The looming financial and social storm – Part 2

Global debt, financial and social problems are about to get worse thanks to the usual suspects – governments’ corporate welfare policies and corporate welfare rorts – and dramatically increase inequality.

The growth of private sector debt comes at the expense of ordinary taxpayers as companies exploit new ways to use the tax deductibility of interest costs for tax avoidance purposes reducing the capacity to spend on urgent social and environmental priorities. read more

The looming financial and social storm -Part 1

The biggest problems facing the Australian and other similar economies can be characterised in medical terms – pre-existing conditions dramatically exacerbated by new ones.

While COVID-19 is devastating communities three interlocked aspects of the underlying pre-epidemic social and economic conditions were already setting us up for problems which will make the pandemic aftermath devastating. read more

The case of the disappearing CEO

The City of Port Phillip’s CEO, Peter Smith has ‘disappeared’ to his residence in Adelaide where he came from before getting the job. He’s due back on August 18, according to the Mayor, but there are a lot of residents and ratepayers who rather wish he just stayed there.

Mr Smith is alleged to be being paid more than $400,000 a year and the combined salaries of his ‘leadership’ team  are about $10 million a year. It’s not possible to verify the $400,000 figure as it is no longer listed in a visible form on the newly developed website. read more

Why do LNP Governments hate the arts and universities?

LNP Governments’ vindictive attitudes to the arts are obvious from the widespread cutbacks they have imposed on the sector. Ditto universities which have been forced to rely on overseas students to make up funding shortfalls and are then attacked for doing so.

There are a variety of explanations. Rob Gerrand, novelist and a former arts administrator suggests: “I can only speculate that many on the right may view the arts as hotbeds of progressive thought, which shouldn’t be encouraged, if not discouraged, so that the big companies should get funding, but the smaller ones shouldn’t be on the public feed.” read more

Pandemic Port – re-discovery and revelation

Taking walks through Port Melbourne during the lockdowns is a strange voyage of rediscovery and revelation.

Having lived in Port Melbourne for almost 50 years local travel tends to become routine. The drive down to the beachfront to get to the St Kilda Sea Baths; walking to the Bay Street shops; walking on the beachfront from home to Kerferd Road and back; catching the 109 to the city; playing with a granddaughter in the Evans Street park; and crossing Port Phillip to Balaclava to visit family. It all tends to make you think that things don’t change much. read more

Putting Rosalind Franklin in pandemic perspective

The British decision to put Rosalind Franklin’s famous Photograph 51 on the new 50p coin is a reminder that the controversy over her DNA X-ray diffusion work is but one part of a much larger scientific career.

Indeed, as the world is living through a pandemic it is more than arguable that her work in the UK and US on viruses was equally, if not more, important. Indeed, if she had not died so young it is not inconceivable that she could have gone on to win a Nobel for research in that area. read more

Four legs good two legs bad, private good public bad

For decades there has been a relentless chorus – rather like Orwell’s four legs good two legs bad – conditioning us to believe that private is good and public is bad.

Like the pigs in Animal Farm we have been subjected to a messaging campaign which promoted what true believers and beneficiaries claimed was a deep economic reality while actually justifying de-regulation and the devastation of public sector staffing and expertise. read more

Been there done that

The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has announced the government recovery strategy – emulate Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. The problem is that Australia has been there and done that with the same very mixed results Reagan and Thatcher achieved.

For a start Thatcher and Australian Governments had one overwhelming similarity. Presented with a massive financial windfall gain from North Sea oil and energy and minerals respectively they proceeded to spend it as if there was no tomorrow and never once thought of establishing something similar to the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund. The Future Fund, despite anything Peter Costello says, is no more a real sovereign wealth fund than the knife Dundee confronted in New York was a real knife. read more

Watching Fox News in the US may kill you

Recent US studies demonstrate that watching Murdoch’s US Fox News increases the likelihood of you believing what’s not true about COVID-19 and – if acting on it – possibly dying.

The studies are also an indication that Fox audiences are modern day versions of a Montaigne insight from almost 500 years ago. In his essay It is folly to measure the true and false by our own capacity he said: “Perhaps it is not without reason that we attribute facility in belief and conviction to simplicity and ignorance: for it seems to me I once learned that belief was a sort of information impression made on our mind, and that the softer and less resistant the mind, the easier it was to imprint something on it.” read more

COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine double trial

The current Victorian Hotel Quarantine Inquiry headed by the Honourable Justice Jennifer Coate AO is putting two things on trial – one predictable media fodder and the other at the root of decades of neo-liberal outsourcing and privatisation.

The first trial is the traditional one which fits neatly into standard media coverage: who did what, why did they do it, who did they tell, what did those told do and were Ministers warned or informed in some way? read more