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.

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? 

We need to think carefully and critically about the message of Nelly Yoa and Sudanese Youth Crime.

Nelly Yoa, a young South Sudanese footballer says that South Sudanese are over­-represented in crime statistics and are causing great harm and fear across communities in Melbourne.  He is certainly right in saying that.

Nelly Yoa came to Australia as a Sudanese refugee in 2003 and now works with young Sudanese offenders. Photo: Daniel Pockett

He is quoted in The Age: “After watching the horrendous and appalling behaviour committed by my fellow South Sudanese youth in the past few weeks, I am furious – and in total disbelief – to hear our top cop and government officials say there are no Sudanese gangs in Melbourne.”

Whether saying this is helpful is rather less certain. Whether giving front-page headlines is helpful, it is also arguable.  It’s highly likely that many in the Sudanese community will not be terribly impressed with Nelly Yoa.

The political point scoring began immediately.

On Friday, Premier Daniel Andrews committed his government to deploying “the full force of the law” against such offenders.


The incidents led to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull blaming Premier Daniel Andrews for “growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria”.


African gang crime is “out of control” in parts of Victoria and tougher sentencing laws are needed according to Federal Minister Greg Hunt says.  Hunt is Minister of Health so it is difficult to see why he is putting his oar in the water.


There are a couple of things that need to be kept separate in this situation.

The first is: What do you do tomorrow when the large group of Sudanese youths turns up intent on causing trouble in local shopping centre?  You have no choice but to use Daniel Andrew’s solution.

The second is: what do you do to make sure that large groups of Sudanese youths don’t keep turning up to shopping centres intent on causing trouble in the long-term. That’s a much more difficult question and smart arses like Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt aren’t going to help.

In fact, we know what the problems (and the solutions) are and I don’t need to rehearse them in detail here.

We also know that the solutions require money, resources and patience and they are not particularly politically popular because they involve devoting resources to elements of the community that are generally regarded as being disruptive troublemakers and as a result generally undeserving.

We also know that putting youthful troublemakers in jail doesn’t help them. That leaving them in the company of hardened criminals only makes them worse and the more they are put in jail the higher their rates of recidivism.

Many people believe that putting them in jail will teach them a lesson. They are certainly right in this belief.  It is the lesson that they learn, that is problematic.

Bringing refugees from war-torn areas like Southern Sedan and Somalia was always going to be problematic without exceptionally well funded programs to aid their integration into Australian Society.

Leaving them without programs that help to learn the language, help them find employment, integrated their children into the local schools and local communities was always going to exacerbate what would always be a difficult transition.

We should not be surprised that problems are beginning to surface. And no matter how well-intentioned he is, the situation is not helped by Nelly Yoa saying that he is ashamed to be Sudanese.



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.


What can Australia learn from the Trump victory? Not much.

Now that Trump has won the US presidential election, all the political wannabes in Australia, from the Prime Minister down, are claiming that his victory in some way justifies their existence.

You wouldn’t have expected anything better from the likes of Pauline Hanson and her climate-denying nutcase colleagues. But you would expect better of Malcolm Turnbull who has taken Trump’s victory as as an opportunity to attack the “elite media” (Trump’s term) and, in particular, the ABC.


 According to Malcolm Turnbull “The ABC and “elite media” are to blame for distracting people from the government’s focus on economic growth”

When questioned about four successive polls showing the Coalition trailing Labor and when he would apply the same rule to himself as he applied to Tony Abbott, his reply was that we can’t believe Australian polls because the US polls didn’t predicted a Trump win.

Now this is nonsense that is not befitting a man of Turnbull’s intellect.

There are massive dissimilarities between Australia and the US that make this bandwagoning simply ridiculous.

The first is the voting system. In Australia, voting is compulsory.

This means that in a general election, it becomes clear who the vast majority of the Australian electorate supports and indeed, who they have supported and what the trends are likely to be.


The figures are roughly.

  • Coalition 42%
  • Labor 35%
  • GIMPs 25%

and trending.

There are no “forgotten people” lurking in the midwest or in deepest darkest Queensland who are likely to come out and bite any of the three major political blocs on the bum.

Whereas, in the US, voting is not compulsory and roughly 50% of the population doesn’t vote for a range of reasons. It only requires a small shift in the support for either of the two major parties or a slight mobilisation of the apathetic to produce a result like the one they got.

So we are highly unlikely to have a populist demagogue like Trump emerging in Australia, no matter how fervently Pauline Hanson may believe that Armageddon is nigh  and that she and her fellow One Nation Senators will be the Four Horsemen.

The other very important difference between Australia and the US is that, while manufacturing is declining in Australia, the decline has been nothing near as severe and as devastating as that in the US where whole communities and industries have effectively been wiped out.


 Industrial and urban decay in the US Midwest

 If this hypothesis is correct, there is simply not  a cohort of deeply dissatisfied and disenfranchised voters in Australia who can produce results like that in the US.

The surprisingly good showing of the Shooters Fishers and Farmers’ party in the Orange by-election is an indication resilience of the Australian political system and the way in which it is able to respond to significant local dissatisfaction.


Immediate post-election analysis indicates that council amalgamations and the ban on Greyhound racing may have led to the National party losing the seat for the first time since 1947.

 The other massive difference in our political systems is the proliferation of minor parties (GIMPs) and their representation in the Senate.

Like it or not, the way the Australian Senate is elected means that GIMPs have a good chance of being elected and also exercising an influence disproportionate to their numbers.

 Ironically, the very fact that One Nation has four senators is the very reason why they will never be in a position to have anything more than nuisance value. Having them in the Senate, with the responsibility of taking policy positions, means that the Australian electorate never give them more than about 4% of the popular vote. Representation of GIMPs is a sort of political pressure valve.

 The US appears to lack this and will now have two spend four years with a highly unpredictable and erratic President endeavouring to steer the ship of state.

Recordergate: rustling up a scandal

Last week, The Age ran the following headline: ALP the guilty party.

The article referred to an incident where a tape recording of Ted Ballieu criticising his party was copied, allegedly by senior officials Labour Party and then distributed to members of the Liberal party, allegedly by a right-wing faction within that party.

Brighton Iceberger Ted Baillieu has landed himself in hot (well perhaps only tepid) water

Brighton Iceberger Ted Baillieu has landed himself in hot (well perhaps only tepid) water

The tape recorder belonged to The Sunday Age’s state political editor Farrah Tomazin

Farrah Tomazin dinkus

On the tape, Tomazin is heard saying to Ballieu, “In fact we didn’t even have this conversation.” It’s an interesting side issue that with all the demands from The Age for transparency and openness on the part of the ALP and Daniel Andrews, we have very little explanation of the role that The Age played in this stormy little teacup.

And it was pretty trivial stuff until it was made more important by denials of involvement from Daniel Andrews and veiled threats of impropriety from The Age. Clearly someone is telling porkies. And the Victorian public has a right to think that it is not the Man Who Would Be Premier.

But let’s take a deep breath and look at what is happening. Firstly it is worth keeping in mind what The Age published:

Under section 11 of Victoria’s Surveillance Devices Act it is a crime carrying a maximum two-year jail term to knowingly distribute a recording of a private conversation between other parties without their consent, unless it is in the public interest. It is also regarded as theft not to return property to its rightful owner.

So there are two issues here. The first is: Did someone from the ALP obtain a copy of the recording? This seems pretty likely and constitutes an act of theft and the course of action for Daniel Andrews is quite clear: let the police find out if a crime has been committed, who committed it and then prosecute them.

The second issue is: Who was responsible for copying and distributing the tape? Again, if the story published in The Age is accurate, it would seem that members of both the Labour and Liberal parties took part in this activity. If they did, this is also a criminal offence and the course of action for the leaders of both parties is quite clear: let the police find out if a crime is committed, who committed it and prosecute them.:

It’s disappointing that The Age has opted for ignoring the involvement of the Liberal party choosing instead to focus focusing entirely on the alleged involvement of members of Andrews’ staff.

Dan Andrews: More finger pointing to come

Dan Andrews: More finger pointing to come

The Age is probably drawing a long bow when it suggests that this will destroy the ALP’s chances at the next election but it does reinforce the impression (long held in some quarters) that Daniel Andrews is an electoral liability.