Carbon tax did it

Hey, stop blaming the Abbott Government for the things falling apart on their watch. It’s not their fault. They’re trying to fix the place, but Labor’s carbon tax makes that impossible. And Labor just refuses to let them repeal the carbon tax and solve all the nation’s problems.

I’m putting up a handy thread here for us all to record shemozzles as they continue to happen under this new adult government so we can remember what could have been saved or fixed if only Labor had voted to repeal the carbon tax. (NOTE: comments including a link to where the people involved in the debacle in question expressly contradict claims the carbon tax had anything to do with it WILL BE DELETED WITH PREJUDICE.)

UPDATE: Companies that have noticed the carbon tax having negligible effect on their business, contrary to the government’s claims, FOR GOD SAKE KEEP THAT TO YOURSELVES. Learn from the story of Qantas and its insolently disobedient board, that made the foolish mistake of contradicting the government and is now unconvincingly scrambling to make it up to them. Don’t let that happen to you. Blame the carbon tax early and often.

Tony Abbott finally says something so obviously against Australia’s interests that media stop covering for him; public turns*

Even if you have little sympathy for the fellow human beings fleeing persecution and asking for our help, even if you’ve internalised ridiculously misleading and flat-out inaccurate phrases like “illegals”, “queue jumpers”, “country shoppers”, and “non-genuine refugees”… if you’re otherwise a rational Australian you’d realise that a few thousand people on boats could never damage our country as much as a significant deterioration in our relationship with Indonesia, our most populous neighbour.

This new PM, Tony Abbott, ranks that relationship BELOW his obsession with persecuting refugees.

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The Oz tries to minimise what that damage might mean, making it sound like just a few meaningless speeches, and the News Ltd tabloids are presently a hotbed of “who do those Indons think they are” macho idiocy – but if you think sensibly for a few moments, you couldn’t possibly dismiss it so cavalierly.

…even if this means enduring significant damage to [our] relationship with Indonesia

As if that’s a pissy second-order issue.

It’s true we’ve done things to piss off the Indonesians before – when we (eventually) stood up for the human rights of the East Timorese (before stabbing them in the back for their precious natural resources); most recently when we tried to prevent animal cruelty to our livestock. But unlike the present case, we were not alone in the former – we were backed by most of the rest of the world. And the latter issue didn’t involve affronts to Indonesian sovereignty. In an Indonesian election year.

This new government we’ve got aren’t “adults”. They’re children playing at being cowboys. And if we let them keep doing it, it’s hard to have confidence it won’t seriously hurt us all.

*Not really, obviously.

Like most conservative Australians, I’m sure we can trust the government to do the right thing without any oversight

OK, ok. The leftists are out there constantly claiming that we’re doing all sorts of monstrous crap to country-shopping fake-refugees that, in reality, most of us know we’re being far too nice to.

We just know we are. If we weren’t, we’d have heard about it, surely?

And since we know that our treatment of refugees is, if anything, too nice, because otherwise we’d have heard about it, that means that secrecy is fine, since we already know we’re being too nice. If there’s anything we know about governments, it’s that they can be trusted to do the right thing when nobody’s keeping track of them.

As Tony Abbott, our trustworthy and honourable new Prime Minister, declared this week:

Abbott was also questioned by the breakfast TV hosts about whether he was happy with the conditions inside detention centres.

“I am confident that we are running these centres competently and humanely,” replied Abbott.

So shut up about it. Why would the PM declare that the centres were being run “competently” and “humanely” if they weren’t? What’s his motivation to lie? Why must you leftists be so cynical and untrusting of government? If you’re going to be so untrusting, maybe you’re exactly the wrong people to be keeping tabs on what’s happening in these places.

Fair enough that Nauru is trying to drive you meddlesome busybodies away.

Stop trying to expose things we don’t want to know about because whilst we want our government to do monstrous things to our fellow human beings to drive them away, it’s much harder to endorse cruelty when the details are right in front of us. Stop undermining our carefully-constructed edifice of plausible denial.

The government is NOT doing indefensible things on our behalf. Shut up, it isn’t. And if it turns out later that it was, it’s not our fault – we didn’t know about it. NOBODY TOLD US. Shut up, nobody told us. You did not.

And the victims are only foreigners, anyway.

Pyne: yes, but there’s more to Australian history than the massacres

So I hear that Christopher “Yes, he’s seriously the federal Minister for Education” Pyne has a new plan to revise the National Curriculum. “Teachers like certainty”, he said, as he declared that everything they’d been preparing would now be torn apart by two totally random guys who are going to, with a small amount of admin support, perform a comprehensive review of the curriculum that took years to develop, in four months. I guess they’ll be working weekends.

Chris reckons that, despite all the places where it does just that, the curriculum “has not sold or talked about the benefits of western civilisation in our society”:

It’s very important the curriculum is balanced in its approach to that. It’s very important the truth be told in our history. So, yes, the truth of the way we’ve treated Indigenous Australians should be told in our curriculum. But also the truth about the benefits of Western civilisation should be taught in our curriculum. And I think that there is some fair criticism that the curriculum is balanced one way rather than the other.

I’m totally with Chris. Like most Australians, I remember spending most of my time at school learning about Australian historical atrocities – like this one I drove past on Friday on my way back from Narrandera that I’m sure you, as an educated Australian, know all about:

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Oh, not Poison Waterholes Creek again!

And yet nobody ever focused on the key achievements of Western Civilization, like the rule of law. Imagine what would happen if young Australians grow up not understanding the importance of fundamental protections our civilisation took hundreds of years to develop, like the right to not be imprisoned without a fair trial? Imagine what a government made up of such a generation might do.

Thank goodness Chris recognises the danger.

The Pyrrhic-est of Pyrrhic “victories” for the anti-equality side

There’s a lot of sadness around the country after the High Court today overturned the ACT’s same-sex marriage legislation. Tony Abbott’s government succeeded in annulling the marriages of those 27 same-sex couples who married in the ACT over the weekend. It’s difficult to imagine how horrible it would be, a few days into your honeymoon, to have the government of your country succeed in declaring that your marriage doesn’t count at all.

However. Today’s ruling is actually a huge win for Marriage Equality.

To explain why, let’s quickly review the situation.

Australia has a federal system of government. The old States came together at the end of the 19th century and their people agreed to give a new Commonwealth Government certain powers, listed in section 51 of the Constitution. On those matters, the federal government can pass laws and if there’s a conflict between them and a state law, the federal law prevails (s109).

Marriage is one of those powers (s51xxi and s51xxii).

Between 1901 and today, the understanding of marriage has clearly changed. For one thing, it’s no longer “for life”. For another, you don’t need the permission of your spouse to divorce. The question as far as passing laws on marriage equality in Australia is concerned has always been – does “marriage” as defined in the Constitution include same sex marriage or not? Is it the whole subject of any possible interpretation of “marriage”, or is it only what marriage was in 1901?

There were three possible answers:

  1. The Federal Government has complete power to legislate on marriage, including to pass laws accepting same sex marriage;
  2. The Federal Government only has power to legislate on “1901 marriage”, ie heterosexual marriage, which leaves laws on same sex marriage to the states; or
  3. The Constitution has established marriage as heterosexual marriage, the definition almost certainly in the minds of the drafters in 1901, which means neither the federal government NOR the States can pass marriage equality legislation and the only way to do so would be with a referendum.

If the answer was 3, it’d push back marriage equality by a decade or more. Referenda are very difficult to pass in Australia. (This option was very unlikely, but advice from expert practitioners in Constitutional law was that it was possible.)

If it was 2, and the ACT laws had stood, then it would have been a slow process of waiting for states to pass same sex marriage laws around the country. GLBTI people in Queensland and WA, for example, would have been waiting a very long time. In the meanwhile, we’d have had a hodge-podge of inconsistent marriage laws around the country. Worse, it would have been established that the only way to have a national system is getting all the states to sit down together and agree to one. You can imagine when we’d have seen that.

The best answer has always been 1. And that’s the answer we got today. The High Court bent over backwards to clarify that same sex marriage IS DEFINITELY ALLOWED BY OUR CONSTITUTION:

9. This Court must decide whether s 51(xxi) permits the federal Parliament to make a law with respect to same sex marriage because the ACT Act would probably operate concurrently with the Marriage Act if the federal Parliament had no power to make a national law[5] providing for same sex marriage. If the federal Parliament did not have power to make a national law with respect to same sex marriage, the ACT Act would provide for a kind of union which the federal Parliament could not legislate to establish. By contrast, if the federal Parliament can make a national law providing for same sex marriage, and has provided that the only form of marriage shall be between a man and a woman, the two laws cannot operate concurrently.
10. These reasons will show that the Commonwealth and the Territory were right to submit that s 51(xxi) gives the federal Parliament power to pass a law providing for same sex marriage.
11. All arguments to the contrary of the conclusion that s 51(xxi) would support a law providing for same sex marriage begin by referring to what is asserted to have been the settled understanding of the meaning of “marriage” at the time of federation. It is said that, at federation, “marriage” was well understood to have the meaning given to it by several nineteenth century English cases and that the reference to “marriage” in s 51(xxi) must be read accordingly. That is, reference is made to the nineteenth century judicial definitions of marriage on the footing that s 51(xxi) uses a legal term of art, the particular content of which is fixed according to its usage at the time of federation…

15. In Attorney-General (Vict) v The Commonwealth (“the Marriage Act Case”), Windeyer J rightly emphasised[13] that the scope of the powers which the Constitution gives is “not to be ascertained by merely analytical and a priori reasoning from the abstract meaning of words”. (Although Windeyer J dissented from some of the conclusions reached by the Court in the Marriage Act Case, this approach to constitutional construction is wholly orthodox[14].) No doubt, as Windeyer J observed[15], the Constitution was “written in language expressive of the concepts of [English] law” and “[c]onstitutional interpretation is affected by established usages of legal language.” But when s 51(xxi) gives the Parliament legislative power with respect to “marriage”, it gives legislative power with respect to a status, reflective of a social institution, to which legal consequences attach and from which legal consequences follow. In the Marriage Act Case, Dixon CJ said[16] of s 51(xxi) that it covers “the status of the married parties”, that is, “the particular legal position they hold by reason of their married state”. His Honour continued[17], “‘marriage’ is considered as the source of the mutual rights and of the legal consequences which flow from it but requiring the definition, the support and the enforcement of the federal law”.
16. The status of marriage, the social institution which that status reflects, and the rights and obligations which attach to that status never have been, and are not now, immutable. Section 51(xxi) is not to be construed as conferring legislative power on the federal Parliament with respect only to the status of marriage, the institution reflected in that status, or the rights and obligations attached to it, as they stood at federation.
17. One obvious change in the social institution of marriage which had occurred before federation is revealed by reference to the elements which Quick and Garran described as being of the “essence” of marriage, namely that the union be “the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”[18] (emphasis added). By the time of federation, marriage could be dissolved by judicial decree of the civil courts. With the enactment of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 (UK)[19], and equivalent legislation in the Australian colonies[20], marriage became a voluntary union entered into for life. It was no longer a union for life. These legislative changes altered the social institution of marriage in ways which have continued to play out, not only before federation but ever since. The legal rights and obligations attaching to the status of marriage, once indissoluble, could be dissolved. Upon judicial separation, the wife had[21] rights different from her rights during marriage. Upon dissolution, new rights and obligations could be created[22] by order or undertaken by remarriage. The particular detail of these changes is not important. What is important is the observation that neither the social institution of marriage nor the rights and obligations attaching to the status of marriage (or condition of being married) were immutable

35. The social institution of marriage differs from country to country. It is not now possible (if it ever was) to confine attention to jurisdictions whose law of marriage provides only for unions between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Marriage law is and must be recognised now to be more complex. Some jurisdictions outside Australia permit polygamy. Some jurisdictions outside Australia, in a variety of constitutional settings, now permit marriage between same sex couples.
36. These facts cannot be ignored or hidden. It is not now possible (if it ever was) to decide what the juristic concept of marriage includes by confining attention to the marriage law of only those countries which provide for forms of marriage which accord with a preconceived notion of what marriage “should” be. More particularly, the nineteenth century use of terms of approval, like “marriages throughout Christendom”[47] or marriages according to the law of “Christian states”[48], or terms of disapproval, like “marriages among infidel nations”[49], served only to obscure circularity of reasoning. Each was a term which sought to mask the adoption of a premise which begged the question of what “marriage” means. The marriage law of many nations has always encompassed (and now encompasses) relations other than marriage as understood in Hyde v Hyde.
37. Other legal systems now provide[50] for marriage between persons of the same sex. This may properly be described as being a recent development of the law of marriage in those jurisdictions. It is not useful or relevant for this Court to examine how or why this has happened. What matters is that the juristic concept of marriage (the concept to which s 51(xxi) refers) embraces such unions. They are consensual unions of the kind which has been described. The legal status of marriage, like any legal status, applies to only some persons within a jurisdiction[51]. The boundaries of the class of persons who have that legal status are set by law and those boundaries are not immutable[52].
38. When used in s 51(xxi), “marriage” is a term which includes a marriage between persons of the same sex.

In other words, the constitutional question is now settled. The federal parliament can now pass Marriage Equality legislation removing the present discrimination in the Marriage Act and there’s no doubt it will stand. Same sex marriage is definitely a type of marriage covered by the constitutional marriage power. It no longer matters what people thought marriage meant in 1901.

The fight is now concentrated in one area, and one area only – the federal parliament. And while we have this argument, there are 27 Australian same-sex couples who we’ve seen marry, and who put a clear face on the injustice of the present discrimination.

Make no mistake – last weekend was a step forward. Today was an even bigger step forward.

UPDATE: The Sydney Morning Herald has noticed the victory, too.

Although their insta-poll designer hasn’t understood the headline:

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Which answer is “Yes. It was the right decision BECAUSE Everyone should be allowed to marry the person they love.”?

5 things the poor pay more for

Fascinating article out of the US this week, in which a lady living in poverty explains just why it is that the sort of decisions people make in that situation that many more fortunate people mock or, worse, use as if they’re justifications for a person’s poverty, why those decisions are in fact perfectly logical and understandable and you’d probably make them yourself. You might find it eye-opening.

Now, we don’t live in America, and our welfare system is of course not as terrible as theirs. But NewStart is still kept well below subsistence level – which means not “you can’t live on it comfortably” but “you can’t live on it without falling into impossible debt and going without food or other necessities”.

Worse, many people don’t realise that the poor actually pay more for many things, further entrenching their poverty.

Here are some examples:

  1. Housing – if you don’t have a good job and good credit, you won’t be accepted for desirable properties, ie insulated, secure houses at the best prices in locations with decent public transport. You’ll have to pay more for a dump nowhere near anything which will be harder to heat and cool and cost more to secure. Also renting means that you can be forced to move with two months’ notice at the landlord’s convenience – good luck finding the money for house-moving transport when you’re already in debt.
  2. Transport – the poor have to live more remotely, where public transport costs more (we really should get rid of zoning systems for fares) and is less available. They can’t afford to keep their cheaper cars regularly serviced, so when they die they die more seriously, and because they’re cheaper and older they die more often.
  3. Utilities – if you’re poor, you can only afford an old fridge (the seals of which have probably gone) or at the best a new very inefficient fridge. Same for heating, washing machine etc. Your house won’t be well insulated, and you couldn’t afford to insulate it even if you had the right, which you don’t because, of course, you’re renting. Oh and you don’t get to take advantage of government subsidies for things like solar panels – those are just for the wealthy who own their own homes. Guess what – you’ll be paying a vast amount more on your electricity bill.
  4. Money costs more. They can’t get cheap credit secured by their home loan: they have to take the crappier credit deals where they pay more for less. Their credit fees cover wealthier people’s fee-free credit cards. And once they do fall into credit card debt – and good luck not doing that, when you’re trying to survive on below-subsistence NewStart – the interest on the interest on the interest becomes simply unsalvageable. It becomes a permanent tax on poverty, the recipients of which are the wealthy.
  5. Healthcare – whilst at least we cover most things if you’ve got a health care card, it’s not comprehensive. Bulk-billing doctors are difficult to find. There are massive waits for even basic surgery. I once had a client with his arm off at the shoulder who, for month after month after month kept being bumped for private patients even after being prepped for surgery. They pay for this in sick leave they don’t have from bad employers who’ll just sack them, and self-destructive workarounds (starting with terrible fast food) while they’re incapacitated.

And two bonus points as to why they’re even more screwed by the above than you would be:

  • They don’t have networks of comfortable friends and family who can help them in emergencies.
  • It’s harder to get a decent job to get out of this nightmare. Where’s the money for a clean suit and personal grooming for an interview? Sorry, car broke down on way. No, left two hours early for the interview on the terrible public transport where I live in Dumpsville Nowhere and the train was cancelled. No I don’t have an email address I can’t afford the internet connection. And if you do get the job – your work day will be hours longer than those of your colleagues because you’ll be travelling much further on much worse transport. Good luck out-performing them!

Those are not comprehensive lists, either. Please feel free to suggest others in the comments.

The point is, the status quo crushes the poor. It locks in poverty. We are wasting the talents of many of our citizens with a profoundly unfair system that prevents them working their way ahead. Anyone thinking we should do less for the poor needs to try a week living in their shoes.

I knew it was going to be bad, but… do even Liberal voters want this? or; in which Australia becomes an international pariah

So this morning’s news is that, far from criticising Sri Lanka for its recent blatant human rights abuses, the Abbott government is actually giving them Australian warships to stop people trying to escape.

Yes, you read that right: we are GIVING THEM SHIPS to stop people fleeing human rights abuses. This is a government so authoritarian last week it detained an Australian senator for holding a press conference criticising its record.

Meanwhile, Scott “I seriously have no conscience at all” Morrison has, in the last fortnight:

All because we’re ludicrously paranoid about people seeking refuge here.

Liberal/National voters, I’m finding it really difficult to even look at you right now.