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Trump & Brexit, just not as you’ve heard it before

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 6:26pm in

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Mark Northfield has been at it again:

The UK hasn’t got a credit card and it’s not maxed out

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 6:23pm in

I am so bored by the claim the the UK has a credit card, and that it’s maxed out that I made a video about it:

Christensen Demands That The PM Get The Jets To Manila And Bring The Capital’s Ping Pong Team Back To Him

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 8:14am in

The Government’s member for Manila George Christensen has demanded that Australian Prime Minister Scotty from marketing deploy the air force to the Philippines and bring the Manilla girls ping pong team to Mackay.

”Scotty made a promise to all Australians that he would get everybody home by Christmas,” said the member for Manila. ”Now, admittedly the Manila girls ping pong team is not Australian but most of their patrons are.”

“The trick shots that these girls can do and all for a dollar are absolutely amazing.”

When asked why the Government should prioritise bringing in a foreign ‘sports’ team over it’s citizens, the member for Manila said: ”If I can’t get to the Philippines then they should come to me.”

”If Matthias Cormann can get a private jet to swan around Europe why shouldn’t I get a blasted ping pong team to Mackay. Scotty wants to be careful as if I don’t get my way I’ll get angry.”

”He wouldn’t like it when I’m angry, Malcom didn’t.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to head out to pick up some cheer leader costumes.”

Mark Williamson

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

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You’ll need a vaccine whether you like it or not

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 5:58am in

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Sixty-plus years ago when, as a student, I was making my first overseas trip, there was more hassle involved in getting the required ‘international certificates of vaccination’ certificate (issued by the Department of Health on behalf of the World Health Organisation) than there was in obtaining a passport. The little yellow booklet also received more careful inspection by airline and immigration/quarantine officers, before travel and on arrival overseas, than did my passport.

You couldn’t get on an aircraft to leave Australia or be allowed in to many overseas countries unless the booklet had the appropriate stamps, signatures and information appropriate to your destination. There were separate sections for smallpox, cholera and yellow fever vaccinations/revaccinations as well as pages at the end for ‘other’. (My final book, issued in 1977, but with one entry from 1993, included mention of typhoid, oral sabin and human immunoglobulin).

Each stamp included information about the laboratory where the vaccine was manufactured and, where appropriate, the batch number.

The past is about to revisit us, though technology will reduce the paperwork.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce tells us that once his airline is flying overseas again, passengers will need to demonstrate that they have been vaccinated against coronavirus. It seems there will be no choice (for the prospective passenger). ‘What we’re looking at is how you can have the [proof of] vaccination in an electronic version of a passport that certifies what the vaccine is, if it’s acceptable the country you’re travelling to.

‘There’s a lot of logistics, a lot of technology that needs to be put in place to make this happen.’

But that work is already underway. The International Air Transport association (IATA) reported this week that it was in the final development phase of its IATA Travel Pass, a digital health pass designed to support the safe reopening of borders.

The pass is intended to help replace quarantine measures when borders are re-opened, with testing. According to IATA, its Travel Pass will manage and verify the secure flow of necessary testing or vaccine information among governments, airlines, laboratories and travellers.

IATA is calling for systematic COVID-19 testing of all international travellers and the information flow infrastructure needed to enable this must support:

  • Governmentswith the means to verify the authenticity of tests and the identity of those presenting the test certificates.
  • Airlines with the ability to provide accurate information to their passengers on test requirements and verify that a passenger meets the requirements for travel.
  • Laboratorieswith the means to issue digital certificates to passengers that will be recognized by governments, and;
  • Travellerswith accurate information on test requirements, where they can get tested or vaccinated, and the means to securely convey test information to airlines and border authorities.The Travel Pass is being designed as a ‘Contactless Travel App’ – allowing passengers to (1) create a ‘digital passport’, (2) receive test and vaccination certificates and verify that they are sufficient for their itinerary, and (3) share testing or vaccination certificates with airlines and authorities to facilitate travel. The app could be used by travellers to manage travel documentation digitally and seamlessly throughout their journey.

Some weeks ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison speculated about what would happen when a coronavirus vaccine became available in Australia. His first response was that it would be ‘as mandatory as you can possibly make it’ for Australians, with only those with medical exemptions allowed to refuse it. However he soon backed away from this, saying ‘We can’t hold someone down and make them take it.’

There wasn’t much reaction at the time – there were lots of experimental vaccines being tested, but nothing on the immediate horizon. But suddenly, the issue is no longer hypothetical. One or two vaccines are likely to be available, and being used, within a few months – the end of March seems to be the furthest projection.

There will be no problems at first, with the vaccine only available to those prioritised by Commonwealth and State health officials (and ticked off by governments). Health-care workers first, then the most vulnerable (though in what order we don’t know yet). What we do know is that governments will be anxious to get the vaccine to as much of the entire population as they can.

There will be resistance. It will be loud and it will be supported by some extreme voices in the mainstream media as well as through the internet. Lots of conspiracy theories about world government or some ultra-rich guy trying to take over and manipulate our lives.

Ultimately, people may have a choice – but not, for example, if they want to travel overseas (perhaps a third of the population each year, once we get back into the swing of things), or send their children to a kindergarten or school, or use health facilities such as a hospital.

IATA’s travel pass or something like it will be adopted and adapted by governments, in one form or another, for domestic use. It won’t be quite like the identity card that Bob Hawke’s government tried unsuccessfully to introduce more than 30 years ago – it will be far more intrusive.

But you probably won’t be able to leave home without it.

Latest Findings on how well our Governments make Policy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 5:57am in

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For the third year running, independent research undertaken by two philosophically opposed Right and Left think tanks finds that basic standards of evidence and consultation-based policy making are only loosely followed by Australian federal and state governments. Nevertheless, there was an improvement on last year’s results.  


Credit – Unsplash

The thinks tanks agreed the two highest scoring policies were the Queensland Personalised Transport Ombudsman and the Federal My Health Record which received average total scores of 9.5 and 9.0 respectively out of an ideal 10.0.  The Federal Client Rights to Bank Data Bill also scored highly at 8.5.

The lowest scored case studies were the Federal Repeal of Medevac Bill and the Victorian Free TAFE provisions which respectively averaged total scores of 3.0 and 3.5 out of 10.0.

Acceptable scores of 7.0 or slightly over were achieved by the Federal JobKeeper and COVIDSafe measures, the Victorian Gender Equality Bill, the NSW Abortion Law Reform Bill, the Victorian Wage Theft Bill and the Queensland Child Death Review Bill.

An important variation on previous research is that this year eight of the case studies involved how well governments made decisions in response to a national emergency (Covid-19). This required modifying the standard Wiltshire ‘business case” criteria for assessing the quality of government policymaking in ‘normal’ times to dealing with a ‘crisis’ demanding urgent decisions.

The Project’s research was undertaken by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), a self-described ‘free-market’ think tank and Per Capita Australia, a self-labelled ‘progressive’ think tank. The two think tanks jointly selected the 20 case studies to examine with each organisation preparing its own report before comparing results and reconciling any differences over public information (e.g. Were alternative policy options considered? Were stakeholders consulted?).  In 16 of the case studies, the two think tanks gave the same or similar score. In four case studies the scoring difference between the think tanks was 2 points.

Research Project’s Focus

The research was commissioned by the newDemocracy Foundation (nDF), a non-partisan organisation that seeks ways “we can do democracy better”. This year it was fully funded by the Susan McKinnon Foundation, which underwrites better policy governance projects.

The research project’s Steering Committee – which includes people experienced in business, public and social affairs – such as Glenn Barnes, Peter Shergold, Verity Firth, Martin Stewart-Weeks and Carol Mills  – said the research again demonstrated the need for all major political parties to publicly commit to evidence-based and inclusive engagement processes for making major policy decisions of government.

Each think tank separately benchmarked the same 20 federal and state government policies against ten attributes of good decision making identified by Professor Kenneth Wiltshire AO, the J. D. Story Professor of Public Administration at the University of Queensland Business School. Four of these criteria were modified for those case studies involving urgent emergency policy responses.

The Wiltshire criteria focus on good process, not results, because the net fiscal, social, economic and environmental impact of a policy may not be known for a long time. The think tank reports’ findings involve judgements only about the way a legislated policy was made, not whether it was good or bad policy per se.

However, Professor Wiltshire reiterated what he has said previously:

“My research over nearly four decades suggests that good policy processes result in better outcomes than decisions made without a strong evidence base and close consultation with stakeholders.”

An exception to this might be where a policy needs to be made on the run such as in bushfire, flood, earthquake or pandemic crises where less time is available to design the policy carefully.

The think tanks relied on publicly available information for each case study’s assessment criteria since a government’s final policy decision should have transparent underpinnings.

Averaging the two think tanks total scores for each case study from 2020 shows that nine cases received solid scores (between 7.0 and 9.5) while 2 got unacceptable scores (below 5.0). The remaining 9 received mediocre scores (between 5.0 and 6.5).

Sam Mellett, Director of Susan McKinnon Foundation which funded the project said:

“The events of 2020 have demonstrated the critical importance of good public policy.  Some nations around the world will come out of 2020 in a far better position than others due to the decision making of their governments. Rigorous policy development processes help build trust in times of crisis and also ultimately deliver better outcomes. “ 

Iain Walker, CEO of newDemocracy that commissioned the work said:

“It’s important that we keep looking at process innovations which will help Australia make genuinely long-term public decisions, and for the public to trust that their money is spent based on process, not political whim. After three years, seeing two thinktanks with quite different viewpoints repeatedly reaching closely aligned assessments regarding the quality of process being followed highlights the non-partisan applicability of the Wiltshire Criteria.”

Research Project’s New Findings, 2020 

The research project’s Steering Committee ranked the main findings of the two think tanks as follows, after averaging their total scores for each case study.

Excellent Process (2)

  • Qld Personalised Transport Ombudsman 9.5
  • Fed My Health Record 9.0

Sound Process (1)

  • Fed Client Rights to Bank Data 8.5

Acceptable Process (6)

  • Fed JobKeeper 7.5
  • Fed COVIDSafe 7.5
  • Vic Gender Equality Bill 7.5
  • NSW Abortion Law Reform 7.0
  • Vic Wage Theft Bill 7.0
  • Qld Child Death Review Bill 7.0

Mediocre Process (9)

  • Victorian Invoking of Emergency Powers* 6.5
  • Fed Funding Childcare 6.0
  • NSW Invoking of Emergency Powers* 6.0
  • NSW Music Festivals Bill 6.0
  • NSW Right to Farm Bill 6.0
  • Qld Invoking of Emergency Powers* 6.0
  • Qld Police Discipline Reform Bill 5.5
  • Fed Early Release of Superannuation 5.5
  • Fed HomeBuilder Grant 5.0

Unacceptable Process (2)

  • Vic Free TAFE Provisions 3.5
  • Fed Repeal of Medevac Bill 3.0

*Note that the invoking of state emergency powers did not include the execution of such powers (see first question in Appendix 1, Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs),

Case studies where the individual total scores by each think tank differed by two points were the Federal HomeBuilder Grant, Queensland’s Use of Emergency Powers, Victoria’s Wage Theft Bill and the NSW Music Festivals Bill. In all other cases the total scores for each case study were either the same or differed by just one point,

Of the 200 criteria marked in the 20 case studies the think tanks had identical scores on 178 criteria and differed in judgement on only 22. As with previous year’s research it was reassuring that experts from both a Right and Left think tank could broadly agree on which legislated policies had been well formulated and which had not even though they did not necessarily agree on the policy prescriptions.

This suggests that standardising public policy making to accord more closely to recognised best practice (such as meeting the Wiltshire ‘business case’ criteria) could remove much of the distrust and discord in Australian politics.  Indeed, those policy case studies that largely followed good process seemed to fare better politically than those that only partially adhered to it.

The two reports showed that Australian political processes overall provide transparency so that the public is aware of differing political views on a policy.  For example, with JobKeeper, there was parliamentary consideration of the Labor opposition’s view that a wider group should be eligible, although this was not agreed by the Parliament.  This strengthens the public’s trust in decision-making because the alternative was aired and considered.

As with previous years’ case studies the research found that most scope for improvement in ‘normal’ policy-making was comparing the costs and benefits of alternative policy options, explaining how a policy decision would be rolled out and issuing a Green Paper to invite public feedback before announcing a policy decision in a White paper.

For ‘emergency’ policymaking the research suggests that governments should give more attention to weighing up alternative options and methods, disclosing key data and consulting recognised experts in the subject matter before deciding a particular course of action.

Research Project’s Consolidated Findings, 2018-2020

The results of the sixty case studies undertaken so far over the last three years suggest a solid process was followed in 21 of them by the governments involved. In 14 cases the ratings were well below par. In the balance of cases the process quality was mediocre. See table below.

 

Policy Decision-Making Process
Think Tanks’ Average Score out of 10 Test Criteria
2018 Case Studies

Number
2019 Case Studies

Number
2020 Case Studies

Number
2018-20 Total Case Studies Number
2018-20 Percentage Share

%

Acceptable, Sound or Excellent

 
7 – 10 criteria satisfied
6
6
9
21
35.0%

Mediocre

 
5 – 6.5 criteria satisfied

 
10
6
9
25
41.7%

Unacceptable

 
Under 5 criteria satisfied

 
4
8
2
14
23.3%

Total

20
20
20
60
100%

 

It is disappointing that only 35 percent of major federal and state policies un the last three years passed muster on the Wiltshire criteria for good public policy-making by scoring at least 7.0 out of 10.0.

The think tanks’ total scores on the ten Wiltshire criteria for the 60 case studies to date were remarkably similar in 48 cases (either identical or only one-point difference). In the remaining 12 cases the difference was two-points. See table below.

Total Score Differences

 
2018                          Case                     Studies

Number
2019                          Case                    Studies

Number
2020                          Case                    Studies

Number
2018-20                          Total Case Studies

Number
2018-20 Percentage Share

%

None
7
8
7
22
36.7%

1 point
10
7
9
26
43.3%

2 points
3
5
4
12
20.0%

3 points
0
0
0
0
0%

Total
20
20
20
60
100%

 

Meeting of Minds on Research Project Findings, 2020

John Roskam, Director of The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) noted:

“Good policy process which is based on sound evidence and consultation with all affected stakeholders in the community is fundamental to Australia’s liberal democratic form of governance.

 

“Too often policy in Australia is based on short-term interests, decided on the run, and lacks a credible evidence base which leads to poorly designed, ineffective, and costly implementation.”

 

Emma Dawson, Executive Director of Per Capita Australia remarked:

 

“Per Capita was pleased to contribute again to the Evidence-based Policy Project in an extraordinary year. Despite the need for urgent policy decisions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains important that changes to Australia’s legislative and regulatory system, at both state and federal government levels, are based on sound evidence and, as far as possible, adhere to established processes.

 

“These principles will be even more important as we grapple with the task of rebuilding our society in the months and years ahead, which will require significant and far-reaching policy decisions to reset our economy. We look forward to continuing this valuable research in collaboration with the project secretariat and the Institute of Public Affairs.”

 

Carol Mills, Director, Institute for Public Policy and Governance, University of Technology Sydney said:

“The sheer range of case studies reviewed for this year’s report is a salient reminder of the breadth of impact government policy decisions have on our businesses and communities. They also illustrate why a robust and transparent policy making process is so important.  It not only leads to better decisions, but also improves community confidence in those decisions.  This annual project is particularly effective as both a means of assessing process improvements and of demonstrating why that matters.”

Professor Peter Shergold, AC FRSN, Chancellor of Western Sydney University, said:

“At a time when democratic governance is becoming increasingly tribalistic, it’s heartening to see two respected Australian think tanks, with very different agendas, reaching across the political divide in their shared commitment to good public policy processes.”

Glenn Barnes, former Chair of Ansell Ltd and co-chair of Citizens for Democratic Renewal remarked:

“Australians are blessed to live in a country rated as one of the best liberal democracies. That said, our governance processes are falling short when it comes to consistently and transparently developing the ‘common good policy that the majority can live with’ – and public trust in the system is in long term decline.

“If our governments, state and federal, were to discipline themselves to ‘evidence-based policy development’ using transparent and disciplined processes we would be one step closer to re-building trust in our democracy.”

Verity Firth, Executive Director Social Justice at UTS and former NSW Minister for Education said:

“This project is particularly relevant in a year when Australians are watching the American government’s response to the COVID crisis and the hyper-partisanship of the US election.  Our project shows evidence-based decision making in government is something that can, and should, be above politics. In addition, the pandemic response in Australia proves the effectiveness of a well organised and well-funded public sector and the public trust that flows from that.’

NSW Parliament endorses Statement of Public Interest

In 2020 our Evidence-Based Research Project made progress in New South Wales. The Parliament’s Upper House Procedures Committee examined our proposal for a Green and White Paper process to precede all contentious bills.

It concluded it did not have the power to do that so instead suggested to the state government our fallback option that a Statement of Public Interest accompany every bill tabled in parliament. This would answer six basic public interest questions before any legislation was debated and passed in Parliament. These questions encapsulate the essence of the Wiltshire criteria:

  1. Need

Why is the policy needed based on factual evidence and stakeholder input?

 

  1. Objectives

What is the policy’s objective couched in terms of the public interest?

 

  1. Options

What alternative policies and mechanisms were considered in advance of the decision?

 

  1. Analysis

What were the pros/cons and benefits/costs of each option considered?

 

  1. Pathway

What are the timetable and steps for the policy’s rollout and who will administer it?

 

  1. Consultation

Were the views of affected stakeholders sought and considered in making the policy?

 

Such a statement would comprise only a few pages so should not be onerous for a government to produce. We hope the NSW Government responds positively to this suggestion and other governments take it up too.

 

Conclusion

 

If every major Bill introduced into a parliament satisfied the six questions of a Statement of Public Interest, it would fare a better chance of passing an Upper House. The checklist would also lift the quality of policymaking in state and federal public services.

Governments repeatedly get into in trouble because of a faulty decision-making process.  To avoid that trap they should adopt good policy making steps as proposed by the Wiltshire criteria. That would ensure real evidence and consultation-based policies to win the public’s trust.

Good process leads to good policy which in turn makes for good politics. That’s clear from the 60 case studies we have now completed over the last three years. Politicians should heed the lessons from our case studies if they want to restore credibility with an increasingly jaded electorate.

To access the Per Capita and IPA reports as well as the statement summarising the results visit www.newdemocracy.com.au/EBP2020/

 

*Professor Percy Allan AM is chair of the Evidence-based Policy Research Project facilitated by the newDemocracy Foundation and funded by the Susan McKinnon Foundation. He is a Visiting Professor at the Institute of Public Policy and Governance, University of technology Sydney, a public policy, management and finance adviser and a former Secretary, NSW Treasury.

 

Journalists need medals for reporting on such dull politicians

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 5:56am in

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Politics

The late, great comedian John Clarke always said that the best actors he had ever heard were sports commentators. The reason, he explained, was that they were able to convey the impression, with the utmost conviction, that the outcome of a football match was crucial, almost a matter of life or death. And then, suddenly, the game was over, and life resumed.

Spare a thought for our mainstream political journalists then, who deserve a collective medal, as they struggle on, from day to day, covering absolute nonentities, who are almost universally tribal, colourless, elitist, unoriginal and indescribably dull. They speak, as if in unison, from prepared notes, about ‘talking points’, and they will swear, on a stack of bibles, that black is actually, after looking at all the facts and taking into account a multiplicity of factors, white.

Trying to write something new about politics in Australia, and about our politicians, is like trying to make boiled cabbage exciting. To try to do it every day is beyond heroic; it actually verges on the masochistic.

Although the country heaved a huge sigh of relief when Tony Abbott was finally ejected from power, I am beginning to miss him. The other clowns on display lack his mad smile, his earnest and innocent fustiness, his anti-social beliefs stated so disarmingly. They instead display a cagey quality that makes their utterances generally lacking in – interest.

Craig Kelly tried out for the part, but he lacks commitment. His misunderstanding of the facts, his tortuous use of English is just not in Abbott’s class. He could no more eat an onion without a hint of self-consciousness than he could order an electric vehicle. And his climate change denialism, although monumentally stupid, never hits the rhetorical heights that Abbott’s did. Remember climate change being described as crap and a cult? And Kelly never talks about suppositories.

Pauline Hanson was another wannabe, but she seems to have removed herself from the public gaze. Perhaps it is disenchantment with her hand-picked minions, or is it an attack of self-awareness, of shame, licking at her confidence? Nothing is so debilitating as discovering that no one likes you any more.

Michaelia Cash might become mildly interesting but, on reflection, anyone who models her hair on Maggie Thatcher’s ‘do’ is struggling. She wants to present like her, but maybe she needs a few more seasons of classic neoliberal orthodoxy. I suspect she needs to lose some more of whatever humanity remains, and toughen up.

The Party Boys, Tudge and Porter, looked promising but who can tell. Bob Hawke had their spirit on the dance floor, but he also had ideas, charisma and heart. The Party Boys just seem to parrot their leader and to hide behind his avuncular protection. They would be more newsworthy if they were to shout, from the top of a roof-top bar, “Take me, or leave me, suckers. This is me!” That won’t happen. They have gone into ‘weasel in a burrow saving his arse’ mode.

They have shown some mongrel, I admit. Tudge promising to hunt down, and even jail, those targeted by Robodebt, was sort of interesting, but his recent begging for mercy after his affair was made public brought him back to the pack, as he was shown to be just another religious, family-values hack. Hypocrisy is interesting, but there is a lot of it around.

Porter is the Attorney General, as well as Minister for Industrial Relations, and Leader of the House. His outing as something of a loose cannon when he has been ‘on the town’ suggests he might need to lose a few of the big jobs he is signed up for. Big jobs require a big effort.

Currently, he is ‘looking’ at an Integrity Bill, which I suspect none of his colleagues want, which would explain his go-slow tactics. Usually, a man who likes to party should provide some interest, but the public is not that interested in arcane matters such as holding secret trials, destroying legal careers, not reporting to Parliament on time. He is no Lionel Murphy, although he does like a drink, we hear. He also wants to look at his legal options regarding the Four Corners revelations, but he seems to have backed off a bit. He recently ‘looked at’ Defamation Law.

That leaves us with Mr Charisma himself. Scotty from Marketing could talk the leg off a piano, is adept at saying, “Look, over there”, or “Labor did the same thing”, or “nothing to see here”. Sometimes he even tries to save us from boredom by claiming that he has “already answered that question”. Which is decent of him. My favourite is “I reject the premise of your question”, which is gaining currency. That grand old vaudevillian Michael McCormack recently used a variant of the phrase.

This Government seems prone to disastrous incompetence, dishonesty, failure to meet obligations, and outstanding secrecy. It has been reported that the Prime Minister’s Office met its Freedom of Information deadlines in just 7.5% of requests. I’m not sure if the PM counts well, but that meant they missed the deadline 92.5% of the time.

That fact is interesting, and indeed damning enough, but it suffers from ‘boiled cabbage syndrome’. It shows what we all know, day in and day out. They are dishonest, chronically breaking the law, with seemingly no consequences. So you can see why journalists deserve those medals.

Thug culture, not a warrior culture, to blame

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 5:56am in

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Politics

“Losers” commit war crimes and are punished and pilloried in news articles, books, documentaries and movies while cover-ups by the victors of their atrocities ensure the winners evade justice. 

Cover-ups generally work. Australian war crimes against civilians are rarely exposed unless you happen to stumble across them such as the barely known 101-year-old ANZAC massacre of Palestinian male villagers of Sarafand.

The AFP’s cloddish raid on the ABC to secure and cover-up the Afghan Files on war crimes perpetrated by 25 members of the SAS inadvertently revealed the seriousness of the crimes.

The Afghan Files whistleblower David McBride’s arrest and prosecution on the faux grounds of being a ‘national security’ threat reveals the Coalition government’s undemocratic modus operandi of silencing exposés of official corruption. The same MO has also been wielded against Witness K and Bernard Collaery for exposing the illegal bugging under the Howard government of the impoverished Timor-Leste government key offices during the Timor Sea negotiations for oil and gas resources.

Attorney General Christian Porter has further cauterised democracy’s rule of law by pushing ahead with the secret trials of Witness K and Bernard Collaery, à la the fascist Stasi show trials. Such moves alert Australian citizens to the fact that the government will strip you of your democratic legal rights should you ever blow the whistle.

Whistleblowers aside for the moment, regarding the Afghan war crimes, Justice Brereton’ report lays the “significant responsibility on

 “Some domestic commanders … bear significant responsibility for contributing to the environment in which war crimes were committed, most notably those who embraced or fostered the ‘warrior culture’ and empowered, or did not restrain, the clique of non-commissioned officers who propagated it.”

Blaming a ‘warrior culture’ is a simplistic deflection away from where the real responsibility lies for the atrocities: the roots of racism and the impunity for cruelty and corruption that underpin Australian culture.

Denial of, and the refusal to address and uproot, this national shame ensures its perpetuity and it comes from the top down, from the men and women who govern without conscience or compassion. The colonial white-anglo-supremacism and racism in the bloody foundations of Australian settlement informed the White Australia Policy, which has never died. It’s there in the ongoing abuse and exploitation of our First Nations people; and in John Howard’s cruel immigration legacy against bona fide brown asylum seekers mainly from nations destroyed by his willing support of illegal US wars.

So it’s no surprise that soldiers inculcated with racism, hypocrisy and the sport of bullying, blithely and without fear of punishment allegedly execute innocent brown people in Afghanistan and Iraq (lest we forget Vietnam, Korea, PNG, Palestine),

when:

  • Ex-PM Howard still hasn’t faced an inquiry into the Iraq war,
  • Australian governments send soldiers to serve and die for the interests of the British and the US Empires,
  • the Australian government tortures Afghani asylum seekers in detention or deports them back to inevitable danger and death,
  • the government could do so much more to protect women from domestic violence,
  • the government continually gets away with rorts and blatant lies,
  • the government enjoys impunity for the 2000 deaths linked to Robodebt, including some alleged suicides,
  • impunity for the deaths of elderly relatives in aged-care homes,
  • the National War Memorial is a place of political propaganda and not a place of truth in its refusal to commemorate the First Nations’ Fallen in the Frontier Wars,
  • and so on ad nauseam………….

I’d argue the 25 (to date) alleged SAS war criminals did not embrace a ‘warrior culture’ but rather the aforesaid ‘thug culture’.

The warrior ideal instills a code of conduct that encapsulates duty, honour, loyalty and bravery.

When I hear ‘warrior’ I think of the brave Indigenous warriors who fought to protect their land against the brutal British invasion; I think of the Samurai ethos of Bushido that is composed of eight virtues: justice, courage, mercy and compassion, respect, honesty, honour and personal dignity.

Whistleblowers are the true warriors who exemplify the Australian spirit of fairness and talking truth to power. The 10-year flaying of Julian Assange’s rights and repute to deter whistleblowers and freedom of speech doesn’t seem to have worked, given that moral truth-tellers continue to step forward … proving time and time again that integrity and courage are stronger than cover-ups and intimidation.

Julian Assange, David McBride, Witness K and Bernard Collaery are warriors whose freedom is our responsibility.

Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She is the author of  East Timor: Reveille for Courage, editor of a volume of Palestinian poetry, I remember my name and writes political commentary for a number of independent online magazines. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was convenor of Australia East Timor Association and coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.

British Labour remains unelectable

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/11/2020 - 6:46pm in

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britain, Politics

What are the prospects for the British Labour Party? Since losing office in 2010, they have lost 3 subsequent general elections against one of the worst Tory governments in history. The government exemplifies bumbling incompetence. But that seems to be all that is required to outwit the Labour Party and its advisors. Since the disastrous December 2019 election, nothing much seems to have changed. Well, that is not exactly right is it. Things have become worse. They scrapped a leader that a significant portion of MPs could not support after having undermined him relentlessly in the leadup to the last election. It was as if they preferred to lose than have Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. Then they kicked him out of party representation because he apparently has failed to ratify the dirty campaign against him. The new leader, was one of the most vehement proponents of the strategy that saw Labour turn its back on voters who had elected the majority of its MPS and keep harping on about a second referendum on Europe. The denial of the Brexit vote and failure to become the voice of Brexit cost Labour the last election no matter what those who try to manipulate the data to say something different might have you believe. The new leader also appears to be losing credibility over his purge of the previous leader. One can be as smooth and sophisticated as one likes. But if you don’t tell the truth, eventually, you pay the piper – even Trump has found that out, not that he exemplifies either smoothness or sophistication. And the other death knell – their fiscal rule – looks like it is now being recycled by the new Shadow chancellor. That means they will go to the next election in an unwinnable position because the citizens that they have conditioned to believe in the neoliberal macroeconomic fictions will, in turn, not believe that the Party can deliver a progressive agenda without causing financial chaos. You reap what you sow. So it doesn’t appear that they have learned very much so far.

Labour seemingly up to its old tricks

A Reuters report the other day (November 24, 2020) – Britain must rebuild economy with an eye on debt levels, Labour says – is bad news for any progressive Labour Party members who might have harboured ideas that the Party would jettison its fiscal rule nonsense that helped destroy its election chances last time.

I wrote a lot about the so-called Labour Fiscal Credibility Rule at the time.

You can see the sequence of blog posts by consulting this final comment on the issue – The British Labour Fiscal Credibility rule – some further final comments (October 23, 2018).

You will see links to 16 prior analyses of the Rule or rules in general.

I also had a meeting with the then Shadow Chancellor in October 2018 but his advisors just parroted the usual neoliberal nonsense about how powerful the City of London is and that government has to appease the financial markets lest they destroy the currency.

I left that meeting concluding that the British Labour Party hasn’t made much progress on the macroeconomic front since Dennis Healey lied to the British people about having to borrow from the IMF in the mid-1970s.

They were still wheeling out the same nonsense.

There was a followup post when it became clear that – Forget the official Rule, apparently, there is a secret Fiscal Credibility Rule (June 19, 2019).

As the election approached, I wrote this warning – Invoking neoliberal framing a language is a failing progressive strategy (British Labour) (November 19, 2019).

The point was that one cannot say that the Labour Party wasn’t warned about the stupidity of their ‘Rule’.

And, in the last weeks before the December 2019 election, they obviously worked out that the ‘Rule’ could not be delivered within the parameters of their proposed electoral manifesto and so, without fanfare changed it.

Please read – Impending British Labour loss may reflect their ambiguous Brexit position (November 28, 2019).

It was obvious that one doesn’t change a ‘Rule’ that is seen to be workable.

The point is that, by tying themselves into this neoliberal straitjacket, the British Labour Party limited the political space they would have to operate in.

The political debate would have become focused on whether the ‘Rule’ was being obeyed rather than what the government was actually doing with its policy parameters.

So, just days before the election, they changed the ‘Rule’ because so-called independent analysts agreed with my assessment that the policy manifesto and the ‘Rule’ were inconsistent.

So much for Labour’s team of experts and advisors who had pushed them into the ‘Rule’ corner, from which there was no where to go that was attractive.

Add in the Brexit calamity that Labour created for itself, and you have to 2019 election disaster.

The Reuters article suggests that the Party hasn’t learned much since December.

You can make your own mind up because the full video of the Reuters Newsmaker event (November 23, 2020) is available – HERE.

There is a lot of talk about jobs, jobs, jobs (JJJ).

But then there is also talk about “eyewatering spending”, “taxpayers’ funds” and so we are immediately framed back into Fiscal Credibility Rule language and concepts.

Ms Dodds was asked whether the deficit was important? She played into the implication that the interviewer was intending – that it would be too big.

She said it mattered.

I was hoping she would say that it wasn’t nearly large enough given her JJJ agenda.

She was asked why the deficit mattered.

She said that it mattered because:

While we may be currently in a situation where there are low interest rates, of course that may not continue forever. We don’t know what kind of economic circumstances are likely to be facing the country in the medium to long term …

And then she started quoting “IMF experts” as her authority.

Eventually interest rates are apparently going to increase and the government will not be able to afford such a big deficit.

Fiscal Credibility Rule Mark 2!

She said that the speed at which the government would have to cut the deficit depended “on the interest rate context”.

What happened to JJJ?

She preferred a longer-term perspective for “putting the brakes on”.

Was debt too high?

Well she claimed it was under the conservative government and a future Labour Government would have to adopt “a sensible fiscal position given the risk of interest rates increasing” (paraphrased).

She was asked how the government could rein in the deficit.

Well, apparently it has to get a grip on its current spending.

The Reuters article claimed that Ms Dodds:

… is an important part of Labour leader Keir Starmer’s drive to rebrand the party following the departure of hard-left leader Jeremy Corbyn, under whom Labour lost two elections and made big-spending promises.

This is the strange world we operate in.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party killed its electoral prospects not only because it was a divided rabble with the Blairites refusing to accept the world has passed them by.

Its own internal politics required it to adopt the Fiscal Credibility Rule and all the destructive language and framing that supports that.

It could not credibly advance its progressive agenda while it professed to be obedient to that ‘Rule’. Everyone, other than the self important advisors who led the Party down that road, could see that.

Now, Starmer is trying to run a JJJ agenda which will require massive deficits for the indefinite future especially given the chaos that the pandemic is creating in a Britain where the government and (maybe) the people prefer large-scale deaths to well administered and finite lockdowns (Victorian style).

And he wheels out Ms Dodds who just rehearses the neoliberal framing that is being revealed as time passes to be flawed at the most elemental level.

I cannot see Starmer surviving anyway. The Party is deeply fractured and will not heal easily.

And if he continues to purge the Corbynist elements and play cute about Europe then those fractures will deepen.

Ultra conservatives seem to be more progressive than Labour

And the strangeness continues.

I laughed when I read this commentary (November 25, 2020) – Calm down, stay cool – and drop this talk of tax rises. It’s too early to know how everything will settle down – from one Ryan Byrne who is the “Chair in Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute”, and I do not need to remind anyone of the bona fides of the Cato Institute, which was founded by the Charles Koch Foundation as part of the Powell Manifesto strategy to sink social democracy.

Anyway, Mr Byrne, writing from the “home of conservatism” tells us that any debate about fiscal austerity at present:

… is massively premature. Yes, this pandemic has caused masses of government borrowing—producing a deficit of 21 percent of GDP or around £400 billion, … But we are (still) in a once-in-a-half-century pandemic where we have knowingly kept shuttered swathes of the economy and paid people to sit at home.

There will obviously be “deficit reduction” next year, in the sense that the vaccines ending the pandemic will bring furlough to a close, make Covid-19 test and tracing redundant, and see the end of the inoculation and PPE scrambles. Like demobilisation at the end of war, so the government will de-Covidise its budget with drastic cuts to virus-related expenditure. Likewise, as things re-open, tax revenues will ascend again. So, the deficit will fall.

But anyone who claims they know what level it will settle at, and so what “needs to be done” to re-achieve pre-Covid borrowing levels, is, quite frankly, talking poppycock – including the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Okay. Get that.

What they should be doing

The Tories are spending big at present and have seemingly resolved, for the time being, the conflict that their manic conservative wing might have brought given their obvious discomfort for such fiscal adventure.

It is also clear that they are lining the pockets of their mates through very questionable consultancies and contracts etc.

But instead of just saying that the Tories are corrupt and wasting spending, they should be out there on the front line congratulating the government on jettisoning its austerity narratives and using the currency capacities it possesses to help overcome the dual problems of Brexit and the pandemic.

They should be constantly noting that the old narratives about deficits and debt leading to chaos and insolvency are obviously without foundation and congratulating the Government on getting beyond those destructive myths.

They should be urging the government to spend even more and be comfortable about a much bigger fiscal deficit.

They should be congratulating the Bank of England for purchasing a high proportion of the new debt being issued by the Treasury.

They should be pointing out that this means the government can always control yields on any debt it (unnecessarily) issues so the future course of interest rates is really irrelevant to the viability of fiscal deficits.

They should be urging the Bank of England to go the next step and write off all the government debt it holds – and outline to the British people that it is just a number in a computer system that can be changed to zero as much as £100 billion, or whatever.

They should inform the British people that this would not change the viability of the Bank of England, and the inflation risks of the deficits have already manifest – they are in the spending growth not whether that spending is matched with debt issuance, and not variant to who holds the debt issued.

They should tell the British people how the Treasury actually spends – that is, that it instructs the Bank of England to type numbers into bank accounts on its behalf.

Type, type, type, JJJ.

And given the Government has already increased the Ways and Means account allocation, they should explain to the British people what that means and then urge an even greater increase to reduce the debt-issuance charade.

They could show the British people that using the Ways and Means facility doesn’t increase inflation and just makes the process of government more transparent and reduces the creation of corporate welfare (the debt-issuance charade).

Instead of claiming that they will have to worry about the debt, why not just show the debt up for what it is – previous deficits that have not yet been taxed away.

They should be advocating large-scale public sector job creation.

If they are serious about JJJ then they need to have a large-scale jobs plan.

All of this is what we call education!

It is also what we might consider to be leadership.

And the political pay off would be enormous because it would wedge the Tories well and truly.

It would open the fiscal space for a future labour government.

But, instead of taking advantage of the Tory abandonment of its traditional austerity mindset (albeit temporarily), the Labour Party looks like it is reverting to its Blairite form – its macroeconomic neoliberalism.

If it only realised that there is a tremendous opportunity to wedge the Tories while they are in a dissonant state (relative to their DNA).

By ratifying the large deficits etc, the Labour Party could make it much harder for the Tories to revert to form.

But by restating the sort of macroeconomics that underpinned the Fiscal Credibility Rule, all that Labour is doing is following the same track that has made it unelectable.

They should initially review all their advisors and clean out the ones that think the ‘City’ is dangerous.

Aside – Risk of Inflation

An interesting byproduct of the pandemic is that it has impacted on supply chains, which should increase the risk of inflation arising from bottlenecks, in the face of substantial fiscal support on the expenditure side.

The fact that no such price pressures have emerged after nearly 12 months of disrupted supply chains suggests that inflation is a difficult beast to provoke.

Conclusion

And then we get to the EHRC Report and the shocking way that has been handled.

Assessment: Unelectable as they currently stand.

PS: I caught my first flight today in 6 months. Very bizarre. But it is great to be back in Melbourne.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2020 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

The cost of government debt is falling – thanks to quantitative easing. So why is everyone obsessed with repaying it?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/11/2020 - 6:24pm in

Forgive me if I appear absorbed by my concern with government debt when commenting on yesterday's Spending Review, but given that debt management is the predominant Tory economic narrative that dictates all other policy it seems appropriate to concentrate on it in the first instance.

This chart comes for the Office for Budget Responsibility review of the Budget proposals:

My belief is that borrowing will be at the top end of the OBR forecast range, and not where they suggest it is likely to be.

However, it is the paragraph numbered 1.38 that is most important, in my opinion. This is one of a number of references within their report that make it clear just how beneficial QE is at present. The cost of government borrowing is at a record low, and is going to remain that way, even with the forecast significant increases in debt. Even my higher expectations will not change that by much.

And the reason for this? This is the OBR forecast on Bank of England base rates:

Note that they now forecast that these will go negative, and the rise is to 0.3% by 2025, which has little impact on their forecast cost of debt.

Indeed, as they note:

The average effective interest rate on new issuance has fallen from 2.8 per cent in 2010-11 to 1.9 per cent in 2015-16 to 0.3 per cent in 2020-21.

Inflation is higher than this: the real value of debt is declining. And yet the obsession with debt continues when the cost of servicing it - which is the only issue that matters, is falling, which fact is unsurprising as it remains almost wholly within the control of the government given the scale of the debt that it now controls directly, by owning it, and indirectly via the consequential balances that are held by UK banks and building societies on Bank of England central bank reserve accounts.

The debt obsession is misplaced in other words. And in  case anyone thinks I have ignored inflation, this is the OBR inflation forecast:

The expectation is that inflation will struggle to reach its target rate. The OBR does not, then, expect money creation to cause problems.

All that is odd in that case is that they are not forecasting more of it. I will, though. I will forecast that quantitative easing will exceed £100 billion, and quite possibly £150 billion a year until 2025, at least. Whether conventional economists like it or not, money creation is the foundation of our government's finances now.

Nathan Tankus: What the Hell is Going On With CARES Act “Funds”?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/11/2020 - 6:24pm in

Trying to make sense of CARES Act gimmickry.

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