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History Lessons for a new Government

BY  on SEPTEMBER 29, 2013 • ( 34 )

Image courtesy of brisbanetimes.com.auImage courtesy of brisbanetimes.com.au

History Lessons for a new Government: a guest post by Ben Brown.

While I have always taken an interest in politics, I have never been motivated to be active. I’m not a member of any political party. I’ve never turned out to protest or campaigned to push a particular belief one way or another. But there has been one thought that has been running round and round in my mind during the first three weeks of the Abbott led, Liberal – National coalition government. It’s taken me a while to pinpoint it, because it traces back to my modern history lessons in my school days over 20 years ago.

It starts with a quote I remember from Edmund Burke. Originating somewhere around 200 years ago it is quite a sexist quote, so I will change the word ‘man’ to ‘people’ to modernise it. But with that one word change, this statement is still completely relevant to the 21st century.  “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.” It is that idea that has continually gone through my mind as I watch and hear this new government’s rhetoric and action and it is that idea that has motivated me to write this essay. That is, it is that idea which has motivated me, for the first time, do something. I can no longer idly sit by and let evil triumph.

A bit of an overreaction I hear you say? Well the problem is, evil works by continually shifting the lines of social acceptance. And if you connect the dots, you can see that the primary aim of this current government’s agenda is to shift that line. It started with the government ministry and can be seen in a number of ways. Firstly, after campaigning with an entourage of female family members, with the direct intent of giving the impression that Abbott and his government is in tune with a 21st century belief of equality of the genders, it promptly released a government ministry of 19 members, entailing only one woman. Worst still, the role of Minister for the status of women was downgraded to a non-cabinet position in the outer ministry. And then we hear that this ministry position is to be taken up by none other than Mr Abbott. What better way to ensure that the status of women is silenced than to take it out of the hands of women and control it yourself.

That’s a very cynical way of looking at it I hear you protest. Abbott is taking this on himself because he know how important it is, and by taking it on himself he will ensure it is given the full weight of the prime ministership to advocate for it. Unfortunately, as I start to connect the dots, I see little reason to believe this would be the case. Rather, I see mounting evidence of an agenda repression, rather than advocacy. And that brings me to the second piece of evidence you can see from the ministry. That is, evident by what was left out, (besides the presence of women, and the prominence of the role of the ministry for the status of women). We also now see no youth ministry and no early childhood ministry, two other social factors that are entwined with the status of women. Similarly, we see no disability minister and no aged care minister. Both of which encompass important roles in society that are predominantly taken by women, and now not deemed important enough to have their own government portfolio.

But it is not only the role of women that is being systematically silenced by this government. On economics we now have no work place relations minister, no financial services minister and no tourism minister. But what really scares me is the way that this government has made clear that the role of science is to be devalued. By abolishing both the science ministry and the climate change ministry they have effectively sent the message that, one the one hand they do not believe in climate change, and on the other hand they mean to suppress any communication (at least at this stage, government communication) that talks up climate change or suggests inadequacies in their so called direct action. And to back this up, within two weeks of being in government they disbanded the climate commission, the very organisation that has been put in place to help interpret and disseminate scientific evidence on climate change. Not to mention the purging of government department heads who believe in climate change. I wonder how they will address the IPCC’s findings that we are just 30 years away from climate calamity? As Abbott stated pre-election, Direct Action policy will be capped at $3.2 billion regardless of whether it enables Australia to meet the hitherto-bipartisan target of a 5% reduction in CO2-equivalent emissions by 2020.

But the restriction of information is not limited to women, science or the environment. No, along with the cuts to the above mentioned ministries came the addition of a new ministry. Scott Morrison is now the minister for ‘border protection’. And what has this new government done in its efforts of ‘border protection’? It hasn’t been to stop the flow of boats, but rather, to stop the information flow about boats. That is right, by militarising the efforts to stop boats carrying asylum seekers under a three star general, this government has effectively take us to war with people who are already fleeing war. And at the same time, cut the Australian people out of the information flow about these people. So now we the Australian people are told, ‘trust us, we have your interest in hand, but we are not going to tell you what we are doing or what is going in in our efforts to keep your best interest in hand’. Which brings me back to another one of those lessons I learnt way back in high school modern history classes. That is, “the first casualty when war comes is truth”. *

Forgive my cynicism but I can only see this as another dot to be joined in a government act of systematically suppressing information. This morning I woke to the news that as many as 50 people are feared dead after a boat loaded with asylum seekers sank off the south coast of west Java.  This is a humanitarian disaster that we have the right to be informed about right? Surely our government should be keeping us up to date on this? However, the ABC’s political reporter in Canberra, Andrew Green, said the news of the drowning and of a second attempt to return asylum seekers to Indonesia had been met with a “deafening silence” from the Australian Government and participating agencies. What I have learned is that in the past 48 hours there have been at least 2 boats intercepted, with the passengers being ‘returned at sea’ and another boat that has sunk in Indonesian waters.  But the government won’t give us any information on these boats because they are sticking to their policy of not commenting on operational details under operation sovereign boarders.  But wasn’t part of that policy also a policy of turning back the boats?  So this boat that sunk. Was it ‘turned back’? As the operation has been militarised, and the information suppressed we may never know. What I do know is that the original call to stop the boats was to save the lives of those who were attempting to come by boat. Not to declare war on them.

But still, the restriction of information goes further than this. After Christopher Pyne let the cat out of the bag about the Abbott government plans to drastically overhaul the higher education system, including axing the compulsory fee collected by universities to support student services, Abbott’s response was to clamp down on his ministers in the way they are permitted to interact with the press. This covers all national media interviews on television, radio and print. This includes any ABC local radio or ABC television interviews, the Sunday programs, Sky News, and metropolitan print media longer-format interviews, etc.

And now the Coalition Government is looking into ways to prevent us from partaking in boycotts. This is direct attack on citizen’s free speech, an integral point that is fundamental to the existence of a free society. The free market includes the right to spend money according to your values, and the Government appears to be trying to impose their own morality — or amorality — on Australian citizens. So in effect they are telling us that they want to take away our right NOT to buy a product. What exactly do they propose to do if we do participate in a boycott? Will we be silenced like they are silence the current wave of asylum seekers? And to what extent will they go to find out if you have participated? Will they monitor your Facebook pages and twitter feeds? Going on the fact that they have declared war on those fleeing it, it’s not a large step to take. Once that line has been shifted, it’s very easy to shift it a little further . . . and further.

It is this shifting line that compelled me to speak up. Because I know that if we do not learn from our history then we will be condemned to relive it.  And I won’t be able to live with myself if one day in Australian there will be even a small resemblance of truth to the application of Martin Niemöller poem describing another such society that allowed that line to continue to shift:

First they came for the communist’s,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialist’s,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionist’s,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,

and there was no one left to speak for me.

* Hiram W Johnson, senator for California, to the US Senate in 1917

 COMMENTS (1386)By Matt McGrathEnvironment correspondent, BBC News, Stockholm

 

Climate change “threatens our planet, our only home”, warns Thomas Stocker, IPCC co-chair

A landmark report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s.

The report by the UN’s climate panel details the physical evidence behind climate change.

On the ground, in the air, in the oceans, global warming is “unequivocal”, it explained.

It adds that a pause in warming over the past 15 years is too short to reflect long-term trends.

The panel warns that continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all aspects of the climate system.

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image of Matt McGrathLatestMatt McGrathEnvironment correspondent, BBC News

 

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To contain these changes will require “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”.

After a week of intense negotiations in the Swedish capital, the summary for policymakers on the physical science of global warming has finally been released.

The first part of an IPCC trilogy, due over the next 12 months, this dense, 36-page document is considered the most comprehensive statement on our understanding of the mechanics of a warming planet.

It states baldly that, since the 1950s, many of the observed changes in the climate system are “unprecedented over decades to millennia”.

Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface, and warmer than any period since 1850, and probably warmer than any time in the past 1,400 years.

“Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and that concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased,” said Qin Dahe, co-chair of IPCC working group one, who produced the report.

Speaking at a news conference in the Swedish capital, Prof Thomas Stocker, another co-chair, said that climate change “challenges the two primary resources of humans and ecosystems, land and water. In short, it threatens our planet, our only home”.

Since 1950, the report’s authors say, humanity is clearly responsible for more than half of the observed increase in temperatures.

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Document

PDF downloadIPCC Summary for Policymakers[3MB]

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But a so-called pause in the increase in temperatures in the period since 1998 is downplayed in the report. The scientists point out that this period began with a very hot El Nino year.

“Trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends,” the report says.

Prof Stocker, added: “I’m afraid there is not a lot of public literature that allows us to delve deeper at the required depth of this emerging scientific question.

“For example, there are not sufficient observations of the uptake of heat, particularly into the deep ocean, that would be one of the possible mechanisms to explain this warming hiatus.”

Infographic

“Likewise we have insufficient data to adequately assess the forcing over the last 10-15 years to establish a relationship between the causes of the warming.”

However, the report does alter a key figure from the 2007 study. The temperature range given for a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere, called equilibrium climate sensitivity, was 2.0C to 4.5C in that report.

In the latest document, the range has been changed to 1.5C to 4.5C. The scientists say this reflects improved understanding, better temperature records and new estimates for the factors driving up temperatures.

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What is the IPCC?

In its own words, the IPCC is there “to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts”.

The offspring of two UN bodies, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, it has issuedfour heavyweight assessment reports to date on the state of the climate.

These are commissioned by the governments of 195 countries, essentially the entire world. These reports are critical in informing the climate policies adopted by these governments.

The IPCC itself is a small organisation, run from Geneva with a full time staff of 12. All the scientists who are involved with it do so on a voluntary basis.

In the summary for policymakers, the scientists say that sea level rise will proceed at a faster rate than we have experienced over the past 40 years. Waters are expected to rise, the document says, by between 26cm (at the low end) and 82cm (at the high end), depending on the greenhouse emissions path this century.

The scientists say ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for 90% of energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010.

For the future, the report states that warming is projected to continue under all scenarios and is likely to exceed 1.5C by 2100.

“We have found in our assessment analysing these model simulation[s] that global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st Century is likely to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to 1850 for all scenarios. This is a statement that is adopted by the governments of the world,” Prof Stocker told reporters.

Prof Sir Brian Hoskins, from Imperial College London, told BBC News: “We are performing a very dangerous experiment with our planet, and I don’t want my grandchildren to suffer the consequences of that experiment.”

The full Fibre NBN is the biggest free kick we’ll be offered in our lives: Grab it now or lose it forever.

Businesses end up paying for the network. They will provide the cash for our cheap, reliable Internet and really fast access, because “Time is Money” – it’s far, far cheaper for them to buy a high-speed service than pay the wages for time lost waiting for downloads and especially uploads.

When you understand the technical, economic and social realities of the full Fibre NBN, you appreciate  the Tony Windsor’s quote: Do it once, do it right, do it with Fibre. It’s cheaper, faster and pays for itself to boot.

Reliability: Copper problems are never permanently fixed. Fibre still works when the pits are full of water.

Durability: Fibre doesn’t corrode and suffer electrical problems like copper. The first Australian long-distance fibre laid in 1986 is still running, carrying hundreds or thousands of times more traffic after multiple upgrades. The fibre laid in 2020 will still be running after 50 years and capable of vastly more, simply by swapping the electronics on the ends. Copper-based networks degrade faster and require many times the maintenance and more frequent replacement. They are a 1925 solution for a 2020 network.

Availability: Fibre is automatically remotely tested, end-to-end, from a central location providingideal monitoring and fault resolution. The NBN Techs know before you there’s a problem and will initiate repair before you are aware of it.

Ubiquity: More commercial services will be offered if fibre is universally available. That’s cheaper goods and services to customer, faster service and more turnover for business. This is what the Internet is designed for: doing business and creating new businesses.

Guaranteed and Upgradable services: Fibre speeds aren’t “best efforts” and variable, you getexactly what you pay for. The fibre doesn’t provide the speed, the silicon electronics at each end do. These are cheap and already units are in production at not just 100Gbps, but 96 times that by sharing the one fibre. Off the shelf now, fibre provides anywhere from 0.1Gbps to 9,600Gbps. If you want it, you can have it, without costing the earth. That’s a great deal for any business, researcher or hobbyist who can use high speeds.

Affordability and Utility: Fibre is profitable, with top 25% high-demand users generating all profits and the rest of us getting a free-ride, either at cost or heavily subsidised. Speed tiers allow customers to decide how much money they want to trade for saved time, the “utility” of the service. Single data charges mean nobody is disadvantaged by where they live or how they access. Already, 30% of NBN subscribers have chosen the fastest access rate they can, years ahead of forecasts. On the copper Fibre-to-the-Node we will, presumably, be charged the same way as for current ADSL: “a random speed and one price fits all”.

Uploads and Backups: Your data is precious and irreplaceable, both for your business or home records, videos and pictures. The guaranteed fast upload speeds allow everyone to be able, and afford, to back up locally and to  the cloud. Your data is available in any location, should your home or business suffer a catastrophe or be robbed.

Support services: Computers can be fixed quickly by remote sharing the PC desktop with your ISP support staff. This is only possible with fast, guaranteed upload speeds.

Telephony and VoIP: Every member of the family can have their own number and have conference calls. Decent upload speeds are needed if a couple of people are on the ‘phone whilst someone else is downloading. Fibre “NTD”‘s, the device installed gratis by NBN Co, come withhigh-priority network connections for your telephone, making sure you always have crystal clear calls, especially when the network is busy. This cannot happen with the Copper Fibre-to-the-Node where you plug in your own modem and take pot-luck.

New Services for Telework, TeleHealth, Aged Care: Hi-Def video conference saves a lot of time and money, especially for the old and infirm, not just Teleworkers. It allows Aged Care to be delivered in-home, giving the aged cheap, easy and safe access to family, friends and community support groups. The most cost-effective investment in roads is the NBN by allowing effective teleworking and reducing peak-hour traffic. The Health Dept will find it considerably cheaper to provide cameras, PC’s and NBN connections and avoid hospital or nursing home stays – but only with Fibre and their NTD’s.

Safe & Reliable: Fibre is safe in electrical storms and does not have a lot of sensitive, expensive electrical equipment as is needed in the Fibre to the Node network. These Nodes sit exposed to weather, fire, vandals, vehicle accidents and worse.  Fibre is not going to blow up in a storm, breakdown in the middle of summer or burnout in a few years when ants, termites or mice nest inside. When the power goes out, as it will, Fibre has big batteries and backup-generators, while every Node have their own small batteries which fail within 24 hours, as Canberra residents discovered after the 2003 fires. Checking 250,000 batteries every year and replacing them every 3-4 years is a big, costly waste of time. The Copper solution is barely cheaper but just won’t last, in fact, it’s designed to be thrown away.

Real Choice: You, the subscriber, choose the speed and the plan YOU want and you receiveexactly what you pay for. YOU, not the capricious copper wire network, decide what speed you get. YOU are in charge and choose the “model” that works for you, just like you choose the model car you want, not have it forced on you by Big Brother.

Wise Investment: Invest, not spend, the money once while the interest rates are the lowest in 54 years. This is literally a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and should not be squandered. The whole point of the NBN is that it doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything! Rather the reverse, by 2040 it will have made $50 billion in profits that the Government gets to spend, not have to raise new taxes for. We don’t know if the Copper Fibre to the Node network will even break-even, let alone make a profit. If it is “more affordable”, it cannot be “more profitable” as well. Unless it’s all given to Telstra, who’ll make sure we all pay through the nose, as they’ve done since deregulation in 1992.

Equity: A Universal commonly-priced Fibre NBN is equitable for all, especially rural, regional and remote subscribers. Subsidising, via network charges, those in the country who will benefit most from faster, more reliable networks is more economically efficient and “Cost-effective” than “direct Government subsidies”. It’s more efficient to charge a few percent more for those in urban areas and 30%-50% less in country areas than taxing urban dweller at higher rates, collecting that tax and then paying it to those “in need”. There will also be inevitable inequity, some people getting subsidies they shouldn’t and others needing them, not getting subsidies. Do it once, do it right, do it with Fibre, and the same price for everyone!

It “Just Works”, not “works, just”: “Shared media” networks, like wireless 3G and Cable HFC, have huge problems with contention ratio and performance. Everyone tries to talk at once on the same thin wire. You might have 100Mbps, but it could be shared with 50 or 100 other people. When the school buses get home, kiss goodbye to your internet. With “shared media”, throughput and latency cannot be guaranteed.

A personal view from South Australia:

I heard about a couple who drove to  his mother’s place in a country town to make a video call for an overseas job interview because they didn’t have a reliable internet connection at their home. [He got the job because of it.]

In Adelaide we have suburbs flooded every year in heavy weather and the ‘phones don’t work, sometimes for a couple of weeks.

Beach side suburbs have their Telstra pits filled with salt water. This happens in Port Pirie too with its levies that keep seawater out and flood water in.

 

The Important Stories You’ll Read Won’t Be “News”

by rossleighbrisbane

Labor mismanaged the whole Pink Batts installation. It was a debacle. Someone died. Therefore someone should take the blame.

What did Labor do wrong? Well, the National Audit Office found that it rushed it before all the checks were in place, and failed to consult widely enough. And it didn’t anticipate that unscrupulous and dodgy operators would move in.

In spite of all the talk about Labor being the “worst” government in the history of the world, this remains their biggest disaster. There’s no point in sugar coating it, or using the excuse that it all needed to be done quickly.

Yes, there is some argument that if the Government had done too little in the face of the “biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression” and we’d slipped into a massive recession, then even more lives would have been ruined, but that’s still no excuse for not taking proper care and precaution.

This isn’t news. News is immediate, it’s happening. (By the way, I checked today’s Murdoch paper in the coffee shop, in the first 22 pages, there was no reference to the Abbott Government at all. They must have run out of things to do.)

And that’s my point. We are concerned with WHAT happened. We like blaming someone if it’s bad. But there’s not much analyse of WHY it happened beyond, it was Mr X’s fault. ‘Nuff said.

So the Pink Batts fiasco was Labor’s fault. We’ll learn from their mistakes, which were:

1. The scheme was rushed.

2. There was a lack of consultation.

3. Public Service concerns about the speed of implementation were ignored.

4. There was a lack of regulation and safeguards to ensure that only competent people were able to install the insulation.

Of course, now we have a much better Government in charge. There’ll be nothing like this from them. Here’s what they plan to do to ensure that nothing like this ever happens.

From the Liberals’ Real Solution

The Coalition will reduce the regulatory burden for individuals, businesses and community organisations by establishing and meeting a red and green tape reduction target of at least $1 billion a year.

We will provide incentives to drive the public service to cut red and green tape, such as linking remuneration of Senior Executive Service public servants (including future pay increases and bonuses) to quantified and proven reductions in regulation.

Or as Robert Gottliebsen put it before the election

“The Coalition shadow cabinet ministers have built themselves into a frenzy of de-regulation preparation. It stuns me that the previous government didn’t press Tony Abbott much harder to explain what regulations are going to be abandoned, because with each regulation there is a whole series of vested interests that will be very upset when they discover that their pet regulation has been abolished. And with every regulation comes a group if of public servants who will need to find other work.”

That’s what regulations all about – giving the Public Service something do. Regulations are just work for those idle Public Servants.  And when we abolish it, there’ll be no problem getting rid of 12,000 or so. It’s like all those silly regulations about the safe handling of food. Health and safety standards. Don’t get me started on traffic cameras – when did speeding or driving through a red light ever do any harm? Worksafe. Environmental Protection. Planning approvals.  All these things just slow up business and add to costs.

Like I said, Labor’s lack of regulation and speed in the implementation were some of the causes of the problems in the Pink Batts. Yet, suddenly, these things are desirable. And if any dodgy operator should take advantage of them I can’t picture the Abbott Government’s de-regulation crusade being even linked, let alone blamed.

 

 

rossleighbrisbane | September 25, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Categories: GeneralPolitics | URL:http://wp.me/p30D9d-1Pd