30 March 2015, 12.54pm AEDT
Billy Gordon’s past shouldn’t end the Queensland government
Sacked Queensland Labor MP Billy Gordon has a legal right to remain in parliament and vote, issue-by-issue, as an independent.
Professor of Law at The University of Queensland
Graeme Orr does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
The University of Queensland Provides funding as a Member of The Conversation AU.
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University of Melbourne
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International Feminist Journal of Politics Conference 2015 — Brisbane, Queensland
Annastacia Palaszczuk put her government’s future into doubt when she sacked one of her MPs, Billy Gordon, from the parliamentary party. AAP/Matt Roberts
Multiple bombshells have dropped on the recently minted Queensland Labor government. Billy Gordon, a new Labor MP, faces allegations of violence from his former partner, and revelations of property and probationary offences stemming back to the late 1980s. On Sunday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk moved to expel him from the party and called on him to resign his seat.
Labor, independent Speaker Peter Wellington and the Liberal National Party opposition all appear determined to force Gordon from office, which would generate a byelection in his far-north Queensland electorate of Cook. However, Gordon said he will consider his position after an eye operation on Monday, and stressed his entitlement to “natural justice”. Gordon has a legal right to remain in parliament and vote, issue by issue, as an independent.
Politics trumps law for potential MPs
The federal Senate’s president in the 1940s, Gordon Brown, actually “enjoyed” several stays in Brisbane’s Boggo Road gaol, as a young socialist rabble-rouser. He was proud enough about that to title his memoirs My Descent from Soapbox to Senate.
But in contrast to Gordon, Brown could say his indiscretions not only had political motives, they were hardly secrets.
It’s a little-known fact that a politician can be convicted while in office, and yet remain in parliament. It is little-known because, when it comes to qualifications to be a politician, politics trumps law. It is hard to imagine an MP hanging on while convicted. But the politics of these matters are a curious mix of public interest, ethics and appearances – and brute numbers.
An elected MP’s right to remain in parliament is so strong that any attempt to induce their resignation is the serious crime of bribery. And any attempt, beyond harsh criticism, to intimidate them to resign is the serious parliamentary offence of contempt.
Queensland parliament, unlike the national, does retain an ancient power to expel any MP. It moved to do so in late 2013 against the LNP member for Redcliffe, Scott Driscoll, for numerous counts of knowingly misleading parliament about his pecuniary interests and outside roles. Driscoll resigned before he could be expelled. Gordon has done nothing in his admittedly short time as an MP to make him liable to parliamentary sanction.
Options for reform
All this may strike some voters as odd. Surely Gordon must go? However, Australian parliaments do not have a mechanism, as exists in parts of the United States, where citizens can “recall” an MP. This is overall a good thing, as it would be threatened and misused by parties to keep dissident MPs in line.
Billy Gordon’s political career might be soon after it begun. AAP/Dan Peled
Could we restrict people from nominating for parliament in the first place? Generally, it is not a wise thing to disqualify too many people from standing for parliament. At a national level, we already exclude millions of public servants and dual citizens from standing.
Also, it is very hard to police qualifications. The electoral commission, facing snap elections – such as Queensland’s earlier in 2015 – and during a short campaign, cannot be expected to do background checks.
If parliament is to represent the people, we might actually want MPs with a complete range of life experiences. If Gordon had disclosed his chequered past, he would not have been preselected. He could, perhaps, have had a friend leak some of it to the media, and played the “my past is past, look at me now” card.
Everyone has a legal right to invoke the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. But it is not a good look for someone in public office.
Ultimately, we should let voters have as wide a choice as possible. However, it must be an informed choice. Political opponents and the media usually uncover and hound would-be MPs with skeletons in their closet.
Given Gordon’s political sin is less his chequered past than not disclosing it, a reform option could be to require all candidates to make declarations on certain issues. A false declaration could then be a trigger for the MP in question to vacate their seat.
Monday, 30 March 2015
A coalition of eleven peak organisations from the health and community sectors has today backed Labor’s warning that hundreds of crucial health programs tackling drug and alcohol abuse, chronic disease, communicable diseases and rural health issues are in crisis because of the Abbott Government’s failure to confirm funding.
The Abbott Government slashed $197 million from the Health Department’s Flexible Funding program in the 2014 Budget.
Now, just weeks before funding expires for hundreds of programs that provide vital health services to thousands of patients across the country, the Government has refused to advise them of what, if any, funding they will receive from 1 July.
This mirrors the Abbott Government’s botched handling of mental health programs and services, many of which are also not funded beyond June 30.
These organisations representing agencies running crucial public health programs such as indigenous and rural health, alcohol and drug abuse and anti-smoking have warned the $197m in cuts will reduce crucial health services.
Minister Ley must immediately end the uncertainty by making an announcement on funding, and explaining how demand will be met for services following the $197 million cut.
The flexible funding debacle is yet another example of the chaos and confusion which is a hallmark of this government’s health policy.
This is a government which came to power promising “no cuts to health” and “no new taxes” and then slashed $57 billion out of public hospitals as it persists with plans to slug patients with a 4th version of its disastrous GP Tax.
Australians deserve better than a government which only ever sees health as a source of Budget cuts, and cannot even tell community groups and health organisations if they will even be funded in three months’ time.
The 11 Flexible Funds cut in the 2014 Budget
• Chronic Disease Prevention and Service Improvement Fund
• Communicable Disease Prevention and Service Improvement Grants Fund
• Substance Misuse Prevention and Service Improvement Grants Fund
• Substance Misuse Service Delivery Grants Fund
• Health Social Surveys Fund
• Single Point of Contact for Health Information, Advice and Counselling Fund
• Practice Incentives for General Practices Fund
• Rural Health Outreach Fund
• Health System Capacity Development Fund
• Health Surveillance Fund
• Health Protection Fund
Dumb And Dumber: Top Unis Dump Pyne, Back Big Business And Still Win No Friends
By Max Chalmers
Christopher Pyne didn’t ‘fix it’ after all, but neither did the Go8 Universities, who’ve won no friends despite dumping on Pyne this morning. Max Chalmers reports.
Opponents of Christopher Pyne’s higher education changes are claiming another small victory after the body representing Australia’s most prestigious universities dampened its hearty support for the measures.
The Group of Eight (Go8) has been one of Pyne’s most solid backers, with vice-chancellors from the eight universities regularly coming out to bat when the Minister has faced criticism for the legislation, which will see university course prices uncapped and potentially sky-rocket.
But the back down has done nothing to slow the torrent of criticism directed towards the Go8 from opponents of the government’s agenda.
In a statement on their website the Go8 called for a “de-politicised” review of higher education, “one that involved pre-eminent employer/business groups such as the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Minerals Council of Australia, together with the learned academies”.
The statement made no mention of students, nor the union involvement.
National Tertiary Education Union president Jeannie Rea slammed the body for failing to acknowledged the “massive public opposition” to deregulation, and said the Go8 was “licking its wounds and figuring out how to get another go”.
Rea said the government had produced its legislation before broad consultation had taken place, and should commit to a new green paper.
“I don’t know if we’ll bring everyone on board, but everyone should be involved in the process,” Rea said.
“It’s about time we had a proper, transparent, full discussion in universities with groups of students and staff involved in those.”
Rea also hit out at the Go8 for failing to advocate for the inclusion of unions as well as professional bodies, such as the Australian Medical Association, in such a process.
AMA Vice-President Dr Stephen Parnis noted the Go8 had referred to the inclusion of “learned academies”, but said professional bodies also had “quite a role to play” in higher education policy.
He said the AMA disagreed with the Go8’s position on deregulation and was concerned some medical students could face debts of up to $250,000 if the legislation was passed.
“We think it would bring back the old system where medicine may well only be for those who come from a background of privilege,” Dr Parnas said.
While maintaining in-principle support for deregulation, the Go8 statement acknowledges Pyne’s legislation is likely to fail for a third time, should it go before the Senate again.
Vicki Thomson, Chief Executive of the Go8, told the ABC the group still supported the current package.
“We are saying we support the deregulation package that is before the Senate, we don’t support the range of compromises that may be considered as part of the reform process,” she said.
But in a blow for the Minister, the group expressed concern about alternatives being floated with the hope of luring crossbench support, the only realistic way forward for the legislation.
“The Go8 is concerned that a number of other proposals being floated as solutions do not tackle the core issue of long-term funding satisfactorily,” its statement said.
Greens higher education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said the Go8 should throw its support behind a campaign for increased funding to public universities.
“The Go8 call for the ‘reset button’ to be pressed on higher education should apply to these elite universities themselves, as their actions have done such a disservice to staff, students and other universities,” Rhiannon said in a statement.
“They need to accept much of the responsibility for the policy confusion on higher education that have put students and prospective students and their families under so much pressure.
“It was their solid support that allowed Minister Christopher Pyne to push ahead with his destructive plan for nearly 12 months.”
In an onion piece published by Guardian Australia, Shadow Minister for Higher Education Kim Carr said vice-chancellors had ignored the public and broader university community.
“A university community has always been more than just the vice-chancellor. It includes students, staff and scholars,” Carr wrote.
“The oddity is that participants in the first conversation have acted as though the second did not exist.”
In a separate statement issued today, Carr said Pyne had “been abandoned by the powerful Group of Eight universities – a move that should finally signal an end to his chaotic effort to deregulate university fees”.
The Go8 and Christopher Pyne’s office have both been contacted for comment.
31 March 2015, 10:00am 186 2
The Australian banking sector is dominated by corrupt organisations that also run banks on the side, supported by a craven, supplicant media and political establishment. The bane of bad banks, Dr Evan Jones, reports.
In January 2013, I began an article with the words:
‘The National Australia Bank is a corrupt organisation. It also runs a bank on the side. But running a bank is an essential vehicle for the former – possessing a banking license gives one carte blanche to engage in corrupt practices.’
The statement remains as defensible as ever. The NAB has currently been exposed as running a corrupt “wealth management” division.
The NAB has concurrently been exposed, through its British Clydesdale subsidiary, as imposing on small business (SME) and farmer borrowers unconscionably constructed loan facilities. The facilities, long-term fixed interest rate, were marketed as protecting borrowers against potential rate increases. But the costs and risks of the lender’s hedge (or claimed hedge), ill-explained, were to be borne by the borrower.
With the GFC, official market interest rates plummeted to near zero. The borrowers were on the wrong side of the interest rate “swap” and the “break costs” to the borrower sky-rocketed (caveat emptor said the bank). At the same time, operating conditions became more difficult for business. Clydesdale (along with other banks that had flogged a comparable faulty product) has since engaged in widespread foreclosure and customer asset appropriation.
The NAB has been engaging in unconscionable or fraudulent practices against its SME/farmer customers since at least the mid-1980s. If the NAB is the most consistent malpractitioner, the CBA joins it at the top of the list with intermittent large-scale scams — from the 1980s foreign currency loan imbroglio, to underpinning the Storm Financial managed investment scam and directing the unconscionable foreclosure of hundreds of BankWest customers after its purchase of BankWest from HBOS in late 2008.
However, no bank has a clean record. The second tier has seen what is possible and is mimicking its elders.
Recently, we have been witness to reportage of “incidents”, variously described by bank spokespersons as misadventures, rotten apples, etc. The carnage amongst victimised recipients of “financial planning” advice and unscrupulously constructed “investment portfolios” is now a regular feature of media reporting.
The domain of SMEs/farmers is less well reported, not least because of the complexity of the stories that taxes even the most interrogative of journalists and limited space on allocated media slots.
Fairfax journalist Elizabeth Knight recently commented (with respect to the CBA kickback scandal involving senior IT personnel) that:
‘The larger question that will be asked around this latest banking scandal is the culture of this industry that seems to attract more than its fair share of poor behaviour.’
Quite, to put it mildly and belatedly. The 2004 APRA report on the NAB’s 2003 trading desk scandal highlighted the NAB’s dysfunctional culture. With a change of CEO and Board chairman the NAB promised change, but it continued with business as usual. The APRA report has been taken down from the NAB’s website.
The proximate cause of the scale of investment advisee and SME/farmer casualties is the asymmetry of the bank lender/adviser-customer relationship.
In the former case, the asymmetry is leveraged on the ignorance, naiveté and susceptibility of the would-be retail investor.
In the latter case, the asymmetry is centred on a medium to long-term relationship forged on loan facilities (perennially not fit for purpose) that give the lender near total discretion over the terms of the relationship.
In both cases, the asymmetry is enhanced by the fact that customers come to a bank expecting professionalism (competence and ethical standards, as per visit to a doctor) but are confronted by personnel of a quite different character. The loosening of standards began as early as the late 1960s, continuing during the 1970s.
The root cause of the problem is the uncritical deregulation and privatisation of the financial sector, coupled with a parlous maladministration of the merger provisions of competition law.
Comprehensive deregulation and privatisation were legitimised by the 1981 Campbell Report. Sole emphasis was laid upon the evolving dysfunctionality of the then regulatory structure. Suffused by ideological catechisms, the Campbell Report neglected entirely the history of the finance sector in Australia, leave alone those overseas, which history pointed indubitably to the necessity for a detailed re-regulation of this pivotal sector appropriate to the prevailing environment.
Exposure of corrupt practices during the 1980s led to the diversionary 1991 Martin Inquiry which ultimately legitimised ‘self-regulation’ by the banks in the form of a banking ombudsman and a code of banking practice. The Code has been strategically neutered and the Financial Ombudsman is, with minor pro-victim deliberations, generally in bed with its bank financiers.
So how does it now work in the neglected SME/farmer domain?
A bank will, at its discretion, default a borrower. It calls on a coterie of partners in the enterprise, all corrupted on the drip of bank largesse. Enter the panelled law firms, the valuers, the receivers, selected real estate agents.
All customer assets (including the family home) will have been taken as security, possibly also family assets via guarantees. The defaulted borrower will face litigation penniless. The bank will seek summary judgement for appropriation of customer assets, denying a hearing for borrower counter-claims.
The defaulted customer will face a court not sympathetic to her/his claims, courtesy of an impoverished legal culture rooted in the law of contract, and a judiciary imbued with calculated ignorance and/or complicity with bank lender interests.
It is not improbable that the bank will sell borrower assets under value, manufacture a residual borrower debt, pursue the borrower to bankruptcy and thus ensure that the borrower is denied access to the courts for any counter-claim. The bank will then claim the manufactured bad debt write-off as a tax deduction.
Meanwhile the relevant regulators (especially ASIC) and bureaucracy (especially the federal Treasury) are missing in action. And the political class, save for a handful of uninfluential exceptions, maintain a cowardly silence.
After thirty years of this scam in operation, there is in the hinterland a despair and a fury that is widespread and deep.
The law of the jungle prevails, legitimised by the authorities. It is long overdue that the relevant regulators, bureaucrats and our elected representatives confronted this crisis and earned their pay in reining in this predatory sector.
POSTSCRIPT: MEDIA AND MPS STUDIOUSLY IGNORE BANKING MALPRACTICE
An earlier version of the above article was written and sent to The Age. Melbourne’s premier daily, that paper is headquartered in the Docklands in proximity to the NAB’s headquarters.
There was no reply from the opinion page editor. Conventional courtesies don’t apply for some topics. It was as I predicted.
In 2009, I penned a piece that complemented a (rare) critical editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald, and sent it off to that august newspaper. No reply. I then sent it to The Age, and thence to The Australian as a test. Ditto. No point even bothering with the Fin Review (which, in a less bigoted era, used to publish me). The article was eventually put on line here.
Whatever nasty things about banks that Fairfax and Murdoch allow in their business pages, they will not tolerate critical opinion on this subject on their opinion pages. Fairfax even censors critical comments on bank-related articles. The print media is thus part of the problem.
The Canberra Times has been an exception. Courtesy of an independent editor, my first article on bank malpractice in Australia was published in November 2001. Courtesy of that editor’s longevity in the post, my ten-year revisiting of the same subject was published in November 2011.
In that article I noted:
‘This [adverse] environment [that tolerates widespread bank malpractice] has been facilitated by comprehensive indifference to bank practices by borrower representative bodies, regulatory authorities and political parties.’
Canberra being the nation’s capital, one might have expected that the odd relevant regulator, bureaucrat or member of Parliament might stir from their indifference. Not a murmur.
The current article above concludes with a plea to the authorities:
‘It is long overdue that the relevant regulators, bureaucrats and our elected representatives confronted the crisis and earned their pay in reining in this predatory sector.’
Similarly, my 2011 article, just cited, concludes with:
‘It is long overdue that those in political authority confronted that bank malpractice is systemic, and that they acquire some moral fibre in addressing this continuing scandal.’
Long overdue indeed. Which repetition points ineluctably to such sentiments being motherhood statements, wishful thinking, rubbish. No matter how cogent one’s analysis of some structural disorder in society and so on, there is the felt imperative to offset such pessimistic ramblings on an upbeat note. Ergo – something should be done about it, and pronto!
Thus can even those rationally given to pessimism be left, if momentarily, in a state of repose. More, and more unjustly, the ruse attempts to sell the readership on that heart-warming solution just around the corner.
It is dishonesty and the upbeat sentiments are a lie.
In my November 2009 article, I concluded with:
‘Hell will freeze over before either major Party initiates a serious inquiry into the power and culture of the banking establishment.’
Ah, the truth for once. No wonder no self-serving member of the mainstream media would publish that article.
In the Australian banking sector, the rot is profound. As a collaborator notes, the banking sector pursues profit at all costs, by legal or illegal means. The only thing that constrains this sector in that pursuit is its incompetence.
The corruption within the banking sector has been facilitated by and, in turn, entrenches widespread corruption in the entire economy and polity. Each bank victim experiences the depth of corruption in their own particular way but, typically, they cannot find a sympathetic ear anywhere.
And remember that the financial predator has left the victim penniless and helpless, additionally devastated by confronting the reality of how this country actually functions and the divergence of that reality from the myths encapsulated in what is curiously called ‘the rule of law’.
If you imagined that this state of affairs might receive some exposure in the university syllabus, repository of wisdom for the next generation of professionals, you would be wrong. This state of affairs is not covered, least of all in banking law classes. It is invisible. Anybody who claims then that this deep and widespread state of corruption exists cannot be taken seriously. And they aren’t.
Given that the authorities have legitimated the law of the jungle, is it not possible that the odd bank victim, and/or their supporters, might take the rules of the game to heart? I have heard of one bank victim, grievously taken to the cleaners first by a major bank and subsequently by a corrupt Appeal Court judgement in favour of the bank, who (with previous aviation experience, and in war-time) had contemplated, in desperation, flying a plane into said bank headquarters. A partial settlement for the victim’s loss, belatedly and pragmatically arranged, returned that unsavoury spectacle to the realm of fantasy. This victim lost 14 years of his life between being sold a poisonous facility and the receipt of the partial settlement.
When the sheriff, accompanied by security thugs, with blackguard receivers in tow, arrives unheralded at the farm gate to change the locks on a property that has been in the family for generations, is a violent reaction from the soon-to-be dispossessed not an possibility?
A minor hope on the horizon? Labor Senator Sam Dastyari is now chairman of the Senate Economics Committee. That same Committee has only recently produced reports that were generally to comprehensively gutless in their avoidance of the systemic character of the problem before them. To wit, the Inquiry into the Post-GFC Banking Sector, November 2012, and the Inquiry into the Performance of ASIC, June 2014.
Dastyari is making the right noises. He has even, remarkably, travelled to the UK to dig deeper in the scandal surrounding the NAB’s Clydesdale subsidiary.
This is a promising development. But note that Dastyari is in Opposition. Parliamentarians perennially make loud noises when in Opposition but return to silence or even support for the odious status quo when in government.
Many victims have been calling for a Royal Commission into the banking sector. The call has received the support of National Party Senator John Williams, albeit with his own Party colleagues in hiding. Relevant Ministers amongst Williams’ Coalition partners (Joe Hockey, Arthur Sinodinos, Matthias Cormann, Josh Frydenberg) have been resolutely opposed to any action that would mitigate bank power. Labor in office has proved equally abject.
As noted, Hell will freeze over … has Dastyari read the script? We will know for sure very quickly indeed.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
“We need to abolish the IRS and make the tax code fairer, flatter, and simple enough that taxes fit on a postcard.”
Ted Cruz, Republican Presidential Candidate.
“…our current tax system, which was designed before the 1950s, is ill-suited to the 2050s.
“As a result of changes driven by globalisation and the rise of the digital economy, Australia’s heavy reliance on income taxes may be unsustainable. This over-reliance is projected to increase further, largely as a result of wages growth leading to individuals paying higher average rates of tax or so-called bracket creep.”
Joe Hockey, Treasurer of Australia (and certainly not for sale, nor even for hire)
Well, we’ve moved the discussion to taxation.
And everything it seems is “on the table”. Last year, I remember Scott Morrison saying in interview that when it came to asylum seekers the current government had taken the “sugar off the table”. I remember it because he said it more times than he used the phrase “illegal immigrants”.
By the way, when are these people who have done something “illegal” going to face trial, or do the Liberals believe that people can be held indefinitely without trial. (Yes, yes, silly me, I’m forgetting David Hicks who was held because well, they had to hold him without trial because – according to Mr Howard – he hadn’t actually broken any laws, so clearly these “illegals” have no right to expect any sort of trial – fair or otherwise. I suspect the reason may be that they too haven’t broken any laws, but that’s just a technicality. Sort of like the technicality where Hicks was recently cleared of the charges!)
But we need to forget about those people in detention – I mean, it’s not like there was any march in prostest on the weekend because there certainly was no reporting of it in “The Herald-Sun” – and have a chat about taxation. And everything is on the table. Just some bits are at the far end, and out of reach, like trying to extract more tax from multinationals or miners or people illegally avoiding it with dodgy schemes. The GST, on the other hand, is only out of slightly out of reach and if Mr Hockey remembers his table manners and says, “Would you pass the GST, please” to the Labor Party, he may have some success. Of course, he won’t say that until the Labor Party have told him that they’re interested in moving the GST, so I suspect that one’s going nowhere until after the election.
Of course, Mr Hockey is making some fairly interesting claims at the moment. Take last night on “The Project” where he said: “I got up at 5am yesterday morning and grabbed whatever looks long…”, before moving onto his assertion that people don’t pay GST on goods bought online from overseas. Mm, I seem to remember Gerry Harvey getting all hot under the collar because goods under $1000 bought online overseas didn’t attract GST, but apparently Mr Hockey seems to think that it’s all goods. And he should know because he’s Treasurer.
(No, really, Mr Hockey is the Treasurer. Ok, I know that it may be easier to believer the Christopher Pyne is an alien who is going to have babies with Ruby Wax – see Q&A, if that makes me sound like I’m on drugs.)
So is Mr Hockey talking about the law here, or is he suggesting that there’s a lot of non-compliance with the law? Surely, the solution then is not to say that people are illegally not paying their fair share of tax. I mean, would they do that if it was discovered some large company wasn’t paying the tax that the law required them to?
Oh sorry, I keep forgetting what year this is and who’s in power…
But anyway, in a moment that reminded me of the Tea Party’s desire to abotion the US’s Internal Revenue Service, one of the more interesting things I read about company tax was the idea that small business could pay “close to zero company tax”, but thay’d have to forgo certain things and maybe I read this wrong, but they included: “industry-specific tax breaks and broader concessions such as capital gains tax”. Mm, I can’t see how if you’re paying zero tax that forgoing a tax break is going to be a big problem. As for the concessions on capital gains tax, well for most small businesses that’s a long way down the track and may never eventuate.
I’m wondering if I should go to an accountant who’ll advice me how to become a small business, so I can tell any employer that, in future, I’m no longer an employee, I’m a company and therefore they can just pay my company and there’s no need for PAYG tax to be taken out of my pay… I mean, invoice. Ah, but surely such a thing would be illegal.
Yes, we do need to have a serious look at taxation, and we need to stop the petty political point-scoring. However, one of the concerns in the paper today is an article that tells us by next year, the “average” worker will slip into the second top taxation bracket. Let’s just ignore the fact that it’ll ony be the few dollars above $80,000 that are taxed at this rate. Let’s ignore that one of our problems for the Budget is lower revenue. No, let’s focus on something that’ll make the average voter say that it’s outrageous and that I pay far too much tax. Let’s not – even with everything on the table – say, “Well, maybe this is only bad because we need to have a higher rate of tax for those earning extremely large incomes.” (Yes, I agree that there are probably more equitable ways of raising revenue… Maybe higher taxes on really successful mining companies… Or a tax on carbon emissions.) No, let’s have an article that feeds into the perception that we’re paying too much tax.
But before I join in the mature debate and actually consider whether there’s any equitable way to increas the GST (settle down, I only said consider it. I’m trying to keep an open mind here!), I do have to wonder that nobody is reminding the Liberals of John Howard’s promise that the GST would never rise. No, I don’t mean the one where he said that it would “never, ever” be introduced. As he explained, “never, ever” only means till the next election. No, I mean the one where he announced all these safeguards like the fact that ALL the states had to agree for there to be a rise. This – like that economic genius, Peter Costello decision to sell our gold reserves at bargain prices – doesn’t seem to be receiving much attention.
Or did that safeguard disappear after the election too?
Despite being “Australia’s most-read columnist”, it’s usually not worth giving too much thought or attention to the work of Andrew Bolt. At some point, most Australians realise he’s just a thing you have to begrudgingly put up with, like rogue glitter after a kid’s birthday party or an impulsive henna tattoo. Sure, in an ideal world, these things wouldn’t exist, but for now we’ll just have to ignore them until they go away.
But sometimes, in his incessant and never-ending deluge of daily jingoisms and smug eyebrow-raises miraculously presented in the form of words, Bolt will deliver something that simply cannot be ignored. Sometimes this is because he’s breached the Racial Discrimination Act with an insensitive column named after a track from Huey Lewis and the News, but sometimes it’s a something a little more subtle.
Published in this morning’s Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, Courier Mail and Advertiser, Andrew Bolt’s latest column is a tirade against the scourge of bias in the Australian media.
“This cannot go on, not in a healthy democracy,” he said, as self-appointed moral authority on the issue.
In case you were wondering the “this” in that sentence is the media being critical of the government and no, nowhere in his full 800 words on the matter does he mention a single News Corp publication.
Instead, today’s column entitled ‘Bias Against PM Is Truly Sickening’ took aim at the ABC.
Though often faced with allegations of left-wing bias, the organisation was this week in the spotlight for a few specific moments that may have broken the station’s guidelines. Most notably this included an interview with Joe Hockey from last year.
The segment with Walkley Award-winning journalist Sarah Ferguson has been put under review, with former Fairfax journo Colleen Ryan deciding it “could have been interpreted by some viewers to be a potential breach of the ABC’s impartiality guidelines” due to Ferguson’s “emotive” tone. But most in the industry, from the ABC and otherwise, have denounced the review’s findings, arguing they are potentially detrimental to the state of journalism at large. Many believe we should instead be celebrating Ferguson’s hard-hitting style of questioning.
I mean, who starts an interview by asking “[if] it’s liberating for a politician to decide that election promises don’t matter”? A goddamned boss, that’s who.
But, though Bolt’s colleagues like fellow Herald Sun columnist Laurie Oakes and The Australian‘s controversial media editor Sharri Markson, have spoken out against the review and openly praised the ABC reporter in question, Andrew Bolt has decided he should be the one to tell Australia the truth.
“The ABC is trying to destroy Tony Abbott,” Bolt said, in what I assume is the same voice as Chris Crocker used when asking people to “Leave Britney Alone” . “Its bias — actually unlawful — has never been so ruthless.”
The piece then runs through the instances of potential bias that were outlined by the ABC-commissioned review including Ferguson’s interview, a similar line of questioning from Emma Alberici on Lateline, and segments on both 7.30 and The Drum that supposedly didn’t give enough spotlight to conservative viewpoints. Of course, he then goes on to say the same about Insiders, John Faine, Tony Jones, and anyone else who dared to criticise Abbott after the “tiny cuts [he made] to the ABC’s bloated budget”.
In case you missed the controversy about those “tiny cuts” which were made to the ABC, here’s a very objective re-enactment:
Bolt explains the stretch of this treachery by describing the ABC as “the country’s biggest media monolith … with four TV stations, five radio stations, an online newspaper and a publishing house”. At one point he casually personifies it as a hideous sea monster by speaking of the personal Twitter accounts of triple j reporters as its “tentacles”.
This is of course stated with no mention of the fact that Bolt’s long-time employer News Corp Australia currently owns two national, 15 metro and eight regional newspapers, five sports titles, five business publications, 21 local titles, and 39 lifestyle magazines; not to mention its larger overseas players in the film and television industries including Twentieth Century Fox and Fox Broadcasting Company.
But hey, he probably deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Andrew Bolt is a tireless warrior for objectivity and sensitivity.
Andrew Bolt is a respected professional.
Andrew Bolt is so respected that the PM even calls him “a friend”!
Andrew Bolt is the hard-hitting journalist this great nation needs.
And while many have jumped on his piece as a ridiculous example of blatant hypocrisy or an inadvisable oversight, I have an alternative idea.
Wouldn’t it be better if this were some kind of vast and elaborate Clickhole-style take on the nature of the media at large? Wouldn’t it be a relief if Andrew Bolt turned around and admitted he actually believes in climate change and the stolen generations? It’s all okay! He was just punking us like a bored genius conducting a long and elaborate social experiment!
If so, I’m calling it: The Herald Sun is the best satirical publication in the country
Global sea levels to rise more rapidly as Antarctic ice melt accelerates
Climate News Network 30 March 2015, 10:15am 333 4
A new scientific study in the U.S. shows that the volume of Antarctic shelf ice is diminishing at an accelerated rate, reports Tim Radford from Climate News Network.
SCIENTISTS IN the U.S. report that the volume of Antarctic shelf ice is diminishing, and that there has been an 18 per cent shrinkage in the mass of some ice floating on coastal waters over the last 18 years.
And because much of the loss has been off West Antarctica, where shelf ice helps to keep the ice sheet stable, it could mean that global sea levels will rise even faster as a result of increased glacial flow into the ocean.
The findings once again raise concern about the link between man-made emissions of greenhouse gases and the dangerous new world of global warming, climate change and sea level rise.
Fernando Paolo, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues report in the journal Science that they used continuous radar altimetry measurements – taken from three European Space Agency satellites between 1994 and 2012 – to compose a high-resolution record of shelf ice thickness.
Melting glaciers Antarctic
They found that the total volume of shelf ice – the thickness multiplied by the shelf area – around Antarctica stayed more or less the same from 1994 to 2003, but then declined very swiftly.
The ice shelves of West Antarctica lost ice during the entire period, and although East Antarctica had been gaining shelf ice, these gains ceased after 2003. Some shelves had lost 18 per cent of their volume.
“Eighteen per cent over the course of 18 years really is a substantial change. Overall, we show not only that the total ice shelf volume is decreasing, but we see an acceleration in the last decade.”
Shelf ice is frozen sea, so when it melts, it makes no difference to sea levels. But there could be an indirect effect.
Co-author, Helen Fricker, a glaciologist at the Scripps Institution said:
“The ice shelves buttress the flow from grounded ice into the ocean, and that flow impacts sea levels rise, so that’s a key concern from our new study.”
In climate science, one such study is never enough: such conclusions need support from other studies. But the ice volume measurements are likely to add to growing concern about West Antarctica.
One earlier study looked at the potential loss of ice from West Antarctica by examining the “grounding lines” of the terrestrial glaciers, and found evidence of continuous and accelerating retreat. In effect, the West Antarctic ice sheet could be approaching a point of no return, scientists reported.
And a second group used other satellite measurements to calculate that ice was being lost from the southern continent at an increasing rate — around 150 cubic kilometres a year from West Antarctica.
So the Scripps study indirectly backs up earlier findings. It calculates that most mass has been lost from ice shelves in the Amundsen and Bellingshausen seas, off the coast of West Antarctica. These account for less than 20 per cent of the total West Antarctic ice-shelf area, but contribute more than 85 per cent of the total ice-shelf volume loss from West Antarctica.
Uploaded by World News Channel on Scripps study 3 days ago.
Were the West Antarctic ice sheet to melt completely – a long, slow process at almost any temperatures – sea levels would rise by more than three metres worldwide.
At current rates, a couple of the ice shelves off the western coast of the continent could disappear completely within 100 years, the Scripps team says.
Although the Arctic is one of the fastest-warming places on the planet, and although this warming has been directly linked to man-made climate change, the pattern of temperature shifts in the southern hemisphere has been more ambiguous.
The Scripps team has now begun to think about possible reasons for the loss of shelf ice in the far south, and one factor might be the cycle of El Niño events — natural and periodic bubbles of Pacific ocean warmth that have waxed and waned at intervals and changed the prevailing weather patterns worldwide through history.
“We’re looking into connections between El Niño events in the tropical Pacific and changes in the Antarctic ice sheet. It’s very far apart, but we know these teleconnections exist. That may ultimately allow us to improve our models for predicting future ice loss.”
~ Climate News Network
Recognising Australian South Sea Islanders
Posted by Zachary Wone 17sc on March 14, 2015 · Flag
The next Labor government should recognise the Forgotten people, Australian South Sea Islanders.
2013 saw a significant anniversary in the history of this country, one that was unfortunately all but unmarked in mainstream Australian society. 2013 was the 150th anniversary of the first slave ship arriving on the shores of Queensland and the beginning of the notorious Blackbirding trade.
The Blackbirding trade: A hidden history
Beginning nationwide in 1847 in Eden, NSW and continuing until Federation, around 55,000 Melanesians were brought from Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands as well 80 other Pacific Islands to Australia by a combination of deceit and coercion, as indentured laborers to work in a range of industries.
Most famously they worked on the sugar cane plantations of Queensland but also the timber, cotton, pearling and cattle industries as well across Queensland and Northern New South Wales.
They were paid a fraction of the wages of a white worker, often suffering from malnutrition as a result of insufficient rations and at the mercy of employers who often regarded as their property, many died in the fields and suffered one final indignity of being buried in unmarked graves which are only now beginning to be given the proper respect they deserve.
In 1901, as one of the first acts of parliament in a newly Federated nation, the Pacific Island Laborers Act, laid the legal foundations for one of the largest and most comprehensive mass deportations in history.
Despite having become an integral part of the economy and social fabric of the communities in which they lived, many were forced to return to the islands from which they had been culturally kidnapped so long ago, forced to leave friends and loved ones behind once again and in some cases returned to foreign islands to face more atrocities.
This is undoubtedly a shameful history. However we, as Labor supporters can be rightly proud of the fact that the few exceptions to the overwhelming silence on this history however, have more often than not been a initiated by Labor governments.
The road to recognition
It was in 1994, under Keating, that their descendants, the Australian South Sea Islanders were finally recognised by the Commonwealth following a 1992 HREOC Report titled ‘The call for recognition’ which saw Australian South Sea Islanders recognised as a ‘disadvantaged ethnic group’ suffering many of the same disadvantages as Indigenous Australians.
In 1995, Premier Carr recognised Australian South Sea Islanders as a community on behalf of the state of New South Wales, with Peter Beattie in 2000 soon following his lead in Queensland.
Unfortunately, it must be noted that a subsequent memorandum which he sent to his departments asking that they support inclusion of ASSI as a special needs group in all programs and services, has to date not been acted upon.
Despite these important milestones, in the little over 20 years since Australian South Sea Islanders gained Commonwealth recognition, it is the general consensus amongst the community that there has been very little to celebrate since but to commemorate.
The next step – Inclusion in the census
Currently the Australian South Sea Islander community is estimated by reputable historians and demographers as 40,000 strong, however this is a moderate guestimate as there has not been a reliable method of collecting the data.
This obviously limits the ability of any government agency or NGO to identify the ASSI community’s existence and their ability to provide appropriate services and programs aimed at addressing the generational marginalisation of this demographic.
If any future Labor government is to seriously aim to confront this challenge, the Australian Bureau of Statistics managers of Indigenous and broader community ethnic group portfolios need to work together with the leading ASSI organisations to host/support educational workshops in states regional and remote areas in order to ascertain an accurate demographic statistic for the ASSI community.
Furthermore it is vital that we facilitate the meaningful participation of the ASSI community in this process through a series of supported educational workshops need to be hosted in the regions across Australia where we know our communities exist.
Truth and Reconciliation
We cannot afford to wait another 150 years for the truth to be told. The Blackbirding story has been left out of our national narrative for too long and our understanding of ourselves, our history and our region has been much poorer for it.
Their stories have been left out of our national narrative for too long and our understanding of ourselves as well as our region has been poorer for it.
It’s time for Labor, as a progressive party to lead the way in acknowledging and hopefully even celebrating the remarkable contribution which the Australian South Sea Islander community have made and continue to make to this nation.
Zach is Deputy Chair of NSW Young Labor’s Indigenous Policy Committee and Delegate for West Sydney, Australian South Sea Islander NSW State Representative Working Group
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This morning I made the mistake of reading the ramblings of Paul Sheehan. Now, because his lack of a coherent argument upset me so much, I thought I’d subject you to my ramblings on the subject of Paul Sheehan.
Ok, part of me thinks that he’d be better ignored. But another part of me worries that if we just ignore people writing in nationally distributed papers, the next thing you know, someone in the current government will read it and use it as evidence.
Because that’s one of the things that’s truly disturbing about much debate in the media these days. Opinion is mistaken for evidence. We seem to think that the truth is simply a matter of votes.
So Mr Sheehan’s column was spuriously titled:
“Baird has same problems as Abbott; an upper house dominated by electoral fluke”
Apparently, lower houses have clear mandates, but upper houses are elected by “flukes”. As he put it:
“On Saturday we saw, yet again, a clear mandate to govern being muddied by uncertainties in election for the upper house. The Legislative Assembly may be the oldest parliamentary body in Australia but it is also dominated by machine hacks and minor-party blackmailers. For years, the balance of power has been determined by electoral fluke, not representative politics.”
So the lower houses aren’t dominated by “machine hacks”? Mm, well that’s good to know. And he’s doesn’t seem to grasp the concept that one might actually choose a “minor-party blackmailer” (why the hyphen?) because one actually supports what they’re doing. How many Democrat voters felt betrayed when Meg Lees did a deal to allow the GST, for example? (The Democrats? Who were they?) And we could have a long discussion about how the distribution and deals that led to the Ricky Muirs and Steve Fieldings being elected with a toenail’s worth of votes, so it’s hardly the fault of the electoral system when it the decisions of the major parties on preferences which throw up these strange results.
However, it’s not just the frustration of mandates that trouble our Paul.
“The problem in NSW is replicated in federal politics, where the Senate is also dominated by the electoral fluke. This has exacerbated the end of the commodities boom. The boom will not be repeated when the commodities cycle turns because Australia now has a justified reputation for red tape, green tape, black tape, high costs and union extortion rackets.”
Ok, so it’s red tape, green tape, black tape, high costs and union extortion rackets that are excacerbating the end of the commodities boom. Gee, and I thought it was the lack of demand. But hey, we just get rid of all that red tape – you know, that red tape that led those deaths in the roofs during that “pink batts fiasco” – and all other safeguards and regulations then the end of the commodities boom won’t be half so bad.
Of course, Sheehan overlooks that much of his rainbow tape was put in place by govenments who had a mandate. Although I suspect that in Sheehan’s world view only LNP government’s have a mandate; left wing governments are another electorai fluke that only occur when we have the strange convergence of people voting for the Labor Party or Greens. (Yes, I am reluctant to call Labor “left wing”)
But Australia’s “justified reputation” means that when the commodity cycle turns then companies won’t mine here any more. They’ll mine the Cayman Islands. Or set up drilling for oil inside a Swiss bank, because, well, there’s less red tape.
However, the bit that made me splutter my toast was his use of Andrew Liveris. After establishing that Mr Liveris was a bright and successful man who graduated from the University of Queensland (and an Australian, what more could you ask?), Mr Sheehan went on to tell us that Liveris had been CEO and Chairman of Dow for a number of years and that Dow was spinning of its chlorine business, something that had always been one of its core products.
This, apparently, should send a “shiver down” our collective spine. Because chlorine is like commodities. “Highly cyclical. Capital intensive. Unpredictable. Volatile.”
So what does this mean for Australia? I mean why is Sheehan using a commercial decision by an individual to talk about Australia’s government policy?
“If only national economies could be transformed in the same way. Instead, our politicians must be preoccupied with competing interests rather than the national interest.”
Ah, those “competing interests”. If only politicians could say something like, “There is only ONE national interest and we will determine that in the Lower House and the circumstances under which it comes to Australia!”
He then goes on to talk about how the NSW upper house may stifle the “dynamism” of privatisation.
Ok, so somebody thinks Dow shouldn’t rely so heavily on chlorine as a product and this is more evidence that the upper houses stifle elected government’s. Ok, I can almost buy that if I squint and look at it from a certain angle. But it’s the next few paragraphs that make we wonder whether Sheehan thinks before he writes, or whether he writes down the most absurd thing he can think of in the hope of becoming Andrew Bolt.
After lamenting the tragedy of governments not be able to implement their mandates unfettered the “flukey” upper houses, he goes on to say:
In Queensland, seven weeks ago, voters elected an unknown leader, Annastacia Palaszczuk, with little management experience, no major policy beyond opposing privatisation, and no plan to rein in the state’s debt, which had exploded under Labor. Her government is already in trouble.
In Victoria, 17 weeks ago, voters elected a Labor government closely aligned with the corruption-riddled Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union. The new Premier, Daniel Andrews, then moved quickly to shut down the construction industry’s Construction Code Compliance Unit, loathed by the CFMEU.
He then complains that the polls suggest that Shorten could become PM without a coherent strategy just by constant sneering and making “racist insults” to the Japanese.
All of which seems rather strange given that his whole thrust has been about the denial of all that’s right and proper when elected governments are preveneted from implementing their mandates. This is just wrong, according to Sheehan. Unless, for example, part of their mandate was a promise to CFMEU. (Actually, the CFMEU is the elected government in Victoria – the Liberals assured us that if we voted Labor then that was giving the green light for the CFMEU to run the state!)
Well, at least Queensland has no Upper House, so there’ll never be a threat to democracy there, eh Paul?
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Members of the New South Wales Legislative Council, 2011–2015
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This is a list of members of the New South Wales Legislative Council, as elected at the 2007 and 2011 state elections. As members serve eight-year terms, half of the Council was elected in 2007 and did not face re-election in 2011, and the members elected in 2011 will not face re-election until 2019.
Name Party Term in office
Hon John Ajaka Liberal 2007–present
Jan Barham Greens 2011–present
Hon Niall Blair National 2011–present
Hon Robert Borsak Shooters and Fishers 2010–present
Hon Robert Brown Shooters and Fishers 2006–present
Jeremy Buckingham Greens 2011–present
Hon David Clarke Liberal 2003–present
Hon Rick Colless National 2000–present
Hon Sophie Cotsis Labor 2010–present
Hon Catherine Cusack Liberal 2003–present
Hon Greg Donnelly Labor 2005–present
Cate Faehrmann  Greens 2011–2013
Dr Mehreen Faruqi  Greens 2013–present
Hon Amanda Fazio Labor 2000–present
Hon Marie Ficarra Liberal/Independent  2007–present
Hon Luke Foley Labor 2010–present
Hon Mike Gallacher Liberal/Independent  1996–present
Hon Jenny Gardiner National 1991–present
Hon Duncan Gay National 1988–present
Hon Paul Green Christian Democrats 2011–present
Hon Don Harwin Liberal 1999–present
Hon John Hatzistergos  Labor 1999–2011
Dr John Kaye Greens 2007–present
Hon Tony Kelly  Labor 1987–1988, 1997–2011
Hon Trevor Khan National 2007–present
Hon Charlie Lynn Liberal 1995–present
Hon Natasha Maclaren-Jones Liberal 2011–present
Hon Scot MacDonald Liberal 2011–present
Hon Matthew Mason-Cox Liberal 2006–present
Hon Sarah Mitchell National 2011–present
Hon Shaoquett Moselmane Labor 2009–present
Rev Hon Fred Nile Christian Democrats 1981–2004, 2004–present
Eddie Obeid  Labor 1991–2011
Hon Melinda Pavey National 2002–present
Hon Greg Pearce Liberal 2000–present
Hon Dr Peter Phelps Liberal 2011–present
Hon Peter Primrose Labor 1996–present
Hon Eric Roozendaal  Labor/Independent  2004–2013
Hon Adam Searle Labor 2011–present
Hon Walt Secord Labor 2011–present
Hon Penny Sharpe Labor 2005–present
David Shoebridge Greens 2010–present
Hon Mick Veitch Labor 2007–present
Hon Lynda Voltz Labor 2007–present
Hon Helen Westwood Labor 2007–present
Hon Steve Whan  Labor 2011–present
Hon Ernest Wong  Labor 2013–present
1 Labor MLC Eddie Obeid resigned on 10 May 2011. Walt Secord was appointed to the vacancy on 20 May, and sworn in on 24 May.
2 Labor MLC John Hatzistergos resigned on 19 May 2011. Adam Searle was appointed to the vacancy on 20 May, and sworn in on 24 May.
3 Labor MLC Tony Kelly resigned on 6 June 2011. Steve Whan was appointed to the vacancy.
4 Eric Roozendaal was appointed to the Legislative Council in 2004 as a member of the Australian Labor Party. In November 2012, Roozendaal was suspended from the party and sat in the Council as an Independent member, and resigned from the Council on 9 May 2013. On 24 May 2013, Labor appointed Ernest Wong to fill the vacancy.
 Cate Faehrmann resigned from the LC in June 2013, to contest the Senate in the 2013 Federal election. She was replaced by Mehreen Faruqi in the same month.
 Marie Ficarra withdrew from the Liberal parliamentary party in April 2014, to serve as an Independent, following her implication in corruption allegations investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
 Mike Gallacher withdrew from the parliamentary Liberal party in May 2014 following his implication in corruption allegations investigated by ICAC. He now sits as an independent.
Two new NSW Labor MPs sworn in, ninemsn, 25 May 2011.
Gerathy, Sarah (8 November 2012). “Labor suspends Roozendaal over corruption claims”. ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 11 November 2012.
Coultan, Mark (9 May 2013). “Former minister Eric Roozendaal quits NSW parliament with a parting swipe at Labor”. The Australian. AAP. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
“Ernest Wong elected to replace Roozendaal in NSW Parliament”. ABC News (Australia). 24 May 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
Members of the Parliament of New South Wales
2007–2011 • 2011–2015 • 2015–2019
2007–2011 • 2011–2015 • 2015–2019