Tim Longhurst's Blog

High and Dry – Guy Pearse

July 1st, 2007 · No Comments

Is John Howard dragging his feet on climate change because he’s surrounded by Australia’s biggest polluters? High and Dry promises to explain the politics of Australia’s do-as-little-as-possible attitude to climate change.

“In this damning account, Liberal Party member, lobbyist
and former Howard-government advisor Guy Pearse takes us behind the
rhetoric he once helped write. He reveals that the government has no
plans whatsoever to reduce Australia’s emissions, and explains why this
is bad for Australia’s economy. He exposes a prime minister wilfully
blind to Australia’s real Interests – a man who has allowed climate
change policy to be dictated by a small group of Australia’s biggest
polluters and the lobbyists they fund.”

Unfortunately the website is more of a promotion for the book than a backgrounder. This is an opportunity missed, as a more content-rich site would create a wider audience for the author’s message, more media opportunities for him to speak and ultimately lead to more publicity and more sales. His greatest challenge in the coming months won’t be piracy, it will be obscurity. At least he’s included a brief extract from the book.

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Category: Our living planet

Political donations in Australia to become even less transparent

June 20th, 2006 · 1 Comment

suitcasePoliticians are influenced by their political donors and that is why Australia’s citizens deserve to know what organisations and individuals are funding political candidates.

I read the below editorial in today’s Crikey newsletter and decided I wanted more information. A search of Google News finds almost nothing. Is this a ‘fringe issue’ that doesn’t rate a mention? You decide:

The Senate has just passed the biggest attack on Australia’s system of campaign finance since the Hawke Government first mandated disclosure of donations to political parties more than 20 years ago. Despite vigorous opposition from Labor and all the minor parties, individual donations of up to $10,000 can now lawfully remain secret. This gives Australia arguably the weakest system of political disclosure in the developed world.

In the US, all donations above $US200 must be disclosed, and during election campaigns any contribution above $1,000 must be revealed within 48 hours. Contrast that with Australia, where the Russian Mafia could have donated $9,999 to the eight different Liberal Party branches on July 1 last year and at least we would have been told about it (although not for 19 months until February 1 2007). Under the new laws, such donations from international mobsters would permanently remain secret.

In the UK, political leaders even have to reveal how much they spend getting their hair done, whereas an Australian political party could pay $5 million to Mick Gatto and no-one would be any the wiser.

What we now have is a recipe for corruption. In a world where political and business accountability and transparency is on the rise, the Howard Government has taken a retrograde step and abused its Senate majority like never before. It’s a sad day for democracy.

To get a sense of why some politicians want to keep their funding a secret, check out democracy4sale.

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Category: Corporate craziness

American in jail for advocating peace in Australia

September 14th, 2005 · No Comments

This whole Scott Parkin thing seems crazy to me. An American history teacher comes to Australia to run peace workshops and attend peace rallies and the Australian government arrests him and looks set to deport him without explanation.

As an Australian who attended a rally in Washington DC in 2002 and a protest in New York in 2004, I guess I’m lucky I didn’t get locked up and kicked out of America.

Free speech is well-and-truly on really shaky ground here and I’m nervous that my peers are too busy downloading ringtones and listening to iPods to even notice that they’ve gotta watch what they say.

Like so many things in life, free speech seems to be a matter of ‘use it or lose it’ and I’m concerned that not enough Aussies are using it…

Crikey ran an interesting story on this one. Check out their coverage. [Editor’s note: Unfortunately this resource is no longer available online and we have therefore removed the link.]

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Category: Peace between people

Mark Latham’s bitter contribution to Australian politics

September 14th, 2005 · No Comments

May 2005: ‘It is not unusual for people who try to change the system to leave public life with feelings of betrayal and disappointment. This was certainly my experience as Labor Leader. My commitment to the Labor cause was destroyed by the bastardry of others.’

-Mark Latham, The Latham Diaries

This weekend former ‘progressive’ Australian Opposition Leader, Mark Latham, will launch his political memoirs, complete, the publishers boast, with an ‘insult on every page’.

It’s all over the media here in Sydney – The Australian is publishing excerpts today because its publisher, Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd, has paid $100k for ‘media rights’.

The word is that Latham has put the boot into just about everyone on his own side of politics, but in the book’s introduction he points out that in his view the still-reigning conservative party has an equally poisonous and opportunistic culture.

The real art in reading The Diaries will be in deciding what’s important and what’s just gossip. Even if it’s true, does it matter if Kevin Rudd sobbed and begged for the position of Shadow Treasurer? Or is it more concerning that he’s ‘owned’ by the United States ‘lock, stock and barrel’, as former Prime Minister Paul Keating is alleged to have confided in Latham?

Ideally politics is viewed as the means to ends, not an end in itself. Many of the things that make Australia great: universal education and health care; protections for our diverse environment and a fair go for all, are fostered and defended through our political system. Many of us don’t like politics, but almost all of us like what politics can achieve.

For all his obvious rough edges, many Australians believed that Mark Latham’s focus was his vision for a fairer nation. Sadly, his own record of events looks set to demonstrate that he was more driven by ego and personal vendettas than by a grand vision for an even better Australia.

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Category: Imagining Australia

Affluenza: notes from a Clive Hamilton & Richard Denniss talk

August 3rd, 2005 · 1 Comment

affluenza.jpgAffluenza: When too much is never enough has been written by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss from the Australia Institute. Following the book’s launch, they spoke at Gleebooks on June 7, 2005.

They spoke to a packed house, with standing room only. I scratched notes as I listened and you will find these below. Some are direct quotes from Hamilton / Denniss, a few are just thoughts that I scratched as I listened.

The notes highlight some of the ideas Affluenza explores.

MARKETING CULTURE:

The function of at $7k bbq is to drive up desire… $300 bbq’s stop looking good. Now bbqs are selling for $2-3k…

Most Australians have doubts about a money driven life. 83% have criticised a ‘decline in values’.

Now we are bombarded with promotions for things that no-one even knew we needed 10 years ago.

Mobile phones, PC, plasma TV , private health and education, third bathrooms… These were not considered essential items in Australia 20 years ago.

Many of us have a failure to distinguish between want and need.

Some of the best-paid psychologists work in marketing. Much of their work:

  • Creates and project new insecuirities
  • Implies that happiness is only a purchase away

Are a portion of Australians shopaholics? Gambling and alcohol consumption can become obsessive – what about shopping?

AUSTRALIA’S SELF PERCEPTION:

We’re defining ourselves by the products we’re going without.

BBQ’s used to provide a wonderful snapshot of Australian egalaterianism: where people gather to share in food and conversation. Now it’s about “outdoor kitchens” and impressing others with our worldly success.

Despite our ‘laid back’ image, Australians are some of the hardest workers in the world.

ANNUAL LEAVE:
Australia: 4 weeks
EUROPE: 6 weeks

Isolation can be a significant by-product of the pursuit of material wealth.

In Australia personal debt is between $6-14k

IMPORTANT REALISATION: AUSTRALIA IS AN AFFLUENT SOCIETY

Australia moved out of ‘Struggle Street’ a while ago.

We need to admit that we’re rich and cope with that.

We used to be the lucky country… now have 3 times and much and do we consider ourselves lucky?

What is the meaning of life? What should I do? These questions are more often answered through television than tibet: consumption now drives how many of us define ourselves.

Consumption used to be one box in our lives… now it seems to be all of them.

Has money taken on a spiritual character?

The problem isn’t necessarily about money or consumption. It’s about a sense of attachement with money: our attitude to material posessions.

Are we raising consumers or citizens?

THE MYTH OF AUSTRALIA’S ASPIRATIONAL VOTERS

During the most recent elections, citizens caught up in a desire to be materially richer were labelled ‘aspirational voters’, but you can be materially content and still be aspirational.

Who isn’t aspirational?

Who doesn’t aspire to next year being better? Who are the retrogrades?

THE PROBLEMS OF POVERTY CAN ONLY BE SOLVED BY SOLVING THE PROBLEMS OF AFFLUENZA

Poverty is an issue: we don’t lack the money to fix it. We lack the will.

Solving the problems of poverty can only be solved by solving the problems of affluence.

The cure for Affluenza is collective: the politics of downshifting.

DOWNSHIFTING

Means choosing to live a rich life instead of a life of riches.

Deciding when ‘enough’ is: escaping the consumption cycle.

RESPONSES TO AFFLUENZA

The response to affluenza as a concept seems to have taken the form of:
“We have a responsibility to the market… We can’t just ‘downshift’.” so are neoliberals the new opressors?

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Category: Understanding people