Is Michelle Guthrie remaking the ABC in Murdoch’s image? – By Martin Hirst

Martin Hirst 23 November 2016, 6:30am 63

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What Michelle Guthrie and her band of redundancy-happy managers are doing to the ABC is a crime against the public interest, writes Dr Martin Hirst

IT’S TIME to stop mucking around.

I wrote last Friday about the increasing levels of unhappiness with Michelle Guthrie’s leadership of the national broadcaster. I suggested that, from my reading, the relatively-new managing director is running out of friends and that her “honeymoon” is over at the national broadcaster.

I am now more convinced than before that Michelle Guthrie’s plan is to remake the ABC in Rupert’s image; this will then pave the way for it to be broken up and for parts of it to be sold to Murdoch’s News Corp.

This has been on the Institute of Public Affairs’ (IPA) planning board for a while, and both Abbott and Turnbull have adopted this as their “to do” list. If the ABC is sold-off, expect a wholesale purge of any “freethinkers” who refuse to drink Rupert’s Kool-Aid.

Only those who are able to freely express loyalty to the new regime will survive, which means that current ABC staff will have to audition for their jobs. I think the process has already started.

Chris Uhlmann — Andrew Bolt’s new bestie at the ABC?

You might remember ABC’s political editor Chris Uhlmann went out of his way to blame the South Australia blackouts on renewable energy, rather than the failure of a number of pylons carrying Victorian coal-fired electricity into the state.

There was a backlash, and a storm of protest at the time Uhlmann’s ridiculous claims were broadcast and published. Several people complained about the bias in Uhlmann’s coverage, but he was staunchly defended in the News Corp press, including by notorious denier, Andrew Bolt. Bolt is big on the motto “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

In this case, Uhlmann became a convenient “useful idiot” in Bolt’s daily rampage against the sins of the “green Left” cabal he sees under every bed:

How does Dutchie sleep with so many communists under every bed? (Source:

Now, according to reports last week, an internal inquiry has found that the ABC’s most senior political reporter has done nothing wrong, and that his reporting was factual and within the organisation’s editorial guidelines. 

I wonder if Uhlmann’s tweeting around that time was also taken into account.

This one seems a little petulant, to say the least:

The exoneration of Uhlmann is a puzzling decision to many, given that over 180 complaints were lodged about his blackout reporting.

Uhlmann may be already safe, but for other high profile ABC “personalities” the loyalty testing has only just begun.

For evidence of the trend to showing fealty to the Murdoch doctrine is accelerating, look no further than this tweet from 7.30 host, Leigh Sales, praising a column in The Daily Telegraph by raging Trumpinista, Miranda Devine.

I contacted Leigh to see if this retweet equalled endorsement but, so far, I have had no reply. I wonder why Leigh Sales thinks this bitter rant by an angry, authoritarian Trump supporter is “a good, thought-provoking read”. What was so “thought provoking” in the Devine, Miss M’s column?

Was it this headline: Hillary’s crybabies need to grow up

Or was it this scintillating argument: ‘If you needed proof for why Trump won the election, look no further than the hypocrisy of the left’s crybabies and sore losers, even now imagining they can bully their way into refusing Trump the job he won fair and square’?

Fair and square? There is so much officially-sanctioned voter fraud perpetuated in the U.S. that almost no election is very fair. Minorities are actively discouraged from voting and, when they do register, in many states, it is made difficult for them to actually vote.

That’s not so say this is the only reason Trump won, or even a major one, but “fair and square” it wasn’t.

Remember, it was Trump who, right up until he unexpectedly won, was claiming “voter fraud“. Clinton won the popular vote by an unprecedented margin, Trump won a majority of the Electoral College. Millions of words have since been written to explain how this occurred and why most mainstream commentators missed it.

However, no one except Miranda Devine and her Alt-Right fringe-dwelling friends are saying that Trump won because of ‘the hypocrisy of the left’s crybabies and sore losers’.

If that’s what Leigh Sales thinks, then her credibility as a reputable political journalist just went up in smoke. Of all the analysis and commentary on the U.S. election that exists in the world, why did Sales think that this was a “good read”?

Perhaps it was the list of alleged crimes by anti-Trump protestors who, if Devine is to be believed, have been on a violent rampage since the election. Devine called these events (if they’re true) “actual hate crimes”. But, as we know, actual facts are not so sacred over at The Daily TellMeLies.

Miranda says:

‘… the bashing of a 15-year-old boy wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat in Maryland.’

She means, the kid who got into a scuffle with anti-Trump protestors after taunting them. He wasn’t some innocent bystander, he was taking political action himself. He was pushed, not “bashed” and he apparently “banged his head when he fell over”.

The anti-Trump rally was very peaceful, you can see an excellent report about here:


However, Miranda prefers to get her unbiased facts from websites like Freedom Daily, where this was posted.

Miranda says:

‘… a 24-year-old on the subway in New York wearing the red Trump cap [was bashed].’

The source for this is the man himself, who is alleged to have reported the incident to police, but there are no other witnesses.

However, the Daily News story has been amplified on Miranda’s favoured Alt-Right websites and so it found a way into her column. But there’s a problem, the guy’s wearing a white Trump hat in the photos. Was this “me too” or did he have to get a new hat?

Miranda’s final allegation of anti-Trump supporters being violent – and one that has been around for a while – is this one:

‘… a 50-year-old man in Chicago suspected of being a Trump supporter [was bashed] ­because he was white.’

The only problem with this one is that the anti-urban legend site Snopes has debunked it. It wasn’t about politics, it was about a traffic incident.

Here’s the Snopes verdict:

While it’s clear Wilcox was assaulted, it seems from initial police reports and his own statements that the assault stemmed from a traffic incident. Bystanders are heard taunting him for voting for Trump, but that’s not what the impetus for the beating was.

It’s also not clear, as some publications are claiming, that the battery suspects in the video were supporters of Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. One woman can be heard off camera asking, “Are you gonna pay for my shit?” which seems to align with the police statement that the fight stemmed from a traffic accident resulting in property damage.

Further, the racial undertones of some of the posts surrounding the video raises the possibility that the incident is being exploited in order to further inflame tensions on the heels of a charged and contentious election.

The story and video has been shared by the American “white nationalist” website Stormfront, which has been backing Trump.

This is what Stormfront have to say:

These are the people that Miranda thinks are worthy of her support, while she pours scorn on the “crybabies”. Sorry Ms Devine, you’ve been punked by more fake news.

Miranda also fails to mention the number of “actual hate crimes” being committed in Trump’s name since the election:

We can’t believe this, of course — just look at the “disreputable” media reporting this: CNN, The New Yorker, People, Fortune and Time. Even the BBC is perpetrating this Left “crybaby” conspiracy against good free-thinking (overwhelmingly white) Trump supporters. Why would you believe any of this when you can rely on websites run by your Alt-Right frends?

Of course, sites like Right Wing News say that all of these attacks – on women in hijabs, on African-Americans and on Hispanic-looking people – are all made up. Unlike these stories, which Miranda believes are all true.

However, let’s pause for a moment and give Leigh Sales the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she wasn’t suggesting that this bit of Miranda’s story is so “thoughtful”. Maybe it was the long quotes about “why I voted for Trump” lifted directly from the The Washington Post. This was just lazy plagiarism on Miranda’s part — putting “quote marks” around it doesn’t make it your own work. Is this what Leigh was applauding?

Well, when we try to check out the comments of the Trump voters, it’s not hard to find the ones Miranda quotes from and the majority are registered Republican voters.

Such as this one:

How does a registered Republican “defy the stereotypes” of Trump voters? The following are also typical Trump voters, even if Ms Devine can’t see it.

Christopher Todd, 53, of Florida wrote:

‘I voted for Trump on the calculated bet that he would nominate conservative Supreme Court justices. If people want to permit gay marriage or abortion for any reason, then make both legal through the legislature, not via an unelected oligarchy rewriting the Constitution.’

Lori Myers, 51, of Texas, wrote:

‘I voted for Trump ­because the media was so ­incredibly biased. They were ­unhinged in their obvious role as the Clinton campaign propaganda machine.’

Let’s be fair, though, to the 7.30 host. Leigh’s beat is Australian politics, so maybe she thought that Ms Devine’s take on the domestic aftermath of Trump’s victory was the “thoughtful” bit of the column.

‘If Malcolm Turnbull ­really wanted to succeed as PM, and preside over a broad church Liberal Party, he would bring Bernardi in from the cold. Inside the tent, Bernardi could save the government from itself.’

Is this what Leigh Sales is applauding?

If so, she’ll be a good fit in the new Murdoch-approved ABC.

Is it too early to gauge Michelle Guthrie’s impact?

I wrote a few weeks ago that it might then have been too early to make a call on Michelle Guthrie’s appointment and its impact on the ABC, but maybe now we can begin to see the future under her leadership.

After this week’s news of more staff and programming cuts and the appointment of yet more Murdoch-approved on-air talent, there is little doubt.

As our secret source told IA on Friday, the “honeymoon is over” for Michelle Guthrie — the cuts are happening on her watch and with her approval.

And the IPA will also be pleased that one of its favoured sons, Tom Switzer, now has two programmes on Radio National.

Tom won’t display any anti-Trump bias, he knows who runs the show.

The IPA and Murdoch’s journalists can sit back and relax, because judging by what we know of Switzer’s political persuasion and the last two podcasts of Between the Lines, any worry that “Uncle Tom” might display an “anti-Trump bias” can be laid to rest.

Andrew Bolt is pleased with the removal of Jonathan Green, but Tom Switzer is apparently not conservative enough for the Herald Sun blogger.

Bolt’s readers are none-too-pleased either:

FYI Bryan, Patricia Karvelas and Nikki Savva are still on the Murdoch payroll

The ABC regards the changes to next year’s line up as the normal round of annual commissioning — a “nothing to see here” moment.

But replacing perceived “lefties” with perceived “conservatives” is upsetting to a large segment of the ABC’s loyal audience — like “Dave Bradley”, who left this comment on The Guardian’s website:

It might be upsetting to some, but one thing that axing Jonathan Green and First Dog on the Moon from Sunday Extra does do – and this may be the real reason for the shift – is it helps quieten down the barking from the right of politics that the ABC is a nest of “lefty traitors”. It also helps Ms Guthrie to get the place shipshape before the ABC firesale, which I believe will be about August next year.

It’s Malcolm’s fault, not the “elites”

Last week, Malcolm Turnbull again signalled his hostility to the ABC in an interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30.

Luckily, James Hennessy at Pedestrian TV was watching and able to call out Turnbull’s tired clichés about so-called “elite” media:

‘Folks, I warned you all yesterday. I warned that Australia’s conservatives were trying to steal Donald Trump’s ‘elites’ narrative and extremely clumsily apply it to our country. Now Malcolm Turnbull is trying it. That’s right. Malcolm Turnbull, the man with hundreds of millions of dollars who lives in a plush Point Piper mansion is suddenly not a fan of elites.’

History has not yet recorded what Turnbull thinks of former Murdoch CEO Kim Williams’ new show on Radio National, which will broadcast the thoughts of ‘high-profile Australians discussing what they believe are the issues, ideas and concerns of the day’, but let’s hope that worrying about it will keep the PM awake well into the night.

What can we do?

My story about the “Murdochification” of the ABC from last week seems to have hit a nerve. I suggested in the comments thread that people might like to write to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to express their concerns.

Several people did, including IA reader, Oz-demigod, who sent the following email to the Minister and encouraged others to follow suit:

Minister, it is disgusting, depressing, lacking in vision and completely unAustralian that you sit back and allow the destruction of the Australian Broadcasting Commission [sic] (ABC). This current government, who you are a senior member of, is doing nothing but following the ‘policy’ directions of the IPA. I have copied in the link for you to browse at your leisure and have also copied in points 50 and 51:…

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

51 Privatise SBS

You are an Australian PUBLIC servant, NOT a loyal employee and card carrying member of the so called ‘think tank’ IPA. How can you stand by with no conscience and watch as Australian institutions are torn apart like this[?]

Maybe you should change your official title from Minister for Communications to Chief of Propaganda and personal lackey of Murdoch and the IPA.

You should be disgusted in yourself and your colleagues.

If you do send a note to Mitch Fifield, please copy and paste it to the comments section on this article, so we can keep track. You can also sign this petition at Hands off our ABC to save science programming.

You might also consider joining Friends of the ABC in your state. You can find out more from the ABC Friends’ national office.

Read more by Dr Martin Hirst on his blog Ethical Martini and follow him on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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Turnbull talks tax trash – By John Passant

John Passant 21 November 2016, 6:30am 34

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Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull with BCA officials Catherine Livingstone and Grant King (image via @BCAcomau).

Turnbull’s claim that rehashed “trickle down reforms” will not be “keenly felt” in the community during the lowest wage growth on record are farcical, says John Passant.

AFTER TRUMP’S ELECTION VICTORY, multi-millionaire ex banker and Cayman Islands investor, PM Malcolm Turnbull began attacking the ABC and media “elites“.

Then the harsh reality of capitalism hit and Turnbull returned to a familiar theme.

In a speech to the Business Council of Australia, Turnbull said:

“The need to undertake reforms to deliver long-term gains for all Australians, which may create winners and losers in the near term, isn’t keenly felt in many parts of Australian society.”

With real unemployment at over 9%, with inequality continuing to increase, with wages rising at a record low rate of 1.9%, and with more than 2.9 million Australians (including more than 731,00 children) living in poverty, the real question is: who will be the losers and who will be the winners? No prizes for guessing that the billionaires will be okay but that poor people and workers won’t.

Back in May, the Turnbull-Morrison Budget announced the company tax plans costing an estimated $48 billion over ten years.

The trend in Australia for decades under both Labor and Coalition governments has been one of increasing poverty and increasing inequality. The key fact behind this has been what is happening to wages.

As Richard Dennis says in the Canberra Times:

Wages account for 44 per cent of all the income earned in Australia, down from 48 per cent about 30 years ago. But it is not just the share of national income accruing to workers that has fallen steadily in the past few decades, the share of wage income accruing to low income workers has fallen faster still.

Not only has the minimum wage risen more slowly than the average wage, but the number of people working short hours on low pay has risen rapidly as well. Of course, no one is worse off financially than the unemployed, which begs the question of why Turnbull recently tried to cut their incomes by $230 a year.

Another way of looking at it is that the share of total factor income going to labour has fallen from a high of 63% to around 52-53% today. The share of total factor income going to capital has increased from about 17% to 27% over the same period.

Tax is also an important part of increasing inequality.

With cuts to the company tax rate and to the top rates for individuals, according to the OECD:

‘ … since the mid-1980s, [Australia’s] taxes have become less redistributive. Both progressivity and average tax rates have declined.’

In essence, the income tax system has become more regressive. The goods and services tax (GST) over time has compounded that.

Last year, Malcolm Turnbull said nothing was off the tax reform table. A backbencher did his dirty work and floated the idea of extending the GST to spending on essentials like fresh food, health and education — a move which would have hit low income earners much harder than the wealthy. There was also talk of increasing the rate from 10% to 12.5,  or even 15%. After a huge backlash, Turnbull ruled out any changes to the GST.

The Turnbull Government has an agenda to cut the company tax rate from 30% to 25% over the next decade, graded from small business to big business over that time. While there is some argy bargy over timing and what constitutes a small business, essentially, in ten years time, the company tax rate for billion dollar companies will be 25% if the Government gets its way.

There are a couple of flies in the tax cut nirvana ointment. First, given the budget deficit of this government, the lost revenue will be paid for by cutting services, services which overwhelmingly help poor people and workers. In an open letter to Malcolm Turnbull back in April, 50 leading Australians warned against the government’s proposed big business company tax cut plan. They said that it would be ‘ … at the expense of services that everyday Australians rely on’. They argued for fairness, the exact opposite of what neoliberals like Turnbull and Morrison want.

Bill Shorten tapped the mood of the nation when, according to Gareth Hutchens in The Guardian, he asked:

How on earth does a $50bn tax plan help Australians battling flat wages right now?

If Mr Morrison now wants Australia to go back to the failed policies of rightwing economists from 30 years ago, cutting taxes for the top end instead of investing in jobs, education, Medicare, and protecting the vulnerable, well, we need to tell him that Australia is different to that, we’re better than that, we are a kinder, more inclusive, more equal place.


Another fly in the ointment is Donald Trump. His promise to cut U.S. company tax rates from 35% to 15%, has emboldened the Business Council of Australia and other business figures to urge the Turnbull Government to continue with its proposed company tax rate cuts. This puts pressure on the Government, in the interests of being “internationally competitive”, to go further than cutting to 25%.

Turnbull’s “winners and losers” speech to the Business Council of Australia is basically rehashing the discredited “trickle down” theory. The argument is that the more money we throw at capitalists and the rich (tax cuts, wage cuts for their workers, subsidies, unpaid overtime of their workers, sacking some of their workforce) the more jobs and higher wages there will be. It is the false argument of rich, white fakers like Trump and Turnbull.

Apologists usually argue there will be more investment if business has more money, but even if there is, the real object of business is profit, not more jobs and higher wages — and competition often forces them to invest in labour saving devices. The experience of the past 30 years shows this idea of more investment, more jobs and higher wages to be almost globally incorrect in the short, medium and long term. Economists, economics journalists and commentators have debunked the idea.

For example, the International Monetary Fund said recently:

‘… if the income share of the top 20 per cent (the rich) increases, then GDP growth actually declines over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down. In contrast, an increase in the income share of the bottom 20 per cent (the poor) is associated with higher GDP growth.’

There in a nutshell is part of the answer. For those on Newstart and other social welfare payments, increase them by about $140 per week to put them above the poverty line of about $400 per week for a single adult. One way of doing this might be to consider a universal basic income, where everyone is paid enough to live on.

The best way to reduce inequality is to increase wages. We can also use taxes as a tool to reduce inequality. I have set out some tax suggestions in an earlier article here.

The letter from 50 leading Australians summarised that general direction well:

‘ … serious tax reform package designed to be “fair” should address as a priority the current generous tax concessions to the top end of town, inequitable distribution of superannuation tax concessions and the capital gains tax discount … ’

As I have argued before, a net wealth tax, dealing with negative gearing and a Buffett Rule for the 36% of big business that pay no income tax – such as imposing a small tax of say 3% on their gross untaxed revenue of $458 billion – should all be part of our tax armoury as well.

It’s time to make the rich the losers, and the poor and workers winners.

Read more by John Passant on his website En Passant. You can also follow John on Twitter @JohnPassant.

Signed copies of John Passant’s first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016) is available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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Day to Day Politics: A Government in a shambolic mess. – By John Lord

Wednesday 26 October 2016

1 Polls this far out from an election are never an indication of how people might vote. They do however, give us a guide to how people think they are being governed.

So yesterday’s NewsPoll tells us that the folk in the great Australian suburbia are disillusioned.

The Poll Bludger tells us that Labor leads the Coalition 52/48. Essential is the same.

The Prime Ministers popularity continues to tumble in the absence of any semblance of leadership. We are being led by a leader who is captive to the right of his party and the junior party of the Coalition whose leader seems to be pulling the strings. Ideologically speaking the so-called Liberal party has no idea where it stands and Turnbull cannot produce a narrative that explains just where we are heading as a nation.

2 Our Democracy is being usurped by the likes of Brandis. Freedom of Information is being hijacked by ultra-right wing power-hungry MPs and the Solicitor General’s Office, with the resignation of Justin Gleeson, has been turned into a branch of the Liberal Party. The position will now go to a Liberal Party stooge who will accept the pay the position demands and never question the Attorney General’s judgements.

Jim Moylan writing for this blog summed it up like this:

”The Gleeson Affair is as significant as the Dismissal. Perhaps more so”.

”Why am I so upset? In simple terms Mr Brandis has now turned the Solicitor-Generals Office into an office of the Government. At the heart of this matter is a despicable and almost treasonous direction from the Attorney-General’s office that any matter that the Solicitor-General might consider, from now on, has to be first cleared personally by Mr. Brandis”.

3 Barnaby Joyce’s integrity is once again being questioned over the sacking of Paul Grimes, the former head of the Agriculture Department.

A March 2015 letter has surfaced that clearly brings into question his conduct. Explosively so. Apparently the Government has spent a lot of money keeping it from the public’s eye.

It all started over the alleged changing of Joyce’s statements in Hansard.

The question arises: “Did Barnaby Joyce sack Paul Grimes to save himself?”

If Joyce is guilty of deliberately trying to change Hansard then of course he should be sacked and resign his position as leader of the Nationals.

4 The MYEFO Economic report due to be released in November will reveal that the Budget is still in a mess.

5 Tristian Ewins manages the ALP Socialist Left Forums Facebook page and is a regular letter writer to Main Stream Media. Here are a couple to Melbourne’s Herald Sun. The newspaper where the truth goes to die.

Refuting the Herald-Sun Again on ‘Welfare Shaming’:

”The Herald-Sun (16/10/16) reports that welfare-dependency figures are “shocking”.  But Disability pensioners, Carers and the Unemployed should not be ‘shamed’.  Carers save the public hundreds of millions of dollars by providing care and support for pittance that otherwise would cost the state a fortune. If we do not value their work just because it is not part of the ”market sector” then that itself says something disturbing about our priorities.  Meanwhile those with a mental illness – who are commonly looked upon as ‘not-really-disabled’ can expect a reduced life-expectancy of 16 years”.

”Or 25 years for those with Schizophrenia. Who would ‘choose’ to be in that position?  Finally, research shows there are roughly five job-seekers for every position.  Were the government serious it would develop an industry policy to create real long-term jobs – matched to people’s skills. (as some Nordic countries have tried)  Instead it tolerates an unemployment rate of around 6 per cent (much more if you include those who have given up the search), and also ‘massive under-employment’ for people looking for full-time, secure work.  Because ”Ideologically” it cannot bring itself to support ‘economic intervention”.

Refuting the Herald-Sun Again: Misleading Characterisations on the Unemployed:

”The Herald-Sun (19/10/16) proclaims on its front page:“70% of arrested meth users supported by your taxes” and also: “Dole Blown on Ice.”  While the apparent connection between Ice addiction and crime is alarming, the headline was irresponsible for several reasons. Firstly, for those who don’t read the article thoroughly there may be the utterly false assumption that most Newstart recipients are ice addicts. In fact there is no proof of anything like this.  .Secondly: ice addicts need help overcoming their addiction. Yes there must be compulsory rehabilitation programs. But a purely punitive approach could lead to a downward spiral of desperation and crime.  It seems more than an accident that the headline coincides  with the Liberal Government’s attempt to wind back benefits such as Newstart, the Disability Support Pension, the Carers’ Allowance, and so on.  To ‘make room’ in the Budget to accommodate corporate tax cuts.  And hence to demonise and vilify these people”.

6 The Coal Lovers are at it again. It seems that those who oppose the Carmichael mine have received funding from a US organisation with links to John Podesta who happens to be running Hillary Clintons election campaign and the Libs are not happy. Nor is India’s Power Minister Piyush Goyal.

So Turnbull might just revive some previous legislation that was aimed at curbing vexatious litigation by environmental groups.

On Tuesday he said:

”Coal is going to be an important part of our energy mix, there is no question about that, for many, many, many decades to come, on any view”.

A few years ago he would never have contemplated those words.

7 Among many other things the fast talking Treasurer Scott Morrison said:

The government will therefore also be discussing with the states the potential to remove residential land use planning regulations that unnecessarily impede housing supply and are not in the broader public interest. This will be the strong focus of my discussions at the next Council on Federal Financial Relations that I will convene in early December”.

Of course these are not the only problems the housing industry faces. Government also plays its part and there’s no sense blaming others when your own policy tax policy distorts the market because it produces increased inequality via wealth acquisition.

In other words negative gearing.

And to show just how badly the Government is governing they have allowed an enquiry initiated by Joe Hockey into housing to lapse.

7 Said the Prime Minister on Tuesday:

”The important thing for me, as prime minister, and for my government, is to get on with the job of governing and delivering, and that is what we’re doing”.

”We are delivering, we are governing, we are delivering the jobs and growth that we promised, and we will continue to do so”.

That of course is highly debatable.

My thought for the day.

”The study of free will is an important foundation of rational thinking and objective application of thoughts to actions. How many seriously take up the study of free will and the constraints of pre-determined facts that limit free will, and personal action?”



Will Labor’s ACT election win presage the fall of the Turnbull Government? – By John Passant

John Passant 17 October 2016, 10:30am 26

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ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr was victorious (Screenshot via

The ACT election result should worry the Turnbull Government, since swings against parties have traditionally presaged the fall of the party federally, says John Passant.

THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY (ACT) election result was a bit of a thunderbolt  to me at least.

According to the ABC, with 81% of the vote counted, there will be 12 Labor members, ten Liberals and two Greens, with one seat in doubt.

At this stage there is a swing of 0.4% against the Greens, leaving them on 10.3% of the vote. Labor’s vote was down 0.2% to 38.7% and the Liberals down 2.6% to 36.3%.

In the last Assembly, split 8-all between Labor and the Liberals, Labor cemented that support for a ministry with Shane Rattenbury, the one Green member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). As the ABC analysis above shows, it looks as if the election on Saturday has retained the status quo of a minority Labor Government supported by two Greens, with Rattenbury again a minister.

On the surface, all the portents suggested the Liberals would do well in this election.

Labor had been in power for 15 years and the election result extends that to 19 years. The proposed light rail from Civic to Gungahlin, which is valued at – by the Barr Government’s estimate – $970 million, is costly and will service, at best, only 10% of the population and will force public tenants out of their homes in the main entrance thoroughfare of Northbourne Avenue. It will benefit developers and real estate agents, without much impact on congestion or on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Liberals ran strongly against the light rail, saying they would tear up the contracts (signed by the Barr Government not too long before the election) and use the money for improved bus services, and better health and education. In effect, they ran on a Labor type public services programme. Labor was forced to respond with health and education promises to match – and slightly surpass – the Liberals.

The Liberals being “Labor-lite” on health and education did not work. The reactionaries have the numbers in the ACT Liberal Party. They will replace current moderate leader Jeremy Hanson with their candidate, the very conservative Alistair Coe.

On Sunday, the day after the election, Turnbull Government Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos praised light rail in Canberra as an example of the Turnbull Government’s search for balance between road and rail transport, and innovation and nation building. That is the problem. Light rail can be painted as another neoliberal building project aimed at providing benefits to capital and the already rich.

The Liberals also ran hard against rate increases. The ACT is the only jurisdiction that has adopted the Henry Tax Review recommendations to replace stamp duty with rates as an efficiency move. And if the stamp duty cuts are passed on as lower housing prices, then first home owners can benefit.

In theory, the change makes sense. However, many people like me paid full stamp duty on their home purchase and are now being hit with higher rates as well. People are upset about this double taxation and rate increases on houses as a result of the reforms of around 9% annually since 2011/12. This year, the Barr Government limited the increase to 4.5%, but next year, it will be 7%.  

Cynically, the Liberals opposed what is, for the elite and most new home buyers, a sensible tax base shift. They even sank to linking higher rates to the light rail.

So with the issues of light rail and rates seemingly running in their favour and the Liberals trying to mimic Labor on spending on public education and public health and promising improved bus services, why did they not do better?

The swing in Yerrabi, the electorate with the proposed “first stage” of light rail, was 6.3% to Labor and 5.2% against the Liberals. That swing to Labor in Yerrabi pretty much cancelled out the swing against them in three of the other four seats. On the other hand, there was also a swing against the Liberals in the non-light rail seats — except for Murrumbidgee, where the Liberal leader ran. Labor’s vote there fell 5.4%, with no well-known Labor candidates (for example, current members) standing. 

Why the swing against the Liberals?

Traditionally, the city has been a pro-Labour haunt. It did elect a Liberal Government supported by independents in 1995 — perhaps in part a response to Keating in Federal power. Back then, there was only one electorate, the ACT, with 17 members, making it much easier for smaller parties and independents to get elected.

This helps explain the move of the two major parties to three electorates and then five electorates. This increases the quota needed to get elected from just under 6% with one electorate to 16.7% for each of the five MLAs elected in each of this year’s five electorates.

The other thing about this election compared to 2012 was at the edges. Clearly, some people were looking for an outlet to the left of the so-called progressive alliance of Labor and the Greens. With 85% of the vote counted in the seat of Brindabella, for example, Steve Bailey, the Sex Party candidate, has won 8.1% of the vote. And “others” picked up 12.2% of the vote across the Territory, up 2.2% on 2012. 

There was no Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders on offer. There was no clear left wing candidate to attract substantial votes, after many years of Labor and Green managerialism and slightly softer, but more effective, neoliberalism. This lack of an electoral radical or socialist left is an expression of the massive decline in class and social struggle in Australia and the ACT over the last 33 years.

I think, too, there is something else in the results that should be worrying the Turnbull Government. Despite what appeared a fertile environment for the Liberals, there was a swing against them. That has been a consistent pattern in Territory politics. There has generally been a swing against the party in government federally in Territory elections — and that can presage the fall of that government. 

And let’s not get swept up in the hype of the re-election of the Labor Green Government. Remember that they will do very little to address the major problems of capitalism in the Territory. To do so would require a radicalisation that is not yet apparent in Australian society or its major political parties.

Recently, ACOSS released a report which showed 13.3% of the Australian population lives below the poverty line. This includes 731,000 kids, especially in single families — those devastated by Gillard Government cuts to the single parent payment in 2013.

In 2013, the Canberra Times reported:

‘The Disadvantage in the ACT report, issued by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling … found that 21,528 Canberrans were living in poverty.’ 

More than 1,700 Canberrans were homeless in 2011.

Where are the plans and the actions of this so-called progressive alliance government to do anything substantial about poverty and homelessness? Nowhere. I’ll keep my celebratory drink on ice until the Labor Green Government in the ACT eradicates poverty and homelessness.

Read more by John Passant on his website En PassantYou can also follow John on Twitter @JohnPassant.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License



Malcolm’s empty slogan – By Kaye Lee

The Turnbull government would have us believe that they have been successful in job creation – it’s their mantra – but a closer look at the figures suggests otherwise.

Comparing August 2013 and August 2016, there are 8,600 more people unemployed now.  That’s thousands more struggling families.

Certainly the number of employed people has also risen, as has the aggregate monthly hours worked, but those figures also tell a story.

Over the past year, the labour force, which includes both employed and unemployed persons, increased by 148,800 persons which means, over three years (assuming a similar annual increase), we would have to be creating about 450,000 jobs just to keep up.

There are 316,800 more people employed now than in August 2013, far short of keeping pace with natural labour force increase.

Even more telling, those extra 316,800 employed people only added an average of 30 hours a month each to the aggregate monthly hours worked.

Overall, the almost 12 million people employed in August 2016 all worked an average of almost three hours less a month than their counterparts in 2013.  We have effectively lost 35 million work hours a month.

Needless to say, trend underemployment is at a series high of 8.6 per cent.

Full-time employment has fallen by 21,500 persons since December 2015. Part-time employment has increased by around 105,300 persons over this same period but, as we are two thirds of the way through the year, there would be an increase in the labour force of approximately 100,000 so, all up, we continue to go backwards.

Even if percentages remain stable, more individuals are un- and underemployed.  More people are living in poverty.

The government says that it is business, not them, who create jobs but the aim of business is to make a profit – loyalty to employees is a rare commodity nowadays and altruistic behaviour basically unheard of.  If businesses can do it cheaper with machines or outsourcing, they will.

Turnbull points to our defence industry as an area of job creation and then promptly, post-election of course, gives China the contract to make our military dress uniforms, because they could do it cheaper.  Of course they can.  Bangladesh could probably do it cheaper still.

The Textiles, Clothing and Footwear industry employed 36,364 people in 2014-15 but they are under great pressure from internet sales and cheap imports facilitated by free trade agreements.

Why would we spend reportedly an extra 30% on our subs so a couple of thousand people might get some work in about ten years’ time and then choose to not support our local clothing industry?

I guess it’s the same reason we couldn’t afford to subsidise our car industry, which employed tens of thousands of people, but we can afford to subsidise the fossil fuel industry who are sacking people hand over fist. Why did Abbott, at a crucial juncture, buy a fleet of government cars from BMW instead of a local manufacturer?

Hell, we even shipped in 20 million sheets of paper from overseas to use for ballots in the Federal election despite the domestic paper and packaging industry being under enormous competition due to the free trade agreements.

The AEC spokesman said “We have to follow the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. Every government agency has to follow these rules for any procurement of goods. Under these rules the agency has to assess the value for money of the goods and weigh up the services against the cost.” (It’s a pity they don’t apply the same rigour to politicians’ expense claims.)

Do they ever include the social cost of unemployment in these assessments?

Entry level and low skilled jobs are disappearing due, not only to automation, but also due to both business and government choosing to outsource.  They ask us to support local producers, but go for cheaper offshore suppliers of goods and services themselves.

Despite overly emotional speeches about “cold-blooded lies”, the government has already begun privatising Medicare with a $220 million contract to Telstra to manage the national cancer screening register.  Will it too be sent to the Philippines to administer?

The Productivity Commission has called for the private sector to be given a greater role in providing key government services in health, housing and Indigenous affairs.  They released a draft report saying that services in six priority areas — including social housing, some public hospital services, palliative care, Indigenous affairs and dental care — could be improved if they are opened to market competition.  Because that has worked so well for us in the past – just look at airport parking.

The government seems to be actively pursuing policies that contribute to unemployment with many jobs going to 457 visa workers and backpackers, and free trade agreements destroying local industries and allowing foreign companies to bring in their own workers.

The Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List is extensive and includes many occupations that Australians could readily fill.  I find it hard to believe we need to import driving instructors, flight attendants, funeral directors, youth workers, wool buyers and real estate agents.  If we really do have skill gaps then surely we should be targeting and incentivising training to fill them.

About 20,000 public servants have been sacked by the government and funding cuts have led to many more dismissals in NGOs and NFPs.

The government’s proposed internship program sounds good if you trust employers to not exploit it by replacing entry level jobs with free labour.  Considering the many cases of abuse we have already witnessed, that trust would be misplaced, as would any hope that the government would act to address cases of exploitation that are brought to their notice.

This government mouths platitudes as it pretends concern about youth unemployment at the same time as arguing to cut benefits and increase the wait time.  They abandon needs based funding for education, give vocational training over to shonky private colleges, make university education unaffordable, demonise the unemployed as bludgers, undermine unions, and import temporary foreign workers.  All of this only exacerbates the unemployment problem.

We are continually barraged with the marketing pitch that everything the government does is about “jobs, jobs jobs”.  Their actions prove it to be yet another empty slogan.

The central character in the 2008 Man Booker winning novel The White Tiger suggests “this will be the century of the yellow and brown people”.  He is not talking about political influence or military might but the fortune to be made from outsourced call centres.

He may well be right.



ONE YEAR OF MALCOLM TURNBULL: A YEAR OF HEALTH AND MEDICARE CUTS – By Catherine King Federal Member for Ballarat Shadow Minister for Health


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Malcolm Turnbull has used his year as Prime Minister to prove he isn’t Tony Abbott – he is even worse.
Mr Turnbull has kept all of Tony Abbott’s health cuts from the 2014 Budget and added to them, ripping money out of vital blood tests, imaging scans and children’s dental services.
Malcolm Turnbull has also spent his first year trying to privatise the Medicare payments system and other parts of our universal public health insurance scheme, ignoring patients and experts and making health care even less affordable for millions of Australians.

The Prime Minister is now trying to outsource the National Cancer Screening Register to the private sector.

This would put Australians’ most sensitive health information – including their Medicare numbers and Medicare claims data – in the hands of a for-profit telecommunications corporation.

Nothing has been protected when it comes Malcolm’s year of health cuts. His record includes:

  • Extending the freeze on Medicare rebates to six years – an ice age that is already forcing out-of-pocket costs up;
  • Attempting to abolish the Child Dental Benefits Scheme, pushing five million children onto long public dental waiting lists;
  • Ripping another $650 million out of Medicare by slashing bulk billing incentives for diagnostic imaging and pathology;
  • Cutting another $182 million from crucial health programs tackling chronic and communicable diseases, drug and alcohol abuse, and rural health issues; and
  • Gutting crucial health workforce training programmes with a $595 million cut.

Malcolm Turnbull said straight after the election that he had learned his lesson, but while his cuts to health remain, it is clear he has learnt nothing at all.

Malcolm Turnbull thinks the damaging health cuts are “so far, so good” for our health care system, while ordinary Australians are facing soaring health care costs. They tell the real story of the damage he has signed his name to as Prime Minister.




Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Labor will oppose the Government’s axing of the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS), standing up against Malcolm Turnbull’s plan to force over five million children onto long public dental waiting lists.

In Government, Labor established the CDBS in response to alarming evidence about the oral health of Australian children. The CDBS provides eligible children with up to $1,000 in dental services every two years, with a strong focus on preventive care.

Today, Labor protects the Child Dental Benefits Scheme by removing it from the Government’s Omnibus legislation.

The Government’s own Health Department says the CDBS has been a success, with the only failure being the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s refusal to promote it.

Labor’s National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Adult Public Dental Services has also helped states and territories provide public dental services to eligible adults. As the Government admits, the NPA has funded treatment for an additional 400,000 patients.

But now, the Government wants to scrap these proven programs and establish its own Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme (caPDS).

If implemented, the caPDS would force over five million children onto long public dental waiting lists. This will prevent families from seeing the dentist of their choice, and lengthen waiting times for children and the adults who are already entitled to public dental services.

As the National Oral Health Alliance has noted, caPDS funding would allow eligible patients to be seen just once every 17 years. People in rural and remote areas would be even worse off, given a shortage of public dental clinics.

The Government’s caPDS would also allow States and Territories to charge co-payments for public dental care. This is just another attempt to shift costs onto patients by the Government that gave us the GP Tax and now the Medicare rebate freeze – a co-payment by stealth.

The Government’s plan to axe the CDBS and NPA will save $52 million over four years. Labor is prepared to work with the Government to deliver the same quantum of dental savings while protecting patients.

But Labor will not stand by while the Government axes the effective CDBS and NPA and forces children onto long dental waiting lists.











The Year that Made Me -By No Place for sheep


As I listened to Attorney-General George Brandis today unconvincingly bellow (shout loud: argument weak, as the father of my children used to say) that Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered by history as one of our great prime ministers, I reflected that while it’s sadly apparent Brandis is a fool, what is most unsettling is that he apparently believes the rest of us to be even bigger fools.

Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered by history as one of the weakest men ever to hold the nation’s highest office: I’m damned if I can think of many who’ve been more ineffective, more blustering, more incompetent and more so obviously at a total loss as to what to do next. No amount of Brandis’s maniacal talking up is going to change that situation, as we saw with failed and sacked prime minister Tony Abbott, also marketed as great and in the process of leaving a powerful legacy, as his popularity hurtled off a cliff like Sidney Nolan’s upside down horse, his death cult followers clinging to the saddle, three-word slogan at the ready: Nothing to see! Nothing to see!

There’s a pattern here. Talked up one day, compost the next.

No one can make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, least of all the meta data-challenged Attorney-General who will himself be remembered largely for his technological ignorance, his ludicrously expensive bookshelves, and his elitist notion of what constitutes art.

Turnbull’s deplorable decision to carry on with predecessor Tony Abbott’s (the one who will be remembered for giving Prince Philip a knighthood, just one of a vast array of incomprehensible acts of wilfully destructive stupidity) ill-willed and non-binding plebiscite on marriage equality demonstrates yet again that the Prime Minister is haemorrhaging principles from every orifice, in a kind of spiritual Ebola that has afflicted him since he took office.

I am unable to think of one reason why the Australian public has a “right” to vote on the right of citizens to marry or not. This is not a question of protecting the Australian public’s rights: no member of the Australian public will suffer during the enactment of same-sex marriage. Marriage equality is a human rights issue, and it is an outstanding example of heterosexual arrogance to reframe it as an issue on which “the people” are entitled to have their say. Why are they entitled to have their say? Give me one good reason.

If “the people” are “entitled” to “have their say” in plebiscites on all matters regarded by politicians as “too important” for them to simply do their jobs, why bother having a parliament at all? We’ll use their salaries and perks to fund opinion polls instead, then all they’ll need to do is pass the legislation.

The High Court ruled that parliament already has the authority it needs to simply amend the Marriage Act to include same-sex marriage, without consulting anybody. Why are we paying the idle swine to hand the job back to us?

Trust me, said George Brandis when asked if his party would honour a *yes* vote, and that’s where I fell off my chair and rolled on the floor laughing my arse off.

It used to be that when Abbott said anything good about someone we knew they’d be in the dumpster fairly soon. It’s very hard to believe that Brandis is serious about Turnbull’s strength as a leader. I don’t think he is. He’s shouting loud because his argument is, like its subject, weak. His exaggerated praise of Turnbull is turning the corner into mockery. Brandis knows what’s coming.

Some of you may be familiar with the segment on ABC broadcaster Jonathan Green’s Sunday Extra, The Year that Made Me. A guest who has achieved chooses a year from her or his life which to them was highly formative. Malcolm Turnbull could do this gig.  He could call it The Year that Made Me lose every principle I’d ever held, and left me a dusty, creaking husk of a man, and taught mean the true meaning of the phrase, laughing-stock.

Excoriate! Excoriate!









SOTT News Snapshot: September 13 edition – What is Israel doing in Syria? Are Killary’s batteries running out? – By SOTT

© Digital Globe/Foundation for Deep Ecology
Random revealing picture of the day: New Delhi, India, where many landfills are reaching a breaking point. The surrounding population of Delhi totals some 25 million people.

The Syrian ceasefire officially went into effect last night. The Russian General Staff reports the Syrian government has fully halted attacks on all but Daesh and Nusra areas. Early reports yesterday suggested “some reduction in violence”, according to Kerry. German FM Steinmeier called it a “significant” reduction in violence. Today we have the same story: largely holding, only minor violations reported (e.g., rebels shelled army positions near the Castillo Road north of Aleppo – they even attacked Russian Marines during a live broadcast with the Russian Defense Ministry). Things are even reportedly calm in rebel-held east Aleppo — somewhat surprising given the presence of Nusra there. And even the UK-based one-man anti-Assad psyop known as the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” is reporting that not a single civilian has been reported killed in the last 15 hours. SOHR focuses on civilian deaths allegedly caused by Syrian airstrikes, but as usual, he (it’s just one guy) doesn’t pay all that much attention to civilian deaths caused by rebels.

The Russian military reported 23 violations by rebel militants over the past day, shelling residential and army positions and causing 6 deaths in Aleppo and 10 wounded. Russia has called on the Syrian government not to respond to these provocations: “I ask everyone not to succumb to provocations, to carefully record all possible violations and send the data to the Russian Reconciliation Center,” Russian General Staff official Viktor Poznikhir said.

Assuming reports of differences of opinion regarding Syria between the White House, State Department, Pentagon and CIA are true, the same dynamic is showing up in each organization’s outlook on the ceasefire, with the State Department cautiously optimistic, the White House wanting more assurances from Russia, and the Pentagon skeptical. Even the State Department is showing some institutional schizophrenia. Yesterday, John Kirby told reporters: “We are not ruling out Assad would be able to strike al-Nusra. There is really no grounds and frankly little purpose in trying to completely limit the Assad regime from hitting al-Nusra.” Which sounds rational: Nusra is the enemy, so the Syrian government should be able to attack them, especially since Nusra is a UN-recognized terrorist organization.

He also said: “They [the Assad government] will be permitted, if there is consensus here inside the JIC, to hit a designated, a known Nusra target,” Kirby stated. “There is no prohibition under this arrangement for them to do that.” The “whole idea” of discussions with Russia was “to provide a level of certainty and visibility of where Assad would be able to fly.” But later, he said this:

… the primary purpose of the ceasefire deal “is to prevent the Syrian regime air force from flying or striking in any areas in which the opposition or Nusra [Jabhat Fatah Al Sham] are present.”

“To clarify: the arrangement announced last week makes no provision whatsoever for the US and Russia to approve strikes by the Syrian regime, and this is not something we could ever envision doing,” Kirby stated.

Kirby added that there was never a plan to ground Assad forces permanently, but underscored they would not be able to fly over opposition-controlled or mixed areas.

So what’s the deal? Since the exact terms of the agreement are secret, who knows…

John “Shell Shock Trooper” McCain gave his two cents to Sputnik, arguing that the Obama administration has “abandoned all pretense of saying Assad has to go,” and calling the results of the negotiations “humiliation.” “I just read that they were going to, under certain circumstances, let Bashar Assad do airstrikes…. This is unbelievable.” The latest reports tell us that McCain has yet to come to the realization that he is in fact a satirical character who unknowingly broke the fourth wall of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove film and has been living his life completely oblivious to the comical and fictional nature of his existence.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said some very interesting things today:

“I have a very demanding task now – not to let the list [of terrorist organizations] be reduced,” Lavrov said at a news conference on Tuesday. “I have no reason not to trust [US Secretary of State] John Kerry, but what we see on the ground [in Syria] is that the coalition is very reluctant to strike the positions of the Nusra Front,” the minister noted. “I asked John Kerry about it directly, but he vocally denied the US having any plans to ‘shelter’ Nusra Front or to fend off the threat of airstrikes from [its positions].”

“This is a topic for a very serious discussion with our American partners,” Lavrov said, noting that while the obligation to separate Syrian opposition fighters from terrorists was taken up by the US almost a year ago, this has not happened yet.

Translation: we do not trust the Americans; they are sheltering al-Nusra terrorists; the Russians know it and have confronted them about it.

“To ensure there should be no doubts as to how we will go about the business of implementing the agreement in its original form, we have suggested making it public after all. Not keeping it secret, contrary to the wish of our US partners. We have nothing to hide. Everything that is stated there is a matter of agreement,” Lavrov said, as cited by TASS news agency. “And we suggest presenting this document to the UN Security Council for approval without any amendments,” Lavrov added.

Wow. During the negotiations, all signs pointed towards Washington being the ones who had the most problems with the terms, and making the most concessions. Now Lavrov is saying that the Americans are the ones that wanted to keep the document secret (presumably because of the “sensitive nature” of some of the terms). And he is not-so-subtly threatening to make it public and bring it to the UN, no less. All this suggests that the document itself is solid. If its terms were followed, that would be a good thing. Elements in Washington don’t want the ceasefire to succeed, and no doubt intend to subvert it. If it were made public and binding, it really would be like Minsk 2.0 all over again, and Washington would be exposed for the two-faced manipulator it really is.

So will it last? Gumer Isaev, director of St. Petersburg’s Center for Modern Middle East Studies, thinks it has “every chance for success”. Anton Mardasov, head of the Department of Middle Eastern Conflicts of the Moscow-based Institute for Innovative Development, thinks it depends on the Fatah Halab alliance of 30+ rebel groups in Aleppo under FSA command abiding. But if the past is precedent, it doesn’t look likely to be a full success, unless Russia has some extra leverage over the U.S. that it didn’t back in February.

Syrian War Report – September 13, 2016: New Ceasefire Attempt

Syrian War Report – September 12, 2016: Syrian Army Advancing in Latakia

Russia Defense Report: Electronic Ears over Aleppo

Israeli perfidy in the Golan Heights

The other big news in Syria today is the report that Syrian armed forces shot down an Israeli jet and drone over Syrian territory. According to Syrian officials, the shoot-down followed an attack in Quneitra province, which borders the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, at 1 a.m. Al-Qaeda rebels have been launching an offensive in the region, and a stray projectile from the Syrian army into Israeli-occupied Golan territory prompted IAF shelling of Syrian mortar positions in response a couple days ago. The same thing happened early this morning (the fourth such instance in the last two weeks).

Here’s an alleged “insider’s account” from Ziad Fadel over at Syrian Perspective:

The man who gave the order and fixed the coordinates to fire the S-300 missile at the invading vulture was Captain Rayyaan Dhaaher, my wife’s nephew. He confirmed his role in the event by calling Leith [presumably Ziad’s son, Leith Fadel of Al-Masdar News] and giving him general information about the strike.

I have received confirming information also from Monzer’s wife in Damascus. She informed me that Monzer was in Al-Ba’ath City and saw the Zionist bomber downed with his own eyes. The pilot was not seen to eject … The jet landed in an area close to Al-Qaeda positions and it is assumed the terrorists, who are now allied with Zionism openly, will return the burned parts to their masters. …

The Syrian High Command has also announced the downing of the bomber and a pilot-less drone over the Occupied Golan. Syrian Armed Forces have been placed on high alert emphasizing the western front.

The Zionists have denied the bombing, however, indicating no desire to use this event as some casus belli.

The Israelis do admit that “two surface-to-air missiles were launched from Syria after our aircraft attacked Syrian artillery positions”, but deny that their craft have been shot down. If it did indeed crash in Nusra territory, they can probably get away with this. And they insist their attacks on the Syrian army are just “self-defense”. How can you tell when Israeli officials are lying? Their lips are moving. An IDF spokesman had this bit of bizarro-world doublespeak to say in response to the shelling:

The IDF was cited as saying by the Jerusalem Post newspaper that it would take action against the Syrian government’s “attempts to hurt the sovereignty” of the Israeli state.

The chutzpah is just as bad as it ever was. The IDF is fully aware that Israel has no legal claim on the Golan heights. It is not Israeli sovereign territory. It is illegally occupied territory, and the Syrian army would have every right to fight back a lot harder than they have been.

Who to believe? The inveterate liars in the Israeli government and military, or the Syrians? We’ll go with the Syrians on this one, who reiterated and confirmed the earlier reports. According to General Samir Suleiman, head of the Syrian Arab Army information department, “Syrian air defense forces responded and shot down a F-16 fighter jet in the southwest of Quneitra, and an Israeli drone over the Damascus’ suburb of Sa’sa.”

And if the Israeli excuse of “retaliatory fire” is just as facile as their denial of the shoot-down, why were they really firing on Syrian positions in Quneitra? Again, Gen. Suleiman provides the best answer:

The [Israeli] enemies give logistical and moral support to the terrorist groups, they opened Israeli hospitals and medical centers for the injured terrorists after the Syrian army carried out operations against militants in Quneitra,” Suleiman told Sputnik. “Terrorists constantly receive military support from the Israeli armed forces via artillery fire and air attacks on Syrian army positions.”

And as SANA put it: “It noted that the Israeli attack came in support of the armed terrorist groups and in a desperate attempt to raise the deteriorating morale of their members due to the heavy losses they have suffered in Quneitra.”

Lavrov called on Israel to recall international law and adhere to UNSC resolutions regarding the Golan Heights: “There are terrorists universally recognized as enemies of mankind in the Golan Heights. But, of course, dealing with them including through airstrikes should remain within the UN Security Council resolutions dedicated to the Golan Heights and with general restraint, avoiding any provocations.” We guess they just forgot, temporarily. Easy to get all those “stirred up Muslim” groups confused…

The Kill-bot breaks down

Continuing coverage from yesterday’s Snapshot, the Hillary Health Scandal continues to make headlines:

Conspiracists are working themselves into a frenzy over Clinton being replaced by a double after the “overheating”, and the mainstream “coincidencists” are working themselves into a frenzy ridiculing the conspiracists.

Here at SOTT, while we don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that someone, somewhere, might have used a body double (think Saddam), we’re not convinced there are two Killarys out there. The differences shown in the photographic ‘evidence’ can all be put down to drugs, make-up, different lighting and camera angles, etc. As for the Killary herself, she says she’s feeling fine now after a small “dizzy” spell: “I felt dizzy, and I did lose my balance for a minute, but once I got in [the van], once I could sit down, once I could cool off, once I had some water, I immediately started feeling better.” Right.

This video and this follow-up from Dr. Noel are informative. He suggests Killary has symptoms of someone who’s been taking Parkinson’s medication for a long time. In sum, pneumonia can’t explain Clinton’s behavior; Parkinson’s explains it all. Now there’s this:

The man who discovered CTE thinks Hillary Clinton may have been poisoned (Washington Post)

Omalu, whose story was famously told in the movie “Concussion,” made the suggestion on Twitter, writing that he advised campaign officials to “perform toxicologic analysis of Ms. Clinton’s blood.”

The suggestion was greeted somewhat skeptically in the replies. But this is Omalu, whose credentials and tenacity are well known. He wasn’t giving up on Twitter, adding that his reasoning is that he does not trust Russian President Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee who has expressed admiration for Putin.

Once again, the MSM peddles outrageous conspiracy theories (didn’t Bush say something about the U.S. ‘not tolerating’ those? Or was he just talking about 9/11?). We’ve got a better theory for you, Omalu and WaPo: according to our anonymous sources, the news is right. Hillary died. But she’s been dead for a while now. The Nazi scientists brought over by Allen Dulles after WWII have reanimated her dead corpse and have been controlling her movements remotely. The ultimate aim is to install the perfect president, able to follow orders completely with no questions asked – if the Kill-bot’s parts hold out that long, of course.

Every once in a while, though, the operators get distracted and lose their grip on the controls, or the system goes haywire temporarily as a result of Russian hacking. This has resulted in several Kill-bot malfunctions, including numerous “blue screens” (what appear to outside observers to be fainting episodes), displays of completely inappropriate emotions given the context of the situation, maniacal laughing fits, and loss of functioning in various body parts and mechanically aided appendages. New York was just a concatenation of mishaps caused by overheating of Kill-bot’s components. One of its hinge joints even got jostled free, causing the Kill-bot to lose mobility in its right leg.

However, our other anonymous sources tell us that the Russian hacks on the Kill-bot have been a clever communist ruse. Putin actually hacked its system before it was even created and has full control of the Kill-bot whenever he wants it. He even installed a Kill-bot kill-switch, which he plans to use at an opportune time. But our other other anonymous sources tell us that in the event of such a catastrophic failure, the apparent death will then be blamed on Vladimir Putin and written off as a “KGB sleeper cell poison black op”. So Omalu’s conspiracy theory is undoubtedly correct; he’s just not seeing the big picture: Nazi robots. We don’t know about you, dear readers, but these accounts sound just as legitimate as the conspiracy theories being thrown around by the Democratic Party and the mainstream media.

But all joking aside, the interesting thing for us is the astonishing fact that Clinton is very ill, on the eve of a U.S. election, and this public acknowledgment comes after the media spent the last 18 months castigating anyone who pointed to that fact as a ‘conspiracy theorist’. We reckon the puppet masters believed they had it sown up for Hillary, but now they may be facing the U.S. equivalent of the Brexit result: a Trump presidency. Two major errors in one year – in both ‘seats of power’ (London and Washington) – might indicate that the ‘elite’ are rapidly losing their power. As the detective says to the Chief inspector in V for Vendetta… “It’s all gone wrong, hasn’t it?

In other news

Turkey has apparently now formally requested the U.S. to arrest Gulen for conspiracy against the Turkish government. (This follows the extradition request, and would seem to be unrelated.) At the same time, Turkey sent a “humanitarian convoy” to Aleppo city, alleging to bring food, clothes and toys. Legit? Damascus then came out with this: “Following announcements made by the Turkish regime on its willingness to send substances it describes as humanitarian aid to Aleppo, Syria announces its refusal to allow such substances to enter from any party, especially if it was from the Turkish regime without the coordination with the Syrian Government and the United Nations,” an official Syrian Foreign Ministry source told the SANA news agency. Fair enough. The Syrians have good reason for skepticism when it comes to Turkey.

The U.S.-Iran confrontations have also been escalating. U.S. jets were ordered to fly extremely close to Iran’s 12-mile nautical border, in order to “test the Iranian reaction” according to Defense Dept officials interviewed on Fox News. Iran ordered the jets to change course under threat of being shot down, after which the U.S. hypocritically scolded Iran for such an “unprofessional” and “unsafe” reaction to Washington’s “test”. The Iranians know the U.S. is a belligerent aggressor that thinks it can do whatever it wants with no consequences – and then blame the victim as if the U.S. did absolutely nothing wrong, provocative, or harassing. Meanwhile, today Iran launched a new naval ship capable of transporting a helicopter and up to 100 men in the Persian Gulf. No revelations as to its weapons capabilities.

And some newsbites for the day:

Desperate measures: US lifts sanctions against Russian defense exporter
The U.S. government has lifted sanctions against the Russian defence exporter Rosoboronexport which will allow it to supply helicopter parts and services to Afghanistan. Several dozen Russian Mi-17 helicopters originally purchased by Afghanistan during the Soviet era are currently being used by the U.S. and its allies.

Open democracy? Brexit negotiations may be kept so secret not even Parliament will be told
David Davis, secretary of state for exiting the European Union said Parliament and the British public will be kept in the dark about Brexit negotiations until Article 50 of the EU treaty is implemented.

Russia Ready to Host Israeli-Palestinian Talks Any Time, Place
So says Lavrov: “At any time, when all these circumstances converge at one point and the leaders of Israel and Palestine will be ready and, if the choice falls on Russia, we will do everything to make this meeting successful,” Lavrov told reporters.

Suicide bomber targets Shiite mosque in Shikarpur, Pakistan, injures four police
The attack occurred during Eid prayers, and a second would-be suicide bomber was shot and wounded at the scene before he could detonate his vest. No group has claimed responsibility as of yet. Now consider the next story:

Pakistan To Conduct First War Games With Russia This Year
The games will put together around 200 personnel from each country, and are part of warming ties between them. Moscow’s relations with Pakistan are on the rise as Washington’s grow colder. Russia has sponsored Pakistan to join the SCO

Riot & fire at Poitiers-Vivonne prison in western France
A prison in Vivonne, western France was evacuated after prisoners rioted, started fires and refused to return to their cells.

United Airlines Flights Resume Out of Newark Airport After Power Outage Causes Delays: FAA
The United Airlines control tower in Newark NJ lost power at 5 pm EDT. Power was restored 45 minutes later, but was then lost again, until 7pm. The FAA has not offered any explanation yet. All United Airlines flights are now back on schedule.

White House Rejects Calls To Pardon Snowden For Leaking State Secrets

Saudi airstrike kills several Houthi leaders close to Yemen-Saudi border

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Modern economics has lost sight of people – By KEN WOLFF

This is the first of four articles looking at particular changes, and potential changes, in our economic environment and approach to economics generally.

For those who have followed my pieces on TPS you may recall that I am qualified as a social anthropologist. I take the anthropological view that economics is about how a society uses and distributes its resources — that is any society, whether hunter-gatherer or a modern technological society. It is a view that raises some questions about our modern approach to economics.

Basically the ‘use’ of resources includes a social responsibility for sustainable use so that resources can be utilised by others when required and also be available for future generations. And ‘distribution’ of resources includes a social responsibility to ensure that everyone in a community gets a reasonable share to enable them to survive comfortably within the context of their society.

Classical Western economics, however, is based on the tenet of the rational self-interested individual: that people make rational choices in the market that best provide ‘utility’. ‘Utility’ is something that provides the user/purchaser with satisfaction and/or meets their desires in some way. Adam Smith also introduced the concept of the benevolent ‘invisible hand’ whereby decisions made in an individual’s self-interest actually prove beneficial for society.

In classical economics there are also the concepts of ‘perfect knowledge’, by which the individual makes rational decisions based on information about all the prices in the market, and ‘perfect competition’ by which a product reaches an equilibrium (supply matching demand), and its price also reaches an equilibrium for all suppliers of that product, meaning there is then no competition nor need for advertising of the product. Of course these do not exist in the real world. Neither are individuals always rational in making their decisions in the market. So what was classical economics actually describing?

Even the concept of the market needs exploring. Markets of course go back millennia but the concept of the market has changed over time. Early in human history people shared goods, then exchanged surplus goods for other desirable goods and, as villages and towns developed, for services. Money eventually became the medium of exchange for any good or service.

Markets were not always based exclusively on the individual. In medieval Europe if a merchant from town A left debts when he departed town B, the merchants from town B didn’t pursue that individual merchant directly but would detain the next merchant who arrived from town A and hold him until he, the original merchant, or anyone from town A paid the debts. In that sense, the role of the individual in the market wasn’t as important as it later became — at that time it was believed that the community from which the merchant came also had a responsibility for his behaviour (and his debts). Subsequently merchant guilds were formed in which debts could be settled and over time that grew towards individual responsibility for the settlement of debts.

The other concept relevant to the modern market is private property. While the idea of private property now dominates our economic and social thinking it was not always so. Even in medieval England when land was held by dukes, barons and the like, there was common land used by the serfs, so both common and private property co-existed. It is estimated that, although serfs had to provide labour to the rich landholders, by using the common and small plots around their own dwellings they were actually able to keep from 50% to 70% of the product of their own labour. An industrial labouring class was created during the industrial revolution with the enclosure of the commons (in modern parlance, the land was privatised) and poor farmers and rural labourers no longer had access to that land to supplement their incomes and so had little choice but to work in the factories.

In the market, the logic is that to exchange something I must own it in the first place and the other party must also own what they are exchanging. The logic of that seems apparent when one considers what a thief may offer for exchange: we undoubtedly consider that not to be a fair exchange because the thief does not actually own the item of exchange — or does he? The thief clearly has ‘possession’, so is there a logical difference between ‘ownership’ and ‘possession’ in the economic system?

The emphasis on private property as central to a market economy goes back at least to the 1700s in England. C B Macpherson, a political scientist also trained in economics, argued that political freedom came before economic freedom and was first obtained by the property-owning elites who then used their new political power in their own self-interest to entrench private property rights. And it also goes back in history in the sense that much modern ‘ownership’ is based on past dispossession of previous owners and yet the economic system is based on the modern possession not the historic ownership.

Now private property, whether physical or intellectual, is central to thinking in a modern market and in modern economics.

These concepts were put together by the philosophers Hobbes and Locke but Macpherson also argued that they were bound by the values of their time and hence developed their philosophies around the market, contractual obligations and property; and the concept that an individual is the sole proprietor of his or her skills and owes nothing to society for them — what Macpherson called ‘possessive individualism’.

In rejecting a social element to ownership, economists refer to the ‘tragedy of the commons’ to justify that individual ownership, that is private property, is superior to common or social ownership. Although the idea has a longer history, the phrase came from a paper by Garrett Hardin in 1968. It was suggested that, when people grazed their herds on a ‘common’, a self-interested individual could improve his situation by adding one animal to his herd. The individual would gain the benefit. But if each individual added an animal the common would quickly degrade. While the individuals retained the benefit of having an extra animal, the ‘cost’ (the degradation) was shared, leaving them with a self-interested benefit — before the failure of the system. Following this argument, and its corollary that Adam Smith’s benevolent ‘invisible hand’ of individual self-interest does not work for the commons, economists argue that private property, and the individual’s responsibility for that property, remedies the situation and that became central to modern economics.

That approach is based, however, on a misunderstanding of how commons worked. They were not ‘open access’ as the theory implies. Throughout the world where people shared resources there were usually social and cultural rules that controlled that sharing. In Iceland, for example, the common resource of the fisheries was traditionally controlled by kinship rules that allocated spaces on the beach, that were necessary for launching fishing boats, to individual families. In some communities in India the allocation of the common resource of water for farming was determined by community meetings. People accepted these approaches as essential for the well-being of their communities or, in other words, social responsibility was more important than individual self-interest.

The modern market idea of private property and individual self-interest has basically destroyed social responsibility and the concept of the common good and allowed polluters to pour their waste into the ‘commons’ of the rivers, oceans and atmosphere.

We now use GDP to measure the ‘success’ of our economy but the use of GDP to measure economic activity only arose after the Great Depression of the 1930s when the American government was concerned that it did not see the depression coming. The government asked economic experts for a model that would allow it to keep track of the economy and so have a chance of foreseeing such events in the future.

The use of GDP, however, was being questioned as early as the late 1950s. Even its creator, Simon Kuznets, said that ‘the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income’.

A major problem with GDP is that it measures only productive activity and takes no account of the losses or costs associated with the activity:

… it tends to go up after a natural disaster. Reconstruction and remediation spur intense activity that is registered by GDP, while the destruction, lives lost, suffering and disruption to families and communities in the wake of a flood, cyclone or bushfire are ignored.

Or as Robert Kennedy said in 1968:

… the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. [emphasis added]

Yet we still rely on GDP as a measure of a nation’s progress although it has nothing to say about the well-being of the people. Gross GDP per head is sometimes taken as a measure of the economic prosperity of individuals: if that is rising people are said to be better off but it does not tell us whether that prosperity has enhanced ‘happiness’.

There is a long history in which ‘happiness’, or well-being, was removed from economics. A chapter in the World Happiness Report 2013 provided a potted history of the changes in the Western view of happiness: from the Greek philosophers and early Christian church’s view that happiness was achieved by being virtuous, to the economic theory of ‘utility’ in which individualism and consumerism prevailed — the early economic theorists brought material goods into the happiness equation, suggesting that people purchased that which brought them pleasure or happiness (‘utility’). In the twentieth century, however, economics came to be dominated by mathematical formulae and the question of whether market consumption could increase happiness and well-being was no longer a consideration.

Economists claim their field is a science and value free but the economy depends on social values like trust. We cannot even have a ‘market’ unless we trust each other. In a shop, the shopkeeper trusts that I will hand over the money after he hands over the goods or I trust that he will hand me the goods after I give him my money — otherwise we could be there all day arguing over who should make the first move. It could be argued that the behaviour of large multi-national corporations is destroying that trust, as is the use of tax havens to avoid social responsibility. And are we now so distrusting that we require automated payment systems, including even when paying for our goods in supermarkets? — now we have to trust a machine! Human interaction is being removed from the basic market process of exchange.

As Jeffrey D Sachs wrote in the World Happiness Report:

A prosperous market economy depends on moral ballast for several fundamental reasons. There must be enough social cooperation to provide public goods. There must be enough honesty to underpin a stable financial system. There must be enough attention paid to future generations to attend responsibly to the natural resource base. There must be enough regard for the poor to meet basic needs and protect social and political stability.

After all the economy does not exist in its own right. The market and the economy is people, as producers and consumers, as it has always been. It is the approach to it that has changed.

In an article in The Monthly, Richard Denniss argued that we are being led to believe that governments, in making their decisions, have to be conscious of the reactions of ‘the markets’. He wrote that we should remember that ‘markets’ per se do not have feelings, do not have needs or demands. What we refer to as ‘markets’ is actually people buying and selling and attempting to manipulate trading for their own advantage.

So historically we have moved from social co-operation in economic activity to twentieth century economic theories that have reduced people almost to invisibility. We discuss economics in terms of markets, GDP and monetary and fiscal policy as though these are entities in their own right. There is no economy without people, no markets, no goods and services without people as producers and consumers but this now gets less attention. The economy is deemed to have its own ‘scientific’ rules that operate irrespective of people and, as mentioned earlier, can now be analysed simply in terms of mathematical formulae.

Until people are re-introduced into the equation (both metaphorically and literally), the economists will not be describing the real economy nor will those utilising economic theory, such as governments (and their advisers), pay enough attention to the needs of their people. When ‘markets’ and GDP come first, people come last.

We need to measure the well-being of the people rather than only production; we need to pay more attention to the sustainability of our use of resources, not only for future generations but to ensure that current generations have reasonable and continued access; we need to ensure a fair distribution of resources, not only within our own society, but for all people globally; and only then will we have an economic approach that is realistic rather than the narrow view of current economic theory.

Next time, continuing the economic theme, I will discuss ‘an economy without people’ as robotics and other changes reduce the size of the workforce.

What do you think?
Who benefits from economic theory if it does not pay enough attention to people?

Why have we accepted the propaganda that even social progress hinges on the economy?

Let us know in comments below.

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The sharks, the scent of blood and Sam Dastyari – By David Donovan

David Donovan 7 September 2016, 12:00pm 147

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The mainstream media are relentlessly – frenetically – in pursuit of Senator Sam Dastyari over a meagre $1,600 donation — but why? Managing editor David Donovan explains.

TURNBULL IS IN TROUBLE. Falling in the polls and beset upon on every side. Then suddenly the mainstream media are fascinated ‒ obsessed, even! ‒ with a political donations scandal.

But which one? There are so many to choose from…

Is it Parakeelia? Money-laundering and rorting on a huge scale? Where Liberal Party MPs fraudulently funnelled their IT allowances, worth collectively hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, through a wholly owned subsidiary into their political party?

No, no-one of the media is at all interested in that outrageous scam.

Was it the NSW ICAC Operation Spicer report being finally handed down last week, which found about a dozen Liberal Party MPs in NSW had flagrantly violated NSW’s donation laws. Allegedly committed crimes and engaged in corruption, in other words — although NSW Premier Mike Baird calculatedly changed the definition of corruption in NSW last December so ICAC couldn’t call it corruption in the report. Which is even worse corruption, when you think about it.

Operation Spicer also, as Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones reported on Friday, far from cleared forgetful Arthur Sinodinos, despite the self-serving Senator’s squeaks in Parliament last week about ICAC “exonerating” him. 

No, although they did report on this matter a little early last week, the media really isn’t very interested in that scandal either.

The donations scandal the media are relentlessly fascinated with is, of course, the one relating to Sam Dastyari. Someone in the media found that Dastyari had, on his register of interests, a bill for about $1,670 having been paid for by a Chinese company. This matter has not become so vital, so key to our national interest, we even saw accomplished wedding singer Leigh Sales move out from under her ABC Ultimo desk to confront Dastyari at an outdoor press conference.

Now, IA wouldn’t for a minute advocate a politician having an expense paid for by anyone, let alone a foreign corporation. But then, we don’t think politicians should collect donations from any organisation. And we think donations should be limited in amount — perhaps to less than $1,000 from any one individual. Or failing that, MPs should be forced to wear their sponsors’ logos on their suit jackets so we can all see who they are really representing. And, most importantly, we think that all donations should be declared in real time — so we can’t be fooled before elections about who is really pulling a politicians’ strings.

And as for organisations responsible to shareholders to deliver a profit, there is obviously an expectation the business will receive something in return from its political donation. Otherwise, wouldn’t it would be in breach of its fiduciary duties to its shareholders to make these payments? This system of quid pro quo is a barely concealed, seldom discussed, but nevertheless extremely real feature of Australian politics. An appallingly undemocratic feature. It is something we have talked about over and over again on these pages. The influence of big business on the Liberal Party is well known, as is the influence of unions on the ALP.

But the media isn’t talking about any of that. Well, on the margins, a little, quietly — but not really.

Distinguished former journalist Jim Parker summed it up well on Twitter this morning:

Yes, this is just a typical “pile-on”, where the media smell blood in the water and thrash around until they reach fever pitch. They drag the mob along, making every ill-informed and gullible person see, vividly, just exactly who the monster is and forget about anything else. Anything else at all. Truth, moderation, perspective, context — all those things go right out the window, as the media, public and opposing politicians firstly throw their arms up in the air in a sanctimonious display of moral panic — and then fall upon their victim in a vicious and unrestrained shark-like feeding frenzy.

We saw it with Peter Slipper. We saw it with Craig Thomson. Neither were the devils the media painted them. The media overlooked or ignored the real criminals. And now we are seeing it all again.

But here’s the kicker. Dastyari did nothing illegal. He didn’t break any rules — not as they currently stand, anyway. He did declare the donation. A gift for a relatively small amount. I’m not sure how many favours $1,670 gets you as a donor on the free market of Australian politics, but I can’t imagine it would be many. The whole “scandal” would appear to be little more than a political beat-up. And one, moreover, with a distasteful whiff of anti-Chinese bigotry. A storm in a green tea cup, you might say.

So why are they going after Dastyari when, for instance, a Chinese businessman with links to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop gave over half a million dollars to the WA branch of the Liberal Party — even though his business doesn’t even operate in Western Australia? Could it be because Dastyari has been the main one advocating for corporations to start paying their taxes? Speaking out against rich people like Malcolm Turnbull dodging tax through Cayman Island tax avoidance schemes? Had been the main proponent for a banking royal commission? Had said in February, in a “fiery speech”, ten big corporations had taken control of Australian politics?

Is it possible that the big corporations he talked about – the ones who donate large sums to the Liberal Party and really run Australia – have decided that Dastyari must be punished? Preferably sacked and silenced, but at the very least discredited?

And, of course, it has given Turnbull, humiliated last week in Parliament and beset upon by even his own side, some cover from which to attack the Opposition.

How very, very convenient.

You can follow Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. Independent Australia supporters and members can also listen to managing editor Dave Donovan in his weekly podcasts in IA’s Member’s Only Area. In the most recent podcast, Dave speaks to Dr Evan Jones about political and financial corruption.


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