Wednesday, September 30, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is still grouchy about the rise of Turnbull

Ideology distorts climate measurements

Jennifer Marohasy replies to some ignorant propaganda

For the true believer, it is too awful to even consider that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology could be exaggerating global warming by adjusting figures. This doesn’t mean, though, that it’s not true.

In fact, under prime minister Tony Abbott, a panel of eminent statisticians was formed to investigate these claims detailed in The Australian newspaper in August and September last year.

The panel did acknowledge in its first report that the bureau homogenised the temperature data: that it adjusted figures. The same report also concluded it was unclear whether these adjustments resulted in an overall increase or decrease in the warming trend.

No conclusions could be drawn because the panel did not work through a single example of homogenisation, not even for Rutherglen. Rutherglen, in north­eastern Victoria, is an agricultural research station with a continuous minimum temperature record unaffected by equipment changes or documented site moves but where the bureau nevertheless adjusted the temperatures.

This had the effect of turning a temperature time series without a statistically significant trend into global warming of almost 2C a century.

According to media reports last week, a thorough investigation of the bureau’s methodology was prevented because of intervention by Environment Minister Greg Hunt. He apparently argued in cabinet that the credibility of the institution was paramount — that it was important the public had trust in the bureau’s data and forecasts, so the public knew to heed warnings of bushfires and ­cyclones.

Hunt defends the bureau because it has a critical role to play in providing the community with reliable weather forecasts.

This is indeed one of its core responsibilities. It would be better able to perform this function, however, if it used proper techniques for quality control of temperature data and the best available techniques for forecasting rainfall.

There has been no improvement in its seasonal rainfall forecasts for two decades because it uses general circulation models. These are primarily tools for demonstrating global warming, with dubious, if any, skill at actually forecasting weather or climate.

Consider, for example, the millennium drought and the flooding rains that followed in 2010.

Back in 2007 and 2008, David Jones, then and still the manager of climate monitoring and prediction at the Bureau of Meteorology, wrote that climate change was so rampant in Australia, “We don’t need meteorological data to see it”, and that the drought, caused by climate change, was a sign of the “hot and dry future” that we all collectively faced.

Then the drought broke, as usual in Australia, with flooding rains.

But the bureau was incapable of forecasting an exceptionally wet summer because such an event was contrary to how senior management at the bureau perceived our climate future.

So, despite warning signs evident in sea surface temperature patterns across the Pacific through 2010, Brisbane’s Wivenhoe dam, originally built for flood mitigation, was allowed to fill through the spring of 2010, and kept full in advance of the torrential rains in January 2011.

The resulting catastrophic flooding of Brisbane is now recognised as a “dam release flood”, and the subject of a class-action lawsuit by Brisbane residents against the Queensland government.

Indeed, despite an increasing investment in supercomputers, there is ample evidence ideology is trumping rational decision-making at the bureau on key issues that really matter, such as the prediction of drought and flood cycles. Because most journalists and politicians desperately want to believe the bureau knows best, they turn away from the truth and ignore the facts.

News Corp Australia journalist Anthony Sharwood got it completely wrong in his weekend article defending the bureau’s homogenisation of the temperature record. I tried to explain to him on the phone last Thursday how the bureau didn’t actually do what it said when it homogenised temperature time series for places such as Rutherglen.

Sharwood kept coming back to the issue of “motivations”. He kept asking me why on earth the bureau would want to mislead the Australian public.

I should have kept with the methodology, but I suggested he read what Jones had to say in the Climategate emails. Instead of considering the content of the emails that I mentioned, however, Sharwood wrote in his article that, “Climategate was blown out of proportion” and “independent investigations cleared the researchers of any form of wrongdoing”.

Nevertheless, the content of the Climategate emails includes quite a lot about homogenisation, and the scientists’ motivations. For example, there is an email thread in which Phil Jones (University of East Anglia) and Tom Wigley (University of Adelaide) discuss the need to get rid of a blip in global temperatures around 1940-44. Specifically, Wigley suggested they reduce ocean temperatures by an arbitrary 0.15C. These are exactly the types of arbitrary adjustments made throughout the historical temperature record for Australia: adjustments made independently of any of the purported acceptable reasons for making adjustments, including site moves and equipment changes.

Sharwood incorrectly wrote in his article: “Most weather stations have moved to cooler areas (ie, areas away from the urban heat island effect). So if scientists are trying to make the data reflect warmer temperatures, they’re even dumber than the sceptics think.”

In fact, many (not most) weather stations have moved from post offices to airports, which have hotter, not cooler, daytime temperatures. Furthermore, the urban heat island creeps into the official temperature record for Australia not because of site moves but because the record at places such as Cape Otway lighthouse is adjusted to make it similar to the record in built-up areas such as Melbourne, which clearly are affected by the urban heat island.

I know this sounds absurd. It is absurd, and it is also true. Indeed, a core problem with the methodology the bureau uses is its reliance on “comparative sites” to make adjustments to data at other places. I detail the Cape Otway lighthouse example in a recent paper published in the journal Atmospheric Research, volume 166.

It is so obvious that there is an urgent need for a proper, thorough and independent review of operations at the bureau. But it would appear our politicians and many mainstream media are set against the idea.

Evidently they are too conventional in their thinking to consider such an important Australian ­institution could now be ruled by ideology.


Australia, we need to talk about Sunday penalty rates, says Frydenberg

A key cabinet minister says cutting Sunday penalty rates could be good for the economy and should be examined by the Coalition government led by new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Josh Frydenberg, who was last week promoted to cabinet as the new Minister for Northern Australia and Resources, said on Sunday that weekend penalty rates were an issue the government needed to a look at.

It comes just days after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the politically sensitive issue would be up for consideration by his new team.

"Malcolm Turnbull's absolutely right to point to industrial relations as one area where it does cost business and ultimately it does cost jobs," Mr Frydenberg told the Ten network.

"In the resources sector it costs 50 per cent more in Australia to have an energy project than if you were to have [it] on the US Gulf coast," he said. "Now one of the key components of that is industrial relations, which decreases productivity and increases cost."

Asked whether the government needed to look at cutting Sunday penalty rates, Mr Frydenberg said: "This is an area we need to look at because if it means more jobs and changing there, that could be good for the economy."

Kate Carnell, the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomed the minister's comments and said high Sunday penalty rates prevented cafes and restaurants from trading longer hours or opening on the weekend.

ACCI backs bringing Sunday rates - which can be as high as double time - into line with Saturday rates, which are a maximum time-and-a-half. But it does not want to see penalties abolished completely.

"We think it's really good that the issue of workplace relations is back on the table," Ms Carnell told Fairfax Media.

"What's sensible now is we're looking at having a debate about these issues and not just putting them off the table," she said.

Ms Carnell said reducing Sunday rates would help ease youth unemployment and help grow the economy, which Treasurer Scott Morrison has said is his key priority.

The Productivity Commission is currently reviewing the Fair Work Act and has already handed an interim report to the government.

The Coalition under Tony Abbott, frightened by the savage backlash to John Howard's Workchoices, shied away from any attempt to reduce penalty rates and said it should be left to the Fair Work Commission.

This was despite sustained pressure from Liberal backbenchers and the business community.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Frydenberg's comments constitute a major shift in the government's positioning on industrial relations compared to Mr Abbott's  approach.

The former prime minister has complained about his dumping as leader as being due to style and not substance because no major policy had been announced in the two weeks since he was deposed. "In a policy sense, there is very little departure," Mr Abbott told News Corp.

"Border protection policy the same, national security policy the same, economic policy the same, even same-sex marriage policy the same, and climate change policy the same. In fact, the rhetoric is the same."
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said he agreed with Mr Abbott.

"At the moment it is about style rather than substance, I think Malcolm Turnbull does need to change the substance of his government going forward," he told Sky.

Labor opposes any changes to penalty rates.


Group of Eight universities: End Australia's 'broken, mediocre' research system

Excellence must be recognized.  Not all research is equal

Australia will not develop the innovative economy envisaged by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unless it stops rewarding mediocrity and ditches a culture of "every child gets a prize", the nation's most prestigious universities argue.

The Group of Eight universities – including the University of Sydney and University of Melbourne – is urging the federal government to fix the country's "broken" research funding system by targeting taxpayer funds at research judged to be of high quality.

This includes a contentious push for $680 million in annual funding for PhD and master's research to be restricted to institutions rated at or above world standard in their chosen fields.

The change would hit suburban and regional universities the hardest, leading to warnings it would entrench the privilege of elite institutions.

Go8 chief executive Vicki Thomson said: "Australia's research funding system is broken: it is over-complicated and rewards research that is below world standard.

"We are using scarce taxpayer dollars on research that is frankly mediocre.  "Instead of an egalitarian, 'every child gets a prize' approach we should be funding excellence.

"You wouldn't fund a mediocre sportsperson in the hope they can go on to win a gold medal. The Australian Institute of Sport takes athletes and invests in them because they believe they can be excellent. That's the approach we should take to research."

The Turnbull government has a slew of reviews under way including into: research funding and policy; research training; research infrastructure; and boosting the commercial returns of research.

Ms Thomson said: "It is fantastic to see the Prime Minister talk about innovation, and the key to a more innovative economy is university research and training."

Ms Thomson said 98 per cent of research at the Go8 universities is judged world standard or above, according to the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) rankings. By contrast, 38 per cent of research at non-Go8 universities is judged as below world standard.

The Go8 approach would see the University of Western Sydney and University of Newcastle lose funding for PhD research in the physical sciences, Macquarie University and La Trobe University for mathematics and Charles Sturt University for history.

Universities judged as excellent in their research fields – such as James Cook University for tropical science or the University of Tasmania for oceanography – would continue to receive funding.

Australian National University vice-chancellor Ian Young said in a speech earlier this month: "My concern is that we don't target our research investment in areas of demonstrable excellence and hence our average research performance trails our national peers.

"One has to ask if Australia's more egalitarian approaches represent good use of scarce research funding and whether it yields the country the best outcomes."

Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven said he supported universities focusing on their research strengths, but accused the Go8 of self-interest.  "The argument from the Group of Eight on research is essentially: let's give rich universities all the money," he said.

"That ignores the fact that some of these universities have been around for 150 years and have had a big head start with support from the taxpayer."

Regional Universities Network chairwoman Jan Thomas said the group opposed using "narrow" research scores to allocate funding. The scores were retrospective, didn't adequately recognise engagement with industry and ignored the strategic importance of research in regional Australia, she said.

Professor Thomas said research funding should be more focused on creating links between researchers and the private sector, including by creating new PhD scholarships for industry-based research and more funding for joint university-industry research projects.

Australia ranks 29th and 30th out of 30 developed countries on the proportion of large and small businesses collaborating with higher education and public research institutions on innovation, according to the OECD.


Things are looking up for Australia's massive services sector

Led by a lower Australian dollar and surging demand from Asia, the prospects for Australia’s massive services sector are looking up.

The much-hyped economic rebalancing, although slower than what many people would like, is clearly under way with the nation’s vast tourism and education industries leading the recovery in activity.

Paul Bloxham, chief Australia and New Zealand economist at HSBC Bank, has taken a look at the recent improvement in Australian services exports, stating that the burgeoning middle classes in Asia provide Australia significant trading opportunities outside of mining exports.

Here’s a snippet from Bloxham’s excellent research note released this morning:

    “Asia’s rising middle class incomes also present Australia with significant trading opportunities outside of mining. Most apparent is demand for services, particularly education and tourism. These are already quite large exports for Australia. Over the past year, education exports were Australia’s third largest export earner, at around AUD18bn, behind only iron ore and coal. Indeed, in the past couple of years, services exports have shifted from being a net drag on GDP growth to being a net contributor and have contributed more to GDP than resources exports over the past year.”

The charts below, supplied by Bloxham, reveal the rapid improvement seen in Australian services exports, particularly for education, tourism, and to a lesser degree, financial services.

Breaking down the improvement in tourism and education exports further, Bloxham suggests that the lower Australian dollar is also assisting the sector.

“In addition to rising Asian demand for services, Australia’s services exports have also been supported by the lower exchange rate,” notes Bloxham.

“This has lowered the price of Australian service providers relative to those overseas, which has both encouraged an increase in foreign visitors and encouraged Australians to travel locally rather than abroad. China is driving much of the growth in services exports.”

The charts below tell the story. Chinese annual visitor arrivals jumped by 135% over the past five years, rising from 400,000 to 940,000, the second largest of any nation behind New Zealand, while Chinese international student enrolments have increased by 11% so far in 2015 compared to the same period a year earlier.

The charts reinforces the point that the Australian economy is far more than just “China’s quarry”. The lower Australian dollar, something that is making the nation more competitive compared to other developed, highly skilled English-speaking nations, along with the rising middle classes in China, India and ASEAN nations, presents Australia with countless opportunities in the decades ahead.

While many of the headlines of late focus on weakness in commodity prices, the “CAPEX cliff” and concerns about China’s economy, there is more than enough evidence at hand to suggest Australia’s economic transition away from mining investment to other drivers of growth is gaining traction.

There is little doubt that the full transition will take time, and result in prolonged periods of sub-trend economic growth and weak national incomes growth. However, in the absence of another global downturn – something Australia has no bearing over – the prospects for the domestic economy are not grim.

Far from it, in fact. The opportunities are everywhere.

SOURCE.  (See the original for links & graphics)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Barry Humphries slams ABC as Leftist

And says society has become too politically correct

Australia’s greatest comedic export, Barry Humphries, says the ABC has become an extreme left-wing broadcaster and the former prime minister Tony Abbott was correct to criticise it.

“The ABC has become increasingly left wing. Blatantly so. Indeed so has another notable Australian newspaper,” Humphries said in an interview with The Australian.  “And I was surprised that they (the ABC) can be so openly of the extreme left.”

During his visits to Australia, about four times a year, his esteem for the public broadcaster has diminished, although he thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Ferguson’s The Killing Season — while ­suspecting the ABC produced it to ingratiate itself with the government during a difficult time in their relationship.

Humphries said the criticisms of the ABC by the former prime minister were justified.

“They were getting very worried about their relationship with the prime minister so they made this program with Rudd and ­Gillard to ingratiate themselves, The Killing Season, one of the best things the ABC has done,” he said.

When Humphries reads the newspapers each day, he said he becomes “steamed up” and often finds himself angrily writing a ­letter to the editor.  But he rarely sends them in.

“Every day when I read the paper something occurs when I get steamed up or fired up, steamed up, whatever, irate and I write a letter and never send it,” he said. “I have a pile. I should publish the letters. There’ve been a few good letters of mine.”

Bureaucratic folly, stupidity in high places and sexual hypocrisy are among the things that ignite Humphries’ ire.

Reflecting on how the format of news has changed over the years, he said so had Australia’s values, and he deeply regrets the way society has become, in his view, too politically correct.

“We think we live in a liberated age but we don’t really. I mean it’s just the way these things are ­expressed publicly and how we wag our fingers at people, how we disapprove of them and how we’re living in an age of new puritanism,” he said.

“Things were much more ­liberal 20 years ago than they are today. I’m really the sworn enemy of all forms of political correctness. You can’t call something what it really is.”

Humphries was so “steamed-up” over the website New ­Matilda’s publication of the University of Sydney professor Barry Spurr’s racist emails that he did send that particular letter in.

In the letters to the editor page of The Australian, Humphries defended Professor Spurr, lamenting the fact Australia had lost its sense of humour.

“I did feel that this man who was engaging in rather elaborate and perhaps rather tasteless joke privately was hacked into and then excoriated,” Humphries said.

“I thought we do persecute people pretty ruthlessly in Australia. And particularly in the ­academic world; it’s a jungle, it’s cut throat.”

While Professor Spurr was slammed for being racist, Humphries’ view is that one should “call a spade a spade” when discussing race. Speaking of Australian teachers who instil political correctness in students, Humphries described them as: “These sort of bullies who forbid them to call a spade a spade.”

“If you look at any school magazine today, very often they are Chinese or they come from families outside Australia,” he said, while agreeing it was “wonderful” to have a multicultural society.

Humphries’ relationship with The Australian began 51 years ago, soon after the newspaper was launched and Humphries wrote a regular column in it.  “My column was really about whatever happened to me during that week. Sometimes it was funny and sometimes it was terrible. I look back on it now not really with vacuous self-satisfaction but really with a kind of nostalgia for the 1960s, which is when it all happened,” he said.

“I’ve always liked the paper, our first national paper after all, and it’s still going strong. I still read it. I get it online.”

Humphries knew The Australian’s founding editor, the late Max Newton, very well. “He was rather cynical, he was an old-fashioned, hard-drinking journalist,” he said.

“Of course now they don’t smoke or drink. Max used to say all you need to be a good journalist is a Samsonite briefcase, a bottle of scotch and a gold Amex and a spare pair of underpants.”

After a long history with News Corp, Humphries agreed to be part of News Corp’s advertising campaign to promote the tablet and mobile editions of the metropolitan newspapers, The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, TheCourier-Mail and The Advertiser.

His characters, Dame Eda Everage and Sir Les Patterson are prominent in the ad, created by firm Archibald Williams, and there is a cameo by model Jennifer Hawkins. It launched yesterday and will run for eight weeks on social, digital, television and print.

News Corp managing director metro and regional publishing Damian Eales said the team chose Humphries because he is a comedic icon and Dame Eda and Sir Les were national living treasures.

“They appeal to the spectrum of our readers and we were delighted they were both on hand to lend their irrepressible humour to our campaign,” he said.


Mosque foes take aim at Bendigo council

The battle over Bendigo’s $3 million mosque took another menacing turn yesterday when a pro-mosque councillor found a threatening leaflet from right-wing extremist group United ­Patriots Front in his letterbox.

The bright red leaflet, with a picture purporting to be a Muslim holding a gun and with a big red cross through it, accuses Mayor Peter Cox and head of a not-for-profit, non-government emergency housing group Ken Marchingo of “corruption”.

Pictures of Mr Cox and Mr Marchingo are at the top of the leaflet with the words “What does corruption look like?” followed by a picture of a mosque with a large red cross through it.

“Mayor Cox & Ken Marchingo selling out Bendigo’s future,” it says under the pair’s pictures.

The leaflet also announces the details of another anti-mosque rally and a map highlighting where protesters should meet.

Pro-mosque councillor Mark Weragoda discovered the leaflet as he was mowing lawns at his home yesterday and said he took it as a “personal threat”.

“It wasn’t there on Saturday evening, so it must have been put in my letterbox overnight or early in the evening,” he said.

Mr Weragoda said none of his neighbours received the leaflet and he was concerned for the welfare of his wife and daughter, who were recently threatened during an anti-mosque protest at a heated council meeting at Bendigo Town Hall.

The meeting was abruptly adjourned and councillors were escorted out by police after protesters, most from outside Bendigo, swamped the council chambers.

The United Patriot Front is a breakaway group of extremists and a new anti-Islamic Australian group that has expressed political solidarity with far-right and neo-Nazi groups in Europe.

Bendigo residents and pro-mosque locals are outraged that members of extremist far-right groups, such as UPF, the Q society, which claims to be “Australia’s leading Islamic-critical movement”, and Reclaim Australia, have hijacked the local debate and used it to send anti-Muslim messages.

More than 400 anti-Islamic extremists were bussed into Bendigo from Sydney and Melbourne to an anti-mosque rally last month that saw violent scuffles between the anti-mosque group and an anti-racism group.

More than 300 police were sent to Bendigo for the rally in what one commander described as the biggest police operation he had seen outside of Melbourne.

Mr Weragoda believed the threatening leaflet was in response to an article in which he was named as pro-mosque published in the Weekend Magazine on Saturday that detailed the issues around the mosque debate and the involvement of right-wing extremist groups from outside town.

He said anti-mosque groups were active in trying to shut down any media seen as favourable to a mosque.


Australian coal industry to benefit from China carbon trading, says MCA

Australia's struggling coal industry stands to gain from China's surprise move to adopt a carbon trading system that puts a price on emissions, says the Minerals Council of Australia.

MCA chief executive Brendan Pearson said Australia had "a big advantage in this new era" because its coal exports were ideally suited to the new-generation, coal-fired power plants China was rolling out to help cut emissions.

"Far from being a threat, there is a real opportunity for Australia's coal sector in China's efforts to reduce emissions at lowest cost," Mr Pearson told Fairfax Media.

"There is a huge misconception that lower emissions and coal use are incompatible. That is dead wrong."

"Over the last eight years China's embrace of new coal generation has achieved emissions reductions 10 times those achieved by the European Union's emissions trading scheme."

The MCA is confident China will continue its huge rollout of high-energy, low-emissions, coal-fired power plants.


Case dismissed against accused bikies arrested while buying ice-cream

The laws concerned were always pretty dubious

A HIGH-PROFILE lawyer has rubbished Queensland’s anti-bikie laws, describing them as totally useless and nothing more than a political stunt.

His comments came as a court dismissed the case against five alleged bikies who were arrested under anti-association laws after they bought ice-cream during a Gold Coast holiday in January 2014.

The dismissal in Southport Magistrates Court this morning came as the prosecution revealed it had no evidence against any of the accused.

Bill Potts, who represented two of the five men, said the case cost $500,000 of public money and was the latest example of the laws failing to meet the burden of proof in court.

He added that his clients were guilty of nothing more than arguing over what type of ice-cream they wanted.

“The offence in effect is buying ice-cream in a public place,” Mr Potts said.  “The biggest controversy was whether it should be a choc-top or a vanilla ice-cream.”

Victorian friends Bane Alabejovic, Kresimir Basic, Darren Keith Haley, Dario Halilovic and Daniel Morgan Lovett were all arrested and charged while leaving an ice-cream shop at Surfers Paradise during a holiday with their families.

The five were accused of being bikie gang members and charged under a law introduced by the former Liberal-National Party government to prevent members of a criminal organisation from knowingly gathering in a group of more than two people in a public place.

At the time of their arrests, a woman who claimed to be the partner of one of the men said she was disgusted by what had happened.

“Basically the boys have gone to get the kids ice cream and the police have got them and locked them up,” she told reporters after the men were detained.

“To me I think it’s gross, gross, inhumanity, you wouldn’t even treat dogs like this.”

Mr Potts told the Australian at the time: “The police found no drugs, no guns, no evidence of any criminality.

“Their offence is walking down the street and looking for ice creams. It is now illegal to be friends in a public place looking for an ice cream in Surfers Paradise.”

Queensland’s anti-bikie laws attracted scathing criticism when they were passed in October 2013, with senior barrister Stephen Keim telling a lawyers conference on the Gold Coast last year that the laws breached human rights.

This morning, after the case against the men was dismissed, Mr Potts said he hoped the anti-bikie laws would be abolished when they were reviewed by the current Queensland government.

He added that this was the latest anti-association case to be thrown out without proof.  “Not one prosecution has been able to be sustained,” he said.  “Anti-association laws don’t work ... it prevents nothing and saves nobody.”

All five men spent more than two weeks in custody following their arrests, including time in solitary confinement, before being granted Supreme Court bail.

Mr Potts said his clients were considering their legal options regarding possible civil action.


Why the West wants to lose (?)

Sociologist John Carroll writes below from Australia but his perspective is an international one.  He considers at the outset that the negativity he discusses is Leftist but dismisses that.  He argues that it is simply human.  He justifies that by saying that the Nazis were a bad lot and they were "Right-wing".  But they were not.  They were socialists and Carroll should know that.  And antisemitism is once again very Leftist, though usually under the shallow pretence of "anti-Zionism".  Even Karl Marx despised Jews so claiming that antisemitism is "Rightist" is a joke.

I think Carroll's claims are a crazy overgeneralization.  Conservatives are the people who are happily getting on with their lives and just want the government off their backs.  It is the Left who are congenital miseries, who hate just about everything about them.  So I read Carroll's interesting analysis below as an analysis of the Left.  They truly are a dismal bunch.  It is the Western Left who want their countries and societies to lose and lose big

George Orwell wrote in England in 1944, in an essay for Partisan ­Review, that he had come to judge the entire Left intelligentsia as hating their country, to the extreme of being dismayed whenever Britain won a victory in the war against Hitler.

Orwell still identified himself as a socialist when he wrote this. Orwell was, without doubt, exaggerating, in his blanket condemnation of the entire Left intelligentsia. And his observation needs the further qualification: he was writing at the close of a period in which the extreme Right in Europe, via messianic fascist nationalism, had been cataclysmically destructive.

I have been puzzled myself by the phenomenon Orwell observed, very common in humanities faculties at the universities at which I have worked. It might be termed cultural masochism, and has manifested in many forms. Whenever before in human history have significant groups within a nation — often privileged, elite groups — wanted their own to fail or to be defeated?


The broad cultural condition of unbelief established the preconditions. They arose in the wake of the death of God: the near total collapse of institutional religion, and, in generalised accompaniment, confident belief in a higher power that directs the human world. In relation to the possibility of a metaphysical beyond, most people today, at best, believe there is “something there”. That something is vague.

The prototype of the paralysing anxiety aroused in someone sensitive to the fact he believes in nothing was Dostoevsky’s character Stavrogin, from The Possessed (1872). Stavrogin is a handsome, brilliant and confident young aristocrat whom almost everyone of his generation — male and female — falls in love with. He has studied widely, travelled, visited the holy sites, fought duels and engaged in many love affairs. He fears no one. A few years earlier he was the charismatic teacher to a circle of young men, engaging them in questions of ultimate meaning. His name derives from the Greek word for cross; Dostoevsky is experimenting with him as the messiah for a secular age.

Stavrogin has taken on life and lived it to the full. If anyone has discovered the answer of how to live in a secular time, and make sense of one’s own life, it is he. When we meet him, however, he is listless and nihilistic, indifferent to the offer to lead a revolutionary group. Stavrogin’s passions are so flat the most he can manage is a few adolescent pranks. His face looks like a beautiful mask, a death mask. He admits to past times of wild debauchery — not for pleasure but to try to find a limit, something to believe in that would stop him. He finds no limits; for him, everything is permitted.

A feature of the cultural turbulence of the early 20th century was the number of commanding philosophical and literary figures who were driven by despair at cultural decadence. The conclusion they had reached — that my culture has no authority, and provides me with no convincing explanations to justify my existence — left them in an intolerable position. To choose two of the exemplars: Georg Lukacs and TS Eliot both took a deliberate leap of faith out of their respective wastelands. When Lukacs joined the Communist Party in 1918, arguably the most sophisticated and well-read intellectual of his generation had turned into an apologist for Stalin. From soon after Eliot became a “little England” Anglican Christian in 1927, the pungency of his earlier poetry evaporated into fey abstraction.

Today, the youth that takes with idealistic enthusiasm to the Green political movement may be located in this same mental domain, although without the self-consciousness or the intensity of anguish. The content seems almost arbitrary, with the attachment rather to the enthusiasm itself — Stavrogin was as desperate to find a passion in himself, irrespective of its end, as to find a limit. Naive Green idealism is possible only in an affluent world under no threat of war; and little threat of hardship, for the young Greens, by and large, live in the prosperous inner cities.

Freud’s pregnant concept of negation is useful. What appears in surface behaviour is the opposite of its unconscious motivation, the act deliberately inverting its true nature. In Freud’s own examples, negation is provoked by feelings of guilt — as with the forced smile in someone whose ideal of themselves is that they are a nice person, who smiles on the surface to cover up unconscious aggression, “to smile and smile and be a villain”.

More interestingly in the context of this essay, negation may also be triggered by a longing for authority. Marlow, the narrator in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, reaches the conclusion, at the end of his adventures, that humans need something outside themselves to bow down before. Otherwise they go mad.

In the narrow political sphere, power, if it is to gain legitimacy, needs the authority of an established order: say, the ensemble of a hereditary monarch, age-old institutions, a venerable legal tradition, and a people’s cherished customs. Every dynamic community — from the nuclear family, to the sporting club, school, trade union, or church — lives off a powerful collective conscience, giving it authority over the actions of its members. Today, nostalgia for cosy, close-knit community, which it is feared is disappearing, pervades television soap opera. It reflects a longing for one type of lost authority.

Failing belief may trigger hatred of the dying god. Lapsing ­Catholics turn against the Pope. The residue of some love or need generates the hatred. The longing for authority, in negation, leads to hostility to the weakness of existing authorities — for university students in the 1960s it was parents, political leaders, and university lecturers and vice-chancellors. This was understandable, and more than pure negation: the curiosity of a youth generation eager to take on the adult world seeks leadership, not an ineffectual older generation limp in its own lack of direction. Stavrogin was brought up by weak father figures and an hysterical mother.

More pathological in the 1960s was the lurch into idealising mega-powerful, brutal dictators like Mao Zedong. Here was a vivid symbol of the hurt felt by the loss of the old gods — the old authorities. More simple negation was exhibited when self-proclaimed peace-loving, flower-waving students demonstrated violently against the Vietnam war.

The ordeal of unbelief provides the modern context for the eruption of drives universal to the human condition, notably power envy and moral paranoia. They have provided the energy source for a new form of social pathology, one peculiar to the modern West — cultural masochism. The sado-masochistic pleasure gained by some individuals in suffering pain at the hands of another is projected outwards on to the person’s own culture and society. Damaging it, attacking it, seeing it suffer and being diminished, brings pleasure. This is extraordinary.

These same drives may be projected in any political direction, depending on the historical moment. In Germany in the 1930s, students were, in the main, inclined to the Nazi Right, and to a messianic nationalism with sadistic rather than masochistic tropes. Hitler cleverly exploited, in his writings and speeches, the need for something to believe in, which he offered to provide. Since the 1940s, it happens that political pathology in the West has been predominantly of the Left. This may, of course, change — for instance, xenophobic right-wing parties may rise again in Europe to be of more than marginal significance. And the emergence of Muslim youth in Western countries attracted by Islamic State fanaticism illustrates the broad effect of the ordeal of unbelief.


Three great psychologists have cast their powerful interpretative gaze across the modern world — Dostoevsky, Nietzsche and Freud. Of them, the master interpreter of culture and its contemporary travails was Nietzsche. Nietzsche argued that a will-to-power is at the core of human motivation. It leads inevitably to the weak envying the strong, and individual behaviour manifesting sublimations of this envy across all fronts. Nietzsche was following 17th-century French moralist the Duc de La Rochefoucauld, who identified self-esteem (and with it vanity and insecurity) as the key to all human motivation. Humans are insecure egotists, which explains the pride and the fear that governs almost all of what they do. Nietzsche extends the analysis to those discontented with their lives, ill at ease in themselves, which means, sick of themselves. Such individuals are inwardly driven to seek a cause for their suffering: someone or something must be to blame. The hurt becomes externalised.

Let me switch back to the contemporary world. Patriotism feeds off, and generates, an undercurrent of confidence, wanting the nation to be successful, which means powerful. It is the same with football fans supporting their team. Where the identification fails, or the authority of the parent society is too weak, resentment may surface in that hatred of nation Orwell found abhorrent. In Western countries, power envy is often expressed in reflex anti-Americanism, the target chosen simply because it is the leading power in the West — the leader on our side, so to speak. The morning after the destruction of the twin towers in New York in 2001, Mon­ash University students were celebrating in public.

David Hicks became a hero for a broad section of those who are left-oriented, on the surface grounds that he might have been tortured by the Americans while he was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. The subtext was that he had trained with al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan before and after September 11, 2001, including direct contact with Osama bin Laden; and he had fought against Coalition forces that included the Australian Army. The actions of this “hero” bordered on treason. The Hicks example suggests the subject was not chosen simply as a device for thinking evil of America — although that was the case. Negation was at work, the candidate chosen because he had been actively engaged, siding with the enemy.

The ideological Left has generally had an irrationally wrought hostility to strong and intelligent leaders on the Right, such as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Malcolm Fraser (while prime minister), Jeff Kennett and John Howard. Some were mocked as boof-headed (Kennett) or senile (Reagan). Strong leaders of the Left — for example, Franklin Roosevelt and Bob Hawke — have not attracted similar ­antipathy.

Nietzsche argued that the clerisy — which includes the clergy and the intelligentsia — is of its nature impotent, compared with people who live active lives, who direct and make things, who are decisive, and who enjoy themselves. The clerisy, in its tortured inwardness, becomes rancorous — and above all moralistic. Out of disgust at itself, and irritation with its life, it launches into bad-tempered projections. While Nietzsche oversimplified — given that we humans are often composed of diverse personae blended into one complex form — strains of his central theme may be noted today. The clergy in mainstream churches hardly ever talk of faith, redemption or God. They seem embarrassed by their core mission, which is to provide convincing answers to the big-meaning questions of why we are here and what happens when we die. They rather don the ethical robes of empathy for the disadvantaged and rail against government callousness, appearing more like politicised social workers than apostles of the faith. Religion and politics do not belong together — as Jesus himself taught.

Much of the intelligentsia has turned against the long Western high-cultural tradition that since Homer and Plato has sought the true, the beautiful, and the good. It has rather set to criticising its society: customs, traditions and institutions. The current lead manifestation is refugee studies, whereby a dozen areas in the humanities have taken up the politically fashionable “oppressed” of the moment, victims of a cruel, hard-hearted Australian government — there must be hundreds of PhD theses being written around the country on this blight on the national character. Now I don’t question that the practical politics of how to deal with a flow of people voyaging on barely seaworthy boats to try to land in Australia raises difficult human challenges with no morally clear-cut solutions. What I do question is the exploitation of the issue to attack the civic order.


The paranoid disposition splits the world into good and evil (no grey). It does so in just the same way that fundamentalist religions do. Indeed, all fundamentalism exhibits the same psycho-pathology.

Paranoid extremism is manifest in grandiose delusions of self-importance, or in delusions of persecution. The cosmos is riven by the warring forces of good and evil. Evil is satanic, and therefore potent enough to spread superhuman contagion. Modern secular crusades are driven by ideological fundamentalism, imputing quasi-religious metaphysical forces that justify the venom against what is hated. These crusades have been predominantly but not exclusively of the Left — on the Right, the free-market camp has included some zealotry.

Let two examples suffice. In the 1970s, Australian and American soldiers returning from fighting for their country in Vietnam were confronted by screaming contempt by tens of thousands of their fellow citizens. It was as if they had been fighting for the devil. Second, the nation and its people are spat on today as racist, with particular examples (which can be found in any country) blown up and generalised. This is singularly unconvincing in the case of Australia, which has successfully welcomed and settled millions of immigrants.

Moral paranoia may be a sub-category of power envy. The powerful, or the imagined powerful (Jewish bankers or more recently Israel, capitalists, the CIA, right-wing media moguls), are inflated to embody monolithic evil. Examples from the Right include Pauline Hanson’s fears that Asians were taking over Australia. Rupert Murdoch has made the perfect bogeyman with his global media empire, given that the rampaging paranoid imagination is inclined to see the invisible tentacles of media influence reaching into every home and controlling the minds of the simple souls who live there. These contemporary Big Brothers flood the world in a fog of pollution — with the very use of contamination imagery illustrating the high moralist cast of mind, and the quasi-religious associations with sin and damnation.

Free-floating resentment may be projected on to the political stage without any personal repercussions, or face-to-face confrontations, where irresponsible opinions do not need to be defended or tested.


The ultimate challenge of Nietzsche is to prove that he is exaggerating. If we humans are no more than monomaniacal egotists, simply motivated by power, and the anxieties that flow from fear of powerlessness, this reality is a more severe blow to our self-­esteem than Darwin’s linking our parentage to the monkey.

What is the evidence in support of Nietzsche? Who has any friends whom they don’t suspect will gain some pleasure if they come to harm? Gore Vidal quipped that whenever one of his friends had a success, a part of him died. Strip away the civilised veneer and raw competitiveness rules. Children are unabashedly transparent in their me-me-me self-promotions. Are they not simply more open and honest than adults?

Competitiveness rules as much in the defences against fear of failure as in open battles for power and influence. The compulsion to do better than others, have more influence, and more power to attract may be direct, as in elaborate female rituals of make-up and dressing. It may be indirect, as in sublimated identification with a celebrity or a football team. Fear of failure generates a plethora of rationalisations, from the openly hypocritical “I am a caring person”, and “competition is selfish”; to the self-deception of “I am a better person for the experience”; and to the more subtle putdowns of “he is too good to be true” and “she is just a pretty bird-brain”.

On the other side of the ledger, contra Nietzsche, there is some genuine compassion, a spontaneous and sympathetic warmth to another’s suffering. Nietzsche was right to judge pity as a mask for superiority, usually — its condescension an aspect of the will-to-power. But it is not always so. Orwell was an example.

Summing up, the obvious conclusion to draw is that the psychological reality of the human condition is mainly dispiriting. Writ large is Macbeth’s “poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage”. Which takes us back to the threat of unbelief in a secular age. With the axis of ­belief/unbelief tipping towards the latter, it becomes more difficult to find metaphysical inspiration. In other words, when unbelief doesn’t slide into cultural pathology it may be interpreted as a rational and honest response to a disenchanted reality. But that is Stavrogin.

Nietzsche’s will-to-power is the theory for a disenchanted age. When the world is disenchanted, power stands alone and rules. It is in service of the last limit, the No of No’s: death. Stavrogin is cursed by his failure to find anything with the authority to check him, to shame him, and any passion strong enough to engage him, so the one thing left to stop him is death, which he chooses. Australian politics today is jammed with wretched illustration, in the phalanxes of diminutives who choose to enter its halls without the slightest commitment to any cause except their own ­careers.

But no era is disenchanted in any absolute sense. That is not the nature of the human condition. Today, as always, the sense of a transcendent is what lifts the individual above the rapaciously selfish psychological plane. Those who find deep fulfilment in their work are likely to give it selfless devotion, and with it whomever they serve. Many find in family life a rich fulfilment that is inextricably tied to them giving themselves to something bigger than their individual selves. The sportsman or woman who finds scintillating form may be humbled by the experience. Then there is the awesome power of nature. And genuine compassion depends on some kind of faith in the human essence, which is another vein of the transcendent.

Here are intimations of “something there”, ones to which Stavrogin remained deaf.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Is Clueless Clemmie emulating that vicious British barrister feminist?

I want to say something about Clementine Ford's latest emission just to provide the balance that her Fascist thinking lacks but I am initially a little struck by her new photo.  See above.

Her old photo with its furiously red lipstick still accompanies her actual column but on the main page of the SMH there is now a much softer picture of her.  Is she hoping to trap rebarbative old reactionaries like me into praising her looks?  After the Charlotte Proudperson episode in Britain she should be so lucky!  NEVER praise a feminist's looks!  So what is the new image about?  Does she want a Lesbian bit on the side?  I guess that's it. Lesbian couples I have known did have one attractive female. 

But on to the important stuff:  In a typical Fascist way, she wants the government to solve our problems -- in this case the problem of violence against women.  But how CAN a government do that?  Turnbull has announced that he will spend a lot of money on it but that is just window-dressing.  Is he going to put a policeman in every home? Of course not.  Governments may be able to scratch at the margins of the problem but large and inherited  male/female differences will always be there and will in extreme and rare cases result in frustrations great enough to evoke violence.

All that the polity can reasonably do is provide refuges for threatened women and severe punishment for those men who do physically attack women.  But as far as I can tell, that is already pretty much in place.  Some problems will never be completely solved and a mature person learns to know when an  asymptote (limit) has been approached.

Just some excerpts from Clemmie below -- JR

Over the two, long years that Tony Abbott was Prime Minister, very little was done to address the scourge of men's violence against women. This sustained, brutal form of misogyny currently sees around 6 women killed per month while claiming the lives of just under 60 women this year*. Despite the arrogant appointment of himself to the office of Prime Minister for Women, Abbott's interest in issues affecting women's lives remained rooted in the retro ideology that assumes our greatest challenges lie in feeding our families and keeping our energy bills down.

Indeed, rather than direct even a skerrick of the attention given to combating fictional terror threats and desperate refugees fleeing war-torn countries, the Abbott government actually withdrew funding from organisations offering vital services to the victims of family violence. During the exit speech supposedly listing all of the successes of his government, Abbott reemphasised his disinterest in the impact of family violence when he said, "Then there's the challenge of ice and domestic violence, yet to be addressed."


Politics trumps reality over submarine building

Australian naval shipbuilders have a proven record of inefficiency and delay -- both of which greatly hike costs.  And in the end, the boat may not even work.  After decades of trying, the Collins subs have never been got to work properly.  A realistic government would learn from experience and never again give Australian unionists such work. We would get a much cheaper and better result to buy proven submarines off the shelf from Japan.  I like the idea of a sub that works as well as my Toyota -- JR

All three international bidders for the multi-billion-dollar contract to produce Australia's next fleet of submarines would prefer to build in Australia, according to Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne.

The Federal Government is undertaking an international Competitive Evaluation Process with Japan, France and Germany all bidding for the lucrative deal.

Industry Minister Mr Pyne has confirmed Japan is open to an Australian build process, and said all three countries were prepared to offer a local build option.

He said all three countries were preparing hybrid and overseas build proposals too, but the bidders were aware the Federal Government wants the submarines to be constructed in Australia.

"All three of them are now saying they'd prefer a domestic build," Mr Pyne told Channel Nine this morning.

Ahead of the overthrow of former prime minister Tony Abbott a number of senior South Australian Liberals were fearful they would lose their seats if Japan secured the contract and the submarines were built offshore.

The state had originally been promised a job boosting submarine package by the Coalition Government, to offset the loss of thousands of car manufacturing jobs.

There is increasing Coalition concern that disillusioned votes will turn to other parties at the next election in protest, including Labor and the group formed by independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

Mr Pyne holds a South Australian seat that is considered marginal and has played up the prospects of Japan's interest in building in Australia.

"As a South Australian that is music to my ears but we will go through the proper processes and we'll make an announce at the appropriate time," he said.

"Sounds to me like all three bidders are picking up that we'd like to spend $50 billion of defence industry money in Australia where it creates jobs, new technologies, innovations, all sorts of spin-off industries.

"It would be great for Australia."

Labor's defence spokesman Stephen Conroy said he was happy to hear all countries were providing a local build option.

But he said Mr Pyne had not indicated that the Government will rule out building the submarines overseas.

"Well he's pretty brave today but he was silent when this debate's been raging for the last 12 months," Senator Conroy told AM.

"When Chris Pyne and Marise Payne and Malcolm Turnbull receive those bids they should only consider the three domestic build bids."


Justice Margaret McMurdo urges Queenslanders to have to speak up on Human Rights Act

I am sure it is most unwise for me to contradict an eminent jurist but I nonetheless do think Maggie McMurdo, below, is wrong.  As far as I can tell, the writ of Britain's 1689 Bill of Rights still runs in Australia.  And it has served both Britain and Australia well.  Maggie may be thinking of the EU-inspired Bill of Rights introduced to Britain much more recently.  It is true that Australia has nothing like that, thankfully. One of its effects is to prevent most immigrant criminals from being deported from Britain -- to almost universal disapprobation among Britons.  Let us just have our good ol' 1689 bill doing its splendid job -- JR

JUSTICE Margaret McMurdo has outlined the advantages of a Human Rights Bill as the State Government establishes a parliamentary committee on the issue.

Queensland’s second most senior judge last night said similar Bills in the UK, New Zealand, Victoria and the ACT had been effective.

While delivering the University of the Sunshine Coast’s first law oration, Justice McMurdo said Australia was the only democracy without a Human Rights Act.  She quoted the late Nelson Mandela’s support of civil protections and urged people to get involved in the consultation process.  “I encourage each of you, as part of your personal celebration of 800 years of Magna Carta, to carefully follow and contribute to the parliamentary inquiry into whether Queensland should have a Human Rights Act,” she said.

The Palaszczuk Government is preparing to establish a parliamentary committee to consider the merits of a Bill of Rights for the state after the issue was raised by independent member for Nicklin and Speaker Peter Wellington.

Justice McMurdo, the president of Queensland’s Court of Appeal, who clashed publicly with former Chief Justice Tim Carmody, said it would be inappropriate to outline her personal opinion.

However she pointed out that in countries and states where rights were enshrined in law, there had not been the feared explosion in litigation.

Justice McMurdo said similar Acts had permeated the culture of those governments and public life right down to the rights of an elderly person in care being entitled to a shower curtain.

She said surveys undertaken as part of the Rudd government’s National Human Rights Consultation Report, had shown the majority of Australians were in favour.

But she said vocal opposition from certain media outlets, including The Australian newspaper, had successfully shut down progress.


Australian conservatives' warning to new PM: don't touch Direct Action climate policy

West Australian Liberal Dennis Jensen welcomed the assurances of Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who said Australia would not be altering its climate change abatement measures in response to the Chinese development.

But asked if the party's right still had concerns about what Mr Turnbull might do, Dr Jensen said, "absolutely".  "It's one of the conditions of the leadership change that we are sticking with the policy we had," he told Fairfax Media.  "It's also in the [Coalition] agreement with the Nationals, as I understand it.

"We fought a very damaging leadership contest on this very climate policy [in 2009], and we will now need to tread with enormous care, put it that way," he said.

Another conservative, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "Turnbull gave two assurances to people who jumped into his camp: no change to marriage plebiscite and no change to Direct Action.

"But I fear we will now be softened up in the next couple of months leading into Paris talks with the argument that we didn't want to get ahead but now that the world has acted, we need to do more, and if that happens, things could become very interesting for Turnbull."

The warning to the green-inclined new Australian Prime Minister reflects concerns among climate sceptics about Mr Turnbull's longer-term plans for the area.

It came as a slew of policy options in tax, education, and other areas ruled out by the Abbott government were placed back on the table, and as China, the world's biggest polluter, prepared to announce a landmark cap and trade scheme to tackle climate change and the country's appalling air quality.

Mr Xi was also expected to pledge a "significant financial commitment" to help poorer nations move away from fossil fuels in a joint announcement with his US counterpart, Barack Obama.

While Mr Turnbull declined to comment, Mr Hunt was sent out to reassure nervous Liberals that the development out of Beijing would not lead to a similar move from Canberra.

"China's on track to be plus-150 per cent on its emissions from 2005 to 2030. We're on track to be minus-26 to minus-28 per cent, so any form of action by any country is welcome, but for us, we're getting the job done, we're doing it without a carbon tax, we're doing it by lowering electricity prices ... and we're reducing emissions in one of the most effective ways in the world," he told Sky News.

He said Australia was doing its part, and while China's move was positive, it was up to each country to work out what was best for it.

China and the US – the two largest economies and greenhouse gas polluters – are attempting to lead global action on climate change, and use their international clout to pressure other countries, including Australia, to do more.

Under Direct Action, the Australian government is paying companies and farmers to make emissions cuts, while also setting "baselines" for large polluting companies to try to put limits on their emissions.

A national Chinese emissions trading scheme would expand on existing pilot projects in seven Chinese cities already up and running.

The national market would open in 2017 and would cover industries including power generation and iron, steel and cement makers, according to the White House officials who briefed reporters in Washington.

Australia's Direct Action scheme has been criticised by some observers for lacking teeth and not being able to drive enough cuts to meet the country's international targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

However, some believe Direct Action could ultimately be turned into a form of emissions trading – called "baseline and credit" – in coming years if there is sufficient political will.

The Coalition government has said it will revisit climate policies in 2017-18 as part of an increasing focus on meeting the 2030 goals. Meanwhile, the Labor opposition has committed to introducing an emissions trading scheme as part of its platform for the next federal election.


Sunday, September 27, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is very concerned about the worldliness of the present Pope

Has Australia stopped being a lucky country?

There is much truth in the tale below but it completely skips over who was responsible to pulling Australia down. As ever, it is the Left.  The article below fails to mention the huge debts run up by the 2007-2013 Rudd/Gillard government and the need the present government has to divert taxpayer funds from productive expenditure into paying the interest bill.  On top of the borrowing, it was also the Labor government that squandered the income from the mining boom.  The coalition government has been in power for only two years and has been blocked from reforms by the Senate -- JR

AUSTRALIA is no longer the ‘lucky country’.  That is the assessment of the nation’s most powerful economist, John Fraser. Mr Fraser says Australians have become complacent about their declining wealth because they live in a stable and peaceful country.

“Our income per capita is falling. You wouldn’t know it. Everybody is happy and, in Canberra in particular, everybody is deliriously happy and comfortable,” he said in an interview for The Australian Financial Review Magazine’s power issue.

His comments come as Australians’ disposable income drops and house prices continue to rise.

Mr Fraser said that the nation’s problems were similar to those experienced in the early 1980s, when Australia was falling out of the ranks of the world’s richest countries, but the community didn’t recognise the need for policy chances.

Leading economist Saul Eslake told it was “fair to say Australia’s luck is changing”.

“We had 10 years of good fortune in the form of rising prices for commodities but I think previous governments have squandered that good fortune and now that luck has changed,” he said.

Commodity prices were almost 60 per cent down following a peak in 2011, according to Mr Eslake. “And they’ve got further to fall,” he said.

“Some of the chickens hatched in that era are coming home to roost.  “They come in the shape of governments’ ongoing budgetary difficulties.”

He said Australians had been lulled into a false sense of security and were not prepared for what was to come.  “Because the last 25 years have been so good, only a proportion of currently working Australians have much memory of difficult times,” Mr Eslake said.

“And as a result they have high exceptions of what government can and should do for them which governments will almost certainly not be able to meet.

“That’s because, in part, the way in which successive governments squandered the fruits of the earlier luckier period and partly because global circumstances won’t be as favourable.”

Mr Eslake predicted that “growth in national income and employment will be significantly slower on average than it has been over the last 15 years” in coming years.

But it’s not all bad news.  Mr Eslake said Australia’s economy was faring better than other resource-based economies including Canada and Brazil.

“Lower interest rates are working to give us the highest level of housing activity ever and there are signs that the fall in the exchange rate is also boosting the competitiveness of some of our other industries such as tourism and the greater flexibility of the labour market is helping to provide some support for employment,” he said.


Rich People Only: How the property boom is tearing our cities apart

Once again, no analysis of why.  The problem is real but solving it needs understanding it.  And the causes are as simple as the law of supply and demand.  Demand is outstripping supply despite quite high building activity.  Why?  Demand is being pumped up by a high level of immigration.  All those migrants, refugees or otherwise, have to be housed.  And the supply is being restricted by an unholy combination of Greenies, NIMBYs and some farmers -- who regularly oppose the release of land for new housing.  That keeps the supply down and the price up.  The simplest remedy would be a big reduction in net immigration, maybe even a complete moratorium -- JR

AUSTRALIAN capital cities have sold out to the elite and cashed in the values that have sustained them, according leading Sydney University academic, Professor Patrick Phibbs.

“The problem is we’re essentially sleepwalking our way to very unequal cities and unless we do something about it soon it might be too late,” the Chair of Urban and Regional Planning and policy said following Sydney University’s Festival of Urbanism earlier this month.

“We’ve taken our eye off looking out for people on low to moderate incomes and we’re basically just pandering to an elite, and I think that’s a risk. Do we want a fair city, do we want an equal city, or do we just want a city where people talk about how much money they made off their million dollar apartment?”

The problem, according to Professor Phibbs, is the way Australians, and much of the world, sees housing today. “We’ve seen the complete pivot of housing from being a place where you live, as a form of shelter, to essentially housing as a wealth generator,” he says, “People have got to look a bit beyond their own personal gain. Sure you’ve made $500,000 on your house but is that really a good thing?”

With the mining boom fading, Australia’s economy is now leaning on an exploding property market for support.

As the Australian reported recently, a boom in apartment buildings around the nation has been responsible for a fifth of Australia’s economic growth over the past two years. A push that has been fuelled by a six billion dollar contribution from China, along with other foreign investors, to the Australian property market. Some of whom have used sophisticated trust structures to get around foreign investment laws.

The Abbott government, who oversaw the recent boom, failed to rein in the runaway housing market. Instead they encouraged it, despite persistent howls over housing affordability in the nation’s major cities. Today it’s left us with some of the least affordable housing on earth, particularly in Sydney where house prices are now 13 times the average annual wage.

“Sydneysiders have always prided themselves on being reasonably egalitarian and sticking up for the battler, but I think essentially we’ve stabbed the battler right in the wallet over the last ten years,” said Professor Phibbs.

Around the country, meanwhile, the economy is showing sign of weakening, with an inflated rental and housing market distorting living costs; unemployment on the rise; wage increases struggling to keep pace with inflation; and Australia’s net disposable income per head — the best measure of living standards — dropping by 1.2 per cent.

The losers in this scenario are pretty much everyone, says Professor Phibbs, though particularly the current generation of young Australians.

“In the current property boom there is a huge group of losers and the biggest, in a general sense, are young people. If they want to buy a house in Sydney, which a lot do, they essentially have to climb a cliff and I just think that’s completely out of order,” he said, adding, “If we’ve managed to make what was an affordable suburb to where houses are worth a million dollars, we’re just headed in the wrong direction.”

“If you’re saying Sydney is a place where kids can grow up and have opportunities, we’re essentially saying, nup, if you’ve bloody got a lot of cash you can stay here,” he says.


UN cancels Australia visit over Border Force laws

Well-done!  Keeping creepy Crepeau out is a big win, judging by his absurd condemnations of the UK.  There is no doubt about what his judgment of Australia would be.  He compared Britain to Nazi Germany -- JR

The United Nations has postponed a planned visit to Australia because the federal government cannot guarantee legal immunity to detention centre workers who discuss asylum seekers and migrants.

The United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Canada's Francois Crepeau, was due to visit Australia on Sunday for about two weeks to investigate the plight of migrants and asylum seekers in offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, following an invitation from the federal government.

But Mr Crepeau said in a statement that the Border Force Act, which makes it a crime for immigration and border protection workers to disclose information about offshore detention centres, "serves to discourage people from fully disclosing information relevant to my mandate".

Under the law, such people face up to two years in prison for recording or disclosing information they obtain from their work.

 "This threat of reprisals with persons who would want to cooperate with me on the occasion of this official visit is unacceptable," he said. "The Act prevents me from fully and freely carrying out my duties during the visit, as required by the UN guidelines for independent experts carrying out their country visits."

It was impossible for Mr Crepeau to carry out his visit as an independent expert for the UN because the Australian government "was not prepared" to meet his request for a written guarantee that anyone he met during his visit would not risk being intimidated or face imprisonment under the law.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton described the postponement as "disappointing and unfortunate".

"The government accommodated to the fullest extent possible the requests of the office of the Special Rapporteur as it has with past visits."

The spokesman declined to say whether the government would consider offering exemptions to the secrecy provisions of the Australian Border Force Act, saying: "The Special Rapporteur was briefed on the responsibilities and obligations of personnel under relevant Australian law.

"Australia remains ready to arrange a future visit by the Special Rapporteur."

Mr Crepeau said Australia had also denied his repeated requests for full access to offshore detention centres since March. "I was also extremely disappointed that I was unable to secure the cooperation needed to visit any offshore centre, given the international human rights and humanitarian law concerns regarding them, plus the Australian Senate Inquiries on the offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, which raised concerns and recommendations concerning these centres," he said.

The Special Rapporteur said he had been planning the visit with the Australian government since January.   

Mr Dutton's spokesman said the Department of Immigration had worked closely with Mr Crepeau's office to organise a programme for his visit, which was to include visits to detention centres, and meetings with key government officials and service providers.

But he said the government had no role in organising access to offshore detention centres: "Access to Regional Processing Centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru is the responsibility of these sovereign nations and needs to be addressed with their governments."

Organisations including the Australian Human Rights Commission, UNHCR and Commonwealth Ombudsman, had visited both on and offshore detention centres "without the need to respond in this way," he said.

The Human Rights Law Centre's executive director, Hugh de Kretser, said the cancelled visit was "unprecedented for a western liberal democracy".

"This is extremely damaging for Australia's reputation – particularly when our human rights record will be reviewed at the UN in November and we're seeking election to the UN Human Rights Council in 2018. It's extremely damaging to our ability to advance our national interest on the world stage," said Mr de Kretser.

It was also a "huge missed opportunity" for newly-appointed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to pursue a "more constructive relationship with the UN".

"We urge the Australian Government to urgently provide the necessary assurances to the Special Rapporteur to enable the official visit to take place at a future date."

Doctors, and humanitarian workers have previously criticised the Border Force Act which was passed earlier this year with the support of Labor, saying it prevents proper public scrutiny of detention centres in line with their duty of care to asylum seekers.

The government has dismissed such claims, saying a separate federal law ensured officials were protected in making "public interest disclosures". But it is unclear which health or medical professionals would be required to comply with the new secrecy provisions.

Under the law, workers can only release such information legally if they have permission from the secretary of the department, if they are authorised by law, or if a court or tribunal orders or directs them to do so. The secretary would have to be satisfied that the information would help the person to perform their duties or powers to give them permission to release it.


Abbott-hater celebrates Turnbull

For perspective, you may need to know that Niki Savva --  below -- wrote a book titled "So Greek, confessions of a conservative leftie"

Malcolm Turnbull’s first ministry has sent a powerful message of inclusion as well as regeneration. The photo of the new Prime Minister surrounded by all the women he has appointed to the cabinet and outer ministry, with his deputy Julie Bishop in the vanguard, will act as a clarion call to women that not only are they welcome inside the Liberal Party again, there is room for them at the top.

The previous administration kept talking about it, complaining incessantly about the shortage of prominent women despite the fact there were talented women there all along, waiting for the call, only to be locked out despite any number of opportunities to promote them. It was left to Turnbull to do it. He did it partly by having the courage to retire men who had a better run than they deserved or by appealing to mates such as Ian Macfarlane to step aside, which he did with great poise. Eric Abetz likewise maintained his dignity.

Will the country be less safe with Marise Payne as Defence Minister? Methinks her first press conference in that job showed it will not, nor would it have been a year ago when there was an opening. Michaelia Cash and Kelly O’Dwyer also have finally been given the opportunity to shine.

Importantly, Turnbull has conveyed a message of tolerance too. Many of those promoted, or who retained their positions, did not vote for him. Check them out: Andrew Robb, Scott Morrison, Mathias Cormann, Greg Hunt, Peter Dutton, Josh Frydenberg, Christian Porter. One of them went so far as to say he had spent more time discussing with the new Prime Minister the shape of things to come than he ever did with his predecessor. Those who suggest Turnbull has engaged in retribution, or that conservatives have been sidelined, are peddling self-serving nonsense.

While we wait for the changes in policy, there has been an immediate and welcome change in rhetoric, in tone and in manner. On Monday night, in a flirty, expansive interview with Leigh Sales, those viewers who had forgotten what Turnbull was like got an insight into an intelligent, complex personality. It also laid down some markers on matters on which he can be judged later, such as tax reform, the importance of polling in the lives of politicians, and the setting of policies within a free-market framework.

Yesterday, in another long interview, this time with Sky News, he was confident, cool, determined not to be led by one of the nation’s sharpest interviewers, David Speers, on to paths too dangerous to tread.

Turnbull has learned the value of consultation, and it shows. His colleagues are flattered he is asking, even more delighted when their suggestions are taken up, as some have been. It has come as a revelation to them, dispelling at least one doubt about his capacity to learn from his first time around. He has learned that colleagues often have good ideas too, so setting aside the time to talk to them pays off in more ways than one. Hallelujah.

The thrashing and gnashing of the capital-C conservatives continues, reminiscent if anything of the last moments of Pris, the replicant terminated by Deckard in the film Blade Runner. If they want Bill Shorten to become prime minister, with everything that entails, they should keep it up. The lying, delusion, bitterness or vengefulness of the vanquished and their supporters is really smart. Dignified too. Not.

Turnbull cannot pander to those carrying on like they want him to fail, nor can he afford to ignore them. He needs to deliver another message, by way of a thoughtful, broad-ranging speech to promote the healing — or the bonding, if you like — of the party’s conservative and liberal wings.

It should come sooner rather than later because there is no point allowing things to fester.

The idea was prompted from one of many wise heads wanting him to succeed, one key to the success of the Howard era who became so disillusioned with the Abbott regime that he had stopped listening but is now, like many others, hopeful and alert.

The objective of such a speech should be to show Liberals, not just inside the government but in the party’s heartland (and to steal a favourite expression of John Howard’s) that what unites conservatives and small-l liberals is greater and more enduring than that which divides.

Take budget repair. Fulfilling the dream of returning it to surplus is both a liberal project and a conservative one. It is about prudent management of taxpayers’ dollars to ensure there will be money there for things society needs and cares about: strong defence, a proper safety net, improved health and education services.

Border protection is both a liberal project and a conservative one. Governments should be able to control who comes here, and if they can do that, they provide a vehicle for a more generous immigration and refugee program.

Tackling social problems with a strong focus on personal responsibility (such as domestic violence) is both a liberal project and a conservative one. Nowhere was that demonstrated more emphatically than when Howard reformed gun laws in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre. People are free only when they feel safe.

And so on.

Turnbull was restored to the leadership because he repaired relations with enough of the sensible Right to win. Others, except the completely unhinged, will gradually come across after a suitable period of mourning if he shows what they can achieve if they all work together.

But it will take more than words. Integral to the success of this government is the relationship between the Prime Minister and Scott Morrison.

When prime ministers and treasurers work well together, when both are at their peak in their jobs (which is the polite way of saying when both are up to their jobs) the government overall works well. That was the case with Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, then with Howard and Peter Costello. Keating slotted into the leadership role; however, after John Dawkins resigned as treasurer, the government struggled. A competent prime minister cannot succeed on his own.

Turnbull and Morrison have had a complicated relationship, which is now on a sound footing. Given their combined talents there is no reason, in the early years at least, they should not secure strong foundations for the Coalition, despite the best efforts of some to besmirch the Treasurer’s reputation


Friday, September 25, 2015

Julie Bishop to oversee largest ever cuts in Australian aid: report

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is set to preside over by far the largest overseas aid cuts as a proportion of the nation's income of any foreign minister in Australian history, a new report has found.

The report by the left-leaning think tank The Australia Institute has charted the rise and fall in Australia's foreign aid program since it was introduced by the Whitlam government in 1974.

If the aid cuts projected in the most recent federal budget go ahead, Ms Bishop will oversee a massive 33 per cent drop in spending, which is nearly double that of the next most parsimonious minister Bill Hayden, who in the 1980s managed a drop of 17 per cent under the Labor Hawke government.

"When it comes to foreign aid, Australia is not generous – irrespective of whether this is considered against historical or world standards," the report by the institute's senior economist Matt Grudnoff and researcher Dan Gilchrist said.

Since coming to power, the Coalition under Tony Abbott earmarked $11 billion in aid cuts between 2014 and 2018. Ms Bishop reportedly fought the cuts internally but Mr Abbott and former Treasurer Joe Hockey made them a central plank in their budget repair efforts.

Aid cuts tend to be popular with the Australian public but the report noted a 2011 finding by the Lowy Institute that Australians tend to think their government spends far more on foreign aid than it actually does.

By the 2016-17 financial year, aid as a proportion of gross national income will fall to 0.22 per cent, which is the least generous level since the aid program began and a fraction of the 0.7 per cent committed to by the former Howard government under the 2000 Millennium Development Goals.

It also means that Australia, despite being the eighth largest economy in the OECD, will be the 19th most generous OECD donor.

The report said that with Ms Bishop remaining foreign minister under the new leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, "she has the opportunity to boost our aid budget and avoid being remembered as Australia's stingiest foreign minister".

The Australia Institute report concluded that former Labor foreign minister Stephen Smith oversaw the largest aid increase of 16 per cent followed by Liberal Tony Street in the early 1980s who hiked aid by 8 per cent.

Kevin Rudd as foreign minister increased aid by 5 per cent, but Bob Carr cut it by 3 per cent.

Further back, Labor's Gareth Evans cut by 8 per cent and Liberal Alexander Downer cut by 10 per cent.


Turnbull Raps China on Island Building

Australia’s new leader criticized China’s building of artificial islands in the South China Sea, as his government sought to reassure Washington over his country’s tight alliance with the U.S.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in his first foreign policy statements since ousting his predecessor Tony Abbott last week, said China’s construction of artificial islands around reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands was counterproductive because it raised concerns in Asia over Beijing’s territorial intentions.

“The pushing the envelope in the South China Sea has had the consequence of exactly the reverse consequence of what China would seek to achieve,” Mr. Turnbull told Australian television. He said the actions have pushed smaller Asian countries closer to the U.S. due to their security concerns.

A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said Beijing was working to resolve disputes over the South China Sea through “negotiation and consultation” with other countries and said Beijing hoped Australia would “stick to its commitment of not taking sides on issues concerning sovereign disputes.”

In the past, Chinese officials have rejected criticism of the land reclamation work on the grounds that China has sovereign rights in the area.

Mr. Turnbull spoke days before the White House is expected to press Chinese President Xi Jinping over the islands during his visit to Washington, and as Australia sets long-term plans to boost its military.

Foreign policy experts believe Mr. Turnbull, 60, a wealthy former businessman with close personal and business ties to China, could steer a more Asia-centric government than the British-born Mr. Abbott. Such a stance could improve ties with Beijing and put more distance between Australia and Washington on security and foreign policy, these people say.

“Turnbull’s starting point is the magnitude of the shift in the distribution of wealth and power occurring with the rise of Asia, led by China, which he sees as the great geopolitical transformation of our time,” Australian National University security analyst Hugh White wrote in a blog.

Mr. Turnbull’s Monday night comments, appearing to be aimed at countering speculation he could prioritize ties with Asia over Washington, were punctuated by his new Defense Minister Marise Payne on Tuesday. She said Australia supported the U.S. rebalancing of forces to the Asia region, which includes plans to rotate more American troops, aircraft and warships through Australia. She also signaled Australia would continue airstrikes in support of U.S.-led efforts to counter Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, saying the threat of IS shouldn’t be underestimated.

Her first priority as defense chief, Ms. Payne said, would be to meet with her U.S. counterpart Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington. She and Mr. Turnbull also met on Monday with John Berry, Washington’s ambassador to Australia.

“That I hope reinforces for anyone who may have had an alternative view, that that is a key meeting for this government and for Prime Minister Turnbull, a key indication of where we intend to take [relations],” said Ms. Payne, who was appointed by Mr. Turnbull over the weekend during a cabinet shuffle.

Ms. Payne, 51 years old, takes over as Australia’s first female defense minister ahead of the release of a major long-term strategy blueprint in November that will outline a 20-year, A$270 billion ($194 billion) plan to boost the military. That includes A$89 billion for new frigates and offshore combat vessels and a A$20 billion fleet of eight submarines.

Mr. Turnbull is likely to lean toward part-construction in Australia after the departing defense minister said last week that as much as 80% could be built domestically. The leadership switch may have boosted the chances of German and French companies bidding for the project over a Japanese rival favored by Mr. Abbott, senior defense officials believe.

The French submarine—built by DCNS and the largest competing design—is favored by many cabinet members after aggressive German lobbying and Japanese reluctance to compete with French offers of building at least 70% of the fleet in Australia, helping protect vulnerable shipbuilding jobs, one senior official said.

Ms. Payne said she would also prioritize a visit to neighboring Indonesia, but had no early plans to visit China to soothe any worries there about a new Australian government study to be released over regional security risks. A previous one, in 2009, raised hackles in Beijing by highlighting the regional instability posed by China’s rise.

Mr. Turnbull said Chinese South China Sea policy belied its ambitions to assert more leadership in the Asia region.

“You would think what China would seek to achieve is to create a sufficient feeling of trust and confidence among its neighbors that they no longer felt the need to have the U.S. fleet and a strong U.S. presence in the western Pacific,” he said.


A smuggler’s boat bound for Australia became stranded yesterday morning in heavy seas

A SMUGGLER’S boat bound for Australia carrying 24 people became stranded yesterday morning in heavy seas off the south coast of Java after running into engine trouble.

The boat, crewed by three Indonesians from Makassar, was believed to be carrying 14 Bangladeshis and seven Indians, who were all rescued by local fishermen and taken to the nearby town of Cidaun.

News Corp understands the boat was underway when the engine failed in large waves, stranding the passengers at sea and leading them to call local fishermen to save them.

It is believed there were no deaths.

Cidaun is the same location from where an overloaded boat carrying Sri Lankans and Iranians set sail in July 2013, shortly after then prime minister Kevin Rudd announced that anyone who came by boat would never be settled in Australia but would instead go to Manus Island or Nauru.

That boat, carrying up to 200 people, broke up in heavy seas. The actual death count was never known, but it was believed to be around 30.

Only one boat is believed to have got close to the Australian mainland after Tony Abbott took power in late 2013.

That was a group of Vietnamese, who in July last year slipped the Border Force net and sailed close to Dampier, in northwest WA, where they were intercepted and reportedly sent back to Vietnam.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has warned asylum seekers they “will never come to Australia” on illegal boats despite voicing concerns about those in offshore detention centres.

Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, confirmed last month that Australian maritime forces had intercepted and turned back 20 boats since the Coalition took power, including putting some in lifeboats.

It is not known whether the latest boat set sail in response to the change of leadership, or if they had been conned by smugglers that Australia had changed its policies after it agreed to take 12,000 Syrian refugees.

It is just as likely they were determined to come regardless of the political circumstances in Australia.

Though the boats have for two years failed to make landfall, and passengers know that if they do they will be sent to Manus or Nauru, they have never stopped trying.

Mr Turnbull says it is “absolutely clear” there’ll be no Australian resettlement of asylum seekers in centres on Manus Island and Nauru, while conceding the government’s policy is harsh. “But it has worked,” he told ABC radio yesterday.


W.A.: Government potatoes twice as dear

But cosy little racket set to end

Western Australia’s potato regulator has taken aim at the state’s largest grower, using its annual report to single him out as one of the challenges facing the industry.

The Potato Marketing Corporation (PMC), a second world war-era vegetable regulator, is engaged in legal dispute with Tony Galati, the industrious potato grower who also owns the Spudshed chain of grocery stores, and who infamously gave away 200 tonnes of potatoes at those stores in January because the regulator would not let him sell more than his allocated quota.

In its 2014-15 annual report, tabled in WA parliament on Wednesday, the PMC singled Galati out for criticism, listing him alongside the weather and consumer demand for tricky-to-grow yellow-fleshed potatoes as reasons for a more difficult growing season.

“Overall the 2014-15 season was challenging from a number of perspectives including weather causing quality issues, and a substantial oversupply, largely by one grower, negatively influencing returns and distorting markets,” the report said.

Galati is not named in the report, but reference is made to the legal dispute.

“The significant oversupply during this growing year was overwhelmingly the result of the actions of one large integrated grower,” the report states.

“Several attempts have been made to resolve this issue with the grower, but without success such that legal action is pending.”

The PMC launched legal action in April, accusing Galati of breaching a 2013 agreement to grow only an agreed upon number of potatoes. The two parties had until Wednesday to come to terms, or lawyers for the PMC would lodge a writ with the supreme court.

Galati reportedly told the West Australian on Wednesday that he was attempting to resolve the legal dispute, but was willing to go to jail for contempt if the court ordered him to stop growing or harvesting potatoes.

WA is the only Australian jurisdiction to maintain a regulated potato market, a mechanism that has ensured farmers make twice as much per tonne as their eastern states colleagues.

Galati has been butting heads with the system for 20 years. In April he achieved a key victory: the WA premier, Colin Barnett, announced that the regulator would be abolished after the 2017 state election.

Barnett made the announcement after the former treasurer, Joe Hockey, said at the Council of Australian Governments meeting that in order for WA to receive $500m in infrastructure funding to make up for a fall in GST allocation, it would have to look at abolishing economic “anomalies” like the PMC.

But the bulk of WA’s 78 registered potato growers say they would be happy for the industry to continue as it has for the past 70 years, unchanged from when they inherited their farms from their fathers.

Dean Ryan is one such farmer. His family have been growing potatoes at Pemberton, in the state’s south-west, since 1957. He’s also the president of the Potato Growers Association, a body that has stood firmly with the PMC and against Galati’s free enterprise.

“There are only so many spuds that the market can take in WA,” Ryan told Guardian Australia. “So if everyone grows what they are allocated, then the market is served, there’s no waste, and we are not ploughing spuds in.”

That’s what happened in summer, when the market was oversupplied and farmers couldn’t sell their whole quota. It costs $20,000 to grow a hectare of potatoes and the family farms that make up most of WA’s potato growers aren’t geared to afford the loss.

“Particularly the small guys that I talk with, they are suffering. They can’t stand another year of it,” Ryan said.  “We have grown all these potatoes for the market but because it’s oversupplied, what do we do with them?”

Storing surplus potatoes by leaving them in the ground, common practice in cooler climates, won’t work in WA, Ryan said, particularly as growers were often trying to store them over summer. “You try and store the in the summertime – they just cook in the ground,” he said.

The exacting standards of supermarket chains don’t allow for slightly weathered tubers.  “If you can’t see your reflection in the skin finish, they don’t really want them,” he said. “As soon as you start storing them, it deteriorates.”

Tony Galati and the Potato Marketing Corporation have been contacted for comment.