All posts by Mark Buckley

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

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…

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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.

Angus Taylor – running dead, or not as bright as we thought?


Angus Taylor was the previous Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, and he is arguably one of the best educated people in our parliament, with degrees in Economics, and Law, and a Master of Philosophy (Economics) from Oxford. Each of these degrees is necessarily reliant on the use of facts, and figures, real evidence, and mature reasoning.

There is nothing as disappointing as the failure of clever people, because it signals one of two possible reasons for the failure: An inability to handle really difficult tasks because they are ‘clever’ in a bookish way, but when the going gets hard, they squib it, and come up short.

The other reason is when they are captured by ideology, and/or ambition, and they tailor their contribution so that they fail in their allotted task. This is a form of intellectual self-sabotage, for personal gain.

Morrison’s cabinet was grossly under-resourced, staffed by drones valued for their loyalty to Morrison, rather than for their ability. However, individuals like Greg Hunt, and Angus Taylor stood out, at first glance, as genuinely talented, and yet they both failed in their allotted tasks. Sadly they failed our climate, which later generations will not forgive.

Greg Hunt co-wrote a thesis at Yale titled “A Tax to Make the Polluter Pay“. It was apparently brilliant, and it made a very strong case for a ‘carbon tax’. I could not get past the first page, but it had a catchy message: “it (a carbon tax) better ensures that the polluter bears full responsibility for the cost of his or her conduct”. It seems that as soon as cabinet preferment beckoned, he threw his thesis out with the bathwater.

Similarly, Angus Taylor’s abject failure on reducing emissions came after a stellar education, “the best part of two decades in management consulting”, and yet on reaching parliament he devoted three years to undermining and (pardon the pun) gaslighting Australians on our progress to carbon neutrality.

He even stated, at a rally against wind power in 2013, “I am not a climate sceptic. For 25 years, I have been concerned about how rising carbon dioxide emissions might have an impact on our climate. It remains a concern of mine today. I do not have a vendetta against renewables.”

His failure is so mysterious. Ben Potter from the Financial Review believes his opposition to wind power dates from when a wind farm was built next door to his family’s property in Cooma.

I can understand that may have annoyed the family, but this is a past Minister of the Crown with such an illogical and unreasoning hatred for a form of power generation that perhaps, instead of continuing to vandalise Australia’s response to climate heating, he should have engaged the services of a competent psychiatrist, or even a life coach.

The least he should have done was to step aside from his portfolio, and allow a competent person to step up and actually ‘do the job’. I know, we are talking about the former Coalition government, and there was not one competent person to put up.

Which brings us to his new job. He is now the Treasury spokesman. Considering his demonstrated difficulties with numbers, one wonders how competent he can be in such a position. The botched stitch-up on Clover Moore sends a message that he struggles with the basics, and he looks to be a poor match for Jim Chalmers.

On the matter of trust, in March 2022 Roy Morgan published the results on polling undertaken that placed Angus Taylor as the 7th least trusted politician in Australia, placing behind Dominic Perrottet (6th), Craig Kelly (5th), Pauline Hanson (4th), Barnaby Joyce (3rd), Peter Dutton (2nd) and Scott Morrison (1st).

He has struggled with public perceptions that he has put his own, and his family’s, interests before the public interest. We all know that Morrison has damaged the Liberal brand, possibly irrevocably. We know that Peter Dutton had a limited field from which to choose when allocating shadow portfolios.

That does not make Angus Taylor a hopeless choice, but it illustrates the lack of front bench talent, and the question to ask is, is Angus Taylor up to the task? Did he lack the ability to do his last job properly, or was he running dead, to sabotage the transition to renewables? That is the question we must ask ourselves.

As to the Coalition attempting to put together an alternative government, I would question whether Peter Dutton as alternative prime minister, and Angus Taylor as the alternative treasurer, really cuts it. I wouldn’t vote for them in a fit.

Is Dutton Labor’s secret weapon?


Peter Dutton has finally become the leader of something. It is a disorganised rabble, but I am sure he is thrilled. Opposition Leader, and he is already talking about swooping in and fixing Labor’s “inevitable mess” in 2025. This is truly delusional, and uncoupled from reality.

It is as if the last nine years never happened. Labor has been in government for a couple of weeks, and they better fix whatever has gone wrong, and quickly. Memo to the Libs: Be ashamed at where a once great party has ended up, with life-long Liberals voting “anything but Liberals”.

They will pile on to the “burn Morrison at the stake” moment, but Morrison led a party of men, and women, who had abrogated their sacred duty to serve the people of Australia.

Instead they indulged in class politics, climate vandalism, social regression, barely concealed racism, transphobic vilification, anti-intellectualism, and conspicuous corruption. The environment is reeling, the word “green” had become a term of abuse, the disabled and the poor have been routinely pursued through the courts.

The tragedy for Australia is that Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is led by a person who has built his entire reputation on just such a public persona.

Everything Morrison, Joyce, Dutton and Frydenberg did for the last period of government has been either shoddy, dishonest, socially regressive, elitist and or reactionary. I cannot think of one (positive) achievement they could boast of. There are plenty of negatives, but as they say, the vibe has changed.

They tortured the refugees until it became politically embarrassing to keep them locked up, and they were secretly released, with no supports in place.

The Biloela family have finally been repatriated home, and we can blame Morrison, Dutton and Alex Hawke in equal parts for their misery. All duck-shovers and gas lighters. Memo: the reason everyone loathed your time in office was because of such tactics.

Peter Dutton has had a variable time this year. His win in a defamation case, against Shane Bazzi, an unemployed refugee advocate, was set aside by appeal. Bazzi had called Dutton a “rape apologist”.

Mr Bazzi was responding to a statement Mr Dutton had made in 2019. His tweet linked to a Guardian article where Dutton made the claim that rape victims on Nauru were fabricating their claims.

Mr Bazzi used Twitter to make his comment. I suspect that many Twitter readers agreed with his comment, but that is not a defence. It depends on what you feel the word “apologist” means.

And then there is the flawed Australian Defamation Law, where the judge decides what the reader probably imputed from your statement. So you are not judged on what you said, but on what someone else decided you meant to say.

Even Christian Porter wanted to change that aspect of the law, before commencing on his own doomed legal adventures. What can you expect from a government which refused to cease the incarceration of children as young as ten, and which allowed a whistleblower’s lawyer to be tried secretly, because he acted on behalf of the man who blew the whistle on Australia’s security services, for acting unlawfully.

Although it is clear no-one in the coalition has ever heard of Franz Kafka, it should be government policy to only employ people who have read “The Trial.”

“Some people are trying it on,” he said. “Let’s be serious about this. There are people who have claimed that they’ve been raped and came to Australia to seek an abortion because they couldn’t get an abortion on Nauru.

They arrived in Australia and then decided they were not going to have an abortion. They have the baby here and the moment they step off the plane their lawyers lodge papers in the federal court, which injuncts us from sending them back.”

The same day the tweet was posted, Mr Dutton had said he was unaware of the “she said, he said” details of Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations.

Ms Higgins was claiming she had been raped. Her alleged assailant was not claiming to have been raped, and so there was no moral equivalence.

Those words are ‘police-speak’; formulaic, dismissive and designed to cast equal weight onto the male-female narrative scales. So you would have to be pre-literate to miss the misogynistic framing of that disclaimer. His language speaks to a generation of men who are not interested in fairness, or change.

Peter Dutton was a Minister in Scott Morrison’s Government. Shane Bazzi is unemployed, and his defamation defence was crowd funded. He advocates for refugees. In an ironic sense, Shane Bazzi’s family has itself been ‘defamed’ by Dutton, as he is descended from the Lebanese migrants who arrived in the 1970s. Dutton has pronounced them as irretrievably criminal, and he has the computations to ‘prove’ it.

The problem with Dutton’s public pronouncements is that so many of them are just wrong, or without evidence, or just another way of drawing attention to himself. Many of them are offensive, and many set up ‘straw men’ for the public to fear and loathe.

Paedophiles and pacifists are two groups he targets, and the Chinese Communists are an old standby. “Lefties and greenies’, possibly transgender folk, it is not too hard to fall foul of this man.

He voted against same sex marriage, and he did walk out of the Stolen Generations apology, so he has many unpopular and reactionary opinions, publicly stated, which he will need to reverse, if he is to reinvent himself.

Some can be interpreted as ‘dog whistling’, such as when he demonises refugees, or Muslims, even African gangs. On a more absurd note, he did want to assist white South African farmers in fleeing their own country, because of perceived racial prejudice against them. You cannot make that stuff up.

Dutton, now that he is the leader, will presumably want to project a friendlier face, but his appearances so far suggest that he is incapable, or merely unwilling, to work for Australia, rather than fighting to tear down a Labor government, which has had exactly zero time to settle in.

I think he will find inner Sydney and Melbourne harder to convince of his bona fides. He didn’t exactly cover himself in glory when his first thought, upon taking over Defence, was to cancel funding for “woke morning teas”, where defence force members dress in rainbow colours to signal the department is welcoming towards LGBT members, and possible recruits.

Peter Dutton has recently floated the idea of taxpayers bearing the cost of politicians’ defamation cases, seeing it as a ‘workplace entitlement’. We must remember he is the minister who gave a half billion dollars to Paladin, a company with a shed on a beach for an office. Dutton has got a long row to hoe, if anyone is ever going to like him, let alone vote for him. His wife said recently, “He is not a monster.” Let’s go with that thought.

Time for a re-build


John Curtin is best remembered as a war-time Prime Minister. He is routinely described as Australia’s greatest prime minister. His policy work, alongside that of his Treasurer, Ben Chifley, was crucial in establishing a welfare state, on Australian lines, designed for Australian conditions.

Curtin was influenced by the economic theories of Keynes, and he had long wanted to transform life for Australians. He had seen the real and lasting damage caused by the Great Depression of the 1930s, and took the opportunity offered by wartime conditions to transform the nation.

In 1942 he imposed uniform taxation on the states, which changed the financial relationship between the two levels of government forever. It also allowed him to increase the revenue.

The removal of the states’ individual rights to levy their own income taxes was to be compensated, by the Commonwealth ‘picking up’ their liability for social programs. This was the ‘great bargain’ he made.

With a uniform income tax he was then in a position to expand his vision of a socially activist Commonwealth Government. The states, especially New South Wales and Victoria, had been adding elements of a social safety net since the beginning of the century.

He and Chifley, the treasurer at the time, between them, completed it. Early examples were the Widow’s Pension Act, and the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act.

By the end of that same year (1942) he had set up a Department of Postwar Reconstruction, which laid the groundwork for establishing a Commonwealth Housing Commission, the postwar Rural Reconstruction Commission, the Secondary Industries Commission and the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. Many of these programs were designed to assist in re-building Australia, after the war ended.

In 1944 he set up the Department of Immigration which was to be responsible for organising postwar immigration to Australia. These changes were the basis for the enormous growth of the Australian economy in the postwar years.

John Curtin was a believer and a doer. He was lucky to be succeeded as prime mininster by Chifley, who carried on their joint project.

Their aim was nothing less than the dynamic re-construction of Australia, post-war. Curtin and Chifley both maintained that the key principle of a successful re-construction was full employment.

Robert Menzies was of a similar mind. He defeated Chifley in the election of 1949, and won seven elections in a row, on a platform which included full employment.

In 1961, he was lucky to be re-elected, because the unemployment rate had ‘blown out’ to 2.1%. He won that election by just one seat.

The welfare state in Australia is under constant threat, by both sides of parliament. This is counter to the wishes of a great proportion of the population, and it is driven by a political class who, especially in recent times, look after only themselves.

They rely on the apathy of the people, who do not inspect governments closely, and who are disengaged from the political process. Politics and society are of no interest to most voters – a sad fact of life.

The “teal wave” of the 2022 election has shown a new, invigorated voting bloc, and it will play merry hell with political orthodoxy. Educated women have decided that they are not “soccer mums” or “doctors’ wives” any longer, if they ever were. They have asserted their right to be heard, and I suspect politics will be changed forever.

The Liberal Party has been infiltrated by many IPA-type neoliberals, whose political mantra can be simplified to a “survival of the fittest” trope. The Labor Party, although not yet as badly infested with IPA ideas, is slightly less crass, paying lip service to an egalitarian ethic, while rubber-stamping much neo-liberal legislation. It leaves voters stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Watch as Anthony Albanese moves, probably slowly, to incorporate many more woman and family friendly policies. Now is the time, when the blokes of the Liberal Party are bereft of numbers, and importantly, their macho confidence.

Where to from here?

In the Age of Coronavirus, food insecurity, the Ukraine War and the seemingly inevitable devastation even limited climate warming will cause, we need the utmost in inclusive government, and a government released from the ideological shackles of the neo-liberal movement.

Scott Morrison was a man tied to his party, by his own strange, anti-science ideologies, and his limitless ambition. He could have formed a National Government in order to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, but in his blinkered and political way he excluded the Opposition.

So we never had any sort of national anything. Instead we had premiers of states saving their people, while the Federal Liberals worked to pry the gates open. We had economics before people, and look at where that has landed us.

Instead of subsidising fossil fuel companies, and handing out money to billionaires, and private schools which don’t need it, try employing people. Try luring car manufacturers back to Australia, and electrify everything, including the cars we make.

Stop picking fights with China. Anyone with an elementary education is aware that China has had a short, but vexed relationship with the West. The Opium Wars, invasions, the unequal treaties imposed by Western nations, the theft of Hong Kong; all these are like burrs under China’s saddle, and pesky states like Australia would do better than try to rile them, in pursuit of political gain. Morrison sucking up to Trump was the reason behind our current difficulties.

Stop throwing cash at multinational consultancies, and pay aged care staff and health care workers enough to live on. Stop our brightest and best scientists from leaving our barbarian land, and embrace the arts and the universities again. Build lots of housing. It is not clever to strangle supply, because all you do is drive up demand, and prices.

That is probably enough to begin with. But if you look around you, people look happier, and it has been less than a week since we delivered ourselves from Morrison’s rule.

Let us give Albanese the opportunity to be a real leader. He could really lean into the task of re-building the country, from the ground up, after the laying waste of the economy, and our society, caused by the pandemic, and the LNP vandals.

It just takes character, and a commitment to Australia’s real needs. That is why we call it the Commonwealth of Australia. Could this be his moment? We will see.

Morrison reaped what he had sown


Writing this a couple of days after the most important election in Australian history, Australians did finally find their voices, and in no uncertain manner told the neo-liberal jackals who had come storming into public life that they were finished.

Why the most important election? Because Morrison was on a path to Trumpian glory. Surrounded by white evangelicals and emboldened by the sound of acquiescence from his front benchers, he was on a path to immortality. He had no reason to listen, he suffered no self-doubt.

His disdain for conventional behaviour, his seeming inability to act respectfully toward anyone he encountered, his feigned religious conviction all pointed to something deeply wrong about this man, and his government.

He was trashing our institutions daily. He had devalued the truth. He had signed an infernal bargain with his party-room members, whereby even the most hard headed had handed over their autonomy to him. They had sold their souls in the hope that he would lead them to the promised election victory.

I can find no sadness, no sympathy for this man, who has had the grandfather of hidings handed to him. He has been publicly humiliated, and there are no tears for his loss. Morrison is seen as being devoid of feeling, as being so devious and calculating that any instinct for sharing a moment of kindness with him is impossible.

But beyond the human failings, he was on the track to autocracy. He bullied those around him. Julia Banks described him as “menacing, controlling wallpaper”, and it is clear to see in his body language. Images of him leaning forward, fists clenched, jaw jutting conveyed something more than tension.

Cast your minds back to the election campaign. His jeering references to Anthony Albanese’s upbringing, his newly lost weight, his likeability, his new glasses, were all deemed fair game by Morrison.

His dismissal of Albanese as “weak, not up to the job, inexperienced” were classic signs of a bully, which would have had him sacked from any other workplace in Australia. There was an unmistakeable hint of Morrison projecting menace toward a smaller man, but not necessarily a weaker one.

Perhaps it is the missing piece of the puzzle as to why he has been moved on from so many positions in the past. His plan to take over our country was hatched back in 2000. As State Director of the Liberal Party from 2000 – 2004 Morrison put in place the building blocks for his eventual takeover of the Liberals, and he has in the process weakened the party until it is an empty, hollowed-out IPA shell.

Ask yourself why Rupert Murdoch is such a supporter. Ask why John Howard is the talisman of the modern party. Lastly, where would the Petro Georgios and the Ian Macphees of yesteryear fit within this ruin?

Why Katherine Deves? Because he saw it as the wedge which would empower all the narrow-minded bigots he was trawling for, to speak out in support of his grubby tactic. The only problem was that apart from the crazy anti-everythings no-one was interested.

How did all the other captain’s picks perform? Made by Captain Morrison and his wild-eyed offsider Alex Hawke, they performed as expected – they lost. Morrison’s behaviour in the New South Wales pre-selections was a handy reminder of what we could expect if he won this election.

Morrison’s reputation as a master campaigner and strategist has been blown apart. The best thing is that we woke up in time. The worst is that the entire Liberal Party hierarchy was blind to the totality of the takeover.

The women of the party deserted, because enough of them recognise toxic masculinity when they see it. . They read the body language, and they remembered the talking over of Liberal women, the refusal to engage with them, on any meaningful level. Possibly the pivotal moment was when he put on the ‘big baby performance’, when he wasn’t sure if rape was wrong, and he had to check with Jen first.

Women will not be ignored, nor made to feel powerless. His statement that “SHE CAN GO” about Christine Holgate was a message that, no matter how successful a woman is, he remained in charge. It was a dog-whistle to every inadequate man in the country that, when the rubber hits the road, men are still in charge. Wrong.

The patriarch and his fellows have been thrown out of the temple. What irony that Tudge and Sukkar might be the last men standing in the suburban Melbourne landscape. Porter gone, Tudge disgraced, Dutton their last remaining hope.

The climate is descending into hell territory. We need a timely intervention, and along comes Albanese, who will be goaded along by a newly invigorated Green Party. Labor kept the seat of Hunter, because the coal industry has read the writing on the wall, and it says “renew now”.

Did no-one ever explain how governments work? How did Morrison spend four years in the highest office in the land, and not know that he and his party, as the government, had sole responsibility for introducing legislation to the parliament? Why did he persist in excusing his failure to deliver a National Integrity Commission as being Labor’s fault? Labor was not the government. Not for nine years.

Many of us felt that there was no escape from the megalomaniac in the Lodge. The opinion polls were sowing doubt, his teflon coating made every day a bright, new day. His promises of billions of dollars, daily, had sapped our ability to resist. His insane energy and imperviousness to shame, had us all bluffed.

People have been dying in record numbers from the pandemic, and yet all Morrison and his group of zombie ministers could talk about was the economy. Memo to the Liberal Party: Put people first.

He and Dutton promised all sorts of lethal weapons for war, while demanding Albanese justify paying aged care workers a living wage. He was also criticised for promising to feed the aged adequately, and asked by the feral media how Labor would pay for it. So it was as if we were living in a parallel universe, where white was black, and vice versa.

So it is with a huge sigh of relief that I laud the Australian sense of right, their internal ability to finally wake up to a charlatan, and hopefully a return to decent, caring government. I couldn’t be more proud of the Australian way, today.