Might longer parliamentary terms reduce leadership wrangling?

Australia’s last federal election (the 45th) was held on the 2nd July 2016, and resulted in only a  two seat majority for the Coalition in the House of Representatives. The outcome was: Coalition – 76 seats, Labor – 69 seats and 5 cross-bench seats (Independents 2, The Greens 1, Katter’s Australian Party 1, Nick Xenophon Team 1).

This election was called a few months earlier than necessary to accommodate a full senate vote (double dissolution) because of an hostile Senate with 18 cross-benches who refused to pass key legislation. The ploy was not successful since the vote increased the cross-benches to 20, with the Coalition losing 3 seats to 30, and Labor gaining one to 26, in the 76 seat House.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had became Australia’s 29th Prime Minister in a leadership ballot held on the 14th September 2015 as a result of which he inherited a 30 seat absolute majority in the House of Representatives won in the September 7, 2013 election by Tony Abbott.

As an election winning first-term Prime Minister, like Kevin Rudd five years earlier, Tony Abbott was naturally aggrieved, and is now the focus on continuing in-fighting within the Coalition, despite there being two years before the next federal election in 2019. This is fomenting discord, hindering mid-term decision making, and may well hand victory to Labor at the next election.

Under our Constitution the Prime Minister is required to call an election at any time within three years of taking office. Exercise of this discretion has resulted in the average parliamentary term since Federation being just 2 years and 7 months.

It is a call which few leaders would wish to relinquish, but it diverts attention from the serious business of governing and framing legislation in the best interest of the nation to arguing and jostling for power within the party as the next election approaches. Since parties, not voters, elect the leadership, incumbent leaders may be unfairly scrutinized and dumped in favour of contenders perceived to have better prospects for success.

In 1715 UK parliamentary terms were increased to a limit of 7 years, from 3 years,  to reduce cost and improve the stability of government. However terms were limited to 5 years in 1911 and in 2011 fixed terms of 5 years were introduced.

In spite of this, UK Prime Minister Theresa May was able to foolishly call an election for 8 June 2017, after a term of just 2 years and 32 days. She lost majority government, and raised questions about her own political nous, and ability to negotiate favourable terms for Britain’s departure from the European Union.





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Politicking, the price of democracy?

It is barely a year since the last federal election, but already the political heat is building to discard Malcolm Turnbull as Leader of the ruling Coalition Party.

Turnbull is charged with departing from the core conservative values of the Liberal Party, to embrace the policies of the left, such as needs-based education funding, the national disability scheme, and now seeking consensus with the opposition on the future of energy planning in relation to climate change. Furthermore there is scare-mongering that the next target will be the legalization of gay marriage!

It is not that long ago (2007) that Kevin Rudd similarly had an over-whelming win over a jaded John Howard. Yet he was deposed by Julia Gillard in the lead-up to the 2010 election. She did manage to scrape back in for Labor by forming a minority government, but eventually, three years later, Kevin Rudd had his revenge and was re-instated to the leadership. Not-surprisingly, he lost the subsequent election.

Will political history be repeated by the Liberal Party? Whatever the outcome in the next 6-12 months, the in-fighting is likely to be damaging for their chances of winning another term. A Labor win would almost certainly ensure the passage of gay marriage legislation.

I dislike repetitive sloganeering, such as Abbott’s labeling of carbon trading charges as a “carbon tax”, and Shorten’s oft repeated assertion that the Coalition would dismantle Medicare. But it is the unbalanced reporting of news events, and at times ridicule of political opponents, by powerful biased media figures, that I find most distasteful.

Alan Jones September 2012, trying to be funny, suggested on air that Julia Gillard should be “put into a chaff bag and thrown into the sea”. In the height of bad taste he also suggested that Julia Gillard’s recently deceased father died of shame thinking he had a daughter who told lies every time she stood for parliament.

Politicians are duty bound to represent the interests of their supporter base, but also have an obligation to all Australians. The public is more likely to support moderates who respect the national interest than those with extreme or narrow views.

Arguably Tony Abbott lost office because he gave the perception that he was more concerned with preserving privilege for conservative supporters, than in promoting private enterprise and the upwards mobility of the less fortunate.





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A plea for more evidence-based political decision making.

The Impossible Dream?

What odds would you give that the besieged Turnbull government will be able to achieve bipartisan agreement on how to tackle climate change? Australia has had a decade of political point scoring between the two major parties, on this issue of immense global concern. Unfortunately, party ideology and political expediency, often take precedence over objective evidence, regardless of what is in the best interest of all Australians.

Then there is an ideological power play simmering within the Coalition Party ranks over the direction of Energy policy. This  centers on the future of coal-mining, in relation to emission targets.

Stoking the coal fires is a coterie of leading media voices, mostly climate change skeptics, who blame the shift from coal-fired electricity generation to renewable energy production, for the rise in the price of electricity. But coal generation plants are ageing, and more will soon need to close.  Renewable power generation has now become the cheaper option, but because appropriate battery storage capacity is not yet adequate, some new low-emission coal powered stations remain in the energy equation.

Fossil fuels are finite resources, and need to be conserved as much as possible. Non-polluting renewable energy generation must be the way for future generations.

To whom should you listen?

Certainly not unqualified persons chanting ideological mantra. If you have a problem you need independent and competent specialist advice, advice based on the weight of evidence. This the government has in the Finkel Report.



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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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