Tag Archives: tony abbott

Sovereignty Gone: Abbott To Sign Highly Secretive TPP Agreement This Month

9 Oct

Just as I warned here and here, Tony Abbott’s election night victory speech “Open for business” really means “the path to serfdom”.

What is becoming clearer by the day, is that many decades of Australian governments (both “sides”) financing our profligate living habits (ie, trade deficits) by selling off Australia’s national assets, is now reaching a more sinister denouement.

The Abbott government intends to formally sell out our national sovereignty.

Just as international corporatism (money-lending, in particular) has long desired, and planned for.

Imagine a future where the Australian national government is little more than a figurehead. One that can no longer protect you and your children from the predatory aspirations of greedy, profit-and-power-mad international bankers, and the big multinational corporations they finance.

In plain language, that is what the TPP really means.

Cross-posted from Independent Australia:

The Abbott Coalition looks set to sign off on the highly secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership later this month, but what will it mean for ordinary Australians? Dr Matthew Mitchell reports.

Initial nations involved in the TPP; it may include more later.

Initial nations involved in the TPP; it may include more later.

WHAT SORT of “Trade Agreement” manages to both criminalise internet use and force coal seam fracking onto communities?

The answer to this is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a pact that has the ominous potential to achieve both these corporate objectives — and many more.

Of course, we cannot know the exact effects of the TPP, as the negotiations over the past few years have been held in secret.  However, two leaked chapters – out of the 26 or more under negotiation – have caused more than their fair share of concern.

One of these chapters threatens to undermine both our existing domestic and international legal systems, throwing away the protections and rights achieved over hundreds of years.

How? Through tribunals linked to a system of International Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). The one in the TPP led to an open letter signed by prominent Australian judges, lawyers, politicians and academics insisting that the government should not sign an agreement that includes ISDS. The letter states:

‘…the increasing use of this mechanism to skirt domestic court systems and the structural problems inherent in the arbitral regime are corrosive of the rule of law and fairness.’

But ISDS is most definitely included in the proposed TPP put forward by United States negotiators.

The Gillard government made it clear that Australia would not sign another trade agreement that included international dispute settlement by tribunals. This followed Australians being burnt by an agreement that has allowed Phillip-Morris to take Australia to an international tribunal over its plain packaging laws, even though our own High Court already decided against Phillip-Morris.

Other countries are experiencing equally serious consequences.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is being used by gas and oil company Lone Pine Resources to sue Canada over Quebec’s moratorium on fracking. A trade agreement was also used to sue Ecuador for USD $1.77 billion.

The Coalition’s trade policy document indicates that Abbott’s government will sign the TPP with acceptance of ISDSs because the Coalition is

‘…open to utilising investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses as part of Australia’s negotiating position.’

Not only that, but it says it will

‘…fast track the conclusion of free trade agreements.’  

Tom J. Donohue, CEO and President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told CNBC that the TPP deal will be completed in a month.

Added to the threat of ISDSs are many other concerns, including those raised by the leaked chapters.

For instance, based on the leaked IP chapter, Aaron Bailey of OpenMedia.ca is concerned about the new powers that may be given to massive international media organisations [IA emphasis]:

The TPP seeks, among other things, to rewrite the global rules on intellectual property enforcement that would give Big Media new powers to lock users out of our own content and services, provide new liabilities that might force ISPs to police our online activity, and give giant media companies even greater powers to shut down websites and remove content at will. It also encourages ISPs to block accused infringers’ Internet access, and could force ISPs to hand over our private information to big media conglomerates without appropriate privacy safeguards. You can see a more complete list of new restrictions below, but it appears that the TPP would turn all Internet users into suspected copyright criminals. In fact it appears to criminalize content sharing in general.

A statement by a U.S. trade representative at the recent ASEAN meeting in Brunei said that the TPP Ministerial Meeting held at the APEC meeting in Bali in early October would be a “milestone” and that the aim was to finish the TPP agreement “by the end of the year“.

President Obama is scheduled to address the APEC leaders, including Tony Abbott, on October 7.

Before Prime Minister Abbott signs this agreement, Australians deserve to know what rights we may be signing away.

Upcoming Information sessions on the TPP:

  • Melbourne, Oct 15. Hosted by Swinburne University. See here for details.
  • Sydney October, 22. Hosted by AFTINET.  12-2pm Macquarie Room, NSW Parliament, 6 Macquarie Street, Sydney. RSVP by Oct 21: campaign@aftinet.org.au

As Predicted, Abbott Looks To Sell Us Out

28 Sep

Well that didn’t take long.

Less than a week after I wrote “Abbott’s ‘Open For Business’ Means ‘The Path To Serfdom'”, and we learn that the new government is indeed looking to follow in the footsteps of every other Australian government in modern history.

From the Australian:

National icon sales may help fix budget

ICONIC public assets could be put up for sale as the Abbott government searches for ways to pay down debt, after warning of a “deteriorating” budget that will force it to raise its $300 billion borrowing limit.

Australia Post and the nation’s air traffic control agency Airservices Australia will join Medibank Private as candidates for sale in a looming commission of audit that will be asked to examine whether major assets need to stay in public hands.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The only way to end the practice of politicians alternately running up debts, then selling off everything of value that our nation owns to foreign buyers (thus, controllers), is for the public to insist on government taking control of the nation’s money supply away from bankers.

Abolish the RBA.

Abbott’s “Yes Minister”-Style Economy Drive

15 Sep

Oh dear, perhaps I’m becoming a tad too sceptical.

Admittedly, this is a good look for the incoming LNP government.

Which, of course, is the whole point of the exercise.

But I for one cannot help but be reminded of the classic episode of BBC’s Yes Minister, the first episode of Series 3, entitled ‘The Economy Drive’:

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TONY Abbott has decided to bunk with Australian Federal Police recruits in a $120-a-night flat while renovations are conducted at the possum-infested prime ministerial residence The Lodge.

The modest and unusual digs, in a red brick AFP building close to Parliament, will feature a kitchenette and around-the-clock security from his AFP security officers and their junior colleagues.

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Perhaps most importantly for the fitness fanatic, the student quarters also include an impressive gym…

Mr Abbott rejected the other options on offer: a $3,000 a week dress circle rental in the nation’s capital. Mr Abbott currently stays at the five-star Hotel Realm.

Providing proper security to the Prime Minister was the biggest problem in finding a temporary new abode, with many options requiring significant security upgrades if AFP officers were to properly protect the PM. For that reason, staying a hotel was swiftly discounted as an option…

The plan represents one of the most unusual Canberra living arrangements for a politician since former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson camped out in Joe Hockey’s shed to save money after his divorce settlement. When Mr Abbott needs to entertain VIP guests he will do so at his Prime ministerial offices at Parliament House.

And then there is this:

Incoming foreign minister Julie Bishop has already clashed with her department over luxury hotel accommodation on an upcoming trip to New York.

The minister-elect told Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade bureaucrats to slash the cost of the trip after they planned to book $1850-a-night rooms at a swish Manhattan hotel for an entourage of dozens.

Ms Bishop also instructed DFAT not to book her on first-class flights when she travels overseas in her new brief.

It is understood departmental bosses want to take a delegation of 23 public servants to the United Nations leaders’ summit on September 19-20 along with two ministers and three of their staff with the travelling party staying at the four-star Westin Midtown Hotel. The department planned to put Ms Bishop and her colleagues in a suite at the Westin as part of an accommodation package worth $132,048.

But the incoming minister, who has yet to be sworn in, told her department she wanted to stay in an ordinary room and that they should ditch the idea of the suite and that, for future reference they should not book her in first-class on international flights. She sent the public servants back to their department to revise the cost of the trip.

After all the scene-setting headlines, and seed-planting news stories like this are done, and the positive PR benefits enjoyed, I wonder how long it will take for reality to set in.

About as long as Jim Hacker’s ‘Economy Drive’ lasted?

I wonder if any in the mainstream media will bother to follow up on this in … oh, let’s say, a month or three … to see how Abbott’s Economy Drive is really going?

How To Proclaim That You Are A Moral Vacuum Too

31 Aug

JIM HACKER MP: What is the purpose of government if not for doing good?

SIR HUMPHREY: Government isn’t about good and evil. It’s about order or chaos.

JIM HACKER MP: It’s in order for Italian terrorists to get British bombs?

SIR HUMPHREY: *shrugs*

JIM HACKER MP: You don’t care?

SIR HUMPHREY: It’s not my job to care. That’s what politicians are for. My job is to carry out policy.

JIM HACKER MP: Even if you think it’s wrong?

SIR HUMPHREY: Almost all government policy is wrong, but … frightfully well carried out!

JIM HACKER MP: Have you ever known a civil servant to resign on a matter of principle?

SIR HUMPHREY: I should think not! What an appalling suggestion!

JIM HACKER MP: For the first time, I fully understand that you are purely committed to means and not ends!

SIR HUMPHREY: As far as I’m concerned, and all my colleagues, there is no difference between means and ends.

JIM HACKER MP: If you believe that, Humphrey, you will go to hell.

SIR HUMPHREY: Minister, I had no idea you had a theological bent.

JIM HACKER MP: You are a moral vacuum.

SIR HUMPHREY: If you say so, Minister.

*****

SIR HUMPHREY:  What’s the matter, Bernard?

BERNARD:  Nothing really, Sir Humphrey.

SIR HUMPHREY: You look unhappy.

BERNARD:  I was wondering if the minister was right.

SIR HUMPHREY:  Very unlikely. What about?

BERNARD:  About ends and means. Will I end up as a moral vacuum, too?

SIR HUMPHREY:  Oh, I hope so, Bernard.  If you work hard enough.

Yes Minister, “The Whisky Priest” (1982)

On a long journey home passing through south west Sydney yesterday, I was startled to see giant billboards on the M7 sternly warning that, “If he wins, you lose”:

politifact-photos-youlose_1

You see, I have been avoiding the mainstream media — especially TV — even more than usual during this election campaign. Frankly, it turns my stomach.

So I was not aware that our governing political party — the one whose former leader recently returned to the leadership, and pointedly pontificated from the heights of his self-erected moral pedestal about ending the “politics of negativity”, with “A New Way” that would transcend “3 word slogans” — had proclaimed to the world their complete and utter moral vacuity, by launching a 100% negative attack advertising campaign:

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My opinion?

If you cast a ballot in favour of a political party that is so clearly and repulsively hypocritical, that is so obsessed with ends that it is no longer capable of distinguishing between means and ends, then perhaps you are well on the way to becoming a moral vacuum too.

Why People Of Conscience Cannot Vote For Abbott

1 Jun
Illustration: Rocco Fazzari

Illustration: Rocco Fazzari

Doubtless some, perhaps many readers of this blog have an inclination to vote for the Liberal Party at the next election.

Your humble blogger will not be one of them.

Here is why (my emphasis added):

When two tribes go to bed

The electoral funding deal was the bad side of that rare commodity bipartisanship, as the public reaction made clear.

Tony Abbott began his public backdown on Thursday morning by saying: “Well, it is pretty clear the people have spoken and the electoral funding bill is dead.” But which people? It’s true that quite a few voters had spoken over the previous two days, phoning and emailing their MPs. “The phones were ringing off the hook,” said one.

Voters were angered to learn that there was a Liberal-Labor agreement to help themselves to nearly $60 million in taxpayer funds to pay for elections. There’s already public funding to the political parties – the taxpayer gave the parties $2.31 for each vote they received at the least election – totalling $53 million at the 2010 poll.

But the news first emerged late on Monday night, and not fully until Tuesday, that the parties had cut a deal to add a further $58.7 million over four years.

The people whose voices rang loudest in Abbott’s ear were not the voters but members of his own party, at every level. And everyone, from the public to Abbott’s own inner circle, was affronted that they’d heard nothing about it until the agreement had already been struck in secret between the national secretaries and leaders of the parties.

Abbott’s shadow ministers were upset that they had sat through a shadow ministry meeting on Monday on many matters, but no one had mentioned this. His backbench was cranky that they’d sat through a party-room meeting on Tuesday where nothing was said.

And then, in the decisive moment, he consulted the senior officers of his own party on Wednesday night.

In a phone hook-up with the Liberal national executive, Abbott met a unified chorus of opposition from the party’s state divisions. The presidents of the Liberal party in every state spoke against the deal.

Even the man expected to be keenest to get more money, the official responsible for raising funds for the Liberals at the national level, the party treasurer, opposed the deal.

“I would rather treble my efforts than agree to this,” businessman Phillip Higginson told the conference call. By the time Abbott went to bed that night, he knew the funding deal was finished. The next morning he convened a meeting of his inner circle, the Liberal leadership group, and reports emerged that the group had “rolled” Abbott on the funding deal.

After news of the deal emerged, [Liberal Party federal director, Brian] Loughnane and Abbott’s office had repeatedly assured Liberal MPs that there had been discussions with Labor, but no deal.

Technically, they were protected by the fact that there could be no final, formal deal because the government had not yet shown the Liberals the final bill that it would be submitting to the parliament.

So Liberals were even more outraged when the Attorney-General, Labor’s Mark Drefyus, released to reporters a copy of a letter signed by Abbott the previous Friday that said:

“Thank you for your letter dated 16 May 2013 regarding the government’s intention to introduce and pass the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2013 in the current winter sittings.”

In the letter, Abbott said he had been briefed on the agreement Loughnane had struck with Labor and “I am satisfied with the agreement reached and indicate the Coalition’s intention to support the legislation and to deal with it, as requested, before the end of the sittings. I note that I have been provided with a near-final draft of the bill.”

One of Abbott’s shadow ministers remarked: “The mood across the party was feral. I’ve never seen the grassroots react so strongly against anything they way they reacted against this.”

Why is it that people of conscience cannot vote for Abbott?

It is a simple matter of integrity. And prudence.

When no one knew about it, Abbott supported the parties’ funding deal.

He only backed down, when folks spat the dummy.

Your humble blogger simply does not accept the rationalisation — the attempt to excuse his first action — that “at least he listened”.

That’s fine when you’re in opposition.

What about when you’re in power?

We have already seen Gillard demonstrate the corruption of power.

“There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead”

I think we have now seen Abbott present us all with a vivid glimpse of his true character.

“Whatever it takes.”

Or perhaps more accurately, “Whatever I can get away with.”

And what of the Labor Party?

Needless to say, they are, with the exception of two, even worse:

Labor, on the other hand, was much more thoroughgoing in its internal consultations. Labor’s negotiator and national secretary, George Wright, had not only won the approval of his leader, the Prime Minister, but he had also put the deal to Labor’s national executive for formal approval. The executive passed it unanimously on March 13. It then went to the caucus committee on electoral matters.

And for Labor, this was where the trouble began. As soon as the detail was explained to the committee on Monday morning, two of its members objected forcefully. John Faulkner and Daryl Melham spoke against the bill, and they carried their objections into the full Labor caucus meeting on Tuesday.

Faulkner is a party elder and a long-time campaigner for transparency and integrity; Melham is former secretary of the caucus who has been a fellow campaigner.

They couldn’t believe that the party on trial in ICAC for corruption, the party of Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, the party whose former national president Michael Williamson has been charged with fraud, the party led by a prime minister whose biggest liability is public trust, could propose a bill that would help itself to tens of millions of public funds yet preserve many of the opacities and loopholes of funding system. Melham told the caucus: “You don’t need $10 million a year to do administration work, and the punters won’t wear it.”

Faulkner won widespread media coverage for his remark: “I am no longer angry or disappointed. I am just ashamed of this bill.” They were the only voices raised against it in the caucus. It was reports of the Faulkner-Melham objections that first rang the public alarm bell, the bell that then sounded so loudly across the way in the offices of Liberal MPs.

They had broken the conspiracy of silence and it foreshadowed the end of the deal.

Neither of the major parties can be trusted with power.

That much is crystal clear.

So, do you vote for (what you hope is) the lesser of two evils?

Do you look for alternatives; perhaps Katter’s Australia Party, or Clive Palmer’s PUP?

Or do you act on principle and Conscience, recalling that your vote is a legal expression of your desire for a particular person/party to represent your wishes, and, that you are only required to attend a polling booth and have your name crossed off … and vote for none of them.

“I Am No Longer Angry. I Am Ashamed” – ALP Heavyweight

31 May

Ashamed+head-in-handsFrom the Daily Telegraph, Paul Sheehan writes an epitaph on “the worst week, of the worst year, of the worst parliament in the history of Australian parliaments”:

Tony Abbott described it, in a more unique use of subtleties: “We are now at the fag end of a very contentious parliament.”

He was referring to the very issue that started the PM’s Hebdomas Horribillis, and ended it. The bungled attempt by the government to pass new electoral funding laws that proposed to take $60 million from taxpayers and put it in to political parties campaign coffers is emblematic of just how out of touch the political class in Canberra is with the rest of the country.

How Labor strategists didn’t twig to the potential for Abbott to back away from it is staggering in itself. But Gillard’s own failure to walk away, even after it was dead, instead continuing to back it, is symbolic of how out of touch her leadership team is with the mood not just in the electorate but inside her own caucus.

Labor elder John Faulkner couldn’t have been more blunt about his views on it when he labelled it a “disgrace”.

But it wasn’t the only thing that ruined the PM’s week and diverted attention from the one issue Labor does have over the Coalition and is desperately trying to find clear air to campaign on: education.

The well known Rudd supporter Anthony Byrne, the chair of the intelligence committee, fired the second missile on Monday when he attacked the government in parliament over funding cuts to the spy agencies. That too, was labelled a “disgrace”.

Then there was the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’ spectacularly inept response to suggestions that Chinese hackers had stolen the blueprints to its new $650 million office block. It all went pear shaped from there.

The PM couldn’t buy a trick when it was revealed the NBN was exposing people to asbestos. And then news that a suspected terrorist wanted by Interpol had been living in low security detention centre in South Australia for a year as an asylum seeker.

Labor MPs this week were even talking of just “bringing on” an election to put them out of their misery. The malaise that has been hanging over Labor MPs has now become a blanket of abject despair.

Most MPs, if they are honest, now live day to day under Murphy’s famous law: If anything can go wrong, it will.

And this week it has.

A greater symbol of the despondency that now grips the federal Labor Party there is not than Martin Ferguson’s decision this week to pull the pin on an 18 year career as a parliamentarian. Labor sources claim he won’t be the last to hang up his boots before the end of June.

Ferguson was rightly and ironically hailed as a true Labor hero by Tony Abbott.

Well may the Prime Minister have rolled her eyes when the Opposition Leader wiped tears from his, but his words were nonetheless true.

Ferguson was a Labor warrior, and not in the class war sense – which he abhorred. Not only did his departure deliver a final vote of no-confidence in Gillard and the new Labor she has fashioned, it revealed a man who believes there is nothing more he can do to save the party from itself.

Another Labor heavyweight, Faulkner, is equally dispirited. “I’m no longer angry,” he wearily told the caucus this week of the party funding bill. “I am ashamed.”

Thank God there are only three weeks of parliament left before the September election.

At least such shame will be fleeting.

Well might we all join hands with Senator Faulkner — of what was once the “working man’s” party — and cry “Hear Hear!”

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