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This blog nearly four years ago drew the attention of readers to the benefits of Canada’s superannuation policies over our own in the following post:
Since the introduction of provisions dealing with racial hatred in 1995,  the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to insult, humiliate, offend or intimidate another person or group in public on the basis of their race. Specifically, the Act states:
It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely in all the circumstances to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people, and
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or some or all of the people in the group. 
PM Malcolm Turnbull’s argument that the substitution of the word harass for insult, humiliate, offend, or intimidate strengthens the Racial Discrimination legislation is clearly spurious. Harassment involves multiple concerted efforts to antagonize an opponent.
A single incident of public ridicule or denigration, despite the harm it may do to the public image of minority groups, or to the self-image of individuals, would be allowed for the sake of freedom of speech.
How will the courts interpret what constitutes vilification? The proposed legislation requires that judgment be made on the basis of what the “public” is likely to find offensive. How will this be determined?
Might the outcome be more expressions of public hatred to heighten racial tensions at a time when we need to be reminded of the advantages of our multi-cultural heritage, and to welcome those who have turned to our country for asylum?
Fortunately the Australian Senate provides a check to the passage of this ill-considered legislation with Labor, The Greens, Nick Xenophon’s party, and Jacquie Lambie all likely to oppose it.
Australia has many minority groups. Will this cabinet decision be perceived as diminishing their rights against society’s racial bully-boys?
Poor David Leyonhjelm is worried. An estimated three hundred thousand Australians will soon be receiving less pension than before, following a tightening of the pension eligibility rules which came into effect on the 1st January 2017. Yet in his opinion the pension is still too generous! The government cannot afford it with oldies living longer (now in the mid-eighties, and in the next few decades most likely into the 90’s).
“Taking the pension shouldn’t be something you aspire to, it should be something you try to avoid because it signifies you’re in a low income group — in other words you’re poor, or close to poor,” he told the ABC.
His solution is simple. Stigmatize the aged as poor. Shame them so that they will be coerced into making more provision for their retirement. For starters the domestic house must be included in the asset test. With inflation, the home has far outstripped superannuation as a investment vehicle for retirement. No matter. This loophole must be closed!
Is it “sour grapes” to point out that the average pension allowance for those politicians retiring at the 2016 federal election was estimated at $211,400 per annum for the rest of their lives? Self-funded retirees cannot but feel envious that the pension income of politicians was largely unaffected by the global financial crisis of 2008 which wiped up to 40% from their lump sum savings.
80% of those coming to retirement now at 65.5 are still eligible for the pension or part-pension. But henceforth “oldies” will have to work for longer to tap into their savings. By 2023 the entitlement age will be 67, and 70 by 2053. Thereafter it will likely continue to rise by 77% of the aged expectancy at 65 thereafter. It is intended that superannuants will only be entitled to receive their savings 5 years before their year of pension entitlement.
Perhaps poor David can draw comfort from knowing that at least portion of the value of the principal place of residence will soon be included in the asset test. There will be other changes too that may please him.
The Age Pension could also be better targeted by introducing a simpler single comprehensive means test.The move to a comprehensive means test could apply from 2027-28, to new recipients of the Age Pension, to allow people sufficient time to adjust to the new arrangements.It would replace the current arrangement which is underpinned by dual income and assets tests. The existing assets test could be abolished and the income test extended by deeming income from a greater range of assets.
Lucky Senator David Leyonhjelm!
48 year old family man from Hamilton Victoria, Dan Tehan, is a new face in the Turnbull federal government who is showing admirable commitment in his role as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel since 18 February 2016.
He has a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Political Science from the University of Melbourne and Master’s degrees in International Relations from the University of Kent, and in Foreign Affairs and Trade from Monash University.
Prior to entering Federal Parliament in 2010 he was a senior advisor to the Minister of Trade in the Howard Government, and was two years Chief of Staff to the Minister for Small Business and Tourism.
On the 17th November 2016 the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan, made a Joint Media Release which has almost gone unnoticed but is one that in my opinion deserves applause.
It can be very difficult for returned servicemen to find work. This may be because of residual, war-related health issues. Alternatively it may be through deficiencies in training for their prospective line of work. Furthermore they are unlikely to receive credit for the specialized training they received in the Defence Forces, and the skills they acquired. Adding to their woes may be the fracturing of close relationships because they had been away so long.
The severity of the stress induced mental issues facing returned service men and women is demonstrated by a high suicide rate with 292 deaths between 2001 and 2014 according to the interim results of a study released on November 30, 2016 by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Homelessness is another issue facing many service men and women on discharge because they had had accommodation provided for them whilst they were serving. .
The Commonwealth Government has through the years tried to do everything in its power to meet the needs of those who have at personal cost served Australia in the Armed Forces. This, it would seem however, is not enough.
To its credit Veteran Affairs is now fostering a different culture towards past defence force service. It is emphasizing the strengths that returned service men and women can bring to the work-force. It is seeking to develop ties between businesses within the private sector, government agencies, and ex-servicemen organizations for the benefit of Veterans.
May this more enlightened approach prove more successful.
It was the progressive expropriation of land by white settlers to the detriment of Australia’s Aboriginal people that resulted in their decimation.
Our handling of disputes, and the policies we have formulated, have often been harsh and unjust, condescending and paternalistic, not recognizing the harm we were doing to their health and welfare.
We have failed to value and protect their instinctive nomadic subsistence way of life, critically dependent on land access, not ownership. We have not esteemed them for their ability to survive in such a hostile environment, in perfect harmony with their environment.
Increasingly many, particularly those of mixed race, will be able to be fully assimilated into urban living, and compete in our Society at many levels, but when enforced, others will be ill-equipped to adjust to our expectations and standards.
I would suggest that with the dwindling prospects of full paid employment for all Australians, we could well draw on their skills and wisdom in creating alternative lifestyles. Is it time that we enabled out unemployed access to land for farming, and encouraged them to pursue arts and crafts that could through exchange and bartering improve their morale and encourage independence?
I appreciate the initiatives of governments of recent years to formalize regret for our past hostility. I am glad that we are becoming more mindful of their skills and culture. It is appropriate too that we are consulting more with them on those matters that most deeply concern them, and are fostering self-determination.
I applaud the granting of land rights for the indigenous, as the most significant reform in our history. Many problems remain, but I am heartened by the efforts now being made, and ongoing, to improve indigenous welfare.
Minister Scullion: Strengthening engagement with Indigenous leaders
22 September 2016
The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, and the Co-Chairs of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Dr Jackie Huggins and Mr Rod Little, today hosted Indigenous leaders at a forum to work through issues raised in the Redfern Statement. The forum with the 18 lead signatories of the Redfern Statement was an opportunity for all participants to engage with each other and the Minister in a spirit of goodwill to discuss ways to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.Today, I have listened closely to the views of a range of Indigenous leaders and acknowledged the significant areas where we share common ground,” Minister Scullion said.
“The forum continues the Turnbull Government’s approach of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as part of a close engagement with communities to ensure policies and programmes deliver the best outcomes for our First Australians.“I wish to thank the participants and everyone else who was involved in developing the Redfern Statement. I share the aspirations of the statement and look forward to working with today’s forum participants into the future to implement measures that will improve outcomes for our First Australians.
“We are investing $4.9 billion over four years in the Indigenous Affairs portfolio and I reaffirmed today my commitment to ensure every dollar in my portfolio delivers an outcome for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.“We are funding more Indigenous organisations than ever – with 55 per cent of funding under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy now being provided to Indigenous organisations.
“The Coalition Government is deeply committed to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to bring about the changes necessary to deliver better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”The Redfern Statement was issued by a number of Indigenous organisations during the 2016 election campaign and included a series of recommendations from these organisations in relation to policies and programmes impacting on First Australians.
Minister Scullion has been working with the Co-Chairs of Congress since he was re-appointed as Minister for Indigenous Affairs to organise today’s forum.
Below are snippets from the following government document reviewing Australia’s interaction and policies for our Indigenous Population.
The Initial Impact. Aboriginal people have occupied’ Australia for at least 40 000 years. However, very little is known about the history of human occupation during this enormous length of time, even in outline, and practically nothing of the social, political and cultural changes that must have occurred. Recorded Aboriginal history is a history of contact, with Macassan or Indonesian traders or fishermen, with European, especially British, navigators and with British colonists and settlers. At the time of the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, there was, of course, no single Aboriginal nation. Australia (including Tasmania) contained a large number of groups occupying more or less discrete areas and with considerable diversity in terms of language and culture. Conflicts between settlers and Aborigines, and the devastation caused by introduced diseases and alcohol, reduced the Aboriginal population during the first hundred years of settlement from an estimated 300 000 to 60 000. Most of those who survived had their traditional ways of life destroyed or at least suppressed. In the confined area of Tasmania the effects of white settlement were devastating, bringing Tasmanian Aborigines to the verge of extinction. It has been conservatively estimated that at least 10 000 Aborigines died violently in Queensland between 1824 and 1908.
The policy of assimilation means that all Aborigines and part-Aborigines are expected to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community, enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs as other Australians.
Steps were taken to achieve this result. Expenditure on health, housing, education and training programs began to be increased in the Northern Territory and in the States. The decline in the Aboriginal population in the north and centre was halted and reversed in the 1950s, and in southern and eastern Australia the Aboriginal population was increasing rapidly. In the 1960s a concerted effort was made to review and repeal restrictive and discriminatory legislation, especially by the Commonwealth Government, and the mechanisms of ‘protection’ were phased out. Access to social security benefits for Aborigines came in 1960, Aborigines became entitled to vote at federal elections in 1962, and the wardship system in the Northern Territory was dismantled in 1964. State legislation prohibiting access to alcohol for Aborigines was repealed and in most jurisdictions Aborigines became entitled to full award wages. In 1967 the Constitution was amended by referendum so that Aborigines would in future be counted in the Census, and to authorise the Commonwealth Parliament to pass laws specifically for the benefit of Aboriginal people. An Office of Aboriginal Affairs was established by the Commonwealth Government to instigate and oversee programs of assistance for Aborigines.
Integration. While these developments were taking place, the general notion of assimilation was itself increasingly being questioned. That policy took no account of the value or resilience of Aboriginal culture, nor did it allow that Aborigines might seek to maintain their own languages and traditions. A basic assumption of the policy was that Aborigines would inevitably, and probably willingly, become like white Australians in terms of their ‘manner of living’, ‘customs’ and ‘beliefs’. The paternalism, and arrogance, of such assumptions was discredited. There was also a greater awareness of Aboriginal problems by non-Aboriginal Australians. The language of ‘assimilation’, with the underlying assumption that Aboriginal equality could only be achieved by the loss of Aboriginal identity, was abandoned. The term ‘integration’ was sometimes used by the critics of the assimilation policy to denote a policy that recognised the value of Aboriginal culture and the right of Aboriginals to retain their languages and customs and maintain their own distinctive communities, but there was a deliberate effort on the part of the Commonwealth authorities to avoid one-word descriptions of complex policies, and to focus on developing new approaches to problems rather than on long-term aims. The initial emphasis was on increased funding and improved programs in areas such as health, education and employment, to try to ensure that formal equality was accompanied by real social and economic advances. But measures were also adopted to in crease funding for Aboriginal community development projects, and the first steps were taken towards the granting of land rights. In 1972 a separate federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs was established, and in 1973 the Woodward Commission was appointed to investigate how land rights for Aborigines could be implemented. The Report led eventually to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth).
Self-Management or Self-Determination. In recent years the policy of the Commonwealth has been based on what has been described as ‘the fundamental right of Aboriginals to retain their racial identity and traditional lifestyle or, where desired, to adopt wholly or partially a European lifestyle’, and has encouraged Aboriginal participation or control in local or community government, and in other areas of concern. This approach, variously described as a policy of self-management or self-determination, has been accompanied by government support programs managed by Aboriginal organisations. For example the Aboriginal Development Commission was established in 1980 to help further the economic and social development of Aboriginal people, to promote their development and self-management and to provide a base for Aboriginal economic self-sufficiency. The functions of the Aboriginal Development Commission are to assist Aboriginal people to acquire land, to engage in business enterprises and to obtain finance for housing and other personal needs. Other Aboriginal organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, are proving increasingly important: these include land councils, incorporated community support groups, child care agencies, alcohol rehabilitation services, medical services, hostels, legal services and cultural organisations. Attempts have continued to establish a body which can represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander opinion on all matters of policy, through giving advice to the Commonwealth and in other ways. The Commonwealth’s policy has been formulated by the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the following way:
This Government looks to achieve further progress for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the two principles of consultation and self-determination, that is, with the involvement of the Aboriginal people in the whole process … All our policies, each of our programs and projects, have been and will continue to be fashioned in discussions with Aboriginal people and their organisations at national and community levels.
Germany’s U-boat submarines posed a potent naval threat to the Allies in the Second World War, whilst the United States gained a naval superiority over Japan with their submarine fleet.
Defence advisors fear the vulnerability of surface naval vessels, particularly unwieldy aircraft carriers, from air attack. Hence the attraction of a submarine fleet potentially able to hide undetected in the depths of the ocean for up to 10 months and an operating range of 12,000 nautical miles. Australia is to manufacture 12 of the nuclear attack French Barracuda-class submarines in Adelaide. It will be designed by ship-builder Direction des Constructions Navales Services (DCNS) and employ 2800, and cost us $50 billion. It will strengthen Australia’s submarine capability from 2030 when delivery of the first is expected.
Six Collins-class submarines were built in Adelaide by the Australian Submarine Corporation between 1990 and 2003 to replace the old Oberon submarines, under the guidance of Swedish submarine manufacturer Kockums. They incorporated innovative new features such as an integrated combat data system (CDS) to activate the submarine’s weapons in response to sensor detected data.
Few Defence acquisitions have been more criticized than these submarines, on the basis of operational deficiencies including inadequate sound minimization, and features that were out-dated by the time the vessels were commissioned.
Manufacturers of submarines and anti-submarines must engage in an intense technology battle for advantage in the deadly serious game of Hide and Seek. The costs are horrendous for both acquisition and operation but to this barrier must be added the recruitment and training of skilled personnel able and willing to operate such complex equipment.
Deeply concerning for the Australian government is the news released just a month ago (August 24) of a massive leak of many of the design features of the Scorpene submarines DCNS is building for India. This must significantly diminish their potential strike effectiveness not only for India but also for Malaysia and Chile, countries that are already using them, and for Brazil which takes delivery in 2018.
History proves that there was never a war that ended wars. Unfortunately, scientific advances in warfare just increase the human misery and devastation we all abhor. Will indeed we be able to defend our country with what we hope are superior weapons, against stronger foes?
Then too, can we afford to spend $50 billion for what may be just a temporary military ascendancy? Especially when we have a $400 billion foreign debt, and must otherwise reduce welfare benefits to the hardship of some.
It is not too late to reconsider our priorities.
Malcolm Turnbull has been Prime Minister for only a year, and already political commentators are speculating on how long it will be before he too is deposed like his three predecessors.
How durable will he prove to be with the Coalition divided over the current issue of Same-Sex Marriage, and having to wear the blame for a barely successful double dissolution election. The most stinging criticism is that he is a weak leader, in contrast to the more conservative and authoritarian Tony Abbott whom he replaced. However his preparedness to prudently listen, to negotiate, and to govern, as much as he can by consensus, could be attributes for long-term survival.
Labor’s Kevin Rudd had stints of two and a half years, and then in 2013 of only three months, the latter ending with a disastrous loss of an election from party disunity.
Improbably the longest serving leader of the past decade was Labor’s Julia Gillard who was able to form a minority government with the assistance of three independents after the mid 2010 election. Far from collapsing as the Coalition hoped, she was able to provide stable government until after three years, with the approach of the 2013 election, Labor’s power brokers questioned her ability to win, and unwisely recycled Kevin Rudd.
Tony Abbott, feared in Opposition, faltered in office, losing electoral support quite early in the parliamentary term after what was seen by the public to be a deeply unfair initial budget. Despite enjoying such a large majority in the Lower House, his ability to lead the Coalition to another election came under serious scrutiny and resulted in him losing office after two years.
With three year parliamentary terms it is inevitable the elected leaders will be severely criticised, perhaps unfairly and prematurely, denying them the chance to improve their status, and that of their party.
The cost of unduly frequent leadership change is such that both parties should now consider increasing parliamentary terms from three to four years.
Stem-cell research is one of the more promising lines of study for medical researchers; and it has attracted more interest than most project fields, as a remedy for many serious and life threatening conditions. It is estimated that there are more than 200 clinical trials being conducted currently for diseases stem-cell treatment could help. Although it has to be considered experimental at this stage, clinics around the world have commercialized many techniques, before trial verification of their effectiveness.
The tissue cells of adults are specialised in form and function after differentiating from a basic unit, the stem cell of the developing embryo. Transplanted into an adult individual, embryonic cells have a limited life-expectancy, and unlikely to re-populate the deficient specialised tissue, and have sometimes caused teratoma cancers. There are also ethical objections for some to their use, and at one time President George Bush banned their use in the United States.
However, some non-embryonic cells retain a more limited capacity to modify their function and fulfill other roles. One such cell has been named a mesenchymal stem-cell. A pioneer in this field, Dr Neil Riordan, harvests these cells from umbilical cords for use in his Stem-Cell clinic in Panama City. It attracts patients from around the world, for the treatment of diseases including life threatening neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis.
Dr Riordan claims that such stem-cell treatments work by regulating the immune system, boosting T cells, and countering inflammatory changes, rather than by clonal multiplication. Treatment at his facility I understand costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Each clinic establishes its own methodology. Some of the research and therapeutic units in Australia of which I am aware are:
- Melbourne based ASX listed Biotech company, Mesoblast, recently also listed on the US NASDAQ exchange, managed by Silvio Itescu. It is producing products for Chronic heart failure, chronic low back pain, acute graft versus host disease, and biologically refractory Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Diabetic nephropathy from mesenchymal adult stem-cells.
- The Clem Jones Centre for Neurology and Stem-Cell Research has been established at the Griffith University, Nathan Campus, in Brisbane, under researcher Dr James St John. He is researching the use of olfactory ensheathing cells from the lining of the nose, to stimulate repair of damaged spinal cords. Such a technique has already been successfully used in one patient with transaction of the spinal cord. This disproved the old dictum that the central nervous system lacked the ability to regenerate.
- The University of NSW is exploring the ability of two compounds to transform fat cells into stem-cells. The researcher is Acting Professor John Pimanda. He believes the treatment impairs cellular memory, creating multi-potent stem-cells which then take their cue from the surrounding tissue.
- Stem Cells Australia is a reliable source of detailed information and is backed by a number of University Departments.
The effectiveness of stem-cell therapy has not yet been established. It is being used widely on empirical grounds but those contemplating having such surgery should first gather as much objective evidence as they can about the procedure, particularly if it involves considerable expense to them.
Malcolm Bligh Turnbull was sworn in as the 29th Prime Minister of Australia by the Governor General Peter Cosgrove after a ten vote leadership ballot victory on the 14th September 2015.
Despite winning the 2016 double dissolution election on July 2 albeit with a majority of only one seat, it has been the losing Labor leader Bill Shorten who has been feted for his performance whilst the impeccably credentialed Turnbull has received nothing but criticism and gratuitous advice.
The latest attack on his performance came this week when Australia’s innovative move to conduct the 2016 Census on line became a debacle. When you are the PM, must you be responsible for every government cock-up?
The journalistic outcry has been incessant, particularly the respected “The Australian”. Should Malcolm Turnbull be expected to deliver the Nirvana Donald Trump is promising to the voters of the United States when not even God is able to side with every disparate interest?