Friday, 19 January 2018

In response to Trump's fake news awards the Committee to Protect Journalists announced Press Oppressors awards


After a couple of date deferrals, well-known right wing ratbag US President Donald J Trump finally released his so-called 2017 Fake News Awards on a Republican web site on 18 January 2017 (Sydney time) announcing "the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media".

As one has come to expect from this inadequate man it was an eleven point non-event with no red carpet, no 'ceremony', absolutely no evidence of corruption being presented and containing a number of distortions of fact.

Trump's awards had been left in the shade weeks ago by Stephen Colbert's mocking off Times Square billboard and the Committee to Protect Journalists' pre-emptive strike.


Shareblue Media, 9 January 2018:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Monday released a list of the world’s worst press oppressors — and Donald Trump took home the top honor, beating out dictators like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The list of global press oppressors recognizes world leaders “who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media.” It was released in response to Trump’s upcoming “fake news” awards ceremony.

Trump was named the winner of the “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom” award for going “above and beyond to silence critical voices and weaken democracy.”
Among other things, Trump has popularized the term “fake news,” using it to describe any news that he doesn’t like — at times, even his own words. He uses the bully pulpit to openly promote Fox News as his personal propaganda arm while denigrating other news sources and calling for the firing of journalists who make honest mistakes.

Most recently, Trump called for banning the book “Fire and Fury” because he doesn’t like its unflattering portrayal of his first year in office.


Most Thin-skinned - Winner: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey, Runner-Up: President Donald Trump, United States

Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press - Winner: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey, Runner-Up: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt

Tightest Grip on Media (This category excludes countries with no independent media, such as North Korea and Eritrea)  - Winner: President Xi Jinping, China, Runner-Up: President Vladimir Putin, Russia

Biggest Backslider in Press Freedom - Winner: State Counselor and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar, Runner-Up: President Andrzej Duda, Poland

Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom - Winner: President Donald Trump, United States

The United States, with its First Amendment protection for a free press, has long stood as a beacon for independent media around the world. While previous U.S. presidents have each criticized the press to some degree, they have also made public commitments to uphold its essential role in democracy, at home and abroad. Trump, by contrast, has consistently undermined domestic news outlets and declined to publicly raise freedom of the press with repressive leaders such as Xi, Erdoğan, and Sisi. Authorities in ChinaSyria, and Russia have adopted Trump's "fake news" epithet, and Erdoğan has applauded at least one of his verbal attacks on journalists. Under Trump's administration, the Department of Justice has failed to commit to guidelines intended to protect journalists' sources, and the State Department has proposed to cut funding for international organizations that help buttress international norms in support of free expression. As Trump and other Western powers fail to pressure the world's most repressive leaders into improving the climate for press freedom, the number of journalists in prison globally is at a record high.

Will Steve Bannon's predictions come true?


On 17 May 2017 Robert S. Mueller III was appointed by acting Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to serve as Special Counsel investigating any links and/or coordination bet ween the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,  any matters that arose or may arise directlyfrom the investigation and, any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. §600.4(a).

Thus far Mueller has indicted four individuals - Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn (Ret.) (plead guilty), Paul J. Manafort, Jr., Richard W. Gates III and George Papadopoulos (plead guilty).

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon's predictions concerning this DOJ/FBI investigation and Donald J. Trump's future had remained semi-private until the release on 5 January 2018 of Michael Wolff's book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House".

Here are two examples.....





The growing cost of Australian Government policy concerning asylum seekers


Its asylum seeker policy is costing Australia more than a loss of international reputation......

Financial Review, 5 January 2018:

Maintaining Australia's hardline immigration and border policies cost taxpayers more than $4 billion last financial year, including nearly $1.6 billion on compliance and detention.

Treasury figures provided to a Senate estimates committee showed in 2017, the largest spending component for immigration and border protection activities was onshore compliance and detention, followed by $1.083 billion for the management of irregular boat arrivals and $1.059 billion on border enforcement……

a near $5 billion price tag for five years of Australia's offshore immigration detention program, including the total operational and infrastructure costs for Australia's detention facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, peaking in 2015-16.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

That 'very stable genius' in Washington DC has a few health issues


Well Donald John Trump had an official medical exam on 12 January 2018 and the spin began almost immediately.

First for media consumption he grew one inch taller reaching 6ft 3in in height and he became yugely healthy.

A more honest assessment is found in the written medical summary prepared by the senior naval doctor who examined him, Rear-Admiral Ronny L. Jackson.

This reveals that at 71 years of age, 75 inches or 6 foot 3 inches (190.5cm) tall and weighing 239 pounds or 17.07 stone (108.4kg) Trump has an estimated body mass index of between 29.9 to 30.9 BMI (when adjusted to height recorded on current drivers licence), which means he is at least 3 stone (19kg) over a healthy weight level.

Or to put it more baldly – he is obese.

His cholesterol level is too high even though he is taking medication, Crestor 10mg daily. 

He also takes Aspirin 81mg daily as a blood thinner and uses an invermectin cream for acne rosacea.

The medication, Propecia 1mg daily, he takes for prevention of male pattern baldness is known to have a side effect of impotence or other sexual dysfunction in some individuals.

While the medication, Ambien, his doctor states he occasionally takes to help him sleep can lead to episodes of confusion, loss of coordination, balance problems, mood change, nasal irritation, dry mouth, sore throat and other possible side effects.


Trump underwent a basic cognitive test and his result score was 30 out of 30 points.

No psychiatric examination was included in the range of tests that have been made public.

The medical information Trump consented to release…….


Reef 2050 plan to restore outstanding universal values of the Great Barrier Reef decade by decade questioned in the wake of back to-back bleaching events


On 8 December 2017 the Australian Academy of Science made a submission to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority consultation on the Coastal Ecosystems Position Statement.

This submission made the following points:

* The federal government Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan to restore the “Outstanding Universal Values” of the Great Barrier Reef decade by decade is no longer tenable following back to-back bleaching events.

* Climate change is a clear and present challenge to the ongoing health of the Great Barrier Reef.

* Almost all “historic” and “legacy” stressors to the Great Barrier Reef remain today, and most of them continue to escalate — for example, land clearing, maintenance dredging, ship anchoring, and coastal recreational fishing pressure.

* There is a need to avoid further environmental damage through better management of stressors.

* Monitoring of drivers or stressors, including so called “legacy” drivers, should be included as a subject of research and management.

So what does Australia's public debt look like in January 2018?


As of 5 January 2018 Australian Government public debt stood at an est. $515.6 billion at face value. Six months earlier this debt had stood at est. $500.9 billion. So government debt continues to grow.

This early January 2018 public debt breaks down as:

$477,278m
$34,897m
$3,500m
Other Securities
$6m


Treasury Bonds are medium to long-term debt securities that carry an annual rate of interest fixed over the life of the security, payable semi-annually.
All Treasury Bonds are exempt from non-resident interest withholding tax (IWT).


These treasury bonds were first issued between January 2006 and September 2017, with interest repayments ranging from 1.75% to 5.75% per annum due throughout 2018 and, in all but two instances the years beyond up to 2047. It is likely that at least 50% of these bonds are held by foreign investors.

The Turnbull Government appears to be using reduced government spending by way of funding cuts to essential government services and ‘reformed’ welfare payments in order to manage a portion of this debt – the remainder possibly being serviced by further bond issuance.

Given the potential to retain a higher dollar amount of cash transfers for longer periods in government coffers if the Cashless Debit Card is universally introduced for welfare recipients under retirement age, then I rather suspect that future welfare recipients may be disproportionately servicing this debt if Turnbull & Co have their way.

And while considering that growing public debt, the sustained federal government assault on safety-net welfare since 2013 and the attack on penalty rates in 2017, readers miight like to consider this……

The Australian Parliament consists of 226 elected members sitting as MPs or senators.

Between them they are reported to own 524 properties and, in addition to their salaries and any additional remuneration for ministerial position or committee membership, they also receive generous parliamentary entitlements of which they freely avail themselves:



The Australian, 5 January 2018:

Australians have endured their longest period of falling living standards in more than a quarter of a century as growth in costs outstripped earnings for the fifth consecutive quarter, leaving households worse off than they were six years ago.

After allowing for inflation, taxes and interest costs, average household incomes dropped 1.6 per cent in the year to September, capping a sustained fall in ­living standards that has not been seen since the 1990-91 recession.

Economists say more than half the cost increases for households are being driven by electricity, rent, health, new housing and tobacco, while modest wage rises are being partially absorbed by workers being pushed into higher tax brackets……

After adjusting for living costs, interest and taxes, average earnings in the three months to September were 0.7 per cent lower than in the same period of 2011, which marked the peak of the ­resources boom.

Over the previous six years from 2005, households had seen an average improvement in their living standards of 17 per cent.

AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said the mid-year budget update delivered before Christmas provided only limited scope for tax cuts.

“To be anything more than ‘sandwich and milkshake’ tax cuts and still maintain a trajectory ­towards a budget surplus by 2020-21, they would have to be offset by spending savings elsewhere. That is where the politics kicks in and the government has had difficulty getting things through the Senate,” he said.

Dr Oliver said if the government was successful in getting the 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare Levy through the Senate, it would offset the benefit of any tax cut. The Medicare Levy increase is scheduled to start on July 1 next year and increase personal taxes by $3.6 billion in its first year and $4.3bn in the second.

Although living standards stopped rising after 2011, the ­decline since the middle of 2016 is new and reflects both the fall in wage growth and an increase in tax payments.

The ABS Wage Price Index shows a 1.9 per cent rise last year, but this is measured before tax and records the average increase for each job. National accounts show that personal income tax collections are rising much faster than pre-tax wages, partly ­because more wage income is being pushed into higher tax brackets. They show a 4 per cent lift in taxes per capita over the year to September, absorbing 60 per cent of the increase in wage income per person, which rose only 1 per cent.

Much of the very strong ­employment growth in the past year has been in lower paying jobs in the services sector, which has reduced average incomes overall.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Rise in perception of corruption in public service


In 2016-17 the Australian Public Service Commission (APS) finalised investigation of 1,720 code of conduct complaints which resulted in 1,494 breach findings. 

Sanctions were applied in the majority of breach cases by way of either official reprimand, reduction in salary or fines. Only 18.3 per cent of sanctions took the form of termination of employment and just 11.3 percent resulted in reduction in classification or reassignment of duties.

The most serious of these breaches by classification appeared to be:
287 breaches involving failure to behave honestly and with integrity;
126 breaches involving failure to use Commonwealth resources in a proper manner and for a proper purpose;
64 breaches involving improper use of: inside information, duties, status, power or authority;
50 breaches involving providing false or misleading information;
44 breaches involving conflict of interest; and
16 breaches involving failure to comply with all applicable Australian laws.

According to the Commission:

  1. Sixty-four per cent of those respondents reported that they had witnessed cronyism.
  2. Twenty-six reported that they had witnessed nepotism in the workplace.
  3. Twenty-one per cent reported that they had witnessed ‘green-lighting’, that is making official decisions that improperly favour a person or company, or disadvantage another.
The Guardian on 10 January 2018 reported this as representing a significant increase from the 2.6% who witnessed corruption in 2013-14 and the 3.6% of respondents in 2014-15.

The Australia Institute, 10 January 2018:

Corruption’s $72.3 billion hit to GDP

New research released today by the Australia Institute estimates the effects of rising perception of corruption in Australia since 2012 could have reduced Australia’s GDP by $72.3 billion, or 4%.

[Full report - see PDF below]

“Since 2012 Australia has slid from 7th to 13th on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), with index score declining from 85 to 79,” said Rod Campbell, Australia Institute Director of Research and co-author of the report.

“Economic analysis estimates each point decline in this score translates into a reduction in GDP per capita of $486. Extrapolating across Australia’s population, our GDP could have been $72.3 billion higher this year had we maintained our 2012 reputation for minimal corruption.

“This is in line with World Economic Forum estimates that corruption costs 5% of GDP worldwide.

“The economic impacts of corruption are well-known. Business costs increase, capital is not allocated efficiency and inequality worsens.

“Australia needs policies to address this threat to our economy.

“A federal ICAC with teeth is needed to increase public trust and tackle the perception of corruption in Australia.

“The perception of corruption is on the rise, the number of public servants who have witnessed corrupt behaviour is on the rise and public trust in federal parliament is at an all-time low.

As well as the obvious democratic cost, corruption and the perception of corruption also costs our economy.

“Not only does corruption cost business, businesses do not want to operate in countries where there is a perception of corruption.”

“This research shows that the business community also has a stake in perceptions of corruption and should be supporting calls for a federal ICAC,” Campbell said.

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The Australia Institute
Posted on:
10 January 2018