1. Doomsday prepping: bunkers, bullets and billionaires
On the 13th of January this year the following message was texted out to mobile phones in Hawaii:
“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Bradley Garrett, Research Fellow at the University of Sydney, School of Geosciences, has researched the topic of doomsday prepping, which ranges from a specially designed bag you keep near your door to building extravagant doomsday bunkers in remote parts of New Zealand, complete with underground cinemas, pools, cryogenic facilities and helipads.
Back five years ago right-wing preppers in America were getting ready for the Barackalypse. Garrett says Trump has now inspired ‘liberals’ to join them.
He says it is happening here in Oz too, with people even buying army assault vehicles at disposal sales, so they can run over ordinary cars which may be stopping them from getting to their bolt hole.
It all contributes to the GDP.
2. The follies of Barnaby J
Barnaby Joyce may have preferred to be in a bunker during the last few days since the Daily Telegraph published the photo of the pregnant Vikki Campion, former Joyce staffer who is expecting his child in April.
I had sympathy for Joyce when attacked by Leigh Sales on the 7.30 Report. It was clear that Joyce was going to stick to his story that the matter was private, so in a sense Sales’ persistence was a waste of air time. However, Sales did raise the important principle as to whether it was acceptable management practice for managers to have such liaisons with staff members.
Clearly it isn’t, even though the staffer may be grown up, willing, indeed enthusiastic. Michelle Grattan has a thoughtful piece, including crossbencher Cathy McGowan’s call for a conversation within the parliament “about a process to address personal relationships within the workplace”, drawing attention to precedents in the AFL, industry and the American Congress law which has passed the House of Representatives banning sexual relationships between members of the house and staff who report to them.
Personally I think McGowan’s call for a conversation has been too quickly dismissed as an anti-bonking law. In this case Diana Hallam, Joyce’s chief of staff, quit because of his refusal to deal with the dysfunction that was being caused. Then Campion moved to a job in Matt Canavan’s office, which had obviously been created for her, at a higher salary. Malcolm Turnbull has studiously ignored this aspect of the matter, although we hear this morning that the PM’s office intervened to make it happen.
Now it seems a job was then created for Campion in National Party Whip Damian Drum’s office when Canavan lost his ministry and staff entitlements, a job approved personally by Turnbull. Quentin Dempster says Tony Windsor reckons there is more to come.
All this, I think, makes it a matter of public interest, more than just of interest to the public.
Laura Tingle is ultimately hard on Joyce:
- People are entitled to privacy.
But people who aspire to leadership positions are expected to behave in ways that don’t erode confidence in their judgment. And they are expected to own their decisions.
Joyce has not owned his decision. This has left others covering for him and questions which will never be answered, leaving compromise and damage not just to himself but to his colleagues. She thinks this leaves him as a “diminished shell of a leader”.
One thing Joyce is right about, however. Campion did not deserve to have her photo in T-shirt and shorts splashed all over the front page.
That is the question asked by Scott Stevens and Waleed Aly on The Minefield this week. I think they made the program last weekend, because they said that important political issues had been entirely upstaged by cabinet documents showing up in secondhand filing cabinets.
The issue overlooked was the contrasting economic aspirations of the leaders of the main parties.
Bill Shorten says that everyone deserves a living wage. Turnbull says, no, companies need a tax cut and Shorten has exposed himself as more illiterate in economics than any leader since Whitlam. Actually if you look at the graphs the economy did quite well under Whitlam.
What this says, according to Stevens and Aly, is that the popular notion that there is no essential difference between the main parties is nonsense. There is a chasm. However, it is simply not news.
Stevens and Aly suggest that politics is now integrated with the entertainment industry and media profitability depends on the entertainment value of political events rather than their importance to governing the country.
Items that might have received more coverage this week include:
- COAG failed to achieve agreement on future funding arrangements with the states on hospitals. In 2011 an agreement was achieved with the Commonwealth to become full partners in hospital funding. The Abbott government unilaterally reneged on this and the current approach has the Commonwealth contribution limited to growth in numbers and inflation, ignoring additional need from an aging population. The sums involved are large.
- COAG failed on a national scheme to provide compensation and assistance to the survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.
- I’ve heard on several occasions now that the Commonwealth is terminating its involvement in remote indigenous housing. It seems to relate to the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Housing (NPARH) in states other than the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth says it is the states’ fault, but I’ve heard that the specific program was initiated about five years ago and was held to be successful. Again a unilateral withdrawal.
4. The Susan Lamb case is exceptional
No-one else in this citizenship saga was abandoned by her mother, has a dead father, applied to the Queensland authorities for her parents’ marriage certificate and was knocked back, without which the British authorities could not establish that she had the British citizenship she wanted to relinquish.
Professor Graham Orr, a legal constitutional expert from the University of Queensland, pointed out on local radio that the police don’t prosecute every crime; they take into account triviality, common sense and natural justice. He says the Government should stop referring people to the High Court, essentially declare an amnesty, which they already have done for those whose parents were involved in the Holocaust, and concentrate on changing the law so that we can be a grown up country in the modern world. And concentrate on governing the country.
Seems in this case there is a convenient failure of compassion on the part of the government politicians, mirrored by just about everyone in the press. Message to journalists – no, others did not experience similar family difficulties.
5. Early Britons were black
For something completely different the first Britons were “dark to black”, according to a Natural History Museum DNA study. Analysing a 10,000-year-old Somerset skeleton known as “Cheddar Man” they also had coarse black hair, high cheek bones and blue eyes. They think.
Around 10 per cent of Cheddar Man’s DNA lives on in modern Brits.