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Thursday, 25 February


WA Parliament votes the state back into colonial era North Coast Voices

United Nations press release, 15 February 2016:

UN human rights experts urge Western Australia’s Parliament not to pass proposed anti-protest law

GENEVA (15 February 2016) – Three United Nations human rights experts have urged the State Parliament of Western Australia not to adopt new legislation which would result in criminalising lawful protests and silencing environmentalists and human rights defenders.

Members of the regional parliament have indicated that the Bill aims at preventing protestors from locking themselves onto equipment, trees, and other objects with innovative methods in order to frustrate or delay development sites. The anti-protest Bill is scheduled to be debated on Tuesday 16 February. 


Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis blots his copybook with voters - yet again North Coast Voices

Facebook exposes the nasty side of Nationals MP for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis:

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Wednesday, 24 February


Sometimes you need to read the actual paper Catallaxy Files

Simon Chapman quotes a paper on Tobacco Control:

A study was conducted from April 2012 (six  months before plain packaging) to March 2014 (15  months after), by the Cancer Council Victoria, using national telephone samples of 8,679 smokers.

It found for those buying factory-made cigarettes bought in Australia, there were no significant increases in the use of so-called “cheap whites” (0.1%), international brands costing 20% or more below the recommended retail price (0.2%) or packs purchased from informal sellers (0.1%). The prevalence of any use of unbranded illicit tobacco (“chop chop”) remained around 3% throughout the study period. Unsurprisingly, smokers didn’t ditch legal packs for illegal supplies.

That sounds definitive. Yet the paper by Michelle Scollo, Meghan Zacher, Kerri Coomber and Melanie Wakefield has somewhat more subdued conclusions.

While unable to quantify the total extent of use of illicit manufactured cigarettes, in this large national survey we found no evidence in Australia of increased use of two categories of manufactured cigarettes likely to be contraband, no increase in purchase from informal sellers and no increased use of unbranded illicit ‘chop-chop’ tobacco.

Then there are the limitations of the study – that the authors admit! – that need to be considered:

  • It excludes people who don’t speak English,
  • It excludes any cigarettes bought overseas or online,
  • The study suffers from observation bias:

Since we limited the analysis to categories of contraband cigarettes for which we could obtain reliable objective data, our study was unable to assess chang...


The year of the union The Political Sword

For the Chinese, 2016 is the ‘Year of the Monkey’ but I think in Australia it may well be the year of the union — although not in a positive way. As it is an election year, and in the light of the Trade Union Royal Commission (TURC) report in December, we can expect the Coalition government to have a lot to say about unions during the year. Turnbull, in releasing the TURC report, has already indicated that he will make union ‘corruption’ an election issue if his legislation to implement the TURC recommendations, including the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), does not pass parliament.

Unions of course will not take this lying down. The ACTU responded to the release of the TURC report by stating:

The ACTU rejects any accusation of widespread corrupt, unlawful behaviour in the union movement. We take a zero-tolerance approach to unlawful conduct, whether in the union movement or elsewhere. Isolated instances of unlawful conduct must always be referred to the police. Unions stand united to ensure any individuals convicted should feel the full force of the law. There is no place for crooks in our movement.

The ACTU welcomes sensible discussions about best practice governance. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must allow space and time for these discussions to occur. This report should not be used to rush legislation that removes employee rights.
It also saw that the TURC report and a Productivity Commission review, which recommended a reduction in penalty rates, were related:
It is clear from the timing of the Royal Commission’s report that these two reports...


ASADAgate may get its own Senate inquiry Catallaxy Files

The Age is reporting:

The push for a Senate inquiry into how the Essendon supplements saga was handled has intensified, with high-profile independent senators calling for a review.
Senators Glenn Lazarus, Nick Xenophon, Dio Wang, Jacqui Lambie, Ricky Muir, Bob Day and David Leyonhjelm on Wednesday endorsed a motion by Victorian independent senator John Madigan for the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority to be grilled over its handling of the Bombers’ probe.
ASADA says it would be happy to front any inquiry, and its handling of the 2013 joint investigation with the AFL was backed through two Federal Court cases.

Madigan wants the inquiry to also examine the national anti-doping framework and what it means for professional sport.

In the meantime Senator John Madigan is running hard on the issue:

Madigan had appealed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last month to release three confidential documents relating to the investigation of the Bombers’ 2012 injecting program. This included a request for the full report produced by the Australian Crime Commission, featuring its two-day interview with sports scientist Stephen Dank.
However, Madigan said on Tuesday that Turnbull had “handballed” his earlier request for documents to Health Minister Sussan Ley.

“I am concerned with whether the footballers in question have been fairly treated,” Madigan said.

“Did they get due process? Was justice done and seen to be done? Did the players get a fair go? This issue is not resolved and questions remain and must be answered.”

Madigan said the saga was about drugs in sport, the outsourcing of justice to overseas organisations and the fair and lawful direction of employees in a workplace....


Tax Change Argle Bargle Catallaxy Files

Breathtaking.  It is utterly breathtaking that the main current political debate is around which political team can increase taxes in the most responsible way.  How did this happen?

We should perhaps be grateful that they are at least talking about a better match between taxes and expenditures and not about how much debt is reasonable to leave to the next generation.  Although there seems to be some crazy consensus that our current, and rapidly growing levels of public debt are not too bad, particularly when compared to the Europeans and Americans!  How do you like that one?  To enter the land of the blind, you need to gouge your eyes out.

Where has the conversation on expenditure reduction gone?  Yes.  The prior “administration” was exceptionally ham-fisted in the way they approached it, but was not that part of the reason for the leadership change?

There are billions to be saved even before touching the welfare state.  None of this efficiency dividend business.  There needs to be a real review as to why certain commonwealth functions exist at all.  Education and health are constitutionally the responsibility of the States.  And why on earth is there a Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science?  What would Canberra based officials know about industry, innovation or science?

Yes.  Let’s avoid a war and carve out the CSIRO, but why does there exist an organisation whose sole purpose is to take money from successful businesses and give it to unsuccessful businesses?  Why, why, why?

Our political leaders have been captured.  Lock stock and barrel.  They have received advice that cutting outlays will impact on economic growth.  Knock me over.  Those who will be adversely personally affected are arguing against it.  Knock me over.

So what is left then?  Tax increases.

Is there a tax kite left to fly?  We have seen the GST kite taken out and brought back.  Now we have the negative gearing and capital ga...


The Baird Government and puppy factories: Don't be cruel Independent Australia

The Baird Government and puppy factories: Don't be cruelThe Second NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into puppy farms has just been completed. This time, Peter Wicks urges Mike Baird to adopt, rather than ignore's, the Committee's recommendations. read now...


Still underfunding the watchdog No Right Turn

The Government Administration Committee has completed its annual review of the Office of the Ombudsmen, and thinks it is still underfunded. After noting high caseloads, a backlog of complaints and the chilling effect that is having on possible complainants, they go on to say:

Given these metrics, we asked why the Chief Ombudsman stated in the media that the Office does not need more resources. She clarified that the Office has never had enough resources, but that it must do the best with what it has and seek to increase efficiencies where possible.

We commend the Office for the difficult and important work it does, on its progress in reducing staff workloads, and on its Continuous Practice Improvement strategy to increase the quality and efficiency of its work. We also note the extensive changes, restructuring, and renewal within the Office during the past decade to modernise its operating model and practices to match its expanding mandate and functions. Nevertheless, we believe the Office is under-resourced and over-worked, and would benefit from additional resources.

They don't suggest an actual figure, but when faced with a (former) Chief Ombudsman who was clearly cowed by government austerity into not asking for any more money to ensure that she could do her job properly, that's not surprising. Hopefully though the committee will follow this up with the new Chief Ombudsman and find out what is required. The overall budget for the office ($10 million) is pocket change on a government scale, so it shouldn't take that much money to make a significant difference.


Please, bang your Caterist head here, and score a grant while passing go and deploring the culture of handouts ... loon pond

The pond is not inclined to brood, but on the other hand, the pond prides itself as being the blog of record for prime, hardcore loons.

How did that wording on the Statue of Loonerty go? 

Give me your tired, your poor loons, your huddled masses of loons yearning to breathe free in reptile la la land, the wretched refuse of Murdoch's teeming rags. Send these, the taxpayer-funded with generous grants, nicely domiciled, and tempest-free bludgers to the pond, we lift our lamp beside the golden door so they might enter the glittering dome of blog loonery ...

Or some such thing, perhaps it got garbled in translation.

You see, the pond was still in mourning at not celebrating the thoughts of the Caterists this week ...

The pond has been a devoted follower of the Caterists for yonks, with every word faithfully transcribed, as the pond stands in awe and admirat...


National's failure on human rights No Right Turn

Amnesty International released its State of the World's Human Rights 2015/16 report today, and the news for New Zealand isn't good, with criticism both of our role in the US's global spying network, and for our poor treatment of refugees:

"The evidence that pointed to New Zealand security services being involved in full-take collection in the Pacific particularly, are extremely concerning," Amnesty NZ chief executive Grant Bayldon said.

"Mass, indiscriminate surveillance can never meet human rights standards."

New Zealand also copped a slap over its "token" refugee intake.


"New Zealand's own announcement to take an emergency intake of 600 Syrian refugees over three years was a welcome and life-saving response but didn't come anywhere close to doing its fair share in the global refugee crisis.

The time has passed for token gestures, New Zealand must take its global responsibilities seriously," he said.

There's more there as well: our policy of detaining refugees in prisons alongside criminals, our systematic discrimination against Maori, the ban on prisoners voting and the impact of our terrible child poverty rate on children's rights to housing, food, health care and education are all noted and criticised. The question now is whether the government will respond to that criticism by acting on these problems, or whether it will continue to degrade our human rights by ignoring them. Sadly, I expect the latter.


Explainer: How will the new changes to Senate voting affect your vote? Independent Australia

Explainer: How will the new changes to Senate voting affect your vote?By ignoring an important recommendation from the committee, the new Senate voting system will not reflect voter's intentions as Turnbull said but will favour the Coalition. Stephen Morey from La Trobe University via The Conversation explains the changes. read now...


Political Maths – from Jonah Goldberg of National Review Catallaxy Files

Politics has a math of its own. Whereas a scientifically minded person might see things this way: One person who says 2+2=5 is an idiot; two people who think 2+2=5 are two idiots; and a million people who think 2+2=5 are a whole lot of idiots — political math works differently. Let’s work backwards: if a million people think 2+2=5, then they are not a million idiots, but a “constituency.” If they are growing in number, they are also a “movement.” And, if you were not only the first person to proclaim 2+2=5, but you were the first to persuade others, then you, my friend, are not an idiot, but a visionary.

Of course, idiocy and its distribution in the population isn’t the point. You can build a movement out of true observations — i.e., 2+2=4 — as well. The point is that political power flows from numbers and, more importantly, that such power becomes self-justifying for those who enjoy its effects. Passion becomes more “legitimate” as more people share it, no matter what the content or object of that passion is. Any unified field theory of politics would have to include this basic law of the political universe. It is true in democracies and dictatorships alike. Like the laws of gravity or thermodynamics, it can be exploited or minimized. But it cannot be repealed. It is a constant of the human condition.

Read more at:


EXCLUSIVE: Nick Ross speaks about Mark Scott’s ABC and Turnbull’s NBN Independent Australia

EXCLUSIVE: Nick Ross speaks about Mark Scott’s ABC and Turnbull’s NBNABC director Mark Scott is addressing the National Press Club today. We wonder whether he will be asked about the NBN and former ABC technology editor Nick Ross. Managing editor David Donovan spoke to Nick Ross last week. read now...


Off the pigs Catallaxy Files

It’s not cute and it’s not funny. There is no self-consciousness on the side of the police nor outrage among the protestors. That is the problem since this is insanity. And note that the hat was originally worn by a woman who was obviously only wearing it to keep out the cold, not as a “provocation”. But if you want to be provoked, anything it seems will do.

[From Tim Blair]


VDL sale given green light by corrupt Government Process: Lambie Senator Jacqui Lambie - PUTTING TASMANIA FIRST

JLN Independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has described the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) process as “corrupt” as it was used by the Liberal Government to justify the sale of VDL to overseas interests.

“ Everyone knows after an ABC Four Corners Report that our FIRB has failed to do its job properly.  When it comes to offshore corruption, the Liberal Government have made the FIRB blind.

Most will remember that a Four Corners Investigation found – Two former board members (FIRB) have confirmed concerns about offshore corruption are rarely discussed, even though $US1.25 trillion worth of corrupt and criminal proceeds from China is estimated to have been spent around the world in the decade to 2012,” said Senator Lambie.

“Speaking Generally – all informed Australians know that there is a much higher risk of corrupt money being invested in Australian from China.  Money from China is not like money from Japan or South Korea, which are democratic countries with high standards of openness and transparency with financial transactions – and have similar laws and democratic standards to Australia.

Politicians like Liberal Senator Eric Abetz knows that more questions have to be asked about investment money from China because there’s a much higher risk that it is from corrupt or illicit source.  Senator Abetz tries to stop community discussion about the risk of corrupt Chinese money adversely affecting Australia’s national interest – by calling whistle-blowers racists and xenophobes,” said Senator Lambie.

“You have to ask what this Liberal politician and his political mates are trying to hide when they resort to that sort of low name calling? Of course, it is a well-known fact that the Liberals have taken millions of dollars from people closely connected with the Chinese Communist government in election funding.

Its up to people like Senator Abetz who want to stop debate on the real possi...


Hark, did you hear the sound of a broken Dame Slap clock chiming in 2016 as if it was 2006? loon pond

Now the pond could spend this morning meditating on the continued activities of the Abbott government.

As foreshadowed in these pages a few days ago, the prime minister Tony Turnabbott, insisted on the primacy of defence, and the pond is exceptionally pleased to report that Mal Abbottbull's vision is top of the reptile page this very day ...



March of the Wankpuffins No Place For Sheep

  Safe Schools Coalition Australia is a national coalition of schools dedicated to creating safe and inclusive learning environments for same-sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, school staff and families. The aim of the program is to prevent bullying. Hard to see what anyone could find problematic about that. Nobody wants kids bullied, right? […]


Berlin’s WZB Social Science Center lecture/Q&A on disaster capitalism and immigration Antony Loewenstein

Last night at WZB Berlin Social Science Centre, where I’ve been a Visiting Researcher this year, I gave a lecture about my book Disaster Capitalism, privatised immigration, the refugee crisis and threats to democracy from the far-right. It was a fascinating evening. Germany is struggling to manage a large influx of migrants and the country is slowing but surely turning against the (mostly) Muslim arrivals. Using private corporations, unaccountable and profit driven, to manage the most vulnerable individuals is guaranteed to bring abuses. I began by giving a lecture on the subject (posted below):

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist, Guardian columnist and author. He recently held a lecture at the WZB about governments privatizing the refugee crisis. He discussed this issue with Paul Stoop, Head of the Communication Department,  showing why making money from misery and outsourcing of responsibility is dangerous for the democracy. 

Europe and Germany are struggling to cope with an influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa. Fences and walls, to keep asylum seekers out, are replacing sustainable solutions. The EU is both unwilling and incapable of formulating a sensible response to the crisis. Antony Loewenstein has investigated how governments around the world are increasingly privatizing and warehousing refugees, outsourcing responsibility to companies running detention centers, health care and surveillance drones for profit. Australia, America and Britain are leaders in the field and Europe is now blindly following.

Europe’s refugee cri...


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:


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...

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