Sunday, March 16, 2014

Barnaby Joyce defends bogans as part of Australian culture

As a retired sociologist, perhaps I should say something about this.  Joyce in correct in saying that  in matters of dress, the different classes in Australia are not readily distinguished.  You get sloppy dressing rich people and similar dressing among the poor.

But different occupations do have quite different levels of prestige  -- as both Athol Congalton and Anne Daniel have shown.

Income is also not closely tied to status or dress.  "Blue collar" workers such as plumbers can be very high income earners.

"Bogans" are similar to "chavs" in Britain  -- young people of low intelligence from generally poor backgrounds

FEDERAL Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has spoken out in support of “bogans”, saying he sees the term as a “consumer choice” and part of Australian culture.

Mr Joyce called in to a talkback program on ABC Radio National about whether Australia had a class system to mount a defence of “bogans”.

Introducing himself as “Barnaby from New South Wales”, he argued there was no class system in Australia and said he was not sure whether “bogan” was “a pejorative or an accolade”.

“If people honestly believed there was a class system (in Australia) then it would be clearly identifiable as you walk down the street,” he said.

“And I think even the discussion today between, these pejorative or an accolade – bogan and what would otherwise be middle class – and I think in many instances that’s just a consumer choice.

“We can have people who are obviously vastly wealthier who are so-called bogans than other people in the middle class.”

One member of the radio talkback panel, academic Christopher Scanlon, suggested there was a visible class system in Australia because tradespeople were easily identified because of there high-vis work gear.

But Mr Joyce hit back: “They probably earn more than you.”

Mr Joyce took a swing at the station, saying it attracted “elitist” listeners and wouldn’t be popular on building sites.

“I would presume that on many worksites at the moment that people with tool-bags are probably unlikely to be listening to this program, even though it’s a great program,” he said.

The background of the former Queensland senator who now holds the NSW seat of New England appeared to go unnoticed by the radio station.

Several minutes after Mr Joyce hung up, presenter Natasha Mitchell said some people on Twitter were suggesting “Barnaby” was actually the Agriculture Minister but she did not think that was true.

Mr Joyce later told The Courier-Mail the fact that he was not recognised when he called in to the program proved Australia was a classless society.

He said politicians should embrace “bogans” as “part of Australian culture”.

“A lot of people in my office call themselves upper-middle bogans,” he said. “I don’t think of it as something pejorative.”

“It’s a term of endearment.”

Bogans became a hot topic last December when leaked emails revealed Palmer United Party boss Alex Douglas disparaging constituents as bogans.


Insulting the rich for giving to charity

 Do the rich give too much money to charity or too little? Both, according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald this week, 'Freedom & Control Are Why the Rich Are Really Charitable.' Remarkably, the article manages to insult the charitable donations of thousands of Australians not once but twice, and in contradictory ways.

The basis for the article is the Tax Office's data for charitable deductions from 2010-11, data which can be interpreted in a number of different ways. The SMH chose to compare donors in the very top band (those making $1,000,000 or more), who gave away an average of 1.8% of their taxable incomes, and those in the very bottom band (those making $6,000 or less), who gave away an average of 22%.

This is a misleading breakdown for several reasons. Those in the lowest tax band who give to charity may give generously, but very few in that band give at all - only 6.3%, compared with 63.8% of those in the top band. If non-donors were included in the calculations for that bracket, the average would come out to 1.4% of taxable income.

Secondly, a large number of those in the $6,000-or-less band are retirees with significant net worth but little income, who, as Professor Myles McGregor Lowndes explains, 'give away substantial amounts so they don't have to pay income tax.'

Both bands came in higher than the national average for charitable deductions, which was 0.35% of taxable income.

These figures hardly justify the SMH reporter's claim that 'the rich pinch their pennies,' and they definitely do not justify Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie's assertion in the article that the poor 'feel a sense of collective ownership of our wellbeing,' while the rich 'tend to be more disconnected from the broader community.'

The second half of the article's one-two punch is even more objectionable. The reporter insinuates that the rich actually give too much money to charity, since those dollars would have otherwise gone to the government in taxes.

'Taxpayers cannot control how public funds are distributed but because charitable donations are voluntary, they let people feel in control of at least part of the tax pie,' the reporter writes. She adds: 'Whether individuals are more effective than the government at redistributing wealth is questionable.'

Instead of referring to 'the tax pie' in the above quote, the reporter might more accurately have referred to 'their own money.' The 'control' to which she gives such a derogatory spin is in fact a perfectly laudable desire to put one's donations where they will do the most good, even if that means less for the tax man. The proper response to such generosity is not 'Too much!' or 'Too little!' but simply 'Thank you.'


The undemocratic Labor party in Qld.

WHEN will the Labor Party wake up? With polls showing the gloss has come off both the Newman and Abbott Governments wouldn't you think the powers that control the local ALP would be prepared to allow a little democracy?

Sadly no. Certain factional warlords are back playing their same old tired destructive games, shoe-horning the Australian Workers' Union's gormless show pony Cameron Dick into an expected safe Labor seat without giving locals a say in the preselection. They're also doing deals to deny local members a say in the seat of Mt Coot-tha.

So many times I've considered leaving the Labor Party because of this sort of mindless, selfish game-playing which denies members' rights, selects often mediocre, careerist candidates and feeds into the hands of Labor's political opponents. I fought three plebiscites. I lost one, won one comfortably and scraped home on the third. No one is entitled to a free run. No one.

The ALP should use a long period in Opposition to begin the process of reform and rebuilding. As seductive as recent opinion polls may be that somehow the ALP might do the unthinkable and steal back power from Campbell Newman, harder heads know that's virtually impossible.

I was Newman's deputy for four years in that odd couple partnership in Brisbane City Council (2004-2008). He's canny and smart and isn't about to become a "oncer".

We need to use the inevitable two or more terms in Opposition to convince not only the electorate but ourselves that we are a different party - broadly based, free from union control and with strong thinking individuals who'll put their electorates first.

State Secretary Anthony Chisholm and the current administrative leadership should start by resigning and handing over to new blood and new ways. We need the likes of former Premiers Steve Bracks, Mike Rann and Geoff Gallop to assess the state of the Queensland branch and put ideas forward for renewal.

As a former leader of the Labor municipal team and councillor for 25 years I've come to the conclusion that the current Queensland Labor powerbrokers have neither the wit nor the gut for reform and never will.

The Labor Party needs a wider base. It needs to get out from under the stranglehold of key union thugs. Unions play an important role in keeping the playing field honest for workers but the days when a few unionists rule the Labor Party and designate jobs for mates is so last century.

A contemporary party, in my opinion, needs to select candidates through primary elections where party supporters in the wider community can register and have a vote as well as party members. No candidate should be given a free pass to run for office, no matter how many times they've shined the shoes of their union masters.

Lastly, it's time for ALP caucus members to be allowed to vote according to their conscience on all issues affecting their electorates.

If you have candidate selection by real people in the 'burbs and take it out of the hands of two or three obnoxious union heavies, you'll get candidates who are connected to P & Cs, local neighbourhood and community groups and not the usual flunkeys from central casting.

And when they're in Parliament they should have the inviolable right to vote exactly as they see fit when the issue affects their electorates directly - without repercussions or recrimination. I introduced that practice in the council Labor team when I was leader. I tried to get it formally adopted by the Labor Party but unions opposed it. They were concerned they'd lose power. I still prefer Labor but unless much needed reform actually happens then maybe it's time for this tired ALP member of 41 years to call it a day.


Liberals claim victory in Tasmanian state election

A nasty one for the Greenies, whose work of destroying Tasmanian industries will now be halted

Winning Liberal leader Will Hodgman claimed an emphatic mandate for change in the Tasmanian election after his party was swept to majority government.

Mr Hodgman appeared to have taken up to 14 seats in the 25 seat House of Assembly as Labor and Green votes fell away, according to election analysts.

"We will be decisive and we will not, we will not, adopt a business as usual approach," Mr Hodgman told cheering supporters in the Hobart tally room on Saturday night.

"Tasmanians have voted for change and that is what they will get."

Both outgoing Labor premier Lara Giddings and Greens leader Nick McKim implored Mr Hodgman in their speeches not to re-ignite the state's protracted forests conflict.

"I say tonight to Will Hodgman, don't take us back to war," Mr McKim said. "Protect those forests and protect our people from another four years of bitter conflict."

But Mr Hodgman went to the election promising to tear up a peace deal drawn up by industry and environmental groups.

"We intend to deliver on all those things we have committed to Tasmanians," he said. "That includes in our forest industry, and supporting those regional towns who have voted resoundingly for a change for a better state."

Ms Giddings was returned to parliament, but her potential successor David O'Byrne looked to have been squeezed out by the size of the swing to the Liberals, potentially leaving the ALP with as few as six seats.

In the cut-up of preferences, the Greens were clinging to four seats, with the final make-up of the House of Assembly was unlikely to be known for weeks.

"After 16 years Tasmanians have voted for change and I congratulate Will Hodgman," Ms Giddings said. "I'm proud to be part of this Labor government and all we've done."

She admitted that it had been difficult to sell the message of Labor achievements after so long in power, but her campaign was dogged by dissent inside the party.

Backbencher Brenton Best, repeatedly voiced his disapproval of the party leader, and said Labor should have broken an alliance with the Greens.

As he trailed in his own seat, Mr Best repeated his demands. "I had suggested she should have stood aside and if she had we might have had a different result tonight," he said.

Despite a prominent campaign by billionaire party leader Clive Palmer, the Palmer United Party's vote fell away from the 2013 federal result that brought in senator-elect Jacquie Lambie in Tasmania.

"I think they would have done better to pack up and go home a fortnight ago," said Greens MP Tim Morris.  "They would have had a better result."

Morris admitted he was hanging on to his own seat by his fingernails.


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