Sometimes a series of events don't really require any commentary... all you need to do is to draw the key events together so that their meaning becomes clearer than if the events are looked at in isolation.
The Safe Schools debate (if you can call it that) has been very emotive so perhaps the best place to start is with some very funny commentary on the changes to the program as agreed to by Simon Birmingham and Malcolm Turnbull .
It is worth examining the events that shaped the Coalition's attitude to the Safe Schools program and the irresistible drive for seemingly urgent and significant change.Those events are outlined below in what approximates the order in which they occurred.
In November last year the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) slammed the Safe Schools Program.
In early February Cory Bernardi labels the program a 'gay manual' and calls its supporters 'hetero-phobic'
On the 10th of February the ACL continues its attacks on the program.
In mid February, Family First Senator Bob Day echoes Bernardi's calls for defunding of the program, calling it 'Gay Lifestyle promotion' rather than an anti-bullying program.
In late February George Christiansen likens the program to Paedophilic grooming.
Turnbull orders a review of the program after concerted right wing pressure.
On February 29th Lyle Shelton, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, appears on ABC's Q&A further pressing the case to shut down the Safe Schools Program
Turnbull faces another backbench revolt, this time over the results of the review he had authorised into the program. George Christiansen hands Turnbull a petition signed by more than half of the government's backbenchers asking that the program be suspended until a full parliamentary inquiry in conducted.
Tony Abbott is a signatory to Christiansen's petition despite having launched it.
Turnbull defends letting the debate on Safe Schools run so long and acts as an apologist for some very unsavoury remarks by attacking the opposition for their criticisms of the tone of the debate.
The government makes significant changes to the Safe Schools program which please far right conservative George Christensen who welcomes the 'gutting' of the program.
Protests against the changes are currently being organised.
70,000 signatures are collected by Senator Simms from The Greens in support of the Safe Schools program. Cory Bernardi's petition to defund the program collected only 9500 signatures.
Writer Daniel Swain sums up the actions of Christensen and Bernardi beautifully in this article and opens the article powerfully with:
The Safe Schools debate in Parliament takes us back to the playground. Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and their supporters claim to be motivated by belief in traditional gender roles and family choice.
Cory Bernardi underlines the point being made by Daniel Swain with an aggressive and dismissive email to a concerned parent.
You can make you own mind up about the reasons behind Malcolm Turnbull's decisions and actions, and who the key influencers were... the ACL, government back benchers, particular Senators or MPs. You can also make up your own mind as to whether Bernardi and Christiansen (as apparent intolerant bullies) would benefit from participating in the program.
At the end of the day it probably doesn't matter too much... Christiansen and Bernardi are unlikely to ever change, and the decision to alter the program has been made and likely tucked away out of sight until after the election.
What it is worth being clear about is... what the Safe Schools program is actually about and what are its merits and weaknesses. You can also decide that for your self by reading the program... in my opinion it is well structured, easy to read and its intent seems very clear.
What is less clear is what the all fuss has been about. We could ask George and Cory to explain but I'd say most of us feel we've heard more than enough from them
by Mark Enders
The Turnbull government is in real trouble, with desperation setting in. The latest attempt to blackmail the Senate cross-bench is not about getting legislation through, it is about forcing an election as soon as possible... before their chances of re-election sink any lower.
Just about every poll has the government at a 50-50 chance of winning the next election with the Morgan poll recently joining the pack. And Newspoll has Turnbull's satisfaction entering negative territory. It's a very big fall from the heady heights of only a few months ago.
Malcolm has said he welcomes a 15 week election campaign because it will shine a light on the opposition. But it will also shine a light on the shambles that Turnbull leads. And that shambles extends to Malcolm himself. As a trained Lawyer and a very experienced debater, Turnbull is used to arguing for things he doesn't actually believe in. But sadly, for the government's aspirations. he isn't very good at it.
Case in point... his appearance on ABC's 7.30 program Monday night.
He began strongly by suggesting that a multi-layered approach to reform and economic transition was required. He then went on to suggest that the government was implementing IR reform (I don't believe they have yet), Tax reform (maybe... but we all have to wait until the budget), competition law reform (commentary on 'the effects test' suggest it is a potential mess but only time will tell), Innovation (lets all get excited like Malcolm wants), Defense spending (how... when most of the contracts will go offshore.. to Japan, the US, Germany), reformed bankruptcy law (assuming the system isn't rorted... which it likely will be by some).
As usual, Malcolm spends some time saying next to nothing. Many have compared Turnbull to Rudd... all talk and no action. That appears to be a valid criticism.
Tony Abbott's great strength as leader was that he knew when to walk away and shut his mouth, before his foot ended up where it didn't belong. Turnbull doesn't have that insight.... as the Leigh Sales interview proved.
The next excerpt from the interview is a marvelous example of Malcolm talking around in circles, in a very long winded way, hoping he would lose people along the way.
His argument goes like this - tax policy is about competing priorities and shifting taxes and benefits to suit different sectors of the economy, it drives investment decisions, negative gearing is such a vehicle for investment in property.
Leigh Sales then asks why a government dedicated to the free market would support market distorting policies like negative gearing to which Malcolm responds - negative gearing is not a tax concession, it is a tax principle that has been in place forever (although it was introduced in the 1960's to stimulate new construction), and a tax deduction is not an incentive to invest.
Malcolm has just argued that black is white. But he keeps going...
He suggests that changes to negative gearing are irresponsible. These are changes supported by long standing Greens policy:
Turnbull is opposed to changes (recently proposed by Labor) as they will affect investment decisions (black is now black again) - investors will be competing with new home buyers in the outer suburbs driving them out of the market. In the inner city where there is a lot of rental stock investors will only be able to sell to owner occupiers (which is not true), this will drive down rental availability and drive up rents while driving down resale prices for apartments as well as drive down inner city construction..
It's an argument built on a number of crazy assumptions - that renters can never become buyers, that people only want to rent in the inner city and buy in the outer suburbs, that investors won't want to invest in new inner city construction (which can still be negatively geared) and that some investors won't see the merit in buying old rental housing stock.
It's confusing I know, which is the whole purpose of Malcolm's argument. The election campaign hasn't even started and Turnbull is out of the blocks with a long interview in which he contradicts himself several times. If Malcolm is the great communicator of this government... they are in serious trouble.
Malcolm is the kind of man who when he finds himself in a hole... he dig faster and deeper and more elaborate tools. It's difficult to watch, like a slow motion train wreck
For some real clarity and some light relief on Malcolm Turnbull and the government he leads we can only turn to a cartoonist.... First Dog on the Moon.
We have been told for many years that the Coalition are better economic managers, without being provided with any evidence to support this bold claim.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and distance gives you the perspective and the ability to take a more dispassionate assessment of many things, but that is especially true of government performance. The Howard government is now far enough behind us to take a look at their economic record and that of the former Treasurer Peter Costello. And in recent months a great many experts and commentators have been doing this
According to Crispin Hull in the Canberra Times the structural deficit we currently have in the budget belongs wholly to Peter Costello and his hopeless performance as Treasurer. An excellent article by Mike Seccombe highlights the fact that a number of very wealthy Australians essentially pay no tax – surely that’s revenue problem (as well as a problem of equity). Mike also goes on to outline how many Howard-era policies shifted the tax burden from the big end of town to those at the bottom of the economic pile… the exact template Abbott spectacularly failed to implement in 2014.
Despite the assertions of Scott Morrison, our latest non-performing Coalition Treasurer, that the only problem we have is a spending problem, analysis by the ABC suggests we have a revenue problem also. And despite recent claims by the budget office that we do have a spending problem, Greg Jericho demonstrates things are more complex than that.
Howard himself was treasurer, appointed following the removal of Phillip Lynch for dodgy land deals while in the Fraser government. During this stint many consider Howard to have been inept. In 1982-83 Howard personally oversaw the worst recession since the Great Depression.
All damning stuff, and a long history of blunders and ineptitude.
In addition to all the poor report cards on so many Howard and Costello policies, it is worth looking at additional spending (the baby bonus) and revenue (fuel excise) initiatives.
The Baby bonus was largesse at the height of the mining boom, introduced by Costello, but poorly targeted and always completely unsustainable. It took a Labor government to pare it back and better target it to actual need rather than middle and upper class pork barrelling. The change introduced in 2013 by the Gillard government is projected to save $2.4B over 4 years. Given that the bonus was introduced in 2002, and based on these numbers the wastage as a result of poor Coalition policy and loose economic management around this issue alone is likely over $6B.
Fuel excise was cut and frozen in March 2001 – at a time (in an election year) when the Howard govt was deeply unpopular. As Bernard Keane explains it worked a treat politically by turning Howard’s political fortunes around, but has been something of an economic disaster. The Australia institute found that up to June 2015, this desperate move by Howard cost $46B in lost revenue. Keeping Howard and Costello in their jobs was very expensive for us all.
Malcolm Turnbull came to the top job by promising better economic leadership. At the time anyone looked better than Hockey and Abbott. Things moved slowly because everything was on the table and was being considered carefully by the government.
But that was a lie. Malcolm Turnbull had already decided to keep the baby bonus unchanged (in order to get the National’s support for his Coup) -this will cost $1.4B over the next 10 years.. Clearly a spending problem.
When negative gearing and superannuation entered the public conversation Turnbull insisted he wanted to have, Malcolm and the Coalition tried to shut it down by suggesting house prices would both rise and fall in the same 24 hour period as well as rents going through the roof. Economist Saul Eslake believes there is no evidence to support the claims of those running the scare campaign.
It seems yet again that the Coalition is willing to sacrifice economic improvement for political gain.
Further evidence of the Coalition’s economic credentials - there has in fact been a turnaround since the Coalition took charge of the Treasury benches. Australia has gone from the stand-out economy through the global financial crisis (GFC) to the worst performer in terms of growth trajectories among the world’s wealthiest nations, according to new OECD data from the last quarter of 2015.
The Turnbull government is currently sinking like a stone for many reasons – infighting and division, poor leadership and communication, a continued haphazard approach to government, and significantly… economic mismanagement.
But to be fair the Turnbull government is no different than the Abbott, Howard and Fraser governments… they were all terrible economic managers.
by Mark Enders
Malcolm is a well read, well informed, highly intelligent man with excellent communication skills and a good working knowledge of information technology. He is also a well trained and highly experienced barrister who can argue that black is white, and at the drop of a hat can argue that black is in fact black, it always was and it was never suggested that it was otherwise.
Before Malcolm became a serially disappointing Prime Minister, he was a very effective communications minister who had been instructed by Tony Abbott to 'demolish the NBN' and before he saw the opportunity to knife his leader Malcolm was a very loyal servant of Captain Abbott.
Turnbull argued that with a mix of technologies (old and new), he could deliver a cheaper, good enough service faster. Many technology experts said FTTP (fibre to the premises) was vastly superior to FTTN (fibre to the node)... here is just one example from 2011.
There were many warnings about abandoning the FTTP roll out plan, but Malcolm knew better, so he told us. But the real question... was did he really believe FTTN was a smarter option, or was he following his client's instructions and destroying the NBN?
In 2016 we have the benefit of hindsight and the ability to look at Malcolm's track record... what he promised Vs what he delivered.
Cheaper? Well Malcolm's cost projections have already blown out by 100%. And that is achieved by keeping the old technology which will need to be replaced within 10 years at an even greater cost.
Faster? Well Malcolm won't see NBN Co.reach his target of every user having access to 25 Mbps by the end of 2016... that is now projected to happen by 2020.
Independent analysis by Rod Tucker from the University of Melbourne suggests that sticking to FTTP in 2013 would've led to similar costs and time frames as Turnbull's botched network.
At every step along the way it seems we are paying the same and waiting as long as we would have in the original FTTP plan, but we will have a far inferior product.
One of the persistent critics of the Turnbull plan was Nick Ross, formerly technology editor at the ABC... an organisation Turnbull also had oversight over when communications minister.While Turnbull claims in public that he supports the freedom of the ABC... there is compelling evidence that in private Turnbull sought to gag Nick Ross. And in the same article (link above) Nick goes into great detail how much interference was run to protect Turnbull's position on the Coalition's NBN policy.
But bad news can't be suppressed forever evidenced by this recent article on the ABC which underlines the telecommunications mess created by Turnbull and delivered by Ziggy Switkowski
Putting aside Turnbull's failings as communication minister (and now as PM), what kind of future have we been locked into?
The infographics below suggest problems ahead.
Much slower speeds than our international competitors... slower than even Russia.
Capacity constraints which will limit our access to technology and information. At a time when we are transitioning to more and 'smart devices' the internet of everything will be something our network will struggle to support.
We'll be saddled with speeds which won't meet our needs to 2025 and beyond.
Malcolm Turnbull keeps saying the this is an exciting time and that our future is tied to innovation. When the truth is we will be constrained by infrastructure bottlenecks created by Turnbull policies and rather than making it exciting to be an Australian, will make it frustrating to be in Australia... accelerating the international brain drain.
Australians will continue to do great things, they might just have to do them overseas thanks to the poor policy decisions of Malcolm Turnbull.It begs the question as to why Malcolm is so excited about our near term future prospects. Or is it just words to get a bad government past the next election?
by Mark Enders
Recently there has been concern in the media about the 580 meat workers at the Stuart meat works who have had no work since mid November when the meat works closed due to a shortage of cattle. They have now been told that the works is expected to reopen on 30 March.
While the shortage of cattle is partly being blamed on the drought, live cattle exports are having a disproportionate negative effect on these workers, their families, not to mention the animals themselves and residents who live down-wind from the port.
By the end of this week 21 live export ships loaded with cattle for Indonesia and Vietnam will have left Townsville. Although Labor and the LNP support this cruel trade which exports jobs and creates a stench over our CBD, the Greens have strong policies on animal welfare which include ending the export of live animals for consumption.
The Greens also want to minimise animal cruelty, and ending live exports will have a big impact on that. The way we treat animals reflects how we treat ourselves and our society. The Greens are working towards ending unnecessary animal cruelty and they need the support of the wider community, because there is none coming from the major political parties.
Of particular relevance to live exports The Australian Greens believe that:
Of further concern (as if you needed any) the live export ships all fly "flags of convenience".
Two boats are due this week the Sahiwal Express and the Angus Express, despite the names, they are "not so express" - cattle spend at least a week onboard to Indonesia and longer to Vietnam.
You can support the Greens’ efforts by joining, volunteering or donating to the party. Locally you can look out for stalls at Willows and Cotters Market run by TALE- (Townsville Against Live Export), visit their facebook page or sign their online petition at change.org. Further information about live export can be found on the RSPCA and Animals Australia websites and both have online petitions that you can sign calling for our government to end live export.
by Jenny Brown
Some words (even if they are made up) you just know what they mean when you hear them. Econobabble is one of those words which needs no definition.
We know what it means because we have heard Econobabble for years every time someone tries to push their own political point or their own vested interest. It encompasses the supposed statements of fact that just sound like bullshit but we can't prove it, and we don't know how to fight it. Until now.
I have been reading an excellent book with that exact title... by the economist Richard Denniss. While I'd recommend you read it for yourself, I thought I'd share a few of the more engaging passages to give you a taste for Richard's writing and the message of the book.
One of the staples of Econobabble is to refer to the Markets as if they have feelings, and to ascribe to them some kind of higher and ultimate wisdom. Richard illustrates how opaque economic language is used to conceal the truth with some excellent examples. The following two passages say the same thing:
Markets reacted angrily today to news the government is considering tightening thin capitalisation provisions, which have provided foreign investors with strong incentives to expand their Australian operations.
Rich foreigners reacted angrily today at news that they might have to pay tax on the profits they earn in Australia. After the government announced that it was considering clamping down on some of the most lucrative forms of multinational profit-shifting, some very wealthy Americans threatened to take their businesses away from Australia if they were forced to pay tax.
The first statement suggests a proposed policy is not in our best interests, while the second demonstrates it clearly is. Econobabble sells us up the river to the rich mates of some politicians and lobbyists.
Richard also provides some excellent advice on how to wade through it to find something more closely resembling the truth:
It's a great book, essentially reading with a Federal election just around the corner... when we will be inundated with Econobabble.
by Mark Enders
You know how the saying goes.
Today's post is a number of images from which you can draw your own conclusions
It's always very exciting to see what clever new ideas people have generated, and it is doubly exciting when these innovations have a positive impact on human health, environmental health, and productivity.
It is good to know that industries that aren't necessarily the biggest polluters are still driven to find innovation, to operate in a more environmentally responsible manner, and to be rewarded for it. Research that is taking place at Murdoch university is ticking all these boxes - lower emissions from piggeries, lower costs for the business involved, a new, better and gentler food source for the pigs, and complementary improvements for crop fertilisation which is cheaper, better and relieves less on artificial fertilizers. A great story.
The benefits of Solar Thermal are undeniable - technology proven by the fact that there are a number of fully operational plants in California and Spain. It has the added benefit of being able to provide power when the sun goes down, it is a plentiful, clean resource, and it is very accessible to a number of marginalised communities - those looking to transition out of old industries that have died.... that is why Port Augusta is such a great location for such a project.
If you want to do your bit to help Port Augusta step into the new economy, you can sign the Australian Youth Climate Coalition's petition and show your support here.
3D printing is a truly incredible technology with applications across so many areas of human endeavour - from manufacturing to health care. While being able to print organs and replace organ transplantation and remove the need for donors (of which there are never enough) is still some way off, it's a technology which seems within reach. There was a fantastic story on the ABC news site recently which showed how far we have come, and how far we still have to go - but it is exciting just the same.
Innovation occurs when people who don't usually speak to each other, start to. Google (the great innovation company) has designed its headquarters so that people can't help bumping into each other regularly, and finds ways that encourages them to talk and collaborate. The best work of architect Allejandro Aravena began when he began talking to people who weren't architects and when he started working in spaces where architects didn't traditionally operate.
You can watch his TED talk by clicking on the video below,
Where this leads us (on a Greens blog site) is.... what to make of Malcolm Turnbull's innovation policy.
One look at the policy document and it seems it is focused on the beneficial outcomes (which are undeniable) and not on effectively supporting the processes that lead to innovation.
The final table in the innovation statement is also instructive - 19 out of the 25 program initiatives have absolutely no funding this financial year, and 7 initiatives have no funding next financial year. In fact 86% of the announced funding doesn't come until after July 2017. With two budgets to be announced between now and them, time will tell as to how much of this will even eventuate.
Further criticism of this do next to nothing plan can be found in Nick Feik's article in The Monthly.
Sadly Malcolm Turnbull seems to be the kind of Innovation PM that Tony Abbott was for Infrastructure - Abbott talked about infrastructure a great deal but funded next to no infrastructure unless it was a road, while Turnbull talks about being excited, loosens bankruptcy laws (which can be helpful but may also be open to rorting), spruiks the importance of the CSIRO and our education institutions but in the next breath undercuts it by - massive cuts at the CSIRO, maintaining Abbott's $80B in cuts to Education and Health (the great nurseries of high value innovation)
You actually need to invest in innovation, you need to be prepared to accept that not many of the ideas that you fund will be highly successful or will directly or immediately lead to higher profits for business. And you need to remember that the few that do succeed will repay you many times over and more than make up for those which didn't. This is the approach government should take because industry rarely will.
That approach sounds nothing like what the Turnbull government has in mind.. which isn't very exciting.
by Mark Enders
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.