Politics,Climate Change and Sundry issues

Politics,Climate Change and Sundry issues
for website listing my blogs : http://winstonclosepolitics.com

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Abbott’s (and Shorten’s) lies lead Australia to a sinister place –

Abbott’s (and Shorten’s) lies lead Australia to a sinister place –

Abbott’s (and Shorten’s) lies lead Australia to a sinister place

THE government has based its extensions of national security
powers, and its involvement in Iraq, on lies. And they will damage us
like the previous Iraq war damaged us.

It was the most worrying and wrong-headed speech by a
national leader since, well, the last time we went to war under false
pretences in Iraq. Tony Abbott’s national security statement
to Parliament yesterday — strongly backed by Opposition Leader Bill
Shorten — takes Australia into a very dark place, and it does so based
on what can only be described as lies — unless you accept that the
government of Australia is profoundly ignorant.


It can only be a lie, or a reflection of an implausibly vast
ignorance, to seriously maintain, as Abbott did yesterday, that Islamic
State (also called ISIS or ISIL) represents any sort of “unprecedented”
threat to Australia. IS is no more an unprecedented threat than it is
an “exisential threat”, as the Attorney-General absurdly labelled it
last week. This is a group of terrorists who are, as the FBI and the
Department of Homeland Security in the United States have noted, unable
to mount any terrorist operations against  the US. This is a group that,
in its febrile statement of yesterday calling for anyone insane or evil
enough to heed its demands to attack Westerners, admitted the
difficulties in organising such attacks, suggesting that if all else
failed they should pick up a rock and hit someone with it, or spit in
strangers’ faces. This is the group whose idea of terror in Australia
isn’t 9/11 or even public transport bombings but the murder of a random
passer-by — although, bizarrely, at least one media outlet on the
weekend was trying to claim such attacks would be somehow more damaging
than a mass casualty attack.

Then again, that’s one of the iron-clad rules of the War on
Terror — each threat is always hyped as somehow worse than the last one.

And it can only be a lie to insist, as Abbott and Shorten
both do, that our participation in the attack on Iraq will not make the
risk of terrorism in Australia greater. It’s a lie that voters, as
today’s Essential Report shows, simply don’t buy. The government is
literally using the Bush line that Islamic State simply hates us for our
freedom. After Crikey reported yesterday
that the Australian Federal Police had been gagged from offering its
own assessment of whether the Iraq deployment made terrorism a greater
risk, the Attorney-General’s Department eventually sent us its “whole of
government” response.

ISIL and their followers in
Australia do not hate us for what we do, they hate us for who we are and
how we live,” an AGD bureaucrat said. “They hate that fact that we are
free, pluralist, tolerant, and welcoming.” You can read the full response here.

AGD, the Prime Minister and Bill Shorten were, alas, humiliated within hours when Islamic State’s ludicrously over-the-top statement
calling for the killing of Westerners emerged, specifically targeting
“the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries
that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State” and referring
to Australia “sending its legions” against IS.

Faced with the inconvenience of IS attributing the need for
terrorism in the West to the attacks on itself, the Prime Minister’s
office was reported to have issued a bizarrely self-contradictory
statement that “Australian agencies regard the statement issued today by
ISIL calling for attacks against members of the international
coalition, including Australians, as genuine. ISIL will claim that our
involvement in this international effort is the reason they are
targeting us, but these people do not attack us for what we do, but for
who we are and how we live.”

That is, you should believe IS when it says things that fit
the government’s War on Terror narrative, but not when it says things
that don’t fit it.

The government has built its case for extensions of national
security powers and war in Iraq on these two lies — lies that, as we’ll
see, are self-reinforcing. This is the same War on Terror cycle that
has previously been played out when the 2003 attack on Iraq made
Westerners less safe from terrorism and that, in turn, was used to
justify further extensions of powers and continued military intervention
in Pakistan and Yemen over the course of the last decade. Now, the
government’s decision to attack IS has made Australia less safe, and
that reduction in safety is being used to justify both the decision to
attack IS and further curbs on our freedoms.

And Abbott’s most chilling words yesterday were his blunt demand that liberty be sacrificed for security:

Regrettably, for some time to
come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to
shift.  There may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more
protections for others.”

But contrary to what Abbott implies, the balance between
freedom and security in Australia has been relentlessly shifting for
over a decade, and it has always shifted away from freedom. This is a “delicate balance” that only ever
shifts in favour of more government power and less individual
freedom — the freedom that Abbott insists is why IS really wants to kill

They hate us for our freedom, so we curb our freedoms. Well, there’s some logic there.

As for “more restrictions on some so that there can be more
protections for others”, there could be few more worrying threats by a
political leader, especially when it is clear that the “some” will be
drawn almost exclusively from one community. The Muslim men deemed to
have been using their phones in some sort of suspicious manner at a footy match; the baseless detention of a senior Muslim cleric by Customs;
the dozens of homes of Muslim Australians raided last week without any
charges resulting; the strangely convenient first use of the hitherto
“unworkable” preventive detention orders (which were created to deal
with the terror threat created by the Iraq invasion) on Muslim
citizens — all reflect that this is about the harassment of a single

And that harassment, to borrow Abbott’s phrasing, isn’t
because of anything Muslim Australians have done, but because of who
they are.

It is also becoming painfully clear that the strategy the
government has embarked on with the Americans in Iraq is likely to fail.
That’s the view of Tony Blair, who knows a thing or two about launching
attacks in Iraq based on lies: echoing the CIA’s view that the
enterprise is “doomed to failure”, he says airstrikes won’t be enough and Western ground forces will be needed. And confirming the FBI’s claim that support for IS has been strengthened by airstrikes, there is evidence airstrikes have prompted a massive surge in IS recruitment. Almost as if that was exactly what IS had in mind when it started trying to goad the West into attacking it.

And while the Abbott government is helping make IS stronger,
regional powers appear reticent.* Saudi Arabia won’t commit any
military forces to the fight against IS, the country’s richest man Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al Saud says.
“This does not really affect our country explicitly,” he said. IS
“doesn’t really affect” Saudia Arabia: the Prince sounds … what’s Tony
Abbott’s word? … almost “insouciant”.

We’ve been here before, obviously — the quagmire of Iraq,
Western intervention that strengthens terrorists, the curtailment of the
freedoms, the systematic harassment of Muslims. As John Howard popped
up on the weekend to remind us, some still insist the 2003 Iraq War
wasn’t based on lies, but simply poor intelligence. Well, there’s no
doubt this time around: lies are at the heart of this new Iraq venture,
and it will take us back to the same dark place as before.

* Update: it’s been reported that Bahrain,
Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates played a role
in today’s US air strikes within Syria against IS, although what role
each played will be revealed later today Australian time.

Australian politics should be relatively simple . . . but it's not - The AIM Network

Australian politics should be relatively simple . . . but it's not - The AIM Network

Australian politics should be relatively simple . . . but it’s not

“Australia has a rich history of putting liars into politics” writes Daemon Singer in this letter to The AIMN.

At some point, preferably in the fairly near future, Australians have
to understand that there are more forms to politics than the ALP, the
LNP and the Greens.

I was recently talking to a dyed in the wool Liberal woman (not that
her gender makes any difference) about the current state of politics and
her only response was to laugh and point out the only option was Labor
and after 30 years of Labor membership, I had to agree, the ALP really
are not an alternative to the Liberals. Rather, they have taken half a
step to the left but espouse the same views and support the same people
that the LNP does now and has forevermore.

Australian politics should be relatively simple. We have 22 million
people divided up into a bunch of states and territories and then we
have our local councils and amongst the people who vote in all three
levels of election there are crowds of people saying “there must be
something more, or something better”.

At the last federal election, the young burghers of Indi decided
they’d had enough of Sophie Mirabella and a group of them sat down in
the library and said; “enough”.

As a group they located volunteers, formed an organisation, had over
400 “kitchen table conversations” and came up with a list of over 400
things that people felt were important for their electorate. They then
found 3,000 plus volunteers to spread the word throughout the electorate
and together raised almost $200,000. Think about the numbers. A
donation of $67 per person.

They then advertised for a candidate.

In other words, the entire process was community driven and it wasn’t
so much a matter of one person deciding they wanted to run, rather, the
community decided they needed a change and ran with it.

I think it’s reasonable to say that most electorates in this country
at some stage, at one level of government or another, have found they
were being either badly represented, not represented, or by far the most
common process under the ALP/LNP/Greens process is to find they are
being misrepresented altogether.

Think of it from this perspective – you spend your entire life as an
ALP member going to the monthly meetings, maybe spending a bit of time
as the secretary or the treasurer of the branch and then a few months
before election time the party parachutes in somebody that you have no
clue about and who most certainly doesn’t represent you, who has no skin
in the game of your electorate, but who is owed a favour by the powers
that be.

This process of parachuting is not something that is specific to the
ALP. It is done by both major parties and in fact currently the only
party that doesn’t do it is the Greens. From what I can see the Greens
do all they can to support local people who are interested in becoming
members and who may then be interested in becoming representatives.

The ALP and the LNP ride roughshod over whatever decisions are made
at a branch level in an effort to maintain good relationships with their
“proven performers”, even though the proven performance may be more
related to efforts on behalf of the union in the case of the ALP, or for
one’s capacity to run a business in the case of the LNP. (Think Clive
Palmer pre-dummy-spit).

If one is to be a member of the Greens, it merely requires a
commitment to the environment and a desire to see things change. That is
not the case with the ALP or the LNP, where change is obviously

The last couple of weeks has seen yet another LNP government take us
into a war which on the surface at least, appears to belong to someone
else, in a country where being at war has been the normal state for
thousands of years. How is it that the United States feel that every
country which has oil on offer needs democracy, particularly democracy
in the American style? What is it about the US democracy which world
governments, including Australia feel is such a wonderful thing that
everybody should have it? (Not that we have it here).

Australia as a country with a democratic process under the
Westminster system is only a couple of hundred years old. In the greater
scheme of things, a veritable juvenile.

Prior to the invasion, as far as we can tell, there had never been a
war here, and the first people had been living here comfortably for over
60,000 years. They had around 700 languages yet were still able to
establish trade routes across the continent.

Each nation/language group had their own rules, and from what I’ve
read, most of them were successful for social, political, and economic

They achieved this without having a Bible or in fact any so-called
book of learning. In most cases their languages were not written and any
messages they wanted to send were done quite clearly, pictographically,
and many of those pictographs still survive to this day so long as
there are/have been no interferences from big oil, big mining, big
government or big ideas.

I’m not for one minute suggesting that we should adopt the
pre-invasion political systems, but at some stage I think it’s
reasonable that we at least contemplate the idea of giving a little
credit where credit is due, to those of us who think a little bit about
politics rather than repeating a party line and not understanding that
there is far more to politics than being a member of the party.

Parties, if they do nothing else prove time and time again that they
can be incredibly wrong and we as the voting public just shrug our
shoulders and say “maybe they’ll get better”, but the normal process is
that nothing ever changes.

Interestingly, since the Abbott adventure began, the Prime Minister
appears to have screwed more people than he has helped and I’m sorry to
say that the cynic in me finds it very difficult to relate the recent
trip to Arnhem land to anything beyond vote buying, not so much from the
First People he spent the time with, but rather changing the minds of
those who pointed out that he quite clearly said in 2013; “with the
permission of the owners/custodians of this land, I will spend my first
week as prime minister, should Australia put me in that position, in
first peoples country”.

To his credit, at least he did it which is more than can be said for
the things he said he wouldn’t do in terms of education funding,
(outside of putting chaplains in schools), health and Medicare, the
situation of the poor elderly and the situation of the young unemployed.
It must be said that not one of those promises came to anything. Every
one of them was a lie.

Australia has a rich history of putting liars into politics. They
make ridiculous promises that we know they could never hope to keep, or
that we assume they have no intention of keeping, apart from a few
grass-roots things, including the above education, health and welfare.

At what point do we as Australian voting citizens say “enough is enough” and seek some form of change?

Is it when we realise that no matter what the party in power does,
the party in opposition will agree if it relates to war or our
incestuous relationship with the USA which gives us exactly nothing?

At what point do we seek honesty and transparency in our elected
members by putting in place a process which will watch them? When will
we demand that accountability? A federal ICAC may well be a good start
since ICAC in NSW have not found against a single non-aligned member of
the Parliament.

As a small business owner, it’s probably reasonable to say that I
would not employ somebody who was a complete liar. So why do we voters
do it? Why is it okay for politicians to lie and still get elected? Why
do we as voters think we are so useless and so meaningless in the
overall scheme of things, that we can’t take matters into our own hands?

The question that we must each as individuals ask ourselves and find
an answer for is “what does the politician have that I don’t?”

The answer naturally enough, is ‘nothing’. They all crap, they all
speak, (and there is a point where most of them speak crap). They all
drink and eat but it would appear that one thing they do more than your
average citizen . . . is tell lies.

Over a series of articles I would like to investigate the process of
finding 30 independent candidates for each of the major houses in this
country. Senate, Representatives, State houses (upper and lower where

Is there a reason we can’t? Further, is there a reason we shouldn’t?

It really amounts to just one thing-each of us needs to ask “are my interests being looked after by the person who currently sits in Parliament as my representative?

If the answer is ‘no’ then perhaps it’s time to start thinking about changing.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Why we should pull the plug on privatising electricity

Why we should pull the plug on privatising electricity

Why we should pull the plug on privatising electricity

Surging power prices are having savage consequences for
household discretionary incomes. Some would blame the government’s
carbon tax, but the real culprit is price gouging. Judging from the

History suggests privatisation of the electricity industry is not such a bright idea.
Image from www.shutterstock.com

Surging power prices are having savage consequences for
household discretionary incomes. Some would blame the government’s
carbon tax, but the real culprit is price gouging. Judging from the
pronouncements of government and industry — including mainstream
economists — privatisation is the practical solution to achieve low
prices. Indeed, Australian state governments have embarked upon
privatisation programs to varying degrees since the 1990s.

There is only one small problem with privatisation: the long-term
history of the electricity industry has shown it almost always leads to
disaster. University of Wollongong professor, Sharon Beder, has provided
the evidence in the book Power Play: The Fight to Control the World’s Electricity.
It supplies much needed historical context to the battle between public
and private ownership played out over more than one hundred years in
the United States and Britain, and the last couple of decades in
Australia, Brazil and India.

Beder shows throughout this history, industry practised the modern
art of propaganda, conducting public relations blitzes to convince
consumers private ownership was superior, despite public anger with poor
service and unjust pricing. Although industry attempted to equate
public ownership of electricity monopolies with communism, they had no
principled dispute with monopolies as long as ownership, control,
profits and decision-making were private.

Australian governments once wholly owned the four sectors comprising
the electricity industry: generation, transmission (large networks),
distribution (local networks), and retailers. These sectors have been
split into competing firms and spun off.

The natural monopoly character of the electricity industry makes
designing competition difficult. Generators have large fixed capital
costs, meaning oligopolistic competition will feature. In transmission
and distribution, duplicative infrastructure is wasteful and precludes
competition. Retailers tend to follow the same oligopolistic pattern as
generators (TRUEnergy, AGL and Origin Energy).

The National Electricity Market (NEM) was instituted to increase
competition, but is beset with problems. For instance, the transmission
losses over the interconnectors range from 40 to 90% and a powerful
oligopolistic industry still dominates the market.

A primary argument for privatisation is the issue of moral hazard
under public ownership. While this is certainly true, history has shown
something rather interesting: privatisation instead enhances moral
hazard. Firms will leverage their market dominance to often blackmail
the government with bankruptcy and blackouts if regulators do not raise
prices, thereby risking the wider economy.

Other times, firms will teeter on the brink of insolvency because of
ill-informed decisions, usually over long-term capital investments that
have never become profitable. Accordingly, firms pressure regulators to
increase prices to cover sunk costs. An astounding fact revealed by
Beder is that the electricity industry is one of the most bailed-out in
history, perhaps second only to the banking sector.

These bailouts, however, do not generate the publicity that surrounds
banking bailouts. It is often done on the sly, with regulators
approving substantial price increases and governments providing massive
taxpayer-funded subsidies and below market rate loans. Typically, years
elapse before the public discovers the truth.

As Beder documents, privatisation almost always results in escalating electricity prices, even at times when total demand is falling.
Rolling blackouts may also occur as rising prices don’t provide a
market signal to increase generating capacity; firms instead turn off
generators to ensure prices skyrocket, creating a positive feedback

While raising prices in the short-term is indeed profitable for
industry, in the long-term it has the potential to backfire. The reason
is the emerging alternative electricity source for households: solar
power. This has grown exponentially
in recent years, as the cost of solar panels fell by an impressive 42%
in 2011. Grid parity may be achieved soon when the cost of solar panels
equals purchasing electricity from the grid.

The solar panel revolution threatens both the generating and network
firms whose revenues and profits depend upon supplying increasing
amounts of electricity. They are fighting back by making it difficult
and costly to connect the solar panels to the grid as an anti-competitive strategy, which is probably the single most important issue regarding the installation of solar panels.

Publicly owned electricity systems are beset with their own problems.
Cost-plus accounting is a “spend more, earn more” incentive, resulting
in gold-plating
(over-investment) in the network infrastructure, which obliges higher
prices. Prices also increased ahead of privatisation so the government
receives a higher return and ensures privatisation cannot be blamed for
the inevitable rises. Pricing formulas based upon asset values ensure
that the remaining publicly-owned systems act as private ones,
increasing asset values and hence profits, regardless of whether it is
necessary, again raising prices.

Unlike privatised firms, however, price gouging by public firms can
return the profits (indirectly) to the taxpayer rather than to owners
and managers. With public ownership, customers as citizens can influence
the public policy process; privatisation neuters this lever.

The electricity industry has been purposely reshaped via neoliberal
ideology from a system of public subsidy, public profit into public
subsidy, private profit where risks and costs are socialised but profits
and power are privatised. Industry today is like a restaurant menu:
there are multiple retailers, offering a variety of plans and prices
that appears to offer consumer choice.

Unfortunately, none of the options available include inexpensive
electricity. Citizens and customers have no influence over how the menu
is constructed; instead, they are offered the illusion of choice. The business model that retailers operate under is inefficient and does not serve consumers well. Also, industry works to silence those who speak out against it.

Much like the privatisation and deregulation of the financial sector
that promised choice and efficiency according to pseudo-scientific
economic models, it has instead resulted in endless financial disasters,
coming after a period of apparent tranquillity. The costs to
governments vastly exceed all the costs and problems of public

Economist Steve Keen has shown that the models used by economists to
prove that electricity privatisation functions more efficiently are
lacking due to three issues: a monopolistic industry structure may be more welfare enhancing
than a competitive one, spot markets are subject to speculative
volatility, and enforcing marginal cost pricing can potentially bankrupt
firms. Neoclassical theory is biased towards market outcomes, but only
due to the numerous nonsensical assumptions needed to make models “work”
while ignoring the large body of empirical literature that show these models are false and misleading.

Economists advocating and devising privatisation programs are
themselves beset with conflicts of interest. Many are employed by,
consult for, manage, and/or own organisations with a direct interest in
profiting from privatisation. Listening to the pronouncements of
conflicted persons and organisations is similar to letting Big Tobacco
determine the direction and outcomes of medical science.

When privatisation results in diametrically opposite outcomes to
those claimed, supporters - governments, industry, think-tanks and the
corporate media - offer an ad infinitum argument: the problems were
caused by too little privatisation. It is only when the predations of
industry become obscene, as with California’s energy crisis, will
governments step in to deal with the problem.

Given the historical trends documented by Beder, it is likely that
Australia’s privatised electricity industry will follow in the same
direction as its historical counterparts. As Mark Twain observed,
history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Friday, 19 September 2014

The hidden underclass: how Australian underemployment is concealed

The hidden underclass: how Australian underemployment is concealed

The hidden underclass: how Australian underemployment is concealed

to the bottom of underemployment means spotting where casualisation has
created conditions in which employers can take advantage of workers’


Wollongong, from steel city to university city.
Photograph: AAP Image

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has recently announced a 12-year high
in the national unemployment rate. On top of this, casualisation is
growing at a blitzkrieg pace. In 2013, casual and fixed-term contracts
represented an estimated 35% of the Australian workforce, although some estimates are up around 40% today.

Proposed changes to Newstart would force job seekers under 30 to apply for 40 jobs
a month, and with this move, the government is on the verge of igniting
the employment relations tinderbox. Underemployment could be the spark.

Let’s take growing concerns over underemployment coming from the
University of Wollongong, revered by state and local political leaders
alike as a $2bn economic driver as Wollongong undergoes “economic transformation from a steel city to a university city”.
A spokesperson told me the university employs more than 2,550 full time
equivalent staff, around 18% of who are casual. The university did not
state the total number of staff actually employed. I requested the
current number of casual fixed-term contract tutors and support services
staff, but the university says it “does not report a figure for total
headcount of staff, including casual staff.” One reason casuals are
excluded in the figures, I’m told, is because it is incredibly difficult
to quantify: “some may only work a few hours in any year – that’s why
they are reported as full time equivalents”.

Used across Australian universities, the “full time equivalent”
reporting method ensures that certain facades are maintained. Sizeable
cohorts of casuals exist in an unreported black hole, a scenario highly
advantageous to the employer. Wollongong University is a vital job
supplier in the region, and yet the latest estimates, according to NTEU
branch organiser Brianna Parkins, suggest up to 60% of the university’s
teaching is done by staff on session-based casual contracts. Many of
these teachers reapply for teaching roles every four months, and have no

As for the national trend, it is equally staggering. According to a Melbourne University report, 67,000 academics are employed on a casual basis, comprising 60% of the Australian academic workforce.

Tackling underemployed academia is Actual Casuals,
a website run by precarious academics. The website points out that a
casual academic’s pay can be so low that they are often incapable of
earning enough to reach the minimum income tax threshold. Sessional
tutoring jobs across institutions are often filled by the same people.
This means that while accruing full time equivalent hours, sessional
tutors are unable to accumulate leave or entitlements.

The extent of underemployment in Australia has not yet been
acknowledged by minister for employment Eric Abetz, who says “when
businesses find the economic settings difficult they are less inclined
to take on new workers or to offer more hours to existing workers –
that’s why it’s so important that we get the economic fundamentals
right.” Asked about the 35% casual workforce rate, as well as the effect
it was having on communities, the minister did not respond.

ABS data shows underemployment currently stands at 7.6% of the
workforce seasonally adjusted. The Bureau defines underemployment as
workers who are seeking more hours, but there is more to it.

Oxford geography professor Craig Jeffrey, writing in The Conversation in January,
says very little has been written on this crucially important topic and
its social consequences. Jeffrey describes the phenomenon of “timepass”
– graduates waiting for jobs in an employment market too inflexible to
accommodate them. “State employment, which used to absorb many graduates
in poor countries, is no longer rising”, he says.

Social researcher Scott Burrows from Wollongong university is
concerned about the knowledge gap. He says: “Australia’s official
unemployment statistics, while providing appropriate estimates, do not
map the full extent of underemployment, of precarious work, those stuck
on fixed-term casual contracts with not enough work and with no leave
entitlements, no holiday or sick leave, no job certainty, no career
development pathways and no way out”.

Burrows says we need to map the extent of the human costs such as the
physical and mental health problems arising from underemployment, which
are concealed by the data. Not having this research can be linked to
why no one is addressing the problem, he says.

Underemployment is about more than unfairness. It is a never-ending
sense of uselessness and uncertainty about the future. Getting to the
bottom of underemployment means surveying where unemployment,
restructuring and casualisation have created conditions in which
employers can take advantage of worker desperation.

To scratch the surface, let’s look at underemployment hotspots around the country.

Launceston and the north-east of Tasmania have some of the highest
rates of youth and overall unemployment in Australia. The region’s
biggest employers are health and social assistance followed by retail,
manufacturing, education and training, accommodation and food services.

Jannette Armstrong, secretary for United Voice which represents 3,000
members working in hospitality, child care and cleaning across
Tasmania, says that there is increasing uncertainty as a result of
underemployment. “Cleaners are very worried about losing contracts. More
of the union’s members have expressed dismay at being unable to access
financing for mortgages”, she says. Cleaners are worried because, as
many contracts are short term, the system doesn’t allow cleaners to
accumulate leave. The 2012 Real Voices survey
of Australian union members reveals strong links between casualisation
and a “lack of job security, an inability to make financial commitments,
plan for the future, or live a normal life”, Armstrong adds.

Higher education is touted as a remedy for underemployment, but changes to university funding are likely to be a barrier.

The University of Queensland, which provides opportunities for
disadvantaged people to gain higher education through its college
program at the Ipswich campus, is tipped to slash staff. Ipswich is
ground zero for urban unemployment in Queensland.

The university’s agreement with the Commonwealth says programs at
Ipswich campus “are a key part of UQ’s strategy to improve access to
university among under-represented groups.” 58% of students that have
enrolled at UQ College have come from a low socio-economic status
background, and 4% are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

The university’s education union president, Andrew Bonnell, says
there are indications from management there will be some redundancies
for the campus’ 63 professional staff. Disappointed, Bonnell says “the
view of the university is now that the Ipswich campus has not met its
objectives in terms of improving access to UQ for a wider range of
students”. The university did not respond to requests for an interview.

Another remedy for underemployment has been “fly in fly out” work
(FIFO). The FIFO air bridge links precarious employment hotspots like
Ipswich to outback South Australia, which incorporates the vast expanse
of the state including mining outposts like Coober Pedy and Roxby Downs,
tops the national lists for both unemployment and youth unemployment.

But FIFO contracts are not always the obvious choice. It can be a
hard life. To improve the situation, 10 companies are now pooling
efforts with FIFO families network, a non-government organisation supporting 15,000 families across Australia and New Zealand.

Nicole Ashby from the organisation says “two weeks on two weeks off
is normal for FIFOs out on oil rigs. This can work out great for
families.” The high wages can help families escape financial hardship.
But others struggle with three weeks on, one week off schedules. “It can
be very hard when FIFOs miss milestones like their kids’ birthdays,”
Ashby says, adding that most FIFOs come from Western Australia or
Queensland. Many come from places where the effects of underemployment
and job precariousness are too much to bear.

Back in Wollongong, the FIFO population is swelling, and the recently announced 800 new retail jobs
is a landfall for the city. But will it help the underemployed? The
small print reads 800 “full time equivalent” jobs. A major potion of
these will be casual and part time gigs at retail outlets. Youth
unemployment is rampant in Wollongong. Why would anyone say no to work?

Clarice (not her real name), who landed a short-term support-services
contract at the University of Wollongong, says the attitude of her
employer is “take it or leave it”.

“The university is very good at taking advantage of the local
employment situation, you know; lots of people are willing to take
anything they can get.”

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Poll Bludger: Abbott’s dismal poll performance the worst since Whitlam –

Poll Bludger: Abbott’s dismal poll performance the worst since Whitlam –

Poll Bludger: Abbott’s dismal poll performance the worst since Whitlam

IT has not been much of a honeymoon period for the Abbott
government, with approval for the government and for Abbott dismally

Last Sunday marked the first anniversary of the election
of the Abbott government, and with it came the inevitable flurry of
report cards from assorted species of pundit, both friendly and hostile.
Some were kinder than others, but a collective verdict of “must try
harder” came through loud and clear.

As even the strongest supporters of the government’s policy
record are required to acknowledge, polling indicates that no government
has ended its first year in a more precarious electoral position
certainly since Gough Whitlam, and perhaps even since Jim Scullin
brought Labor to power just in time for the Great Depression to strike
in 1929. For some idea of how historically unusual Tony Abbott’s
position is, the charts below plot his government’s progress alongside
the first-year performance of Kevin Rudd in 2007-08 and John Howard in
1996-97, as recorded by trend measures of the two-party preferred vote
and prime ministerial net approval (i.e. approval minus disapproval).

Even from the very start, it was evident that Abbott had
arrived in office with public goodwill in unusually short supply. Polls
conducted in the wake of electoral victories are usually as good as it
gets for a government, owing to a sense that a new incumbent should be
given a fair go, and that the opposition in any case will be in no state
to resume the reins as it licks the wounds of its defeat. However, the very first polls
conducted in late September found that the Coalition’s lead had
actually narrowed slightly, and at no point since has the poll trend
matched its 53.5% two-party vote from the election. Tony Abbott’s
personal ratings at least rose after the election victory to the highest
levels they have yet known, but this was true only by his own rather
dismal standard.

During this period, Labor was executing a public relations
coup through the civilised and innovative manner in which it was
choosing its new leader, presenting a very different image from the one
the party had laboured under during the Rudd-Gillard wars. Meanwhile,
the government deliberately kept the lowest of profiles as part of
Abbott’s declared strategy to “take politics off the front page”, a line
last heard from Malcolm Fraser in 1975.

This stood it in stark contrast to the Rudd government,
which came to office determined to project a renewed sense of vitality
by signing the Kyoto protocol, apologising to the stolen generations and
conducting the long-forgotten 2020 Summit. None of this, of course, was
to do Rudd any good in the long run, but at the time his personal
ratings reached heights not seen since 1983 when a newly elected Bob
Hawke set to work holding a national economic summit and signing the
Prices and Income Accord.

John Howard’s personal ratings never quite reached such
heights, but the net approval chart shows him briefly knocking on Rudd’s
door during his third month on the job. The catalyst for this was the
Port Arthur massacre, which unfolded eight weeks after the election, and
Howard’s robust policy response in the weeks that followed.

Common to Abbott, Rudd and Howard was a decline in net
approval of around 20% between their early peaks and the midpoint of the
year, but from that point on the similarity breaks down, with Rudd
enjoying a second wind towards the end of the year, Abbott taking a
further dive, and Howard’s position remaining more or less stable.

The mid-year decline in Rudd’s personal rating coincided
with accumulating difficulties for his government, including rising
petrol prices and concerted industry resistance to the “alcopops” tax.
The effect was obscured on voting intention by trouble in the Coalition
camp, which culminated in Malcolm Turnbull’s coup against Brendan Nelson
in September. However, the government suffered a reality check in June
when it faced its first byelection in the regional Victorian seat of
Gippsland, and suffered a surprisingly forceful swing of 6%.

The turnaround arrived with the onset of the global
financial crisis in September, in what ultimately proved to be another
lesson in the ephemeral nature of opinion poll dominance. However, it’s
interesting to note that this was not accompanied by a further lift in
Labor’s lead on voting intention, perhaps reflecting a positive early
response to Malcolm Turnbull.

Meanwhile, the Abbott government’s first landslip after the
Gonski debacle in November left it trailing on two-party preferred, a
position Howard wouldn’t reach until well into his second year, and Rudd
until his third. Then came the second body blow after the May budget,
since when not a single published poll has shown the Coalition in the

The situation has moderated a little since, with Abbott’s
personal ratings especially recording a sharp uptick after the MH17
disaster, albeit from a pitifully low base. Voting intention has also
been trending in the government’s favour as the budget backlash has
cooled off, with the issue agenda shifting to the more favourable
terrain of national security.

Nonetheless, the uncomfortable fact for Abbott is that his
record to date has disproved the notion that governments can count on
opinion poll dominance during their first year in office. Now he must
worry if a rather more important axiom is set to fall by the
wayside — the one that says Australian voters don’t evict governments
after a single term.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Minister misleads the parliament and the people with late night amendments to mines bill

Minister misleads the parliament and the people with late night amendments to mines bill

Minister misleads the parliament and the people with late night amendments to mines bill

In an 11th hour move the Queensland Government has
silenced objections to mining projects across the state giving open
slather to Indian coal company Adani to develop the Galilee Basin into
one of the largest coal precincts in the world.

President of the
Lock the Gate Alliance Drew Hutton said the move was an outrageous abuse
of the parliamentary system and one of the most undemocratic acts the
Queensland parliament had ever witnessed.

“The amendment was in direct contradiction to Mines Minister Andrew
Cripps’ speech in parliament earlier in the evening and his assurances
in the lead up to the bill that people would still be able to object to
major mining projects,” Mr Hutton said.

 “The Minister has clearly misled the people of Queensland and the parliament.

“The government changed the Minerals and Energy Resources Act on
Tuesday to remove the right to object to smaller mining projects under
the guise of reducing green tape but at five minutes to midnight added
another amendment that extended the changes to all mining projects

“The changes give the power of decision to a single man, the
Coordinator General at whose whim the community’s right to question the
environmental impact of massive new mines projects, like those in the
Galilee Basin will now rest.

“This means that if the Coordinator General decides there are enough
existing environmental conditions on a project no one can object.

 “All community concern about issues of health, environment and land use conflicts relating to mining projects has been gagged.

 “The first beneficiary of this gag will be Adani and the company's
plans to develop a series of mega mines in the Galilee Basin. Adani has
been lobbying the federal and Queensland Governments hard to get the
environmental approvals for this development. They must be doing
handsprings at this latest development.

“These mines will impact heavily on communities in central Queensland
and on places of iconic value such as the Great Barrier Reef.

“The mega mines also threaten the Great Artesian Basin but no longer
will anyone be allowed to object to projects like this. We have all been

“This is one of the most underhand and undemocratic moves the
Queensland parliament has ever witnessed. It is the sort of thing you
might expect from a despotic regime in a banana republic, not a
developed nation with a well-established democratic tradition.

“The public has a right to know how and why these last minute amendments were introduced and at whose call.”

Further information: Drew Hutton 0428 487 110

Kate Dennehy 0419 432 624

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The biggest deficit for the Libs is Abbott and his likely replacement

The biggest deficit for the Libs is Abbott and his likely replacement


(Image by John Graham)

The longer Tony Abbott is in the PM’s seat, the more frightening it is how little he knows about Australia and it’s not as though there’s a suitable replacement, repines senior correspondent, Barry Everingham.

ON SUNDAY morning’s crack current affairs program, ABC's Insiders, the cold, stitched-up Gerard Henderson took Malcolm Fraser to task for daring to comment that Tony Abbott’s Christianity was aired for a an hour on Sundays.

Henderson accused Fraser of raising the spectre of bigotry by
referring to Abbott’s Catholicism, which, of course, is typical
Henderson hogwash.

Gerard Henderson never smiles which gives food for thought that perhaps as a child he took delight in pulling wings off flies.

Abbott and the dreadful Scott Morrison, both Bible bashers, have
reigned over the brutal treatment of asylum seekers, one murdered and
the second dying in very suspicious circumstances.

Both on their watch.

Morrison, of course, was holier than thou in his response and the following was incredible even for a misfit like him.

Last Friday, as the 24-year-old asylum seeker, Hamid Kehazaei, lay dying, the Immigration Minister told reporters in Brisbane:

The immigration system will sometimes experience 'incidents'."

Where does this guy get off?

He went on:

"In the offshore detention centres, International Health and Mental Services do an outstanding job.”

Tell that to the Marines, Scott.

It is the first anniversary of the election of Australia’s most divisive and cruel Government headed by a man who was referred to by the Washington Post as

'... one of the world’s most hated Prime Ministers.'

His thought bubbles beggar belief.

Take the introduction of the Imperial Knights and Dames titles — we became a laughing stock.

Then in London, he came up with a beauty — Scottish Independence would give succour to enemies of justice and freedom!

He then went on about “beheadings”.

This Englishman,
who leads our country, has obviously forgotten, or really didn’t know,
that several Aboriginal people have been trying to get the heads of
their of their ancestors returned to Australia for traditional burial.

They were originally beheaded by Poms like Abbott.

Along with his canard that the arrival of the First Fleet was the ‘defining moment’
when we became part of the modern world and the absolute crap of ‘Team
Australia’ gives reason to wonder if this Prime Minister is really up to
the job in hand.

(By John Graham. Buy the original from the IA store.)

There is every indication that Abbott knows nothing about
today's Australia, yesterday's Australia and, even more frightening,
tomorrow's Australia.

And in the past few weeks, the moderate dogs of the Liberal Party
haven’t actually been barking, but there's been plenty of growling about
their leader.

But the dilemma becomes obvious when the names of ‘suitable replacements’ come up.

  1. Christopher Pyne
  2. Scott Morrison
  3. Julie Bishop
Now Bishop might be skating on thin ice. As the only woman in
the Liberal Party that Abbott found suitable to hold a senior ministry,
she might attract the same venom from the extreme right that we saw
heaped on Julia Gillard.

  • Unmarried
  • In a relationship
  • Childless (for that, read barren)
Is this really the kind of party we need running this country?

Is Tony Abbott the kind of man we need in charge of that party?

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