Saturday, 31 May 2014

The law of competition amongst workmen is in a law which capitalists can work to great advantage

Brisbane, March 9, 1895.

Bystanders' Notebook.


Dibbs, ex-Premier of New South Wales, fondly believes that the memory of his government will be handed down to posterity as of men who have done their duty. If it is the duty of a government to be violently partisan to everything bearing the stamp of moneyed interests: to use the people's credit to bolster up rotten banks; to sanction the beating of women at Newcastle by police; to supply arms and police to the employers at a moment's notice and gaol the leaders of strikes; this government deserves to be reverently remembered by posterity as having done its duty faithfully and well. But if – as some of us are bold enough to think – it is the duty of a government to so control the affairs of the State that no one class shall receive benefits demised to another class; to so control the nation's production that order and economy shall prevail in the place planlessment and waste; to so conserve the happiness of a nation that its people shall not walk the streets in thousands ragged, hungry, demoralised, begging or turning over the rubbish heaps and quarrelling with the very dogs in the gutter for a morsel of discarded food, but shall be employed at some useful avocation and be happy in the consciousness of freedom from want, and and lastly to so administer the finances of the nation that the national wealth shall not be yearly absorbed by foreign bond holders, nor the life's blood of the nation drained by a greedy Shylock. If this latter be the duty of a government how have George Dibbs and his colleagues acted up to our ideal, in how worthy a manner have they fulfilled their destiny. Let their names be handed down with universal execration, for they have persecuted the beloved of the people and sold them into bondage. MAY DAY.


Nature often hides her richest gems under the most ragged and unsuggestive surface, and evidences of her bounty are continually turning up in the most unexpected places. The foregoing thoughts have been suggested by the startling discovery in the Premier of New South Wales, commonly known as Georgie Porgie, of a brilliant and almost supernatural capacity for solving unemployed difficulties. The circumstances which first brought the hidden wealth to sight and caused our hitherto slightly regarded statesman, who was looked upon as merely an addle-brained accumulation of adipose issue, to advance with a bound into the very front rank of fame, was as follows; The Stonemasons' Society was in a very bad way. It possess 650 members, only 50 of whom were fully employed, 100 partially so, and the remaining 500 totally unable to obtain a living by the sale of their labour, as that commodity was a drain on the market. Accompanied by several M.P.'s they deputationed Reid in order to lay their grievances before him in the hope of some redress being forthcoming, little dreaming the absolute and final solution awaiting them. After about an hour's patient explanation the situation began to dawn on the great man, features swelled with the fullness of a great discovery, his eye glass sparkled and quivered with the incoming light. “I have it, “ cried he, in a voice quivering with exaltation, “We will have a new Parliament House. I, George Reid, Premier of the great country, cannot trust my precious self any longer in those old buildings, which are at the mercy of a chance match. Yes, you shall build a new place for us to talk in, and vote your money away to Eddy and other highly paid officials, also to further mortgage your national credit to London money-lenders, to superintend the despatching of police to shoot down strikers, and in which to transact all the other business incidental to Plutocratic government; and as you seem pretty numerous and hard up, you can do it very cheap, and those of you who cannot be employed thus can go out into the interior and play with the rabbits.” Having delivered himself thus, the great man waved his hand to them to with draw, which they did, wondering in their hearts at the marvellous wisdom of the man who thus pro-ported to fill 500 empty stomachs by providing for an escape of gas. MAY DAY.

* * *


The law of competition amongst workmen is in a law which capitalists can work to great advantage. This law is being worked on the Gympie miners by the introduction of the contract system, thereby making them compete like hungry wolves for a hare subsistence. Where there was only one contract three years ago there are over a dozen now, and the writer only knows of one or two who have made wages. Oh! no. The workmen are doing that themselves, forced by the false system under which we live, such system allowing one man to exploit another. But listen one moment, capitalists. You think to enslave the worker, Good. You ultimately wipe out yourselves. The means you employ to crush them will end in educating them. Contract work is the last phase of the wages system. The mining communities will be the first to declare for Socialism, educated by the capitalists. Is where any necessity for this lowering of wages by contract. No. The cost of explosives and all mining material is fully 23 per cent less than it was ten years ago. The amount of work performed is far greater through the introduction of new ideas. It is only the greed of a few men, or, in other words, of a small clique who are fast getting hold of all the mines on Gympie. FERDINAND.

* * *


Let us hope that the coming convention will declare for Socialism. What is there in delaying it, even though our numbers were decreased in Parliament. The people will have to be educated up to is before long. And delay is dangerous. The sooner we raise our standard the sooner our aims will be achieved. All reform must come from the people first, who then delegate to certain men the power to put the reforms into law. Another thing must be looked after. That is some means to raise money to carry on the campaign. The Government will use all the power they possess, assisted by large sums of money subscribed by their supporters, to defeat the aims of Labour. And labour cannot expect victory unless it goes well armed into the battle field to fight against the party of intriguers who for long have gulled the people and will try to gull them again, only they will adopt new tactics to deceive us. Let us watch them.

* * *


In Adam Smith's “Wealth of Nations,” book 2, chapter 3, there appears the following; “Both productive and unproductive labourers, and those who do not labour at all, are all equally maintained by the annual produce of the land and labour of the country. This produce how great so ever, can never be infinite, but must have certain limits. According therefore as a smaller or greater proportion of it is in any one year employed in maintaining unproductive lands the more in the one case, the less in the other, will remain for the productive, and the next year's produce will be greater or smaller accordingly; the whole annual produce, if we except the spontaneous productions of the earth, being the effect of productive labour.” The above extract contains, in my opinion, the whole gist of political economy, and if politicians and others only understood it was should not hear such a lot of insane talk about ridiculous nostrum such as bimetallism, &c. &c. It also explains how it is that bad times tend to perpetuate themselves. Labour and Nature combined are the sole creators of wealth. R.P.

Tony Abbott recalls how to deny cuts to pensions but effect will echo down ages

Extract from The Guardian

The PM has remembered how to differentiate cuts and lower increases but that won't quell anger down the line

Tony Abbott
Tony Abbott may face pressure in time if his measures pass the Senate. Photograph: Paul Kane/AAP
The important difference between an absolute cut and a reduction in a predicted future increase was often lost on Tony Abbott in opposition.
He would, for example, warn of catastrophic job “losses” due to the carbon tax, using as evidence modelling that in fact showed employment would continue to grow strongly, but slightly less strongly than had the carbon price not been there.
He accused the former government of “cutting” the health budget when it had in fact pared back future projected increases in the health budget because of some statistical thing that no one could ever really understand.
But now, in government, he’s right on to the difference. It’s like a miracle, or something. And it’s Labor who are suddenly having trouble with the absolute cut versus lower future increase thing.
So when Bill Shorten accuses him of “cutting” or “ripping off” pensions, Abbott responds, quite correctly, that pensions will continue to increase every six months, imploring Labor to just have the decency to tell the truth.
Aged, disability and carer pensions will from 2017 continue to increase. But they will increase by the consumer price index (CPI) – in other words inflation – and not (as they have for the past 20 years) by average weekly earnings, an increase that is usually higher.
It sounds all very technical/boring/why would you even worry about it. And in the short term the impact will be mild.
But those lower increases make a big difference over time. It’s exactly because it increases at the higher rate that the aged pension is now worth more than $7,500 more a year than unemployment benefit, which has for the past 23 years been indexed to inflation as the pension now will be.
And just a few months ago the Abbott government passed legislation applying the more generous annual increases to some military superannuation benefits at a cost of $1.4bn over four years. The higher indexation arrangements, it said then, were “fair”.

But when it comes to aged, disability and carer pensions the same indexation arrangement it says is unsustainable, and must be changed to deliver a structural saving.
According to the Australian Council of Social Service, the new pension indexation rates will mean the pension is worth $4,000 a year less in real terms in 10 years’ time.
And according to the Council on the Ageing (Cota) that is definitely unfair. “From September 2017 the value of the pension will decrease every six months. The CPI does not reflect the spending patterns of low-income people, including pensioners. It does not keep pace with the standard of living. The government says that the pension is an income replacement payment. We agree, and that is why it must be linked to wages,” COTA’s chief executive, Ian Yates, said.
“The pension is not supposed to be some kind of subsistence payment,” he said.

In the first instance he is banking on the change being knocked off in the Senate, which seems likely since Labor, the Greens and the Palmer United party (PUP) have said they will vote against it and none of them are leaving much room to change their minds.
But if somehow it looks like getting through, grey power will once again be on the march. “If needs be, older people will make their views known,” Yates said.
Many of the highest concentrations of pension recipients are in National party seats, such as Page, Hinkler, Lyne, Cowper and Gippsland.

That could mean pension changes could have real political consequences for the Coalition. In absolute terms.

Former students face thousands in interest payments under loan changes

Extract from The Guardian

Australian government’s proposed higher education changes could hit those already in the workforce
Australians who finished university courses five years ago face an extra $2,000 to $5,000 in interest payments on their student loans as a result of government changes, new modelling shows.
Most of the federal government’s higher education proposals will affect only new students, but increases to the interest rate on higher education loan program (Help) debts will hit students and graduates already in the workforce.
From June 2016 the government plans to charge interest on debts at the 10-year bond rate up to a cap of 6%, rather than indexing the loan at the consumer price index (currently 2.9%).
New modelling showing graduates who are already in the workforce will pay thousands of dollars extra as a result.
A science graduate who had a starting debt of $34,400 under the existing system and had been in the workforce for five years at the time of the change would face an additional interest bill of $4,600, according to figures calculated by the Greens.
A nursing graduate who had a starting debt of $18,000 would have to pay an extra $2,201 and an arts graduate with a similar starting debt faces an extra bill of $3,600.
In the case of a law graduate with a starting debt of $49,000, the extra interest would be $7,700, according to the modelling.
The scenarios assume an interest rate 2% above inflation will begin five years after the graduates had entered the workforce. The modelling takes into account the average starting salaries for each occupation and assumes annual pay rises of 2% above inflation.
The Greens’ spokeswoman on higher education, Lee Rhiannon, said the government’s proposal was “akin to a bank charging you a variable interest rate when you signed up for a fixed rate”.
“The one million Australians who have finished university and are currently saddled with a Hecs [Higher Education Contributions Scheme] debt will feel absolutely misled by the Abbott government’s policies to change the terms of their loan agreement,” she said.
Lower income graduates and working women who take time off from the workforce to raise a family will be the hardest hit by these changes.”
Combined with a lowering of the minimum repayment threshold, the interest rate changes are expected to deliver $3.2bn to the budget over four years.
The financial impact on individual graduates will vary depending on their level of starting debt and how much they have already paid off.
The education minister, Christopher Pyne, has rebuffed criticism of the interest rate changes by saying the student loan terms remained generous compared with a commercial loan.
Pyne told parliament: “Imagine going to the bank and saying to the bank manager, ‘I'd like to borrow a credit card for $16,800’ – which is the average Hecs debt in 2012 – 'but there are a few conditions that I am going to put on this loan. I'm not going to pay it back at greater than the 10-year government bond rate, I'm not going to start paying it back until I earn over $50,000 a year, and I'm only going to pay back 2% of my income.'
“The bank manager would look askance at the customer, but that is exactly what the taxpayer provides right now for students at universities around Australia … It is the best loan that a student will ever get.”
The Education Department has updated its website to make clear that former students will be among those affected by the changes to Help, beginning with the indexation of debts on 1 June 2016.
The other major elements of the higher education reforms – the deregulation of university fees and the reduction in the commonwealth contribution from January 2016 – apply only to new students.
The government faces a difficult task in securing Senate approval for the higher education changes, with Labor, the Greens and the Palmer United party all signalling their opposition.
University vice-chancellors told Guardian Australia last week they had serious concerns about elements of the reforms including the prospect of students being saddled with higher debts.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Abbott Government's Fairy Tale

                                          Cathy Wilcox, Fairfax Media

Tony Abbott begins meeting crossbench senators but not Clive Palmer

Extract from The Guardian 

PM's legislative agenda is in Palmer's hands but he won't speak with the government until PUP gains official 'party' status
Tony Abbott has begun a round of “meet and greet” meetings with some of the crossbench senators who will determine the fate of his legislative agenda after July.
But the prime minister has not met any senators from the Palmer United party nor its leader, Clive Palmer, who insists he will not speak to the government until it gives him more staff and official “party” status.
And, according to Palmer, the Motoring Enthusiast senator Ricky Muir, who has vowed to vote in a bloc with PUP, rejected an offer to meet the prime minister.
“I have had no meeting, the PUP senators have had no meeting, and, as I understand it, the Motoring Enthusiasts rejected the offer of a meeting,” Palmer told Guardian Australia.
But Abbott is understood to have met Family First senator-elect Bob Day on Wednesday and met Independent Nick Xenophon and Democratic Labor party senator John Madigan on Thursday. He has a meeting scheduled with Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm in Sydney on Friday.
The prime minister has not met Greens leader Senator Christine Milne, who told Guardian Australia this week there was no budget measure she could definitely say her party would support, other than the supply bills.
While Palmer and his senators did not meet the prime minister, the businessman did have dinner on Wednesday night with frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull and treasury secretary Martin Parkinson, with all parties insisting it was an impromptu arrangement and nothing to do with budget negotiations.
Palmer claimed to be “a bit hazy” about what had happened at the Wild Duck restaurant and Turnbull and Parkinson described it as a personal dinner.
The government needs the PUP votes for any legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens but has not been prepared to offer Palmer party status because he has not got the requisite five MPs and senators. PUP senators have been offered two additional staff each, the same as the other crossbench senators. Palmer has been offered one additional member of staff.
Xenophon said his meeting had been “cordial” but he had restated his “deep concerns” about the budget, which the senator has described as “mean, nasty and dumb”.
Madigan said the prime minister had been “just touching base” which was a very good thing since the government appeared to be waiting for the new Senate to pass most of its legislative agenda and “needed to take the brakes off”.
“He said the door would always be open for any briefings we needed, and as far as I am concerned the more they do of that, the better.”
Many key budget measures, including the Medicare co-payment, the changes to tertiary education, the changes to unemployment benefits for people under 30 and some changes to family benefits appear destined for defeat.

Thursday, 29 May 2014


Media Release

Shadow Health Minister, Jo-Ann Miller, says the Newman Government is again trumpeting improvements in hospital performance without acknowledging they flow directly from a funding agreement struck by the former federal Labor Government but torn up by Tony Abbott.
Mrs Miller said the latest report by the National Health Performance Authority acknowledged the source of improvements yet Mr Springborg was not telling the whole truth to Queenslanders.
“The Minister for Health Cuts and Closures, Lawrence Springborg, is again claiming credit for improved performances in hospital emergency departments but is again failing to be honest by explaining these improvements were in train before the LNP came to government in Queensland,” Mrs Miller said.
“He is again failing to acknowledge the source of the improvements has been the $3.4 billion National Partnership Agreement on Improving Public Hospital Services established by the former federal Labor Government."
“The agreement included National Emergency Access Targets for all states."
“Queensland was allocated a potential $675.7 million between 2009-10 and 2016-17 to meet the NEAT goals over and above regular health grants."
“This included ‘reward’ funding for achieving specific targets to lower wait times for elective surgery and emergency department access."
“That agreement was ripped to shreds in Tony Abbott’s disastrous Federal Budget."
“If Mr Springborg wants to open his mouth he should first of all tell the truth. He should also be saying how much Queensland loses under the agreement torn up by Tony Abbott before its planned expiry date in 2016-17."
“Then he should explain how he is going to replace the funds Tony Abbott has cut from Queensland."
“It should have come as no surprise to the Minister that Tony Abbott slashed this funding because he was simply following the Newman Government’s blueprint for cutting frontline services,” Mrs Miller said.
Funding under the National Partnership
Agreement on Improving Public Hospital Services

($ million)
All states & territories ($ million)

Budget impasse: Greens can't name one measure they will support

Extract from The Guardian

Christine Milne seeks compensation for those hardest hit by the proposed reindexation of the fuel excise
Christine Milne cannot nominate a single budget measure the Greens will definitely support in the Senate as parliamentary opposition hardens. Only appropriations bills and the deficit levy on high income earners are certain to pass.
The Greens had said they were likely to support the reindexation of the fuel excise, but Milne now says she is “extremely sceptical of a government that sees fuel excise purely as a revenue raiser, not as a transformative price signal”.

She said that before she would agree to the reintroduction of fuel excise indexation – set to reap $2.15bn over the next four years – she would want to see “compensation for the people who have no choices, the people who have no access to public transport, the people who live far away from the city and can only afford the old, fuel-inefficient cars”.

“In order to be equitable any excise increase needs to go to offset that, and that is where the connection to public transport comes in. We are looking at how to do it … it could be more investment in public transport, or there are also other ways to do it,” she said.

Milne is also concerned that compensating big miners and farmers for fuel excise, including the increases in that excise due to the reintroduction of indexation, meant the “subsidies” paid by the taxpayer would increase every year.

“We are also looking at that seriously … there are so many other decisions that hang off the decision to reintroduce indexation of fuel excise.”

The leader of the Palmer United party, Clive Palmer, told Guardian Australia on Monday that he and his three senators had met over the weekend and resolved they would not negotiate in any way or even speak to the government about any budget measures.

“This is an attack on Australia’s way of life. Our party room resolved not to talk to the Liberal and National parties at all,” he said.

Asked whether a carte blanche refusal to negotiate was not an unusual tactic for a party holding balance-of-power votes in the Senate, he said: “Well, we are unusual, we don’t like them, we don’t like this budget and we aren’t going to talk to them.”
And Labor, despite having indicated it was likely to back a freeze in the rates at which family benefits are paid, this week announced it would oppose the move, which would save $2.6bn over the next four years.

The hardening parliamentary resistance to the budget poses a huge challenge for the government, which has vowed not to “flinch” or back down on decisions it says are necessary to “repair” the deficit and pay down national debt.
As the government slumps in the opinion polls, Coalition MPs and senators are privately nervous, but few have gone public with their concerns, and both the prime minister and treasurer praised the backbench on Monday for its resolve.
But one backbencher, West Australian Liberal Dennis Jensen, has said it is foolish to set up a $20bn medical research fund at the same time as the government is cutting money from scientific agencies, including the CSIRO and the Australian Research Council.
The temporary deficit levy, imposing an additional 2% tax on those earning over $180,000 for the next three years, passed the lower house on Wednesday and is set to pass the Senate with the support of the ALP.
Labor and the Greens are also likely to pass at least some of the proposed freezing of thresholds for family benefits and other payments, but have not yet taken decisions.
Milne said the budget was “trickery from start to finish” and was evidence that “the Tea party has taken over the Liberal party.”

Joe Hockey video shows treasurer once protested against student fees

Footage emerges from 1987 of Hockey as Sydney University president calling for free education
Joe Hockey aged 22
Joe Hockey aged 22. Photograph: Nine News/Fairfax Media
Two weeks after delivering a budget seeking to push the cost burden onto students, a young Joe Hockey has emerged as the unlikely former leader of student protests against similar reforms.
The 48-year-old treasurer may have reason to cringe at Nine News footage unearthed by Fairfax Media showing him protesting against the introduction of a $250 upfront charge planned by the Hawke government in 1987.
Some critics say his federal budget means getting a degree could end up costing future students $120,000.
In the footage, Hockey, then 22 and president of the Sydney University student representative council, says: "We will continue to go out onto the streets and to protest, and actively encourage the public to support us in our campaign for free education."
Hockey, a law and arts student, also wrote on the subject for the University of Sydney newspaper Honi Soit attacking the kind of deregulation measure his own government is now proposing.
"The Liberal party, which released its education policy two weeks ago, promised to cut back funds to universities and, at the same time, leave the universities to charge whatever fee they wished," he wrote.
"Such a policy is suicidal for student welfare. We will have no effective voice in our own fortune."


Media Release

Mark Butler MP.

Shadow Minister for Environment
 Climate Change and Water

Date:  27 May 2014

The Department of the Environment has admitted they are unsure of the effectiveness of the Abbott Government’s woeful Direct Action climate policy, despite committing more than $2.5 billion of taxpayer money for the scheme.
In yesterday’s Senate Estimates Hearing of the Environment and Communications Committee, the Department was also unable to answer specific questions about the design of the Emissions Reduction Fund, despite legislation having been released, funding allocated and the Government declaring its unwavering confidence in the policy.
“Each day it becomes clearer that this policy is nothing more than an ideological opposition to serious action to reduce carbon pollution from a Government that doesn’t accept the science of climate change,” Shadow Climate Change Minister Mark Butler said.
When asked about how much of the Government’s 5% emissions reduction target the Direct Action policy will achieve, Department officials responded that without the Emissions Reduction Fund’s design being settled, they were unable to provide any certainty on its success.
When asked to produce any evidence or modelling that supports the Government’s claims of guaranteed success, the Department was unable to produce anything.
The evidence was interrupted by the Government’s representative on the panel, Senator Simon Birmingham, who repeatedly defended the lack of robust policy development on the basis of his own personal ‘confidence’ in the policy.
“No one outside the Government seems to share Senator Birmingham’s confidence,” Mr Butler said.
“After four years of policy development and a public commitment of up to $2.5 billion, the Government appears not to have done any meaningful research to prove this policy is anything more than a complete waste of taxpayers’ money,” Mr Butler said.
“All the experts in this area have been scathing in their criticism of this inadequate policy that amounts to little more than a dressed up slush fund.

“If Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Senator Birmingham have modelling to suggest otherwise, now would be a good time to release it, as the legislation will be introduced to the Parliament any day now.” 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Jobseekers set to cop Abbott-Newman double-whammy

Media Release

Jobseekers punished by the Abbott Government’s cruel and vicious first Budget will have a hard time finding work in Campbell Newman’s Queensland, Shadow Treasurer Curtis Pitt said.
“Queensland’s unemployment rate has increased to 6.3% under Campbell Newman, after he promised to lower it to 4%,” Mr Pitt said.
“The Abbott Government’s attacks on jobseekers, including cancelling financial support for the first six months of unemployment, could be a social disaster for Queensland."
“That’s because ever since the Newman Government was elected, there’s been fewer full-time jobs in Queensland, and the unemployment rate has skyrocketed."
“Tony Abbott says everyone should work, yet Campbell Newman has overseen an increase in the unemployment rate not seen since the global financial crisis."
“There is less opportunity in Queensland than ever before because Campbell Newman is a job-destroying Premier."
“In Cairns, youth unemployment has doubled to 21.8%, in Ipswich its 18.4%, and in northern Brisbane its 17.9%. Tony Abbott’s vicious policies, specifically targeting those regions, will only compound the damage already done to the youth labour market in those areas."
“At the same time as there’s less work for Queenslanders, Tony Abbott is removing their financial support, making them pay a tax to go to the doctor, imposing on them a fuel tax, and ripping the guts out of health and education funding, threatening their quality of healthcare and limiting the opportunities of their kids."
“Next week, Queenslanders can expect another Campbell Newman budget of lies, arrogance and broken promises."

“It will do nothing to fix the damage Campbell Newman’s cuts over the last two years have already done, and it will do nothing to help Queenslanders find a job and make ends meet.”

The fossil fuel industry and who really runs Australia

Extract from Independent Australia

The age of entitlement is over in Australia — except for the dominant fossil fuel industry and those rich enough to be able to buy political patronage. Deputy editor Sandi Keane reports.
Treasurer Joe Hockey urges all of us to “share the pain” for his confected “budget emergency”, but, sadly, 'sharing' isn’t in the fossil fuel industry’s playbook.
Big Carbon has always balked at sharing profits from Australia’s mineral wealth.
In stark contrast to Norway, where a mining tax of 78% has resulted in a sovereign wealth fund twice the size of its GDP, Australia’s effective tax rate for foreign multinational miners is a mere 13%.
Instead, whilst crying poor, the mining industry managed to stump up $22 million for an anti-tax campaign and, in 2010, bring down a prime minister — Kevin Rudd.
This week, Australia's dominant fossil fuel industry threw down the gauntlet to Hockey’s razor gang after it threatened to trim the luxurious 38% diesel fuel tax rebate.
The speed and the manner in which Hockey and Abbott caved in left most in little doubt about who really governs this country.
From The Land (5/5/14):
'Correspondence leaked to the ABC between top mining executives warned of a “profound” political impact from cuts to the diesel rebate, greater than that faced by Labor with the mining tax. The letters showed the government faced a potentially damaging fight with the nation's biggest mining firms over the rebate.'
According to The Australia Institute, the fossil fuel industry receives more than $10 billion per year in government subsidies, with the mining industry hogging most of it. The diesel fuel rebate or Fuel Tax Credit Scheme, is worth $4 billion per year. It might have been designed originally for farmers, but the lion’s share goes to the mining industry.
In 2012, nine out of ten people polled voted for the money to be redirected to health and education. But, unless you are one of the powerful business elites, you – sadly – have very little sway with this Government.
Because miners and moguls run Australia.
So we taxpayers will see just our pockets looted to reduce a budget deficit of just 15% of GDP — one of the lowest of any G20 economy.

(Table via
But for sheer chutzpah, you can’t go past the fancy footwork of the fossil fuel industry in response to the public’s outrage about the doubling of electricity costs  — now one of the highest in the world. The energy companies have neatly sidestepped responsibility for overinvesting in poles and wires – a nice little rort as we shall later see – by taking their cue from the Abbott playbook and blaming the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and the carbon price.
But the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) disagrees with the energy companies. It sheets the problem of increased electricity costs straight back to the networks’ “gold plating” of poles and wires, which makes up 50% of the average household bill. By contrast, the RET adds a paltry 4 per cent and the carbon tax 17%.
The overinvestment in infrastructure has been a lucrative little earner for the energy industry.
And here’s how this golden goose delivers...
The networks are permitted to invest a dollar figure based on five year forecasts. For the years 2014-15, approval was given to spend $45 billion (compare that to the Rudd government’s $39 billion National Broadband Network described by present Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull as "reckless and irresponsible").
In return, the networks are entitled to recoup the cost from the long-suffering householder. So, the more invested, the bigger the profit.
Way to go… or so they thought.
Thankfully, as reported recently by Renew Economy’s Giles Parkinson, the AER has started cracking down on rorting. It now requires Victorian network operators to base their expenditure plans on actual usage rather than forecasts. It’s a good start but the regulation system is a complicated one and progress will be slow.
One outcome the energy industry hadn’t counted on was the growth of solar rooftops. The infrastructure profit bonanza started falling in a heap when the public wised up in tandem with the rising power prices. As solar doesn’t need over-priced poles and wires, that’s half the household bill saved for starters.

In a special report on the ABC’s Background Briefing, ‘The Price of Power’, The Australia Institute’s Dr Richard Denniss explained solar’s “trick” to reporter Jess Hill:
“Solar rooftops are wreaking havoc on the traditional power industry, because they produce the most amount of energy at the time of day when the power industry makes the most money.”
That is, solar works best when the sun shines —when baseline power producers charge their peak tariffs and also when we turn our air conditioners on.
“What that means is that the big coal-fired power plants are earning less for the energy they produce. That's because Australia has more electricity than it can use.”
Another piece of good news is that a bigger interconnecter linking the South Australian electricity market with Victoria will mean more wind energy coming Victoria’s way. As reported by Giles Parkinson in the same report, Victoria’s brown coal industry is resisting — fearing wind energy would drive their profits down further.
And wind tends to blow at night — when solar goes to bed, creating a perfect storm for the coal industry.
Wind is coal’s biggest competitor, while coal is the Liberal Party and National Party's biggest donor — mostly through the Free Enterprise Foundation, the Cormack Foundation and the Greenfields Foundation, all set up with the specific purpose of laundering (mostly mining) donations.
[See this author's investigation into Liberal Party fossil fuel donation dependency report with senior correspondent Barry Everingham.]
It is, therefore, no coincidence that the Abbott government plans to wind back the renewables industry.
We’ve also seen how the wind industry was demonised in Victoria by the Baillieu – then the Napthine – Governments, resulting in approximately $3 billion in investment going offshore.
[Refer also to my investigation: Victoria goes dirty brown.]

Now Joe Hockey has picked up the chant, calling wind farms “utterly offensive”.
We must assume by this that the insane experiment of CSG mining, with its legacy of worthless farmland and the toxic infrastructure, is more to his taste along with sulphur-belching coal-fired power stations.
The news on rising gas prices is a similar example of the fossil fuel industry extracting favoured treatment over the Australian public by Federal and Eastern State Coalition and LNP governments.
Householders in New South Wales can prepare for gas prices to take a 17 per cent hike thanks to LNG exports. Foreign-owned mining companies have been hoovering up all the gas to make killing by selling LNG on the higher priced overseas market.
Unfortunately, greed resulted in them overcommitting and there simply isn’t enough gas to fulfill contracts. At one point, they even contemplated drilling under residential homes just outside Sydney.
[For full details of why the CSG industry is no longer such a gas, read my report here, including the predicted shortage by the Australian Energy Regulator back in December 2012.]
This cynical disregard for Australia’s domestic market was followed by the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Authority’s decision to allow overseas prices to dictate what energy companies could charge the domestic market – effectively negating any benefit we could fairly expect from a resource owned and managed by the Crown supposedly on our behalf.
The mining industry is not the big employer it claims to be.
It destroys more jobs than it creates and tells outright lies about employment figures, such as APPEA’s dishonest claim to have created 100,000 jobs in 2012; the Australian Bureau of Statistics put it at only 9,372.
According to a report by The Australia Institute, mining employs only two per cent of the workforce. The boom in Queensland is likely to destroy one non-mining job for every two mining jobs it creates.

Last month, at global talks in Nairobi, energy experts at were calling on subsidies to oil, gas and coal prices to be cut:
‘According to the International Energy Agency, the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies will be the single most effective measure for climate change mitigation and would be one of the most effective measures for keeping the temperature rise beneath two degrees, which has been agreed upon in the international climate negotiations.’
The talks were organized by Germany's development agency GIZ, the UN's Environment Program and the International Monetary Fund. It was noted that most European countries have already cut their fossil fuel subsidies.
There’s little chance of the Abbott Government following suit while its policy outcomes continue to favour Australia’s richest corporate elites in return for hefty political donations.
At this point, donations – other than certain donations, such as from developers as in NSW – are not illegal.
Until such time as there is a national ICAC and an appetite to clean up the corrupt practice of political donations being tied to favourable decisions, we know who really governs Australia — the miners and the moguls.

Bill Shorten, SUBJECT / S: Tony Abbott’s Budget of Broken Promises; Cuts to education; University fee increases; Families in public life; GP Tax; Senator Bill Heffernan; Impartiality of Speaker Bronwyn Bishop; Immigration.

MONDAY, 26 MAY 2014

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be at a remarkable Canberra primary school, led by great teachers, full of great students, great kids who are optimistic about the future. Today in Canberra, in Parliament, the future of education isn’t as bright as it should be. We have a Budget of broken promises based upon lies before the last election. Tony Abbott lied to Australians before the election about education funding. He lied to Australians about health care funding. He lied to Australians about not increasing taxes. He lied to all Australians about not cutting or hurting pensions. Millions of Australians this week face the very real prospect that Tony Abbott’s Budget is going to hurt them and their families. We see reports emerging in the last fortnight since the Budget was brought down that many of Tony Abbott’s own members of his government are feeling very concerned and very unhappy about this dreadful Budget of broken promises. Many members of Tony Abbot’s own government are telling journalists they’re unhappy with the Budget. They’re certainly telling, having conversations amongst themselves in the halls and corridors and rooms of Parliament that they don’t like Tony Abbott’s budget. Today, Labor is asking all those Coalition members of Parliament, don’t be brave in the privacy of your own room where no-one can hear you speak. There’s millions of Australians who want you to tell the Prime Minister how dreadfully unfair his Budget is. Coalition MPs need to put politics back and put the nation’s interests forward. Members of the Government need to tell the Prime Minister that this is an unfair Budget of broken promises, based upon lies before the last election. Australia deserves no less from its Members of Parliament that they’ll put the interests of families, pensioners, sick people and kids ahead of their own political interests. I might ask my colleague Kate Ellis to talk about the bill that we’ve put into Parliament to fight the dreadful education cuts, which will give the marvellous children we’ve met here a better future than they’ll have if Tony Abbott gets his way.

KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Well thank you very much. It is fantastic to see the commitment of Bill Shorten once again to Australia’s schools and also that of our local member Gai Brodtmann. It’s great to be here at Hughes Primary School and I’d like to thank principal Kate Smith for having us here today. We are here today though because it is now very apparent that Tony Abbott lied when he told the Australian public before the election that no school would be worse off and what we in fact see is that every school and every student will be directly worse off as a result of his government’s budget. What we have seen is that Tony Abbott has thrown aside the Gonski agreements, which means that State Governments have now been given a green light to start cutting education funding, and cutting school funding hard. But not content with that damage, we also learn that this Federal Government has in store themselves the biggest ever cut to school funding with the $30 billion in cuts to Australian schools that they themselves are implementing. Now the Australian people believed that they could vote Liberal or Labor and there would be a plan to improve our schools. They believe that we would now be working on making sure that every student in every school across Australia was getting a great education, not that principals across the country would now be scratching their heads trying to work out where they will cut funding. And this is not what the Australian people were told. It was a blatant lie, and it is no surprise that Coalition backbenchers are now themselves recognising just how harmful this Budget is, but there is no use in speaking quietly about it to each other in the corridors of Parliament House. Every member of the Coalition now has to make sure that they speak up to this Prime Minister and this Education Minister. Every member of the Coalition has to make sure that they put these lies aside and start supporting Australian schools and start supporting the promises that they made to the Australian public. Thank you.

SHORTEN: Are there any questions?

JOURNALIST: If Labor is so strongly opposed to broken promises why is it supporting the deficit tax?

SHORTEN: The deficit tax is a broken promise. Tony Abbott promised before the last election, in order to get people to vote for Tony Abbott, Tony Abbott lied to them and said there would no increases in taxes. So it’s the new income tax increases but it’s also the new taxes on petrol, the new taxes on going to the doctor and of course the cuts to pensions. Labor has to make decisions about what are our priorities amongst this Budget of broken promises. We have made a decision that low income Australians, middle income Australians need to be the people who Labor fights for in terms of opposing the Budget nasties that have been outlined in Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget. Make no mistake about it, Tony Abbott has lied to high income earners, just like he’s lied to everyone else.

JOURNALIST: Is Labor prepared to negotiate on the $7 co-payment? It looks like the Coalition is at least leaving the door open for negotiations in Parliament?

SHORTEN: Never. Labor will never surrender the principle of Medicare being universally accessible. Labor with fight with every ounce of breath in our bodies to stand up for universal health care in this country. We think it is a dreadful and unfair and divisive idea, the idea that you tax the sick in order to try to make the health care system better. The function of the national Budget is to help family budgets, it’s not to punish family budgets. We will never compromise in defending Medicare – that’s who Labor is.

JOURNALIST: Not even if there are exemptions for pensioners or concession card holders?

SHORTEN: A bad idea is a bad idea, a broken promise is a broken promise, a lie is a lie. Taxing the sick as some way to reduce your health care costs does not make sense. We’re always up for trying to improve the costs in the health care system but the idea that you have Joe Hockey’s Budget acting as a bouncer in front of GP clinics, denying entry to the sick by a new tax is only going to make sick people sicker, it’s not going to make them better.

JOURNALIST: What about the higher education changes? Christopher Pyne seems to be indicating that he wants – that he is willing to negotiate on that as well?

SHORTEN: Oh well, you look at Christopher Pyne and the way they want to trash Australian higher education. They are engaging in a 20 per cent cut out of university funding, $5 billion. There are millions of families right now who are sending their kids to school, who are trying to make ends meet every fortnight. It’s a difficult battle, and they are being discouraged from the dream of sending their children to university. I do not understand how this Abbott Government thinks, when many of the frontbench were the beneficiaries of a free education, now they want to pull up the ladder after they’ve climbed up the ladder and deny the opportunity for a better life to other Australians. They are a selfish mob, this Abbott Government, and they’d wreck our higher education system. And Labor will have no part of their vandalism of the dreams and hopes of millions of Australians for a better future for their kids.

JOURNALIST: Should action be taken against Senator Bill Heffernan given his stunts in Budget Estimates today?

SHORTEN: Bill Heffernan’s made his point in a particularly unusual and unconventional sense about security at Parliament House. I have to say, though, for me today it’s about the security of Australian pensioners, it’s the security of Australian income earners against unfair taxes of the Abbott Government. I wish that the Federal Government would pay as much attention to the economic security of families as they are to this debate about Parliament House.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any concerns about security at Parliament House?

SHORTEN: You’d have to ask the security experts about that. My concern is the security of Australian families to be able to make ends meet every fortnight. If we want to talk about security, what about the security being denied to parents who currently receive Family Tax Benefit B whose children are older than six now? What about the security of Australians to be able to get an affordable health care system? What about the security of pensioners that they can make ends meet each fortnight, each week, rather than having their concessions cut by this mean and nasty Abbott Government. Security comes in many shapes and forms. The Abbott Government should think about the economic and social security of Australian communities.

JOURNALIST: How about the security of Bronwyn Bishop’s job? We’ve got Tony Burke asking for her resignation over these fundraising activities. Should she go?

SHORTEN: The Speaker of the Parliament should be independent. I think there’s quite a few questions to be answered about are the Liberal Party turning Parliament House into a fundraising machine for the Liberal Party? On Budget night, where Tony Abbott is preparing to make life harder for pensioners on $20,000, he calmly attends a dinner raising $50,000. This is an out-of-touch Government. But again what Australians want us to focus on is not just the antics in terms of the Liberal fundraising efforts. What they want us to focus on is this unfair Budget of broken promises built upon lies before the election.

This is a Government who lie in the morning, they lie at lunchtime and they lie at night-time and what they need to do is stop the lies. Government MPs need to stand up on behalf of their constituents, they should stop picking Tony Abbott over the best interests of millions of Australian families.

JOURNALIST: Should she stand down though do you think?

SHORTEN: There’s questions to be answered here. I don’t know if we’ve seen all the facts come out here. I don’t think anyone wants to see the Speaker’s position being politicised. I’m sure there’s more questions to be answered here. But what I would say is today and this week, even if the Liberals are shooting themselves in the foot by their own antics, Labor will not be distracted from standing up for ordinary Australians. What ordinary Australians want out of their Parliament is not a fundraising machine for one political party, they want to know that they’ve got a Government who’s in touch with paying the bills, paying the cost of living pressures, paying for their kids to be able to go to university. They want a Government who understands that putting a tax on sick people is a bad idea. That’s what people want out of their Government of Australia, not what we’re seeing in this current rabble.

JOURNALIST: Has Tony Burke got egg on his face given the letter he wrote to the Minister about this Nigerian fellow that’s on the front papers in Sydney?

SHORTEN: Tony Burke has already explained all of these matters very clearly earlier this morning. The only people with egg on their face today is an Abbott Government who’s in denial to what the damage they’re doing to Australians. A new tax on Medicare, a new tax on petrol. New cuts to pensions. And not even listening to their own members of their Government who are privately concerned. I would again just ask those backbenchers in the Government who are happy to criticise Tony Abbott privately off the record: you need to actually stand up for Australians, do the right thing by Australia, and dump this awful Budget. Because it’s a bad idea, and bad news for the future of Australia.

JOURNALIST: Tim Mathieson’s comments criticising the Prime Minister’s wife, are they out of line? Is he right to say to question whether she does enough for community?

SHORTEN: Tim Mathieson was the victim of unfair attacks when Prime Minister Gillard was in power. And I also believe that Margie Abbott is the subject of unfair attacks and I would just say to all Australians that what people want to see is an honest and tough debate about the issues and direction of Australia. Going after families is wrong. And again, Labor will make sure that this week and in coming weeks, the focus is 100 per cent holding the Abbott Government to account for their unfair Budget of broken promises, built upon systemic and wilful lies to the Australian electorate and we will stand up for ordinary Australians, we will stand up for Medicare, we will stand up for the pension, we will stand up for the aspiration of kids to be able to go to university no matter what postcode they come from, we’ll stand up for ordinary Australians against an unfair budget. Thanks everyone.






 May 26, 2014

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s cruel and unfair Budget has plumbed new depths with revelations he will axe an organisation dedicated to preventing asbestos-related diseases.

Tony Abbott’s abolition of Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency would have severe ramifications with asbestos still prevalent in many Australian suburbs and homes.

Australia has the highest per capita rate of asbestos disease in the world and almost 34,000 people have died because of the deadly dust since 1980.

Around 700 Australians die each year from asbestos-related diseases, and without proper management experts worry that tens of thousands of Australians could be diagnosed with asbestos related diseases in coming decades.

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency was established last year with bipartisan support, now Tony Abbott wants to break his promise to prevent asbestos-related disease in this country.

This isn’t about saving money – it’s about saving lives.

That is why Labor established the national Asbestos Safety and Eradication Council and the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency.

Together these bodies have been implementing a coordinated national approach to awareness raising and asbestos eradication in Australia. Dismantling them will see us going back to a patchwork approach.

Other countries have looked up to Australia’s recent approach to asbestos management as best practice.

A national agency provides a national solution to dealing with the deadly effects of asbestos. That’s why it is so important that it remains.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014





Tony Abbott’s Budget of broken promises and twisted priorities has signalled the end of support for Queensland flood reconstruction and the cutting of national flood mitigation works.

Senator Joseph Ludwig said the Budget will increase costs to the Commonwealth at the same time as it puts pressure on the cost of living for households.

$83 million has been scrapped from flood mitigation funding that would lower the pressure on insurance premiums for households in flood prone areas,” Senator Ludwig said.

Labor put $100 million for flood mitigation projects in last year’s Budget. Tony Abbott has cut this to $17 million. That funding could have gone into new projects all around Australia, but instead has been quietly cut from the Budget without warning.

Flood mitigation helps to push insurance premiums down for households in flood prone areas, reducing cost of living for Australians. In some areas, towns without flood levees have insurance premiums three times higher than town with protections.

Shadow Minister for Financial Services, Bernie Ripoll, said Labor invested in flood mitigation to assisting families in flood prone areas to reduce the high cost of flood cover.

By scrapping funding Tony Abbott is driving up the cost of insurance and turning his back on Queensland families,” Mr Ripoll said.

Budget papers also show that the Natural Disaster Recovery Taskforce and Australian Government Reconstruction Inspectorate will end on 30 June next year, despite seven disasters in Queensland declared this summer.

The Floods Reconstruction Inspectorate, chaired by former Liberal Premier John Fahey, oversees natural disaster spending to extract value-for-money. To date the Inspectorate has created $1.7 billion in savings for Commonwealth and Queensland taxpayers.

Senator Ludwig said the Taskforce has been coordinating the rebuilding of Queensland after the 2011 state wide floods, Cyclone Yasi, the 2013 floods and cyclones – working to roll out support across the state.

There is still almost 40 per cent of natural disaster works, or $4.2 billion worth of projects, to be rebuilt across Queensland. This is not the time for the Abbott Government to turn its back on the people of Queensland.

This comes on top of the Abbott Government savaging local governments by ripping $1 billion from their bottom line - meaning less funding for local roads and services.

Tony Abbott’s Budget of twisted priorities will leave Queenslanders paying for his broken promises,” Senator Ludwig said.

FRIDAY, 23 MAY 2014