Tag Archives: Neo-liberalism

Does the Morrison government deserve another term?


So their term has crawled to a shouty close. Remember a few short years ago when Australian democracy was seen as having developed a uniquely Australian flavour. The respective leaders of the major parties were respectful toward each other, with the notable exception of Mark Latham and his unseemly hand-shake.

We believed in the fair go, we frowned on favouritism, we all had a sort of grudging regard for our leaders, but we held them to account. We definitely had no time for politicians who were in it for the money, or the post-political career. We thought they were on Australia’s side.

Well, cast aside any sense of false pride, because as the fish rots from the head, so has our form of democracy. We now have a leader who is regularly described as a noted liar. He engages in daily behaviour toward his opponent which would have him sacked from any other workplace in the country for bullying.

Our Deputy Prime Minister is a man that even his own party does not respect. He represents nothing that I can identify, beyond advancing his own pay packet. He is apparently afraid of his own backbenchers. The Nationals as a group are reviled everywhere outside their own party room.

The country is standing on the abyss as climate change moves into top gear. Our Minister for Reducing Emissions went to the Glasgow Climate Summit with the intention of spruiking for the fossil fuel industry, and the Prime Minister, representing Australia on the world stage, described our contribution to reducing emissions as being “uniquely Australian”.

To anyone with half a brain that meant using the old “the dog ate my homework” excuse, and they then came home and released a brochure which only met their own target by 85%. The other 15% was hoping for the best.

Most Australians do not read at all, because almost a half of them cannot read. That is because successive governments have so robbed the public education system that only those who attend private, heavily subsidised schools can read. Of course what they read is heavily monocultural. So if you wonder why all the private school educated boys and girls these days behave like entitled twits, that is why.

Our ex-Education Minister, Alan Tudge had a bee in his bonnet about children questioning the Anzac Day myth. Imagine putting a person in charge of education, in this country, who believes that history should be taught with an optimistic slant. Cue the Turkish Government: They imprison anyone mentioning the Armenian genocide (1915-16). Or Japan, which denies the use of Korean women as sex slaves during the Second War.

Many of those private schools are so-called Christian Schools, because our political class is unrepresentative of the population at large, and many of them profess fundamentalist religious beliefs, which are directly at odds with the values of our country.

I speak here of the prosperity gospel, which, allied to the idiotic neo-liberal policies of the IPA, sees the vulnerable as an unholy burden, sees pensioners as free-loaders, and the disabled and the aged as not worth their time, nor effort.

We do not like ‘bible bashers’, or wowsers. We are uncomfortable with people who wear their religiosity like a magic cloak, and I am personally distressed at the prospect of Scott Morrison laying his hands on me, or any one of my fellow citizens, in his inane search for godly connection.

How did we come to a position where the only item on the National Agenda is a Religious Freedom Bill? The only people in Australia with an agenda against the right to practise your own personal religion is the Coalition.

Alan Tudge is a family values politician. He is the ex-Minister because his ex-mistress has accused him of emotional and physical abuse. Which brings us to the thorny question of women.

Morrison and his Ministry have constantly sidelined women, and even his female ministers are not safe from Scott. Scott interrupts them, he counsels them, he ‘supports’ them, he volunteers them (Gladys for Warringah), and he uses his wife as some form of validating tool.

Remember his response to Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape. He consulted his wife, who told him to behave like a father. We would prefer he acted like a competent, fully formed adult, who has been elected leader of a vibrant nation of men, and women.

Of course he has also, aided and abetted by Peter Dutton, vilified China, the Chinese political system, and Chinese culture. Seemingly unaware of China’s history, or its size and power, he seems to be rattling his tiny sabre, and hitching our wagon to the USA.

Recently we discovered that over the last four years the Coalition Government has spent three times as much on Liberal electorates, when compared to Labor-held seats. This proves that we should move house if we want some of our taxes to come back to us, or maybe just vote them out.

Which brings us to accountability. No bill has been seen. Morrison blames Labor because he cannot get his own pathetic version of an integrity commission past his own backbenchers. Ask yourself why he won’t legislate a National Integrity Commission. Ask yourself why he vilifies the NSW ICAC every second day. You know the old saying – if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.

This year has seen the worst floods we have ever experienced. Morrison essentially went into hiding as the devastation became clear, and he now claims that ‘his’ defence force was winching people off their rooves in Lismore. Sadly, another lie.

The people of Lismore are only now beginning to re-build, after months of neglect and minimal help. Just another in a long line of failures. You know them: Bushfires, pandemic, vaccines, JobKeeper, RAT’s, the environment, the climate, the culture wars, the throwing of children back into poverty, even watching his ceaseless attacks on the opposition.

The verdict is that, for me, the current Coalition Government is the single worst government in living memory, possibly in our history of representative government.

From the top to the bottom they shred convention, they outsource our governing functions to multinationals, they have starved our elderly in Aged Care, they keep the unemployed poverty stricken, they are fanning the flames of conflict with China, they have destroyed our social fabric, and they run kangaroo courts. They have devalued our Australian identity, by flouting international standards of behaviour, and by trying to be the Trumpian nightmare of the Pacific. There’s not a lot to like.

The IPA has captured our government


The name of the organisation is preposterous in itself. The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) was originally set up in 1943, as a response to the rise of Social Democratic parties in general, and the Australian Labor Party in particular. The founders included Rupert Murdoch’s father, and G.J. Coles. There is a reason it is so against the interests of ordinary citizens.

The history of the IPA is curious. Many of the key players in its early years are either still around, or their children are. Its ideas haven’t really evolved much, but if you want to characterise them, they are crudely elitist, ideologically stunted, narrow minded, science-phobic, greedy and in most cases, fully imported. For a charity which pays no tax, they have very few clients in need.

The only reason they are of any interest to anyone is that they have captured the Federal Government, by stealth, and their inane policies are the reason this country is so conspicuously under-achieving.

There is not one thinker of note amongst its membership. Some of the current members appear to be the offspring of former members; a sort of self-replicating supply of not-so-bright apparatchiks. If you are searching for the reason behind the diminishing sense of pride attached to being Australian, the IPA is to blame.

Current or ex-members in Parliament

For a roll-call, these are some of the current members of the IPA, or their affiliates; Institute for Progress (AIP), Australian Taxation Alliance (ATA), who are current, or recent members of the current Parliament: Abetz, Birmingham, Cash, Christensen, Cormann, Evans, Fletcher, Frydenberg, Hawke, Hunt, McGrath, Morrison, Paterson, Porter, Roberts, Ryan, Stoker, Dean Smith, Tony Smith, Tehan, Tudge, and Tim Wilson.

All part of the Global Atlas Network. That would be where we get the passion for no minimum wage, and no health care. Past members include Abbott, Howard, and let us never forget that our current PM is a fervent member.

They have been effectively bought by a handful of robber barons, who pay no taxes, and have no commitment to what was, twenty years ago, a democracy to be proud of.

They gaslight the entire community, with double-speak which would make George Orwell blush. As an example, in 2003 John Howard hired a conservative think tank (the IPA) to investigate NGO influence on some government agencies. The circularity of that sentence is dazzling.

“NGOs are becoming very influential today – they sit on various committees and are seen to influence governments and big business. As global players they need to be more transparent,” says Mike Nahan, executive director of the IPA. The lack of self-awareness in that statement is also noteworthy. Like appointing Mr Fox to investigate security at the chicken coop. 

“IPA is unfit to conduct the study due to its demonstrated bias and ongoing vilification of organisations that campaign for human rights, corporate social responsibility and environmental protection,” Oxfam said in a media release.

Who better than an NGO on the lunatic right (IPA) to investigate the NGOs represented by such bodies as Oxfam and Catholic Health Australia?

When dealing with the IPA one is assailed by the extreme seriousness with which they promote their truly stupid, and truly callous policies.

Some of their policies

They do not like welfare. They have a history of being supported by Big Tobacco. They want to sell the ABC, possibly to Rupert, at a discount. They want to lower the tax rate to companies and millionaires, as they starve the unemployed, and continue to dismantle the NDIS.

They caused the destruction of the Aged Care System, and they continue to support the fossil fuel industry while paying lip service to climate change action. They wanted us to abandon the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, but were momentarily shamed into making some concessions in Glasgow. Matt Canavan might be the most honest member of the coalition, in that even he admits their commitment to saving the planet is nonsense.

They want the Racial Discrimination Act to remove the ban on offensive speech. They want the Fair Work Act repealed, which means the ten minimum employment standards will disappear. Who knows, maybe we can get to see adult Australians working for $7 per hour, plus tips.

They also have absolutely no plans for a national integrity commission. There is a lot of speculation about the reasons for this position, but the history of rorts and inappropriate ‘jobs for the boys’, the slipping of millions of our dollars into dodgy land and water deals, all add up. A proper integrity commission could send many government members either into retirement, or even jail.

What does this ragbag of policies remind you of? Donald Trump’s America is the right answer. Of course they also want to abolish Medicare, probably because it reminds them of Obamacare. Their policies are imported. Considering most of the current Cabinet are members, how sincere can they be in governing for the good of all Australians?

So why would Australia want such policies?

The people in the IPA, and their affiliates, all think in Social Darwinism terms. So they think society is not meant to be inclusive, and caring for the least among us, but a contest.

The Tim Wilsons and James Patersons of this world actually think that if we were all transported to an unruly savannah, crawling with sabre-toothed tigers and snarling hyenas, that they would prosper. Reflecting on the personnel, my money is on the sabre-toothed tigers.

IPA types are secretly longing for the Call of the Wild. It is an adolescent fantasy, where if the going gets tough, the tough get going. Many of these intellectual giants wield real power in our federal parliament. All I can say is, be afraid. Be very afraid!

As John Roskam recently said: To control a virus that as yet has infected 5000 Australians, the response of doctors and politicians to this serious health crisis was to create also a humanitarian and an economic crisis. In the years to come Australians will quite rightly question whether there could have been a better way.”

Sometimes you need to let libertarians speak freely. They do a better job of exposing themselves as empty vessels than any commentator could.

Lincoln Steffens studied corruption and malfeasance in American states in the 1890s. His unwavering opinion was that it was not the fault of the crooked politicians, nor the business people who corrupted them, but the apathy and the supine nature of the citizens.

As citizens of a once great democracy, we need to be vigilant, and to take care of what they are trying to unravel – our unique, caring society, free of Christian right wing nut jobs, with no knowledge of something known as social justice. Exercise your rights, before you lose them. Vote them out.

The state of our democracy


In general, there is still overwhelming support for representative democracy but with a focus on making the representative system of government more representative of the people they serve, and accountable and responsive to their constituents underpinned by integrity politics which are “cleaner”, “collaborative” and “evidence-based”.

Mark Evans, Director, Democracy 2025


Terrifying, really. If those qualities are important to us, why do we accept less from our governments? We like to comfort ourselves with tales of how bad Abbott was, and then how ‘adult’ Turnbull was, and then, as if to excuse ourselves for voting for him, how awful and deceptive Morrison is. But we need to lose that version of history, because, notwithstanding how many of our fellow citizens voted for, or used to vote for, the Liberal Party, the Liberals continue to win elections, notwithstanding their insoluble problems.


The first hurdle is their pack mentality when it comes to belief systems. If you want to belong, you must believe in neo-liberalism. There is no longer any room for dissent in Menzies’ party. You believe fully, no reservations, or you are out. No problem, although the neo-libs policies are anti-democratic, bloody minded, inhumane and innately illogical. One can only wonder how they can form a government, whilst believing in diminishing the role of government.


Neo-liberalism is an odd system, which was resurrected after the Second World War, and it is essentially a quest to return to dog eat dog capitalism. Worse, it wishes to return to the economics of the 17th and 18th Centuries, and is a fevered response to the values of social democracy, and the economic theories of Keynes. So it is reactionary, in the worst way.

They also call it market capitalism, because it hides the regressive nature of the system, but they cannot hide the central tenet that economic performance is measured by the performance of the market, hence Trump’s fatuous bragging when the Dow Jones was flying, even as hundreds of thousands of Americans either lost their jobs, or died, during the pandemic.


Forget measuring economic or governmental performance on human happiness, or levels of education, or even self-determination. They stress the importance of individual freedom, which under neo-liberalism presumably includes the right to die from hunger or neglect.


The Liberals’ second ‘disability’ is to be shackled to the National Party. Now we all understand the wonders of modern Australian agriculture, but the National Party is no longer representative of farmers; it seems to have hitched its wagon to miners. It is, however, crucial to the Liberals gaining, and holding onto, power. Without the Nationals the Liberals are a small, urban, middle class party, with delusions of grandeur. Having lost the collective conscience of their ‘soft’ or ‘wet’ members, they have coalesced around a rump of born again Christians, and economic fundamentalists.


The Labor Party has traditionally been the party of the working class, and the party of reform. Extended periods in the political wilderness has de-fanged the Labor Party, which now has a political philosophy of presenting a ‘small target’. Sadly, being a small target projects a message that the party stands for nothing.


The reason for this is that it relies on factions to elect its leaders. These leaders of factions are just that – leaders of splinter groups, unsuited to the macro levels of leadership required by actual governments. As the case of Bill Shorten illustrates, good policies must be sensible, defensible, and saleable. Morrison tore them apart and shredded them in 2019, characterised as economy-wrecking and frightening. Shorten lacked the wit to counter Morrison’s energy and sloganeering. Since Kevin Rudd, the party has not had an effective salesman type representing it, and so it has been out-manoeuvred, and out-sold.


Morrison has always been a marketing man, and he is blessed with an ability to live so ‘in the moment’ that he is able to present himself differently, according to the moment, and the need. In the bush he will appear in immaculate moleskins and a high-vis vest, in the city electorates as a ‘plain aspirational man with worthy values’.


He sees no contradictions in his ‘dressing up’ efforts, and the electorate will tire of it before he will. He is essentially a one man Government, because he has so commanded, and diminished his Cabinet, that there is no-one who stands out. He has no challengers. They are all less energetic than he is, and so they owe him everything. He campaigns for them all, and he stands to gain all, should the voters remain apathetic.


Although we seem to want representative, accountable, fair government, we wouldn’t know it if we fell over it. Like all electorates, we get the governments we deserve, because we are too lazy to listen, too disengaged to take note of what is said, and because the essential elements of our institutions continue to be eaten away by the corrosive nature of neo-liberalism.


Who would knowingly vote for a Government which promotes wanton cruelty to welfare recipients, continues to sell our public service functions to multinational contractors, picks fights with emerging superpowers, treats our money as their own, refuses to regulate the behaviour of our representatives, embarrasses us on international obligations, and is prepared to let the planet burn for the sake of political preferment? With their Trumpian idea of limiting the vote, they are putting lead in the Labor Party’s saddle bags. So, who, in his or her right mind, would vote for a repressive, authoritarian government, which has failed for more than eight years?

Below is a graph showing our faith in democracy since 1996, with a huge drop around the time Tony Abbott’s short time in power began to take shape. So Australians are not entirely stupid, but we certainly ignore hard evidence.

Inequality leads to starving our children


Australia has had a chequered past, when it comes to looking after our most vulnerable. The history of our treatment of the First Australians is dark, and shameful. But in what could be an exercise in ‘black humour’, we now have a non-discriminatory policy towards all who are poor.

This means that we have Government policies which, either consciously or not, treat those who are of Aboriginal descent, the aged, those who are disabled, those who are addicted, those who suffer from mental illness, those who are homeless, and those who are either unemployed, or underemployed, as second class citizens. Now that is equal-opportunity discrimination. Consider the millions of Australians who fall into any of these categories.

The most recent example has been the vaccine rollout. Who missed out, from the beginning? All of the above. Aboriginal people are still lagging in the area of vaccine coverage, even after being identified as especially vulnerable. Catching up now, but an after-thought. The disabled? Forgotten, until now.

We are at close to 90% of first doses, and yet this Government has not bothered to include regional and remote communities. I live in a regional town, only 70 kms from Melbourne, and last Wednesday, October 13, we had a visit from a vaccine bus. The first visit, mind you. I don’t have the figures on car ownership where I live, but plenty of people did not, because they could not, travel to Kilmore for their first shots.

Many of the older residents were hesitant to get the jab, because the ‘communicator in chief’, aka Mr Morrison, an alleged marketer, stuffed up the rollout, by not buying enough supplies, and by then bad-mouthing the ‘product’ he was supposedly trying to sell to the public. No wonder he kept getting the sack from his previous jobs.

We will never know how many deaths were caused by his, and his Government’s, sheer incompetence, but we all know they got their shots first. We know that the recent lockdowns were caused by Government inaction on vaccines, because now that we have mostly caught up, state governments feel they can open up again. Cause and effect can be an elegant equation.

Let us move on, to hunger

As part of the Morrison Government’s response to the economic effects of Covid-19, we saw them respond, reluctantly and late, by providing economic support to those who needed help. They even doubled the unemployment benefit. This action saw millions of Australians able to pay their bills, able to find accommodation, even able to feed their children, and themselves.

Their additional spending helped to power the temporary economic revival. The majority of our economists applauded the targeted assistance. Of course they were unaware that the poor were not the only recipients of Government largesse. Billions of dollars also flowed to hundreds of ineligible companies, which, opportunistically and cynically, paid executive bonuses, and even dividends to shareholders with their ill-gotten gains.

But then, as expected, the Morrison Government’s bastardry and adolescent hubris kicked in. They sent the poor back to where they belong, poverty-stricken and abandoned. They sent Australian children into a situation where

“An estimated 1.2 million children in Australia went hungry in the past year, while one in six adults also faced severe food insecurity, a new report says.

Foodbank’s annual Hunger Report, released on Wednesday as part of Anti-Poverty Week, suggests the number of people going hungry in Australia has increased since the coronavirus welfare supplement and jobkeeper payments were withdrawn.” This report was cited by Luke Henrique-Gomes, in the Guardian Australia.

There are many solutions to reining in spending, especially if the Government you elected is stupid and venal, as this one is. But causing our children to starve is unforgiveable. This result is a direct consequence of neoliberal thought. Someone tell me where markets will fix food insecurity, when we export over half of what we grow. This Government needs to be replaced, at the ballot box, as soon as possible.

You can see how conflicted and useless they are. They cannot even agree on mitigating climate change. In the area of providing adequate nutrition for our future, aka our children, you would think they were at least able to see the harm they are doing. Starving children is very un-Australian. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Vote these idiots out, first chance you get. They are dangerous to us all.

Morrison is a walking disaster area


If there was ever a time for a government to take the bit between its teeth and achieve great things, this is the time. Covid-19 has essentially changed the game forever. Governments world-wide, especially those with the resources to re-build, have been given an historic opportunity to produce a better world. Australia’s Government stands at a threshold – is it up to the challenge, or does it even see the need for change?

The Morrison Government completely dropped the ball on the bushfires disaster, and the so-called ‘recovery’. Survivors are still living in tents, and the Government just repeats the same old promises; billions of dollars, never spent. They are followed by the same old excuses. This has been going on for over a year now.

Some call it “Government by Announcement”. Mr Morrison has earned a new nick-name – Scotty from Marketing. The vaccine rollout is his latest failure, currently falling further behind schedule. The Prime Minister is gas-lighting the country almost daily, denying previous announcements, including timelines, and managing expectations downward. He thinks the daily news cycle provides him with cover, but the electorate is perhaps waking up to him.

His Ministry is shrinking by the day, as is his parliamentary majority. One of his ministers, David Coleman, has not appeared in parliament since December 2019. Mr Coleman has been on personal leave since then, but it has not stopped Mr Morrison re-appointing him to the Ministry, again. In the re-shuffle of December 2020 he was named Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. That could be taken as showing the Prime Minister’s disregard for that portfolio, if he is using it as a parking spot for a reluctant Minister. Is he afraid of a by-election? Is that a legal tactic for holding onto power? Why is the Opposition providing a ‘pair’ for a Minister who doesn’t go to work?

His Attorney-General, Christian Porter, has been accused of an historical rape, and on March 15, 2021 Mr Porter announced he would take immediate leave to “look after his mental health”, following the accusations. He then announced that he is taking defamation action against the ABC, and the reporter who aired the accusations. He is said to be due to return to work, although the accusations and the pending defamation case present a unique set of conflict of interest problems for the Government.

Another Minister, the Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds, is on medical leave because she has been accused of mis-handling an accusation of rape, of one of her own staff. She is not certain to return to her duties, as she is seen as vulnerable to the political pressure which will presumably be applied on her return. She has also had to make a defamation payment to the young woman, Brittany Higgins, for publicly referring to her as a “lying cow”.

Mr Morrison shows an almost inhuman ability to bounce back from setbacks. He is also currently battling a popular movement for gender equality, and an end to gendered violence and oppression. He is seen, at best, as a blunderer in the field of human interactions. When presented with the story of the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins, within a ministerial office, he spoke of consulting with his wife, in an apparent attempt to glean, from her, the appropriate response. Many saw it as inept and unfeeling; others as just another ‘marketing’ ploy, playing the ‘suburban dad’, who is told by his wife how to respond to traumatic events. Either way, it was pathetic.

He presides over a Government which suffers a steadily declining reputation for honesty and accountability, and the spin and aversion to scrutiny adds up. There are almost weekly findings of questionable dealings, and some of his Ministers have taken to blaming their departments rather than taking responsibility.

When Barnaby Joyce authorised payment for almost $13 million more than was advised, by an independent valuer, for water buyback, and involving another Minister’s family holdings, he responded with the immortal line that he couldn’t oversee every transaction. A current senator wants the bureaucrat responsible (?) to resign, or be sacked.

The Federal Government bought a parcel of land last year, from a prominent Liberal donor, for 10 times its market value. The land was purchased thirty years before it would be needed, and it is destined for the logistics precinct of Sydney’s proposed second Airport. The Government has replied to questions regarding the transaction, “There is no question of Ministerial involvement. It goes to the administrative actions of the department, more than two years ago.” Have they never heard of the Westminster system of Government?

There are plenty of other examples of such behaviour, but the prospect of a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is in the hands of the Attorney-General, who is otherwise very busy. He does have a defamation case to direct, and a kangaroo court against a whistle-blower, and his mental health to consider.

Scott Morrison is the person making the policy choices right now, with Josh Frydenberg as his willing side-kick. They will not choose a green re-imagining of our economy. They will ignore the expert scientific advice and they will not invest in a renewable energy revolution. Will they attempt to re-set Australia so that systemic inequality and perilous employment conditions become a thing of the past? Will they embark on a massive social building programme?

Don’t hold your breath. Do not expect such a re-think from the leaders of this Australian Government. They have already started cutting entitlements. They are signalling a lack of affordability. They are talking of throwing two million into poverty. They are oblivious, and they are personally sitting comfortably, fully employed, but not actually doing their job.

Morrison was, just last month, riding a wave of personal approval, precisely because he had done what we wanted, and expected. He turned up on most days, and he only took a short domestic holiday during the opening up in July last year.

During the pandemic he mostly followed medical advice, and he has spent money to keep the wheels on the economy turning. This is not a radical departure from economic orthodoxy. He has followed the Keynesian model, because he had no choice. Everybody was doing it, because everybody knows it is the only way through a crisis.

Notwithstanding his personal preferences, he has allowed the state premiers to call the shots on opening and/or closing down the states. He has had a shot at showing some empathy, but that always looks confected, coming from him.

He is failing the women of Australia now, and he is failing on the vaccine rollout. He is reverting to neo-liberal orthodoxy, and throwing the nascent economic recovery away. He is cutting the unemployed loose, and allowing the ‘big end of town’ to hang onto their ill-gotten gains from Jobkeeper. He is preparing for more tax cuts for the rich, and he is cutting workers’ entitlements.

He is also preparing for an election. That is when the chickens will come home to roost.

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.

The IPA fears the ABC, because we trust it


During the neoliberal boom of the 1970s and 1980s, it became fashionable to sell many valuable state-owned enterprises, often for a song, and usually to friends of the regime. Later on this would become something of a blueprint for the Russians, who created a whole class of thieving kleptocrats, who then went on to pillage Russia’s wealth, and waste it on buying fripperies, like English soccer clubs and Faberge eggs.

They justified the sales by stating that ‘the market’ would run things a whole lot better than career bureaucrats, and that the profit motive would cause the new owners to utilise every trick of modern management principle, to strip down waste, and to maximise service, and customer satisfaction. They would make loads of lovely profit as well, because of their inherent efficiency.

Have a look at your latest electricity bill, or your water bill. That shows you what ‘the market’ will do, when let loose. The misfortune we all suffer is that the same class of idiots are still in charge of government policy, and contrary to all evidence, they maintain their absurd faith. As the late, great Maynard Keynes said so clearly, “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”

No matter how often energy companies, or public transport, or toll-road operators make huge and stupid losses, they bring the begging bowl along, demanding more state subsidies, and the neoliberals continue to deliver. Of course, many of these same true believers pick up a post-career job, often working for the very same outfit to which they gave taxpayer subsidies.

As my old Uncle Jeff remarked many years ago, quoting Jack Lang, “always bet on Self Interest if it’s running, because you know it will always do its best.”

Is Rupert Murdoch just a big, old socialist?

You can see this magical farce playing out, in real time, right now. Rupert Murdoch cannot run his media organisation at all well, and so he has an army of ‘servants’ pushing for one of his competitors to be closed down, and also getting lovely, un-tied, taxpayer-funded subsidies. I think it has been $40 million so far this year, but you never know where our money is going, with this Government.

That inability to thrive seems to prove that he is not very good at running media companies, and that he is just a big, old socialist. He wants to close down his competitor, and he wants taxpayers’ funds, presumably so that he can rule the world. And he wants his ex-countrymen’s Government to pay for it.

If you listen carefully to the frenzied attacks on our national broadcaster, you will notice that there is a constant theme, repeated loud and long, that the ABC is left leaning, and biased. This comes from many different voices, most of whom spend time at Sky News. If you want an example of an unhinged set of ‘journalists’ look no further. Alan Jones, Peta Credlin, Paul Murray and the legendary Andrew Bolt are names to consider when looking for bias.

Alan Jones probably felt he was doing Mr Trump a favour, by personally not conceding the election, but he did not do himself, or his tattered reputation, any favours. Is it any wonder that almost no-one watches it?

Let us look at that scary ABC

Firstly, they argue that the ABC is now an anachronism, past its use by date. How they came to this position is peculiar. They state that when the ABC was founded, in 1932, there was a shortage of media available, and so the ABC was designed as a stop-gap measure. It would ‘fulfil a need for information’, until the real thing came along.

As the local commercial media matured, and evolved into something able to adequately serve the Australian public, the ABC, having served its purpose, would pack up its tent, and slip away.

Secondly, they argue that the ABC is not past its use by date, but rather it is cannibalising media opportunities, by competing too well with the media professionals, and shrinking their market. Global monopolies like the Murdoch empire cannot compete, and feel that the government funding gives the ABC an unfair advantage. This is the actual position put forward by the free marketeers, with access to seemingly unlimited funds, being unable to compete with ‘the luvvies’ of the ABC.

So on one hand the ABC has become redundant, as their charter is now being performed adequately by the corporate media; on the other hand they are too good at their job. Thirdly, the people like, and trust, the ABC.

They acknowledge that the ABC is popular, but in remaining true to their neo-liberal beliefs, they argue that there is no value in something merely because it is popular. It is a drain on the public purse, and must be divested. Another reason they don’t do well managing anything. Perhaps trying to please their audience would be a starting point.

What does the ABC do?

In Australia, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is legally required to ‘encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia’ and ‘broadcasting programs that contribute to a sense of national identity’ with specific emphasis on regional and rural Australia’. Wikipedia

The ABC Charter, set down by Parliament, requires the Corporation to provide informative, entertaining and educational services that reflect the breadth of our nation. That summary is taken from the ABC’s own website. https://about.abc.net.au/abc-history/

This year they have covered the bush-fires, peerlessly. Their staff were spectacularly committed, professional and pushed to their limits. Of course there were some who accused the ABC of committing too many resources to the coverage. That is easy to say, after the fire-storm, but I live in regional Victoria, and there is no other place I would trust to provide me with accurate, up-to-date information.

Take a look at their coronavirus coverage. During the darkest days of April they provided us all with straight, professional, uninterrupted coverage of a once-in-a-century pandemic situation. They did not drop the ball when the second wave arrived.

When researching this article I went back in time. They were there in the 1930s, broadcasting by wireless about the death of Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, and the declaration of war, by Robert Menzies, in 1939. Cricket broadcasts began.

During the 1940s the ABC provided war reports from various overseas offices. It also attempted to provide an independent news service. In a precursor to today’s problems, it encountered some early government interference and censorship, by way of the newly formed Department of Information, run in 1940 by newspaper proprietor Sir Keith Murdoch. He was Rupert Murdoch’s father. So it seems that the Murdochs have always had a problem with public broadcasting. And they clearly don’t like competition.

The list of disasters, triumphs, royal weddings, funerals, bush-fires and floods is too long to recount, but there is not a time when Australians did not know where to look, if they wanted fearless honest reporting. We remember that the ABC is always there, and it is not swayed by the views of their advertisers, because there are none.

And if the ABC continues to outshine the so-called ‘professionals’, then the professionals need to lift their game. Stop asking the umpire for favours, and get on with it. The ABC does.

Why does the ABC use people like this?

My only complaint about the ABC is its regular use of right wing people whose stated aim in life is to eviscerate the ABC. Why have Amanda Vanstone? Tom Switzer? John Roskam? Tim Wilson? James Paterson? They are not ‘talent’. They are ‘assassins’, waiting to slip the knife in. I reckon they would all look great over on Sky News.

What we need on the ABC are people who are interested in the contest of ideas, rather than the mindless parroting of partisan rubbish. So disagree with me, but bring your brain along.

Morrison’s economic plans reflect his lack of life experience


While he plans to line the pockets of his mates and the wealthy with ridiculous tax-cuts, we have all read the reports that, with the cuts to Jobseeker and Jobkeeper, Morrison and his sorry acolyte Frydenburg, will be throwing millions of Australians into poverty, and even hunger.

Poverty seems more palatable, pardon the pun, but hunger? Are we really being led by people who think it is in any way acceptable to deny children, single mothers, the unemployed, (whether it is their own fault or not) the disabled, and even those who do not own a house to go hungry? Let us not forget homelessness, either. The pandemic economy will not be kind to the poor, deserving or not.

Scott Morrison lacks the intellect, the life experience and the character to lead this country, during a time when we need to rely on government.

It has already started to bite

I volunteer for a food-bank type operation in regional Victoria. During the short period when the Jobseeker payment was double its previous amount, the food-bank saw a drop in demand. It has now shot up again, because of the cuts; people have had to ask again for help, if they want their children, and themselves, to eat properly.

If we picture Morrison we see a man who has apparently never missed a meal in his life. We see a man so pleased with himself that the smirk may well be permanent. Criticise him for a lack of empathy, and he wants to know who will fund it. Ask how his supposedly Christian faith allows him to visit cruelty so casually on the weak, and he answers that the Bible is not a policy handbook.

Have you ever wondered if he ever had a real job, where he maybe made things that people wanted? Did he start at the bottom, or was it all handed to him? Did he develop a range of skills which would prepare him for running a country? Let us investigate.

All his jobs have been meaningless

Morrison seems to have been a manager all his life. He may have been born wearing a suit and tie. His list of jobs is interesting. He seems to have gone into every job at the top, or if not, just close enough to make the boss nervous. The jobs were not connected to making anything. He has not run a business, nor has he risked an investment in his own business. He is a classic member of the managerialist class.

So he has worked for the Property Council of Australia, a lobby group for property developers. He then moved into tourism, here and in New Zealand. When working in that sector, he left a string of disappointed colleagues behind him, amid stories of ruthless ambition and endless politicking. He has made something of a habit of causing trouble with the organisations which employ him, while relentlessly scheming to advance his career. He then departs, abruptly.

Next stop the Liberal Party, where he became the State Director. Such a meteoric rise, from leadership position to leadership position, without learning anything about co-operation, or collegiality, or even about that funny old thing, our society. When you run with wolves, there is little time for empathy.

Of course there were unsavoury tales surrounding his next step up the ladder. His pre-selection to Parliament was fraught. His opponent won the contest, outpolling Morrison by 80 votes to 8. The organisational wing of the Liberal Party disallowed the result, and a re-run was ordered. This had never happened before. They clearly recognised a managerialist of class, when they saw one.

How will this play out?

Back in some far off ‘golden old days’, the Liberal Party boasted members who had some form of decency, a social conscience even. The so-called Liberal ‘wets’ have been hunted out of the organisation, however, and it is now filled with neoliberal spivs. They cultivate a type of objective disdain for the less well-off, and dress it up as economic rationalism.

If you ever see the job title ‘policy director’ run away. Morrison was a policy director once, for a lobby group. Tim Wilson was a policy director for the IPA. So that is the sort of job many of the Liberal Party did before they got their big chance. And you can see how policy directors turn out!

Think tanks like the IPA don’t actually think. They import their silly ideas from the U.S. – all they have to do is unwrap them. Right wing think tanks provided Trump with his playbook. Pretty well all populist governments follow the same agenda. Increase inequality at the expense of the 99%.

Cut regulations, no matter whatever the cost. Cut welfare, except to corporations and the wealthy. Cut services, especially to indigenous communities and the aged care sector, privatise everything you can get your hands on. Ruin the environment, gut the public service while enriching multinational cartels, let the poor starve.

The worst part is that Morrison has amassed all this power at a point in history when Australia, and indeed most of the world, need real leaders. Not tin-pot dictators like Trump, Johnson and Morrison. Look at the way Morrison’s heroes have handled the pandemic. Scotty from Marketing has followed public opinion so far, but you can see him chafing at the bit to sacrifice ordinary people in the interests of business and commerce. We need to tell him that we won’t stand for being a smaller version of the failing American Empire.

As Oscar Wilde said, a cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

2 neo-lib clowns


Josh Frydenburg showed his true colours during the second wave of coronavirus. He ripped into the Victorian Premier almost daily, and blamed him personally. Obviously if Daniel Andrews is in charge, and the outbreak occurred on his watch, then at some point in time, he will be held to account.

The major problem is that Andrews did a creditable job, trying to save the situation from becoming even worse. The people know there will eventually be a reckoning, but they are content to see it AFTER the crisis has passed.

Frydenburg proved himself to be as naive and gung-ho as we suspected, by allowing himself to be used as Morrison’s cats paw. Morrison knew that it was too dangerous for him to attack the Premier, because he continues with the fiction that the two of them have a good working relationship. So he rolled out the ambitious Victorian to deliver the attack.

Victorians do not like this Prime Minister, as a rule, but they tolerate him, while he is seen to be doing a passable job of leading the country. And when Victoria is being treated equitably. But Frydenburg, in his juvenile ardour, kicked Victoria, while he was kicking Andrews.

He started to harp on about the cost to the national economy, being spent on one state. That didn’t sound like we are all in this together. We all eagerly await the speedy apology from Head Office. It will probably come from the Treasurer, similar to that offered by Dan Tehan, when he railed against the Premier. Sorry, but not very.

Frydenburg showed the poverty of his neoliberal soul as well. He sounded aggrieved, as if it is his money, and Victorians are greedily sucking it away from his unlamented surplus. If there is one pleasure to be gleaned from this crisis, it is in watching the neoliberals squirm, as they spend OUR money. It goes against their grain, because these people do not really like the great unwashed. They would rather that we all suffered in silence.

He also implied that he values the economy above human life. In this he came close to joining those other beacons of callous stupidity, those leaders who have so stuffed up their responses to the pandemic that their names will live in infamy forever – Trump, Johnson, Bolsonaro. He must ensure that he does not appear on that particular list.

During some of his earlier car-crash interviews he fumed about the lack of a road-map out of lock-down. No body knew Josh! We had to wait and see, to be cautious, because as you all parrot every day, when it suits you, listen to the medical experts. Not the economists, the epidemiologists.

And while Victorians’ lives are being turned upside down, and our livelihoods decimated, he wants a plan. Sitting up in Canberra and sniping. To cover up for a Government which actually does need a plan. A plan on fixing inequality, a plan to cut greenhouse emissions, a plan to re-start the economy, a plan to house the homeless, and especially a plan to fix the Aged Care crisis, for good.

He wants to give tax cuts to businesses, while reducing the benefits to citizens, who are all facing hardship. As we know, Frydenburg and Morrison are not getting a pay cut. If you want an idea of the depth of Frydenburg’s intellect, and his commitment to Australia’s future, please study this statement:

“We are comfortable with the fact that people are accessing their money when they need it most.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg responds to fresh figures from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority showing that 64 per cent of superannuation withdrawn early is going on discretionary spending and 11 per cent on gambling.

So the next time they speak about the future, you know what they are thinking. We deserve what we get, because we are a feckless lot, and if the best thing we can do is fritter away our retirement, well at least the deficit will look better. Very like the sentiment behind asset sales – let’s take the sugar hit now, and forget about the future.

“Let them eat cake!”

Privatisation – who is it good for?


Privatisation is one of those terms which politicians avoid using. That is because the public does not like the idea, or its outcomes. It can be used in a number of ways, but most of us regard it as meaning “selling off a publicly owned asset, usually to the detriment of good government”. In other words, selling off the silver.

Most politicians are unable to explain the benefits of privatisation, either because they are illusory, or because they know there are seldom any benefits. Privatisation is usually marketed as “increasing consumers’ competition and choice”. 

The stated reasons for the sale of a public asset are usually ‘increased productivity’, or ‘enhanced efficiency’, or some such other unquantifiable benefit, which might happen, in the near future. Generally it is the product of neoliberal ideology, which pushes the belief that the market will fix any problem, even when there is no problem. It also relies on the myth that private companies are more efficient than any public service. 

Although the idea of privatisation has been around for a long time, it was only when Mrs Thatcher and Ronald Reagan actually went through with it in their own countries, that the trend took off. As with most fashions, it has outstayed its welcome, but not before Australia got in on the act. 

Privatisation is unpopular

In 2016, before Scott Morrison became Prime Minister, Treasurer Morrison instructed the Productivity Commission to begin an inquiry into extending ‘competition and choice’ in the human services sector. Of course that was code for “let us privatise more of the Government’s services”.

The People’s Inquiry  People’s Inquiry into Privatisation ran parallel to the Productivity Commission Inquiry, but instead of looking into ways to further marketise and privatise public services for the benefit of business, it asked how privatisation had impacted people, their lives, and the common good.

The report concluded, from public submissions, that there were multiple faults in the process, and that the outcome was negative in most areas, and that the public did not like the idea, nor its implementation.

 Some of the findings are below, but the full report is readily available. Peoples Inquiry Report.indd

In the electricity sector there were: 

  • job losses in the electricity sector
  • increased costs for consumers
  • service disconnections  
  • profits from assets going overseas instead of going back to the public  
  • reduction in research, development and maintenance of these assets  
  • reduced investment in apprenticeships and training  
  • loss of accountability, transparency and control 

This sector, amongst many others, has been privatised to within an inch of its life. These results are of particular interest now, because the electricity sector’s problems are a large part of the reason that Angus Taylor has continued to peddle the line that high energy prices are the fault of renewables, and that taking no action to mitigate climate change will keep energy prices low. This is obviously untrue, and the privatisation of the sector is a Government own goal. There seems no way to get them out of the mess, short of admitting they were wrong. I cannot see that happening.

In the Aged Care sector the following was observed:

  • reduction in care hours  
  • reduction of staffing and skill mix 
  • profit motive outweighing delivery of quality care 
  • erosion of pay and conditions for staff 

The case of the Aged Care sector is similarly topical. It outlines, and indeed anticipates, the difficulties in the sector, post John Howard’s opportunistic ‘selling off’ of the sector in 1997. It is all there – opportunism and staff cutting, profit-taking instead of caring. The industrial relations disaster which exacerbated the second wave of Covid-19 in Victoria, has its roots here.   

The reasons why privatisation fails to deliver

Most targets of privatisation have been in the area of utilities. These can be gas, electricity, water, telephony and communications. Recently the education, health, aged care, child care, prisons, welfare and really any government function have been included. 

With such a diverse range of services targeted, it is compelling to note that the reasons for failure are common to many of them.

  1. The public utilities were nationalised originally to serve the public interest. The utilities are products and services that are essential to all members of the public. A private company, motivated by profit, is likely to close down unprofitable operations. This means that services will inevitably be cut. (Telstra removing call boxes.)
  2. Most public utilities were natural monopolies. If you, for instance, sell the water supply industry, the new suppliers will not need to compete, as each is the monopoly supplier in its area. So the quickest and easiest way to maximise profit is to shed staff. Efficiency gains will be minimal, while maintenance suffers.
  3. Governments regulate public utilities. Pollution and environmental issues are more difficult to police, as the companies operate at arm’s length.  
  4. The 1980s saw a rise in income and social inequality. This was often blamed on privatisation. The transfer of assets owned by the many (public utilities) to a small group of wealthy investors (the few) made the gap greater than it had been.
  5. One major advantage of nationalised utilities is that their size permits them to take advantage of economies of scale. Privatisation usually involves the break-up of a large entity into many smaller ones. This is not conducive to financial success, although there is a case for an agility dividend. 

There is a good reason why the public has never warmed to privatisation. It is sold as a matter of competition and or choice, which it seldom is.

It rarely delivers a dividend, because it is a figment of neoliberals’ imagination. It is not the case that the market delivers. We all know that governments need to regulate the market when it fails, because markets do fail.

As Nancy Pelosi said this week, we can’t treat the U.S. Postal Service as a business which is failing. It is a service. We as a society need services, so don’t take our services away. They are sometimes too important to lose.