make it possible for this disparate tribe to live together in mutual protection and safety.

Only by understanding and working around our own weaknesses can we avoid going the way of the dinosaur and the dodo.

May 2018 be a better year than 2017.

Meeks


Lest I forget – Thursday, December 7, 2017

I’m hopeless with dates so I wanted to commemorate the day on which marriage equality became law, here in Australia. I’m so proud. 🙂

-hugs-

Meeks


Elon Musk wins his bet in South Australia!

As a long time fan of renewable energy, the latest news about Elon Musk fills me with glee. He bet that he could install a megabattery in South Australia in 100 days, and he’s come in ahead of schedule!

The story began last year when South Australia suffered a massive storm that destroyed infrastructure meant to allow Australian states to ‘share’ energy on a huge network. Due to some market manipulation on pricing, and a toothless watchdog asleep at its post [yes, AEMO I’m looking at you] South Australia suffered crippling blackouts, off and on, for weeks.

As the South Australia government is Labor and had invested heavily in wind farms, the Liberals in the national government went on a renewable energy bashing spree without offering up one, single practical solution. And then Elon Musk spoke up and shamed them all. He said that he could create a mammoth battery capable of storing the energy from the wind farms until needed. Then he bet the cost of the battery – $50 million dollars – that he could make good on his promise in 100 days. If he lost, he would carry the cost of the project.

Well guess what? -big grin- South Australia has a $50 million dollar bill to pay!

More importantly, all the dinosaurs in our government advocating for dirty coal power stations have been silenced, at least for a while.

You can read the whole story here:

https://futurism.com/elon-musk-megabattery-australia/

Today really has been a good day. Thank you, Elon Musk. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


A Proud Australian

Yesterday marked a special day in Australia. We voted ‘Yes’ to equality and a fair go. And we voted ‘no’ to bigotry.

As a nation, that’s cause for celebration, but the moment would have tasted even sweeter if it had marked the day marriage equality came into law.

Because it’s not there yet. This postal vote was not compulsory. It was also not binding. That means the politicians in Canberra can dick about forever and a day, delaying the inevitable just to pander to party factions. The result of the vote had barely been made public and already a Rabid Right politician was spruiking a marriage equality bill that would grant the right to marriage but would also water down anti-discrimination laws already in place!

I hope the Rabid Right enjoys its moment in the sun, because if they mess this up, none of the Liberals will stay in power for much longer. That is the one lesson none of our politicians seem to have learned. I guess they still think the political see-saw of the last few years is just an abberation. But it’s not. Parliament is full of Independents because we, the people, no longer trust the two major parties.

Malcolm Turnbull, our PM, has said he will make marriage equality a reality by Christmas. I hope that reality does not include the right for others to discriminate against gay couples, because reneging on the clear wishes of we, the people, will sound the death knell for his whole party.

cheers

Meeks

 


10 things that marriage equality won’t do

A co-worker brought in a pamphlet yesterday. The heading read ‘3 ways gay marriage will change the classroom’. And I quote

More radical gay & lesbian sex ‘education’ programs in schools‘ like Safe Schools which ‘..already teach kids about various forms of sexual activity and encourages sexual experimentation from an early age‘.

Kids will be taught their gender is fluid‘…’something they choose, not something they are born with‘.

Loss of parents’ rights‘. ‘In other countries where gay marriage has been legalised, parents have found themselves in court after trying to pull their kids out of radical gay sex education classes‘.

We were all gobsmacked at the ignorance and blatant disregard for the truth. So here are some things that won’t happen when marriage equality is finally made law:

1.  Heterosexual kids will not suddenly become gay. Homosexuality is not a choice.

2.  Heterosexual kids will not suddenly become lesbian. Homosexuality is not a choice.

3.  Heterosexual kids will not suddenly become trans. Being transgender is not a choice.

4.  Kids in general will not be any more or less interested in sex than they are now. But kids who are taught that being gay, lesbian or trans is not ‘bad’ may become a little more tolerant. They may stop hounding kids who look or act ‘different’. And gay, lesbian or trans kids who struggle to make sense of their feelings and their place in the world may stop harming themselves and taking their own lives.

5.  Parents will not lose any of the ‘rights’ they have now. They will still be free to place their children in public or private schools according to their beliefs. They will also continue to have the right to homeschool their children.

6.  Religious institutions that allowed systemic child abuse to continue for decades will continue to marry or not marry people based on church dogma.

7.  Adults who disliked gay, lesbian or trans people before marriage equality can continue to dislike them afterwards. Marriage equality is powerless to stop prejudice and bigotry.

8.  Marriage equality will not harm any straight people.

9.  Marriage equality will not take anything away from straight people.

10.  Marriage equality is not the start of a slippery slope that will ruin Australia.

These are the countries that have already legalised marriage equality:

This list includes deeply religious countries like Spain, Portugal and Ireland. The sky didn’t fall in and nothing terrible happened.

Nothing terrible will happen here either. Life will continue the way it always has, but there may come a time when kids who are different can stand tall and live happy, productive lives instead of being bullied to death like Kenneth James Weishuhn. Rest in peace.

Vote Yes

Meeks


Dear Mr Turnbull – India is leaving us behind

Originally posted on Climate Denial Crock of the Week: India charging ahead on renewables. Vying with China for global leadership in the growth industry of the new century. Meanwhile, Washington looks longingly to the 19th century. Watch for new video on this topic coming very soon. Meanwhile, Denmark has decided to offload oil interests, and…

via As US Dithers, World Charges Ahead to Renewables — Die Erste Eslarner Zeitung – Aus und über Eslarn, sowie die bayerisch-tschechische Region!

India is surging ahead with renewables because the India government recognizes that renewables will be cheaper in the long run than fossil fuels. China is doing the same, and both countries are positioned to become the power houses of industry in the coming decades.

But where does that leave Australia? Fumbling in the dark, that’s where. We could have become world leaders in solar technology, but the lack of political vision and will sent our innovative companies offshore, and now we import the technology from…China.

All that potential, wasted, because our politicians are ‘scared’ of upsetting the apple cart. So instead of leading, we follow, and in the process, we get left further and further behind.

Ten years ago, the Australia people voted with their wallets when they installed record numbers of rooftop solar panels. But instead of rewarding us, successive governments have tried to slow or stop small scale solar altogether.

And then there’s Adani…taxpayer dollars to fund the hope of short term gain. Pathetic.

Meeks


UBI – Universal Basic Income

The difference between a social welfare handout and a universal basic income is that the former is seen as a handout to the hopeless while the latter is an acknowledgement that the jobs provided by the industrial revolution are fast disappearing. And they’re not coming back.

https://futurism.com/new-report-claims-ubi-would-grow-the-u-s-economy-by-2-5-trillion/

The interesting thing about this article from Futurism is that it suggests a UBI might actually be good for the economy itself, not just for the people displaced by technology.

As a recipient of social welfare myself, I believe that the jobs of the future will be small scale and entrepreneurial. People will provide services to each other based on a local need. In a way, this is exactly what companies like AirBnB and Uber are already doing. In twenty years time though, social media may allow me to request a homemade cake for my birthday and have it baked and delivered by my neighbour down the road.

Such micro-transations could add up to trillions of dollars if everyone did it. But everyone can’t do it [now] because of two things:

  • lots of red tape associated with being a small trader,
  • and a social welfare system that is punitive rather than supportive

I can’t see a UBI being introduced any time soon because the political mindset is simply not there. Politicians have to stop thinking of their citizens as a drain on the government purse before any true change can occur. But at least the idea is gaining ground, if slowly.

cheers

Meeks


The Case For Compulsory Voting …

We take democracy for granted at our peril. It’s actually a fragile thing, and like a good relationship, you have to work at it.

Filosofa's Word

There are a number of reasons that we in the U.S. find ourselves with a madman at the helm.  Certainly, the Russian connection played a role, though it remains to be seen just how much of a role.  James Comey, perhaps pressured by another, played a role.  Voter laws that disenfranchised members of certain groups had a role.  But perhaps the largest reason was voter apathy … many were simply too lazy or too disgusted with both candidates to take an hour out of their year to go vote.

Only about 25% of eligible voters voted for Donald Trump.  Let that one sink in for a moment.  About ¼ of citizens over the age of 18 voted for Trump, yet he now sits in the Oval Office.  Voter turnout in the 2016 election was only around 55%.* Barely half of all those who had the opportunity to…

View original post 988 more words


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