Posts Tagged ‘Tony Abbott’


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Why I Won’t Walk to Protest Against Islamic State

John Salisbury recently walked more than 300km to protest the treatment of Palestinians by Israel. His view about the West more broadly won’t surprise you.

In October this year I walked from The Sydney Opera House to Parliament House, Canberra in support of Palestinian human rights. It wasn’t easy but I felt compelled to do so. I would not, however, undertake a similar walk protesting against ISIS. Though Tony Abbott might encourage and support me on such a walk, my moral compass will not send me in that direction.

In November, Tony Abbott suggested that the Anglo Saxon, Christian group to which we both belong is a superior culture. He said:

“All cultures are not equal, and frankly, a culture that behaves in decency and tolerance is much to be preferred to one that thinks you can kill in the name of God, and we have got to be prepared to say that.”

Apart from Abbott’s assertion being a repugnant, racist and morally reprehensible suggestion, a closer look at history suggests he is deeply misguided and ill-informed on the history of Christianity.

The Christian religion has been the justification and basis for numerous vastly, violent conflicts. Many men have lost their lives killing in the name of the Christian God, or, by the hands of deeply religious Christian men.

Abbott would do well to read up on some of these before making such ill-informed and bigoted statements.

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Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott.

There was the American Civil War in the 1860s; a Protestant versus Protestant battle with a death toll of 600,000.

And then of course there was the Franco-Prussian War, the Boer War and World War I. All these conflicts were Christian fighting Christian.

There was also the Spanish Civil War where Catholics murdered each other and then there was one of West’s greatest bloodsheds to date, World War II.

A war led by the infamous Adolf Hitler, a man born Catholic who had a deep-seated hatred for anyone from the Jewish religion. This war unleashed a violence the world had never seen before.

When spouting the superiority of Christianity, Abbott justified his assertion by saying there were some events that “Islam never had – a Reformation, an Enlightenment, a well-developed concept of the separation of church and state.”

What Abbott must also not realise, is that one of the most depressing aspects of Hitler’s Holocaust was that it happened despite The Reformation and The Enlightenment in Europe.

The Reformation actually started in Germany with Martin Luther. Realising that the Catholic church of the time was corrupt and in need of theological reform, some men decided to break away and begin their own more moral strand of Christianity. And yet still, despite this reformation many years earlier, Hitler was still able to send thousands of innocent men, women and children to their death in ovens while the good, Christian citizens of Germany fanned the flames and waved at the trains heading to Auschwitz.

All of Hitler’s willing executioners were also Christians. Perhaps Abbott believes that the Muslim religion would be able to benefit from a Reformation or Enlightenment where the Christian religion could not?

And yet, despite all this loss of life and the creation of the United Nations after World War II, still more Christian violence continued. More blood was spilt in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The only reason the Cold War did not become “hot” was because of mutually assured destruction. The acronym for this (MAD) sums up the situation so chillingly.

And then of course we come to the West’s more recent wars in the Middle East. It is well known that Saddam Hussein was a dreadful character. No-one would refute that. But it is now equally well known that he had nothing to do with 9/11. He was instead just the man who had to bear the responsibility and George W. Bush chose him as the fall guy.

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(IMAGE: STML, Flickr)

We made an unforgivable mistake invading Iraq and we should admit it. The chaos in Iraq today is largely a result of Western, and therefore Christian, interference.

We should remember also that George W. Bush specifically mentioned his prayers to God and, he claims, God influenced his decision to invade.

Our invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, plus our blind and unprincipled support of Israel’s brutal 48-year occupation of Palestine, has led some Muslims to think they are under attack.

Thankfully, the number of Muslims who have succumbed to the entreaties of violent jihad and carried out revenge attacks on innocent civilians in Australia is tiny.

Everything we know from history, anthropology, archaeology, biology, physics and geology tells us that we inhabit this planet with everyone else as equals. Nobody is better than anyone else. Nobody is special.

And yet still our leaders instil fear in us and paint our fellow humans from a different religion as evil. Still our media presents us with one-sided, stereotypical views on our brothers and sisters living on other continents.

We created the United Nations after the horrors of World War II, but we are as far from united as we have ever been.

When Abbott suggests that the problem is the Muslim religion itself we should know better. Our Resources Minister, Josh Frydenberg, recently espoused a similar sentiment when he said, “We have to acknowledge that religion is part of this problem. I would say it is a problem with Islam.”

But, just as the Sunnis and Shias claim that “God is great” before they detonate bombs or kill opponents, so too did the Confederate Generals in the American Civil War kneel and pray before battling for the right to keep African-Americans as slaves.

And so too did the Christian Rwandans believe God was on their side when they massacred each other in 1994.

The common thread here is men using religion as a disguise for a more inherent, human flaw. It is not religion that is the problem, but the human desire for power and unbridled greed.

Perhaps we will see more progress, and get further, when men like Abbott start realising that our problems stem from human flaws, rather than a specific religion.

When we stop blaming one group, and start working together, then we really will become united, and work towards preventing horrendous acts of violence and bloodshed like the United Nations was initially invented to thwart.

When I walked those 330 kilometres to Canberra in October, I did so because I sought to protest a global injustice.

Regretfully, the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel is not an issue taken seriously by most of our political leaders. This occupation does not make the world a safer place.

Indeed, it only strengthens the bully mentality and sense of superiority that the West and Christians have held for so long.

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John Salisbury is a 61-year-old self-funded retiree with a life long interest in issues of global injustice. John was born in New Zealand but is a 40-year resident of Melbourne.

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The road to a police state: how ‘anti-terrorism’ is destroying democracy

In 1956, science fiction author Philip K. Dick wrote the short story “Minority Report”. In it, a shadowy government agency known as “pre-crime” arrests people in anticipation of crimes they suspect individuals will commit in the future. What appears as a dystopian fictional nightmare in 1956 has become a reality in Australia 60 years later.

One of the major legal transformations associated with the introduction of the various anti-terror acts in the 15 years since 9/11 has been the normalisation of the idea that you can be charged with a crime that you have yet to commit.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has the right to seek warrants that allow the detention of someone suspected or someone related to someone suspected of considering a terror offence. This person can be detained in custody with no right to confidential legal counsel and no right to see the evidence brought against them.

Furthermore, the Terrorism Act 2002 makes it a crime to “provide or receive training, to possess a ‘thing’, or to collect or make a document, if (in each case) that conduct was connected with preparation for, the engagement of a person in, or assistance in a terrorist act”.

In 2010, these laws resulted in the conviction of three men for “preparing to prepare” an attack on the Holsworthy Army Base. One of the men visited the barracks and another had a phone conversation with a sheikh, seeking religious counsel about the moral virtues of possibly committing an act.

The sheikh eventually answered in the negative and advised the men against any action. Even the Victorian Supreme Court judge responsible for sentencing the men, justice King, admitted that “the conspiracy was not that much further along than just sitting and thinking about it”. She nevertheless sentenced them to 18 years’ jail. For thought crime.

What’s more shocking is that, legally, these “preparatory” offences are committed if the person either “knows or is reckless as to the fact that they relate to a terrorist act”. Being “reckless” can mean a whole range of things. It can mean that you say or write something that may inadvertently encourage someone else to engage in terrorist activity.

For instance, Division 102 of the Criminal Code imposes a maximum penalty of life imprisonment “where a person provides or collects funds and is reckless as to whether those funds will be used to facilitate or engage in a terrorist act”. This means that someone who donates money to a charity that turns out to have some putative involvement in terrorism could be imprisoned for life.

Anti-government activity

The definition of terrorism is suitably broad for a ruling class looking to criminalise a wide range of anti-government activity. Section 101.1 of the Criminal Code defines terrorism as “conduct engaged in or threats made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause”. The conduct or threat must be designed to coerce a government or population by intimidation. It must involve “harm” – broadly defined.

Added to this is “urging violence”. For example, it is an offence punishable by seven years’ imprisonment to “urge the overthrow of the constitution or government by force or violence, or to urge interference in parliamentary elections”.

Such definitions are disturbing. Again, “interfering in parliamentary elections” could involve encouraging voters to cast donkey votes or rip up ballot papers. Left wing newspapers regularly run pieces on the necessity of overthrowing many and various governments. The fact that such laws have been penned indicates how far we have come.

Under such legislation the United States Declaration of Independence, with its claim that “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish [the Government], and to institute new one”, could be deemed a terrorist document.

Crime by association

A law introduced in 2014 that prohibits the advocacy of terrorism extends this issue of incitement into even more alarming territory. An organisation can be listed as terrorist if it “directly praises the doing of a terrorist act in circumstances where there is a substantial risk that such praise might have the effect of leading a person … to engage in a terrorist act”.

If these laws had been enacted in the past they would have meant that the author of an article supporting the actions of Nelson Mandela in his struggle against apartheid in South Africa would become liable if someone might have read that article and acted upon it in a manner deemed terrorist by the state.

Today, the organisation of any author who is accused of “praising terror” can be listed. Being a member or even associated with a member of a listed terrorist organisation can incur up to 10 years in prison.

The mutability of what constitutes a “terrorist organisation” was revealed in the trial of 13 Muslim men in Melbourne in 2005-09. These young men were arrested after more than a year of intense surveillance of conversations between them and a radical Islamic preacher, Abdul Nacer Benbrika.

An extraordinary 27,000 hours of police surveillance revealed nothing more criminal than discussions about the morality or immorality of revenge actions against Australians for the government’s crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. No specific or concrete terror actions were planned, and they were never charged with planning a terrorist attack.

Nevertheless, the state charged them with membership of an unspecified, unlisted, unnamed terrorist organisation. The attorney-general declared it so – and a few more men who had had some association with Benbrika were charged with “supporting or providing funds” to a terrorist organisation.

Greg Barns, one of the defence lawyers in the Barwon 13 trial, pointed out the absurdity of the situation: “An organisation can be a terrorist organisation even if it has no terrorist act in mind”. Such realities call to mind Alice in Wonderland. “‘When I use a word’, Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less’.”

Punished for being Muslim

The Barwon 13 trial also brought to light a number of other disturbing aspects of the anti-terror legislation. One of the most shocking revealed the prejudice against giving terror suspects bail.

This meant that from 2005 until 2008, when the judge handed down a decision, the defendants were held in the maximum security Barwon prison. Here, some as young as 19 were kept shackled in isolation for up to 18 hours a day. During their trial, they were strip searched every day and transported back and forth on the hour-long journey with their arms shackled to their waist and their ankles tied together.

Four of the 13 were found not guilty of any charges but were held in Guantanamo Bay-like conditions for, one can only suspect, being Muslim and associating with other Muslims. Four of the 13 were convicted on such spurious grounds that Michael Pearce from Liberty Victoria told reporters that they were victims of one of the “most sustained assaults on civil liberties in 50 years”. “Their treatment is an affront to the most basic principle of the rule of law”, he said.

The current targets of the anti-terror laws are Muslim. Nineteen of the 20 proscribed organisations are Muslim, and of the 46 people charged under the laws, all, with the exception of a couple, identify as Muslim. Not one of these people has been charged with actually committing a terrorist offence. All are offences of association, of planning or planning to plan.

State representatives claim that nipping terrorist actions before they happen is more important than civil liberties. But such claims are bogus when most of the terrorist atrocities they claim to be thwarting were never even in the planning stages.

One young man, Faheem Lodhi, was sentenced to 20 years in prison despite the fact that, according to a lawyer in his trial, he “had not yet reached the stage where the identity of the bomber, the precise area to be bombed or the manner in which the bombing would take place had been worked out”.

As civil liberties lawyer Rob Stary told Katherine Wilson in an interview for Overland: “They talk the talk, and it’s dangerous talk. But I can say whatever I like about who the real Iraq or Palestinian war criminals are, and how they should be brought to justice, and I won’t be imprisoned for it. Not unless I convert to Islam”.

When Muslim kids mouth off, they can be locked up for decades. If anything is likely to prompt feelings of hatred, anger and frustration that lead to the desire to commit terrorist acts, it is this kind of systematic legal persecution.

Islamophobia is the ideological mechanism through which the state has managed to get through such draconian legislation. Concerted public media campaigns vilifying Muslims – representing them as medieval barbarians intent on bringing down Western civilisation – has had its effect. Opposition to the anti-terror laws is minimal – the conflation of Islam with terror has been achieved.

Fifteen years in the making

Prior to 9/11, politically motivated violence was dealt with under criminal law. This all changed after 2001. In March 2002, federal attorney-general Darryl Williams introduced the first package of anti-terrorism legislation to parliament. He said the laws were “exceptional” but that “so too is the evil at which they are directed”.

Hyperbole abounded. Australians were told to be alert to shadowy internal threats and to report any “suspicious” activities they might witness.

From 11 September 2001 to the fall of the Howard government, the federal parliament enacted 48 anti-terror laws. In other words, on average a new anti-terror statue was passed every seven or so weeks under the Liberal government. The Labor Party supported the overwhelming bulk of these laws.

When Labor came to power, the pace of lawmaking slowed but the fundamental approach remained the same: use the terror threat to usher through increasingly draconian laws. Indeed, the Rudd government actively opposed independent reviews into the passing of its own anti-terror legislation.

Abbott came to office with an open and aggressive agenda. He was unabashed in 2014: “Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we are used to and more inconvenience than we would like … the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift”. The scales now well and truly have tipped.

Under Abbott and Turnbull, the existing anti-terror legislation has been strengthened and expanded, most dramatically with the introduction of astonishingly extensive data retention laws.

All of this frantic legislative activity has been accompanied by regularly staged anti-terror raids.

The Australian state has far exceeded the UK, the USA and Canada in the number of laws enacted. UNSW professor George Williams argues: “It would be unthinkable, if not constitutionally impossible, in nations such as the US and Canada to restrict freedom of speech in the manner achieved by Australia’s 2005 sedition laws”. US author Ken Roach describes Australia as engaging in “hyper-legislation”.

Normalisation

While initially introduced as “emergency legislation” to deal with imminent terror threats, anti-terror legislation has not only stuck, but has crept into other legislative areas. Laws recognised as exceptional, even by their proponents, are now used against groups and individuals who have nothing to do with the “war on terror”.

Bikie gangs and their members are subject to laws virtually identical to anti-terror legislation. The Rann Labor government in South Australia began the trend, drawing dramatic comparisons between bikies and terrorists. In 2008, Rann said, “Organised crime groups are terrorists within our communities” and described bikies as “an evil within our nation”. The laws passed almost without a whimper of opposition.

In Queensland, bikie gangs have been “declared” in the same way that so-called terrorist organisations have – which means anyone associated with a gang can be arrested and charged. If you are a member of a gang you cannot be seen with one or more “criminal associates”.

Bikies are also subject to something very similar to control orders – one of the most controversial aspects of the anti-terror legislation. They can be placed under house arrest, and have their movement and their oral and electronic communications limited. These restrictions can be decided in a secret court hearing, and the person will discover if they are subject to an order only after their arrest. All states have introduced similar laws.

The depth and breadth of the anti-terror legislation provided the perfect precursor to the use of equally (if not more draconian) laws against construction workers in the Howard government’s Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Turnbull is now preparing to fight an election over the reintroduction of the body. The ABCC’s coercive powers mirror ASIO’s. It has the right to hold secret interviews and jail those who don’t cooperate. Habeus corpus is out the window. Construction workers will again have no right to silence and no right to be represented by the lawyer of their choice. The terror bogey was simply the thin end of the wedge.

It is clear over the 15 years of the “war on terror” that many legal rights have disappeared. Basic legal assumptions like innocent until proven guilty, the right to silence, the right to a fair trial and the right to legal counsel no longer exist in expanding areas of the legal system. What’s more, the state’s powers to watch, listen, detain and punish have grown dramatically, and there is no indication that the government wants to pull back.

The US whistleblower Edward Snowden said of similar actions in the USA: “These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power”.

Australia’s behemoth security state is now more powerful than even Philip K. Dick’s paranoid imagination could have dreamed.

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Is Australia becoming a police state?

The Sydney Cafe siege on December 15, 2014 which saw the deaths of two hostages further heightened fears for national security in Australia as the country seeks to clamp down on home-grown militancy. Saeed Khan/AFP Photo
 Is Australia becoming a police state?

Since ISIL made headlines with its lightning advances in Iraq and Syria in June last year, the Australian government has upped its national security rhetoric and passed a number of controversial laws.

The heightened climate of fear has fuelled criticism that the right-wing Abbott government is undermining the nation’s democratic values and eroding civil liberties to fight terror.

In December last year, police stormed a cafe in downtown Sydney where nearly 30 hostages were being held by a lone wolf gunman. The 16-hour siege ended with the deaths of two hostages and the gunman, who had forced his captives to display an Islamic flag in the cafe window during the ordeal.

Two months earlier, Australia launched a massive counterterrorism operation that saw hundreds of armed police raid multiple homes in Sydney and Brisbane. Police would not comment on the number of arrests made.

The country also raised its terrorism threat level to high in September, believing an attack was likely.

Australia is becoming a “polarised and fearful place” due to the government’s scare campaign of the ISIL militant group, Senator Scott Ludlam, deputy leader of the progressive, left-wing Australian Greens, told The National.

Australia’s Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs has led the chorus of criticism, accusing the government and opposition Labor Party of colluding to increase government powers under the veil of national security by passing laws “which violate fundamental freedoms”.

This includes a data retention law, passed in March, which grants government security agencies access to two years’ worth of metadata — or citizens’ phone and internet records.

Julian Burnside, a Queen’s Counsel and human rights advocate, said that “the metadata laws are edging Australia one short step closer to being a sort of secret police state”.

In September 2014, soon after the US-led coalition launched its military campaign against ISIL, the Australian parliament passed a counterterror law that gave greater immunity from prosecution to intelligence officers who engage in special operations.

The law also punishes whistle-blowers who disclose intelligence-related information, sparking fears that the media could be targeted if it reported on intelligence operations.

In June, Australia also rushed a website blocking bill and a border force act that punishes medical staff with a two-year jail sentence if they report abuses at detention centres for asylum seekers.

The World Medical Association said that the act was “shocking” from an advanced country like Australia.

The government is now pushing to revise citizenship laws, which could see Australian dual nationals stripped of their citizenship for fighting with terror groups abroad.

An estimated 150 Australians are said to be fighting with ISIL and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria, and they are backed by about 150 Australia-based “facilitators”, according to Mr Abbott.

At least 20 were believed to have returned as of January and there are fears that home-grown militants returning from the Middle East could pose a threat to national security.

However, the bill presented also includes vague terminology that widens its scope to beyond terror activities, such as a clause that could see an Australian lose his nationality for damaging government property.

Senator Ludlam has been a leading opponent of the government’s campaign to increase its power at the expense of civil liberties, and warns that Mr Abbott is leading Australia on a dangerous path.

“There is no question that the Abbott government has repeatedly weakened some of the country’s civil and political rights underpinnings,” he said.

But Mr Abbott insists that the threat posed by groups like ISIL is worth giving up some basic freedoms.

“Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we’re used to, and more inconvenience than we’d like,” Mr Abbott said in September 2014 before introducing counterterror legislation.

The government has allocated an extra AU$1.2 billion (Dh3.3bn) in funding for national security which Mr Burnside said was an “absurd amount of money” to be spending to fight terrorism “when the fact is deaths in Australia from terrorist activity are incredibly rare”.

He noted that domestic violence is a greater killer in Australia but receives little political attention in comparison to terrorism.

While noting the credible threat of ISIL, Mr Ludlam said that its significance has been grossly misrepresented.

“The government has chosen … to elevate the threat of a few dozen domestic religious zealots to a challenge greater than that faced by Australia during the Cold War,” he said.

“[The Abbott government is] seeking to maximise this fear for political advantage,” Mr Ludlam said.

Mr Burnside agreed, saying that Mr Abbott’s fear campaign is geared more towards domestic politics rather than confronting a terror threat.

“Abbott recognises that by creating a climate of fear and then offering protection, he can retain government.”

But the strategy of playing fear politics to increase chances of re-election risks leaving Australians with fewer freedoms than their counterparts in the West, and vulnerable to prosecution for crimes reminiscent of autocratic police states.

Mr Ludlam and Mr Burnside both point to the lack of constitutional protections for human rights in Australia as a weakness in the country’s political system that allows governments to tamper with civil liberties.

“I think we’re the only western democracy that does not have coherent human rights protection,” Mr Burnside said, adding that “our nation is less threatened by terrorism than by laws like these”.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

* with additional reporting from Reuters

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The Criminal History of Tony Abbott’s Catholic Church.


Speak boldly

Catholic fanatics_n

Written by:

The editorial in the Age today suggests that “the Abbott government is cynically moving to de-legitimise certain institutions that perform vital roles in the democratic life of this nation.”

This latest reprehensible attempt to silence the Human Rights Commission is, as Penny Wong points out, part of a wider pattern of behaviour.

This is a Government that seeks to intimidate people who don’t agree with their policies and to silence independent voices.

Within hours of being sworn in, the Prime Minister’s office issued a press release, announcing three departmental secretaries had had their contracts terminated and the Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson would be stood down next year.

Dr Don Russell lost his job as head of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research; Blair Comley was the head of the Resources, Energy and Tourism Department; and Andrew Metcalfe, a former Immigration Department chief, was sacked as head of the Agriculture Department.

AusAID was integrated into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and its director-general Peter Baxter resigned.

“AusAID has been delivering an aid program that eradicates poverty in the world’s poorest communities, while DFAT’s objective is to promote and protect Australia’s national economic and political interests.”

The head of Infrastructure Australia, Michael Deegan, stepped down in February 2014 after he lashed out against the Abbott government for eroding the advisory body’s independence.

Infrastructure Australia disagreed about the priorities being pushed by government.  For example, they had listed Sydney’s WestConnex motorway as an ”early stage” project, despite Premier Barry O’Farrell’s and Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s determination to proceed with the project.

”Grand announcements, ‘funding commitments’, glossy brochures, and project websites do not change the reasons (why some projects had not progressed on his organisation’s priority list.),” Mr Deegan said in an email. ”Many proposals lack merit.”

Infrastructure Australia was required to report to the federal government on how climate change would affect federal infrastructure policy. It was set up to assess infrastructure investments on their productivity merits instead of their vote-buying potential. As climate change could inflict damage worth $9billion annually to Australia’s infrastructure by 2020, it makes sense for our infrastructure advisory body to think about how to bring those costs down.

But the Abbott government expunged this instruction as part of its rewrite of Infrastructure Australia’s mandate. This is despite infrastructure co-ordinator Michael Deegan’s warning that rising sea levels and heat stress are among climate impacts threatening ‘‘a significant proportion of Australia’s existing infrastructure assets … and adaptation will require changes to the scope and mix of infrastructure investment’’.

Mr Deegan also noted that ‘‘a significant proportion of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the various infrastructure sectors, notably energy and transport’’.

No wonder he had to go, along with the Climate Commission and the Climate Change Authority.

Talking about global warming is a death sentence to funding.

The CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology have had their funding slashed with hundreds of jobs lost and research programmes abandoned.  With no Minister for Science to point out the value of research it is seen as an avenue to save money and control the areas being studied.

As a direct consequence of the $111 million budget cut, the organisation will lose 489 researchers and support staff by mid-2015.  Another 300 positions will be cut after an internal restructure. The union estimates CSIRO is set to shrink by about 20 per cent over two years.

In August, management confirmed eight infectious disease researchers at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, the country’s only facility for researching live samples of deadly diseases such as Ebola, would lose their jobs.

Eight staff have left the Aspendale laboratory, which focuses on marine and atmospheric research, since the budget was handed down in May. Those leaving Aspendale include senior scientist Paul Fraser, who has taken a voluntary redundancy. Dr Fraser, head of oceans and atmosphere, has been honoured by NASA and also helped establish one of the world’s two most important climate research centres at Cape Grim in Tasmania.

Water research also appears to have been targeted. The office of water science research and the national water commission will be abolished, while the sustainable rural water use and infrastructure program’s budget has had a $400 million trim.

At CSIRO’s largest Victorian site, in Clayton, 15 staff have left or are in the process of leaving. The laboratory, home to research areas including advanced materials, nanotechnology, energy, mining and minerals work, had already lost staff under Labor’s efficiency drive. Among them was organic chemist San Thang, who was made redundant in September. It came as Dr Thang and two colleagues were nominated as frontrunners for the illustrious Nobel Prize in chemistry. Dr Thang has been made an honorary fellow – an unpaid position allowing him to both continue his work and to supervise PhD students.

In addition to the budget cuts, CSIRO also lost about $4 million indirectly when the government folded the Australian Climate Change Science Program into the new National Environmental Science Program.

A further 175 government bodies were cut in the last MYEFO, building on previous decisions to defund agencies in the 2014-15 budget, “taking the total reduction in the number of government bodies since the election to 251″.

Two groups whose funding ceased were the Biosecurity Advisory Council and the National Biosecurity Committee Stakeholder Engagement Consultative Group.  In light of the recent outbreak of Hepatitis A due to contaminated imported berries one wonders who is advising Barnaby on how to proceed.

Other bodies to be disbanded included the Diabetes Advisory Group and the Alcohol and Drug Council of Australia.  This is unbelievably short term thinking as the cost of these problems to our society are astronomic.

The Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood (SCSEEC) Joint Working Group to Provide Advice on Students with Disability was also disbanded which fits in with George Brandis’ decision to replace the Human Rights Commissioner for the Disabled, Graeme Innes, with the IPA’s Tim Wilson – Commissioner for bigots and presumably the “anonymous source” quoted in the government attack on Gillian Triggs.

Reading through the list of bodies that have been axed makes me wonder who the hell is looking after these crucial advisory roles.

The Prime Minister for Women has watered down gender reporting while the Minister Assisting assures us that, whilst she likes women, she also likes men so couldn’t possibly be a feminist – a view shared by the highest placed woman in our government, Julie Bishop, who tells us that “it’s only a downward spiral once you’ve cast yourself as a victim.”

Righto.  Domestic violence, workplace discrimination and sexual harassment are our own fault and we should stop whinging….is that the message?

The Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs promptly cut over half a billion in funding from Indigenous programmes and disbanded the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, replacing them with Gerard Henderson’s son-in-law Warren Mundine.

Speaking of Gerard Henderson, he was appointed Chairman of the panel tasked with awarding the PM’s non-fiction Literary Awards.  He chose to give the history award to “a poorly sourced anti-union tome” which was described as a rudimentary, badly-structured book full of hearsay by another panel member.  But it fed into Abbott’s anti-union agenda.

From the outset, Abbott has spent many millions of dollars in a frenzied attack on unions seeking to demonise and undermine the only group with the power to present a collective voice in bargaining to protect workers’ rights.

In December, the Abbott government reintroduced legislation to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, despite 82% of the sector believing it was important to keep the charity regulator.

ACNC Advisory Board Chair and Productivity Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald said: “…the key beneficiaries of the repeal of the ACNC are really only those organisations who do not want independent public accountability or transparency but which seek to continue to receive large benefits from the Australian community.”

Unsurprisingly, it was George Pell who told Kevin Andrews to get rid of the watchdog.  Scott Morrison appears to have recently backed away from the idea calling it a low priority while he gets his “family package” together.

Huge cuts to the funding of the ABC, questionable board appointments, and threats to journalists that they will be jailed if they report on “special operations”, are all designed to muzzle the watchdogs.

Whether it’s scientists, charities, Aborigines, people with disabilities, refugees, unions, feminists, preventative health groups, Muslims, infrastructure specialists, journalists, public servants, or even colleagues….Abbott does not want to hear from us unless it’s to agree.

Bill Wright, a priest and church historian who was vice-rector at St Patrick’s seminary whilst Tony was there, said many found him “just too formidable to talk to unless to agree; overbearing and opiniated. Tony is inclined to score points, to skate over or hold back any reservations he might have about his case.”

Nothing has changed.

The Abbott government may not want to pay for advice but that sure as hell isn’t going to stop me from giving them some.

May Gillian Trigg’s strength and defiance be an example to us all and may we all raise our collective voices to defend those who this government would mute.

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Egging on the Bolter …

Framed, a classic set up, unsourced rumours, gutless, unnamed Liberal heroes, and where are the leftist feminists defending Peta Credlin?

The lefties, they fight for a side, not for a principle.

You know, the principle of unprincipled abuse – or was it just complete blindness?

When it gets to that level, feel free to give the pond a call. We’ll do our feminist best …

Sorry, you might have already guessed, the pond broke a golden rule, and watched a few minutes of the Bolter in a furious condition of indignation, consternation, shock, outrage and horror at the way the Abbott is being set up for a fall.

Anyway, what’s wrong with throwing up a few good ideas for discussion – like suggesting that dinkum Aussies organise a unilateral invasion of Iraq …

You know, just floating a thought bubble, just putting a wacky zany idea out there, just running the idea up a flag pole and seeing if anyone salutes, just seeing if some of the chewing gum sticks to the wall, just throwing it into the cloud so everyone can see it and run it past the taste buds to see if it’s got enough bite.You know, barn and brain storming …

Sorry, don’t worry if it’s actually a dumb as stick idea.

I mean, if you’re afraid of socking the world with your best ideas, why that’s how so many great, inventive ideas get lost.

Naturally the Bolter,saw signs of hope and change in his man, before moving on to denounce click bait stories and the shocking behaviour of Murdochians, who’d troll their mother for a dollar …

Everybody on the panel seemed to agree the reptiles of Oz were the lowest of the low, regularly abusing government and running nonsensical, devious, gutter snipe stories, full of innuendo and rumour and rarely a grain of truth.

Sheesh, they even bagged the Howard government over the wheat scandal … what an appalling thing to do. Everyone knows that was one of the Howard government’s finest hours … just ask Michael Kroger …

What a disgusting paper the lizard Oz is!

And the buggers are still at it, unrepentant.

Coming at Abbott in wave after wave, like hordes of Japanese soldiers in the second world war, armed with weapons provided by pig iron Bob:

Yes, just when did he stop beating his wife …

He’s refused to answer questions about “informal ideas”. As if having a great informal idea was some sort of crime …

And that’s why this country is bereft of bright ideas. Bright generals like Abbott are now too frightened to lead with their very best thinking …

And look, the bloody shameless reptiles have even used footage of the Bolter’s report to illustrate their story.

Have they no shame?

What’s that you say? News Corp produces the Bolter’s report? It’s the only way he can get on the box?

So when the Bolter blathers on about merging the ABC and SBS, and slashing their budgets, he’s actually just another conflicted, self-interested leech or tick on chairman Rupert’s purse?

Well fancy that, lordy lordy, lah di dah …

Time for the pond to deliver its usual sophisticated, elegant insight into the world of the commentariat.

Take it away Bald Archies, and more baldness here and there.


A tweet and a leak too far …

The pond was in a state of wild excitement.
Would the rest of the pack of hounds pick up on the story of Abbott the war monger this tabloid Sunday, or would they go to water?
Was it just one rabid dog in the pack, frothing and foaming at the mouth?
Would the pond have to settle for the tweets too far, the link to Abbott’s war movie hashtag, thoughtfully provided by a reader and available here.

That one’s not far off the mark. The warrior has regularly shown his military style:

Careful, it’s gone off like a bomb:

Sadly, it seems that the rest of the pack have left it to the rabid dog to do the work, but that dog still has a bit of bite, a canny capacity to nip at the heels of the user of weasel words like “formal” and “fanciful”:

Uh huh. Where does that leave the Bolter calling foul?

Well actually it leaves the Bolter in a state of despair, but that despair’s all about another leak.

Look, there on the top right of the page,  you can just see the yarn:

Oh no, not the HUN, not the home of the Bolter.

Let’s zoom in a little. ECU please, DOP:

Now you can easily find Samantha Maiden’s EXCLUSIVE story  – it’s spread right across the Sunday Murdoch tabloids and it’s in the Sunday Terror as PM scuttled secret plan to kick millionaires off the aged pension.

The story itself is pretty much what might be expected from Mr. Fairness and his crew – a concern about their own necks, and avoiding looking like they’d broken yet another election promise, compounded with a desire to protect the wealthy, and instead inflict the maximum amount of pain on everyone:

Yes, jolly Joe was in on the caper too.

But the real point of the yarn comes in the third par.

“In another stunning leak from the nation’s most powerful cabinet committee …”

The rats are now working with a giant sieve, and however you look at it, Abbott is toast, dead meat walking …

Which brings the pond back to the Bolter, now in a deep funk.

Oh it’s vicious sabotage alright, betrayers, smearers, exaggerators, traitors, treacherous back stabbers and rat finks.

And worst of all, it’s being done by and with the Murdoch rags … and if big Malaise gets the gig, the fight back from the far right ratbags will be something to behold …

This is, to borrow a phrase, the best of times, and the best of times …

Raptors feuding over turf, and the black knight mortally wounded …

It means today will be a day of relaxation and merriment at the pond, as we now wait on Monday, and that promised trip into the bunker …

Yes, the pond will be taking the tour inside the bunker, just before the fearless leader seizes the moment to pound the drums of paranoia and xenophobia, whipping up fear, anger and hatred by blathering on about national security…

… though if you pause a moment to reflect, it hardly seems necessary.

He’s already achieved his goal:

That story, with links, is at the Graudian here.

Naturally the likes of the Bolter are wildly indignant.

The Islamic barbarian hordes are gathering at the gates, and we’re all doomed, doomed I tells ya …

Luckily, there’s a simple answer.

We need to put the country on a war footing.

Thank the long absent lord there’s a natural leader to hand, a genuine Churchillian, robust and willing to do the hard yards, with a solid team behind him.

Don’t worry about munitions and ordnance and kit. That’s all in hand:
Now let’s get on with the party:

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