March against the fascists in Melbourne 12 January 2019

January 13, 2019
Why we have to mobilise against the far-right

On Saturday 12 January 2019 over 1000 anti-racists marched through the streets of Melbourne to show that we are stronger and larger than the Neo-Nazis who held a rally the previous weekend on St Kilda beach.

The counter rally was organised by the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism at very short notice, but it was significant and a powerful response to the fascists.

It was also important to counter-act the dangerously conservative and passive idea that we should just ignore the Nazis and they will go away because their views are abhorrent to mainstream Australia.

The latter might be true, but the way that fascists become normalised and their vews become mainstream is by having the streets to themselves. We will not allow that to happen and here’s why.

You can read the reasons why on my Patreon site. Sign up to support my fiercely independent reporting from only one dollar a word.

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Ethical Martini has joined Patreon

January 10, 2019

Hello to all my faithful subscribers and welcome if you’ve just dropped in here randomly or out of curiosity. This is the last post I’ll be doing on this platform, at least for a while. Eventually I will continue to archive my writing here, but if you want to see it when it’s fresh and relevant, you will have to make the move with me.

I have now taken up residence at Patreon and I’ve moved all my online real estate and social media action to that site. I have done this because I’m now working in the “gig economy” and I need to make a living.

I’m hoping you’ll follow me to Patreon and consider subscribing to my feed from there. I have a very cheap option of $1.0) per month, which I’m calling “A dollar a word”, but of course feel free to consider a higher level of membership.

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If you’re not sure what Patreon is, or what it’s for, you can read about it on the FAQ site”: What is Patreon?

Here is a sample of what I’ll be doing via Patreon, as you can imagine, it revolves around journalism and art.

Syndicated journalism
I have written for several progressive online outlets over the past few years, but the honest truth is they cannot pay me a living wage. I am planning to syndicate my work to several of the better outlets so that it can reach a wider audience. If you’d like to support progressive journalism and help me increase the reach of my work please consider becoming a Patreon.

Political Reporting
I am a member of the Canberra Press Gallery and also the Victorian gallery in Melbourne. I would like to spend more time on political reporting and, in particular, I’d like to cover the 2019 federal election in some detail. I would like to build up a salon of Patreons to fund some travel and other expenses so that I can go on the road this year.

Freedom of Investigation
A lot of public interest stories never get told because the smoking gun documents are hidden behind a veil of secrecy. There is only one way to peek behind this curtain and that is Freedom of Information requests. However, Freedom of Information is never free. In fact, there are huge financial costs involved in successfully releasing information from its hiding place. There is a lodgement fee of between $30 and $50 for each request and then there’s the cost of actually having the request processed which can reach into the hundreds of dollars. I am currently funding my own FOI requests, but I sure could use some help. If you’d like to support my Freedom to Investigate, consider becoming a Patreon.

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I am an established writer when it comes to political commentary. I can write 100s of 1000s of words that are insightful and entertaining. I write with wit, intelligence and humour and I can do it all day. The problem is, I have to pay my bills.

Art is its own reward
OK, so I’m no Van Gogh, but I do have a garret studio and I think I’d make a good Impressionist. My patreons will be rewarded with a selection from my extensive catalogue and for the right price you can even commission a work.

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I already curate a lot of content via social media, including my Twitter account Ethical Martini, a WordPress blog, also called Ethical Martini, and six paper.li publications.
The paper.li publications are currently operating without much input from me except for being populated by the various Twitter lists I manage. My first goal on Patreon is to unlock the full potential of these paper.li feeds by taking a paid account.

 

 


Victorian election candidates: anti-muslim rants, date rape rapping but hey — who cares?

November 20, 2018

Having a plan to make a difference

I live in the safe Labor seat of Ivanhoe and, unlike the socialist foot soldiers who’ve descended on neighbouring Preston, nobody’s tried to doorknock my place, even though I am home most days and evenings. I did see the Liberal candidate, Monica Clark, in my street on a supervised walk-around, but maybe, after my side-eye glare as I pulled up to the kerb, she figured talking to me would be a waste of time.

What I have noticed though, is that many candidates, particularly from the major parties, are reluctant to put their party affiliation on the ubiquitous core flute posters. Instead, they rely on anodyne, ultimately meaningless slogans. Everybody is “Making a Difference”, or “Has a plan,” what they don’t tell us is what kind of difference will they make, or what their plan is supposed to achieve.

There was one exception I saw in the bayside suburb of St Kilda in the Albert Park electorate. There, the local Liberal candidate, Andrew Bond, has a plan to make the streets safer. He even managed to get a few lines of specific policy onto his roadside banner. He will install more street lighting and “engage with the community”. I only hope this guy gets a licensed electrician to install the new street lights at busy intersections because he doesn’t look fit enough to climb a light pole. No doubt it will make the street girls and the cruise-by punters on Carlisle street feel much safer knowing there’s enough light to record their movements and car number plates. Maybe he’ll wait and engage with local residents first; they might just tell him his plan sucks and he can save himself the bother of having to traipse around Elsternwick in a hi-viz vest carrying a ladder and a box of LED light fittings.

I’ve seen very few core flutes on my travels around the suburbs of Melbourne, but if the sheer number of posters and door-knocking volunteers is a guide to winners and losers then the Victorian Socialists’ candidate Stephen Jolly should easily win an upper house seat in the Northern Metropolitan division of the Legislative Council.

Unusually, the Victorian upper house has multimember electorates (divisions) and so there are five seats up for grabs in each electorate. The race in Metro North division – like most upper house contests – is likely to result in status quo in terms of the first four seats decided and the fifth seat is predicted to be a contest between Stephen Jolly and the incumbent, Fiona Patten of Reason (formerly the Sex Party). It is impossible to know how this will go because ten other minor party candidates are also running, and so preference swap deals could be crucial to the final outcome.

As it stands, Jolly and his team of enthusiastic young volunteers have been campaigning across a huge area of Melbourne that starts in the trendy inner northern suburb of Northcote, extends through the extensive migrant belt around Coburg and then out to the recently-settled northwest where farmland has been replaced with vast dormitory suburbs, many of which didn’t exist at the last election in 2014. The Victorian Socialists have had hundreds of volunteers out canvassing votes every weekend for at least the last six weeks and they’re confident of having about a thousand people on polling day to cover the 106 voting places across the electorate. On the other hand, Fiona Patten has a high profile, she is the incumbent and she is more palatable to the liberal media than a real socialist.

Every promise kept and a free set of steak knives

Now that the campaign is nearly over, the party promises have also become more niche, even approaching the level of ludicrous. The Liberal-National coalition has promised to give low-income households free televisions and cheap fridges if they upgrade to more energy-efficient models; but at the same time, Matthew Guy has promised to build a big new shiny (and presumably “clean”) coal or gas-fired power station to guarantee the generation of electricity to hospitals and schools. I wrote about energy policy a couple of weeks ago and most experts agree the COALition plan is backward-looking.

For its part, Labor has made the sensible promise to supply free sanitary products in the state’s schools.

Of course, there are some bigger issues in play too and some other candidates with plans that haven’t been going exactly according to plan.

Read the rest of this piece at Michael West’s news website.

Is the Wentworth by-election result the middle of the beginning of the end for Skid?

October 21, 2018

I woke up this morning with a slight headache. Maybe it was the blackbird singing outside my bedroom well before dawn; maybe it was a disturbed sleep because the cat kept jumping on my head.

Nah, it was the celebration of the middle of the beginning of the end of  Scott Morrison’s interim occupation of the Prime Minister’s comfy leather couch.

 

I admit it. I probably had too much to drink, but who didn’t?

COALition supporters were either drowning their sorrows or drinking angrily whilst plotting revenge against someone — anyone really — on the other side of the factional fence.

Labor supporters were celebrating their guy losing so convincingly in a winning kind of way; while the Greens will find an excuse to drink at any time.

Kerryn Phelps deserves to nurse her own hangover this morning too. She has woken up to the aftermath of a political tsunami that rose up out of Double Bay on Saturday morning and came crashing down along the sandy coastline from Bronte to the Sydney Heads in the evening twilight.

It feels delicious to write this morning that Skid has led his tory scum to their worst EVER defeat in a by-election. It is historic and has captured attention from the international media.

Wentworth Nightmare

Read the rest of this entry »


Someone get Skid a mirror; he no longer recognises Australia

October 17, 2018

Somebody needs to get interim Prime Minister Scott Morrison a mirror. I didn’t get a chance to watch Question Time this week, I was usefully engaged at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, but I noticed that at one point on Wednesday afternoon Skid Toryscum cleverly called across the chamber to the Opposition leader that he was “just another politician in a suit”.

politician in a suit

Really, Skid; is that the best you can do?

Of course Bill Shorten’s a politician in a suit. You are all politicians in suits; you are cookie-cutter copies of each other. You are one of them despite your apparent blindness.

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Mate, just take a look around you; or even better, use the mirror in the bathroom.

Mirror in the bathroom recompense

For all my crimes of self defense

Cures you whisper make no sense

Drift gently into mental illness.

And yes, it seems the Morrison government is gently drifting into mental illness.

At least we might expect something like “We were suffering a nervous breakdown,” to be the next idiotic defence they slide into when the inevitable steaming pile of their own excrement leaks out of their sagging arses and flies into the rotating blades of the aero-oscilator that’s just around the corner.

Why? Because this week their fallback position was that they are in fact incompetent and make silly “administrative errors” that lead a majority of coalition senators to vote for Pauline Hanson’s white supremacist call sign.

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On days like this it is seriously embarrassing to be a white Australian. Of course, none of us can be held responsible for the colour of our skin; that is a simple accident of genetics and parental hook-ups; but we can be held responsible for our attitudes.

We need to hold these useless seat-warmers to account; preferably by holding their feet to a very hot fire.

The senators who voted for Hanson’s racist rubbish had plenty of time to work out what it was about. The motion was on the Senate notice paper since 19 September.

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Nobody who voted “Yes” to the neo-Nazi meme can hide behind the lame excuse that they didn’t know.

As for those Senators who said  — on the floor of the chamber — that they didn’t care, or that they were just “following orders”; well how can they  sit there without remorse and not resign in shame?

Their excuses are pathetic, like this one from Senator Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

“As acknowledged by Matthias there was an error in the Senate vote yesterday.

“In fact, my own understanding was that the Government would be voting against this motion.

“I was unaware that when we entered the Senate to vote that it was on this particular motion.

“I am sorry for any suggestion that either I, my colleagues or the Government supports any form of racism and I categorically reject any implication contained in yesterday’s motion that downplays racism and historic injustices against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.”

He has once again proven himself unfit for the job. His apology is meaningless; this is a time when “Sorry” doesn’t cut it.

Nah, piss off Nigel. You should resign your ministry.

As for Senator Lucy Gichuhi. Well, she’s there because of a countback and she was a candidate for some horrible right-wing ginger group [Bob Day’s Family First party, which is now defunct]; but FFS what was she thinking?

We should not be surprised if Senator Fraser Anning of the Mad Katter Party gets up next week and moves a motion along the lines of “The Senate approves of the fourteen words, that 88 is Australia’s national number and, henceforth 20 April is declared National Australian Zeppelin Inspector’s Day.”

I have no doubt that, given the propensity for creating their own perpetual omnishambles, we could easily see 25 coalition senators voting for the motion and then blame it on a “slight mix-up in scheduling” when someone points out the horror of what they’ve just done.

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However, one thing did make me a proud Australian this week. I was doubly delighted because I’m also a soccer fan.

On his debut for the Socceroos, Awer Mabil scored a great goal against Kuwait.

Mabil and his good friend Thomas Deng shared the excitement of playing their first game together for Australia’s national team. They are refugees from Sudan and they have more Australian spirit in their hearts, their souls and soles of their tricky feet than the entire Morrison Senate team.

The problem is that Skid Toryscum can’t see these great young Australians. He’s too busy gazing at his own lilywhite projection of racist fear to notice that the country has changed around him.

Morrison is looking to the past, Thomas and Awer are the future, I can’t wait to get there.


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Finally, I’d  just like to dedicate this classic ska hit to our Prime Minister.

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#Reefgate: Foundation plans to keep “lottery win” fortune

August 11, 2018

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has found itself the subject of unwanted attention as further details of its $443 million funding deal with Malcolm Turnbull come to light. However, as political editor Dr Martin Hirst writes, the GBRF has no intention of returning the money.

First published at Independent Australia

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation are facing mounting pressure to nullify the agreement to hand the Foundation a $443 million lottery win.

However, in a statement to IA on Wednesday afternoon, the GBRF made it clear that it intends to continue with administration of the grant and that it had not had any conversation with the Prime Minister or Environment Minister about returning the money:

‘We are focused on delivering on the grant agreement and protecting and restoring the Reef. That’s our core mission — raising funds and working to deliver the science, the research and the projects that can best help the Reef.’

This week, Labor’s environment spokesperson, Tony Burke, launched an online petition demanding the money be returned to Treasury. The call for a refund of the grant has been backed by the Greens and several environmental groups. Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, said the deal “stinks” in a conversation on ABC radio.

“That money should be returned. There should be an open, transparent tender process and, if we had a national anti-corruption watchdog, this matter would be referred to it because it stinks.”

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So far, Malcolm Turnbull has resisted the growing pressure and continued this week to argue that the grant process was above board and, of course, used an interview on ABC’s 7:30 to claim that it was all Labor’s fault.

ABC 7:30 – MONDAY, 6 AUGUST 2018

LEIGH SALES (HOST): Let’s whip through other things that people will likely talk about when you resume next week. Can you explain why you gave a $500 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation without any tender process, grant application or competition?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, it was a very thorough process, a whole Cabinet process leading up to the budget.

SALES: Before or after you offered the money, did the Cabinet process happen?

TURNBULL: It all went through beforehand. We had a whole ERC process. We concluded we wanted to offer the Great Barrier Reef Foundation…

SALES: How did you settle on them? They said they never asked for money.

TURNBULL: Well, that is right. But they are an outstanding Reef charity. They have had substantial money from the Federal Government before, including from a Federal Labor Government.

SALES: But how do we know that for the use of this money, an enormous investment in the Reef, how do we know that they are the best to spend that $500 million?

TURNBULL: That’s the judgement we took as Government.

SALES: Why wouldn’t you put that to competitive tender?

TURNBULL: Because they were clearly the best team to do it. Can I say to you, Leigh, what the Labor Party are doing now is they are embarrassed they did not put serious funding into the Reef. Under the Labor Party’s watch, the Reef was put on the endangered watch list by UNESCO. Because of our good management, it has come off the endangered list. The management of the Reef is regarded as the best in the world. We put this substantial amount of funding into it. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation attracts substantial funding from the private sector, it has support from the Queensland State Government and this grant, by the way, not only went through a Cabinet process, it actually went, it’s in the budget, it was voted on in Parliament. It’s in an appropriations act.

SALES: In an appropriations act, not as stand-alone legislation.

TURNBULL: It’s been considered and approved by the Parliament.

There’s plenty to unpack here, but first and foremost is Turnbull’s lie about the Reef being on the UNESCO “endangered watch list”. There is no such list, but perhaps there’s a clue to Turnbull’s reasoning behind the $443 million grant that blindsided most observers and other groups with an interest in Reef politics.

According to a briefing report by the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Government was looking for ways to keep a commitment it made to UNESCO in 2016 to commit $716 million to the Reef Action Plan 2050 between 2015 and 2020. This promise was made to keep the Reef environment off the World Heritage “In Danger” list that UNESCO keeps.

Without the extraordinary gift of funds to the GBRF, the Turnbull Government was never going to meet its obligations to UNESCO. In 2015, only $20.7 million was committed to Reef health and, in 2016-17, only $44.7 million.

The ACF briefing paper makes the point that the GBRF will not be able to spend the funds in time – by 2020 – to meet the Government’s promise to UNESCO. In fact, the Government’s and the Foundation’s own statements indicate that the funding will carry through to 2024.

The ACF argues that, on the evidence, it looks like the handout to the GBRF was an attempt to make it appear that the bulk of the $716 million promised to UNESCO was being honoured.

The ACF briefing concludes that the 2020 commitment is now at risk.

‘The Government has outsourced most of its investment commitment to Reef 2050 Plan actions to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. In doing so, it has laden a single not-for-profit organisation with significant organisational scale, expertise and program delivery challenges. In doing so, the Federal Government has put at risk its 2020 investment commitment made to the World Heritage Committee.’

According to ACF Reef campaigner Matt Rose, Malcolm Turnbull also wanted a big political announcement that might help him in campaigning for another term.

Rose also told IA that by announcing the whole amount in the 2018 budget process it locked in the grant so that it could not be clawed back in future forward estimates. As Rose put it to IA, there are a lot of people in the COALition who would like to scuttle the deal.

The ACF is also sceptical that the GBRF can manage the obvious conflicts of interest that arise because many of its board members have strong links to the fossil fuel industry.

Meanwhile, another environmental group has set a cat among the pigeons, with a claim that the grant to the GBRF may breach the Government’s own funding guidelines. I came to a similar conclusion in my Sunday piece for IA, but the Environmental Justice Australia group has taken this a step further.

In its submission to the Senate Committee on Environment and Communication inquiry into the Great Barrier Reef 2050 Partnership Program, the EJA suggested that the $443 million cannot be considered a grant, but should be treated as a procurement.

Here are the relevant paragraphs from the EJA argument:

The Government has now been forced to respond to this suggestion and the Department of Finance told the ABC that the document quoted by the EJA should be read in conjunction with other documents. However, this may just be another attempt at deflection.

Whatever the outcome of the next few days, there will be more pressure on the Government and the GBRF when the Senate committee examining the grant and the fallout meets again next week.

Unlike last time, it is expected that board members from the Foundation will front to answer questions.


Turnbull hits a reef: Gift to GBRF may sink him

August 11, 2018

This week, we learned that $443 million of taxpayer funds were gifted to a charitable foundation heavily supported by the fossil fuel industry without proper due diligence. As political editor Dr Martin Hirst writes, it might not save the Great Barrier Reef, but it might just sink Malcolm (Captain Bligh) Turnbull.

First published at Independent Australia as Malcolm Bligh hits a reef

MALCOLM TURNBULL has been MIA for most of the past week, but he emerged on Friday to defend his “captain’s call” decision to grant a business lobby group over $440 million in funds without, it seems, any due diligence at all.

The Prime Minister claims the funding process was above board and transparent, but this has not satisfied anyone outside of the Liberal Party.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie told IA that the whole deal is “at best, a collapse in proper process” and has “a dodgy stench about it”.

The May Budget revealed the grant, $443 million plus change, to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which until it was thrust into the media spotlight with this huge cash injection, had flown under the radar for most people.

To say that it took established environmental groups and most of us by surprise is an understatement. According to Andrew Wilkie, the GBRF is “an obscure organisation” that was gifted nearly half a billion dollars (more when the interest it will earn the Foundation is calculated) “without any tender process.”

It seems that even the GBRF’s own executive was a little taken aback by the Government’s generosity.

The Foundation’s chief executive, Anna Marsden, expressed her surprise and told a Fairfax journalist that it felt like winning the Lotto:

“We didn’t have much time before the announcement to be prepared for it. It’s like we’ve just won lotto — we’re getting calls from a lot of friends.”

Well, yes, except the Great Barrier Reef Foundation didn’t actually buy a ticket in that particular lottery. It turns out, we learned this past week, that the Foundation had not even asked for the money — it was handed over on a whim by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The details are well established now.

In early April, there was a private meeting in Sydney between Turnbull, Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg and the chair of the GBRF. The Foundation did not ask for the money and did not have the capacity to manage such a large injection of funds.

Indeed, the Foundation had six staff on its books and, in 2017, a turnover of just $8 million. This hardly put it in the position to become the lead organisation charged with coordinating efforts to save the Barrier Reef, from coral bleaching, eroding water quality and the effects of climate change.

That’s okay, then, because it has now emerged that climate change is not even mentioned in the publicly available documentation outlining the terms and conditions of this extraordinary gift.

And there’s no mention at all of the damage being caused to the Reef by fossil fuel consumption, or anything at all about proposals for more coal-laden bulk carriers to traverse fragile areas of the reef transporting brown coal to China and Japan.

This is surprising because scientists and environmental groups have identified the shipment of coal through the Reef as perhaps the most important threat to its ecosystem.

Another little snippet that adds further intrigue to this already curious tale is that the organisation that made the May 2016 claim that transporting coal is detrimental to reef health was the ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

This might leave you wondering why the Centre was not the recipient of the $443 million handout; or why other groups were overlooked.

Well, if there had been a competitive tendering process – the usual way such grant funds are distributed – maybe other groups with a good track record of work on reef recovery might have been given a share of the funds?

But, as we now know, there was no tendering process. The whole deal was concocted, cooked up, conceived and consummated with unseemly haste and in secret, away from public scrutiny.

Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg tried to clean up the spillage late in the week in a series of media appearances and, finally, Turnbull himself fronted the media and gave a grim press conference that repeated the assertion the deal was above the waterline, but he gave no relevant details.

Instead, what we got was the release of a boilerplate Grant Agreement that looks like someone’s unfinished homework. I’m going out on a limb here, but it looks to me like somebody in Turnbull’s office or the Department of Environment and Energy, did a quick “find and replace” editing job to put this together.

The released version is unsigned and sections of it are not completed, it is a standard template that someone forgot to clean up before putting it on the DEE website.

It is an extraordinary document and, given we know the GBRF did not apply for the funding, it is very light on details.

Applying for grants – particularly government funded grants – is a time-consuming, arduous and mentally-challenging task. Normally, all the details – such as a business plan, how you intend to spend the money, checks and balances, partners and governance arrangements – are worked out and presented in the application document.

Then, applications are assessed on merit and weighted according to how well the project is thought through and how robust the business case is in relation to partners, governance and so on.

However, none of this work has yet been done. The project agreement basically pays the Foundation to do all of this preparatory work with the grant money.

Not only that, but the initial funding, which runs for six years – the intended life of the project – has been handed out in one lump sum and it’s now sitting in Foundation bank accounts earning a tidy sum in interest. It has been calculated at around $40,000 per day.

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