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I’ve seen what happens when the poorest among us are backed into a corner. The sort of welfare cuts proposed in the Budget will create conditions conducive to criminal activity, writes Greg Barns.

The Abbott Government’s first Budget is unashamedly designed to deliver social and economic change in Australia.

One of the consequences, however, is likely to be an increase in crime. Crimes such as theft, low level drug selling, driving without a licence, burglaries, robberies and family violence generally increase when the welfare rolls are slashed.

From July 1 individuals under the age of 30 will have to wait six months before they can access unemployment benefits. And young people will be kept on the Youth Allowance up until the age of 25.

Then there are co-payments for visits to the doctor, albeit capped at 10 visits in some cases.

As a lawyer who has acted for many people in the criminal justice and child welfare systems, anecdotally I can say that, as night follows day, the assertion about an increase in crime will be borne out.

Take a young man or woman who is sacked from their part-time casual job and who has no comfortable middle class family to support them. This individual is already likely to have debts, and may have to support a child or children.

They are likely to be behind on their rent. Forcing that person into a position where they go from earning say $250 a week for their casual job to nothing, literally overnight, is devastating.

The mental health pressure on an individual in that setting is enormous to say the least. That individual needs quick money – a small drug deal would be handy. And they are offered a day’s work but have lost their licence previously. Why not hop in the car and take the risk?

This scenario is one that I have seen replicated over the years in Tasmania and Victoria. As is the fact that family violence increases when the financial pressure on individuals is unsustainable. Resorting to drink and drugs as antidotes can lead to domestic violence.

Last week I saw, for the umpteenth time, two young people dealt with by a court for stealing a tray of meat in one case and baby nappies in another. The background of these individuals was one of dire poverty, unemployment and a sheer lack of capacity to afford food for themselves.

One needs to be careful not to suggest what is often implied by those who support savage welfare cuts – that the poor are idle and disposed towards earning an easy dollar through criminal activity. That assertion is simply wrong.

The reality is more one of “there but the grace of God go I”.

The data bears out the fact that the sort of welfare cuts proposed by the Abbott Government in relation to young people will create conditions conducive to criminal activity.

Swingeing welfare cuts made by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government in the UK over the past three years has seen crime levels jump in some areas.

On November 10 last year Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles told the BBC about a 3 per cent increase in crimes compared with the same period in 2012.

Mr Charles revealed that shoplifting, theft from vehicles and non-domestic burglaries have increased in areas where welfare cuts hit hardest.

“What we’re finding now predominantly in areas of higher deprivation, with the benefit cuts that the government have inflicted on people who are not in work and are claiming benefits etc, crime is starting to go up,” Charles said.

On October 29 last year another senior UK police officer drew attention to a possible link between welfare cuts and crime. Deputy Chief Constable David Zinzan told the Plymouth Herald that nationally “shoplifting has increased in 34 out of 43 forces” and that anecdotally, he is “being told we are seeing an increase in shoplifting, not of high value goods, but basic necessities – food, nappies and baby milk – that may or may not be linked to the reforms that have taken place.”

A paper by UK researchers Will Jennings, Stephen Farrall and Shaun Bevan and published in 2012 in the International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice examined property crimes trends from 1961 to 2006.

The authors found that the surge in property crime in the UK in the 1980s to its high point between 1991-1995 was directly linked to policies that squeezed welfare recipients.

They note, rather presciently given the current Australian context:

“(as) government enacts fiscal or monetary policies designed to adjust macroeconomic outcomes, increasing or reducing national levels of unemployment, income inequality, inflation and economic growth, this impacts on the overall degree of law-breaking and victimisation in society.”

Arguing that the Abbott Government’s welfare changes are too harsh and will lead to an increase in certain types of crime as a consequence should not be taken to be an endorsement of long-term welfare dependency.

The latter is also linked with crime in a number of studies. But what is wrong with the announcements by Treasurer Joe Hockey is that no thought seems to have gone into the considerable social cost of suddenly shifting marginalised people into a situation where their already knife-edge financial and social setting is simply tipped over onto the dark side.

The city of Homs has finally been retaken by the Syrian Arab Army. The scenes of devastation left behind by nearly 3 years of fighting are surreal, but residents – who have begun returning in small numbers – vow to rebuild the city. Fighting concluded when the Syrian government granted a ceasefire to encircled militants occupying the city’s center.

An estimated 2,000 militants evacuated the city to rural positions where government forces will be able to engage them. Lacking the cover Homs’ urban terrain provided them, and without the well entrenched positions and logistical lines they had established throughout fighting that began in 2011, militants stand little chance of continuing their campaign of violence, let alone returning to Homs.

Indeed, Homs – considered by the West who has sponsored the militants, as the “capital of the revolution” – is a symbol of what is to come across the rest of Syria. Similar ceasefires will alleviate urban centers that had been invaded and occupied by militants – many of whom are not even Syrian – and push the fighting into Syria’s rural regions where those that insist on continuing hostilities will be systematically eliminated by Syrian security forces.

Homs is the third largest city in Syria – its liberation from foreign militants is a significant turn in the still ongoing conflict. Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, still suffers under heavily contested occupation by foreign militants emanating from and receiving support by NATO-member Turkey.

As Syria approaches the end of wide-scale conflict that began in 2011 under the cover of US-engineered political destabilization and foreign-sponsored terrorism, it will be important for the Syrian government to recognize political opposition who had refrained from subversion and violence to address grievances and help move Syria forward and beyond attempts to divide and destroy the nation. However, attempts by the West to claim Syria is “divided” are patently false. Had Syria been truly divided, it is unlikely the government in Damascus would have weathered the nation-wide conflict, which included several sorties by Israeli warplanes directly on Damascus, as well as high-level assassinations, economic warfare, and a steady stream of billions of dollars in arms and equipment over Syria’s borders in the hands of foreign terrorists, facilitated by NATO and its regional partners.

Read more…..

Mother and son, Dasht-e-Qala, Takhar province, November 2000

Mother and son, Dasht-e-Qala, Takhar province, November 2000

A few years ago, award-winning journalist and poet Eliza Griswold learned the story of Zarmina, a young girl in Afghanistan who had regularly phoned a radio hotline for women who wanted to share poems called “landays.” Landays are couplets expressing laments, jokes, and frustrations; they are forbidden to many Afghan women because they imply dishonor and free will. When Zarmina was discovered writing them, her brothers beat her badly, and she protested by setting herself on fire. She later died in a Kandahar hospital.

Griswold teamed up with war photographer Seamus Murphy and reported the story of Zarmina for the New York Times Magazine in 2012. After the article was published, their work together bloomed into a much larger collaboration about Afghan women, which resulted in a a photographic and poetry compilation called I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays From Contemporary Afghanistan.

Griswold and Murphy recognized that landays were being used as a means of self-expression and education at a time when opportunities for women were rapidly diminishing. “We came up with the idea of using contemporary landays to look at not only Afghan life, but also the impact of the last decade of war on the lives Afghan women, especially at this very delicate moment when the international pullout could leave those voices most vulnerable,” Griswold said.

A man from an internally displaced persons camp outside Kandahar, Kandahar province, August 2004

A man from an internally displaced persons camp outside Kandahar, Kandahar province, August 2004

 

Women shopping for bangles at a bazaar, Kandahar, August 2004

Women shopping for bangles at a bazaar, Kandahar, August 2004

A young girl pouring tea in an IDP camp, Kabul, November 2012

http://www.wikileaksparty.org.au/wp-admin/post-new.php A young girl pouring tea in an IDP camp, Kabul, November 2012

  May God destroy the Taliban and end their wars.
They’ve made Afghan women into widows and whores. Read more…..

Palestinians mark the “Nakba” or “catastrophe” – the name they use for their uprooting during the war over Israel’s creation in 1948. In honor of the day, the UN has digitized more than 525,000 photos, most of which have never been seen before. posted on

The photos show a history of the Palestinian’s transition into life as one of the world’s most entrenched refugee populations. In this 1971 photo, Palestinian refugees pose for pictures in a newly built refugee camp in Eastern Jordan.

AP Photo/G.Nehmeh, UNRWA Photo Archives

Vast tent camps, like this one in Lebanon from 1952, were established as emergency measures to shelter Palestinian refugees. Today, many still stand as crowded, cement-block neighborhoods.

Vast tent camps, like this one in Lebanon from 1952, were established as emergency measures to shelter Palestinian refugees. Today, many still stand as crowded, cement-block neighborhoods.

AP Photo/S.Madver, UNRWA Photo Archives

In this 1968 photo, a Palestinian woman arrives at a Jordanian refugee camp as part of the exodus of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza following the 1967 war. Many thought they were only seeking temporary shelter at the time.

In this 1968 photo, a Palestinian woman arrives at a Jordanian refugee camp as part of the exodus of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza following the 1967 war. Many thought they were only seeking temporary shelter at the time.

AP Photo/G.Nehmeh, UNRWA Photo Archives

This 1967 photo shows Palestinians fleeing the river Jordan on the remnants of the Allenby bridge. Many carry only what they can hold in their hands or on their backs.

This 1967 photo shows Palestinians fleeing the river Jordan on the remnants of the Allenby bridge. Many carry only what they can hold in their hands or on their backs.

AP Photo/UNRWA Photo Archives

“We didn’t realize then, that we would never see our homes again,” said Fatima Husseini, who fled her home near Jerusalem in 1968 when she was only 11 years old. She still lives in Jordan with her four sons.

"We didn't realize then, that we would never see our homes again," said Fatima Husseini, who fled her home near Jerusalem in 1968 when she was only 11 years old. She still lives in Jordan with her four sons.

AP Photo/UNRWA Photo Archives

Many were unprepared for life outside of their traditional homes. In this 1975 photo, Fathiyeh Sattari, a worried Palestinian mother, talks to a doctor about her underweight child, at a Rafah health clinic.

Many were unprepared for life outside of their traditional homes. In this 1975 photo, Fathiyeh Sattari, a worried Palestinian mother, talks to a doctor about her underweight child, at a Rafah health clinic.

AP Photo/G.Nehmeh, UNRWA Photo Archives

Today Sattari, 62, and her family still live in the Rafah Refugee Camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Her son, Hassan, holds the photo of himself with his mother. They say they have little hope of ever going back to their ancestral home.

Today Sattari, 62, and her family still live in the Rafah Refugee Camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Her son, Hassan, holds the photo of himself with his mother. They say they have little hope of ever going back to their ancestral home.

AP Photo/Adel Hana

The family recently told AP that they would not mark the Nakba this Thursday. “Without confrontation, we can’t go back,” said Hassan, adding that he himself was focused on his son’s education.

The family recently told AP that they would not mark the Nakba this Thursday. "Without confrontation, we can't go back," said Hassan, adding that he himself was focused on his son's education.

AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed

This year, Palestinians will mark the Nakba as the most recent efforts to reach a peace deal between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership end in failure. The two sides are currently exchanging blame over who torpedoed the talks.

This year, Palestinians will mark the Nakba as the most recent efforts to reach a peace deal between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership end in failure. The two sides are currently exchanging blame over who torpedoed the talks.

SAID KHATIB/AFP / Getty Images

While many issues remain on the table, few are as contentious as what will happen to millions of Palestinian refugees and their right of return. Palestinian murals, like this one, still portray a mass return of refugees as the ultimate goal.

While many issues remain on the table, few are as contentious as what will happen to millions of Palestinian refugees and their right of return. Palestinian murals, like this one, still portray a mass return of refugees as the ultimate goal.

AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon

Israel is staunchly opposed to a mass return. According to UN figures, 700,000 Palestinians fled during the 1948 war, and tens of thousands more fled following the 1967 war. Today, some 1.5 million refugees remain in the region’s 58 refugee camps.

Israel is staunchly opposed to a mass return. According to UN figures, 700,000 Palestinians fled during the 1948 war, and tens of thousands more fled following the 1967 war. Today, some 1.5 million refugees remain in the region's 58 refugee camps.

AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon

U.N. agencies still deliver aid daily to hundreds of thousands of refugees in the camps. “What perpetuates the refugee problem is the failure of the political parties to solve it,” said Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the U.N.

U.N. agencies still deliver aid daily to hundreds of thousands of refugees in the camps. "What perpetuates the refugee problem is the failure of the political parties to solve it," said Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the U.N.

AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon

Part 1 Recruitment

Part 2 Training

Part 3 War

Part 4 Coming Home

 

 

shutterstock_111482507-600x401May 13 2014 “ICH” – “ZH” – That Russia has been pushing for trade arrangements that minimize the participation (and influence) of the US dollar ever since the onset of the Ukraine crisis (and before) is no secret: this has been covered extensively on these pages before (see Gazprom Prepares “Symbolic” Bond Issue In Chinese Yuan; Petrodollar Alert: Putin Prepares To Announce “Holy Grail” Gas Deal With China; Russia And China About To Sign “Holy Grail” Gas Deal; 40 Central Banks Are Betting This Will Be The Next Reserve Currency; From the Petrodollar to the Gas-o-yuan and so on).

But until now much of this was in the realm of hearsay and general wishful thinking. After all, surely it is “ridiculous” that a country can seriously contemplate to exist outside the ideological and religious confines of the Petrodollar… because if one can do it, all can do it, and next thing you know the US has hyperinflation, social collapse, civil war and all those other features prominently featured in other socialist banana republics like Venezuela which alas do not have a global reserve currency to kick around.

Or so the Keynesian economists, aka tenured priests of said Petrodollar religion, would demand that the world believe.

However, as much as it may trouble the statists to read, Russia is actively pushing on with plans to put the US dollar in the rearview mirror and replace it with a dollar-free system. Or, as it is called in Russia, a “de-dollarized” world.

Voice of Russia reports citing Russian press sources that the country’s Ministry of Finance is ready to greenlight a plan to radically increase the role of the Russian ruble in export operations while reducing the share of dollar-denominated transactions. Governmental sources believe that the Russian banking sector is “ready to handle the increased number of ruble-denominated transactions”.

According to the Prime news agency, on April 24th the government organized a special meeting dedicated to finding a solution for getting rid of the US dollar in Russian export operations. Top level experts from the energy sector, banks and governmental agencies were summoned and a number of measures were proposed as a response for American sanctions against Russia.

Well, if the west wanted Russia’s response to ever escalating sanctions against the country, it is about to get it.

The “de-dollarization meeting” was chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Igor Shuvalov, proving that Moscow is very serious in its intention to stop using the dollar. A subsequent meeting was chaired by Deputy Finance Minister Alexey Moiseev who later told the Rossia 24 channel that “the amount of ruble-denominated contracts will be increased”, adding that none of the polled experts and bank representatives found any problems with the government’s plan to increase the share of ruble payments.

Read more…..

‘Taxman’ The Beatles

Gail —  May 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

album-The-Beatles-Revolver

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqK97av7I3s

Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
Cos I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
Cos I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet

Taxman!
Cos I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

Don’t ask me what I want it for (Aahh Mr. Wilson)
If you don’t want to pay some more (Aahh Mr. Heath)
Cos I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
Cos I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

And you’re working for no one but me
Taxman! – George Harrison

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WHO WAS BEHIND THE NATIONAL COMMISSION OF AUDIT?

Tony Shepherd, President of the Business Council of Australia and former Chairman of the Board for Transfield, pushed for the creation of an audit commission before the election. The Business Council of Australia (BCA) represents the CEO’s of the top 100 Australian companies. After the election Prime Minister Tony Abbot appointed Mr Shepherd as the chair of the National Commission of Audit (NCOA), along with three senior public servants and one former liberal minister.

It comes as no surprise that it is based on neo-liberal economic thinking which is now accepted by all major political parties in the Western world and beyond. Even if it is not all adopted, the report is important as a wish list of what the business community would like to see in Australia. If it does not scare you to death, you don’t understand what these people have planned for us. The NCOA is a declaration by the 1% about how they think the 99% should live. Now Tony Abbot and Joe Hockey are about to shove it down our throats. The only good thing about the NCOA report is that it shows all of us where Tony and Joe get their instructions. No need for conspiracy theories here.

THERE IS NO BUDGET CRISIS!

In order to sell these changes to the Australian people the government has said over and over that there is a budget crisis caused by falling income and rising expenses leading to increased government debt. Professor Raja Junankar is quite blunt in his assessment of the alleged budget crisis: “It is just a political stunt to try and persuade people that we have to cut back on things that this Government would like to cut back on anyway.”i Consider these facts about the our economy. Australia

– has the third-lowest debt as a percentage of GDP in the OECD;

– has had a very low level of government debt for the last 30 years;

– has current interest payments on its loans of less than 1% of GDP;

– has low interest rates and low unemployment;

– has a GDP per capita which ranks 4th among OECD countries;

– spends less on welfare as a percentage of GDP on than all but 4 countries;

– spends less on pensioners as a percentage of GNI than most OECD countries, including the US;

– has more pensioners living in poverty than any OECD country except Korea;

– spends slightly more per capita on healthcare than OECD average;

– spends less on healthcare as a share of GDP than the OECD average;

– did not increase spending per capita on healthcare from 2000-2011;

– has seen the share of wages in the GDP go down and the share of profits go up in the last 20 years.ii

Again, to quote Professor Junankar: “If we listen to the politicians it appears that the Australian economy is suffering from a major crisis of ballooning government debt and an impending crash… in fact, Australia has a ‘miracle economy’.”iii What the facts about the Australian economy show is that while being quite well off as a country, we are not very generous in providing support for people who are unemployed or needing some kind of government assistance. The recommendations of the NCOA will only make this worse.

HOW WOULD YOU FIX A REAL BUDGET CRISIS?

To see more clearly how the budget crisis is a scam, we need only look at how the NCOA and the government plan to “fix” the problem. They want to cut pensions, charge “co-payments” for medical services and consular assistance overseas, and end industry related research funding. If the government was dealing with a genuine budget crisis, they would look at INCOME from taxes as well as EXPENDITURE on pensions and healthcare. They say income will be looked at later. But why not look at them NOW, before the drastic cuts are introduced in the budget?

The fact is that superannuation tax concessions – worth as much as $35 billion a year – will cost the government more than it outlays on the aged pension within two or three years. So why not try to recover the money lost in these tax concessions? There are billions of dollars in tax income lost due to other rorts like negative gearing and salary packages.iv These are left out of the discussion because THE GOVERNMENT AND THE BUSINESS COUNCIL ARE NOT SERIOUS ABOUT BALANCING THE BUDGET. The “budget crisis” story is repeated over and over to scare us into accepting the cuts to social services. So what is their plan?

CUT BACK THE AGE PENSION

The idea of cutting payments to aged pensioners is particularly nasty when you realize that compared to other rich countries Australia has very low public spending on age pensions but relatively high rates of aged poverty. Further, the suggestion that the pension age should be raised to 70 is simply a recipe for greatly increased aged poverty. Because of age discrimination and the fact that older workers are usually replaced by younger people on less pay, it is hard for many people to stay in work or find a new job after 55.

The NCOA recommends that older unemployed people be forced on to Newstart ($250 per week), which will increase levels of poverty and homelessness. According to Veronica Sheen, a Research Associate at the Monash School of Social Sciences, the current system provides a modest but adequate standard of living for older Australians. The lower amounts of support recommended by the NCOA “sets the ground for the pauperisation of some groups of older people, especially single women (a group highly reliant on the full age pension) and those in rental accommodation.”v

LONG TERM GOAL: REMOVE THE MINIMUM WAGE

Further evidence that budget crisis is a fraud can be seen from the fact that the NCOA has a lot to say about the minimum wage. The minimum wage HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PRODUCING A BUDGET SURPLUS, however one of the most serious changes recommended by the NCOA is found in their suggestions for this policy. According to the ACTU their plan is to:

– Abolish the independent umpire that sets the minimum wage;

– Cut the real value of the minimum wage every year for ten years;

– Scrap the national minimum wage altogether in ten years’ time;

– Pit each state against each other to see who can have the lowest wage after that.

“This big business plan is a massive attack on the Australian way of life. Their strategy is clear: bust apart the wages safety net and drive everybody’s wages down. This is not just an attack on the low paid. It is an attack on all of us – every person who earns a wage in this country. By destroying the wage floor big business is trying to drive everyone’s wages down.”vi

SHORT TERM GOAL: REDUCE THE MINIMUM WAGE BY 21%

In the first stage of cutting the minimum wage NCOA recommends setting a minimum wage for low-skilled workers at 44% of average WEEKLY earnings. The minimum wage is currently 43.3% of the average FULL-TIME wage, which is considerably higher than the average WEEKLY earnings. If the NCOA’s recommendation is implemented, the current minimum wage of $622.20 per week would be reduced to $488.90 per week.vii For people in part-time and casual jobs, it would reduce the current hourly rate of $16.37 to $12.80 per hour (plus a casual loading). For many people, including the 10% of the female workforce that is underemployed, this would be a large loss of income.viii

FORCE THE UNEMPLOYED OFF PENSIONS

At the moment if you are on a pension and earn income between $100 and $250 per fortnight this reduces your fortnightly payments by 50 cents in the dollar. Rather than improving this, the COA recommends that payments for all benefits and pensions should be reduced by 75 cents in the dollar. Since all unemployed under the pension age will only get the low Newstart payments, they and all other unemployed must choose between living on $250 per week or finding any kind of low-paid work. In effect the recommendations of the NCOA are simply intended to force many people off pensions.

“If implemented, the recommendation means that there will be a greater disincentive for people to take on any work as it will be more trouble than what it’s worth. It is exactly counter to the type of help a government would want to give people to get off income-support payments. It erodes people’s capacity to help themselves through paid work and will increase poverty. It could also extend participation in the grey or black economy.”ix

END UNIVERSAL HEALTH COVER

The NCOA recommendations for Medicare would completely change our universal, publicly funded health system. The recommended GP co-payments are large at $15 and would undermine one of Medicare’s chief goals: to ensure everyone could see a doctor when they needed to. Even a lower charge of $6 would deter many low and middle income earners from visiting the GP. Research has shown that co-payments on poor and middle income people worked as a strong disincentive for seeking medical treatment at a primary care level.x

General practice is the most efficient part of the health system. It helps to minimise the number of people who ended up needing far more expensive hospital or chronic care. AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton explained that “the main problems we’ve got with our health system are the growing amounts of chronic disease and our ability to treat lots of diseases that we couldn’t treat that well in the past.”xi

While the NCOA recommendation for a system of copayments would drive lower and middle income earners out of the Medicare, they also want the high income earners to leave it as well and pay for basic health services through the private insurance system. These recommendations would lead us to two health care systems, one for the well-off and one for everyone else. This also opens the door for higher-income groups to continually contest government expenditures on a health system that they do not use themselves. As Veronica Sheen explains, “the Commission of Audit’s recommendation has the potential to set up the type of inequalities in health care combined with the exorbitant costs of the system that we see in the US.”xii

DECENTRALIZE PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION

One of the long term goals of the NCOA for education is to transfer all policy and funding responsibilities for primary and secondary schools to Australia’s state and territories. This is a well-known right-wing goal which if carried out would make our education system look more like the one in the US. The consequence of such a change would be to entrench existing inequalities. States would be under pressure to cut education t funding overall, and would probably respond by removing funding from “unsuccessful” schools and increasing funding for “successful” ones.

The NCOA also recommends that the government should abandon the needs-based funding model in the Gonski reforms from 2018 onwards. They believe that increased funding does not necessarily lead to better student outcomes. Along with other right-wing commentators, they put the onus for student achievement on schools and teachers without any reference to the levels of their funding. The Business Council would like to see the federal funding and oversight of education removed because this is where the pressure comes from to improve outcomes for students who have a poor record of academic performance.xiii

END FUNDING FOR INNOVATION IN INDUSTRY

To show just how mean spirited and short sighted the Business Council is, I must quote the contribution to a discussion of the recommendations of NCOA by Roy Green, Dean of UTS Business School at University of Technology, Sydney.

“In a mishmash of free market ideology and wishful thinking, the Commission of Audit recommends the abolition, scaling back or “consolidation” of almost all government industry and innovation programs. While the rest of the world is focused on new sources of growth in knowledge based products and services, these recommendations would make Australia increasingly dependent on the export of unprocessed raw materials in volatile global markets.

“Against all the evidence of the factors that drive growth and competitiveness in high cost economies like Australia, the government is advised to SCRAP PROVEN COST EFFECTIVE PROGRAMS, such as Commercialisation Australia, Enterprise Connect, Cooperative Research Centres and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

“Meanwhile, other governments, even conservative ones, in Europe and the US are expanding such programs with beneficial results in the wake of a global economic crisis which Australia largely managed to escape, thanks ironically to a swift and well-calibrated public policy response.

“Examples include the Technology Strategy Board and Catapult Centres in the UK which have contributed to the repositioning of that country’s manufacturing sector towards “smart specialisation” in global value chains. Isn’t this exactly what is required in Australia as a response to the closure of car assembly and other large scale production facilities?

“Instead the Automotive New Markets Program, which is designed to assist components suppliers to diversify and globalise their production, will be strangled at birth. The Innovation Precincts Program, which might have accelerated the development of world competitive clusters of Australian expertise, will not even get started.”xiv

Clearly the very large companies which make up the Business Council are not interested in Australia’s tax dollars going to assist smaller and more innovative businesses get started. As Roy Green explains, this will insure that in the future Australia’s only form of economic activity is the export of raw materials into the world market. So where are all the unemployed people going to work?

BUSINESS COUNCIL RECOMMENDATIONS ARE SELF-SERVING

As we might expect, the recommendations of the NCOA are just what the doctor ordered for the Business Council. Low rates of overall tax mean that as companies and as individuals the members of the Business Council will be better off. However other recommendations provide more direct benefits. The cutting or removing the minimum wage will benefit all employers and will ultimately lead to lower rates of pay across the whole economy.

Pushing all high income earners into private health insurance will benefit the big insurance companies in the Business Council. Privatizing Medibank, Australia Post and the Snowy Hydroelectric system will eliminate these as public companies which compete effectively with Business Council members. Remember very big companies prefer a system with a few large companies that do not actually compete with each other. Finally, the recommendations to outsource payment, IT and property management services will benefit companies which are likely to be represented by the Business Council.xv

BUSINESS COUNCIL WANTS TO DISMANTLE OUR SOCIAL CONTRACT

The policies outlined in the report by the NCOA will destroy the central features of Australia’s social contract. Starting with the 1907 Harvester Judgment, which set standards for the minimum wage, Australia has developed a set of programs covering pensions, health care, social services, the minimum wage and public education. These have ensured that most Australians have at least a basic standard of living and extremes of poverty and inequality have been largely avoided. The most important failure of this system is that it has not effectively met the needs of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Needless to say, they will be even worse off if the recommendations of the NCOA are accepted by the government

The NCOA and big business want low rates of taxation, limited government expenditure, no regulation of private companies and the privatization of virtually all government activities. They want to mirror social policy in the US by removing the central features of our social contract. Their recommendations are the blueprint for its destruction.

There are about 900 pages in the Commission of Audit report. In order to understand more about its recommendations you will need to examine the many articles which look at specific aspects, such as minimum wage, education, health, family benefits, industry policy, etc. My only suggestion is that you should be very sceptical of anyone reported in the media who thinks that there is something good or even acceptable in this report.

The private media outlets are after all very large corporations and have a vested interest in hiding the serious consequences of these recommendations. The public media are directly funded by the government. As a result it is impossible for them to launch a serious and extended criticism of these recommendations, particularly when their funding is itself up for review. The NCOA report was written by and for the big end of town. THEY ARE ONLY LOOKING AFTER THEMSELVES, AND IT IS TIME THAT WE DID THE SAME!

i http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-30/government-beating-up-budget-crisis-to-implement-desired-cuts-s/5421136
ii http://www.glennmurray.com.au/abbotts-war-on-the-rest-of-us-and-why-theres-no-need/)
iii http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2314800
iv http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/05/05/rort-nation-its-only-a-tough-budget-if-you-ignore-the-obvious-cuts/
v http://theconversation.com/the-commission-of-audit-wants-to-rip-up-australias-social-contract-26188
vi http://www.australianunions.org.au/your_wages_are_under_attack
vii http://theconversation.com/commission-of-audit-report-released-experts-respond-26177; response by Veronica Sheen, Research Associate, School of Social Sciences at Monash University.
viii http://theconversation.com/the-commission-of-audit-wants-to-rip-up-australias-social-contract-26188
ix http://theconversation.com/the-commission-of-audit-wants-to-rip-up-australias-social-contract-26188
x http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953605003631
xi https://ama.com.au/ausmed/6-co-payment-illusory-health-saving
xii http://theconversation.com/the-commission-of-audit-wants-to-rip-up-australias-social-contract-26188
xiii http://theconversation.com/commission-of-audit-report-released-experts-respond-26177; response by Glenn C. Savage, Researcher and Lecturer in Education Policy, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at University of Melbourne.
xiv http://theconversation.com/commission-of-audit-report-released-experts-respond-26177; emphasis added.xv The report of the Australia Institute “Auditing the auditors: The People’s Commission of Audit” can be downloaded here: Auditing the Auditorshttp://www.tai.org.au/content/auditing-auditors-peoples-commission-audit