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Wednesday, 24 February


German radio station RBB interview on immigration Antony Loewenstein

During my time in Berlin, Germany this year, immigration has been a central theme. I was recently interviewed by German public broadcaster RBB about the issue and why privatising the refugee crisis, as I investigate in my book Disaster Capitalism, leads to human rights abuses. My interview has been translated into German but here’s the introduction translated from German into English:

‘Unternehmen dürfen nicht die Flüchtlingskrise managen’
Private Unternehmen spielen quer durch Europa eine immer größere Rolle in der Versorgung von Flüchtlingen – der Staat zieht sich zurück. Der australische Journalist und Autor Antony Loewenstein warnt vor den Konsequenzen dieses Trends. Er sieht die Menschenrechte in Gefahr. Derzeit ist Loewenstein Gastwissenschaftler am WZB Berlin. Eric Graydon aus der Wirtschaftsredaktion hat ihn getroffen.

‘Companies can not manage the refugee crisis’
Private companies play across Europe an increasingly important role in the care of refugees – the state withdraws. The Australian journalist and author Antony Loewenstein warns of the consequences of this trend. He sees the human rights at risk. Currently, Loewenstein is a visiting researcher at the WZB Berlin. Eric Graydon from the business section interviews him.

Here’s the interview broadcaster nationally yesterday: Warnung vor der privatisierten Fl├╝chtlingskrise


Just because Australia's Attorney-General doesn't like the lyrics..... North Coast Voices

It appears that Australian Attorney-General, Senator George Henry Brandis QC, is upset by certain topical lyrics written by singer-songwriter Tim Minchin.

I felt it only right that I upset that rather pompous alumnus of the private Catholic Villanova College even more by posting Tim’s lyrics here.


[Verse 1]
It's a lovely day in 
I'm kicking back, thinking of you
I hear that you've been poorly
I am sorry that you're feeling blue

I know wh...


Bets are a yawn when it comes to the Australian federal election in 2016? North Coast Voices

This 18 to 21 February 2016 Newspoll had little effect on lacklustre betting on the 2016 Australian federal election:

The Two-Party Preferred percentages obviously made little impression on Aussie's who like a bet or three - after desultory interest late last year they all went back to sleep for the duration:


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Tuesday, 23 February


Democracy and the Senate Press gallery reform

The radio business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs.

- Hunter S. Thompson
Having seen the process by which a major party chooses its Senators, I don't share others' sympathy for the idea that minor parties are a blight on our democracy. The Liberal Party isn't quite like the Thompson quote above but its processes and standing ought not be taken at face value, as the government and the press gallery would have you do.

The government has moved far too swiftly from identifying a problem (that people get elected to the Senate with a relatively small first-preference vote) to coming up with a solution. This swiftness is definitely indicative of inept politics and bad government, and may indicate that the fix is in and being hurriedly disguised.

The government can have no confidence that it has come up with the best solution - or even the one that will work best to suit its own purposes. Nobody will laugh harder than me if when a carefully set up arrangement comes back to bite the Coalition, very hard and not at a moment of its choosing.

A laboratory of democracy

South Australia was one of the first jurisdictions to extend the vote to (non-Indigenous) women, and to abolish the property qualification for voting. If we are going to talk about democracy, let's start there.

Before he got into state parliament, Nick Xenophon worked hard at building a political base and this continued while he was in that state's upper house. When you go back through media files trying to work out why he was so popular, all you can find is a) stunts and b) criticism of stunts, which leads to c) journalists not reflecting on their own gullibility, but attributing Xenophon's popularity to stunts.

The issues journalists mention in passing - poker machines and Xenophon's opposition to them, for exa...


Carbon capture could be costly and risky Independent Australia

Carbon capture could be costly and riskyScientists say attempts to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it safely are all potentially costly gambles with the current technology. read now...


When is a Discount not a Discount Catallaxy Files

When is a discount not a discount?  When it is in the context of the current multi-partisan tax grab debate.

It is just jiggery pokery to imply that the 50% “discount” on capital gains when calculating capital gain tax (CGT) is a gift to the rich. The 50% discount is not a gift but rather an administrative simplification in the calculation of CGT.  It did not come out of the blue as a budget measure, but rather was a swap of the prior indexation method of calculating CGT.

Before the change (of around 2000), CGT liabilities were calculated using the indexation method whereby the cost base of an asset was adjusted by an indexation factor that was determined out using the consumer price index (CPI).  It was entirely possible that under the indexation method, the “discount” could wind up being more than 50% or even less than 50%.  It depended on factors including the rate of CPI.

There was always an adjustment to the cost base – unless the capital asset was held for a very short time – but then it would be treated as just income. The 50% CGT “discount” was introduced an administrative simplification.

If out political “leaders” want to reduce the “discount” then these tax rocket scientists should offer to allow people to use the indexation method again.  Otherwise, it is conceivable that the capital gains tax will become just a capital tax – you know yet another tax on savings and capital formation.

Can these people please DO THE WORK.

This is not so much an exciting time to be an Australian, but rather an exciting time to be an Australian tax collector.


In which delusional readers of the Oz crave certitude and a hearty, hefty dose of reptile kool aid ... loon pond

The reptiles finally let the Caterist out of his handsomely taxpayer subsidised cage at 11am to blather on about the way the middle class doesn't need handouts, which is a rather uniquely rich gobbet of nonsense for a man leading a Ming the merciless research institute which has had its paw greased with a handsome flourish of taxpayer pieces of silver.

Even worse there wasn't one mention of bien pensant, suggesting that the Caterists are slipping..

Besides the pond had moved on to other distractions and entertainments, not least the reptile editorialist:

Well, silly readers of the reptiles might expect certitude, though in this vale of tears, the only certainty the pond was ever taught to expect was death, taxes being contingent on the quality of your legal and accounting advice (remember a donation to some institutes, such as the Menzies Research Centr,e are tax deductible, meaning those poor mugs out in la la land are subsidising the rich giving to the nattering class to natter on about the importance of keeping the rich in perk land)....


The obvious question No Right Turn

John Key, Post Cabinet Press Conference, May 18, 2015 (referring to Rachel Glucina's Herald smear of the victim of his serial sexual harrassment):

Yeah no I had nothing to do with that...

Text message from Rachel Glucina to John Key, April 22, 2015:
just interviewed the waitress. Piece of work! Massive political agenda

So, if John Key had "nothing to do" with it, why was Glucina sending him status updates on the smear? It'd be great to see some journalists ask him this at his next standup.


Official by default No Right Turn

Last week, the Ombudsman ruled that the Prime Minister should release communications between him and sewer-scraper Rachel Glucina over his serial sexual harassment and bullying of a cafe waitress. Today, the Ombudsman released their formal case-note of the case, and there's some interesting features which are worth highlighting.

Firstly, on confidentiality, the Ombudsman reiterates that protection applies to information supplied to the government, not to information supplied by it. So, what journalists say to Ministers might be protected, depending on the circumstances - but what Ministers say to journalists probably isn't. And while that's a "might", its a pretty narrow one, because its a two-legged test: not only must there be an express or implied obligation of confidence (rather than just a chummy assumption that no-one will ever find out), there also has to be a real risk that release would prejudice the supply of such information in future. And on the latter point, the Ombudsman notes that journalists are "more aware than most" of the OIA and the principle of availability - an implicit suggestion that it is unlikely to be seen as prejudicing future communications. To which I'd add that the fact that it is a journalists job to talk to Ministers would weigh heavily against a finding of prejudicing future supply.

Secondly, the hat game. Its common for Ministers to try and dodge tricky questions by claiming that they were wearing a different hat and acting in their capacity as a Member of Parliament rather than as a Minister. Key's office tried to do this, after the fact, but the Ombudsman shut that down because he had already accepted responsibility. But more importantly, he goes on to say that

In the absence of any evidence that it was received by th...


Changes to Senate Voting Rules and threat of Double D Election a distraction: Lambie Senator Jacqui Lambie - PUTTING TASMANIA FIRST

JLN Independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has labeled the proposed changes to Senate voting rules and the Liberal Party’s threat of a double dissolution election as a distraction.

“The Greens have done a deal with the Liberal party to change the way Australians vote for the Senate.  Its more than likely the Liberals and the Greens will be preferencing each other in Tasmania.  The Greens Leader wants to become a minister in the Turnbull government.

So what we really have is a deal being done between the party that wants to decriminalize Ice and the party that wants to increase the GST – because each thinks it will politically benefit from those changes,” said Senator Lambie

“This change is a distraction, which is not being driven by the people.  In the time I’ve been a Tasmanian Senator I haven’t had one person come into my office and ask for a change to the Senate voting system.  They wanted positive changes and improvements to our Health, Education, Social Services, Veterans Affairs and Military Pay.

It is self-interest, which is motivating the Liberals and Greens.  We should be discussing the Governments plan to cut $650M worth of cuts to Medicare Bulk Billing.  That’s the issue which everyone who contacts my office is concerned with today,” said Senator Lambie.

Victorian Liberal President and Former Labor leader predict JLN 2 to 3 Senate seat gain in DD election

“I’m also surprised that some Tasmanian media is trying to talk down my chances of being re-elected as a Senator.

It was only last year that Liberal party powerbroker – Michael Kroger and former Labor Premier Peter Beattie had a conversation on Sky TV where they agreed that if a double D election was called, my JLN candidates could win in Tasmania alone – 2 to 3 Senate positions.

Click below to watch Victorian Liberal President predict a 2 or 3 seat senate win for JLN



Mal adjusted: The honeymoon is over as voters turn on Turnbull Independent Australia

Mal adjusted: The honeymoon is over as voters turn on TurnbullThe Australian public had great expectations for Malcolm Turnbull after he ended the disastrous Abbott experiment, but now the new PM is floundering. Abdullah Ahmed explains why. read now...


Trump’s kitchen cabinet Catallaxy Files

trump guiliani

Naturally not in the American press but from The Daily Mail Online: Rudy Giuliani says Trump is smarter than he looks as The Donald consults with former NYC mayor and other ‘kitchen cabinet’ advisers. Here are the sub-heads for your delectation:

  • Donald Trump is assembling a ‘kitchen cabinet’ advisers
  • Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, economists Art Laffer and Steve Moore rumored to be involved
  • Trump promised in South Carolina that he would soon unveil a foreign policy advisory team
  • ‘He has an exceptionally good understanding of how the economy affects our foreign policy,’ Giuliani said of Trump
  • ‘This idea that he’s only familiar with slogans, it’s not accurate at all’

And the opening paras of the story:

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a handful of policy wonks are casually advising Donald Trump as the Republican front-runner prepares for the kind of scrutiny he has yet to face.

But Giuliani says The Donald is up to the task.

‘You know, he’s very good,’ Giuliani told The Washington Post on Sunday, when a reporter asked whether the Republican front-runner has a decent grasp of complicated public policy issues.

‘It’s clear that he has an exceptionally good understanding of how the economy affects our foreign policy,’ he said of Trump.

‘He understands what’...


Papua New Guinea gives up on the death penalty No Right Turn

Papua New Guinea is one of many states which retain the death penalty on their books, but does not ever apply it. But for the past few years, their government has been pushing to start executions, even voting in 2013 to expand its application to new crimes. Nut now, they've officially given up on those plans:

The reactivation of the death penalty in Papua New Guinea is looking less likely, after Prime Minister Peter O'Neill decided to hold off on the reforms indefinitely.

The PNG government has been actively pursuing a return to capital punishment for some time, mainly in response to the outcry over sorcery related violence and violent attacks on women.

As recently as February 5th, Attorney-General Lawrence Kalinoe indicated that 13 prison inmates on death row had exhausted all avenues of appeal, and were likely to be executed before the end of the year.

But PNG's tough stance actually began to shift last year, with the government mindful of the bad publicity surrounding the execution of two Australians in Indonesia, and subsequent pressure from religious leaders and non-government organisations.

Its good news, but they can obviously do better, by permanently repealing the death penalty from their books and joining the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to outlaw it forever.


Thieving employers should be prosecuted No Right Turn

Radio New Zealand reports that employers are stealing their employee's KiwiSaver contributions:

Tens of thousands of workers are missing millions of dollars from their KiwiSaver accounts because their employers have failed to either pass on payments docked from their pay, or pay their own employer contributions.

Figures obtained by RNZ News show Inland Revenue is chasing thousands of employers for $29.3 million in outstanding payments and penalties that have accumulated since the retirement savings scheme was launched in 2007.

At the end of June 2015, 1663 employers had failed to pass on $15.3m in KiwiSaver payments deducted from their employees' own salaries to the IRD.

IRD views this simply as a tax issue to be handled by negotiation. But it seems to me to be an open-and-shut case of theft by a person in a special relationship (previously "theft by a servant"), which carries a penalty of seven years imprisonment. And that's the case regardless of whether the money is repaid or not. So why aren't they prosecuting?


Gleeful Abbottistas Catallaxy Files

So yesterday the Abbottistas were out in force picking over the latest Newspoll. Congratulating themselves on their foresight and how right (heh) they had been all along and so on and so forth.

Three things:

The aggregated estimate of the two-party preferred vote – still higher than when the Liberals first won office in 2013. Note the collapse in early 2014 and sudden increase in late 2015.


The aggregated betting market.

BETTING-Coalition-probability-summary (1)

The principle – elections are meant to be contests and contested. A completely rubbish opposition makes for poor government. As PVO points out this morning that’s not what some people expected or wanted:

That’s not what MPs and senators who shifted support from Tony Abbott to Turnbull signed up for. They believed the new PM when he condemned a lack of economic leadership by Abbott. They didn’t think he’d show so little of i...


Study shows secret of Sanders' success: Democrats prefer socialism to capitalism Independent Australia

Study shows secret of Sanders' success: Democrats prefer socialism to capitalismRevealing the reason for the rise of Bernie Sanders, a new poll released shows two thirds of Democrat voters prefer socialism to capitalism. read now...


Please don't blame the pond, we're just obeying Sharri Law ... loon pond

The pond had to start with a whimsical Pope cartoon this day - as always more Popery here - because not to put too fine a point on it, the pond is shattered, confused, distraught, and in a state of comprehensive, palpable despair ...

Look at this lizard offering of opinion from the reptiles this day ...

Now on one level, a superficial reader taking a superficial glance might say why the tears, why the sackcloth and ashes? 

After all, there's the bouffant one buffing up Malware, Dame Groan casting her usual pall of doom and gloom at the thought of anyone hurting a hair on the head of the rich, and Gary Johns bashing the blacks.

But as the pond scanned down further, a sinking feeling began to twist the stomach into a knot. 



Dog Blog: February Doubletake DUCK POND

An environment can be photographed, but to be experienced it must be understood. Experience is a function of shared collective programming of mind. There is more to the stories of culture – but it seems to be the case we miss much.

As Dexter, Hannah and I go about our regular transit, we are walking through a culturally transformed landscape, in which ignorance and neglect is as significant as blind agency. Admittedly, it is pushing boundaries to suggest that native animals , who are  beings with levels of awareness and sensing lived in the natural ecology. The human beings who  lived here  for 40 -60,000 years were much more integrated with the natural ecology than those that followed. The train that carried the coal from deep in the escarpment is now a figment of imagination, as is the sounds of the coal crusher and those driven by the ethos of industrial civilization.

There is more to this world than I can see. Dexter and Hannah live in the present. There are two videos from from 6-19 February.

The supporting music for “The Second Week of February” is “Stomping Ground” by Silent Partner:



ASYLUM SEEKERS: Australian Medical Association spoke out loudly to government when its President catalogued the horror that is Manus & Nauru North Coast Voices

21 Feb 2016



Welcome. I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.


Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie had second thoughts - too late! North Coast Voices

An attempt by Senator Lambie to delete a divisive tweet on the Twitter record, 18 February 2016.

Image found at

Monday, 22 February


David Leyonhjelm on lockouts and whiny doctors Catallaxy Files

My agreement is to hold this back until Monday (from the Friday Fin Review). Just in case anyone missed it the other day:) RC

Many years ago, when I first started working as a veterinarian, I accepted there would be parts of my job I didn’t like. Vets, as everyone knows, are expected to put animals to sleep, some when they are perfectly healthy. It can become wearing. Obviously other vets have issues too; vets are four times more likely to commit suicide than members of the general population.

The reason you probably didn’t know that little factoid is because we vets are disinclined to complain about our lot. By contrast, it seems barely a day goes past without members of the medical profession telling everyone how hard they’ve got it.

Recently, in response to public criticism of Sydney’s ‘lockout’ laws, we had Professor Peter Miller telling all and sundry, “behind every number is a tragic story – you only need to ask the emergency department doctors, police, paramedics and surgeons who have to clean up the awful toll.”

Yes, violence causes injury and doctors are paid to treat the injuries. But their involvement is a matter of choice; they are not compelled “to clean up the awful toll”. Indeed, they don’t have to do trauma or emergency medicine, or even medicine itself, at all. Moreover, no-one is forced to join the police or ambulance service.

In fact, doctors demanding lockouts because they don’t like treating the victims of violence is equivalent to teachers demanding parents keep dumb kids at home. They should do their jobs, or find a job that they’d rather do.

Furthermore, there is something particularly unbecoming about upper middle-class professionals whining about their (well paid) jobs. There’s a part of me that wants to send the lot of them to the nearest Centrelink so they can see how the unemployed and disabled respond to their grumping.

This last point is relevant because job losses and ve...


Senate “Reform” – a conspiracy for disfranchisement Catallaxy Files

The Liberals, Labor, and The Greens are conspiring to ensure that the 20% or so of Australians who don’t preference them in the Senate don’t elect anyone from the minor parties. While there are some cross-benchers who are annoying and/or not too smart to be sure; there are also Labor, Liberal, and Greens Senators who are also annoying and/or not too smart. Rather than restrict the choices of voters displeased with their efforts maybe Labor, Liberals, and The Greens should give some thought to why 20% or more of the population don’t want to vote for them.

Anyway, I suspect Senate Reform won’t be enacted before the next election – because the “reform” will be in the courts. Something of a long shot but here goes: Senator Mathias Cormann has admitted:

Senator Cormann acknowledged voters who voted above the line could see their vote exhausted and ultimately not counted towards any candidate.

The Constitution requires:

7. The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State, directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate.

If your vote can become exhausted, deliberately by design, before being counted can you have said to have voted? Not all of the people in the State will have voted.

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