The Climate Change “Debate”

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The “adults in charge”: some myths about our economy

Joe Hockey

  • There is a budget emergency.
  • A deficit equals a bad economy.
  • A surplus equals a good economy.

These are all myths. False slogans spread by the Liberal government, unscrutinised by a sympathetic media and swallowed whole by a vast majority of the population. Calling a “crisis” is how Abbott justifies cuts to the poor and disenfranchised. The truth is:

  • There is NO budget emergency.

Australia’s spending is low by OECD standards. And our economy is relatively healthy, especially when compared to our friends in the US.

  • A deficit DOES NOT equal a bad economy.

Being in debt is often not a bad thing. People regularly go into debt to invest in their future. Mortgaging a house is a good example; voluntarily going into debt temporarily to ensure your family has a roof over their head, and with a long-term goal of owning the house as an assert, is a good investment. Spending money on infrastructure, stimulus, health, education etc. all help an economy grow and increase a country’s quality of life, which pays dividends in the future.

  • A surplus DOES NOT equal a good economy.

A surplus does not necessarily mean an economy is strong. At its core, a surplus means the government is taxing its population at a higher rate than it is spending the income on them. And if a surplus is achieved by cutting funding to long-term investments and selling assets, it is not economically wise. Charging more for a GP appointment, for example, is a poor strategy; doctors are a preventative measure and if people are priced out of visiting a GP when they need to, they will eventually cost the economy much more in ER visits, medication and lost working hours. The real problem is a revenue shortfall, and selling assets like Medibank is not a solution. Selling/privatising assets is a quick fix but a poor economic choice; making a dollar now but depriving future governments of a source of income is selfish and stupid.

Spending $24 billion on factory second fighter jets from the US that are largely useless unless we go to war with Papua New Guinea is poor economic management. Cutting funding from education and health is poor economic management. The Abbott government slogan of “trimming the fat” is all good and well, but the “fat” is in tax cuts and superannuation tax concessions for the rich, not trips to the doctor for the poor.

Repeal of Racial Discrimination Act Says “Okay!” to Racism

Brandis and Bolt

In a leap back towards Australia’s glory days of unabashed racism, defender of bigots George Brandis and Tony Abbott intend to repeal sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act that make it unlawful to engage in “offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin.” Given the Abbott government’s slow march against progress that presumably ends with society walking backwards so far that we end up in the ocean and devolve into unicellular organisms, such a development shouldn’t come as a surprise.

On the international stage, repealing the Racial Discrimination Act will send a fantastic message to our overseas friends. Such a move will surely do wonders for the international public opinion that we are a country of dumb, drunk racists. Our massive education industry is already suffering, with international students too scared to study in Australia and the Indian media literally telling the public it is unsafe and recommending they study elsewhere. Not to mention our best mates the United States of America, who we trot alongside wherever they go (Iraq). I wonder what Obama would think about us revoking laws that protect against racism.

Those in favour of the repeal are hiding under a banner named “free speech”. This is yet another example of a government taking a simple slogan literally to disguise their poor and often dangerous policies. How is the slogan “right to bear arms” working out for the US? And more recently and closer to home, how has the phrase “border protection” led to a first world country treating refugees worse than the countries they are fleeing from?

The motivation for this move is obvious; the Liberal government wants to say a warm ‘thank you’ to Andrew Bolt for his hard work campaigning for them for so many years. Brandis has already linked the move to Bolt and his 2010 court case. Repealing the Racial Discrimination Act will allow Bolt to continue his hate speech unimpeded, as only people who can afford a defamation court case against a rich, well-backed public figure will be able to silence the hate. And Bolt’s business model preys on the poor and disenfranchised.

After comments by indigenous academic Marcia Langton on ABC’s Q&A, fragile Bolt felt so “bruised” he couldn’t attend work the following day. He demanded an apology, which both Langton and program host Tony Jones gave shortly afterwards. Interesting that he’s able to dish out attacks on people daily on his blog, yet claims to be too hurt to work when called a “fool” on TV. The hypocrisy is is staggering.

The difference between these words directed at Bolt and Bolt’s own attacks directed at others are this; the former is public opinion based on Bolt’s liberal use of non-facts, his racism, xenophobia and his habit of being a horrible human being, whereas the latter is Bolt’s own opinion based on the colour of people’s skin.

Bolt claimed the apology “did not go far enough“, but on the contrary, I think it went too far. Although Langton never actually called him a racist, Bolt believes that conclusion can be construed from her comments. But considering he was found guilty of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act in 2011 for his blog posts claiming fair skinned Aboriginals had “chosen” to identify as Aboriginal to claim financial benefits, considering a federal court found him likely to have offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated a racial minority, I think calling him a racist is not only fair but true.

I hope for a society somewhere in the future where people neither say, nor even think, racial hate. But until that time, laws are necessary to right past wrongs. In the same way, I hope for a time when women are equally represented in parliament. But till then, affirmative action policies like Emily’s List need to be enacted to break the initial boundaries and allow for such changes to continue naturally in the future. And if such policies aren’t in place (Liberal government) then change won’t happen (95% male cabinet) and the discrimination will continue.

The Racial Discrimination Act exists to not only protect minorities from hate, it also paves the way for a future where such an act won’t be necessary and true equality exists. But as a country we are nowhere near that goal yet, as Bolt has proven, and the act needs to stay. But with a backwards government so intent on hacking down the young saplings of progress, whose victims include science, climate change, education and the poor, what hope does one little anti-racism policy have?

Now’s a really good time to re-think voting Abbott

Prepare yourselves for this future, Australia.

Heathen Scripture

Australia. Don’t fucking ruin it for everyone. Sometime in the next couple of days you are all going to do that weird dance with the little cardboard houses and the scrawling of runes on scrolls, and like a magical phoenix sewn from boredom and Windsor knots, a new government will be formed. According to what I’ve read in the newspapers owned by one guy, and seen in the polling of people his age who still have hand-cranked telephones, enough of you are going to vote for Liberal or National candidates that Tony Abbott will be installed as Prime Minister.

What I really, really wonder is whether you’ve thought this through.

If you are planning to vote Coalition, I’d love you to actually read the following and think about it, rather than scrolling straight to the comments for a pre-emptive gloat. Because your choice would be a very poor one, for…

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People Power

Our voices are more audible than ever, but are we doing more harm than good? Microsoft’s backflip on the Xbox One, oddly similar to Labor’s failed Mining Tax, would indicate yes.

I’ve always been a PC gamer. I never had a console or handheld as a child; the first and only console I’ve ever owned was a Wii. But I don’t live under a rock, I play Xbox/Playstation at friends’ houses and I keep myself reasonably informed in the gaming world. So naturally I’ve heard all about the Xbox One and witnessed the uproar on social media.

I didn’t pay too much attention at first since I don’t plan on buying one. But people’s main issues with it were:

  • No backwards compatibility with old Xbox/360 games
  • Constant/regular internet connection requirements
  • Account-bound gaming to restrict sharing and resale of games
  • “Always on” Kinect mandatory

Account-bound licenses would effectively prevent owners eBaying their disks and stop stores like EB and JB selling preowned games at ridiculously upmarked prices. Game developers make no money from these sales so DRM restrictions would only feed money back into the gaming industry, which I’m completely fine with. Yet the public were not happy. The Xbox One’s “always watching” feature also caused a stir. especially among conspiracy theorists who thought the CIA would monitor everyone’s living rooms using the Kinect’s camera and microphone, or some bullshit like that. The catch-cry “invasion of privacy!” rapidly spread across social media. But seriously, nobody gives a fuck about what you do in your living rooms. I’m sure the CIA has enough on its plate without adding “24/7 Xbox monitoring” to staff job descriptions. Are people worried this might be the start of the slippery slope to Minority Report? I don’t think you’ll need to worry about whispering phrases like “I downloaded the latest Kanye West album” when your Xbox is in the same room.

But regardless, the public outcry was massive. So massive that Microsoft completely backflipped and removed most of these features from their upcoming console. Quite an unprecedented result. The immediate response from gamers was positive, and it was decent of Microsoft to listen so close to public feedback. However articles like Gizmodo’s The Xbox One Just Got Way Worse, And It’s Our Fault quickly started to gain traction and made gamers reanalyze their initial issues with the console. Have they, we, made a big and irreversible mistake? Gizmodo’s Kyle Wagner says, rightly, that account-bound purchasing would have been the next evolutionary step in console gaming, allowing for a Steam-like ecosystem. Steam is basically a gaming iTunes, where games are cheaper and more money goes to the devs so they can in turn make more/better games. These systems also reduce reliance on disks.

Social media is powerful and gives a genuine voice to those who would normally have none. But, in circumstances like the Boston bombings for example, is it better to leave these decisions to the experts?

Microsoft knows more about the gaming industry than you do, armchair warrior. It’s a fact. And while they are undoubtedly a big corporation whose main aim is to make the most money possible, how do you think they achieve that? By designing the best possible console, that’s how. They do have the gamer’s best interests at heart, because a happy gamer is one that will hand over bundles of cash. We should have left this stuff up to the experts instead of thinking we know better.

This struck me as quite similar to the Australian government’s policy backdowns, the main one being the mining tax. I know I rabbit on about the mining tax, but it really was a case of a misinformed public putting pressure on Labor until they backed down from what was ultimately a good thing. Just like Microsoft is an expert in gaming, Labor is an expert on policy. Yes, they want power, just like Microsoft wants money. But the best way to go about that is making people happy, which millions of extra dollars in the budget would’ve done. It’s a shame that both these groups have become scared and abandoned something quite revolutionary, and I wish they’d have had the backbone to weather the storm for the people’s own good.

It would be wrong to place the blame entirely on the shoulders of the public. Of course, there were a few other factors involved in both these circumstances. Microsoft/Labor were planning big reforms and needed the public on their side. Their campaigns were logical but lacked transparency; with a little explanation they could have gained the support of the public and brought about change. However I’m sure they did attempt to explain themselves, the message just didn’t get through to the public, largely due to poor media. The media beat-up of the “Xbone” after the E3 announcement was brutal. Very few news sources bothered to understand and explain Microsoft’s choices, instead opting to hype all the perceived negatives. Shit media in the political sphere has been a problem for years, something I’ve touched on in a few recent posts, particularly here. Bias, bullshit and a failure to report on the real issues is resulting in a misinformed public. But with 22,000,000+ people in Australia alone, our voice on issues holds incredible weight.

We, the public, need to recognize that experts are better educated and at least give them the benefit of trying to understand their point of view. I’m not saying we should assume governments or corporations are always doing the right thing. If a product or policy is genuinely bad news, it is our responsibility to speak up and voice concerns. But we should dig a little deeper and avoid selfish desires (a la borrowing friends’ game disks so we don’t have to buy our own copy) getting in the way of positive progress for the greater good. Advocating the construction of a road because you drive a car is selfish when that money could be spent on a new train line that is greener and transports more people. If the policy or product is still horrible after close inspection (a la Abbott’s Fibre-to-the-Home) then go nuts, take it down! But it’s important to analyse what you are told and come to your own conclusions, because you can’t trust the media to have your best interests at heart.

In the grand scheme of things, DRM on an Xbox is a minor issue. But the same thinking can be applied to a state, national and global scale.

Think before you post, because your words are more powerful than you may realise.

For the sake of the nation, the media should do its job

I first read the headline “It is time for Julia Gillard to stand aside as leader so that vigorous, policy-driven democratic debate can flourish once again” emblazoned across the front of The Age on a freshly delivered bundle of papers out the front of a newsagent, while on a 4am stumble home on Saturday morning. I was drunk enough to think walking from the CBD to Brunswick was a good idea. But I was still able to recognise the blatant hypocrisy of a newspaper blaming Gillard for the lack of intelligent debate in the media when the same newspaper ceaselessly publishes articles on every rumour of a rumour of a “leadership crisis” or “spill”. And I use the term “newspaper” loosely. The Age has let me down.

The Conscience Vote

If you’re a reader of Fairfax newspapers, this is what you woke up to today:

‘It is time for Julia Gillard to stand aside as leader of the federal parliamentary Labor Party, as Prime Minister of Australia, so that vigorous, policy-driven democratic debate can flourish once again. Ms Gillard should do so in the interests of the Labor Party, in the interests of the nation and, most importantly, in the interests of democracy.’

No, really.

You’d expect to read something this pompous from the likes of Andrew Bolt or Gerard Henderson, both of whom are known for their grandiose language and outrageous sentiment. But from The Age? Offered not as one journalist’s opinion, but as the endorsed view of the entire newspaper?

It gets worse.

Assuring us that the paper ‘does not advocate this lightly,’ the editorial went on to say:

‘The Age’s overriding concern is that, under…

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Political Truths Hidden in Plain Sight

julia-gillard

A few recent articles have perfectly put into words my opinion of the Labor government. It’s painfully disappointing how shortsighted the public is, in terms of Labor’s achievements and ambitions. Sam de Brito and Robert Macklin say it better than I ever could:

In Mining for Truth, de Brito asks how mining companies convinced Working Families and Average Joes that taxing the filthy rich, and spreading that wealth to the needy, was a terrible idea.

And in The Case for Keeping Julia, Macklin reflects on all the successes Labor have implemented with a minority government and a bullying Opposition Leader, while the Liberals have yet to release any palpable policies.

I highly recommend reading both these pieces. The obviousness and sensibility in their words is astounding.