Politics,Climate Change and Sundry issues

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

Friday, 25 July 2014

Is there really such a thing as national debt? - » The Australian Independent Media Network

Is there really such a thing as national debt? - » The Australian Independent Media Network

Is there really such a thing as national debt?

In a recent article by Warwick Smith in The Guardian,
a group of economists refuted three of the government’s claims, namely
that there was a budget emergency, that there was a debt crisis and that
the carbon tax was an economic wrecking ball.

Knowing how difficult it is to get economists to agree on anything,
this seemed like quite a coup and reading it only served to remind me of
some of the government’s ‘over the top’, exaggerated and often
inaccurate outbursts from various ministers in their feverish attempts
to scare us into thinking we have a problem with the economy.

Leaving the matter of the carbon tax to another time, the issue of
debt and deficit is quite another matter and should be pursued

If there is one way to prove or disprove the existence of a national
debt, it is to ask the question: to whom is the debt owed? Government
debt (so-called) occurs when the government places a tender on the open
market. This is done through The Australian Office of Financial Management. They are the ones who place tenders for the sale of Treasury Bonds.

The most recent tender was for $1.5 billion on 18th July 2014 (Tender
705) at 2.75%. This tender attracted 92 bidders who sought to invest a
total of $3.881 billion. The tender, therefore, was oversubscribed and
in the end, 39 bidders were successful, 27 of whom received their
requested allocation and 12 received a partial allocation. So, bad luck
for the 53 bidders who missed out.

thing is, these bidders were actually competing to buy these bonds. No
one was twisting their arm to provide the money. They were, in fact,
competing to invest in Australia’s future. That doesn’t sound like the
government incurring a debt to me. It sounds much more like people or
companies investing in shares on the stock market. I did something
similar many years ago when Telstra was put up for sale. The same thing
happened then. The offer was oversubscribed and I didn’t get as much as I
asked for.

But, just like the stock market, the buyers of these bonds can sell
them, if they wish, on the bond market. So, if any of those 53 bidders
who missed out on the initial offer, or anyone else, wanted to get in on
Tender 705, they still could. So that suggested to me that the
government didn’t have to repay that bond, it could simply be traded for
the life of the country on the bond market. Except that it does have a
use-by date and in the case of Tender 705, that date is 21st October

But back to the issue at hand.

So, in this case, the government has just raised $1.5 billion
repayable on 21st October 2019. The question to be asked here is: what
did the government want to do with this money? It looks very similar to a
company wanting to raise capital for an acquisition program by
announcing a new share issue.

I put this question to the nice man I spoke with at The Australian
Office of Financial Management (AOFM), he said the money goes into
consolidated revenue to cover periodic shortfalls in the difference
between revenues and outgoings. All of which sounds similar to me
borrowing twenty dollars from my brother to buy petrol while waiting for
next week’s pension deposit to arrive in my bank account. His answer
was what I expected but it was the wrong answer. The bonds are issued to
soak up the overflow of cash in the banking system, but he was not
going to admit that. It is possible he did not know that.

Every six months the AOFM then issues coupons to the investors
(mostly banks), to the value of the interest rate promised. Then, in
2019, the government will repay the principal together with the value of
the interest for the final six months.

At the end of each financial year, the treasury accountants add the
tax revenues received plus borrowings derived from the bond sales and
treasury note issues and that amount should equal the total expenditure
for the year. All of which means the books are balanced.

That still leaves unresolved the matter of the money borrowed and the
interest payable on these bonds. That is essentially what we call the
Deficit. It has to be repaid, doesn’t it? Where does that come from? My
friend at the AOFM told me that interest and principal is paid out of
general revenue. He pointed out that of the 2014 budget expenditure of
$401 billion, $14 billion represented interest payments. Another wrong
answer. The interest payment is created out of thin air (ex nihilo).

So then I put the question to him: why not just create the money out
of thin air (ex nihilo) to pay both the interest and the money borrowed?
He was aghast. Not a good idea, he said. That causes inflation, he
said. I suggested that the inflationary element could be controlled by
limiting the amount of money in circulation through taxation. Yes, he
said, that’s possible. I further suggested that by creating the money we
would effectively reduce the value of our dollar on world markets.
Isn’t that what we all want for our export industries and local

At this point my friend suggested I call the Treasurer; he said that
what I was proposing was a policy matter for government not one for the
AOFM to answer. Very true. But his answer betrayed an undeniable truth.
It revealed all too clearly that debt can be extinguished out of thin
air if a government wanted it so, and that such a policy could be
beneficial to Australian export business and local manufacturing.

That then raises the obvious question: why does a government that can
create money ex nihilo (from thin air), feel that it needs to borrow?

to me, makes a mockery of Joe Hockey and every other government
minister’s claims of a debt crisis, and pretty much everything else they
say. The government wants us to think, as I once did, that running a
nation’s economy is the same as running household debt.

It isn’t and all it takes to explain this is the will to do it.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Australia beckons India: more antagonism from the Abbott Government toward China - » The Australian Independent Media Network

Australia beckons India: more antagonism from the Abbott Government toward China - » The Australian Independent Media Network

Australia beckons India: more antagonism from the Abbott Government toward China

Is the Abbott Government playing a major part in inflaming and destabilising the security of the Asia-Pacific Region? Dr Strobe Driver reports.

Prime Minister Abbott’s quest for the attention of right-wing
nationalists’ that are seeking to contain China has swung from the
United States of America (US), to Japan and is now making its way
further West into the Indian Ocean. This time to increase a military
attachment to another forgotten ‘ally’: India. This is a circle of
madness and it will be to Australia’s detriment that this government has
continued the cycle started by the Rudd-Gillard governments with the
deployment—and then ongoing rotation—of US marines through the Northern
Territory. There is a reason for this ongoing madness which needs to be
addressed in light of history in the Asia-Pacific (A-P) region.

With the knowledge that Australia has punched far above its weight in
the region since the end of World War Two, consecutive governments have
sought to keep this modus operandi alive; and as a continuum in their
foreign policy objectives. As a result of this, Australia has regularly
invested itself in military collisions either directly in the region or
external to the A-P in order to bring about enhanced ‘security’ and
‘stability.’ The eventual aim of these incursions has been, and no doubt
will continue to be, that countries which Australia decides to
intervene into should convert to the Western liberal-democratic model of
government; and governance. Australia has entered the fray of regional
collisions in places such as Central Asia (Afghanistan), the Middle East
(the Persian Gulf), Southeast Asia (Vietnam), East Timor/Timor Leste
and of course numerous other regional locations that have ‘needed’
Australia’s presence—the Butterworth Air Force Base in Malaysia and
Australia’s use of it as a forward-defence locale is an example of
involvement without an actual collision of forces taking place. Whether
or not Australia’s involvement in the aforementioned has been beneficial
to those that have experienced Australia’s direct (read: military)
assistance and whether Australia entered these places voluntarily or was
coerced by other state actors—the US in particular—are moot points and
beyond the scope of this essay, suffice to say Australia has made its
presence known and continues to believe that actual force and/or the
threat-of-force remain apparatuses that ensure stability.

As with many a country that has experienced the thrill of exercising
extramural power due to either location or military transport
capabilities, the days of Australia utilizing forward-defence and/or
embarking upon actual incursions should be disbanded, as it encourages
continual usage of a governance mechanism that is backed by force, and
this model generates backlashes. More to the point, the world has
changed from the days of Western Eurocentric and European-models of
government and governance being passively accepted by other
nation-states. Regardless of the heart-warming feelings the
Western/Eurocentric world may have toward the model that has been 
successfully executed since 1648 through mercantilism, trade,
suzerainty, protectorates, colonialism, forced alliances,
post-colonialism state-making—Kuwait, Israel, and the dividing up of the
spoils of Africa amongst Europe is to mention only several examples of
deliberate state-making—with the addendum of brute force, will not alter
the coming inevitable and unpalatable truth. The time is fast
approaching to acknowledge the overarching and heretofore unquestioned
influence of the West is in decline, and hence the rise of China is
taking place. The era pax-Sino is the new reality.

Extrapolating on the abovementioned, the new
problematics for the West, and for Australia in particular, is that the
Abbott government, by actively seeking out these new alliances is also
indulging in the suppression of this reality. Raging against the
military, economic, geo-political and geo-strategic rise of China
signals a fear of disengagement from the superlative-version of Western
history which was one of having control of the high seas and (in later
years) the airspace above for centuries. This will not remain the case
into the future and holding onto history signals an unwillingness to
admit to the reality of the situation-at-hand: the era of pax-Sino
is not only the new reality, it is fast-arriving. Therefore, no amount
of foreign policy enmity shown to the People’s Republic of China (PRC)
through scrambling around trying to find new Asia-Pacific allies will
change this and moreover, it is sending a supercilious message to a
country that will exercise the most control over the A-P region
regardless of whether there are policies of containment directed toward
it or not. Overt messages toward India by the Abbott government is
foolhardy and is disavowing China’s place in the region, which in turn
will encourage China to ignore Australian input into regional
machinations. The dismissal of China’s input into regional ministrations
by Australia in recent times has succeeded in infuriating China.  This
has been reflected in newspaper headlines such as, ‘Australia and India
to strengthen military ties’[1] with regard to India, and ‘Defence alliance to anger China’[2]
with regard to Japan. These references are evidence that there is a
renewed commitment to the containment of China by Australia in all
spheres and is signalling to the Chinese government that the only role
that Australia accepts of China is it being a compliant (and growing)
trading partner. The pressure the Abbott government is feeling and its
desire to not upset America is also dangerous as the Americans are also
not happy with Australia. This should encourage the Abbott government to
be more respectful of China and not antagonise it further. If China
reacts militarily, the possibility that America would come to
Australia’s aid becomes even more remote. The veiled threats of
‘president-in-waiting’ Hillary Clinton that Australia should not
America in negotiations should be taken as a clear signal that America
will judge any escalation at the time of it happening and it will not
necessarily default to its historic alliances. This as a stand-alone
issue should be enough to alert the Abbott government to understanding
that any moves to contain China in the region will be to the detriment
of Australia. Perhaps the most frightening undertone to Clinton’s
statement is that it mimics the George W. Bush mantra of a country being
either ‘with us or against us,’[4] or in simpler terms, Australia must choose
between America and China.   From the aforementioned, and with regard
to China, the evidence suggests Australia is actively moving toward the
containment of China even though there is no evidence America will
support this position; Japan has been newly-befriended and embraced with
a military/information exchange deal; and India’s status has been
upgraded. This is a combination of events that is fraught with danger
for Australia; and is tantamount to an invitation to disaster.

What however, does India have to offer Australia and the region that
may dissipate what could be defined as a ‘coming storm.’   Perhaps it
will balance the region by the Abbott government adopting a newfound
friend and ally?  A perspective is needed here.  Unfortunately, the
answer to the above is the elevation of India will do nothing for
stability in the region, as has the exchanges with Japan. These sudden
‘recognitions’ will only inflame Australia-China relations beyond the
required modicums of civility that trading partners have to indulge.
China will be furious at Australia’s new-found alliances. Moreover, the
PRC will observe it as a direct insult and another geo-strategic move
which further destabilizes an already fractious region.   The new
dynamics that Australia is attempting to set in place, beyond the
trading commodities such as iron ore and gold—about 40% of Australia’s
exports to India are of gold[5]—are
however misguided at best and flagrantly antagonistic to China at
worst. If Australia is counting on India to exercise a naval military
presence in order to be yet another bulwark to China, Australia is being
profoundly imprudent as India simply does not have the military-stretch
to extend beyond South Asia. India is also beset with regional
political issues such as poisonous border issues with China; ongoing
political and geo-strategic issues with Pakistan; and ongoing
difficulties with China-Pakistan relations. Domestically, India also has
enormous problems. Chronic poverty being the most overt—India’s
Economic Advisory Council deemed 363 million people to be living in
poverty in 2014[6]—and according to the Asian Development Bank it also has ‘rampant corruption and [is an] ineffective and corrupt state.’[7]
Perhaps the least acknowledged issue however, and one that drains vast
amounts of India’s time and energy is ‘a guerrilla war in twenty states
covering 40 per cent of the country’s land mass.’[8]
The nationalistic fervour shown by the people of India in their
electing of Narendra Modi will not change these endemic problems that
have (and are) facing India in the short term. Therefore, and regardless
of India’s resentment of China’s growing influence, India’s sway in the
region therefore, will remain ‘rhetorical and potential rather than

The inclusion of India as an incremental-increase  in the containment
of China in an A-P ‘triangle of defence’ is yet another simplistic
foreign policy alternative to actually engaging with China on deeper
more meaningful geo-political and geo-strategic levels. Australia will
come to deeply regret recent moves to elevate India beyond that of a
valued trading partner. Furthermore it actually signals Australia—in the
current government and in the previous one— is fundamentally incapable
of looking beyond trade for its meaningful geo-strategic and political
relationships, and is weak-willed when trying to negotiate its way
through the regional (and ever-increasing) maize of potential
conflict-probabilities—that is, unless the US demands it, and Australia
should dispense with this historical cloak which consecutive Australian
governments in particular, have been unable to throw off.   The military
move toward India when it has in fact been ignored by Australia for
decades, the cut backs in Australia’s foreign aid which must impact on
India notwithstanding, also signals a panic on behalf of India in its
desire to offset China’s influence in the region. This has become a
lightning rod with which Australia—as poorly constructed as the foreign
policy has been—has been able to capitalize on. The Abbott government is
expanding on the Gillard governments’ approach to the A-P belonging to
America, and in doing so is seeking to default to the containment of
China at the behest of America.  A significant part of this driving
force and reasoning is because the Abbott Conservative government is
unable and/or unwilling to unshackle Australia from its British-colonial
ruler-of-Asia mentality. The fusing together of these elements will
incrementally and then dramatically increase the chances of an exchange
of fire between military forces happening.

The irresponsible attitude and opportunistic intent Australia is
exhibiting by embracing Japan and now India, is another stepping-stone
into a war breaking out and of Australia having to concede that it
played a major part in inflaming and destabilising the region: it may
take a decade from 2014, but the signs of war are already on the
horizon. Whether the mechanisms of previous Australia’s foreign policy
continue to be employed, and if they remain mired in their colonial past
in the new ‘age of pax-Sino,’ they will be given, in the first
instance short shrift by the PRC; and in the second will heighten the
chances of a military response from China. The well-trodden historical
colonialist-path that Australia is attempting to engage with by allying
with India directly impacts on the chances of there being peaceful
outcomes in the A-P region. If the PRC adopts the British model of rule
in the region, that of using force to reinforce their superiority—as
Great Britain did throughout the 1800s—a war will come sooner rather
than later and India, like Japan and America, will put its interests
first and once again, due to the foolhardy military-driven foreign
policies being adopted by the Abbott government, Australia will be found
wanting. India is simply not capable of being a bulwark against China
regardless of the elevated status Australia offers it in the region.
Essentially, all the additional recognition is achieving is the
inflaming China’s sense of humiliation; and China’s tolerance of this
will not be indefinite.   A war with China is ever-closer due to the
Abbott government’s ill-thought through and shambolic foreign policy.


[1] John Garnaut. ‘Australia and India to strengthen military ties.’ The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney: Fairfax Media, July 1, 2014.



[2] Mark Kenny and David Wroe ‘Defence alliance to anger China.’ The Age. Melbourne: The Age Company,July 9, 2014, 7.


[3] Paul McGeough. ‘Hillary Clinton criticises Australia for two-timing America with China.’ The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney: Fairfax Media, June 27, 2014.


[4] ‘You are either with us or against us.’ CNN.com. November 6, 2001.



[5] Michael Wesley. ‘The Elephant in the Room. Australia India Relations. The Monthly. February, 2012.



[6] Manu Joseph. ‘Setting a High Bar for Poverty in India.’ The New York Times. July 9, 2014.



[7] James Lamont and James Fontanell-Khan. ‘India: Writing on the wall.’ Financial Times. March 21, 2011.


[8] Martin Jacques. When China Rules the World. The end of the Western World and the birth of a new global order. England: Penguin Books, 2012, 448.


[9] https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2012/february/1328594251/michael-wesley/elephant-room

This article was first posted on Geo-Strategic Orbit and has been reproduced with permission.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Coalition's 'asset recycling' scheme watered down in Senate | World news | theguardian.com

Coalition's 'asset recycling' scheme watered down in Senate | World news | theguardian.com

Coalition's 'asset recycling' scheme watered down in Senate

Amendments include vetting of infrastructure projects worth more than $100m and Senate veto on certain incentives

Anthony Albanese gets into the finger pointing.
Labor’s transport spokesman, Anthony
Albanese, said the upper house would not be able to stop states selling a
hospital to build a road but it could prevent an incentive payment
being made. Photograph: Lukas Coch for the Guardian

The Senate has imposed limitations on the government’s “asset
recycling” scheme, ensuring the upper house can veto proposed incentive
payments to the states for using the proceeds of privatisation to fund

Labor won adequate support for an amendment to
ensure those infrastructure projects worth more than $100m were
assessed by Infrastructure Australia with a published cost-benefit

The Senate passed the government’s legislation on Thursday night but only after agreeing to significant amendments.

fund will provide incentive payments to state and territory governments
that sell assets and use the proceeds to build "nation-building
infrastructure". The top-up provided by the federal government will be

One of the changes made by the Senate would ensure the
government could not grant particular incentive payments without using a
legislative instrument. This effectively means the Senate could
“disallow” any particular incentive.

Labor’s transport spokesman,
Anthony Albanese, said the upper house would not be able to “stop states
selling a hospital to build a road” but it would be able to prevent an
incentive payment being made for such a transaction.

“What it doesn’t allow is an open-slather attitude towards privatisation with no accountability,” he said.

government criticised the amendments during the Senate debate. The
finance minister, Mathias Cormann, said: “These amendments only add red
tape with no additional benefit. These additional amendments are about
increasing duplication.”

The Senate passed a Greens amendment
opposing the use of the fund for privatisation of essential services.
The Greens also secured Senate support to add the words “encouraging
privatisation” to the original name of the legislation, the asset
recycling fund bill.

The Greens senator Scott Ludlam said the bill
“would create a toll-roads slush fund at the expense of investment in
public transport, and at the expense of revenue-generating publicly
owned state assets”.

“State governments should not be bribed with
incentive payments to sell off public assets in public hands and the
Greens will fight this move all the way,” Ludlam said.

The bill will now have to return to the House of Representatives for approval.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Joe Hockey warns he will bypass Senate to push tough budget measures through

Joe Hockey warns he will bypass Senate to push tough budget measures through

Joe Hockey warns he will bypass Senate to push tough budget measures through

Government's carbon tax warning

Labor will bring back the carbon tax if it wins the 2016 election warned the government in question time on Tuesday.
The Pulse Live with Judith Ireland
Treasurer Joe Hockey has warned the Labor Party and the
Greens to pass tough budget measures through the Senate or the
government will find other ways to push through savings.

But the opposition says if the government wants to "sneakily" avoid the parliament it will have a case to answer with voters.

Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer and Treasurer Joe Hockey. Mr Hockey has threatened to bypass MPs to get contentious budget measures through.
Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer and Treasurer
Joe Hockey. Mr Hockey has threatened to bypass MPs to get contentious
budget measures through. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

As the government prepares to front an extended Senate
sitting to pass the mining and carbon tax repeals, Mr Hockey said he was
prepared for "a marathon" negotiation to win the new Senate's approval
for unpopular budget measures, such as a new GP fee.

He said Labor and the Greens risked dealing themselves out of
any political influence if they did not approach talks with an open

"I say to Labor and the Greens if your instinct is to say no
immediately and to stick with that, you are dealing yourself out of
having an influence on public policy," Mr Hockey told ABC radio on

"Because if the immediate reaction is no with no opportunity
to open discussion . . . then there are other alternatives that we can

Mr Hockey said there were already budget measures that the government did not need legislation for.

He said if the government could not clinch the votes it
needed on the Senate floor for proposals that would be presented as
separate legislation, it would have no choice but to find alternatives.

Mr Hockey added that the warning was not "retribution"
against an increasingly unpredictable Senate, and the government
remained open to discussions.

''If the Senate chooses to block savings initiatives then we
need to look at other savings initiatives that may not require
legislation," Mr Hockey said.

''I would ask the Greens and the Labor Party, who between
them hold 35 votes on the floor of the Senate, to understand that there
are alternatives through government.''

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the opposition was happy to
negotiate with the government, but the Treasurer's approach was all
''bluff and bluster''.

''If the Treasurer thinks he can sneakily get his changes
through by somehow avoiding the parliament well he should explain to the
Australian people what he's planning instead of the normal bluff and
bluster we're get from this guy,'' he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

''What we're seeing is pretty much a Prime Minister and a
Treasurer who just think, well, we'll arrogantly say what's going to
happen and we'll just say that it will pass the Senate and saying it
will pass the Senate means it will pass the Senate.

''Well that's not how parliaments work.''

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The lessons Abbott should learn from Victoria - The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

The lessons Abbott should learn from Victoria - The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

The lessons Abbott should learn from Victoria

Tue 15 Jul 2014, 7:45am AEST

The first and most important lesson Tony
Abbott can learn from the Victorian Parliament shambles is simple: go to
an election as soon as possible, writes Chris Berg.
Tony Abbott ought to be watching Victoria closely.

problem - a disgruntled former Liberal controlling the balance of power
and holding the Government's agenda to ransom - is exactly what Denis
Napthine has had to deal with for the past year.

In 2010 the
Victorian Coalition won government with a one-seat majority. Such a
margin would have been perfectly serviceable if it wasn't for the fact
that Geoff Shaw, the Liberal member for Frankston, was accused of an
entitlement rort, fell out with the Speaker, then fell out with his
party, and then fell out with the entire Parliament.

Since then he has been creating havoc. Shaw has a single agenda - he's anti-abortion - but beyond that he's been mainly focused on creating problems.

So yes, Shaw is a lot like Clive Palmer - the man who was a climate sceptic one day and an Al Gore climate ambassador the next.

In June the major parties finally ganged up on Shaw and voted to suspend him from Parliament.

Palmer and his three senators won't be suspended or expelled, even if
the Abbott Government wanted to do such a fundamentally undemocratic

The first and most important lesson of Victoria is simple: Abbott needs to go to an election as soon as he can.

the Shaw crisis came to a head last month, Napthine said he would have
liked to call an election six months ago. Spill the entire Parliament.
Let a ballot resolve the crisis.

But in Victoria the key mechanism
to resolve parliamentary instability in the Westminster system - an
election called by the government leader or forced by the head-of-state -
was eliminated when the previous Labor government introduced fixed

Abbott doesn't have that problem. And his problem is in the upper house not the lower. He can play the double dissolution card.

This would be a drastic strategy of course, especially because the polls make it look unappetising.

But the alternative may be a lot worse.

The new Senate has sat a single week but there must be Coalition hard heads thinking about the future.

let's play this out. (As a hypothetical, mind you, not as a prediction.
Who'd be so reckless as to make predictions about the 44th Parliament?)

carbon tax is likely to be repealed. But almost every piece of
ancillary legislation to that repeal has been held up or explicitly
rejected by the balance of power senators. They won't abolish the
Australian Renewable Energy Agency, they won't abolish the carbon tax
compensation tax cuts, and they won't abolish the Clean Energy Finance

Sure, in themselves these programs are subordinate to the main game. The Government gets its win from repealing the carbon tax.

Palmer is certain to repeat his theatrics with every moderately
controversial bill. The GP copayment. The medical research fund. The
welfare reforms. University deregulation. Those dozens of agencies the
Government has promised to abolish. Why wouldn't Palmer make trouble?
What else has he got to do with this time in parliament?

And that's just Palmer and his senators.

Muir, Bob Day, David Leyonhjelm, Nick Xenophon, John Madigan - none of
them are fully signed up to the Coalition's budget, let alone their
broader program.

We could very easily get to Christmas without the substance of the May budget having been passed.

the Abbott Government negotiate its way through to parliamentary
stability? Perhaps. But recall that last week wasn't the first time the
Abbott team's negotiating skills have been wanting. The Coalition failed
to negotiate minority government in 2010.

These are the Abbott Government's parliamentary problems. The polls are a worse problem.

last week the mantra has been that it is a long time until the next
election - polls change. Yet after last week that mantra sounds a little

More importantly, the Victorian saga shows that voters
blame anarchy in parliament on the government. It's not fair, of course
- the Napthine Government is governing well enough. Yet the
parliamentary drama overshadows everything.

It is certainly true
that if Abbott went to a double dissolution, voters may give him an even
more unpredictable parliament, stuffed full of Palmer senators and
micro parties. If so, then the Coalition will just have to grin and bear
it. Such is democracy. (For that matter, Shaw could be returned in
Frankston, and the Victorian Parliament might be hung again.)

But what's the alternative?

Laura Tingle wrote in the Australian Financial Review on Friday that
"cornered ministers have resorted to arguing that no matter how untidy
things were at the moment, the Prime Minister will get to the end of
this year".

An earlier rallying cry was that the Government just
needed to get to July 1 when the senate changed over. Before that, the
Government just needed to get to Christmas.

This is what governments say when they don't have a Plan B.

Palmer will calm down. Maybe he'll play ball. But remember the Gillard
government's hope that they would eventually find "clear air"?

They never found it.

Chris Berg is policy director at the Institute of Public Affairs. Follow him at twitter.com/chrisberg. View his full profile here.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Julie Bishop a 'complete fool', says Chinese paper

Julie Bishop a 'complete fool', says Chinese paper

Julie Bishop a 'complete fool', says Chinese paper


Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop: Outspoken about China.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop: Outspoken about China. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Australia was once an outpost of “rascals and outlaws” but
will soon adjust to the shifting realities of power, says a Chinese
state-owned newspaper, which also has called Foreign Minister Julie
Bishop a "complete fool".

“Australia's history is not short of records of human rights infringement on the Aboriginal population,” said the Global Times, China’s most popular tabloid, in an editorial published in the newspaper’s English and Chinese editions on Monday.

Editor of "Global Times", Hu Xijin, in 2010.
Editor of "Global Times", Hu Xijin, in 2010.

“The country used to be a place roamed by rascals and outlaws
from Europe,” it said. “Perhaps it has to boast its values to cover up
its actual lack of confidence in front of Western countries.”

The newspaper, owned by The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s self-described "mouthpiece", was responding to comments made by Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop published by Fairfax Media on Thursday. 

The Chinese version of the Global Times editorial goes
further than the English version, using a Beijing colloquialism to
describe Ms Bishop as a “complete fool” and suggesting her government
won’t last long.

In the interview, Ms Bishop bluntly pledged to stand up for
Australian values and to “manage for the worst” when dealing with China,
while criticising the alleged temerity and incoherence of Labor
predecessors. "China doesn’t respect weakness," she said. 

Ms Bishop was making the point that the Abbott government's
more strident advocacy on China, particularly on security matters, had
not led to the punitive economic response that Australian critics had

Fairfax Media understands that the interview prompted
high-level diplomatic inquiries and some initial confusion about whether
Ms Bishop actually made the comments as reported. 

The Global Times editorial paired Ms Bishop’s comments
with Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments to his guest, Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe, in which he said he "admired the skill and the
sense of honour" of the Japanese submariners who attacked Sydney Harbor
in 1942.

“If Abbott's words were meant to flatter his visiting
Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, Bishop's provocation appeared to have
come out of nowhere,” it says. 

“Many Chinese people who read about this could not believe
these words came from the Australian Foreign Minister. China is
Australia's biggest trade partner and has not offended Australia in any
way. Bishop's verbal provocation made her look more like one of the
often pointless 'angry youths' found in the Chinese cyber sphere than a

The Global Times editorial is the closest that China
has come to admonishing Australia since last week’s high-profile visit
by Mr Abe, in which he advanced the capacity to work together with the
Australian military.

Still, the editorial hinted that China will not bother
pressing its views further because Australia would be forced to adjust
its rhetoric to the realities of international bargaining power.

“Bishop calls for standing up to China, but what resources
does she have to do so with? The next day, Australian leaders will smile
at China again, just as they do now to Japan.”

Within the Abbott Government, some said Ms Bishop was merely
giving voice to long-established principles that underpin China policy.

Others, however, questioned whether it would be able to
consistently match principles with actions, as the Rudd government
struggled to do.

The Global Times is famous for a distinct brand of fiery nationalism.

Its editor, Hu Xijin,
claims to represents the will of the Chinese people but his
commentaries are regularly more controversial abroad than they are at

Sunday, 13 July 2014

This Reprehensible Rabble - » The Australian Independent Media Network

This Reprehensible Rabble - » The Australian Independent Media Network

This Reprehensible Rabble

If anything was patently obvious from the events
in Canberra last week, it is that Clive Palmer thinks he is running the
country and the media seem to think so too. They are all over him,
relegating Tony Abbott to the role of a bit-player. It is also patently
obvious that the government’s negotiating skills sit somewhere between
pitiable and non-existent.

The repeal of the carbon tax is only the beginning. There are still
budget bills to be passed as well as the mining tax and Clive Palmer
appears intent on maintaining the chaos. It is conceivable that Tony
Abbott will soon be cornered into either giving Palmer everything he
asks or calling a double dissolution. At the moment he is vacillating
and his weakness on this issue will expose him for what he really is.
His pre-election bluff and bluster has dissolved.

Last week’s circus in the senate was inevitable and it will happen
again. The closer you get to your enemy, the sharper you need to be.
Clive Palmer has been around long enough not to trust anyone and knows
since the day Joe Hockey delivered the Budget that the Prime Minister’s
word has little or no value.

Image by The Sydney Morning Herald

Palmer probably remembered Abbott’s comments when interviewed by Kerry O Brien a few years back. “The statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared scripted remarks,”
Abbott said. In that interview Abbott revealed that he sometimes went
further than he should when making a promise. I’m sure it was no
surprise to Palmer when the wording to the amendment on the bill to
repeal the carbon tax wasn’t quite what it was supposed to be.

If the Coalition think for one moment that they can put one over
Clive Palmer, they are deluding themselves. But, given Abbott’s penchant
for verbal dishonesty they will probably keep trying and in the
process, expose themselves for the utterly reprehensible rabble that
they are.

That is not to say that Palmer will not acquiesce when it suits him.
He is unpredictable and, I suspect, delights in keeping the government,
the opposition and the media guessing. But as time passes (and it can’t
come too quickly for most of us), the interaction between him and the
Prime Minister will further expose Abbott’s difficulty in negotiating to
a point where even his most steadfast supporters will have had enough.
The government couldn’t even get their amendments right. A double
dissolution could see him lose office or at best see his lower house
majority whittled down to one or two.

The senate result could be worse with a strong chance that both major
parties would lose numbers to the PUP. If for some reason the people go
against PUP and vote to restore some sanity the result will likely
favour Labor and the Greens. Either way, Abbott is in trouble. Doubtless
his party’s electoral engineers are doing their sums and would be
weighing up the pros and cons. The advice given to them by outgoing
senator Ron Boswell to stand up to Palmer is the right advice but they
appear unwilling to take it.

Image by BBC.com

For the electorate, the greater issue here is honesty, or lack of it.
The budget exposed the Coalition to be utterly dishonest, something
they brought on themselves; an own goal. They can no longer claim the
moral high ground. Their claim to have a mandate is, and always was,
spurious. There is just too much evidence out there to show that they
have treated the electorate as fools. Clive Palmer has realised that as
the self-appointed defender of the underdog, his political future has
promise. He will not want to betray his image and backtrack on anything
he has said to the pensioners and the battlers who have crossed over to
his side.

By way of comparison the government is showing signs of cracking under the pressure. Tony Abbott’s speech to the LNP annual state conference in Brisbane on Saturday bordered on the bizarre.“You and we are rescuing our country . . . it is only us who can rescue our country right now,” he said. Rescue from what? His attack on Bill Shorten was equally weird and suggests he is beginning to lose the plot.

Image by news.com

His upbeat display of confidence was in direct contrast to the events
in Canberra and the reality of the situation as it unfolded. He
referred to the events in the senate as “a lot of colour and movement.”
It was chaotic. Under Abbott’s leadership thus far, the Coalition has
lost all the support they had at the election and then some. Their only
way forward is to replace their leader and try starting again. That is
unlikely for now and things are only going to get worse.

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Monday, 7 July 2014

Why the excluded are still waiting - Eureka Street

Why the excluded are still waiting - Eureka Street

Why the excluded are still waiting

John Falzon | 
30 June 2014

Locked gateIt's always the big lie that must be tackled first. Otherwise the other lies look like the truth.

Terra Nullius is the big lie, for example, that allows all the other
lies that justify the invasion and colonisation of Australia.

Similarly, I recently read an apologist for the continued oppression
of Palestinians reciting the big lie that 'there's never been a

The big lie that the Government's review of welfare in the Mclure interim report is predicated on is that 'welfare' (read 'government' or 'social spending') is the problem and the market is the solution.

It reminds me of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek's observation
that 'Society itself is responsible for the calamity against which it
then offers itself as a remedy.'

Pope Francis also has something to say about this:

Some people continue to defend
trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a
free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice
and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been
confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the
goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralised workings
of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still

When you've got a rich country like ours 'unable' to afford to ensure
that the more than 100,000 people experiencing homelessness or the more
than 200,000 people on the waiting list for social housing have a place
to call home, it is not a misfortune or a mistake. It is the sound of
the excluded still waiting.

When you've got more than 700,000 people unemployed and around
900,000 underemployed, on top of those who are set to lose their jobs
due to company closures, the dismembering of the public service and
government cuts to social spending — that is also the sound of the
excluded still waiting.

Let us not forget the woeful inadequacy of the Newstart payment, at
only 40 per cent of the minimum wage. Neither let us forget the single
mums who were forced onto the Newstart payment at the beginning of last
year, nor the working poor, for there are some who would like to squeeze
them even more by reducing the minimum wage and taking away what little
rights they have.

When the Government does a triple backflip and declares it is not
committed to the redistribution of resources recommended by the Gonski
review as a way to address the outrageous inequality that besmirches
education funding in Australia — once again, you loudly hear the sound
of the excluded still waiting.

The long, fruitless wait of the excluded for some of the wealth, some
of the resources, some of the hope to trickle down, is one of the most
audacious and sadly successful con jobs in modern history. It is not
misfortune. It is not a mistake. It is certainly not, as perversely
asserted by those who put the boot in, the fault of the excluded
themselves. Rather, it is an attack, sometimes by omission as well as by
commission, against ordinary people who are made to bear the burden of

As Francis points out:

As long as the problems of the poor are
not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and
financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of
inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for
that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.
That is why there is absolutely nothing unusual about understanding
this as an issue of class. And why Warren Buffett was quite correct when
he said: 'There's class warfare alright, but it's my class, the rich
class, that's making war, and we're winning.'

If the Budget and subsequent Government comments are anything to go
by the Government not only refuses to reduce inequality, it actually
wants to take from the poor to give to the rich.

We will not help young people into jobs by making them live on fresh
air and sunshine for six months of the year. We will not help them into
jobs by making them go to charities. We will not help people living with
a disability into jobs by reducing their income. We have moved to a
position where we condemn someone for not being able to get up the

If we really want to increase employment participation, whether for
young people, older unemployed people, people with a disability, single
mums or any other group that is locked out of the labour market, then we
will start looking honestly at problems in the labour market and set
about addressing its incapacities rather than pretending that the
incapacity, or unwillingness, lies with the individual.

We will build ramps rather than condemning people for not being able
to get up the stairs. And we won't sanctimoniously go on about the
ladder of opportunity while kicking the ladder away.

The simple truth is that behavioural approaches will not solve structural problems.

We do not have a 'welfare spending crisis'. We spend the second
lowest amount amongst the industrialised nations. We are not in the
throes of a fiscal crisis, but if we venture down the path of US-style
austerity we will be staring down the barrel of a social crisis.

As the 1975 Henderson Report on Poverty found: 'If poverty is seen as
a result of structural inequality within society, any serious attempt
to eliminate poverty must seek to change those conditions which produce

And as the groundbreaking 1996 Australian Catholic Bishops' Social
Justice Statement argued: 'In the main, people are poor not because they
are lazy or lacking in ability or because they are unlucky. They are
poor because of the way society, including its economic system, is

If we, as a society, really want to address the causes of poverty and
inequality, instead of, for example, extending Compulsory Income
Management, which is inherently disempowering and humiliating, we would
be guaranteeing income adequacy, housing security, education, health
and, now here's an idea ... jobs!

John FalzonDr John Falzon is Chief Executive of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council and is author of The Language of the Unheard.

Locked gate image from Shutterstock