Episode 261 – Victorian Shutdown and Branch Stacking
Back to square 1.
Soviet-style public housing.
What is it with hairdressers?
States are shutting their borders to stop coronavirus. Is that actually allowed?
Movement of people and goods across state borders in Australia is guaranteed by the Constitution. Section 92 of the Constitution says
trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.
“Intercourse among the States” in this context, means the movement of people, goods and communications across state boundaries.
If the movement of people across state borders must be absolutely free, can the states hinder or even prevent such movement during the coronavirus pandemic? The short answer is “yes”.
“Absolutely free” does not mean what it says. The High Court has accepted that there can be limits if they are reasonable and imposed for a legitimate end, such as protecting the public from a dangerous disease.
What limits does the Constitution impose on the states?
A state cannot exclude people from entering it because it has some objection to them, such as their character or behaviour. For example, shortly after federation, NSW enacted the Influx of Criminals Prevention Act 1903 to prevent convicted criminals from other states entering New South Wales. It tried to use the act to prevent John Benson, a convicted vagrant, of entering the state.
But the High Court struck down the law because it prevented freedom of interstate movement in breach of section 92 of the Constitution. While some judges recognised that a state may have power to act where it is necessary to protect “public order, safety or morals”, they did not consider that the exclusion of vagrants could be justified as such a necessity.
Since then, the High Court has accepted that a state law may impede the entry into the state of persons, animals or goods that are likely to injure its citizens. These include risks of the transmission of animal and plant diseases and the entry of noxious drugs.
Justice Brennan stated in the case of Nationwide News that where the true character of a law
is to protect the State or its residents from injury, a law which expressly prohibits or impedes movement of the apprehended source of injury across the border into the State may yet be valid.
A court would need to consider the severity of the restriction and the need for the measure.
If the law is enacted for a purpose other than simply impeding movement across state boundaries, such as to protect public health, and the measures imposed are appropriate and adapted to fulfilling that purpose, then the law is likely to be held to be valid. It will depend on the factual circumstances in any particular case.
What’s wrong with Australia
PEOPLE OFTEN ASK me what the problem is with Australia. For ten years, as managing editor of news website Independent Australia, I have been closely studying our nation.
I have personally edited and published thousands of articles on practically every feature of Australian life and read thousands more. I have also dug deep into primary sources and interviewed a host of people, and written hundreds of articles myself. Consequently, I feel reasonably well-qualified to diagnose the sickness in our country — and it does ail.
The problem with Australia, in short, is that a small group of small-minded people with regressive, radical and authoritarian tendencies have taken control of our nation. Only when we are able to wrest control of our country back from the ratchet grip of this dangerous minority will Australia be able to regain its lustre and integrity.
Independent Australia was established to oppose these dark forces. It will continue to do so.
Drifting becalmed in the backwaters of the world, the majority of Australians are “quiet” — contented, placid, languid and self-satisfied, though wary of any threats to their comfortable existence. They are also largely anti-intellectual — a state encouraged by increasingly poor standards of education in the population as public schools find their funding cut year after year. A well-educated, questioning hoi polloi is not in the interest of the ruling elite. Peasants only need to be literate enough to operate the owners’ machines and do their paperwork.
Most of these “Quiet Australians” consider themselves fortunate to live in the “greatest nation on Earth”. What interest they have in politics happens around elections because of compulsory voting, which they resent. Their interest in politics, obviously, is superficial.
This does not necessarily mean they are unintelligent, it merely means that, outside of elections, they receive their political messaging in a more subliminal fashion. Such as sandwich boards outside newsagents, snatched FM radio broadcasts, the television in a doctor’s waiting room, or newspapers perused in coffee shops.
Quiet Australians – the bulk of the population ‒ are, as a consequence, ripe for exploitation by a self-interested minority.
In general, major media owners support conservative causes because they believe it is in their financial or business interests to do so. But because Australia has the most concentrated media landscape in the world, dominated by one quasi-crocodilian rightwing despot, who shunned his Australian citizenship to the lure of filthy lucre, our media is even more skewed toward the Right than other so-called Western democracies. The message blared out in this almost forgotten colonial outpost, day after day – both subliminal and overt ‒ is the same: conservatives good, progressives bad.
But here’s the real kicker: our conservatives aren’t conservative anymore. Over the last 50 odd years, a radical “new” economic ideology ‒ neoliberalism ‒ has gained orthodoxy throughout the world. Of course, the only thing new about it is its name, because these same laissez-faire economic theories have been tried and failed since Tulip mania hit Amsterdam in 1637.
The idea is that markets operate according to invisible metaphysical laws and magically bestow riches on all — so long as they are not encumbered by laws and regulations.
Of course, markets are the contrivances of men ‒ and they are mostly men ‒ and they are able to be manipulated by men. Usually the men with the most money. The rise and collapse of markets is a brutally repetitive plague on the population. Only laws and regulations can operate to mitigate the worst excesses of the market. For centuries, the men with the most have been trying to remove these regulations. And for the last 50 years, these radicals have been in the ascendancy.
Polybius on crazy religious belief
From Paul Monk writing from The Rationalist Society
Writing for a largely Greek readership in the second century BCE, the great classical historian Polybius in the sixth book of his history of the rise of the Roman Empire, wrote:
“The sphere in which the Roman Commonwealth seems to me to show its superiority most decisively is in that of religious belief. Here we find that the very phenomenon which among other peoples is regarded as a subject for reproach, namely superstition, is actually the element which holds the Roman state together. These matters are treated with such solemnity and introduced so frequently, both into public and into private life, that nothing could exceed them in importance. Many people may find this astonishing, but my own view is that the Romans have adopted these practices for the sake of the common people. The approach might not have been necessary had it ever been possible to form a state composed entirely of wise human beings, but as the masses are always fickle, filled with lawless desires, unreasoning anger and violent passions, they can only be restrained by mysterious terrors or other dramatisations of the subject.
Qld State Election
From Peter Gleeson in The Courier Mail
Don’t underestimate the Christian vote because they vote as a bloc. On October 31, they’ll be voting for the LNP. The pro-life movement – Cherish Life – is about to let Queensland voters know about Labor’s strong pro-abortion stance. They have drawn up a hit list of 14 Labor seats – and one held by the Greens – which they say are vulnerable on October 31. They include Townsville, Whitsundays, Gaven, Mundingburra, Mansfield, Maiwar, Barron River, Redlands, Keppel, Cairns, Springwood, Redcliffe, Pine Rivers, Mount Ommaney and Thuringowa. All seats are held by margins of up to 5 per cent. Cherish Life will also mount campaigns to retain five LNP seats that it sees as crucial to an LNP win. Cherish Life says, based on number-crunching from previous elections, it can influence a seat by anything up to 3.5 per cent. It says many swinging voters are “appalled’’ that the new pro-abortion legislation, passed in State Parliament last year, allows babies to be aborted with the sign-off of two doctors right up to birth, or full term. Women do not need any medical approval up to 22 weeks to have an abortion.
The Australian Family Association has opposed so-called voluntary assisted dying reforms. It has written to a state parliamentary inquiry on aged care, end-of-life and palliative care and voluntary assisted dying suggesting funding for palliative care be substantially increased “so that all terminally ill patients can receive the end of life care to which they are entitled’’ .
Under current law, doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia are criminal offences in Queensland.
It would be safe to assume that anybody who opposes abortion and euthanasia in Queensland will not vote Labor.
LNP Branch Stacking
From The Guardian
Christian soldiers and climate deniers: inside the fight for control of the Queensland LNP
The Guardian has spoken to more than 20 current and former LNP members who revealed the growing discord with a small “cabal” of backroom powerbrokers, especially as the party grapples with an influx of conservative grassroots members dubbed the “Christian soldiers”.
A former Newman government minister, Jann Stuckey, says the party has “slowly but steadily been taken over by the Christian right”.
Stuckey quit the party after retiring earlier this year. She was one of only three LNP MPs to vote to legalise abortion in 2018. The partyroom had been granted a conscience vote but then MPs had their preselections threatened if they broke with one of its “core principles”.
Stuckey says she “read in the paper” that she and the other MPs – Tim Nicholls and Steve Minnikin – had been condemned by then-party president, Gary Spence.
“No one had the guts to call me about it,” she says. “I haven’t lost as much sleep over any other piece of legislation in my 16 years as an MP. I do not believe religion should interfere with politics.”
In the aftermath, at least one of the MPs who broke with the party position – Chatsworth member Steve Minnikin – found himself the target of an apparent branch-stack by “Christian soldiers”. More than 40 new or transferring members applied to join the Chatsworth branch in late 2018. The new recruits deny any claims of branch-stacking but party administration eventually intervened to prevent a contest.
Last year a series of standing-room-only ballots for party branch chairmanships sparked claims and counterclaims of branch-stacking. Moderates have also raised alarm at the fact that – after the demise of Family First and the Australian conservatives – some more extreme conservative figures have become involved on the fringes.
For instance Lyle Shelton, the controversial former head of the Australian Christian Lobby, has been working in the electorate office of an LNP MP and former minister, Mark Robinson. Last week Shelton appeared in a video that featured the LNP logo and endorsed its policy to review aspects of the state’s abortion laws.
Much of the focus has now turned to the backroom figures identified as being behind the manoeuvre.
Fingers were … pointed at Bruce McIver, the former Nationals then LNP president who has a longstanding relationship with Palmer and served on the board of several Palmer entities.
McIver has often been called the party’s “faceless man”. A self-described “climate sceptic” and devout Christian, McIver angered several MPs in 2011 when the party hatched a plan to parachute Newman from the Brisbane lord mayoralty to the state leadership.
Labor Branch Stacking
Once you stack a branch with Turks or Indians, it stays stacked. They’re the Marie Kondos of party subversion.
Kondo says that she has been interested in organizing since childhood. In junior school, Kondo ran into the classroom to tidy up bookshelves while her classmates were playing in physical education class. Whenever there were nominations for class roles, she did not seek to be the class representative or the pet feeder. Instead, she yearned to be the bookshelf manager to continue to tidy up books. She said she experienced a breakthrough in organizing one day, “I was obsessed with what I could throw away. One day, I had a kind of nervous breakdown and fainted. I was unconscious for two hours. When I came to, I heard a mysterious voice, like some god of tidying telling me to look at my things more closely. And I realized my mistake: I was only looking for things to throw out. What I should be doing is finding the things I want to keep. Identifying the things that make you happy: that is the work of tidying.”
She spent five years as an attendant maiden at a Shinto shrine. She founded her organising consulting business when she was 19 and a sociology student at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University. In her senior year, she wrote her capstone thesis, titled “Tidying up as seen from the perspective of gender”.
Kondo’s method of organising is known as the KonMari method, and consists of gathering together all of one’s belongings, one category at a time, and then keeping only those things that “spark joy” (Japanese language ときめく tokimeku, translated as equivalent to English “flutter, throb, palpitate”), and choosing a place for everything from then on
The advantage? As unions have withered as genuine workers’ community organisations, the close communal links of “ethnic” groups have remained. As Somyurek said on “those” tapes, “Anglos don’t stick around”. Non-Anglos from more traditional cultures will, out of collective being.
From the John Menadue Blog
Modern Australian political parties are more likely to be corrupted by ideological or religious fanatics and power-seekers than by disputes about policy and how to get into government.
With the Liberals, the problem is more stacking by fundamentalist Christians and some ethnic groups but with Labor it is predominantly focussed on ethnic groups.
With the latest ALP scandal around former Cabinet Minister, Adem Somyurek, it can at least be said that he followed an inclusive policy consistent with his multicultural affairs portfolio by including a wide cross-section of ethnic groups in the stacking operation.
One of the ironies of the situation is that in the 1960s the ALP factional problems were largely driven by ideology. Personal power was important but partly directed towards achieving policy goals. As they made the party unelectable the latter was irrelevant though.
In contrast, around the same time, the Liberal Party was fairly free from factions around policy but not so free from factional moves around internal power-seekers.
Today the situation has largely been reversed with ALP factional battles around power and whatever it takes (a concept pioneered in NSW by people such as Graham Richardson instead of left-wing Victorians) rather than policy. In the Liberal Party, factional practices are still important but the impact of far-right religious fanatics and culture warriors pursuing sectional policy ends is more significant. The debate about gay marriage is an excellent example along with the branch stacking efforts of fundamentalist Christians in Victoria on gay marriage and abortion.
Meanwhile, the public becomes more and more disillusioned and cynical. Political party membership – even with branch stacking – is in decline. Progressive groups coalesce around specific areas of interest without translating their efforts into political effectiveness.
Progressive and reactionary groups coalesce around competing culture war views which have little or nothing to do with core structural national problems.
And the media – mainstream and social – compounds the problem by reporting on tactics or providing echo chambers rather than analysis and robust policy discussion.
The Seven Mountain Mandate is a manifesto for conquering all aspects of American life.
The Seven Mountain Mandate came into being in 1975, when God allegedly delivered a concurrent message to missionary movement leader Loren Cunningham, Campus Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright, and televangelist Francis Schaeffer to invade the “seven spheres.” The largely dormant idea was resurrected in 2000, when Cunningham met with “strategist, futurist and compelling communicator” Lance Wallnau, and told him about the vision of 25 years earlier.
Its real surge in popularity began in 2013, when Wallnau co-authored the movement’s call to arms, Invading Babylon: The 7 Mountain Mandate, with Pastor Bill Johnson from the prominent California megachurch Bethel Church.
To understand how the Seven Mountain Mandate has taken hold, it is important to place it in the context of its origins in Charismatic Pentecostalism, the fastest growing religion not only in America, but around the world. It is estimated that of the world’s two billion Christians, one quarter are now Pentecostal (Fist: or Charismatic who resemble Pentecostals but don’t adhere to the speaking in tongues bits)
Pentecostalism came to life in 1906 with preacher William J. Seymour’s Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, the culmination of a new form of religious expression from the late 19th century. It’s named for the miracle of Pentecost, when, 50 days after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and gave them “tongues of fire” to convert foreigners by preaching in their languages. Its focus on healing and the miraculous saw it for a long time as a poor people’s religion, before its “second wave” Charismatic movement in the 1960s pulled in disaffected new agers and other mainline protestants with its focus on believers’ direct experiences with God through the Holy Spirit.
Today we’re in the “third wave,” generally called Neo-Charismatic Pentecostalism (and sometimes the New Apostolic Reformation, a branch which focuses on the roles of “apostles” and “prophets” such as Wallnau), that is trying to cement itself as a fifth pillar of Christianity (alongside Catholicism, Protestantism, and two branches of Orthodoxy).
All of this might sound as old as a preacher owning a private jet but, politically, it looks a lot like the right wing wave of populism that is heating up the planet. Culturally, it is something between a music festival and a self-help seminar. Confusingly, it’s all largely academic, as you’ll rarely hear leaders or believers self-identify as Pentecostal. The movement, which many call “non-denominational,” is best defined by the way it practices.
Shaeleen was not aware of it.
Sacred to Secular
… Translation: The mission of the Pentecostal elite is to stamp the institutions (Mountains), of our society with their ideology and dominate those who do not believe as they do. When they achieve that Jesus will apparently return.
Strip away the religious rationale and content and what is being foisted on Australian society and our democracy by our own government makes foreign interference look like a tea party.
… Evangelicals, including Pentecostals who subscribe to that ideology believe that Christians should shape societies and nations by taking control of key institutions (Seven Mountains).
“Dominionism is the theocratic idea that regardless of theological camp, means, or timetable, God has called conservative Christians to exercise dominion over society by taking control of political and cultural institutions.”
In his book, The Seven Mountain Prophesy, Enlow describes seven mountains that shape societies and nations. The mountains (sometimes referred to as spheres), are family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government.
The Seven Mountains Mandate is a Christian Right strategy of political and cultural infiltration and conquest.
Hillsong and how it works
From the Daily Telegraph
An extensive article
What started as a small Pentecostal church in suburban Sydney in the 1980s is now an international brand with 37 churches in Australia and another 91 spread across 28 countries boasting celebrities such as Justin Bieber and his wife Hayley, Nick Jonas and Selena Gomez.
In 2018, Hillsong raked in $103.4 million in revenue in 2018 and of this, an eye-watering $79.6 million was donated.
Hillsong spent most of its total revenue on church services ($50 million) which includes staff remuneration and campus operating costs, followed by venue operating costs ($12.4 million), global and local benevolent activities ($11.3 million) and arts, media and conferences ($10.3 million).
Followers encouraged to tip money into Hillsong coffers are offered three different statuses and an opportunity to earn more blessings based on how much money they donate.
* For a donation of $5000 or more, followers can earn the label of Kingdom Builder,
* Donations between $2500 and $4999 earn the title of Vision Impactor;
* And for up to $2499 they can be part of the Army of Faithful Believers.
Around the globe, 150,000 followers pack into Hillsong’s churches and theatres every week where they religiously part with their cash in the hopes of being favoured by God.
How and Why?
Tanya Levin, 48, released her Hillsong expose, People in Glass Houses: An Insider’s Story of a Life in and out of Hillsong in 2007 after spending her formative teenage years at the church.
The outspoken Hillsong critic told News Corp when she first attended, the church was “small, nice, warm” and family oriented, but eventually its focused locked onto donations and generating revenue.
Ms Levin said although she had left the church, stories she was told by current members showed “pretty much nothing’s changed”.
“We can’t all be millionaires, the formula doesn’t work. Not everyone who gives is going to get,” she said of Hillsong’s controversial donation tactics.
“(There’s) a lot of people who have lost a lot of money through this. Marriages break down. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you do this to people, tell them they’ve got to give money to be all right – to be faithful.”
The enduring appeal of Hillsong could be put down to modern’s society’s “epidemic of loneliness”, Ms Levin said.
“It’s very much about community,” she said.
“People really want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
… An internal guideline for Hillsong’s follow-up team, complete with a script, urges the volunteers to repeatedly call and text those who leave their contact information when signing in to a church service for the first time.
New contacts are allocated to volunteers each Monday in an online platform where notes about previous calls, emails and face-to-face interactions are recorded.
The goal is to have four “successful” connections with each person over a 12-week time period and eventually funnel them into Connect Groups – where extra donations are encouraged – volunteering roles, baptisms and Hillsong’s bible college.
Fist: Please go, leave your name and let us know about the contacts you get.
The increase in Pentecostalism could be put down to the “mass media appeal” of Hillsong and other megachurches, according to University of Queensland professor of the history of religious thought, Philip Almond.
“If you’re a young person and you decide to investigate religion and you go down to the local Anglican Church on a Sunday morning and there’s 10 people and a lady over 50 playing an electric organ, and then you go to Hillsong.
“Hey, I know where you’re going to end up.
“This is old vs young, it’s big vs small, and it’s vibrant vs dull.
“It’s marketed itself really well to a certain demographic.”
Another point of appeal, according to Prof Almond, is modern megachurch’s “jelly” theology which “doesn’t make any great demands of people”.
“This isn’t fire and brimstone, this isn’t about sin and guilt. This is about making people feel good.
“It’s a feel good, commercialised, a kind of consumer religion.
“If the theology were any softer, it would disappear completely.”
Sky News worries me
From The Courier Mail
SKY News Australia has achieved its best half-yearly results on record driven by its COVID-19 pandemic coverage and top performing prime time line-up .
Sky News is the No.1 channel on Foxtel, has set a new channel all day (2am to 2am) average audience record , up 31 per cent, and a record share of 2.9 per cent, reaching 3.5 million unique viewers on the pay TV network . In prime time (6pm to 10pm) Sky News achieved record average audiences up 22 per cent, and a record share of 2.5 per cent, reaching more than 2.4 million unique viewers on Foxtel.
Alan Jones has joined
Newspapers previously had to appeal across the board to garner the most eyeballs. London market was so big they could appeal to niches. Now with internet, the media is encouraged to appeal to niches.
The Murdoch media is a political Party that employs journalists.
From Douglas Murray
The central assertion of White Fragility is that all white people are racist. White people who are aggrieved at being told that they are racist are said by DiAngelo to be demonstrating ‘white fragility’. Which is further demonstration of racism. All of which leaves white people in their entirety in that conundrum faced by witches facing a dunking in the village pond. It is a game of DiAngelo’s creation, which once engaged in cannot be won. Except by her, obvs.
The past 2 weeks of Morrison Shitfuckery that no-one cares about
The Australian Made kangaroo logo remains but we have a new National Brand
It only cost $10 million.
This logo was recommended by the National Brand Advisory Council (NBAC) and signed off on by the Trade Minister.
The NBAC is made up of national business leaders including mining billionaire Andrew Forrest, Glenn Cooper of Coopers brewery (and The Australia Made Campaign) and Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate, and its purpose is to help develop a strong national brand for Australia.
Costing taxpayers $10 million, this logo is part of a suite of products and resources for governments, government agencies and industry bodies to use at promotional events such as trade shows and conferences.
Senator Birmingham said this branding exercise was again about consistency.
“It’s simply trying to provide an overarching framework that can allow us to have some consistency in our approach,” he said.
Rather than a virus or splash of colour, Senator Birmingham’s office has confirmed the new logo is actually meant to resemble Australia’s native golden wattle that appears on the Commonwealth Coat of Arms.
Senator Birmingham said the new design was less about a single logo, and more about how it can be used in various ways on promotional material.
“Now, I don’t hold myself out as some advertising or marketing guru — that’s what we have experts for — but I think people will see that is a stylistic, modern representation of Australia,” he said.
Job Keeper for Priests
But not Universities
Art package loophole
From The Shovel
The Federal Government’s $250 million ‘rescue’ package for the Arts industry will provide an average of around $500 for each of the nation’s Arts industry employees, or $25,000 if they use the HomeBuilder grant to update their kitchen or bathroom.
“The Arts industry is integral to Australian culture, which is why we’re giving three times as much funding to home renovations,” Scott Morrison said, noting that the $688 million HomeBuilder scheme was now up and running.
“I love the Arts, the Arts is really important. But not quite as important as giving a leg up to the Mums and Dads around the country who want to put an extension on the back of their house,” Scott Morrison said.
Mr Morrison said he was a big supporter of the Arts and listed his favourite song as the theme tune from The Block.
His piece in the SMH
The point came where there was no doubt in my mind that a line had been crossed, and lives were being cynically wasted.
Hundreds of pages of secret defence force documents leaked to the ABC give an unprecedented insight into the clandestine operations of Australia’s elite special forces in Afghanistan, including incidents of troops killing unarmed men and children.
The ABC can reveal that some of the cases detailed in the documents are being investigated as possible unlawful killings.
This comes a day after the ABC revealed the alleged cover up of the killing of an Afghan boy and another alleged incident in which a father and son were shot dead during a raid.
The documents, many marked AUSTEO — Australian Eyes Only — suggest a growing unease at the highest levels of Defence about the culture of Australia’s special forces as they prosecuted a bloody, secretive war against insurgents across a swathe of southern Afghanistan.
One document from 2014 refers to ingrained “problems” within special forces, an “organisational culture” including a “warrior culture” and a willingness by officers to turn a blind eye to poor behaviour.
Another document refers to a “desensitisation” and “drift in values” among elite Special Air Service soldiers serving in Afghanistan, while others allude to deep divisions between the two elite units which primarily comprise the special forces – the SAS based in Perth and 2 Commando Regiment based in Sydney.
A large proportion of the documents are reports on at least 10 incidents between 2009-2013 in which special forces troops shot dead insurgents, but also unarmed men and children.
The case against Mr McBride is being framed around national security. But, he’s adamant that what he did in no way threatened the safety of the nation. And rather than it being a case of the nation’s security, he’s see it as one that is “nationally embarrassing”.
And as far as the whistleblower is concerned, the government’s now using the term “national security” as a way of silencing those prone to expose corruption within its ranks via the threat of being charged with espionage.
You’ve said that when you were in Afghanistan you were concerned Australia was running an “Instagram War”. What do you mean by that?
They weren’t following the law. And they weren’t trying to make effective contributions to actually win. All they were doing was trying to get “likes” from the public.
For example, we dropped bombs to look good. There was no plan, or anything that actually worked. We built schools just to get a photo opportunity, without anybody doing any credible study to see whether building a school was actually going to help Afghanistan in the long-term.
Everything was done for appearance. And while that doesn’t sound bad. It was bad because we were even killing our own soldiers for appearance. And we had no intention of actually improving the situation. It was just appearance for the voters.
Your case has been framed around national security. What are your concerns about that argument?
It’s quite ridiculous. The government is now able to use this catchphrase – national security – to silence dissent.
You could be an investigative journalist who says the minister had taken a bribe of $10 million dollars from a foreign company, and they will say, “That’s national security. We’re going to put you in gaol forever.”
We’ve crossed the line. We used to criticise nations like China and Russia. And now, we can put genuine dissenters in gaol under spurious national security grounds.
So, how did we cross that line?
Slowly, by increments. And we assumed that there was some sort of adult supervision in Canberra. But, unfortunately, there isn’t. There’s nobody.
The secretaries of the departments don’t see it as their job to have any kind of legal input. Mike Pezzullo has gone on the record about that. He said, “It is not our job to second guess the ministers.”
The ministers only care about getting re-elected. So, they don’t have anyone in their office to say, “Well, that’s not really legal. That’s not a question of national security.”
The governor general is not interested in getting down amongst the politicians. And the AFP only consider their role as looking out for the government, rather than in.
So, there’s no one to stop them abusing national security. We probably need changes in government, or the system, to make sure that there’s some sort of adult supervision.
An Act of Grace Payment
The Morrison government has refused to release details of a $3.9million ‘act of grace’ payment made the day before the 2019 federal election was called.
The application was lodged with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on January 6, 2017 but took until April 10 last year to be approved by the finance minister.
A day later, the government went into the caretaker period during which no major policy decisions or undertakings can be made.
The payment but not the names of the recipients was revealed in an answer to a parliamentary question on notice from Labor MP Pat Conroy.
When AAP sought documents relating to the payment under freedom of information laws, one file was found but will be kept secret.
The Finance Department gave several grounds including that it would ‘adversely affect the capacity of the department’ to assess act of grace applications.
As well, it would be an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s privacy.
‘I consider that there is a strong risk that releasing this information could expose the relevant individuals to detriment,’ finance department official Gareth Sebar wrote to AAP.
Mr Sebar also revealed not only was the FOI application knocked back, the third parties were not consulted to check if they would agree to the release.
‘While third party consultation was initially considered necessary upon identifying these documents, after further consideration I have determined that due to the content of the documents consultation itself may causes undue distress to the relevant third parties.’
Mr Sebar said while he could see the benefit in greater scrutiny of the ‘act of grace’ process, he was not persuaded this was outweighed by the detriments that could flow from the release.
A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told AAP: ‘Act of grace and debt waiver matters generally involve personal or private information, which is provided by applicants in confidence and may be covered by provisions of the Privacy Act 1988.’
‘As a result, it has been the government’s long-term practice not to disclose or discuss details of individual matters.’