While a murder of lawyers – under the direction of federal attorney-general-bigot Brandis – combs over legislation in an effort to limit personal freedoms and extend corporate ones, our own coalition state government is joining in the fun.
According to Fairfax, NSW primary industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson (Nationals), has instigated a joint federal/state crack- down on ‘agri-terrorists’, or those who trespass onto intensive animal farm industries and film the activity.
As such, the NSW Primary Industries Legislation Amendment (Biosecurity) Bill 2012 is up for amendment.
Barnaby Joyce (federal Nationals) is also keen to help keep people ill-informed and dumbed down about what they eat and is joining the fray at the national level.
Clearly the effort by activists is to stop or reduce the appalling way in which some animals are farmed. If better legislation were enacted to improve the conditions of animals subjected to inten- sive farming, would there be a need for these laws?
It’s like introducing a bad law to prop up bad behaviour.
Regardless, the 2008 US doco Food, Inc. is a good place to start if you want to be informed about intensive large-scale ani- mal farming. It posits that corporate agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy, environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees.
While free speech works in mysterious ways, it gener- ally only favours those who write the legislation. Thankfully there’s still public submissions. The state legislation is open for public comment until June 27 and is available at www. dpi.nsw.gov.au/biosecurity/legislative-review.
The Guardian and handful of other news outlets reported last Monday something quite significant: church leaders were arrested for an asylum prayer vigil at Tony Abbott’s Sydney office.
Meanwhile, a simultaneous sit-down protest was held at opposition leader Bill Shorten’s electorate office in Melbourne.
The significance of course is that peaceful, law-abiding civilians with strong religious beliefs are now prepared to be arrested over the horrendous imprisonment of 1,023 children in Australian-run immigration detention centres.
More than that, they targeted both political parties that engage in this cruelty, and came from a broad section of the Christian faith: Catholic, Baptist, Anglican and Uniting churches.
Interestingly Abbott’s goons brought the cops in while Shorten let them stay. It follows similar sit-in protests at immigration minister Scott Morrison’s electorate office in March, as well as the office of foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop. Will non-violent protests against human and environmental crimes define 2014?
Heads up hyper-local media junkies – newly released newspaper circulation figures have seen The Byron Echo increase its domi- nance over The Byron News (APN), with a 48 per cent circulation lead. The figures, which are updated every six months, were released last week by the Audited Media Association.
There’s been a general decline for local daily The Northern Star, owned by Australian Provincial Newspapers (APN). The Star now prints 9,662 copies daily, which is down seven per cent on the same period last year. Its Saturday edition is also down 8.8 per cent.
While independent publishers such as The Echo are holding steady and expanding online, the days of complacency are long over. The media’s existence relies on more than just relevant and informative news; it relies on good relationships with its advertisers.
But as for corporate suckholes like Rupert Murdoch, be wary of those who afflict the afflicted while comforting the comfortable.
The NSW Coalition celebrates its third year in office this week, but as usual there is a muddled message emanating from govcorp’s Macquarie Street HQ.
Predictably both the coalition and Labor claim opposite results with essential services, education and health. It’s either being reduced or restored, just like the environment and business.
But we do know that with three coalition MPs facing ICAC probes, neither side can claim much integrity. Former Liberal energy minister Chris Hartcher, along with fellow central coast MPs Chris Spence and Darren Webber, are now swimming with Labor’s Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald and Tony Kelly in the same festering soup.
Banning lobbyists and corporate funding has always been the simple solution for turning around a toxic system that rewards greed over public service. But who’s game to make that change? Of course the (mostly) boys’ club won’t allow it; it’s the only way they know how to generate prosperity.
However, the nuanced art of politics is about bending the truth for personal gain, not snapping it in two. At a local level, political discourse continued at sub-sonic depths this week with three north coast Nationals MPs claiming that federal Labor MP Justine Elliot and the Greens voted against road funding in the lower house.
What? Voted against spending on roads?
Coalition MPs Geoff Provest (Tweed), Don Page (Ballina) and Thomas George (Lismore) were ‘alarmed’ the Roads to Recovery program could be scrapped. Mr Page said it would represent ‘a $2.9 million cut which local councils had no way of making up,’ and that part of the amendment was a key element of ‘continuing the road to recovery program post 30 June 2014.’
Interestingly, Mr Page was the only MP who made a comment with figures attached; the other MPs just frothed rhetoric.
But the amendment in question, the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014, clearly says ‘There is no net impact to the Australian government budget from this bill.’
When handballed back to Labor, federal Labor MP Anthony Albanese told The Echo that the press release was ‘bullshit,’ and that it was sent as a bulk press release by regional Nationals MPs.
He vigorously defended Labor’s roads budget and blasted the inaction of the coalition over infrastructure. As for any financial implications from the bill, Mr Albanese said that the Roads to Recovery funding is covered by the forward estimates and, as it was not an appropriations bill, there were no financial implications. (There are two types of bills, and non appropriation bills have no financial consequence.)
Do such vague and complicated shenanigans do the community any favours? I think I’ve just been bored to tears by Geoff, Don and Thomas.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
It’s common knowledge that to get to the front bench in modern politics, it helps to be privately educated and a lawyer. Other prerequisites may or may not include willingness to cut the throat of your opponents and sell your offspring. So, who is the biggest psychopath? Let’s find out…
TONY ABBOTT – Minister for woman’s issues and presumably the PM.
Safe electorate of Warringah on Sydney's North Shore.
Likes flat earths, God, misogyny and sport, especially bicycles and swimming.
As a Rhodes Scholar he studied politics and philosophy and got ‘a solid second’, according to The Guardian. But by most accounts he mostly played sport and honed his bullying skills at Oxford.
A Rhodes Scholar, by the way, is not such a hard gig to get. It’s part of a production line for ‘world leaders’ established by British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Toned Abbs is proof that connections are more important than ability.
Doesn’t like media, the climate, accountability, transparency, round earths, scientists, gays, fact and reason.
Ironically was a boat asylum seeker himself and wants them stopped. Abbs is clearly the worst example of a ‘leader’ this nation has ever seen.
WARREN TRUSS – Deputy prime minister, minister for infrastructure and regional development.
Electorate of Wide Bay, Queensland (includes Noosa, Gympie). Office in Maryborough
Ex-Kingaroy farmer and councillor, Truss is often mistaken for a wardrobe or hatstand. He can also easily camouflage himself against beige wallpaper, making it hard for predators to spot him. Just slashed $150,000 in Byron Shire infrastructure funding last week and it’s fair to say more is to come.
JULIE BISHOP – Foreign affairs minister.
Division of Curtin, Western Australia. North of Fremantle and Eastern beach suburbs of Perth
As a corporate lawyer in the 1980s, she represented mining company CSR and tried to stop dying asbestos victims getting compensation in what remains Australia’s greatest single industrial disaster. An estimated 1,000 people died who were living and working near the mine at Wittenoom, WA. Now minister for foreign affairs, she is contributing to the decline of Australia’s international reputation. She’s divorced, childless and the only woman in Toned Abbs’s cabinet. Nickname: ‘Token Deathstare’.
ERIC ABETZ – Minister for employment, minister assisting the prime minister on the public service.
Tasmanian senator located in Hobart
Eric Abetz was born in Germany, migrated to Tassie then studied law. After that he spent roughly ten years in obscurity before politics.
Fun fact: Eric Abetz is the great-nephew of SS-Brigadeführer Otto Abetz, Nazi ambassador to Vichy France from 1940 to 1944.
GEORGE BRANDIS QC – Attorney-general, minister for the arts.
Queensland senator based in Brisbane
The Liberals are not known for their sense of humour, empathy, imagination or love of the arts, and Brandis is no exception. But there is comedic value in that he is minister for the arts; he said on ABC TV’s Q&A last year that he doesn’t even listen to music.
He’s also a Queen’s counsel (QC), which is slightly higher up the lawyer food-chain. He developed a large law practice in the mid 1980s specialising in trade practices law, and then in 2003 made a 20-minute speech describing the Green party as Nazis.
And Brandis likes a rort: it was revealed in 2011 that he had billed the taxpayer for attending the wedding of Sydney radio shock-jock Michael Smith. Possibly dangerous, so maintaining eye contact is recommended, although staring into the soulless vacuum of psychopathy is not advised. Best to avoid.
JOE HOCKEY – Treasurer.
Treasurer Hockey is of Armenian and Palestinian decent, a Roman Catholic and a republican.
Electorate of North Sydney
Given that his heritage comes from an oppressed minority, one would expect him to have more empathy for people trying to escape persecution. Prior to public office he completed an arts-law degree, then became a banking and finance lawyer of no considerable note. This Sydney-sider has been in public office since 1996, loves rugby union and bashing the public service.
Enjoys strip-mining public assets and denying essential services for the poor and disadvantaged.
BARNABY JOYCE – Minister for agriculture.
Electorate of New England (Armidale, Tenterfield etc). Office in Tamworth
Pardon me, Joyce, is that another taxpayer-funded event you attended? This high profile Nationals MP can sometimes be mistaken for an iguana.
After he studied commerce, he became an accountant and is now minister for agriculture and public rorts.
Though never short of an opinion or colourful metaphor, I recall he didn’t want to answer my direct question on whether he supports government accreditation of the the renewable industries.
Currently, renewable industries such as solar, wind and hydro are regulated by fossil fuel companies. What could possibly go wrong?
One redeeming feature is that he’s crossed the floor 19 times (ie disagreed with his own party), but alas, he’s best mates with Gina Rinehart. Was ridiculed for his economic thesis, but told me he still stands by it.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE – Minister for education.
Division of Sturt, inland next to Adelaide
After he graduated with a diploma of legal practice he became a solicitor in 1991, but then was elected to public office in 1993.
And while that made him the youngest current member of the Australian parliament, it also makes him one with the least amount of real-life experience.
Pyne is a Roman Catholic and republican, likes ice-cream and is easily distracted by bright colours. Also a big fan on the war on drugs, Broadway musicals and the sound of his own voice.
NIGEL SCULLION – Minister for Indigenous affairs.
Nigel is a NT senator and was a fisherman before joining the Country National Party. Wait, what? Where’s the law degree? Represents Australia’s largest federal electorate boundary: The Northern Territory.
IAN MACFARLANE – Minister for industry.
Division of Groom, west of Brisbane. Includes Toowoomba
This Kingaroy-born National now lives in Toowomba and likes to drill, baby, drill.
Known for his raspy voice, ability to cut red tape and make babies cry, he relishes the job of convincing farmers that plonking drilling rigs on their property is ‘co-existing’.
KEVIN ANDREWS – Minister for social services.
Menzies electorate: City of Manningham, spreading along the Yarra River from Bulleen to Wonga Park, in Melbourne. Office in
As a former Howard government Liberal MP, Andrews has a long history of racism and bigotry. He implemented the controversial WorkChoices labour market reforms, revoked on character grounds the visa of Dr Mohamed Haneef and cut Australia’s refugee intake from African nations in 2007.
This Victorian ex-barrister is a Roman Catholic and is a member of the Lyons Forum, a socially conservative Christian faction within the God-fearing coalition. God help us.
MALCOLM TURNBULL – Minister for communications.
Division of Wentworth, eastern beach suburbs of Sydney
Bob Brown told me once, ‘there are two things you can see from outer space: the great wall of China and Malcolm Turnbull’s ego’.
And well, why not. He was far richer than anyone else in parliament until Clive Palmer and has also done much more than the rest; from representing high-profile personalities as a lawyer to inventing the internet. He’s also been a journalist, investment banker and venture capitalist.
And while he appears politically centrist, don’t be fooled.
Like his colleagues, he wants to sell Australian land and companies to overseas corporations and embraces global free market fanaticism at the expense of nation building.
He had a hard time defending his inferior broadband network, but to his credit looks awkward and uncomfortable next to everyone else in the cabinet. They’re all idiots, aren’t they, Malcolm?
Roman Catholic, republican and spoonfed.
SCOTT MORRISON – Minister for stopping immigration and border protection.
Electorate of Cook in South-eastern Sydney. Office in Cronulla
Don’t ask questions about asylum seekers or our concentration camps – I won’t be answering them.
Look over there, there’s an adorable cat on the internet. Isn’t X-Factor on?
Scott Morrison will hopefully, at one point, be tried for crimes against humanity.
Ironically his background is actually tourism – after receiving an honours degree in applied science at NSW Uni for economics and geography, he then went on to be managing director of Tourism Australia. Now contributes to Australians’ reputation as bigoted arrogant thugs.
GREG HUNT – Minister against the environment.
Division of Flinders in Victoria. Includes outer southern suburbs on the Mornington Peninsula including Dromana, Hastings and Portsea.
Enjoys wrecking the climate for future generations through rigorous debate.
Okay, so he’s another lawyer, having graduated from Melbourne Law School with first class honours as well as Yale University. Hunt was adviser to the odious South Australian Alexander Downer before being elected as member for Flinders in 2001.
He confused everyone when he said recently he uses Wikipedia to source information – high school students would be ridiculed for such stupidity.
Bravo, well played.
PETER DUTTON – Minister for health, minister for sport
Electorate of Dickson, Qld. North-western suburbs of Brisbane, including Albany Creek, Kallangur and Strathpine.
This Liberal Queenslander was a cop for nine years, working on the drug squad in Brisbane.
He then studied business in 1991 but then five years later became a pollie. And he’s just 42 years old.
BRUCE BILLSON – Minister for small business.
Electorate of Dunkley. South eastern outskirts of Melbourne; it includes the suburbs include Frankston, Frankston North, Frankston South, Langwarrin, Langwarrin South, Mt Eliza, Mornington and Seaford, and parts of Baxter and Skye.
This bureaucrat turned pollie entered politics in 1996 and was educated at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He worked at Hastings Shire Council as a ‘manager of corporate development’ before being an adviser to Victorian Minister for natural resources, and then policy adviser to the shadow minister for the environment, Rod Kemp.
ANDREW ROBB AO – Minister for trade and investment.
Electorate of Goldstein is in inner city bayside Melbourne. It extends from Elsternwick on the north, Beaumaris in the south, the Frankston railway line in the east and Port Philip Bay in the west.
Andrew was a power-broker behind the scenes before emerging as a political contender. As federal director and campaign manager for John Howard in the 1996 federal election campaign, he helped overthrow Keating and then settled us in for a 13-year run of being relaxed and comfortable.
As a youngster, Robb gained an economics and agricultural science degree from Victoria’s La Trobe University, and has sat on many corporate boards. He’s a Roman Catholic and has a history of suffering from depression, which may or may not be related.
DAVID JOHNSTON – Minister for defence.
This little-known Liberal senator from Western Australia graduated in law in 1979 and then became a barrister in Kalgoorlie and Perth. His area of expertise, according to himself, is criminal, mining, native title and administrative law. He entered politics in 2001
MATHIAS CORMANN – Minister for finance.
The WA Liberal senator and lawyer joined the party in 2007 and became an Aussie after migrating from Belgium. Roman Catholic and only 43.
Note: this article has been amended from print to include electorates and which state the senators come from.
The small spotlight that shone on fossil fuel investment by the four big Australian banks last week was a reminder that catastrophic environmental destruction is a cornerstone of western economic success.
Although from a public relations point of view, divestment campaigns make great copy.
And maybe that’s all that’s needed to get a wider movement started towards realistic renewable targets.
The latest push to divest from companies that are heavily involved with fossil fuels comes from Bill McKibben, who is the founder of grassroots climate campaigning organisation 350.org.
He told The Guardian that a recent Oxford University study claims it’s the fastest growing divestment movement in history.
The most important thing, he says, is getting the analysis out into the ‘information bloodstream’.
‘Most of the carbon in the world has to stay underground,’ he says. ‘The analysis has now spread to the point where the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and just about everybody else has said that we have to leave at least two-thirds of the carbon we know about underground.’
And while the current knuckle-dragging Liberal/National government wants big polluters to help themselves to public funds for vague climate change solutions, economists think otherwise. Fairfax Media reported last week that after a poll of 35 prominent Australian economists that they almost universally back an emissions trading scheme (ETS) over Toned Abb’s ‘direct action policy’ on climate change.
Those looking for reasons not to be cheerful could turn to the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering of representatives from the US and South Pacific countries, held last week in Bali.
A focal point was the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade agreement pushed by the US that suspiciously gets little to no mainstream media attention.
While small and medium-sized businesses are spruiked as potential winners if international trade were expanded, critics have pointed out a much different agenda. Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Lori Wallach, told www.democracynow.org, ‘The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establish new powers for corporations.’
And many agree; a swag of lawyers and academics have signed an open letter to negotiators of the TPP trade talks.
As reported on www.nzherald.co.nz in May, the letter claims that before 1999, only 69 dispute cases between countries and corporations had been launched. ‘Today,’ the letter reads, ‘there are 370-plus such cases underway, an increase of 436 per cent.’ They say most cases relate to ‘challenges to governments’ natural resource and environmental policies, not to traditional expropriations.’
And Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton concurred, saying last week it would potentially make it impossible for our government ‘to place environmental and public health restrictions on some of the highest-impact developments in Australia, including coal and coal seam gas mining.’
It’s easy to paint the newly Toned Abbs government as pursuing a ‘pants-down-to-corporations’ foreign policy, but given the secrecy of our government and the US, how are we to know? For what little our federal government is prepared to say on this, see www.dfat.gov.au/fta/tpp.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
I understand you represent one of the most powerful lobby groups in Australia which influence our so-called elected leaders.
Firstly, congratulations on becoming the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) chief back in February.
This is an important job where many positive changes could occur.
For instance, are you lobbying to curb the duopoly of our food supply? Currently Coles and Woolworths control 70 to 80 per cent of the nation’s food supply, 1 and farmers say this duopoly is eroding their viability to produce 2. Surely more competition will ensure better outcomes to farmers and consumers?
Anyway, the reason I write to you is not that, but the three paragraphs on your website www.afgc.org.au rejecting the Container Deposit Scheme (CDS).
I put it to you that it’s lazy and disingenuous to say ‘numerous reports confirm that a mandatory scheme such as CDS generates environmental outcomes at a very high cost relative to other options.’ Where is the proof? These ‘numerous reports’ need to be referenced. And with the senate inquiry into this topic, your lobby group’s figures have been found to be rubbery 3.
Do you dispute this? If you would like to be taken seriously regarding the financial benefits of not recycling, then let’s hear it.
It’s just an idea to think about while you burp up those expensive long lunches with our so-called elected leaders.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
1 Fact checked by theconversation.com.
2 Crunch time for supermarket food suppliers – ABC Drum online.
As I expected he’s up front with a wide smile. ‘Ah you’re from the paper that keeps bagging me.’
‘Oh no,’ I enthuse, ‘I have never published anything about you.’
I am sitting at a table with federal Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce in the food hall at the South Tweed mall.
We huddle to escape the noise of eaters while a flock of nervous Young Nationals hover nearby in outrageously loud yellow t-shirts.
Thankfully veteran Echo photographer Eve Jeffery is with me.
Sitting casually to one side, she holds the camera at waist level and clicks away as we chat.
He’s listening intently as I explain last week’s Echo lead story on a renewables company that went bust.
In conclusion I asked, ‘Is it a conflict of interest that a board, comprising partly the fossil fuel industry, regulates the renewables industry’s?’
Barnaby wouldn’t bite and it became clear I was onto something.
Despite being well known for giving an opinion on anything he gives me nothing.
We move on and Barnaby volleys a straight political ball.
‘You know, it’s important that we have this opportunity to speak,’ he says, ‘being that your paper is not particularly aligned with us, it’s a good thing that we reach your readership. ‘Real politics lies in differing views,’ he says with a sparkle in his eye. At that point he opens last week’s Echo, lands straight on the lead story and his jaw drops.
The camera clicks. In disbelief he points at subheadings ‘Little To No Support From Nats’, ‘MP Hartsuyker: No Political Weight’ and ‘Glazed Abbott.’
I didn’t know the federal Liberal Party had any policies until stumbling upon the ‘Real Solutions for all Australians’, released only a few weeks ago on January 27, 2013.
It’s a glossy 52-page brochure that includes ubiquitous images of boardrooms, hard-hats, baby-kissing, open-cut mining and veggie gardens. And its 15,750 word count has plenty of gushing rhetoric and motherhood statements, along with openly fascist phrases such as, ‘We need to address Australia’s growing workplace militancy.’
It’s basically an uncosted promise of a utopian life, free of pesky unions, lower taxes and wait for it – no carbon tax (it’s mentioned 26 times).
A slightly weird ‘Costed Fully Budgeted’ watermark stamp also appears throughout, obviously as an attempt to correct the seven billion dollar black-hole impression which is yet to be corrected.
It’s light on substance, bereft of big ideas and an all encompassing vision that reflects who we really are. But such is the state of current Australian politics. Anyway, the Mad Monk Abbott team also reckon the nation’s top priorities are more efficient government, building modern infrastructure and improving health and education services. Improving border security, manufacturing innovation, agriculture exports, world- class education and research are also featured as desirable outcomes for Abbott’s vision. But of course not a word on culture and arts.
To pay for it all, they unsurprisingly plan to boost mining exports to the rapidly growing Asian middle-class. Apparently it’s a golden opportunity to send them as much fossil fuels as they can choke on. ‘...estimates suggest that Asian demand could almost double our net energy exports over the next 20 years.’
And the answer to address our obscenly high carbon emissions and climate change complicity is to ‘establish a 15,000-strong Green Army to clean-up the environment.’ Presumably that means dole-bludging moochers will be asked to plant trees or something. What corporate suck-hole stupid fuckwits.
Achieving such ambitious prosperity goals, according to them, is to all but give up on curbing emissions. Their goal of five per cent by 2020 is far behind most other western countries, such as Spain, who in the last three months saw windfarms produce more electricity than any other source for the first time. The UK’s Guardian reports that the country remains on track to meet its goal of generating around 40 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2020. So okay, Spain is an economic basket case. But if they can achieve that, the Liberals/Nationals obviously just don’t give a shit about future generations or don’t understand CO2.
While the federal Lib/Nat coalition is committed to a renewable target of 100 per cent ignorance, the federal Labor Party’s White Paper (found at www.ret.gov.au) provides the clearest indication yet that the mining industry owns both the major puppet parties.
‘Over the next two and a half decades,’ the exec summary proudly boasts, ‘Australia’s energy production is projected to more than double, largely due to export growth. We are the world’s largest coal exporter and third-largest uranium producer, and in future years will be the world’s second-largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter.’ Holy fuck.
Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation said this week that tax breaks for exploration and prospecting have increased from $320 million last year to $550 million this year, while accelerated depreciation for fossil-fuel-intensive assets is now costing the taxpayer a whopping $1.3 billion per year.
We have to remember here that it’s also the federal government’s bright idea to expand fossil fuels, not just the state.
But the federal government has a Clean Energy Future Plan, which claims has begun the ‘necessary long-term transition to a clean energy economy.’ Really? Does it have to be ‘long term’?
No. According to Beyond Zero Emissions’ Zero Carbon Australia Staionary Energy Plan (available at unimelb.edu.au), in ten years we could supply Australians with 100 per cent renewables, including baseload. The plan is based on information from the German Advisory Council on Global Change, and suggests wind and concentrating solar thermal (CST) with molten-salt storage as the two primary technologies.
The climate-change debate often gets muddled by idiotic denialists, but we’re past that now. Low-cost renewable technology will prevail because it is economically more viable.
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki reckons zero carbon is the go. I’d trust a scientist over yabbering idiotic denialists such as Andrew Bolt any day.