Steve Blizard commenced his financial planning career in 1988 from a background of life insurance broking, a field in which he still works. He is a member of the Financial Planning Association and the Responsible Investment Association. His experience ranges from administration of Superannuation to advice regarding insurance, retirement, remuneration and investment planning. Steve is an accredited Remuneration Consultant, specialising in salary packaging. He is a columnist for the Swan Magazine and the WA Business News
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Unions and Emily’s Listers reap WA Labor’s harvest


by John Elsegood

News Weekly, April 8, 2017

The drubbing that the Mark McGowan-led Labor Party gave the Barnett government in Western Australia’s recent election will continue the secular slide in public policy.

Pro-lifers Margaret Quirk, left, and Kate Doust
missed out on ministries.

Two ALP pro-lifers, Margaret Quirk and Kate Doust, did not make the cut when it came to appointments in the 17-strong ministry, with 11 of those ministers coming from a trade union background. And Mr McGowan has pledged S1.4 million over the next four years to push the ill-named Safe Schools program into WA secondary schools.

This program, which can only be described as putrid, teaches among other things:

  • That the terms boys and girls should not be used and that being heterosexual is not the norm.
  • That they have two virginities, the first time with a boy and the first time with a girl (seemingly a contradiction given that terms like boys and girls are not deemed to be normative).
  • That homosexuality and transgenderism should be celebrated while traditional cultural, moral and religious beliefs are unacceptable.
  • A trivialisation of early sexual activity and the risk of STIs.

In short, it is not an anti-bullying program at all but rather a gender and sexual diversity plan and just another example of the Marxist-Gramsci adherents’ long march through educational institutions.

The ALP Left is firmly in control, holding three of the four top parliamentary positions in the Parliament, the Premier himself being the odd man out.

The Deputy Government Leader in the Legislative Council, Stephen Dawson (Environment and Disabilities), is the first homosexual minister in WA.

Ben Wyatt (unaligned) is the first Aborigine to occupy the Treasurer’s position in any Australian parliament. With total public debt heading past $40 billion, the new Treasurer will be sorely tested within a party not noted for restraint. There was little probing of him, and the ALP, during the election campaign by a media that ran dead on the issue.

The far left political action group, Emily’s List, now has 15 (of 23), female ALP parliamentarians as members.

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Roger Cook has already signaled that assisted suicide will be legislated on after a “conscience vote” in the Parliament. As Labor once supported a “conscience vote” on marriage, before it became binding on all ALP parliamentarians to accept the destruction of traditional marriage, one wonders how much tolerance will be shown towards dissenters on the death issue.

It now seems to be conventional wisdom that after two terms a government becomes stale and needs to be changed. While the previous three WA administrations – of Court, Gallop/Carpenter, and Barnett – have seemingly given proof of that dictum, it has not always been so and at present, in South Australia, Labor has been at the helm for 14 years.

There was a lot of pre-poll huffing and puffing over the Liberals’ preference deal with One Nation. Just who were the Liberals supposed to preference: the Greens?

 The Liberals refusal in 2001 to deal with One Nation cost Richard Court his government. As it turned out, there was a 40 per cent drift in One Nation preferences to the ALP, thus proving voters can make their own decisions, particularly in parties like One Nation, which are not tied to left-wing orthodoxy.

The Labor and the Greens preference swap was apparently not worthy of mention. As Richard Nixon once said, if you are going to give a candidate (or party) the shaft, at least put one lone reporter on the job to give a modicum of fairness in the electoral battle.

There was no mention of the Barnett government’s achievement, building two desalination plants that have picked up the slack of providing WA with water as dams provide as only 7 per cent of the driest state’s needs.

Malcolm Turnbull also left Barnett in the lurch. Mr Turnbull completely reneged on his promise to fix WA’s GST predicament: WA receives only 34¢ back in every dollar raised in the state.

Mr Turnbull may find that WA voters have turned against him over this issue. If so WA will no longer be the “jewel in the crown” for the Liberals, who currently hold 11 of the 16 WA House of Representative seats at the federal level. The Coalition has a bare majority in the House of Representatives (76-74).

The McGowan Government, despite the big victory in the Legislative Assembly (41-18), will not control the Legislative Council. Labor and Greens (4) have 18 seats in the upper house and the other 18 seats are shared between Liberals, Nationals and three smaller parties.

Mr McGowan had hoped to tempt a Liberal to be council president, which would have given him a floor majority as the president only has a casting vote if there is a deadlock on the floor.

Liberal veteran Simon O’Brien MLC (most decently) refused that carrot.

Original article here

Miranda Devine: Reverse racism is now acceptable in Australia

Mother Tara Coverdale was asked to leave a playgroup because it was exclusively for “multicultural” mothers. (Pic: Supplied)

By Miranda Devine    Daily Telegraph   1 April 2017

IF you don’t think that multiculturalism and the politics of identity have become instruments of division in Australia, then you need to hear Tara Coverdale’s story.

Like most mothers with young children, Coverdale enjoys opportunities to socialise with other mothers of children the same age while on maternity leave, especially in her neighbourhood in inner-city Sydney.

So when a Russian-born friend mentioned a playgroup on Thursdays, at the Alexandria Park Community Centre, she was enthusiastic.

Two weeks ago, on a humid Thursday morning, she bundled her eight-month-old baby in the pram and walked with her four-year-old son the short distance to the community centre.

When she arrived, her red-haired son raced off to play while she looked around for her friend.

That was when a staff member approached and asked if it was her first day. Coverdale thought how nice that she was so attentive.

“I’m sorry you can’t come here. It’s a multicultural playgroup.”

But then the woman said: “Can I ask what your cultural background is?”

Taken aback, Coverdale, who has blonde hair and freckles, said: “I’m Australian”.

Immediately, the woman said: “I’m sorry, you can’t come here. It’s for multicultural families and people who speak languages other than English at home.”

Coverdale stood her ground: “I said ‘I’m not leaving’. My kids were playing. My older son was having such a good time with his buddy, and I thought, ‘Why should I leave?’”

But then the centre “facilitator”, aka manager, Jo Fletcher, confronted her: “Can I just ask what your cultural background is.”

When Coverdale said she was fourth-generation Australian, Fletcher said: “I’m sorry you can’t come here. It’s a multicultural playgroup.”

“We’re in a pretty progressive area,” says Coverdale. “It’s very accepting of all people. But I feel like I’m excluded.”

This conversation is an account from Coverdale’s recollection. Fletcher did not respond to phone calls and a text message last week, but she confirmed to the NSW Department of Education, which funds the centre, that such a conversation had taken place.

Coverdale said she tried charm in a bid to be allowed to attend the playgroup, but Fletcher insisted it was exclusively for “multicultural” mothers who “might be lonely and might want to build a network of people who speak the same language”.

Coverdale asked wouldn’t it be better for those mothers to meet someone like her, who knows a lot of people in the community.

Children should be encouraged to play with other children, regardless of their ethnicity. (Pic: Getty)

“What if I was really lonely and I get sent away from a play group?”

Then she asked what playgroup would she be allowed to join.

“We don’t have one here for you,” said Fletcher. “You’ll have to go up to Erskineville or Newtown.”

Erskineville’s playgroup is for “Rainbow babies and kids”, and Newtown is a 30-minute walk. 

The only other playgroup offered at Alexandria Park is on Wednesdays but it is reserved for “Swedish-speaking families”, according to a timetable Fletcher provided.

“We’re in a pretty progressive area,” says Coverdale. “It’s very accepting of all people. But I feel like I’m excluded.”

And she asks: “How does that help Australia help people to integrate speak English and build a life…

“I pay a lot of tax. I pay my rates. To think I’m actually not welcome is unfair.”

The other mums thought her treatment was “terrible… They think it’s a great facility and appreciate it but they don’t want to exclude people”.

While she was at the centre she saw other mothers walk in and, “they were made to feel very welcome. Because they didn’t look ‘Australian’ they didn’t even get asked about their background.”

So Coverdale and her red-haired sons were ejected from the playgroup.

Ironically enough, it was just a few days before Harmony Day, a big event at Alexandria Park, “to celebrate our country’s cultural diversity”, with a free halal beef and chicken sausage sizzle. To twist the knife a little deeper, this year’s theme was “We all belong”.

Just not if you are of “Anglo-Celtic” heritage.

Anti-Discrimination Board Acting President Elizabeth Wing confirmed on Friday that “on the face of it”, exclusion from a playgroup “on the basis of race or ethnic background… would appear to be a breach of the [anti-discrimination] act”.

Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs Zed Seselja recently reset national policy to emphasise unity and shared values. (Pic: Ray Strange)

After being alerted to the problem on Friday, Education Minister Rob Stokes and his department, to their credit, instructed Fletcher to allow all families to attend the playgroup.

“I was disappointed to hear that a mum and her young child felt they were not welcome… This is not acceptable. Everyone, regardless of their background, should feel included in these wonderful community activities.”

The Education Department also has “counselled the program facilitator [Fletcher] regarding the requirement of the program to be inclusive”, said a spokesman late Friday.

A good result, but Fletcher is a creature of her milieu. It is politically incorrect to say so, but anti-white racism is now acceptable in Australia, in the name of diversity and “celebrating difference”.

In the ADF, for instance, there are attempts to erase the “Anglo-Saxon” warrior culture, and a recent lamb advertisement stated there are “too many white people” on TV, and lined up caucasians sneeringly labelled “white-whites, translucent whites, beige whites, red whites, and dark whites”.

Bigotry is condoned as a corrective to so-called “white privilege”.

But reinforcing separate cultural identities inevitably leads to the balkanization of Australia and the disowning of our national identity.

Thankfully, Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, last month reset national policy, with an approach which emphasises unity and shared values. It’s about time.

Original article here

The ethnic threat to free speech

Muslims protesting against an American movie on their way to the US consulate in Sydney in 2012.

Muslims protesting against an American movie on their way to the US consulate in Sydney in 2012. James Brickwood

18C debate highlights the ethnic threat to free speech

by Senator David Leyonhjelm    1 April 2017  Australian Financial ReviewWhen Labor, the Greens and certain Liberals in western Sydney seats seek to explain their reasons for opposing changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, they mostly refer to the concerns of ethnic, religious and racial minority groups.

Representatives of Armenian, Hellenic, Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese groups have joined Jewish, Lebanese Muslim and Arab groups to oppose any changes apart from procedural, arguing that amending section 18C will unleash a torrent of “hate speech”.

While we occasionally hear half-hearted claims that minorities require special protection from hurt feelings, the main driver of opposition is the political clout of these groups. A dozen or so federal seats are held on margins smaller than the populations of these groups. And in the recent WA state election, certain Muslim leaders openly endorsed the Greens.

More like home

The debate over S18C is much greater than free speech. It is in fact a fight for the votes of people who have different values from those of traditional Australia.

Instead of embracing the values of their adopted country, these ethnic, religious and immigrant representatives want Australia to become more like the countries they left behind.

Australia has a deeply rooted tradition of freedom in which free speech is central. Our legal and cultural origins lie in Britain, where the primacy of individuals over collectivism first took root. The same values led the US to make free speech the first amendment in its Bill of Rights.

Australia has been a leading supporter of free speech internationally. It was a founding member of the United Nations under the leadership of former Labor minister Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, who became president of the UN General Assembly and was instrumental in drafting and having adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 19 of the Declaration states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Equality and freedom

Freedom of association, worship and movement, freedom from arbitrary arrest, equality before the law and free speech are generally regarded as the bedrock of a free society. On top of these, Australia has embraced equality and respect, irrespective of gender or personal attributes, and rejected claims of inherited status and class.

These values are not necessarily shared by those who come to Australia. Certain Armenians accuse Turkey of genocide but want to suppress its response; Greeks can have issues with Turks and Macedonians; Indians can be racist when it comes to West Indian cricketers but are sensitive to the same speech themselves; those from Arabic and Lebanese Muslim cultures can hold abhorrent views about women and gays and resolve matters of feelings and honour through violence; and many Jews want to suppress Holocaust denialism.

After World War II, immigrants who arrived in Australia either abandoned their historic grievances or chose not to share them with others. Millions of post-war immigrants from dozens of countries integrated, assimilated, and did their best to become true-blue Aussies. For their part, Australians welcomed these immigrants as “New Australians” and embraced their food, music and dance.

A threat to liberal values

The fact that leaders of immigrant, ethnic and religious groups are now flexing their political muscle in pursuit of different values is a major concern. Not only does it threaten traditional liberal values, it fuels opposition to immigration among the general community and gives credence to demands to block certain types of immigrants.

Australia cannot afford this; its economic growth depends on a substantial flow of skilled immigrants. (Family reunion immigrants are less beneficial). It would cost us dearly if we were to close our borders to the talents and expertise that immigration delivers.

Other countries have addressed this problem by raising the bar on citizenship. Switzerland, for example, has a relatively relaxed attitude to immigrants provided they find a job. However, becoming a Swiss citizen and eligible to vote in elections requires 10 years of residence, no criminal record, a solid employment history and endorsement by the applicant’s Canton (equivalent to state/local government). In practical terms, unless they have embraced “Swiss values”, they do not become citizens.

Opposition to changes to 18C is a wake-up call. Australia’s traditional liberal values are under siege like never before. With one side of politics already in full retreat, it is vital the other side steps up to protect those values before it is too late.

David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats

Original article here

To the SuperMax

A special unit in this prison houses Australia’s most dangerous extremists. We gain rare access and discover a ticking time-bomb

The Muslim yard at Goulburn SuperMax.




Five times a day, Goulburn’s SuperMax goes quiet. The din of jail life stops as the 30-odd Muslim inmates angle their bottle-green prayer mats towards Mecca. Standing alone in their narrow cells, they raise their arms in supplication and, with eyes closed, recite the holy incantations of the Surah Al-Fatiha, the first verse of the Holy Koran and the beginning of the Muslims’ Divine Communion with God. Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem. Alhamdu lillaahi Rabbil ’aalameen…

A few hundred metres away, in the general prison, dozens more inmates are doing the same thing. Under a soggy grey sky, they kneel in the exercise yard and pray as guards carrying high-powered assault rifles patrol the 5.5m-high walls around them. There’s no trouble today; there rarely is during prayers.

Out in the main prison population, religion is a source of comfort or just another diversion from the drudgery of jail life. Not so in the ­SuperMax. Here, religion remains an obsession. It is the ­reason most of the inmates were locked up and, as the years tick over on their time here, it’s what’s kept them going.

Anyone who thinks Australia does not have a problem with prison radicalisation should visit SuperMax during prayer time. They are all here. The names and faces behind a thousand headlines heralding mayhem and death. And with a handful of exceptions, the entire population of the SuperMax observes this daily ritual. They all believe the same thing: “There is no God but Allah and this is where He wants me.” For now.

When Islamic State broke through the Syrian border in June 2014, annexing northern Iraq and declaring a caliphate, Australia’s prisons filled with a new generation of Muslim extremists ensnared by the ISIS ideology of do-it-yourself violence. In ­Australia, 62 people were charged after 27 separate counter-terrorism operations in little more than two years. A problem that once lurked in mosques, chat rooms and obscure prayer halls was transferred, en masse, into the prison system. That was the good news. The bad news is they are more dangerous than they have ever been, their radical beliefs entrenched in the same system that locked them up in the first place.

And soon, some of them will be up for release. A system that is supposed to remove threats from the community is, in fact, incubating them for future generations.

The first thing you notice about Goulburn’s High Risk Management Correctional Centre, to give the SuperMax its official name, is that it looks nothing like a prison. Built in 2001 in the NSW city 90km north-east of Canberra as a place to house the state’s most violent offenders, it is ­concealed behind the soaring walls and grim ­Victorian façade of Goulburn’s historic jail, a ­fortress within a fortress. The corridors are wide, the lights are bright and cherry-red doors with observation windows provide access to every cell. There is no mess hall, no shower block. No ­tattooed cons pumping iron in the yard. Common areas don’t exist in SuperMax. On some days it might be ­possible to walk the entire length of the prison without encountering a single inmate.

Glen Piazza, SuperMax’s manager of security, is our guide for this rare glimpse into Australia’s most secretive prison. Piazza is an affable 50-something who’s been working in Corrections for nearly 30 years, five in the pressure-cooker of SuperMax. He’s got a broad Australian accent and a black sense of humour. “Remember, if you get raped, it’s just jail sex,” he says, as we’re about to enter the prison. You get the feeling it’s not the first time he’s used this line.
Glenn Piazza speaks with a prison inmate.

SuperMax is divided into three units, Piazza explains. Unit Nine is where unsentenced prisoners are kept. Unit Eight holds convicted prisoners serving out long sentences up to 20 years or more. Unit Seven houses prisoners for the first 14 days of their sentence while they are being assessed. Nobody is sentenced to SuperMax. Everybody here has been sent because they were too hard to manage in other prisons or because of their link to terrorism. Thirty of the prison’s 48 inmates are here for terrorist-related offences.

We head first to Unit Nine, a horseshoe-shaped row of cells with an enclosed observation area in the middle where the prison officers huddle like soldiers in a pillbox. This is effectively a remand centre for NSW’s most dangerous men. We have been here just a few minutes and already the shouting from the banks of locked cells has begun. “Why don’t you tell them about the oppression inside SuperMax!”

In some countries, radical inmates are dispersed across the prison system, an approach that is supposed to make deradicalisation easier. But here in NSW they are grouped together, quarantined from other prisoners like patients stricken with a deadly virus. The idea is they can’t radicalise other ­prisoners and in practice it works well enough. They radicalise each other instead. The names of prisoners are written on cards outside their cells along with the details of their sentence. Virtually all are of Middle Eastern background.

One of the conditions of our visit is that we do not name inmates, but they are recognisable enough. Australia’s most notorious serial killer is here. The fearsome muscles and piercing black eyes that terrified his seven known victims in their last moments are gone. More than 20 years into his sentence, he’s an old man now. He is sitting at a concrete desk writing letters, something he does incessantly. He mops the floors for extra milk rations. In any other jail he’d be just another sad old crim seeing out the years, but here in the SuperMax he looks oddly out of place. It says much about the transformation of SuperMax from high-risk prison to holding pen for Muslim ­radicals that not even the serial killers fit in. Piazza says this prisoner would normally be up on Deck Eight, but they brought him down here because he’s been doing it tough. Some break.

In the cell next to him is a rangy Lebanese boy with a mohawk haircut and a chest full of tatts. I recognise him, too. In April last year he was moved from Kempsey Prison to the SuperMax after he bashed his cellmate, doused him in ­boiling water and carved “E4E” (eye for an eye) into his forehead. His victim was a former ­Australian army reservist and it’s believed this was an ISIS-inspired attack. Certainly it was enough to get him transferred to SuperMax, where he has since been charged with plotting a terror attack on Bankstown Police ­Station. He also allegedly threatened to cut off the head of Peter Severin, the NSW Corrective ­Services Commissioner. He sweeps the floor and glowers at us malevolently.

A few cells down is a young man at the centre of Australia’s biggest terrorism plot. He was arrested in September 2014 over an alleged conspiracy to abduct and behead a random member of the ­public. “Why don’t you report the truth and that’s the oppression of your so-called government,” he yells through the glass. There is a lot of this. In the minds of most inmates there is no difference between a targeted military campaign and cutting a bloke’s head off in Sydney’s Martin Place. If anything, they think the former is worse.

Visits like this are rare in SuperMax and already the prisoners are getting toey. Young men with bushy Salafist beards press their faces against the heavy safety glass in their cell doors. Before long the shouting starts. “Power to Islam!” “The truth shall set you free!” and “Allahu Akbar!” Piazza can feel the tension rising; you’d have to be made of granite not to. He doesn’t want the inmates too riled up – it creates problems for staff later in the day. We move on.

Deck Eight is quieter. The prisoners here are older and less excited by our visit. SuperMax rules allow prisoners to consort with no more than one inmate at a time so some are in pairs wandering in and out of each other’s cells. I peer through one cell door and see a man in his 40s sitting alone on his bed reading from a sheaf of papers. He tugs at his beard and makes notes with a pen. On the outside he ran a recruitment network for al-Qa’ida, funnelling dozens of young radicals into the maw of the ­Syrian jihad. To the cops he was an A-grade coward, content to send countless young Australians to their deaths but lacking the ­bottle to jump on a plane himself. I’m told he wept uncontrollably when he arrived in SuperMax. He sees us and raises a single hand in greeting.

Prisoners spend at least 16 hours a day in their cells. They eat in them, shower in them, defecate in them. They can have a radio, TV and kettle. No internet. Depending on their behaviour they might be allowed into the exercise yard where they can play handball, basketball or work out on the chin-up bars. If they’re really good they get access to the running track at the centre of the complex. The track’s small but hard to miss. It’s slathered in netting to stop contraband being hurled in – or a helicopter landing.


Security is an obsession inside SuperMax. When prisoners first arrive they are stripped naked and placed in an observation cell. Their entire body is x-rayed using a so-called “boss chair”, a throne-like device that fires x-rays at the head, feet, torso and rectum, the cavity of choice for those wishing to smuggle contraband past the officers. Piazza says that over the years staff have retrieved knives, drugs and phones, which are a valuable commodity in prison. “The best one I’ve seen is a phone and a charger,” he says. “That was in 2006. Imagine how big the phone was.”

Prisoners sit in the boss chair after every visit or court appearance. They move cells every 28 days and when they move through the prison they are accompanied by a minimum of two guards. When their relatives or solicitors visit they must sit, Hannibal Lecter-style, in sealed Perspex boxes, so-called “safe interview spaces”. Their mail is read, scanned and stored. Their conversations with visitors are live-monitored. Conversations in languages other than English are banned.

This is how SuperMax works. Not with muscle or threats but with a rigid adherence to rules and discipline. Strip a life down to its rudiments, take away a man’s contact with the outside world, his possessions, his freedom, force him to seek permission if he wants to hold his wife’s hand during a visit – narrow his life to the point where the most exciting thing that can happen in six months is a visit from a journalist – and you don’t need phone books or rubber hoses to keep order. All you need is extra milk rations.
A SuperMax cell.

It wasn’t supposed to be quite like this. When the Carr government opened SuperMax back in 2001, the plan was for a maximum security prison that would be used to house the state’s most ­difficult offenders. Escapees, psychopaths, crime bosses – this was SuperMax’s core business. Then came 9/11 and, more than a decade later, the age of ISIS. A prison that had been built to handle the system’s toughest crooks became a holding pen for Muslim ­terrorists, the most radical square mile in all of Australia. “We’ve got a completely different set of inmates than in the main jail,” says Scott Ryan, SuperMax’s head of intelligence. “There’s very little violence. They’re a lot smarter.”

Working in SuperMax is uniquely stressful for staff. The inmates hate them, calling them ­kuffars or dogs. Some won’t even talk to the female staff. As we are leaving, one of the officers tells us: “I don’t want my ­picture. I’ve got a family.”

But as dangerous as these men are, there is a growing view that many do not belong in the SuperMax. Increasingly, experts are questioning the wisdom of housing young offenders in the same facility as older, die-hard extremists. ­Australian National University deradicalisation expert Dr Clarke Jones says SuperMax is the right place for violent, difficult prisoners but the wrong place for younger inmates who might, under the right circumstances, be separated from their ­radical ideologies. In Victoria, he adds, radical inmates are spread throughout the system.“

There’s a long history of psychological evidence that it becomes more difficult to rehabilitate prisoners over the age of 25,” Jones says. “But under 25, there’s a good chance.” Vocational ­training, religious counselling and physical contact with their family – these are the elements that need to be in place if younger inmates are to be diverted from radicalism. “Virtually none of that is available in SuperMax.”

And SuperMax’s population is getting younger, much younger. Across the fence in Goulburn jail proper, the prison population is divided by race or religion. There is a Muslim yard, an Islander yard, an Aboriginal yard and an Asian yard. Multi­culturalism might work in the real world but in ­Goulburn it is segregation that keeps the peace.

In SuperMax, the division is even simpler: al-Qa’ida and Islamic State. The older, sentenced prisoners support al-Qa’ida. The younger ones, energised by the Syrian jihad, support Islamic State. Two tribes. They don’t get along.

“They really have nothing to do with each other,” Ryan tells me. “They’ll be polite to each other. The older fellas will look at [them] as young punks – ‘they know nothing about the Koran, they know nothing about our struggles’ and all of this. The younger ones will look at the older ones, ‘Oh, these old ­has-beens. This is the new way. All that stuff’s out now.’ There’s a big division in that.” Al-Qa’ida supporters are held in Unit Eight, where the average age of prisoners is 35. Islamic State supporters are in Unit Nine, where the ­average age is just 21.

The al-Qa’ida terrorists sentenced after 9/11 are starting to come up for parole. A few are already out. Khaled ­Sharrouf did a brief spell in SuperMax after he was convicted over his involvement in the 2005 terror plot to bomb targets in Sydney and Melbourne. It didn’t do much good. In 2013 Sharrouf fled for Syria, where he was last seen brandishing severed heads and executing Iraqi officials in the sands outside Mosul.

In August this year, Bilal Khazal, a 46-year-old former baggage handler convicted of making a terrorist training manual, will chance his arm before the parole board. There is a reasonable prospect he will get out. In early 2019, Ahmad Naizmand, a 22-year-old convicted of breaching a terrorism control order, will do the same. The others will start dribbling out in the years after that. I ask Ryan how many remain hard-core radicals. He thinks for a moment. “You could probably put on the one hand the ones that aren’t.”

Inmates behind bars.

New federal government laws that would allow authorities to detain unrepentant extremists beyond the term of their sentence would, in ­theory, apply to many of SuperMax’s inhabitants. NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Severin says that, as it stands, virtually all of ­SuperMax’s sentenced terrorists would be candidates for the new sanction. But the legislation is untested. Besides, there are 30 Muslim extremists in ­SuperMax. Locking them all up indefinitely is not a realistic option, not if you want to avoid turning SuperMax into Guantanamo Bay. At some point they’re going to rejoin the community.

Corrective Services NSW offers a voluntary deradicalisation program, the Proactive Integrated Support Model or PRISM, but it is aimed at those at risk of radicalisation, not those already in its grip. Of the 13,000 prisoners in NSW jails, about 20 are signed up to the program. It is hard to know how effective PRISM is, but if it is like any other deradicalisation program the answer is, probably, not very.

The rise of Islamic State has spawned a multi-­billion-dollar industry in so-called “countering violent extremism” programs. None claims a convincing success rate; most are abject failures. None of this is news to Piazza. “Nobody in the world knows what to do with these guys,” he says.

For the older terrorists, the point is moot. They’re too far gone. A few won’t talk to the staff anymore, let alone participate in deradicalisation programs. In the years he’s spent walking the corridors of SuperMax, Piazza has seen little evidence the men in his charge are ready to change. “When someone gets to that age of 40, they go, ‘F..k, you know what? I’ve had enough of this shit.’ Well, now we’re getting guys who are 50-51 years of age and they’re still going.” I ask Ryan what would happen if the older ones were thrown in with the general prison population. “They’d recruit. Simple as that.”

But for the younger ones, the picture is different. Ryan estimates that if all the unsentenced prisoners in SuperMax were released tomorrow, around half would never touch a Koran again: “They’re not that committed to the cause.” He thinks some of the younger prisoners might shed their extremist ideology if they could be separated from the older, harder ideologues early into their sentence. He describes what it’s like when prisoners first arrive in SuperMax. “They’ll be down in Unit Seven all by themselves and you can talk to them there,” he says. “After that ­initial shock, they’re polite. Then you get them up to the other deck with other influences and that’s when you lose them.”


Severin acknowledges the challenges of trying to rehabilitate hardened jihadis inside the SuperMax but to him the priority is clear. “For me, the responsibility to the rest of the system and the broader community, and national security for that matter, outweighs the negative effects that the concentration of those individuals might have.”

He has hinted this will change in the future. Last year ­Severin said Corrective ­Services NSW was examining a “differentiated” placement ­system, one that could see radical inmates separated. A report by NSW Inspector of Custodial Services Fiona Rafter, who was tasked last year with examining prison radicalisation, is likely to make similar recommendations. ­Corrective Services is also looking at a system that will allow radical inmates to be moved downward through the system prior to release.

Severin says that outside the SuperMax there is no widespread problem of radicalisation across the prison system, and by all accounts he is right. Of the 13,000 inmates confined in NSW, there have been just four confirmed cases where inmates have been radicalised, he says. That’s almost certainly an underestimate, but it’s hard to make the case that the prison system is teeming with murderous jihadis. When we visit the Muslim yard in Goulburn jail proper, the inmates make a show of praying but seem far more interested in horsing around for the cameras. This isn’t to make light of their beliefs or be naive about their crimes, but it seems anything but a hotbed of radical preaching. In two days wandering the yards of Goulburn they are the friendliest bunch of blokes we meet.

But as SuperMax starts disgorging its inmates, the risk to the community will be profound. None of this is the fault of Piazza and his staff. They are not social workers. They are prison officers whose job is to protect the community, something they do exceptionally well and under the most trying conditions. But thinking of the rangy Lebanese boy with the chest full of tatts prowling his cell like a caged animal, it is difficult not to believe we are kicking the can down the road. What happens when we get to the end?

Original article here

The real solution….see here

Senator Cory Bernardi on Child Care Rorting

Every time the government puts more money into the system it creates more demands – Senator Cory Bernardi


March 25, 2017

Not for the first time and I suspect not for the last time, on behalf of the Australians Conservatives I am going to take the path less travelled, if I may put it like that.

I may be the only person in this place who thinks that $8.5 billion per annum spent on child care in the last 12 months, rising to $12 billion by 2020, for the government to pay service providers to look after families’ children, is more than enough.

As I said, already the figure is scheduled to rise to in excess of $12 billion in the next three years. That is $12,000 million that is being given to parents effectively to pay other people to look after their children.

It is another significant cost to the budget. It is absolutely created and sustained by delivering more debt that those very children, who all of us in this place want to help and bequeath a good, positive, healthy country to, are going to be forced to repay.

Once again I come back to it. Our debt in this country is spiralling out of control and there does not seem to be any real determination to redress it. That is a moral obligation we owe to our children.

So throwing another couple of billion dollars into child care here and there is not going to solve the problem, but it will indeed create greater problems, which will be magnified by the effect of interest and growth over time. Every child who is purported to benefit from this package will actually end up paying a very hefty price for it from the multibillion-dollar largess that is starting today, and I can promise you the demands will increase in the future for it to continue.

Australian Conservatives know that there is a better way. There are three key areas in which I can believe that this can be more effectively addressed. Firstly, we have to break this nexus between a government subsidy and a rise in the price of child care.

It seems to be a catch 22 where every time the government puts more money into the system it creates more demands for the child-care operators and the prices go up and there does not seem to be that greater benefit for the Australian families under the current guise.

Secondly—and I congratulate the government for its endeavours in this regard—there needs to be a determined effort to stamp out the significant rorts that are in this space.

Thirdly—and this is very important to me and I have communicated it to the minister—we need to remove the mandated prejudicial policies that disadvantage so many families and effectively establish a pecking order of who is allowed into the child-care system first.

Let me deal with the subsidies and costs. From a person who seeks less involvement in government it is far better for us to stretch every government dollar by streamlining processes and deregulating the sector. Every time we add additional compliance, additional requirements, additional reporting or any other additional regulation the cost of administering and providing child care escalates, sometimes exponentially, and I will detail some of those figures in a moment.

We need to end the ‘money shuffle’, if you will, where we collect taxes from people, throw it through the bureaucracy where sometimes it returns 50 or 60 cents in the dollar—sometimes less, sometimes more—and then give it back to those we deem worthy of it to subsidise the care of their children. I think that is inefficient.

It would be far more efficient for the government to allow tax deductibility, up to a maximum threshold, for childcare services. It would enable families to take responsibility for administering those costs themselves. It would allow families to claim it on a weekly or monthly basis with the ATO, as they do with other tax concessions, or on an annual basis. It would make child care more affordable.

With no guaranteed government funding, people could distinguish for themselves the service they want and the hours they want. That would create a much more competitive environment.

You mentioned the link between subsidies and costs. I want to take you back briefly to some research by the Australian National University which demonstrates the runaway price rises attached to child care in recent years.

Starting with March 2000 as our baseline, there was effectively parity between the market price of childcare services and the subsidy; in medical parlance, there was ‘no gap’.

Soon afterwards, a couple of years later, there was a modest gap, which parents were expected to meet, but there was virtually no difference between the subsidy rate and the market rate. But then between July 2002 and July 2007 the gap expanded.

By July 2007 the subsidy rate was 175 per cent of the March 2000 price. Not surprisingly, because of the additional onerous burdens on the childcare sector and the increase in subsidies, the cost of child care had risen by about 225 per cent.

So there was about a 50 basis point difference between the subsidy rising and the cost of child care. So no matter what levels of money were thrown into it, families will pay more.

What happened then was that there were cuts in 2007 and 2008 but the regulations continued to load up on the childcare service providers and there became a huge gap between the subsidy rate and the market price. The market price has continued to track upwards.

It has been higher than inflation ever since 2002, when, dare I say it, the sector recognised that by putting their prices up they could prompt demands in this place for more subsidies to be thrown at them and those demands would inevitably be met—just as we are discussing today. You cannot blame the sector for doing that.

If they can get away with it, they will continue to do it. We have to consider not capping it or putting any other forces on them but putting market forces on them.

We need to allow parents to make determinations about where they send their children so that the market itself will put pressure on the costs and prices.

So the gap—or gulf as it was then—went from about 50 basis points to about 150 points. It tripled in real terms. And then the subsidy rate returned to the March 2000 rate but child care prices keep going up and up and up.

At last check, that gulf is still widening. The market rate is about 460 per cent of the March 2000 price. In 17 years it has gone up 4½ half times, well in excess of inflation, and it has been fuelled by the money that has been thrown at it from this place.

And it is because of compliance. Since 2008, compliance has become so burdensome that the gap between the subsidy and the cost has risen from 50 basis points then to 300 basis points now.

That has a deleterious effect for every family and it is not going to be fixed by us throwing more money into the system. We have to take pressure out of the system. If we can reduce compliance, if we can reduce bureaucracy, if we can reduce regulations and red tape, child care will be more affordable and parents will have more choices.

And that will be sustainable because it means we will not have to throw more than $12 billion a year into the system; every dollar will go a lot further.

The second area in which Australian Conservatives believes there can still be significant improvement is in the area of rorting.

Lest anyone think I be uncomplimentary, I do want to congratulate the government and the minister for making significant efforts in this regard but, dare I say it, they are not enough.

I think there needs to be more diligence and more application to stamp out the rorts that are ripping off the taxpayer. I want to give you a few examples.

In 2015, an investigation in Albury in New South Wales revealed a $4 million family day care fraud in August 2016, authorities swooped on an operation in Lakemba in Sydney.

One of the accused was actually someone with alleged links to Islamic State. That did not stop them from profiting from and ripping off the childcare system. They stood accused of collecting over $27 million since 2012.

A known Islamic State sympathiser has been involved in an operation that has gathered $27 million of taxpayer funds, rorted within the childcare sector since 2012, and there are suggestions that some of that money has found its way to funding Australia’s enemies abroad.

The information I have is that in New South Wales, where these rort occurred, there are 324 services in operation but only 19 of them have been audited. If the other 305 underwent an audit, imagine how much more of this rip-off money they might find. In 2016, at Point Cook in Victoria, authorities raided families in the Somali community who in 18 months had claimed almost $16 million in grandparent childcare benefits.

Remember, these were additional payments brought in to assist grandparents who were looking after their grandchildren. But the $16 million worth of care was never provided— just the money was delivered.

Then the coalition government, to their credit, made the child swapping rort illegal on 12 October—bravo! Child swapping was where a childcare worker put their child in the care of another childcare worker and vice versa.

Before that, an estimated 11,000 parents were receiving $8.2 million per week, swapping over 31,000 children. That is $8.2 million per week of people just saying, ‘You take my child and I’ll take yours, and we’ll both make money out of the operation.’ It is wrong, and congratulations to the government for stopping it.

In 2016 a Melbourne woman of Sudanese origin was accused of claiming $800,000 a fortnight in a western Melbourne system that allegedly took $15.8 million in false payments. That $800,000 a fortnight is not a bad gig if you can get it, unless you are the taxpayer having to fund it. That is what is going on in our current childcare system.

A woman running Aussie Giggles, a family day care centre, was found guilty in 2016 in the New South Wales District Court of 81 fraud and forgery offences designed to defraud childcare benefits to the tune of $3.6 million in special childcare subsidies for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. She claimed that as many as 14 of these children from disadvantaged backgrounds were in her care when they were not. And yet this was never picked up in an audit.

In 2016 the Queensland Labor government confirmed a trend in childcare rorting and noncompliance in ethnic communities.

Nationwide, almost all the family day care services hit with restrictions or closure were run by Somali, Sudanese or other African migrants. One Sudanese migrant received $1.6 million in 16 months to run a family day care network which authorities could not confirm involved people he claimed were employed by him.

There is a problem here. The minimal audits that have taken place and the maximum exposure of rorts—I have highlighted just some of them today—says we can do much, much better and stretch every one of those $12 billion much, much further.

The final aspect of where my concerns lie I raised during estimates. It is that there is a priority list for allocating places in childcare. Some may defend that. I may describe it as prejudice. It was news to the minister and to the department when in estimates I quoted to them words from their own guidelines:

A child care service may require a Priority 3 child to vacate a place to make room for a child with a higher priority.

In simple terms, if you are a white, middle-class person and your child is in child care, and if the government says there is someone more needy—I will get to what neediness is—your child can be removed with 14 days notice to be replaced by that child they think is more needy.

In some of these areas there is genuine need. The first priority for allocating places is ‘a child at risk of serious abuse or neglect’.

Instinctively, a child at serious risk of abuse or neglect needs much more than child care. They should not be put into child care for the day—the eight or 10 hours or whatever it is—and then returned to an environment where they are at serious risk of abuse or neglect. It needs to be dealt with at the very root cause of it. If they are not safe with their own parents they need to be taken out of that environment permanently.

The second priority is ‘a child of a single parent who satisfies, or of parents who both satisfy, the work/training/study test under Section 14 of the A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999’. To be honest, I do not get that. I do not understand why one parent working is more important or less important than another parent working or another parent choosing to study or undergo training.

The idea is to provide this resource to Australians so that they can further their careers, their education or whatever the circumstances may be. I just do not buy it that we should all be paying and prioritising one person over another because of the job they are doing.

The third priority, of course, is ‘any other child’.

Within these categories there is even more entrenched prejudice. There is a priority list within the first priority group, the second priority group and the third priority group. If you are a child in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander family, you get priority. A white kid can be removed from a childcare operation with 14 days notice to be replaced by an Aboriginal kid. I think that is wrong.

A child in a family which includes a disabled person gets priority. I am not making light of the difficulties that disabled people and their carers undergo, but I cannot come to terms with the fact that because you have a disabled sibling or a disabled parent you should have priority and someone should be removed from an existing childcare place because they deem you to be more worthy. I am not underselling the difficulties of it, but who are we to say: ‘I’m sorry, bad luck. Out you go and in you come.’ It is wrong. Even the department eventually admitted it was wrong.

Then, of course, we discriminate on the basis of income.

Apparently, if you do not earn enough money or if you do not have a job you are actually a greater priority for child care than the person who is actually out there earning money, paying more taxes and maybe employing other people—I do not know.

They can lose their place because they are earning above a threshold or they actually have a job—God forbid! Isn’t child care meant to be for getting people back into the workforce?

Finally, this is the one that really strikes me as odd, considering all the rorts I outlined before: children in families from a non-English speaking background get priority. I am not sure where they rank in the list, actually.

I am not sure whether coming from a non-English speaking background trumps being a low-income earner, having a disabled or less abled sibling or parent or having an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander family. I do not know whether it is the colour of your skin or the language your parents speak. I cannot determine this.

What I know is that any critical or reasonable assessment of it says it is wrong to remove someone in an existing place because of the colour of their skin, the language their parents speak or the income their parents have in favour of someone that a government of any stripe or persuasion deems more worthy.

Earlier, Senator Gallagher asked about deals that are done and things, and I have my doubts. I think that is very clear about the wisdom of throwing more money into this sector until other aspects of it are absolutely cleaned up.

I made it very clear to the minister that I have an open mind with respect to this package, but there are some things I would like addressed.

I really believe that if you are going to make child care available to every family, you are going to subsidise it to the cost of $12 billon-plus per year and more on the horizon, then it has to be available equally to every single family.

There should not be a priority allocation. You should not be able to kick a child out because their parents happen to be the wrong colour, speak the wrong language or happen to be able-bodied and earn money.

I think that is wrong.

Original article here

Australian Conservatives News here

Mathias Cormann’s GST joke falls flat – Judith Sloan

Cormann shouldn’t think that West Australians have put away their baseball bats

  • The Australian
  • March 14, 2017

Malcolm Turnbull would say: “It was a West Australian state election; it was fought on state issues. It was decided on state issues and the result was pretty much as had been expected for quite some time.”

However, the Prime Minister’s unhelpful intervention last year didn’t help. He travelled to Western Australia promising that he would fix the GST distribution issue. He left telling disgruntled Sandgropers that more time was needed before their state could receive any more revenue.

That sort of mealy-mouthed non-response was reinforced by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann telling us on the day after the election: “We have to be realistic on what a national government can do in relation to these sorts of issues. (Can he be serious?)

“The timetable is determined by what happens with the GST sharing arrangements moving forward. There is a flow-through effect, principally from the prices for iron ore and the royalty revenue that is generated on the back of iron ore exports.

“That will play out over the next few years and there is an expectation, in the not too distant future, WA’s share of the GST will start increasing again and, if and when that happens, there are certain options available where the floor can be established without actually taking money away from any other state.”

That pitiful explanation surely would have been one reason many West Australians reached for their baseball bats. But Cormann then added: “That is the way it should happen.”

It’s not just his political tin ear that should worry everyone. It is his complete lack of understanding of the damaging economic consequences of the way GST revenue is distributed.

Just to remind you, Western Australia receives only 30c of every dollar of GST revenue raised in the state. Every West Australian hands over $1736 to the other states and territories. By contrast, every South Australian receives a net $1052 and every Tasmanian receives $1953. Every Northern Territorian receives $10,734 while, wait for it, every ACT resident receives $400. That’s right — the place in the country with the highest incomes and the lowest unemployment receives more money than it hands over.

There is no doubt our system of horizontal fiscal equalisation is broken and has been for some time. It is the most extreme version of the principle implemented in any federation in the world. But all that the risible Finance Minister can say is: “That is the way that it should happen.”

Let’s just run through some of the problems with the system whereby the GST revenue is distributed as run by the arcane Commonwealth Grants Commission, a body that deserves abolition.

• The CGC consistently overstates the real tax bases of the donor states by failing to recognise that their high wages are offset by high living costs.

• Instead of thinking about an overall tax base (and capacity to pay) that the states and territories can tap into, the CGC considers each tax separately. There is no consideration of the impact that levying high taxes on one activity has on the scope to levy taxes on other activities.

• The CGC treats mining royalty income as the equivalent of other state recurrent tax income when clearly royalty income is highly dependent on variable, uncontrollable commodity prices.

• The CGC fails to take into account gambling taxes, so states that chose to limit gambling, such as Western Australia, are disadvantaged. This is just wrong.

At its heart, the system disadvantages states such as Western Australia that go to all the trouble of facilitating a mining boom, for example, but see 70 per cent of the proceeds handed to other states that didn’t lift a finger. So states such as South Australia and Tasmania, which deliberately run anti-business strategies — such as ridiculous renewable energy targets — benefit financially notwithstanding.

The idea this system can continue until Western Australia’ s GST share begins to rise — with the recent resurgence in commodity prices, this will not occur before 2020-21 at the earliest — is political nonsense. No doubt, premier-elect Mark McGowan will have a thing or two to say on the matter.

Even if West Australians were to have the patience of Job, the solution offered by Cormann — just wait — is unworkable. What he thinks can happen is that some sort of collar-and-cap can be imposed on GST relativities — say 0.75 to 1.25 — when the West Australian relativity falls within this range. The trouble with this “solution” is what happens to the Northern Territory because its relativity is above 5 and has been for years. Such a collar-and-cap would involve enormous redistribution away from the Territory.

Here’s a hint, Mathias: the system of GST distribution is broken, beyond repair. Busted. The idea that some states can be compensated to deliver the same standard of services to their citizens but are not required to do so must surely make him realise some political courage is required to fix the system now.

He should not think that West Australians have put away their baseball bats. In all likelihood, those bats will be within easy reach at the next federal election.

Original article here

Liberals are stranded and naive Turnbull is hardly the answer

Australian Conservatives leader Cory BernardiMAURICE NEWMAN

Maurice Newman  The Australian 9 March 2017

What eats at Malcolm Turnbull’s backers is the inescapable realisation that much of what Tony Abbott says resonates with voters across the political divide. Issues such as cuts to immigration, slashing the renewable energy target and making the parliament more workable appeal to voters of all colours. It is why his comments at a recent book launch are judged a threat to the Liberal Party and why the former prime minister is demonised as a “wrecker”.

Indeed, it is a measure of the Prime Minister’s grip on leadership, and the party’s perception of its place in the hearts and minds of the Australian people, that Abbott’s remarks should cause such consternation. When his opinions are labelled “catastrophic”, “unhelpful” and “sad”, what other conclusion can be drawn?

Yet we are told Abbott is friendless. So does it really matter if he harbours ambitions to return to the leadership? By keeping the former prime minister on the backbench, Turnbull should have expected he would speak his mind. But if there is no support and no merit to his arguments, why worry about this latest “outburst”? The party is firmly united behind Turnbull, right?

But Turnbull does worry.

The self-styled “fixer”, former education minister Christopher Pyne, once an irrepressible cheerleader but now a critic of the Abbott government, advised his former boss: “When you’re throwing stones it’s important not to stand in a glass house.”

This adolescent sense of self is a metaphor for what ails the party. It’s a blind, lesser-evil approach. Abbott is worse than Turnbull. Bill Shorten is worse than Turnbull. Labor’s renewable energy target is worse than the ­Coalition’s. It projects weakness and the people know it.

A confident party should be receptive to fresh ideas, regardless of the author. However, in the ­current climate of paranoia, the author does matter. If an Abbott recommendation becomes party policy, it may be interpreted as a “win” for him and contrary to the leader’s best interests. Self-­preservation trumps principle. Of course, the anti-Abbott forces don’t have to look far for support. The media are first responders. Anxious to nip any latent support in the bud, the old Abbott blame files are being dusted off.

Laura Tingle, writing for Fairfax, channelled Monty Python’s “what have the Romans ever done for us, aside from sanitation, medicine, education, public order …?” when she asked: “Can you remember anything positive he has contributed to our polity that has not involved tearing something down?”

Well, nothing aside from beginning budget repair, stopping the boats, completing beneficial trade deals with Japan, South Korea and China, scrapping the mining and carbon taxes, agreeing to a second Sydney airport, ending wasteful corporate welfare, reducing the public service by 12,000, and abolishing 300 unnecessary government boards and agencies. But fear and loathing run deep in the hate media and facts should never stand in the way of a good story.

In reality, this collective theatre has less to do with any prospect of Abbott’s return to The Lodge than the growing realisation that the Liberals are a ­stranded party. They are a nebulous grey, in a soft-left kind of way, at a time when the electorate is ­polarising. To date, the Turnbull Coalition team’s achievements are few and ad hoc. Reflecting its leadership, it lacks conviction and purpose. One day things are on the table, the next they are off. Its instincts are more Rudd than Howard, more Obama than Trump.

The disheartening July 2016 general election result and disastrous polling since point to serious voter disenchantment with the party. The Prime Minister’s strong suspicion that the latest devastating Newspoll was delayed until after Abbott’s book launch speech is, at best, naive. He doesn’t see that casting Abbott as the culprit, rather than acknowledging genuine voter dissatisfaction, insults the voting public. It makes winning back support even more difficult.

Right-wing Liberal senator Cory Bernardi’s defection to set up his Australian Conservatives, citing the Liberals’ abandonment of their party’s conservative principles and heritage, validates voter concern and, carries with it a despair that the leftward drift is irreversible. This seems at odds with an international trend to the right.

In a dramatic turn, Donald Trump is now in the White House. His pledge to “Make America great again” means upsetting the status quo and shaking up vested interests. That he is doing, in the face of fierce opposition from progressive urban elites.

Over the next few months, similar dramatic changes are likely in Europe. General elections in The Netherlands, France and Italy should see new right-wing governments installed. Their agenda, like Trump’s, is far-reaching and much of it is a repudiation of years of leftist ideology. Australia will not be quarantined, yet seems unprepared for the inevitable influence these changes will have on voters and the economy.

While the media presents Tony Abbott’s “outburst” as settling old scores, it is now obvious the last leadership change was ill-conceived and a disservice to the ­nation. There is a reason that this government scarcely has a mandate. Now most voters no longer trust the present leader to deliver the changes it wants.

Blaming Abbott is futile.

Some Turnbull supporters may hope the present slide in the polls will be arrested by a few good weeks. It is a total misread, as the latest polls and the Prime Minister’s continuing indecisiveness are screaming. Abbott’s manifesto was a good start, but he alone cannot deliver it. Judgment, unity of purpose and, courage, are required, qualities not currently in evidence.

Irrespective of whether Abbott has a pathway to The Lodge, Australia’s future prosperity depends on a fundamental change in leadership and policy direction. Without that, the people’s confidence in this government cannot be restored and the voters’ search for something better will continue.

Original article here

Pauline Hanson wants Meth Addicts to cover their own rehab treatment costs


Pauline Hanson insists addicts must cover the costs of their treatment

The West Australian  4 March 2017   PAUL MURRAY

Based on a recent opinion poll, more than half the West  Australians who will vote for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation next weekend are driven by a dislike of both Islam and the major political parties.

So while those who will actually form government continue to spend like drunken sailors buying votes, One Nation gets the bulk of its support at no cost to the taxpayer.
As is usual with protest movements, Pauline Hanson’s is best known for what it opposes rather than for things it supports.

But many voters might be surprised that the fledgling WA arm of PHON has released a range of policies in recent weeks that have escaped widespread media scrutiny.

That’s despite the possibility Hanson could hold the balance of power in the Legislative Council in a week’s time and have an arm lock on the next government.

So even if PHON voters are not interested in policy detail — preferring Hanson’s broadbrush nationalism on things such as foreign ownership and immigration — everyone else should be concerned about the party’s platform.

That’s because the next Parliament might just be dancing on it to Pauline’s tune.

For example, PHON wants methamphetamine-addicted criminals to pay for their own compulsory — and indefinite — treatment. The cash will be taken by force if necessary.

“One Nation WA proposes a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy to help tackle the methamphetamine scourge in our community,” the policing and community safety policy says. “If a meth user is caught two times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control.

“Addicts must cover the costs of their treatment, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release.

“Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.”

Juvenile criminals, too, are in for a shock, with a promise to introduce controversial “broken windows” laws in WA. They crack down on minor crimes to create an atmosphere of law and order but are criticised for being inherently unjust and not addressing the causes of disorder, which are often racial.

“A philosophy of coming down hard on minor offences with juveniles in particular in order to deter future offending,” is how the PHON policy describes the approach.

The party also promises to examine new laws making parents accountable for the criminal behaviour of their children. It also supports a “Fagin’s Law” approach which targets those procuring young people to commit offences.

PHON also wants to build more prisons, for punishment rather than rehabilitation, and to make life inside tougher.

“Prisons are no longer a deterrent to crime,” the party says. “Society as a whole needs to consider what role prisons play in punishment and rehabilitation.

“Prisons should not be the home prisoners never had. We believe sufficiently punitive measures should exist for lawbreakers.”

Tough-on-crime promises are standard at election time, but the One Nation policies released so far miss several hot-button issues such as debt reduction and WA’s GST share and strangely ignore health, the biggest spending part of the Budget. There’s nothing yet on electricity prices, other than keeping Western Power in State hands — which doesn’t stop costs rising and won’t cut debt — but it wants to drive down gas prices by reserving more for domestic use.

On affordable housing, PHON says the key is to cut immigration levels and deter foreign buyers with a 20 per cent penalty tax. Labor wants a 4 per cent surcharge which it says would raise $21 million.

PHON wants no “racial/ethnic preferences” in public housing allocations and promises a minimum of 15 per cent of all government land and home developments would be targeted at low-to-moderate income households.

The party also blames immigration for Perth’s congested roads and services.

So to “ease congestion, lift productivity, generate economic growth and jobs and keep our assets in Australian hands”, it is proposing to start its own bank.

“A WA Infrastructure Finance Corporation would be financed with seed funding and direct public funding and operate on a commercial basis,” the party says, clearly forgetting Brian Burke’s similar experiment with the WA Development Corporation.

“It would help finance infrastructure projects in our State, at concessional interest rates, thus spreading the costs across the generations who would benefit from these projects.

“This method would allow WA to finance and construct major projects while earning a return for the taxpayer. It would allow the government to cut its Budget expenditure, freeing up funds either to pay down debt or to invest in education, health, families, policing and other areas.”

Most of these policies are highly contentious — and in some cases deeply flawed — deserving scrutiny against the likelihood that One Nation will have enough influence in the coming Parliament to exert substantial pressure on whoever forms government.

Original article here



One Nation believes that communities and governments must take a strong stance if we are ever to maintain control or stop this epidemic.

Solutions for Ice Addicts

  • One Nation proposes a three strikes and you’re out . If an ice user is caught three times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control.
  • Addicts must cover the costs of their treatment, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release. Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.

Solutions for Dealers

  • Extremely harsh penalties should apply to anyone selling ice.
  • Each gram of ice sold, should equate to a mandatory year in prison.
  • Their assets will be sold to offset the costs and will be recoverable, even after time spent in prison.
  • If foreign nationals are convicted of drug crimes, a treaty will be sought for jail time to be done in their own country. Too many foreign nationals commit crimes within Australia because the rewards are far greater, and prison sentences are no deterrent.

Read more here




Tuesday, March 01, 2016  PAULINE HANSON

It’s widely known as ICE, yet it’s also referred to as Crystal Meth or Methamphetamine. No matter how it’s referred to, the drug is with certainty, followed by misery.

Statistics now show there are 270,000 regular ‘ice’ users in Australia and the numbers are growing rapidly. Wherever I go throughout the country, the main issue raised by people is ice. Nurses and doctors are having to deal with ice users in our already overrun and understaffed hospitals, while other patients are forced to wait. A nurse informed me she was aware of a man losing his life due to a heart attack while waiting for doctors attending an ice user. This is simply unacceptable!

Our police and ambulance officers face regular abuse or attacks from overdosed ice users. Some of you might say this is a State Government issue, however this drug in particular is having national consequences and it’s about time the Federal Government encouraged the states to take a unified approach in combatting ice.

Two young mothers at Tweed Heads (NSW) told me the drug is out of control and ice can be purchased in a matter of 5 minutes in their community. They are in genuine fear for their children and themselves. It appears no place in Australia is free from ice and the devastation that comes with its use. Small country towns in the outback are also under attack. These once peaceful communities are being destroyed by crime, abuse and fear associated with ice. The Vulnerable and youth are being targeted, leaving parents and loved ones not knowing what to do, or where to go.

I have no sympathy for drug users. I do however for their families, friends and communities who deal with the destruction they cause. The ice users are ‘bloody idiots’ to say the least. Everyone has a choice in life. Being depressed, out of a job or feeling sorry for yourself is no reason to take ice. There are many people who can claim these ailments that turn to drugs. People have to start taking responsibility for their actions.

I am fed up with the innocent and taxpayers having to pick up the pieces for thugs and idiots, or irresponsible and selfish non-contributors in our society. I cannot understand the reasons why someone who is a hardworking, family person, wants to take ice?

Communities and governments must take a strong stance if we are ever to maintain control or stop this epidemic. I propose three strikes and you’re out. If an ice user is caught three times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control. They must cover the costs, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release. Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.

Extremely harsh penalties should apply to anyone selling ice. Each gram of ice sold, should equate to a mandatory year in prison. Their assets will be sold to offset the costs and will be recoverable, even after time spent in prison.

If foreign nationals are convicted of drug crimes, a treaty will be sought for jail time to be done in their own country. Too many foreign nationals commit crimes within Australia because the rewards are far greater, and prison sentences are no deterrent.

I am not interested in do-gooders supporting the ‘rights’ of these criminals. When greed and disregard overshadows the impact on human life and society as a whole, they should forfeit all freedoms.

By Pauline Hanson



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Judges receive pay rises amid claims ice addicts adding to their workload as cases ‘increased in complexity’

Natasha Bita, National Affairs Editor, The Daily Telegraph

November 29, 2016 9:00pm

Subscriber only

JUDGES will pocket up to $500 a week extra in plump pay rises next year after blaming ice addicts for worsening workloads and job stress.

Federal Circuit Court judges have demanded a bonus two weeks’ holiday and a doubling of superannuation contributions and service leave.

The Remuneration Tribunal yesterday gave federal judges a 4.8 per cent bonus from January 1, swelling the salary of Australia’s first female High Court chief justice, Susan Kiefel, to $573,046 next year.

Other High Court judges will pocket an extra $23,818 — bumping their pay to $520,028.
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told the tribunal cases had “increased in complexity”. Picture: Hollie Adams
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told the tribunal cases had “increased in complexity’’ due to an increase in drug use — especially methamphetamine — as well as mental illness and allegations of sexual abuse and family ­violence.

She said some litigants posed a “real/significant threat’’ to judges.

And she warned the “extraordinary number of cases’’ involving family violence “has put the courts under considerable pressure’’.

“The parenting cases … require difficult fact-finding about contested issues including sexual abuse of children, family violence … mental health issues and substance abuse,’’ Chief Justice Bryant states in her submission, kept secret for a year and made public yesterday after a Freedom of Information request by The Daily Telegraph.

The Chief Judge of the FCC, John Pascoe, told the tribunal that Federal Circuit Court judges receive only four weeks’ holiday a year, compared to eight weeks for Family Court judges and 10 weeks for Federal Court or NSW District court judges.

He called for at least six weeks holidays — as well as six months long service leave after five years in the job.

“Annual leave of four weeks a year is inadequate given the demands of trial judge work,’’ his submission states.

“Failure to deal with these issues to date has had a deleterious effect on the health and wellbeing of judges of the court.’’
Cartoonist Warren’s perspective.
Chief Judge Pascoe said the Federal Circuit Court — which hears family law cases, refugee and migration claims, consumer lawsuits and counter-terrorism issues — was the “primary face of federal justice’’ and its judges should be paid 90 per cent of a Federal Court judge’s salary.

“The average Australian experiencing difficulties in family life, at work, or in their business will appear before this court,’’ he said.

Chief Justice Pascoe said Federal Circuit Court judges’ superannuation contributions should double from 15.4 per cent to 30 per cent of salary, because they were missing out on the usual judicial pension of 60 per cent of their salary after 10 years’ service.

But the tribunal rejected the claim, handing Federal Circuit Court judges a $17,046 pay rise instead of the $23,599 they asked for, and ignoring the holiday and superannuation demands. The Remuneration Tribunal ruled that a 4.8 per cent pay rise “recognises the increased complexities faced by judges … in an environment of continued economic and wages restraint’’.
Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe said superannuation contributions should double from 15.4 per cent to 30 per cent of salary. Picture: Renee Nowytarger
The judges’ pay rise is double the 2.4 per cent awarded to Australia’s poorest workers this year, and comes on top of a 2 per cent pay rise for federal judges in 2016. The federal Attorney- General’s Department fought the proposed increase, noting that Federal Circuit Court judges’ salaries had doubled between 2002 to $355,130 this year, while the average wage had risen 71 per cent to $80,415.

“Given the large number of judicial officers and the generous level of remuneration they receive, any percentage increase in judicial remuneration will affect the government’s budget position,’’ it told the tribunal.

The NSW government complained that any federal pay rises will trigger “me too’’ pay claims from judges in this state. NSW Statutory and Other Offices Remuneration Tribunal head Richard Grellman warned if NSW failed to match federal pay packets, it “may have an adverse impact on the ability of … NSW … to attract and retain the best available people to the NSW courts’’.

NSW judges are paid more than judges interstate, with the Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court earning $482,470 this year.

Originally published as ‘Meth stress’ behind judges’ salary increase

Original article here


Thomas Frank on the elitism that crucified the Democrats

Journalist and author Thomas Frank points to international trade deals as wreaking havoc on middle America.
Journalist and author Thomas Frank points to international trade deals as wreaking havoc on middle America. Leigh Vogel
by John KehoeAmerican author and journalist Thomas Frank strides in carrying a notepad and in a huff as I greet him, seated at a cosy table at the Tabard Inn in Washington DC. He is about 10 minutes late for our lunch date and upset about the unreliable local metro system. “But hey, Kansas City doesn’t have a metro,” he says.

Frank is most renowned for writing What’s the Matter with Kansas?, a 2004 book about how working-class Americans outside the big cities act against their own economic interest by voting Republican, based on cultural grievances on gay rights, guns, abortion and patriotism.

In the 1970s, he grew up in the conservative suburbs of Kansas City, which straddles Missouri’s western edge and the state of Kansas near the Midwest.

But we’re here today to talk about his latest book, Listen, Liberal.

Hillary Clinton was the wrong candidate for the Democrats, says Frank, who was a fan of the "democratic socialist" ...
Hillary Clinton was the wrong candidate for the Democrats, says Frank, who was a fan of the “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders. supplied

In many ways, the book exposes the plight of the forgotten working-class Americans who Donald Trump lured in his famous presidential election boilover in November. Published eight months before election day, the book assails the Democratic Party, particularly Bill and Hillary Clinton, claiming it abandoned the working-class roots in favour of the educated professional class. 

Frank, a former university Republican – as the son of a small-business owner – before switching to become a staunch liberal (which means politically left-of-centre in America), is aghast at Trump’s victory, even if he may be entitled to feel a little vindicated on foreseeing how it happened.

“It was very easy for me to understand Trump’s appeal. Democrats don’t understand the issue of inequality and they’re completely out of touch on working-class people. Hillary is the manifestation and personification of it.”

Unleashing more, he says Clinton – who he reluctantly voted for – was “tone deaf” by suggesting that supporting Trump was an act of bigotry and that America was already “great” because the official unemployment rate was low and sharemarket booming.

“The Trump supporters are looking at what’s happening to their communities and saying ‘we don’t see that’. The unemployment rate is low right now, people have jobs; the jobs just don’t pay very well.”

President-elect Donald Trump with son-in-law Jared Kushner. Despite his wealth and privilege, billionaire businessman ...
President-elect Donald Trump with son-in-law Jared Kushner. Despite his wealth and privilege, billionaire businessman Trump knew how to strike a chord with the working classes. Getty Images

Middle-class wages, allowing for inflation, have barely budged over the past three decades. One in six working-age men are not employed, mainly because they are not looking for a job.

Scourge of trade deals

Frank, who now lives around Bethesda on the outskirts of Washington DC, has recently returned from a trip to Missouri where he undertook field research for a column for The Guardian (he also writes for the American current affairs magazine Harper’s, and was founding editor of The Baffler) about why the regions there supported the New York billionaire Trump in droves.

The waiter asks if we would like a drink. Frank, who has work to do later, passes on the alcohol and opts for “plain old” drip coffee. Typically Australian, I ask if they serve espresso. Today, I am in luck.

President-elect Donald Trump on his post-election victory lap in Mobile, Alabama. His anti-trade-deals message was a ...
President-elect Donald Trump on his post-election victory lap in Mobile, Alabama. His anti-trade-deals message was a winner in the American South and Midwest. NYT

Frank laments how farmers no longer vote Democrat and notes that even the leftist president Harry Truman, who was in power 1945-53, was from Missouri. “What’s weird today is you have a prolonged crisis in agriculture in family farming,” he continues. Jimmy Carter was, he says, the last to “care”. “As it gets worse, people vote for a more conservative candidate.”

He’s sharply critical of the big food buyer “monopolies” for paying farmers a pittance for their produce, arguing the government should impose anti-competitive sanctions.

In line with Trump, he lashes the international trade deals that he claims have devastated rural and regional communities, particularly old manufacturing strongholds in the South and Midwest. “There used to be a lot of manufacturing in small towns and now it’s gone.”

I push back and argue that technology through automation – more so than trade – has eliminated American manufacturing jobs. It was a point Obama would echo a few days later in his presidential farewell speech, saying the “next wave of dislocation” would come from automation, not trade. Trump can’t stop those powerful forces. Frank acknowledges robots taking jobs, but is adamant that, to date, trade deals have been the bigger culprit.

Thomas Frank: "Globalisation means you get what you want and I hit the road. I called bullshit on all that."
Thomas Frank: “Globalisation means you get what you want and I hit the road. I called bullshit on all that.” Leigh Vogel

Hope and disillusionment

The waiter reapproaches.

Having already eyed the farm-to-table cuisine on the menu, I quickly order the grilled hanger steak, medium rare, imagining the mashed potatoes, broccoli and demi-glace listed on the menu. Frank is planning to eat steak for dinner. He peruses the shrimp grits (“are you serious?”) and pork chops before settling on the seared trout combined with the caesar salad. He declines oysters when I suggest a starter, saying they are “too messy”.

The Tabard Inn opened in 1922 and is now composed of three late-Victorian townhouses linked with internal passages. Featuring a bar and lounge on the ground level, it’s a favourite haunt for journalists and progressive political types. On a cold winter’s day, we’re seated upstairs at a table with a neat white tablecloth and overlooking the outside patio that is popular in summer. Vines crawl over the outdoor fence while back inside carved wooden tulips hang on the wall.

President Barack Obama making his presidential farewell speech in Chicago. Frank believes it was Obama's centrism, his ...
President Barack Obama making his presidential farewell speech in Chicago. Frank believes it was Obama’s centrism, his compromises on the healthcare plan and failure to take on Wall Street that are the disappointments of his presidency. AP

Frank came in for an Obama inauguration party in 2008. “I was so happy when he won,” he says.

How does he feel now? “The hope has curdled.”

Obama was his state senator when Frank lived in Illinois: “You’d go to house parties in Hyde Park and he’d walk into the room and people loved this man. People would say, ‘He’s going to be president some day. He’s so smart and handsome and such a good talker.'”

As our meals arrive, we digress and Frank mentions he’s flying to Australia in late February for the Perth and Adelaide writers festivals, promoting Listen, Liberal (Scribe). His two children, aged 15 and 12, would like to go but he’ll be flying solo.

I remind him that the Liberal Party in Australia is our conservative party, something he’s loosely aware of. Frank is “very excited” about seeing Perth, having missed it on a past trip to Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart. I talk up the world-class West Australian beaches, warm weather and Margaret River winery area. Alas his schedule is too tight. He might have time to visit the Barossa Valley near Adelaide instead for a drop of wine.

Fierce critic of globalisation

The photographer arrives. “Oh shit, I should get the hair spray out like Donald Trump,” Frank muses, patting his hair to one side. His son repeatedly teased him during the campaign that “when Donald Trump wins …” He then lost a bet to his son; if Trump won, Frank was supposed to have to style his hair like the celebrity TV star turned President-elect.

I tell him how throughout the election I arrived in the Washington office on mornings and regularly remarked to the office administration lady, Rachel, “one day closer to president Trump”. It was tongue-in-cheek at the time, but turned out to be true.

Thomas Frank's latest book <i>Listen, Liberal</i> is an excoriating look at how the Democratic Party lost touch with its ...
Thomas Frank’s latest book Listen, Liberal is an excoriating look at how the Democratic Party lost touch with its core support of the working classes. It is published by Scribe, $29.99.

“You guys need to learn. It’s gonna come there [Australia] too,” Frank chuckles, referring to the Trump and anti-globalisation phenomenon that has struck Britain with Brexit and is engulfing election races in France and the Netherlands. I mention the resurrection of a nationalist Pauline Hanson in Queensland, who he has not heard of.

“It’s happening all over the world,” he says. “This is freaky what’s going on.”

Frank blames globalisation.

“In America, globalisation means you get what you want and I hit the road. I called bullshit on all that.”

So does he identify with Trump’s blistering message? “His message on trade, yes.

“Trump scares me in all sorts of ways, but I really liked what he did to Carrier,” he says, alluding to the US airconditioning manufacturer which Trump bullied and negotiated with to remain in the United States instead of shifting 800 jobs from Indiana to Mexico.

Frank also adds that “TPP is gone, that’s good”. It’s a reference to the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership deal that Trump has vowed to tear up as soon as he becomes president.

Out in the ‘real’ America

Rudely, I’ve already finished my lunch and he has barely taken a bite of his. As other diners chat noisily in the background, I mention that Australia is unhappy about TPP failing because it means the US will be less engaged in Asia, creating space for a rising China to fill the void.

Frank asks where Australians like to visit in the US. I list the usual tourist hotspots of New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles.

“Lame,” he quips. Instead, they should head to see the “real” America in Kansas City, Chicago and St Louis. During the primary and general elections, I ventured to states including Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Ohio and then took a Greyhound through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

I tell him getting out into the small communities held some of the best American memories for me, meeting the Trump, Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters. Frank tells me he spent Christmas with his extended family from the Midwest, some of whom voted for Trump.

“They meant well by it,” he says, sheepishly. “What’s more remarkable is the liberals in my family wouldn’t vote for Hillary.”

But Frank is not finished with his anti-trade tirade and frustration with the Clintons. “Hillary was uniquely weak facing Trump because of his emphasis on trade deals. This [Trump’s win] is payback for [Bill Clinton’s] NAFTA,” he says, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement president Clinton signed with Mexico and Canada.

Trump throughout the campaign railed against NAFTA, blaming the Clintons for manufacturing-plant closures and jobs being shipped over the border to lower-cost Mexico. Helping him win the old “rust belt” states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Trump threatened to impose 35 per cent tariffs on Mexican imports.

The ‘winner’ caused a wipeout

Frank laments that the Democrats didn’t run Vice-President Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders for the presidency instead. “Biden wouldn’t have been beaten in Michigan or Pennsylvania,” he argues.

I suggest Biden probably may have beaten Trump because of his white, working-class background but I cast doubt on whether a socialist such as Sanders could have won. Frank remains “sure” Sanders would have won. He voted for Clinton, but preferred Sanders and backed the 75-year-old Senator in the Democratic primaries.

He says the party chose Clinton because the Clintons have been making promises to Democratic operatives for decades and supporters would be promoted if the former secretary of state was crowned president.

He ridicules the left-leaning US media, including The New York Times and MSNBC, for failing to look beyond Clinton’s imposing resume as secretary of state, senator and first lady to see her deep flaws. “They loved her,” he says in despair.

And he laments the electoral “wipeout”. While Clinton won about 2.8 million more votes, she lost the 50-state electoral college; Republicans will control both chambers of Congress, fill a crucial Supreme Court vacancy, rule most state legislatures and state governorships. The electoral map is a sea of conservative red.

“The irony that really gets me is the faction that led them into this catastrophe was the ‘winning faction’, the Clintons,” Frank says, arguing that the Democrats became a party of the affluent, white-collar professional class such as Silicon Valley technologists, Wall Street bankers, lawyers, doctors and journalists who focused too heavily on culture wars and social issues such as gay and gender rights, euthanasia and racial equality.

Trump’s amazing Teflon factor

“I don’t disagree with that stuff. But they have abandoned the other side of liberalism that they’re supposed to be,” Frank says. “Republicans answer to the business elite, Democrats answer to the professional elite and then the working class fit in where they can. With Trump, the working class found somewhere else to go.

“The Republicans do a better job of speaking to them in visceral terms. Look at the way Trump talks,” he says of the brash billionaire. “A lot of this is how you present yourself and talk, which is hard for modern Democrats,” he says, pointing to Hillary and Al Gore.

Frank is amazed how Trump absorbed so many controversies that would have sunk any other candidate, such as the 2005 recording of him boasting of forcing himself on women, calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “murderers”, disparaging a US-born judge presiding over his Trump University fraud trial as “Mexican”, ridiculing women, mocking a disabled reporter and disparaging the parents of an American Muslim soldier killed on duty in Iraq.

“One of those things would kill an ordinary candidacy, but this guy kept going.”

Frank, like me, attended the campaign rallies and saw the passion for Trump, but ultimately believed the polls that said Hillary would win.

“How much can anecdote ‘trump’ statistic?” I pose, reciting my own experience of white, working-class men who said they were lifelong Democrats but voting for Trump.

As the Democrats struggle with an identity crisis, Frank believes they should move harder to the left by bashing the banks, opposing trade agreements and slugging the rich with higher taxes as promoted by Sanders and Massachusetts Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren. “What Warren is selling is very popular.”

I suggest that liberalism has been rejected by Americans and doubling down on a stronger dose of it could be the wrong move.

“What’s being rejected is centrism – Clintonism and Obamaism,” he responds. Frank believes that, beginning in the 1990s, the Clintons moved the party closer to the political centre and not far enough to the left on economic issues such as income inequality, trade and taking on Wall Street. President Bill Clinton brokered deals with Republicans, he says, on cutting government welfare. 

However, other observers would dispute Frank’s claim about Hillary and Obama being too centrist. Conservative critics claim the outgoing president loved big government on healthcare and climate change, and that the former first lady shifted to the left of her husband during the campaign.

‘Somehow he [Obama] conspired to lose’

Obama doesn’t escape Frank’s wrath either. He says Obama compromised too much by opting for Republican Mitt Romney’s healthcare plan, rather than publicly funded universal healthcare instead of mandated private insurance.

He also says that Obama proposed cutting social security in return for tax increases for the rich in a grand “fiscal bargain” that ultimately failed, that Obama backed trade deals and he didn’t strengthen the unions by much.

“Obama has always had the passion for centrism, which sat alongside what appeared to be liberalism.”

So how do you assess his presidency? I ask. “He’s been an excellent president in symbolic terms because he was the first black president and an inspiring figure. But in policy terms, this guy came in being dealt four aces in a crisis with both houses of Congress and a massive popular mandate.

“Somehow he conspired to lose.”

He also insists Obama should have broken up the banks and jailed bank executives for their role in fuelling the 2008 financial crisis. 

Frank has finally finished his meal an hour into our conversation. I inquire if he’s up for dessert or a wine. “No, I’ve got work to do,” he says, in typical American tradition. A second coffee is ordered.

As for the Trump era with billionaires in his cabinet, Frank says it will be “10 times worse”.

“The horrible joke is: look who’s coming in to run the government now.”

Still, he’s hopeful Democrats will work with Trump on his infrastructure spending plan for roads, rail, bridges and airports to rebuild America, like president Dwight Eisenhower, who built the interstate highway system in the 1950s.

“Infrastructure spending would be really good for working people and the economy. That’s what Obama should have done.”

Obama did try, but Republicans blocked his major infrastructure spending package during the recession.

After paying the bill, we head out via the lounge with Japanese artwork, past the bar and downstairs to a picture of Obama hanging near the exit.

“What a tragedy,” Frank despairs, as he bids me farewell.

Thomas Frank is the author of Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? ($29.99) published by Scribe. He will be appearing at Perth Writers Festival and Adelaide Writers Week.

Original article here

Microbiome link between Parkinson’s disease, bowel cancer, mental illness


Microbes living in people’s bodies can tell when you when they died

By John Ross – The Australian  23 Dec 2016
Higher Eduction Report Sydney    @JohnRoss49

The balance of bugs in the body is crucial to quality of life. Now scientists are turning to bugs to get a better measure of death.

US researchers have found that the “microbiome” — the bacteria and other microbes living in and on people’s bodies — provides a surprisingly accurate gauge of how long they have been dead.

They say the discovery could sharpen forensic methods, shedding new light on murder investigations and corroborating or disproving alibis.

The team based its findings, outlined in the journal PLOS ONE, on DNA analyses of bacterial swabs from 21 bodies at various stages of decomposition. They used a “machine learning” approach to develop an algorithm equating microbial composition to time since death.

Team leader Nathan Lents said while it was a proof-of-­concept study, the results had exceeded expectations.

“In a few years we’ll have a good idea of how to use this in forensic applications,” said Professor Lents, a molecular biologist with City University of New York. Recent research has uncovered links between the micro­biome and Parkinson’s disease, bowel cancer, mental illness and autism, with microbes in the gut even harvested for new antibiotics.

Professor Lents said existing methods of determining time of death were accurate to within about six hours for the first two days after life.

From then on they mainly depended on analyses of insects in dead bodies, yielding “solid guesses” that often ranged over a few days.

“Beyond a week, no one really trusts the methods,” he said.

The new approach could estimate time of death to within about two days, even after four weeks of decomposition.

Microbiome analysis could also supply information such as a victim’s drug use, “even when the traces of the drug itself are long gone”.

He said it could possibly help determine cause of death or provide insights into places victims had recently visited.

In a study published last month, Californian researchers showed microbes on people’s mobile phones could be used to help identify their owners.

Original article here

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