In Tasmania, both Liberal and Labor parties gave huge subsidies to the forestry industry which has converted thousands of hectares of precious ancient old growth forest into woodchips, selling at less than cost. Why? So that “mates” and one company, Gunns, in particular could make massive profits. Which they did for a while but Gunns was so incompetently run it went belly up. The story of Gunns is detailed in Quentin Beresford’s The Rise and Fall of Gunns Ltd. of which have published a Review that summarises and endorses Beresford’s argument.
Although (amazingly) a peace agreement was reached
between environmentalists and the timber industry under a Labor Government, when the Libs got back in, they tore the agreement up, so that public money is still being poured into the washed-up industry and we are back at war again! Just incomprehensible. This extraordinary story is told in more detail in Tasmanian Over Five Generations. Here are two essays that follow up on that: The Greening of Tasmania and Pulping State Politics or Ducks on a String
(L: Sassafras forest Tombstone Creek: R: Three years later: images courtesy of Rob Blakers)
Another Tasmanian scandal is the 26 year gaol sentence handed out to Sue Neill-Fraser for murdering her husband Bob Chappell when all the evidence was circumstantial and certainly not beyond reasonable doubt. There was no body, no witnesses, no murder weapon, no motive. In those circumstances a conviction on circumstantial evidence can only legally follow when there is no other alternative scenarios to the one presented in court: but there WERE alternatives: strangers’ DNA found on the boat, for instance. Unbelievably, we now whose DNA that was, and what was going on. Sue wasn’t implicated at all. She has been in prison for 12 years, the prosecution fighting hard to keep her there despite the new information. She is currently fighting an appeal based on the new evidence but things move so slowly in Tasmania. Her case raises many questions of due process, as summarised here.
Tasmanian politics are one thing — what are mates for? — but nationally, things are positively dangerous . The Hawke-Keating Labor Govts sold out to neoliberalism in the 1980-90s. , Neoliberalism is a return to the laissez-faire capitalism of the 19th century: governments deregulate so that market forces drive the economy. Although social justice, economics, and the environment should be, must be, the three pillars on which a stable and balanced society is built, in neoliberalism, it’s the economy, little else. Since the Abbott Government came to power in 2013, the top end of town have had their taxes lowered, and the poor and underprivileged kicked hard. Anything meaningful to do with mitigating climate change was dismantled, even the Great Barrier Reef is further endangered by a massive coal port, while legitimate asylum seekers are treated sadistically and illegally, by both major parties. When the economy of society relies on annual growth based on nonrenewables, the rich will short term will get immeasurably richer, but their children and grandchildren will be immeasurably poorer in an overheated and unstable world. The results are a massive redistribution of wealth from the general public to the already super rich and social and environmental catastrophes, as I elaborate in A Wave of Unreason. Then Abbott crashed and Turnbull was elected leader, to huge relief from all sides except the hard right minority in Turnbull;s government. When Turnbull barely squeaked in the 2016 election after all previous signs that he would sweep tsunami his way into government, the hard right bastards had him by the short and curlies. So the Turnbull government is now Abbott-lite, especially on climate change and asylum seekers. After a recent trip to Scandinavia I saw an alternative to our broken two-party system: Why has Scandinavia got it right and we haven’t?
Whatever happened to brilliant ABC reporter Maxine McKew, who beat PM John Howard for his own long standing seat of Bennelong in the 2010 elections? She didn’t toe the party line — and she tells her disheartening story in Tales from the Political Trenches. Her story is at odds with Julia Gillard’s My Story, which prompted my essay Maxine’s Story from the Trenches VS Julia’s Story from the Benches. Yet contrary to the Liberal inspired myth, the Gillard Government actually passed more good legislation than almost all other Parliaments since Federation.
Australian Universities have developed over three main phases:from state control, to Federal control through the 1957 Murray Report then the 1967 Martin Report which established CAEs, to the managerialist comprehensive university starting with the Dawkins intervention. Under the Abbott and then the Turnbull Government, the fourth phase will be fully corporatised, essentially self-funding, universities. After the 2016 Budget an other $2 billion are to be slashed from the tertiary sector, while students will be forced to start repaying their HECS debt as soon as they start earning $42,000. Universities in Society is based in large part on the final chapter of Changing Universities.