Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Abbott's Efficiency Dividend Lie

In calling his $254 million cut to ABC funding an "efficiency dividend", it's finally clear that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has no idea what he is talking about.

We all know what Abbott said in the lead up to the 2013 election: "No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS." It's a list of promises that he's steadily broken, one by one, and with each broken promise he's tried to weasel out of what he explicitly said.

So when it was announced that funding for the ABC would be slashed by $254 million, Abbott claimed that it wasn't in fact a cut; it was an "efficiency dividend".

"Everyone knew that there was going to be an efficiency dividend right across the government," he said. Apparently we should have known better.

Even Abbott's mini-me, Christopher Pyne, has weighed in. Despite launching a petition to save the ABC's production facilities in South Australia, Pyne accused the ABC of hiding behind the cuts and using a "modest efficiency dividend" to centralise their operations in the eastern states. Yes, he blamed the ABC for the cuts.

But are the cuts actually an efficiency dividend? The answer is no.

An efficiency dividend, according to the government's own website, is "an annual reduction in funding for the overall running costs of an agency." The justification is that inputs can be cut to match productivity increases, without changing the level of output.


If this was actually an efficiency dividend, there would be no programming changes. No shows cancelled. No mergers of state-based bulletins. None of that. The level of output would not change.

But it IS changing.

So it isn't an efficiency dividend. And Abbott's own internal nemesis, Malcolm Turnbull, agrees.

So many lies.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Imagine If Amanda Vanstone Had Integrity...

Amanda Vanstone has for some time now been engaged by Fairfax to provide commentary for their publications. Formerly a minister in John Howard’s Coalition government, she is a fairly transparent nod to the notion of political balance; the reality is that she has remained true to her political ideals, and her articles reflect this without exception. When it comes to politics, anyone reading a Vanstone opinion column knows what they’re going to get.

But today saw something different. Today saw an exercise in character assassination wrapped up in the guise of balance, a convoluted fiction of fair play. Today’s Vanstone column is opinion at its most odious; commentary at its most vile.

“Imagine if Tony Abbott had been accused of rape”, the headline declared. It’s a clickbait headline, and don’t for a moment think that Vanstone had nothing to do with it. This was an opinion article, not a news story, and that was the key point.

The premise supposedly revolved around the treatment Bill Shorten has received from the media et al since being accused, and cleared, of rape. What if it had been Abbott, Vanstone asks. Imagine the howls of outrage, the “handbag hit squad… fanning the fires”, the hatred. Imagine it!

But there’s a problem with this article. In fact, there’s several. And they’re deliberate.

Most glaringly: if this is an article about Tony Abbott, then why does Vanstone spend the first two thirds of it talking about Bill Shorten? Rehashing the circumstances surrounding the rape allegation, pointing out that the finding (of “insufficient evidence”) would leave doubt in the minds of many, even suggesting that Shorten may have worried about how he would look under the pressure of an investigation… Vanstone diminishes rape to a device that could be linked to the prime minister, merely to get people reading about Shorten and the disproved allegations.

It’s puerile stuff. Sadly, Fairfax websites such as The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald gave it top billing for several hours today, ensuring a steady stream of readers.

After the headline, Tony Abbott is not mentioned by name, nor referred to at all, until the last few paragraphs. Any student of journalism will tell you that writers load their articles up front with the details they NEED you to read; it’s a rare column or article that is consistently read through to the end. Vanstone put Shorten in the headlights, knowing that most of her readers wouldn’t even reach the part of the article that compelled them to read in the first place.

Then there are the omissions, the most telling of which being this: Vanstone talks of Abbott’s “punching the wall” revelations, but in an article ostensibly about the prejudiced treatment he would have received if accused of rape, she curiously neglects to mention that Abbott had been charged and cleared of sexual assault decades earlier.

In striving for false balance, Fairfax has given a mouthpiece to a voice that is demonstrably more interested in smear than in truth. It’s time they took that mouthpiece back and gave it to somebody else.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Abbott's "peaceful Sri Lanka" claim contradicted by his own government

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has a strange grasp of the concept of “peace”. Today, while speaking to Melbourne radio station 3AW, Abbott made the following observation:

“I want to make this observation, Sri Lanka is not everyone’s idea of an ideal society, but it is at peace.”

Tony Abbott visits Sri Lanka last year.

This was in response to questions about what has happened to two boatloads of asylum seekers. There is some confusion as to whether the asylum seekers are being towed back to Sri Lanka, or whether there will be a mid-ocean transfer of the asylum seekers to Sri Lankan naval vessels, but according to Abbott, none of this matters... because Sri Lanka is “at peace”.


Let’s take a look at smartraveller.gov.au, the Australian government’s official travel advice portal for Australians planning to head overseas.

The entry for Sri Lanka was updated on 24 June 2014, so it’s pretty current. Wonder what it says?

Hmmm. Here’s some of the Australian government’s advice to Australians planning on travelling to “peaceful” Sri Lanka.

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Sri Lanka at this time because of the unpredictable security environment.

“Unpredictable.” Doesn’t sound too peaceful.

Security forces maintain a visible presence throughout the country. Military and police checkpoints are present along some roads and road closures can occur without warning.

Peaceful, because loads of visible security and military personnel is inherently reassuring, yes?

You should avoid all demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent or be a target for politically-motivated attacks. Police have used tear gas in response to protests.

Tear gas! I wonder if these were “peaceful” protests?

In the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, which includes Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Kilinochichi and Jaffna Districts, post-conflict security force activity is ongoing.

I’m starting to feel a little uneasy about this “peaceful” destination…

In both the Northern and Eastern Provinces you should stay on main roads and pay close attention to signs warning of danger from landmines.

Peaceful landmines. Check.

And the overall recommendation?

Exercise a high degree of caution.

Peace, Prime Minister? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Maurice Newman Rejects Climate Change, Because God.

EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: One of Tony Abbott's first acts in Government was to appoint Maurice Newman as the head of his Business Advisory Council. Mr Newman is the former Chairman of both the Stock Exchange and the ABC. He's our guest this evening and he joined me earlier in the studio for this exclusive interview. 

(transcript - Lateline 22/04/2014)

One thing Emma Alberici didn't mention when introducing Maurice Newman on Lateline two nights ago was that he is an avowed climate change skeptic. Actually, "skeptic" might be a little generous; Newman flatly rejects that man-made climate change is happening, or that CO2 is causing global warming.

Not that it's much of a secret... and it wasn't long before Alberici and Newman were discussing his views in detail.

EMMA ALBERICI: It's no secret that you don't agree that man-made CO2 is causing global warming. Given there is now consensus among 97 per cent or so of climate scientists across the world that the view - around the view that human activity is responsible for climate change, what would it take to convince you?

MAURICE NEWMAN: We know first of all that the survey which came out with the 97 per cent number was flawed in the first place. So we don't pay any attention to that. What we do look at...

EMMA ALBERICI: There have been roughly three that have come up with that.

MAURICE NEWMAN: They all come up with flawed methodologies. So we don't pay any attention to that.

There are many people who are, perhaps justifiably, concerned about Newman's position on the Business Advisory Council, given his responsibility for making business and economic decisions and recommendations, and how his views on climate change (and their economic ramifications) could impact on these.

But what is potentially even more worrisome is the reason for his climate change stance.

Why does Newman reject the science?

MAURICE NEWMAN: I just look at the evidence. There is no evidence. If people can show there is a correlation between increasing CO2 and global temperature, well then of course that's something which we would pay attention to. But when you look at the last 17.5 years where we've had a multitude of climate models, and this was the basis on which this whole so-called science rests, it's on models, computer models. And those models have been shown to be 98 per cent inaccurate.


MAURICE NEWMAN: By Roy Spencer, who's carried out a thorough review of all of the models and the empirical data which against both land-based and satellite-based measuring. And they were found to be wrong.

Newman rejects the findings of thousands of scientists from hundreds of organisations scattered across 195 countries, because of the analysis of one man: Roy Spencer.

Who is Roy Spencer? Well, he used to be a senior climate scientist with NASA, although all of his former colleagues there disagree with his stance.

But Spencer has other links... and these underpin not only his rejection of man-made climate change, but Newman's as well.

You see, besides being a former NASA scientist, Roy Spencer is a signatory to something called "An Evangelical Declaration On Global Warming". This is a declaration made by the Cornwall Alliance, an organisation committed to bringing a proper and balanced biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development".

And what exactly does the "Evangelical Declaration On Global Warming" have to say?

First, that the Earth is a product of Intelligent Design, and is "robust, resilient, self-regulating and self-correcting".

Second, that fossil and nuclear fuels are indispensable.

Third, that reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions will harm economies.

And fourth, that policies aimed at renewable energy and emission reduction will harm the poor.

There's a lot more. A LOT more. But that's the abridged version. The Cornwall Alliance are essentially Christians who think oil and the Bible (not in that order) are the answer to everything.

Roy Spencer, former NASA climate scientist, is a signatory to their Declaration.

And Maurice Newman, chairman of Australia's Business Advisory Council, believes in Roy Spencer ahead of thousands of other scientists around the world.

Long story short: why does Maurice Newman reject climate change science?

Because God.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why We Need To Save The PGF

New Zealand's Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF) is one of a kind. It stands alone as the biggest and most effective problem gambling organisation in Australasia; think about that, in the context of the almost 200,000 poker machines in neighbouring Australia, and how little is being done there and elsewhere around the globe.

Petition - Save The Problem Gambling Foundation

The PGF has, for years, had a tremendous impact on problem gambling and the gambling industry in New Zealand. But more than that, they have grown into a truly international force.

The PGF's bi-annual International Gambling Conference is recognised as one of, if not THE leading conference of its kind in the world. Their researchers and support staff have an impact not just locally, but globally. When someone from the PGF speaks, everyone listens.

But not any more.

Just this week, the New Zealand government stripped away almost all of the PGF's funding, electing instead to engage with the Salvation Army for alternative services. It has widely been seen as payback for the PGF's opposition to a deal between the government and SkyCity casino; the implications and ramifications are terrible to contemplate.

The world's strongest, most effective and informed voice in problem gambling has been silenced. We can not let this happen quietly, as we are all poorer for this petty, contemptible decision.

So please, no matter where you live, find a few moments to read and sign the "Save The Problem Gambling Foundation" petition. The world needs organisations such as this.

Petition - Save The Problem Gambling Foundation

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tony Abbott - Our Inspirational Prime Minister

Credit where credit's due. I really, really never thought this would happen, but there it is.

To Tony Abbott, Australia's conservative Liberal prime minister, I say thank you. Deeply and sincerely.

For without your relentless negativity, without your sneering misogyny and corporate bias, without your denialist blundering and cataclysmic government, we would have been cheated of two of the most compelling, most scathing and yes, most inspirational speeches this country has heard in the past 20 years.

Oh no, don't get me wrong. You didn't MAKE these speeches... let's face it, a public speaker you are not.

No, you INSPIRED them. You CAUSED them. And they are truly magnificent.

First, of course, came THAT speech. In October 2012, then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard rose to respond to a motion that had been moved by Tony Abbott, then Leader of the Opposition. Abbott had made reference to a phrase used earlier in the week by shock jock Alan Jones that Gillard's father had "died in shame" because of her.

Gillard rose, and tore Abbott to shreds in a verbal demolition that echoed around the world.

Now, almost 18 months later, things have changed. Tony Abbott is now in charge, and has brought the same qualities that defined his time in Opposition to the office of Prime Minister.

The carnage that his government has wrought across the country since the last federal election just 6 months ago has been heartbreaking.... but it also gave rise to the most compelling response I have ever seen.

When Greens Senator Scott Ludlam rose (just days ago) to welcome Tony Abbott to Western Australia, few could have anticipated what was to follow: a calm, controlled and utterly furious refutation of Abbott, his actions, his government and his ideology as a whole.

If you watch nothing else today, watch this. And may this be a lesson for the world in general that we, as a nation, are NOT defined by the fatuous sycophant we somehow voted into power.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Walk Through White Night Melbourne

Last night was White Night Melbourne and it was excellent. Colourful, chaotic and crowded (and probably a hundred other words starting with "C") but so very, very Melbourne. Happy people, bright lights and a real sense of carnival.

Sure, there are opportunities for improvement. If you're going to bring the whole city into the event, you need to try and INCLUDE the whole city as well. Too many stretches where nothing was happening, too many streets where the only activity was walking in the half-light.

And the amenities could surely be improved. I remember the portaloo-cities that sprung up for RunMelbourne; they wouldn't have gone astray last night! I'd also love to see renewable power utilised in a big way, given the electric nature of the night and the myth that renewables can't work in the dark. But maybe that's just me.

But ultimately it was a great night, spent in FABULOUS company. It was just after 2am by the time I hopped on my tram home (another excellent initiative, the public transport kept running all night) and it was an evening very, very well spent.

So here is a selection of my happy snaps for the night. It doesn't cover everything we saw, or everywhere we went. But it does show off some of the wonder that descended on Melbourne's White Night.

(click on each pic for an enlargement)

While the night was still young.

After dinner, the crowd had swelled and the light shows had really begun!
Flinders St was brilliant.

An indication of how many people were roaming Melbourne last night.

We headed down for a walk along the Yarra...

There was a kaleidoscopic mound at one point, with bone-juddering sub-sonics blasting out every which way. We couldn't get too close because of the vibrations!
All very "Lord Of The Flies" if you ask me.

This pic doesn't do them justice... but the faces over the Yarra were a highlight of the night.
And they moved!

The source of the lights that pierced the evening sky.

Tattooed City was fantastic. Not sure I'd be comfortable seeing myself up there!
Constantly changing, this was great.

Ah, Flinders St station. You never looked so good.

Flinders Lane was pretty awesome, to be honest.

Loved this. :)

 .,,,and back to Flinders Lane.

A peek behind the scenes... one of the many, many lighting rigs around town.

We stumbled upon this exhibition at the Scots Church while heading to the State Library (which was a disappointment to be honest but that's because we were tired & didn't go inside. Oops.). Morbid and calm at the same time. Loved it.

And that's all I have to share. White Night Melbourne, take a bow... sure, you can lift your game for next year (and I'm sure you will) but for 12 hours last night...

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Dummy's Guide To Male Feminism

So you’re a guy. A nice, decent guy; you’ve got your head screwed on right. And you want to talk about feminism.

Look, it’s understandable. You’ve got all the feelz, all the opinions, and the sexist behaviour of some of your fellow men just makes you sad. Heck, some of your best friends are women.

But bro, there are a few things you’ve got to realise before you open your mouth.

You are not a feminist. This may come as a shock but there it is. Deal with it.

You are not a feminist. So important, I’m saying it again. That thing between your legs counts you out.

You’re barking up the wrong tree. It isn’t feminism that men should be talking about; it’s sexism. Let’s face it, the only reason feminism exists, the only reason it NEEDS to exist is because men have been sexist since day one.

It’s not about you. I mean really… what do you think you can add to a debate about feminism that hasn’t already been covered by, you know… females?

It’s really not about you. Hate to labour the point but here it is. Any guy who publicly stands up for feminism is looking for validation that they are not sexist. Simple as that.

It’s really, really not about you. Seriously bro, you need to understand this. Don’t hold yourself up as proof that “not all men are bastards” because the only people you’re proving it to is other men.

Zip it. The absolute best thing you can do. We blokes have been telling everyone what to do for so long that we don’t know how to stop. And the best of intentions don’t make it any less AAAARRRGGHHHHH-worthy. So shut up.

Pay attention. This is the tricky bit. Forget about sharing your feelz and try listening for a while. Mull it over, chew on it for a bit, see how it tastes. Chances are it’ll taste bitter for a while; it should.

You are not a feminist. I know, I’m repeating myself but this can take a while to sink in.

There’s a bunch of other stuff I could say but that pretty much sums it up. It’s not rocket science, gentlemen.

Want to talk about feminism?

Leave it to the experts.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Australian Solution

Enough. This has gone on far too long, and it's time to say ENOUGH.

Australia's handling of refugees, of asylum seekers, of boat people, is a shameful chapter in our history that is still being written on a daily basis. Labelled "illegals" by our politicians, dehumanised and demonised, the tiny fraction of our world's displaced that try to reach our shores have been treated not as people, not as human beings, but as a problem that needs to go away.

How have we, as a nation, fallen so low?

Australia, the land of mateship. The lucky country. Home of the "fair go" for all. And above everything else, a country populated almost exclusively by immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. We are a disgrace.

Sadly, I guess the writing was on the wall years ago... when you look at how we've treated our indigenous population. For decades they, too, were a problem to be swept away, and in the eyes of many, still are. "Dehumanised and demonised" are words that certainly apply here as well.

Make no mistake, this is nothing more than the politics of fear and desperation. Governments desperate to find a new enemy, latching on to the vulnerable in a post-9/11 world and howling about the peril at our doorstep. And we, the Australian public, have been swept along.

It's not enough to say you don't support it. I don't support it. Yet it's here, and it's my shame as much as it is yours.

The Pacific solution. The PNG solution. The Malaysia solution. Christmas Island. Manus Island. Tampa. Children overboard. Multinational security firms. Tent cities. Deaths at sea. And now deaths in custody and security breaches endangering thousands of lives.


It's time we stopped being afraid. Time we stopped screaming at the monsters beyond our borders, who are no more monsters than you or I. Time we stopped listening to the politicians who have built their careers on fear and hatred and pain.

It's time to grow up.

Nothing our government is doing right now will stop the boats coming. Nothing. The same goes for the government before them, and the government before them. The focus is, and has always been, on stopping the boats FROM REACHING OUR SHORES... not on stopping them leaving in the first place.

And we spend billions, BILLIONS of dollars maintaining this horrendous state of affairs. Detention centres, security firms, logistics companies, naval involvement... it's a massive cost. This from a government that can't find the money to keep jobs alive.

If we truly want to stop the boats, forget about the Pacific solution, or the PNG solution, or the Malaysia solution. Forget Nauru. Forget Manus Island.

We need an Australian solution.

We must walk away from offshore processing, from detention centres and tent cities. Operation Sovereign Borders must be shut down, immediately.

In its place, we must double our humanitarian intake of refugees.

We must embark on a massive funding program for UNHCR assessment of refugees in countries that are gateways to Australia, countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Get them moving, make it happen. Make the boats redundant.

And we must build the infrastructure HERE, in THIS country, to receive, process and integrate refugees into our society. I say "integrate", not "assimilate" because it needs to be done right. Much of the racist short-sighted fear prevalent in our society is driven by poor integration and support structures... that must not be allowed to continue. We all deserve to hang on to our culture, our beliefs and our way of life; and despite hysterical claims to the contrary, we can do all of that and more as a society.

The money is there. Shutting down our current xenophobic practices will free up more than enough funding to make this a reality, with change left over.

What is lacking is the political will.

So tell them. Tell our politicians what the reality really is. Tell them you won't stand for it any more. Tell them the deaths of the innocent are on their hands, not ours. And tell them it's time to change.

It's time Australia became once more a beacon of hope in the Pacific.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Welcome to Chocolategate.

By now it's old news that Prime Minister Tony Abbott, while in Opposition, promised $16 million to Cadbury to "overhaul" their factory in Tasmania. This decision has come under increased scrutiny since the Federal Government started refusing subsidies to other producers and companies such as Holden and SPC.

Well, things just got a little more interesting.

This report was published in today's Fairfax media. Written by Health editor Amy Corderoy, it tells how a new food rating website was launched by the Federal Government, only to be pulled down hours later with little explanation. Accusations are being leveled at the government that they have bowed to pressure from the junk food industry.

Corderoy writes:

"Fairfax Media has been given evidence that Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash and her chief of staff, Alastair Furnival, personally intervened to have the site pulled down - despite it being approved through a Council of Australian Governments ministerial council."

And later:

"Mr Furnival last year acted as a spokesman for Kraft/Cadbury. He is also the former chairman of Australian Public Affairs, which is listed on the lobbyists register as representing the Australian Beverages Council and Mondelez Australia, which owns the Kraft peanut butter, Cadbury and Oreo brands, among others."

That's a strong connection indeed between the government and Mondelez. I wonder if it had anything to do with Abbott's decision to support Cadbury?

Welcome to Chocolategate.