How has Malcolm Turnbull got the politics of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act so wrong?

The SMH reports: “An overwhelming majority of Australians oppose legalising speech that “offends, insults or humiliates” on the basis of race, according to a new Fairfax-Ipsos poll that underscores the political danger the Turnbull government faces in softening the nation’s race-hate laws.

As the Senate prepares to vote on amendments to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act later this week, the poll of 1400 voters shows 78 per cent of Australians believe it should be unlawful to offend, insult or humiliate someone on the basis of their race or ethnicity.”

Even though Labor and legal experts argue that the bar to catch racist speech will be set higher under the proposal, Turnbull has declared he is not approving a watering down of race protections.

“We are strengthening it because it’s clearer, it will be a more effective protection against race/hate,” he said.

His difficulty is that he doesn’t seem to have got this message across to the Australian public.


One of his problems is that the current legislation makes it quite clear that it illegal to offend, insult or humiliate someone on the basis of their race or ethnicity.” If you ask most Australians if they think we should get rid of this law, they are likely to say no.


Which is what poll did, and got the predictable answer. The poll did not ask the question, “Do you think that section 18 C can be improved?”  which is probably the question that Malcolm Turnbull would have liked it to have asked.

Now it looks as if Malcolm Turnbull is trying to give free rein to the racists and bigots and extremists of the far right.

But then Malcolm Turnbull not has been getting many free kicks on this issue


I can feel the earth getting flatter

Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s head of the US Environmental Protection Agency whose website states that carbon dioxide is the “primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change” has dismissed a basic scientific understanding of climate change by denying that carbon dioxide emissions are a primary cause of global warming.
Pruitt said on Thursday that he did not believe that the release of CO2, a heat-trapping gas, was pushing global temperatures upwards.
“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” he told CNBC.

If not Malcolm, then who?

The front page of The Age will make bleak reading for Liberal party parliamentarians today.

Support for the Turnbull government has crashed, according to the latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll, and Labor now holds a thumping 10-point lead over the Coalition in the two-party preferred vote.

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This translates into a loss of 24 seats. A loss of these proportions often condemns a government to at least two terms in opposition.

While there has been a significant swing in the two-party preferred vote support for the GIMPs has remained steady which means that this shift is unlikely to deliver the Labor Party control of the Senate.

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This particular graph outlines the difficulty that both major parties are facing. Their primary vote is now hovering around 33%. There is not much to suggest that the situation will change. The party that wins government will do so on the preferences of the GIMPs.

Turnbull seems to have been hellbent on gaining support of the right-leaning voters of this group, in particular the One Nation voters. If the current poll is any indication, he has been singly unsuccessful in doing this.

A more sensible strategy, particularly for Labor, would be to attract Green voters. They represent by far the largest and most coherent bloc of GIMP voters. It will be much easier for Bill Shorten and the Labor Party to appeal to the group and far more of a challenge for Malcolm Turnbull.

In very simple terms, the breakdown of the voting demographic looks like this.


Clearly, is going to be easy for the the Labor Party to attract Greens preferences. But not entirely impossible for Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals.

Stopping this kind of nonsense would help.


The other strategy from Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals is to appeal to the right-leaning labor voters. It’s likely to be a more successful strategy and chasing the Hansonites.

But I digress. One thing is absolutely clear. The days of one of the two major parties being elected in their own right well and truly over.

Members of the Parliamentary party must be giving thought to a successor for Malcolm Turnbull. Recent rumours were circulating around  a leadership pairing of Michaela Cash and Peter Dutton.

Dutton and Cash standing behind respective leaders

 It’s difficult to see that this particular pairing would gain much electoral traction. But it does highlight the problems that Liberals have.

As did Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop when she said: “(Malcolm Turnbull) is a can-do prime minister (and) he’s performing strongly.”


 She probably remains the Liberal party’s best bet.

Parliamentary penalty rates, allowances and rorts

This is Small Business Minister Michael McCormack.

When he doesn’t work on Sunday, he is paid a little bit under $1000 a day. He is also paid that when he doesn’t work on Saturday as well.

This is Ruby, she is a “Girl barista”.

My guess is that, if she’s lucky and gets paid penalty rates when she works on Sunday, she will earn around $40 per hour, $320 for an 8-hr shift.  Under legislation proposed by Small Business Minister Michael McCormack and his government that will be reduced to around $240, if she is lucky. If she doesn’t get penalty rates, she will earn much less than that.

This is Small Business MinisterMichael McCormack.

If he does work on Sunday, he gets paid $274 for going to sleep in his wife’s negatively geared apartment in Canberra. That’s on top of his salary. He claimed $48,256 in Canberra travel allowance between May 2013 and June 2016.

“I get a travel allowance, others get penalty rates – it’s part of the package,” he told his local newspaper, The Daily Advertiser in Wagga Wagga.

He is not alone in getting paid for going to sleep at night.

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Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Social Services Minister Christian Porter and Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion also stay in houses or apartments they own and claimed the allowance. Labor frontbenchers including Mr O’Connor, Richard Marles and Penny Wong also claim the allowance.

The allowance appears to be roughly equal to the cost of spending a night in a rather nice hotel in Canberra. Presumably, it’s meant to be a reimbursement for the expense of actually spending the money to stay in that rather nice hotel.

Somewhere along the line, the reimbursement turned into an entitlement (sorry Joe there’s that word again) regardless of where parliamentarian stayed overnight.

It’s strange, the only person who is not smiling in my blog is Ruby the barista girl.

Review of Peppa Pig’s Australian Holiday by Winton Haslett

Nana and Papa took me to see Peppa Pig’s Australian Holiday at the cinema.


On the way, you you we passed a motorbike in the food court. You put money in it. I wanted to ride on it but Nana wouldn’t let me because we were late. She said I could ride on it after the film.

At the pictures, we sat in big seats like Papa’s big seat at home with buttons that make your feet go up. There were two other kids there, but they didn’t want to play.

When the lights went out, there was a film about these blue people, they didn’t look like Peppa Pig. Nana said they were Smurfs. I don’t like Smurfs.

There were lots of other films and then there was Peppa Pig’s Australian Holiday. It had these funny kids dressed up like Peppa and this funny lady. Then there was this film with Peppa and George. George didn’t cry very much and there was a boomerang and people into the beach in an aeroplane.


I got to snuggle in with Nana.

Soon, I asked Nana if I could go and ride on the motorbike so we left.

I liked the motorbike more than I liked the film.

The film was just like I watch on the computer when I sit on Papa’s knee but not in the dark.


The Four Corners documentary “The Age of Consequences” was disturbing on many levels (some unintended)

This new documentary looks at the impacts of climate change on national security and global stability.  Filmmakers conducted interviews with many experts including CSWCR Director David Titley.  Dr. Titley also appeared at the world premiere of the documentary at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto in May 2016.


Dr. David Titley with director Jared Scott and executive producer Sophie Robinson

The central message of this exceptionally well-made documentary is put by ex- Brigadier General, the CEO of The Center for Climate & Security, Stephen Cheney “Climate change is what we call an accelerant to instability”


The documentary details the effects of climate change in the Middle East where a three-year drought that has affected wide areas and produced population shifts towards the cities.

These population shifts, the documentary argues, have produced large disaffected and unemployed groups that have become fertile breeding grounds for the revolutionary and terrorist messages of ISIS.


The documentary does not argue that climate change is the sole reason for conflict in the Middle East. It is an “accelerant”, an underlying cause. That argument is probably undeniable.

The documentary also makes a point, which is not developed in any detail, that future conflict in this region will be over control of increasingly scarce water  resources.

 Where the documentary begins to be rather more disturbing is in the implicit argument that there is support in the US military for action on climate change.  This may not be the case.

The case may be that the US military is arguing for increased funding and military spending to provide military solutions to the second-order effects of climate change.

 The first step in the argument presented in the documentary is to use people such as ex-Brigadier General Stephen Cheney.

It’s only a short step from using Cheney to using excerpts of other members of the US military giving testimonies to Senate committees that include reference to climate change particularly arguing the case of the impact of scarce water resources in the Middle East.

 So now we get images of serious men in uniform, with lots of medals and serious faces, presumably arguing the case for climate change.


Retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley

 Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favour of arguing the case.

But we need to be very aware of how it’s being done.  In this case is done by using  images of powerful authority figures and the shock impact of having them argue a case that you would not expect them to argue. It’s very effective.

 There are also frightening and disturbing images of the war in the the Middle East and of displaced refugees.

However, the use of these snippets raises the question of the context in which they were being presented.

 The documentary gives the impression that there is widespread support for action on climate change within the US military.

But is this the case?

What may be the case is that the US military is using climate change as an argument for increased military spending  (which in the case of the Trump ministration would appear to have been very successful).

A more important message from this documentary is that changing sea levels and  water scarcity will cause migration and instability on a global level.

This point was emphasised by a Bangladeshi general who said that 30 million people in his country were affected by changing sea levels.

This was linked to the border conflict between his country in India which is defined by a double razor wire fence and patrolled by the Indian Army which, apparently, shoots anyone who tries to cross the border.


 Does the use of these images to support the argument from climate change represent a dangerous and subtle shift towards propaganda?

 Is it a dramatic oversimplification to say that climate change can be linked to the border conflicts between Bangladesh and India?  Probably yes.

 This week’s Q and A  addressed the problem of fake news and how we distinguish between what is true and not true. That’s been a problem that was articulated many years ago by Pontius Pilate. Still true today.

 And this particular documentary represents the problem in its most invidious way.

 The documentary addresses a problem that is one of the great moral challenges of our century (sorry couldn’t resist that one). But the methods it uses are bordering, ever so slightly, on the dubious.

 It is invidious because, when it’s a cause that you support, you’re inclined to let it go through to the keeper.

 Well, no.


Richard III and winning at villainy: just be smarter than everyone else

When Richard takes the audience by the sleeve and  announces in the opening scene of Richard III


Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:

This day should Clarence closely be mew’d up,
About a prophecy, which says that ‘G’
Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.


The audience is left wondering, “Surely it can’t be that simple?” But here comes Clarence, under guard. Why?

Because my name is George.

(The king) hearkens after prophecies and dreams;
And from the cross-row plucks the letter G.
And says a wizard told him that by G
His issue disinherited should be;

Richard is all sympathy, promising to intercede with the King. Poor Clarence, believing his brother, is taken off to the Tower. When he is gone, Richard turns to the audience and says

Go, tread the path that thou shalt ne’er return.
Simple, plain Clarence! I do love thee so,
That I will shortly send thy soul to heaven,
If heaven will take the present at our hands.

The subtext is “See, I told you so, it’s so simple.”

Richard III – Shakespeare’s greatest villain sets the scene

Shakespeare’s plays usually start well. But none as well as Richard III. Macbeth comes close with the three witches.

Many of his plays begin prologue of some sort, Henry V starts pretty tamely with a chorus. Often it’s couple of lords or a couple of clowns strolling about giving a bit of background.

Richard is his own prologue and he doesn’t pull any punches. He leaves no one, himself included unscathed.

Richard coils and then launches himself headlong at the audience,


Antony Sher as Richard III

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

What actor would not kill for these lines?

And if you’ve been paying attention, particularly through Henry VI  Parts 1, 2 and 3 you’d know that this “sun of York”, Edward IV,  was not capable of creating glorious summers. It was his second shot at being king and he wasn’t particularly good at it.  if you had watched the BBC’s wonderful production of The Hollow Crown  you would have seen the young Richard played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

He is watching his elders and betters, particularly the Earl of Warwick known as the Kingmaker, as they fought their way through the Wars of the Roses.  Warwick shepherded Edward onto the throne.

Stanley Townsend as the Earl of Warwick

He had his doubts but Edward was next in line.

All along Richard must’ve been thinking, “I’m better than this lot.” when peace came, Richard has his chance.

Richard makes no attempt to conceal his sarcasm and contempt for this glorious summer where

Grim-visaged war….instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
…. capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.

And Shakespeare’s Richard is not cut out for the times

Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;

And so Richard sets the scene

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain

And when he says that aim of his villainy is to

To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:

the Elizabeth audience would have no doubt that Richard is setting out to be king and he is inviting the audience along for the ride.



Why abolishing stamp duty for first home buyers may not work

The Victorian Government is considering abolishing stamp duty (5.5%) for first home buyers and replacing it with a land tax that would be paid on an annual basis. This would result in an immediate saving of around $40,000 on an average  price of a  house and result in a annual land tax of just under $3000.

But it may not work quite that simply

At present, people buying a house for the first time split their money like this.

On the price of the average Melbourne house money goes on stamp duty is around $44,000.  So this is what may likely happened under the new policy.

The total funds available for purchase (purchase + stamp duty) are now available solely for the purchase. Nothing needs to go to stamp duty.

There is now an extra $44,000 available to spend at auction to fend off the cashed-up property investors who are competing against first-time buyers. But this has consequences.

This serves to push prices up, not only for first-time buyers, but for all of the buyers, investors included, through a knock-on effect in the market .

As this knock-on effect works its way into marketplace, it will adversely impact housing affordability for first home buyers forcing them back into the rental market. This will maintain the attractiveness of the rental market for housing investors. This attractiveness will be further enhanced by the Federal Government’s obstinate and self-interested refusal to act on negative gearing.

The irony of this particular policy is that the first homebuyers, who have ultimately been forced by market pressures to sink their savings from the abolition of the stamp duty into the purchase of their first home, will find themselves compensating the government for the loss of the stamp duty revenue through the progressive payment of land tax. The ultimate double whammy (shown in red).

The net result of this policy could be to make first-time buyers pay stamp duty twice. Once by transfer of the payment of stamp duty into the price of their first home and second through the compensation of payment of land tax.

And all this because no one will move the elephant out of the room.

The myth of corporate tax cuts

This is a summary of Michael Pascoe’s article in The Age

“When profits go up, so do wages,” Business Council of Australian president Grant King declared last week as he struggled to keep alive the dream of a tax cut for his members.

It would be equally simplistic but a bit closer to the truth at present to turn the statement around: When wages go up, so do profits. The reality is that higher profits aren’t translating into higher wages.

The BCA would have us believe there is an international shortage of capital. The reality is that there is no shortage of capital – the world is awash with money looking for investment opportunities.

The scorecard for the ASX 200 companies in February reporting season showed, yet again, that most companies increased profits and increased dividend payments.

What’s been the flow through to wages from those higher profits? Not much at all. From a broader perspective, Australian wages have been losing out to profits for decades.

The BCA would be better served investigating what loopholes, rorts and deductions should be axed as a trade-off for lower rates, finding ways to ensure BCA members actually pay tax on the money they earn in Australia, rather than churning out trashed platitudes.

Build up some credibility in overall tax policy – buy into the negative-gearing/CGT interaction, for example, or denounce the novated lease rort – and come up with a plan that makes sense to the Australian people, that is equitable and in the nation’s best interests and then we could well be interested. Until then, forget it.