That’ll learn ’em

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Tony was a prison guard at one of the prisons in NSW. He wasn’t a violent man, at first. But the other guards kept telling him what scumbags many of the prisoners were, and of the terrible things they’d done. They reminded him that his taxes were paying to feed the bastards. The Daily Telegraph told him that prisoners (presumably in other jails, because all the ones he’d seen in real life were actually pretty awful) were eating lobster and playing Playstation on their flat-screen TVs. He started to feel a bit resentful about the whole thing. And then one day as he was moving one of the prisoners to his cell, the prisoner called him something insulting. With words. From his mouth. And since it was already a bit of a physical environment, dragging another adult around and shoving him into things, it wasn’t a stretch for Brad to punch the prisoner in the mouth. The other guards laughed and said he had it coming.

After that, Brad discovered that he quite liked the feeling of power he got from assaulting prisoners. He punched, and he kicked, and he dragged, and he hurt them. And the other guards told him he was actually just meting out justice. People joking in the pub about prisoners being bashed told him that he was meting out justice. The Daily Telegraph cheering on violent assaults on prisoners told him he was meting out justice.

He did like his job “meting out justice” and feeling powerful through vicious assaults on other people in his care.

But Tony totally maintained the boundaries between his work and home life and did not in any way start to apply what he’d learned in prison in the outside world. He never ever hit his family members when he got annoyed, even though he spent his days reinforcing that it was okay to do that. No prison guard trained to feel powerful by assaulting other people ever has, at least not in any significant numbers, for all you know.

* * *

Joe was a violent thug who’d been in and out of prison for most of his life. Unlike Brad, he’d always known he liked hitting people.

And what was awesome about his time in prison is that, so long as he only brutally assaulted the people out of favour with the guards, they let him! In fact, they told him he was just meting out some “justice” to people who deserved it. Joe loved the feeling of some weaker person crumbling before his fists, and he kind of looked forward to his time in prison where when he beat people up, nobody in authority really cared. The guards didn’t tase him like the police might have. If he sent a prisoner to the hospital they made jokes and often if they caught him doing it they even cheered him on. He began to feel that basically he was quite justified in assaulting other people, and he was doing the community a service, and it didn’t really matter if he did stuff on the outside that sent him to prison because that was where people respected his particular skills.

But still, despite all that, he totally didn’t commit any more assaults when he next got out, because he’d learned that violence was wrong and he should avoid going back to prison.

* * *

Tim was not a violent thug, at least at first. He was in prison for trafficking cannabis. He had a pretty serious drug problem who’d bought some in bulk, figuring he could sell it to his other drug-using mates to pay for his habit. And in NSW they sent him to jail for it. What he learned in jail, as Joe belted him to a pulp that first week with the guards not giving a damn, was that being on the receiving end of physical violence sucks. He couldn’t rely on the prison authorities to protect him from brutal assaults, so he would have to do it himself. He spent the rest of his time in prison bulking up until he was strong enough to assault weaker prisoners. He learned the law of the jungle, how to use physical violence to exert power. He learned to like it.

But when he got out of prison he totally did not continue to rely on his recent training in thuggery. He wasn’t at all brutalised and turned into a force of anger and rage that would violently lash out at ordinary citizens when he discovered he had no employment opportunities because of his record and basically would have to return to crime to survive, but this time knowing how to hurt people. It all worked out fine.

* * *

Rupert was actually a pretty horrible person. What he liked most was raping people. Eventually he was caught and sent to prison, where he feared he would be under the authorities’ eyes twenty four hours a day and wouldn’t even get to beat anyone up, let alone rape them.

But there was good news in store for Rupert. It turned out that people were happy to turn a blind eye to his raping other people in prison so long as they were sufficiently terrible. The guards would turn a blind eye. When he caught sight of a copy of the Daily Telegraph he’d see people joking about it, suggesting that his raping of other prisoners was actually “justice”. Yeah, he thought, justice! This is great! And his victims were trapped with him. And he got to rape so many people that by the time he got out he’d discovered new and more disturbing types of sexual assaults. And why would he mind going back to prison, since it gave him more of what he wanted?

So Rupert learned his lesson that rape is one of the most serious crimes that society does not endorse in any way and once he left the prison system became a model citizen and never raped anyone again.



Hard not to hear this Foreigner anthem about Scott Morrison whenever he pops up to do some other horrible thing to more than justify it. So few changes required it’s almost redundant amending the lyrics at all.

Cold As Ice

You’re as cold as ice
You’re willing to sacrifice their lives

You never take advice
Today they’ll pay the price
I know

I’ve seen it before
It’s happened many times
You’re closing the door
You leave the world behind
You’re digging for votes
Yet throwing away
Australia’s reputation
And someday we’ll pay

You’re as cold as ice
You’re willing to sacrifice their lives
You live in Paradise
But someday you’ll pay the price
I know

I’ve seen it before
It’s happened many times
You’re closing the door
You leave the world behind
You’re digging for votes
Yet throwing away
Australia’s reputation
And someday we’ll pay

Cold as ice, you know that you are
Cold, cold, as, as, ice, as cold as ice to them
Cold, cold, as, as, ice

Ooh, ooh, ooh, cold as, cold as ice
You’re as cold as ice
You’re as cold as ice, cold as ice, we know
You’re as cold as ice, yes we know
You’re as cold as ice, cold as ice, we know
You’re as cold as ice, oh yes we know
You’re as cold as ice, cold as ice, we know
You’re as cold as ice, oh yes we know
You’re as cold as ice, cold as ice

PS Hey did you hear we’re kidnapping people off boats in international waters now?

49% risk of torture or death? We’ll make ’em take it.

So… what kind of human beings are we?

The Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, is planning to increase the stakes dramatically in deciding whether his nation should send an asylum seeker away to the dungeons and the hands of brutes.

And he wants to put a figure on the ghastly business. Yes. He’s offering an each-way bet, set a bit shy of 50-50.

Applicants for asylum on the basis of fear of torture must establish, under his proposal, that there is more than a 50 per cent probability that they will be subjected to agony or even death if returned to the country they have fled.

In short, if there is a mere 49 to 50 per cent chance of escaping being hung by one’s thumbs from meathooks while being thrashed by a length of electrical flex, that’s good enough for Mr Morrison. They can be sent to whatever fate might await them.

And I doubt you’d find many Australians happy to hold the Coalition’s front bench to that same standard. 49% chance of brutal torture or death if we put them on this plane? No, they’re not that bad. They’re not, you know, asylum seeker children.

Meanwhile, on this link there’s a video of Scott telling shattered refugees that they’ll be staying in those camps for “a very very long time” unless they voluntarily go back into danger.

If you voted for this, or worse – are intending to keep voting for this, then I have some rather unkind words for you. But they’re not as unkind as what you’re prepared to do to vulnerable people.

UPDATE: Apparently there’s been some confusion in the comments as to whether Australia really would do something like this.

Here’s the Government’s bill to amend the Migration Act to make this the new test:

6A(2) The Minister can only be satisfied that Australia has protection obligations in respect of the non citizen if the Minister considers that it is more likely than not that the non citizen will suffer significant harm if the non citizen is removed from Australia to a receiving country.

Because, for women, there’s really no such thing as the passive male gaze

So I had a friend who went for a walk one sunny morning this week. As he was standing waiting for the lights to change, there was what he describes as a particularly attractive young woman, in very tight jeans and a revealing top, standing in front of him with her partner. He only glanced for a moment, but he did notice her. She seemed to sense his look and, without turning around, pulled on a bulky jacket that covered down to her knees, and took her partner’s hand.

Because we live in a world where women have to fear the male gaze, because it is attached to a culture of entitlement and violence, and every stranger is Schrodinger’s rapist*. It might be lovely to live in a world where men and women could appreciate each others’ physical appearance without anyone’s discomfort. Where a stranger smiling at you could be a safely pleasant experience – but that’s not the world women live in. They live in the real world, where any male who “checks them out” could be the psycho who then hurts them. In the real world, male interest isn’t a compliment, it’s a threat.

So, stranger at the lights, my friend is sorry that his glance made you uncomfortable (assuming you didn’t just pull the jacket on because you were cold in the sun). His momentary pleasure in admiring your physical form does not outweigh the sense of discomfort you may have quite reasonably experienced from a male stranger’s notice. It was an indulgence of his own privilege, and he regrets it.

*By the time you open the box and find out, it’s too late.

Fixer Upper

OK, so Frozen is a kids’ movie – but it’s not like the messages in such things don’t have an effect that’s important to critique. And if Andrew Bolt can be published in the Herald Sun ranting about The Incredibles or Godzilla, I can damn well write something on a blog about a track I accidentally got stuck in my head.

So, while I sit here recovering from hospital with a cat perched on my shoulders (seriously, Polly, wtf), I’d just like to object to the song “Fixer Upper”.

The trolls meet Anna, and after being told she and Kristoff aren’t together, start interrogating her.

What’s the issue, dear?
Why are you holding back from such a man?

Because of course a woman must be interested in a man by default, and if she isn’t, well it’s something that needs to be “fixed”. Seriously?

But you’ll never meet a fellow who’s as
Sensitive and sweet!
So he’s a bit of a fixer-upper,
So he’s got a few flaws…

And they then proceed to try to argue her into being interested in him, with a list of silly quirks that aren’t so bad.

oh he’s a bit of a fixer-upper,
but this we’re certain of
You can fix this fixer-upper
Up with a little bit of love!

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Abbott government creates interest-incurring personal debt for 1.5 million Australians

Conservatives like to make a big deal about sovereign risk – the idea that if a new government is willing to change the rules after people have entered into deals with it, then people will not trust it in future, and its costs of doing business will increase.

Apparently that doesn’t matter if the people with whom it’s doing business are ordinary Australians.

The Australian Government in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s made a deal with the most recent generations of Australian students. Unlike your parents, we’ll be charging you for your degrees. Sure, we could just tax you progressively like everyone else if you make lots of money as a result of that degree, but we’re going to specifically make you pay us back for that degree itself, when your income hits an average sort of level. The repayment will be indexed with CPI so you do pay us back the real cost of that degree.

HECS no interest

OK? Sign up to that, and you can go to university.

Fast-forward to 2014 and this new Abbott Liberal/National Coalition government is changing that deal, quite drastically, and after the fact – not just for future students, but anyone with an existing HECS/HELP “debt”:

A new minimum repayment threshold for HELP will be introduced from the 2016‑17 income year (1 July 2016‑30 June 2017). In that year, graduates will commence repaying their HELP debt once their income reaches an estimated $50,638. A 2 per cent repayment rate will apply for those with incomes above this new threshold, up to the existing threshold (estimated to be $56,264 for the 2016-17 income year)…

HELP debts will be indexed by the Treasury 10 year bond rate (to a maximum of 6.0 per cent per annum) rather than the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This means that government is lending money at broadly the same rate it borrows money. The new arrangements will apply to all HELP debts that are subject to indexation on 1 June 2016, regardless of when the debt was incurred and whether the student is still studying or has completed their studies.

Got it? If you have a $100,000 HECS debt, then guess what – you just gained a second “mortgage”. (Well, a debt like a mortgage, only without actually having an asset to cover it.) Would you have borrowed $100,000 if it was going to have interest charged on it? Maybe not, but stiff – this government is changing the rules on you.

You’ll be paying it back as soon as your income hits $50k, considerably less than the current average Australian wage of $74,760.40. Got it? Because this government assumes everyone at University graduates with an above-average wage (serves you right for spending taxpayer money studying a low-paying degree in order to help ordinary Australians, social workers!), it will hit you hard the minute you reach two thirds of the average wage – and if you take a while to get there, don’t worry: your debt will be incurring interest and growing ever more severe with every passing day.

Big gamble for poor people going to university now, isn’t it? Better pick a high-paying degree, or we’re throwing you into a debt trap. (On the much higher fees that universities will now be free to charge.)

But, I suppose – at least students commencing degrees now will get to make the decision, knowing the (ridiculous, prohibitive) cost. The 1.5 million Australians who just got lumped with an interest-bearing debt were never warned when they incurred that debt that any future government would have the unbelievable gall to create a mortgage-sized debt on them out of thin air.

Because that’s what has just happened – unless we somehow stop it.

It’s the perfect storm of unfairness, of inequity, of destruction to the future of Australia. It’s unfair on students now and in the past. It’s inequitable and puts higher education out of the reach of the poor. And it will drive down enrolments in degrees whose graduates might not make a lot of money, but whose contributions to the future of the country are vital.

Is this the worst thing in this most ridiculous and indefensible of budgets, in which the government slashes spending to fund its tax cuts for the rich? Well, maybe not – gouging a huge hole in the safety net so that we are actually saying to Australian citizens “I’m sorry, but if you can’t find a job and don’t have the money to enrol in a course then you’ll just have to starve to death for six months each year” is even worse, let alone imprisoning refugee children on remote islands without any protections, or wrecking universal healthcare to discourage poor people from going to the doctor – but, still. I’ve never heard of the Australian government making a deal with 1.5 million Australians and then sneakily turning it into an interest-bearing debt.

It’s not enough for the ALP to block random measures of this Budget. There’s nothing worth salvaging. The whole thing needs to be thrown out and started again. And no member of this thoroughly untrustworthy, cynically dishonest, class warrior, far-right, society-destroying government deserves to win a seat in an Australian parliament ever again.

UPDATE: Dear easily-confused media. The government is indeed forcing people to pay their HECS “sooner”, but it is completely false to describe the interest issue as just “higher interest”. The issue is that they’re charging interest where people signed up to the scheme being promised to be charged no interest. Yes, it was to be adjusted with CPI – but that’s not in any way interest. CPI just means that the value of the debt is adjusted to take into account inflation. Interest makes the debt bigger for every year you can’t pay it, compounding.

(Please tell me Australian journalists understand the difference between CPI adjustments and interest. Please.)

In short: this is charging interest after incurring the debt where it was promised none would be charged before incurring the debt.

Budget 2014: setting up for more tax cuts for the rich, funded by grinding the poor into the dust

How to give a certain class of Australians what they want.

Tony Abbott at Daily Tele post-budget party

Tony Abbott at tonight’s Daily Telegraph post-budget party

  • Step 1: Win government, promising that, even though the country’s finances are well-known, you can magically create a “budget surplus” whilst simultaneously cutting taxes, and not cutting spending.
  • Step 2: Exaggerate budgetary difficulties. Double the deficit. Lock in revenue cuts (eg abolishing the mining tax) that help your rich mates. Lock in company tax cuts.
  • Step 3: Claim “budget emergency” (even though anyone paying attention can see that the only things that have changed since the election were done by you)
  • Step 4: Slash basic services for the poor – drive those on NewStart further into poverty, deny young people even that support, bully the poor out of going to the doctor or even the emergency room, cut services for the disabled.
  • Step 5: Cover your permanent assault on the poor with a comparatively small “deficit levy” on certain wealthy people that is, unlike the service cuts, only temporary.
  • Step 6: As soon as the unnecessary cuts produce a surplus, give the proceeds to the rich in more tax cuts.

In short –
Times are good: lock in tax cuts.
Tax cuts wreck the budget: lock in service cuts.
Service cuts create a surplus: more tax cuts.

End result: America.

Still, after all, it’s just what Australians want – which is why before the election we had to tell them none of it would happen. Because of how much they support it.

Oh, alright, yes, they’re angry – now, two and a half years out from the next election, when they can’t do anything about it. Sure, we’ve got a lot of votes to buy back in the next two budgets – but with the money we just gouged out of the poor and vulnerable, history indicates we can do it.

Trust us.