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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

flying high   April 16, 2014

ICAC's inquiry into the corruption in the NSW political system, which effectively destroyed the NSW Labor Party, is now focused on the NSW Liberal Party. It is examining the influence of lobbyists in the Liberal Party, political donations, corruption, and special deals for mates in the face of the politician's memory loss akin to amnesia.

RoweDfly with me.jpg David Rowe

The fallout from the ICAC inquiry into Australian Water Holdings has begun. More fallout can be expected when ICAC examines whether, certain members of parliament corruptly solicited, received, and concealed payments from various sources in return for certain members of parliament favouring the interests of those responsible for the payments.

Continue reading "flying high" »
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:30 PM | | Comments (8)
What to make of the NBN chaos   April 11, 2014

Renai Le May has it about right on the Coaltion's broadband network. Nobody really knows what's going on. It appears that their policy of Fibre to the Node, which Turnbull took to the election, is quietly being dropped.

PopeDNBNTurnbull.jpg David Pope

What we appear to have is "NBN" chaos and confusion. That is what Renai Le May is giving voice to--a sense of growing disquiet. Nobody seems to know what is going on.

So here's a suggestion-- the NBN is being dismantled because it is against the interests of Murdoch, Foxtel and free to air television. Proper Fiber to the Premises network (FFTP) means that anyone with a fibre connection and decent plan (business or otherwise) can become a “TV” broadcaster. It allows new broadcasters to enter the marking without the initial barrier of the enormous cost.

Continue reading "What to make of the NBN chaos" »
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:01 AM | | Comments (12)
a creeping authoritarianism   April 10, 2014

Greg Jericho says that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had issued new social media guidelines that included a clause instructing employees that there "is an expectation" to dob in colleagues if they see them do anything on social media that might contravene the code of conduct. Such things include being "critical or highly critical of the Department, the Minister or the Prime Minister".

PopeDdobin.jpg David Pope

Such comment goes beyond the employees area of work to anything that might "compromise public confidence in the agency or the APS". Greg Jericho observes:

The vibe from the top is that social media is to be feared, and is now also to be used as a tool of fear. With so few jobs around, and some departments cutting a quarter of their staff, the time is ripe to force harsh restrictions on employees and silence dissent. And PM&C's guidelines will do just that.

This is an example of creeping authoritarianism that seeks to obtain its political end by coercion and sanctions in order to enforce and maintain quietism towards the political order.

Continue reading "a creeping authoritarianism" »
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:39 AM | | Comments (1)
getting mauled   April 7, 2014

As expected the Palmer United Party is in the box seat in the new Senate and the ALP was mauled. Whilst Clive Palmer has been able used his wealth to buy enough political influence to force the Abbott Government to negotiate with him over their legislation for the next three years, the ALP continues to self-destruct.

Despite the electoral flaws the Senate has the power to continue to act as a force of moderation on political excess. Will it? We know that the micro-parties will support the Abbott Government’s plan to repeal the mining tax and carbon pricing after July 1. What then?

RoweD TokyoDreaming.jpg David Rowe

Given Clive Palmer's extensive mining interests, will PUP use its power in the Senate to moderate the Abbott Government's policy of going all out to maximise economic growth whilst doing unacceptable damage to Australia's ecosystem? Will Palmer do something to address the growing inequality caused by the neo-liberal mode of governance of global capitalism?

Continue reading "getting mauled" »
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:12 AM | | Comments (14)
it's a no brainer   April 5, 2014

Though the effects of climate change are beginning to take hold the economic and political forces arrayed against dealing with climate change are very more powerful. Ours is a civilization built on the continuing use of energy that fossil fuels provide; on cheap, accessible carbon-based fuels, notably oil, coal, and natural gas, that cause greenhouse gas emissions.

Though the energy that comes from fossil fuels will decline they will still dominate the global energy marketplace for decades to come. So there can be only one plausible outcome: vastly increased carbon emissions leading to rising temperatures. Climate change is not the product of unfortunate meteorological phenomena; it is the result of burning massive quantities of carbon-based fuels and allowing the resulting gaseous wastes into the atmosphere.

The is only one way to avert the worst effects of climate change: make the consumption of carbon unattractive. carbon must be made expensive -- so costly, in fact, that renewables become the common fuel of choice. Australia, which took hesitant steps towards the pricing of carbon under a Labor Government , is going backwards. Under the Abbott government the energy policy is one of dig, baby dig, frack, baby, frack; a policy premised on denialism, an addiction to fossil fuels, and to self-destructive behaviour.

Continue reading "it's a no brainer" »
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:39 PM |
drifting along   April 3, 2014

Martin Parkinson, the Secretary of the Treasury, delivers a speech to the Sydney Institute that warns that there would be no return to budget surplus in a decade without increasing indirect taxation.

Yet the Abbott Government continues to campaign on reducing taxation (dumping the mining tax and carbon pricing), partisan point scoring and left-baiting. It dumps these sources of income that are used to pay for schools, roads and hospitals and plans to lift defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP.

RoweDPup.jpg David Rowe

The Abbott Government knows that the federal government expenditure on health , education and disability insurance is increasing government expenditure; and that allowing inflation to increase the tax take through allowing so-called bracket creep to push lower and middle income earners into higher tax brackets is not politically sustainable.

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| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:57 AM | | Comments (7)
Labor rolls over on mass surveillance   April 1, 2014

Federal Labor has come out in defence of the surveillance state. Tanya Plibersek indicated her in support of the mandatory data retention regime, which would compel phone companies and internet service providers (ISPs) to retain telecommunications data – "metadata" – for at least two years for the whole Australian population.

The meta data is not the recordings of phone calls or content of emails that is proposed to be retained; it is data around these things. Who you called, and for how long; who you email, and the size and type of the attachments you send. If you carry a mobile phone, metadata can record your location every minute of the day.
Plibersek justifies the roll over on the grounds that metadata collections had been an important tool in safeguarding Australia’s national security, that the spooks have disrupted some very serious terrorist plots in Australia, and that government needs to make it as “easy as we can” for intelligence agencies to protect against established and emerging threats.

Scott Ludlum observes that:

Data retention is not about targeted, evidence-based intelligence gathering. It is the indiscriminate collection of detailed, real-time metadata on everyone. It is not just for people suspected of serious crimes or political violence, and no judicial oversight is required for a proliferation of hundreds of agencies and local government authorities to get their hands on it. Because the access threshold is so low, there were more than 320,000 of these requests made of telecommunications companies in the last financial year, rubber stamped without a single warrant being issue

This allows the spooks to build what they call ‘a pattern of life’, a detailed profile of a target--ie., a full profile of somebody’s interests and habits---and anyone associated with them. The spooks say they need all this data, because, in order to find the needle in the haystack, they need access to the whole haystack.

Continue reading "Labor rolls over on mass surveillance" »
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:28 PM | | Comments (1)
IPCC: Fifth Assessment Report   March 31, 2014

UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Impacts volume of the Fifth Assessment Report ----- Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerabilities----- is the second of three reports to make up the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. The first, The Physical Science basis, was released in September 2013. The final part, Mitigation of Climate Change, will be released next month, with the compiled report due in late 2014.

Nearly 500 people have signed off on the wording of the report, including 66 expert authors, 271 officials from 115 countries, and 57 observers. There has been no reverse in the trend of global warming, the warming of our oceans has accelerated, and at lower depths and the emissions from fossil fuels has increased. That means more floods, more droughts and more intense heatwaves.

The Report states that the observed impacts of climate change are "widespread (from the equator to the poles) and consequential (it's already affecting food supply). It is leading to increasing risks for coastal infrastructure and low-lying ecosystems in Australia, threatening “widespread damage towards the upper end of projected sea-level-rise ranges.

In the Conversation professors Colin Butler and Helen Louise Berry, and Emeritus professor Anthony McMichael say that up to now what has been missing from the public debates:

is the threat climate change poses to Earth’s life-support system – from declines in regional food yields, freshwater shortage, damage to settlements from extreme weather events and loss of habitable, especially coastal, land. The list goes on: changes in infectious disease patterns and the mental health consequences of trauma, loss, displacement and resource conflict.

No doubt the denialists and sceptics will try and argue that it would be cheaper to adapt to climate change and pay the costs of climate damages, rather than reduce (or mitigate) human greenhouse gas emissions and switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Continue reading "IPCC: Fifth Assessment Report" »
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:12 AM | | Comments (14)
Brandis: people have a right to be bigots   March 28, 2014

After Monday's cabinet meeting George Brandis’ proposed changes to sections sections 18B, C, D and E of the Racial Discrimination Act, which maim to loosen constraints on racist insults and hate speech, is now a draft exposure bill. This tactic of a stalking horse gives the Abbott Govt wriggle room to make minor concessions.

Brandis’s underlying rationale for the proposed changes is that people have a right to be bigots ie., allow completely unrestrained race-based comments in public discussion, and racial abuse in public places. His classical liberal position---that there should be minimal controls on speech--- is premised on the rights of property. So free speech" is "free print/broadcast", that is, the right of the propertied to issue opinions in a dominated space.

MoirAAbbottbigots.jpg Alan Moir

Simon Rice says that the proposed changes drop the current test for racial vilification – “conduct causing offence, insult, humiliation or intimidation” – and replace it with a test of “conduct that is reasonably likely to vilify [which means incite hatred] or to intimidate”:

Focus switches from the harm that is caused by race-based speech to the conduct that intimidates or incites hatred. Instead of being concerned to prevent harm, the concern is to maintain public order... By addressing only incitement to racial hatred, Brandis is winding back the vilification prohibition to cover a single – and increasingly rare – type of behaviour: the crude, public rantings of a racist.

The third part of the proposed changes is the conduct that is explicitly permitted. Vilifying or intimidating public conduct that is done because of a person’s race is prohibited, but it is allowed when it is done in the course of public discussion. There is no qualification to this exception.

Continue reading "Brandis: people have a right to be bigots" »
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:15 AM | | Comments (3)
business-as-usual politics   March 25, 2014

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry is exposing business-as-usual insider politics.

This is a world of consummate insiders, the greased-palm, cronyist insider politics, the welcoming of lobbyists mostly working for corporations and corrupt conduct. Basically, corruption is an extralegal institution used by interest groups to gain influence over the actions of the bureaucracy to an extent that would not otherwise be possible. An example is the murky world of Wollongong City Council which was open for business.

RoweDICACwreckage.jpg David Rowe

Business-as-usual politics is structured around a “cutthroat” system in which campaign contributions were a prerequisite for both access to ministers, funding for pet projects, and government contracts. It is a world of greased palms, shady business practices, dirty tricks, insider information and the big spend. The result is one of protected markets, regulatory capture and crony capitalism. Australian politicians tangle with the mighty national mining industry at their peril.

Continue reading "business-as-usual politics" »
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:16 PM | | Comments (2)
SA Labor hangs on   March 24, 2014

The Weatherill Labor Government has been returned to power for another 4 years with the help of Geoff Brock, the Independent of Frome, to support a minority government. Bob Such, the other Independent is on sick leave. Weatherill's victory was mostly unexpected, and it was generally seen as unlikely by the savvy political commentators who have inside information.

SA Labor will serve another 4 year term in Government. However, Labor is clinging to the barest of majorities, with the constant danger of being brought down by a by-election defeat or the defection of any member who might happen to feel aggrieved over a policy dispute or demotion.

Part of the price for Brock's support is a deal to transform Port Pirie’s ageing smelter into an “advanced poly-metallic processing and recovery facility”. Brock is also to become the Minister for regional development and local government relations.

The Liberal Party and conservatives are saying that Weatherill’s government is an illegitimate, that it doesn’t have a mandate to govern and that the Independents are turncoats. The Independents are are turncoats because these are really Liberal electorates. They are calling for fresh election. It's a very familiar set of talking points from the three years of this from 2010-2013 at the federal level.

Continue reading "SA Labor hangs on" »
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:33 PM | | Comments (6)
the return of the Rum Corps   March 20, 2014

So we have Australian Water Holdings (AWH) donating money to the Liberal Party on multiple occasions, and charging some of these donations back to the publicly owned Sydney Water. AWH systematically overcharged Sydney Water (i.e. the taxpayers who own it) millions of dollars over the years. So this greasing the palm is a form of corruption

RoweDSinodinos.jpg David Rowe

The Liberal Party is now a part of the political corruption. AWH was seeking a public-private partnership (PPP) with the NSW Government in which AWH would effectively take over the utility's monopoly services and cash flows from the state-owned utility Sydney Water monopoly services and cash flows from northwest Sydney. It is alleged that federal assistant treasurer, Arthur Sinodinos, who was employed in 2008 as an AWH director and its deputy chairman, stood to receive a $20m bonus. His remit was to open doors to senior Liberal identities once it became clear the party was going to win the 2011 NSW election.

Continue reading "the return of the Rum Corps" »
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:09 AM | | Comments (7)
scaling up   March 18, 2014

It appears that over the past decade Santos has decided to transform itself from a non-controversial domestic gas supplier into a global energy player focusing upon the high risk “unconventional gas” reserves unlocked through the highly controversial extraction process called “fracking”.

Santos is constructing a massive gas processing and export facility on Curtis Island near Gladstone in central Queensland and it needs a reliable, long-term sources of gas in place to supply both its domestic customers and its prospective international customers. It's in a pickle as Santos, in conjunction with its partners in the GLNG consortia, has signed onto contracts and invested billions of dollars to supply huge quantities of gas overseas, before it had confirmed it could access that amount of gas. It is struggling to find the additional supplies of gas needed. Hence the O’Farrell Government in NSW fast tracking the approval process for Coal Seam Gas mining.

The fossil fuel industry spin is that: that an expansion of CSG will create a large number of jobs; that without a big increase in CSG extraction, gas prices will rise dramatically; and that an expansion of CSG will reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The spin downplays the risks to human and environmental health when mining in prime agricultural land. It is spin because it is close to myth making.

For example the claim that without a big increase in CSG extraction, gas prices will rise dramatically is misleading because, though gas prices in eastern Australia are going to rise substantially, this is due to an increase in demand in the world gas market. Australia's low domestic gas prices will rise (triple) because Australian gas producers will have the option to sell to the Japanese who are willing to pay $15 per gigajoule, instead of the domestic price of $3 to $4 per gigajoule.

Continue reading "scaling up" »
| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:33 AM | | Comments (1)