Category Archives: Politics

Rather than sell his budget, Tony is busy grandstanding to boost his poll numbers

WOULD Tony Abbott be indulging in all the grandstanding he is doing abroad if his government had brought down a budget that was, in the main, acceptable to the people and had cleared parliament with a few changes here and there?

One really has to wonder.

After the budget in May, the popularity of the prime minister dropped like a stone. Little wonder that this happened, given that the budget had several measures that would hit the poorer classes. All of it was done in the name of sorting out a budget crisis which the government insisted existed. Financial experts are still trying to find the reason for the use of the word “crisis”.

Three months later, the budget is still hanging around the government’s neck like an albatross. But Abbott’s poll numbers are up as he has grasped every possible chance to boost them.

The poll standings of any leader tend to rise during periods when the country is under threat. So Abbott has manufactured one; the Islamic militancy in Iraq and the emergence of Australian citizens playing a role in it has given him a handy prop.

He’s also announced a data retention scheme – though what will be retained is unclear. Never mind, it adds to security, says Abbott. The presence of the US State Secretary and Defence Secretary this week, for the annual bilateral ministerial talks, hasn’t hurt.

But before that, the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane, killing 298 people including 38 Australians, came as a godsend to Abbott. He fronted up to indulge in some chest-thumping and fuming against Russia, whom he accused of being responsible. The missile that shot down the plane came from an area in Ukraine which wants to revert to Russian control, hence Abbott’s claims.

Abbott made his foreign minister, Julie Bishop, a show-pony of the highest order, take the lead in pushing an UN security council resolution condemning Russia. And as soon as he could, he imposed sanctions on Moscow. Never mind that Russia’s retaliation, which cuts off something like $500 million of imports from Australia, is going to hurt a lot of small farmers.

Now Abbott has dashed off to the Netherlands, to express gratitude to the Dutch for taking the lead in getting the bodies of the plane crash victims back for examination.

Tony is also threatening to send troops to Iraq – for humanitarian reasons, he says, because the Islamic militants there are threatening a tribe called the Yazidis who live in the north. The fact that the US, which has begun bombing the militants to protect the Yazidis, has ruled out sending ground troops doesn’t bother Tony one bit.

There have been plenty of false leads thrown here and there but with the Murdoch media firmly in his pocket, Tony is going places.

And the budget? Oh, don’t bother, that’s Joe Hockey’s baby. Tony has bigger fish to fry.

When the US bombed Al Jazeera, were journalists not prevented from doing their jobs?

The moment a Western journalist is treated in the Middle East in a manner that is deemed to be different to that in his own country, the West does tend to get rather heavy on the moralising and judgemental pronouncements.

Peter Greste, a journalist for Al Jazeera, the TV network that has revolutionised coverage of the Arab world, was given a sentence of seven years jail on what seems to be trumped up charges of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Brotherhood came to power in elections in Egypt after the so-called Arab Spring had resulted in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak who, at one stage, looked like having a permanent mortgage on leading the country, either on his own or through his descendants.

Unfortunately, the Brotherhood began to do what all governments do – govern for themselves – and discontent grew among people who believed all the propaganda that had been spouted in the run-up to the elections. Finally, the military, sensing the mood and knowing that their intervention would be welcome, took over and installed Abdel Fattah Al Sisi as the ruler. One thing has changed – the chief financier. In the days of Mubarak, it was the US; the Brotherhood had a money tap in Qatar and the military that toppled it owes its sustenance to Saudi Arabia which abhors the sight of an administration run by the Brotherhood. The Al Saud know that the day that fundamentalists take power in the Miuslim world, it will spell the end of their own reign and hence they do whatever they can to keep this brand of Islam in the cupboard as far as possible.

Greste has been caught up in the middle of this political snakepit. Egypt’s current administration wants to send a message to Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera, and that is what this is all about.

But in the midst of all the Western raving about the seven-year sentence meted out to Greste, one fact has not been mentioned: when Al Jazeera was doing some pretty robust reporting on the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Americans had no hesitation about bombing the rooms in which the staff of the TV network were staying. One journalist was killed. There was no hubbub at the time about the Americans getting in the way of journalists who were just doing their job. Both George W. Bush and Tony Blair were in on this act.

Of course, this is not the first time, the US has attacked Al Jazeera.

That same US is now crying foul about the sentences meted out to Greste and two of his colleagues and claiming that journalists should be allowed to do their jobs! So who showed Egypt the way?

That the US has no influence in the Middle East has never been demonstrated in a starker manner. The secretary of state, John Kerry, did try to intervene, but was brushed aside. Why should Sisi listen to someone when he has a money spigot that leads to someone else? The Saudis have indicated that they will prop up any government that keeps the Islamists at bay and Sisi is perfectly happy to do just that.

Australia’s medical research fund is made up of funny money

AUSTRALIA normally does not keep talking about its annual federal budget much longer than a week or 10 days. The populace is inclined to look to its own selfish needs and is largely oblivious to the bigger picture.

But this year is different. The budget was presented to parliament on May 13 and nearly a month later, the government is still struggling to sell it to the public.

This is because there are cuts aplenty, largely for the poor and middle-class, and these have not gone down well. The fees in universities will go up due to deregulation. Petrol costs will go up due to the re-introduction of indexation.

Funds to science bodies like the CSIRO have been cut – this is a cabonet which has no minister for science, yet talks of being the government of innovation.

To balance this, the government claims it will create a medical research fund which will reach $20 billion over six years. It is this fund that puzzles me – where does the money come from?

The government has introduced a $7 payment for the first 10 visits to a doctor and says that some part of this, plus other cuts to aspects of health will make up a $20 billion.

The cuts to the health sector are listed here. They are supposed to make up this huge amount. But it just doesn’t compute.

What I have done is to extrapolate the amounts and see how much they will raise over the six years till 2020.

The first amount listed is $197,100,000 being saved over three years. Doubling that gives us $394,200,000 over six years.

Then there are numerous amounts to be saved over four years:

2,300,000
9,900,000
200,000
142,000,000
115,400,000
53,800,000
400,000
2,900,000
367,900,000
201,000,000
390,000,000
89,600,000
4,400,000
14,400,000
229,000,000
1,800,000,000
15,200,000
22,800,000
9,600,000
1,300,000,000

Totalling up these amounts, one gets $4,925,200,000. Extrapolating for six years, one gets $7,387,600,000.

Then the following amounts are listed as being saved over five years.

6,400,000
266,700,000
1,700,000,000
3,500,000,000

Totalling them gives us $5,473,100,000. And working it out to six years, makes a figure of $6,567,720,000.

If all these sums are added up, we get $14,349,520,000. Let’s add a very generous amount of $2 billion as interest over the six years.

That gives us a rounded figure of $17 billion, tops. Where does the other $3 billion come from?

Gerard Henderson shows why he should never be on TV

One of Australia’s self-styled conservatives, Gerard Henderson, is always whining about how people from his side of politics do not get a fair run on the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

On April 16, Henderson demonstrated clearly why he should be kept as far as possible from television. Appearing on a current affairs programme, Lateline, as a guest to talk about the resignation of the premier of NSW, Barry O’Farrell, Henderson displayed the churlishness and cant for which he is known, berating the other guest, journalist Kate McClymont of the Sydney Morning Herald, and trying to force his views on those present. He was obnoxious, rude, boorish, uncivilised, and intemperate.

Henderson is a former chief of staff to John Howard, and the self-styled executive director of The Sydney Institute – formerly known as the Institute of Public Affairs. This is an organisation that seeks to make money off corporations and individuals by championing certain right-wing causes and plugging them in the media. Strangely, Henderson has managed to get many lucrative media gigs and currently writes a column for The Australian.

One thing that Henderson refuses to do is disclose from where he gets his funding to run what he describes as a think-tank. It is one of these many factories for massaging public opinion and lobbying for conservative causes. Henderson has an obsession about a couple of things – Catholicism and the alleged lack of conservative presenters on the ABC – and he repeats himself ad infinitum about these any chance he gets. Information has leaked out that he is funded by the tobacco giant Philip Morris, the asbestos seller James Hardie and the Adler group.

O’Farrell resigned because he had been caught lying to the state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption – inadvertently, by his claims – over receiving a gift of a $3000 bottle of wine from the chief executive of a company that was looking to obtain business from a state-owned company. O’Farrell denied knowing anything about the wine and an associated telephone call on the 15th; the next day, when a note of thanks in his own handwriting for said bottle surfaced, he had no option but to wind up his term in office abruptly.

Henderson stoutly tried to defend O’Farrell; he did not wish to even hear what McClymont had to say – she had, by the way, been attending the ICAC hearings and was thus that bit better informed – but kept interrupting her and hectoring her to keep quiet. It showed everyone why Henderson should visit a psychiatrist to be treated for what my late father called the Sultan Complex – a mental disease.

Henderson averred that this was not the reason why the ICAC was set up; it was not meant to entrap politicians who had hardly put a foot wrong. But the ICAC has also entrapped a number of politicians like Eddie Obeid of the NSW Labor Party, who have been involved in large-scale corruption. Henderson’s claim was that the party itself had got rid of Obeid, hence the ICAC was not needed, something that was patently incorrect.

When the Lateline presenter Steve Canane asked Henderson why he had not thought of advancing these arguments about the ICAC in the last six months since the commission started its hearings, the 68-year-old came back with the petulant answer that he had not been invited to appear on the ABC for the last six months.

But this is no argument; Henderson has had a column in the Sydney Morning Herald for a long time and he switched to The Australian in December. He has always had a platform from which to spout his insidious views. Why did he not make these astute observations some time back?

Henderson contributed nothing of any value to this discussion. He was on his usual track – “I am right and the rest of the world must shut up and listen.” Why does the ABC invite idiots like him to participate when he clearly only wants to hear the sound of his own voice?

P.S. When it comes to TV, Henderson is so desperate to display his unsmiling visage, that he even accepts invitations from someone who once called him a smart arse.

Mandela is dead – as was the Freedom Charter

NELSON Mandela died today. There is much emotion about the place, in countries around the globe, as many regarded him as the freedom fighter’s freedom fighter.

The public tale about him is one of a man who fought to bring equality to a country which had, as its official policy, the doctrine that white was superior to black.

That much is true. But that is only part of the story.
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Suffer little children: Scott Morrison is an expert

But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. – Gospel of St Matthew, Chapter 19, verse 14

NO DOUBT, this morning, two practising Christians will attend their respective churches and worship their God.

Tony Abbott, the prime minister of Australia, is a committed Catholic. Scott Morrison, his immigration minister, goes one step further – he is a committed Pentecostal born-again Christian.

Or so the pair claim.
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Elections: one mob is the same as the other

ON SEPTEMBER 7, Australia will vote in a new government. And it is increasingly likely that it will be the current opposition that gets the chance to rule for the next three years.

The opposition, a coalition of the Liberal and National parties, is not leading in the opinions polls because it is in any way superior to the current Labor government.

On the other hand, in many respects it is worse.
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Do we really need election campaigns?

AUSTRALIA is in the middle of an election campaign that will culminate in polls being held on September 7. By law after an election is called, there needs to be a minimum of 33 days before the poll itself. And the polling day has to be a Saturday.

Campaigns involve a lot of repetitious sloganeering and politicians from all sides of the spectrum promise this, that or the other. The major parties throw as much money as possible at various groups in order to literally buy their votes.

And this goes on and on and on. No-one stops to ask – do we really need such campaigns?
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Conflicted guests compromise the ABC’s standards

THE Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a government-funded entity which operates on the lines of the BBC. It provides some of the better media content in the country, but this is not surprising since the standards of the rest are abysmally low. Murdoch-owned media constitute about 70 per cent of the country’s industry – that should say it all.

Given that it lives off the taxpayer, the ABC has many rules and regulations that govern its operations. It is meant to be accountable. But, then politicians are also meant to be accountable. And both often get away with blue murder.

The ABC’s arrogance is visible on occasion, though for the most part it hides behind the weasel words that are so much a part of public life today. The following incident will illustrate the level of contempt the corporation – living off the public teat, in case one has forgotten – shows.
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Back to the good old Mubarak days in Egypt

SO Egypt’s mild flirtation with democracy a la West is over. And it is unlikely to ever return. It’s happened on a good day too – the US celebrates its independence day and Egypt celebrates military rule. What a coincidence!!!

The problem is that the West wants its own systems imposed on other countries – in order to benefit economically. The idea that one cannot bring in a Westminster system and superimpose it on a different model does not really register with people at the US state department.

Mohammed Mursi is from the Muslim Brotherhood. He may be less extreme in his thinking than others in the same movement. But, obviously, he has never been a candidate of choice for the folk in Washington.
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