Saturday 31st of July 2021

pragmatic to get the right outcomes...




















Scott Morrison has bowed to mounting political pressure by launching a royal commission into suicide among Australian defence force members and veterans.

The prime minister told reporters in Sydney on Monday he had listened to veterans who argued that the government’s previous proposal did not go far enough, and he was “pragmatic to get the right outcomes”.


Morrison said he hoped the royal commission – to begin by July at the latest and likely to take up to two years to complete – would be “a healing process”.

When asked about the government’s previous resistance to calls for a royal commission, Morrison said: “I just want to get things done.”

The government says the royal commission will not make findings of civil or criminal wrongdoing, or findings about individual defence and veteran deaths by suicide – but “will be informed by individual experiences”.

Likely to be headed by three royal commissioners, the inquiry will investigate any systemic issues – including how ADF personnel transition out of service and what post-service support is available – that may be linked to higher suicide rates.

The federal government plans to consult with the defence and veteran community and the states and territories to finalise the terms of reference and who will be appointed to chair the inquiry.

The minister for veterans’ affairs, Darren Chester, said the royal commission was “an opportunity for us to reset the agenda and unite the veterans’ community in what has been a very difficult, sensitive and incredibly complex issue for our veterans and their families”.


The government previously resisted calls for such an inquiry, saying its plans for a national commissioner for defence and veteran suicide prevention would be able to examine the problem on a rolling basis and would have similar powers to a royal commission.

But the bills to set up such a commissioner as an independent statutory office holder have languished in the Senate.

Last month a non-binding motion calling for a royal commission passed both houses of parliament with cross-party support. The government did not oppose the motion after the lower house crossbencher Craig Kelly – formerly a Liberal MP – indicated he intended to support it.

Labor has also been pushing for a royal commission, arguing last week that it was “a national disgrace that more veterans have died by suicide than in war in the past 20 years, and veterans are dying at twice the rate of suicide of the general population”.

The Community and Public Sector Union says there is now a backlog of about 25,000 claims under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, which provides support to injured veterans.

When the government announced last week that the final 80 Australian defence personnel still in Afghanistan would be home by September, advocates for veterans’ support renewed their calls for greater government action to address their welfare.

Morrison indicated on Monday that he had not given up on the push for an independent national commissioner for defence and veteran suicide prevention to consider the issue on a rolling basis.

“This was an important reform and it remains an important reform … [but] I do not want to see there to be any delay in moving ahead with examining these issues.”


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the end of "the" war...


By Alison Broinowski


Afghanistan has joined Australia’s list of lost wars, and it’s our longest. The Prime Minister’s tears on announcing it may have been for that, or for Australia’s 41 dead, 249 wounded, estimated 500 veteran suicides, and innumerable cases of PTSD, at a cost of A$10 billion.

Perhaps he wept not with sorrow, but pleasure that the remaining few are coming home, to ratings-boosting ceremonies and photo ops. Or was he relieved that even sooner, it will be ANZAC Day? Whatever it was, Australia’s retreat from Afghanistan will cast a solemn but convenient pall of khaki over the war crimes, sex scandals, funding rorts, and vaccination shortfalls which have been seismic for the government in recent weeks.

Announcing the retreat, Morrison revived the reassuring script, saying ‘Freedom is always worth it’. It was an echo of Secretary of State Albright who callously said the same about children killed in the Iraq invasion. He wasn’t asked ‘Freedom for what, or from what? Whose freedom?’

Under the victorious Taliban, the Afghan people will not be free, except from foreign invaders. Australia, lacking the independence to cut its losses and get out in 2005, is not freed from its self-imposed alliance obligations. The West is not free of Islamist terrorism, and is still less free from right-wing extremist terrorism. Punitive sanctions make trade less free than it was before the war.

Neil James was asked would Afghanistan be in a worse state if we hadn’t gone to war there. The head of the Australian Defence Association made the astonishing claim that Afghans were now ‘probably better off’. By 2019, Afghanistan had lost an estimated 150 000 civilians, military, and Taliban fighters, according to Brown University’s reputable Cost of War project. Internally displaced Afghans numbered 4 million, and another 2.6 m Afghans were refugees. Any social and educational gains previously achieved in the cities had been lost – and probably any empathy with the US, NATO or Australia in bombed villages.

When James added, ‘The Diggers didn’t die in vain, because they tried’, he exemplified the Australian habit of not asking why we fought, only how we fought. It has been identified in P&I by Henry Reynolds, historian of Australia’s ‘unnecessary wars’. Our governments don’t count the cost of wars and report them to Parliament or to the taxpayers. Nor do they explain in advance why our troops would be fighting, or for what. If they did, citizens might well revolt against losing yet another illegal, expeditionary, purposeless war.

A clear strategy to achieve a definite outcome is what soldiers since Sun Tzu have known is essential in war. Retired General Peter Leahy argues that in Afghanistan neither mission nor ‘end state’ was defined. In future conflicts, Australians should know the reason they are going and ‘what does victory look like’, he told The Australian. For once, Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan agreed: Australia ‘never had a strategic purpose in Afghanistan except to show the Americans we were good allies’.

Avoiding that obvious purpose, historian John Blaxland  sticks to the script: the war was ‘originally intended to remove al-Qaeda from Afghanistan’. The Lowy Institute’s Rodger Shanahan argues that Afghanistan, for John Howard in 2001 and 2005, ‘ wasn’t a war of choice – you had to do something’. What Australia could have done, and probably did, was ask the Americans after the decline of al-Qaeda in 2011, and the demise of the IS Caliphate in 2018, how much longer the war had to be fought.

If our leaders were told the truth, we could have got out then. If they were told lies, we should have done the same, as should the UK and Canada, whose losses are greater than Australia’s.

But they all knew, because the Afghanistan Papers published by the Washington Post in 2019 revealed to the world that (just as in Vietnam) the US military, along with civilian political leaders, persistently lied to Americans about the state of the war and the prospects for success.

The US will withdraw from Afghanistan the remaining 3,500 of its troops, which peaked in 2011 at 100,000. America has spent US$2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan. US dead total 2,218, with 20,100 injured. In the US, more than 6,000 veterans take their own lives every year — more than 17 a day.

Veterans are reported to be joining ultra-right organisations in significant numbers.

An estimated 241,000 people have died as a direct result of the war, according to Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future.

Withdrawal from Afghanistan doesn’t mean Australia shutting down potential criminal cases. The Brereton report revealed ‘credible information’ of war crimes committed by 25 Australian
soldiers involving the deaths of 39 Afghans, widespread breaches of laws and customs of war, systemic coverups, and a deeply toxic culture within the SAS. Although this could compromise Australia’s record in Afghanistan, Morrison said the troop withdrawal ‘wasn’t the time’ to talk about it, as we concentrated on our war heroes. If the withdrawal process takes from May to September, no time will be appropriate to do so. Are the war crimes to be buried?

If this happens, Australia will have learnt nothing from the Afghanistan war and will be ready and willing to fight the next one. Professor Blaxland expresses the mild hope that In future governments will explain their purpose to Parliament. Citizens should demand more: a debate and a vote in advance of any future expeditionary war.



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the last steps...

the old people in the garage...


Like most winners at the conclusion of an election process, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has claimed on a couple of occasions that he would consider the hopes and ambitions of all Australians while he is the Prime Minister. The first time was when he mounted his quixotic charge past Peter Dutton to take the Prime Ministership from Malcolm Turnbull, the second after he convinced enough Australians that the empty promises and meaningless platitudes that constituted his re-election campaign were actually achievable following the last Federal election.

To consider the hopes and ambitions of all Australians, you need to understand the positions of others and even if their situation doesn’t affect you personally, have some reaction and share the motivation for others’ feelings. It’s called empathy and relies on emotional intelligence and maturity to develop. 

Prior to mounting the white charger and spearing the Dutton supporters, Morrison was Turnbull’s Treasurer (remember the arm around the shoulder and claims of fully supporting ‘his’ leader). In former Prime Minister Abbott’s Government, Morrison was at one stage the Minister responsible for overseeing the implementation of what is potentially the cruelest refugee treatment program in the world where people are kept in detention for years with no clear pathway to release, and a family with young children being forced from their home to be the sole residents of a detention centre on the other side of the country even though the courts have mostly agreed with the family’s legal position.

The now infamous Robodebt was devised while Morrison was the responsible Minister for social security. Then as Treasurer, Morrison was the Minister responsible for steering the legislation through Parliament, he was the Prime Minister when it ‘suddenly’ became evident to the Coalition Government that the entire process was probably illegal and the $1.2 billion decision was made to settle prior to being dragged through the court system as the target of a class action. But the Minister responsible at the time of the class action, Stuart Robert (who somehow survived clocking up a $2,000 per month taxpayer funded internet bill from his house in the Gold Coast Hinterland), also kept his job despite spending millions defending the indefensible in the lower courts, causing some to ask if there was any accountability in Government

In October 2019, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety released its interim report in three volumes (here and here and here). Entitled ‘Neglect’ they were a foretaste of the final report, this time in 8 volumes, released on 1 March 2021. The full report and a number of other documents are available from this link. Morrison called a press conference to release the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Standards. 

At the press conference, the following exchange occurred


JOURNALIST: This report was delivered last Friday. You gave us half-an-hour to attend a press conference. You tabled the report when we were here. How can we ask questions to know what's relevant in the report without knowing what's in it? 
There will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions. But we're before you now. This isn't the only day to ask questions. I'm telling you that we're releasing the report... 

JOURNALIST: That's a tactic, isn't it, Prime Minister. 
No, with respect, today is not about the media. Today is about releasing the royal commission report. There are 8 volumes, and I would encourage you to digest all of them. And on occasion, after occasion, after occasion, I have no doubt you will quiz me on it. Today is the day for us telling Australia that it is released. There'll be plenty of other opportunities. 

JOURNALIST: This is a major social reform and you've stopped us from actually looking at the report. Is that because you've [got] two commissioners who disagree on the reforms and the way forward? 
No. I don't understand the question. 

JOURNALIST: The commissioners are split on a number of fundamental reforms. 
Because it is a complicated issue. 

JOURNALIST: So which of the reports and recommendations would you take onboard? 
That's what we'll consider and include that in our response. 

JOURNALIST: Isn't it a problem that you've got a royal commission blueprint... 
No I think it's a problem that people think this is so simple. We can't be glib about these issues and they they're simple to do with. I'm not surprised they are. I'm not surprised that people with that level of experience who have poured over this, heart and soul, for years... there'll be difference of views. That does not surprise me. I don't think it surprises Australians who've had to deal with this system either. 

It was a pretty good bet that the final report would be damning, which it was. Of course, it didn’t stop the playing of politics (partial paywall)


A senior source within the royal commission tells The Saturday Paper that selective leaking of the final report to favoured media outlets ahead of its release was “infuriating”. 

The stories stemming from the leaks said there were divisions between the commissioners on a path forward for the sector. 

“[The leaking] tells us very clearly, before the public has even had a chance to see the findings, that they are willing to play politics with this historic moment,” said the source, who did not wish to be identified. 

"That was a vindictive act and speaks volumes about the government’s commitment to this process.”.


The report paints a picture of consistent underfunding and lack of enforcement of standards by governments for a number of years. While Morrison is not solely to blame either as Treasurer or Prime Minister, in the Commissioners’ view he stripped more than $2 billion in care subsidies from the sector since late 2015 and booked the savings in the federal budget — a direct cut in funding to the sector (previous governments of both political colours emasculated the funding so it didn’t keep pace with the funding formula, producing nominal increases — albeit reductions in real terms). Morrison denies he cut the funding while Treasurer. 

Regardless of the politics around what should have been the start of a process to fix the aged care system in Australia, clearly it was in Morrison’s view a handy distraction from the claims of philandering and a toxic culture in the halls of Parliament House. Morrison told a press conference that he saw no issues with the alleged rape of a political staffer by a senior staffer in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ office until his wife suggested he might have a different reaction if one of his daughters was involved. Neither did he see the problem with his Attorney General staying in the role without any investigation after being alleged to be the perpetrator of an historic rape in 1988, which can never be tested in court as the alleged victim took her own life last year. When the ‘court of public opinion’ finally passed its judgement, Morrison did include Reynolds and Porter in a Cabinet reshuffle — ‘demoting’ both of them but not removing them from the Ministry.

Morrison’s delayed reaction to both matters suggests he doesn’t have the emotional intelligence and maturity to understand that it takes real courage and bravery for those that have allegedly suffered violence against them to come forward and make their claims. Rather than take his favoured position of ‘riding it out’, assault victims should be believed and if the alleged victim is unable to tell their story, there should be an enquiry to establish the facts as far as possible.

As Katherine Murphy discussed in The Guardian

Before deciding, once and for all, whether Porter can remain as attorney general, and Linda Reynolds as defence minister, Morrison wants to assess the salience of federal parliament’s #MeToo moment. Have voters logged the Higgins story, and the rape allegation levelled by a now-deceased woman against his attorney general? 

Do they have views about it? What are the views?



Murphy was suggesting that assuming the opinion polls are not catastrophic, Morrison seemed to be planning to ride the storm out. That probably wasn’t the best strategy! The hope would be good news announcements would allow him to direct us all to ‘look over there’ at some behaviour that doesn’t adversely affect his government. The Aged Care Royal Commission final report was one piece in this puzzle, as was the ‘half price airline tickets’ fiasco. 

As former Opposition Leader John Hewson states in the The New Daily Morrison, like former Prime Minister Howard prefers to play politics than develop and deliver policy for the betterment of all Australians


The end game is simply winning the next election, and the daily focus is to minimise the risks in doing so. As challenges emerge, the initial response is reactive not pro-active, to let them run for a while to see how they unfold, “nothing to be seen here” — maybe they’ll even solve themselves. But, if finally there is a need to act, the response is to do as little as they can get away with.



Obviously Morrison doesn’t have the emotional intelligence to consider the views of others. It wasn’t empathic to return from an overseas holiday during the middle of catastrophic bushfires claiming that as the country’s political leader he couldn’t do anything because ‘I don’t hold a hose mate’. Neither is it empathic to release an eight-volume report detailing failures in the aged care system without expressing concern and regret, moving young families across the country to detention centres because the government isn’t getting its own way in the court system or ignoring the apparent long term toxic sexual misbehaviour on his side of politics that is far short of contemporary community standards. 

As Hewson suggests, Howard lost the 2007 election and his seat because of his tone deafness on matters of importance to the community. Does Morrison have the ability to reflect on that and act appropriately? 

What do you think?


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Wadja we think? We think Scomo is a fudge worse than Abbott...

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Free Julian Assange Now...!!!!

bullshitting on health advice...


In the absence of corroborating evidence, I do not believe Scott Morrison.

Some examples of why I have concluded that his word is seriously unreliable are in my article back in March in these pages. And the list of fibs and misleading contrivances goes on.

Today, according to the ABC’s Just In, Morrison is urging people who have had their first dose of AstraZeneca to have their second dose closer to eight weeks – despite the fact that until now we have been told that 12 weeks is optimal. I was sent away after my first jab in April and told to come back in mid-July.

Going early, Morrison said today, “is consistent with medical advice”.

The Just In article quotes The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) as saying: “Shortening the interval from 12 weeks to no less than four weeks between doses is acceptable”.

During the present pandemic, the politicians have found it very useful to be able to channel the health scientists to boost their own incredibility. We never get to read what the experts have actually said, and with what caveats. We don’t know what pressure has been put on them to come up with their changing advice.

Over the time of Covid, the health advice has apparently been far from infallible. For many months into the pandemic for example we were told that masks were not a significant protection. How much was that advice – if it did really come from health specialists – shaped by the unavailability of masks in big numbers? I never believed it. It seemed nonsensical.

The dangers are that the reassuring “acting on health advice” imprimatur will lose its credibility – and that the politicians will take the scientific specialists down with them.

Truth and truthfulness are extremely important in our polity. They are in dangerously short supply.


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