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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Imagine if we built a big wall around Melbourne, shot anyone escaping, bombed schools & hospitals, prevented food and supplies from entering, and said it wasn't a crime because Melbournians don't exist

Imagine if we built a big wall around Melbourne, shot anyone escaping, bombed schools & hospitals, prevented food and supplies from entering, and said it wasn't a crime because Melbournians don't exist

Here's a proposal: The Australian government should build a fence around Melbourne to keep everyone in, no-one can leave. If they try: shoot them dead. Then we'll poison the water supply. Oh, while we're at it, turn the electricity off for 20 hours a day. Set snipers around the fence and shoot anyone who tries to leave. If they throw rocks, shoot them. If they make Molotov cocktails, shoot them. If they make home-made rockets that can barely fly a few hundred metres, have no navigation systems and are carrying nothing more than weak homemade explosives, send in Air Force jets to bomb their hospitals, schools and houses. If they try to escape by sea, we'll have the Navy there ready to blow their little dinghies and fishing boats out of the water. For that matter, if they try to go fishing, we'll restrict them to areas that have no fish. If they try to fish outside of that area ... you guessed it ... the Navy will blow them out of the water.

Here's another proposal. We all know how wonderful the traffic in Sydney is, so let's build giant walls and fences to criss-cross the city, with checkpoints all over them. That should help slow Sydney's traffic even more than it already is.

That should do the trick.

Oh, for good measure, we'll do all this in the name of God, because the bible tells us that 'those' people are not entitled to the land of Australia, so we'll quarantine them in Melbourne and Sydney and gradually exterminate them.

Nearly two million people live in Gaza, a place described as the world's largest open air prison. It is strictly controlled by Israel, from the use of the military to attack civilian targets to the amount of water, electricity and even aid that Gaza receives.

It is estimated that 97% of the water in Gaza is undrinkable(1). Foreign aid could be used to build infrastructure to improve water quality and capacity, yet Israel restricts aid, building materials and basically everything going into and coming out of Gaza. When Gaza asks for more aid, Israel petitions the international community to not be forthcoming with it and then blockades what does come in(2)(3). There are only three land crossings into and out of Gaza. Two of those border with Israel and one with Egypt. These crossings are meant to service a population of two million people, and yet Israel limits what food and materials are allowed into Gaza.

Courtesy: Human Rights Watch (4)

Israel blames Hamas for the failing infrastructure in Gaza, yet as with most things Israel says, this is a lie designed to demonise Palestinians and make Israel look like a munificent overlord. Nothing could be further from the truth. Israel tightly controls air, sea and road channels in and around Gaza, and is responsible for gross human rights violations. To prevent this being reported, it runs a massive propaganda campaign that doesn't just demonise Palestinians, but claims that Palestinians aren't a real people group. In 1969, Golda Meir, fourth Prime Minister of Israel, stated that 'There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with an independent Palestinian people? ... They did not exist'. Which completely ignores the history of the area with maps, books and other nations recognising the area as Palestine. Britain issued medals in World Wars 1 and 2 for service in Palestine, prior to 1948 coins and passports were issued for Palestine. Israel isn't just ethnically cleansing the land, it is ethnically cleansing history. Israel wants Palestinians to be non-people because apparently, one can't commit genocide against non-people. To perpetuate this, Israel blocks human rights organisations from entering Gaza, so that the extent of Israel's human rights abuses cannot be adequately documented(4). There are few nations on earth committing such atrocities on a scale that Israel is committing against Palestinians.

Most disturbing is that the Israeli Defence Minister, Moshe Ya'alon has admitted that the attacks on Hamas have been largely motivated by the discovery of 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves discovered off the coast of Gaza. Israel wants this for themselves and unbelievably claims that revenue from gas sales would not help the people of Gaza. Ya'alon claims revenue would end up in the hands of Hamas and be used to fund terrorism. However, Hamas is a scapegoat for Israel's real goal which is to prevent the economic development of Gaza, and subsequently Palestine. Israel does not want an economically viable Palestine as it would threaten Israel's ability to control the area. Anais Antreasyan wrote in the University of California's Journal of Palestine Studies that this is a wider strategy of 'separating the Palestinians from their land and natural resources in order to exploit them, and, as a consequence, blocking Palestinian economic development. Despite all formal agreements to the contrary, Israel continues to manage all the natural resources nominally under the jurisdiction of the PA, from land and water to maritime and hydrocarbon resources'(5).

While Israel continues to attack Gaza, blockade supplies and steal its resources, it is responsible for a humanitarian crisis impacting the two million or so residents of Gaza. The United Nations has stated that if Israel continues these actions, Gaza could be uninhabitable by 2020(6).

On 15 May each year, Palestinians commemorate the Nakba (the catastrophe), during which Israel's illegal and violent creation on 14 May 1948 resulted in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians, destruction of some 400 villages and the exodus of around 700,000 refugees fleeing the ethnic cleansing that Israel was undertaking.

Gaza is one of the areas which still has Palestinians. There is also the West Bank; an area that is criss-crossed with walls built by Israel in order to control the movement of Palestinians. One other contested area is East Jerusalem. Palestinians claim this area based on the armistice of 1949. Israel claims it because of the city boundaries. As can be seen in the following image, Israel has stolen most of Palestine. The 1948 Partition Plan by the United Nations, provided for 55% of Palestine to be given to Israel. Contrary to popular opinion though, the UN did not create Israel. It was illegally created on 14 May 1948 by the Jewish Agency, headed by David Ben-Gurion who established himself as Israel's first Prime Minister. United States President Harry Truman recognised Israel the same day(7).

In his infantile 'wisdom', President Donald Trump decided to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as an acknowledgement of Jerusalem being the official capital of Israel. Of course, the Israelis were stoked. The rest of the world not so much, with the United Nations General Assembly ruling the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as being 'null and void'. 128 countries voted against the US, while only nine voted to recognise it and 35 abstained. Most of those countries that voted with the US or abstained, were threatened with aid cuts by America(8). To rub salt into Palestinian wounds, Trump arranged for the US embassy to be opened by his fashion designer daughter, Ivanka, in Jerusalem on 14 May 2018; during Nakba commemorations when Palestinian feelings would be running the highest. It was a deliberately provocative move by a President who has no respect for Palestine or human rights, while condoning and praising the genocide and ethnic cleansing that Israel has been perpetrating in Palestine since at least 1948.

Israel has murdered thousands of Palestinians. It has used illegal weapons such as white phosphorous (9)(10) and flechette missiles(11) which spray thousands of tiny metal darts when they explode. The use of these weapons constitute war crimes(9). Israel routinely arrests children, illegally detaining them without charge, sometimes torturing them(12)(13). If any other nation was doing this, the holier-than-thou US would have intervened through military action, invasion and economic sanctions(14). But when it comes to Israel, America turns a blind eye to the crimes against humanity committed against Palestinians.

Not surprisingly, thousands of Palestinians protested against Israel and the US embassy move to Jerusalem during Nakba commemorations in 2018. Most of the protesters were unarmed. There was a small group throwing Molotov cocktails, which don't have a very long range as they are reliant on being thrown by someone. Similarly, some protesters threw rocks. The Israeli response? Shoot the protesters. More than 60 protesters were killed and hundreds were injured. When it was raised at the UN Security Council, America's ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley walked out so that she didn't have to listen to the Palestinian delegation(15). This is indicative of the United States cowardly and subservient kowtowing to powerful Israeli lobbyists. The US would rather allow crimes against humanity than bring Israel to task in the International Criminal Court.

Many Israelis meanwhile, celebrated their 2018 Eurovision victory and the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, while cheering on the simultaneous murder of innocent Palestinians. In fact, some were so jubilant about the mass murders that they laughed and clapped, finding it even funnier that some people were appalled by the killings(16).

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel would defend its borders against terrorists. Firstly, those borders are under dispute, having been stolen from Palestinians illegally. Secondly, Israel continues to build illegal settlements in the West Bank, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention(17). Thirdly, Israel is the terrorist, not innocent Palestinians who are defending their land and their lives. Palestine is a land that is illegally occupied by Israel, so Palestinians have a legal right to defend themselves. Israel is the aggressor and the illegal occupant. Israel isn't defending itself, it is protecting it's colonial interests. Palestinians have a right to self-defence and the same entitlement to human rights protections that the rest of the world does(18).

Israel is committing genocide. The treatment of Palestinians by Israelis is tantamount to ethnic cleansing; under UN definitions it amounts to genocide. Below is an extract from Article II of the Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide(19):

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: 

(a) Killing members of the group; 
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; 
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; 
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; 
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. 

Israel's behaviour is aimed at the destruction of Palestinians and constitutes genocide.

Many Christians blindly support Israel because of the misinterpretation of the bible. Way back in the day, God promised Abraham the land. However, because the ancient Jews kept disobeying God (to the point of crucifying God's only begotten son, Jesus), God passed the blessing of Abraham onto Christians. So for Christians to support Israel as the rightful inheritance for Jewish people is to completely ignore the bible. Additionally, the bible has a lot to say about not maltreating people who reside in your land. This topic is explored in great detail in the Ranting Panda articles:
Killing Palestinians in the name of God, is not what the bible teaches.

People who defend Israel's right to murder innocent people, really should ask themselves what they would do if they were forced to endure the same treatment that Palestinians have been forced to endure. Earlier I proposed a Gaza-like treatment on Melbourne and a West Bank-like treatment of Sydney. Australians would not tolerate this sort of treatment, so why should Palestinians?

To shut down any debate, Israel will label all criticism of its actions as anti-Semitism. Telling a criminal that they are a criminal does not make one a racist. The United Nations has just announced an investigation into allegations of human rights abuses by Israel in Gaza - much to Israel's criticism(20). Israel must be held to account for their crimes and it is high-time that Israel faced the International Criminal Court.


1. Haaretz, Zafrir Rinat, 21 January 2018, Ninety-seven Percent of Gaza Drinking Water Contaminated by Sewage, Salt, Expert Warns, Accessed 18 May 2018.

2. The Jerusalem Post, 31 January 2009, 'Israel restricting Gaza Aid deliveries', Accessed 19 May 2018.

3. Reuters, Magdalena Mis, 9 July 2015, Israeli blockade makes Gaza recovery 'impossible': aid agency Accessed 19 May 2018.

4. Human Rights Watch, 2 April 2017, Unwilling or Unable: Israeli Restrictions on Access to and from Gaza for Human Rights Workers, Accessed 19 May 2018.

5. The Guardian, Nafeez Ahmed, 10 July 2014, IDF's Gaza assault is to control  Palestinian gas, avert Israeli energy crisis Accessed 20 May 2018.

6. Time, Jack Linshi, 6 September 2015, Gaza Could Become 'Uninhabitable' by 2020, U.N. Report Warns, Accessed 20 May 2018.

7. United States of America, Office of the Historian, Creation of Israel, 1948 Accessed 19 May 2018.

8. The Independent, Mythili Sampathkumar, 21 December 2017, UN Jerusalem vote: General Assembly rules against US, declaring recognition of Israel capital 'null and void' Accessed 18 May 2018.

9. Human Rights Watch, 25 March 2009, Israel: White Phosphorus Use Evidence of War Crimes - Indiscriminate attacks Caused Needless Civilian Suffering, Accessed 19 May 2018.

10. Foreign Policy Journal, Jeremy R. Hammond, 3 May 2013, Israel's Illegal use of White Phosphorus During 'Operation Cast Lead', Accessed 19 May 2018.

11. The Guardian, Harriet Sherwood, 20 July 2014, Israel using flechette shells in Gaza Accessed 19 May 2018.

12. Al Jazeera, Kiss Your Mother Goodbye, Accessed 19 May 2018.

13., Jonathan Cook, 26 April 2016, Rise In Palestinian Children Arrested, Tortured and Held in Israeli Jails, Accessed 19 May 2018.

14. The Free Thought Project, Rachel Blevins, 14 May 2018, If Any Other Country Was Shooting Civilians Like Israel, the US Would've Invaded By Now Accessed 18 May 2018.

15. Think Progress, Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani, 15 Ma 2018, Nikki Haley walks out of U.N. Security Council meeting as Palestinian envoy begins to speak Accessed 18 May 2018.

16. Haaretz, Gideon Levy, 17 May 2018, 60 Dead in Gaza and the End of Israeli Conscience Accessed 18 May 2018.

17. United Nations, 23 December 2016, Israel's Settlements Have No Legal Validity, Constitute Flagrant Violation of international Law, Security Council Reaffirms Accessed 19 May 2018.

18. Brookings Institute, Ibrahim Fraihat, 11 July 2014, Palestine's Right to Defend Itself Accessed 19 May 2018.

19. United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Accessed 19 May 2018.

20. Reuters, Tom Miles, 18 May 2018, U.N. sets up human rights probe into Gaza killings, to Israel's fury Accessed 19 May 2018.

Updated: 20 May 2018.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Budgeting on a wing and a prayer: economically erroneous Budget 2018 built on shifting sands of international economic vagaries

Budgeting on a wing and a prayer: economically erroneous Budget 2018 built on shifting sands of international economic vagaries

There must be an election in the air. The Liberal Party is unleashing their usual policies of fear and blame. Dutton gives a press conference on 8 May 2018, regarding the intercept of a large boat smuggling people to Australia or New Zealand, and guess what? It's all Labor's fault and claims that on a daily basis Border Security is dealing with people smuggling issues. Funnily enough, seconds later, Air Vice Marshall Stephen Osborne, Border Force Commander, states it's been almost four years without incident. Dutton can't even get his story straight. Sigh ...

So with an election to be called later this year, or early 2019 at the latest, the Liberal Party has opened the John Howard textbook on how to run an election campaign: Fear, Blame & Bribery. The bribery is coming in the way of corporate and personal tax cuts that will be rolled out over the next ten years as announced in their Budget speech on 8 May 2018.

This has comparisons to Howard and Costello (who lost government in 2007) unleashing a raft of structural tax changes that provided middle class welfare and committed successive governments to significant expenditure as follows(1):

1. Permanent income tax cuts, costing $37.6 billion in 2011-12

2. Capital Gains Tax discount, costing $5.8 billion in 2014-15

3. Removed Fuel Tax indexation, costing $5.5 billion in 2009-10

4. Superannuation tax cuts, costing $2.5 billion in 2009-10.

5. Converting 'franking credits' into cash refunds for shareholders, costing $4.6 billion in 2012-13. This is calculated based on the shareholder's tax obligation compared to the tax already by the company who they have shares in. Interestingly, Labor proposed removing this benefit for people who pay no tax, such as pensioners. This would have saved the government $8 billion over five years. Yet, Liberal Party waged another fear campaign and accused Labor of attacking pensioners. Labor's proposal made sense. Why should someone who has no tax obligation get a tax benefit. This is not an attack on pensioners, it is actually providing fairness for all pensioners because those who have no shares do not get this benefit. If the Liberal Party is so concerned about this being an attack on pensioners, they would be better to follow Labor's suggestion and then use the $8 billion saving to increase the pension so all pensioners benefit.

Howard is often seen by conservative voters as being economically responsible based on the fact that he left office with net financial assets, i.e. negative debt, after inheriting $96 billion in debt from the previous Labor government when he became prime minister in 1996. Funnily enough, this $96 billion of debt comprised of almost $40 billion that Labor inherited from the previous Liberal Party government in 1983, when John Howard was Treasurer. By 2007, Howard achieved negative debt, not by good fiscal management, but by selling government assets for $72 billion(2) to cover his excessive expenditure. The International Monetary Fund declared the Howard government to be the most profligate government in 50 years. Unfortunately, thanks to right-wing bias and poor economic analysis reported in the media, Howard is hailed as an economic genius. He was an economic moron who blew mining boom and sold off the farm to cover his wasteful spending.

A 2008 Treasury report showed that between 2004 and 2007, $334 billion was added to the economy as a result of the mining boom and economic growth. So Howard and Costello, showing questionable economic judgement, spent 94% of it through tax cuts and other concessions. To help cover this, these two economic illiterates then sold off assets for $72 billion. At the time of Howard being ousted, Australia's surplus was just 7.3% of GDP.(3) Australia is now in deficit, and has been for since 2009, hardly warranting the tax cuts proposed by Turnbull and Morrison's 2018 budget.

And then the mining boom ended at the same time as the Global Financial Crisis hit. By this point, the Labor Party was in power. Thank God, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan had the foresight to implement stimulus spending. Why did they do this? Well, the economic illiteracy of the Liberal Party called the stimulus reckless. However, it is basic economics. Because of the disastrous economic outlook with advanced economies across the globe diving into recession, businesses stopped spending and consumers stopped spending. Clearly the two have a bidirectional relationship. Without consumer spending, businesses lose money so stop investing and start axing jobs. With less investment and increased job losses, consumers tighten their belts even more. It would have been disastrous had the government also stopped spending. The economy would have ground to a halt and nose-dived into recession.

Rudd and Swan inherited little savings from Howard and Costello; there was little money left from the mining boom at a time when government spending was required to stimulate the economy. So they spent anyway. This was sound economic behaviour. It saved jobs, businesses and prevented Australia going into recession. One of the only developed nations that survived the GFC without recession. Of course, the Libs made much of Australia operating a deficit, however, deficits indicate economic stimulus because of government spending, which creates jobs and helps the economy grow. Surpluses, which the Libs seem to think is some sort of economic nirvana to be aimed for, indicate austerity, which costs jobs and slows the economy. There is a time for surplus and a time for deficit. The GFC was the time for deficit. Besides, if the Libs were so concerned about the deficit, they should have saved the mining boom revenue rather than blowing it like the prodigal son getting hold of his inheritance.

The Turnbull and Morrison budget for 2018-19 contains massive errors in judgement similar to Howard and Costello. At a time when there is economic growth, the government should be banking savings and paying down debt. Instead they are going to implement long-term structural tax changes based on short-term revenue improvements, which will commit future governments to unnecessary expenditure.

The Liberal Party claims that the budget is on track to deliver a surplus of $2.2 billion by 2019-20, and $11 billion by 2020-21(4). Meanwhile, Australia's current net debt is double what it was under Labor in 2013, when the Liberal Party took over government. The Liberal Party is claiming that the money they are saving is coming from increased revenue. They are making the same mistake that Howard did. Howard based his extravagant expenditure on the revenue from the mining boom. We all know how that ended. The mining boom went bust and Australia was stuck with structural expenditure changes in the way of tax cuts, superannuation benefits and family payments.

Yet where is the outrage over government debt? Where is the outrage that was reported on daily in the media during the Labor years following the GFC. If there was any doubt over right-wing bias in the media it surely is this lack of outrage in the Murdoch papers over doubling of the debt by the Liberal Party and its profligate 2018-19 budget. During Labor's term, the Liberal Party rabbited on about debt and deficit being out of control. Yet here we are: debt double what it was under Labor, and Morrison spruiking that the economy is so good that we can just lock in tax reform and spend like drunken sailors based on temporary revenue increases and at a point in the economic cycle when stimulus is less required than it was during the GFC.

Morrison's idea that the economy is growing is based on temporary gains driven by commodity prices  and job creation caused by a temporary improvement in Australia's Balance of Trade data (i.e. value of imports versus exports). In March 2018, Australia recorded a trade surplus. That is we exported more than we imported. To show how volatile this is, Australia recorded a trade deficit only a few months prior, and a number of previous surpluses a fraction of what it currently is(5).

The recent trade surplus has resulted in a forecasted $7 billion in additional corporate tax revenue for 2017-18 and another $7.2 billion in 2018-19(6). However, the Balance of Trade is driven by external factors that the government does not control, namely international economic behaviour, demand for Australian exports and commodity prices. This means that the government cannot rely on these increased corporate tax revenues to lock in structural tax cuts. International economic conditions can change overnight.

Morrison has stated that tax will be no more than 23.9% of GDP. This does not allow for government expenditure, it merely locks in revenue to this magical number and anything above that is returned to the tax-payer. As GDP can be affected by commodity prices, is Morrison suggesting that tax will bob up and down like a rubber ducky in a bath-tub every time there is a change in GDP? And subsequently, will expenditure also bounce around like a duck in a mud puddle.

Everyone loves to have more money in their pockets and given the stagnation of Australian wages, Morrison admits that the tax cuts are to compensate for flat wages growth(7). Of course, he could have helped thousands of Australian wages by maintaining Sunday penalty rates. The budget does include investment in infrastructure. While there is some criticism of the projects being targeted, infrastructure investment is necessary given Australia's growing population. Morrison believes the tax cuts will help stimulate the economy, however, as this will lock in government commitment to years of expenditure, it would be better for expenditure to be in projects that create jobs. For instance, unemployment in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales is still sitting between four and 6 per cent despite improvements in employment. Meanwhile, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia continue to experience unemployment rates of six per cent and above.

The 2018-19 budget is nothing more than a cash-splash to earn votes, however, while it is pitched at low and middle-income workers, it actually benefits high-income earners the most. The tax benefits are in three stages:

  • Stage 1 - workers earning between $20,200 and $125,000 to receive temporary benefits of between $200 and $530 per annum through the Low Income Tax Offset (LITO). 
  • Stage 2 - In 2018-19, increase the 32.5% tax bracket from $87,500 to $90,000, and then to $120,000. In 2022-23, the LITO payments from Stage 1 will end.
  • Stage 3 - In 2024-25, the 32.5% tax bracket is lifted to $200,000, with the 37% bracket removed altogether. 

The government is marketing this as a benefit for low and middle-income earners, however, by 2027-28, a worker earning $120,000 per annum will have an average tax rate of 29%, which is what they pay today. Meanwhile, a tax-payer on $36,000 will see their average tax rate rise from 10% to 16%(8).

Corporate tax cuts will cost $65 billion and Morrison is relying on the naivete of voters when he claims that this money will trickle down in the form of wages growth. However, even Treasury officials admit corporate tax cuts will add less than one per cent to wages. In other words, only $750 per annum based on the average annual wage(9).

This budget is nothing more than pork-barreling, wishful thinking, subterfuge and crystal ball predictions in which its real tax impacts won't kick in for at least two electoral cycles. It is a budget with promises that extend ten years into the future while being heavily reliant on a cash boost that has occurred only in the last few months and is unlikely to continue into the long-term. It uses the same failed old policies of conservative governments of yore. Trickle-down economics has worked nowhere in the world. Howard's flagrant spending nearly ruined the economy when the GFC hit, and Turnbull and Morrison have made the same mistake again.

Immediately following the release of Budget 2018, ratings agency Standards & Poor released its economic outlook for Australia. While it stated that Australia currently retains its AAA credit rating, it stated that 'risks to the government's plan for an earlier return to budget surpluses are significant. The outlook on the long-term Australian sovereign ratings remains negative for now to reflect these uncertainties'(10).

The following morning, Prime Minister Turnbull was questioned about this by Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National. Turnbull didn't just refuse to discuss the negative outlook, he actively ignored it and carried on like a school-kid as he taunted Kelly with the AAA rating. Rather than acknowledge the risk identified by S&P, he declared the biggest risk was Labor ... showing the complete denial and delusion of the Liberal Party in economic risk mitigation and forecasting, just as Howard did. Furthermore, he refused to provide year on year costings beyond the forward estimates, yet demands that Labor supports the total package of $140 billion on the basis of a few months of revenue from increased international demand for Australian exports.(11)

While the Liberals paint themselves as mature and responsible economic managers, Treasurer Scott Morrison resorted to childish, churlish, puerile insults that made fun of Bill Shorten's name. Yep, good ol' school-yard teasing from the party that portrays itself as the 'grown-ups'. The best that Morrison could come up with was 'unbelieva-Bill'. He even repeated it four times case people didn't notice how clever his play on Bill's name was. It's not a very intelligent insult.

Perhaps Morrison should take some tips off former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating, who really knew how to throw an insult. Who can forget Keating's colourful description of Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello as being 'all tip, no iceberg'. (Costello, by the by, was Howard's Treasurer and architect of the structural tax changes that greatly contributed to the current deficit). Speaking of Howard, another of Keating's witty insults declared of Howard, 'the little desiccated coconut's under pressure'. But my personal favourite was his description of former Liberal leader, John Hewson, who Keating stated, '... is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up'.

Morrison's pathetic little insult was in relation to Bill Shorten's Budget Reply speech. Shorten promised that Labor would double the LITO to $928 per annum for people earning less than $120,000, while increasing expenditure to education and health. Morrison went on the attack saying that Labor was spending double what the Libs were so therefore Labor couldn't afford it. Morrison clearly doesn't comprehend the big picture. Shorten wasn't doubling Liberal expenditure. He mentioned that Labor would cap the reduced corporate tax to businesses earning less than $2 million, unlike Liberal's providing it to all businesses. Additionally, Labor is going to reform Capital Gains Tax, tax minimisation through family trusts, negative gearing and franked credits imputations, all of which would save around $80 billion.

Shorten has offered one of the most progressive tax reforms in decades. It is vastly superior to that of the Liberal government's budget, which favours the rich and is built on the shifting sands of international economic fluctuations. Australians have a choice between Labor's intelligent tax reform based on economic competency with a history of successfully navigating global economic collapses or the Liberal Party's economic fairy dust based on wishful thinking that the global economy will continue improving and demanding Australian products. What happens to the Liberal Party's budget forecasts when international demand decreases?

At least Budget 2018 provides increased funding for school chaplains ... if Morrison's budget gets up, it will need all the wings and prayers it can get!


1. The Guardian, Richard Denniss, 15 April 2015, Peter Costello's five most 'profligate' decisions as treasurer cost the budget $56bn a year, Accessed 8 May 2018.

2. Market Economics, 25 June 2012, More facts Behind the Howard Government's Debt Elimination. Accessed 7 May 2018.

3. The Independent, Alan Austin, 3 September 2013, We really must talk about the Howard and Costello economic disaster,,5686. Accessed 8 May 2018.

4. ABC, Louise Yaxley, 8 May 2018, Budget 2018: Morrison gives tax system a shake-up in pre-election plan aimed at low-income earners Accessed 8 May 2018.

5. Trading Economics, Australia Balance of Trade (March 2018), Accessed 7 May 2018.

6. The Guardian, Gareth Hutchins, 30 April 2018, Federal budget $7bn better than forecast as 'rivers of gold' flow, Deloitte predicts Accessed 7 May 2018.

7. Australian Financial Review, Phillip Coorey & Jacob Greber, 4 May 2018, Tax cuts to compensate for flat wages growth: Scott Morrison Accessed 7 May 2018.

8. ABC News, John Daley and Danielle Wood, 11 May 2018, The Coalition's tax plan favours the rich and doesn't solve bracket creep for middle-income earners Accessed 12 May 2018.

9. The Guardian, Gareth Hutchins, 28 February 2018, Company tax cuts would boost wages by just $750 over time - Treasury secretary Accessed 8 May 2018.

10. Business Insider Australia, David Scutt, 8 May 2018, Standards and Poor's still has a negative outlook on Australia's AAA credit rating', Accessed 12 May 2018.

11. ABC Radio National, Breakfast, Fran Kelly, 9 May 2018, Budget tax cuts a 'long-term' plan, Turnbull says, Accessed 9 May 2018.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

If Trump is nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, so should Kim Jong Un

If Trump is nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, so should Kim Jong Un

The Donald Trump presidency has been one debacle after another. Although, to be fair to the Trumpster, it has been a laugh a minute. First of course, is the mirth one gets from watching the blatant hypocrisy oozing from the pores of his die-hard supporters. You know the ones! They were screeching about 'crooked' Hilary's use of a private email server, they were the ones apoplectic when Bill Clinton dared to get blown by a white-house intern. They are now the ones who don't give a rat's arse that Trump is neck-deep in a scandal that could amount to treason if it's proven he collaborated with Russia to win the election.  They are the ones who don't care that he tried to subvert a Special Counsel investigation into Trump's 2016 election campaign and its possible links to Russia.They are now the ones who don't give a rat's arse that Trump was balls-deep in a porn star AND that he lied about it AND that he paid her to keep it quiet AND that he lied about paying her to keep it quiet. They are ones who quite often claim to be god-fearing 'christians'! Oh ... which reminds me ... Trump finally admits to paying off Stormy Daniels (afore-mentioned porn star) and then heads off to lead National Prayer Day! I know, I know ... stop it or you're guts will burst from laughing. But wait, there's more. Trump promises to nuke North Korea and then the Republicans want to nominate him for a Nobel Peace Prize! I'm not even joking. Trump supporters have taken hypocrisy and completely knocked it out of the park. In his first 466 days in office, Trump has told 3001 lies! That's 6.5 lies per day.(1) Pretty damn good for someone 'christians' claim was sent by god to save them from the godless Barack Obama.

 I'm reminded of the sage words of Jim Jefferies, a comedian who was marveling over what brought America to the point where Donald Trump was running for the highest office in the land. Jefferies, in all his ponderings and criticism of the Donald, offered an alternative view by describing how much fun it could be if America was to elect Trump, 'There's a little bit of me that thinks "fuck it, let's do it ... let's do it and see how fucking crazy shit can get" '.

And crazy it has got. Trump's late night tweets have kept us all amused with their idiotic ramblings and making policy on the fly. One could write a book of all the dumb-ass tweets and lies by Trump. No doubt, there will be quite a few over the coming years. One of Trump's typical exaggerations which highlight his insecurities and inadequacies, was a tweet in which he stated, 'we have signed more legislation than anybody. We broke the record of Harry Truman'. Politifact, a fact-checking service, declared that not only was this false, but Trump 'ranks last, actually'.(2)

Anyhoo ... during the election campaign, Trump and another presidential-wanna-be, Marco Rubio, argued over the size of Trump's hands. Rubio argued that Trump's smaller than average hands meant other parts of him were smaller than normal. Trump responded by saying, 'Look at those hands. Are these small hands? And … if they're small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there's no problem'.(3) Yep, two wanna-be presidents arguing over the size of their doodles.

Was it any wonder then, that Trump got into a dick-measuring contest with Kim Jung Un, ruler of the hermit kingdom, North Korea. While Kim Jung Un and Trump threatened to nuke each other, Trump grandiosely declared that his nuclear button was bigger than Kim Jung Un's nuclear button. Trump is so insecure about his dick that he is willing to start a nuclear war while comparing it to the imaginary size of puny penis. Apparently, unleashing a nuclear holocaust is a joke to the brain-dead Trump. In response, Jim Himes, member of the House Intelligence Committee, stated the blindingly obvious when he said, 'as everybody who’s ever been in a, you know, first grade playground recognizes, it’s usually the person who’s most aggressively pounding their chest that is in fact the weak one on the playground'. Eliot Cohen, a counsellor in the George W. Bush administration, described Trump's behaviour as a 'petulant ten year old ... but one with nuclear weapons'(4)

Trump's contribution to the discussion on nuclear weapons consists of long, rambling and largely incoherent statements. There was this classic:

'You know what uranium is, right? It’s this thing called nuclear weapons. And other things. Like lots of things are done with uranium. Including some bad things'.(5)

And then there was this 90 second long sentence which apparently was meant to discuss nuclear weapons, but your guess is as good as mine as to what the hell he is speaking about(6).

Yes, those are genuine comments by the leader of the free world. And right-wing snowflakes wonder why we criticise Trump's IQ ... an IQ that would appear to be as small as Donald's little vagina miner ... oh, what the hell, let's call it Donald Dick. Is there anything more disturbing than the man in charge of the world's largest nuclear arsenal, using it to cover up his penis-anxiety? By the by, given Trump's penchant for cheating on his wives, boning porn stars and allegedly being pissed on by Russian prostitutes, it seems little Donald Dick rambles around as much as big Dicktator Donald's statements on nuclear weapons.

While Trump was trying to hide his apparently small dong behind a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, Kim Jung Un and South Korea were talking peace. Un had suggested cross-border talks with South Korea in an effort to bring peace to the peninsula and that North Korea might participate in the winter Olympics being held in South Korea.

AND then, Kim Jong Un requested a meeting with Donald Trump! Trump accepted.

So now the Republicans want to nominate Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize!

Kim Jong Un has been the bigger man and sought peace. Trump has merely fired off outrageous, egocentric and ego-stroking tweets. In a visit to South Korea in 2017, Trump told North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons while also deriding South Korea's 'talk of appeasement'. Trump has hardly been forthcoming in the peace process.

Kim Jong Un, the man who most people thought was a deadset nutter ... and who knows, he may well be ... has shown himself to be more sane and more sensible than Donald Trump, by seeking peace with South Korea and the United States. It wasn't Trump who sought the peace talks. Trump perpetuated and expanded the trade embargoes that had been in place for years, while threatening to unleash 'fire and fury' on North Korea.

Perhaps Trump's extreme actions against North Korea influenced Kim Jong Un's willingness to seek peace talks ... or perhaps Kim Jong Un realised he was dealing with someone who was crazier than him. It seems odd to nominate someone for a Nobel Peace Prize when they have been threatening nuclear war, fire and fury, and total destruction of a country.

Either way, if Trump is nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, then so should Kim Jong Un.

It takes two to tango, and Kim Jong Un has shown himself more willing to seek peace through meetings, than Trump threatening nuclear holocaust through tweetings.


1. New York Times, Peter Baker, 3 May 2018, New Revelations Suggest a President Losing Control of His Narrative, Accessed 5 May 2018.

2. Politifact, All False Statements Involving Donald Trump, Accessed 5 May 2018.

3. CBC News, 4 March 2016, Trump assures America his normal-sized hands means he has normal-sized 'something else' Accessed 5 May 2018.

4. New York Times, Peter Baker and Michael Tackett, 2 January 2018, Trump Says His 'Nuclear Button' Is Bigger Than North Korea's Accessed 5 May 2018.

5. Vox, Jeff Stein, 16 February 2017, 9 things it's hard to believe the President of the United States actually just said Accessed 6 May 2018.

6. Snopes, David Mikkelson, updated 12 December 2017, Donald Trump's nuclear speech Accessed 6 May 2018.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Guns don't kill people ... angry, fearful people with guns kill people

Guns don't kill people ... angry, fearful people with guns kill people

When news breaks of a mass shooting event at a school, no-one asks which country. We all know that odds are it will be the United States. And so it was on 17 February 2018, when the world was horrified to learn of yet another massacre at a school in the United States. The school was Marjory Stoneham Douglas in Florida where a white nationalist, Nicholas Cruz used an AR-15 to murder 17 students.

Immediately after the massacre, President Donald Trump ruled out tightening gun control legislation, but instead said that people should report suspicious people to the authorities. Cruz had been reported to authorities on at least 18 occasions, including two reports that he could shoot up a school, and police did nothing about him. One of Trump's other bright ideas was to arm teachers. Then it was revealed that the armed school deputy had hidden rather than draw his weapon on the gunman, and that there were four sheriff's deputies who hid behind cars rather than engage with the gunman(1). Why not just train soldiers to be teachers? Oh wait, there's been numerous massacres and mass casualties on military bases on US soil, including Fort Hood in 2009, that killed 13 people and wounded 32(2).

Armed teachers? Great. When bullets start flying, people start running. The chances of a teacher shooting a child is going to escalate dramatically. When cops arrive and there are a dozen armed teachers running around, how the hell are the cops to know who is the active shooter that they need to stop?

Unlike many other school shootings, the students at Stoneham Douglas mobilised political rallies in Florida and Washington, demanding changes to gun legislation. The very powerful and morally bereft, National Rifle Association, pressured politicians from the President down to not change the laws. The NRA supposedly represents responsible gun owners, however, this is a rather dubious claim because what self-respecting, responsible gun owner would oppose any legislation that kept guns out of the hands of mass murderers? Nor do they wish to limit the damage that guns can do, such as banning bump stocks that convert some semi-automatics into full automatics, or limiting the magazine capacity of weapons, or even questioning why the hell anyone needs an assault-style rifle, such as the AR-15 which was used in this massacre ... and in the Sandy Hook school massacre that killed 26 people, including 20 children aged six and seven years old ... or the Las Vegas massacre on 1 October 2017, in which 59 people were killed and more than 850 wounded by a gunman using numerous guns, including AR-15s with 100-round magazines. AR-15s are designed for one thing: massacring humans. They are not designed for hunting animals, or for target shooting. They certainly are not designed for clay pigeon shooting. They are designed to shoot people and make sure those people do not survive. Shots from the AR-15 tear people's bodies apart; they do not leave neat little holes that might increase the likelihood of survival. Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon with University of Arizona describes wounds from an AR-15 as 'looking like a grenade went off in there'.(3)

There are an estimated 265 million guns in the United States, which has a population of 323 million people, although only 30% of the population have guns. The average number of guns per gun owner is three, however, some only have one, while others have up to 140. Just 3% of America's gun owners hold 133 million guns, around half of America's personal arsenal.(4) Many of these weapons are pistols which pwners claim they need them for self-defence. Others will argue they use their rifles for hunting. Considering there aren't too many stags walking down Broadway it begs the question about how much hunting some of these gun owners do.

It may come as a surprise, but the chances for most people of encountering a violent gun-related crime is small for most areas of the United States. Gun violence is very much geographically concentrated, with more than half of America's homicides occurring in 127 cities which account for less than a quarter of the national population, but people in those areas are up to 400 times more likely to encounter gun violence(4). Even that is very much concentrated in small pockets of those cities. For instance, gun violence in Boston occurred in only 3% of its streets, while juvenile crime in Seattle occurred on only 5% of its streets(5). The chances of encountering situations where a person may feel the need to pull out a gun are small.

Self-defence? Then riddle me this: why are there almost seven times the number of firearm assaults in states with the most guns compared to those with the fewest? Gun-owners are twice as likely to be murdered as people without guns. Part of this issue is the mentality that owning a gun creates. Some gun-owners take greater risks, go to more dangerous places, thinking they are safe because they're 'packing heat'. The only thing being packed is them or their family members into body bags. So how many victims of assault used their guns for self-defence? Less than 1%. Instead, for every legal use of a firearm in the house, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides committed by someone in the home, and 11 attempted or completed suicides. Studies have shown that using a gun in self-defence is as effective as non-violent measures, such as calling for help. The NRA and gun-owners try to argue that if people want to be violent, they will be violent regardless of their access to guns. This is true, but as Scientific American reports, 'guns intensify violent encounters'. Remember the 'Stand Your Ground Laws' that legalised killing people in self-defence when they feel they are in danger, after George Zimmerman killed an unarmed black man, Trayvon Martin, because he felt scared? Since then, Florida's homicide rate has risen by around 25% and other states who have introduced similar legislation have experienced a sustained 8% increase in homicide rates. Mark Hoekstra of Texas A&M University pithily observed, 'we found that making it easier to kill people resulted in more dead people'.(5)

If guns made homes safer, then insurance premiums would go down rather than increase. One insurance broker's website states: 'The risks faced by your insurance company include wrongful death, bodily injury, property damage, and theft, among others. Since your gun adds considerable risk to your renters insurance, it also increases the rates significantly'(6).

One of the mantras chanted by gun-owners is that 'guns don't kill people, people kill people'. No shit, Einstein. That's why we're calling for gun control; background checks, training, cooling-off periods and raising minimum ages. Pro-gun people completely remove guns from the equation in crime. In their myopic view, it would make no difference whether the perpetrator had a gun or a rolling pin. Yet, what the hell are firearms designed for? To give foot massages?

In 1994, assault-style weapons such as the AR-15 were banned until 2004. Pro-gunners argue it isn't an assault weapon as this is a military term, however, the legislation defined 'assault weapons' including rifles and pistols that were semi-automatic with detachable magazines and had at least two military-style features, such as bayonet mounts, flash suppressors, folding and telescopic stocks, amongst others(7). Magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds were also banned. The legislators did not expect the ban to reduce gun crime per se, but to reduce the incidence of mass-shootings. So did it work? Damn straight it worked as shown in the below graph. In the ten years prior to the ban there were 19 incidents of mass shootings (defined as six or more deaths) with a total of 155 people killed. During the ban, mass shootings dropped to 12 with 89 deaths. In the ten years after the ban was lifted, there were 34 mass shootings with 302 deaths.(8) But hey, according to NRA logic, rolling pins will kill as many people as an AR-15.

So what is the NRA solution to the school shootings? While the NRA is demonising the gun control argument, they are yet to propose a solution other than, 'a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun'.

Further to this good guy/bad guy garbage, some pro-gunners bang on about 'bad people kill people'. However, this idea of there being good people and bad people is founded in simplistic, puerile ideas of absolutism that fails to acknowledge context ... the kind of thinking that far too many Christians embrace ... and funnily enough, a lot of American gun-owners are Christian who sincerely believe that guns are a gift from God ... clearly skipping the entire New Testament ... oh, that's right Jesus said, 'pick your AR-15 and follow me'. There are bad people out there, however, everyone is prone to good and bad actions. Show me one person who has never had a bad day ... I'd love to meet that person. 'Good' people have bad days and 'good' people lose their shit. Let me repeat that: People. Lose. Their. Shit. And armed people losing their shit is not a place anyone wants to be near. People who are armed and having a particularly bad day are more likely to react by drawing their firearm and raining hell on the situation. As Scientific American identified, 'People, all of us, lead complicated lives, misinterpret situations, get angry, make mistakes. And when the mistake involves pulling a trigger, the damage can't be undone'(5).

The NRA and pro-gun people justify their lack of legislative action by hiding behind the Second Amendment which they claim constitutionally protects their rights to 'bear arms'. This is one fraction of the Second Amendment and completely neglects the bit about 'well-regulated'. For your reading and researching convenience, the Second Amendment in its entirety reads as follows:

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.

Let's unpack this in light of modern America.
  • A well-regulated: passing laws, funnily enough, is the very essence of well-regulated
  • Militia: sorry, but Mr & Mrs Jones running around the streets of Boston armed with a couple of .32 calibre pistols while looking for a lobster and avocado panini with pan-roasted forest mushrooms, does not constitute a freaking militia.
  • being necessary to the security of a free state: Guess what? Now that America spends more per capita on its heavily armed Defence Force than any other nation, kind of negates any need for a militia to defend it. Oh, and if you're intending on over-throwing an oppressive regime based in Washington by facing down the world's biggest military after eating your lobster & avo panini with pan-roasted forest mushrooms ... yeah, good luck with that ... actually, thoughts and prayers are with you.
  • the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed: the people ... the militia ...  yeah, kind of only if necessary for the security of the nation, otherwise this does not apply.
Sadly, the NRA has reinvented the Second Amendment to deny any recognition of what a well-regulated militia is or whether it is even necessary. 

When the Second Amendment was introduced, America did not have a formal defence force and was totally reliant on the militia. Oh, did I mention that this was at a time when firearms were just a basic musket that was flat out firing three rounds a minute (compared to your average AR-15 which pumps out 45 rounds a minute ... and more if a bump stock is fitted). Do people really think that armed dumb-asses stuck in traffic in their Cadillacs with Make America Great Again bumper stickers, thinking about that evening's episode of America's Got Talent, constitute a militia?

By the by, 'militia' is a collective noun. A militia is a group. It is not individuals roaming around the streets unregulated and armed to the hilt. The militia of which the Second Amendment speaks was in reference to the legislated civic duty of the time, that required every white male aged between 16 and 60 to have a gun. That is the well-regulated militia, they were compulsorily required to own and provide their own weapons for the defence of the land; it wasn't a choice. A preliminary text of the Second Amendment provided a definition of what the Founding Fathers considered a militia: 'A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms'(9, p. 379). Most people would agree that with America's significant military might, a body of the people is no longer the best security of a free state, therefore it is no longer necessary.

John Paul Stevens, a former associate justice of the Supreme Court points out that the Second Amendment was designed for two things: one was to arm the people for military purposes and the second to restrict federal control over weapons but not that of the States to regulate firearms. Stevens suggests that the Second Amendment could be clarified through the addition of five words: 'A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed'(10)

This may surprise many, but the individual right to gun ownership was only recognised in 2008, 217 years after the Second Amendment was passed(11). These individuals are not a militia and will never be called on to defend the nation with their own weapons ... if they are required to defend the nation, they will be conscripted into the military and provided with weapons by the defence force.

The pro-gunners continually portray gun control advocates as wanting to ban all guns, yet this is far from the truth. Most gun control advocates want ... wait for it ... gun control. In other words, they are not solely blaming the guns for killing people, they are blaming people having unfettered access to guns for killing people. The pro-gun mob are in complete denial over the impact of guns in violent situations. They have gone ostrich, sticking their heads in the sand, yet there is a clear correlation between guns and the massacres that we see in America. The common denominator in these massacres is guns. Sure if guns were completely banned, someone set on massacring others will find another way, but most other ways require a bit more planning and skill than grabbing a semi-automatic and unleashing hell on innocent people. 

Gun control people have been asking for changes to the law so that it is more difficult for irresponsible people to get hold of guns. Why would responsible gun owners be opposed to this? Some of things gun control advocates are asking for include:
  • background checks
  • mandatory safety courses
  • mandatory licensing of gun owners
  • raise the minimum age to at least 21 before people can buy firearms
  • ban private sales of firearms
  • ban sales of firearms at gun shows
  • cooling off periods, so that someone can't just walk into a store and walk out 10 minutes later with a gun
  • ban high capacity magazines; restrict magazine capacity to 10 rounds
  • ban the bump stock that turns a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic one
  • people with domestic violence convictions banned from holding firearms
  • guns to be secured in safes at home
  • ban assault-style rifles (again)
While assault-style rifles are in the minority of weapons, they do facilitate mass killings.

Of course, none of these measures will completely stop the over-representation of violent crime in the United States, but they may well reduce it. The pro-gunners argue that legislation makes no difference, yet, as can be seen in the following chart, deaths by guns are lower in those states with the strictest gun control legislation(12).

Some of the infantile arguments against gun control made by the pro-gun mob include:
  • cars kill more people and we don't ban cars ... we also restrict access to cars, people have to be a minimum age, undertake training and licensing, pay for registration and insurance, and driving under the influence is banned. We also don't let people drive Formula One cars on suburban streets, so why allow people to own assault-style weapons that have no place other than in the military. One could say that cars are 'well-regulated'.
  • If we ban guns, they'll just buy them illegally ... sure ... so let's legalise all drugs because people are still using them, let's ditch homicide laws because people are still being murdered. We could save a heap of money on prisons by repealing all the laws that people break which put them there in the first place. Clearly laws don't work if there are still criminals, right?
  • Video games are too violent ... right, and every other country plays these same games but don't feel led to massacre children sitting in an algebra class!
The right-wing wants to ban everything they dislike, such as abortion, birth control, marriage equality, refugees, anti-bullying programs, immigration, Islam, halal, burqas, left-wing media, books (e.g. Slaughterhouse Five for not being consistent with biblical teaching), rock music, equal rights ... but when it comes to restricting access to guns it's a resounding NO from many right-wingers who have a distorted sense of entitlement, patriotism and biblical values.

One of the scapegoats that pro-gunners blame for mass shootings is the mentally ill. Which is ironic, considering that it is the Republicans who have been defunding mental health programs, but that is another story. For the most part, it is not the mentally ill who have been responsible for the mass shootings ... it is .. get this ... angry people. Psychologist, Laura L. Hayes wrote in 2014 on the tenuous links between mental illness and mass shootings, and emphasised that there was much stronger evidence to link poor anger management with violence and in particular, mass shootings. Hayes identifies that this violent anger is caused by a chronically suppressed rage.(13)

The modern United States is an angry nation. It is factionalised by an 'us and them' mentality that demonises people based on race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation and wealth. It demonises the poor and refuses anything that might represent a welfare state. 

The United States of today is one in which individualism is highly-valued over that of the community. This individualism is neurotically tied to the idea of freedom and that owning firearms is the greatest expression of freedom ... even if it comes at the price of thousands of dead school-children. The USA is riddled with a neurosis that is driven by greed and selfishness, manifesting as an extreme paranoia of the 'other' coming to take their things away. It is a neurosis that has been caused by the extreme form of capitalism that only America embraces. It is a capitalism that sees any form of sharing as being communism. Welfare payments to ensure people can eat? Communism! Universal health-care so that everyone, rich or poor, can receive medical treatment? Communism! Public education? Communism. Taxation? 'That's sharing wealth, you dirty Commo!' Raise the minimum wage so that the working poor aren't forced to work three or four jobs? 'Fuck you, Jack - price of my coffee ain't gonna go up to help someone else! That's communism, you pinko snowflake'! 

Yep, anger. Anger against those who might take away their precious 'freedom', which is really only their belongings purchased through their consumerist indulgence and an anger that comes from a perceived competition with the neighbours; 'keeping up with the Jones's' drives much of the ludicrous competition that causes stress and anger in many Americans.

America's extreme form of capitalism does not allow for empathy or compassion. And we wonder why this selfishness and fear exhibits itself through anger and paranoia that results in mass shootings of innocent people. It's the hate speech and exclusionism of populist politics that is empowering people to shoot up schools and crowds.

Gun control is only one small step in reducing deaths from guns. There are three profound issues that need to be addressed for long-term change in the United States:
  • anger
  • fear
  • hate
America needs anger management, this in itself will help resolve much of the violent crime. 

America needs to overcome its fear; it's fear of the other, fear of loss, fear of communism, fear of sharing. This is a nation that houses some very fearful people ... and they're armed to the teeth with firearms.

America needs to overcome its hate. It is a nation that is still largely segregated by race and religion. It is a nation that illustrates the huge disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Interestingly, most mass shootings are perpetrated by the haves, the privileged members of white America(14)... illustrating the power of fear that comes of greed and selfishness.

However, to truly overcome these horrendous mass murders, America needs empathy, sharing, caring, a spirit in which the good of the community is valued more than the individual, more than selfishness and greed.

Sylvester McNutt, a former high-flying type from corporate America who became a best-selling author of motivational books, may have inadvertently nailed the solution, when he wrote:

'Everyone is so focused on acting savage, busy, and heartless these days. Meanwhile, I'm searching for the humans that believe in compassion, love, and human connection'. 


1. New York Post, Ruth Brown, Four sheriff's deputies hid during Florida shooting, 23 February 2018, Accessed 3 March 2018.

2. Ranker, Mike Rothschild, Complete list of US military base shootings, Accessed 3 March 2018.

3. The New Yorker, John Cassidy, America's failure to protect its children from school shootings is a national disgrace, 15 February 2018, Accessed 3 March 2018.

4. The Guardian, Lois Beckett, The gun numbers: just 3% of Americans own a collective 133m firearms, 15 November 2017, Accessed 3 March 2018.

5. Scientific American, Melinda Wenner Moyer, More guns do not stop more crimes, evidence shows, 1 October 2017, Accessed 22 February 2018.

6. US Insurance Agents, Does owning a gun impact my renter's insurance quotes?, 10 February 2014, Accessed 3 March 2018.

7. United States Congress, H.R.3355 - Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Accessed 3 March 2018.

8. Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham, The real reason Congress banned assault weapons in 1994 - and why it worked, 22 February 2018, Accessed 3 March 2018.

9. Walker, D.J., 2016. Necessary to the security of free states: the Second Amendment as the auxiliary right of federalism. American Journal of Legal History, 56(4), pp.365–391.

10. The Washington Post, John Paul Stevens, The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment, 11 April 2014, Accessed 3 March 2018.

11. Politico Magazine, Michael Waldman, How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment, 19 May 2014, Accessed 3 March 2018.

12., Gun Laws v Gun Deaths, Accessed 3 March 2018.

13. Slate, Laura L. Hayes, How to Stop Violence. Mentally ill people aren't killers. Angry people are. 9 April 2014. Accessed 3 March 2018. 

14. New York Times, Daniel Victor, Mass shooters are all different. Except for one thing: Most are men, 17 February 2018, Accessed 3 March 2018.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Australia Day - Invasion ruined your life? Get over it, you're ruining our party!

Australia Day - Invasion ruined your life? Get over it,  you're ruining our party!

As the debate around Australia Day continues, so does the entrenched racism of many non-indigenous Australians with claims that Australia wasn't invaded, but peacefully settled by the British. Some claim that it could have been worse had it been the Dutch or the Portuguese or the Spaniards who invaded. Except these type of statements white-wash the genocide, massacres, ethnic cleansing, human rights abuses, eugenics and inhumane treatment that the British unleashed on the indigenous population.

The British declared the land 'terra nullius', empty land, and then set about systematically claiming the land for themselves while forcibly displacing the indigenous population whom they felt were less than human, or at best, were inferior to white people.

Captain Arthur Philip, the first governor of New South Wales, is often portrayed as a philanthropist who befriended the Eora people. Philip was committed to harmonious relations with the native occupants of the land, however, this didn't last long. Phillip's gamekeeper, John Macintyre was a brutal man who killed dozens of indigenous people. When he got speared by a man named Pemulway, who took exception to Macintyre's brutality, Phillips gave the order to kill six indigenous people in retaliation(1).

Contrary to popular opinion amongst some, the 'settlement' or 'colonisation' of Australia was not peaceful. Throughout the 19th century, most white settlements considered themselves to be at war with the indigenous population. One settler remarked, 'But if ye take their country from them, and they refuse to acknowledge your title to it, ye are at war with them; and, having never allowed your right to call them British subjects, they are justified by the usages of war in taking your property wherever they find it, and in killing you whenever they have an opportunity'.(2). These wars, of which there were many, have come to be known as the Frontier Wars. If anything gives credence to the claim that this was an invasion, it is the number of wars and massacres that occurred during this time.

Historians have compiled on online map of massacres, with a massacre defined as the killing of more than six people. Between 1788 and 1872 there were approximately 184 massacres, killing an estimated 3,598 aborigines. The Tasmanian Black War annihilated almost the entire indigenous population of the island(3). These massacres do not include the ongoing clashes between settlers and the indigenous population where there were fewer than six people killed. Nor did the massacres end in 1872. As late at 1928, massacres were occurring. That year saw the Coniston Massacre in the Northern Territory, in which at least 60 indigenous men, women and children were murdered by police(4).

The 50th anniversary of white settlement, otherwise known as Foundation Day (the precursor to Australia Day), was held on 26 January 1838. It was marked by a government ordered massacre of around 40 Kamilaroi aborigines at Waterloo Creek. Over the coming weeks, up to 200 more aborigines were killed. Six months later, the Myall Creek massacre resulted in the murders of 300 aborigines, many of whom were decapitated and burned by the occupying forces.(3)

According to former Prime Minister John Howard, 'there was no genocide against Indigenous Australians'(5). Tell that to Tasmania where almost the entire indigenous population was wiped out. Tell it to the thousands of victims of massacres.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, perpetuating the white superiority that Australia was founded on, stated that white settlement was good for aborigines(6). Abbott has a long history of racist comments about indigenous people and demonstrating a complete lack of cultural awareness. In 2014, he perpetuated the concept of terra nullius when he stated that when the First Fleet landed, Sydney was nothing but bush. He went on state that from the First Fleet we now have 'one of the most spectacular cities on our globe'(7). No mention of the exploitation or contribution of indigenous people to Australia's history. Sadly, the colour TVs of modern society came at a high cost. Abbott has  ignored the fact that modern Australia was built on the blood, sweat and tears of the First Nations People, who were exploited, raped and murdered at the hands of white settlers.

White settlement amounted to ethnic cleansing of the land. Much of the indigenous population was forcibly removed and relocated to areas they often had no links with, without recognition of their tribal boundaries, nor of the intricate marriage structures they had in place with neighbouring tribes.

It wasn't like the government didn't know what it was doing. For the centenary celebrations to be held on 26 January 1888, then NSW Premier, Henry Parkes, was asked if aborigines would be included in the festivities. Parkes replied, 'And remind them that we have robbed them?'(8).

Some of the white overlords wanted to 'breed out the coloured population'. Over the years, white people began breeding with aborigines. Not all of this was consensual. The white settlers often raped Aboriginal women. It was noted by a number of influential people, such as AO Neville, Western Australia's Chief Protector of Aborigines (an Orwellian misnomer if ever there was one), that black people would eventually be bred out, which he articulated in his 1947 book, Australia's Coloured Minority: It's Place in the Community.(9). It was common belief that pure-blood aborigines were of inferior genetic stock and would eventually die out(10).

In what amounted to eugenics, for decades the white overlords controlled who aborigines married, stole their half-caste children and aimed to encourage breeding with white people to 'breed the colour out'. The government claimed that the children were removed because of abuse in their family situations. However, the white idea of abuse was often the perception that pure-blood aborigines were considered to be inferior to white people and incapable of raising mixed blood children. Additionally, the government did not want traditional Aboriginal customs to be taught to children. For that matter, they didn't want aborigines practising their culture at all. One of the aims of forced removal was to teach mixed-blood children the ways of western civilisation(11).

It was common for female aborigines (adults and children) to work as domestic servants in white households, usually only being paid with food and accommodation. Many of them were raped and bashed by their white masters. Aboriginal men were forced to work on their own lands that had been taken over by white setters. The men were also paid with food. From 1897, numerous pieces of legislation  gave the Queensland government power over the wages and savings of indigenous people. Other states had similar legislation. This meant that money earned by aborigines was held in trust, however, it was rarely, if ever, returned to the people who earned the money(12). This lasted until 1972, when government control over wages ceased. Even then, aborigines were still being paid less than non-indigenous people. Wage equality wasn't finalised until 1986. Since then, there have been numerous legal challenges to recover the money held in trust. In 2002, the Queensland Government created the Indigenous Wages and Savings Reparation Offer, which was capped at $55.6 million. This was only for living workers and was not designed to be paid out to families of deceased workers. In 2004, the New South Wales government apologised for stolen wages. There is a class action underway at the moment regarding stolen wages.(13)

Far too many Australians believe that these issues concluded 200 years ago and that indigenous people should just 'get over it'. However, more than two centuries of government policy and social prejudice have formalised institutions that still exploit and abuse indigenous people to this day. They are over-represented in the court systems, often being arrested for crimes white people will never be arrested for. They are over-represented in deaths in custody. They suffer with sub-standard health care and education. Having said that, what is wrong with commemorating the abuses of two centuries ago? Australia remembers historical events on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. Most countries remember significant wars and battles, so why shouldn't Australia commemorate the Frontier Wars and honour the sacrifice of the First Nations People? No-one would tell Jews to get over the holocaust. Why should Australia's indigenous people 'get over' the genocide. Besides, there's a difference between getting over something and remembrance. Some Jews have moved from the holocaust, some haven't; but either way they still remember and commemorate it. Some Australians have not yet gotten over the cruelty of the Japanese in World War II. This was evidenced during the 2003 Rugby World Cup, when Townsville embraced the games played by Japan. Some locals were horrified that other locals were carrying Japanese flags and wearing Japanese jerseys. Either way, the city remembered and commemorated the anniversary of Battle of the Coral Sea and other events from the War in the Pacific. 'Getting over it' doesn't mean forgetting it or that there can be no remembrance or commemoration. 

As a way of celebrating Australia Day 2018, the Liberal Party in Victoria (currently sitting in opposition), has promised to ditch the cross-curriculum priorities of teaching students about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories in favour of teaching 'Australian values' and ... wait for it ... the Orwellian-titled 'principles of Western enlightenment'(14). We've seen the Australian values that the extreme right-wing of the Liberal Party embrace: genocide, ethnic cleansing, racial purity, racism, xenophobia.

Contrast this with New South Wales, where the Labor Party (also currently in opposition) has promised to sign a Treaty with indigenous people which will likely recognise the historic wrongs of the past(15).

Australia Day has become somewhat of a battle-ground between nationalist white Australians who feel indigenous people should just get over it, and those people who see it as Invasion Day, signifying the beginning of colonisation. Of course, there are Aussies who are not at either end of the spectrum, who are just happy to celebrate being Australian. A recent study found that most Australians don't care what day Australia Day is held(16). There are also indigenous people who are not in favour of moving Australia Day, while some are. However, most indigenous people, whether they want to move Australia Day or not, are in agreement on the need for acknowledgement and recognition of the atrocities their people have suffered, and continue to suffer. It is this lack of recognition that is one of the most hurtful issues.

Institutionalised racism perpetuates the disadvantage indigenous people continue to experience. Only recently, an article tried to argue that Australia wasn't invaded because if it was, then Native Title wouldn't apply. This is because United Nations Resolution 3314, the 'Right of Conquest', doesn't consider the descendants of the conquered and the conquerors as being two separate peoples if they are both equal under the law prior to World War II(17). This article ignores the plain fact that indigenous people were not equal under the law prior to World War II. It completely glosses over, in fact ignores, the massacres and genocide, the ethnic cleansing, the eugenics, the institutionalised racism. This article argued semantics while ignoring dispossession. Further, Resolution 3314 specifically is discussing aggression between States. One could hardly argue that the First Nations People constituted a State, as there were hundreds of separate tribes, no formal government and no head of state. Further, Article 7 of this Resolution states:

Nothing in this Definition, and in particular article 3, could in any way prejudice the right to self-determination, freedom and independence, as derived from the Charter, of peoples forcibly deprived of that right and referred to in the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination: nor the right of these peoples to struggle to that end and to seek and receive support, in accordance with the principles of the Charter and in conformity with the above-mentioned Declaration.(18)

Sadly, people swallowed this article and shared it across social media, as though it completely shot down any claim of Australia's genocidal past. It is pure ignorance and empowers far too many people to continue the lack of recognition or understanding of indigenous issues and Australian history.

The Australia Day holiday hasn't always been held on 26 January. Other dates included 24 May, which was introduced in 1905 as Empire Day and happened to be Queen Victoria's birthday. In 1915, Australia Day was held on 30 July. The Australian Natives Association lobbied for years for Australia Day to be held on 26 January. Don't get too excited about the name of this association, it was not an association of indigenous people. It was an association of white men with the aim to provide medical, sickness and funeral benefits to people born in Australia of European descent. The Association lobbied for federation, which was achieved in 1901. In the 1930s, it lobbied for 26 January being recognised as Australia Day. In 1935, this was achieved when all states agreed on the date(19). It wasn't until the 1940s that Australia Day was formalised as a national holiday. However, prior to 1994, the holiday was usually held on the nearest Monday to 26 January so that Australians could enjoy a long weekend. 26 January has been a day of controversy for indigenous Australians, a day that marks the invasion of their land, displacement, disadvantage, inequality and ongoing racism.

Protests against 26 January are not new. On 26 January 1938, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet, indigenous leaders met in Sydney for a Day of Mourning to protest the displacement and abuse that they had suffered since 1788(20).

Meanwhile, the government showed how inclusive 1938's Australia Day was by forcing 25 aborigines from Menindee Mission in far west NSW to perform in a re-enactment of the First Fleet. They were to play the part of retreating aborigines and were told that their families would starve if they didn't do it(21).

A variety of dates have been used for Australia Day(22)

The attitude of two former Prime Ministers, Tony Abbott and John Howard, shows that Australia has a long way to go in overcoming centuries of racism. Both of these men, by the way, claim to be Christians, defending Christian values. Apparently, ignoring genocide and institutionalised racism fits well with their version of Christianity.

Telling indigenous people to 'move on' because this 'happened 200 years ago', clearly shows that the same attitudes of 200 years ago still prevail in sections of the white community. Perhaps it is they who need to move on from their racist and ignorant views and accept that it is their very attitudes and approach to indigenous issues that are perpetuating the disadvantage and inequality First Nations People experience to this day.

For three days in May 2017, indigenous leaders from around the country met at Uluru to discuss whether a constitutional change was required to recognise indigenous Australians. This followed six months of consultations with indigenous people. At the end of the three day summit, the leaders presented the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which included a recommendation to establish a permanent indigenous body in federal parliament enshrined in the Constitution. This was a lengthy and democratic process that culminated in a pragmatic consensus of indigenous leaders. Yet the federal government rejected it. Prime Minister Turnbull said no. He said no to the wishes of the majority of our First Nations people.(23)

Australia Day has been subject to a white-washing of history. It is not a 'black arm-band' view of history to tell the truth about what happened and is still happening to this day. It is about recognition and honesty.

Move Australia Day to a day that is not linked to the bloodshed and dispossession of indigenous people. Chose a day that is less divisive and doesn't represent the invasion of this land.

While some indigenous people want it to stay on 26 January, two quotes by indigenous people stand out explaining why it should be moved.

Karen Mundine, chief executive of Reconciliation Australia, stated, 'Asking Indigenous people to celebrate on January 26 is like asking them to dance on their ancestors' graves'.

Richard Weston of the Healing Foundation states, 'For most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, January 26th is a reminder of the pain and loss caused by 230 years of dispossession, dislocation and mistreatment. It is impossible to celebrate when it brings to mind the deep hurt borne by our ancestors and how that suffering continues to impact us today'.(7)

Of course, another solution could be to have a day of recognition for indigenous Australia. The Australian Capital Territory has announced that 28 May 2018 will be the first Reconciliation Day public holiday(24). Each year the holiday will be held on the Monday on or immediately after 27 May, which is the anniversary of the 1967 referendum in which Australians voted to amend the Constitution to allow indigenous people to be counted in the census and to access better services(25).

Whether Australia Day is moved or not, and certainly while it remains on 26 January, we must stop ignoring the issues past and present. As a start, at least acknowledge and recognise these matters which still affect indigenous people to this day. This isn't about wallowing in the past, it is about remembrance ... and isn't the only day of remembrance held.

Consider that the indigenous population of Australia in 1788 was more than 777,000, by 1900 had fallen by 85% to around 117,000(26). More than 650,000 were killed by military action, murders by settlers, and disease. Imagine if Australia of today, with a population of 24 million, was invaded for a foreign force and close to decimated, it would see more than 20 million people dead. Surely there would be a day of remembrance! Why should this be any different for the First Nations People?

By today's definition, it was genocide. While the term didn't exist until the 20th century, the definition of genocide under the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which applies in both times of peace and times of war, is (a) killing members of the group, (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group(27). Each of these actions were undertaken against the First Nations People, whether it be by the violent actions of the military and settlers, government policies that dehumanised indigenous people, the eugenics discussed above, the slave-like conditions they were forced into, the stolen wages, and of course the Stolen Generations. No other people group would be expected to forget this or told to just 'get over it'.

'Getting over it' doesn't mean forgetting it or that there can be no remembrance or commemoration. 

Telling indigenous people that these things belong in the past is to ignore the fact, that those actions of the past are still felt to this day. For instance, almost every Aboriginal community that the government is fond of criticising, was created by the government as it relocated different Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander tribes to common areas, which they then also used for shipping Pacific Islanders to (remember the slave-trading black-birding? Another shameful moment in Australian history).

Campaigns to change the date are not new. Indigenous people have been protesting against 26 January since at least 1938. So this isn't the result of the modern phenomenon of 'political correctness gone mad', that some people like to use as some sort of ubiquitous boogey-man to hide their racism and ignorance behind.

Why forget the sacrifices of indigenous people of the past? Why forget about the racist behaviours and policies that empowered the abuse of indigenous people? As Italian philosopher, George Santayana wrote, 'Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it'. The anger by many Australians about the calls for a change of date, and even just to remember indigenous history, vividly demonstrates why it is imperative that we do not gloss over or forget the past abuses and the present issues faced by indigenous people.

No-one is being held accountable for the massacres of the 19th century, however, we are all accountable for the institutionalised racism and ignorant, racist views of people today, some of whom are political leaders who have their heads in the sand about indigenous history and current affairs. Only then, can we begin to address the underlying causes of social issues and disadvantage that challenge much of indigenous Australia today.

Lest We Forget!


1. Macintyre, 2015, Chapter 2 Newcomers, c. 1600 - 1792. A Concise History of Australia: Edition 4, Cambridge University Press

2. Reynolds, H. 2000, Chapter X - Confronting the Myth of Peaceful Settlement, Why Weren't We Told?, Penguin.

3. University of Newcastle, The Centre for 21st Century Humanities, Colonial Frontier Massacres in Eastern Australia 1788 - 1872 Accessed 24 January 2018.

4. National Museum of Australia, First Australians, Coniston Massacre Accessed 24 January 2018.

5. The Guardian, Helen Davidson, John Howard: there was no genocide against Indigenous Australians, 22 September 2014, Accessed 24 January 2018.

6. SBS, NITV, Nakari Thorpe, 'He's an idiot': Abbott's First Fleet 'good' for Aboriginal people comment met with outrage, 22 January 2018, Accessed 24 January 2018.

7. ABC, Anna Henderson, Prime Minister Tony Abbott describes Sydney as 'nothing but bush' before First Fleet arrived in 1788, 14 November 2014, Accessed 24 January 2018.

8. The Guardian, Calla Wahlquist and Paul Karp, What our leaders say about Australia Day - and where did it start, anyway?, 19 January 2018, Accessed 25 January 2018.

9. Museums Victoria Collections, Item HT 24038, Book - AO Neville, 'Australia's Coloured Minority: Its Place in the Community', Currawong Publishing Co, 1947 Accessed 24 January 2018.

10. Eugenics Archives, The Stolen Generations Accessed 24 January 2018.

11. Australasian Legal Information Institute, Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, Unfinished Business: The Australian Stolen Generations Accessed 24 January 2018.

12. Rosalind Kidd, 2000. Black Lives, Government Lies, UNSW Press.

13. Creative Spirits,, Aboriginal culture - Economy - Stolen Wages Timeline, Accessed 24 January 2018.

14. SBS News, Source: AAP, Victorian Liberals vow to teach students 'Australian values', 24 January 2018, Accessed 24 January 2018.

15. The Guardian, Calla Wahlquist, NSW Labor plans to sign treaty recognising Indigenous ownership, 25 January 2018, Accessed 25 January 2018.

16. The Sydney Morning Herald, Adam Gartrell, Most don't care when Australia Day is held, poll finds, 18 January 2018, Accessed 24 January 2018.

17. WA Today, Sherry Sufi, Inconvenient fact: Native title can only exist if Australia was settled, not invaded, 20 January 2018, Accessed 24 January 2018.

18. United Nations General Assembly, Resolutions Adopted By The General Assembly During Its Twenty-Ninth Session, 3314 (XXIX) Definition of Aggression An HTML version is available at: Accessed 25 January 2018.

19. National Australia Day Council Ltd, About Australia Day, History Accessed 25 January 2018.

20. The Conversation, Kate Darian-Smith, Australia Day, Invasion Day, Survival Day: a long history of celebration and contestation, 26 January 2017, Accessed 24 January 2018.

21. ABC News, Aimee Volkofsky, 'We thought we were going to be massacred': 80 years since forced First Fleet re-enactment, 25 January 2018, Accessed 25 January 2018.

22., Charis Chang, Debunking the myth of Australia Day, 29 August 2017, Accessed 25 January 2017.

23. ABC News , Bridget Brennan, Indigenous leaders enraged as advisory board referendum rejected by Malcolm Turnbull, 27 October 2017, Accessed 25 January 2018.

24.  ACT Government, Open Government, Reconciliation Day Public Holiday an Australian first, 14 September 2017, Accessed 25 January 2018.

25. State Library of Victoria, Ergo, The 1967 Referendum Accessed 25 January 2018.

26. Creative Spirits,, Aboriginal population in Australia Accessed 25 January 2018.

27. United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, Genocide Accessed 26 January 2018.