All posts by Mark Buckley

I am a native of Melbourne, now based in regional Victoria. My interests include politics, history, ethics and literature.

Our very own Marie Antoinette moment


It is a sign of the times that, within the worst cost-of-living crisis in Australia for nearly a century, we are even contemplating the return of the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne.

We are in the grip of an inequality tsunami. Never have so many gone hungry. Never have so many been actually homeless. Never have the wage-earners of this country struggled so hard to make ends meet.

The last four years have seen arguably the worst bushfire season in recorded history, a severe drought, and now catastrophic floods down the entire east coast, from Queensland to Tasmania.

There is a meaningless debate as to whether floods are worse than bushfires. It does not matter; both devastate the land, and blight the lives of the humans who live anywhere near them. Of course the damage to the economy leaks out to the region, the state, and the whole country.

Although Australia is a land of weather extremes, it becomes clearer every day that something is indeed very wrong. Not only with our own weather and climate, but that of the entire planet.

Deadly floods in parts of Europe, and then drought with the following summer. Record temperatures in Britain and across Scandinavia. In North America, heatwaves and wildfires to the west, and ruinous floods and hurricanes to the east.

South America’s rainfall patterns are out of whack, Andean glaciers are melting, while the Amazon disappears, square mile by square mile. The continent is heating up, and millions are leaving for the United States.

In the Arctic Ocean winter ice is becoming a novelty. The Antarctic is calving icebergs bigger than buildings. Penguins in the south, and polar bears in the north are becoming the sacrificial victims of our negligence.

A pandemic which has so far killed millions, and continues to kill the unvaccinated, and the vulnerable. A special group in Australia, the elderly, are being covertly sacrificed to our hedonism and greed.

Africa is reeling from crop failures, drought and the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Very few are vaccinated, and millions are moving out of their homes, in search of a better life. Nigeria is in the grip of floods, and in the neighbouring Indian sub-continent both Pakistan and Bangladesh have been battered by great heat last year, and now flooding rains.

There is a war in Ukraine. The parallels with Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 are chilling, and the level of destruction and suffering inflicted on the Ukrainian civilians is almost mediaeval in its mindless cruelty.

Of course, with the invasion, Russia has destroyed the goal of transitioning away from fossil fuel, because winter is coming, and Europe depends on Russian gas for its heating needs.

This feeds into the developed countries’ apparent reluctance to do anything meaningful about reducing emissions. So the earth is caught in a pincer movement, between allowing millions of Ukrainians to die of the cold, or allow human civilisation to be cooked by climate change.

And what does Australia do at this time of existential threats? We party. We go to the races, and we waste millions of dollars on pretentious food and wine, while 3 million of our fellow citizens are having to skip meals, and sleep in cars.

One must admire such wilful blindness. Even as the middle class complain of the rise in interest rates, and business complains that one of these days workers MIGHT get a small pay rise, they are guzzling French Champagne, and eating canapes.

Never mind the 3 million Australians who are struggling for life, under the misapprehension that in Australia we do not allow our fellows to starve to death.

As Marie Antoinette was rumoured to have said, “let them eat cake”. We are just about in the same league, with our tone deaf response to inequality, and our clamour to not see the misery around us.

Our federal government continues to dally, trailing its coat on tax cuts for the rich. How many of them, from all the parties, will find that parliamentary business leaves them no choice but to be in the environs of Flemington at around the time the races kick off.

If caught out, they will apologise, and pay it back. No three months in jail for them, for defrauding their employer. Just apologise, and pay it back.

Hunter S. Thompson wrote his famous piece on the Kentucky Derby, and the beasts who debase themselves in and around the racetrack. Read it here https://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/hunter-s-thompson-the-kentucky-derby-is-decadent-and-depraved/ and weep.

What can the hold-up be?


Considering that the Morrison Government was arguably the worst in Australian history, (apologies to Tony Abbott & Joe Hockey) it is unbelievable that the Albanese Government, seen by so many as the adults come to the rescue of our fair land, should be as paralysed in the face of deadly peril as it is.

Catastrophic Floods

Look at the country in all its distress, and note the lack of urgency. People are being flooded out of their homes almost weekly, and yet the federal government has left the heavy lifting to Dominic Perrottet, a mere slip of a lad who is so far out of his depth that sometimes I feel the need to rescue him. But it is the good folk of the Northern Rivers who need rescuing.

Many of them are homeless, facing more flooding rains, and we dither. The ugly truth in Australia is that politics gets in the way of basic humanity, every single day of the week.

You can almost hear their creaking brains as they weigh up the political costs of doing something, or hoping the approaching summer will make irrelevant the cold hard facts of homelessness, and the total lack of any sort of housing.

Announce (again) a grant of (our) money to an ice cream factory in Lismore; but where is the logic in a decision to look after future employment before we look after the current safety and welfare of the actual residents?

Lift the Basic Welfare Payment, or look after the children!

How many children are going to bed hungry every day, while we agonise over the Stage 3 tax cuts? Who cares about whether wealthy wage earners get a tax cut, when the least well off in the country are starving, or their children are?

And that is if they are blessed to have a roof over their heads. Imagine, as you sweat on your next mortgage interest rise, trying to make the car comfortable enough to sleep in, for yourself, but more importantly, your children.

Argue for a rise, Amanda Rishworth. These children are Australian, and I don’t want them to be hungry, or cold. She trained as a clinical psychologist, and she should know the damage that extreme poverty and homelessness can do to a child’s self-esteem. Life long shame.

Ask Peter Dutton, who seems to have appointed himself as the country’s pre-eminent protector of women and children, how he feels about the situation. Would he be prepared to give up a tax break, for the kiddies?

He certainly wouldn’t help bring home those unfortunate kids living in Syrian refugee camps; of course they are a real threat to our national security. And they are Muslim. They did not choose to live there, and they are entitled to the same protections as Dutton’s own children.

The Pandemic – oh, it’s over!

But of course we cannot ignore the Labor Party deciding that the Chief Medical Officers, at all levels of government, are surplus to requirements. So let Covid-19 rip, it is only killing our parents and grandparents. Talk about a compassion and empathy shortage; there it is, writ large.

Defence spending? Really?

We better get on board the AUKUS submarine deal, which might deliver submarines we don’t need in thirty years. Not to mention the wonderful fighter jets we have ordered, but haven’t been lucky enough to see yet. Oh, and don’t forget the tanks and armoured personnel carriers. So handy, when you consider we live on an island, a long way away from anywhere else.

Let’s give the rich a leg up. They need cheap education

In February 2022 it was reported that funding for private students rose by $3338 per student vs $703 for public schools, in the years between 2010 and 2020. That pretty well covers that topic.

Go and have a look at MLC in Melbourne, and compare its facilities with Hawthorn Secondary College. Why do we persist with this? If you don’t want your little darlings mixing with those of the great unwashed, then you should pay for them to be educated. Fully.

If you can’t afford it, try the state system. You might even be pleasantly surprised. Give all children an even start. We might even be able to rid ourselves of the entitled twits who clog up the education system.

Why do we continue to encourage inequality in the one area where all children should be given equal opportunity. Let’s go for a level playing field, and divert the funds from the uber-wealthy to the needy. That way we all win.

Labor needs to act, and act now. The promise is that if you change the government, you change the country. I see cosmetic changes, and a more likeable group of leaders. But we need to focus more on function, over form.

Why do we bother electing governments, if they don’t actually care for their citizens?


This statement sets out Australia’s mission, its task. I found it on the website of the Parliamentary Education Office:

The Australian Government is responsible for making decisions about how the country is run, including setting a policy agenda, proposing new laws and putting laws into action. The government plays an important role in shaping our society and making sure that Australians have the services and safeguards we need.

Do we share common aims with other countries?

That is how the Australian Parliament sees government, in a nutshell. It is interesting to note that many commentators in the United States, for example, emphasise the need for governments to ensure a safe society, by maintaining law and order. Some concentrate on defending their borders.

Others around the world, depending on their ideological position, will favour militarism, perhaps nationalistic fervour, or they will look after the better off.

Others, like the Scandinavian countries, are thought to follow democratic socialism principles. Of course in a state where the majority have the vote, the state should ideally reflect the wishes of the people.

Parliamentarians will, instinctively, look to systems, or methods which look after their own constituents. This will allow them to be popular, and incidentally, to look after their own interests.

Often, they do this under the cover of darkness. This is because, at least in democracies, such preferential treatment of selected groups will be seen as anti-democratic, or even corrupt.

Whatever the purpose of government is, it is generally agreed, within democracies at least, that the people’s welfare is paramount.

How are the ‘democracies’ faring?

One would have to question where most democracies are headed. In Europe the rise of right wing populist parties is alarming, and it is clearly targeted at the the less educated, and to those who are older. Many seniors are attracted by nostalgia for old attitudes.

These voters all seem to share a fear of the unknown, the arrival of large numbers of immigrants, who very conveniently are usually of different races, and who profess different religions.

The United States has a large dose of the same, although it can be argued that in Donald Trump they unearthed a brilliant communicator, if you are looking to bridge the gap between the rulers and the ruled. He was able to capture a large proportion of the disaffected, and to take the country to the brink of civil war.

Did neo-liberalism contribute to this malaise?

If neo-liberalism can be said to have ‘taken off’ with the advent of Reagan and Thatcher, then the undermining of the welfare state has progressed significantly.

The aim of “levelling up” has been cast aside, with inequality out of control. The belief in markets has replaced any sense of morality in governing. The people’s good is now down to their ability to compete for basics, such as food and shelter. The reality of ‘society’ as a state of being is now openly questioned.

What about ‘the people’?

There has been a vulgarisation of public discourse, such that the principles of liberty, equality, fraternity have become devalued, even mocked, by the followers of a small school of economists, based at the University of Chicago. It is a debased philosophy, because it places the market above the welfare of the people.

This is the tail truly wagging the dog. It is stupid, and it is without care or compassion, and so, it is inhuman.

Do we want to follow Britain down the plug-hole?

Britain has been useful as an experiment in just how debased neo-liberal economics, taken to its ridiculous limits, can be.

It has effectively dismantled its welfare system; it has hobbled its national health service, during the worst pandemic in a century; withdrawn from the single market in Europe, sent home hundreds of thousands of migrants from Europe, incidentally losing the cultural diversity and intellectual and academic contribution of those migrants, and generally increasing inequality.

The country was already burdened by a rigid class structure, with an hereditary upper house in its parliament, and an hereditary royal family still leeching off the tax system.

Liz Truss has earned universal disrespect and mockery for her laughable assertions regarding tax cuts for the rich. Even that monolith the IMF has seen fit to admonish her, and her witless treasurer, for sabotaging Britain’s fiscal and monetary plans to defeat cost of living rises.

Her decision to borrow to pay for citizens’ energy bills beggars belief. She has consciously chosen to allow the energy companies, which are shamelessly enjoying windfall profits, to continue on their merry way, while she is stealing from taxpayers.

What about Australia?

Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have similarly ransacked our national wealth for nine years. They have weakened Medicare, lowered taxes on the rich, stolen taxpayers’ funds to fund obscenely rich private schools at the expense of public schools, and gutted our universities.

They also spent billions adding to the fossil fuel companies’ ill-gotten gains, hamstrung climate change mitigation for a decade, and attacked our national cohesion with deliberate trashing of our international treaty obligations, especially regarding refugees, dog-whistling attacks on minorities, started an unnecessary war of words with China, and essentially destroyed our biodiversity so that land clearing can proceed.

But, I hear you say, we threw them out on their ear. We elected a reformist government, in whose DNA flows liberty, equality and fraternity.

We did change governments, but we are still on track to lower taxes to our richest minority. We still subsidise fossil fuel companies. We will not tax them for their ill-gotten gains, and we won’t even consider increasing the welfare payments of the poor.

Even though we know that it causes Australian children to go to bed hungry, and a recent finding that the average rent increase for the last year was $3000. That is, on average, $60 a week in rent alone. Then factor in energy cost rises, higher food costs due to shortages caused by floods, and you have a perfect recipe for a human disaster.

So there have been changes for the better, but this government is seemingly intent on ‘doing a Truss’, and going ahead with stage 3 tax cuts. Spare me from inhumane governments. They need to wake up as to why they exist, at all.

A quick grab for power?


As we have been detained, reluctantly, at the late Queen’s bereavement party in the United Kingdom, the Heir Apparent has been staking out his own territory.

If you feel there has been an indecent rush to proclaim the new king, you are right. There are no pretenders to the throne; the lesser heirs have maintained an orderly procession, there are no ‘smokies’ hiding in the wings, neither in Scotland nor in France.

The various announcements and proclamations have continued apace since the Queen died. The scene setting and the execution of the ceremonies have gone without a hitch.

Considering it has been seventy years since any of these events were last performed, it becomes clear there had been significant planning, and almost certainly rehearsals. That is why it is probable that the Queen was party to the preparations, even as she soldiered on.

Why hurry?

So why the haste? At first glance the Queen was always a constitutional monarch. As such her powers were strictly limited, and if we are to be brutally honest, she was always restrained by those limits. Part of her impeccable reputation rests on her willingness to act within those limits.

She was tasked with receiving advice from her prime minister(s). This in itself would be crushingly difficult, considering the quality of advisors. Listening to David Cameron, or Boris Johnson, sounds like slow torture. Her greatest victories seem to have been in the area of protecting her own vast wealth from tax.

Her will is forever unavailable to be seen by the public, so the wash-up is that what was hers becomes the new king’s; what was his, in his role as Prince of Wales, now becomes the property of his son and heir, Prince William.

Continue, until you run out of heirs. Be assured that the family will continue to advocate on behalf of minimal taxes for them, and an ongoing lack of accountability to the state, which nurtures them.

Building on the legacy

So the inescapable conclusion is that Queen Elizabeth the Second was a ruler without practical political power, who was nevertheless able, through a lifetime of ‘service’ and exemplary behaviour, to develop a huge, and deeply personal following amongst her subjects.

She has no legislative triumphs, because she has no power to legislate. She has, through dint of many years of dedication, developed a network of people whose lives have been enriched, sometimes by virtue of something as transitory as their having attended a street walk fifty years ago, or by the purchase of a commemorative item, which serves as a marker of time passed.

She has been invaluable at opening anything, from a bridge in Scotland, to the London Olympics, but if you study her achievements they are precisely those of an enabler, one who graces political decisions, no matter how damaging they might be, because that is her role.

We are surprised at the depth of feeling that her death has released, and the intense feelings of attachment to the Queen, are being translated into renewed support, perhaps even fervour, for the institution of the British Monarchy.

The grab for power and legitimacy seems to have been hatched long ago. Both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles must have been acutely aware that the very notion of a hereditary monarchy is completely incompatible with a modern democratic state, and so the moment to declare the continuation of the royal line would naturally be when the nation is consumed with emotion.

That would explain the unseemly haste with which Charles has had himself proclaimed King. The use of ceremony, of gorgeous costumes, the seamless call-up of notables and rarely seen archaic practices, including the use of the ancient language appropriate to mediaeval successions has us all shocked and awed by the mysterious power of the crown.

The new King will, no matter how powerful the assembled courtiers and the nominal military decorations worn so devilishly, equate to virtually no power. The Queen mastered the skill of quieting her own inner voice, and King Charles has already promised to follow her lead.

So forget about the time for reflection, the possibility of making the monarchy more democrat friendly. You have been awe-bombed by a family which relies 100% on our ability to quiet our inner voices, which naturally know the absurdity of a ruling family placed above the populace.

If we ask why do they continue to ‘serve’ we note their lack of political weight, their potential capture by those lucky enough, or devious enough to hold prime ministerial power.

The only ‘sweetener’ in this for a British sovereign seems to lie in the need to satisfy the personal mission of service, and the vast wealth and prestige attached to the office. In a month or so, as the novelty of a new king wears off, he will probably tail off in his relentless efforts to legitimise the existence of a hereditary monarchy, and simply continue the family tradition of opening things.

Indigenous Australians knew how to look after the land


If we attempt to compare Aboriginal land use with those of the early settlers, we should broaden the meaning of ‘land use’. We should move away from the narrow European notion of agriculture and horticulture, to one which includes religious and cultural associations with the land, and one which allows the skills and the bounty of hunting and gathering to enter the picture.

Another difficulty is that the indigenous Australians, although sharing the same continent, and some cultural traditions, were not all alike. Regional differences in a land so large were bound to be great, though identification with, and care for, the land seems to have been practically universal. With that in mind, Aboriginal attitudes to their land will be treated as roughly uniform.

The common misconception about life in Australia prior to the arrival of the whites, and one which dates back to the time of Captain Cook, is of a race of hungry nomads, constantly ranging over an inhospitable land in search of game, victims of their own lack of industry, and incidentally unfit to lay claim to the land.

This view is now under constant attack, as evidence mounts to show the active participation of the Aboriginal Australians, not only in the management of their own survival, but as agents for change in the greater environment.

As the white arrivals would eventually do, the original inhabitants had built up an economic system which delivered regular surpluses, and allowed the population to grow, albeit at a sustainable rate. ‘They exploited the resources available to them, making the continent into a gigantic farm, but a farm which they worked with an eye to the future.’ (Bolton 1981, p. 8)

Using fire

Fire is the most versatile and important tool that a society of hunter gatherers can use. The original Australians used fire extensively, and as well as flushing out game which sought shelter in scrub, the fire served the purpose of thinning the bush, burning off the old feed, and promoting new growth. This new growth attracted more game next season. Different fire regimes were used throughout the country, with adaptations made for the needs of each locality. (Flood 1983)

Fire was not only used for flushing and attracting game, however. It transformed the landscape, though there is debate as to how much forethought went into that transformation. Major Mitchell, an early explorer, suggested that the Aborigines worked on their ‘runs’, which happened to carry kangaroos and other native species, in much the same way that the later pastoralists would clear ground, and improve pasture for their stock. (Bolton 1981)

The Aborigines actively used fire to promote the growth of ‘crops’ for their own consumption. (Kirk 1981) They also used it to extend the range of, for instance, cycad nuts, by clearing competing vegetation. (Flood 1983)

What did they live on?

The Aborigines did not depend on meat alone to feed them. In a normal year the population in most regions obtained at least half of its energy needs from plant foods. (Blainey 1982)

The methods they used to sustain life were adapted to the ecology of the region in which they lived. These ranged from hunting fat moths in the mountains to catching seals on the coast, from trapping eels in Victoria to cycad harvesting in the north.

They were gifted hunter gatherers. They manipulated their environment so ingeniously that they were able to lead a semi-sedentary life, with regular tribal gatherings and religious festivals. (Flood 1983) It is a long way from the picture of starving wretches stalking kangaroos, for their very survival.

They knew their land intimately, and all that it produced. Their knowledge had been accumulated over sixty thousand years, and their knowledge of botany was arguably their most refined. This may explain how they were able to survive in such a seemingly hostile environment with such aplomb. (Blainey 1982)

A common criticism of their culture decries the ‘fact’ that they never developed formal agriculture. A counter to that criticism is that they were so well-off that they had no need to increase the yield of their foods; nor did they need to store it.

This goes some way toward explaining the feelings that Aborigines have toward their land. They were provided with bounty, as long as they did their duty to the land. For the great unifying theme in Aboriginal Australian life was religion, and the core of that religion was man’s close, symbiotic relationship with the land. As Blainey so eloquently states,

‘Their knowledge of the land and all which it grew was supplemented by a spiritual belief that the earth would not continue to be productive unless they obeyed its rules and its deities. One aim of their religious ceremonies and many of their taboos was to maintain the fertility of the land and its creatures.’ (Blainey 1983, p. 202)

What did white land use look like?

The members of the First Fleet and those who followed them had no such tenderness for the land, or indeed for its original inhabitants. As the Aborigines followed the dictates of their religion, so could the Europeans be seen to be following theirs. As the Bible exhorted them to go forth and multiply, it also provided them with an attitude which separated them from nature, and made them masters of the natural world.

They were the products of a society which held the belief that it was man’s duty to enhance the productivity of the soil. In fact, the notion of the right to own property was inextricably linked to the end use to which that property was put. (Butcher & Turnbull 1988) This served a dual purpose-it legitimised their own exploitation of the land, and it robbed the Aborigines of any claim they might have made to the land, because the imprint of a black hand on the landscape was so subtle.

With legal and moral matters of ownership of the land apparently sorted out, the white invaders then proceeded to ‘farm’ the continent. They were not conspicuously successful to begin with. The Administration at Sydney Cove was sorely pressed to feed all the mouths in the colony. The problem was exacerbated by the urban background of most of the convicts, and of the guards.

They were poor overseers of the land, often because they lacked adequate financial resources and more importantly, they lacked even the most rudimentary rural skills. They had no prospect of learning them either, except by trial and error. Happily the destruction of the environment was limited by their technology. If they did possess any farming experience, it was mostly irrelevant or misleading under local conditions.

They did not realise that the Aborigines’ knowledge and exploitative methods were geared precisely to local conditions, and were the result of thousands of years of study. The land, though seeming to conform to their vision of benign nature, tamed for man’s use, appeared so by virtue of careful husbandry and sustainable use. (Bolton 1981)

The profit motive was present from the beginning, and once mere survival was assured, the principles of capitalist farming were applied. Though they were not ecologically disastrous when used in Britain, Australia’s older soils and specialised flora were no match for the rapacious appetites of 19th century capitalists.

The introduction of cattle and sheep was the beginning of catastrophe for the Australian environment. The first and most significant change was in the texture of the soil. The cloven hooves of the whites’ livestock destroyed the mulch of aeons in a decade. (Rolls 1981)

The vegetation changed, with the native grasses, used to the gentler feeding of the macropods, being destroyed by the different feeding habits of the sheep, especially. Men responded with ‘pasture improvement’, ploughing out the native grasses, using fertiliser and sowing inappropriate exotics. (Rolls 1981)

The trees were the next to go. They were seen as a nuisance by the first settlers, fit only to be cleared, and used for building or farming. Until the gold rushes of the 1850s the destruction was confined to the coastal valleys of New South Wales, but demand for building timbers increased greatly. Improving transport opened up the export for hardwoods, but from the 1860s pastoralists began ring-barking on an unprecedented scale. By 1892 clearance for farms and ring-barking for grazing were the major causes of deforestation. The bush was re-shaped irrevocably to accommodate the interests of graziers and their stock.

The native fauna was also profoundly affected. A quarter of a century after the arrival of the white man, many species faced extinction. Others prospered unnaturally – the balance was upset. The introduction of the domestic dog and cat was calamitous, as was the introduction of goats, pigs, brumbies, foxes and last, but not least, the ubiquitous rabbit.

It is unnecessary to describe the degradation of the environment around towns and cities, but it was at least as complete as that affected by the pastoralists. The gold-fields were even worse, creating waste-lands for miles around. All in all, the impact of the whites on the environment was catastrophic, with most of the damage still with us.

19th century white settlers were not wilful or wanton destroyers of the land. Most of the ecological damage occurred as a result of ignorance, and as a by-product of unthinking agrarian capitalism. There was a mistaken belief that the land was so bountiful as to be inexhaustible.

By contrast the original inhabitants had known all along that the ecology was a delicate thing, which had finite limits. They were not perfect custodians, but their reign of sixty thousand plus years was solicitous and successful. In just over two centuries we have undone much of that good work, and we appear not to be learning anything.

Recent reports of the state of the environment are alarming. Messages are often contradictory. On the one hand lots of hand – wringing from governments intent on demonstrating their environmental bona-fides, clash with draconian laws which criminalise protesters who dare to question logging and land clearing.

It is getting close to midnight when we look at how degraded our country has become, and both sides of politics appear to be in the thrall of the fossil fuel industry. It is an excellent time to actually recognise the need for action, and to end the hypocrisy. Again, “poor fellow our country” needs our collective help.

This article has been updated, as of August 11, 2022

If the cap fits?


I’d probably lay off the dunces’ caps, but couldn’t agree more. Anyway, by the time the next election rolls along, the LNP will be even more unelectable than they are today, so a broken promise, for good reasons, sound eminently sensible.

The Bug Online

So, the question on everyone’s lips – everyone’s chapped lips – is this: should those dunce caps shown hovering above be lowered firmly and stuck on permanently on our beloved Prime Minister and his Treasurer?

In this ranter’s opinion, BRING ‘EM DOWN! GLUE THEM ON!

It’s now 78 days since the election – a good two-and-a-half-months since Labor took over and found out just how woeful the books were under Morrison and his ministry of morons – and the two men above are steadfastly refusing to axe those disgraceful third-stage personal income tax cuts that largely favour the well-off.

Repeat: the cuts are about as un-Labor as any policy could possibly be.

Albanese and Chalmers might be less offensive if they moved and seconded that the Tree of Knowledge be turned into matchsticks and sold as a local party fundraiser.

The third-stage tax cuts have four-fifths of six-eighths of fuck…

View original post 230 more words

Scott Morrison has gutted the LNP


Even typing those words has an unreal feeling. Will he come back? Will his poisonous personality rear up out of the darkness? Will he make a miraculous comeback? Or will he pull the pin on his parliamentary career, and move to the U.S. where some believe he belongs?

Some might find such trepidation, caused by one very unimpressive individual to be over-wrought, but it is no exaggeration to describe him as a catastrophe dodged.

The single worst prime minister in our history, aided and abetted by the most aimless, and spineless collection of chancers and rent-seekers ever gathered. And yet he went close to setting up a government which was almost impossible to remove.

The power of the Murdoch press pack is still very much in evidence in Australia, but the rise of the independent media, and the very powerful effect of the twittersphere, undermined what looked like a forever government.

Anthony Albanese’s day 1 failure to name the unemployment figure also gave rise to fears that Labor’s run would be sabotaged. The performance of the ABC and its political commentators was woeful, probably fuelled by the constant threats of funding cuts, and the intimidation by the ministry.

But failures in disaster management, naked vote-buying which favoured, as always, LNP electorates; the performance of electoral liabilities like Matt Canavan and George Christensen was a reminder of how low our democracy had fallen.

On any measure now the opposition will be made up of the remnants of the shattered Liberal Party, and also by those in the National Party who escaped annihilation by the skin of their teeth, but are too obtuse to know that their time must be nearly up.

Peter Dutton is so spectacularly unsuitable as a leader of anything, that it immediately forces one to cast around for something, anyone, to present an alternative government. Of course looking at Dutton’s performance since rising to the leadership could fill one with despair.

Instead of looking contrite and accepting the crushing verdict of the voters, his first words as opposition leader were to suggest that he would be ‘on hand’ to clean up Labor’s “inevitable mess” in 2025.

No sense of looking for redemption. No shame regarding his own failures, from his first days as a minister. No embarrassment regarding Australia’s fall from grace within the international community. No regrets about the fate of refugees, stranded and victimised by a series of bullies, as Morrison allowed his cabinet to participate in some group cruelty.

Appointing Angus Taylor as the Treasury shadow serves to highlight the lack of able members to choose from. His known difficulty with numbers, a la Clover Moore, and also emissions reduction, and his vulnerability on matters of integrity regarding water related matters, means that possibly the most important role in opposition is being filled by someone who will struggle, especially against such a polished performer as Jim Chalmers.

There was never any acknowledgement that the election was fought on climate action, fixing corruption and a demand for honest government. Every action the LNP took, from the botched pre-selections in New South Wales, to the last minute weaponisation of prejudice against trans-gender kids, to the memories of Robodebt, added up to a tone-deaf government which people did not just want gone, but one that many actually feared.

The only possible excuse for the conscious bastardry shown by the LNP through nine long years is that they were all struck with a group hysteria, in which they lost their minds, and their moral compasses, in the naked arrogance of never-ending power.

That is why so many in the community, with little or no interest in politics, finally woke up to the nasty excesses, the blame shifting and the outright theft, and mis-use of taxpayers’ funds.

How can we be expected to accept members of parliament with the obvious character flaws of some of the casualties of ‘the reckoning’? For such it was.

We woke up that the leader was from a religious cult, who only recently admitted, through a ‘sermon’ he gave at Margaret Court’s very own church, that he doesn’t believe in government, and thus does not believe in democracy.

His playbook was spectacularly unsuited to Australian conditions. We are not a nation of religious bigots. We are not a nation of patriarchal misogynists. We are a nation which has always honoured the principles of fairness and justice before the law.

We have always believed that our representatives must act in a manner befitting their high status, and the rewards which accrue to politicians.

Morrison and his ‘vandals’ trashed the conventions, laying bare the lack of regulation and accountability, which had never been so nakedly exposed as it was by the behaviour of the LNP government.

If you are confronted by visions of Barnaby Joyce, apparently the worse for wear railing about whatever the issue of the day was, then Australia’s voters decided to disempower this collection of misfits, and to give the other team a go.

Anthony Albanese is not much of a speaker, and he can stumble on a simple answer, but he appears to be decent, caring, and competent. These qualities are in short supply, and especially on the opposition front bench.

Simon Birmingham is what I would call an old fashioned Liberal. He appears to be decent, caring, and competent. I expect that in the not too distant future, the LNP rump, following a couple of disastrous polls on Dutton and Ley, will decide the neo-liberal far right experiment has failed, and will attempt to reset the coalition.

Sadly the coalition parties have been stripped of talent, and so we could see a Labor government for years to come. That poses a series of future problems. A good government needs a good opposition. Morrison has pretty much made that impossible.

Cynicism wins out over hope


A young social worker recently told me that her clients were showing deep cynicism toward “the government”. This includes any government, of any stripe, because where they once had hope that life could become more pleasant, or at least less punitive, now they realise that all governments are without compassion, or even understanding.

Of course she deals mainly with people who are involved with either welfare support, or child protection issues, maybe housing problems. Read that for ‘the poor’. Those who rely on the government to improve their lives, or to make it at least liveable.

The election of a Labor government has made no difference to this cohort, They still live on around $40 a day, their housing is hopelessly inadequate, if they have a roof over their heads; their prospects of finding decent work are often out of reach, their health is worse than anyone else’s.

The list is long, but if you choose to turn a blind eye to others’ suffering, it doesn’t matter. You have an opinion that you deserve that bottle of French bubbly, that quick holiday to the snow. You might not have thought too deeply about it, but your brunches on Sunday morning will continue, because you can afford it.

We as a society have become hardened by the endless rhetoric of so-called leaders, who have increasingly embraced the dog eat dog philosophy of the late 19th century. You know it, because you have heard it all, many times. “You get a go if you have a go.” “Life is a race.” “Tax cuts for the rich” because the last government promised them.

We don’t say it out loud, but most of us agree that the poor are being punished for their poor life choices. Of course we also know about the inequality built into the system, and the skills and intelligence lottery, the parents raffle, but best to blame the poor for their conditions. “She shouldn’t have married him” shouldn’t be worthy of a life sentence of abuse, or children going hungry.

We have developed a particularly selfish middle class in this country. Perhaps it is the loaded education system, where we pay a subsidy to educate the children of the rich, and those aspiring to be rich, while starving the public schools of resources. That way you get a never-ending supply of what used to be called “factory fodder”.

That is why we have a splintered workforce, roughly divided into two. The ones with a degree or a trade, and a job at a good salary, comfortable working conditions, and that smug sense of achievement which comes from stepping up into your expected role, with all the trimmings, and not much in the way of struggle.

The others are those who don’t get sick pay, or regular work, or comfortable conditions. Often they deliver your uber eats, should they arrive in one piece. These are the people who inhabit your fever dreams, with rotating bodies in beds in slum like conditions, usually non-white, but jolly good workers picking up the jobs no-one else wants.

If you want to experience these divisions first hand, go to the races in Melbourne, during Cup week. There you will see the greedy and the entitled, feasting on fine wine and throwing away more good food than ten food-banks collect in a week.

See them lurch to the bookies to place bets which could cover the rent for an entire family for a week. See them vomit, or fighting among themselves, at the end of the day; but it is never from shame, but over-indulgence.

I was going to talk about the poisonous leadership of this country, and the corrosive effect it has had on generations of Australians, but these Australians know better than to live these empty lives of consumerism.

Possibly their grandparents bored them with tales of how we used to take care of each other. Yes there were social divisions, but not like these divisions.

Now we accept the difficulties in finding enough food, decent housing, health care as the unavoidable consequence of living in a mercantile world. We conveniently blame ‘the economy’, the wheels within wheels which dictate social inequality. Which is nice, but untrue.

We choose the society we live in. We allow governments to ignore sections of the community, because it doesn’t affect us. But as human civilisation faces possible extinction, might it be time to reflect on our own greed and profligate ways?

Taking care of the others is called for, and should civilisation crash and burn, I would like to know I at least thought about, and acted on behalf of, those who need our help. As the waves crash over Brighton Yacht Club …

‘The three amigos’ finally bite the dust


Donald Trump

Donald Trump came into politics as an active player in 2016. He transformed every aspect of American life, and if that nation was headed toward disaster before, it is now there.

Trump’s chaotic and dishonest take on governance has infected the body politic, and the country is virtually ungovernable. Trump has not only allowed the rise of the next generation of nihilistic Republican leaders, he has legitimised stupidity, misogyny and religious extremism.

The country is now a legitimate candidate for third world status. It has a legislature which makes it nearly impossible to actually pass legislation. It has a Supreme Court, dutifully stacked by Trump with religious far-right conservatives, which is working towards throwing the country back toward becoming a theocracy. Gilead beckons.

They are now taking a literalist approach to its constitution, an outdated document which enshrines the views of an all-white, patriarchal cabal of slave owners and men of their time, with all their entrenched prejudices and unintended consequences being re-invigorated.

If this document continues to be read as if it was “sacred writ” then it can never be amended. Critics and those who question it are in peril of being named, and punished, as heretics; such is its power over the imaginations of the current Republicans.

The Supreme Court has recently reversed Roe v Wade, effectively criminalising abortion in many states. It has also further undermined American efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions, which, owing to their status as a huge emitter, puts the planet’s health at risk of irremediable damage.

The court has plans to roll back many other measures meant to protect rights as diverse as same sex marriage, voting rights, equal opportunity. The list goes on, and may well prove to be the unravelling of American democracy.

So Trump, although out of power, and possibly facing criminal charges for his role in the January 6 uprising, continues to wreck his country’s future viability. He has divided the country with his deranged lies.

Scott Morrison

An unknown man who rose to power, almost unnoticed. A man who took the party of Menzies and made it his own. He almost captured Australia, and if he had not lost the 2022 election, the country was on track to rush down the American path.

He relished the company of Trump, and embodied many of the worst aspects of American populism. His entire political playbook was apparently lifted from the Republicans.

Although adjusted for Australian conditions, he believed in small government, low taxes for the rich, removal of regulations, punishment for those on welfare, disdain for the working poor, cronyism and jobs for ‘mates’. His stacking of the AAT must rival Trump’s work on the Supreme Court. He ignored women, and subsequently lost their votes

Morrison had no policies. He was a shallow religious zealot, with no creativity, no vision, and no care for Australia. He embodied the world-view of his religion, with all the vacuousness of its ‘prosperity gospel’. His disregard for the environment, and especially the climate crisis convinced many that he believed in the end of the world, so why bother? The apocalypse was nigh.

The overwhelming feeling in Australia has been one of relief. We had no antidote for his smirking insolence, his lazy contempt for accountability, and he is now known as a serial liar, and a man who used the government’s budget for his own political purposes.

Many Christians struggled with his government’s cruel policies, towards whistleblowers, refugees, women, indigenous people, the aged and the disabled, even welfare recipients.

He trashed our international reputation wherever he went. An enduring image remains of Morrison standing alone at Glasgow for the COP26 meeting, studying his phone as the other world leaders stood in companionable groups.

His cabinet was filled with nonentities and toadies. Not one minister ever fought the good fight, over policy or principle. Many perfected the same teflon-coated approach to truth that Morrison practised so well.

It has been illuminating to see their shallow responses to a real government, with a real leader, with real policies. Not one has shown the capacity to provide a credible opposition, because lazy Morrison did all their ‘work’ for them.

The Albanese Government will spend years undoing the damage caused by the Morrison reign. Hopefully the Australian voter now knows how to spot a charlatan, and will take evasive action should another one pop up for election.

Boris Johnson

It is always amazing to read the press in countries which have reasonable defamation laws. Just this week we have seen Boris described as the “greased piglet”, the “Convict” and the “liar”.

He has shown himself as being as utterly shameless as his confederates in the ‘three amigos’. A self-interested liar, a chancer, a person who shamelessly hawked his government to wealthy donors.

His private life should have been a warning as to how he would perform in the ‘big chair’, but as the British have been heard to say, “I like Boris, he makes me laugh”. He doesn’t even know how many children he has fathered.

He had a set of rules for the plebs, and one for himself and his Conservative confreres. He took Britain back to the inequality of the 1960s, but not the glamour. Sadly this might be one reason why he failed so miserably during the Covid-19 pandemic. He ignored medical advice.

He made Great Britain into ‘little Britain’, by taking the country out of Europe. He fed the fantasy that Britain could return to past glories, while failing to realise that history has passed on, leaving plucky little countries like the U.K. alone, and searching for relevance.

His desperate use of the tactics of the discarded Morrison government’s refugee policy is the last gasp in a desperate search for a political solution to a moral question. Sending refugees to Rwanda sounds like an idea from a toddler, and a confused one at that.

Study the moral position of these three men. Populists, cynics, snobs, liars, opportunists, misogynists. In these most difficult of times, perhaps there is hope in the fact that the people are throwing out such obvious phonies, and voting for a bit of moral rectitude and honesty.

Imposing journalistic standards of truth-telling onto media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and his ilk, who seem to wallow in the strife they unleash on the societies which they pretend to uphold, would be a good start in improving the outlook for all of us. 

The three amigos have finally bitten the dust, and we can only hope that Russia, Brazil, Hungary, Poland and all the other nations still led by moral pygmies follow suit. We need good leaders to negotiate the next few difficult years in this planet’s existence.

Our children still not eating enough in God’s country


So, as we all party at the removal of our very own theocratic government, what has the last month ushered in?

Lots of lovely symbolic gestures, lots of baby steps to restoring Australia’s reputation as a great place to live, a great place to bring up children.

Over a hundred years ago, in 1915, British Army officers were impressed when they saw the Australian troops disembark. They were taller and heavier than their home-grown ‘brothers in arms’, and many were proficient with weapons and even horses. They looked healthy and confident, and many proved themselves in the dark days which followed.

How would our current crop of children look if they were unloaded on a British dock today?

Not that great, I reckon. If last year, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began to affect the price of everything, the United Nations estimated that 16% of Australian children under the age of 15 lived with an adult who was food insecure in 2017. (The Conversation-July 9, 2021).

It is impossible these days to calculate how many more are struggling today. Prices go up daily, rents are ridiculous, MPs collect their indexed pay rises, and middle class families struggle to pay fresh food prices.

One would automatically assume that, no matter the good intentions of that caring adult mentioned above, children were going hungry. That is around one in every six children, going to bed hungry, or not sure if there will be any breakfast.

All such figures are revolting. There is no shortage of them. Governments have been papering the walls with such reports for decades, and stupid, populist politicians continue to pander to those in Australia who still think that poverty is the fault of the poor. How much suffering will assuage the righteous anger of the middle classes towards the unemployed, or even more disturbingly, those unable to work?

There is no way that reports which show children going hungry in Australia is ever, in any universe, or under any government, acceptable. We know how to fix this problem. Give the poor a pay-rise.

No-one in Australia knows how Morrison and Frydenberg stumbled on the solution, but stumble on it they did. In some totally random way those arch monetarists took a leaf out of Keynes’ playbook, and doubled welfare payments.

I strongly suspect they regretted the move, but it served the purpose of stimulating the economy, and if a few hundred thousand were benefitted, so be it. Something like the need to break eggs to make omelettes.

For the first time in years, people on welfare were able to have food on the table, AND to pay their bills. No impossible choices: They could eat, and maintain a shred of dignity.

For health reasons even many of the visible homeless were housed. Who would have guessed that, in the midst of an overwhelming pandemic, Australia would do something for its neediest? We accidentally became Finland, and then we woke up?

Of course the ‘honeymoon’ was destined to end. The neo-liberal gene asserted itself, and these measures were stopped. No transition, no stepping down of benefits. Lots of talk about things not being free forever, and the old “pay your own way” crap.

Disappointing, but not surprising. Frydenberg, who believes in ‘trickle-down economics’, decided to do a little experiment. If he gave billions of dollars to undeserving corporate hacks, would any of it trickle down to the poor and needy?

Well, no. His experiment was a failure. All the big corporates, and the private colleges, the fossil fuel parasites, all continued to rack up profits, and the children went back to going to bed hungry, or wondering if the electricity would be cut off tomorrow. If you happened to be black, and living in your ancestral lands, you might even have the spectre of being jailed, from the age of ten.

So when we have people of the calibre of Peter Dutton talking about protecting women and children from sexual violence, what about protecting them from something as immediate, and as dangerous-hunger and homelessness. The solution is obvious.

This country is drowning in its own callous narcissism and ignorance. It deludes itself, and has the effrontery to decry any criticism directed at it. From a nation which made its own democracy and institutions into something admirable, we have sunk down the ranks in everything worth measuring.

Inequality is everywhere you look. There is no difference in whether a Liberal or a Labor minister looks out upon the land, and spies hunger, homelessness, meaningless ‘gig economy’ jobs, tax rorts for the rich, public schools being robbed to pay the private colleges subsidies. The list is long, and time is of the essence.

I can live with the sceptre of Geelong Grammar getting another computer lab, or another perfectly manicured cricket oval, but I draw the line on starving my fellows, and their children in this, one of the wealthiest countries on earth.

Care of your vulnerable is conservatism as it should be. Preserve what you have, and improve it. Do not create whole classes of land developers and spivs, think tank ‘scholars’ and rentiers, who spend more on reducing their taxes than they actually pay, in taxes.

There is something rotten if both sides of politics don’t get equality, but something especially rank if the Labor Party ducks its core responsibilities. Pick them up, and the celebrations might resume.