Hurricanes. Floods. Droughts. Why is it so?



To some, the question: 'Hurricanes. Floods. Droughts. Why is it so?' is nonsensical. There have been hurricanes, floods and droughts since time immemorial. “It’s just nature at work” they say. They quote Dorothea Mackellar to ‘prove’ their point. To them, what climate scientists have to say is irrelevant.

Yet even some of them may wonder why recently we have had such a spate of exceptional adverse weather events, one after the other.

In late August there was Hurricane Harvey in Texas - the largest ever to devastate that state. It extended into Louisiana. There were 70 deaths. The cost of restoration will be many billions, and the time needed as much as a decade.

Hard on its heels came Hurricane Irma that wrought destruction throughout the Caribbean, Florida and beyond. It was the largest ever to arise in the Atlantic. It spawned Hurricanes Jose and Katia. 6.5 million people, about one-third of the state’s population, were ordered to evacuate southern Florida. Almost 6 million homes and businesses lost power, 38 were killed. The damage bill will run into billions, and restoration time will extend into many years.

Jonathan Watts, writing in The Guardian says:
‘In the US alone, the cost of the damage caused by the two hurricanes is estimated at $290bn — or 1.5% of GDP. The toll in the worst-hit Caribbean islands has not yet been calculated but it will be far greater relative to the size of the battered economies.' In parenthesis, he does though strike a positive note: ‘But while the problem has never looked grimmer, the most likely solution — a switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy — has rarely looked as desirable or financially feasible as it does now.’
More about this later.

Both Harvey and Irma attracted lots of airplay and commentary, some from climate scientists. Their comments made sense. Connecting these events to global warming, they explained that the warmer the atmosphere, the more the air is saturated with moisture, the more there is to precipitate.

In The Conversation Andrew King, Climate Extremes Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne writes: ‘We know that climate change is intensifying extreme rain events. We also know that climate change is worsening storm surges by raising the background sea level on which these events occur.'

Writing in The Guardian on 29 August, George Monbiot deplores the fact that the media generally has not mentioned any connection between global warming and these extreme events, as if no connection exists! He goes onto say:
To claim there is no link between climate breakdown and the severity of Hurricane Harvey is like claiming there is no link between the warm summer we have experienced and the end of the last ice age. Every aspect of our weather is affected by the fact that global temperatures rose by about 4C between the ice age and the 19th century. And every aspect of our weather is affected by the 1C of global warming caused by human activities. While no weather event can be blamed solely on human-driven warming, none is unaffected by it.

We know that the severity and impact of hurricanes on coastal cities is exacerbated by at least two factors: higher sea levels, caused primarily by the thermal expansion of seawater; and greater storm intensity, caused by higher sea temperatures and the ability of warm air to hold more water than cold air.
But conservative groups with close links to the Trump administration and the fossil fuel industry attempted to ridicule the link between climate change and events such as Harvey.

Monbiot contradicts these attempts:
In Texas, the connection could scarcely be more apparent. The storm ripped through the oil fields, forcing rigs and refineries to shut down, including those owned by some of the 25 companies that have produced more than half the greenhouse gas emissions humans have released since the start of the Industrial Revolution…Like Trump, who denies human-driven global warming but who wants to build a wall around his golf resort in Ireland to protect it from the rising seas, these companies, some of which have spent millions sponsoring climate deniers, have progressively raised the height of their platforms in the Gulf of Mexico in response to warnings about higher seas and stronger storms. They have grown from 40ft above sea level in 1940, to 70ft in the 1990s, to 91ft today.
There has been less mention in the media of the devastating floods in India. In Mumbai an unrelenting downpour battered low-lying parts of the city in late August, with some areas receiving almost 12 inches of rain.

What did we hear on TV of the floods in SE Asia? They have been particularly devastating; in the past two months more than 1,200 people have been killed and 20 million others affected by floods in Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

Did you hear about the droughts in America? Writing in The Guardian Kathleen McLaughlin reports; ‘While much of the country’s attention in recent weeks has been on the hurricanes striking southern Texas and the Caribbean, a so-called “flash drought”, an unpredictable, sudden event brought on by sustained high temperatures and little rain, has seized a swathe of the country and left farmers with little remedy. Across Montana’s northern border and east into North Dakota, farms are turning out less wheat than last year, much of it poorer quality than normal…Farmers see vast cracked, grey, empty fields dotted with weeds and little patches of stunted wheat.’ Montana governor Steve Bullock declared the entire state a fire disaster: “Montana is in a severe drought and the conditions are ripe for continued severe fires through September.”

Even in Australia the situation is grim. Writing in The Conversation, Andrew King, Climate Extremes Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne says: ‘Australia’s average daytime maximum temperatures were the highest on record for this winter, beating the previous record set in 2009 by 0.3℃. This means Australia has set new seasonal highs for maximum temperatures a remarkable ten times so far this century (across summer, autumn, winter and spring)…The increased frequency of heat records in Australia has already been linked to climate change. This warm, dry winter is laying the groundwork for dangerous fire conditions in spring and summer. We have already had early-season fires on the east coast and there are likely to be more to come.’

Sydney has had only one hotter day in the first half of September, and bushfires are already burning in NSW where authorities predict a dangerous fire season.

Writing in Women’s Agenda, editor Angela Priestley says: ‘Australia has not been immune to significant weather events. When the destructive and deadly Cyclone Debbie hit earlier this year, researchers suggested it was indicative of the fewer, but more intense, storms we can expect to see as a result of warming in the upper troposphere. A 2016 bleaching event affected the vast majority of the Great Barrier Reef. Australia has been described as sitting in what some experts dub as “disaster alley”, a region home to large coastal populations exposed to extreme weather events that are predicted to worsen in the years to come.’

I wonder how much more evidence is needed to establish in the climate deniers’ minds that there IS a connection between global warming and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events across the globe?

Despite the rapidly accumulating evidence that points to a connection, at their recent conference The Nationals not only endorsed coal as their preferred baseload energy source into the future, but also sought to have all subsidies removed from renewable energy initiatives. Also they are urging the Clean Energy Target, as recommended in the Finkel Review, be scrapped! Their perverse position, that flies in the face of the evidence, can be explained only on the basis of vested interest, or more grotesquely by entrenched belief that is simply not amenable to factual or logical imperatives. They are behaving like brazen children determined to run counter to social norms.

And now our PM, fettered by his conservative cabal, is talking up coal, ‘clean coal’ mind you, as the only way we can have energy security in the foreseeable future at times of peak load, paving the way for subsidies to so-called “low-emission, high-efficiency coal power stations”. Yet, as industry expert Alan Pears points out in The Conversation, Turnbull’s claim is debatable, and anyway it takes eight years before a new coal-fired station generates a cash flow, and thirty years to turn a profit, not a great prospect for investors! Nevertheless, the coal lobby and its parliamentary sycophants, lead by coal-lover Tony Abbott, have our PM in harness. Scripture tells us: ‘It's hard to kick against the pricks’; Turnbull knows this and has lamely given up.

What hope is there when our national leader so shamefully abandons the high principles on climate change he so strongly expressed in the past, only to enthusiastically embrace the most polluting fuel of all - coal - and represent it as our energy saviour, knowing full well the dire environmental consequences? He is ready too to abandon the Finkel recommendation for a Clean Energy Target, which his conservative rump, led by The Nationals is demanding.

What hope is there when POTUS Trump abandons the Paris Accord, appoints a climate change denier to head his Environmental Protection Authority, persists with his ‘climate change is a hoax’ rhetoric, denies any connection between recent devastating adverse weather events and global warming that will cost his government many, many billions? What hope is there when he strongly supports coal mining, and does everything he can to bring into disrepute climate science and climate scientists, who warn us daily of the risks we face unless we change our energy sources radically away from coal and other fossil fuels?

Hurricanes. Floods. Droughts. Why is it so? We know why it is so - climate scientists tell us every day. We know the solution - phasing out of fossil fuels and phasing in of non-polluting renewable sources of energy. But our leaders are blind, deaf and dumb, stubbornly resistant to taking these actions.

A new mental illness has emerged: Blind resistance to action on climate change, otherwise known as the BRTAOCC syndrome. It may soon make it into DSM-5: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . There are many who suffer from this syndrome. Here in Australia there is a cluster in our federal government headed by a spineless turncoat. Overseas there is the POTUS, the epitome of wilful ignorance.

Is there a cure? Will our leaders blindly lead us over the precipice? Will we follow like lemmings?

It seems that our only hope is ourselves. Our governments, our leaders, those we look to for guidance, are so obsessed by the politics of everything, so focussed on power and self-preservation, that the issue of climate change fades invisibly into the background.

In the US, the action of President Trump in abandoning the Paris Accord has precipitated contrary action by many State governors, major cities, large companies and individuals, who are determined not to abandon action to combat global warming. They are taking the action our leaders won’t. We, the ordinary people, must support them. We are the only ones who can save our planetary home.

The power of the people is our only hope. The future of our planet is in our hands.



Climate wars all over again



Only a naive optimist could believe the contemporary rhetoric that the Finkel Review might bring the climate wars of the last decade to an end.

As long as Tony Abbott lurks in the wings there will be war over climate. His whole persona is warlike, his political book is even titled Battlelines. A pugilist since student days, he has carried unremitting combativeness into his political life, and will do so until he leaves.

Recall Peta Credlin’s observation about how Abbott seized upon the ‘carbon tax’ meme when he was Opposition Leader. Here is an extract from a February 2017 article titled Here's the audio of Peta Credlin admitting the last seven years of politics is based on total crap by Mark Di Stefano in BuzzFeedNEWS:
“Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin has let slip that one of the most damaging political campaigns in recent Australian political history was based on bullshit. Credlin made her comments during an episode of Sky’s Sunday Agenda:

“Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms but we made it a carbon tax. We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics and it took Abbott about six months to cut through and when he cut through, Gillard was gone.

“Okay, okay, okay. Let’s just provide some context. Australia has a complicated history in trying to do what many countries have already done – put a price on carbon emissions.

“Emissions trading scheme proposals contributed to the demise of Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader in 2009 and Kevin Rudd as prime minister in 2010. Julia Gillard finally introduced a carbon-pricing scheme in 2011.

“It was Tony Abbott who re-framed Gillard’s scheme as a “carbon tax”, even though after the first year the price on carbon emissions was no longer fixed, and was instead set by the market.

“Abbott rode the anti-carbon tax movement all the way into The Lodge and eventually had everyone, including Labor and the media, calling it a carbon tax.”
There it is – the brutal truth - straight out of the horse’s mouth!

Abbott fought Julia Gillard with the ‘carbon tax’ weapon and won. Now he wants to fight ‘Electricity Bill Shorten’ in the same way.


Leading a clique of Coalition climate deniers and coal advocates, Abbott wants to implement a strategy that paints the Coalition as the party that will lower electricity prices, while Labor will increase them: “The Liberal Party has to be the party of cheap power, let Labor be the party of expensive power”. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking about electricity and the last thing we want to do is let Electricity Bill off the hook”.

Abbott has already made it clear where he stands on the Finkel report: Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market: "There are two criteria. First of all, does it take the pressure off power prices? And second, does it allow coal to continue?" Moreover, Abbott insists that: “…a new low emissions target should deliver cheaper power and not ‘clobber’ Australia's economy.”

Note that there is no mention of bringing down emissions – Abbott couldn’t give a fig about global warming, which he discounts. He is quite open about this: “…the nation's power system should be run to provide affordable, reliable energy, not primarily to reduce emissions”.

He insists: “Australia's emissions reduction targets under the Paris agreement are "aspirational only, not binding, not mandatory."



Abbott has disparagingly labelled Finkel’s Clean Energy Target – the heart of the Finkel Review – as a ‘tax on coal’, and a ‘magic pudding’, a well-worn but derogatory metaphor for a self-replenishing resource that magically serves everyone.

His fighting strategy is already pretty clear. Phil Coorey, writing in the Australian Financial Review, says: “Mr Abbott tore down Julie [sic] Gillard by campaigning against a carbon tax on the basis of high electricity prices and has indicated he will oppose a CET using the same line.”

With Abbott in the wings spoiling for a street brawl, what hope is there that Malcolm Turnbull, Josh Frydenberg, and other less cantankerous Coalition members will be able to counter the Abbott faction to reach a consensus? None.

Turnbull has another adversary in the climate wars when one adds into the mix the Greens who believe the Finkel plan falls short. They want to see coal mining eliminated and coal fired electricity generation phased out rapidly.

Even Labor, which has pledged cooperation with the Coalition, has its doubts. It is already heralding a revision of the Clean Energy Target when in power to make it more stringent. Moreover, its climate change spokesman Mark Butler said the Opposition could never support a CET that allowed so-called clean coal to be deemed a low emissions technology.

But Turnbull’s main adversaries are in his own party. Headed by the argumentative Abbott, about a third of the party room (but only twelve Liberals) spoke against the Finkel Review when it met to discuss the Review. About a third spoke in favour, and the rest were undecided. Several argued that Finkel’s CET was ‘too close’ to that of Labor, and therefore unacceptable, illustrating how pathetic this conflict has become. Abbott’s anti-Finkel henchmen include most of the usual suspects: Kevin Andrews, Ian Macdonald, Craig Kelly, Andrew Hastie, Chris Back, Rowan Ramsay, Russell Broadbent, Angus Taylor and Tony Pasin.

Bernard Keane of Crikey summed up the situation and Turnbull’s dilemma aptly:
"It’s all over but the shouting — Tony Abbott has signed the government’s death warrant by creating disunity within the Coalition over the Finkel review. For as the battle-scarred Labor opposition is so fond of saying: we’ve seen this movie before, and there’s nothing to suggest it will end any differently this time.

"Abbott knows the old maxim ‘disunity is death’ is more than a glib three-word slogan – it’s an undeniable political reality. But once again, a petulant and embittered former leader has judged his revenge is more important than the interests of the party to which he pledged fealty and the nation he swore to serve.

"And on polling day, voters will again express their disdain – not only for the perpetrator but the subject of his vengeance – by tossing out another ‘chaotic’ government because it can’t keep its house in order.

"The Coalition’s debate over the Finkel review appears to be about electricity prices, but it’s really about killing off Turnbull’s attempt to redeem himself with voters through an integrated energy and emissions policy.

"Just as Abbott did with Julia Gillard’s emissions reduction policy, the former PM is trying to provoke voter (and backbench) anxiety about Finkel’s Clean Energy Target by claiming it will increase the cost of living."
Tongue in cheek, Keane suggests a solution – that Turnbull resign and hand the keys of The Lodge to Bill Shorten – but, knowing that will not happen, says:
”However, there is a way that Malcolm Turnbull can emerge from the conflagration that is yet to come with what little remains of his integrity.

“Given he has little else to lose, the PM could fight to the death on the Finkel reforms, developing a credible energy and emissions policy and using his authority to gain cabinet endorsement, even if unanimous support from the joint party room is unattainable.

“Yes, that would inevitably lead to usual Liberal and National insurgents crossing the floor to vote against any such ‘greenish’ policy. But with Labor’s support in both houses of Parliament, the Finkel reforms would still prevail. This bipartisan signal would give the energy industry the certainty it desperately needs to make the investments that will bring electricity prices – and emissions – down.”
The climate wars continue, and will likely do so for weeks, even months to come. To succeed as Keane suggests, Turnbull would need to convince a majority of his party room to support the Finkel proposal, and then get the support of Labor, the Greens and enough of the Senate to pass the legislation.

That looks like ‘Mission Impossible’. The climate wars will continue while Abbott leads the charge. He will be aiming to kill off everything Finkel recommends, sweep away his hated adversary, and restore himself to what he has always seen as his rightful place – the leader of this nation.

Tragically for our nation, we do have the climate wars all over again. Unless Abbott wins his fight-to-the-death with Turnbull, the war will continue until he gets his way, or is eliminated from the battlefield.

The most pernicious, combative, aggressive, confrontational, and destructive politician in the modern era cares not what he damages or who he destroys. In February we published: Abbott’s legacy of destruction. Abbott has not changed, nor will he!

For him, winning the prize for himself is all that counts.




What is your opinion?
Let us know in comments below.

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Open letter to PM Turnbull about automation



Prime Minister

The people of Australia are aware of your desire that this nation and its people be agile, enterprising, and ever ready to adapt to change. I applaud your aspiration.

While some changes receive much publicity such as global warming, there is another, just as crucial, but which scarcely receives a mention. I am referring to the march of automation and the consequent displacement of humans from work they once did.

As robots progressively replace the workers who perform physical work, as algorithms make redundant people who perform cognitive tasks, the human toll increases as more and more are swept into unemployment.

The predictions are frightening. Robots are taking over jobs in manufacturing, agriculture, transport, tourism, hospitality, catering, retail, online sales, health and aged care, the service sector, and communications. Already, algorithms are being used in seventy percent of financial transactions. The trend is accelerating.

Whilst it is acknowledged that many benefits follow in the wake of automation and that productivity gains could be substantial, and while it is expected that automation will enhance national prosperity, the human cost is either being ignored or discounted by planners.

It is predicted that in the decades ahead many millions of people will lose their jobs, both here and overseas, leaving them without an income, dependent on welfare for survival.



Inequality, already high and rising, will be exacerbated.

Which brings me to the purpose of this letter.

Since it is the function of governments, civil authorities and planners to predict the future and plan for it, I seek your response to these questions:
  • What steps has your government taken to address the issue of automation and its sequelae?
  • Is there a department, a parliamentary committee, or an external body or group that has been commissioned to address the issue of automation?
If there is such a group:
  • What are the predictions about the proliferation of robots and algorithms?
  • Over what time frame has the predictions been made?
  • What effects are predicted to result from automation?
  • As people are displaced by automation and become unemployed, what provision is being made for their welfare and that of their dependents?
  • Has any consideration been given to the idea of guaranteeing all who unsuccessfully seek work or become unemployed a universal basic wage to enable their survival?
  • Does your government have a plan to manage this radical change to the work environment and the social contract of work for all?

I seek answers as a concerned citizen, deeply troubled by what lies ahead as automation takes its toll on our people.

I will anxiously await your response to my queries. In my view, in the same way as global warming threatens physical existence on our planet for all living things, automation threatens the very fabric of our human society. Both threats are dangerous; both demand the urgent attention of those to whom we have entrusted our future.

Yours respectfully



What do you think?
Have you seen any signs of Turnbull or his ministers taking any preemptive action on automation?

What action should he take?

Let us know in comments below.

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The hazards of voting Liberal



It’s clear that around half of all voters for the major parties will vote for the Liberal-National Coalition and half for Labor and the Greens. The result is likely to be close. There are many seats that promise to throw up intriguing results. If the Coalition wins, the Senate may end up being no more helpful to it than the last one.

The purpose of this piece is not to attempt to predict the election result, but rather to ask what might motivate voters to place the LNP first, and to examine the hazards of doing so.

It really boils down to what voters want of a federal government. Liberal-National voters seem to want different things from Labor and Greens voters, or for that matter different from what voters for independents want.

As our politicians tell us, whether they can do what they want to do, and what voters want them to do, revolves around priorities. Who would not like to see policies put in place that made us all well off, with the services we want and need readily available to us all whenever we needed them? In a perfect world we would have it all. Yet we know that we can’t have it all. The political and economic system in which we live produces disparity. There have been, and always will be the very well off at one end of the spectrum, and at the other those who struggle day to day simply to survive.

There is not room here to describe all the hazards of voting Liberal, so I will confine myself to examining just four areas: Inequality, Medicare, the NBN, and Marriage Equality, where Liberal priorities conflict with those of other parties.

Inequality
Those who disparage the idea of equality do so because they believe those seeking equality want the same for all. Nobody believes we can all be millionaires or even modestly well off, but who would not want everyone to at least have the necessities of life? What the ‘equality’ advocates want is the gap between those at the top and those at the other end to be less grotesque than it is, to see it narrowing as a result of government policies, not widening. Inequality is currently at a 75 year high!

Yet LNP policies will widen the gap. Its proposal to spend $48 billion to reduce company tax, not just for small businesses, which Labor supports, but large ones, even our big banks and multinational corporations, is yet another example of the application of ‘supply-side economics’, colloquially known as ‘trickle down economics’. How many examples of the failure of this model do they need before they acknowledge that it does not work? All it does is increase inequality.

Tax breaks given to businesses do not trickle down to workers in the form of more jobs and better wages. History tells us that businesses save more of any tax break they are given than they spend; they do not invest it predominately to grow their businesses; and they do not roll out lots more jobs.

‘Jobs and growth’ is just a fine-sounding mantra, not a plausible plan for growing our economy or creating more jobs. It is a façade with almost nothing behind it. It is hard to contemplate that those who perpetrate this charade really believe in its effectiveness and its worth. If our PM, Treasurer and Finance ministers do believe their own ‘jobs and growth’ rhetoric, heaven help us; if they don’t, what we are witnessing is a grossly cynical political plot to deceive the electorate.

And what’s more, the Coalition has never explained why business tax breaks of $48 billion should have priority over the $37 billion needed for schools.

Research studies show that conservatives are resistant to change and are tolerant of inequality, which they regard as part of the natural order of societies, dating back to the days of feudalism and serfdom. They have no innate motivation to work for a more egalitarian social order, although this is what the average Aussie wants. Their support for reducing workers’ penalty rates on Sundays is an example of their tolerance of worsening inequality.

The first hazard of voting Liberal then is that inequality will increase and disruptive social consequences will follow.

Medicare
The future of Medicare has been at the top of the issues discussed during the final campaign weeks. Labor is insistent that the Coalition is intent on disrupting and diminishing Medicare; the LNP labels this as a gigantic ‘scare campaign’ built on a ‘deceitful lie’. Malcolm Turnbull has been forced to react to Labor’s attack by denying any ill intent, and has promised, almost in legalistic terms, that no changes will be made to Medicare should his government be elected: “I am making a solemn commitment, an unequivocal commitment that every element of Medicare’s services will continue to be delivered by government. Full stop.”

That ought to be the end of it, but politicians have so diminished themselves in the eyes of the electorate, have told so many lies and broken so many promises, that only their rusted-on supporters believe them anymore.

Who can ever forget John Howard’s 1995 ‘never, ever’ GST reassurance? Who could possibly forget Tony Abbott’s 2013 promise of "no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS"? The GST was the only area to avoid the Abbott/Hockey savaging.

Voters are skeptical and highly cynical about any political promise, no matter how volubly made. Turnbull ought not to be surprised at the reaction of voters; frothing at the mouth with indignation will not change their views.

None of us can predetermine what will happen to Medicare. Words have no value in the bare-knuckle street fighting we are seeing as the election draws near. All we have to go on is past behaviour.

The most brazen upshot of the Abbott/Hockey push to reduce expenditure was the 2014 Budget. It contained attacks on Medicare with the proposed GP co-payment, blocked in the Senate, but now being put into effect with the freeze on GP bulk billing rebates until 2020. As practice costs continue to rise, the freeze means that bulk-billing GPs are making less and less profit from each consultation to the point that practice viability is being threatened. The government is forcing them absorb the deficit, or to charge their patients a co-payment. This is pushing them to the point where bulk billing is no longer a viable option. Expect more and more to abandon it, partially or completely.

The result will be that the less well off will not be able to afford the co-payment, and will not consult their GP when they ought to. Their illnesses will progress and the cost to them and the healthcare system, especially to public hospitals, will increase. This is dangerous healthcare, and wasteful to boot.

Writing in The Conversation about the threat of privatization of Medicare, Stephen Duckett, an architect of Medicare, says: “The greater threats to our national public health system lie in the increasing role of consumer co-payments and the power of vested interests that stifle policy innovation in health.

Another attack on Medicare was the change to bulk billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging proposed to begin on 1 July, which is now on hold. This would have made it difficult for the less well off to have necessary pathology tests and imaging. Cancer patients particularly would be affected. Moreover, the proposed $5 increase in the cost of prescription drugs (also held up in the Senate) would penalize patients with chronic illness.

How can we believe Turnbull’s denialism about Medicare, and his mealy-mouthed rhetoric about preserving Medicare in all its facets, when past and quite recent actions show how determined the Coalition is to reduce its cost and thereby erode it, subtly yet persistently? It’s his government’s actions that belie Turnbull’s effusive reassurance.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the AMA support Medicare strongly and are mounting a powerful campaign with patients and the public to preserve it and shield it from attacks.

The maintenance of Medicare is Labor’s most important policy platform; it has received much prominence during these latter weeks. Voters will have to decide whether they believe Bill Shorten’s or Malcolm Turnbull’s rhetoric.

So the second hazard of voting Liberal is to invite more assaults on our universal health care system – Medicare – and further erosion of the benefits it offers. The less well off would suffer most.

The National Broadband Network
With someone supposedly as tech savvy as Malcolm Turnbull, it would have been reasonable to expect something better from him when he was when Communications Minister in the Abbott government. Although he did not carry out Abbott’s instruction to “demolish the NBN”, what he has given us is a cobbled together mess: a multi technology mix, fibre to the node on the street corner (FTTN) in most instances, and ageing copper wire from the street corner to the premises. Speeds are not what the original Labor fibre to the premises (FTTP) promised, roll out is slower than predicted, the cost is growing every month and is likely to be no less than Labor’s fibre to the premises rollout. The NBN rollout has been badly bungled by Turnbull and the Abbott/Turnbull government.

Turnbull insists that Labor’s plan was too expensive, too slow to roll, and that the speeds it offered were unnecessary. He cites the uptake of slower speeds as indicating that users did not want Labor’s 100 Mbps!

To give the lie to Turnbull’s assertions, let’s look at a public speech given last week at the University of Melbourne by the first chief executive of the NBN, Mike Quigley. He called the current rollout ’backward-looking’ and ‘incredibly short sighted’, saying the current state of the project is ‘such a pity’.

His scathing critique of the Coalition’s current multi technology rollout strategy included evidence that a majority of the NBN will quickly become obsolete.

He’s what he said:
"The Coalition regularly points to the fact that a majority of the data packages purchased by customers already connected to the NBN are lower-tier packages as proof the network is sufficient for the nation’s needs.”

“It seems especially curious that a government that styles itself as the innovation and infrastructure government, should argue this. Gigabit services are just starting to emerge elsewhere in the world, so the applications that can take advantage of this type of speed are in their infancy. But we all know they are coming.”
Writing in The Conversation, Quigley adds:
"To spend billions of dollars on building a major piece of national infrastructure that just about meets demand today, but doesn’t allow for any significant growth over the next ten or 20 years is incredibly short-sighted.

“It is such a pity that so much time and effort has been spent on trying to discredit and destroy the original FTTP-based NBN plan. Equally, it’s a pity the Coalition has put its faith in what has turned out to be a short-sighted, expensive and backward looking multi-technology mix (MTM) plan based on copper.

“The nation is going to be bearing the consequences of those decisions for years to come – in higher costs and poorer performance in an area that is critical to its long-term future. Betting tens of billions of taxpayers dollars at this time on copper access technologies, as the Coalition has done, is a huge miscalculation…

“It is becoming increasingly obvious, especially to customers, that an NBN based on FTTP is a much better network than an MTM-based NBN from every angle – speed and capacity delivery, maintenance costs, reliability, longevity and upgrade costs.

“An FTTP network would be a much more valuable public asset and could generate greater cash flows for the government due to lower maintenance, higher revenues and almost no upgrade costs. And it would be vastly superior in driving growth through the wider economy.

“So it is a great pity that before making the shift to the MTM, the Coalition did not heed the words of the then independent MP for New England, Tony Windsor: “Do it right, do it once, do it with fibre.”
What more needs to be said? After vehemently criticizing Labor’s FTTP NBN, Turnbull has created a multi technology mess that will leave Australia struggling in the wake of the 58 countries that already have superior connection speeds.

This then is the third hazard of voting Liberal – an inferior broadband network, dangerously uncompetitive in the global market. Yet Turnbull thinks this is OK for his innovative, agile nation!

Marriage equality
It is with foreboding that LGBTI folk and their supporters anticipate the plebiscite forced upon the LNP by Abbott and his conservative faction, now slavishly adopted by Turnbull. Despite his protestations of support for marriage equality, his dependence on the support of the conservative clique in his party renders him impotent to substitute a parliamentary vote in place of a plebiscite.

He knows full well that Abbott’s choice of a post-election plebiscite was to frustrate the popular push for marriage equality, first by delaying its implementation, and more importantly by giving the bigots a chance to frighten the public with predictions of dire outcomes should marriage equality, or more baldly ‘same sex marriage’, come about.

We have already seen the fear mongering of the Australian Christian Lobby via its aggressive chief executive Lyle Shelton, who wants anti-discrimination laws suspended before the plebiscite so he can say what ever wants! And we have heard the grotesque utterances of the likes of Cory Bernardi, which do not deserve repeating. Pamphlets designed for the plebiscite campaign claim that ‘social outcomes’ for children of same-sex parents are ‘unemployment’, ‘sexually transmitted diseases’, and ‘drug use and abuse’, which is at odds with the body of scientific research demonstrating that children of same-sex couples are likely to have at least as positive emotional, social and academic outcomes as other children.

Penny Wong, a member of the LGBTI group, recently highlighted her apprehension. She pointed to ugly posters and hurtful social media hate speech, such as were seen in Ireland, that demean LGBTI people, hold them up to ridicule, hurt good parents, and induce uncertainty, fear, suspicion and loathing. Opponents of marriage equality do not care what hurt and anxiety they cause; their purpose is to stop it in its tracks, no matter what the cost to others. They are not kind or empathic; they are ruthless in the pursuit of their quasi-religious dogma. We now hear that Turnbull will allow his members to vote any way they wish and not be bound by the plebiscite outcome!

Here then is a fourth hazard in voting Liberal. It will result in a damaging lead-up to an unnecessary and expensive ($160 million) plebiscite that will hurt many, and which runs the risk of frustrating the wishes of a clear majority of the electorate which wants marriage equality, and wants it now.

This piece is already long enough. To detail all the other hazards of voting Liberal would take another piece, or two. So do read Michael Taylor’s excellent catalogue of reasons not to vote Liberal which you will find on the AIM Network in Why on earth would you want to vote for the LNP? He has compiled a comprehensive list that will astonish you. It makes one wonder how the LNP could possibly succeed on July 2.



I suppose voters who can’t see the ghost of Abbott with his cynically calculating conservative faction hovering over Turnbull, who don’t care about inequality, who are indifferent to the Coalition’s assault on Medicare, who don’t care that our NBN is slow and already antiquated, who don’t give a toss about marriage equality for our LGBTI friends, and who are unaware of the many other hazards of voting Liberal, would be comfortable voting this way, dangerously unaware of the awful consequences.

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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