Trumble, mumble, stumble crumble: #MarriageEquality plebiscite fiasco

August 10, 2017

The strategy of the marriage equality opponents in the Coalition is to retain the conservative status quo at all costs, says Dr Martin Hirst.

THE OPPONENTS of marriage equality came a step closer to blocking the popular move yesterday when Liberal Party MPs decided by an overwhelming majority to stick to a policy of deflecting, pretending and ignoring good sense and common sense.

Good sense should have informed them that bringing the matter forward for a free conscience vote in both houses of Parliament is what the vast majority of Australians want them to do.

Common sense should have told them that sticking to the time-wasting and false “promise” of an expensive, but non-binding plebiscite on the issue would make Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull look weak, embolden his conservative opponents in the party and proven – once again – that the Liberals are a party of reaction, blocking and bigotry, not the hopeful, social progressives Malcolm desperately wants his dwindling band of supporters to believe in.

The position adopted 28 to 7 in the Liberals’ party room was to put the non-binding plebiscite position to the Senate again with the Plan B option being an even less legitimate non-compulsory and non-binding postal vote.

This strategy seems like a rotten compromise. It is. It represents Malcolm the Appeaser at his unprincipled worst. It is a terrible plan that has the fulsome support of all the opponents of same sex union. They are the real winners; everyone else, including Turnbull, is a loser.

Just take a moment to really think through what the Liberals endorsed last night:

  • Plan A represents an idea to the Senate that it has already rejected as unworkable, unnecessary and stupid, and which the ALP, the Greens and enough cross-benchers to sink it have already said they will block.
  • Plan B is to threaten a really awful Plan B – the postal vote – in an attempt to force reluctant senators to back Plan A ‘or else’.

It’s like holding a gun to your own head during a bank robbery while high on crack cocaine and threatening to shoot the puppy unless the bank-teller gives you all the five-cent pieces. And the bank-teller be like Mate, here’s all the rolls of zacs I’ve got. It comes to seven dollars, go buy an ice cream.

Read the rest of this story at Independent Australia


NBN retailers want pricing model changes

August 10, 2017

Leading retailers of Australian broadband ISP services say the NBN pricing model is broken, making high-speed internet connections too expensive for most domestic customers.

Managing Director of ISP retailer MyRepublic, Nicholas Demos has told IA that the NBN Co must reduce its controversial connection charges to retailers. He is among several NBN retailers calling on NBN Co chief Bill Morrow to admit it has made a mistake and to start over on its pricing models.

The NBN levies a connectivity charge, the CVC, which retailers purchase in 100 megabits per second Mbps, as well as a second access charge, the AVC. These charges apply to each individual subscriber that the ISP retailer signs up.

In all, the wholesale NBN pricing structure has four components and the average charge per connection is around $24. It is very complicated and MyRepublic’s Nicholas Demos says this is the major point of contention between the retailers and the NBN Co.

Said Nicholas Demos:

“At the moment, with the CVC and AVC charges, the pricing structure discourages people going higher speeds because it’s too expensive. Some players have cheaper products, like a $29.99 per month price point. But that’s ridiculous and it’s only a speed of 12Mbps download and 10Gigabytes of data. That’s not what the NBN is about, you get more data on your phone.”

MyRepublic is offering a trial retail package at a site near Wollongong, called Gigatown, where a 1 gigabyte download speed is being offered for $129.99 per month.

 

Mr Demos says customers seem willing to pay this for better speeds.

“NBN Co has acknowledged its pricing model is wrong,” Mr Demos says. Retailers can now get discounted CVC fees, which he says demonstrates that the NBN Co knows the model is not working.

“We know NBN Co is looking at it because they’ve acknowledged the pricing model needs to be changed,” he said.

Read the rest of this article at Independent Australia


Where is the Australian Jeremy Corbyn hiding?

June 27, 2017

BRITISH LABOUR LEADER Jeremy Corbyn has achieved rock star status in the UK, he gave a radical speech to a crowd of 120,000 cheering music fans and the British ruling class is worried.

One of my Facebook friends described Corbyn’s speech at Glastonbury as the reawakening of English socialism, not seen since the days of Marx and Engels.

That might be a slight exaggeration, but Corbyn has certainly ignited a welcome spark of resistance to austerity, the Tories and capitalism. Now the search has begun to find our local saviour.

I’ve been quite bemused by speculation on the Australian Left about who might be “our” Jeremy Corbyn. A number of names have been put forward, but none of them is a viable contender in my view.

The most obvious nominee to the role is Anthony Albanese of the NSW Labor Left faction. But Albo does not aspire to be our Jeremy. He has publicly said he doesn’t want the job and that he thinks Corbyn is too left wing. Albo is actually totally unsuited to being the Aussie Jeremy. Corbyn has been an activist all his life, even while in Parliament. Albo is a grey suit in a lobby of grey suits who poses as a cool DJ on weekends.

Albo is a dud.

This week another likely candidate popped up but one with even less left credentials than Albanese. Queensland MP Wayne Swan has made vaguely pro-worker statements to the ACTU conference this week, but his rhetoric falls far short of Corbyn’s. Swan has also attempted to boost his standing with the Labor Left by meeting with Bernie Sanders, but he also met International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials on the same trip. Swan’s “revolution”, is really just a fig leaf for more business as usual politics.

If not from Labor then where? Read the rest of this entry at Independent Australia.


I’m back in the Press Gallery – Now what?

April 25, 2017

Political editor Dr Martin Hirst talks about being back in the Press Gallery on behalf of IA.

We’ve done it. IA has gained a place in the Canberra Press Gallery. After months of work, putting together our submission, seeking endorsements from IA subscribers and current members of the Gallery, and preparing a portfolio of my work to be scrutinised by the committee.

In the four days our GoFundMe campaign has been live we’ve already reached 75 per cent of our initial goal of $10,000.

Thanks very much to everyone who’s donated so far and to all of you who will donate. With just a little more help, it looks like we will be in Canberra for the Budget session in May.

Originally published on Independent Australia as Rejoining the Press Gallery

From application to attending

Getting back into the game was a labour of love for me. I was curious about my chances of getting back into the Press Gallery after such a long absence and on behalf of an upstart media outfit that makes friends and enemies quickly and in almost equal measure. (I’m sure we have more friends than enemies, judging your generosity so far.)

So now I’m pleased, but also apprehensive. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.

I was only a bit confident about the outcome at first. I knew our application was pretty good and that it ticked all the Gallery’s required boxes, but that was no guarantee they’d accept it.

We applied under the rules for ‘Freelancers, Bloggers and New Organisations’, which required us to get endorsements from existing members of the Gallery. And I’d like to thank the Gallery members who endorsed our application.

I don’t know, but our path may have been made a little easier by the fact that I have previously held Gallery accreditation. I worked as a correspondent for SBS for nearly three years from 1990 to 1993, so I had experience and some credibility perhaps.

Anyway, we’re in.

I was in Canberra on the 28th and 29th of March to collect my yellow pass from the Security Pass Office and took the opportunity to escort managing editor Dave Donovan and Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones around the building.

It was quite a nostalgic trip for me and it took me all afternoon to familiarise myself with all the routes around the non-public parts of Parliament House.

It reminded me that one of the missions we have in being in the Gallery is to show you what’s behind the curtain.

A lot of the important centres of power in Canberra are hidden in plain sight. The non-public parts of the Parliament building, like George Brandis’ diaries, hold a lot of secrets that they are unwilling to share with the public.

Unfortunately, IA’s presence in the Gallery is upsetting for some NewsCorpse scribblers. I’m not going to link to their spiteful drivel and the only comment I’ve got is “Suck it up children.”

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World War 3 – will it start over North Korea?

April 25, 2017

Since the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House the world appears to be moving closer to a catastrophic military conflict that threatens nuclear Armageddon. In this first in a series, political editor Dr Martin Hirst assesses the possibility that we’re already fighting World War Three.

‘The fear of war hangs over society. This is almost literally true, for it is not the invader in the streets but the warhead exploding on us which dominates our nightmares.’

~ Martin Shaw, Dialectics of War, 1988

(Image via @BlackJesuscom)

THIS IS A SERIES that looks at global flashpoints and their potential to blast the world into a nuclear nightmare. It was once unthinkable that strategic nuclear weapons might be used in a world-wide war, but now we need to start thinking it is more likely than not.

And just this month, Donald J Trump caused the “Mother of all bombs” to be dropped in Afghanistan to explode over… we may never know what exactly.

Are we already inside World War Three?

In this series, I will look at Asia, the Middle East and Europe as places where potential nuclear trigger points might occur and then, on a brighter note, I’ll offer some suggestions about how we might stop it.

Let’s begin on our own doorstep.

We are not neutral

We are not neutral and we never have been. Australia is a willing and active partner in many of today’s global conflicts. Despite contrary propaganda, this does not make us safer, it increases the risk that we will be a target too.

Pine Gap makes us a target for Chinese and possibly North Korean and Russian nukes. I’m more worried about China and Russia because they both have nuclear-capable submarines that can reach us almost undetected.

When 1,250 US marines flew into Darwin this week, the NewsCorpse rag that dominates Northern Territory journalism, the NT News, could hardly contain its jingoistic excitement, declaring on page one that they are “ready to fight” against “our” common enemies.

We should be under no illusion or misapprehension about their intent:

Lieut. Colonel Middleton said when US Marines were in forward deployment they were ready for battle.

“I think that the commitment that we’ve taken to put a task force here with a conversation to get larger over the years says that we do think this is an important region,” Lieut. Colonel Middleton said.

When asked about the North Korea stand-off he said: “We stand ready to fight.”

I can only hope that this made the good souls of Darwin feel a lot safer, knowing that they are potentially within range of North Korean rockets.

We all have “potential”

It’s important to focus on this word “potentially”, because it is a crucial qualifier.

Our foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has used the threat of a DPRK nuclear strike on Australia as one reason for enthusiastically welcoming over 1,000 marines to northern Australia, but the threat is not imminent, or even realistic today.

Weapons experts agree that North Korea is at least four years away from developing a ballistic missile capable of a) carrying a nuclear warhead and b) travelling as far as Australia without blowing up mid-flight.

Speaking on the ABC’s AM program earlier this week Bishop was keen to talk up the North Korean “threat”.

[North Korea] is on a path to achieving nuclear weapons capability and we believe Kim Jong-un has a clear ambition to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload as far as the US.”

But what Bishop ignores here – and she hopes you will too – is that while North Korea’s nuclear threat is only “potential”, the United States has a proven nuclear capability and a proven propensity to use atomic weapons.

Not only that, hawkish American analysts are now insisting that the U.S. must strike first and this first strike should happen sooner rather than later.

…the United States must plan to destroy North Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile sites sometime in the next several years — and perhaps within the next two.

At the same time, it must be expected that the American action would trigger the North Korean military to instinctively launch a full-scale retaliatory strike against the Republic of Korea (ROK) along the armistice line of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), whether or not Mr. Kim remains alive. With that as a given, the United States must prevent such an event by launching, simultaneously with the initial attack on the North Korean nuclear and ICBM facilities, a full-scale offensive against the North’s positions along the DMZ. There can be no delay in this U.S.-ROK offense, for it is essential to preclude North Korea’s own counteroffensive against the South.

This is a clear statement of aggression from the American side.

The argument for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea is that its patron-state, China, is incapable of stopping Pyongyang through purely diplomatic efforts.

So is China an ally or an enemy?

This piece first published on Independent Australia as Are we already fighting World War 3?

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ABC Board “stacked” after Turnbull appoints Minerals Council chairwoman

March 22, 2017

Walkley Award-winning reporter and writer Quentin Dempster says the decision to appoint Minerals’ Council chair Vanessa Guthrie to the ABC Board was a “direct ‘political’ choice” that is “provocative and revealing”. As Doc Martin reports, it seems to many like a return to the bad old days of political stacking.

THE MOVE to appoint Vanessa Guthrie, against the advice of an “arms-length” process, follows years of “arrogant disregard” by the major political parties to complaints about “stacking the ABC Board with political partisans,” says veteran reporter Quentin Dempster.

Dempster also told Independent Australia that Guthrie “misunderstood” the importance of being an effective lobbyist for the national broadcaster in front of Parliament and the Government.

Quentin Dempster is a former ABC staff representative on the ABC Board and now an outspoken critic of successive governments cutting funding.

He hopes the plight of the ABC and SBS will become a major issue at the next federal election.

“All Australians who want our public broadcasters to contribute to a sense of national identity and multi-cultural cohesion will have to stand up for these institutions.”

The well-loved broadcaster and journalist says Michelle Guthrie “stuffed up” in her role as managing director of the ABC in front of the Senate Estimates Committee at the end of February.

Traditionally, the public role of a managing director has been “to build bridges with the government and the parliament and specifically with the Expenditure Review Committee to secure additional funding,” Dempster says.

Failing this, Dempster says, the MD should “at least try to diminish Treasury’s claw back tactics.”

Quentin Dempster in 2014 condemning ABC budget cuts

Read the rest of this story at Independent Australia


Breaking a bad law is an act of conscience, not a crime

March 22, 2017

Show me an unjust law and I’ll happily break it

What precious snowflakes Australian political journalists are. Bernard Keane has written an excellent piece in Crikey about the hypocrisy of reporters “tut tutting” the new ACTU (and first female) secretary, Sally McManus, for suggesting that breaking an unjust law was something she – and the trade union movement – would be prepared to do.

Keane points out that reporters who regularly publish stories from leaked documents are breaking the law. He skewered Turnbull and the Liberals by pointing out that the whole of the NSW branch of the party contravened political donation laws and he noted that employers (bosses) regularly flout the tax laws, the employment law and occupational health and safety regulations in pursuit of profit.

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