Bill Shorten in Forrestfield, 7th November 2018

Bill Shorten’s meeting in Forrestfield last night got off to a very late start, apparently he got stuck in traffic on the way to the hall.
This is my summary of the questions he was asked. I may have missed some nuances due to the nature of microphones not working and the ambient noise and occasional applause from the audience.
Mr Shorten is quite impressive in person. Very across his facts and figures, and very willing to acknowledge that sometimes he would hold to something that would not be popular, but that sometimes difficult choices have to be made, and paid for.

It’s the first time I’ve attended one of these affairs, and it’s a long time since I had the experience of summarising such an event.

The questions asked of him covered:

Fracking in WA — with a group of about 15-20 lining the path into the hall to start with. Mr Shorten accepted a letter on behalf of the group presented by a young lad. (I was under the impression that WA had a secure moratorium on fracking, but apparently there is a renewed threat of it up the Swan Valley – why is it always good agricultural land that has to be fracked?)

Immigration — which he would like to reduce the number of people of Temporary Work Visas, by increasing educational opportunity for Australians, while at the same time maintaining migration, family reunions and refugee numbers. Refugees on Manus Island and Narue would never be settled in Australia, to do so would (apparently according to the security information Mr Shorten has) would just encourage ‘people-smugglers’ again, so taking refugees before they get to places where these smugglers operate is a much better idea. Also, restoring services to refugees and new migrants increases job opportunities for all.

Manufacturing in Australia — this would be improved by an ALP government insisting on local content, and for every contract awarded 1 in 10 jobs created would be an apprenticeship. He also pointed out that Australia still has some steel making ability, and he would like to see Australia also getting into using that together with recent lithium discoveries to create our own Lithium batteries (for example). He also pointed out that as an island nation, not to have our own mercantile fleet was a little strange, and it bothered him that our products were being carried by ships that did not have Australian ecological, or safety standards. An ALP government would stop the privatisation of TAFE and provide support for courses, as well as finance for small/medium businesses to employ apprentices.

Eating disorders — a request was made for more support for this under Medicare/NDIS, and Mr Shorten acknowledged that it had previously been raised and the ALP was looking to organise a Schedule Number for these conditions because Medicare currently does not provide sufficient support. He took the questioner’s contact details to pass on to … (I’ve forgotten the person who is dealing with the health portfolio, sorry)

Investments — Negative Gearing and Franking Credits were both raised. Mr Shorten pointed out that the Negative Gearing proposal of the ALP was grandfathered. If you have them now, it won’t change, but they would no longer be available as an investment option.
Franking Credits were originally to avoid double taxation on dividend income, which used to be taxed at both company and personal income levels. Paul Keating thought income should only be taxed once, hence the credits. But changes were made by the Howard government so that if someone just held shares, they got the credits even if there was no income from them. It was pointed out that it was still money from the government, even if it wasn’t a “pension” as such when that particular questioner insisted that he was not drawing a pension. Mr Shorten pointed out that the ALP would change the way those Franking Credits were issued, and increase access to other supports for those affected.
It was also pointed out that the ALP’s policy was to reduce the loopholes that enable multinationals to avoid paying taxes on profits made in Australia, and that concessions allowing them to ‘visit their money in the Caymen Islands and claim business deductions’ would also be reduced. “…that’s just not right”, he said.

Climate change — the ALP wants to have at least 50% Renewables by 2030, which would also reduce carbon emissions with the aim of 0% net emissions by 2050. This would lead to more jobs, and more opportunities for businesses to be developed. There was also mention of incentives to reduce emissions, but I missed part of what was said because of the applause.

Remote housing — Apparently funding has been cut for this by the ATM government over the past five years. Mr Shorten asked that we all write to our current MPs to point out that providing services and housing in remote areas encourages people into jobs that benefit them and their communities and being able to stay “on country” means that particularly Aboriginal Australians end up with fewer problems. It also means that there are jobs were the people are, rather than moving the people to where there are no jobs anyway.

Age Care — again it was pointed out that money had been cut from services and that by increasing funding to Medicare/NDIS, people who need the support would have it again.

Schools — This was asked twice; Catholic vs Public, and Private vs Public. Mr Shorten was very clear that because all parent paid taxes, they were entitled to get some support for the schools their children attended, but that not all schools need the same amount of support. In order for all Australian children to have the best chances in education, the ALP was proposing to reinvest $14.3 billion over ten years in both early childhood, primary and secondary education, as well as providing support for reducing/abolishing the privatisation of TAFE courses and un-capping some university courses. The investment would be base on the ‘rationality of need’, so that schools with higher needs would have greater amounts of support, including educational assistants, more teachers and more resources.

Medical cannabis — This was the last question of the night, and Mr Shorten admitted that it was a very fraught question. From the information that Mr Shorten had, he appreciated that medical cannabis could be very useful for chronic conditions, and appreciated deeply the temptations presented, particularly when children were in pain. The ALP would like to change the law on this following the recommendations of the TGA, but acknowledged that the process of getting those recommendations is a very long and expensive process.


Who gets to say I’m a citizen of this country?

I discovered today that this “government” of ours is currently holding a “conversation” about ‘Increasing the value of Australia Citizenship’?

Have a read of their blurb, then have a think about it, and remember that Mr Dutton has already admitted that he thinks it should be something that the Minister alone can rule on.

Here’s the blurb about it – the link to the survey is at the bottom of the page, just click on the “how to provide your views” button to get there

This is the direct link to the survey.

Courtesy of LeoneTwo over at The Pub, I also offer the answers of one Curmudgeon who has kindly provided his answers to this survey. It might give you a start, it will certainly inform your own conversations about this topic.

Personally I am not overly impressed. After all, I probably fall into the demographic that is likely to offend Mr Dutton (the Minister concerned) by objecting to his desire to remove citizenship from any person who has or is eligible for dual citizenship with such a remarkable lack of evidence or oversight by the law or judiciary.

I think I have read/watched too many dystopian stories not to want to fight against this brain-dead brain fart of the nut jobs in this country. The LNP’s polling must be absolutely rock bottom for them to start dragging out such anti-democratic, anti-liberal crap. And if this is an example of their desires, it is deservedly at rock bottom!

Please consider completing the survey. Perhaps we might be the pebble that starts the avalanche that starts Australia back to a more humane country again.

I’m getting sufficiently annoyed that I might just Do Something!

Seasoned Greetings

Seasoned Greetings

Forty years ago yesterday, my family landed ‘on Australia’ (it’s a big island, you live “on” islands). Forty years ago tonight was my first Christmas in this country and tomorrow morning will be the fortieth anniversary of my first experience of how Australians react to disasters.
In all that time there have been good things and not so good things happen to me and mine, but one things of which I have been very glad is the way in which my life has been “seasoned” by the collective outlook of the Australians who have become my family and my fellow citizens.

So a very Seasoned Greetings to all, and a hope that we have a big, bright, bold, generous and fair future!

An open letter to my representatives in Australia’s Federal Parliament

Australian Citizenship and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014

It is with great concern that I noticed that the above bill was given its second reading debate only this morning and would seem to be on track for debate in the Senate some time next week when the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee makes its report.

This bill I find very disturbing and particularly of concern for any Australian citizen who was not born here in Australia.

According to the summary, it would appear that anyone who incurs the disfavour of the Minister for Immigration could be bundled out of the country with no judicial review whatsoever. The explanatory memorandum seems to focus on individuals who have more recently arrived in Australia, however, as a citizen of over thirty years who is quite likely to offend the current Minister for a variety of reasons (mostly to do with his behaviour in dodging responsibility for those seeking refuge here), I feel I am justified in feeling concerned whether I could also be turfed out of my home and sent away from my family just because I have offended a person in power.

From what little I have been able to find on the reasons for this proposed legislation, it would appear that previous breeches of the Citizenship Acts have been dealt with under existing legislation, and the Minister probably already holds the power to revoke individual citizenships, all be it with judicial review and oversight – as it should be.

I am requesting that you represent me, as a citizen of this country who could be adversely affected by this legislation, to block or otherwise prevent the passage of this legislation through the Senate and find a way to ensure that judicial oversight is maintained particularly on any legislation or regulation changes that may impact on the desire of people migrating to Australia to become full citizens of this country.

Your employer and Australian citizen

PS – I haven’t been able to work out what other legislation is referred to in the bill, unless it is the current Migration Act and Regulations. But if it is a question of that legislation being changed to accommodate wording about spouses, surely that could be dealt with through a more general piece of legislation aimed at correcting those definitions in all Australian legislation without encumbering such changes with such meanly focused bill.

Power and responsibility?

I registered with for a variety of reasons at the beginning of the year, but I find it disturbing the increase in the number of petitions now being circulated about :

A) the Department of Immigration denying residential visas to contributing members of our society on the grounds that infants they brought with them many years ago or children who have subsequently been born here, when those children are diagnosed as having a physical or mental illness,

B) banks or insurance companies of one flavour or another denying payouts that, once embarrassed through public petition and media reports, are apparently granted. is probably not the only petition template provider that is starting to appear in the inbox, whether it be email, Facebook or some other platform (those are just the two I keep being forwarded so far). I have no idea what to do about it, or how to help (apart from signing the petitions).

But I was struck by a passing reference to one of Issac Asimov’s aphorisms this morning about it taking three generations for great things to rise and fall unless great care is taken with the education of the young.
In which case this current generation of politicians is definitely the third generation of conservatives since 1945 (Menzies/Fraser, Howard, Abbott – and there are some ALP types who fit right in there with them), and I think there is a growing consensus that this current government is more reflective of the ‘wastrel grandsons of old greatness’ concept than forgers of anything new.

Australia goes to “not-war” … again?

A letter to my Federal parliamentarians:

Dear Sirs,

Apparently while Parliament was not sitting over the weekend, Mr Abbott has declared that we are going to be gun-running for the Kurdish people fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq. He has indicated that we will apparently also be providing troops on the ground who may go into harm’s way should one of the planes being used for this gun-running activity be shot down and the crews need to be rescued.

I would appreciate a discussion in Parliament, and entered into the Parliamentary Record, to explain the reasons for Australia’s support to the Kurdish and other minority people of the region in this new fight, including an explanation of who and why the so called “Islamic State” developed and who originally funded it.
There may be a legitimate reasons why Australia should offer this support to these people – including provision of asylum if necessary. If there is, Australia may well have a role in providing that help, and Australians deserve to have those reasons explained.

But there are too many indicators that this is less about protecting people far away from our country, and more about protecting a Prime Minister and Government that is divisive, vindictive and determined to reduce our country to a mere resource to be gouged by others.

As Australians, I and my family deserve to be fully informed by our representatives as to the reasons why such risks by the Australian Defence Forces are to be taken.

Your employer,
*Not very impressed*

Who do you trust?

There are times when I wonder about where people get their information and why they trust it. This is not only a personal, but a professional question too.
_I_ have come to the conclusion that on balance, reportage about the world published by resources associated with Mr Murdoch are less likely to contain facts than the reportage from the Guardian or the ABC (though poor old Auntie is getting a bit questionable on occasion, she is still relatively fair in reporting). But it gets a bit much when I start finding myself looking for straight-forward reporting on my own country to Al Jazera, Der Speigal, Le Monde or the BBC.

I was recently asked by an acquaintance how I rated Prime Minister Abbott’s handling of the incident in the Ukraine, as they though he had done quite well. My response was that I felt he had performed adequately, but certainly not in a manner that deserved all the praise he was getting from some very insular sources.
I was then challenged, because my response was not in praise of Mr Abbott, that I was ignorant of the sterling job Australia’s Prime Minister, and Foreign Minister Bishop in particular, had done in getting the resolution up in the UN condemning Russia.

The problem is that it is not known that it was the Russians who shot down that plane. Perhaps it was Ukrainian separatists who are probably backed by Russia and like most in that delicate military situation, are more likely to think they know what they are looking at even when it isn’t (just ask the USS Vincennes).
And who is asking the question as to why it was flying through a known war zone any way?

The original wording of the resolution proposed by Australia’s Foreign Minister was apparently heavily edited before it was put forward. Not only that but by his own admission, Mr Abbot’s phone call to Mr Putin was not at first answered. Apparently some of the things he claimed last week upset the Russians, so it was only after he had snubbed our nearer neighbours at the South Pacific Forum because he had to sit by the phone for Mr Putin to call him back (eventually/apparently). And then the bellicosity is dialled back.

Yet I didn’t hear/read much of that information from the Australian media, or only after I had read it a couple of days earlier from other online sources. I find it a concern that I now start my daily news gathering of national news on non-Australian websites, and local news involves an increasing list of non-MSM sites based in my state. And mostly it is because I have had to retrain myself to constantly evaluate the content of those websites for veracity, likelihood and trustworthiness because of the amount of propaganda many of the mainstream media seem to be willing to spout today.

What’s wrong with this picture?

With regards to Mrs Abbott enjoying op-shopping, I am struck by several thoughts.
The first is that there is a perception that because Mr Abbott earns a lot of money (more than President Obama, I am led to believe) Mrs Abbott should have lots of resources to purchase things that are new. This story jars against that perception. Though I can think of more than one early primary educational establishment that stretches its budget by buying some resources from op-shops.
The next thought followed the first in that if Mr Abbott is ‘rich’ but Mrs Abbott is resorting to op-shops, then this could be evidence that he does not provide sufficient for her (and I know that she has her own income, but that is an actual comment I heard on the train today!).
The subsequent thought was why wouldn’t or shouldn’t Mrs Abbott enjoy op-shopping, or is it that is is yet another way to deprive poor people of resources – and I felt badly that an enjoyable experience that I have also enjoyed both when finances have been flush and when they have been tight should be denied to another woman who has the misfortune to be married to the guy who I think is really not competent to lead this country. Especially when it is obvious that the whole story is to promote something that is intended to promote charity op shops.

The last thought was to consider what type of “unicorn” is being highlighted by this sort of “reportage”. And that worries me because of what it betrays about the perceived roles of women by certain sections of the community.

The start of a new Senate term

I received an email from one of my Labor Senators this morning.
As there are now 18 cross benchers, I am tempted to feel a bit sorry for them as I contemplate both the schedule for the Senate to contemplate legislation and the mail-merge abilities of my word-processor *twinkle*
Yes, one can get the spreadsheets of addresses for both Senate and House of Reps from the Australian Parliament, just perfect for use with mail-merge programs.
Now to go write something to encourage those cross bench senators to vote the way I want them to. After all, they are supposed to be representing ME!

Despite all the bluster and claims of Senate obstruction, the Abbott Government has so far only presented a handful of Budget bills to the Senate.

Here’s the rundown on the current situation:
•   Appropriation Bills have passed the Senate.  We will never do what the Coalition did in 1975.
•   Scrapping the Schoolkids Bonus and the Low Income Superannuation Contribution. The Government sought to scrap Labor’s Schoolkids Bonus and Low Income Superannuation Contribution as part of its bill to repeal the Minerals Resources Rent Tax. Labor voted against this bill in the Senate and it was defeated in March.
•   Deficit reduction levy. This increases the top tax rate for people earning more than $180,000 a year. While it represents a broken promise, Labor did not oppose this measure in the Senate because it is targeted at those on very high incomes. The legislation has now passed Parliament.
•   GP and Medicines Taxes. Labor will vote against the new taxes of $7 per GP visit and $5 per chemist prescription when legislation comes into the Parliament.
•   Increasing university fees and student debt. Labor will vote against these measures.
•   Cutting indexation of pensions. We will vote against these cuts when legislation is brought into the Parliament.
•   Increasing petrol taxes. Labor will vote against the Government’s plans to increase fuel excises because of the cost of living impact on low and middle-income earners.

Dear Aunty

In the last few months I have become somewhat disappointed with the broadcasts on all your platforms in the area of political content.
It’s not that you are not providing an overview of the current political scene, it’s that it is so easy to pick holes in what is provided.

Interviewers do not ask the hard or awkward questions. Hosts ‘explain’ what guests mean, twist the meaning and then speak over their guest when the guest tries to correct them.
Broadcasts by one political ‘side’ of politics are often cut short for ‘technical reasons’ or non-news items so that one doesn’t see pronouncements by the ‘wrong side’ of the political spectrum.
Panels are often stacked by partisan participants of a single political persuasion with no apparent awareness that there might be another point of view so that the ‘conversation’ becomes a propaganda exercise and not a discussion.

This is so different to the political coverage of twenty years ago, or even ten years ago. You see, l can remember when you did what you do, only so much better than you are doing them now!

Dearest Aunty ABC, l know that it is difficult to serve such a diverse audience and that this current government is busy bullying you by threatening to withhold funding for one of this country’s cultural treasures. But for heaven’s sake, or at least that of Australians who prefer their viewing unadulterated by other commercial interests, or those who have no other broadcast media available. Could you please find the guts to actually ask the difficult questions and broadcast the full viewpoints that any government may not be happy about?

Remember, dear Aunty, the only reason bullies and dictators get away with their destructive behaviour because it is scary to stand up to them. But if they are not resisted, then all the good things in society will disappear and life will become short, brutal and mean again.
Not only that, but if you submit to the blandishments of an abusive person as you have done in the last ten years or so, you will find yourself in the same place as other victims of abuse, i.e. dead.

I would hate to see that, as I think the ABC is a significant part of what makes us Australians. So please, Aunty, pull on your flame-proof underwear and report the facts so that your audience once again can have an honest, factual and, above all, trustworthy basis on which to base our choices.

With concern and hope,
An ABC audience member