Doctor and activist


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Category: Justice

Government protects Bonuses of iCare Executives while workers are dudded.

20 May 2022

Some things make me unspeakably angry.

In the SMH online today the government giving bonuses to executives who presided over iCare cheating injured people out of their payments and treatments.

In my real job, I treat injured workers and motor vehicle accidents. Many wait more than a year for surgery- my longest was 9 years. They are subjected to Independent Medical Examinations that find any other reason than their accident for the cause of their pain. Age, previous injury and arthritis are the commonest ones.  It is stated that they are fit for work, when they are obviously not, or that they can get another job when they obviously have no physical or mental capacity to do another job, let alone compete for one. 

The ongoing inefficiency of the computer algorithms making decisions without even anyone being responsible was the brainchild of John Nagle, whose other bright idea was to change his KPI (Key Performance Indicator) from getting people back to work, to having them declared fit to be back to work.  Nagle resigned after a bad day at a Parliamentary inquiry. All this happened while iCare was under Treasurer Dominic Perrottet. 

A friend of mine injured his back lifting on a Friday. He called his GP and visited him on Saturday. He had an MRI scan on Monday which showed a bad disc injury, saw the neurosurgeon on Thursday, had a discectomy on Saturday and went home on Monday. All fixed in 8 days. That is what should happen. It never happens in the WC or CTP system.

The Workers Comp system takes 14 days to accept liability, then has to ‘decide’ if the treatment is appropriate, so weeks go by, and if they dispute it, years. People wait 3 months for the insurer’s medical examination, 6 weeks for the result of it, another couple of months for their specialist examination and a few months for the government medical to settle the dispute.  And they blame the injured people for the worse results out of the system, and give bonuses to those who managed to reduce the costs.  Given the huge administrative machinery, the clerk, investigators, extra medical examiners, lawyers, dispute resolvers and the rest, all the savings come from not treating people.  And those responsible get bonuses, and the government, ever keen not to upset the private sector ring-ins makes sure that they are amply rewarded for this appalling situation.  Perrottet, the most recent architect of iCare, had a 2nd inquiry by McDougall to kick the can down the road, then rose to be premier before his report was out. 

Here is the SMH article:

Government votes to protect bonuses for icare executives

By Lucy Cormack

May 20, 2022 — 5.00am

The Perrottet government has protected bonus payments for icare executives, rejecting a bid to ban the practice after revelations millions of dollars in bonuses were handed out while injured workers were underpaid.

The attempt to strip bonuses from executives at the state insurer was contained in Opposition amendments blocked in the lower house this week during a vote to amend the state insurance and care legislation.

Icare has been the subject of intense scrutiny since an investigation by the Herald and ABC TV’s Four Corners in 2020 revealed the underpayment of workers while senior executives claimed almost $4 million in salaries and bonuses.

The insurer, which provides workers’ compensation insurance to 3.6 million public and private sector employees in NSW, has since been forced to repay $38 million to 53,000 injured workers.

The scandal prompted the government to amend legislation governing icare, following a review by former judge Robert McDougall, QC.

More than 200 icare employees are entitled to bonuses, including chief executive officer Richard Harding, who is entitled to an incentive of $411,000.

Opposition treasury spokesman Daniel Mookhey said there was little justification for bonuses while the insurer continued to record billions of dollars in underwriting losses.

“Employers are staring down the barrel of a decade of rising premiums, yet the government is protecting bonuses for top executives at Australia’s most disaster-prone insurer,” Mookhey said.

“We intend to stand up for employers and injured workers. We will fight against lavish bonuses for icare’s top executives in the Legislative Council next week.”

During debate on Wednesday, Minister for the State Insurance Regulatory Authority Victor Dominello said the McDougall Review had not found executive bonuses at icare were excessive.

He said McDougall noted the benefit of allowing icare to set competitive salaries to “attract appropriate talent”

The Herald last year revealed icare hired 18 new executives with potential annual bonuses collectively worth more than $1.2 million, while employee operating costs have increased from $162 million to more than $200 million since 2020.

However, an icare spokesman previously told the Herald no executive bonuses have been paid in the past two years.

Unions NSW boss Mark Morey wrote to NSW MPs last week calling for reforms to address “repeated governance, financial and operational crises”, including ending executive bonuses.

Other proposed reforms included enforcing the same procurement laws that govern the NSW public sector, from which icare is exempt, and appointing an injured worker to the board.

Morey on Thursday said the government had missed an opportunity to “clean up” the state insurer.

“How can the premier justify continued bonuses for highly paid executives when sick and injured workers have been dudded and small businesses are paying increased premiums?” he said.

Other changes sought by the government included additional powers for the State Insurance Regulatory Authority and expanded access to commutation, which allows injured workers to negotiate lump sum payments and exit the system, rather than remain on weekly payments.

However, the government agreed to withdraw its proposal to allow changes to commutations via regulation and reconsider them in future legislation.

Opposition spokeswoman for industrial relations, work, health and safety Sophie Cotsis said she was pleased the government had agreed to consult further on lump sum payments, arguing that regulation should not be used to expand the system.

The State Insurance and Care Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 will now move to the upper house, where the opposition will make another attempt to ban bonuses.

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Easy Money Philosophy the Key to Australia’s Undoing

May 13 2022

Australia’s lack of vision in its leadership is the cause of most of our problems. (warning- long post)

Undeveloped economies rely on capital input and land development, and sadly the philosophy of making an easy dollar has dominated our approach to public policy.

A key element in this has been the approach to housing.  Negative gearing of property has made housing a commodity, and the no-brainer way to make money has been to buy property with as little deposit as possible, so as it rises on an endless speculative bubble, the return on capital invested is as great as possible.  The unit of real estate development might be thought to be what a person can borrow and pay off in a lifetime. That is what would be home owners go to the auction with, so developers can charge that, and do. The huge profit margin then makes developers able to influence the political system, such that it becomes largely controlled by them. 

Of course it is all a Ponzi scheme.  As someone sells with their huge capital gain, where does the money come from?  The buyer has to borrow it, of course.  The property is the same as it was. They borrow it from an Australian bank, who borrows it from a foreign bank.  So Australia’s private debt is close to the highest in the world, largely because we have arbitrarily over-valued our houses, and given tax concessions to achieve this. Our kids now cannot afford houses unless their parents give them theirs.

But it is more extensive than this. Banks do not have to evaluate business proposals carefully.  It is much easier just to demand the mortgage on your home, or not to lend to risky stuff like businesses when real estate is so easy.  So we have no money nationally to develop our own industries and we sell our assets.

It permeates the national psyche. The status of professions tends to follow their incomes, with a bit of a lag.  Teachers, nurses, GPs, and middle-grade public servants have had large relative falls in incomes. Public service experts are neglected, their consistent plodding in their niche area undervalued. When knowledge in that niche is actually required ‘Consultants’ charging exorbitant rates replace them, pandering to the political minders or residual managers who do not know what they do not know.

Gambling in Australia has been huge.  With no serious research on the effect of gambling on society, it was assumed that if the clubs were non-profit that they would put back as much into society as they took out.  No one actually measured the social effect and they just kept growing. The hotels were not able to compete. They tried live music for a while and Australia had a rash of world-class bands, but then they got into pokies as well so that NSW has a huge percentage of the whole world’s poker machines  All easy money; no independent research please.   We have ads for gambling.  Basically people always lose, so there might as well be ads that say, ‘Do not have a financial plan or savings- give your money to us’.  But no one comments.

But even that was not enough. We had to have a casino, just one, to get some foreign money.

And was it to be in the middle of the desert, like Las Vegas to make some industry and jobs out there? No, after minimal discussion it was in Sydney.  And after a bit more time, we had two. After all, Packer was a favoured son.  Now, or course it will be foreign owned, so the profits, as far as they can be calculated (or not) will go offshore.

Some years ago I went on a political study tour to the USA.  We went to Las Vegas and stayed in Caesar’s Place.  The casino people were pleased to talk to those who were assumed to be Australia’s future political leaders.  Their message was clear, ‘Leave us alone. We are just like other businesses. Do not interfere. Enjoy the shows’.  After we had seen them, we were shown the rest of Las Vegas. The city officials were very proud of their new ‘one-stop shop’ for social problems. All the facilities were in one place, homelessness, alcohol, drug addiction, domestic violence, and gambling.  It took a quite a few questions to get past the euphemisms to the fact that Las Vegas had about the worse social problems in the USA.

Just as Al Capone profited from alcohol being illegal, so gambling profits from the fact that organised crime needs to launder its money. There is so much of this money that it forms an imperative- no business could possibly ignore that much money.  So the regulator does little, the political class turn a blind eye, and of course some well-connected political folk get on the board to smooth government relations and pick up a generous pay packet for their services. They don’t really need to know what goes on- ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’.

So organised crime gets a huge foothold, but we don’t prosecute rich people here, the worst that happens is that someone has to say that they are humbled and shocked and resign.

Now as we read daily of one gangland shooting after another, we can conclude that the prohibition of hard drugs is going about as well as the prohibition of alcohol went, with the added benefit of the casinos to attract overseas crime profits as well.

We might ask what is to be done?

At a crime level, it would be good to close the casinos and systematically try to reduce gambling on poker machines and everything else.  It would be smart to look at alternatives to criminalising drug use, and systematically make legal drugs like alcohol and vaping less attractive; ban the marketing and have some health promotion for starters. And at a national level, stop any new negative gearing and build houses as they did on the 1950s where families could rent and then purchase. Build the public service and public expertise, and fund education, health and an equal opportunity for all.  It is not rocket science, and naturally there are resource constraints, but as much money and effort is wasted, and human misery sown there is a lot of money to be saved.

It might be called a vision or even, more modestly, common sense.  But if you look at the strength of the lobbies that have been created by the decades of appalling public policy, one has to admit it will be difficult.  So difficult that not a word of any of this has been in any election discussion at all.

Here is today’s SMH article on how crime is out of control.   

Criminals Run Rampant

Nick McKenzie SMH 13 March 2022

TOP OFFICER’S BRIEFINGS

Organised crime is running rampant across Australia and agencies are struggling to fight it, according to secret briefings given to cabinet ministers and public servants by the highest-ranking fighter of organised crime in NSW.

The briefings challenge ‘‘tough on crime’’ rhetoric by state and federal governments while also revealing claims from officials that NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has ignored calls for counter-crime reforms from the offices of two of his senior ministers.

The problems are so severe that the person who delivered the briefing, NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, claimed that: ‘‘With the current legislation and the current powers, we’re [police] swinging a pool noodle and they’ve [crime bosses] got guns.’’

It is extremely rare for a confidential assessment from a serving, high-ranking police official to be made public, and Smith’s candid views are likely to cause significant political and agency discomfort.

One of the briefing attendees, NSW cabinet minister Victor Dominello, told Smith (pictured) that if the public learned of the assistant commissioner’s unguarded views, ‘‘that would freak everybody out. They would shoot us because we are not looking after the public interest,’’ Dominello said. Another official in the meeting was the chief of staff for then police minister David Elliott.

Smith also claimed in his December briefings that the fight against organised crime was hampered by the lacklustre approach of the nation’s financial crime agency, Austrac. Smith said Austrac was ‘‘not swinging hard enough’’ and had failed to more aggressively combat organised crime because of its focus on banks. At one point, Smith described Austrac as ‘‘nitwits’’.

‘‘Stop picking on the banks and start picking on organised crime,’’ he said.

Smith also savaged what he described as abysmal anti-organised crime laws in NSW, the state with the highest number of nationally networked organised crime and bikie gang bosses.

He warned that crime groups were carrying out ‘‘assassinations’’ in NSW and in Europe and vast resources were required to effectively monitor them as they not only trafficked in drugs but rorted federal and state government schemes such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

In a statement, Perrottet said yesterday that the government was working closely with police on a ‘‘range of options’’ to deal with the problem.

‘‘Money laundering and organised crime are completely unacceptable in any form,’’ he said.

‘‘In December last year, I welcomed the decision of the NSW Crime Commission to commence an inquiry into money laundering at licensed premises in NSW. The inquiry is being conducted in collaboration with the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.’’

Perrottet said the commission had extensive powers and had the full support of the NSW government. ‘‘We will consider the findings of the inquiry when they are made available.’’

On Tuesday, Comanchero national sergeant-at-arms Tarek Zahed, 41, was injured in a Sydney shooting attack that claimed the life of his brother Omar Zahed, 39.

There have been more than 40 incidents of organised crimelinked violence in the past two years in NSW, including 12 murders.

In his briefings, Smith also singled out poker machine venues, including clubs, pubs and casinos, as having been exploited by money launderers, as well as the crypto market and the property market.

An overview of Smith’s briefings

– sighted by this masthead – also reveal Dominello warned the assistant commissioner that lobbyists from the gaming industry would use their political contacts to fight efforts to combat money laundering in pubs, clubs and casinos.

‘‘The gambling lobby is very, very powerful and they have very, very deep roots inside the cabinet and opposition,’’ Dominello told the senior officer.

There was also deep frustration among others briefed by Smith at the government’s failure to fully engage with efforts to more aggressively counter organised crime and crack down on the exploitation of poker machines by money launderers.

NSW’s chief gaming regulator, Philip Crawford, told officials at the briefing that it was ‘‘scary’’ how gaming officials had ‘‘very few regulatory levers to pull on this industry’’.

Crawford chairs the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority and unsuccessfully pushed Perrottet in December for a public facing inquiry into money laundering and problem gambling at poker machine venues.

‘‘The industry doesn’t want us anywhere near it,’’ he said.

Smith said in his briefings that his frustration at the failure to get political backing to bolster the fight against organised crime had led him to seek and gain backing from state and federal agencies to privately brief politicians and public servants on the severity of the problem.

Smith said the then police minister David Elliott had been left ‘‘out on the ledge’’ trying to get legislation through to solve the problem.

The Herald has confirmed the authenticity of detailed records of the briefings Smith delivered last December to senior politicians and public servants from the offices of the Premier, then police minister David Elliott and then minister responsible for gaming, Victor Dominello, who both lost their portfolios during recent reshuffles.

Descriptions of the briefings reveal Elliott’s chief of staff, Tanya Raffoul, revealed she had tried repeatedly to alert Perrottet about the police’s organised crime concerns but been rebuffed by the Premier’s office.

‘‘I’ve tried three times to get it through … and the answer has been no,’’ Raffoul said, describing efforts to get backing for reform as a ‘‘war of attrition’’.

‘‘The Premier wouldn’t be able to stand up and say that we’ve got the toughest money laundering laws in the country. They are significantly weak,’’ Raffoul said.

Dominello was moved out of the gaming portfolio by Perrottet after pushing for inquiries and reforms to combat money laundering and problem gambling at The Star Sydney, Crown Resorts and at pokies venues.

The casino inquiries exposed major organised crime infiltration and abysmal governance within the gaming sector, while the NSW Crime Commission is probing criminal infiltration of pubs and clubs.

Smith’s briefings build on comments from the federal police’s top organised crime official, Assistant Commissioner Nigel Ryan, who last October warned the majority of organised crime was operating with impunity.

The head of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Mike Phelan, has also warned organised crime had become a multibillion-dollar behemoth that was corrupting Australian public officials and penetrating border security via corrupt insiders.

In his briefing, Smith warned that organised crime in Australia was earning almost $40 billion via its main source of income – drug trafficking – and by rorting state and federal government programs, including the NDIS.

‘‘Micro grants, they [organised crime] love those things. Childcare schemes, they’re into that. The NDIA [National Disability Insurance Agency], they steal from that.’’

He warned of drug-laden ‘‘ships circulating Australia’’ whose cargo was put out to auction. The highest bidder won the right to have the drug shipment delivered via an entrenched corrupt ‘‘transport network’’.

Smith described NSW as the epicentre of organised crime and as the host of the largest numbers of outlaw bikie club members, nominating other states as key drug markets and the Gold Coast as Australia’s new version of the infamous 1980s Kings Cross vice strip.

Newcastle’s port and transport industry was a weak point, said Smith, given it was deeply infiltrated by serious organised crime. Smith named fugitive Comanchero bikie leader Mark Buddle as one of several crime bosses damaging Australian interests from offshore.

Buddle has been instrumental in creating ‘‘The Commission’’, a crime cartel that charges drug traffickers a fee to allow them to import drugs into Australia and promises to regulate the drug market using its muscle.

FAILING LAWS

Smith also repeatedly highlighted the role of ‘‘clever lawyers and clever accountants’’ in helping crime bosses and corrupt officials hide their money.

The veteran crime fighter’s comments highlight the 15-year failure of successive federal governments to introduce financial crime reforms targeting lawyers, accountants and real estate agents.

Smith identified alleged organised crime boss Mostafa Baluch as an example of those who police suspect had employed accountants and lawyers to defeat law enforcement efforts to identify the proceeds of crimes.

His comments will increase pressure on the major parties to commit to introducing long-stalled anti-money laundering laws – known as ‘‘Tranche 2 reforms’’ – that place far greater obligations on lawyers, accountants and real estate agents to report suspected money laundering.

The changes have been backed by almost every policing agency in the country.

Smith also savaged the state of NSW’s proceeds of crime and money laundering laws, describing them as ‘‘wonky’’, ‘‘old’’ and easily defeated by organised crime.

Smith said other jurisdictions, including Western Australia, had far more effective laws that shifted the onus onto suspects to explain the origins of unexplained wealth. ‘‘We just need to put the balance back in the [legislative] weaponry, so that these drugs pay for the damage they do,’’ he said.

Smith described how policing agencies had identified poker machines and venues as having been used to launder drug money. The assistant commissioner said the pokies floor at The Star casino in Sydney had hosted a money laundering syndicate but also warned that NSW clubs ‘‘are either turning a blind eye, or being utilised to launder large sums of money’’.

‘‘We don’t want a club industry and pub industry following the same stupid operational model’’ as those businesses already infiltrated by bikies and organised crime, Smith warned. But he said NSW ‘‘hasn’t got the weaponry’’ in terms of laws or regulators to fight money laundering in pubs, clubs and casinos.

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Australian Human Rights Commission Defunded and stacked by Morrison.

23 April 2022

“The Australian Human Rights Commission, who investigate matters of discrimination, have just lost their international A- minus rating due to massive funding cuts and the LNP appointing three people as Commissioners who are unqualified!

Here is an extract of the April 2022 newsletter from the AHRC president:

“A key issue we have been navigating recently has been the re-accreditation review of the Commission by the international accrediting committee of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions – the international standards body. ��The accreditation reviews are a peer review process conducted every five years. The review considers whether a national human rights institution (NHRI) continues to meet the criteria for independent status set out in the UN Principles on National Institutions. ��If an NHRI meets these criteria it is accorded ‘A status’, which provides crucial standing in various international fora — particularly the reviews of compliance against each of the key international human rights treaties. ��The question asked in an accreditation is whether the NHRI under review operates with the necessary level of institutional independence to ensure the effective promotion and protection of human rights. It is an assessment of government action and the legislative and policy environment for the operation of the NHRI, as well as the advocacy of the NHRI itself as an independent body to seek change. ��The Commission faced three possible outcomes through this review: reaccreditation as an A-status institution; downgrade to a B-status institution; or deferral of reaccreditation for a period of time for serious matters of compliance to be addressed. ��The Commission was not reaccredited as an A-status national human rights institution. Its reaccreditation was deferred. ��The key concern of the Committee that led to the deferral was the selection and appointment process for Commissioners. This latest report reflects feedback from the Committee over a 10-year period about Australia’s appointment processes, with three appointments in this timeframe not meeting the accreditation requirements. ��The Commission has advocated consistently for open, merit-based, appointments of Commissioners and that the expectations against the international standards of independence for NHRIS are set higher than the Government’s Merit and Transparency Guidelines. ��With respect to the two Commissioners who have been appointed during my period in office otherwise than through an open process, we have sought to support them strongly in their work as independent officeholders.��Please see below for the Commission’s statement about the decision and its implications.

With my very best wishes,

Rosalind

Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM�President”

An accepted claim now has a waitlist of at least six months before they can begin to investigate your complaint.

I had missed an earlier article about their funding in The Guardian of 17/3/22

www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/mar/17/australian-human-rights-commission-to-slash-staff-after-budget-cuts-and-surge-in-workload

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Stacked Tribunals- the Liberals’  legacy

10 April 2022

There is an election on May 21.  The Liberals are likely to be decimated.  So what is their response?  To stack mates into as many tribunals as possible.

The Fair Work Commission has been totally underfunded by the Liberals, as with the deliberate demise of the Unions it was the only hope for some sort of wage justice and an unsuccessful enforcer against wages theft. Obviously if Labor comes in, it is likely to boost its resources and appoint more judges. So what do the Libs do at 5 seconds to midnight?  Appoint a resource industry human resources manager as Deputy Commissioner.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association CEO, Andrew McConville was made head of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

A Josh Frydenberg minder has been made a commissioner in the Productivity Commission.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal has become immensely busy due to people having to appeal for NDIS resource allocation decisions and in the absence of resources, its waiting times have blown out.  It was very involved in the early Robo-debt cases.  M Attorney-General Micaela cash has appointed 19 new appointments and extended 26 others. Six of the 19 were not in the ‘expression of interest’ register, so effectively they are Liberal recruits.

There needs to be an impeccable neutral process for the appointment of judicial officers and members of significant QUANGOs. The abuse of office in appointments to the US Supreme Court are a major issue in terms of long appointments, dictating conservative policies for years. The Liberals seem to be taking a leaf from the US Republicans’ playbook. The question is whether Labor will fix the system, or just tit-for-tat put in their people when the time comes.

www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2022/04/09/coalition-stacking-liberals-across-the-boards/164942640013668

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Gun Manufacturer Remington Found Responsible for Sandy Hooks School Massacre

20 February 2022

For the first time ever, a gun manufacturer was found to be responsible for a massacre.

As everyone who is aware of US news knows, massacres are commonplace in the US, all carried out by guns being used exactly as they were designed to be used.  Oh yeah, but not used on those people…

Somehow the US gun manufacturers have had immunity from prosecution and the Sandy Hook legal team had to say that it was the irresponsible (and highly successful ) marketing that had caused the assault rifle to be used in the shooting.  So they got them for the marketing, not the product.

Given the political difficulties of doing anything about guns in the US political system, it is natural that people might turn to the legal system for some hope.  It is difficult, but not as hard to change as the political system.

I am reminded of the same debate in the tobacco war.  For years the tobacco industry gave money to the major parties in big amounts and the deal was something like, ‘Say what you like, but no restrictive legislation till after the next election, then the next, then the next etc’.  They denied knowing the health facts, but said that it was common knowledge that smoking was harmful. They had to not know so that they would not be liable, but everyone had to know because then the smokers were responsible for their own illnesses.  This was known as the ‘Tightrope policy’.  Of course they had done the research and knew very well, but hey, lies are common and part of many business models.

In 1983 a group in Northwest University in the US was trying to get enough money to run cases, because tobacco used exactly as intended was causing thousands of deaths every day.  The industry had been very keen to be forced to put ‘Smoking is a health hazard’ on the packs. This was because they could the say that the people who smoked had been warned and they were not responsible for the consequences of using their product.  They also wanted the government to tell them to put it there, so they could say that they did not know if tobacco caused cancer, but the government and health people thought so.  They fought every case, generally drawing it out so that the plaintiff either died or ran out of money or both.  When they were about to lose a lung cancer case in a librarian in Australia, they found out that she had had a child out of wedlock 40 years before, and said that this would be released if she did not stop the case.  Such was the shame of that fact that his person, weakened by cancer, withdrew her case and died.  Ruthless.

The US believed tobacco campaigners believed that their victory would come in the courts, not the parliaments, and this was true.  In Australia it was  a bit different as BUGA UP targeted the tobacco industry and made them such pariahs that they were politically weakened enough for advertising and sponsorship bans, plain paper packaging, rotating health warnings and eventually some-free indoor air.  The tobacco industry in Australia was relatively weaker than in the US, and the gun lobby is also, but it is very unwise to be complacent.

We in Australia need to be very vigilant to keep our gun laws strong, as the Shooters have expanded their base to become the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and have capitalised  on the weakness of the Nationals to get lower house seats.  They have used balance of power situation in NSW quite astutely under Bob Carr and continuing.   John Tingle, The Shooters MP  in NSW got Carr to enact that to have a shooters licence in NSW, one had to belong to a shooting club and shoot at least once a year. The shooting Club could then keep an eye out for crazies.  But of course the shooting clubs got a subsidy to maintain their records and database, and this is ideal for organising fundraising and troops on election day.  Running a political party is a significant expense- only one group is subsidised, though it must be conceded that the shooting clubs and the Sporting Shooters Association (the lobby group) are not the same entity as the Shooter, Fishers and Farmers party.

We need to watch the US legal efforts, and be vigilant. And of course lessening social inequality and having a place in society for everyone with jobs, income and housing helps lessen the probability of alienation, anger and despair.

www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-16/sandy-hook-families-settle-with-gun-maker/100833782

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Djokovic goes to Gaol or exile while Hillsong goes Scott-Free.

16 January 2022


Today Novax Djokovic is in Court trying to stop Immigration Minister Alex Hawke deporting him before the Australian Open Tennis starts tomorrow. For those who don’t follow tennis and have been sleeping under a rock, he is the number one seed and if he wins, he will be the first player to win 21 Grand Slam tournaments and as such, the Greatest tennis player Of All Time (GOAT).


Last time he went to Court he won, because the issue was whether the government or Djokovic had done the wrong thing in the visa application process. He won with costs and the government was heavily criticised by the Court (not to mention the rest of the world).


This time is different. Minister Alex Hawke, a young ambitious religious Conservative right-wing numbers man has excluded him in that he is a danger to the population from an infectious point of view, and because he is known to be anti-vaxx and will give publicity to that view. The Court decision is totally stacked the Government’s way because it only has to decide whether the Minister has the power to do this, and the legislation is written so that he would have this power and the meddlesome courts could not interfere. So what is likely to happen is that the government’s position will be upheld, Djokovic will be deported and Australia’s appalling immigration policies will be seen for the arbitrary farce that they are- beyond the rule of law.


The fact that ATAGI (Aust. Technical Advisory Group on Immigration) said that previous infection within the last 6 months could be a reason for vaccination exemption, that Djokovic had had such an infection and that a blind medical panel said that he was safe to come has been ignored. (‘Blind’ in the sense that the panel did not know the name of the person whose file they were reviewing). The point is that he is very unlikely to infect anyone, not to mention the fact that the virus has already escaped and there are few preventive measures in place. Anyone in Australia can fly into Melbourne and go to the tennis with no tests of anything and case numbers of omicron set new records every day. Djokovic has not trumpeted his anti-vaxx views, though one could argue that these are already well known. There is a whole industry telling us what famous people do and think, and that was before the anti-vaxx lobby.


Djokovic is not as popular as the ever-smooth Federer or the rougher battler Nadal, but his public image seems that he is a nice guy, if occasionally misunderstood and pretty ruthless in his quest for the top. Darker mumblings about his unsportsmanlike use of injury rules and mind games have surfaced from a few columnists recently, and one might wonder why. But this is all irrelevant. The government is excluding him ostensibly because he is a risk of infection (absolutely minimal), or that he will stir anti-vaxx sentiment (where the controversy has already done more for the anti-vax cause than his winning of the Australian Open would ever have done).


The real reason is that this government wants to look tough on border control and quarantine, having made a complete mess of the COVID epidemic, with outbreaks due to ‘careless’ border policy, (were there Hillsong groups on the Ruby Princess?), lack of purchase of vaccine, poor management of aged care facilities, and now a ‘let ‘er rip’ policy supposedly to help the economy. Today’s Sun Herald front page announces that ‘71% want Djokovic sent home’. So some hairy-chested populism is the order of the day.


On page 6 of the same Sun Herald (see below) NSW Police decided not to fine Hillsong church after videos were seen of people singing and dancing at a Hunter Valley religious camp. NSW State Health Minister Brad Hazzard is quoted as saying that the singing and dancing ban does not apply to religious groups, though it does apply to recreation facilities, nightclubs etc. Presumably a religious recreation camp is OK, but a non-religious one is a big problem. The fact that the same article notes NSW had 48,768 new cases, 2,576 in hospital, 193 in ICU and 20 deaths yesterday presumably is also irrelevant.


Is it relevant that Scott Morrison and Alex Hawke are members of Hillsong and NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard is in the same Liberal party?

Craig Kelly has called Djokovic a ‘political prisoner’, and for once I agree with him.

If the Court agrees to deport Djokovic because the Minister said so and they cannot appeal it, it will show the world the arbitrariness of Australia’s immigration laws and the government may win a populist victory at the cost of further damage to our international reputation.

As a tennis follower who saw the US Open final, I am of the opinion that Medvedev will beat Djokovic in the tennis if they play, but it looks as though political stupidity has game, set and match.

Hillsong let off as NSW posts 48,768 new cases and 20 deaths
Sally Rawsthorne, Sun Herald, 16 January 2022
NSW has recorded 48,768 new COVID-19 cases and 20 deaths on the third day positive rapid antigen tests are included in the daily infection numbers.Of the new cases, 21,748 were self-reported from at-home tests and 27,020 were from PCR testing.There are 2576 people in hospital with the virus, of whom 193 are in intensive care units. Eleven men and nine women have died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.Yesterday, police confirmed they had decided not to issue a fine to Hillsong church for a camp in the Hunter Valley, after videos of attendees singing and dancing without masks sparked public outrage.‘‘NSW Police have attended an event in the Newcastle area and spoken with organisers. Following discussions with organisers and after consultation with NSW Health, no infringement will be issued,’’ said police in a statement.‘‘Event organisers are aware of their obligations under the Public Health Orders, and NSW Police will continue to ensure ongoing compliance.’’NSW’s Public Health Order prohibits singing and dancing at music festivals, hospitality venues, nightclubs, entertainment facilities and major recreation facilities.Health Minister Brad Hazzard said while the order does not apply to religious services, it does apply to major recreation facilities, which is defined as a ‘‘building or place used for large-scale sporting or recreation activities that are attended by large numbers of people, whether regularly or periodically’’.‘‘This event is clearly in breach of both the spirit and intent of the order, which is in place to help keep the community safe,’’ he said.Hillsong said the camp differed from music festivals and the organisation was committed to a COVID-safe plan.‘‘Our camps involve primarily outdoor recreational activities including sports and games. We follow strict COVID procedures and adhere to government guidelines,’’ it said.‘‘Outdoor Christian services are held during the camp but these are only a small part of the program.’’It said the video of attendees singing and dancing represented ‘‘only a small part of each service’’.Yesterday, the state government announced its rent regulation would be extended by another two months to March 2022. ‘‘Small business is the engine room of our economy and we need to make sure we support impacted businesses through this latest Omicron wave,’’ NSW Treasurer Matt Kean said. ‘‘With staff shortages and reduced foot traffic, many businesses are struggling at the moment but the ability to negotiate rent will give them a buffer so they can keep the lights on now and recover more quickly.’’Business tenants can access rent relief if they have an annual turnover of less than $5 million. Rent relief has the same eligibility criteria as the discontinued JobSaver and Micro-business Grant programs.It comes as almost 1000 NSW Health workers have resigned or been sacked after refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, placing further pressure on the hospital system that has seen coronavirus patient admissions almost triple within a fortnight. As hospitals and general practices are overwhelmed with surging cases and almost 6000 healthcare workers are isolated across NSW due to COVID-19 exposure, the state’s health department on Friday confirmed 995 of its 170,000-strong workforce had resigned or been stood down after refusing the vaccine.

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Kerry O’Brien Speaks for Julian Assange

24 December 2021

Kerry O’Brien, who was for a long time host of ABC’s 7.30 Report took the opportunity at the Walkley Awards on 29 November to call for Julian Assange to be released. Hear what he said on the link below.

It seems to me that as an Australia, not living in the USA, Julian Assange was in no way subject to their laws, but it seems the US wants to charge him under their laws, then demand that countries with extradition treaties simply hand him over, effectively making their laws world laws.  This might be OK for most murders and frauds etc, but for political crimes, it is a different matter.

Another significant fact that is deliberately overlooked is that Assange was not the first to release all the Wikileaks information.  He had spent a lot of time with major media journalists and they had their front pages ready to roll.  He was advised that if he released the information, he could be solely liable and they would merely be republishing material that was already public.  So he delayed his release. The major media called him and demanded that he release the material, but he did not. They could not stop their front pages, so put it out before he did.  They may accuse him of bad faith by not taking all the risk himself, but technically in a legal sense, these huge outlets did it before he did.  And the US government, rather than target the major media who actually did it before he did, have given them impunity and are targeting Assange only.  The lack of support from the major media is perhaps because they could be targeted; presumably that is the US government’s message, ‘See what happens to him- you would not like it to happen to you’.

Our government has no commitment to freedom of the press, and simply manipulates the media as much as it can, that is no news to anyone. Assange must be freed.  We can only hope that Labor gets the courage to do something if they are elected.  Don’t hold your breath.

www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-28/kerry-obrien-press-freedom-walkley-awards-julian-assange/11748198

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31% of JobKeeper recipients checked were ‘not eligible’

3 October 2021

As we all wonder at the level of corporate rather than individual fraud, a Federal review of JobKeeper found that 31% of recipients who triggered compliance checks were ‘not eligible at all’.  This was after a survey of 13% of the recipient companies.

The ATO seems reluctant to say who they were or how much. 31% of the recipients may not mean 31% of the $89 billion given out. 

Only $194 million has been repaid (which is around 0.2%) of the total payout.

The Government response contrasts starkly when compared to the amount of attention that went to Robodebt, where welfare recipients received relatively small amounts of money.  The ATO is very concerned about the confidentiality of Tax records, but this is not tax records, it is money given out.

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Corruption at Many Levels- the ripping off of Meat workers

1 September 2021

An article in the SMH on 31/8/21 said that there was a lot of bribery and corruption in the recruitment of Chinese to work in Australian abattoirs.

Abattoir work is physically hard and unpleasant, so rather than pay Australians more to do it, workers are recruited from overseas, like fruit pickers.  The government, perhaps because of political donations is happy to make special 457 visas for this, rather than insist that the jobs go to Australian residents. This is the case for both Liberal and Labor. (Marx said that people were more loyal to their class than to their country, but we won’t mention this now).

So the recruitment process has been corrupted as some foreign people will pay a lot to get into Australia and after working here for 2 years on totally exploited wages they hope to get a residency visa.  Recruitment agents may take whatever money they can get, and whatever other little sweeteners.  Fake CVs were used to claim that Chinese had good English skills and had worked in abattoirs, which is presumably unlikely as Chinese abattoir workers would not have the money to pay the recruiters.  This farce came to light naturally from a whistle-blower who was in on the deal rather than any regulatory agency, the Home Affairs Dept or the Meat Industry National Training Council (MINTRAC).  The Union was not mentioned in the story. 

Migration agents are a poorly controlled profession at the best of times, with many dodgy operators exploiting desperate people.

Australia should spread its wealth by paying people to do jobs like abattoirs and fruit picking, and if these products are more expensive in consequence, we need encouragement to Buy Australian produce. Of course ‘free trade’ treaties favour cheap imports, but if we are going to have the social harmony that comes from a reasonably equitable society, we have to spread the nation’s wealth.  Cheap meat should not just lead to a conga line of corruption and exploitation as a by-product.

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Afghanistan- a Callous debacle

26 August 2021

A brief history of Afghanistan. 

It was a monarchy where the British and Russians had striven for influence for centuries. 

The British had invaded in 1838 and installed King Shah Shujah, who was assassinated in 1842.

The second Anglo Afghan war was 1878-80 and gave Britain control of Afghan foreign affairs.

In 1919 Emir Amanullah Khan declared independence from British influence and tried to introduce social reforms, in particular education. He flees after civil unrest in 1926

King Muhammad Shar came to power in 1933 and tacitly supported the Germans in WW2 as the Afghans did not acknowledge the 1893 Durand Line, the British-initiated border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and he wanted to unify the Pashtun nation, which straddled the border.  His government came under pressure from an increasingly educated younger population. He voluntarily created a Constitutional monarchy in 1964, but this did not lead to significant reform and his government lost prestige due to its mismanagement of a drought in 1969-72. There was a coup by another Royal, Prince Muhammad Daud in 1973. 

The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan led by British-Indian-educated Nur Muhammad Taraki staged a coup in April 1978 and formed a secular leftist reformist government.  It was relatively pro-Russia and anti-religious.  It was more brutal than had been anticipated, and had internal infighting and resistance from conservatives and Muslims.  Taraki unsuccessfully appealed to Russia for help.

The Cold War

It might be noted that US President and Russian Chief Secretary Leonid Brezhnev met in June 1979 to discuss SALT 2 (the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty). 

(I read somewhere near that time that Afghanistan was mentioned and Carter, being somewhat naïve, said words to the effect that Afghanistan was in the Russian sphere of influence.  Carter’s horrified minders corrected him after the meeting, but Brezhnev took this to mean that the US would not interfere if Russia took action there.  I have been unable to confirm this story despite several efforts since, which either means that I imagined it or that it has been expunged from any written history that is available online).

The US began to help the mujahedeen in July 1979 to overthrow the Taraki government.  Taraki was overthrown and murdered by his protégé, Hafizuzullah Amin in September 1979.  The Russians invaded in December 1979.   The Russians were in some economic trouble, and it has been said that their government wanted a military victory that would distract attention and shore up the state.

President Carter refused to sign the SALT11 treaty and boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. The US also increased training and weapons to the Mujahideen. President Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan insisted that all this aid go through him and hugely favoured a more radical Islamist agenda, also getting aid from Saudi Arabia to set up large numbers of Islamic schools.  The Mujahideen guerrillas overthrew the Russians.  The USSR was falling apart when the Russians, now under Mikhail Gorbachev, departed in February 1989.

The Russian Legacy

The Najibullah government, installed by the Russians lasted until 1992, when here was a civil war with the Northern Alliance fighting the Mujadiheen, which was not a united force, but a number of warlords, each with their own territory.

The Taliban

Taliban means ‘student of Islam’.  The Taliban emerged in 1994 from the Pashtun nation who straddled the Afghan-Pakistan ‘border’, considerably helped by the money from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  They were seen as less corrupt than the Mujahideen. 

In 1996 the Taliban got control of Kabul and controlled two thirds of the country. 

In 1998 the US launched air strikes to get the Taliban to hand over Osama Bin Laden.

In 2001 Ahmad Shah Masood, the leader of the Northern Alliance was assassinated.

9/11 Leads to the US Invasion

The US was shocked by the 9/11 (11th of September 2001) attack by Al-Qaeda on the Twin Towers in New York and invaded Afghaistan, ostensibly to get Osama Bin Laden. Some have said that the US hawks wanted to invade and 9/11 merely gave them the excuse.  They won militarily in 3 months, but were always an occupying force.

Interestingly in 2007 the UN stated that opium production reached record levels.

The Allied occupation was by many different national forces, and each country had different rules for the area it controlled.  It seems that some countries simply paid the Taliban not to make any trouble.  The Australians went in because the US did and cited our national interest.  The only way that this was our national interest was in pleasing the Americans.

Exit Wounds 2013

The book ‘Exit Wounds’ by John Cantwell, the Australian commander from both Iraq and Afghanistan was written in 2013. He had been on the short list to be the supreme head of the Australian Defence Force, but withdrew to treat the PTSD that he had hidden but had been suffering.  He stated that the war could never be won and it was his opinion that every Australian life lost there was wasted.  The pointlessness of the exercise was what caused his PTSD, and probably led to the feral actions of some of the forces, as is being uncovered. We might note that in a story on the ABC (26/8/21) a witness known as Captain Louise who was going to give evidence to the Brereton Inquiry into Australian War Crimes had her house bombed.  Her former husband is an SAS operator who told her of unauthorised killing and is under investigation after 4 Corners broadcast footage of him killing an unarmed Afghan in 2012 (Killing Field 16/3/20).  Clearly the hearts and minds of Afghans were not won. 

Corruption was rife in the Afghan government, and some of the 2009 UN election observers were killed in a bomb blast in their Kabul hotel. The UN could not insist on an independent investigation and the head of the UN team, who was not killed in the blast, was hurried out of the country. The re-elected government did the inquiry.  So much for democracy!

Australian Embassy Closed May 2021

The Australian Embassy was closed on 21 May 2021, 3 days before the last Australian troops left. Clearly our own intelligence was that things would not go well.  It made the investigations of war crimes more difficult and put the interpreters who had helped the Australian troops in much more danger.  An Australian digger who has tried to get his Afghan interpreter and his family since 2013 has been blocked and been unsuccessful, despite seeing Minister Dutton’s senior adviser 3 years ago.

Taliban Victory

The Taliban won a victory in a few weeks as government forces that we had been training simply declined to fight. Now there is a cordon around the airport and the Taliban are stopping people getting through to the Kabul airport, where the allies are trying to do an airlift of Afghan civilians.  The UN has been most desultory in not looking after locally recruited Afghan UN staff, who are at risk and do not even have foreign passports to allow them to leave.

The Europeans have asked the US to extend the deadline for evacuations, which is 31 August- 4 days away. The US has declined to extend the deadline.  Presumably this is because they are unable to even if they wanted to.  The Taliban surround the airport, and could easily shoot down any planes they chose or bombard the whole crowded area with huge loss of life.  American hubris would be very clearly shown.

The Debacle

It is a debacle- even when the Russians left the government that they established lasted a couple of years.  What is wrong with US intelligence- did they have no idea that the whole country would collapse?  It is hard to know why the Americans went into Afghanistan and why they stayed there.  One wonders if the arms industry is happy to have a war somewhere and really do not care very much how much damage it does or who wins.  One must ask what Australia is doing there and why we are so uncritical of the Americans.  Sadly, Australia does not have a Peace Movement worthy of the name and seem to follow the US blindly. But when the Australian military commander says we cannot win and we continue there for another 8 years, there is something absurd.

The fact that the Labor opposition said nothing is also a worry- does  our government work for us or the US?

The Fate of our Interpreters

Many people will be left behind outside the Taliban-controlled Kabul airport perimeter, or unable even to get near the city.  The Taliban have been searching them out and killing not only those who helped the foreigners, but also their families.  The idea that they have reformed seems very unlikely; the schools that taught them were radical Saudi Islam.  It is a horrible story that has not yet ended. 

www.smh.com.au/national/he-could-have-done-something-why-diggers-feel-let-down-by-scott-morrison-20210820-p58kks.html

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