Barnaby Joyce is a master not knowing all the things that he should know

The Age reports that: Barnaby Joyce (who is also the Resources Minister, has been accused of a conflict of interest due to claims he could personally benefit from the Turnbull government’s push to develop coal seam gas near land owned by the Deputy Prime Minister.


Barnaby has denied knowing the region potentially held CSG reserves until years after the purchase.

That lack of knowledge was despite Mr Joyce’s close ties to John Anderson, the former Nationals leader, who became chairman of Eastern Star Gas in 2007. Eastern Star co-owned explorations rights to a nearby area – PEL 428 – before the company was taken over by Santos.

Joyce has been promoting the Santos Narrabri project, which is only 30 km from the property that he has purchased for around  $500,000.

No of course he knows nothing about the possibility of his land being purchased for coal seam gas development. Barnaby is only the Resources Minister after all.

He didn’t know anything about being in New Zealand citizen either. Despite the fact that apparently his father was a New Zealander.


 Barnaby looking surprised

Intaj Khan personifies everything that is wrong with the privatisation of our education system

Flamboyant Labor councillor and aspiring MP Intaj Khan has been charged with nine criminal offences over his alleged failure to properly disclose his vast property and commercial interests in Melbourne’s west.


Apparently, he has of property portfolio worth $40m. After years of rumours and complaints, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has announced the cancellation of registration for the Melbourne-based Western Institute of Technology.

Pity they won’t be able to get any of the money back.

He faces court in the coming week for a string of charges brought by the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate following The Sunday Age investigation. Mr Khan was also the subject of a major inspectorate investigation after he ran a small army of dummy candidates as part of his bid to for re-election in November 2016 and a tilt at the Wyndham mayoralty.

He has built his fortune running a private training company heavily subsidised by the State and Federal governments. This man is the face of the modern government funded educational entrepreneur.

Is this really the kind of man  we want running our education system?  Someone who takes advantage of government subsidies to run one of many dodgy training colleges that have sprung up to replace the once viable TAFE  system.

Many of these colleges lured students from the subcontinent to Australia with promises of programs they could not, and had no intention of delivering. The student’s fees and the government subsidies were pocketed and the considerable profits went towards grandiose plans of self-aggrandizement.

Intaj Khan planned to build this with profits from his dodgy taxpayer subsidised business

 He also had a great talent for weasling his way into photographs with senior Labor politicians

Many  of whom are probably wishing that they had been a little more careful.

But at the heart of this whole sad, sorry and sordid affair, there lives a fundamental contradiction.

The idea that privatising education is going to make it more efficient is fundamentally flawed.  Because introducing the profit motive into the provision of a public good means that the fundamental impulse is to reduce the standard of service to increase the profit margin wherever possible.

In addition, there were two fundamental dynamics that doomed this process from the beginning

The first was the the notion of self-regulation, which was was a recipe for disaster Because there was no incentive whatsoever for cowboys like Intaj Khan to make any effort to ensure that educational standards were maintained.

The other was the idea that qualifications from a college such as the one that Intaj Khan ran would lead to credits towards Australian citizenship. This meant that students had no particular interest in asking questions about the educational standards so long as they were guaranteed a piece of paper at the end of the program. In fact, the lower the standards the better.

The less stringent the attendance and academic requirements, the more time the students had to work part-time jobs. It was a win-win all round. If the students were not required to attend classes, Mr Khan was not required to provide teachers.

And who have been the losers in all of this? The Australian taxpayers who paid for this  farcical endeavour and the poor overseas students who not only paid for it but have no qualifications to show for it.

And the winner? Mr Intaj Khan, who will no doubt find some way of wriggling out of this and pop up re-incarnated and presumably freshly blinged






Can you run a steel plant on renewable energy?

Discredited ex-Prime Minister, back-bencher without portfolio, climate denier, no-voter on marriage equality, clean coal man, political dinosaur and a man who can’t tell the difference between an onion and an apple, Tony Abbott thinks you can’t.


Sanjeev Gupta, the flamboyant Indian-born and British based billionaire who has agreed to buy the ailing steel producer Arrium, and who has promised to turn the ageing Whyalla steel plant “green” by sourcing electricity from renewables and pumped hydro, thinks you can.


And he is putting his money where his mouth is. He is also buying a stake in Ross Garnaut’s Zen Energy,


Ross Garnaut is Professorial Research Fellow in Economics at the University of Melbourne. In 2009 Ross was awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, from the Australian National University and in 2013 he received a Doctor of Science in Economics, honoris causa, from the University of Sydney. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences and a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Society of Australia. In addition, Ross is a Distinguished Life Member of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society and also an Honorary Professor of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

He thinks you can too.

Tony Wood of the Grattan Institute thinks you can too.


Tony has been Director of the Energy Program since 2011 after 14 years working at Origin Energy in senior executive roles. From 2009 to 2014 he was also Program Director of Clean Energy Projects at the Clinton Foundation, advising governments in the Asia-Pacific region on effective deployment of large-scale, low-emission energy technologies. In 2008, he was seconded to provide an industry perspective to the first Garnaut climate change review.

Blue Poles may be worth $350m today but is that the point. It’s in an Australian Gallery

On this day in 1973, the Whitlam government purchased the Jackson Pollock work ‘Blue Poles’ for US$2 million.

The decision was ridiculed by prominent members of Melbourne’s art world, as this article from The Age in 1973 shows:

The article about the purchase that appeared in The Age the following day.The article about the purchase that appeared in The Age the following day. Photo: Microfilm

The former chairman of the Commonwealth Art Advisory board, Sir William Dargie, told The Age the gallery could have bought a Rembrandt for that price. “In business terms their decision is like taking a wild gamble on a speculative stock when for the same amount of money they could have bought into the blue chips category,” he said.

Read more about the acquisition of the artwork

Former prime minister Gough Whitlam and Director of the Australian National Gallery James Mollison in front of Blue ...
Former prime minister Gough Whitlam and Director of the Australian National Gallery James Mollison in front of Blue Poles in 1973. 

North Korea wants military equilibrium with US. WTF?

The AGE reports: North Korea said on Saturday it aimed to reach an “equilibrium” of military force with the United States.

It’s going to be hard to achieve.


The North Korean planes are 40 years old, most don’t fly and the pilots are badly trained. The tanks are based on 1960s-era Soviet T-62 models and the North Koreans have only got one submarine whereas the Americans have 80.

The rest of North Korea’s naval capacity is summed up as picture of  Pres Kim.


It is difficult to imagine what his Chinese allies are saying to him. Surely someone must be telling him that it is dangerous to push someone as unpredictable as Donald Trump to a point of exasperation.

Or is China playing a very dangerous double game and  telling Kim  they will back him whatever he may do.  Let us hope not.

Firing missiles over Japanese territorial is space is unbelievably provocative. It is only a matter of time before the Japanese or Americans begin shooting them down.

There are some dangerous men lurking behind President Trump.


These men do not care about North Korean casualties and they believe they have got the pre-emptive power to wipe the North Korea ICBMs out before they can do any damage to Japan Guam or mainland US.

B-1 bombers have been from regular flights over North Korea since Kim Jong-un begun his recent round of missile testing.

The problem with a “Fair and Balanced” ABC being dictated by Pauline Hanson and One Nation

The Guardian reports that: Coalition signals it will negotiate with One Nation over curbs on ABC

These demands from Hanson and One Nation include investigations into “left-wing bias’ in the ABC and moves to make its reporting “fair and balanced”.

The ABC is regarded by Australians as its most trusted news source. It  is the fourth most trusted public institution behind the State Police, the Federal police and the High Court. The Federal Parliament ranks 12th and political parties rank 15th.

In professional terms, politicians are ranked by Australian and 25th  just ahead of used car salesman 30th. (Source Roy Morgan)

Malcolm Roberts was elected by just 77 people. Yet he could be sitting on a Senate committee that investigates the ABC.

Yet we have the Prime Minister and a Government pandering to a political party whose idea of lack of bias is giving equal coverage to anti-vaxers, climate sceptics, science deniers, xenophobes, various members of the flat earth society and Malcolm Roberts.


So it is profoundly ironic that a group of people for whom we have so little regard is  now interfering with institution for which we have such great regard.

The  ABC has been forced to be fair and balanced in the debate on marriage equality. This has meant giving both the yes and no side of the argument equal coverage.

So we have heard much more from Tony Abbott and his fellow travellers than has really been warranted.

So here is a reflection on a “fair and balanced” approach.

A hundred years ago, women’s suffrage was a burning issue.  Australia and New Zealand were the first nations in the world to grant women the vote.


It’s interesting to look at the arguments that the ABC would have been obliged air in support of the case for women not being allowed the vote.

  • Women are too precious and innocent to become embroiled in public life.
  • Women are too irrational and emotional to make an intelligent contribution
  • Women do not fight to defend their country.
  • Most women do not want the vote.
  • Women will be corrupted by politics and chivalry would die out
  • If women become involved in politics, they will stop marrying, having children, and the human race will die out
  • Women are emotional creatures, and incapable of making a sound political decision.

Being fair and balanced should not mean giving both sides of an argument equal air time.

When 97% of the world’s climate scientists agree on the causes of climate change and 3% disagree, it’s not “fair and balanced” to give the 3% an equal say.

It’s plain stupid particularly when a respected institution like the ABC gives sputious credence to the views of people like Malcolm Roberts.



OK Malcolm: Why is it okay to refuse to marry people who support gay marriage but not okay to refuse to celebrate Australia Day on January 26?

First some headlines.

A couple of issues that have made the headlines.

The first concerns a Presbyterian minister in Ballarat who refused to marry two long-standing congregation  members because the bride expressed support for the Yes vote in the forth-coming postal oversight on marriage equality.

Church cancels wedding because bride and groom supported gay marriage on Facebook

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The Prime Minister came out in support of the stand that the clergyman had taken.

Malcolm Turnbull defends right to refuse to marry couples who support gay marriage

The second issue concerns the move by a number of inner-city and Greens-dominated councils to move the celebration of Australian Day away from 26 January. The Federal government and the Prime Minister are vehemently opposed to this, as are most Australians.


Malcolm being vehement

Darebin council stripped of citizenship ceremony after controversial Australia Day vote

Yarra City Council stripped of citizenship ceremony powers over Australia Day decision

Now as a matter of principle, these two matters appear more or less similar.

The argument is that the Presbyterian Church, in this case, the Ballarat Presbyterian Church, has the right to decide who gets married in its church because it has a set of fundamental beliefs about the nature of marriage.  Now, this case they are not being asked to marry a gay couple, but simply a heterosexual couple (and a heterosexual Presbyterians couple  who are long-standing members of the congregation at that) who happened to support same-sex marriage.  Many would think that this is digging a very deep trench in the sand.

If the Presbyterian Church of Ballarat has the right to do this, as the Prime Minister argues, shouldn’t the democratically elected councils of Darebin and Yarra City decide when to celebrate Australia Day because  they have a  said of fundamental beliefs about the inclusive nature of Australia Day.

And should they be allowed to do this without being  monstered by the federal government?

Ebenezer St John’s Ballarat minister: My way or the highway to bride and groom who support gay marriage

A Presbyterian minister in Ballarat has refused to marry two straight parishioners (members of his congregation for 10 years) because the bride-to-be supported gay marriage on Facebook.

Minister Steve North Wrote  “your commitment to same-sex marriage opposes the teaching of Christ Jesus”.

I’d like to see  chapter and verse from the scriptures on that one.

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The Age reports that: Church cancels wedding because bride and groom supported gay marriage on Facebook

This is the responce the couple made to the Rev. North

“We feel this decision is absolutely disgraceful and is a disgrace to you and all the church, especially when we have been loyal and valued members of this congregation for 10 years,” they wrote.

“You were made aware from the beginning of our proceedings that we had gay friends and also that people in our wedding party were gay. How could you assume that we would abandon them or degrade them with regards to same-sex marriage?

“We understand we did agree with the teachings of the church in our marriage counselling but just because we agree with that for our own lives, doesn’t mean that we have to push those beliefs onto others.”

The church’s decision had caused “a great deal of stress and upset” to both families, the couple wrote.

Tony Abbott gives the case for a “No” vote his best shot. He really is past his best .

Part of the problem is that the “No” case is quite difficult to make if you leave out all the fear mongering.  The case rests on the fact that one group in our society wishes to deny another group access to a set of rights and privileges that they regard as their sole prerogative.

The Yes case is equally simple. In a just society, everyone has equal rights.

I have read the article “Tony Abbott on why same sex marriage would fundamentally change society”  published in the Fairfax media, twice now.


It’s not much good  but it is about as good as the argument for the No case is ever going to be. I’ve summarised it to save you the trouble of reading it.

Abbott starts off with some condescending shit about “being there” for his gay friends.

And then goes on to say that gay couples are in fact equal to married heterosexual couples.

Which they are not.

Which is to say he actually finds it difficult to understand what all the fuss is about.

Then there is a lot of argument about the fundamental change to the “institution of marriage” and how changes to the Marriage Act will change one the foundations of society: heterosexual marriage.  The implication being that this change will destroyed marriage, and by implication, society as we know.

Personally, I find it difficult to understand how Christine Forster, (Tony Abbott’s sister)


getting married to Virginia Edwards is going to have an effect on the relationship between Tony and Margie


But that’s the fundamental argument.

If gay people get married, the institution of marriage viz heterosexual marriages will somehow be threatened.  If the two people in the top photograph marry,  somehow the  relationship between the two people in the bottom photograph will be threatened.

Surely there is something fundamentally idiotic about this argument.

But I digress, back to Tony’s article.

Then there’s a long rant about the fact that the supporters of the “No vote” , particularly the Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous,


and Coopers Brewery, have been very badly treated . But generally all the bad things  that have gone on in the campaign, so far have been perpetrated by supporters of the  “Yes vote”.

Parts of the article are incomprehensible and there is a lot of ranting about Catholic adoption agencies having to close down and a baker being prosecuted over icing on a cake.

And then the whole thing slides away into arguments about “gender fluidity in the marriage act”, freedom of speech, parental choice,  religious freedom, political correctness gone wrong, Uber,  Subway and Magnum Ice Cream.

So if we want to protect these things (freedom of speech, parental choice,  religious freedom, that is. not necessarily Uber, Subway and Magnum Ice Cream), we should vote No.



More bad news for Turnbull: Labor stays ahead in the polls

This makes it 19 in a row. Still a way to go to equal Tony Abbott’s PM toppling 30 but the signs are not good.


For some inexplicable reason,  preferences are allocated on the basis of the 2016 election.

When voters were asked how they would allocate preferences – rather than relying on 2016 preference flows – the contest between the two major parties narrowed slightly, with Labor’s lead reduced to 52 to 48 per cent.

It’s simple really, why don’t pollsters publish results based on asking voters what their current preference intentions are. It’s much more accurate.

It will also be good to know what the intentions are for the Senate. Because the voting intentions shown in this poll are for the lower house. And nowadays the Senate is very much an important part of the political mix.

Nonetheless, Malcolm Turnbull is going to need a Tampa crisis, a nuclear war on the  Korean Peninsula or a political scandal of the Jim Cairns scale thrown into the mix to save his political scalp.