Drawing the line

In my last post on Wednesday, I said it was time to draw a line against racism and, among other things, to boycott Sky until it cleans house thoroughly.  As it turned out, I had to put up or shut up on this, much sooner than I expected. Yesterday, I was invited (by one of the few decent commentators on Sky) to take part in a debate on the National Energy Guarantee. As readers will know, I’m keenly interested in this topic, and would have liked to have my say, but I had to decline. If this happens enough, perhaps Sky management will take notice.

Of course, as commenters have noted, it’s not just Sky but the whole Newscorp machine that is now pushing racism[fn1]. Jason Wilson has a good piece on this.

Also as noted by a commenter, I omitted to mention that Sky’s neo-Nazi talent was invited by Adam Giles, former Chief Minister of the NT. and therefore, until a couple of years ago, a member of COAG. It appears that none of his former colleagues on the conservative side of politics has uttered a word of criticism of this appalling behavior. In fact, the only criticism I’ve seen from the right has come from none other than Andrew Bolt. I assume that he was trying to put some distance between Cottrell’s diatribes and the almost identical views he published around the same time.

Some good news is that advertisers are feeling the heat, with Huggies, Specsaveras and American Express withdrawing advertising. Virgin has apparently launched an investigation into whether the interview aired in its lounges, but I’ve seen nothing from Qantas and had no reply to my protest.

!. Or rather, “white nationalism”. As I noted back in 2004, the only genuine instance of political correctness in Australia is that you are never, ever, allowed to call anyone a racist. Even Cottrell, who has openly declared himself a racist, and has been convicted of race hate crimes, is often referred to by euphemisms such as “far-right activist”.

A small win in the class war

The comprehensive drubbing received by the LNP in yesterday’s by-elections has a number of implications. It’s another effective repudiation of the absurd literalism of the High Court: candidates claimed by the Court to be ineligible to represent us due to supposed dual loyalties have yet again been re-elected after jumping through the required hoops.  Meanwhile, a number of Parliamentarians whose paperwork met the Court’s absurd standards, but who were shown to be actual agents of foreign influence, have been forced out by public pressure rather than court rulings.

More importantly, though, it’s a defeat for the Turnbull government’s class war agenda, including huge tax cuts for companies and upper income earners, attacks on Shorten’s union background, and the nomination of hereditary member Georgina Downer in the family property of Mayo.  Labor campaigned successfully on the theme of “money for hospitals, not banks”. As a result, the government is now facing internal pressure to drop the tax cuts for big business that have not yet been legislated.

A side effect is that speculation about the Labor leadership has been killed off. Before Saturday, poll results were suggesting that Labor would win narrowly with Shorten, but easily with Albanese. However, to the extent that Albanese was positioning himself for a run, it was on the basis of unconditional surrender in the class war. Clearly, that would have implied a very different campaign to the one that actually worked for Labor.

The tip of the iceberg

The pursuit of wrongdoing by unions and union officials by the Abbott-Turnbull government has been highly successful in producing evidence of wrongdoing. The problem is that the wrongdoing has been that of the pursuers, not the pursued. Some examples

* The forced resignation of Australian Building and Construction Commission chairman Nigel Hadkiss, after he was found to have breached the Act he was supposed to be enforcing

* Two separate cases in which the Australian Federal Police were forced to compensate the CFMEU and its officials for unlawful seizure of documents, wrongful arrest and other offences

* A string of failed prosecutions of union officials, many of them obviously involving an abuse of process. The classic was one dismissed by the judge in which an official was charged for “having a cup of tea with a mate

* The forced resignation of Michaela Cash’s senior media ­adviser David De Garis over an improper tipoff to the media regarding an equally improper AFP raid on the AWU

* The finding that Trade Union Royal Commission star witness Kathy Jackson misappropriated union funds, the very offence for which she had previously appeared as a whistleblower

But this is just, as Commissioner Dyson Heydon might say, the tip of the iceberg. It’s pretty clear that a more comprehensive inquiry would reveal extensive wrongdoing by senior ministers, and just about everyone involved in the Commission.

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Ghosts of privatisations past … and future?

Most people won’t recognise the name “Leo Hielscher” unless they regularly cross the eponymous* bridge (better known by its original name, the Gateway). But he is a figure of great consequence in Queensland, responsible for the downfall of two governments. Hielscher ran the state’s finances for decades, and was the architect of the Bjelke-Petersen strategy of an extractive economy based low taxes, low services and low skill. His proudest boast was the state’s AAA credit rating

The low point of his career was probably the leadup to the 2009 election when Anna Bligh announced that, rather than cut infrastructure spending or sell assets in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, she would allow the state’s credit rating to be reduced to AA+. Bligh was re-elected, and promptly announced a massive program of asset sales. This was one of the rare instances where I was directly involved in the policy process, providing advice to the Queensland Council of Unions, and in this capacity I got to observe Hielscher in action. He was very effective in pushing the (economically spurious) case for asset sales and the need to regain the AAA rating.

Bligh, and her Treasurer, Andrew Fraser pushed through the asset sales and pushed the Labor government off a cliff, being reduced to seven members at the 2012 election. Of course, Bligh landed on her feet, ending up as CEO of the Australian Bankers Association. I didn’t get such a ringside view of the process that led Campbell Newman and Tim Nicholls to adopt their catastrophic “Strong Choices” asset sales campaign, but I have no doubt that Hielscher played a significant role in the background. Both Campbell and Nicholls have duly been consigned to well-deserved political oblivion.

Now the rightwing Australian Institute of Progress has staged a reunion.

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The LDP: Trumpism in Australia

The reaction to Senator David Leyonhjelm’s recent attacks on women have mostly focused on Leyonhjelm personally. If he were a private citizen or an independent member of Parliament, that would make sense, and would lead to the conclusion that best thing to do is to ignore him.

In fact, however, Leyonhjelm is the most senior elected representative of the Liberal Democratic Party, a national political party. His statements on the matter give his position as Parliamentary leader of the party and appear in the media section of the LDP website. They may be taken as official statements of the LDP position.

Leyonhjelm’s statements are entirely consistent with the general position of the LDP which may be summarized as “well off white men should be able to say and do whatever they like with no adverse consequences”. That’s pretty much the essence of Trumpism.

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The big word on the Left in response to Anthony Albanese’s Gough Whitlam oration was “nothing”.  Bill Shorten observed that “there was nothing in the speech that caused me offence at all”.  Twitter was full of observations that there was nothing to suggest any kind of split or leadership challenge.

I have a mixed reaction. The Press gallery always loves leadership stories and sees everything through that frame, even though Labor’s rules make a leadership challenge virtually impossible between elections. So, the pushback is understandable.

On the other hand, I think we could shorten (sic) Shorten’s response to “there was nothing in the speech”.

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May Day

Here in Queensland, at least while the ALP is in office, we celebrate Labour Day as May Day, with a holiday long weekend on the first Monday in May. It’s a good time to think about how workers, in Australia and globally, can turn around the long decline in the reach and influence of trade unions and the resulting decline in the wage share of national income.
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