Doctor and activist


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Category: Accountability

Australian Universities’ Neoliberal Legacy

10 October 2021

The legacy of being turned into financial entities may be very severe. This article looks at their finances.

What will happen to Australia’s intellectual elite, now hopelessly underpaid or unemployed with no stable career path?

How can Australia compete internationally in this scenario?

https://jacobinmag.com/2021/09/australia-universities-neoliberalism-speculation-finance-real-estate-international-students?

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Toll Doesn’t Pay Toll

8 October 2021

Trucking giant Toll Holdings tells its drivers to avoid toll roads as they are not worth the time savings. It might be noted that Air Freight to Melbourne is actually taken by trucks, the only thing being sky high is the prices.The toll roads have the price levels befitting a private monopoly of Transurban. They were sold as lessening congestion. They have taken the money and now we have done nothing for our rail network. There was an article in the SMH of 29/9/21 and also this one:

www.truckandbus.net.au/toll-says-no-to-tolls/

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Fake News a Service

4 October 2021

It is unsurprising that fake news is now an industry.  Clearly if Facebook and other social media have many posts, it is just a question of paying people to say what you want, either a lot of people or a few people pretending to be a lot of people.

This is now at the stage that it can determine perceptions and elections.  It is as if technology empowers little people for a while until those with power are able to use and control it.

Here is a story that I had missed, the use of tweets to rubbish the BBC for having a story that forest fires were deliberately lit in Indonesia to clear forests for palm oil plantations.  And the people paying for a slag on the BBC were…?

The Oxford Internet Institute found 48 cases of States working for influence-for- hire firms in 2019-20, up from 21 in 2017-18.

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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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Nuclear Submarines- a horrendous folly to win an election?

30/9/21

Many of us despair at the Morrison government;  whether it is the callous approach to asylum seekers, Robodebt and welfare generally or the naked favouring of their constituency where JobKeeper payments are not required to be repaid.  The total breakdown in ethical standards where public moneys are rorted with grants to electorates that will favour them at the polls and might even be the reason that they were re-elected. The dismantling of public service capabilities and intellectual resources with the granting of private contracts for welfare payments with the Indue card, given to Liberal-friendly companies or to compliant companies to run detention centres or Great Barrier reefs research. The lack of support for TAFE and trade skills, replaced by skilled migrants on visas that have no Medicare or income support when they became stranded, the casualisation of university teaching positions with and no support or quarantine for foreign students despite the fact that education is our 3rd biggest export industry.  It just goes on and on.

The mismanagement of the COVID epidemic in terms of being unwilling to build quarantine facilities to allow overseas citizens to return home and the lack of purchase of vaccines, and their desultory distribution practices is the current big issue that is upsetting their popularity.  They were willing to throw money at JobSeeker when it went to big business, but now that it continues and has to go to individuals they want to end welfare and will stop payments as soon as vaccination rates hit 70% of the over 16s, which is only 57% of the population.  As I have said on this page before, this is a level of irresponsibility beyond all else, justified by the idea that the economy has to go on and only the aged and sick will die.  The divisiveness and callousness of this leaves one breathless, and as it plays out it is likely to be the end of the Morrison government.

So Morrison, the master media manipulator needs a very major distraction. China is asserting itself, which is clearly a problem, but the demonising of it seems very convenient for Morrison.  The French submarine contract was not good, but it seems that the nuclear one is worse. 

We were going to get 12 conventional submarines at a cost of $90 billion, the first coming in 2034.  Now we have dumped the French contract and get nuclear submarines at a cost of either  $3.45 billion each for the US Virginia model or $2.83 billion for the UK Astute model (2018 prices).  The delivery dates are likely to be around 2040, so our old Collins class ones will be a long way past their use-by date.  

The noted defence commentator, Hugh White had a very critical piece in The Saturday Paper 18-24/9/21, teased with ‘The old plan was crazy, the new plan is worse’.    Two ex-Prime Ministers, Keating and Turnbull were both highly critical of the decision in the SMH of 22/9/21 and 29/9/21 respectively. Turnbull even spoke at the National Press Club on the subject. www.smh.com.au/world/asia/morrison-is-making-an-enemy-of-china-and-labor-is-helping-him-20210921-p58tek.html

The deal, dubbed AUKUS, was announced by Morrison with US President Joe Biden and UK PM, Boris Johnson.  One could hardly believe this was not some sort of parody. The old Anglo alliance, rooted in history, but totally at variance from the image that Australia since Keating had been trying to project, a country engaging with Asia. 

Boris Johnson wrote a hagiographic biography of Churchill and fancies himself as a latter day Churchill, which is absurd hubris. The UK has no power ‘East of Suez’ as was demonstrated when 2 British warships sent to defend Singapore in 1941 were promptly sunk by Japanese aircraft.  Have they done anything significant here since?

The US is playing a far more strategic hand.  Australia has been a lap dog to the Anglosphere for all its history and this changed from the UK to the US in WW2.  Even in the absence of reasonable Peace lobby in Australia one might have hoped that the debacle of the Afghanistan war would temper our enthusiasm to go all the way with the USA, but it seems not.  The US is preoccupied with China. It wanted a base in Australia.  It may be hubris for the US to set up bases to try to contain China, but that is still where their thinking is at present.   Why would Australia need submarines to go to China except as part of a US force?

Gillard was the first Prime Minister to allow US troops to be stationed in Darwin, but the US wants a submarine base.  Australia may not have been willing to let the US have such a base as it would make us a nuclear target.  So the answer was simple.  Promise to sell us some nuclear submarines.  We would then need a nuclear submarine base and to maintain our subs.  Presto, Australia is paying for nuclear submarines and a base that our ally can use.  The US will not be able to contain China, which will sadly be demonstrated when China decides to take Taiwan.  China wants to be the dominant power in the world, and it seems that the world is going to have to get used to this idea.  China is likely to want to dominate economically and technologically, so the invasion of Australia is unlikely to be necessary and we should retain our economic and technical sovereignty, but rely  on diplomacy to look after our interests.

The French conventional submarines were as fast underwater as the nuclear ones will be, but have a lower range and lower costs. The French version of these is nuclear, so one of the reasons that they were chosen was that they could be re-engined at any time with nuclear propulsion with a lower-grade uranium, which was not weapons grade.    Naturally they had a lesser range, but if the object is to defend Australia, this may not have been a problem.  Nuclear submarines can stay underwater indefinitely, but their reactors produce a lot of heat, so if they are still they leave an area of hot water, which either is or will be visible to a satellite.  So the idea that they are less vulnerable to attack may not be correct.  It is not impossible that in future submarines will be as vulnerable to satellites, missiles and drones as battleships were to aircraft in WW2.

In terms of the perception of Australia oversea there are considerable downsides to the deal. 

The Chinese representative said to Stan Grant on China Tonight on ABC TV 20/9/21 that the submarines would make Australia a nuclear target. Grant seemed indignant and said that there were no nuclear weapons- it was just the propulsion.  Presumably the Chinese representative was referring to the fact that there would be a US nuclear submarine base on Australian soil, and he assumed that Grant knew that.  It appeared that Grant had not thought it through. https://iview.abc.net.au/show/china-tonight/series/0/video/NC2130H008S00

The Indonesians are concerned that we have long-range submarines that we do not really need for our coastal defence and that we are firmly partisan in the US-China standoff and have brought the conflict into their area, quite apart from any aggressive intentions that we might harbour against them. The old colonial ties are all renewed- what sort of country are we, Asian or Anglo?

The French are naturally furious, and they are very influential in the EU while we are on the verge of a free trade treaty. This is very poor politics on a very big trade issue.  We have unilaterally torn up a major deal. How reliable are we?

Morrison has been seen in happy snaps with the US and UK leaders. He is appealing to his Anglophile base. He thinks this parody of statesmanship can be spun into an election victory, some say as soon as November, before the COVID debacle reaches its final stage.  If Morrison can win again it will be the last straw in taking Australia down  a dismal and unconsidered path.

www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/clumsy-deceitful-and-costly-turnbull-slams-handling-of-nuclear-submarine-decision-20210928-p58ve3.html

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Tasmania Wants 90% of Adults Double Vaccinated before Opening the Border

30 September 2021

Here is a realistic assessment of how to stop an epidemic if you have the choice. Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein has some modelling coming. Bear in mind that 20% of the Tasmanian population are under 16 year of age, so if no kids are vaccinated the actual rate is still only 70%, not 90%. Even you assume that kids will not get sick, which is actually not a reasonable assumption, there are 30% who can spread COVID and 10%, the adults, who are quite vulnerable.

In reality, it is hard to get vaccination rates over 90%, though Blacktown LGA has 95% with first jabs, and presumably Tasmania would also being trying to vaccinate 12-15 year olds and younger if possible.

Meanwhile Morrison is stopping welfare payments to States when they get over 70%, which is actually starving people into unlocking. Even Conservative NSW Treasurer Perrottet is adding some welfare payments from the State budget.

www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-29/tasmania-wont-reopen-covid-border-before-90pc-vaccination/100500844?sf249931972=1&fbclid=IwAR2NqGfeDQA9rGcnm7XQ6iLiDGK7XH1PNkRsjYs3uL15J31hP7qLbDsby88

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Victorian Government Bites the Bullet and Mandates Vaccination

22 September 2021

At last!  A government that does the sensible thing.  The Victorian government will only open up if people are vaccinated.  Thanks to NSW the Delta variant genie is out of the bottle and spreading nationwide.  Business wants to unlock, some with no care for anyone but themselves.

Victoria wants to unlock but minimise spread among those now having more interpersonal contacts.  The R (Reproduction) number is the number of cases each case infects.  If everyone is vaccinated, less people will get it and those who have it will get it to less people.

Reasonable medical opinion is that the risks of vaccine are massively less than the risks of getting COVID, so the case against vaccination is incredibly weak on medical grounds.  The ‘right not to have your body violated’ etc sounds very dramatic, and makes vaccination equivalent to rape in a semantic sense.   But in a practical sense the two concepts are as far apart as could be.  One is sensible medicine and the other is a crime.

Anyone who thinks that this does not matter should look at the graph of NSW cases that has peaked and is just starting to fall.  Anything that can flatten the curve or make it fall is good. Anything that makes it rise is creating deaths and misery.

I am a member of the Council for Civil Liberties and have spent years working against excess government power. But sometimes it is necessary to act for the common good.  I have no time for smokers’ rights or the right to spread disease.  The Morrison government is as usual missing in action when real leadership is needed.  ‘Let every workplace decide’, is a nightmare for retail business owners, offices and just about every other employer. Gladys is similarly missing.  Dan Andrews has stepped up, despite a motley crew in the streets spreading disease and demanding the right to continue to do so.

What of the Health System?  We are going the way of the Americans by stealth, and the fact that the public system is what has helped us survive is being glossed over, hidden  by subsidies to private hospitals. The Federal government has been quietly trying to kill public medicine for years. The Medicare rebate has fallen from 85% of the AMA rate to 45%, so for the same bulk-billing work doctors incomes have almost halved over 35 years, while subsidies to the inefficient Private Health Insurers continue.  Being a GP is now a little-sought speciality.  (I have a FB page- Fix Medicare that I spend too little time on).

The States have maintained the public hospitals at a minimal level, as all the lucrative work has been siphoned off by the private system basically doing the easy stuff.  There is No slack in the system, not that counting the number of ICU beds should factor.  All our efforts should be to keep people out of Hospital and ICU by prevention of infection. 

Have a look at this article on the anti-discrimination aspects of mandatory vaccination, and also look at the NSW cases, just turning down, but likely to rise if anything, like opening up from lockdown, tips the balance.

www.smh.com.au/national/victoria/here-s-why-no-jab-no-entry-is-not-discrimination-20210920-p58t2v.html?fbclid=IwAR2jrbfGJsq6fD-J-unnAn12j9UyWvdk-do5BpE23bI0z0gQ8kknq5nc39c

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An OECD Analysis of the Federal Government’s Policies

16 September 2021

This is a good and reasonably comprehensive article in The Guardian where the OECD looks at Australia with some interesting graphs and international comparisons. 

The OECD also wants to review the role of the Reserve Bank.  One might comment that the Reserve Bank might have more power in other countries and the OECD might either think it has more power here, or is pushing for it to have such. The RBA here had traditionally kept out of politics, finally made some very sensible comments and been roundly ignored.

www.theguardian.com/business/grogonomics/2021/sep/15/australias-climate-failures-are-costing-its-economy-and-scott-morrisons-government-is-being-blamed?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other&fbclid=IwAR0HPjSa-z0Esu7GklbLRl3IrvAzJnjsBdMNX7VhWFbCcOsNbNBTYGpZO2U

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Uncontested Grants for NT Gas Exploration Despite Court Proceedings in Progress

15 September 2021

Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt gave $20 million for gas exploration for fracking in the Betaloo Basin in an uncontested grant.  The grant was to Empire Energy that donates to both major parties, but seems to prefer the Liberals as they flew Energy Minister Angus Taylor and Liberal fundraiser, Ryan Arrold around the NT site (Guardian 20/8/21). 

The Betaloo Basin is in the centre of the Northern Territory, and the grant application was the subject of Court proceedings brought by the Environmental Centre (NT) and the Environmental Defenders Office.  It seems that undertakings were given not to give the grants, but they went ahead despite the assurances given to the Court.  The Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) said somewhat lamely that they can only do what their clients say.  The Resources Minister, Keith Pitt was criticised by the Federal Court judge, Justice John Griffiths, but it seems that this will make no difference either to the outcome or to the Minister’s career.  Presumably the idea that he would be charged with contempt of court is fantasy.

We seem to have reached the point of a third world country where the Government gives whatever it likes to its mates and due process is a distant memory.

Labor might be marginally better, but the benchmark has now been set very low.  Companies are becoming accustomed to governments bending to their will and will be reluctant to leave the ‘new norm’.  The only answer is a Swiss-style democracy with referenda as the main source of power and citizens able to overturn government decisions.  We need proportional representation and an end to the two-party duopoly so that all decisions are made on the floor of the parliament, not in back-room deals.  This will take a change to the Constitution, but this well overdue in any case, and we might as well do a thorough job of it.  The Swiss also have provisions to change their constitution without a fuss.

www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/sep/14/no-satisfactory-explanation-court-blasts-keith-pitt-over-grant-agreement-with-gas-company?fbclid=IwAR3v_4oGwTWFkiQ2xYp_l9Mjw2alDLARFN_St8hwoDbEp_MRup44fFbfXaU

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What Has Gone Wrong in Australia?

8 September 2021

John Quiggin gives a good, insightful summary in The Monthly.

www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2021/september/1630418400/john-quiggin/dismembering-government?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The Monthly Today – Wednesday 8 September 2021&utm_content=The Monthly Today – Wednesday 8 September 2021+CID_77319af0620e0ea97965a0e5af6e7e60&utm_source=EDM&utm_term=The Monthly#mtr

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