Tag Archives: Australian Politics

Voters need to wake up, before they steal all the silver


Gradually Australians are coming around to the fact that governments are different now. There was a time when all governments were terrified when Budget Night came around. If there was to be an increase in the price of cigarettes, or a pot of beer, there would likely be a wave of popular disgust.

This form of increase in the excise tax was typically announced once a year, and the next morning’s newspapers either frothed at the mouth, or conversely, praised the decision. It could even decide the fate of the government at the next election.

These days, with an overabundance of ‘data’, technical explanations of reasons for and against, the voter is often left in the dark, because of the sheer volume of information, which is often buried beneath layers of spin, and also by the use of grandfather clauses, and other drafting tricks. So the law can change, unannounced. Or it can be restricted, as “commercial in confidence”, or maybe because it deals with “operational matters”.

Of course that is the stock in trade of most neoliberal governments, because the compact between the governors, and the governed, is fractured. Their promises are empty, they no longer govern for all, and they refuse to be held accountable. They no longer serve at our discretion. They have moved beyond asking for our permission.

Getting a good go, if you have mates

These days many decisions are explained as a part of a necessary budget repair, or as a vital part of macroeconomic planning. If it pertains to national security then we must agree to take it on trust that getting submarines from Japan, or France, or Timbuktu will turn out to be a masterful decision. Years later, unfulfilled contracts, often with huge amounts of damages, are no-one’s fault. We are asked to look away. Probably the fault of both sides, term after term. All care and no responsibility.

Matters of equity are no longer hot button issues, because if you are doing well in Australia, you like the sound of the cult of competitive capitalism. You send your children to private schools, because you want your children to prosper, and you’d prefer they did not rub shoulders with the plebs.

No problem that the funding you receive is often stolen from the public education budget. Funding formulas are so complex that you must have a degree in mathematics to understand why already wealthy schools need anything from the public purse.

Similarly for health. Get your knee looked after, immediately, in the fancy private hospital, and have the whole thing subsidised by the public health sector. I wonder why these users of the private education, and private health systems want handouts from the government, in the form of subsidy from the public. If you want to go private, then do it properly. Go private!

Not so good if you are not a mate

Of course, if you are not doing very well, then you are probably too busy trying to juggle work-shifts and childcare, and finding the basics of life, to worry about reading the fine print of how recent governments will govern. You know that you will be vilified and blamed for your lack of resources, even as they give tax cuts to the rich, and indulge in the cargo cult called “trickle down theory”.

If you suffer a disability, or are disadvantaged in any number of ways, you are probably rorting the system. That is because such governments as ours no longer care, and they distrust the motives of the poor.

Some still pay lip service to the conventions of caring, but you will have noticed that announcements very seldom eventuate, because the news cycle has passed on, and your grant served its purpose as an announcement.

Certain members, even ministers, routinely make statements so distasteful, that only a generation ago, such words would cause immediate shame and resignation, but now it is excused under the banner of free speech, or “our party is a broad church”. This is code for he (mainly men) is an unmannered brute, but he votes for me in the party room, so there’s not much I can do.

For the first time in our history there is a good chance that our parliamentarians are all time-serving careerists, and if there is any guiding principle then it would be “feather your nest, because the good times may not last”.

It looks bad that such hacks are so insanely well paid, considering their obvious lack of skills, empathy, intelligence, or character. Many were political advisers, before they became politicians, and the chief qualifier for that role is that you were a loud mouth at university, or you were related to a politician.

The private sector is even worse. The average multiplier between the salary of a CEO and a shop floor worker is now sitting at 78 times. If you had had experience of some of the CEOs I have worked for, weep again. Most of them couldn’t find their lunch without help.

What can we do?

We have to start paying attention. We have to decide whether this system is good enough. We have to decide if apathy is better than engagement. And we have to stop being nostalgic for the good old days, when the people in power really had the interests of the country, and its people, in their hearts. Those days are gone. Embrace the new realism.

If you want to live in a system which routinely duds the working person, then do nothing. Otherwise, act on your rights. Defend the ABC. Demand explanations for decisions. Pester your local member. Make them work for you, because that is why they are paid so much.

Scott Morrison is not a political genius. He is a chancer, and he has managed to keep one step ahead of the posse so far. He manages to look good because he leads a team which may be the worst, and the shallowest, in living memory.

They are all skating on thin ice, hoping we won’t wake up until their superannuation is safe, and the natural path from government to industry is still available. But as with all things political, the wheel turns.

Biden has replaced Trump. Johnson has so stuffed up the UK that he will eventually be forced to own his stupid mistakes. The world is watching as Trump is brought to book, and all the tin-pot authoritarian leaders are stepping carefully.

The neoliberal fraud has been around for about forty years now, and it must run aground soon. We need to hold them to account. Every day their lies and dishonesty cause more harm, and our fellow citizens need to concentrate.

Religious over-represented?


This country is constitutionally secular. Not atheist, but secular. S116 of the Constitution reads thus: “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”

Parliament is more religious than we are

As the country becomes less religious, the Parliament becomes more so. Why is this? One would expect that the Parliament would reflect us more closely than it does, and by definition it would reflect our declining interest in religion.

There have always been outliers in the Parliament, those who consciously and publicy brought their religious beliefs to the table. But they always seemed to be a little extreme for most of us, slightly unbalanced when it came to matters such as abortion, or de-criminalising homosexuality. Vince Gair and Brian Harradine spring to mind; men of principle, but quaint and embarrassing. They were essentially lone wolves, not a part of a dangerous pack.

Are overly religious politicians dangerous?

Fast forward to today. Where did all these right wing warriors come from? Why are people voting them into power, and why are there so many members of Parliament who profess such strong religious convictions? On face value Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews are relics of a bygone age, Conservative Catholics, social traditionalists, old fashioned, lacking media skills, but successful, in election after election.

Even the high flyers who reached the top of the pile are strangely uncomfortable with modern mores, but somehow they have succeeded. Their beliefs are surprisingly uncommon. What is it about Kevin Rudd, and Scott Morrison, and Tony Abbott? All out and proud, professing a belief in the Christian god. Absolutely a private matter, most of us would think.

One of the great mysteries of life is how religious and political leaders are able to contort and twist the messages of their faiths, so that they become self-serving, self centred and frankly inhumane, especially when considering those of other faiths. Think of the major religious communities around the world, and their interaction with other faiths in their areas. There you will find examples of man’s inhumanity towards man. All of them do it. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and any other faith you can think of, guilty of persecution, of someone, somewhere, and happening right now.

A local act of social vandalism.

In 1997, Kevin Andrews, a resident of Victoria, succeeded in pushing a private member’s bill through federal parliament, overturning the first legislation to permit assisted suicide in Australia, which had been enacted in the Northern Territory. To reiterate, Kevin Andrews wilfully caused a Dying with Dignity Act to be repealed, after it had become law, in another state of Australia. His private members bill still disallows assisted euthanasia, in the Commonwealth Territories ie. the Northern Territory, Canberra and Norfolk Island.

How many dying Australians have that religious warrior to thank for their unnecessary suffering? How many Australians have cursed his interference, as their relatives wasted away in pain? Did it occur to Kevin Andrews that his act was inhumane, and incredibly selfish, and did he reflect that the overwhelming majority of Australians support at least some version of dying with dignity. The latest poll taken in 2017 showed 87% support throughout our nation. So on whose behalf did he act when he pushed that private member’s bill?

Our leaders have been found wanting.

Scott Morrison took the treatment of refugees to previously unexplored depths, which, to many Australians with a conscience, is and continues to be, inhumane, cruel and definitely goes against anything the nuns would have taught me. His continued insensitivity towards the unemployed, (aka the poor) forever memorialised by the “You’ll get a go if you have a go” absurdity, is compounded by his active refusal to permanently increase NewStart. He also said, in 2015, that he would never support voluntary euthanasia. He didn’t support same-sex marriage, either.

Morrison is still friends with, and fully supportive of, Brian Houston, who is being investigated after the Royal Commission censured him, firstly for his failure to report the sexual abuse allegations against his father. Secondly, he had a clear conflict of interest, in investigating his own father, while serving as National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia.

In 2006, Barnaby Joyce, who was the catalyst for the ‘bonking ban’, argued against the introduction of Gardasil, a vaccine which would prevent the spread of human papilloma virus (HPV). To be truly effective, girls must be vaccinated before they become sexually active. Joyce felt that making it available to girls would encourage promiscuity. Read Jenna Price’s article here https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/barnaby-joyces-other-betrayal-20180209-h0vurf.html He had no problem with boys receiving the vaccination.

It is perhaps not their fault. I have always thought that those who publicly profess strong religious beliefs seem to be searching for something, for validation perhaps, or recognition of their virtuous path?

Notwithstanding that most of those named have risen to positions of great power and influence, they are like lost children. Perhaps they need to study Matthew 16.26 again,
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

Tony Abbott Will Never Be Prime Minister (Again)


One of my daughters, a wise young head, when describing certain individuals of less than stellar intelligence, uses the phrase “he (or she) will never be Prime Minister”. It is a curiously descriptive phrase, because it says everything about limits, of intelligence, of ambition, of drive, of the ability to think conceptually, to radiate warmth, to believe in service to our community …

Of course it relies on an old fashioned sense that, had we personally really tried, perhaps we could have done anything as well; but then reality steps in, and we realise that our time is past. But contained within the idea is an admiration for those who did possess those attributes, those character traits which, for good or evil, elevated them above their peers.

Tony Abbott Got through the Character Check

A closer look at some of those who DID make it to Prime Minister, however, is a cause for concern. Let us consider Tony Abbott as a recent exemplar of people who achieved arguably the highest office in the land, and yet they seem to embody the phrase “he’ll never be Prime Minister”.

Tony Abbott has a ‘highlights package‘ which is truly impressive. Of course we use the phrase ironically, because there is a curious consensus that he, over twenty five years in parliament, really had no highlights, but more a dazzling array of cringe-worthy moments, piled on top of each other. Here are some of his more horrifying efforts, any of which should have torpedoed his career, and yet he defied the gods.

Tony Abbott’s Highlights Package

  • explaining that much of what he said should be disregarded or disbelieved, unless it was carefully prepared and scripted
  • describing Australia prior to European arrival/invasion as “nothing but bush” and following up by describing Aborigines living in remote communities as having made a “lifestyle choice”
  • being voted the world’s worst ever Health Minister (although Peter Dutton has put in a late bid to contest that award)
  • listening to an elderly woman calling in on talk-back radio, who explained that the only job she could obtain, to earn extra cash so as to mitigate cuts to her health care, was working on an adult sex-line. Tony winked at the host, presumably a variant on “ooh-la-la”
  • rejecting a meeting with a dying asbestos victim, who wanted to present a petition asking for subsidies to be paid on medications for their condition, on the grounds that the man was not necessarily “pure of heart”
  • destroying any chance of Australia having an adult conversation about climate change, and sabotaging our response to it, for nearly a decade now, by removing a carbon price, and describing the science as “absolute crap” and exercising his control of the troglodytes in the Liberal Party, years after being removed to the back bench
  • his seemingly inexhaustible number of ways of describing women’s engagement with the world as being tied to domestic chores like ironing, and looking after the household budget, and sometimes having ‘sex appeal’
  • the classic video clip of him being unable to speak, on live television, to justify his “sometimes shit happens” remark, when discussing the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan
  • his re-introduction of knighthoods into Australian life, with the inaugural gong going to Prince Philip of Great Britain
  • his remarkable take on immigration, where he surmised that Jesus would understand that not everyone can find a place in Australia. This was a surprise, as Jesus died almost eighteen hundred years before Australia even existed
  • his openly stated fear of homosexuality, even though his sister is openly gay
  • his insistence on a postal ballot legalising gay marriage, even after he had been deposed from the Prime Ministership, and which cost $122 million
  • University of Sydney psychologists found that the increased exposure to negative messaging during the long and divisive debate on gay marriage caused “psychological distress” for gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

What Will Unfold For Tony Abbott in Retirement?

The most distressing thing about this remarkable list is that it barely scrapes the surface of his hopeless quarter century in public life. But there is another disturbing aspect to this situation. Now that he has been removed from office, I would be willing to bet that some awful sinecure will be found for him, at the public’s expense, so that he can continue to blunder along, and after enough time has elapsed, he will retire with honours and accolades, as an ex-Prime Minister.

But despair not. This is to be an occasional series of ruminations on the performances by Australia’s leaders, and how they appear to be, as a group, uniquely unsuited to leadership. Consider some of the names – John, Kevin, Malcolm, Scott. Wow! But at least we missed a bullet when Peter (Dutton) failed. And to the conspiracy theorists out there who think I left Julia out of that list of no-hopers, I did. At least she actually did her job, which was to LEGISLATE.