Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: October, 2017

My Daily Advertiser column for today, 31 October 2017

AWU Raids a Political Act by a Desperate PM

Last week Australian politics reached a new low, and with Team Turnbull beating the xenophobia drum with all the energy it can muster, that’s saying something.

The new low was of course the raids on the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) by the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The AWU is expected to mount an urgent Federal Court challenge.

The raids dramatically featured on prime-time evening TV news broadcasts, which at the time made me think that the media must have been tipped off about them, and as we soon found out, they were, by one of Employment Minister Michaelia Cash’s staff.

Ms Cash spent the best part of a day denying that important piece of information, which quite rightly has resulted in calls for her resignation, for given that under the Westminster system of government a minister is ultimately responsible for the actions of their department and their staff, Australian Greens Acting Co-Deputy Leader Adam Bandt’s comment that Cash’s position was untenable and that she should resign is entirely appropriate.

However, back to the main story. The AFP raids were part of an investigation by newly re-established union watchdog, the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) into AWU donations to activist group GetUp! when Opposition Leader Bill Shorten led the union.

It’s clearly part of the Government’s ongoing attack on the union movement in general and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in particular. It is also an attack on Get Up, for Turnbull & Co certainly don’t like community based activism. As Mr Shorten said, the “AFP is doing government’s dirty work”.

The ROC said the raids were triggered after it received information that documents relevant to the investigation were being “concealed or destroyed” and sought authorisation from a magistrate for immediate AFP access to the documents.

The commission’s investigation, launched earlier this month, is examining whether the $100,000 donation was within the AWU’s rules.

AWU national secretary Daniel Walton labelled the raids “an extraordinary abuse of police resources” and part of an attempt to smear Mr Shorten.

In a statement, GetUp! said the dramatic police actions raised “concerning questions” and said that the organisation handled the 2005 donation appropriately.

“This is part of a pattern from this government trying to silence its critics or anyone who challenges it,” GetUp! national director Paul Oosting said.

Greens industrial relations spokesperson Adam Bandt MP added that “This is part of a worrying broader crackdown on dissent in Australia”.

Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus pointed out that the raids “Meant to intimidate us. But we will not be intimidated or stopped for standing up for what’s right and standing up to the powerful. We will continue to call them out and fight for a better deal – better and stronger rights for working people.

“When the big banks were found to have allowed terrorists and drug dealers to launder money, they did nothing. This authoritarian behaviour is what you’d expect from a dictatorship”.

Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon has condemned the raids as a ruthless political act carried out by a government desperate to protect its own power and that of the business constituency it serves.

“Like the government’s shrill and baseless attack on GetUp! this raid is a sign of an insecure government desperate to tie up the largest organised sections of our progressive movement” Senator Rhiannon concluded.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today: Turnbull has capitulated to the climate terrorists on his backbench.

Last week’s news that the Turnbull Cabinet was dumping the Clean Energy Target proposed by the Chief Scientist for a new so-called ‘affordable, reliable’ power plan is of doubtful short-term value for households and is certainly a long-term disaster for the climate and the environment, both on which of course we all depend.

This is because clean renewable energy’s share of the electricity sector will plateau from 2020 under the government’s new energy plan. Critics say it will make it harder for Australia to meet its climate goals and dent jobs in the industry.

According to the briefing documents provided this week by the government the share of renewable energy would be a paltry 28-36 per cent, including hydro and solar photovoltaics, by 2030. Even more alarmingly, the share of intermittent renewable energy, such as solar and wind, would only be “about 18-24 per cent”.

Though, at the time of writing, Labor may well, and to its shame, back the plan, there is opposition from State leaders, rightly worried that any gains they make in setting deeper emissions reductions through more ambitious renewable energy targets will be nullified by the federal scheme.

Energy analysts and the Greens have also criticised the proposal, noting the renewables share is even less than the “business as usual” forecast for 2030 contained in the Finkel review.

The national energy guarantee is “is worse than doing nothing,” Greens climate change and energy spokesman Adam Bandt said.

“It takes a particular malevolence to not just cut support to renewables but to actively pull them out of the system.”

One hotly debated detail is whether the proposed scheme will generate a shadow’ carbon price, as market watchers and others say it will. John Pierce, chairman of the Australian Energy Market Commission tries to argue that “We are not pricing carbon. What we are pricing is reliability…the ability for the mechanism to be dispatched.”

Others though, more concerned with truth than spin, highlight that as soon as trading takes place between retailers a price will emerge.

But it is the projected 2030 level of renewables that has many in the industry puzzled.

Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said the share of renewables in the National Electricity Market will slow rapidly, perhaps by more than half. “That’s surprising and disappointing,” Mr Thornton said, noting that any slowdown would come even as prices of renewable energy are sinking fast.

Australian Greens Leader Richard Di Natale succinctly said it all “Today’s climate announcement, to scrap the already underwhelming Clean Energy Target and put more dirty power into the network, is dangerous and infuriating. This plan abandons renewables, abandons action on climate change and abandons households who will be paying more for their power. This is a big win for coal, for the Liberal Party’s donors and for Tony Abbott.”

Clearly this is the policy you get when you capitulate to the climate terrorists on your backbench. It’s a policy of appeasement designed to please Tony Abbott and the other Trumps on the backbench. Of course, it is also a cheap political ploy to bolster the Liberal/National coalition’s chances at the next federal election.

It is ironic that the Liberals, the party based on supporting private enterprise, is prepared to massively intervene in the free market when it needs to do so to save its own sorry skin.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, 17 October 2017: The Turnbull government’s national security agenda is all about its own survival.

A government that exploits people’s fears to win elections is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it is anything to be proud of.

Nonetheless, examples abound, such as Britain’s 1914 ‘Khaki election’, Nazi Germany playing on fears of communist USSR, and most Western governments playing on the same fear during the Cold War.

So it needs to be made very clear what Malcolm Turnbull and his colleagues are up to when the government pushes its national security agenda.

Peter Lewis recently wrote “Are war and terrorism the last hope for a revival of Turnbull’s government?” (The Guardian), which got me thinking that this would be a topic worth teasing out.

More than half of the Australians in a recent Essential poll are quite rightly concerned that the nuclear brinkmanship displayed by both Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un will lead to all-out conflict.

And so as the Turnbull government fails to make any headway on most domestic issues it is increasingly turning to external threats to reset the political agenda to its advantage.

The first issue is the face-off between two crazy-brave hot-heads with their fingers way too close to the button. As this week’s Essential Report shows, most Australians now think war between the US and North Korean is more likely than not.

Today’s reports that President Trump told his national security advisers in July that he wanted to increase the country’s nuclear arsenal by nearly tenfold (The Age) is likely to increase our fear. Trump now of course claims this to be ‘Fake News’, as he invariably does when caught out.

Frighteningly the Turnbull government has already signalled it will follow President Trump wherever he cares to go. Real war on and possibly off the Korean peninsula ironically would relieve the current internal pressure on the Coalition, with all parties except the Greens unifying behind the US alliance.

The second threat likely to benefit Turnbull & Co is the increasing possibility of a home-soil terrorist attack. As last week’s Essential report shows, this still represents the greatest challenge to Australian’s sense of personal safety.

It is here that the Coalition has been pursuing its most proactive groundwork, establishing the truly Orwellian sounding homeland security super ministry and seeking more and more powers in the name of anti-terrorism.

What is frightening is the incrementalism of the government’s approach to its anti-terror legislation. Firstly, because by tightening the screws small bit by small bit the ‘Boiling Frog’ syndrome will apply, that is, they hope we won’t notice each small change, only waking up to the fact when it is too late to realise how many of our civil liberties have been taken away.

In terms of parliamentary politics, the government’s strategy is to probe and push until it finds a point of difference with the Opposition. To date Shorten’s Labor has matched the government each step of the way, conscious that to create a contest on national security opens the attack of being “weak on terror”.

Indeed, as Kim Beazley discovered to his ultimate demise in 2001 when the Howard government confected the Tampa stand-off, there will be a point where Labor will not be prepared to follow and that will become the point on which a winnable Coalition election campaign can be fought, perish the thought.

So war and terror will ironically be the last remaining hopes for a Coalition revival.