A referendum Australia needs to have.

Since Federation in 1901, there have been 19 referendums proposing 44 potential changes to the Constitutional framework of Australia’s Commonwealth government, uniting the State and territory administrations of the British colonial settlements. Only 8 measures have been approved.

Now in 2017, Australia is on the brink of calling for another referendum. On the 7th December 2015, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten appointed a 16 member referendum Council ostensibly to pave the way for a referendum which would seek recognition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.

It was only in 1967 after a successful referendum vote, that our aboriginal peoples were included in the census held once every five years. At a recent convocation of Indigenous Leaders at Uluru, it was made clear that they now desired above all else a say in their own affairs, in planning their own destiny. They have long been disadvantaged, and felt voiceless in the land that was theirs, until white colonization some 230 years ago..

When the Constitution was framed at Federation, the Aboriginal people were widely regarded as uncivilized savages, Aboriginal culture was not valued, and there was no such thing as Native Land title. Their population was estimated then at about 93,200 in a general population of just over 3 million.

The situation is far different today. The population of pure-bred, and part-caste Australians identifying with their Aboriginal heritage, had increased to 670,000 in 2011 and may soon exceed 1 million, and 3-4% of our population. Annual growth is estimated at 2.2% compared with 1.6%. The median age for Aboriginal people at present is 22, compared with 37 in the general population.

Indigenous skills and culture are now well recognised and appreciated, particularly in sport, and the arts, whilst they are also admired for their ability to survive in harmony with Australia’s harsh environment. Some have qualified for the professions, and a few have become articulate and appreciated politicians.

But heart-breaking problems persist within their societies.

  • high rates of youth crime, incarceration and ongoing deaths in custody.
  • poor housing, unhygienic living conditions and rampant health problems, combined  with difficult access to medical services.
  • low standards of education
  • few employment opportunities
  • frequent alcohol and drug abuse.
  • the abuse of women and children.

Two-thirds of our indigenous population now live in urban and regional areas of Queensland and New South Wales.

But for the other one-third, their plight is greatly exacerbated by the isolation under which they live in outback Australia, far removed from the community support and services available to others.

It has often been the women and children who have suffered most at the hands of drunken menfolk in remote communities. Indeed the problem a few years back was so urgent that it necessitated the prompt intervention of the Commonwealth government.

Now that a vast area of wilderness Australia has Native Title, perhaps the Commonwealth Government should create a new Indigenous Territory administration supported in part from Mining royalties, to provide the infrastructure and services that are so deficient for Indigenous residents.










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Is Journalism becoming meddlesome?

Australian Journalism is alive and vibrant, but unfortunately journalistic talent is being constrained. Static traditional Australian media outlets are being phased out as the public turns from reading well-written papers and magazines, to ad-ridden, often ugly interactive digital media, in a search for the sensational and the entertaining, regardless of its validity.  Comment, informed or otherwise, is becoming irrelevant unless spiced with controversy.

The spread of news is not just fast now. It is instantaneous. With the announcement of factual events, come rumours, suppositions, and innuendo. These are tools able to mould public opinion, and to deliberately interfere in political processes.  Surely this brings a responsibility for professional journalists and others, to assert appropriate ethical standards to ensure we are not swamped with so-called “fake-news”.

We expect our media voices to have their opinions, to give their perspectives, and even to suggest avenues for change. But this is not Çarte Blanche to lobby for their own political agenda. It is more deplorable if the issue under debate is critical for the nation’s welfare, and if in their arguments, inadequately qualified sources are used to bolster their case.

A Sky News TV program last night interviewed retired meteorologist, William Kininmonth a scientist who argues that climate change is due to natural causes independent of human intervention. He has been a meteorologist, making weather observations, but  has no experience in climate-change research, as pointed out by the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology.






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A voice and a veto for indigenous Australians? A third house of parliament?

Last night’s Q and A broadcast from Parliament House in Canberra was moving and memorable. It marked the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum and 25 years since the Mabo decision, landmark events for Australia’s disadvantaged indigenous minority. It followed a convocation of indigenous leaders at Uluru in celebration of Reconciliation Week 2017. Leaders rejected the idea of mere recognition in the constitution, instead calling for a representative body to be enshrined in the nation’s founding document and a process established working towards treaties. The Uluru delegation called for First Nations Voice enshrined in the constitution, and a truth and justice commission. The concluding Uluru Statement “From the Heart” was the result of three days of deliberations during the national gathering.




The distinguished panelists of Q and A were:

  • Noel Pearson Strategic Advisor, Cape York Institute
  • Pat Anderson Co-chair Referendum Council and Chairperson of The Lowitja Institute
  • Megan Davis UNSW Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous
  • Nakkiah Lui Playwright and actor in ABC’s Black Comedy
  • Stan Grant ABC Indigenous Affairs Coverage Editor

From this broadcast it seems to me, the dream of both veteran, and the new generation of articulate and well-educated representatives, is for the right to have a voice in the formulation of the laws that parliament enacts which impact on their own welfare. They seek genuine self-determination. Past government paternalism delivered travesties of justice such as the policy that resulted in “The Stolen Generation”. To meet their aspirations, it must be more than token change. But will anything more substantive than placatory rhetoric be acceptable to the people of Australia in a referendum?

A perhaps radical solution that may be worth considering is the formation of a third house of parliament, with two or three elected representatives from each state or territory, to review and approve all legislation affecting indigenous affairs. The cost would be modest. The boost to indigenous morale and well-being could be immeasurable.

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Decaying Cambodian Treasures

via WPC: Heritage at Angkor Wat, Cambodia 3 — retireediary

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A plan to accelerate home ownership!

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:

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Turnbull Capitulates on 18C


Since the introduction of provisions dealing with racial hatred in 1995, [3] 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?


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Poor Senator David Leyonhjelm!

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!




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Good Thinking Dan Tehan!

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.






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Progressing the welfare of Indigenous Australians.

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.


Historic outline

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.[2] 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.[3] Recorded Aboriginal history is a history of contact, with Macassan or Indonesian traders or fishermen,[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] It has been conservatively estimated that at least 10 000 Aborigines died violently in Queensland between 1824 and 1908.[8]


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.[26]

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,[27] 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,[28] and to authorise the Commonwealth Parliament to pass laws specifically for the benefit of Aboriginal people.[29] 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,[30] 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’,[31] 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[32] 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.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35]

Posted in Community Issues, Political debate, The Environment

Submarine Security Considerations

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.



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