Monday, August 17, 2015

Keep marriage equality and poker machines apart

Let me be very clear.

I'm a survivor of poker machine addiction. I've lost tens of thousands of dollars, harmed a lot of people, betrayed the trust of family and friends. I know about depression and futility; I know how tempting the numbness is, that machines can offer when you hit the zone. I know how the industry feeds off the addicted, targeting them as the living money pit that just keeps giving, long after there's nothing left.

And I believe in marriage equality. I was raised Catholic, but it was the Church's position on homosexuality that finally drove me away when I was in my twenties. I can't condone or excuse the school of thought that says that men and women can't marry their partners if they're not of the opposite gender. I have a rainbow heart tattooed on my back as a sign and reminder of how much this issue means to me.

I want action on poker machine reform, and I want action on marriage equality. But I do NOT want the two issues linked. And I was saddened to see that there has recently been a call for just such a link to be made.

Both should have their day to stand alone and stand tall. But they are not related, and they should not be conflated.

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, 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.