Thursday 22nd of February 2024

Currently in the Media

Time for the government to open up competition in the banking sector!

The recent decision by CBA to withold 0.17% of the 0.75% interest rate drop by the RBA has underpinned the requirement for the banking sector in Australia to be opened up and made more competitive.

I have read numerous statements by treasurer Wayne Swan that the government will ensure that the banking sector is made more competitive by allowing borrowers to switch banks easily to encourage competition between banks. Well guess what - it's time to deliver on that promise!!

Pork Barrel Dogfight

If we had any doubts before about the destructive influence of party politics on our democracy, the desperate deluge of handouts to win or keep power for the next three years is all the evidence we need.

Some may think that democracy is party politics and vice versa. But there cannot be a real respect for government when it does not belong to the people and does not build the steadfast unity of the nation which we are going to need to face the future with the kind of costs and sacrifices which it will call for.

With party politics, division is the norm rather than unity in society. Party government misguided us to war in Iraq, not for the first time. Party government never submits its plans to the people - not even to parliament. 

Australia's new copyright laws risk making criminals out of all of us

A media release from the Internet Industry Association:

New Copyright Laws Risk Criminalising Everyday Australians

The Internet Industry Association today warned that changes to Australia’s copyright laws being rushed through Parliament risked making criminals out of everyday Australians.

The IIA which represents a broad range of internet businesses in Australia, in conjunction with the QUT Law Faculty Intellectual Property Research Program, has identified a number of scenarios which could trip up Australians in their everyday use of copyrighted materials.

Said IIA chief executive, Peter Coroneos: “We can’t be sure if this is the government's intent, or whether there has been a terrible oversight in the drafting of this Bill. Either way, the consequences for the average Australian family could be devastating.”

“As an example,” said Mr Coroneos, “a family who holds a birthday picnic in a place of public entertainment (for example, the grounds of a zoo) and sings ‘Happy Birthday’ in a manner that can be heard by others, risks an infringement notice carrying a fine of up to $1320. If they make a video recording of the event, they risk a further fine for the possession of a device for the purpose of making an infringing copy of a song. And if they go home and upload the clip to the internet where it can be accessed by others, they risk a further fine of up to $1320 for illegal distribution. All in all, possible fines of up to $3960 for this series of acts – and the new offences do not require knowledge or improper intent. Just the doing of the acts is enough to ground a legal liability under the new ‘strict liability’ offences.”

Water or die

I can't help but be troubled by the weekend's no result to using recycled water in the drinking water of Toowoomba. I'm still waiting to figure out what the fall out of this will be, and why exactly it happened. The yuck factor has been widely blamed for the outcome. But from my understanding, there wasn't really any other options available to a city this far down the drought track. It really was recycled water, or die, at least as far as the city is concerned.

There is plenty of cliche rhetoric which could go here, to point out how crazy it is to be so wasteful with water, but that isn't going to help the "where to now" question. Perhaps all water will be delivered in bottles, and the waterpipes will fall unused due to lack of supply. Considering there isn't any real watersaving infrastructure in place I wouldn't be surprised to see this happen, if only for a short time.

Kovco's funeral

I am cynical about why Kovco was given the full military works for his funeral. He was not killed on the battlefield. Pardon my being non PC, but was it all about spin to calm the grieving family who had been stuffed around, or is it to deflect from the real cause of his death OR to distract us from the Cole royal commission?

Our US reflection

In a report released today, the US State Department outlined a human rights abuses around the world, including concerns in Australia. They are as follows:

  • prolonged detention of unsuccessful asylum seekers who could not be returned to their home country
  • domestic violence against women, particularly in Aboriginal communities
  • societal discrimination against Aboriginal people
  • trafficking in persons
  • a few interrelated incidents of interethnic societal violence in December
  • labor law reform including restrictions on the right to strike
Missing was, as far as I could see, any analysis, let alone criticism of the US itself. That aside, I'm awaiting JH's response to the criticism of his IR laws, which I though he modeled on the US in the first place, at least in spirit.

What is Christmas?

All this time I've been thinking that Christmas was just mid-financial year orgy of consumerism, required to prop-up the retail market. But now Prime Minister Howard is saying it's all about Christianity! I wonder if he would be back in the papers taking it all back if we all took him up on his request, and went to church, or spent time with the family unit instead of going to the shopping centres!

But seriously, we have quite a good separation of church and state here, and it is a shame to see it interfered with. If people wanted shopping centres to show the nativity, then I'm sure they would oblige. But the PM calling for the reenforcement of Christian ritual unnecessarily marginalises non-Christians, and potentially adds fuel to the fiery bellies of some misguided Anglo-Saxon Christians.

The pros and cons of boycotts

I have been thinking about the possible avenues of action an individual, or collection of individuals can take against the policies of a foreign nation. I know groups like Amnisty do this kind of thing all the time, to the best of my knowledge via letter writing and awareness raising. The current topical example of this is the case of Nguyen Tuong Van, and the threats of boycotts of Singapore owned companies such as Optus and Singapore Airlines.

For a boycott to work, what has to happen? Obviously the concerned few will not be sending these companies broke, but could they be put under pressure? And how does one make sure that they know why they are under pressure? Letter writing to the board? Public demonstrations?

The Power of Nightmares

Some of you may recall that at the time of the London Underground bombings earlier this year, SBS TV were about to broadcast the award-winning UK documentary series, "The Power of Nightmares".

Their explanation for cancelling this broadcast at the time was, more or less, that certain aspects were considered "inappropriate in the light of recent events". Even more disturbing was a comment made on their Feedback program that they were "negotiating with the series producers regarding the possibility of updating some of the areas covered".

Libs/Nats tripping over themselves

I might be wrong and indeed since 1996 I have been bowled over by the stupidity of the Australian public, however it appears that the absence of a strong opposition is leading the Libs/Nats to do most of the opposition's leg work for them. A case in point is the call by Sophie Panopolous to have the muslim women's scarf known as the hjab banned in schools. Having seen "A Current Affair", I saw Bronwyn Bishop giving her support to Panopolous on the grounds of a clash of cultures must lead to the dominant culture prevailing (when did we last hear that! seig heil!)

I have also heard that Malcolm Turnbull is calling for a cut in the tax rate for high income earners - witht he rate comming down toe 30%. There was no mention of the tax rates for low to middle income earners.

7.30 Report: New Progressive website upsets Howard Government

Reporter: Mark Bannerman

KERRY O'BRIEN: For those with an interest in politics, but no stomach for the grind of branch meetings and number crunching, a new political organisation called might catch your attention. Inspired by the Move On organisation in the United States, GetUp is aimed at people who want to have a political say but don't have the time or inclination to be part of the mainstream. GetUp encourages voters to sign up and use the dotcom's resources to make their views known to politicians. The virtual lobby group will begin its life here with a series of advertisements on national television, warning coalition Senators face a backlash if they abuse the Senate majority. Mark Bannerman reports.

WOMAN IN AD: You've got control of the Senate now.

MAN IN AD: The other parties can't hold you accountable anymore. But we will.

MARK BANNERMAN: What do you do when the Government holds the balance of power in the Senate for the first time in 30 years? Answer - you form a virtual political party, create an ad campaign and target coalition senators.

JEREMY HEIMANS, GetUp.Org: GetUp is a way to get ordinary people back into politics. People who are tired of institutional politics, people who aren't happy with the direction this country's going.

DAVE MADDDEN, GetUp.Org: Well, the message that we're delivering the simple. The Opposition parties can't hold you to account anymore. They no longer have the balance of power in the Senate. So it's now up to the Australian people to hold you account and the Australian people will.

MARK BANNERMAN: Jeremy Heimans and Dave Madden are the brains behind Using expertise gathered while working in the United States they've created an organisation they hope will give voters on the progressive side of politics a new voice in Canberra. Why do we need it?

DAVE MADDEN: Firstly there's many, many people out there who are very very concerned about the direction the country has gone in the last nine years and particularly about the direction in which the Howard Government is planning to take the country. But those people, although they care about lots of issues, they're not necessarily going to go out there and join a political party in order to take action on those issues. And so is a way of providing people with a practical means of taking action on issues they care about.

MARK BANNERMAN: The remarkable thing about GetUp is just how easy it makes it for you to contact your elected representatives. You simply go to the site, it gives you a list of senators and creates an email format that allows you to pass on the ad and your own message. So will it have an impact? Well key Liberal backbencher Andrew Robb has run a few political campaigns himself and says it's slick, but it's flawed.

ANDREW ROBB, LIBERAL BACKBENCHER: It's first and foremost, let's not mince word, it is an anti-Government group and it's not there to keep us accountable. it's there to run an alternative policy agenda.

MARK BANNERMAN: Significantly, the senators on the website that are targeted are all from the Coalition and that tells Andrew Robb all he needs to know about GetUp.

ANDREW ROBB: It's a front for the Labor Party, it's a political front. They're quite entitled to do it, it's a free country, but it's a political front. That's what it is.

MARK BANNERMAN: So are you just a front for the Labor Party?

JEREMY HEIMANS: Absolutely not. I mean, it's very difficult to be a front for the Labor Party when you have the Liberal Party involved, you have the Greens, you have, as you've just said, people from a whole variety of political background. We'd be a confused front for the Labor Party if we were.

DAVE MADDEN: To be clear, Mark, neither Jeremy or I have never been a member of any political party.

MARK BANNERMAN: To back this view, the principals of GetUp point out that the board overseeing their dotcom include former Liberal Party leader John Hewson, Internet millionaire Evan Thornely and union boss Bill Shorten.

BILL SHORTEN, AUSTRALIAN WORKERS' UNION: What's interesting about this board of is on the right you've John Hewson who I haven't voted for and to be fair to him I don't think he's voted for me. Then on the left you've got Kate Firman from the Greens. I suppose you've got myself from the AWU somewhere in the middle. It's not a straightforward, it's not a traditional coalition, if you like.

MARK BANNERMAN: So what will this non-traditional coalition pick as its first campaign issue? Well judging by the ad, there's plenty to choose from and plenty to argue about, too. The thing that just hits people on talkback and has had a big effect is industrial relations. It cries out to be the first campaign. Is that going to be it?

JEREMY HEIMANS: Well, you'll have to wait and is find out,

MARK BANNERMAN: In the United States, where the GetUp team learned and art of dotcom politics they had no trouble finding a political issue.

GEORGE w. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere? Nope, no weapons over there. (LAUGHTER)

WOMAN: My brother died in Baghdad on 29 April. I watched President Bush make a joke, looking around for weapons of mass destruction.

MARK BANNERMAN: Using money raised on the Internet Jeremy Heimans and Dave Madden helped create ads attacking George Bush's foreign policy and that created controversy.

ADVERTISEMENT: George Bush, he doesn't get it. ADVERTISEMENT #2: Even Republicans are calling that ad the most brutal of the campaign.

MARK BANNERMAN: Come election-time, might future GetUp ads target key Government ministers here.

JEREMY HEIMANS: In Australia, you know, there are important issue of character and leadership and absolutely we'll be addressing issues of character and leadership.

MARK BANNERMAN: How tough can you get?

JEREMY HEIMANS: It's not a question of being tough, it's a question of speaking directly.

MARK BANNERMAN: Already, it's clear in Australia GetUp is having an impact. Coalition senators across the country have already started receiving emails by the thousands. And it seems this new twist on the democratic process is creating some angst.

ANDREW ROBB, LIBERAL BACKBENCHER: There are hundreds of emails arriving in Senator's officers. They're beside themselves, just to clear the screen. They get back to their office from meetings looking for important communications from whoever, and they're confronted with screen after screen of these emails, in some cases over 200 emails. This is highly irresponsible, this is spam, this is spam.

MARK BANNERMAN: So, a new form of political lobby group or party has arrived. Will it have an impact? Well Bill Shorten isn't sure.

BILL SHORTEN: Does it attract a group of people who are currently not active in politics, who are disengaged from the political process? If it attracts thousands of these people then you'd have to say it was a pretty worthwhile venture. If it doesn't, then you'd have to say we tried that but it doesn't work here. People don't want to get involved in the political process through the Internet.

MARK BANNERMAN: GetUp's founders, though, are far more positive.

DAVID MADDEN: We're hoping over time to be able to build up a list in the hundreds of thousands.

MARK BANNERMAN: Really? That many?

DAVID MADDEN: Absolutely, sure.

MARK BANNERMAN: So you believe you can have real impact?


MARK BANNERMAN: DAVID MADDEN: No question about that? No question about it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Mark Bannerman.

Commonwealth rights or daddy knows best (NT Uranium Mining)

I think it is particularly important to keep an eye the Commonwealth government's recent over-ruling of the Northern Territory's ban on further uranium mining, saying the NT is open for business on uranium mining. I guess this is typical of an authoritarian government, but what actually protects the rights of the citizens of a state or territory to resist the will of an imposing power? I realise there is many dimensions here, the difference between State rights and Territory rights, as well as the times you would hope the commonwealth would intervene in the case of bad State government.

IR reforms analysed

On Saturday Radio National had an interview with David Peetz, Professor in Industrial Relations at Griffith University.

This was the topic

"As the IR debate gathers momentum the government is continuing to argue that people who take up Australian Workplace Agreements are better off than those who don’t. Kevin Andrews, the Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, is saying his number one goal is to create more jobs and higher wages for more Australians. However, AWAs are in fact being characterised as a path to lower wages, in research conducted by David Peetz"

Side effects of terrorism

Much has been written and said about the terrorism world wide but my interest lies in Australia and the effects in this country. Obviously the acts elswhere have effects on us and this is my concern.

Yes we need to guard and defend our country against the possibilities but I am very concerned about the general trend of response from what is known as our Government(s).

In the name of fighting terrorism we are losing our freedoms, what is left of it at any rate. Try boarding a plane for example without having to get partially undressed.

There are now provisions for people to be held for extended periods without legal representation, laws to punish people who even discuss such interrogations, the ability to descend upon any individuals home if suspected and more.

WalMart down under

What's making Maleny so angry?

Because we're being bullied by powers that appear to have the law of the land and the fine print on their side and seem determined to continue with a development that defies morality. Oh - and there's the platypus, of course.

Maleny's a small town with a small main street, a decidedly quirky mix of people and a growth problem. We've put up with slash and burn development and some pretty thoughtless planning and even a traffic problem that would put Sydney to shame.

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