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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Climate change - 4 factors of the apocalypse

Climate change - 4 factors of the apocalypse


There are several factors associated with climate change, but sceptics often confuse their disagreement with one to deny the veracity of others; essentially throwing the baby out with the bath water. These four key factors are interrelated, but also unique. Each is associated with climate change, but should be considered individually.

The four key factors are:
  • Climate change
    • believe it or not?
  • Causes of climate change
    • anthropogenic or natural?
  • Long-term impact
    • apocalypse or survivable?
    • mitigate or adapt?
  • Renewable energy versus fossil fuels
    • infinite & clean or limited & polluting?
Why do these need to be considered separately? Because, those who disagree with anthropogenic causes of climate change, its long-term impacts and renewable energy, argue as though climate change is not occurring. They will often deny anthropogenic causes and long-term impacts to argue against both climate change and the need to divest from fossil fuels.

Climate change

Climate change is occurring. This is indisputable. Whether you believe that the cause is part of Earth's natural cycles or caused by human factors is irrelevant. Quantifiable evidence proves that the world's climate is the warmest it has been in millennia. The planet's average temperature is around one degree warmer than it was 100 years ago, with much of the increase occurring in the last 35 years (NASA n.d.)

On 11 September 2019, Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate change activist was interviewed by Trevor Noah on The Daily Show while she was in the United States for a climate change summit. Noah asked Thunberg, 'Do you feel a difference in the conversation, travelling from Sweden to America? Is there a different feeling around climate change?' Greta answered poignantly, 'I would say yes. Because here (America), it is discussed as something whether you believe in or not believe in, and where I come from it's more like "it's a fact" '.

Greta's activism started with a solo protest in 2018 and has inspired millions of people to turnout across the globe to protest against inaction on climate change. Some people criticised the students who attended these strikes, saying they should have stayed in school, but this is part of their education. Schools will often arrange excursions to parliament house so students can learn about democracy and government. The protests could be considered a school excursion where students gain practical experience in exercising democratic rights, freedom of speech and campaigning for the Earth. Funny that those who tell them to stay in school, deny the very science the students are learning about climate change.

It is a sad indictment that those who are trying to do the right thing by people and the planet are criticised by those who refuse to believe the science, who refuse to improve the planet or help others, and who are lost in their own greed, selfishness and ignorance. Sceptics shoot the messenger instead of listening to the message. They would rather criticise others than take real action to reduce human damage to the planet.

It's better to be a do-gooder, than to be a do-nothing.

Greta Thunberg's solo protest in 2018 led to millions campaigning across the globe in 2019
(McFall-Johnsen 2019)

The key word in 'climate change' is climate. Despite this, sceptics will often confuse climate and weather. If they experience a cold day or a cold winter, they'll laugh at any claim of a warming planet. Climate is the average weather pattern over a long period of time. Weather is the state of the atmosphere at any given point in time. Weather is a physical phenomenon. For example, hot air has lower pressure than cold air because the molecules are not as densely packed. This lower pressure can affect the flow of cold air as higher pressure areas flow into lower pressure areas. A warming climate causes change in weather conditions. For example, scientists have found that warmer conditions in the Arctic result in more severe winters across Europe and and North America (Gibbens 2019).

The planet is warming. Some people will say this is merely part of the normal cycles of the Earth, while others will state that humans are contributing to it through excessive emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon.

But right there we have agreement: the world is warming. Regardless of the cause, the climate is warming on a global scale.

Causes of climate change

This is really the main issue that sceptics have. If they separate this from climate change, they will usually admit that the planet is hotter than it has been for thousands of years; they will admit that they do not disagree with global warming, just the causes of it. So now we're making progress. Most people do believe in global warming. Yay!

Comprehensive studies have found that more than 97% of climate scientists believe in anthropogenic causes being the major factor in climate change (Nuccitelli 2019). Sceptics have tried to argue against this by citing articles that are usually not published by climate scientists or which haven't been peer-reviewed. One favourite is to refer to a petition that sceptics claim was signed by dozens of leading scientists opposing Canada's commitment to the Kyoto protocol, yet most of those who signed were not climate scientists and some were journalists (Le Page 2007a).

Carbon dioxide emissions are often referred to as pollution. Some sceptics argue that carbon dioxide is not pollution. Who cares what it is called, carbon dioxide is a green-house gas, and green-house gases warm the planet. That is without dispute.

So have people contributed to warming of the planet? Well, we live in a highly industrialised society of 7.5 billion people who are pumping out green-house gas emissions, including carbon dioxide among others, on a scale never before seen in recorded history. It should be kept in mind that scientists are not saying that the world's natural cycles are no longer in existence. They are saying that human factors have contributed to climate change and are exacerbating its effects. The following chart shows that atmospheric CO2 is the highest its been for more than 800,000 years, spiking from 1950 onwards. Can this really be blamed on natural climate cycles?

Atmospheric CO2 (NASA n.d.)


Arguments against anthropogenic factors will often make comparisons to other events, for instance the Medieval Warming Period between 800CE and 1300CE. Scientists were criticised for their 'hockey stick graph' published in 2001, that showed a dramatic increase in global temperatures over the last 1000 years. The following is the original hockey stick graph (Le Page 2007b).


Sceptics claim that this model was fabricated, that scientists deliberately lied about the rise in temperatures. However, this isn't true. It is probably not a surprise, but there were no temperature records kept 1000 years ago. The original hockey stick model was based on modelling and assumptions regarding indicators of temperature, such as data from tree rings, coral, ice cores and historical records. While some of these assumptions have been corrected over time, scientists still conclude a significant increase in global temperatures over the last 1000 years. The following graph compares current research to the original hockey graph, showing that while it was over-stated, it wasn't that far off (Le Page 2007b).



Another argument is that volcanoes put out much more green-house gases than humans do. Funnily enough, scientists are an inquisitive lot and have researched this. Volcanoes (both on land and undersea) emit around 200 million tons of carbon per year (EarthTalk 2009). Whereas burning of fossil fuels emitted more than 36 billion tons in 2018 (Harvey 2018). Busting out the calculator we can see that volcanoes account for around half of one percent of the emissions of fossil fuels. The following chart is based on data from NASA and models emissions from volcanoes since 1880 against industrial carbon emissions ('What's really warming the world' 2015). So if people are willing to assign partial blame for climate change to volcanoes, why can't they accept emissions from fossil fuels must carry some blame too? After all, emissions from fossil fuels are 180 times that of emissions from volcanoes ... as of 2018. If we don't reduce these emissions, they will increasingly dwarf volcanic carbon emissions.



Compare this to green-house gas emissions, where there has been a 40% increase since 1750 (Bloomberg Business Week 2015).



Obviously, volcanoes are only one of the natural sources of COand other greenhouse gas emissions. When compared to all sources of greenhouse gases, industrial sources contribute about 5% of total global emissions. This may not sound like much, but there are a number of issues with this. Prior to about 1750, CO2 emissions were roughly in balance with the absorption of CO2 in heat sinks, which include the ocean, soil and forests. As human population has grown, there has been an increasing amount of deforestration and land conversion which has reduced the amount of heat sinks available to absorb CO2. The ocean absorbs some of these natural emissions that are no longer sequestered by land and forests, as well as some anthropogenic emissions. In doing so, there is increasing acidification of oceans, causing damage to ocean ecosystems, including reefs, fish and other ocean life. Around 40% of anthropogenic emissions are absorbed by heat sinks, while the rest remains in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. The following image compares natural and anthropogenic production of CO2, (note, that this shows 2004 emissions, whereas 2018 emissions are 36 gigatons, a 27% increase in 14 years).

Carbon dioxide sources and sinks
(Brahic 2007)

The IPCC predicts that there are irreversible long-term effects of anthropogenic COemissions, including the very likely continuation of increasing ocean acidification throughout the remainder of the century as oceans continue absorbing atmospheric CO2, which is also rising because of land clearance and fossil fuel emissions (IPCC 2013, p. 469).

One argument against climate change is that it is a myth propagated by scientists seeking funding for research. Believe it or not, climate change is not the only show in town. Scientists get research funding for all manner of things, not just climate change. If there was no such thing as climate change, scientists would continue to be funded for other research.

Severity of impact

Just how serious will the impact of climate change be? Sceptics often carry on as though there will be no impact, however, some of that impact is being felt right now. Pacific Island nations are being affected by rising sea water, while the world is experiencing extreme weather events associated with the warmer climate.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts the planet will be largely unlivable by 2100. A paper published by the Breakthrough National Centre (BNC), an Australian think-tank, predicts that if carbon emissions are not reduced by 2050, there is a 'high likelihood of human civilisation coming to an end' (Ahmed 2019). Retired Admiral Chris Barrie, who now works for the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University in Canberra, believes that much of the knowledge provided to governments is too conservative, so existential risks are not identified or addressed (Ahmed 2019).

As mentioned earlier, climate change isn't the only show in town. Overpopulation and over-consumption are destroying forests and habitats, polluting air and water resources, and causing defaunation (the extinction of animal species and populations).

While not solely caused by climate change, defaunation is a major concern which has scientists suggesting that the world may be experiencing the sixth mass extinction event. Over the last century, we have witnessed the extinction of more than 200 species of animals and more than one billion animal populations, as a result of anthropogenic causes associated with key drivers of overpopulation and over-consumption, including over-exploitation of natural resources and habitats, pollution, toxification and climate disruption (Gerardo, Ehrlich & Dirzo 2017). These population decreases are a prelude to species extinction. Conservative estimates conclude that up to 50% of individual animals have been lost, with forecasts that this will worsen over the next couple of decades, threatening the future of both animal and human life (Gerardo, Ehrlich & Dirzo 2017). In Germany, more than 77% of insects have disappeared since 1989, while in North America, there's 2.9 billion fewer birds than in 1970, approximately a 29% reduction (Kilvert 2019). This impacts ecosystems, as birds and some insects pollinate crops, distribute seeds, may be predator or prey and perform many other ecosystem functions. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) estimates that of the eight million species of animals, around one million are threatened with extinction within the next few decades (Sustainable Development Goals 2019). Climate change will impact ecosystems as animals struggle to survive. Those that adapt to warming will still be impacted because of the loss of other animals that their food chain is reliant on. If a predator adapts, but their prey doesn't, the predator will suffer as well.

The anthropogenic causes of defaunation, are also contributing to global warming. Deforestation for instance, results in the production of less oxygen, thus changing the atmospheric balance in favour of carbon dioxide, which is exacerbated by human overpopulation and industrialisation producing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Ironically, two of the world's largest carbon emitting countries are also responsible for reducing the impact of global warming by planting almost one third of all new trees and plants on Earth over the last 20 years. While this greening helps the Earth, NASA believes that it does not offset the damage done to rainforest clearing in places such as the Amazon Basin, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia. Some of this greening is because of agricultural industries which have converted native habitats into farms, which further drives defaunation and deforestation.

While some forecasts of the severity of climate change over the next few decades may seem alarmist, the concern is not just the impact of carbon emissions, but that it is coupled with other human-related environmental impacts. When sceptics state that 1000 years ago, the earth experienced this level of warming, they ignore the fact that people were not contributing to it through mass deforestation, defaunation, water scarcity, soil depletion, toxification, pollution of air and water, and excessively high and constant carbon-emitting industrialisation.

Climate change predictions are that more crops will fail, creating food shortages, while rising sea temperatures will reduce ocean productivity, impacting more than 20% of the world's population who rely on the ocean for food (McNutt 2013).

The mining and production of fossil fuels causes significant environmental damage through land clearance, pollution, and mineral run-off into rivers and seas. Investment in renewables and sustainable production will reduce carbon emissions, have less environmental damage and improve human health.

Global warming is contributing to rising sea levels in two ways: melting of land-based ice and thermal expansion of oceans because water expands as it warms (NOAA 2019). Approximately 10% of land on Earth is covered in ice, such as in glaciers and ice sheets which store around 69% of the world's fresh water (NSIDC n.d.). Land-based glaciers are mainly located in Greenland and Antarctica, but also found on most continents, including areas such as North America, Central Asia, North Asia, Africa and New Zealand. Rising sea-levels will create havoc for many of the world's major cities that are built close to coastal areas. This may result in the relocation of more than one billion people in the second half of this century (Spratt & Dunlop 2019, p. 13).

Some people are predicting apocalyptic scenarios caused by global warming. Others do not agree with the end of the world prognosis. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization has rebuked climate alarmists, stating that it is not going to be the end of the world. Taalas isn't saying that global warming is not a problem, but he is saying that 'we should stay calm and ponder what is really the solution to this problem' (Pentchoukov 2019). He acknowledges that there will be significant problems for some parts of the world, but that people can survive harsh conditions. Taalas isn't the only one who agrees with anthropogenic climate change, but who doesn't believe its impact will be as severe as some are claiming it will be.

Regardless of the causes or severity of climate change, what we do know is that the world is warming, is over-populated and people are over-consuming natural resources.

Renewable energy versus fossil fuels

Climate change activists are criticised for travelling in planes and cars emitting carbon, yet, how else are they going to travel. If anything, this is the very reason why climate change activists are campaigning for renewable energy. This criticism merely serves to make the case that activists are trying to make; that we need to invest in alternative and renewable sources of energy.

Economically, it makes far more sense to replace fossil fuels with renewables. For instance, the world is at the behest of major oil producing countries and organisations, such as OPEC. Recent drone strikes on two of the world's largest oil installations in Saudi Arabia are likely to result in higher oil prices globally (Hubbard, Karasz & Reed 2019). If nations were not importing their oil, but were able to produce their own energy, then there would be less risk of external actions threatening their energy supply and economies.

In Australia, the government has been attacking renewables and praising coal for years. This is extremely short-sighted because many nations are increasing their investment in renewables and divesting from coal and other fossil fuels. Yes, at the moment, there is a global reliance on coal, but many nations are increasing their investment in renewables. Conservative commentators like to claim that nations such as India and China are continuing to build coal-fired power stations. This is only half the story. These power stations are to meet immediate need, yet both nations are investing in renewables and divesting from coal as they plan for the future. India is one of the world's largest producers of renewable energy and over the last three years, has invested more in solar energy then in fossil fuels (Cockburn 2019). By 2024, India plans to reduce its coal imports by at least a third, and by 2030 it is estimated that coal's share of India's energy generation will reduce from 72% to 50% (Singh 2019).

In April 2019, the United States produced more renewable energy than coal-generated energy (Milman 2019). Production of renewable energy is becoming cheaper than coal as investment shifts to more sustainable and cleaner energy sources. On the back of investment, India produces the world's cheapest solar energy (Wood 2019).

Conclusion

Of the four factors above, we can conclude that climate change is occurring, most climate scientists believe in anthropogenic causes, the world is slowly increasing its use of renewables although over-consumption and over-population are contributing to climate change and driving other environmental risks, while there is some disagreement over the severity of climate change effects.

Actions to address climate change generally fall into two areas: adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation requires adjusting to changing conditions, perhaps through relocation of communities, types of crops grown and taking advantage of longer growing seasons. Mitigation involves reducing green-house gas emissions through replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, and enhancing areas of sequestration, such as oceans, forests and soil.

Both sceptics and those who dismiss the apocalyptic forecasts prefer adaptation, because they believe it is more practical and less damaging economically. Meanwhile, mitigation is the main area of focus by activists.

Por que no los dos?

Adaptation is essential because mitigation is not going to dramatically reduce carbon emissions quickly enough to have a significant impact in the short-term. However, to long-term change will only be effected by adopting mitigation strategies now.

Let's assume that fossil fuel emissions are not contributing to the planet. Is it really such a bad thing to have cleaner energy. Apart from improved environmental outcomes, it would improve energy security. Imagine not being at risk of oil shortages because of war in the Middle East. Australia holds around three weeks worth of fuel in reserve, posing a significant risk to our economy, lifestyles and industry if there's war or other external security factors threatening it (McCutchan 2018).

With a population of almost eight billion people, the world cannot afford for us to continue consuming natural resources at the rate that we are. While there are some natural resources we still need to mine, for example, cadmium, zinc and other metals used in the goods we require, we can look at how we power those mines and the logistics used in transportation, storage and manufacturing. We can improve reverse logistics, to enhance recycling, reusing or repurposing of components and products. We can ensure mining is done sustainably to minimise environmental impacts, pollution, and run-offs into waterways. Meanwhile, mining of coal and extraction of other fossil fuels can be reduced and replaced in the long-term by production of cleaner, more sustainable, renewable energy. We could consider other resources for manufacturing products. Hemp, for instance, can be used in place of textiles, wood, plastic and so on. It is far more sustainable and presents massive environmental benefits.

What's the worst that could happen if governments and businesses reduce carbon emissions and embrace renewable energy? We end up with cleaner air, cleaner water, energy independence and security, healthier planet and people, improved liveability, food security, and sustainable industries that benefit people and the environment.



References

Ahmed, N 2019, 'New report suggests 'high likelihood of human civilization coming to an end' starting in 2050', Vice, 4 June, viewed 20 September 2019, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/597kpd/new-report-suggests-high-likelihood-of-human-civilization-coming-to-an-end-in-2050.

Brahic, C 2007, 'Climate myths: Human CO2 emissions are too tiny to matter', New Scientist, 16 May, viewed 24 September 2019, https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11638-climate-myths-human-co2-emissions-are-too-tiny-to-matter/.

Ceballos, G, Ehrlich, P & Dirzo, R 2017, 'Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,  Vol. 114, No. 30, pp. E6089-E6096.

Cockburn, H 2019, 'India investing more money in solar power than in coal for first time', The Independent, 20 May, viewed 15 September 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/india-coal-solar-power-investment-money-climate-change-iea-a8921961.html.

Dunne, D 2019,  'One-third of world’s new vegetation in China and India, satellite data shows', Carbon Brief, 12 February, viewed 16 September 2019, https://www.carbonbrief.org/one-third-worlds-new-vegetation-in-china-and-india-satellite-data-shows.

EarthTalk 2009, 'Are volcanoes or humans harder on the atmospher', Scientific American, 11 February, viewed 20 September 2019, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earthtalks-volcanoes-or-humans/.

Gibbens, S 2019, 'Why cold weather doesn't mean climate change is fake', National Geographic, 23 January, viewed 15 September 2019, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/01/climate-change-colder-winters-global-warming-polar-vortex/.

Harvey, C 2018, 'CO2 emissions reached an all-time high in 2018', Scientific American, 6 December, viewed 20 September 2019, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/co2-emissions-reached-an-all-time-high-in-2018/.

Hubbard, B, Karasz, P, Hubbard B 2019, 'Two major Saudi oil installations hit by drone strikes, and US blames Iran', New York Times, 14 September, viewed 15 September 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/14/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-refineries-drone-attack.html.

IPCC 2013, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp., https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/.

Kilvert, N 2019, 'Bird populations are collapsing, and it's a sign of a bigger problem', ABC News, 20 September, viewed 20 September 2019, https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2019-09-20/birds-collapse-us-bees-ecology-environment/11520008.

Le Page, M 2007a, 'Climate myths: Many leading scientists question climate change', New Scientist, 16 May, viewed 15 September 2019, https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11654-climate-myths-many-leading-scientists-question-climate-change/.

Le Page, M 2007b, 'Climate myths: The 'hockey stick' graph has been proven wrong', New Scientist, 16 May, viewed 15 September 2019, https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11646-climate-myths-the-hockey-stick-graph-has-been-proven-wrong/

McCutchan, E 2018, 'Fact check: Does Australia have 3 weeks of petrol in reserve?', ABC News, 12 July, viewed 21 September 2019, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-23/fact-check-jim-molan-fuel-security/9687606.

McFall-Johnsen 2018, '2 striking photos taken just over a year apart show how Greta Thunberg's climate strike inspired millions', 21 September, viewed 21 September 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com.au/2-photos-show-how-greta-thunbergs-climate-strike-inspired-millions-2019-9.

McNutt, M 2013, 'Climate change impacts', Science, Vol. 341, No. 6145, pp. 435.

Milman, O 2019, 'US generates more electricity from renewables than coal for first time ever',  The Guardian, 27 Jun, viewed 14 September 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/26/energy-renewable-electricity-coal-power.

NASA n.d., Climate change: How do we know?, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, viewed 21 September 2019, https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/.

NOAA 2019, Is sea level rising, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, viewed 20 September 2019, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sealevel.html

NSIDC n.d., Facts about glaciers, National Snow and Ice Data Centre, viewed 21 September 2019, https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/glaciers/information.html.

Nuccitelli, D 2019, 'Millions of times later, 97 percent climate consensus still faces denial', The Bulletin,15 August, viewed 14 September 2019, https://thebulletin.org/2019/08/millions-of-times-later-97-percent-climate-consensus-still-faces-denial/.

Pentchoukov, I 2019, 'Chief of World Meteorological Organization castigates climate alarmists', The Epoch Times, 8 September, viewed 14 September 2019, https://www.theepochtimes.com/chief-of-world-meteorological-organization-castigates-climate-alarmists_3073666.html.

Roston, E & Migliozzi, B 2015, 'What's really warming the world?' Bloomberg Businessweek, 24 June, viewed 15 September 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-whats-warming-the-world/?.

Singh, RK 2019, 'India, world's No. 2 coal buyer, plans to cut imports by a third', Bloomberg, 1 August, viewed 14 September 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-01/india-world-s-no-2-coal-buyer-plans-to-cut-imports-by-a-third.

Spratt, D & Dunlop, I 2019, The Third Degree: Evidence and implications for Australia of existential climate-related security risk, Breakthrough - National Centre for Climate Restoration, https://www.breakthroughonline.org.au/papers.

Sustainable Development Goals 2019, UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating, United Nations, 6 May, viewed 20 September 2019, https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/.

Wood, J 2019, 'India is now producing the world's cheapest solar energy', World Economic Forum, 28 June, viewed 14 September 2019, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/06/india-is-now-producing-the-world-s-cheapest-solar-power.





Saturday, June 29, 2019

Israel Folau - Making a martyr out of a molehill

Israel Folau - Making a martyr out of a molehill



And just like that ... Rugby Union great, Israel Folau is a martyr for free speech and Christian persecution!

Folau's martyrdom was the culmination of a couple of years in which he'd posted on social media parts of the bible that stated homosexuals would go to hell (among others, such as drunkards, liars, fornicators et al). This isn't illegal and Folau has freedom of speech to post this to his heart's content. However, he was under contract to Rugby Australia who had clauses in his $4 million a year contract about not bringing the sport into disrepute. RA considered these posts to be homophobic and warned him to stop. Folau initially promised, even saying that he would gladly resign if necessary (Folau 2018). Then he fired off another post and RA decided it was time to sack him for breaching the contract. Rather than gladly leave as he'd previously promised, Folau portrayed himself as a victim whose freedom of speech had been restricted, and set about suing RA. Folau, with a $7 million house, cried poor and created a GoFundMe page to raise $3 million to cover his legal bills. GoFundMe stated it was a breach of their conditions because they didn't wish to promote homophobia, and promptly cancelled the account. In rides the Australian Christian Lobby, a highly antagonistic lobby group who claims charity status so that they can conduct campaigns that persecute LGBTIQ+ people. Within a few days, they'd raised more than the GoFundMe campaign.

Israel Folau's Instagram post

Talk about making a martyr out of a molehill!

There are so many elements to this case, but it is fundamentally about whether an employer can sack someone for posting bible verses. RA will argue that it was part of their contract and they'd warned Folau to desist. Folau will argue he has a right to his views and that he never called for violence or persecution of LGBTIQ+ people. Contract Law versus Freedom of Speech.

This case has polarised the community with many Christians jumping on the Folau bandwagon and supporting him through either donation or deed. Others have jumped on the RA bandwagon and cheered on their stance against homophobia.

For some, the perplexing question is whether they support Folau's freedom of speech or whether to oppose persecution of LGBTIQ+ people. Sadly, this has become somewhat of a wicked problem for many people because many of those who support gay rights also support freedom of speech. However, many people, whether left or right, will say they support freedom of speech, until that speech offends them.

It should be noted that this isn't exactly about freedom of speech, because no-one is stopping Folau from posting those verses. Rather, it is about the consequences of those posts and an employer who has taken umbrage against them.

While I disagree with Folau's belief that homosexuals will go to hell, I believe he has a right to state it. He was quoting text from the bible. If organisations have a right to sack people for quoting biblical or other texts, where will it end? Organisations already have far too much say over people's private lives. There was a time when people's work life was confined to working hours and their private life filled the remaining hours however they chose. Now, organisations can dictate how people behave and what they say outside the work environment. This is a loss of freedom and should be rolled back.

Even Folau's wife is being targeted because she dared to share Folau's fund-raising campaign. She is a representative netball player and some sponsors, such as HCF, called on Netball Australia to take action against her. Seriously? What is her crime? This is making the proverbial mountain out of a molehill!

Personally, I hope Folau wins his case against Rugby Australia. Not because I agree with him, but because it will help set a limit on employer over-reach into people's personal lives. Ironically, courts require witnesses to swear an oath, which may be done on the Bible ... the very book from which Folau has quoted in this case.

Folau's post does not constitute hate speech, although the bible has been used to persecute and marginalise LGBTIQ+ people for millenia. Folau has stated he did it out of love not hate; he wants to save people from going to hell. As scripture goes, this one is pretty useless for saving people's souls. Think this through, that scripture exposes gay Christians to further rejection by God because of their natural sexuality and gender. So that's probably not useful considering many of them have been rejected by family and church already. And for non-Christians, it is threatening them with a hell they don't believe exists.

If Folau genuinely wanted to see people saved from the hell he believes in, he would have quoted scriptures about love and acceptance, and shared testimonies of people who have experienced love and acceptance in the church, rather than rejection. This scripture belongs to an anachronistic version of Christianity that governs by fear and shame; fear of hell and shame that one day all your sins will be revealed before the entire world. If everyone's sins were exposed before the world, it will merely show that we all have far more in common that we dared admit.

The better way to deal with Folau would have been to ignore him, rather than turn him into a martyr of Christian persecution. Ignoring Folau would have isolated him to his own little conclave of bible-bashers who use judgement and threats of hellfire and damnation to control people. Thankfully, there are fewer and fewer who can be controlled by these tactics.

Folau's views are archaic and demonstrate the hypocrisy of people who selectively quote the bible, while continuing to disobey it themselves. For instance, while Folau is berating a whole raft of people who are going to burn in hell, he is also pushing it up hill if he thinks he is going to escape those hell-fires and inherit a mansion in heaven, according to the bible anyway. The bible states that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into heaven. Folau might want to ponder this as he kicks back in his $7 million mansion fighting to reinstate his $4 million a year contract.

Many Christians are funding Folau's legal defence as if their Christian values depend on it, yet they have failed to stand up against the persecution and torture of innocent asylum seekers and refugees at the hands of the Pentecostal Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other politicians. Apparently caring for the poor, the sick, the refugee, is completely unnecessary for conservative Christians. It's ok to persecute the persecuted, but woe-betide anyone who allegedly persecutes the persecutors. Try stopping Christians from stopping others living their own lives and all hell breaks lose in conservative Christian circles ... as we're now witnessing with Folau's case.

If we're going to defend freedom of speech for one, then we defend it for all in the spirit of the Voltairean principle: 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it'. Voltaire's sentiment allegedly followed the burning of a book that caused great offence in 18th century Paris. Voltaire disagreed with the contents of the book, but felt that it was an 'airy trifle' and much 'fuss about an omelette'. How apt for the Folau case. Much ado about nothing. I wholeheartedly disagree with Folau's views, but defend his right to share them without being sacked.

Do those who defend Folau, also defend Yassmin Abdiel-Magied? Yassmin, a 2015 Queensland Young Australian of the Year, published a tweet on Anzac Day 2017, which stated 'LEST.WE.FORGET. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine...)'. Sadly, many people took this as an attack on Diggers rather than seeing that she was raising awareness of human rights issues. In the case of Manus Island and Nauru, the government covered-up its human rights abuses by threatening to jail whistle-blowers who exposed them. Yassmin was forced to flee Australia in the wake of horrendous abuse in which she was threatened with rape and death. Many of the same people who are defending Folau also attacked Yassmin. The difference being that Folau is a Christian man and Yassmin a Muslim woman.

People are free to spend their money how they wish, but it does say a lot about the values of people who fund Folau's right to post hellfire and damnation, while failing to fund efforts to help the poor, the needy, the refugee. Perhaps, they shouldn't have been so quick to threaten Yassmin Abdul-Magied. She did raise some good points about people ignoring the plight of refugees on Manus and Nauru.

Yassmin also mentioned Palestine, which raises even graver concerns about anachronistic Christians supporting Folau, while not just ignoring, but gleefully encouraging and even financially supporting crimes against humanity. Far too many Christians blindly embrace the Zionist claim that modern-day Israel is the fulfilment of biblical prophecy. Based on this, many Christians defend the killing of Palestinians in the name of God - because, you know, the bible! These Christians support ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in Palestine, reflecting the depth of hatred and intolerance that resides in the hearts of many Christians. If they are willing to support genocide and ethnic cleansing, what expectation can we have that they will treat LGBTIQ+ people with respect.

Folau has a right to freedom of speech. All of us do. But this freedom means that those who disagree also have the freedom to comment and criticise. This is not persecution. Unfortunately, raising the profile of Folau's social media posts and subsequent sacking, is now causing more harm to LGBTIQ+ people than had it been ignored. There are people, such as the ACL, who are empowered by this case and are using it to further their fear-mongering of 'gay agendas' and 'neo-marxist plots' by blaming it on the legalisation of same-sex marriage. And they wonder why people accuse them of bigotry. They claim Folau is being persecuted for his beliefs, while they want to continue persecuting and marginalising LGBTIQ+ people.

So why are people taking such a strong stance against Israel and defending Rugby Australia's sacking of him? It was a simple post by a simple man who can't see the big picture; who fails to see that rejection by the church is the very reason why so many people have taken a stand against him. Folau is not spreading the love of God, but reinforcing the abuse and rejection that many LGBTIQ+ people have suffered at the hands of so-called Christians. 'Love the sinner but hate the sin' is just Christian weasel-words for persecuting others.

Everyone needs to calm their collective farms. There will always be people who have these black and white views of the bible; who criticise 'moral relativism'. Thankfully, these people are in a shrinking minority as more and more people realise that segregation and prejudice are not acceptable. The opposite of relativism is absolutism. Black and white. Yet, few people are truly absolutist, regardless of what they claim. Relativism is about context, facts and understanding, while Absolutism ignores contexts and facts that contradict a person's understanding. We can see that with Folau himself. The bible prohibits tattoos, yet he is tattooed. Some may argue that biblical scripture prohibiting tattoos were simply part of Mosaic law used by ancient Israel that do not apply today. Fair enough. That's relativism. The bible said to stone murderers, adulterers and so on. I haven't heard too many Christians calling for public stoning of late, perhaps because they realise that stoning was relative to Mosaic law and is a tad archaic for the 21st century. That's relativism. The bible said that after a particular conquest it was ok to kill every man, woman and boy, but to keep virgin girls as slaves, which in that culture would have included sexual slavery. How many Christians abide by this? Absolutism would say to continue this practice, relativism would consider that this behaviour existed 2500 years ago, but is unacceptable today.



But Folau. He merely quoted the bible in an absolutist sense. Should we ban the bible? No. Mind, some of Folau's supporters have called for the banning of Islam, while claiming persecution when people criticise Christianity ... oh, the irony. Mind, while they're busy with their moral relativism in contextualising the bible, they don't afford Muslims the same luxury when Koranic scriptures are quoted out of context. Just for fun, wish one of these conservatives 'Happy holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas', or tell them their Easter eggs are halal. They will wallow in their persecution complexes and melt down quicker than a chocolate Easter bunny in the fires of hell.

Sacking Folau for his religious views is employer over-reach. However, the vehement support of Folau by Christians who just as vehemently attack refugees is indicative of those Christians lack of validity. 

Given conservative Christianity's blind support for politicians who persecute the persecuted and demonise those who the bible calls 'the lowest of these'; those most in need, is it any wonder then they've found a rallying post in Folau's case. The wailing and gnashing of teeth that we're witnessing from some circles in their rabid support for Folau while ignoring the gaping holes in their own moral values, is indicative of conservative Christianity's lost legitimacy, revealing this to be a desperate attempt to shore up their waning pertinence and mask their lack of concern for the real issues that the bible would have them address.

Should Rugby Australia or any employer have the right to sack someone for their religious or political views? No.

Allow Folau to post his anachronistic views, rather than making a martyr out of a molehill. Meanwhile, the rest of us can be there to counter the rejection of conservative churches and ensure that LGBTIQ+ people are included and valued, with the same rights as everyone else.

Reference

Folau, I 2018, 'I'm a sinner too', Player's Voice, 16 April, viewed 28 June 2019, hhttps://www.playersvoice.com.au/israel-folau-im-a-sinner-too.



Sunday, May 26, 2019

Seeds of Holocaust: the rise of white supremacy & return of Nazism

Seeds of Holocaust: the rise of white supremacy & return of Nazism



Each year we remember the terrible holocaust that Nazi Germany inflicted on millions of people. For many, the pain isn't confined to Holocaust Remembrance Day; they live it every moment through memories of their personal experience or that of their relatives and friends.

 It is important to remember the Holocaust and the events and motivations that led to it so that never again will the world experience such atrocity.

However, while millions around the world pause to reflect on the horrors of that time, there are some who still deny that it happened or claim it did not happen on the scale reported. Holocaust Deniers are rightfully criticised and vilified for their complete disregard of facts.

Holocaust Remembrance Days reflects on the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi regime. They were the largest people group targeted by Hitler. Yet we should not forget that Hitler's hatred extended beyond Jews, resulting in almost triple that number, around 17 million, being victims of the Holocaust.



We must not forget the additional 11 million people who were murdered because of their politics, race, sexuality, gender and health. Why do Holocaust Remembrances focus on Jewish people? Because, in 1942, the Nazis implemented the Final Solution which specifically targeted Jews. In fact, the full title of this heinous crime was 'The Final Solution to the Jewish Question'. It deliberately targeted Jewish people and culminated in the death of two-thirds of the world's Jewish population.

From the early 1930s onwards, the Nazis had imprisoned anyone who did not conform to their ways. Although the Final Solution specifically targeted Jews, the detention camps also held socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, gypsies, dissenters, LGBTIQ+ people, unionists, the sick and infirm. The Final Solution was not confined to Jews. These additional 11 million were also victims of Hitler and the Nazi regime.

Source: Holocaust Encyclopedia 

While the wholesale extermination of Jews and other groups began in 1942 with the implementation of the Final Solution, the evolution of this atrocity began almost 20 years earlier. Hitler published his memoir, Mein Kampf, in 1925; a rambling manifesto blaming Germany's defeat in World War I, its economic ills, its military emasculation and its loss of nationalism, on all manner of people, including Jews, socialists and unionists. Once Hitler took power in 1932, he brought the Holocaust to fruition by imprisoning the people groups he'd demonised in Mein Kampf; those he deemed inferior to his idea of racial supremacy encapsulated in his 'ideal Aryan'.

Some of the first people he began imprisoning were Communists. Shortly after taking power, Hitler was spreading propaganda about the danger of Communism, and bolstered this through a number of false flag events, most notably the Reichstag Fire, which Hitler used as an excuse to pass the Reichstag Fire Decree to remove civil liberties and give the government power to imprison anyone  deemed a threat to the Reich. Communists were arrested within hours of the Reichstag fire, even though to this day, it is not clear how the fire started. The Reichstag Fire was also used by Hitler to pass the Enabling Act of 1933 (formally titled 'Law to remedy the distress of the people and the Reich'), which gave Hitler the power to pass legislation without going through the Reichstag, which was the lower house of government.

Hitler motivated the German nation by appealing to their sense of Aryan nationalism, Germany's greatness, its purity and the threats it faced from Jews, socialists, unionists, gypsies and anyone who didn't fit his vision of the perfect Aryan citizen. He infused this message with Christian overtones, often claiming that he was doing the 'work of the Lord'. Germany was a Christian nation and this message of pride, threat and Godly obedience appealed to many conservative Christians.

Hitler softened Germans with fear, hardened them with pride and strengthened them with religious conviction. He gave them a sense of unity, of belonging to something special and powerful. Hitler used Christian language to unify Christians behind his hate-speech. Whether Hitler was Christian or not is irrelevant; most Germans were Christian and they were the ones who committed the atrocities he decreed because according to Hitler, he was 'doing the work of the Lord'.

It is significant to remember the Holocaust in the context of then and now. Today we are seeing an emergence of far-right groups who drive a similar message of hateful bile towards leftists, unionists and environmentalists. While Jews are still part of the hate-speech of many, today's far-right are targeting Muslims as well, and have replaced gypsies with the poor, the unemployed, those requiring welfare.

Islam is under attack across the globe. There is increasing persecution of Muslims at the hands of Muslim and non-Muslim regimes, from brutal oppression in Syria, Egypt and Iran, to pogroms, ethnic cleansing, detention and persecution of 12 million Uigher Muslims in China, to Burma's genocide and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, ethnic cleansing in Palestine by Israel through its settler programs, indefinite detention and use of illegal weapons such as Dense Inert Metal Explosives and white phosphorous, growing persecution in western nations, such as the United Kingdom, United States and Australia as hate-crimes increase amid bolder and more rancid invectives blaming Muslims for the west's economic ills, crime rates and reduction of civil liberties. Sound familiar?

A four-year study of the abuse suffered by people of all faiths in Australia and the UK, found that Muslims experience violent hate-crimes more than people of any other faith (Hanifie 2019).

The hateful, fear-driven hatred of Islamophobes who accuse Muslims of attempting world domination, of surreptitiously infiltrating western governments, is no different to the same accusations Hitler made of Jews. This is just one quote from Mein Kampf, yet it sounds so similar to the Islamophobic rhetoric of far-right politicians and preachers when they talk about Muslims, sharia law, failure to assimilate and Islam masquerading as a religion:

The Jewish state was never spatially limited in itself, but universally unlimited as to space, though restricted in the sense of embracing but one race. Consequently, this people has always formed a state within states. It is one of the most ingenious tricks that was ever devised, to make this state sail under the flag of 'religion', thus assuring it of the tolerance which the Aryan is always ready to accord a religious creed. For actually the Mosaic religion is nothing other than a doctrine for the preservation of the Jewish race. It therefore embraces almost all sociological, political, and economic fields of knowledge which can have any bearing on this function.(Mein Kampf, Volume 1, Chapter 4).

Hitler was a white supremacist who lamented the weakening of the white race because of breeding with what he considered to be inferior races. In Chapter 11 of Mein Kampf, Hitler stated, 'It shows with terrifying clarity that in every mingling of Aryan blood with that of lower peoples the result was the end of the cultured people'. How does this differ to people who are trying to retain the 'racial purity' of white people. Who can forget far-right politician, Pauline Hanson's stunt to declare 'It's ok to be white', which she proposed to the Australian Senate. The right-wing government of the day, beguiled by Hanson's persecution complex, voted in favour of the motion, only to later recant when they woke up to themselves and realised the origins of this supposedly innocuous saying lay in Hitler's white supremacist hate-speech. This hasn't stopped far-right politicians and groups from continuing to quote it and using it to justify attacks on non-white people, on migrants, on refugees, on Muslims ... essentially, the whole gamut of people groups who Hitler accused of being racially inferior. One of Australia's senators, Fraser Anning, formed his own party on a platform of racial and religious purity.

Why is racial purity so important to these people? What is wrong with being one race, the human race? No ethnicity is inferior to another. It isn't the end of the world if we see different ethnic groups inter-relating. No colour is superior to another. We should welcome unity and despise segregation and exclusion.



It should be noted that Fraser Anning, initially elected to the Katter Australia Party with all of 19 votes, called for a Final Solution to Australia's immigration 'problem'. Katter initially supported him on this, but as it was bleedingly obvious that Anning was referencing the Holocaust. Katter eventually sacked him from the party. Anning and others like him, have praised the white Australia policy to defend Australia's European Christian 'ethno-cultural identity' from becoming a minority.

This reflects the paranoia espoused by the white supremacist who committed the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, massacring 51 Muslims and injuring many others. This massacre was predicated in his largely incoherent manifesto called The Great Replacement which, just like Hitler, accuses other races and religions of insidiously plotting to replace white European Christians through inter-breeding with other races and religions.

Meanwhile, in Asia we see the westernisation of many of their cultures as globalisation expands into those countries, turning them into outposts of the United States. The westernisation of Asia is proceeding at a far greater rate, than the supposed Asianisation of the west espoused by extremists like Pauline Hanson and Fraser Anning.

White supremacy is driven by fear and ignorance. To support the idea that one ethnic group is superior to another, is to either support atrocious eugenics and genocide ... or to be completely ignorant of the ultimate outcome of white supremacy. White supremacist or racist beliefs are not rooted in objective logic. They are group-think for people easily manipulated by threats and fears, regardless of how outrageous. Umberto Eco nailed it when he stated that 'nothing gives the fearful man more courage than another man's fear'. Fear has been used by fascists for years to control the people. James Bovard summed this up when he said, 'As long as enough people can be frightened, then all people can be ruled. That is how it works in a democratic system and mass fear becomes the ticket to destroy rights across the board'.

White supremacists make scapegoats of others of different ethnicity or religion, with scant regard for scientific or historical facts. They fail to consider self-reflection or the role that their own actions have played on the events that they are complaining about. For example, if they are upset about affirmative action or claiming reverse racism, they often ignore the horrendous treatment meted out to people of colour by white people for centuries. Equal rights for others, doesn't mean fewer rights for someone else. Yet, many on the far-right, many conservatives, fear that their rights will be eroded if someone else is granted the same rights. This fear is then manifested in hate for those they've oppressed for centuries.

'Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that'. - Martin Luther King

White supremacists believe in a mythical idea of ethnicity; that there are monocultures. Since the beginning of time, cultures and ethnicities have been mingling. Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating addressed this in a speech in which he indicated that the rise of Pauline Hanson and One Nation had let a 'very ugly, resentful xenophobic cat out of the bag'. Keating went on to state:

'The great tragedy of the shamelessly regressive politics of Pauline Hanson is not so much that it is rooted in ignorance, prejudice and fear, though it is; not so much that it projects the ugly face of racism, though it does; not so much that it is dangerously divisive and deeply hurtful to many of her fellow Australians, though it is; not even that it will cripple our efforts to enmesh ourselves in a region wherein lie the jobs and prosperity of future generations of young Australians, though it will—the great tragedy is that it perpetrates a myth, a fantasy, a lie.

The myth of the monoculture. The lie that we can retreat to it'.




White supremacists, just like Hitler, appeal to nationalism. That it is somehow patriotic to claim one culture is superior to another, to defend this mythical 'monoculture'.

Give up this ridiculous idea of one ethnic group being superior to another. H.G. Wells summed it up with, 'our true nationality is mankind'.

Beware the politician who promotes nationalism at the expense of others.

Hitler blamed Germany's loss in World War One on communists and pacificists. He saw the Treaty of Versailles as a betrayal of Germany by its government. Following WW1, the League of Nations was formed to prevent a repeat of WW1. Hitler viewed it as an organisation that was opposed to Germany. Hitler used nationalism to provoke animosity against the League of Nations (or League of Oppressed Nations as he called it), while scapegoating those he blamed for Germany's ills, namely communists, pacifists and Jews. In channelling the right-wing politicians and preachers of today, Hitler blamed the pre-war press for injecting pacificism into Germany at a time when the world was gearing for war. He called the worst poison that can be imagined. He blamed the League of Nations for teaching the people a 'miserable morality' to make the people 'modern'. All of this to make Germany 'ripe for the slave's yoke of international capital and its masters, the Jews' (Hitler 1925, p. 221). How is this different to our current preachers of hate who bemoan 'post-modernism' and its control by leftists, in the same way that Hitler bemoaned modernism and its control by Marxists. Today's far-right detests the United Nations and attacks the 'lefist' media ... while promoting fake news through its own right-wing media channels that have scant regard for fact and which encourage the right-wing's persecution complex. In Britain this has played out through Brexit, in which many Britons blamed Britain's economic ills on migrants, refugees and the European Union.

The father of modern fascism, Benito Mussolini, opposed socialism and democracy, stating that 'Fascism denies, in democracy, the absurd conventional untruth of political equality dressed out in the garb of collective irresponsibility, and the myth of "happiness" and indefinite progress'.

The popularity of Mussolini, Hitler and other despots was firmly rooted in their 'us versus them' rhetoric. Hitler popularised the persecution complex wrapped in nationalistic fervour and the gullible people gave Hitler popularity and established his power.

Think it can't happen again? In Australia, conservatives justify the continuing indefinite detention of innocent people who came to Australia seeking asylum from persecution and war. While conservative Christians gloated over the election of Scott Morrison because he worships at a Pentecostal church, at least 11 asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, attempted suicide because of the complete despair at any hope of compassionate treatment by the Morrison government and its 'Christian' values. Thousands of refugees on bridging visas in Australia fear deportation to the countries they escaped. Where is the compassion from the Christians, the conservatives who voted for Morrison? Few stood up against this treatment, because the refugees were not European Christians, but predominately Muslims from Africa, the Middle East or South Asia. A United Nations report identified systemic abuse and torture in Australia's detention centres. This should be a concern, considering the shift in Australia's politics to the far-right, where politicians are elected on platforms of white supremacy, anti-Islam, racism, anti-migration and scare campaigns based on an invented persecution complex that causes conservatives to believe they are being oppressed by minorities, political correctness, LGBTIQ+ people, environmentalism, socialism and pacifism.

And of course, these far-right types bemoan 'cultural relativism' as a threat to morals, families and truth. Iranian political activist, Shirin Ebadi, observed, 'the idea of cultural relativism is nothing but an excuse to violate human rights'.



In the introduction to his book 'Nein!: Standing up to Hitler 1935-44', Paddy Ashdown observed the similarities between Nazi Germany and the political trends of today: '... you may be struck, as I was ... by the similarities between what happened in the build-up to World War II and the age in which we now live. Then as now, nationalism and protectionism were on the rise and democracies were seen to have failed, people hungered for the government of strong men; those who suffered most from the pain of economic collapse felt alienated and turned towards simplistic solutions and strident voices … ‘fake news’ built around the convincing untruth carried more weight in the public discourse than rational arguments and provable facts'.

Remember the Holocaust.

Remember the 6 million Jewish victims and the 11 million others who didn't comply with the Nazi criteria for Aryan perfection.

Remember the fear, exclusionism, lies and hatred that manipulated an entire nation to commit one of the gravest atrocities the modern world has seen. Recognise that it is happening again and challenge it before it is too late.


Bibliography

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Butler, J 2017, All The Times The UN Has Slammed Australia's Asylum Seeker Policy, The Guardian, 25 July, viewed 25 May 2019, https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/07/25/all-the-times-the-un-has-slammed-australias-asylum-seeker-polic_a_23046469/.

Dabashi, H 2018, Muslim cleansing: A global pandemic?, Al Jazeera, 22 December, viewed 25 May 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/muslim-cleansing-global-pandemic-181220084045168.html.

Davidson, H 2019, Medevac law repeal a priority, Coalition says, as self-harm rises among refugees, The Guardian, 22 May, viewed 25 May 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/may/22/medevac-law-repeal-a-priority-coalition-says-as-self-harm-rises-among-refugees.

Evans, B & Meadowcroft, M 2019, Today’s disturbing echoes of the buildup to the second world war, The Guardian, 20 May, viewed 26 May 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/19/todays-disturbing-echoes-of-the-buildup-to-the-second-world-war.

Fernando, G 2019, Fear and loathing inside Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party, News.com.au, 17 May, viewed 25 May 2019, https://www.news.com.au/national/federal-election/fear-and-loathing-inside-fraser-annings-conservative-national-party/news-story/61e47c6fdd3ec1c8b9e8ae355a1bdb08.

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Grose, T 2018, China’s mass incarceration of Muslims cannot be left unchallenged, The Guardian, 13 November, viewed 25 May 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/13/china-mass-incarceration-muslims-unchallenged-uighur.

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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Dividend imputations: tax paid twice, paid once, not paid at all.

Dividend imputations: tax paid twice, paid once, not paid at all.

by Ranting Panda


Imagine this. You earn $100,000 a year and pay no tax, so the government says, 'hey, you paid no tax here's an extra $4,000'.

Is this cool? Probably if you're the recipient, but is it fair for people who are paying tax? Is it fair on the economy which needs to fund more important things, like hospitals, schools, law and order, and pensions for retired people with no other source of income.

You know a federal election is in the air when the Liberal National Party rolls out one of their scare campaigns. Their go-to fear compaigns are refugees and taxation. The LNP will claim that under a Labor government, Australia will be swamped by 'illegal' refugees and burdened by heavy taxes. Yes, I know that refugees by definition are not illegal, but this doesn't stop the LNP screeching about it. Similarly, many of Labor's policies are not taxes, but that doesn't stop the LNP lying about them and calling them a tax. Who can forget the 'carbon tax' boondoggle, in which companies paid for their carbon emissions. LNP knew it wasn't a tax because it wasn't under the Tax Act. If you pay a toll for using a toll-road is that a tax? Of course not. Similarly, paying a price for carbon emissions is not a tax. The woman behind this charade was Peta Credlin, Chief of Staff to the feckless Tony Abbott, who went on to become Prime Minister. In 2017, Credlin admitted there was no carbon tax; it was just the LNP playing 'retail politics'.

Fast forward to the 2019 federal election campaign. The LNP is again wallowing in retail politics by accusing Labor of burdening retirees with a ... wait for it ... 'Retiree Tax'. This is an even bigger lie than the carbon tax one, because, unlike the carbon PRICE, this policy will not ask anyone to pay money. In fact, it saves tax-payers money. Pretty cheeky then for the LNP to claim it is a tax.

Let me break down what the Labor Party policy is about. In a nutshell, Labor is going to end tax refunds being paid to non-tax-payers for share dividends. Considering, that conservatives are always bleating about welfare and paying money to people who don't pay tax, you'd think they'd be in favour of this ... but no. They'll be the first to argue against socialism, saying it redistributes money from workers to people who don't deserve it. And yet here we are; conservatives demanding government use other people's money to refund tax that retirees haven't paid. Oh, the irony.

Labor's policy refers to dividend imputations, which work like this. You hold shares in a company and every six months, the company pays you a dividend IF the company makes a profit. IF the company makes a profit, they pay tax on it. Then the dividends are paid to shareholders, who declare this as part of their income which they also pay tax on. Who can spot the glaring issue with this? The company paid tax on the profit and the shareholder paid tax on the dividend paid from the profit, so the profit has been taxed twice. To end this little discrepancy, the Labor government under Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Treasurer Paul Keating in 1987, introduced dividend imputations, in which the dividend included an imputation equivalent to the tax already paid. Shareholders then declare the imputation on their tax return, which reduces their taxable income. With me?

But what happens if the tax you owe is less than the dividend imputation? Well, the balance is called an excess dividend imputation and under the Hawke/Keating model, this meant that there was no tax off-set or refund.

In 2001, the Liberal government under Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello, changed the rules to allow for a cash refund for these excess dividend imputations. This particularly affected retirees receiving superannuation payments which are tax free for people over 60. Australia's tax free threshold is currently $18,200 per annum. If you have a taxable income less than this, then you pay no tax. As a result, many retirees with self-funded superannuation (which is tax free), therefore have a taxable income less than $18,200, so have no tax liability and are therefore entitled to 100% of their imputation credits. So, say a dividend has a 40% imputation on it, and the shareholder had taxable income below the tax-free threshold, they would get the entire 40% paid back to them. Not a bad little earn, huh? Oh, you just received a $10,000 dividend while paying no tax, cool, here's an extra $4,000 to go with it.

(Keep in mind that the World Bank declared Howard to be the most profligate Prime Minister for the last 40 years, because of wasteful spending sprees like this one that cost billions of dollars while adding no value to Australia's economy or infrasture).

If you need this displayed graphically, check out the following video. Note, that stills from the video are provided at the end of this article.





Can anyone see the glaring rort available in the current system?

A retiree with no income, but a bucketload of money in a superannuation account, can effectively have a very small or nil tax liability, so receives a cash refund on the excess dividend imputations. This effectively means the excess imputation has gone straight from the company's profit to the shareholder, without any tax being retained by the government. If the government doesn't receive the tax, then they can't do more important stuff, like fund hospitals and schools.

How big a problem is this? It is $6 billion worth of a problem. $6 billion is more than what the government spends on public schools and child care.

Labor's policy is to end this in a fair way by allowing the dividend imputations to reduce the shareholders tax liability and ending the cash payment if someone is paying no tax. That is the bottom line. Yet, the LNP is marketing this is a 'Retiree Tax' to scare the daylights out of people who are actually being disadvantaged by the LNP's current system and who would benefit from Labor's policy.

Labor has written into their policy a Pensioner Guarantee which will enable pensioners to receive the cash refund. This will protect around 320,000 pensioners from being impacted by this policy, while targeting those wealthier retirees who are not on the pension. Labor's policy will mean that those who receive no pension and who pay little or no tax, will not receive a tax refund if their dividend imputations exceed the tax they paid.

What is wrong with Labor's policy? Nothing. In fact, it is smart economic practice. While the LNP questions Labor's financial capability, it continues irresponsibly defending the payment of $6 billion to people who are effectively exploiting a tax loophole. The LNP have misleadingly argued that Labor's policy will affect Australia's lowest paid, however, they base this on taxable income. Superannuation payments to people over 60 are not taxed, so of course recipients have low taxable income. The Grattan Institute calculated the taxable incomes of people over 65 by removing their superannuation payments and found that the wealthiest 10% had reported taxable income of less than the $18,200 tax-free threshold. In other words, the wealthiest retirees are paying zero tax while receiving significant funds from superannuation and being paid franking credits because their dividend imputations exceed their tax liability. Talk about double-dipping.


Some people have argued that retirees deserve this money because they paid tax all their lives. This makes no sense. The pension is payable for people if they need it and is available to people who paid tax all their lives, however, cash refunds on excess dividend imputations is taking money out of the hands of everyday Australians to fund the lifestyles of the wealthy. More than 80% of the cash refunds paid go to the wealthiest 20% of retirees. The Parliamentary Budget Office revealed that in 2014/15, more than a quarter of these refunds claimed, went to 33,761 self-funded superannuation funds with balances exceeding $2.4 million.

Why would the LNP continue to support this extortionate abuse of taxpayers' funds?

Why would the LNP attack pensions and welfare, while allowing wealthier people to rip-off Australian tax-payers?

Why would the LNP call Labor's policy a tax, when it is ending a tax rort?

The double-dipping into tax-payer funds by the wealthy must end to ensure a fairer tax system for Australians.




Bibliography

Chris Bowen 2019, A fairer tax system: Dividend imputation reform, viewed 3 May 2019, https://www.chrisbowen.net/issues/labors-dividend-imputation-policy/.

Denniss, R 2015, 'Peter Costello's five most 'profligate' decisions as treasurer cost the budget $56bn a year', 15 April, viewed 3 May 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/15/peter-costellos-five-most-profligate-decisions-as-treasurer-cost-the-budget-56bn-a-year.

Di Stefano, M 2017, 'Here's the audio of Peta Credlin admitting the last seven years of politics is based on total crap', The Guardian, 15 February, viewed 3 May 2019, https://www.buzzfeed.com/markdistefano/whats-the-point-of-australian-politics.

Labor 2019, Dividend imputation credits - the truth about Labor's policy on dividend imputation credits, viewed 3 May 2019, https://www.alp.org.au/other/dividend-imputation-credits/.

RMIT ABC Fact Check 2019, 'Will Labor's dividend imputation policy overwhelmingly affect the low paid?', ABC News, 19 March, viewed 4 May 2019, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-30/fact-check-labors-dividend-imputation-policy/10626204.

SBS News 2017, Carbon tax just brutal politics: Credlin, 12 February, viewed 3 May 2019, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/carbon-tax-just-brutal-politics-credlin.


https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-30/fact-check-labors-dividend-imputation-policy/10626204






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