Showing posts with label Australian society. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australian society. Show all posts

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Yet more opinions that the 46th Australian Government - the Morrison Government - will not end well for the nation

The Australian: Morrison Government Ministry 2019

The Monthly, 9 July 2019:

As Australia’s economy falters, the government’s fiscal heart is hardening, not softening. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s determination to deliver his much-vaunted budget surplus for 2019–20 and retain Australia’s AAA credit rating – which is hardly in danger – is of a piece with junior minister Luke Howarth telling the homeless to look on the bright side. In prospect is more of the same punishing austerity towards anyone doing it tough; it’s the flipside of celebrating those who aspire and get ahead, and who are rewarded with taxpayer largesse through subsidies and tax loopholes. Last week’s $158 billion tax-cut package is going to accelerate the trend to an increasingly unequal Australia, which has resulted from the Coalition’s agenda since it was elected in 2013. As former treasurer Joe Hockey said when defending his first budget, the worst-received in living memory: “Governments have never been able to achieve equality of outcomes … It is not the role of government to use the taxation and welfare system as a tool to ‘level the playing field’”.

Flanked by his assistant minister, Michael Sukkar, and the tax commissioner, Chris Jordan, Frydenberg today announced [$] that more than 810,000 Australians had already filed their 2018–19 tax returns and could be receiving their rebates of up to $1080 by the weekend. But, resisting calls from the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, he stressed that there would be no further stimulus, citing the “non-negotiable” imperative of reaching a budget surplus this year, and saying that the government would be focused on reducing debt….

Doing the same thing over and over while hoping for a different result is clearly not working. Today’s NAB business confidence survey showed that the post-election bounce has been short-lived, and the first of the RBA’s two recent rate cuts has failed to improve conditions. A small uptick in employment growth is positive, but NAB’s chief economist, Alan Oster, says the overall decrease in business conditions has been “relatively broad-based across states and industries – suggesting that there has been sector-wide loss of momentum over the past year”. The share market is jumpy, selling off sharply today as APRA, in a sign of nervousness, lowered its capital requirements for banks, and bond markets are reportedly “screaming economic downturn”…..

The Saturday Paper, editorial, 6 July 2019:

And so it passes, the greatest assault on the safety net from which Australian life is built. Scott Morrison’s tax cuts are through and the revenue base that provides for health and education and social welfare is shredded. The legacy of the 46th parliament is there in its very first week: the destruction of the social compact that made this country stable.

On analysis by the Grattan Institute, to pay for these cuts at least $40 billion a year will need to be trimmed from government spending by 2030. The Coalition argues it will not cut services. It says jobs growth will reduce spending on welfare. A surplus will mean less interest paid on debt.

The assumptions are heroic and unsustainable. They show an extraordinary indifference to reality. More than that, they are indifferent to need. People will be worse off under these cuts. They will face greater hardship, have less access to health and to quality education. The people worst affected did not vote for Scott Morrison. Half the country didn’t. The damage done is near irreversible. It is infinitely easier to cut taxes than to raise them. This is a triumph of greed and political cowardice. The Labor Party waved it through.

The principles of this policy were first written on a paper napkin in 1974, when the conservative economist Arthur Laffer sketched out his famous tax curve for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. That serviette is one of the most pernicious documents in modern politics. It made the case for what became trickle-down economics. It became the lie through which governments gave money to the rich and pretended they were helping the poor.

The year Scott Morrison became treasurer, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry brought Laffer to Australia for a speaking tour. He met with Josh Frydenberg. His doctrine has its most explicit contemporary expression in the cuts passed this week…...

In his first major speech as prime minister, Morrison said he didn’t believe people should be taxed more to improve the lives of others. He said people had to work for it: they had to have a go. “I think that’s what fairness means in this country,” he said. “It’s not about everybody getting the same thing. If you put in, you get to take out, and you get to keep more of what you earn.”

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of taxation. You don’t pay tax in exchange for services. You pay tax for a society. Under Morrison, you pay less tax and you have less society. The obliterating self-interest of this week will be felt for generations. Morrison’s victory is a huge, huge loss.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Australian society in 2019

It seems when it comes to personal wealth only the poor admit the truth of their financial situation.

Those who are financially well-off in Australia apparently refuse to recognise their good fortune.

This rather strange state of affairs was very obvious during the 2019 federal election campaign.

Last month the national public broadcaster asked its online readers to guess where they stood on the income scale and this was the result.....

ABC News, 2 July 2019:

The interactive divided people into 13 income bands, corresponding to the bands in the Australian Bureau of Statistics' data.

People were asked to estimate which bracket they sat in, and were then asked to enter their weekly take-home pay.

After removing certain outliers with outlandish responses (we're looking at you, Mr or Ms $1 trillion a week) there was a marked difference between those in the top and bottom halves of the income distribution when it came to estimating their place.

Respondents in the top seven brackets (earning more than $800 per week) fared far worse at guessing their place than those in the bottom six brackets. In fact, our lower-earning respondents were 2.6 times better at estimating their place than their higher-earning counterparts…….

But it was those in the third-highest bracket — earning between $1,750 and $2,000 per week — who fared the worst at estimating their position.

Only 2.85 per cent of respondents in this bracket correctly identified their place and the average guess was 3.2 brackets lower than reality.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Quote of the Week

“First Nations children account for almost 90 per cent of the suicides of children aged 14 and younger. The nation should weep.”  [National Critical Response Trauma Recovery Project Co-Ordinator Gerry Georgatos writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 June 2019]

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Tweets of the Week

Monday, 27 May 2019

Australia 2019: women are still dying violently in unacceptably high numbers

Counting Dead Women, 25 May 2019
On average at least one woman a week is dying violently in Australia this year.  

I say "at least" because the figure above is mainly based on media reports of deaths - how many go unnoticed by the nightly news or daily newspapers is unknown.

Looking back on past posts on North Coast Voices it appears that an average of 1 to 2 female deaths by violence per week is how the years since 2014 have ended.

Despite the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government periodically talking up its approach to ending violence against women the situation is littled changed because women are still dying in unacceptably high numbers.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

via @AnitaHess
Anniversary of the 1997 report Bringing Them Home: National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

A NSW Northern Rivers perspective on the 18 May 2019 Australian federal election results

A political and social perspective in thirteen tweets........

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Speaking truth about “the rightness of whiteness”

The Guardian, 3 April 2019:

The Labor senator and Yawuru man Pat Dodson spoke about the links between Australia’s massacre history and the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, while addressing the censure motion against Fraser Anning in the Senate.

The motion condemned Anning for his “inflammatory and divisive comments seeking to attribute blame to victims of a horrific crime and to vilify people on the basis of religion, which do not reflect the opinions of the Australian Senate or the Australian people.”

Dodson said Indigenous people carry the consequence of murderous prejudice “throughout our entwined history”.

 “First Nations’ peoples … know the impacts of murder wilfully carried out and morally justified by hatred of minorities, misplaced power and bullying superiority,” Dodson said.

“In Gurindji country, they talk of the Killing Times.

“Mounted Constable Willshire was stationed at Victoria River Downs in the 1890s. He was a mass murderer in uniform, who took it upon himself to protect the interests of cattlemen by dispersing the traditional owners of the lands at gunpoint.

“He took to print, justifying his actions with boastful pride and emboldened by the rightness of whiteness and condemned the First Nations’ people to death.
“Willshire wrote about the killing on Wave Hill: ‘It’s no use mincing matters. The Martini-Henry carbines at the critical moment were talking English in the silent majesty of these eternal rocks.’”

Dodson said he has walked through some of the sites of mass murder in Australia with descendants of the victims and “sometimes too with the descendants of murderers.”

“In South Australia I visited a monument erected by both sides in the small community of Elliston to commemorate the mass murder of men, women and children pushed over the steep sea cliffs by charging horsemen and barking dogs.
“I have visited the sites of massacres, of mass murders in Balgo, in Forrest River, and at Coniston. Those mass murders took place in living memory.

“I have sat down with old Warlpiri men and women who luckily survived those murderous attacks as young babies, hidden from the attacks.

“1928 was not that long ago. My mother was just seven years old.

“But we are in 2019 now and a mass murderer, rejecting the richness of difference, driven by religious hatred and xenophobia, empowered by military-style weapons, has waged his atrocity in Christchurch,” Dodson said.

“The murder of 50 innocent people does not just happen. It arises from the feeding of hate, irresponsible language and the demonising of people of colour, and difference.
“We know, and senator Anning knows, the real cause of the bloodshed in Christchurch. The real cause was prejudice, hate, and a passion for violent action, aided and abetted by the availability of military-style weapons.

“We call out those who exploit fear and ignorance for political gain: who mock the traditional dress of women of another culture; who seek donations from the manufacturers of weapons of war to override our own laws; who argue that it is “alright to be white”.

“Their values would plunge our country back into the Killing Times.

“We should instead turn our face to the light of a new future, a peaceful, non-violent, tolerant country of hope, respect and unity.

“A country where no innocent man, women or child is ever again the victim of mass murder.”

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Est. 32 per cent of Australian farmers still haven't come to grips with the reality of climate change

ABC News, 31 March 2019:

When the Reserve Bank announced recently that it was factoring climate change into interest rate calculations, it underlined a mainstream acceptance of potential impacts for a warming planet.

Climate change now had economic consequences.

But resistance to the premise of human-induced climate change still rages, including in regional and rural communities, which often are the very communities already feeling its effects.

"When you look at the results of different surveys going back a few years, farmers were four times more likely than the national average to be climate change deniers," said Professor Mark Howden, director at the ANU's Climate Change Institute.

"That was about 32 per cent versus about 8 per cent for the population average."

So, why do so many people in regional and rural areas not believe in climate change?
ABC Central West's Curious project put that question to some experts, who say the answer has more to do with human nature than scientific reasoning.

Professor Matthew Hornsey from the University of Queensland has dedicated his academic career to understanding why people reject apparently reasonable messages.

"The metaphor that's used in my papers is around what we call cognitive scientists versus cognitive lawyers," he said.

"What we hope people do when they interpret science is that they weigh it up in an independent way and reach a conclusion.

"But in real life, people behave more like lawyers, where they have a particular outcome that they have in mind and then they selectively interpret the evidence in a way that prosecutes the outcome they want to reach.

"So you selectively expose yourself to information, you selectively critique the information, you selectively remember the information in a way that reinforces what your gut is telling you."

This is known as motivated reasoning — and online news source algorithms and social forums are only enabling the phenomenon, allowing for further information curation for the individual…..

Professor Hornsey says there is another force fanning the flames of distrust between the scientific and non-scientific communities.

"One thing that can be said without huge amounts of controversy is that there is a relationship between political conservatism and climate scepticism in Australia," he said.

To better understand this, the professor's research took him to 27 countries and found that for two-thirds of these, there was no relationship between being politically conservative and a climate science sceptic.

But Australia's relationship between the two trailed only the United States in strength of connection, he said.

"What we were seeing was the greater the per-capita carbon emissions of a country, the greater that relationship between climate scepticism and conservatism."

Professor Hornsey argues that per-capita carbon emissions is an indicator for fossil fuel reliance, which in turn creates greater stakes for the vested interests at play.

"When the stakes are high and the vested interests from the fossil fuel community are enormous, you see funded campaigns of misinformation, coaching conservatives what to think about climate change," he said.

"That gets picked up by conservative media and you get this orchestrated, very consistent, cohesive campaign of misinformation to send the signal that the science is not yet in."…..

Professor Hornsey believes current discourse can make farmers feel as though they are at the centre of an overwhelming societal problem, triggering further psychological rejection of the science.

"I feel sorry for farmers around the climate change issue, because this is a problem that has been caused collectively.

"Farmers are only a small part of the problem but they are going to be a huge part of the solution, so I think they feel put upon.

"They feel like they are constantly being lectured about their need to make sacrifices to adapt to a set of circumstances that are largely out of their control."

In 2010, in response to a drought policy review panel, the Commonwealth initiated a pilot of drought reform measures in Western Australia.

John Noonan from Curtin University led the program, which went on to have staggering success in converting not only participating farmers' attitudes to climate science, but also in restructuring their farm management models in response to a changing climate.

"First of all, when talking with farmers, we didn't call it the drought pilot — we used the name Farm Resilience Program," Mr Noonan said.

"If you go in to beat people up and have a climate change conversation, you get nowhere.

"We got the farmers to have conversations about changing rainfall patterns and continuing dry spells, rather than us telling them what to do.

"And they told us everything that we needed them to tell us for us to reflect that back to them and say, 'Well, actually, that's climate change'.

"If you take a very left-brain, very scientific approach to these matters, you are going nowhere, and what we used was very right-brain, very heart and gut-driven — and it worked."

Mr Evans agrees, underscoring the deeply personal connection farmers have to the land, its role in their business approach, and why the message must be managed psychologically rather than scientifically.

"Ultimately, for a farmer to confront the reality that this new climate might be permanent, requires them to go through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance."

The full article can be read here.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Serco operated high security prison in Queensland found to be one of two privately run gaols at risk of significant corruption

This is what Serco says of itself at

Serco is trusted by governments and organisations around the world to transform and deliver essential services. Employing over 50,000 people, we operate across more than 20 countries in Justice, Immigration, Health, Transport, Defence, and Citizen Services.

Serco provides essential justice services in Australia, New Zealand and the UK, from the safe and secure operation of prisons, young adult, and escorting services, to managing the reintegration of ex-offenders into society. We help governments deliver a more efficient and effective justice system, by employing the best people, getting the basics right, championing service innovations, and forming community partnerships. 

By taking a rehabilitative approach to justice, we help to make it less likely that people will return to the criminal justice system, help to rebuild lives, and reduce the financial and wider costs of crime to the public…….

Serco has been operating correctional services in Australia for almost 15 years. As a prison operator, safety and security is always our first priority. The new Clarence Correctional Centre is our most recent contract, which will begin operations in 2020. Once completed, this 1,700-bed state-of-the-art facility will be the largest correctional centre in Australia. 

The Clarence Correctional Centre is being delivered by the NSW Government in partnership with the Northern Pathways Consortium. To learn more about the project visit

This is the current reality in Australia…..

Sydney Criminal Lawyers, 28 March 2019:

The Queensland Government has announced that it will spend $111million over the next four years, returning two privately run prisons to state management.

The Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre and the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre (SQCC), two high-security prisons, are currently run by private operators. 

However the Government will now take over these contracts in response to recommendations from the Crime and Corruption Commission’s Taskforce Flaxton, which last year conducted an investigation into the entire Queensland prison system.
The post-investigation report was scathing as a whole, finding a string of systemic issues, that put prisons ‘at risk of significant corruption.’

These included over-crowding, excessive use of force, misuse of authority, introduction of contraband and inappropriate relationships all within prison walls. The report also found that the number of assaults on staff was higher at privately run facilities, due to lower staff numbers and therefore less supervision.

The South East Queensland Correctional Centre is run by Serco.....

Serco came under fire in 2017 after the release of the Paradise Papers which detailed that Serco’s UK lawyers expressed written concerns that their client had been engaging in fraud, covering up the abuse of detainees at Australian detention centres, and even mishandling radioactive waste. The firm described Serco as a “high-risk” organisation with a “history of problems, failures, fatal errors and overcharging”.

Internationally, the company runs prisons in the UK and New Zealand. In Australia it has been operating for more than 15 years, managing prisons in Western Australia and Queensland as well as 11 immigration centres. It also holds several defence contracts and is currently building a mega-correctional facility near Grafton in New South Wales.

The Clarence Correctional Centre roughly 12 km from Grafton, NSW is due to open in June 2020.

Hopefully UK based Serco Group Pty Ltd through its subsidiary Serco Australia Pty Limited will by then have addressed all the issues in its chequered past.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Quote of the Week

“People generally conform to the mores of their society, and if they believe racism to be acceptable they are more likely to behave in a racist way. Racist concepts are kept alive through communication of racist viewpoints and social mediation and the use of racist scapegoating as acceptable aspects of political debate. Where there is ‘social permission’ to be racist, racism is a permissible way of releasing frustrations and aggression. Conversely, discouraging racist attitudes and behaviour is likely to cause racism to decrease.”  [Tamsan Clarke, February 2005, RACISM, PLURALISM AND DEMOCRACY IN AUSTRALIA: Re-conceptualising racial vilificationlegislation]

Friday, 22 March 2019

"Please don’t run away from this so fast we fail to learn anything by it. Call out racism. Call out bigotry. Then call it out again, and again."

The Daily Examiner, 20 March 2019, p.28:

The Grafton community is in shock, left heartbroken after news that Friday’s terrorist attack in New Zealand was perpetrated by a man who grew up here.

So it’s understandable we want to try to distance ourselves from what is now one of the worst mass killings in modern history.

We feel for our city, we feel for the local family caught up in this, and we feel for the people of New Zealand.

What is apparent though is a lack of acknowledgement of the people who were specifically targeted in this murderous rampage. Muslims. People, including children as young as two, who were killed because of their faith and their race.

And don’t for one minute think it’s not about race, it’s a package deal for white supremacists, and the 28-year-old who grew up here is one of those.

So why do Clarence Valley spokespeople gloss over such details like they are trivial facts in this horrendous story?

If a Middle Eastern gunman of Muslim faith walked into a Catholic church in Australia and open fired on white Christian families there would be no such leniencies extended to the perpetrator or his ilk in the conversations that follow.

But here we are in protection mode. This isn’t our Grafton. This isn’t our Australia. 

This isn’t us. Which is correct if we judge the perpetrator only on his actions on Friday.

But we have to come to terms with the fact these things don’t happen overnight. There is an innate beginning to a journey that takes you to a place where you are capable of planning an attack of this level of calculation and carnage, write an extensive manifesto to showcase the act, film it and broadcast it live, and, after being captured, smirk to the media as you face the first of the many legal consequences of your actions.

So if it’s not us, who is it? Pakistan, Finland, any other country? Is it the internet or social media? Computer games? Is it the moment he left Grafton? The moment he was ‘radicalised’?

Ultimate responsibility lies with our society and the attitudes we foster. The conversations we have and behaviours we encourage and allow.

Everything contributes to this. What we hear from governments, what we hear from the media, what we hear from our family and friends. What we are exposed to growing up, what we talk about when we are old, the messages we share in pubs and on social media.

So in the Clarence, our Muslim-free narrative is very telling. So, too, the idealistic version we create of ourselves.

Please stop telling me how wonderful this place is. I already know it is; as long as you look like me, you go OK.

But describing the Clarence Valley and Grafton as a diverse and multicultural region that prides itself on being inclusive, while it makes a great sound bite or quote in a news story there is plenty to fault in these broad overviews with little evidence to back them up.

About 80 per cent of Grafton is made up of white people and more than 70 per cent identify as Christian (national averages are 65 per cent and 52 per cent respectively). 

Our demographic is made up of Australians, English, Irish, Scottish and Germans predominantly. Our indigenous population falls under the Australian component and makes up 7.4per cent of that, representing the major group as far as our cultural diversity goes. It is more than double the state average at 2.9per cent. Our representation of other people of colour is negligible by comparison.*

So to call us a culturally diverse place is a stretch. Inclusiveness is easy when we all look the same and have the same beliefs.

Our indigenous locals may have a different take on what that looks like.

When it comes to sport and the arts, sure we champion inclusiveness with First Nations people, but when we are really tested, like we were with the Coutts Crossing name debate, we demonstrate a low tolerance. Same with national issues like changing the date of Australia Day.

When our Citizen of the Year expressed her support of that in her acceptance speech she received random boos from an audience that also included members of our indigenous community.

Every October when we are – to quote someone well known for her lack of regard for other races – “swamped with Asians”, our lack of tolerance for the influx of visitors eager to photograph our beautiful trees is demonstrated with the barrage of abuse they receive from passing motorists.

But it’s not about race, they’re just idiots standing in the way, right? Like the booing of Adam Goodes wasn’t because he was an Aborigine, he was just a bad sport.

What if the Muslim community came en masse to Grafton to mourn their slain? What if they came to a town where they don’t exist?

It’s impossible to have all those other conversations about our wonderful town without having this one.

As difficult as it is, not mentioning the war as we wait for things to blow over isn’t an option. It’s no longer Grafton’s story to tell, or its agenda to set. The city will forever wear a horrific international act of terrorism as part of its story and in its history books.

Interest will follow us for a long time as the world learns who the perpetrator was, what kind of place he grew up in and how he ended up committing an act of hatred so obscene it stopped the world.

Like all the official spokespeople out there, I too love the Clarence Valley, but I’m not blindsided by that affection so much I believe we are incapable of being a breeding ground for racism. We aren’t the only Australian town to have this potential, but we are the town caught up in this mess.

Please don’t run away from this so fast we fail to learn anything by it. Call out racism. Call out bigotry. Then call it out again, and again.

*2016 ABS Census