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Why politicians tell lies

Politicians lie to avoid telling the truth.

There seems to be a consensus that politicians lie in order to get elected. Those who tell the truth tend to lose elections.

The consensus theory says the electorate wants to be lied to because it does not want to hear the truth.

I challenge this theory. I can’t imagine anyone thinking ‘I want you to lie to me. Tell me there will be no income tax increase because I’ll vote for you and if you win and then increase my income tax that will be just fine. Thank you very much.’

How has the theory arisen, evolved and been accepted as the truth? I suspect it is because – like a lot of theories – it has been adopted without being questioned, is a cliché and has passed into legend.

It is more likely that a majority of the electorate votes for one person or party simply because they are fed up with the other lot.

During my childhood and schooling the importance of telling the truth was stressed as being important and valued. Lying was a sign of weakness, cowardice and disrespect. Lying was ultimately self-destructive.

I can imagine my experience was common for children then and still is today. Why would children brought up with these beliefs expect their peers to lie – especially if those peers were politicians?

If you were caught lying as a child there was always a punishment – the naughty corner, or worse. Politicians lie because they can get away with it – there is no punishment.

Another clichéd “theory” is that used car salespersons cannot be trusted – they are liars. I have seen surveys that put politicians, used car salespeople and journalists at the bottom of the pile of trustworthiness. That may be the general opinion of the majority, but is it based on personal experience or scientific testing? Are these beliefs valid, or are they clichés?

Consumer laws have been devised to protect people from shonky business practices, such as false or misleading advertising, shoddy goods, phony guarantees and warranties and the return of goods. No such laws exist to protect voters from a politician’s false promise – or lie.

Polly liars

The issue of politicians’ lies has been tested in USA courts. Earlier this year a US federal court struck down a 19-year-old Ohio state law that outlawed misleading election campaign advertising. In a 5-4 decision, the bench ruled that lying was an expression of a politician’s religion. Freedom to exercise your choice of religion is protected by the USA constitution.

There are various versions of the outcome of the hearing and ruling, but it seems the judges were of the opinion that politicians have the right to lie and it is up to the voters to sort out the truth.

This puts the voters in a difficult position, especially if their only source of information is a biased news media that pushes a particular party line and denigrates the opposite point of view.

The reference to religion is interesting and absurd. A parallel would be the case of a professional house painter. Say I contracted him to paint my house and he made a mess of it. I would not be able to sue because the painter was practicing his religion and suing him would amount to religious persecution.

In Australia there is no law that I am aware of that provides relief, compensation or penalty for a politician’s lies. The only recourse is to extract revenge at the next election, three or four years away.

The situation is not good, not reasonable or fair and is in conflict with another important democratic principle, that of “misleading the parliament”. This principle is one that politicians take very seriously, or I should say once took seriously. The penalty, for a minister, is resignation and the backbench. For a member it is resignation from the party and a move to the cross bench. Today, however, it is more often steadfast denial, stone-walling and closed ranks.

The conflict in the situation is that a party or politician may freely lie to the electorate during an election campaign but, upon being elected or re-elected, is under an obligation to always tell the truth to the people’s elected representatives in the parliament.

Finally, there’s a well-written and informative article on the subject by Warwick Smith, research economist at the University of Melbourne, in The Guardian. He can be found on Twitter: @RecoEco.

Smith’s article includes reference to Politifact findings on promises made during the 2013 Australian federal election campaign. Look for further Browse the Truth-O-Meter links in the right-hand column.

Update, 22 November, 2014

Geoff Heriot, director Heriot Media & Governance Pty Ltd and former journalist, has written a more learned piece on the problem for Inside Story. Heriot deals clearly with the comparison of consumer protection under commercial law. He proposes a solution.

Governing by fear alone

Tony Abbott’s so-called Liberal government seems determined to run Australia by fear.

For reasons it can’t adequately explain, it has begun introducing a raft of laws affecting the personal privacy of internet users and whistleblowers and raising the threat of jailing journalists who “disclose information” about special security operations.

There will soon be a new department of Homeland Security.

Why? Probably because the USA has one.

This “Liberal” government, with links to US Tea Party nutters, seems hell bent on making Australia look like the USA in every possible way.

Why? Because it can.

The Labor “Opposition” waved the Bills through before a public outcry caused Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to have second thoughts (or first thoughts maybe).

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The news media is not happy about what it sees as a threat to free speech and its cherished freedom of the Press.

Why? Because the security legislation does not specifically say journalists will be liable to 10 years jail, but it does not specifically exclude them either.

Read what the ABC’s former Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes has to say about Attorney-General George Brandis’ vagueness, waffleness and hypocrisy on the subject.

Read also what Brandis had to say about the former Labor government’s restrictions on personal freedoms in a speech he titled The Freedom Wars on 27 May, 2013, when the Liberals were in Opposition. Why are the “Liberals” such liars, such hypocrites?

Rupert Murdoch’s son and heir apparent Lachlan is not happy about the new security legislation either, expressing his thoughts on the ABC of all places. His father wants the ABC defunded, chopped up, sold off and disbursed. At least half of the Western world must be hoping Lachlan’s views on Press freedom and the use of its power will be more reasonable than his old man’s.

And when a real lawyer takes a closer look at a single section of the ASIO Act, Section 35P, we get some startling clarity.

The raft of Bills restricting citizens’ freedoms were preceded by a good old fear and scare campaign, and the radical Islamic movement ISIS (or Daesh) provided the catalyst.

The former Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, pounced on pictures and videos of Islamic terrorists beheading and displaying severed heads of their victims in Syria and Iraq. Some of the terrorists were Australian citizens.

This was followed on 18 September by raids by some 800 police on homes in Sydney and Brisbane. There were two arrests and a deadly plastic sword, a child’s toy, was seized (it’s since been returned).

War tweet

When it looked like the USA might act against ISIS in Iraq or Syria, Abbott couldn’t wait. He jumped the gun, sending fighter jets to a standby base in Saudi Arabia along with a few hundred SAS troops (commandos) to train or re-train Iraq’s army. The jets sat on the tarmac for weeks awaiting “legalities” and the SAS still has not entered Iraq. Some Iraqi military commanders have made it clear the SAS is not needed and not welcome.

Some may recall on election eve, 6 September, 2013, there was an embarrassing moment when it was accidentally revealed that the “Liberals” had some diabolical plan for spying on citizens who used the interwebs. Oops, that should not be in the policy statement. That’s a mistake.

Since then citizens have had to endure the farce of various government ministers trying to explain what metadata is and what it isn’t. Apparently it’s not data at all — it’s only an envelope.

Here is some clear-cut evidence of how Right-wing forces use lies, fear and smear to influence public attitudes. The speaker, Richard Berman, is a lawyer, a public relations expert, a former lobbyist and an anti-union campaigner.

Prior to all of the above we have had Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey’s campaign of fear and uncertainty, cut-backs, abolitions, new taxes and price rises all due to a “Budget Emergency!” which Hockey has since admitted was a farce.

There will be a federal election sometime in September 2016. I can’t wait for that one.

Families my foot!

The leader of the federal Liberal National party coalition government, Tony
Abbott, has made two statements about the Liberal party in the week that marks its 70th anniversary. The statements are similar. I am going to refer to remarks he has made about families and how the party’s policies affect them.

The first statement can be found here. The parts below that appear between quotation marks have been extracted from that statement. My comments appear, in Italics, after each statement. For a main reference I have relied on a running blog being kept by Sally McManus: Tracking Abbott’s Wreckage.

“Though the times have changed since 1944, the Liberal party has had a consistent philosophy: we stand for the citizen over the official, for the community over the state and for the family over everything.

“We believe in the aspirations of people – because as Menzies reminded us, it’s families and households, small business people and tradies who are ‘the backbone of our nation’.”

The underlining in the above sentences is mine. I can find no evidence that Abbott (who is also the self-appointed Minister for Women and Minister for Indigenous Affairs) has done a single thing to benefit families. Sally’s Wreckage blog is itemised with numerous examples of the exact opposite. Families are affected by everything from delaying Indigenous recognition to cutting education programs and bodies, abolishing the school kids’ bonus, eliminating or reducing Family Tax Benefits A and B, messing with superannuation and pensions, punishing the jobless (especially younger people), sacking thousands of Public Service staff and abolishing numerous agencies. Other Abbott policies are increasing the burden on families. The fuel excise (a broken promise of no new taxes) is adding to costs. Stressful changes are being made to the school curriculum (again), to the “choice” of schools and to the cost of university education. The replacement of secular school counselors with clerical counselors is adding to stress in some families. I would not allow a cleric anywhere near my kids, if I had any.

Larissa  Waters tweet

This severe reconstruction of the fabric of Australian society is being done because the Abbott government claims (and it has been thoroughly discredited by scores of economists and other experts) there is “a Budget Emergency!”, or “a Labor Debt and Deficit Disaster”, or it’s cleaning up “Labor’s Budget mess”. One assumes that when the debt (one of the lowest in the developed Western world) has been cleared some of the abolished bureaus and cancelled programs will be restored. An enterprising journalist should ask Abbott what he will restore.

“We’re helping families to get ahead – and encouraging small business people to employ more.”

A bald statement, with no facts or evidence provided. When a politician makes a statement like that some people will be inclined to believe it. ‘Oh good, Abbott’s helping my family get ahead.’ How exactly? There is absolutely no evidence for the statement. And why is it related to the second phrase when there is no connection at all?

Small business people may be families too; I know several who are. But how are they being “encouraged to employ more” (people; they are known as people, Abbott)? One way may be by abolishing red tape — regulations and consumer safeguards. Another may be by abolishing penalty rates — more work on Sunday, for less pay. Or by removing the incentive paid to older workers who return to work and giving that money to the employer instead (Sally’s blog, item 219). Businesses are also being helped to employ more people by an increase in the number of lower paid workers on 457 visas.

Another way families and small businesses are “helped” is by delaying Labor’s planned increase to superannuation contributions. Abbott’s government claims people are better off by having spending money in their pockets now rather than putting that money, and more, into their superannuation. The money soon ends up in the pockets of small business. Right there we have the economic stupidity and the ideology of these neoCons writ large. The policy doesn’t necessarily help families, long accustomed to adjusting buying habits; it helps small business (more sales, less paid into employees’ super); it absolutely fails to address the government’s major whinge about the future sustainability of pensions. This change alone will cost families thousands and that will affect them in their retirement.

Cartoon by Peter Brookes.

Cartoon by Peter Brookes.

“The Government’s Economic Strategy is about giving people freedom and more incentive to make the most of themselves. This is the best way to grow our economy and reduce the cost of living burden on families and on businesses.”

Again, I can find no evidence of how the government’s economic strategy will give people freedom and more incentive to make the most of themselves. This looks like a total nonsense that sounds good providing you don’t think about it too much. I can’t think of any incentive this government has provided so that people can make the most of themselves. The freedom of people to be bigots and abuse one another (re-writing of Section 18C) fell on its face. Plans to deregulate university fees and charge commercial rates on student loans will work as a disincentive to make the most of yourself. How will that help families? How will it help business and industry already complaining about the poor educational standard of graduates?

Abbott must be referring to this statement, which is big on waffle and rhetoric but light in actual detail. It refers to Australia’s biggest ever infrastructure program (at $50 billion), but also to the clearing of a backlog of environmental approvals for projects worth a whopping $500 billion. These must be coal and other mineral projects, for a market that is suffering falling prices and a world economy that appears to be heading into recession. Whoopee for fly-in-fly-out families, if they keep their job, the nature of which is also causing stress. The same statement refers to trade deals with partners like Korea, Japan and China and the promise of more jobs. They will have to be low paid jobs to compete with those countries. Our ability, capacity and inclination to value-add has been tossed aside, mainly in favour of mining mining mining.

Abbott’s second 70th anniversary statement is framed as an opinion piece: More Freedom a Central Pillar of the Liberal Party.

“Menzies argued that a successful middle class is in everybody’s interest because it is the ‘backbone of the nation’. Hence, the party he founded is not a party of big government, or vested interest, but one that stands for the citizen over the official, the community over the state and the family over everything.”

So Menzies (who didn’t found the Liberal party, but he was chosen to lead it by the men who did form it) argued the middle class is the backbone of the nation. In Abbott’s first statement, “families and households, small business people and tradies” are the backbone of the nation. But the family is still uber alles — poor struggling family.

“As John Howard subsequently observed, in this country, the Liberal party is the custodian of both the liberal and the conservative traditions. As liberals we support lower taxes, smaller government and greater freedom. As conservatives we support the family and values that have stood the test of time.” My underlining again.

So Abbott thinks he’s liberal and conservative at the same time. That’s funny because former PM Malcolm Fraser, for whom I have some respect, says the Liberals who elected Abbott didn’t want a Liberal, “they wanted a Conservative”. Still, if you’re pumping out garbage for the consumption of the party faithful or any blockhead who’ll listen, any old garbage will do so long as it sounds good and you don’t listen too closely or stop to think about what you are hearing.

“Under Menzies, home ownership was no longer the privilege of a minority, but came within reach of most families.”

Um, I wouldn’t mention that one if I were you Abbott, especially if you are making a comparison with today and the job your mob is doing.

“Stronger alliances; more trade; better universities; more modern infrastructure; a stronger economy … ”

“… more choice in schools”. More privatised schools?

“… with a stronger middle class as the result still characterises the work of Liberal governments”.

And so the rhetoric and slogans roll on, without detail, explanation, justification and certainly without any questioning by the gutless mainstream news media (MSM).

“The Liberal party believes that empowered citizens can do more for themselves than government will ever do for them.”

Isn’t that a doozy? What does it mean? It could mean that empowered citizens could march into parliament and kick these frauds all the way over the horizon. But that won’t happen. Families are too busy trying to figure out how to pay their bills now and into this glorious future that’s supposed to be at the end of all this misery.

An empowered citizen might be fresh out of university, 23 years old and saddled with a life-long debt for a piece of paper that will not necessarily guarantee work, not even flipping flippin’ hamburgers. They might manage to pay the debt and the interest, but will they be able to save a deposit for a home of their own, even though they will be able to work until they are 70 before dropping out into a life of near poverty, with no savings and totally screwed on superannuation?

I don’t know how these present or future impoverished families will be able to afford a university education for their kids if the “Liberal” party’s policy to deregulate university fees and charge commercial interest rates on student loans goes ahead. Paying a rumoured $100,000 or more for some degrees shouldn’t bother future mothers too much because in the opinion of education minister Chris Pyne women don’t want to study law or dentistry.

And the re-introduction of the fuel excise (another broken promise re no new taxes) won’t bother poor families too much because, in the opinion of Treasurer Joe Hockeysticks “poor people don’t own cars or don’t drive them very far if they do”.

Hockey in lights

So much for caring about families. Wealthy families, maybe, but certainly not poor ones.

“Along with our Coalition partner, the National party, we understand that today’s reforms are tomorrow’s prosperity.”

Another doozy, just like the previous one. “Today’s reforms” are largely about turning Big Business loose to rape and pillage and freeing bigots to abuse and incite division and hatred. Deflections (along with another war in Iraq) to take people’s minds off what’s really going on. Ask yourself what you think will happen when the debt’s paid off. Free beer and skittles every afternoon? Not bloody likely.

“That’s why this government is addressing Labor’s legacy of debt and deficits. We must control debt before debt controls us. Already Australians are paying over $1 billion a month in interest and it will rise to $3 billion a month within ten years if no action is taken.

“There’s no fairness in increasing the tax burden and the debt burden on the next generation of Australians.”

Oh, I agree, wholeheartedly. One tiny detail is missing here. Since coming to office the Treasurer, whom I affectionately call Eleventy Joe Hockeysticks, has doubled the debt. Why have you done that Joe? Why did you scream blue murder about a “Budget Emergency!” and then quickly double the debt? Why did you tell a New Zealand audience there never was a “Budget Emergency!”? 

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“With more Australians living longer and healthier lives, we have to make our health and welfare systems more sustainable. This means small changes now so that the strains don’t weigh down future generations.”

Finally we have something that is close to a truthful and honest statement, except for that little phrase “small changes”. Health experts and economists, again, say Abbott, a former health minister, is wrong about the sustainability of health care and welfare. If certain companies and individuals paid the taxes they should be paying, health and welfare would be even more sustainable. Another “small change” is a tiny $7 patient payment (co-payment) out of families’ pockets when they visit the doctor, to help with Medicare “sustainability” — and another colossal lie. No one can explain how $2 of the $7 going to the doctor and the remaining $5 into a Medical Research Future Fund is going to offset the cost of Medicare — no one, not even Eleventy Joe or a professor of economics banging away on a supercomputer.

New health care charges

The Economics Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins, uses official figures to demonstrate that the Abbott government’s Health spending crisis is not real.

Incidentally, the family has already paid for its medical care. You would think Treasury funds were coming out of the “Liberal” party’s pocket. And that $7 co-payment — it’s part of what’s left after income tax was paid. There’ll be another charge for prescriptions and technical medical procedures, like an MRI scan — scarily expensive.

I sometimes lie in bed at night, unable to sleep because I can’t figure out why this government, which promised to do after the election what it said it would do before the election and promised to be an adult government, has to be such a devious, back-flipping, cynical, duplicitous, lying and untrustworthy mob.

I am sure there are enormous electoral advantages in speaking plainly and honestly with the electorate and telling them exactly what you will and will not do. I have a clear memory of Abbott saying there would be pain in the years ahead, but that was early in the false election campaign that began early in 2013. A focus group must have told him that he probably shouldn’t repeat it.

“Far sighted governments leave the next generation of Australians a stronger country than they inherited.”

Former Liberal PM John Howard did that, I’m told. To do it, he sold everything he could get hold of, including the gold reserve, the silverware and the kitchen sink — on the cheap too, I’m told. Another “Liberal” government, the LNP of Queensland, is determined to flog State assets even after spending millions on a referendum that turned out to be overwhelmingly against the idea. You will have the policy that ideology dictates, not the policy the majority votes for.

“From Menzies to Fraser to Howard and to the current government, the Liberal party has been the party that gives more freedom, offers more choice and tries to take the burdens off families and businesses.”

Well, you can have a lot of fun with that one. “More freedom” — how, exactly? What? “Offers more choice.” Not in school counselors, or motor cars, or job contracts, or going to war again. And after all the bullshit about families, the Liberal party “tries to take the burden off families”. For Christ’s sake Abbott, please try harder. 

Kleptocracy

Abbott lies in letter to pensioners

Liberal government leader Tony Abbott has lied in a personal letter to Australia’s 1.7 million pensioners. The mail-out cost $1.2 million.

His letter says claims that the government is cutting pensions are “… not true. There are no cuts to pensions”.

On the eve of the 2013 federal election Abbott said there would be “no changes to pensions”. But the federal budget of May 2014 revealed that future pension increases would be indexed to the consumer price index (CPI) instead of the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI), or the male average weekly earnings.

This will have the effect of reducing the rate of pension increases over time — a change to pensions and a cut in the value of the twice yearly increases.

A meme (picture story) that circulates on social media,

A meme (picture story) that circulates on social media.

It amounts to another broken election promise and another lie by a man who seems to be a pathological liar.

Here is the full text of Abbott’s letter, which is undated and carries his signature:

A MESSAGE TO AUSTRALIA’S AGE PENSIONERS

“In recent weeks, you will have noticed an increase in your pension.

This increase will help you keep up with the cost of living increases.

For single maximum rate pensioners, the pension will increase by $11.50 a fortnight. For pensioner couples on a maximum rate, it means an additional $17.40 a fortnight.

This is the increase for people on the maximum rate and the exact change in your own pension payment will depend on your individual circumstances.

This increase in the pension comes on top of the benefit you will receive from scrapping the Carbon Tax.

Not only are power costs falling because of the repeal of the Carbon Tax, but you will continue to keep the fortnightly Energy Supplement that was provided as compensation to help cover the costs of the Carbon Tax.

That means the Energy Supplement is now real cost of living relief, not just compensation.

Furthermore, the Pension Supplement will remain and will continue to be indexed.

There have been claims that the Government is cutting pensions. This is not true.

There are no cuts to pensions.

I want to reassure you that the pension will continue to rise in March and September every year.

In coming years, the numbers of people on pensions will increase as more people retire. Australians are living longer and healthier lives, so the Government is determined to ensure that our pension system is sustainable over the long term.

It is one of the reasons why the Government is taking steps to bring the Budget back under control.

If you need more information on pension rates and thresholds, please visit humanservices.gov.au.”

===========

Abbott writes: “There have been claims that the Government is cutting pensions. This is not true.But it is true! It just hasn’t happened yet. From September 2017, the twice yearly aged pension increases will be linked to the CPI — generally a lower index than either the PBLCI or male average weekly earnings. The government is doing this because it wants to reduce the size of the fortnightly pension bill.

So there it is, a CHANGE to pensions (a broken election promise) and a lower rate of increase in the future — a CUT.

Abbott’s letter also states: “There are no cuts to pensions.” That statement is true. But there will be, from September 2017 — if this “Liberal” government is re-elected in 2016.

In responding to claims that the government is cutting pensions, Abbott has missed a rare opportunity for his austerity focused administration to win some Brownie points. Because the index used for the September 2014 aged pension increase was the PBLCI, pensions rose by a greater amount than they would have if the CPI had been used.

The September increase was $11.50 for singles and $17.40 for couples. These increases would have been $9.30 for singles and $14 for couples, which is 19% less, if the CPI had been used. That potential reduction gives an idea of the extent of loss to pensioners, or savings to the federal budget from September 2017.

These details are explained in an article in The Australian Financial Review, another article in The Sydney Morning Herald and in this article and this article on the website of the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of NSW.

Abbott’s letter refers to the Energy Supplement. This was introduced by the Gillard Labor government to compensate households for energy price and other increases due to the Carbon Price (which the Liberals insist on calling a tax).

It is peculiar that the present Liberal government promised to retain the compensation while at the same time insisting that there was a “Budget emergency”. The “tax” that provided the revenue for the compensation has now gone (an election promise kept), the compensation remains (an election promise kept), but there have been wholesale abolitions of departments, sackings of thousands of employees due to a “Budget emergency” that has been downgraded to “Labor’s debt and deficit disaster” and recently “Labor’s Budget mess” by a Treasurer, Joe Hockey, who told a New Zealand audience that there was no “Budget Emergency”. Where is the truth?

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The paragraph and sentence following “every year” in Abbott’s letter provide clues to the truth. Because the numbers of pensioners are increasing and they are living longer, the government is CHANGING the pension indexing to a lower rate (a broken election promise) to make it sustainable into the future. However, it does not have the decency to make a truthful, clear and honest statement about what it is doing and why.

The government’s Bill to change the pension indexation to the CPI alone was due to be debated in the Senate on 23 September, 2014. That debate was delayed (probably due to the government negotiating with crossbench senators). However, the government’s proposed pension CHANGES were debated on that day in a Matters of Public Interest (MPI) debate. The comments of Senator Mason (LNP, Qld), parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, are either hilarious or sick, especially his claim that Labor governments wanted to “eat the rich” but have since realised there are not enough of them so they have decided to eat the children of the future instead — a metaphor, of course.

Follow the debate by clicking on next fragment in the left-hand column.

In another blog I comment on Abbott’s statement on the 70th anniversary of the Liberal Party of Australia and his references to families, family values and the reality of the impact on families of the Liberal party’s policies since its election in September last year.

New Progressive parties offer hope

Two new Progressive political parties offer hope for change in Australia’s political governance.

For too long the country has laboured under the influence of what can only be loosely described as Left and Right political philosophies. Those philosophies have never been rigidly fixed and — since the mid-’70s — have been shifting.

Today we have the Liberal Party of Australia reaffirming Margaret Thatcher’s dry economics of some decades ago while at the same time echoing the nutty and radical Tea Party faction of the USA’s Republican party and even beginning to resemble a neoFascist State with increasingly Draconian limitations on freedoms and a cacophony of dog whistling. It resembles a three-ring circus.

Then we have the Australian Labor Party, drifting further and further to the Right under the rudderless leadership of a limp lettuce leaf — to the dismay of its rusted-on Left wing who cry out for reform because they don’t have the wits to look around for an alternative.

On the ABC’s RN Breakfast show this morning former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard said for decades Australian voters had been divided about 40-40% Liberal and Labor, with the remaining 20% swinging in the breeze. This had recently changed, he said, to 30-30%, with a larger 40% of swinging voters. This 40% — some of which is taken up in a bewildering array of small and usually special interest parties — holds the keys to the outcome of future elections.

There is little hope that either Liberal or Labor are going to change any time soon.

Two new parties — Australian Progressive Party and Australian Progressives do offer hope for a significant change in Oz politics. They claim they will govern for all Australian interests. Appealing to most of that 40% will not be enough — they will have to get votes from the 60% Lib/Labor who are rusted on to their historical favourites.

And they are not the only new parties. There is the Pirate party, with a clear agenda and broad policies, but an unfortunate name choice that conjures up an image of the skull and crossbones and all that goes with that.

Two versions of the Australian Democrats are maneuvering. Australia’s greatest political tragedy, I think, because AusDems seems to be just what this country needs.

And, of course, there is the Greens. They also have a broad range of policies, much broader than most realise because most don’t take the trouble to look. Here is a list of references to the bigger political parties’ policies. The Greens probably suffer the most from a bad Press.

Indeed, the bad Press — the news media in general, commercial and public funded — is the real holder of the keys that unlock the minds of the 40% and the other hangers-on.

Without getting the news media on side, all of these new political parties stand little chance of immediate success — even if they do appeal to the disaffected inhabitants of social media, whose numbers are small.

Another problem to be overcome is recruitment. A few months ago I launched The Centre Party of Australia, initially named The Third Party as a working title. Recruitment was too slow, but I think I gave up too easily. I came to the conclusion (rightly or wrongly) that people no longer commit themselves to political parties — another sign of disaffection with existing parties.

The most active people who signed on wanted to organise the structure and the policies. That was interesting for a while, until you realise that without members — and lots of them — you are organising only to avoid washing the dishes or doing some gardening. Water under the bridge, but a useful learning exercise.

I firmly believe that the federal election of 2016 will be the best opportunity in a very long time* for any new political party to really smash through and grab dozens of seats. A solid grass roots organisation working in several dozen carefully chosen electorates will do the job. Cathy McGowan’s campaign for the Victorian federal seat of Indi provides the model. Incumbent Sophie Mirabella won the primaries by a long shot, but the campaigning of McGowan’s supporters won the preferences and the seat by a margin of about 435 votes.

* I say it’s the best opportunity because Liberal leader Tony Abbott’s ideological wrecking ball has only swung through the scenery once and there’s much more to come. I can’t see how he’ll pull the wool over the electorate’s eyes a second time (damn them to hell if he does). And Labor has allowed itself to be cuckolded to such an extent that many people I have come to know and thought were rusted on are beginning to see the light and are looking for a change.

Getting the news media on side remains the greatest challenge. It will take nothing less than an internal revolt — something like the one staged by the editorial staff of The Australian to protest owner Rupert Murdoch’s campaign against Gough Whitlam in the mid-’70s. And it’s not just the news media that needs to be tamed, woken up or pulled towards the centre. It’s the morning talk shows, the panel shows, the couch sessions and even the comedians — all capable of tearing a political party to pieces.

News media ignores Abbott’s moral failure

By Barry Tucker

The News media should be all over Tony Abbott’s latest expenses rort. The implications of this moral failure are more serious than sending warplanes to Iraq.

The affair was mentioned in newspapers, on TV and radio (I can confirm hearing it on the ABC RN Breakfast show). However, it was merely mentioned and then dropped as an issue.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull told ABC’s RN he could not recall Abbott telling his party room colleagues that he staged a visit to the Peter MacCallum cancer clinic in order to claim expenses for attending a fund raiser in Melbourne the previous day. Mr Turnbull told RN: “He did not say that to the party room.”

However, long-time Canberra political journalist Michelle Grattan, in an article in TheConversation today, has confirmed that Abbott had told his party room meeting about the rort. Grattan has a reputation for careful fact checking.

Grattan wrote: “… Abbott said he’d had a Monday night fund raiser in Melbourne that was followed next morning by a visit to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to bring the trip within official entitlements”.

So, the news media mentioned the incident and has now moved on. I think this shows poor news judgment. When you consider the past fuss over MPs rorting their travel entitlements, the treatment handed out to former LNP MP Peter Slipper for accepting roles of Deputy Speaker and Speaker (he was shopped to the Federal Police for a $900 infringement, which normally would be handled quietly under the Minchin Protocol) and the widespread criticism of the government’s harsh 2014 budget, this open admission by Abbott becomes a serious news story.

The situation shows that the rorting continues and the news media is not prepared to hold the rorters to account.

It could be argued that Abbott simply continued his long-standing practice of arranging trips that have a multiple purpose in order to justify claiming an MP’s travel entitlements. In this case it is quite clear that Abbott arranged the visit to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Clinic in order to claim expenses for his visit to Melbourne for the previous day’s Liberal party fund raiser. The visit to the Peter Mac served no other practical purpose. He made an announcement about a $64 million package to enhance security against terrorism on Australian soil and had a Q&A with journalists. The announcement could have been done by press release or by his deputy or another minister.

Abbott’s salary of more than $500,000 a year (plus benefits) is the highest in the western world (former Labor PMs Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd mark II received the same amount). The fact that he constantly tells lies, misleads the public and cheats to defraud the taxpayer tells us all we need to know about his moral values. It needs to be remembered that, as government leader, Abbott has the power to unilaterally commit Australian troops to war.

The incident raised the usual storm on social media. Here is one Tweeter’s reaction:

Abbott the Rorter

Abbott’s exploitation of his parliamentary expense account since his days as Opposition Leader from 1 December, 2009 have been a rich field for Twitter meme creators:

Abbots sports rorts

Abbott 4mill expenses

The total figure in the above meme is $4,264,065.

The federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey, provides a similar example of rorting. The cigar smoking millionaire has brought down an extremely harsh budget, one that takes from the unemployed, the ill, the disabled, the homeless, the elderly, parents and students while giving to wealthy individuals and industries. He says his budget is fair. Those who are hard up he calls “leaners”. Those who are well off he calls “lifters”.

Joe Hockey claims an MP’s accommodation expenses of $270 a night for sleeping in a $1.5 million Canberra home owned by family members. That’s $1,350 for five nights in what is virtually his own place. The taxpayer’s are buying this joint for the Hockey family.

Again, Hockey is merely taking advantage of the MPs entitlements as laid down in the rule book. While slamming those less well off as being “leaners”.

There is clearly something wrong here. That is why the news media is wrong to let go of this issue and of these two examples.

Abbott’s admission to the party room (stated in response to criticism for being one hour late for the party room meeting) is a clear statement of deliberate and premeditated fraud. Both Abbott and Hockey should be removed from office as quickly as possible in the best interest of the Parliament and the people.

This article was originally posted in TruthInNewsMedia, under the same title. The memes above did not appear in the original story.

Update, 5 September, 2014

MPs’ expense claims were in the news late last year. They involved Abbott, his Treasurer, Hockey, and Agriculture Minister and deputy National party leader Barnaby Joyce and Labor MP Mark Dreyfus. Those cases mainly involved MPs claiming expenses for attending the weddings of friends and colleagues.

A series of such questionable claims culminated in the case of WA Liberal MP Don Randall, who claimed some $5,000 expenses for a flight to Cairns with his wife. The couple later bought a property in the area. Randall said he had made the trip for a meeting related to party matters.

The affair received a lot of publicity then but the news media went silent on the subject of MPs’ expenses, until Abbott’s recent incredible statement to his party room.

The federal parliamentary library has copied this report, filed by its Electronic Media Monitoring Service. The sequence of events, the outcome, the comments by the Department of Finance and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) are remarkable when compared to the treatment that was dished out to former Speaker Peter Slipper.

There are some questions our illustrious MSM will not deal with. Eg: Who shopped Peter Slipper? Why did the AFP not refer the matter back to the Finance dept? Why was the Minchin Protocol not applied to Slipper’s case?

In another case of pollies’ expenses and nasty politics, the Victorian government this week failed to have renegade MP Geoff Shaw expelled.

Premier Denis Napthine tabled the motion to expel former Liberal Shaw because his apology to Parliament about misuse of his parliamentary entitlements lacked sincerity.

The ruckus surrounding Shaw has cost the government a Speaker and disrupted the business of Parliament for months, even leading to its extraordinary suspension for a period.

In the UK, the Conservative former PM Margaret Thatcher (deceased) lit a powder keg when she allowed MPs generous leeway in claiming expenses in lieu of another pay rise (which are always unpopular for MPs). This went unremarked for some time but eventually exploded when the British Press (not as much under the thumb as ours) started to produce stories about the rorting. The leeway extended to outrageous claims for installation of swimming pools and maintenance of MPs’ properties.

UPDATE, June 7, 2017
Here is a long list of aspects of Tony Abbott’s character, compiled by a former SMH journalist who maintains the blog Australians for Honest Politics and tweets under the tag of @Thefinnigans.

Where are we going?

We know there’s a problem with the quality of Western democracy today. Things are always changing and not necessarily for the better.

Corporations are increasing their influence on political policy making. What could the outcome be if you project this forward? The end of democracy is a real possibility.

What did voting for Tony Abbott get? It did not get what he promised during the 2013 election campaign. Australia got the most cynical and duplicitous federal leader of all time.

We got the implementer of the policies of the corporate-funded Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which I believe is the policy-forming body of the Liberal party.

At the same time we are engaged in a running battle with radical Islam, which began during the 1970s when the West began messing with oil-rich Arab and essentially Islamic countries.

We are also seeing the resurgence of evangelical Christian religions. This is either a counter to the expansion of Islam or it is the natural companion of Conservative politics, allied to the power of property over people.

If radical Islam interfers with corporate interests or ambition (tick that one) there will be hell to pay: full-on “religious” war.

The commercial news media has succumbed to the battle for control of the truth.

If the people cannot find a way to regain control of their democracies (ok, questionable that they ever did), we will be right there, in the middle of George Orwell’s insightful 1984, with no idea of how or when we will ever enjoy freedom again.

Campaign for news media audits

Should the news media be audited for bias? The taxpayer-funded ABC was recently audited by at least two individuals, in separate inquiries, both of which found little cause for concern.

These inquires were ordered following persistent complaints, from the Conservative Right wing of political opinion, about bias. These complaints were part of the long-running campaign of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to have the ABC broken up and sold to private enterprise. Rather than putting forward a thoroughly researched economic case for selling the ABC, News Corp relied upon a biased and dishonest campaign. The company did not argue for more control of bias by politically oriented radio shock jocks or commercial TV programs.

This attitude and behaviour of News Corp is itself a case for audits of the bias in political news and commentary in newspapers. In a democracy like ours, the public should expect that it is being honestly and accurately informed, without bias. If the ABC can be audited for bias, then why not audit newspapers and commercially owned radio and TV? To audit one and not the others is bias itself.

The ABC audits received a broad coverage before and after the events. You will find the results reported in mUmBRELLA, Crikey.com, on ABC websites, the NoFibs.com website and elsewhere.

Former teacher, single mother and business manager Margaret Sinclair has produced a petition calling on the federal Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to institute audits of bias in political news reporting in commercial newspapers, radio and TV.

Attempts to reform newspaper reporting, in particular, are generally unsuccessful because the newspaper proprietors, editors and journalists fight so hard against it — scaring governments into backing down. We saw an excellent example of this in Australia early last year. The ball was fumbled by a boofheaded Communications Minister who tossed the Bills on the table with a “take it or leave it” attitude.

In that case the newspapers howled “Freedom of the Press” and one group, News Corp, characterised the minister as a dictator. The minister wanted to appoint an overseer to ensure the newspapers adhered to regulations they had already agree to. No major matter, but the papers really beat that up that aspect.

What they (News Corp in particular) were really objecting to was one of the five Bills that provided for the appointment of a Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA). This person would rule on the wisdom or otherwise of further consolidation and mergers of news media interests. It has since been revealed that the ultra Right-wing Conservative government elected in September last year is likely to loosen media ownership rules. It is thought this is designed to allow Rupert Murdoch in particular to prop up his loss-making Australian newspaper interests with new cross-media ownership (radio and TV).

Murdoch’s political activity in Australia is far from transparent. His newspapers are far more obviously biased than they accuse the ABC of being. Their opinion that the ABC is biased against the Right is not honestly held — it is part of a campaign that has the support of the Liberal party’s policy formation unit, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

The situation makes Margaret Sinclair’s petition a long-overdue and worthwhile endeavour.

You will find much more on the campaign against the ABC and biased reporting in the news media in general on my other website: Truth in News Media.

Follow me, @btckr, on Twitter, if you want to.

Understanding Liberal ideology

I thought it might be useful to explain what is happening in Australian politics.

First up, these “Liberals” are not the Liberals you once knew. They are US Republican-style Tea Party fruitcakes. They get a kick out of punishing people. Bible bashers, but people who use religion as a tool to keep the uneducated, the unaware in line.

Australia’s principle source of export income is in mining: iron ore, bauxite (for aluminium), coal, gas (offshore and from “fracking”) and uranium yellow cake. These industries are polluting at source (mining) and during manufacture: steel products, aluminium, electricity and nuclear power plants (mainly via cooling ponds).

A severe environment and pollution control program would impact on these industries at every level. It seems highly likely that they are contributing to global warming via carbon pollution. The Republicans in the USA and the Liberals and their National allies in Australia are pro industry, commerce, business and do not like the idea of restrictions or additional costs or penalties being imposed on those industries. Therefore, they believe, Global Warming, Climate Change or any kind of pollution is nonsense — not to mention the dreadful impact on profits of having to clean up their mess.

So Abbott fought Labor and the Greens, with the help of Rupert Murdoch — who is a US citizen and a Republican and therefore doesn’t like anything that impacts upon profit.

Once Abbott & Co Pity Ltd gained office they set about pulling apart everything the defeated Labor government had done in regard to making carbon polluters pay, monitoring climate change and researching and encouraging alternate, renewable (non-polluting) energies. There may be an enormous price to pay for this reckless vandalism — time will tell.

Abbott knows that “gold plating” of the electricity delivery system (the poles and wires) is a major cause of electricity price rises. Abbott knows that the decision of east coast States to export gas has forced domestic suppliers to charge higher world parity prices. Abbott knows that crazy deals between State governments and the energy regulator richly reward electricity supply companies for “gold plating”, or over-development of the supply system. This is all about profits for Big Business, of course. But Abbott doesn’t want to talk about that. He prefers to talk about “this toxic carbon tax”.

The carbon price (it’s not a tax, it’s a price on carbon, the first stage of a carbon emissions trading scheme) that Australian industry has become accustomed to paying (they pass on the cost to consumers, who are compensated — some actually make money out of it) actually puts Australian industry ahead of other countries that haven’t priced carbon but one day will have to. Abbott doesn’t want to talk about that either.

Abbott wants to talk about a “Budget Emergency!” Abbott wants to talk about “Labor’s debt and deficit disaster”. Both of these so-called crises are a figment of Abbott & Co Pity Ltd’s campaign of lies and distortion. People who know more about Australia’s economic situation than either Tony Two Face the IPA Hit Man or Joe Eleventynomics Hockeysticks say Australia’s debt is not a problem. Australia is not a company, it’s not a business. These Tea Party “economists” are merely book-keepers, or amateur accountants — there’s your problem.

So a “Budget Emergency” and “Labor’s debt and deficit disaster” is a manufactured nonsense to justify a savage Budget that hammers the elderly, the infirm, the sick, the poor, the handicapped, the unemployed, veteran’s kids, single mums, students from struggling families — anyone who’s pretty much down, can’t fight back or has hopes of climbing out of the hole and becoming one of the aspirational ones.

Abbott is one of those creatures who believes a certain class of people (his “aspirationals”) are entitled to everything they can get their hands on while others are not. Others must work until they are 70, then retire on their meagre superannuation funds or what’s left of them after the money-loving smarties of the Abbott clan (fund managers and financial advisers) have stolen their share. And just for good measure, Abbott is slugging the super of low income learners. It’s contrary and contradictory because it cuts across other measures and urgings and beliefs but, hey — there’s a reason why they call him The Mad Monk.

The “Liberals” and others, to be fair, believe in “small government”. Apart from the obvious question of “Why?”, there’s the question of how small is small? Those struggling people in the list above are paid out of Treasury. Public Service employees are also paid out of Treasury. So, the more government stuff you can get rid of, the smaller you can make the government and the smaller the amount of money those long suffering rich bastards have to hand over to the Treasury. That’s what that is all about. Oh, and fewer — preferably none — nosy government departments sticking their business into your business.

This means all those PS people have to find a job somewhere else. Abbott has a plan for that. It looks like this: “We have a plan to create a million jobs.” What is that plan? It’s this: “We have a plan to create a million jobs.” Phew, thank god for that.

Abbott believes rich people should not have to pay taxes, beyond maybe just a little bit. After all, they employ people on court ordered basic cost of living type wages. Those people pay taxes (it’s taken before they can get their grubby little hands on it) and that’s how it should be. Wage rises trigger price rises and no one’s better off, except for those who can drag a buck or two out of the increased $ value of the turnover.

Wage earners pay taxes again whenever they spend some of their money that has already been taxed. Except on many food items. But don’t worry (or do), Abbott’s got a plan to force the States to ask for a higher GST and to slap it on food items as well.

There’s a solution to this harsh and unfair nonsense, but it’s one Abbott & Co Pity Ltd is unlikely to take. That is to slug tax dodging businesses, fabulously wealthy overseas-based corporations and his wealthy mates with a higher rate of tax. He has hit the highest salary earners with a little tax — to make his ridiculously unfair Budget “fair” — but it’s a temporary measure, unlike his Draconian bashing of the less well off which (if the measures get past the Senate) will last until Labor or some coalition of minor parties and Independents can kick his ugly arse over the horizon.

I can’t wait for that one.

==================

You may have heard the term “corporate governance” — the insideous, encroachment of big corporations’ influence on political policies and their outcomes by lobbying, financing and influencing politicians.

This movement is big and influential in the United States and the same thing is happening in Australia. The web site truthout has published a detailed article on the key players in the US.

For more on the exportation of some of their ideas to Australia, via the IPA, see: Who’s really running Australia?, especially the links in the update to the story.

Greedy government jumps the gun

The NSW LNP government is slugging some housing tenants with a sudden rent increase.

A new policy will soak up 100 percent of the Centrelink rent subsidy provided to certain pension recipients.

The entire subsidy will now go straight from Centrelink to Housing NSW’s coffers, effectively a direct payment from the federal Treasury to Housing NSW.

The policy change was announced in the letter below, sent to one subsidy recipient, apparently without any public announcement in the news media, with little explanation or justification and with no apparent concern for the welfare of Housing residents.

 Rod's letter2
The son of the woman to whom the above letter is addressed is a Twitter follower and friend, Rodney Geddes. He has given me permission to reproduce the letter and his reaction to it. Rod’s letter mentions the other expenses he and his mother will face as the result of the federal government’s 2014 Budget.
===========
“Hi Barry. Take what part you think you can use in The Sniper.
“My names is Rodney Geddes and I am a full-time student and carer of my very sick mum Sue Geddes. I have worked most of my life from the age of 15 until 42. My longest and second last job was for Westfarmers at Blackwood, where I worked for 15 years.

“After my mum had a very bad car accident, which is responsible for 95% of the things she now suffers from, I left my last job after working there for 18 months. I have paid my taxes and after dad died I again went back to work and paid taxes (so did my dad all his life, as a truck driver). I have two brothers who work in the mining industry and a sister who works in Darwin, looking after people who find it hard to live: low income, disabled, Aborigines and so on. So mum will get hit hard on that front alone.

“Mum and me get about $17,000 each a year to live on (I get a bit more). I have worked out that if the pension goes to the CPI at the average wage of $58,000, at 40% mum and I will lose about $4,000 and the government says it is a pay rise. I say bullshit, it is a very big cut. They want us to live on about $13,000.

“Not only that, the cuts are affecting me right now as you will see from the State government cutting my rent subsidy of about $55 a fortnight. The next to go from the State government is my electricity subsidy of about $200 a year. All this from a Liberal State government, which says it’s because of the cuts from the federal government [Budget], that has not even been passed yet, but that does not stop them from taking advantage of it.

“Abbott has lied about so many different things that I can’t list them all. I did not vote for him because I believed everything the ALP said he would do and they were right. But I never thought he would go so far in the seven months he was been in the job. I will also be affected by the uni stuff and the deregulation of it [fees and loans interest indexation].

“I am also a diabetic and go to the doctor’s at least once a month for a check-up and scripts.

“So I ask you, people, how am I going to afford to get my education when I have to spend $1,000 a year on my books and more for printing my lecture notes?

“This government has shown me and you how heartless they are and only care about big business, mining companies and the super rich, none of which share the so-called pain, from a government that has spent $68 billion in just seven months during a so-called Budget emergency they concocted themselves.

“They are treating the public like we are all fools and are all very stupid and can’t think for ourselves. They think they can get away with it because he [Abbott] is backed by the Murdoch Press.

“We the people as a whole, the middle class, low income workers, the poor, the sick, pensioners and students must stand together and fight this neo-Liberal government and make sure it and the new State Liberal governments are one term governments.

“Thank you all for taking the time to read this. This is a fight we must win.”

Rodney Geddes