27 Oct 2019

Just who has the most covert influence in Australia?

The attention being given to possible covert influence being exercised by China in Australia shouldn’t distract us from recognising that very overt foreign influence now occurs through investment.

Right now US corporations eclipse everyone else in their ability to influence our politics, through their investments in Australian stocks.
Using company ownership data from Bloomberg, I analysed the ownership of Australia’s 20 biggest companies a few days after the 2019 federal election in May. Of those 20, 15 were majority-owned by US-based investors. Three more were at least 25% US-owned.

Our big banks are majority-owned by American investors. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation’s biggest company, is more than 60% owned by American-based investors.
So too are Woolworths and Rio Tinto. BHP, once known as “the Big Australian”, is 73% owned by American-based investors.

17 Aug 2019

In America fear is a big time driver of gun sales

The mural on the side of the gun store proclaims: “A Savior is Born.” There’s a manger scene below the star of Bethlehem and windows festooned with red, white and blue bunting. And above it all a looming AR-15 assault rifle spewing fire. Yet inside Gun Central on Sunday, barely 24 hours after a terrorist gunman killed 22 people and wounded dozens of others in a local Walmart, the expected white Christian nationalists defending the second amendment were not there. Instead there were terrified El Pasoans, mostly Hispanic, buying firearms for the first time.
The scene on Sunday at Gun Central, located along Interstate 10 and two miles from where bodies are still being recovered, was more reminiscent of Black Friday than the wake of a national tragedy. People crowded shoulder to shoulder to consult with harried employees, pondering over pistols and assault rifles, banana clips and ammo. Others lined up for their turn inside the store’s indoor shooting range. Staccato gunfire thundered behind the thin walls.
“I’m on high alert,” said April Sanchez, a marketing executive who along with her husband was buying her first weapon. “I never thought I’d carry a gun, but now I want something to defend myself, to defend my fellow El Pasoans.” To that end she picked out a 9mm Taurus and her husband a .40 Ruger; their son had purchased his first handgun the previous evening. They sat near a Coke machine with several others awaiting their background checks. Before that day, Sanchez had never even held a gun. Now she’s registering for classes that will allow her to legally carry her firearm in public.
“This isn’t something I’m proud of,” she added. “It makes me sad and angry that I’m even here. I’m heartbroken, but I’m also afraid.”

Gun Central in El Paso.

Truth hurts if your to secretive

Image result for truth and secrecy
Based on an article by Laura Tingle

Recognising this, there is talk within the government of a shift in gear to deal with whistleblowers and journalists, and secrecy generally, in future.
The idea is what might be called a graded regime of leaking sins to better guide the wallopers of the Australian Federal Police who have been left carrying the can for the heavy handed nature of the most recent raids.
That is, much clearer guidance to the police about just how far and hard they go in pursuing leaks(sometimes referred to as truthfulness)  , and also greater emphasis on the idea that it is the leakers, rather than the journalists, who are in the law enforcement agencies’ sights.
The clear hope is that such a regime will reduce the pressure from media organisations. But it shouldn’t.
Journalists and news organisations should have as much, if not more, interest in protecting whistleblowers as they have in protecting their own interests.

27 Jun 2019

Refugees desperation in plain sight after Australian election.

The Newyork Times
A refugee center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.  Aziz Abdul/Australian Associated Press, via Associated Press

Despair spikes in Australia’s detention centers

Since May 18, when Australians returned to power a conservative government that has taken a hard line on immigration, there have been dozens of suicide attempts at the country’s offshore detention centers. Warning: The following content might be disturbing.
The government maintains that its strict policy, which bars settlement for migrants who reach the country by sea, has worked and fewer boats are showing up than a decade ago. But for those held at the refugee centers on the islands of Manus and Nauru, the recent election represented a loss of hope for change.
Details: The Times worked with human rights groups to create a rough timeline of events since the election. Within the first 48 hours of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s re-election, there were six suicide attempts in Manus. By June 26, the number of suicide attempts approached 100.
Quotable: “It was grim when I visited nearly two years ago to write about the situation,” reports our Australia bureau chief, Damien Cave. “Now, it’s worse. Every few days, it seems, a new instance emerges of people cutting themselves, setting themselves on fire or trying to harm themselves in some other way.”

21 Jun 2019

Australian Treasury 2012 mission statement. Then came Abbott and out went this statement!

Excerpt from the CQNVERSATION

Once were innovators

For decades Australia’s treasury has put these words at the heart of its mission statement:
to improve the well-being of the Australian people

10 Jun 2019

Frightening step towards a police state and we are blindly letting it happen in the name of security.

The book is by veteran journalist Brian Toohey, and reflects his half century of writing about defence and national security issues.
Toohey says that:
"step by step, a succession of new laws and policies have provided the building blocks for Australia to become a country in which secretive officials and ministers wield unprecedented levels of peacetime power".
No major political party, he argues, is:
"offering to restore the values of an earlier era in which habeas corpus prevailed; the onus of proof was on the prosecution; the accused was allowed to see the evidence relied on by the Crown; and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation officials could not legally kidnap people or raid a lawyer's offices and seize documents in a commercial case directly involving the Government on the other side.
"No major party seems bothered by the use of new surveillance technology that allows governments to detect contact between journalists and their sources, effectively denying whistleblowers the opportunity to reveal abuses of power and criminal behaviour."
This (slightly hysterical) culture built around national security is the really important issue at stake in this week's raids, even more than the raids themselves and the threat they pose to journalism.

30 May 2019

Homelessness and the press.

Image result for homelessness

The roles of the law and the media

Why is the association of homelessness and crime so strong? There are two main factors.

First, many behaviours made necessary by homelessness are criminalised. Simply trying to survive puts people who are experiencing homelessness in direct contact with the criminal justice system.

In Victoria, for example, begging is a criminal offence. Other laws that unfairly target the homeless include indecent exposure laws, which result in homeless people being arrested for going to the toilet or washing themselves in public (because they lack the option to do so in private).

The second factor is the persistent linking of homelessness and crime in the media.

News stories proliferate in the tabloid media about aggressive beggars, foreign backpackers pretending to be homeless to make money and people who exploit their pets as they beg for donations.

Coverage of the homeless camp at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne during the 2017 Australian Open tennis tournament routinely described inhabitants as drug dealers, criminals and professional troublemakers.

Being homeless means being vulnerable it does not mean they are all criminals!

19 May 2019

The election "KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID" wins the day.

Image result for keep it simple stupid

The election "KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID" wins the day.

Summing up: The why of the election results comes down to one reason. If you give the opposing side several large targets you open the door on fear and people will play it safe.

Personalities had little to do with result. The why of the election result comes down to one reason. If you give the opposing side many targets they are bound to hit some of them.

Personalities I believe had little to do with result.

The agenda of the Labor party though based on sound policies was too broad. Once the Labor party has been in the wilderness(opposition) for a few terms, they unfortunately fall in to the same trap as their predecessors, their whole wish list becomes their agenda.

It's not that the electorate is stupid, if you open  many doors to rooms full of complicated equipment, they all require an explanation of how each piece of equipment works.

An election campaign is not the ideal time to be opening a party up to a wide ranging inquisition.

The LNP government was is given a free kick, they didn't have to defend all this complicated machinery, all they had to do, was "KEEP IT SMIPLE STUPID".

 And guess what, they did just that, it wasn't rocket science.

The journalists and pollsters including myself got lost in hullabaloo. Now in the light of day it was bloody obvious once the campaign was underway. 

16 May 2019

Are many of our news providers broken. Once lost can integrity come back?

Based on an article in The Conversation

Image result for Truth in newspapers cartoon
Dirt is not journalism its the death of ethics.

Print media is flawed because its business model is broken, and in its desperate effort to attract attention its bias toward drama and conflict is all-consuming. The Daily Telegraph’s front page attack on Bill Shorten’s comments about his mother was telling, not for its cruelty but for what it said about that newspaper’s insatiable hunger for gotcha journalism. When the combatants can’t or won’t provide a rough approximation of reality-TV entertainment, it has long been a standard modus operandi to get creative.

Television is also a flawed medium for conveying reliable information in detail. TV news is dominated by images, which during a campaign are tightly controlled by political operatives. TV panel shows are often fact-free and full of hot air. Social media is full of anger, fake news, misinformation and outright lies, an information wild-west without a Sheriff in sight. Radio can handle some detail, but it too is often a theatre of conflict as "entertainment".

Image result for wage theft cartoon

The introduction of a tribunal for unpaid wage and entitlement claims could be a game-changer for underpaid workers in Australia, according to legal experts.
Labor leader Bill Shorten announced the move on Wednesday saying “we’ve seen too many examples of systemic wage theft but lengthy and costly court proceedings prevent and deter workers from recovering wage underpayments”.

The plan would see a new tribunal attached to the Fair Work Commission that workers could call on to investigate their complaints.

“It’s an excellent idea,” said Giri Sivaraman, employment law principal at lawyers Maurice Blackburn. “At the moment, if a worker wants to pursue a breach of award they have to go to the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court which is slow and costly.

“The tribunal would be fast and practical, more industrial and less legal [because it would be attached to the existing Fair Work Commission],” Mr Sivaraman said.

Bassina Farbenblum, a law lecturer at the University of NSW, said the proposed tribunal could dramatically affect wages law enforcement.

“A key element would be that it’s cheap and easy to access and assists workers in putting claims together.

 This would be a game-changer for vulnerable workers

7 May 2019

How one article became Fake news.

Image result for truth in politics is a lie quotes

Releasing a story and deliberately leaving out the truth and timing of this article completes the Fake cycle. This is just another example, this is about the ALP but it could be about any member of parliament. Integrity is the first casualty in an election campaign and it reinforces our lack of faith in members of parliament

The integrity of Australia’s electoral processes is under unprecedented challenge in this federal election.

The campaign has already been marred by fake news, political exploitation of social media falsehoods and amplification by mainstream media of crude slurs made on Facebook under the cover of anonymity.

We have seen our first recorded instance of Facebook running Australian fake news.

It was a false post about the Labor Party’s tax policies, wrongly saying Labor intended to introduce a 40% inheritance tax.

It was interesting to trace how this fakery was created.

The false post had a link to a press release issued in January by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

It said Labor’s assistant treasury spokesman, Andrew Leigh, had written an article 13 years ago – when he was an academic – that favoured introducing an inheritance tax. Thirteen years ago – before he was even in politics.

Barnaby Joyce, a wombat or just a bloke down on his luck?

A new leader with different habits?
Image result for National Party a wombat cartoon
A wombat eats roots and leaves

Each election, the National Party leader hits the hustings on the 'wombat trail', traversing key rural and regional seats across the country.

Theories differ as to why the campaign is named after a chubby marsupial, but the preferred explanation is that, like a wombat, Nats leaders have traditionally ambled about on slower, older planes in electorates off the beaten track.

Some Nationals have also joked about how a wombat "eats roots and leaves", but these days they'd rather let that one lie.

This election, Michael McCormack is the Nationals leader.

We hear about efficiency all the time, however its never mentioned when we talk about Democracy, maybe its time!

Image result for don't fix it if it ain't broke

Australia was once a world leader in democratic innovation — from the pursuit of an eight-hour work day in the 1850s to the suffragette movement in the 1890s — but now, have we lost our way?

Here are the 15 ideas we want the winner of the May 18 election to pursue:
  1. Review of parliamentary terms to provide more certainty and improve government decision-making.
  2. Appoint a genuinely independent Speaker of the House and President of the Senate.
  3. Trial changes to seating arrangements in parliament to encourage more civility and constructive dialogue.
  4. Introduce more "free votes" in the parliament through a new parliamentary convention.
  5. Real reform on political donations and campaign financing.
  6. More stringent transparency requirements for political parties.
  7. Trial of AEC-issued candidate information packs that give voters more information about local candidates.
  8. Undertake a process after each election that gives citizens a chance to communicate how we can improve elections.
  9. Commit political parties to the same standards that companies are bound by when they advertise during election campaigns to promote better truth in advertising.
  10. Comprehensive and continual training in policy, ethics and procedures for MPs and ministerial staff.
  11. Commit to stronger regulation of lobbyists.
  12. Independent selection process for senior appointments to the Australian Public Service, the judiciary and major statutory bodies.
  13. Trial a citizen jury that would allow a small representative sample of the community to explore a major national issue in depth.
  14. Lead a national conversation to renew Australian democracy and update the Constitution.
  15. Lead a national conversation about the operation of the Australian Federation.
Report co-author and new Democracy director Iain Walker said it wasn't good enough to say the system was broken if we don't then try to fix it.

1 May 2019

The four years following a budget are "make believe." This allows the gov't to not give any details about how they are going to pay for them.

Politics plays dirty pool when elections are on. The mention of money over ten years is total nonsense. There are no fairies at the bottom the garden. Its like a blind folded man playing darts! 

Image result for election money in Australia cartoon

Playing outside the rules
The short answer is that for the four years following a budget – the so-called “forward-estimates period” – there are rules about banking spending cuts.

During those four years, cuts need to be specified, or economic parameters need to be varied. And with good reason. That way the actual assumptions the government is making, however fanciful they may be, are plain for all to see.

Once beyond the four-year period no such discipline applies. This allows the gov't to make no specific claims about, for example, tax cuts they plan to deliver without having to be at all specific about how they are going to pay for them.

This is all just a conjuring trick. Politicians try to get us to focus on the tangible, specific thing we want – tax cuts, more money for hospital or schools, – while obfuscating how they are going to pay for it.

It’s dirty pool. It’s not cricket. It’s the kind of thing a mob accountant does.

16 Apr 2019

LNP government's heroic estimates. This gives another meaning to "Dream time"

Related image
Also on some truly heroic estimates — over the next four years, for instance, the Government predicts it will save $28 billion on parameter variations?, which essentially means it will pay $28 billion less on stuff like welfare than earlier expected.
One specific clue to this calculation is provided in the document's largest single cut: $2 billion saved by redesigning the way income support recipients report their income. From July 1 next year, recipients will report income in real time, rather than estimating it and being overpaid and then chased for repayment.
The argument will be that it's money that should never have been theirs. But either way, it's less money in the pockets of welfare recipients.
In this environment of global unpredictability we now inhabit, the very idea of forecasting four to ten years into the future feels bizarre.

Fail, fail, fail! Hospital funding by this government and there is no evidence its going to change after election.

Image result for broken Australian hospital system cartoon

Public hospital funding has been a failure for this government.

The Coalition’s 2013 election promise to keep the Labor policy on hospital funding growth was not repeated at the 2016 election. The Commonwealth now funds only 45% of the costs of growth, not 50% as previously promised.

This funding gap – Labor calls it a cut – left the government exposed during last year’s by-elections to charges that it was short-changing local hospitals.

Read more: Public hospital blame game – here's how we got into this funding mess

The claim appeared to gain traction with voters, so we should expect to see a re-run of this tactic in this election. This started with Bill Shorten highlighting the issue in his budget reply speech, promising to “put back every single dollar that the Liberals have cut from public schools and public hospitals”.The Coalition now funds only 45% of hospital funding growth, down from 50%. hxdbzxy/Shutterstock

Despite bribes and threats, the federal government has failed to negotiate hospital funding agreements with Victoria and Queensland.
Together they cover 46% of the population. As a result, those states are at risk of being left in a funding limbo when the current arrangements expire on June 30, 2020.

3 Apr 2019

Time Australians had truly transparent government.

Related image

Commercial-in-confidence and other mechanisms to hide details are wheeled out all to often and they forget, its our money!

But so does another: the idea of government as regular, principled, ethical and fair to all comers. On paper, modern public administration – and bulwarks of it such as the Financial Management Act – are based on notions of open and transparent dealings with all comers, probity, honesty and integrity.

It is not always the fault of bureaucrats, but increasingly, actual administration seems to involve a plethora of “one-off” deals with single businesses, and a significant decline in accountability. There is rhetoric about open government and about the transparency of decision-making.

Against this comes evidence of paranoia about government secrecy and the use of commercial-in-confidence and other mechanisms to hide details of an ever-larger interface between government and business.

Dealing with this is not merely a matter of having crime and integrity commissions, or codes of conduct, necessary as these are. To get better, more efficient and more credible government we need a serious attack on political cronyism and on the power of insiders and special interests in government.

We also need fresh controls on deals and arrangements that for one reason or another are outside the general conventions. Vast sums of public money are being doled out, without effective tender, transparency, contest, or debate, to mates, party donors, chancers and big business and developers.

It is doubtful whether the public is getting the better of most of these transactions.

We need a serious attack on political cronyism and on the power of insiders and special interests in government.

Politicians picking research winners? Rubbish! Leave it to researchers!

Image result for politicians and drug companies picking medicines Cartoon

Funding bodies, such as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to cease.

Is it so politician's can politicise decisions made on research?

The government appears to be moving away from allocating medical research funding through existing funding bodies, such as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), towards politicians?? Allocating research funds to specific disease areas, and even to individual institutions.

This is a much more direct approach to research funding, but it raises a few important questions. On what basis are these funding decisions being made? And why are some diseases considered priorities to receive funding? There is very little detail to answer these questions.

Australia’s allocation of research funding through the MRFF is diverging from long-held traditions in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, which apply the “Haldane principle”. This involves researchers deciding where research funding is spent, rather than politicians.

2 Apr 2019

Wriggling rears for the future of the planet.

Wiggling rears for nature. Protesters say the idiotic parliament haven't a hope in hell of reaching agreement on Brexit. So why not mention climate change, maybe they'll agree on that.

Based on an article by John Crace

Semi-naked protest in Commons was no weirder than anything else that goes on there these days
The people finally got to have their say on the government’s Brexit deal. In parliament, no less. And what they had to say was that they wanted to take almost all their kit off and protest against climate change instead. They reckoned there was more chance of the world’s politicians agreeing on plans to save the planet than anyone coming up with a Brexit solution that the government was prepared to implement. Because they the parliamentarians are to stupid. However, they just may be able to tell if its raining or not raining outside?

25 Mar 2019

Media madness! Not thinking of consequences of their remarks

Image result for shock jock cartoon
So we had an Australian terrorist who's religion is unknown and not mentioned. If this person was a Muslim regardless of his nationality, it would be the only description of him we would have been given by certain shock jocks. The media must wake up!

17 Feb 2019

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM: my attempt with minor changes. Adding 'dream time' might it may help us recognise the original peoples of our land.

Image result for dreamtime serpent paintings


Australians all let us rejoice, this ancient land that sets us free
The dream time is our heritage, it’s what makes us young and free;
 We’ve golden soil and wealth to share, our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts, beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let us strive to Advance Australia Fair.
 In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
 To make this Commonwealth of ours Renowned of all the lands;
 For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share;
 With courage let us all combine To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair