Part 3 of a 6-part series.
The previous essays have shown that the game of political chess played between politicians and voters is complex and confusing. Parts 1 and 2 provided several examples of what can go wrong if incompetence and corruption becomes the norm and takes control of one side. The examples have been puzzling at best, inept and self-serving at worst. This essay moves into the ridiculous and insane, so much that Alice’s wonderland looks relatively sane.
The Australian Defence Force:
In the eyes of many Australians, the Australian Defence force has become a farce. Examples abound as to the actions of high-ranking defence force personnel that are cause for real concern over the direction and effectiveness of our defence forces.
For example, the Australian Army has removed the motto “In this sign conquer” from the army chaplains’ 102-year-old hat badges because it is offensive to Muslims (Daily Telegraph 20/11/15). A Defence spokeswoman denied that the motto was being changed because it was associated with the Crusades and explained the break with tradition as: “The motto of the Australian Army Chaplains is being changed to better reflect the diversity of religion throughout the Australian Army”.
The Defence spokeswoman also said: “There are 102 ADF permanent members who self-identify as Muslim. In addition, there are 40 Active Reservists who have declared as Muslim.’’ Two concerns arise from this statement. The first is that a 102-year-old tradition was removed to appease the religious beliefs of 0.1275% of defence personnel. The second is that given there are 80,000 personnel in the Australian Defence forces, it is disturbing that far more than 142 people have left Australian shores to fight with IS.
The army imam, Sheik Mohamadu Nawas Saleem, previously called for the introduction of sharia law into Australia. He works about 40 days a year for the Army and is paid $717 per day, which is just over $28,000 a year. The same Sheik signed a petition in support of the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which argued in favour of honour killings. He also said that there should be no pressure placed on Muslim students to honour Anzac Day.
The Lindt Café terrorist, Man Haron Monis, attended Hizb ut Tahrir events. Hizb ut Tahrir has called for an Islamic army in Australia to impose Sharia law. Monis had 17,000 followers on his Facebook site.
A senior Muslim navy officer Captain Mona Shindy is the Chief of Navy’s strategic adviser on Islamic affairs. There was reason to believe that Captain Mona was the operator of the Twitter account @navyislamic at the time a retweet from this account contained the words of a counter-terrorism expert who mocked Tony Abbott after the leadership coup.
The twitter account closed after several tweets were posted on Islamic terrorism that were at odds with government policy. The social media account also backed Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed’s controversial response to the Paris terrorist attacks, citing the hashtag #IStandWithTheMufti.
In a speech given by Vice Admiral Tim Barrett AO CSC RAN, Chief of Navy at the Royal Australian Navy’s Inaugural Ramadan Iftar Dinner on 23 June 2015, Barrett stated:
“it is essential that we who lead the ADF do all we can to attract and retain the widest range of talent from Australia’s multicultural communities. Muslim-Australians and the knowledge and the values they bring to the workforce are a key and essential component of a successful Team Navy. The Defence Force aims to be entirely representative of the full diversity of the Australian demographic by 2030.”
On the appointment of former Chief of Army David Morrison as Australian of the Year, a recent online comment reads, “This is a man who has derided the Anzac legend as being too male and “Anglo-Saxon”. You’d be hard pressed finding a Digger with much good to say about him, judging by my straw poll of friends and acquaintances.” Morrison was the Chief of Army who chose not to directly address the problems of sexual harassment within the defence force academies by avoiding the need to punish the personnel who were directly involved in the incidents.
The Chief of the Defence Force sacked an Australian Defence Force (ADF) major Bernard Gaynor in 2013 for making anti-gay comments on social media. He has since won a Federal Court case against his dismissal.
Mr Gaynor issued a series of press releases criticising the ADF’s participation in Mardi Gras. “Defence gave approval for its proud uniform to be paraded through the streets of Sydney during the Mardi Gras, sharing the road with pimps, prostitutes and purveyors of moral decadence.”
“The supposedly apolitical ADF is now marching to the beat of a very political tune, drummed up by those who demand gay marriage and take pleasure in ridiculing Christianity”. “Defence is bending over at every opportunity to help gay members but has hauled me over the coals for expressing my religious and political beliefs.”
In Mr Gaynor’s view, “The Australian Defence Force is under attack. It is being weakened from within. Political correctness is seeking to destroy what it was and what it is.”
Mr Gaynor also became involved in a public verbal altercation with high-profile transgender Army officer Cate McGregor who received a $30,000.00 sex change operation at taxpayers’ expense.
Tax Revenues and Inequity:
Over the past four to five decades, the rich have accumulated increases in wealth levels that are significantly disproportionate compared to that of the less fortunate who in real monetary terms, have experienced diminishing living standards and prosperity.
The richest 1% of Australians owns the same wealth as the bottom 60%. Australia’s richest person owns more than the bottom 10% of the population combined (2.27 million people) and the nine richest individuals have a net worth of US$54.8 billion, more than the bottom 20% (4.54 million people). The richest seven individuals in Australia, which includes Gina Rinehart, Frank Lowy, and James Packer, hold more wealth than that of the 1.73 million least wealthy households.
These figures do not reveal the economic power of the richest 1% because they also have effective control of the bank savings, superannuation contributions, and minor shareholdings that some of the 60% may nominally own. Furthermore, most of the wealth of ordinary people is in the form of equity in their family homes. They do not use this asset as capital as the richest 1% do to make profits out of the labour of others.
Meanwhile, the unemployment benefits continue to fall well below the poverty line. The Australian Council of Social Service estimates that one child in six is living in poverty. Pensioners, unable to earn an income through paid employment, struggle to live in the most basic way.
Figures provided by Richard Denniss, Director of The Australia Institute, show that income tax cuts introduced since 2006 by the Howard and Rudd governments have favoured high-income earners. The institute estimates the cuts have cost the government about $170 billion, of which the top 10 per cent of earners have received significantly more than the bottom 80 per cent combined.
Relatively lower taxes for the richest have not always been this way. At its peak, between 1942 and 1944, the top marginal tax rate in Australia was 93 per cent. Throughout Menzies’ prime ministership, the top rate was never lower than 67 per cent. Now, even with the government’s proposed deficit levy, it will temporarily rise to just 49 per cent.
In addition, tax breaks on capital gains and superannuation advantage the wealthy. Super concessions amount to $35 billion in forgone government revenue, most of which goes to the top 5% of income earners and none to the bottom 20%.
Former chief economist of the World Bank Professor Joseph Stiglitz points out: ”Inequality is not a fact of nature, it’s a consequence of the policies we put in place.” It has led to ”worse economic performance, no matter how you measure it”, whether by GDP or the more holistic benchmarks of well-being and sustainability.
At a more general level, it is highly deceptive to hear and read that such outcomes are signs of ‘progress’. The notion that somehow how things are better (often for the few), does not mean that society has progressed in some way. Paradoxically, talk of ‘progress’ is a sign that life has become worse. In today’s world, it is more accurate to read the term ‘progress’ as a negative more often than as a positive.
Progress now tells us that Australia has become a more unequal society. A few lucky and privileged elite have become so rich that their lifestyles and expectations are foreign to everyday citizens. Australia is no longer the egalitarian society that it once quietly regarded with pride. In its place, there are suburbs of multigenerational poverty and deprivation where generational and geographical differences in income and wealth continue to grow, not diminish. This is notwithstanding the ever-increasing numbers of homeless people that seek shelter each night throughout our cities.
These inequities are not the result of a lack of finances or resources. Unconcealed greed has become a major factor and too many people in society take and give nothing back. This assertion does not apply to people on low incomes or receive welfare.
Specifically, there are people who believe they are entitled to incomes and compensations that are well beyond what most can aspire to receive over a lifetime. CEOs demand tens of millions in salaries and incentives even though there is no accountability for poor performances.
Business and government are replete with people who demand excessive amounts for worthless consultations that provide no intrinsic value. On top of this there are people who incite fear or anxiety over issues that have no foundation such as Y2000 and climate change and happen to possess ready made solutions to the declared problems at over inflated prices.
The debate on climate change has consisted of typical, simple sleight of hand tactics: show signs of global warming and while the implications stun the audience, simply assert that it is due to carbon emissions. In their minds, the audience conflates the evidence that global warming has occurred with the alleged cause, and they do not noticed that the cause was merely asserted, not proved. If there really were any evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming, then surely we would have heard all about it ad nauseam by now?
Successive governments in Australia have not been exempt from causing unfairness to the Australian people. Consider how many Western governments have favoured the banking sector in direct detriment to the security and well-being of their citizens. Australia surreptitiously joined this twisted justification in November 2014 at the OECD G20 summit in Brisbane when it agreed to rubber-stamp the Financial Stability Board’s “Adequacy of Loss-Absorbing Capacity of Global Systemically Important Banks in Resolution”.
Instead of preventing banks from engaging in high-risk derivatives, the new rules prioritise the payment of banks’ derivative obligations to each other. What this means is that not only depositors’ funds, public and private, but also pension funds, now called “bail-inable” bonds, can be “bailed in” or confiscated to save the megabanks from derivative bets gone wrong.
Banks should not be permitted use depositors’ funds to buy risky derivatives. There must be a distinct separation between commercial and investment activities. In short, the bail-in or bailout arrangement with so-called “too big to fail” banks is not acceptable to Australians.
There is sound reason to introduce legislation to prevent banks from taking such risks. Moreover, there is a valid argument for the reintroduction of a people’s bank established along the lines of the former Commonwealth bank before the government listed it on the share market and subsequently became profit-driven as opposed to people-focussed.
Australia’s politicians must openly value the importance of the people that live in their electorates and accept that they have a responsibility to protect and support the dreams and needs of the majority. It is not possible to build products and assets without the support and willingness of such people and therefore no real wealth can exist. To progress and survive, both parties undeniably need each other, as is the expectation in all mutually beneficial partnerships.
The people of Australia want to trust their politicians and in return for giving them power, rightly assume accountability, transparency, and responsibility. There is a contract that politicians must honour: the people will work and produce in the knowledge that their politicians work for them to ensure the Australian way of life is not undermined or compromised. This arrangement lasts as long as the politicians keep to their end of the contract. We all should keep in mind:
“Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.” – Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.
Regarding the graphic at top: blue = Coalition; red = Labor; green = Greens; and yellow = Independents.
Part 4 follows below.
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