Dr Peter White's Blog

Thoughts and comments from Dr Peter White -- political, philosophical, spiritual, musical and more

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Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

I am retired from the Uni. of Queensland, and have numerous interests inside and outside of the uni. I play classical, bluegrass, country and folk guitar (hows that for a mix?) I am a member of the Australian Labor Party and am currently branch secretary of the Mt Coot-tha branch. I'm also involved in developing virtual reality builds and websites. Never bored!

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Midas Touch - In Reverse

If you are close to the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, chances are you will have noticed that the current Coalition government doesn't have your best interests at heart.  Considering that we are experiencing very flat wage growth, notwithstanding a growing jobs market, it does seem that most people are doing it tougher than previously.  News article after news article stresses this point.

Perhaps it might be because of the infamous Reverse Midas Touch, where everything that the  government touches, turns to dross (or another good Anglo-Saxon  word).  How this so?  Let me provide some examples.

The latest changes to early childhood care means that people on middle to lower incomes will be paying more, if they are fortunate enough  to get child care at all.  This  is in spite of early childhood specialists from around the globe state that early childhood care provides a terrific boost for the young.

University fees are going up, because the government believes there are too many useless  courses and hence reducing payments to the tertiary sector so  universities can tighten up.  This is despite the fact that a university education is critical in today's workforce.  And of course, the students are being punished by having a lower income threshold where they have to start paying off their (increased?) student loans due to rising  fees. 

Technical and further education was "privatised" a number of years ago, and what we have  seen  since is a virtual collapse of the sector, as many of the private colleges took the money and ran.  But then, that's the capitalist way.  The building and construction industry, to name  but one, is crying out  for well trained trades people, and are finding they are rather thin on  the ground.

If you are on a pension or some form of benefit, you are being punished.  The vaunted  "one stop shop" AKA Centrelink, is underfunded, understaffed, and under-morale.  Is it any wonder that people attempting to contact them have to take a cut lunch to the phone while they wait?  That's just for starters.  It seems that Ebenezer Scrooge is running the system, with fewer benefits and payments available, and those  being reduced.  Leaners and Lifters, folks.  

However, if you are in the "big end of town", drawing down a lovely salary  + benefits, you will be OK.  Our corporate sector is gonna get a lovely tax cut, which of course will mean more Jobs and Growth.  We all believe that, right?

There are some examples.  I'm sure you can  find a lot more without needing to look very  hard at all.

In our next blog, we will be looking at migration.  Ought to be fun... 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Democracy or Neo-Feudalism?

The current Davos corroboree by moguls and their minions and politicians and their policy wonks got me thinking: whose movie is this? 

On the biz side we have corporate CEOs and on the other, presidents, prime ministers and chancellors.  They are there to set the economic agenda for the planet, or at least to have a mighty whinge about how poorly things are going.  Or -- are they?

Add to this the recent zombie resurrection of the TPP in Oz and surrounding  Pacific states -- touted how marvellously wonderful it will all be when we sign on.  Or -- is it? 

We have the Australian Treasurer, Scott Morrison (aka ScoMo), selling corporate tax cuts hard.  How wonderful it will be if the corporations don't pay as much tax.  Their savings will be poured into investing in new jobs, factories, innovations and higher wages. 

Sorry, ScoMo, but very, very wrong.  We need not follow the US.  Here's a prime example of why: 

Reports from economics writers in the daily press comment on just this issue. 

This leads me back to the  topic at hand:  democracy vs. neo-feudalism.  Consider that corporations are in effect feudal enterprises, but with very different titles.  Not barons, earls, or counts, but CEOs, Presidents of Boards, etc.  This 'nobility'  looks after its shareholders financially, while creaming a goodly percentage off the top for their own nest-feathering. 

Consider democracy, universal suffrage, one person, one vote -- the whole shebang.  The voters are going out backwards financially.  Report after report states this.  Flat wages, economic stagnation for the vast majority, and in some nations actual piracy of public infrastructure for private profit, often euphemistically known as 'privatisation'.  

The corporations in the TPP want to hold nation states to ransom: that is, feudal lords and their vassals (aka shareholders) in battle with  freely elected national governments.  Who's gonna win? 
Your guess is as good as mine. 

If  we look at the Pfizer comments in the illustration above, we may just get an inkling of what is to come. 

It's not pretty. 

I do worry  about our  democracies: how well can they hold out under seige by the new-feudals? 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The New Age of Ugliness

Have you noticed lately that civility appears to have gone out the window? 

Or, have you noticed that being a "Type A" human is seen as carte blanche for being a total a**hole? 

Or, maybe, you have been held captive by shock jocks and/or right wing theologies that says that it's OK to hate your neighbour?

If so, you have entered the new Age of Ugliness. 

Witness the American president, and the Rethuglican Party syncophants whose lips are firmly gripping the presidential butt, excusing and forgiving racists, bigots and "patriots"  wrapped in a flag, so long as no one touches their cash. 

Or witness the trolling via Facebook and Twitter which has caused at least one young woman suiciding. 

Perhaps, you might  also recall the Prime Minister of our vaunted nation:
  • Completely disregarding the Statement of the Heart from our first peoples;
  • Using cheap political rhetoric to monster a minority group;
  • Flatly stating that Australia day is a day when we should be all together celebrating, when in fact a goodly percentage called that particular date Invasion Day. And a recent poll stated that a majority of Australians didn't really mind when Australia day was. 
Then we have our "Reichsmarshall", Peter Dutton, who continues to destroy the lives of bona fide refugees in our concentration camps, to name but one of the atrocities he is foisting on the citizenry.

On top of all of this we have a nasty, misogynist subculture creeping out from under rocks to belittle and revile women, just 'cause they can. 

It all  seems a bit much, really.  I think we can thank the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave (if you can afford it), and their "leadership" for letting the genie out of the lamp.  It's gone viral, unfortunately. 

So, may we all consider civility and respect?  And practice it too. 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Beating up on people

During the  season of "brotherly love" and good will to all, our illustrious government of reactionaries managed to, inter alia, trash the reputation of the Sudanese community.  This  of course, made headlines across the nation in the daily press, the ABC and other outlets.  Our illustrious minister for all things police and immigration, Herr Dutton, put his big, flat foot in it as well, exacerbating the whole issue. 

If they didn't have a "Sudanese gang" problem  before the excrement struck the rotating machinery, chances are they will soon.  Thanks, guys.  Well done.

Now in other news, the Prime Minister put out a 24 hour thought bubble about  hosting another plebiscite for an Australian republic.  Once the media got wind of this, it was immediately put on the back burner -- again.  That unfortunate burner must be suffering considerable overload...

I was reflecting on the conservative government, and make no mistake, this IS a conservative (read reactionary) government.  However, they are blessed with a front man who is good looking, and is an outstanding orator.  Sadly, neither he, nor his side of Parliament, seem to have a policy or an idea to bless themselves with.

Ah, but wait!  I hear you cry.  They  do have a serious, underlying philosophy of government.  It works something like this.

1.  In order to keep the heat off us, let's beat up on:

    * The poor.  After all, they are poor bacause they can't get off their backsides and work, or study, or look after their numerous children.  They want the  government to do something.  And we are:  we're  cutting benefits, health services, education and community infrastructure -- 'cause we gotta balance that old budget.  And in the meantime, spending more on doing less.  (Can't figure out how they can do that...)

    *The refugees.  Five years Nauru and Manus Island have been prisons for refugees with apparently no hope of release.  Herr Dutton will not send them to New  Zealand, although Ms Adern said they were happy to take a fair few.  They are waiting for Der Trump in the USA for  their prisoner swap.  This, candidly, is an  indelible stain on  Australia's international reputation, and I cringe every time I hear the cantrip of "We don't want any drownings at sea."  It is nothing more than excuse to continue the torture.

    *The Labor Party.  Whenever things get a bit sticky for the government,  invariably they pull out some sort of idiocy and then blame the Labor  Party.  It's like a kid being hauled before the Principal:  "Not my fault, they did it first!" Or, "Quick, hide, you don't want Mr Shorten to be Prime Minister!"  Or, inventing some sort of "commission" to look into the nasty unions and their underhanded dealings with business.  The latter, of course, is completely excused.  And on it  goes.  Aha!  Now I know why this government is spending more while doing less.  It's all the commissions, royal or otherwise.  The lawyers are happily paying their yachts and Rollers. 

2.   Now we have a non-policy called NEG (how apt!) which is supposed to address the ever- increasing climate change issue, while doing less.  Remember how, earlier in the year, when South Australia was being beat up by the Coalition?  Now, Mr Musk has installed his giant battery, and things seem to be working along just fine. 

We also have the Australian public voting with their wallets and getting more and more into solar, and even home batteries for their residences.  Sales of electric cars are slowly starting to grow more rapidly.  Some state governments (notably Labor governments) are putting their money where their mouths are and funding large infrastrucure projects for energy. 

And the federal goverment still is  pushing  coal. 

That's it for this rant.  Welcome to 2018.  May we all survive it. 

Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy 2018 -- I think


Friday, May 20, 2016

Time for a change?

Well, it didn't take too long for the Coalition to sink to the bottom, did it?  The positive messages of "Jobs and Growth" seem to have sunk without trace.  And they opened up Mr Abbott's box of tricks and found:  greed, fear, and blatant racism. 

The greed card was played in the budget, the fear card has been played with the "strong borders" mantra, and the racism card, which lurked under both the former, is now being played as a sort of trump.  (Gawd, should that be capitalised?)  The Coalition is pleased to bring you Greed, Fear and Racism as their new three word slogan. 

Of course, it will be spun much more neatly than that by the masters of verbal prestidigitation who are paid vast sums to keep the princes of industry and their hangers-on safe from the masses.  The words will certainly change; the messages will not. 

In the meantime, no new policies have been announced by the caretaker government.  It's now on full attack mode against Labor, who has not only been leading the policy debate, but in fact set the whole agenda.  Is it panic stations for the Coalition, or are they just reverting to form?  As the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett wrote: "Can a leopard change its shorts?" 

We have another 6 weeks to go in the campaign.  Watch for more dirty tricks and subtle assassinations by the Coalition henchpeople.  The latest is the raiding of a Labor senator's office by the AFP seeking evidence of leaks against the NBN.  The caretaker government has said "It weren't us; purely a police matter".  Could be.  But one might ask, who put up the NBN executives up to it?  Does anyone smell something of rodent? 

But wait, folks.  There will be more. 

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Why do neocons want to govern?

It almost seems to be a total paradox that neocons want so badly to govern.  After all, if they followed their own philosophy they would shrink governance to only defence and policing, which would be, of course, to protect and defend their families and assets. 

The rest of the population would be mere minions to the "betters", i.e. those who had the fortune(!) of being born from wealthy parents.  The minions would look after themselves of course, because they have to rise above their station through thrift, hard work and moral righteousness.  And perhaps their children and/or grandchildren might be blessed with approval and become a "better". 

Schools?  Well, excellent for the well to do families; ordinary to none for the minions.  After all, who needs anything other than basic literacy and numeracy skills when serving in a casual position at the servery or cleaning up the betters' homes. 

The Marie Antoinette syndrome ("Let them eat cake") is alive and well and is invading our shores along with the neocon (or economic rationalist) belief structure.  Dress this up as you will, but it still is a structure that basically is one believed by the "rentiers"; take the money and run.  And best to put it all off-shore where one doesn't need to pay any of those nefarious taxes.  All perfectly legit of course.  And why not?  Guess who made up the rules? 

The more I see and hear of our conservative politicians, be they hard right or less so, what I have written above seems to define their whole approach.  And being well off, they can afford to pay very expensive publicity experts (aka spin doctors) to sell their messages to the minion masses. 

So.  Climate change, the most basic challenge of our age, is "not settled yet", or paid lip service to with a pittance of funding while the major polluters are paid not to do that.  Whimsically telling the fox "Now, don't eat those chickens and we'll pay you in steak".  And the fox says "Yes boss", and carries on.  Chicken plus steak.  Yum.  Mind you, the polluters are in fact the "betters".  Nice work if you can get it. 

Education?  As mentioned.  Give out enough to shut everyone up but not enough to really skill the young to take on the essential work of the near future. 

Health?  Pay as you die. 

Aged care?  You should have saved up for this.  Shame on you. 

Child care?  Pay the providers who then charge what the traffic will bear.  This is agile and innovative. 

Vocational education?  To the private providers who obviously can to a much better job -- of taking the money, going bankrupt and shipping themselves and the money elsewhere.  But hey, that's just biz. 

Higher education?  Make sure the betters' kids can get a good degree and the rest can struggle, or sell our university places to well to to offshore students while ours battle for survival. 

Fairness?  Equal chance?  For the mugs, mate. 

And on and on and on. 

Until it comes to the break point where the country shatters. 

Have fun.