Intergenerational theft Hockey style

How many times have you heard Joe Hockey, in his characteristically boisterous way, warning us all about the pending ‘intergenerational theft’ that the previous government’s policies will bring about unless as a nation we begin to ‘live within our means’? Painting a grim picture of our children and grandchildren labouring to repay the debt we are incurring now as we continue ‘to spend more than we earn’, he warns of their deteriorating standard of living as they struggle to pay off the nation’s debts. It’s all part of the disquieting rhetoric the government’s spin doctors have woven to coerce us to timidly endorse the punitive budgetary measures Hockey introduced in the 2014 federal Budget, and accept as credible his Intergenerational Report 2015.

This piece is not to argue the whys and wherefores of Hockey’s use of the term ‘intergenerational theft’. It is to highlight a much more serious form of intergenerational theft that his IGR 2015 perpetrates: taking away from our children and theirs the right to live on a sustainable planet that is able to accommodate the ever-growing global population by ensuring ample arable land, food and water, housing, vital biodiversity, and congenial, peaceful living conditions.

It is about intergenerational theft Hockey style, occasioned by the Abbott government’s scandalous disregard of the threat of global warming in its Intergenerational Report.

Tony Abbott, along with Joe Hockey and Environment Minister Greg Hunt and many other ministers have never seriously acknowledged the importance of global warming; they have scarcely accepted its reality. Intellectually, Abbott still seems stuck with his infamous Beaufort utterance: “the science behind climate change is crap”. This attitude shows in IGR 2015.

Kevin Rudd once called climate change “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time”. He pointed specifically to its economic cost and the moral imperative of Australia doing its part to confront this dangerous long-term global problem. Sadly he went to water when it came to ensuring appropriate remedial action.

This piece examines IGR 2015, looking for evidence of any serious attempt to address this grave threat to the planet and all that lives on it.

That reference to climate change was scant in IGR 2105 should not surprise us. We know only too well Abbott’s stance: his advocacy for coal mining and the exploitation of fossil fuels, and his resistance to renewables and his cavalier attitude to the RET. We remember too his and Hockey’s unsuccessful fight to keep climate change off the agenda of the G20 meeting in Brisbane last November, based on the spurious grounds that the G20 was an economic forum, and therefore unsuitable for discussing climate change!

Find me if you can one evenhanded economist, find me one environmentalist who does not believe that climate change will bring about profound changes in the global economy, perhaps more profound than any other to date.

Since our five-yearly Intergenerational Reports are specifically designed to project global growth, to predict changes, to forecast the evolution of national, regional and world economies, why on earth would the instigators and authors of IGR 2105 make such paltry reference to arguably the most important factor underlying all of these: climate change, and more specifically, global warming?

So what did IGR 2015 say about climate change?

In the 25-page Executive Summary of over six thousand words, (which is all that will be read by those who bother to read it at all), there were just 121 words that addressed this subject. The words: ‘climate change’, ‘global warming’, ‘carbon dioxide’, and ‘greenhouse gases’ were not used. For your information here it is:

“The environmental changes that unfold over the next 40 years will affect Australians’ quality of life across a range of dimensions.

“It is difficult for individual governments to control or affect the collective and cumulative impact of human activity globally, but there is a role for the Australian Government to continue in its efforts in leading and coordinating domestic environmental policies to drive better environmental management and economic growth for the generations to come.

“Economic growth and strong environmental outcomes are complementary objectives. Policies that create strong economic growth and a sustainable budget will mean that governments are better placed to invest in environmental protection. Additionally, protecting the environment can also contribute to economic growth, particularly in sectors such as tourism.”

Note the usual Abbott cop out: “It is difficult for individual governments to control or affect the collective and cumulative impact of human activity globally…”. Note too the juxtaposition of ‘economic growth’ and ‘environmental outcomes’. The Abbott government puts economic growth ahead of environmental protection; indeed it argues that the former is necessary to achieve the latter.

In the full IGR Report, ‘climate change’ was mentioned twelve times in various contexts, but ‘global warming’ was mentioned just once, in this sentence: “The international community has agreed to aim to keep global warming to a less than 2 degrees C increase above pre-industrial climate levels.” Acceptance of this necessity by the Abbott government was not acknowledged. ’Carbon dioxide’ was not mentioned once. ‘Carbon’ was used twice: in reference to ‘soil carbon’ and ‘low carbon technology’. ‘Greenhouse gas’ was mentioned three times in the context of reducing their emissions. The terms: ‘coal’, ‘fossil fuels’ and ‘oil’ were nowhere to be found. Look for the terms ‘Renewable Energy Target’ or ‘RET’ or even ‘renewables’ and you won’t find them, a stark reflection of Abbott’s destructive anti-renewables mind-set.

How can IGR 2015 be taken seriously on its preparedness to address genuinely the danger to life from global warming, when it makes such paltry reference to the key factors that are creating it: burning fossil fuels and this nation’s negligible attempts to mitigate the carbon dioxide that results?

Its avoidance of discussion of the greenhouse effect that is bringing about global warming and with it the melting of the Arctic permafrost, glaciers and Antarctic ice; sea level rise and the inundation of low lying islands and costal areas; ocean acidification, and the serious threats of global warming to biodiversity, illustrates the Abbott government’s careless approach to this grave global threat. Protection of the Great Barrier Reef is mentioned, but mainly in the context of ensuring its economic viability.

The criminal neglect of the threat of global warming in this crucial document, one that is purposed to describe the economic challenges and opportunities for this nation in the years to 2050 and beyond, is all the more reprehensible when we hear world leaders highlighting the urgent need to do something..

During his visit to Australia, Barack Obama announced the joint China-US move to combat global warming and warned of its threat to the Great Barrier Reef. More recently he has renewed his push for action with his intent to take Air Force One to the Everglades in Florida to deliver his latest speech about his fears of global warming. He will say that global warming is damaging tourism and people’s health and that climate change is a national security risk. He will point out that the Everglades is one of the most special places in the US, but it’s also one of the most fragile, one that rising sea levels are putting it at risk.”

His words could hardly be clearer: “There’s no greater threat to our planet than climate change… it can no longer be denied or ignored.”

He will push harder at his global warming goals: “We’ve committed to doubling the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China has committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions…and because the world’s two largest economies came together, there’s new hope that… the world will finally reach an agreement to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it’s too late.”

What has the Abbott government done? It’s got rid of the carbon tax that was bringing down emissions and generating much-needed revenue, and has put in its place its Direct Action Plan. It doesn’t have a climate policy beyond 2020; local analysts believe is unlikely to reach its 5 per cent reduction target by 2020.

Nonetheless, the Abbott government insists it will achieve Australia’s carbon reduction targets. Here it is, halfway through its term, only now calling for bids in the first round of funding to pay for emissions cuts from the $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund. There is no sign of the 15,000 strong Green Army that is supposed to clean up Australia. That was never more than an ill considered thought bubble and will likely never eventuate.

Australia’s recalcitrance is now attracting international attention. Read these excerpts from Adam Morton and Tom Arup’s article this week in the Sydney Morning Herald: China and other big emitters challenge Australia over its climate change policies . “Only this week, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters, including China and the US, have questioned the credibility of Australia's climate change targets and ‘Direct Action’ policy in a list of queries to the Abbott government.

“China accused Australia of doing less to cut emissions than it is demanding of other developed countries, asked it to explain why this was fair, and questioned whether the Abbott government's Emissions Reduction Fund, the centrepiece of its Direct Action Policy would be enough to make up for the axed carbon price and meet Australia's commitment of a minimum 5 per cent emissions cut below 2000 levels by 2020. The questions have been lodged with the United Nations for Australia to answer in the lead-up to the December climate summit in Paris, where the world is supposed to sign a global deal to combat climate change.

“The Abbott government is also facing questions in diplomatic circles about why it is not sending a minister or its chief climate change negotiator to a meeting next Sunday of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Washington DC that will bring together ministerial representatives from 17 major countries in a bid to accelerate work on a climate deal.

“Compared with most developed nations, the questions directed at Australia are notably and repeatedly forceful in challenging its emissions targets and the credibility of its domestic policy. Australia now emits more than every European country except Germany.

“In other questions posed to Australia through the UN, the US asked whether the Emissions Reduction Fund was the main replacement for carbon pricing, or whether Australia planned to introduce other policies. Brazil accused Australia of having a ‘low level of ambition’, and asked whether it would boost its target to cut emissions more quickly.

“Erwin Jackson, deputy chief executive of the Climate Institute…said the questions showed the international community saw Australia's commitments as "woefully inadequate" for it to do its fair share in meeting the agreed global target of keeping warming to within 2 degrees. This is the first salvo. If the government doesn't come forward with a credible post-2020 target this kind of criticism will continue and only increase as other countries accelerate and deepen their own action.”

To add insult to injury, the Abbott government has found $4 million in its faltering budget to enable climate contrarian Bjørn Lomborg to establish a ‘consensus centre’ at the University of Western Australia. Lomborg was looking for long-term funding after the Danish government defunded his consensus centre in 2012. While Labor’s spokesman on the environment, Mark Butler protested: “Tony Abbott has deputised one of the world’s most well-known renewable energy sceptics to continue his climate change denial and attacks on renewable energy”, the Institute of Public Affairs responded by saying, “Bjørn, it’s great to have you!” That just about says it all!

Hockey’s IGR 2015 reflects Australia’s attitude and inaction on climate change. It cares more about protecting the viability and profits of the fossil fuel industry than it does about the future of the planet and everything that lives on it. This is the intergenerational theft of which Hockey is guilty. It is more than reprehensible. It is scandalous that such culpability should go almost unnoticed, certainly unpunished. We will have to wait for the 2016 election!

What do you think?

Ad astra is a retired medical academic, appalled that our elected leaders so dangerously ignore global warming. More about Ad astra here.

The Peter Principle

It was way back in 1969, 45 years ago, that Laurence J Peter, Canadian educator and management theorist, formulated The Peter Principle, a concept in management theory in which the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate's performance in their current role rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. From this principle, he argued that employees stop being promoted only when they can no longer perform effectively, famously concluding that "managers rise to the level of their incompetence."

He illustrated his principle by reference to a head gardener in a botanical garden who was highly regarded for his knowledge of botanicals and his skill in growing them, a man who spent all his day in the garden nurturing his plants. He was such an excellent gardener that when the position of general manager of the botanical garden became vacant he was considered the obvious choice. But with scant knowledge of inventory management, ordering, budgeting, financial control and staff supervision, he failed. He had reached his level of incompetence. All his knowledge of botanicals, and his ability as a hands-on gardener, was of little use in his new indoor role. His suitability for the managerial role was inappropriately judged on his current role of head gardener, not on the abilities needed for the new role of general manager.

There is no more striking example in contemporary politics of The Peter Principle than the sheer incompetence of Tony Abbott and many senior ministers in his government. These politicians, purportedly well equipped to carry out their duties as ministers in government because of their performance in opposition, have spectacularly ‘risen to the level of their incompetence’.

Yet all this should not to be surprising. Ever since Abbott was appointed Leader of the Opposition and set about his destructive work of opposition, first attacking the Rudd government and later the Gillard government, writers in the Fifth Estate warned that he was not fit for the job of prime minister, that he did not have the knowledge, the skills, and the attributes required for the leader of a nation of 24 million citizens with a national economy of over one and a half trillion dollars. Most of the Fourth Estate would not listen, or did not care, so long as this man, who in their eyes held out the promise that he would give them what they wanted, was given the prize of Prime Minister.

The characteristics required of a national leader clearly were missing. He never told the people about his vision for Australia, of what sort of country he wanted to create and lead. Nor did he sketch any cogent plans about how he intended to achieve whatever veiled ideas he did have. We heard over and again about the things he was going stop or destroy: the boats, the carbon tax, and the mining tax. All this ‘policy’ was captured in three word slogans, repeated endlessly. This was the only sliver of Tony Abbott’s ‘Australia’ that ever materialized. He relied on this to get him over the line, which coupled with the support of the Murdoch press and the electorate’s dissatisfaction with Labor, succeeded. So we were given a Prime Minister with no more policy under his belt than killing things off. Why is anyone surprised that he has been such a flop, such a dud?

Many commentators lauded him in opposition. Some said he was the most successful opposition leader in the nation’s history, a claim that could be justified if success in opposition was judged only by his capacity to oppose everything, to propose nothing, to demolish every government policy, to destroy every government minister, and to defeat the government at an election. On the other hand, if the formulation of creative, forward-looking policies that would ensure a vibrant, prosperous, egalitarian and harmonious society were the criteria of success, Abbott was the worst opposition leader in our history.

However Abbott was judged as Leader of the Opposition, the attributes that made him suitable for that role were not those that he needed to be the nation’s leader. Yet so many commentators in the Fourth Estate, and indeed the majority of the electorate, failed to realise that. They thought the pugilist in opposition, bereft of ideas and hell bent on destruction would be just fine as the nation’s leader. How wrong they were then, how wrong they are now!

Week after week we are confronted with the spectre of a man promoted to his level of incompetence. Apart from the plethora of lies and broken promises; apart from his never-ending missteps, blunders and errors of judgement; even more distressingly we see him unable to comprehend the very fundamentals of nation building and economic management, unable to bring to bear any semblance of economic knowledge and expertise to resolve Australia’s burgeoning economic problems.

Abbott has been promoted way beyond his level of competence. The people know it, the polls show it, his colleagues are aware of it and very nearly tipped him out in February, and recently even the throng of sycophantic Murdoch journalists know it, but choke when they have to write about it.

Rivaling him in the incompetence stakes is Joe Hockey. He mocked Wayne Swan’s award of World’s Best Finance Minister in 2011 by Euromoney Magazine, when Swan joined Paul Keating as the only Australian treasurers to have been conferred the title. Now Hockey runs the risk of becoming the World’s Worst! His first budget was based on a flawed ideology and the false premise that a fiscal crisis and budget emergency existed, was badly constructed, hit hardest the less well off and let the wealthy off the hook, was ‘sold’ poorly, and not surprisingly was rejected by the electorate, many Liberal supporters, and by much of the business community. A more striking cascade of incompetence upon incompetence would be hard to imagine.

Hockey has been promoted to his level of incompetence. In opposition he expended much of his time and effort deriding Swan’s efforts to achieve a surplus, airily dismissing the adverse trading situations Swan faced, yet now bemoaning the same conditions that imperil his efforts. He gave no mercy to Swan, yet begs pitifully for understanding now!

Under Hockey’s fiscal management, Australia’s financial situation has deteriorated badly, worsening budget deficits extend ‘as far as the eye can see’, and business and consumer confidence is lagging. Yet no ready solution has been offered. Indeed, we have been promised that the next budget will not harm householders, presumably by going into politically induced retreat. Meanwhile, the business community throws up its hands in horror at the government’s inconsistency. And on the side he is in an acerbic dispute with State Premiers about the carving up of GST revenue, for which all he offers is the paltry solution of ‘a freeze’, only marginally better than Abbott’s solution, which is to chicken out.

It is not just Labor and Greens supporters and most of the Senate crossbench who are astonished by his incompetence. Only this week Peter Costello, lauded by Liberals as the nation’s best ever treasurer, said “…the tax proposals floated by the Coalition and other groups made the government’s stated aim of ‘lower, simpler, fairer’ taxes look “like some kind of morbid joke”!” Hockey rejects Costello’s criticism by wistfully wishing he had the same revenue as Costello!

Compare the language used by Paul Keating with that used by Joe Hockey, and you will see the contrast between a smart, knowledgeable, articulate and supremely competent treasurer, and a bumbling incompetent.

I could go on and on detailing the incompetents who surround Abbott, but let’s end with Christopher Pyne, who combines arrogance and flippancy with a heavy burden of incompetence. No more needs to be said!

What has astonished me most in recent months is how consistently those who offered Abbott and his grown up team of adults such unqualified support before the 2103 election, are now expressing doubts, annoyance, even desperation.

In just one issue of The Weekend Australian, that of 28 -29 March, this is what some who have supported the Coalition had to say:

Peter van Onselen starts his article: Cost-Cutting? Leviathan State Alive and Well with “The Coalition is not doing anywhere near enough to reduce the deficit”, and concludes: “No wonder the Liberal base increasingly is ashamed of its parliamentary team. It is being defeated by a leviathan state.”

Dennis Shanahan, little inclined to criticize Abbott, writes in his article: Budget the deadline that matters for PM: “Abbott and Hockey fumbled the 2014 budget politically and have few to blame other than themselves for the position they are in with a rebellious backbench, months of bad polling, and impressions of a dysfunctional government”. Towards the end he writes: “The threat to Abbott’s leadership continues to come from a broad and dissatisfied group. Unlike 12 months ago, ahead of the first budget, Abbott’s fate is not entirely in his hands, but he will be given no chances if he treats the 2015 budget in the same way.”

Chris Kenny, one of Abbott’s cluster of Murdoch sycophants, echoes Shanahan with “Abbott’s fate is largely in his Treasurer’s hands” and concludes: “Abbott and Hockey must finally find a convincing and consistent economic narrative. And quickly.”

With an incompetent treasurer to get him out of jail, Abbott is in serious jeopardy.

And if any more evidence of the incompetence of Abbott and his government were needed, just look at the polls. Newspoll’s national results for the first three months of 2015, derived from the 4,500 voters polled, and published in The Australian, showed “ for the federal Coalition in Western Australia had fallen, and the Prime Minister's approval rating in the state had plummeted. His approval rating in WA fell 17 points over the study period to 25 per cent. Support for the Federal Government dropped six points to 38 per cent, in a state seen as a Coalition stronghold. Labor led 54-46 on a two-party preferred basis. Nationally, Labor led the Coalition 55-45, and Bill Shorten lead Tony Abbott 44-34 as preferred prime minister, and is now ranked as better prime minister in all states for the first time.”

This week’s Fairfax-Ipsos poll gives Abbott and Hockey no joy and while Newspoll is less damning, Labor is still ahead 51-49.

Mark Kenny’s report on the Ipsos poll begins: “The question of the Liberal leadership could be revisited in months as support for Tony Abbott's government drifts south again, with Australians signalling they are not convinced by the sudden switch to ‘fairness’ and the promise of a routine second budget. With that budget just 4 weeks away and attention in national politics focused squarely on the economic sphere, Mr Abbott's woes appear linked to the sinking popularity of his Treasurer Joe Hockey, who as architect of the first politically toxic blueprint, has suffered a massive 45 per cent reversal in his approval rating over the last 13 months from plus 20 per cent in March 2014 to minus 25 now…

“The result is a repudiation of Mr Abbott's barnacle-scraping efforts to rid the government of tough policies seen as "unfair" and his rhetorical switch from fiscal hardliner to a softly-softly approach to budget repair. Voters appear to have taken a second look since the Prime Minister narrowly saw off a spill motion in February, and decided they still do not like what they see.”

This week’s Essential Report too gives Abbott no joy: his approval rating at minus 25 is the same as last month; only February’s result of minus 33 at the time of the leadership spill was worse.

Already this article is long enough. It could be twice as long were I to document more fully the evidence supporting the now strongly held view that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, along with other senior ministers, have risen to their level of incompetence – incompetence so gross that all but the blind-folded can see it: Labor and the Greens, Senate cross benchers, fellow Liberal politicians, pollsters, commentators, business leaders, and the electorate all over this wide brown Land.

Is there any need to go on?

What do you think?

Ad astra is a retired medical academic, appalled that our elected leaders have been elevated to their level of incompetence. More about Ad astra here.

A time to hate

It was as his daughter Angela read from Ecclesiastes 3 at the State Funeral of Malcolm Fraser that I was reminded of these memorable words:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

Rev. Douglas Robertson, Senior Minister at Scots’ Church Melbourne, who conducted the service, responded thus: “…there are some parts [of that reading] that grate when you hear them…we don’t really want to think about something like a time to hate, but…there surely is, there surely must be a time to hate.

“A time to hate injustice. A time to hate racial inequality. A time to hate political oppression. A time to hate poverty. A time to hate all manner of suffering and especially the suffering that is repeatedly inflicted by man’s inhumanity to man, which is the root cause of the vast majority of people’s displacement around the world, a subject so close to Malcolm’s heart.

“And yes, there is even a time to hate the hypocrisy of religious and other community leaders who talk the right words, but walk by on the other side while the suffering continues.”

While most of us eschew the word ‘hate’, and hesitate to apply it to another human being, there are many things we do hate, legitimately hate.

This piece highlights those things that politics in this country throws up, things we loathe, things we, as citizens, hate.

Here are the things I hate:

I hate the adversarial approach that debases our political system
Do you find it as irritating, as infuriating as I do when political parties seem intent on disagreeing with each other on almost everything? If one side says ‘black’, the other says ‘white’. Parliamentarians assure us that there is a lot of bipartisan collaboration, but we don’t see much of it. Maybe this is because our broken mainstream media seems to be interested only in sensationalism and conflict, and features any outbreak of bipartisanship as remarkable.

Adversarial behaviour has been around since federation. Sometimes it has been vicious and unrelenting; sometimes less so. All parties perpetrate it. But I do not recall it being as obvious in the Howard/Beasley era as it has been since Tony Abbott became Opposition Leader, whereupon the level of adversarial viciousness and nastiness spiraled disturbingly.

In his aptly titled book ‘Battlelines’, Abbott embraced the philosophy of Rudolph Churchill: “Oppose everything, suggest nothing, and turf the government out!” From the moment he was elected as Leader of the Opposition, he set out, in his characteristically pugilistic way, to diminish, demolish and destroy his opponents, or as Tony Windsor put it in a recent article, to ‘grind them into the dirt’. Resentful of Julia Gillard’s success in negotiating the formation of a minority government with the support of the two Country Independents, he labelled her government illegitimate and set out to denigrate her at every step. He would not engage in bipartisanship; he would not give her credit for any move she made; his object was her removal. He used misogynist language and exhibited misogynist behaviour as he stood in front of ‘Ditch the Witch’ and ‘Bob Brown’s Bitch’ posters.

Abbott’s nature ensures that his adversarial behaviour will continue, although he wishes now that he had bipartisan support for the legislation he is presenting to the Senate, and often bemoans its infrequency. ‘As ye sow, so shall ye reap!’

What a difference it would make if bipartisanship were the norm. What a difference it would make if all sides were focussed on the common good.

Adversarial behaviour results from the desire for political advantage, to score political points, or to block opponents from scoring such points. It is a manifestation of self-centered behaviour, behaviour that ignores or sets aside the common weal.

It makes politics less worthy. It destroys political discourse. It is toxic. It diminishes all who partake of that poisonous cup. The public hates it, yet politicians seem addicted.

I hate adversarial behaviour.

I hate unfairness and the widening inequality between the well off and the less well off
Expanding inequality is the product of the prevailing ideology of the governing party. By using a trickle down economic model, which historical evidence shows exacerbates inequality, pushes a wedge between the rich and the poor, and advances the well-off while suppressing the less well-off, our government is steadily making matters worse. Joseph Stiglitz has written about the bitter harvest of inequality, which is not just poverty, but social discord, social disruption, and in the extreme, even revolution. Thomas Pigetty explored its origins. His thesis is that when the rate of return on capital is greater than the rate of economic growth over the long term, the result is concentration of wealth, and this unequal distribution of wealth causes social and economic instability. But do Abbott or Hockey read what they say, or do they simply recite the catechism of the neo-conservative Institute of Public Affairs?

This week’s Essential Report, which polled 1786 voters, tells the sorry story of growing inequality: Asked: “Do you think the following have become better or worse compared to 12 months ago?” a substantial majority responded that cost of living (72%), electricity costs (66%) and unemployment (61%) have all become worse. The only economic measure that those polled thought had got better was company profits (34% better/23% worse)!

Asked: “Which of the following statements best describes your financial situation?” 44% said they had enough money for basic essentials and could save a little money, and 39% said they had enough money for basic essentials but could not save any money. Only 7% said they could save a lot of money. Only 29% of those earning less than $600 pw said they could save any money, compared to 61% of those earning over $1,600 pw. Overall, there was a worsening in financial situations since this question was asked in October: 47% (up 5%) said they could not save any money and 51% (down 4%) said they could.

Here then is the polling evidence that those at the lower end of the heap are ‘doing it tough’, while those at the top are doing well. The unfairness and inequality evident in our society is getting worse. Poverty is returning to this egalitarian, ‘fair go for all’ society.

I hate the way our government’s 2014 budget hit those least able to afford it, and how it cut the funding of frontline agencies that support them.

I hate poverty, unfairness and inequality.

I hate the way we have treated asylum seekers
On the road to Jericho a Samaritan came across a man lying beaten and bleeding. He took pity on him, bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine, put him on his donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

In a perversion of Good Samaritan behaviour, both sides of politics picked up the wounded and the beaten, but then shipped them off, children and all, to detention.

Our donkey was a Navy ship that took them to on-shore detention, or they were turned away on a leaky boat. More recently they were transferred to an orange lifeboat that sent them on their way back to where they came from. Onshore detention was only the beginning. They were soon unceremoniously removed to offshore detention into deplorable conditions on Manus Island and Nauru, where they languish still.

How could a decent people act so unjustly, so callously, so indifferent to the past suffering of those seeking asylum, so unresponsive to their present distress? The Good Samaritans protested and still do, but the guardians of our ‘sovereign borders’ are hard of heart, and take them off to detention. This hardness of heart seemed to arise after John Howard’s words: “We will decide who comes to this country, and the circumstances in which they come”. He tapped into an uncharitable vein, a selfish sentiment that this was our country, and these uninvited interlopers were not welcome, threatening as they imagined our jobs and our way of life. The Tampa episode, which spirited asylum-seekers away out-of-sight of those that might show concern and sympathy, consolidated public opinion. Even the dishonesty of ‘children overboard’ did not soften attitudes.

The pattern had been set, and seeing political mileage in a tough attitude to asylum seekers, Abbott coined the ‘we will stop the boats’ mantra. It has been downhill ever since then. Seeing public acceptance of the ‘stop the boats’ slogan, especially in the Western suburbs of Sydney where Labor holds many seats, Julia Gillard sought to match Abbott’s toughness. While that might have been seen as a smart political move, it was morally impoverished. A contest followed to see who could be tougher, nastier, and more punitive. Gillard was no match for the vindictive Abbott. He accelerated his campaign, made a big feature of it in the 2013 election campaign, and has boasted ever since that he has ‘stopped the boats’, as if that was a wholly praiseworthy achievement. Scott Morrison, the enforcer, was applauded and honoured with a more prestigious ministry.

As many asylum seekers are of middle-eastern origin, there was an element of racial discrimination that underlay the opposition of many in the electorate. These arrivals are often of a different religion, mostly Muslim; the women dress differently, evoking a ‘ban the burqa’ slogan. Antagonism to some to these differently clad people sharpened, quickened by some of our narrow-minded politicians.

As Rev. Robertson said in his address: “This is a time to hate all manner of suffering and especially the suffering that is repeatedly inflicted by man’s inhumanity to man, which is the root cause of the vast majority of people’s displacement around the world.”

Tim Winton expressed this sentiment eloquently in his address at the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice4Refugees in Perth. It is a powerful condemnation of our nation’s approach to asylum seekers. You can read the whole speech, reproduced in the SMH, here.

Winton concluded: “Jesus said: "What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world only to lose his soul?" And I wonder: What does it profit a people to do likewise, to shun the weak and punish the oppressed, to cage children, and make criminals out of refugees? What about our soul as a people?

“We're losing our way. We have hardened our hearts. I fear we have devalued the currency of mercy. Children have asked for bread and we gave them stones. So turn back. I beg you. For the children's sake. For the sake of this nation's spirit. Raise us back up to our best selves. Turn back while there's still time.”

We are guilty of inhumanity to our fellow men.

I hate the way we continue to treat asylum seekers. It is unjust, punitive, and not in tune with our national ethos of a fair go for all. I hate the racial inequality and discord that results from our treatment of them. I hate the hypocrisy of Christian politicians who endorse this un-Christian policy.

It is wrong, yet our leaders, our politicians, continue to walk on the other side of the road.

I hate political oppression
Political oppression is something we witness from afar. We see it in the Middle East, in some parts of Asia, notably Burma and Cambodia, in Russia, and in several eastern European nations. We are fortunate to not have much of it here. But it is never far away. Our government has sought to create alarm about those who might do us harm, and has introduced restrictive legislation to enable surveillance of us all as we go about our daily life. Their formula is to scare the people, guarantee them protection, but only if they accept harsh shadowing.

We are in danger of becoming politically oppressed. Beware

I hate dishonesty
Dishonesty seems a way of life for some politicians. We have seen it writ large since the Abbott government came to power eighteen months ago. We have endured countless lies, broken promises, mendacious behaviour in the budget process, the legislative agenda, and the conduct of political business.

We have witnessed dishonesty about the threat of global warming, dishonesty about the fossil fuel industry’s contribution to it, and dishonesty about how renewables might ameliorate it.

I hate the dishonesty that attempts to hide from view the government’s incompetence.

I shall not bore you with the details that you know all too well. If you need to, you can refresh your memory by re-reading the last piece: When ideology, dishonesty and incompetence collide

I hate dishonesty, no matter what form it takes.

Yes, there is a ‘time to hate’. Not to hate people, but to hate intolerable words, actions and behaviour.

And there is a time to love. How much better this nation would be if love of country and love of all its people were to replace the hate that so pollutes our political system.

What do you hate?

Ad astra is a retired medical academic, dismayed by hate-filled politics. More about Ad astra here.