Tag Archives: Tony Abbott

News That’s Fit To Punt – 08/Sep/2014

ICAC Is Still The Gift That Keeps Giving

This is good. Turns out the tentacles of developers and other business interests trying to directly influence the outcomes of policies through donations and bribes, goes right through the office of Pete Credlin, Tony Abbott’s chief of staff. A few days ago, I blithely wrote that we’ve come to the point where vested interests just walk right in and tell the Government what they want, and the Government just writes up policy the way the political donors want it. It wasn’t an ambit claim; it’s pretty much borne out in the emails as revealed at ICAC.

The ICAC has heard that Brickworks used the Free Enterprise Foundation, a shadowy Canberra-based organisation, to channel $125,000 in illicit donations to the NSW Liberals for the March 2011 state election.

Since 2009, property developers have been banned from donating to NSW political parties, but it is legal for such donations to go to federal parties.
One of the previously suppressed emails reveals that, on March 1, 2011, Mr Nicolaou sent Ms Credlin an email titled

“Re Carbon Tax” advising that Brickworks was “a very good supporter of the Party.”
Mr Nicolaou attached an earlier message from the company’s managing director, Lindsay Partridge, which read:

“Paul, Tell Tony to stick to his guns on no carbon tax.
I am running an internal fight with the BCA [Business Council of Australia] who seem to be driven by a few companies who will make bundles out of the tax.”

Ms Credlin replied enthusiastically to Mr Nicolaou’s request.

“Lindsay provided a great line for Question Time. Do you have a number that I might be able to contact him on and see if he was happy for us to use it … ” she said.

I wasn’t kidding. The joke is that people keep turning a blind eye to this stuff and saying “we’re just good friends.” or whatever plausible deniability they can issue. That’s the problem with plausible deniability: it breeds contempt faster than familiarity. It’s like anything else.

If That Wasn’t Skullduggery Enough, There’s Always Christopher Pyne

The hung parliament that Julia Gillard presided over was a terribly difficult thing. power hung so close and yet so elusively far from the opposition of the time. Naturally, people would push hard to get things to happen, and perhaps change the very government.

Such intrigue would have been irresistable to the like of Chris Pyne, and so today we find that Chris Pyne offered James Ashby a  job and a lawyer to go after Pete Sipper, the Speak of the House at the time. What a guy!

It’s grubby, it’s scandalous, and it probably won’t bring down this wretched government. Oh well, such is life in the antipodes.

Scotland Might Actually Go Independent
The latest shock poll suggests the Yes vote is getting ahead of the no vote. It’s so strange to contemplate what this could mean in practical, financial terms. Can an independent Scotland issue a currency of its own? If so, how does it stop it becoming a basket case currency overnight? How will the independent Scottish Parliament stop Scotland from becoming a kind of economic basket case over night? Wouldn’t the wealthy south benefit greatly i it didn’t have to financially support the North? Doesn’t this suggest that the road of independence might be fraught with terrible risks and pitfalls? Will they be able to negotiate with the EU fast enough to join seamlessly? Can it even be done? What would England say? What happens at the border? Will England set up a customs gate near Hadrian’s Wall? All these questions make things incredibly interesting.

Of course, the monarch of the United Kingdom HM Queen Elizabeth II couldn’t possibly be countenancing all this with great majestic joy. one imagines she would be fuming hat things are going to be close, let alone, go towards Scottish independence. It’s so strange how this is coming about in the way that it is.


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News That’s Fit To Punt – 03/Sep/2014

Why? Because Fuck You

Everything this Federal Government does is tainted by a sort of grubby conflict of interest. Of course that’s not confined to the Federal Government, because the greater conflict of interest might actually be Clive Palmer who owns a dirty big mining company, gets to make deals where a tax like the mining tax can get repealed. It’s hard to imagine a more egregious and gratuitous case of helping yourself because you can.

The deal has meant that the government will halt the rise of superannuation. Naturally, with the sensibility of a cheesy movie villain, Tony Abbott tried to sell this as more cash in hand for employees which, frankly made me choke on my lunch. I’m sorry to tell you Mr. Prime Minister, but that’s money that’ll stay in the pockets of companies. Paul Keating has lambasted the government but honestly, if he wanted to still have a meaningful voice, he should’ve stayed on in parliament after 1996.

The repeal of the Mining Tax was of course one of the platforms of the Coalition so we ought not be surprised, but really, it is pretty disgusting how the Coalition are totally happy to sell out Australian citizens in favour of a gaggle of mining billionaires – Clive Palmer among them – and try to sell it as being good for the worker. Can it get any worse?

Yes it can. Here’s how.

An Inconvenient Ruse

The emissions for energy generation jumped the most in eight years, since the end of the carbon tax.

So much for Al Gore coming to lend a hand in fighting the good fight against global warming. Thanks to the repeal, polluters have gone back to a kind of burn-baby-burn mentality and now it’s out of control. Of course the plan by this government is also to smash the renewables industry, and directly pay these polluters to stop polluting.

It’s like government by stupidity. You’d never have guessed thing would get this bad. No sane mind would have guess it would get this bad. But this unrelenting awfulness – “Operation Ongoing Enormous Clusterfuck” according to FDOM – was their platform! Grin and bear it.

Pink Batts Coming Home To Roost

Pleiades swung this one at me today. The best bit of news might be how the Royal Commission into the Pink Batts has yielded interesting results. In as much as it was a blatant witch hunt, it looks like it delivered a result that was assumed by the proponents of the Commission. Here’s something from Crikey which is behind a pay wall:


First, Hanger found the training regime and regulations at the time of the first of four fatalities in October 2009 to have been seriously inadequate:
“With the exception of South Australia, which had a licensing regime for insulation installers, there was no insulation-industry specific regulation beyond the generally applicable occupational health and safety regulation.”
But here’s the thing: then-minister for the environment Peter Garrett and his staff had spent most of 2009 tightening regulations and procedures. Hanger listed more than 40 interventions to address safety deficiencies — all completed before October. So if the safety framework was still deficient by then, it must have been woefully, if not criminally, inadequate prior to 2008. Having presided over industry growth to the level of about 200,000 new and existing houses insulated annually, the previous Coalition government cannot escape culpability.

Secondly, Hanger opened wide the door to those wanting compensation for the program’s sudden termination:
“I find as follows:
“… the effect of the losses was to devastate many long-standing businesses … and to cause as well personal financial collapse and severe despair and emotional harm;
“that harm and such circumstances justifies pre-existing businesses being compensated.”
If compensation is won, it will be the Abbott government scrambling to find the funds.
This has a certain rough justice about it, of course. There is an argument that the scheme was not intrinsically dangerous and was not failing, rather that it suffered from extreme misreporting from the outset, by both Coalition MPs and a feral media.

Thirdly, the Commissioner was scathing about Abbott’s staff in the course of the inquiry:
“The Commonwealth did not suggest one witness that ought to be called. It did not generally volunteer documents that were not the subject of a summons to produce. It did not elicit any evidence of its own volition. All of this is despite the fact that it was the repository of the critical documents and the corporate knowledge of what had transpired.”

Not even Peter Garrett copped such a shellacking:
“Furthermore, the Commonwealth hampered the work of those assisting me by the way in which documents were produced … Other than in response to a specific request from the Commission, there seemed no logic in the order in which documents were produced. The Commission asked that documents be produced chronologically, however the Commonwealth did not oblige.”

Finally, the Commissioner made it clear that if the federal government initiated the program, then safety is definitely its problem. Never mind the long history of state responsibility.
“There was much debate about whether workplace health and safety issues were a matter that was of any concern to the Australian Government, or whether it was more properly the concern of the States and Territories. It was said, by a number of federal public servants, that the Australian Government had no regulatory power in the field of workplace health and safety, and therefore that it was not a risk that the Australian Government could control. In my view, this attitude was deplorable.”

That means occupational health and safety is now firmly a problem for the Federal Government. Every time somebody dies in an accident, he article suggests a ministerial head is going to roll. Worse still, the responsibility for the failure didn’t just get sheeted home to the Rudd Government, it also got sheeted home to the Howard Government, and last I checked Tony Abbott was the health minister in the government. This thing is going to boomerang right back at him.

The Housing Bubble That Isn’t But Of Which We Must Be Wary

For months – no make that years! -we’ve been hearing that Australia does not have a housing bubble problem. All the economists who have come and pointed out the great anomalies of housing prices in Australia have been laughed out of the public discourse while the anomalies only get bigger. As late as last month Glenn Stevens of the RBA was talking down any possibility that what we had on our hands was an actual bubble! No, he simply reiterated that sometimes the property market goes down. This month he’s taking a different tack and saying there might be nasty shocks. Included in that link is a bit covering China where he cites a downturn in China might manifest itself as a nasty shock. If that wasn’t enough, David Gonski of the ANZ Bank told the Australian British Chamber of Commerce that booming prices cannot possibly continue forever (now there‘s a brave call).

And lo an behold there’s news that China’s real estate market is going screwy. Some might even say it is crashing like it was a Global Financial Crisis. Speaking of crashing, the commodities market in China is crashing. I wonder if those things combined would form this so-called ‘Nasty Shock’ Glenn Stevens is talking about? Or will Sydney’s housing prices simply just shrug it off and keep climbing?

Stay tuned for more fun!





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Corruption Is The New Governance

It’s Not “Corruption” If It’s Officially Sanctioned? Wow

Pleiades has been sending me material about Dick Warburton and his report. Naturally, as I pointed out yesterday, it is symptomatic of this government that it would appoint a climate change denier to head up a report on Renewable Energy Target. Predictably the Warburton report has recommended the we simply shut up shop on renewable energy. Of course he was savaged by Fran Kelly and promptly lost what little dignity he might have had in pretending he was somehow impartial.

I’ve been thinking about this a little more and it seems to me there is a much bigger problem than just the appointment of the eminently-wrong-person to review something that does not need to be reviewed, especially in the manner that an eminently-wrong-person may review such things. It’s basically handing out policy to be designed by the lobbyists – which is basically as corrupt an enterprise you can have, running a government. We saw this earlier in the year when they handed out the economic policy thinking to the likes of  Tony Shepherd and Amanda Vanstone. Basically, this government doesn’t have a thinking function, and glommed into government through nay-saying. Having put themselves in government it has dawned on them that they haven’t got any kind of coherent policy so they’ve decided to do the classic corporate thing to do and handed out the thinking to subcontractors who are lobbyists, as a company might subcontract out some tricky bit of business.

The problem is all these lobbyists are the most vested of vested interests and worse still are not accountable to the public in the way the politicians are meant to be accountable. So now, there is no denying that corporate lobbies pay money into parties to get access, and when they get access to the ministerial level, they return favours by saying. “look, you tell us what you want and we’ll just do it.” It genuinely is government by the lobbyists of the lobbyists for the lobbyists. And there’s no shame at all. There’s no need for corrupt little brown envelopes with cash in them because these Liberal Party government office-holders just want to openly do exactly what the lobbyists want and tell them. It’s like that joke: “what do you call a hamster with its own roll of gaffer tape?” – “A slut”. The only reason it’s not called corruption is because there’s nothing subterfuge about it. It’s a bit like how the hamster in the joke might not be considered a prostitute because it doesn’t take money.

It’s a classic case study in what happens when you substitute actual thinking with ideological slogans. It’s staggering, even if we knew this was exactly what we would get if this bunch of traitorous sell-outs got into power. Yet, that’s essentially what we’ve got – a government busily selling out the interests of its people in the name of doing and being open for business. They’re a truly repugnant lot.

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View From The Couch – 02/Sep/2014

The Rot Sets In

This really is a crappy government, and nothing can cover it up. Amazingly they don’t even try to cover it up, which is even more astounding – and by astounding I mean in the negative direction, like one might describe an abcessed tooth.  A better word might be excruciating, for that is the word Evelyn Waugh gave to Sebastian Flyte in ‘Brideshead Revisited’ to describe his toothache. We have a federal government that is a deep, throbbing, incapacitating pain that simply will not go away. In a sign that time really does fly, it is nearing one year since last year’s terrible Federal election that installed this government of entitled intellectual runts (and other things that rhyme with runts), and in that time they have managed to kick a good half-dozen own-goals.

The biggest of these own goals might be the budget, which was announced at the beginning of May as all budgets are, but has since failed to pass the senate. In the four months since the budget was unveiled, it has demolished the credbility of Joe Hockey as Treasurer as well as eaten into the meagre genuine support the Coalition had at the Federal election. The truth is nobody outside of the regular conservative set wanted an Abbot Government; they just wanted the naked-ego freakshow that was the Rudd/Gillard ALP Government to end. Not even the properly educated ranks of the conservatives liked Tony Abbott. Let us remind ourselves that Malcolm Fraser quit the Liberal Party because he just couldn’t take the Abbott leadership. Let’s be clear, it wasn’t that he couldn’t take it seriously, but that having been forced to take it seriously, he refused to comply and support it.

Not even his own side think Tony Abbott as Prime Minister is a serious proposition. And so we have conservative commentators in recent weeks pimping for the next leader. Peter Reith picked Julie Bishop. There is momentum building. Peter Hartcher wrote a favorable article praising her efforts in the Ukraine MH17 incident. You would think the very fact that the weather balloons are going up is a bad sign, but nobody is seriously making supporting noises for Julie Bishop. Julie Bishop is an interesting politician in that she served Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott as deputy leader of the Liberal Party, so presumably the party think very highly of her ability. It’s just that their stupid sexism has prevented them from installing her as the leader in the quick succession of changes. If the response to the weather balloon may well change things. I do wonder if this government could get better if it were run by Julie Bishop and not Tony Abbott. It’s all a bit of a quandary wondering who you would hate less as Prime Minister.

Still, there is a possibility Tony Abbott’s personal standing in the polls never rises above the levels plumbed by Julia Gillard before him, which would suggest the party room will get restless. It might not happen tomorrow or next month, but if Tony stays as bad for as long as Julia Gillard did, then it might be time for the Liberal Party faithful to do their own bait-and-switch months before the next election, and install Julie Bishop as Prime Minister. I’d imagine it’s on the cards given how much smoke there is coming out of the media. Let’s then say she gets installed and wins the next election. That would be roughly 4 prime ministers in 4 terms, 3 of whom did not finish their first full term. That’s 12years of Australian Federal politics being booted around by people who are essentially playing musical chairs. The lousy thing is that it would represent 12years wasted experimenting with ever more extreme policies to not much good effect.

While it hasn’t quite happened that way yet, all it would take might be a few more bad polls and the budget not getting through.

Climate Change Deniers In Power

It’s also a truly awful thing when a government ignores the overwhelming science and installs a climate change denier on to a panel to shepherd a statement that says we should do less for the environment. The Appointment to Dick Warburton to review climate change was a bit like putting a sociopath with no empathy to review child abuse cases in the Church. Then again, that’s exactly what the Catholic Church did by making Cardinal George Pell to that role, so maybe there’s a certain kind of thinking that the worst possible person would bring in the most politically expedient result. Warburton’s report says the government should just give up on saving the environment and instead just do as little as possible. That’s not proper policy – that’s just letting the vested interests have their way. It’s a travesty, really.

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18C Changes Dropped

What Starts As Bad Politics Ends As Bad Politics

I don’t know of many governments that come to power as out of touch with community values than the government we currently have in Canberra. This week they have finally abandoned plans to change 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Having taken this idiotic policy to the election and won the election, it must have made sense to them to push this agenda, but I can’t think of a more egregious example of having misread the electorate. Having whipped up a shitstorm of hysteria about broken promises over carbon pricing and the mining tax, it was conceivable that the Coalition had some claim to having an electoral mandate to repeal the carbon pricing system – as stupid and counter-to-history as it is – but the Racial Discrimination Act has been around for a long while now. Pushing for changes to it was not really something the electorate might have considered an important policy platform. Especially when the sole beneficiary seemed to be Andrew Bolt and people who want to be bigots.

Which, for a moment brings us to Andrew Bolt who is still smarting from his court case, whose open support of the Coalition  led to the Coalition government trying to open up some space for Andrew Bolt to essentially say bigoted things under the guise of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is not the victim in this – it’s George Brandis’ ‘right to be a bigot’ that essentially found a lot of hostility. It only takes a moment to consider that what the Coalition was asking Australians with non-white backgrounds was that Andrew Bolt should be allowed to bad mouth people from his bully pulpit and propagate views that are hurtful to their pride because this was freedom of speech. It’s bizarre that they thought this was going to fly with the electorate. It was asking Australia to go back to ‘Kingswood Country’ with Ted Bullpit calling every immigrant a wog for laughs. You wonder how these people thought this was going to make them look good.

It’s worse than that now. Having proposed the bad changes and explained it badly, it has given the electorate a “goes-to-character” assessment of the government. the assessment would include the notion that the Coalition government, on some level, wants to protect bigots if not wanting to be bigoted racists themselves. they’re right back at when John Howard went and slammed the Asian community back in the late 80s, which is to say they haven’t changed their stripes one bit. It’s notable that the people wanting to do the change and are spitting chips about it today are white, middle aged, and private school educated. You wonder how they’d respond if you gave them the medicine of their own freedom-to-be-a-bigot asked them how many Jewish forebears they have hidden in their family tree, and if they felt tainted by that.

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View From The Couch – 31/Jul/2014

Even More Things Wrong With Work-For-The-Dole

When you think about it, all the things described as ‘work’ under work for the dole is…work that other people would ordinarily get paid to do. Heck, some un-ordinary people like people deemed guilty of offenses and hence must do community service might be working right along with the work-for-the-dole crowd.

”There’s nothing that would prevent activities being conducted by both community-service orders and work for the dole at the same premises,” the spokeswoman said.

”But work for the dole is preserved for people on income support.”

But Ashley Geelan, 36, says when he heard about the government’s proposed work-for-the-dole activities they sounded exactly the same as activities he once had to do to complete court-ordered community service for a number of traffic offences.

Mr Geelan, from Victoria, said after he completed court-ordered community service in 2009, he joined a work-for-the-dole program but he wound up back at the same place, doing the same thing.
He also said he worked on three separate projects – sweeping the car park at Reservoir railway station, working at a Salvation Army store in Doncaster, and helping repair the Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House – that had a mix of work-for-the-dole workers and those doing court-ordered community work.

This would suggest that the Abbott government sees the unemployed as criminals. it’s one thing to champion the protestant work ethic but it’s entirely another to stigmatise the unemployed.

The crappy thing is that work-for-the-dole projects would go to the non-profits sector meaning charities, who get a tax exemption. So it’s essentially creating slave labour for the charity sector i.e. giving away free labour to people who already get a sizable break from the government. If this is giving back to the community, I say on behalf of the community, just let them keep whatever it is that they got.

But here’s the fundamental point that the Abbott government is ignoring: If you pay somebody to do ‘work’, then that’s called ’employment’. Like it or lump it, the moment the work-for-the-dole takes an unemployed person and makes them work for their dole money, the government has expanded its payroll, except it’s doing it of the books. If even a fifth of the 830,000 or so unemployed people were sent out to do community service style projects, it might be the biggest expansion in the Federal government payroll since the time the Howard government tried the work-for-the-dole scheme.

Worse still, these unofficial-workers would not have union protection or rights as properly employed workers. They’ll effectively be working for much less money than an equivalent person in the private sector would be earning for doing similar work. Furthermore it’s arguable that it may put some low level cleaning companies out of business should the scheme reach 100,000 workers. It’s up to the government to decide where it sends workers but work for the dole workers would need to be protected with professional indemnity and public liability insurance as well as Work Cover, so you have to ask just who is footing that bill, and if those calculations have been made. Knowing this government, probably not.

It’s amazing that a government that allegedly champions the cause of small business could be so inept at understanding how these things work.

The Land of The Un-Free

Forget the MH17 Ukrainian brouhaha, here’s a bit of eye-catching news.

As part of the review, it is understood that Mr Forrest has recommended that the government radically expand the current income management system.

This would see everyone on a working age payment – which includes those on Newstart and the Disability Support Pension – have 100 per cent of their payments managed by the government, preventing them from using payments to buy items such as alcohol and cigarettes.

The recommendation follows the interim report of the McClure welfare review, which last month said that ”consideration should be given to incorporating income management” in services for job seekers ”who need to stabilise their circumstances”.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government had no current plans to expand the income management system to all welfare recipients, pointing out that Mr Forrest’s report was only a report to the government.

Aha. So Andrew Twiggy Forrest is moonlighting again as the resident right wing nut job adviser saying the money the government pays to you is still not your money. I’ve pointed out that the people who complain about the government “spending our money” are misguided in thinking they have a bigger say in how money with which they have parted, than the government that taxed them. Similarly, if the said money takes that money and gives it to a disabled person or a homeless person or simply an unemployed person, it’s really not their business to say how that money should be spent. It sounds blood simple doesn’t it? Except here’s Twiggy saying that people should have no control over that money.

This is the kind of nutbar the government pays to give them advice. It kind of shows you how desperately out of ideas this government is already.

Corporate Shills And All Its Ills

The Abbott government also wants to water down laws on company directors and their liabilities.

The group representing Australia’s most powerful boardrooms will on Thursday release a proposal to water down the Corporations Act and ASIC Act, saying corporate directors need a ”safe harbour” from personal liability.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors has been lobbying Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, benched Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos and Attorney-General George Brandis for a new ”honest and reasonable director defence” to be inserted into existing laws designed to protect shareholders and consumers from boardroom negligence.

If adopted by the Coalition, the new defence would shield directors from prosecution where it cannot be proved they told a lie or failed to act with ”integrity and commitment”.
The new provision would apply to directors facing alleged contraventions, including offences around financial reporting, continuous disclosure rules and misleading or deceptive conduct.

It’s as if every idiot vested interest group has come forth with their incredibly unwanted and deeply undesirable ideological hobby horses. Of course these people would say that they don’t like personal liability. The whole point is so that they won’t jeopardise other people’s lives. It’s not surprising this government would even lend out a forum for such views. if anything there should be ways to get at company directors who use shell-games with paper companies to shield their personal stake from creditors. What we need is a way to get at those directors and make them personally accountable for the damage they wreak.

Just as the article says I’ve never seen anybody treated unfairly as a result of personal liability. The vast majority of instances  where directors’ liabilities have been an issue that I’ve seen, have resulted in directors walking away scot-free without really losing anything, That, seems far more unfair than anything that’s actually written into law covering this point.

There You Go Using That Word Mandate Again!

Tony Abbott is still, to this day, one of the least popular Prime Ministers in the short history of Australian Prime Ministers. What makes him even less popular is his insistence that he won some kind of mandate in the last Federal election 10 months ago. His personal popularity that languishes in the low 30s says ‘no’ to this fanciful notion.

Yesterday Clive Palmer challenged Tony Abbott to go for a double dissolution. Somehow we kind of expected things to work out this way. Today, Tony Abbott served back his own take  right at Clive Palmer, and so he used that word ‘mandate’. It’s hard to argue you have a mandate when you are so unpopular, heading up a government that produced the leas popular budget since polling began. I mean, yeah, sure, whatever you say Tony. It seems to me this whole Abbott government might disintegrate if any more scandals come to light. Hardly a government that could claim having a mandate.

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News That’s Fit To Punt – 27/Jul/2014

An Interesting Take On Putin’s Russia

To my thinking Russia under Putin has been a shit sandwich wrapped in a Crony-Capitalist Kleptocracy wrapped in an Oligarchy of former KGB people with connections. But that’s just me. Others may tell me of their beautiful literature or cinema or poetry or whatever, but in most part Russia since Putin has been a contemporary art project of how awful petty nationalism can be in the 21st century. It’s like a country taken over by a man with an inferiority complex who wants to boast of his secret inner greatness. As such the country displays strange impulses in all its affairs, from its handling of the Chechens in Georgia to the land grab of Crimea to funding extremist nutjobs in Ukraine just to stop Ukraine joining the West to hosting bad looking Olympics and wining unlikely World Cup bids.

So, here’s an interesting article explaining how these impulses play out inside Russia.

Some Western pundits, including foreign policy realists and anti-interventionists who see US support for Ukraine’s pro-Maidan leadership as a textbook example of meddling and dubious alliance-making, contend that the Russian point of view in the Ukraine crisis has been insufficiently considered and unfairly maligned. Russia has legitimate reasons, they say, in not having hostile neighbours, not being surrounded by NATO members, and for feeling general resentment at being kicked around by the West after the end of the Cold War.

There is certainly much to debate about various US and NATO actions in Eastern Europe after 1991, and the extent to which the United States should be involved today in counteracting Russia’s coercion toward its neighbours. That said, it is hard to see by what moral or geopolitical principle an authoritarian crony capitalist regime in Moscow is entitled to bite off chunks of a non-consenting Ukraine.

A few years ago, retired Russian general and former arms negotiator Vladimir Dvorkin wrote in a column for ej.ru that the real cause of the Kremlin’s anxiety about NATO expansion was not fear of invasion – an absurd idea given Russia’s nuclear arsenal – but fear of ‘‘encirclement’’ by more liberal and modernised societies, which would then exert pressure on Russia to follow the same path.

I guess I would be one of those people saying the West ought not to be meddling in Ukraine. But as you know I base that observation of never being able to win the Eastern Front in computer games as Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm II or Hitler. I just don’t see much meat on the bone that makes it worthwhile, although I will say that resources in Ukraine are underdeveloped. It’s entirely another debate whether more petrochemical resources development – i.e. mining for gas and oil – is a good way forward for what was once the breadbasket of Eastern Europe. I would contend it wasn’t.

Was Nuts Yesterday, Is Nuts-er Today

It’s an interesting thing that the world leader on a collision course with Vladimir Putin is Tony Abbott, who while he may not have the military might to scare Russia for a moment, has the ample opportunity to dis-invite Putin from the G-20 meeting in Brisbane later this year. Of course, Tony Abbott is jumping at the opportunity to be any kind of international statesman because his own domestic politics aren’t working out well. One would imagine it is similar in nature to Vladimir Putin’s desire to go invading neighbouring states that were once part of the USSR, just not as violent.

The advice he got yesterday from the international community about sending troops to Ukraine to help ‘secure the site’ of the MH17, was that it was nuts. This sentiment has been echoed by the ADF itself, through unofficial channels otherwise known as “figures who” do “not wish to be named”.

The senior defence figure, who did not wish to be named, said it was a poor idea for Australia.
”They can’t secure the site,” he said. ”It’s kilometres long and wide. They could escort Australian officials and provide close protection, but this is a civil task rather than a military task and it’s a terribly volatile area.

”We don’t have the language skills or knowledge of the area.

”For any military deployment, you have to look at a status of forces agreement with the government and, given the area the aircraft is in, I don’t think there is anyone to make that agreement with. What I’ve heard is the rebels don’t want more than 30 investigators there.”

What’s particularly interesting about this is that while Tony Abbot was in opposition, banging on about how he will send the Navy to “stop the boats”, similar leaks came out of the ADF saying the Navy wasn’t exactly equipped to be doing this kind of thing. This was Advice which was promptly ignored – and so we can reasonably expect this bit of advice would be ignored as well.

More interestingly what we’re seeing from Tony Abbott is a pattern where if he can’t solve it through sloganeering, he’s totally happy to send in the men and women in uniform to just sort it out, out of sight with the benefit of official secrets to make the whole thing un-transparent and utterly opaque. One can therefore imagine that should unfortunate things be found in Ukraine, they’ll jump to an immediate “can’t comment, our troops are in operations” mode of communication.

Age of Entitlement Ending? More like Age of Ultron-Perks

I offer this to you without comment.

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