Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 20 March 2018

Cruel, punitive and unfair treatment of asylum seekers

Last week, in news barely reported, we learnt that asylum seekers living in the Australian community were having their income support summarily cut by Peter Dutton’s Department of Home Affairs, and being left at risk of destitution.

Some of those who have had their status resolution support service (SRSS) cut arrived in Australia as unaccompanied minors and have since graduated from high school here. Some have won scholarships to university. With the withdrawal of financial support, some have been forced to withdraw from university because they cannot survive while studying.

Others who are studying English or training for a work qualification are being forced to choose between continuing their studies or finding immediate work to support themselves

Changes to the SRSS regime were imposed late last year, when individual asylum seekers, who were living legally in the Australian community on bridging visas, were told they were being cut off from their support. But details of the breadth of the policy have become clearer over recent weeks, with more and more asylum seekers affected, reported the Guardian Australia.

In a very cruel and ironic justification the government has outlined its rationale that asylum seekers judged to be “work-ready” will be required to be working: those who are seeking work, but are unable to find it, or who are studying for work qualifications or to improve their English, will not be eligible for assistance.

It is unclear how many people might be caught up in the changes, but agencies supporting asylum seekers estimate it could affect up to 10,000 people across the country, mainly but not entirely in Sydney and Melbourne.

Refugee advocates have said those stripped of their SRSS are vulnerable to exploitation in the workforce, forced to take any job, under any conditions, in order to survive.
Melbourne’s Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said the changes to the payments meant individuals and families waiting for their protection claims to be assessed could not pay rent, buy food or access mental healthcare.

The centre said the changes had not been clearly explained to asylum seekers, and said it was a “cruel twist of irony” to demand higher language requirements of would-be citizens while removing support from those studying English.

“If you don’t support people to meet basic needs, how can they learn to speak English and pass the government’s own proposed language test?” the ASRC’s Jana Favero said.
In Sydney, the principal solicitor with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, Sarah Dale, said “It’s not just a choice of ‘do I continue my studies?’, this is a choice about their future, we are limiting their ability to build a new life for themselves, and to integrate in Australia” she said.

The Greens’ immigration spokesman, Nick McKim, said cutting support payments to asylum seekers was “unconscionably cruel and punitive”.

Indeed, this is a deeply unfair decision which could force people into poverty, homelessness and exploitative jobs. Many people affected by these cuts are studying, and all of them are trying to rebuild their lives.

To retrospectively punish people in this way is unconscionably cruel, but sadly that’s what we’ve come to expect from Peter Dutton.

To add insult to injury we learnt last week that Mr Dutton is proposing to fast track offers of settlement to white South African farmers, which that government quite rightly described as “Offensive”.


My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 6 March 2018

Michael McCormack’s climate change views leave constituents high and dry

Michael McCormack’s elevation to the leadership of the Nationals and consequently the Deputy Prime Ministership has been fully commented on in the media over the past week and so there is no need to repeat the commentary here, though there are two issues I think worthy of further discussion.

One is his infamous homophobic Daily Advertiser editorial of 1993, and the other is his views on climate change. Both have implications for both his local and now national constituents.

Firstly, a brief comment in his homophobic editorial. As we all know, Mr McCormack has apologised for the hateful bile he wrote 24 years ago. Apologies are all well and good but they neither repair the damage he did, nor give back those years to those whose lives were lost or blighted by his attack.
I was a Senior Lecturer in Drama at CSU back then, and relatively ‘safe’ in what was essentially a privileged position, but hundreds of young people were not so fortunate, and had their lives blighted by Mr McCormack’s slurs. As a Letter to the Editor (Carl-James Asimus, DA, 1 March) wrote “Too often young gay people take their own lives as a result of hatred voiced against them by such figures as Mr McCormack.”

I challenged Mr McCormack to at least partly make amends by marching with me at the 40th Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade last Saturday, but sadly and unsurprisingly he didn’t show.

Let’s hope Mr McCormack will be more thoughtful in his new role, and may he do less harm, though damaged lives can’t all be repaired by the passage of time.
However, it is Mr McCormack’s views on climate change that will be of greater concern to most of his regional constituents. Last week Greens spokesperson for climate change and energy Adam Bandt MP used Parliamentary Question Time to question the new Deputy Prime Minister about his position on climate change.
“‘It appears that the second most powerful man in the country doesn’t believe in climate change,” said Mr Bandt.
The evidence comes from what Mr McCormack referred to as ‘so-called climate change’ in Parliament in 2012. In his first speech, he stated that just because there is less rain ‘It does not mean we all need to listen to a government grant-seeking academic sprouting doom and gloom about climate changing irreversibly’ he said, despite all the scientific evidence provided annually by the Bureau of Meteriology.
The irony of Mr McCormack’s stance as a climate change denier is plain to see. Climate change will lead to more extreme and more frequent droughts, heatwaves and bushfires, which impact on regional and rural Australia far more than they do on the major cities. His constituents are therefore in for a shock if they expect him to look after their interests.
It seems that Mr McCormack does not understand or does not want to understand the urgency of tackling climate change. As inaction on climate change is an ingrained Turnbull government specialty, the people Michael McCormack claims to represent will be left hot, high and dry.
The rise of the man from Wagga Wagga is a case of new face for a set of neoliberal, selfish policies that don’t serve the needs of rural and regional Australia let alone the office of Deputy Prime Minister.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, Tuesday 27 February 2018

The Florida tragedy demonstrates the need to tighten up our gun laws

In the aftermath of the Florida high school mass shooting I once again heard and read much commentary proposing that the USA would benefit by adopting Australian style gun laws.

In the USA the problem is in part the constitution’s 2nd Amendment, which reads ”A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The amendment wasn’t meant to give the right of everyone who felt like it to buy as many automatic assault weapons as they liked, but unfortunately that is how it has been interpreted by the National Rifle Association (NRA), most politicians (many of whom received millions of dollars in campaign funds from the NRA), and of course, the courts over the past 200 years or so.

At the time of writing however, there appears to be some movement to tighten up background checks in the USA, thanks to student activism, which will certainly help, but not solve the problem. President Trump’s proposal to arm teachers certainly won’t help, it would only make things worse.

However, rather than devote my column to American gun control my column inches would be better spent on looking at how well our much daunted gun laws stand up over 20 years since the John Howard gun control laws of 1996.

My interest was sparked in part by a media release from Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, which pointed out that to a large degree that important work had come undone. “While the work of former prime minister John Howard on gun control was outstanding, the ban on semi-automatic longarms now needs to be expanded to include semi-automatic hand guns” Senator Rhiannon said.

So let’s see how the Howard era guns laws are faring now. “It is easy to become complacent, to feel reassured when our guns policy is wheeled out as an example of sensible law whenever yet another mass murder highlights the lethal consequences of legal paralysis in America” (Lenore Taylor, Guardian Australia).

Indeed, an Australian gun control audit found that the states failed to fully comply with the 1996 agreement. The details of our firearms laws aren’t nearly as uniform, or secure, or stringent, as we might believe. They are under constant challenge from gun manufacturers devising weapons that fire far more shots, far more rapidly, than the legal categorisations ever imagined, and from a gun lobby that fervently believes those categories were too restrictive in the first place.

A review of gun laws ordered after the 2014 Lindt cafe siege in took 18 months of fraught negotiation for the federal and state governments to revise the agreement. Adler imports were supposed to be banned while governments worked things out, but the Nationals senators crossed the floor to support a motion lifting the ban.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party in New South Wales wants to repeal the national firearms agreement altogether, as does One Nation in Queensland.

In contrast, the Greens are calling for a the ban on semi-automatic longarms to be expanded to include semi-automatic hand guns.

It is high time politicians from the Liberal, Nationals, One Nation and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers parties got back to the spirit of 1996 and showed the courage of John Howard and Tim Fischer.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, 20 February 2018

It’s time – for a universal basic income

I’m spoilt for choice of topic this week, as many recent events are in need of commentary. Lack of space prevents detailed analysis of all bar one, so for the others I’ll confine my comments to brief remarks.

With regard to the Barnaby Joyce saga the one outstanding response for me is the overwhelming hypocrisy of the man. Having a consensual relationship while married to another woman is not the issue, for thousands have been there, but rather his massive, staggering hypocrisy when passing judgement on the LGBTIQ community. Mr Joyce also thought that preventing the risk of cervical cancer would encourage promiscuity in young women and so shouldn’t be supported. His gall beggars belief!

Another topic of note is that Mr Turnbull proudly announced that three ‘Closing the Gap’ categories were indeed closing, but glossed over those that were still miles apart for our First Nations’ young people. This is a cause for shame rather than celebration. Progress on only three?

Also last week came the revelation by the ABC that Qantas, BHP, Foxtel and Energy Australia are among hundreds of companies that haven’t paid corporate tax in Australia for the past decade. Mr Turnbull should forget about lowering the corporate tax rate and instead focus on closing the loopholes these companies exploit to avoid paying any tax at all!

However, in the number of words left in today’s column I’d like to focus on something that needs to be high up on the agenda of our social and political discourse, but sadly isn’t, and that is the concept of a universal basic income.

It has been advocated for some time by economists and social scientists. Politicians in some countries have actually put it into practice. In Australia it has floated in and out of our political arena for years, but until now has remained only an idea.

Essentially the notion of a universal basic income proposes that the government should pay everyone a regular payment to meet their basic needs, despite their income. It is proposed as a solution to inequality.

Here in Australia it was first seriously considered when the Whitlam government tasked Professor Ronald Henderson, the inaugural Director of the Melbourne Institute, to investigate all aspects of poverty affecting Australians, including race, education, health and law.

It’s report noted that “Poverty is not just a personal attribute: it arises out of the organisation of society.”


At the heart of the Henderson inquiry’s final recommendations was a guaranteed minimum income scheme, in which payments to pensioners (at a high rate) and payments to all other income units (at a lower rate) would be balanced by a proportional tax on all private income.

However, the Whitlam government was dismissed in 1975, six months after the final report. The new government of Malcolm Fraser hardly considered its recommendations.

Since then no government had paid any attention to the topic, but reflecting what is happening elsewhere, at least one Australian politician has put it firmly back on the agenda. Speaking at the National Press Club recently Senator Richard Di Natale said “Wages are flat, but corporate profits are booming. Inequality is out of control. Is there another way we can secure prosperity (for all)? We should not be afraid to follow those countries trialling a universal income.” Quite – it’s time to put an end to poverty.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, 13 February 2018

Coalition’s changes to Murray-Darling basin should and will fail

Thankfully the Turnbull government’s plan to reduce the amount of environmental water recovered each year in the northern basin of the Murray-Darling river by 70 gigalitres, announced last week, will likely be blocked in the Senate after Labor announced it would vote with the Greens to disallow changes to the plan, reported the Guardian Australia.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority proposed a reduction to the water recovery target in the north of the basin (mainly in Queensland and north-west NSW) from 390GL to 320GL. Farming communities in Queensland and north-west NSW had warned that they would suffer economic hardship if the higher water recovery targets were maintained.

Both the Greens and Labor expressed support for the views of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, which warned that the cut to the environmental water recovery target was not supported by the science on the river’s health.

In an advice in January, the Wentworth group warned the cut of 70GL would undermine the objectives of the basin plan and was inconsistent with the Commonwealth Water Act, which called on the authority to act “on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge and socioeconomic analysis”.

It said the amendment would not adequately protect important flow events (such as environmental flows or low flows) from being diverted by irrigators. It pointed to issues with current plans that allowed large legal diversions in some valleys and also pointed out that states had failed to deal with allegations of water theft.

The Wentworth Group called on the federal government to look at ways to mitigate economic impacts on communities, rather than lowering environmental standards.

Back to the politics. The shadow environment minister Tony Burke, when speaking against the proposal tried to have it both ways when he said Labor was not saying it would never support an amendment to the basin plan. However,  he redeemed himself when he said there had not been proper consultation with traditional owners along the river. Good point, Tony.

The heavy political lifting on the issue came from Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens’ spokeswoman on water,  who called a spade a spade by saying the plan to save the Murray-Darling basin was failing and the river would die without an urgent refocus.

“A full, independent audit of the plan is urgently needed,” she said. “The intervention by economists and scientists today shows that there’s serious lack of trust amongst policy experts” she concluded.

Indeed,  scandals of water theft, tampering of water meters and rorting of public money spent on water and irrigation subsidies with little water being returned to the river has undermined the plan and wasted billions of taxpayers’ dollars. Unfortunately this new proposal looks like another nail in the basin’s coffin.

“Despite these scandals, the Senate is being asked to agree to a further weakening of environmental allocations. The Greens will not stand by and let this happen, which is why we will move to disallow the government’s recent push to weaken the plan’s existing sustainable diversion limits” she concluded.

Scandals of water theft, tampering of water meters and rorting of public money spent on water and irrigation subsidies with little water being returned to the river has undermined the plan and wasted billions of taxpayers’ dollars. This new proposal is yet another nail in the basins coffin.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, 6 February 2018: Australia to become a leading merchant of death

“The government is going to pay us to build cluster bombs to maim the men, women and children of other countries!” read the caption to a cartoon in the Guardian Australia, and how appropriate it was, because that is what Malcolm Turnbull and his cronies are proposing.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australia is set to become one of the world’s top 10 defence exporters under an ambitious $3.8 billion government plan. The new defence export strategy released by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week aims to put Australia on par with major arms-exporting countries like Britain, France and Germany within 10 years.

The plan will also put us on par with Israel, and so I wasn’t surprised to see Christopher Pine spruiking this proposal as he joined the PM’s line-up, for Mr Pine has made many trips there. Israel is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of military weaponry, both hardware and soft, all of which, according to the Israeli sales pitch, has been ‘battle tested’ (in truth, we know that was in Palestinian Gaza and the West Bank).

If the big stuff only is counted, Israel ranks 10th in the world for arms exports, but if small arms, ammunition and electronic arms components are counted it would rank much, higher.

The government believes the strategy will create new jobs and bolster Australia’s shaky defence manufacturing industry, which struggles to sustain itself based on Australian Defence Force needs alone. A big boost in exports will insulate local manufacturers from the peaks and troughs – sometimes called the “valley of death” – of domestic demand.

“The centrepiece of the strategy will be a new financing facility that will make up to $3.8 billion available to Australian defence companies looking to sell overseas.

“It will provide confidence to our defence industry to identify and pursue new export opportunities, knowing that when a deal stacks up and export finance is needed, it’ll be there,” Mr Turnbull said.

But the government will also seek to boost exports in Europe, and the rapidly growing markets in Asia and the Middle East.

The government will spend a whopping $20 million a year to support the strategy: helping to identify export opportunities, making sure products are export-ready, and opening doors for Australian industry overseas.

A new Australian Defence Export Office will be established to implement the strategy, and an Australian Defence Export Advocate will be appointed to co-ordinate with the industry, and state and territory governments.

Sadly, Labor said it supported defence industry manufacturing jobs and the best way to ensure the industry’s strength was by expanding its export capacity.

The number of jobs this $20 million will create is very questionable, and of course could be invested in less lethal industries, as Richard Di Natale of the Greens said “If Bill Shorten is truly committed to peace in the region, if he’s truly committed to clean energy technology, to health and education services, then [he should say] that the billions this government promises to waste on exporting this technology to the rest of the world needs to be spent on things that really matter.”


Not-for-profit organisations are dismayed with the plan, with Tim Costello, the World Vision Australia chief advocate, saying the decision to become a major weapons manufacturer sends a shocking message about Australian values.

My Daily Advertiser column for this week

Our environmental protection efforts a global embarrassment

In yet another example of burying bad news during the festive season (or the silly one, take your pick) the federal Department of the Environment and Energy quietly released a draft plan in the week before Christmas titled Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2018-2030.

This is a mere 17-page document aiming to “care for nature in all our many environments” against threats such as climate change, feral pests, pollution and urban development. All that in 17 pages.

Not surprisingly then this official plan to protect the nation’s animals and plants has been denounced by critics as a “global embarrassment”, at the same time as a federal government adviser warns that future generations of Australians may never know a world rich in nature.

It comes amid figures showing 134 species have been classed as threatened in the seven years since Australia’s last plan to protect biodiversity was released, including the Cape York rock wallaby, the Australian fairy tern and the blue star sun orchid.

The ever-growing list points to a disastrous failure by successive state and federal governments to reverse the crisis of species loss.

Australia has one of the world’s worst extinction records and a national State of the Environment report last year declared biodiversity, which includes plant and animal species, habitats and ecological communities, was worsening.

Perhaps indicative of the government’s attitude, the new draft plan has dispensed with specific targets, and instead contains sweeping objectives such as “encourage Australians to get out into nature” and “enrich cities and towns with nature”.

Understandably, an alliance of Australia’s biggest environment groups including the Australian Conservation Foundation, The Wilderness Society and WWF described the document as “deeply inadequate” and “a global embarrassment” which shirked Australia’s international obligations to arrest a steep biodiversity decline.

The alliance, known as The Places You Love, decried the absence of measurable targets, and said the strategy contained no new funding or laws, or any other “concrete commitments to save Australia’s precious natural world.”

Humane Society International Australia head of programs Evan Quartermain said rather than addressing the failure to meet previous targets, the Turnbull government “has served up simplistic and unmeasurable dot points that … fall far short of the international commitments to conserve biodiversity we have made at the United Nations”.

Australian Conservation Foundation policy analyst James Trezise described it as a “wafer-thin plan … which reads like a Year 10 school assignment”.

A Sun-Herald editorial on this very topic, trying no doubt to find something of merit in this abysmal document, noted that “We, the people of Australia, are the collective custodians of this land and its future …We are custodians of its fauna, responsible for ensuring there will be flourishing diversity of species for generations to come.

Every one of us must play our part. Yet, when we look to the federal and state governments for leadership on this issue, there is an abysmal retreat under way.”

In a related issue, Greens Senator for Queensland Andrew Bartlett said last week that Malcolm Turnbull’s pledge of millions of dollars to protect the Great Barrier Reef ”is a wasteful publicity stunt aimed at distracting attention away from those who continue to put the Reef at risk.”

If Mr Turnbull was serious about protecting the Great Barrier Reef, he would listen to scientists and transition away from the real reef-killer: the fossil fuel industry.

My Daily Advertiser column for Tuesday 23 January 2018: Most don’t mind what day Australia Day is held

In recent weeks I’ve been gearing up to write today’s column on the topic of Australia Day, preparing to argue that 26 January isn’t an appropriate date, whilst at the same time being subject to a barrage of propaganda from many politicians and commentators firmly denying there should be change.

Though I was heartened by a few lone voices calling for change, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that ‘Most Australians don’t mind what date it’s held, according to new poll’ (ABC Radio AM).

Conducted by Canberra think-tank The Australia Institute, and released amid increased debate about the date, the poll found that 56% of Australians don’t mind when it’s held, and 37% found 26 January to be offensive. Almost half, 49%, felt that it should not be on a date offensive to Indigenous Australians.

In a Daily Advertiser survey of only 400 people the figures didn’t quite match, but even so 35% found the date to be inappropriate.

It’s offensive because to many of us the day Captain Phillip established the British convict settlement at Sydney Cove is quite rightly regarded as ‘Invasion Day’, marking the beginning of the British conquest of a civilisation dating back 60,000 years. That conquest decimated the First Peoples of this land, and as we are all too aware, the consequences are still being felt.

Another clear reason for changing the date is that it does not in any way mark the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia, which was on 1 January 1901. Between 1788 and 1900 what we know as Australia was simply a series of separate British colonies, beginning with NSW, then Van Diemen’s Land, then the Swan River colony (later WA) and so forth.

Appropriately then Greens leader Richard Di Natale has launched a renewed campaign for change, and quite sensibly jumped on the survey’s figures.

“What it does demonstrate is there is a great opportunity to move the nation forward, to choose a day that allows us to celebrate all the things that it means to be Australian,” he said.

PM Turnbull has been arguing to keep the dater as it is, and Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge is adamant there is no need for change.

“It is a great unifying moment for this country where we properly celebrate our history, our Indigenous heritage, our British foundations and the multicultural character of this nation,” he said.

It certainly beats me how the settlement of one small penal colony can be a unifying moment for an entire continent and federal nation state, Mr Tudge.

Perhaps we might find the momentum for change coming from the grassroots, as several local government councils have abandoned 26 January. Last year, following the lead of the WA’s Fremantle council, Moreland, Darebin and Yarra councils “The Greens are planning to use their numbers in local governments across the country to spearhead a push to move Australia Day” said Di Natale.

Of course, changing the date begs the question of when the new date should be. 1 January is already a public holiday and so most would probably resent losing a day off, and given that for 67 years the Commonwealth of Australia legally didn’t recognise its First Peoples even as human beings, let alone citizens, it would still be offensive to many.

Perhaps the Australia Institute deputy director Ebony Bennett pointed the way when she noted that “Some people chose events that haven’t happened yet —like signing a treaty with the Aboriginal people of Australia or when Australia becomes a republic”.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column fror today, Tuesday 15 January 2018

New evidence of corruption shows need for a Federal ICAC

Last week it was reported that in the last three years the number of federal public servants who have witnessing corruption in the workplace has doubled. When will Malcolm Turnbull wake up to the need to establish a national anti-corruption watchdog?

Last year, despite endless political scandals, the old parties still teamed up to block a motion from the Greens for an anti-corruption watchdog. What do they have to hide?

The clear majority of our public service sector do important work and conduct themselves with the utmost integrity. Yet more accounts of corruption demonstrate that we desperately need to establish an independent anti-corruption watchdog

Let’s look at the details. A survey of the bureaucracy revealed 5 per cent of respondents said they had seen misconduct, with cronyism and nepotism the most common charge.

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has admitted there is some corruption in the bureaucracy, but stressed it remained rare and staff were vigilant to the threat.

However, former New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Anthony Whealy said corruption could be more widespread than many realised. “We know that in the public service whistleblowing is absolutely frowned on,” Mr Whealy told the ABC.

“People who work in the public service, in many instances, would be afraid to report their superiors or even their equals who are involved in corruption.”

For the first time, the APSC has asked whether staff believed they worked in a high corruption risk environment. Most respondents in 59 agencies agreed this was the case.

Mr Whealy, who is also the president of Transparency International, said it showed the need for an independent watchdog.

“I think there is a significant chance that these figures are very conservative and the level of inappropriate behaviour amounting in some cases to corruption would be considerably higher than these figures demonstrate,” he said.

Leading administrative law barrister Mark Robinson SC said he had no doubt there was corruption at all levels of government.

“Whenever there is discretionary statutory power exercised that is not openly accountable to external and independent scrutiny, corruption can and will flourish,” he said.

Public servants are subject to Senate estimates hearings and independent audits, but proponents of a federal commission said more oversight was required.

Last month Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull did open the door to a national anti-corruption body, albeit only slightly. Now he should engage with the National Integrity Committee (NIC) set up last month to advise policy makers on the best model.

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s very small policy shift the Greens democracy spokesperson, Senator Lee Rhiannon said, “The Prime Minister will undermine his own announcement that he is considering a national anti-corruption body if he continues to advocate for a model similar to the Victorian IBAC.

“The IBAC itself has acknowledged that it is unable to investigate serious allegations because it lacks legislative teeth”.

With polling consistently showing that about 80 per cent of Australians recognise that there is corruption at a federal level the Prime Minister would be in dangerous territory if he thought he could get away with setting up a weak and restricted oversight body.

“I strongly urge the Prime Minister to follow the advice of the National Integrity Committee. This body can help remove the roadblocks that to date have stopped the formation of a federal corruption watchdog” Senator Rhiannon added.

The federal government should heed this new evidence and move immediately to establish a full federal ICAC.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, 2 January 2018

Despite marriage equality finally being achieved, 2017 otherwise not a good year

Though Australia’s belated recognition of marriage equality was a justifiable cause for celebration, the year just past had little else to shout about. Indeed, politically it was a pretty miserable year all round.

Internationally Saudi Arabia and Iran continue their proxy war in Yemen, slaughtering many and killing millions more through war induced cholera or starvation. The Myanmar military seems intent on the ethnic cleansing of the country’s Rohingya population while Aung San Suu Kyi, previously the heroine of progressives just about everywhere, looks the other way.

Speaking of ethnic cleansing, Donald Trump further extended the United States’ support for Greater Israel by recognising Jerusalem as being solely Israel’s capital, at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians, for he was in fact acknowledging Israel’s illegal annexation of Palestinian East Jerusalem, with its vastly expanded boundaries eastward into the West Bank. And just to show two can play at that game, the defeat of IS in Syria has in part resulted in the Assad’s brutal dictatorial regime being confirmed in power, courtesy of Russia’s President Putin.

Here at home the political scene has been messy, to say the least. The Liberals had to contend with sniping from their own back bench (thank you Mr Abbott) and their constantly negative poll trend, while the Nationals ended the year with some spectacular infighting of their own, like a bunch of bulls in a paddock, as the Guardian’s Katherine Murphy memorably put it.

After a year of encouraging opinion polls Labor ended the year by spectacularly underperforming in the Bennelong byelection, no doubt in part due to the Lib/Nats exploitation of the Sam Dastyari mess.

Surely Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Senate stunt of dressing in a full burqa was a real low for Australian politics. It was blatant ‘dog whistle’ designed to appeal to her voters, though perhaps it was more of a ‘fog horn’, so blatant and obviously racist was it.

The Australian Greens also had a spot of bother when the federal party room inexplicably chose to punish Senator Lee Rhiannon for upholding the Greens NSW’s constitutional right to voice that state’s position on Gonski 2.0, a position ultimately found to be spot on when we discovered how much private schools are to profit from Mr Turmbull’s largesse. It was a spat eventually papered over, as was the position of two Greens senators (Ludlum and Waters) being found to be ineligible to sit in Parliament because of just discovered dual citizenship.

The dual citizenship saga is probably the messiest aspect of 2017’s politics, though like many others I’m still waiting for Mr Turnbull to apologise for belittling Senators Ludlum and Waters, given that the Liberal and National party rooms have been found to be awash with dual citizens.

In terms of political achievements, the 1917 outcome is wholly negative, except for marriage equality, that is. Probably the standout was the creation of an American style ‘super ministry’, a massive reorganisation of Australia’s intelligence and security agencies, with Peter Dutton to head a new Home Affairs ministry responsible for ASIO, the AFP, Immigration and Border Security. Even Rupert Murdoch’s usually sycophantic The Australian remarked that it was ‘overstepping the mark’.

This wasn’t the only example of the Americanisation of Australia under the Lib/Nats coalition government. Turnbull’s Gonski 2.0 funding model has privileged private schools over public ones, and his energy policy is hell bent on aping Trump by maintaining the supremacy of coal, as visually illustrated by Treasurer Scott Morrison waving around a lump of coal in the House of Representatives, against all the rules banning the use of props.

Morrison also ended the year by further aping Trump when he called for Australia to follow the US by massively lowering the corporate tax rate, thereby of course benefiting the wealthy.