Are we heading towards becoming a police state?

The Age 9!/11/19) reports: Victoria Police has launched a criminal investigation into two people it suspects are the whistleblowers who exposed how travel company Helloworld gave free international flights to the family of Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

It appears that every time someone blows the whistle on government behaviour such as the letting of multi-million dollar travel contracts to friends of government ministers who receive free travel, the illegal tapping of foreign government offices during trade negotiations, the behaviour of Special Forces overseas, or the publication of documentation related to these activities, then the people responsible for this are subject to harassment by state agencies and police forces.

The argument that is extended in all of these cases is that it is in the Interest of national security.

In each of these cases, it appears that the interests of the nation were not being served, rather than the interests of the current government were being served at the expense of the wider interests of the people of Australia and in particular their right to know what the government was doing to protect their particular interests.

In the case of the Helloworld travel scandal there can be no possible argument of national security or national interest. The whole fiasco was a complete disgrace.

The company concerned is controlled by ex-Liberal Party Treasurer and party donor Andrew Burnes with a 35% interest. Burnes also personally arranged the free travel to Singapore for the senator and his family.

A billion-dollar contract was awarded to the company (of which ex-Treasurer and US ambassador Joe Hockey is a shareholder) shortly after Senator Corman had received the free travel.

The people who exposed this are now being Investigated by the police to find out how they obtained this information.

This comes to the very heart of being a whistleblower. You have to be able to access information about illegal activity. This means taking it from your employer. Your employer can always say that you have stolen it.

That is the only way that you can expose illegal activity.

So whistleblower legislation needs to cover and protect this kind of activity.

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The pristine and enigmatic sexual imagery of Patrina Hicks

Patrina Hicks has a stunning exhibition at the Ian Potter Gallery at NGV. It’s called Bleached Gothic and the inherent contradiction in this title captures some of the enigmatic characteristics of this wonderful photographer.

This is a still from a video in the exhibition of a woman performing fellatio on a rose. Prepare to be surprised.

The visitor is greeted at the entrance by an image of model regurgitating (or eating) a budgerigar. The image, like that of the rose, has sexual overtones. These are stronger in the video than in the picture of the budgerigar.

But there is also a strong disconnect in the budgerigar image where the sexual connotations are less emphatic more enigmatic.

This picture is the most surreal of a number of pictures in the exhibition which feature animals and humans.

The viewer is left to ponder the connection between the rose, the budgerigar, the butterfly and the mouth of the model.

There is an erotic image of a pair lips, slightly parted to reveal a pair of pearly white teeth.

Mouth or vagina? it depend on your point of view.

This imagery is repeated with the model and conch shell. The soft pink sensuality of the lips has been replaced by a subtle shift to the pink of the shell.

While the whole picture is now suffused with soft pink fleshy tones, the model has been dehumanised by shell.

Trying to connect the images to create some sense of narrative is difficult. Another image of the rose appears unconnected to the earlier image.

Nor does the use of the same model create any sense of continuity.

it is interesting, having finished writing this review and looking back at what I have written and comparing it with what I’m going to write about Polixeni Papapetrou whose work is being exhibited at Ian Potter at the same time as Hicks.

Papapetrou has used her daughter Olympia extensively her model and there are clearly identifiable themes and motifs running through her work. This is not immediately apparent in Patrina Hicks’ work which works reviewing it intelligently more difficult.

Woolworths owes workers $300m in underpayments and it may just be the tip of the iceberg.

The AGE reports:Supermarket giant and one of Australia’s largest employers Woolworths has revealed it underpaid nearly 6000 of its employees as much as $300 million due to non-compliance with the industry award across its supermarkets and Metro stores.

The “discrepancy” was found during a review of its workers’ salaries prior to implementing the company’s newest enterprise bargaining agreement.

Salaried workers at the company’s other divisions, including Big W, Dan Murphy’s and BWS, may also be affected. A total of 19,000 salaried workers are employed by Woolworths, and the company said former workers may also be eligible for underpayment.

If this is the case, the additional cost could be just under $1 billion.

How did this come about? The situation may have been going on for nearly a decade

Why were staff not better informed of their entitlements by their union and by their employer.

As appears to be the case with a number of high-profile restaurants, Woolworths is not arguing about whether this dubious practice has been going on. Systematic underpayment appears to be part of the business model.

The repayment of the wages should include an interest component and the government should be legislating penalties for what can only be branded as wage theft.

This form of behaviour is inexcusable on two counts.

Firstly, it steals from the workers who have been denied wage increases for an exceptionally long period of time and this form of behaviour coupled with slow wage growth damages the economy.

Secondly, there will be a negative response from the stock market and Woolworths’ shares will lose value. This will have negative effect on shareholders and all the superannuation funds who have invested in Woolworths shares.

It wasn’t long ago that penalty rates were cut in the retail and hospitality industries. Now we find that these two industries appear to be underpaying workers by millions of dollars having pleaded to the commission couldn’t afford to pay workers over the weekends.

This is chicanery of the highest order.

More coercive powers to the police but not to IBAC to investigate police corruption.

The AGE (October 28, 2019 ) reports Premier Daniel Andrews is resisting a push from his own minister, Victoria’s integrity chief and senior police to give the state’s anti-corruption watchdog more power to investigate police misconduct.

IBAC commissioner Robert Redlich, QC, has also been calling for reform, warning a bipartisan parliamentary committee in 2018 that his agency was badly hamstrung as it lacked the power to search or arrest potentially crooked cops.

Mr Redlich described the gaps in IBAC’s powers as an “extraordinary state of affairs” that enabled suspects to lie to investigators, destroy evidence, or not provide a record of interview.

Yet

The AGE (October 27, 2019 ) reports Police have been authorised to shoot and kill drivers who deliberately or recklessly risk the lives of the public as part of a new hostile vehicle policy – the first of its type in Australia.

Should police have been able to shoot James Gargasoulas?

One must wonder about increasing coercive powers for the police given the case of Nik Dimopoulos who was severely injured in the botched police raid at the queer bookshop the iconic Hares and Hyenas in Fitzroy.

It was a case of simply getting the address wrong. The police thought a member of a Lebanese gang was hiding in a gay bookshop!

Mr Dimopoulos is still searching for answers about his brutal experience – and wants Premier Daniel Andrews to strengthen the oversight system to ensure police are properly held to account.

The question remains Is it advisable to extend the powers of the police to shoot and kill while it may appear that the system of oversight of the police’s use of force may be defective.

There is also the question of the risk to public safety of having police shooting at runaway motorists and whether this is a price that the public is prepared to pay.

The problems at SUT are not unique. They are likely to be a result of Drifting Goals across the whole university system

Dr Nazari (ex-lecturer at Swinburne University) is a prolific publisher, listed as an author on 29 papers so far this year.

That’s nearly 3 a month. One every 10 days.

Any academic would tell you that this is well-nigh impossible if the work is all original. Someone at Swinburne must have been asleep at the wheel.

However, the guy was raking in millions of dollars in ARC research funding, so why strangle the golden goose.

However, The Age reports: Dr Ali Nazari from Swinburne’s School of Engineering has had dozens of papers retracted by scientific journals this year over concerns about duplication of data

This problem is perfectly explained by the Systems Archetype entitled “Drifting Goals”

Dr Nazari had a long and superficially impressive publication record with an appointment to attract ARC funding.. But it would appear that no one was reading or scrutinising his publications. Why not?

Another systems archetype explains this. It’s called Success to the Successful.

In this case, Dr Nazari is Jane, because he is successful in getting external grants, he gets internal support for his external applications at the expense of other internal applicants and so the system supports him and he is continually successful

So the story goes like this: this man has lots of publications. Albeit in Iran. Let’s appoint him. He has lots of publications, albeit in Iranian journals, lets give him a research grant.

He’s had lots of research grants in the past, let’s give him more research grants in the future.

One predictor of success in gaining ARC research grants appears to be your success in gaining research grants in the past. Classic Success to the Successful systemic behaviour.

This little story is to demonstrate how the system can Generate its own behaviour, probably quite unintentionally, and produce quite undesirable behaviours.

The problem with the archetype Drifting GoalsIn the university system is that it produces increasingly low quality research across the whole system and academics are encouraged to produce large volumes of very poor research.

The problem with this is that as the volume grows the difficulty in monitoring the quality increases. Who’s going to read all the stuff, particularly when everybody’s flat out trying to produce their own mountain of rubbish.

Part of the problem is the proliferation of online journals. What academic does not receive regular solicitations to be on editorial boards and to submit papers to journals?

A possible answer would be for rigourous internal reviews before academics are allowed to submit to external journals and perhaps limitations on the number of papers that academics are allowed to publish each year.

Certainly, any Head of Department who has an academic who has published 29 papers in 10 months should be asking some questions.

Country towns in Australia are running out of water. The tankers will be rolling in and out of Armidale within months.

SMH reports: The northern tablelands town of Armidale is looking at the prospect of carting in water on 100 trucks every day if it cannot find ground water before its dam runs dry next year, or unless the drought breaks.

“Trucking water is going to be the only water solution. But where do you truck it from?,” Mayor Simon Murray said.

Nearby towns such as as Dubbo, Tamworth and Orange also face severe shortages, but they have alternative sources if their local rivers or dams run dry. But without rain there will be facing severe shortages

The problems for Armidale are acute.

The first is where to get the water. If nearby towns are to supply it, it will only hasten the crisis for those townsYou. So the water will have to come from somewhere where there is a plentiful supply. The question is where?

The second is the problem of infrastructure. There are only two roads into Armadale: One from the north and one from the south.

They are single lane highways. The wear and tear of 100 trucks in an out every day will be tremendous. That means 200 trips every 24 hours a day. That’s five in and five out every hour 24 hours a day. That’s a trunk 12 minutes apart in and out of Armadale on top of the normal traffic.

And these will be your normal little trucks, they will be Double B tankers

It will be an logistics nightmare.

These are the realities of climate denial. These are the realities of doing nothing.

Are no Americans outraged when Donald Trump awards contracts to himself despite promising that he would never do it?

SMH reports: US President Donald Trump has awarded the 2020 G-7 Summit of world leaders to his own private company, scheduling the summit for June at his Trump Doral golf resort outside Miami, the White House has announced.

Why? Because I can get away with

This seems to signal the collapse of promises made by both Donald Trump and Eric Trump at the start of the Trump presidency, when they pledged to create separation between Trump’s private business and his new public office.

“There are lines that we would never cross, and that’s mixing business with anything government,” Eric Trump said in 2017.

So does anyone in America care that the American president is so concerned with lining his own pockets?

Is no one shocked at the grubby mendacity on the part of the President and the rest of his family?

Or is it just sufficient that the argument that it will not affect the core support in the electorate and this is all that matters?

Does no one stand back and say the American president should be above this kind of behaviour?

And a whole lot of other behaviours as well?

What do Australia’s science teachers say when asked what the impact of Scott Morrison’s prayers will be on the drought?

The Prime Minister has been reported as hailing the power of prayer to tackle drought and natural disasters.

The PM and wife Jenny at prayer

He is also known to believe in miracles, understandable given his last election victory. 

So what do science teachers say when asked the question “Will the Prime Minister praying for rain actually make a difference to the rainfall in drought-ridden areas of Australia?”

The answer surely must be an unequivocal “No”!

There is a perfectly good explanation for the reasons for the drought.

It has to do with global weather patterns and changes being brought about as result of the changing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Praying for rain is no substitute for action on climate change, just as “thoughts and prayers” are no substitute for action on gun control.