Saturday salon 17/2

1. Turnbull’s political priorities

Waleed Aly in a piece written presumably just before Turnbull announced his changes to ministerial code of conduct suggested Turnbull’s effort in furthering the Uluru Statement from the Heart and in responding to the Close The Gap report was limp and routine:

    Meanwhile you could be forgiven for missing Malcolm Turnbull’s response to the Close the Gap Steering Committee’s assessment that the policy launched after the Rudd apology had been “effectively abandoned” by extensive budget cuts since 2014. In brief, Turnbull commenced talks on how to refresh the policy, and announced a new inquiry into the matter of constitutional recognition, to be done by a joint select committee.

Ironic that as we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Apology, Joyce’s affair bumps the issue from the front page, when Turnbull’s dismissive last year response to the Uluru Statement that a “third chamber” of parliament “that sits beside or above the senate”, “just won’t fly” with the Australian people, used words straight out of the mouth of Barnaby Joyce.

I recall that Pat Dodson, Shadow Assistant Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, did not personally agree with the Uluru Statement. Yet he respects the process of several years consultation with Indigenous peoples, listened and is now crafting policies for Labor to put it into practice. Now we hear that Labor will pursue an Indigenous voice to parliament without the Coalition.

Meanwhile Frank Brennan recalls the apology and generally exhorts us to action.

2. Wholesale corruption in defence industries

Labor announced late last month that it would establish a National Integrity Commission to combat corruption at the Commonwealth level. According to what Chris Douglas told Phillip Adams (audio here) it is badly needed, especially in the defence sector, which in 2015-16 was responsible for $30.5 billion on contracts, amounting to 54 per cent of total government contractor spending. Mention was made of a Fairfax investigation last year.

Here’s what we need to worry about:

  • “single source” tenders, where a single company is awarded a contract without having to compete against other providers
  • government officials colluding to design high-paid jobs that they would later take up in the private sector
  • paperwork had gone missing on 45 of 80 cases investigated
  • contracts awarded without a price
  • where there was a price, ridiculous cost over-runs later approved, bringing into question the integrity of the original tender.

Al in all, a little more important than who Barnaby Joyce goes to be with.

3. Cyril Ramaphosa sworn in as South Africa’s fifth president

Cyril Ramaphosa has taken over as chair of the ANC and president of South Africa as Jacob Zuma resigns. The ABC reports that Ramaphosa faces major hurdles to implement Mandela’s vision but has pledged a ‘new dawn’ for South Africa.

ABC RN’s excellent Rear Vision program has done a piece which answers the question as to how corrupt Zuma was. In short – completely, and he appointed corrupt people to every public body.

Ramaphosa, apart from being South Africa’s richest man, is widely respected and worked with Nelson Mandela.

There’s more at the BBC.

4. Angela Merkel – the private person

There is an excellent portrait of Angela Merkel on ABC RN’s Big Ideas program with Kati Marton – journalist and author, writer in residence at the American Academy in Berlin, and Volker Schlöndorff – German filmmaker and friend of Angela Merkel.

Points of interest include:

  • Merkel’s famous statement “wir schaffen das” (we’ll manage) in relation to Syrian refugees was followed by one that translates as “If I have to excuse myself for showing a friendly face to a stranger, this in not my country any more”. This is likened to Luther’s statement “Here I stand I can do no other…” in the Diet of Worms in 1521
  • Merkel is short on vision statements, but thrives on problem-solving. They said she is probably enjoying taking over four months to form a coalition after the elections last September.
  • Merkel is not phased by alpha males like Trump and Putin. She hears them out and then engages on her terms, calmly and rationally.
  • She presumably has a wonderfully supportive husband, but he won’t say a thing to the media. He says that history has no interest in him.

Marten and Schlöndorff are obviously big fans of Merkel. We are told she is the free world’s last defense against populism, xenophobia, and barbed wire and bigotry against outsiders.

In the results of the German federal elections the alt-right AfD got only 12.64 of the national vote, whereas in other European states similar parties can get double that.

Of interest, the Greens only got 8.94% and fell to sixth place in the party first preference vote.

39 thoughts on “Saturday salon 17/2”

  1. Sorry this is so late. We had a lovely time in Ballina, and discovered that Sunday afternoon is not the best time to drive back. Just unbelievable how many cars there are on the road.

  2. Many contracts are cost plus. Can be appropriate where it is hard to tie down what has to be done. Ex: want a leading edge sub where it is reasonable to expect technical advanes during the design and construct.

  3. I remember Mr Ramaphosa as a very prominent trade union leader in the mid 80s when serious cracks were evident in the apartheid policy.

    Apparently he was an ANC member then.
    Let’s hope none of his wealth was ill-gotten.

  4. Ambi, from this BBC article on Ramaphosa, not all was smooth sailing, but he was Mandela’s chief negotiator in the talks that led to the end of apartheid in 1994, and then as an MP he was chairman of the constitutional assembly, and played the lead role in drafting South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution, one of the most liberal in the world.

    Which is about as good as you’d get.

  5. John, they talk about “partnership” between government and contractors, which is probably the best way to go on major projects, but understandably makes auditors nervous.

  6. The G*reens in Germany have never cracked ten percent of the vote, mainly because they are competing with Die L*inke for the same voters. Likewise the Greens in Australia (at least in the Eastern states) are dominated by ex-c*ommunists and t*rots.

  7. John D: Heartily agree. There are some circumstances when the overall cost of a project, by its very nature, cannot be known at all, and therefore cannot have, for instance, a specific allowance for cost overruns built into the contract.

    That’s fine. 21st Century accounting has all sorts of measures to deal with those sorts of problems.

    What is at issue here are the Defence procurement blunders that are way beyond mere incompetence, stupidity, drunkenness, neglect, hubris, gullibility, deliberate ignorance and sheer bad luck.

    What is at issue is the decades-long culture of sheer criminality.

    So Labor is going to set up a National Integrity Commission, is it? Good luck to them. I, for one, would cheer them on – but sadly, as was said on that British TV satire, Yes Minister, “That’s a courageous decision, Minister”. I’m afraid the criminality and corruption in Defence is now so deeply entrenched that a National Integrity Commission would go the same way as the so-called War On Drugs or, that toothless tiger, the Foreign Investment Review Board.

    In a perfect universe, there are four main areas a National Integrity Commission could attack in its first year:

    (1) Defence – which continues to put all of us in peril.

    (2) Finance – This week’s ABC Background Briefing hit the nail on the head http://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pg4V0dprqV

    (3) Building and Construction – everything from dwellings to highways.

    (4). Health – otherwise known as Rort Central.

    Cleaning up these four festivals of plunder would soon have Treasury bursting at the seams with money.

  8. I have a view that “The economy is made for man, not man for the economy.” – And “man” includes all of us including women and definitely does not just mean “only the already well off.
    I would also say something like that about capitalism. We might tolerate capitalism and the returns it gives to investors as long as it is also improving the lives of the rest of us.
    At the moment capitalism is failing to meet this implied contract with the people and has been getting worse and worse for along time as the checks and balances provided by unions and the threat of communism have weakened.
    As for giving capitalism a tax cut…..

  9. John
    If you’d just see that Capitalism is just an exchange between two volatary entities, without coercion or outside enticement, then you may start to realise it’s benefits to all that participate.

    Corruption of markets is only possible when legislators are given lawful power to corrupt them.
    Blank cheque contracts are stupid for individuals and companies with their own money but heinous when done on others ( taxpayers ) behalf.

  10. Jumpy, do you have any examples of these markets?
    i.e those which are just an exchange between two voluntary entities, without coercion or outside enticement?

  11. Thanks for the link GB. But only thirteenth? I’m sure Australia can rise much higher than that; we always punch above our weight. (/sarc)
    Sadly, I think corruption is an inevitable part of all human endeavour and our task is to limit it as much as possible.
    However our learned colleague argues it arises only when Government regulates his fantasy, “free” markets.

  12. BilB

    Don’t want to spoil the party with pedantry, but Mr Abbott conferred an Australian Knighthood on His Royal Highness the Prince and Duke of Edinburgh, God bless him!

    Mr Abbott didn’t invent the barbecue-stopper, but he certainly ensured its continuation, and on Australia Day too! Not a day for our indigenes, but without a doubt a day for a Greek princeling drawn to the bosom of the Battenberg-Windsors.

    Unfortunately the non-princes amongst we persons noticed that the Honour had been instituted specifically for rare, exceptionally wonderful Australians. And whatever we might know (or indeed not know) about said Prince, it appeared that of Australian roots he had none.

    No Australian roots.
    Did it not then follow, Captain Abbott, that the Prince…….

    Woe betide a PM of that foolishness…..
    Did that PM Abbott not have a good media advisor? Was she on the staff, or on holidays? Did he not attend adequately to questions of his staffing???

    ***
    And parenthetically, it has been suggested that when a Deputy PM goes on personal leave, he should not spend some of that leave speaking to reporters. Does he have a media or communications adviser? Is she also on holidays???

    So often it’s the staff who trip youse up, eh!!!

    Makes a mockery of that Biblical phrase “thy rod and thy staff shall comfort me”.

  13. James Massola in Fairfax says that “sources” claim Mr Barnaby will announce his resignation as Deputy PM of Australia at a press conference scheduled for 2 pm AESST today.

    May I quote R. M. Nixon, former Vice President of the USA at his press conference after losing a gubernatorial election (1962?) ,

    Well, gentlemen. At least you won’t have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore!”

    uttered with his trademark humourless laugh.

  14. ABC TV news has a banner: breaking – B Joyce to hold press conference at 2pm eastern time.

    Break out the popcorn and a bottle of Schadenfreude (pref. spritzig, chilled, Qld vintage)

  15. Barnaby J will resign next Monday as Nat leader and Deputy PM.

    He has informed the Acting PM and his Parlt. colleagues of his decision.

  16. Seems the WA complaint from a woman re sexual harassment tipped him over the edge.

    Ironic that the woman herself made the complaint to the National Party and never intended that the complaint be public.

  17. Haven’t heard the ABC ” journalists ” so giddy with accomplishment since election 07.

    Barnaby steps down on a point of honour till allegations of sexual harassment are settled.
    Obviously Shorten wasn’t that honourable with the rape allegations.

  18. Jumpy: My take on the 20th century is that the countries that did well had strong unions that helped drive a fair distribution of the benefits that flowed from the work done by the workers and the capital invested by the capitalists. This distribution also helped to grow the markets needed to justify investment.
    I don’t think you or the LNP understand the idea that what is good for individual businesses is not necessarily good for business or the country overall.

  19. J

    BS underwent a police investigation.
    Are you arguing that every such investigation needs to be made public?

    or only for politicians?

    no matter whether the accusation be vexatious, frivolous, concocted or untrue?? [and of course this cannot be known at the outset of the police work]

    to quote Mr Joyce, “that’s not the sort of country we should be“.

    BTW in my view it was improper for journalists to have been informed that Cardinal Pell was being investigated by Victoria Police.

    And in the USA, grand juries are supposed to operate privately… have you heard of the presumption of innocence?

    One of its purposes is to protect each person from vindictive or unjustified accusation….

    Can we agree that this presumption is worth maintaining, J?

    I think BJ has acted correctly, at last.

    His statement today that he was only in politics to act for the poor, uneducated, discriminated-against, rural folk; was admirable. I hope there are other politicians who share that purpose.

    cheerio

  20. Mr A
    I only ask that the media put the feet of politicians to the fire equally.
    That’s not happening.

    And us regular punters, on both sides of the political aisle, do the same.
    Until we start doing that, constructive dialogue can’t happen enough.

  21. John
    There are plenty of other factors the Countries that did well share. Unions are often present as a result of those factors.

    Those factors would be Democracy, enforced property rights and Capitalism ( voluntarily exchange).

    Also a very wealthy 10% that pay most of the tax.

  22. Mr J

    I think it was cheap, tawdry and intrusive that the Daily Torygraph published the photo of the pregnant lady.

    But without the photo, I’m sure ALP Members, or Greens, or Independents would have found a way to embarrass Mr Joyce in Parlt. Question Time.

    As one example, his attempt to move the Vet health dept (name?) to his electorate has been a bit wonky. That’s a policy and admin issue.

    Don’t get me wrong: decentralisation can be good if it’s done well. See what I did there? if it’s done well, planned carefully, and doesn’t decimate a successful entity.

    PS: I think you’ll find it’s not just the ABC which splashes this all over their bulletins/front pages.
    It’s up there with PM Whitlam’s sacking his Deputy PM Dr J. F. Cairns in 1975.

  23. Mr A
    The APVMA is an agricultural service first and foremost. The thinking, I’m guessing, is better outcomes can be achieved by folk living and working in predominantly agricultural communities.

    The level of ” give a shit ” by the current workforce, given that lots of them quit rather than leave The Capital to live amongst rural folk, is telling.

  24. Can we presume from its pursuit of the Beetrooter that the Daily Telegraph (which I thought was part of Murdoch’s brave right wing) is in reality part of the leftwing mainstream media?
    Haven’t heard Rupert’s reptiles so giddy with accomplishment since election 07.

  25. This is a Melbourne by-election “commitment” by Turnbull to match Labor and the Greens as votes are delivered in Batman. A pledge by Turnbull to consider the establishment of a federal anti-corruption commission. The Greens started the ball rolling, then Shorten belatedly joined in and now Turnbull has adopted the policy. To dissociate himself from the effective 30-year history of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Turnbull wants another name for his oversight body with politicians and senior public servants protected from public hearings and naming and shaming. When a scandal broke over funding for clients and carers belonging to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and Shorten committed a future Labor government to full proper funding, Turnbull quickly equalled it.

  26. zoot

    Could it be that Rupert’s reptiles’ primary target is PM Turnbull, and so the Beetr**ter is merely collateral damage?

    Basically, Mr T lost the last election, save for The B’s wonderful victory in gaining a seat*. So Rupert has had it in for Mr T, who is after all, “a loser”.

    And remember, the young Rupert was said to have had a bust of Lenin on his mantelpiece in his College room at Uni in England (Oxford?). There is even talk that he attended some Communist Party branch meetings in that town.

    Ah, the Pommies, eh??

    * ‘What profiteth a man, that he should gain a seat but lose his world?’

    Ambi the Profit
    (or Dead Loss, as my acquaintances say)

  27. Jumpsuit on John Davidson…

    Jumpy, why can’t you accept that John attributes progress and success to a symbiotic partnership between workers and capital, in societies where workers’ interests have been adequately attended to by strong trade unions?

    In Australia, there have been additional factors: vast land seizure by colonists, Govt welfare policies, the Arbitration Commission [and its successors] and related legislation of workers’ and unions’ and employers’ rights, abundant mineral resources, agricultural and export wealth, etc.

    But trade unions have been a very influential factor here in Australia since the 1890s.

    ***
    In Poland, during the Papacy of the Polish Pope, the independent trade union “Solidarnosc” struck the strongest blow against stultified tyranny; heartening other Eastern European independently minded thinkers and workers.

    Trade unions have sometimes been in the very forefront of advances towards greater freedom.

    Would you condemn “Solidarnosc” because it strayed from questions of “pay and conditions”?

  28. Ambigulous, I think Jumpy is immune to persuasion.
    His contributions here would suggest he pines for the good old days of Louis XVI. It’s so easy to imagine him writing, “Let them eat cake”.

  29. But….. but ….. it ended so badly for that Louis bloke! And his sheila Marie. Cripes, Monsieur zoot, what are you suggesting??

  30. Lorena at 7.48pm

    Has this been announced from Washington DC, or did it occur before the PM left for his trip?

  31. The removal of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to Armidale is arguably one of the most cynical political exercises we’ve seen in a while. Joyce had no thought for the personal lives of over 100 public servants.

    I’m not a full bottle on it, but if you want to find out more this article helps.

    It seems that they will have to hire overseas staff on 457 visas and even so will struggle to get their work done. Joel Fitzgibbon’s take on the Pegasus report looking at how to make the move work seems fair:

    “It proposes a re-invention of an organisation which is not fundamentally broken,” he said.

    The notion that the APVMA would work better closer to farmers seems arrant nonsense. Armidale is a small centre (about 23,000 people) and around 500km from both Sydney and Brisbane. It’s a long way out of town and I can’t blame anyone who would rather not live there.

    “The so-called ‘operating model’ looks more like an exercise in crisis management. It identifies all of the problems caused by the relocation but instils no confidence they can be overcome.”

    Mr Fitzgibbon said the model showed the regulator’s work would be partly privatised and that many staff would work from Canberra contrary to the Coalition’s own policy order.

    (Emphasis added)

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