The bushfire debate: What we need to be talking about is our own fleet of Elvis helicopters.

To begin with there are a lot of things that we don’t need to be talking about. Mostly, everything that is being said in Canberra and most particularly what Barnaby Joyce is saying: that the bushfires are caused by a change in the magnetic field of the sun, that the people who died in the bushfires probably voted for the Greens et cetera.

What we do need to be talking about is when the $40 million that was stripped from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service will be replaced.

We also need to discuss when we start purchasing a large fleet of Elvis firefighting helicopters (Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane) as recommended by Former NSW Fire and Rescue commissioner Greg Mullins and former Tasmanian Fire Service chief Mike Brown – who together have 90 years’ firefighting experience. Two people who don’t seem to be able to get an appointment to speak with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Elvis is capable of refilling 10,000 liters of water in 45 seconds

Currently Australia leases these helicopters from America during the fire season. But overlapping fire seasons with California, where there are currently severe bushfires, makes the supply of these helicopters problematic.

So Australia needs a large fleet of its own to ensure it has the resources available as quickly as bushfire strike.

It will also need its own fleet of large air tankers and other craft – some possibly operated by the military.

The fire season has started early and catastrophically. The indications are that the situation will get worse in New South Wales and Victoria with unprecedented threats to urban areas.

What is needed is urgent action at the state and federal level to increase the capacity of the firefighting services to mount unprecedentedly effective early intervention against bushfires.

It is increasingly obvious once this new generation of bushfires take hold, they are impossible to control without significant rainfall.

And in the midst of long-term droughts that is something where even thoughts and prayers have proved inadequate.

Smoke, mirrors, fantasies: the 2019 federal budget

Grattan Institute’s Danielle Wood and her team did an analysis of 2019 federal budget provided the basis for an article by Ross Gittens on what he describes as the budget fantasy forecasts (THE AGE)

Danielle Wood of the Grattan Institute has crunched the numbers on the budget.CREDIT:DOMINIC LORRIMER

This in turn is a summary of Gittens’ article

This is the most fiscally irresponsible budget since Whitlam. It’s a budget claiming to be able to cut income tax by $300 billion over 10 years and spend $100 billion on infrastructure over 10 years, while still returning to continuous surplus and eliminating the net debt over the same period.

The cost of the tax cuts leaps to a cost of about $35 billion a year, rising to about $45 billion a year in 2029-30. No one believes it could possibly happen. It’s a description of a future fantasyland.

Whatever transpires over the next decade, we can be pretty sure it won’t bear much resemblance to the scenario painted in the budget papers.

Assume (as you did in each of the seven previous budgets) that, within a year or two, the economy’s growth will have returned to the old normal, where it will stay forever.

Assume the government will be able to sustain for many years a degree of spending restraint never achieved in the past. 

Just as I argued, and my model showed, in my April 17 blog:

A dynamic model behind the smoke and mirrors of the income tax cuts and budget deficits

Pressure builds on Malcolm Turnbull as News Poll 30 nears

It’s the usual suspects. Political has-beens with nothing to lose and a common cause, hatred of Malcolm Turnbull.

It’s a well-worn issue: Coal and electricity costs.  But always good for a couple of headlines.

Members of the Monash Forum include Craig Kelly, Eric Abetz, Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and Kevin Andrews. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen (SMH)

This time they been able to stir up a bit of controversy by using Sir John Monash’s name for their “Forum” sparking indignation not only from the family but also nationally.

They have been pilloried as dinosaurs but that’s nothing new. They’ve captured the headlines again and they’ve embarrassed the PM who was about to open a centre on the Western Front honouring the great General.

The dinosaurs have effectively pissed on his picnic.If the aim is to destabilise Turnbull’s leadership, you wonder who the alternative would be as you look at the photo. None of them would be acceptable to the Australian public. So what would long-term strategy be?  There probably isn’t one, just unthinking hatred of Turnbull.

Or are they seriously thinking of a challenge when Turnbull loses that 30th Newspoll?

Is Tony Abbott going to have another run at the leadership?

Bill Shorten must love it.

To what extent is Peter Dutton responsible for these appalling situations?.

The Guardian reports: Queensland police are investigating an incident in which a South Sudanese-Australian family say they were followed home, racially abused, and threatened on Thursday afternoon.

A man who allegedly followed a South Sudanese Australian family home in Brisbane before yelling at them and scuffling with one of them. Photograph: Facebook

These parents had picked up their children from daycare.  How long will it be before Peter Dutton makes a public statement about their safety on the streets?

Members of the nationalist True Blue Crew are planning to “take a stand on the streets” in response to Melbourne’s so-called ‘African gang crisis’. This is the public face of the True Blue Crew  who will soon be on the streets of Melbourne again.


True Blue Crew member Michael Jones.  a labourer, revelled in the altercations with police and the Antifa, (a rival Left wing group) saying on social media (that) the best part of Saturday’s demonstration was fighting at the tree. “They were a bunch of soft c**** anyway not one of our blokes are injured from being hit haha, Just pepper spray hahahah.”

 The problem with politicians like Peter Dutton inflaming the situation is that we get vigilante groups roaming the streets to keep us all safe. These vigilante groups are from both the radical left and radical right and they have quite severe disagreements which they take to the streets in violent protest.

We are likely to see these in the very near future in Melbourne.

This is because groups like the True Blue Crew, Odin’s Warriors and United Patriots Front feel justified in the stance that they take because national leaders like Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull exaggerate the seriousness of the problem of Sudanese youth crime statistics.

When it comes to crime statistics it is worth noting some recent convictions.

The Age reports that: United Patriots Front members Blair Cottrell, 27, Christopher Shortis, 46, and Neil Erikson, 32, were all found guilty by a magistrate of inciting contempt, revulsion or ridicule of Muslims.


Cottrell has previously spent time in prison, so it’s important to remember that at least one of these high-minded patriots is also a convicted criminal.

But the worst aspect of the sorry downward spiral we are now caught up in is that events are now being driven by the very worst elements in our society, people like Blair Cottrell and Michael Jones and the others wearing balaclavas and draped in Australian flags brawling and fighting in our streets under the pretence of making them safer.

And all because Peter Dutton couldn’t keep his mouth shut.



Are Statisticians Disproportionately Under-represented in Federal Parliament?

Over the Christmas and New Year break, both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister of Health Greg Hunt have weighed into the debate on Sudanese crime gangs in Victoria as a result of publication that Sudanese youth is “disproportionately represented” in the crime statistics.

Malcolm Turnbull goes so far as to blame Daniel Andrews for the problem.  He should know better. Statements like this only make him look stupid.

In statistical terms, these figures mean the numbers of Sudanese  youth in the crime stats are  “significant”, namely, not occurring as a result normal variation.  Whether they represent a problem is quite different issue.


Part of the problem is  that both Hunt and Turnbull are lawyers. There don’t appear to be any statisticians in the Federal Parliament and probably none on their respective staffs so there’s no one to advise them on what the figures really mean.

There is an important question to be asked before someone like the Prime Minister starts getting involved in this type of issue.

Is this a big problem?

The answer is probably: Not really.

And is it a problem that Malcolm Turnbull can do something about?

Probably not.

The right to criticise comes with the right to do better.

The problem of “Sudanese youth crime  gangs” is an immediate problem for the Victorian police when violence erupts in a crowded shopping centre. When this happens, intermediate and effective action is required.  The Victorian public needs to be reassured that the police have this kind of situation under control and also that the perpetrators of being dealt with effectively.

However, in the long term this is probably a minor problem compared with that of well-organised, generational and endemic Middle Eastern crime gangs.

There have been a couple of well reported instances of Sudanese youths  terrorising local neighbourhoods and it is important that these are not glossed over. But it should also not be blown up out of proportion and whole communities demonised, particularly  when these are Islamic communities.

Malcolm Turnbull’s minders need to get him under control. He is saying silly things about the republic and now about the Sudanese gangs. He is getting fined for not wearing his lifejacket. Take his mobile phone away. Get some grown-ups to look after him, for heaven’s sake, is everyone on holiday.


Does Melbourne have a problem with youth crime gangs? 

Conservatives lining up for another bite at the same sex marriage apple

Mark Kenny and Jaqueline Maley writing in The Age comment that “Conservative forces push to frustrate same-sex marriage legislation”.

The arguments are currently being  spruiked by Eric Abetz. All the irrelevant old stuff that was raised during the campaign for the same-sex marriage vote:  freedom of speech, religious freedom, businesses being able to refuse to serve same-sex couples, the sky falling on Chicken Little.

Conservative Liberal senator Eric Abetz: “In the event of ‘yes’ vote, the Dean Smith bill is an insufficient basis to start the conversation.” Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

 The Very Conservative, Very Christian and (in their own minds) Very Right rump of the Parliamentary Liberal party  (she had gone by ex-Liberal Cory Bernardi) will be running a rearguard action in the case of a likely victory by the Yes vote.

Apparently some of the Christian right, Morrison, Cormann and Dutton believe it’s time to step aside and accept the decision of the Australian people and let the Dean Smith bill through.


The private member’s bill drafted by Liberal senator Dean Smith is presently the only proposed same-sex marriage legislation on the table. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Not so Australian Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi who doesn’t want a parliament that may be full of people who shouldn’t be there on the basis of dual citizenship voting on such an important issue.


How’s that for a good argument!

Should the postal vote return a Yes majority, the Australian public could reasonably expect that there would be a swift resolution of the matter in Parliament, preferably before Christmas.

But  the citizenship fiasco is spiralling beyond Malcolm Turnbull’s control and it is demonstrating his complete inability to control any political process. And nobody is really trying to make this worse.

lt is unlikely that Turnbull be able to exert any control over the politics of the same-sex marriage debate, which have been effectively and skilfully driven by a small group of right wing conservatives lead by Tony Abbott who must be looking forward to a very  happy Christmas.






Australian democracy and its legal system at work.

It was almost a case of “Watch yourself, sunshine.” with the Supreme Court of Victoria making it quite clear to a group of senior federal ministers just where the lines are drawn and giving three senior ministers a good and fairly public whack around the ears.

Ministers escape contempt charges after ‘unconditional apology’ to Supreme Court

Three Federal ministers Health Minister Greg Hunt, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar (all lawyers) were hauled before the Supreme Court for speaking out about the leniency of sentences handed down by the Victorian courts on terrorism charges.

Chief Justice Marilyn Warren said the comments were “fundamentally wrong” and that the delay in apologising was “regrettable and aggravated the contempt”.


Which is code for, “If this matter came before me, you would all be found guilty of contempt.” This would mean they would probably all be disbarred from holding their seats in Parliament.

The Turnbull government currently has a majority of one in the Lower House and this would mean the government would lose its majority and be forced to hold three by-elections which it would probably have a reasonable chance of winning. But trailing 53–47 in the polls, it probably wasn’t a chance that Malcolm Turnbull really wanted to take.

So despite a bit of huffing and puffing from the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister everybody has gone strangely silent on the issue.

Except the three ministers who said, ” We have realised we should have offered an unconditional apology to the court. We offer that apology now and unreservedly withdraw all comments. It’s clear just how inaccurate our understanding was.”

And it was not a case of what Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull argued when he said in defending the three ministers, arguing the courts “cannot be and are not immune from criticism, which may extend to robust observations of a particular decision or penalty”.

What happened here was that the ministers made their commentary while the Supreme Court was considering the case of a specific terrorist and the Ministers’ comments could be seen as an attempt to influence the outcome of the specific trial and this is something that the Chief Justice is rightly sensitive about.

If parliamentarians and the electorate, in general, are unhappy about the sentences that are handed down for terrorist offences then Parliament can change the laws and the courts will then enact those laws.

It is good to know that “robust observations” can be directed at politicians who cannot be and are not immune from criticism” nor from the consequences of their public statements.



A problem the Labor Party needs to fix

Corruption is an invidious cancer in the body politic. It starts very simply with well-meaning people recruiting friends and family to local branches on the assumption that they will support their political aspirations. These family members are not really interested in politics but sign up to support their friend or relation, particularly if they are prepared to pay the registration fees. Often they don’t go to branch meetings and allow the candidate to file proxy votes for them.

It then spreads to pre-selection processes which are a simple extension of branch stacking.  It also builds a pervasive network of obligation which is the cornerstone of the Labor Party factional structures.

Politicians installed through these processes can often be notoriously difficult to remove.

George Seitz, Victoria’s most notorious Labor branch-stacker, was an MP in Melbourne’s west for 28 years.

“He (Shorten) simply came … asking if I would support him,” said Seitz. “Knowing my history of supporting people, which I had done, he relied on that.”


Bill Shorten and (from left) Hakki Suleyman, George Seitz and Andrew Landeryou.

Once Shorten was pre-selected, the party’s powerful administrative committee – with Shorten as president – voted to exempt Seitz from a rule requiring MPs to retire at age 65. Seitz was then the veteran member for Keilor. factional structureschest local politicians,

And  there seems to be no indication that the Victorian Labor Party is giving this problem under control.

Labor figure Intaj Khan, is under investigation over an October council election campaign in which he ran dummy candidates with bogus enrolment addresses and false occupations.


Khan with Anthony Albanese.

Last year, The Age printed this: Wyndham councillor Intaj Khan faces probity, conflict, branch stacking allegations.

He has endured investigations of his Western Institute of Technology, which has been criticised over mistreatment of workers employed on 457 visas and a highly critical report on its teaching standards by a federal regulator.

Then there is an ongoing ALP probe into branch stacking which could cause Khan further headaches after a surge in new, mostly Indian-background members, out west and elsewhere.

Inquiries by the Sunday Age have uncovered repeated failures by Khan to properly declare property and commercial interests, as required by the Local Government Act, including large swathes of farmland.

In August of 2016 The Australian wrote: A new Labor branch-stacking scandal has erupted in Bill Short­en’s home state, with a flood of up to 1400 prospective ALP members in Julia Gillard’s former seat of Lalor and applications frozen in other suburban electorates.

The freeze on the memberships — many of them from members of Melbourne’s large Indian community — comes just months after the party expelled hundreds of bogus members in the biggest purge in its history.

There are a lot of things that lead to the erosion of public confidence in our politicians. Branch stacking and its corrosively corrupting influence in one of them.


Why going to the Melbourne Cup and the Polo should be considered as work for politicians

Julie Bishop is the latest politician facing scrutiny over travel expense claims as calls for an overhaul of the entitlements system grow louder.

The Foreign Minister charged taxpayers more than $2700 to attend a polo event last year on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula as a guest of Peroni and Jeep.

 She is also a regular at the Melbourne Cup.


Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and partner David Panton in the Emirates tent at the Melbourne Cup.

Apparently it’s because Federal pollies meet all the right people and it is good for networking.


Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and David Panton network with Geoffrey Edelsten and a woman with orange hair.

708e96ddb16c9342ea6ba0e6b136ddd1Julie Bishop and her partner David Panton talk to Frances Abbott of fashion school scholarship fame


Julie Bishop talks to Gina Rinehart and her sidekick Sophie Mirabella in the Emirates marquee.

Jeep Portsea Polo 2015: (L-R) Julie Bishop and David Panton, Silvana and Mark PhilippoussisChris and Rebecca Judd. Photos: Carly Ravenhall

Portsea Polo: Julie Bishop and partner, Silvana and Mark Philippoussis, Chris and Rebecca Judd.

So, if you thought that these outings were just an opportunity to dress up and eat and drink a lot of free stuff, you were clearly wrong.

 This is serious work and should clearly be funded by the taxpayer.

Well, perhaps not.

No one ever seems to ask the question: How does it cost $2700 to get to Portsea, even from WA? Particularly when you’re the guest of a motor car company (Jeep in this case) who should be able to turn on ground transport if not a helicopter.

 Most punters could get a return airfare to the UK for $2700.

No one seems to ask the question: Why does the Foreign Minister need to go to the polo at Portsea? Silvana and Mark Philippoussis, Chris and Rebecca Judd and the other D-list celebrities would hardly qualify as international diplomats.

However, there are a number of events that Federal politicians could usefully attend while in Melbourne.centrelink1 unknown

 So let’s give Julie Bishop the final word

Ms Bishop stressed the value of attending events such as the Melbourne Cup.

“It’s all part of the job,” she said.

“Being at the Cup is the most fantastic networking opportunity – everyone in Australia you want to see is there.”

Is One Nation Senator Martin Roberts a fascist? It depends on the definition. But, probably yes.

After a remarkable confrontation with Israel, the Security Council has passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements as a flagrant violation of international law.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Senator Roberts lashed out against New Zealand’s decision to co-sponsor a United Nations Security Council resolution: “At the very least, we should look at further cutting benefits for New Zealanders living in Australia,” he said.


 One definition A major element of far-right fascist ideology is its stated goal to promote the right of a supposedly superior people to dominate, while purging society of supposedly inferior elements.

Naturally, the Kiwis were unimpressed.

NZ Opposition MP Kelvin Davis, Labour’s Corrections spokesman said, “Probably the saddest thing about his entry into Australia politics, spending so much time in Canberra, is he has denied a village somewhere in Australia of its idiot.”

The question of Israeli settlements in Palestine is a complex one. However, there are many who believe the settlements are an insurmountable obstacle to a solution to the Palestinian/Israeli problem.

Ramat Shlomo

Australian Foreign Minister Bishop said that Australia would not have supported the UN motion had it been on the Security Council, being opposed to “single nation” solutions to the problem.


Roberts’ outburst (presumably he’s the One Nation foreign policy spokesperson) indicates an interesting political philosophy: When you don’t agree with a given country’s stance on an international issue, you take punitive action against any of its citizens who may be have migrated to your own country.