Tag Archives: government policy

Two Months On – What has changed?

Two months ago almost to the day (tomorrow), Australia received a new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. I say received because we the people don’t elect them. We elect local representatives from parties who then in majority (usually) form the government of the day. In reality, the leader of the country isn’t directly elected, although some in the public think otherwise and talk as if they are. So, there was a ‘spill’ (love that term), the noxious Tony Abbott was voted out by his Liberal Party ‘mates’ (sic) and Malcolm Turnbull was installed in the chair.

What has changed?

Pretty much nothing but style – the policies have remained:

  • children and their families are still in concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Island, PNG;
  • climate action is laughably bad paying polluters from tax coffers not to pollute instead of charging them when they do;
  • marriage equality is a long way off, if ever
  • all of our communications “metadata” (yeah right) is being collected for 2 years and law enforcement in some cases can access without judicial oversight
  • the financial situation is still a mess, switching from a “budget emergency” to “go out and borrow on that credit card” to who knows what, the Treasurer (oh, yeah, we got a new one of those, too – prior Immigration — NOT Minister, Social Services — NOT Minister, Scott Morrison) doesn’t know if it’s a revenue problem or a spending problem (Hint: it’s a population change demand situation, not a problem at all)
  • the health minister is still going to get her mitts on ALL of OUR HEALTH DATA through a goal-post shifting Health Record that will now become Opt-Out
  • health funding is still cut (on future growth) by $80Billion
  • education funding is still cut
  • and the National Broadband Network redesign to cripple it, brought about by Malcolm himself, is still costing more and doing less than the original NBN we were promised by Labor.

What has changed is there is now a dapper dressing millionaire PM who can inflect his speech well when reading from a prepared speech, doesn’t embarrass us quite so much when we let him go out of the country, and has soothed/smoothed the worst of the worst aspects of Abbott’s reign. He did change a few of the Ministers, for good or bad, but he left in some really bad ones:

  • Dutton as Immigration Minister — NOT, an ex Queensland drug squad cop who knows zilch about Immigration other than ‘lock them up’ in camps
  • Morrison as Treasurer — NOT, a Hill$$$ong evangelical Christian who was an Liberal party apparatchik who is totally out of his depth
  • Brandis as Attorney General (took away his Arts portfolio, though), a dilettante with $15,000 bookcases he keeps rebuilding in each office for same amount (maybe it was a cost saving measure to keep him in place) — Mr. Metadata extraordinaire who supports bigotry
  • Christopher “Poodle” Pyne as Minister for ‘Malcolm’s favourite word of the moment’ Innovation — has Chris ever created anything? Anything???? Name just 2 things, please
  • and a cast of more.

Did I say the policies stayed? Yeppers. It’s still the Libs. Doing deals with their under-buddies, the Nats and their business mates (cough)Rupert(cough). It’s still regressive tax proposals, anti-citizen, anti-civil rights, more for the 1% Neo-Liberalism/Neo-Conservative claptrap.

But at least Mal doesn’t embarrass us overseas. (Yet)

Australian Democracy at a Tipping Point – The AIM Network

If Prime Minister Abbott does cross this Rubicon, so will Australia and God help Australian democracy.

Source: Australian Democracy at a Tipping Point – The AIM Network

This article goes along w/ my latest post about the direction the country is heading. The topic is even more frightening than the gag on contractors. This threatens all of us: the citizens, with the potential for a government minister to take away our right to citizenship – be we born here or brought here or those of us like myself who chose to come here.

When that level of power, based on suspicion, ‘guilty until proven innocent’, is proposed and is spouted proudly by the minister as exactly the point when challenged by the likes of Barnaby Joyce, the descent into fascism is one step farther on the track.

Australian Democracy: Was It Ever?

Ten Reasons Why (Not Now)

We in western countries, at least the English speaking ones, are going through a clash of cultures. Not the ones that are normally thought of, such as religious versus secular or ‘East’ versus ‘West’, but corporate controlled governments versus the good of the citizens. AUdemocracy2The actions of conservative party governments, and some pseudo-liberal governments as well, are signs of this: participating in wars to keep the public on edge; national security excuses to rip away human rights; turning away starving boat people because they could be a threat to ‘jobs’; starving social services of funds to the most vulnerable of our own citizens in favour of subsidies to the wealthy…to name a few.

On an email discussion list, I posted my disgust with a new step toward government control and cover-up regarding off-shore detention centre staff (concentration camps in Nauru and Manus Island paid for in billions of Australian tax dollars to house asylum seekers and refugees) to keep those staff from exposing possible criminal activities in those centres under threat of jail – yes, criminal sanctions against whistleblowers. This is now law in Australia. If you work directly or indirectly for these contracted agencies, you are essentially gagged. Might upset national security, you know. Here’s the article:

Border Force Act: detention secrecy just got worse

As I said, I posted my disgust about this new law on an email list. One of the members there wrote back a summary of the range of things happening here (and elsewhere I believe) that expose how much we, as in all of us, not the special interests and faceless unaccountable corporations, are being led down a path, one step at a time, mostly unaware, and the complicit involvement of the ‘fourth estate’.

I asked Frank O’Connor if I could post his excellent summative reply here and he agreed. He’s also open to discussion for a wider audience, either in the independent press or possibly the criticised main stream media, should they dare. If you are in a position to  reach a wider audience, please get permission from Frank before reposting. Most of these words are his. But do feel free to let others know in your own personal circles.

Here is the exchange –

Me re Border Protection Staff Gag: (email, 28/05/2015)

Secret oaths, zero ethics, zero professionalism. This is tyranny. The DIBP (Dept of Immigration and Border Protection) ignores court orders (see other story today re Christmas Island denying court ordered lawyer access) and now they have perpetual gags on staff regardless of the circumstances. This is cover-up, folks, pure and simple, not different in principle from the child abuse fiasco w/ the Catholic church. Transparency in government is a complete joke under this government.

Let’s say you’re an IT professional or an accounting professional working in one of these departments. You find graft and corruption, say, like the FIFA arrests. What do you do if the department, police, DPP decide to hide it, which they can? Say nothing?

I am incensed by this. This is not the country I signed up for.

Frank re the Larger Problems: (email, 29/05/2015)

Well, yeah but … we’ll be saved by our media – won’t we? The old Fourth Estate, those guardians of the public weal, won’t desert us. Will they?

Maybe not …

1. In the press (both Fairfax and News Ltd) I see articles on a daily basis from the Fourth Estate, and/or retired politicians and bodies like the IPA condemning us … for condemning politicians, government and our betters on and in various Net forums – and lambasting us for not engaging with those who oppose us politically on a more ‘civilised and constructive’ basis.

2. We are also condemned for having the attention span of budgies on Speed with respect to politics, and told that our source for political information (presumably the media Commentariat) is what we should be listening to rather than the ‘noise’ of the Internet.

And let’s see how weak this attention span actually is at the next election, shall we?

3. The media got really excited recently about the data retention and snooping legislation ONLY when the provisions affected THEIR ability to report and engage with whistleblowers, and THEIR liability for prosecution. Prior to that, when the provisions affecting John Citizen were being implemented, largely without serious debate, the media was ‘lock, stock and two smoking barrels’ behind the government’s anti-terrorism measures and supportive of curbing the rights and privileges of Joe and Josephine public in the interests of ‘public safety’.

4. The Australian media seems to pretty much fall in behind EVERY manufactured crisis that this government (and indeed both the Tweedledum-Tweedledee political parties that we’re all so disillusioned with) seem to invent on a daily basis. A lone crazy gunman kills two people in Sydney, and we’re all gonna be KILLED IN OUR BEDS unless we introduce these measures and restrict our rights and privileges, and send a few hundred troops into Iraq, take on a sectarian war, oppose the sect that hasn’t done anything to us (the Iranians and the Shia) and ally with those who have been exporting terror (the Sunnis. Wahhabists, Salafists, Saudis, Qatar and Emirates etc) because they’re ‘our friends’ and the Shia, who haven’t tried exporting the violence, aren’t.

This bit of our laughingly named ‘Foreign Policy’ and ‘War on Terror’ is the one I really find amusing – especially how the Commentariat fall right in behind it. ‘Let’s kill all the people who aren’t doing anything to us, to support those who are.’ Makes perfect sense.

And the other solutions? The bottom is falling out of the government’s revenue … so the solution is to target expenses of the young, the weak, the poor and the sick. To nail education, health and social welfare … but provide handouts the rich and middle class.. Yeah, that’s gonna fix things right up.

5. The media fell in uncritically behind the last Budget, despite the fact that it pretty much included all the ‘unfairness’ of the previous Budget (yes folks – pretty much none of those provisions were rescinded by this Budget), didn’t address any of the economic structural problems (the collapse in revenue, destruction of manufacturing, cyclically low resource prices, ageing of the country, and various Sacred Cow handouts – like negative gearing, superannuation concessions, capital gains concessions and the like – and was largely comprised of handouts (read ‘pork barreling’) for voting segments important to politicians for the next election.

On the upside, the occasional article is now appearing which demonstrates an awareness of the Budget cop-out – but why it passed without comment for a couple of weeks is a ‘mystery’, isn’t it? Are our journalists incompetent … or complicit?

6. Little numbers like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will adversely affect all Australian consumers, taxpayers and the ability of any future governments of this country to actually govern, seem to be passing without comment. They are asking questions in the US (about why intellectual property and copyrights are so central to what is ostensibly just a trade treaty, and who benefits from same, and how IP and copyright is being extended by stealth with same etc etc), but not here in Oz. The American press is doing its job … but the Australian press (and obviously our politicians) don’t seem to give a damn. If everything’s OK for the multinationals and the Big End of Town, it’s OK by our media. (Of course, 70% of Australia’s media is owned by the biggest ‘tax risk’ multinational content provider and media empire in the world … but that has nothing to do with the coverage of little numbers like the TPP. Does it?)

7. The government is allowed to get away with egregious breaches of human rights, UN treaties, environmental obligations, and as Jan has pointed out, the rights and privileges of its own citizens, without comment – or, if there is any comment something that appears on Page 10 or later. The media simply doesn’t give a damn.

8. And those same multinationals and the Big End of Town are the ones who are benefiting. On tax evasion. On provision of services to the government. On provision of product to the government. On handouts, rebates, grants and other dipping at the public pot – for hundreds of billions of dollars.

For example … Pfizer sells billions of dollars worth of drugs to the Australian government, does what it can to get all its products listed on the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme), and pays effectively nothing in tax on its sales – so we’re effectively robbed from both ends of the equation. But there’s no suggestion that we should shut off the funds flow at one end or the other. I mean, that just wouldn’t do … would it. We’re here to be milked for as much as we possibly can be.

9. The Mining Council seeks to shut down conservation groups, and remove their tax exempt status, and this government falls in behind them like a shot. But there’s no suggestion that the Mining Council, the IPA and like bodies which are also very politically active should lose their tax exempt status. And no suggestion in the media that this should happen.

10. Pretty much every policy now proposed by the government and opposition is about the here-and-now. There’s very little investment in our young, our future and the like, and what there is tends to be for ‘user pays’ initiatives. And PR rather than policy seems to be the go. There’s a dishonesty in government funding, especially of funding for initiatives that have blatantly ideological bases (Lomborg, RET, subsidies to polluters, etc). Science, peer reviewed data and studies, and objectivity are out – politics, PR and money rule.

I suppose my point is that politicians will seek to get away with anything they can get away with … and that those who are expected to restrain this base impulse (the Judiciary, an independent Executive, the Fourth Estate, various so-called professions, etc.) have abrogated their responsibility for same, been politicised in their own right to an inordinate extent, and are no longer fulfilling their purpose.

It’s no wonder we are all so disillusioned, cynical and jaded. It’s no wonder we’re turning to alternative information sources and the Internet.

I still hold out some hope … the proportion of us voting for alternatives to the mainstream – Tweedledum and Tweedledee – has risen for 5% or so to 25% in the last election – and I expect to see it increase again in the next election. I’d like to see Gen Y and its successors registering to vote, and becoming the electoral force they should be – hopefully they’re not totally disengaged … but there are signs that the electorate is becoming intolerant of political abuse, corruption and self-interest. That they are rejecting big party politics, pork barreling and the electoral roundabout that is basically getting us nowhere and indeed compromising our general living standards, rights and privileges – whilst reinforcing the position of the few.

Frank O’Connor
(published here with his permission)

GP rebate change – Letter to Health Minister (UPDATED)

It’s just dawning on the public and the media that the Abbott government pulled a swifty before Christmas, reducing the amount of Medicare rebate to General Practitioner doctors, increasing the charge to many patients by $20/visit, ABOVE any out of pocket payments already charged,  even more than the $7 copay they ditched because of a public outcry. Here’s my letter to Sussan Ley, Health Minister following Peter Dutton who she replaced recently. And here is her email address if you want to vent your spleen as well.

UPDATED: Letter and her NEW email address via the Dept. of Health


Dear Minister
I know you didn’t do this, but it’s in your lap now. Since sending this to your Farrer office, I understand that YOU have come out in SUPPORT of this poorly thought through policy.

Have you been listening to anyone in the media this week about the DAMAGE this change in policy/fees is going to cause? Here’s what I’ve heard:
– extended consultations that are unnecessary, including chats about pets, to meet the 10 min. minimum.
– reduced patient through-put
– reduced number of appointments/day, making access to GPs WORSE
– referrals back to GPs by Emergency Departments STOPPED, making ED services even MORE CLOGGED, cost shifting to STATES; Your party tries this on often. It’s getting to be a very old and tiring strategy.
– more people avoiding going to GPs, the CHEAPEST part of the system through preventative care and check-ups, yet no changes to specialist rebates. How does that make ANY sense?
– parents w/ kids thinking twice about taking their children to the doctor because: NO MONEY for paying
– NEW info: 26% of rebates for short consults average out the longer ones, hence 26% of GP productivity reduced.
– NEW info: rural especially hit hard

I don’t think I need to go on any more. This change will put clinics out of business.

The impact of this change is FAR worse than the $5-7 copay, which was bad enough. Now your government has snuck through a bombshell of a fee increase through a sickening pre-Christmas “gift”.

If you thought this was a one-term government before, which many people already did, this is the last nail in the coffin.

If there isn’t a backdown on this change pretty quick, before bulk billing is totally destroyed, you can kiss your time in any form of government away for at least the next decade. The home budget, which is a REAL budget, will sink your government in a heartbeat.

Jan Whitaker