To: Tony Abbott, Shite Minister, Australia. From: M. Tucker, undisclosed location, Spain.

21 05 2014

Dear Shite Minister,

DO NOT take this missive as a sign that I am writing to you in any capacity other than to instruct you like a boarder at a De La Salle Brothers’ List D school. My old mate Tex tells me you’ve got a regular Jesuit jizznado for me (something to do with self-flagellating and a flute, Christ on a bike, what is it with you lot?), that you won’t listen to him, or Peta, so here I am, emailing you at TOO EARLY SPANISH TIME.

Some twatweasel from the BBC – Jon high & fuckin’ mighty Donnison, sent to the  colonies after he messed me over some shitwank Parliamentary Committee hearing – thought dropping my name into a story about you winking at some fuckin’ Trot radio presenter when Granny Grindr called the station was a great idea.  The days of me getting Paxman and those other knob jockeys off my back by raising an eyebrow over the phone may be over, but don’t worry about Donnison, I’ve been onto the new Generalissimo and all I can say is, ‘good luck in Goma, gitface’.

I digress.

Abbott (may I call you Abbott? It’s a step up from numpty, so there’s that).

Abbott:

Now, listen to me, son. Listen to me very fuckin’ carefully, because I do not have the fuckin’ space/time thing down (YET) to RAM MY FIST UP YOUR ARSE SO FAR I CAN BREACH YOUR LARGE INTESTINE AND FLAP YOUR GUMS FOR YOU, YOU FUCKIN’ INSULT TO VENTRILOQUIST DUMMIES.

In my many, MANY years of running countries for cunts like you, I’ve never seen someone go from on-message to on-Mogadon so quickly. You’re like one of those French trains on tilt rails. Tilting Tony. Fuck, I thought I had seen it all with Blinky Ben and Nicola fuckin’ Murray. You son, you are a slightly less medicated Tom. You look like a demented Komodo dragon with Tourette’s. Apologies to anyone living with Tourette’s. You’re an insult to people with the fuckin’ balls to live with Tourette’s, you shiny-faced fuck.

Speaking of shiny-faced fucks, will you do something useful, there’s a good lad – tell Peta to check her voicemail (on the burner, not the NSA-approved device), yeah? I saw some gifs of that gommy Hockey on a mate’s Tumblr (don’t you DARE question me about Tumblr) and that bastard looked like he’d been caught ram-raiding on a Vespa. Couldnae help but share them with Jamie, he agrees (if you call cackling like an annoying cock on the weekend ‘agreeing’). If you don’t bang that bawjaws with some Botox PRONTO FUCKIN’ PRESTO there is nothing the Gorbals Goebbels can do for you.

To top it off, you and that great heaving jessie, Pyne then have the fuckin’ TEMERITY to fanny about with the public schedule for ‘safety reasons’? WELL SPIN ME AROUND AND CALL ME SUSAN. All the hats doffed in your direction, Antoine. Pissing your jimmies over some pock-marked teenage pinkos who will be voting Tory in 10 years and calling it ‘protection advice’ from those gawping great gin-soaks at your piss-ant imitation Scotland Yard (have you ever thought of calling it ‘Shitehouse Yard’? I quite like that)… anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, THAT… THAT takes some fuckin’ balls. To be fair, I wouldnae ride Pyne into battle against UNDERGRADUATE TROTS, either. ‘Stop the boats?’ Stop the fuckin’ Cliff’s notes being passed to the despatch box more like.

Right, I’d rather have Ebola than continue this email, so flap those jumbo ears and listen up, scrote with eyes: I am not your enemy and DO NOT START ME ON THAT QUIM-STARVED CUNT TURNBULL. Apparently, you’re such a dozy cunt you gave MORRISON  a private navy? How many punches to the head did you take at Poxford? He looks like a tall Napoleon when that Corsican cunt was conquering Europe (i.e. before all that shite went down outside Moscow fuck just read that thick Russian book, it ends badly) and you’re falling apart like a badly-packed kebab. No wonder you’re not sending him out to sell your Budget. He could probably DO THE FUCKIN’ JOB and you handed him a fuckin’ quasi-Stasi! Operation Sovereign Borders? Operation Shitey Britches. Jesus Howard Ker-ist on rubber crutches you are beyond all repair.

The thing people like you don’t get is that you are DIS-FUCKIN-SPENSABLE. OF ALL THE FUCKS, THERE ARE ZERO FUCKS FOR YOU. PETA?  SHE WILL FUCKIN’ JUMP, OR I WILL PUSH HER INTO NAPOLEON SHITOMITE’S DIRECTION BECAUSE WE ARE THE INDISPENSABLE ONES.

Yours, (not really, but I’ve leaked this to the Graun, bang up job on your daughter, hey?)

Tucker.

PS: DONNISON! Next time you want my attention, son, have the fuckin’ decency to leave a message back at HQ for Jamie. This, ‘sorry Malcs to interrupt your retirement on the Costa fuckin’ Brava but you’re my only hope of getting back to London’ bullshit disnae wash. Neither will you out in the bush, mate, and I don’t mean some fuckin’ air-conditioned tent in Alice Springs trailing after Kate fuckin’ Middleton. Your all-expenses-paid vacay to the DRC starts next week, pal. Drop me a note. Yes, I cocked an eyebrow like a boss and the BBC’s deflector shield was down.

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Our greatest Premier?

21 04 2014

A dear friend compiled this list of Neville Wran’s achievements and poses a worthy question: was he our greatest Premier?

  • founded the University of Western Sydney
  • electrifying the railways to Wollongong and Newcastle
  • saving the north coast forests
  • Aboriginal Land Rights Act
  • working with Blewett on the AIDS response
  • beds to the west, including building Mt Druitt Hospital
  • all the great arts work for the suburbs and regions eg Riverside Theatre, Campbelltown City gallery
  • created the Powerhouse Museum and Wharf Theatre
  • gay law reform
  • Darling Harbour
  • Anti Discrimination Act 1977
  • built the Sydney Football Stadium
  • NSW Film and Television Office
  • democratised the Legislative Council after a titanic constitutional battle with the dinosaurs
  • appointed Michael Kirby as President of the Court of Appeal and Mary Gaudron as Solictor-General and QC (first female in both)
  • appointed the State’s first female Minister
  • created the DPP
  • introduced AVOs
  • introduced Random Breath Testing
  • passed the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act
  • set-up the Land and Environment Court
  • passed the Heritage Act and Coastal Protection Act
  • established the Historic Houses Trust
  • Parramatta Stadium
  • Sydney Entertainment Centre
  • purchased all those ferries that we still have
  • restored Macquarie St and Hyde Park Barracks
  • the Premiers Literary Awards
  • sister-state agreement with Guangdong Province
  • commenced the new wings of the State Library, Australian Museum and Art Gallery of NSW (opened in 1988)
  • development of the old Treasury building as an hotel
  • modernised the coal industry – new coal loaders and rail lines

It’s an impressive body of work which doesn’t rely on, ‘but we passed hundreds of pieces of legislation’ as a measurement of good government.  The Hon. Neville Kenneth Wran AC QC did things.  He invested in the future.  He protected our past.  He acted, where others mouthed the words.  For fuck’s sake – the Shitkansen takes as long to reach Newcastle as it did when the line was electrified.  A great many last week judged a Premier who signed up to an education package that delivered NSW more money as ‘great’ and ‘honourable’, all the while ignoring the fact that he took lifetime medical cover away from people who lose a leg below the knee in the workplace.  As acts of bastardry (not political bastardry, complete bastardry) go, that’s right up there.

Unless all political parties get rid of the cookie cutter hacks who are ‘for’ an electorate (spin me around and call me Susan if there’s a candidate who’s ‘against’ being elected); the venal cyphers who think we are unworthy of the truth while they line their pockets, abuse their influence, reward their mates and generally take the fucking piss; the timid and weak who follow opinion, rather than establish the theme; the empty shirts blathering endlessly to the cameras for next to no return, we will never see the likes of Neville Wran again.  Who am I kidding?  We are getting the public representatives, at all levels and all shades of the spectrum that an exclusive pack of pricks with limited life experience choose for us.  The only time they speak their minds is when the system that suited them fine on the way up screws them on the way down.  Wran had facets of each of these faults, but set against the dreary, small minds in the back seat of too-large white cars, he was a colossus.

~~~~~~~~~~

Enough vitriol, time for a personal reflection on ‘Nifty’, the dapper QC, the brilliant Balmain Boy who never forgot his roots as he rose, inexorably, to what passes for high society in Sydney.

I was awestruck when I met him almost a decade ago.  He had agreed to head a mine safety review my-then boss, Kerry Hickey, commissioned after NSW lost three miners on one of the single darkest days I hope to ever know.

He came into the office for a preliminary meeting. He extended his hand, one of an old man.  The rest – the intellect, the commitment to the cause of ensuring people could do a day’s work and return home to their families, the ‘dash’… it was all still there.  The grin, still blinding, even though the teeth were discoloured by age.

‘I’m Neville’.

The Hon. Neville Wran AC QC defied the truism about the charismatic, that they have the ability to make you feel like you’re the only person in the room.  Neville made you feel like you were an old mate in a room of good friends.

‘I’m sorry, but I have to call you Premier.  ’78 was my first political memory.  You’ll always be Premier to me’.

Again, the grin and chuckle.  ‘You’re too young to remember ’78!’

If you could muster indignation with Neville Wran, that’s what I felt.

‘I was seven! ‘Wran’s Our Man’ was our mantra’.

He chuckled again, and then his face changed.  The eyes ceased crinkling in good humour.

‘We’ve got a lot to do’.

Kerry, Neville, Genevieve, Siobhan and I stood in silence in the middle of the office at GMT.  Kerry had been hit hard by the accidents; the dead were his constituents.  People outside mining communities rarely understand the shockwaves these godawful events send through anyone with a tie to the industry.

There’s a wall outside the CFMEU’s Cessnock office inscribed with the name of every miner killed since the northern coalfields were founded in 1801.  More than 1,800 men and boys – almost four times the Australian lives claimed during Vietnam and a quarter of those who died during the entire Gallipoli campaign.  I have seen the damage first-hand: widows, wheelchairs.  A childhood walking home from primary school and looking for Dad’s bicycle in the garage.

As they say, you never start an inquiry without knowing the outcome.  We were about to wage war, and Neville was our Ajax – powerful, intuitive and intelligent.

The government adopted all of the Wran Mine Safety Review recommendations.  Sadly, two more names will be added to the Jim Comerford Memorial Wall over the coming weeks, and the CFMEU is calling for another review.  If one is conducted, all workers who give evidence (and the government) will be poorer for not having Neville Wran’s expertise and empathy to guide the process.

I know this is a small remembrance of a very public life, a sketch of one of the end notes of a full working life – and that everyone has a Neville yarn.  I’m grateful that of all of them, I’m able to tell this one.





It is enough for the people to know there was an election …

4 02 2013

The most important political office is that of the private citizen.

-Louis Brandeis, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

So, what do a U.S. Supreme Court justice, and one of the great tyrants (Stalin, attributed with the title quote), have to do with the events, spin, speculation and general swirl and hurl of the last week in Australian politics? Hopefully, I’ll be able to demonstrate that the bow isn’t that long.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013: The Prime Minister addresses the National Press Club. The speech released to attendees didn’t contain one crucial piece of news: the announcement of the election date – Saturday, 14 September 2013. Generally well received, I found the speech discordant in parts. In ‘taking stock’, the Prime Minister outlines some ABS data, and emphasises our fears as a people We’re middle-aged. We live too far away from where we work. We parent and care for our parents. We’re saving instead of spending, a nation of consumers who yearn for the days when we could whip out the credit card with abandon. We don’t shoot each other very often (unless you live in ‘some communities’ [read Western Sydney], and then – you’re rightly concerned about crime and ‘cohesion’). We’ve lived through a few wars, where our Gallipoli obsession looms large in our veneration of heroes and the rarely-explored existence of the ghosts among the returned. We’re early and loving adopters of technology. We have mobiles, Facebook pages and iThings in abundance. Then, in the next stanza, we’re ‘strong, fair by instinct, smart’. Which Australia are we, the people? From the rest of the PM’s speech, it’s enough that we know there’s an election. The governing will continue and we can all plan our year. Weddings can be planned, observant Jews can declare they won’t campaign on the day and the religion of footy finals may be attended sans the onerous duty of lining up to tick a box or two.

Firstly, the great reveal. The jaws in the room, and without, dropped at the omission from the pre-disseminated speech; most memorably that of the Minister for Workplace Relations, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP, who was caught out live blogging at the Herald Sun. Here strikes the discordance: a PM offering certainty to a fearful people while catching many in her own Cabinet unaware.  For the trumpeting of getting on with governing, spin shot its load. The people who knew the election date announcement work in the PM’s office, Swanny DPM, The Greens leader Senator Christine Milne, and Independent MPs, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. Actions speak louder than words? What a splendidly cohesive team the Gillard Government is, that not even a mass text message was sent 30 seconds before the drop. People wonder why there is an abundance of nameless ‘government sources’ with a cracking dose of the shits. That covers the fearful Australia.

The strong Australia? The announcement itself. We’ve been stuck in a fairly rubbish election mode since Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor backed the ALP. Remember when the Member for Lindsay (suddenly via the Arafura Sea) set sail with the PM on the SS Nervous Nelly, looking for the People of the Boats? Now we can at least say it’s only going to last for another 220-odd days. Please don’t attribute the early call to anyone other than the PM and her advisers. They knew it would rob everyone from speculating on the date for the rest of the year. Is it crazy/brave? Not so much. John Key, New Zealand PM, did the same thing – again, in the name of the worship of sport – and he is one of the last people you’d call crazy/brave. It’s a little interesting if you look at NSW. We, the people of the Scum Corp state, are used to fixed election dates. What the early announcement allows is a gradual build-up of appearances in a State considered so toxic in 2010, I think the PM visited once (maybe twice, if you count Rooty Hill RSL as the People’s Debate). NSW must hold; not only for the government to be reelected, but for the next generation of talent to stick around. Losing the Likes of Chris Bowen, Jason Clare, Ed Husic, Michelle Rowland, Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke would be disastrous. David Bradbury, if his seat wasn’t so bloody indispensable, could pack up and go home. NSW is very much at the heart of the ALP’s problems, but it is also at the heart of its success and longevity. The state of McKell, Wran, Chifley, Whitlam, Carr and Keating, reeling at state level, must offer some pathway at the federal level for the real ‘next generation’. Already, Team JG showed the smarts to pencil the Tet Festival celebrations at Fairfield into her diary last weekend. Smart thinking by some former colleagues of mine now working in the PM’s office.

Thursday, 31 January 2013: I think it’s a crock that anyone’s hand was caught in some nefarious plot to ameliorate the shamefully public arrest of Craig Thomson MP. The NSW wallopers are not averse to dropping a high profile bit of work to the media. While the act was cretinous, it’s hardly surprising. UPDATE: NSW Police have been forced today into an embarrassing back down today. Thomson’s arrest, they said, was triggered by his failure to surrender himself to Victoria Police for arrest. Fer shame. The strip search and the damage done, it turns out their southern cousins wanted to have a chat with Mr Thomson, not arrest him. Bravo, dickheads.

The Thomson matter is going to be an open sore for the government regardless of whether the election was held in six weeks or seven months. The same goes for the disgraceful allegations being heard at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. I am proud of many of the achievements of the Ministers and Premier I worked for; but the scale of the allegations, the hubris and disregard for everything that is good and right about governing puts the allegations against Craig Thomson, and the infernal Ashby/Brough/Slipper business in the shade. A sequoia-sized darkness. None of it is going away, so saddle up and deal with it – a big tick for a strong Australia.

Friday, 1 February 2013: It was a dark and stormy night. It was great subscription bait from the Australian Financial Review’s Phillip Coorey, who tweeted at 8.38pm: ‘Gillard govt cabinet minister has resigned. details online soon’. After I finally navigated my way through the AFR’s subscription maze, and learned that Senate Leader and Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs, Science and Research, the Hon. Chris Evans, was quitting Cabinet immediately, and the Senate at the election, I was shocked. Evans is one of those reasonably unassuming, non-fuck ups of a Minister. My initial thought was, ‘Christ, I hope he’s not ill’. When I saw Channel 7’s Mark Riley retweet of Nicola Roxon’s resignation several hours’ later, I was stunned. What the actual eff? Two Ministers going within hours of each other. Every part of my former political self said, ‘bad juju’.

Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 February, 2013:

Over the past few days, I’ve had a few, shall we say, some teeth-grinding moments on the Twatters, chiefly because I refuse to fall in line with the pinheaded orthodoxy of ‘MSM fail’; ‘media fail’; ‘stupid gallery speculation’. This is where Brandeis comes in – ‘the most important political office is that of private citizen’. It’s a two-pronged thought: firstly, if you’re reporting the straight Five Ws, why is still one of them. Given that Evans’, Roxon’s and the PM’s offices were refusing to answer questions (yep, no message control going on here), what are we, the people, supposed to think? Nothing to see here, move along? Two senior Ministers had just pulled the pin – yet the Press Gallery is supposed to just write, ‘who, what, when and where’, and ignore the damning why? If the why is not forthcoming, if information is withheld so the message can be massaged to within an inch of its life, the Australia of fearful people is going to, and is entitled to speculate. We are the most important political office bearers. Forget the 24-hour news cycle. What about the blink-and-you-miss-it Twitter free-for-all? If people think the ‘abysmal MSM’ were the only ones speculating, have a long, hard look at your Twitter feeds and DMs. I had some information and theories. So did others. We exchanged views, a bit of healthy scepticism, and a fair bit of plain old, ‘what the actual eff is going on?’ When you cannot accumulate fact, you speculate. If you’re whiter than white and didn’t muse on why both of these Ministers were resigning, then you forfeit the Brandeis test.

Secondly, both Ministers Roxon and Evans are leaving for personal reasons. I don’t doubt that Ms Roxon misses her husband and daughter, and that after 20 years, Chris Evans has had a gutful of flying from Perth to Canberra. Having seen Ministers’ workloads in State politics, I understand the demands of the job. Here’s the thing I didn’t get: the Prime Minister’s claim that both indicated up to a year ago that they wanted out. Evans’ senate spot, not up for election this time, could have been filled by a casual vacancy, He could have sailed off into the sunset. Instead, he’s hanging around and collecting his pay until this September. A small part of me wants to say, ‘fuck off, Chris, bad call PM’. Nicola Roxon’s resignation stumped me. I know the time commitments. I know the demands of serving an electorate. OK, I don’t know what it’s like to have a husband or young daughter. Again, it’s the, ‘I’ve wanted to go for ages’ line. Maybe. Or is it just that having got the plain-packaging tobacco laws through, the drive and pride you had in being the first female Australian Attorney-General faltered? The difficulty is not Roxon’s resignation from Cabinet. Mark Dreyfus QC is a central-casting Attorney. The potential issue is the pre-selection for the plum seat of Gellibrand. No sooner had the name David Feeney, he of the faceless face and an unwinnable number three Senate ticket spot, done the rounds, a far more palatable name appeared: former Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks. He’s still young, lives in the electorate, and as someone I’ve met fleetingly, a smart operator with name and reputation recognition to die for. Mark Dreyfus practically went the Captain’s Pick himself, so effusive was his praise of Bracks. The sticking point is whether Bracks wants back in. After all, the most political office one can hold is that of private citizen. The real stick in the mud is the resignation of the Member for Barton and former Attorney-General, the Hon. Robert McClelland. It’s not clear whether McClelland will serve out his term; another former Premier, Morris Iemma, is one of the names being discussed to replace him. If McClelland quits Parliament in the next two-three months, it’s going to be very difficult (although not without precedent) for a by-election to be held off until September 14. Would any of us like to go six months (or longer) unrepresented in the Federal Parliament? Not so much. If he goes early, the Speaker should be encouraged, not laughingly discouraged from issuing the writs. Be strong, not fearful, lest the baseball bats come out in the months to come.

Monday, 4 February 2013: A new Ministry was sworn in. A new Senate Leader was elected. If the PM and Swanny DPM are both out of the country or unable to fulfil their duties, your Acting Prime Minister will be one Senator Stephen Conroy. Caucus met, and as sure as the sun sets in the west, Caucus leaked. Caucus leaked that the PM had cracked it with them for leaking against the Government, a fact relayed to her by a journalist. Meta or what? Caucus took place sans the former PM. Kevin, he of Queensland and here to help (and help all over the place – he’s said he’ll campaign wherever he’s asked), cited ill-health for missing the 2pm meeting. Maybe he was leaking. The fearful people of the marginals win this round, none of them warming to Brandeis’ treatise.

The Possum Comitatus with the Polling Mostest has produced this, the PollyTrend Two-Party Preferred graph, which looks like a few wobbly beer snakes. This morning it’s, ‘oh, fuck Newspoll, bunch of know nothings. Polls come and go. Outliers’. Not so fast. Yes, individual polls go up and down – but the trend isn’t a happy snap. If anything, it shows how long it’s taking for the numbers to move. Almost a year between the bulges, either side. I’m no pollster, but this doesn’t look like a volatile electorate to me. The polls taken over the weekend (with Essential to come tomorrow) reflect the thinking of the electorate at this point in time, and at this point in time, the ALP has freaked the people out. Going from a four-point gap to trailing by 10-12 percentage points is an indicator that the fear, fanned from within, translated to the people who hold the most important political office. And all for knowing that an election was being held.





Occupy This

16 10 2011

To steal from Network, Americans are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore.

The #Occupy movement, which began as #OccupyWallStreet, a protest against bankers, bailouts and corporate greed.

In my tiny mind, Americans have every right to be angry. They might be angry enough to consign Barack Obama to a one-term presidency – unthinkable a few years ago. The left is angry, the right is angry and the Tea Party is the small government, small tax version of the pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Christian base for this decade

A few fast facts on why I think Americans are mad:

The economy: No wonder President Obama is playing golf with President Clinton. The baseline in American politics is the economy, stupid. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ latest release (7 October), seasonally adjusted unemployment in September 2011 was 9.1 per cent. That’s a 0.5 per cent improvement on September 2010. Breaking that down:

  • 14 million Americans are registered unemployed
  • Of that number, the long-term unemployed (people out of work for more than 27 weeks) make up more than 44 per cent, or 6.2 million)
  • 24 per cent of teenagers (16-19 year olds) are unemployed
  • 16 per cent of blacks are unemployed (c.f. with 8 per cent unemployment among whites; 11.3 per cent for Hispanics and 7.8 per cent for Asians)
  • The annual 2010 unemployment rate of ‘Gulf War II’ veterans (i.e. military personnel who have served post September 2001) is 11.5 per cent
Delving slightly deeper, while the labor force and employment figures lifted, the civilian labor force participation rate (64.2 per cent) and employment:population ratio (58.3 per cent) remain fairly static. Disturbingly, 9.3 million Americans are classed as involuntary part-time workers (i.e. their hours have been cut or they’re unable to find full-time work). In August 2011, the number was 8.8 million – an additional 444,000 people in one month. Those ‘marginally attached to the workforce’ – some 2.5 million Americans who have sought work in the last year, but not in the last four weeks, are not counted as unemployed. There are 1 million ‘discouraged’ American workers. These are the defeated and demoralised. They believe they cannot get a job, so they’ve given up. Average hourly earnings? $23.12. Average weekly earnings? $793.02.
‘Failed’ stimulus: President Obama signed The Recovery Act on 7 February 2009. The total package of $787 billion was increased to $840 billion in 2011. I bracketed ‘failed’ because it’s open to interpretation. There is certainly a perception that while some of the leading indicators have resulted in an improvement in certain sectors of the economy and regions, in my view, this is counterbalanced by one of the saddest statistics I think I’ve ever come across: $8 billion additional spend on food stamps to feed 38 million hungry Americans. (Reuters)
Dysfunctional government: the White House is caught in a pincer movement. President Obama has come out swinging at Congress recently, most notably on his jobs bill. He’s moving to Candidate Obama, criss-crossing the country selling a Bill which has no chance of passing. These people who were willing to play brinkmanship with the country’s credit card. It is pathetic.
The cost of foreign policy: President Obama got Osama bin Laden. Terrific. It doesn’t change the economic and human costs of the country’s operations in Pakistan and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the key findings of a recent report from the Eisenhower Research Project based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies:
  • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan will cost between $3.2 and $4 trillion, including medical care and disability for current and future war veterans. This figure does not include substantial probable future interest on war-related debt.
  • More than 31,000 people in uniform and military contractors have died, including the Iraqi and Afghan security forces and other military forces allied with the United States.
  • By a very conservative estimate, 137,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by all parties to these conflicts.
  • The wars have created more than 7.8 million refugees among Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis.
  • Pentagon bills account for half of the budgetary costs incurred and are a fraction of the full economic cost of the wars.
  • Because the war has been financed almost entirely by borrowing, $185 billion in interest has already been paid on war spending, and another $1 trillion could accrue in interest alone through 2020.
  • Federal obligations to care for past and future veterans of these wars will likely total between $600-$950 billion. This number is not included in most analyses of the costs of war and will not peak until mid-century.
That’s just war. Don’t start me on the President’s broken promise to close Guantánamo Bay; conduct of extra-judicial killings and the disconnect between endorsement of the Arab Spring where it’s easy (Libya, for example) and wilful disregard for others (such as the Shi`a of  Bahrain).
The 99 per cent: Campaign finance reform; the disparity between tax breaks for the super-wealthy and the middle-class; corporate bailouts; out-of-control student debt it’s the beginning of a national conversation Americans haven’t engaged in for a long time.
So … it was with a general sense of irritation that I heard about the #OccupyPickAnAustralianCity protests that took place yesterday, for one reason: the great Australian propensity for whingeing. If whingeing was an Olympic sport, it would be, ‘GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!’ for Australia. I whinge, I hear others whinge and I read about people whingeing on a daily basis. It’s healthy to vent, to verbalise frustrations, irritations and feelings that systems, services and other people are failing us; but when you conflate whingeing into the #Occupy movement, you cheapen it. Yes, I am fully aware that Australia was only one of 78 countries to hold protests yesterday. I would also contend that people in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece have legitimate fears and grievances against prevailing economic conditions and systemic corruption. Australia? Not so much. While many on the ‘left’ view Tony Abbott as the Nabob of No, the Occupiers of Australia are playing his game of fear and loathing:
The economy: 5.2 per cent unemployment in September 2011. As the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Measures of Australia’s Progress 2011 report shows, pretty much everything (barring productivity) has improved since 2000. Including unemployment. The bad news? That increase applies to threatened animal species due to climate change. The average weekly income per full-time employed adult is $1,305. The average hourly income is between $29.70 and$33.10 (the disparity? Female wages c.f. men) (Source: ABS)
‘Failed’ stimulus: I’m leaving this one to George Megalogenis
Dysfunctional government: I am not a cheerleader for the current Government, but I am thankful that there are some quality people in our Parliament. Not naming names, but as close to the bone it has come on major issues – especially in the last few weeks – it is functional. I may not like the politics, the policies, the poor communication and quality of political discourse, but it continues to roll on.
The cost of foreign policy: Defence estimates an approximate $6 billion spend in Afghanistan to 2014. Iraq Mk II, approximately $2.3 billion. To me, the irreparable damage is in civilian deaths, leaving Australian citizens in Gitmo, irregular migration flows (UN-speak for refugees), international reputation and pathetic policy reactions to the problems we helped cause. That said, I don’t think we’ve been breaking arms embargoes, killing people willy-nilly or uneven in our condemnation for despots the world over.
The 99 per cent: according to a new release into household wealth from the ABS, the top 20 per cent of Australian households have seen their average net wealth increase by 15 per cent to $2.2 million since 2005/06, accounting for approximately 60 per cent of total household wealth. The bottom 20 per cent’s average net wealth grew by only 4 per cent. They account for approximately 1 per cent of total household wealth. That leaves almost 30 per cent of Australian households with an average net wealth of $720,000, up 14 per cent since 2005/06 – almost on par with the richest in the land and 10 per cent ahead of the poor. I contend that there is no ’99 per cent’ in Australia. Of course there is disparity in wealth; but the two major assets of Australian households (property – $520-540,000; superannuation – $60-154,000) put ‘average’ Australia within striking distance of the top 20 per cent. This is not the case in the US. It never has been and never will be.
I hope this stirs some pots & kettles. It stirred mine.




Talking Points Memos

26 05 2011

Malcolm Farnsworth’s critique of the Prime Minister & Australian political scene, published today by The Drum, is as ever, spot on. (“Malcolm Farnsworth: Three occasions, three glimpses of Barack Obama, three lessons for Julia Gillard. http://bit.ly/leu38P“)
Sadly, the piece isn’t counter-balanced with a more nuanced take on the US political discourse. In fact, it reads more like a DCCC talking points memo.
President Obama’s favourables still hover around 44%; the crowd that has thinned-out among potential GOP presidential-candidates has been Donald Trump – the declared candidates include Gingrich (damaged), Pawlenty & the dark-horse libertarian darling, Johnson. Then there are Romney, who has $6m cash-on-hand at present, & yes … Palin, who has just bought a house in AZ.
I say this as a supporter of the President, but his oratorical talent has rarely been doubted. He’s given a few good speeches in Europe … unfortunately, the speech that counted, delivered to AIPAC, was nothing new. In fact, he’s stuck to the same rhetoric and policy as his two immediate predecessors. The difference is like it or not, Israeli-Palestinian peace seems further away at a time when Israel’s neighbours – & therefore the Palestinians – are looking to make Israel’s claim to be the Middle East’s only democracy a thing of the past.