Saturday salon 21/1

1. The rich have become gods

According to the latest Oxfam report, the top 1% now own more than the rest of us. In fact, just 62 people own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population. The rich have become like gods. Marx said:

    Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good.


    it’s clear that today’s elite don’t need to imagine themselves gods. By every meaningful measure, that’s what they are. They have absorbed, via their wealth, all the attributes that religion traditionally attributed to divinities, even as the world’s poorest still endure conditions familiar to the labourers who constructed the pyramids.

After the GFC, during the years of supposed recovery:

    the wealth of those richest 62 people grew by more than half a trillion dollars since 2010, even as the wealth of the bottom half of the world dropped by 41%. That, mind you, took place in the period after the global financial crisis…

2. Pensioners, families and the disabled on Centrelink’s hit list

Despite complaints over the government’s debt recovery system, the Human Services minister says it’s working and isn’t flawed, so won’t be scrapped. Indeed:

    The Coalition government is to target families, pensioners and disabled Australians with its controversial Centrelink “robo-debt” campaign, Parliamentary documents show.

    The mid-year economic forecast tables published last week shows the government has booked savings of $1.1 billion clawing back overpayments of the aged pension and another $400 million from the disability support.

    The tables also show the government believes it can retrieve another $700 million from hundreds of thousands of Australian families who receive parenting payment or have been paid the benefit in the past.

    The moves could bring up to four million more Australians into the sights of the data-matching program, which uses an automated system to match information held by Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office and calculate overpayments. (Emphasis added)

Labor is pushing for a senate inquiry, as well as referring the issue to the Australian National Audit Office.

3. Legal aid defunded in war on the poor

When the Abbott government was first elected, Brandis removed what was called the Dreyfus money – funding provided by the previous Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, for these community legal centres.

In 2014 the Productivity Commission recommended an extra $200 million for legal aid. Now:

    From this July, nearly a third of the funding for these services will disappear.

You can’t have a decent society without equal access to justice.

4. Malcolm Turnbull’s biographer turns on him

In the Saturday Paper (you can get one free article per week) Paddy Manning, Turnbull’s biographer turns on him. He says being PM is not an easy gig. Abbott failed to convert from a successful opposition leader. Gillard, one of Labor’s best communicators, turned wooden, even ashen.

    We watched Kevin Rudd squib the moral challenge of our generation, climate change. Three prime ministers, each consumed by the office.

    But who could have predicted the combination of gutlessness, vacuity and incompetence that this prime minister has delivered? Malcolm Turnbull was not meant to be a short-lived, bumbling, forgettable PM. He did not nurture his lifetime ambition of becoming prime minister so he could tinker with superannuation tax concessions, or pretend to lift economic growth from 2.7 to 3.3 per cent. He had the potential to be one of our great reforming PMs, from the radical centre. As Tony Windsor says: Malcolm Turnbull is like the dog that caught the car. Having sought the job all his life, he doesn’t know what to do with it, now that he’s got it.

I recall on the farm we had a dog that chased cars, snapping at the wheels. Someone wrapped the back wheel in hessian. When the dog snapped at it he was bodily twirled through the air and landed on his back.

The Centrelink issue is showing in the polls:

    Asked in the ReachTel poll how “errors with the Centrelink automated debt recovery system” affected their vote, 49.8% said it made them less likely to vote for the Coalition compared with 14.4% who said they were more likely to and 35.8% who said it would not impact their vote.

Overall the poll shows the LNP trailing Labor 46% to 54% in two-party preferred terms, and found One Nation has a primary vote of 9.7%, ahead of the Greens on 8.9%.

Perhaps. Essential Report has Labor steady at 53-47 for TPP, with One Nation at 8% and the Greens at 9%.

5. Vegemite comes home

The good news for the week is that Bega Cheese shelled out $460 million to buy back Vegemite from Mondelez International, along with other Kraft-branded products, such as peanut butter, cheeses and mayonnaise.

6. Jews applying for German citizenship

    Six months ago the Brexit referendum changed Britain forever, but it is a change not all Brits have embraced.

    There has been a High Court challenge to the process of leaving the European Union.

    The Irish embassy in London has had a run on dual nationality passports. And perhaps most surprisingly, over 550 British Jews have applied for German citizenship.

    A year ago this would have been unthinkable. Many British Jews lost family members in The Holocaust and were raised with a deep resentment of Germany.

    But the threat of losing the right to automatically live, work and study in EU countries is leading British Jews of German heritage to apply for second passports.

Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

    The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

6 thoughts on “Saturday salon 21/1”

  1. I do like the car chasing dog comparison. In New Guinea, as kids, we had a red cattle dog called Tom. His method was to jump into the car through the window (pre car airconditioning…hot country…open windows). We’d push him out and close the window so he would run to the other side and jump in. With all of the windows closed he would get under the car,…we’d drive off. One time he chased the car half way from Boroko to Port Moresby. We pulled up, let him in and drove him home. Malcolm is not demonstrating that level of commitment.

  2. Just throwing this out there.
    Has anyone else noticed an upsurge in thyroid related issues, particularly amongst the women folk around you ?

    Something is going on around my neck of the woods, just wanna see if others are noticing anything.

  3. Jumpy, I haven’t noticed anything, but I have heard that we don’t have enough iodine in our salt. Perhaps you can do some research and report back.

  4. Jumpy: I think all the urging to reduce salt consumption may b e affecting iodine consumption. Also not sure if the salt used in processed foods contains iodine.

  5. Yes, the iodine deficiencies causing thyroid problems is big in certain places in the World like Tibet. I listened to a Fidler chat with Prof Cres Eastman* ( sorry, never been able to get those on my laptop to link to ), saying a very small amount of iodine over a lifetime, maybe 2 tablespoons is enough.
    This is not a problem to coastal folk that ate lots of seafood. Some Doctors prescribe seaweed tablets.

    There are viruses such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis but the symptoms are all wrong in the cases I’ve seen.

    Symptoms of ear infections, soreness down the right side, switching from hyperactive to slothful and bouts of severe anxiety.
    Ive discounted heredity due to the diversity of occurrence among families and races.
    Even a 12 year old niece on my side showed those very symptoms and then diagnosed with a dodgy thyroid !!

    (* do yaself a favour and listen to this Conversation, the man should be AotY 3 times over for the lives he’s saved and improved )

  6. Jumpy, that’s the one – How Creswell Eastman saved a million brains.

    I think it was towards the end of that interview that he said we really don’t have enough iodine in Oz.

    I had a leaky thyroid, presumably from infection, in 2000 when I was recovering from heart surgery. It really stuffed me up for a few months until it settled down, but the problem was too much thyroid, not too little.

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