Thursday, November 12, 2015

Australia's continued slide to fascism

Recent observations by Andrew Wilkie in parliament.  10 characteristics of a "pre-police state".

Denying some citizens the right to access the legal system is wrong.

Incremental loss of freedoms, democracy deteriorating bit by bit.

1. Metadata retention. Govt knows where you go, what you look at, who you talk to. No warrant required

2. Media - used, manipulated, bullied

3. Manipulation of judiciary - Royal Commission

4. Secrecy - operational matters "on water"

5. Law - can be arrested on suspicion of terrorism with no evidence.

6. Some people can be incarcerated indefinitely without trial - asylum seekers

7. Complete disregard for international law and agreements - Refugee convention, rights of the child.

8. Parliament forbidden to debate or decide on important matters of state - e.g. bombing of Syria.

9. Safeguard mechanisms disregarded and people bullied - Human Rights Commissioner. Autocratic regime

10. Security agencies act beyond lawful powers. Australian Border Force operation on the streets of Melbourne - unlawful, beyond their legal power.

And Border Force now prevents people reporting brutality, rape, sexual abuse in immigration detention.

Update 28 Dec 2015.  George Williams, Professor of Law at the University of NSW writes that

An extraordinary number of Australian laws now infringe basic democratic standards, but we hardly bat an eyelid. The growing assault on our democratic rights, Sydney Morning Herald: 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Another bike crash, another driver that "didn't see me", more injuries

I was cycling to work on 9 September 2015 on my back streets route attempting to avoid traffic on my way to the Gardiners Creek Trail when disaster struck again.

I was cycling along Somerset Road approaching the small roundabout at the intersection with Denman Avenue.  A brown Ford Territory was slowing down approaching the roundabout on my left as I entered it apparently "giving way" to me.  I was moving at around 10-15 km/h.

The roundabout in direction of my travel

Suddenly, the vehicle sped up and was coming right at me.  I braked hard and avoided going under the front of the car and getting run over and possibly killed.

However, I couldn't slow down enough to avoid the car and hit the rear passenger door and bounced off it and hit the road yelling.  I was on the road screaming. Both my hands took the brunt of the impact and my left leg was very sore. The driver stopped. The woman driving the car was apologetic and said "she didn't see me".

A schoolboy walking along Denman Ave saw the whole thing and called 000.  An ambulance came promptly.  My injuries were quickly assessed and another emergency hospital visit was required.

The police came shortly after the ambulance and assessed the situation. I spoke to them briefly.  They advised the driver she would get an infringement for failing to give way.

Injuries and surgery

X-rays were taken at Epworth.  My left little finger was broken (malate fracture) and required surgery.  My right wrist and thumb were very sore but no fracture was evident in the x-rays.

I was unable to see a orthopaedic specialist while I was in the emergency department so I went home bandaged.  I visited an orthopaedic surgeon the following day.  She sent me off for an MRI and later confirmed that ligaments were torn off my right thumb and that it had been nearly dislocated. Surgery was required to re-attach the ligaments otherwise my thumb function would be compromised.

I had two operations on Friday: a wire was inserted in the tip of my left little finger to assist the bone healing correctly and the torn ligaments on my right thumb were stitched back to the bone.

I had the following week off work as I was not very mobile or able to use either hand much and was taking pain killers.

I returned to work the following week as I was keen to resume "normal life" as much as possible. The bandages were replaced with plastic splints by the hand therapist which improved my very limited dexterity a bit.

After 2 weeks the cumbersome right splint was reduced in size which improved my dexterity further.

The wire in my little finger comes out on 23 October but it will take some time to get the joint moving properly again.

The right wrist ligament surgery needs even more time to heal, possible until the end of November. So no cycling or kitesurfing for me until then, which is extremely frustrating.


I have been feeling terrible however since the crash.  Personal interactions at home, out and about and at work were very difficult for me.  I have been feeling extremely angry about getting hit yet again, 8 to 10 or more weeks out of action (no cycling or kitesurfing), the total lack of action on providing safe separated cycling infrastructure in the City of Boroondara and the Victorian government, and motorists who drive around at excessive speeds and don't look for pedestrians or cyclists.  This anger is washing over me most of the time now.

I have had trouble sleeping and get flashbacks of the car coming at me followed by me hitting it and ending up on the road bruised and broken.  This was a near-death experience.

Blackness and anger has descended on me like a cloud that will not lift.  Everything seems wrong. I was nearly killed.  I don't trust any motorist on the roads now. Every car is a lethal death machine that can easily kill.  I flinch on trams when cars hoon past. I am hyper vigilant of all cars while driving and walking.

Going through the Citylink Domain tunnel in a taxi with the driver sitting 3 metres behind a truck and cars all around, I visualised brake lights, a huge crash, carnage and flames everywhere and felt panicked and sweaty.

I am seeing a psychologist who advised me I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms - he referred me to a neurologist.  The neurologist confirmed I have severe PTSD and has prescribed me medication. He is referring me to some else for further treatment to deal with the PTSD before it gets worse.

I wasn't expecting this.  I thought my bones and ligaments would heal quickly and I would bounce back, but the trauma associated with the crash (and the previous two recent bike recent crashes and hospital visits) is proving to be a big issue.

Cycling on Melbourne streets and roads is now unsafe

Our roads are rivers of deaths - cars maim and kill on a daily basis.

Main roads are now unsafe for cycling. Some motorists squeeze past cyclists while travelling at 60 km/h leaving little gap. Quite a few are distracted looking at their phones or GPS and could run up the rear of any cyclist.

Side streets are also unsafe as drivers rat run down them to avoid congested roads and sail through roundabouts at speed with only a cursory glance.  Small roundabouts have high rates of bicycle-car crashes and are unsafe at any speed.

I now feel that cycling on any road with cars is an unacceptable risk to me - its not worth dying for. What am I trying to prove?

I have cycled over 100,000 km during my life, including 1200km in 69 hours on the Paris Brest Paris Audax event.  I raced on the roads with the Southern Vets for 12 years.

I have regularly commuted by bicycle to the Melbourne CBD since 1983 but I am not riding on any roads with cars any more. The only option I have left is to drive to Gardiners Creek with my bike on the car to get to the bike path where I can cycle in relative safety.

Bike crashes, injuries and deaths appear to be rising rapidly across Melbourne and on country roads. Some recent crashes and deaths:

There are still no safe east west cycle routes through Boroondara

The Vicroads Principal Bicycle Network (PBN) map designates the following roads as east west  "cycling routes" through the City of Boroondara: Riversdale, Whitehorse, Mont Albert, Canterbury, Burwood and Toorak Roads.

All these roads are very unsafe for cycling.  There are narrow painted bike lanes along Mont Albert Road (but cars are allowed to park obscuring the bike lane) and on a short eastern section of Burwood Rd (lane is in the car door zone).  Neither of these provide effective protection to cyclists.

There are high bicycle accident rates on all these roads that illustrate how dangerous they are.

There is no point producing the "PBN" if no safe separated cycling infrastructure ever gets built along designated routes.  The PBN is quite simply a waste of time and money.

The solution is: safe separated cycling infrastructure

Separating cyclists from cars, trucks, buses and trams is needed to ensure their safety, yet there is very little progress on building safe cycling routes in Melbourne.  There are strategies and plans, but nothing is being built.

Copenhagen had bike paths separated between the road and the footpath when I visited in 1985.

Existing rail corridors have space available for bike paths and there are even short sections of bike paths along them, but there is a lack of political will to use them for this.  

Construction of the Box Hill to Ringwood Rail Trail is progressing slowly but cyclists will only have road routes west of Box Hill.

The Hawthorn to Box Hill Trail would provide a safe east west bike route for cyclists aged 8 to 80, but unfortunately there has been no progress on building or even planning it.

The Hawthorn to Box Hill Trail and similar routes along railway lines could be built as "Solar bike paths"using prefabricated spans that incorporate a concrete path base, low walls and a roof with solar panels.

Meanwhile, cycling deaths and injuries are increasing at great cost to our community.

See also

Friday, August 07, 2015

The Speaker's resignation reflects a government that is in chaos

This tweet by Tony Abbot on 24 Nov 2011 applies now to his government in August 2015.  The Internet never forgets.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Tony Abbott Doorstop: Peter Slipper MP

This article was published on the Liberal Party of Australia website but was deleted on 17 August 2015 amidst the furor surrounding incumbent Speaker Brown Bishop over her misuse of entitlements relating to using here parliamentary travel allowance for a helicopter trip from Melbourne to Geelong to attend a Liberal Party fundraising event.


The Speaker is the guardian of parliamentary standards. The Speakership is one of the most important offices in the Parliament. The Speaker is there to uphold the integrity of the Parliament and now we have very, very serious allegations against the incumbent Speaker, allegations of sexual harassment and allegations of potentially criminal misuse of entitlements. These are very serious allegations indeed. Yes, the Speaker is entitled to the presumption of innocence but he does have quite a lot of explaining to do.

 It’s also very important that the Prime Minister act to ensure the integrity of the Parliament. The Speaker is only in that office because the Prime Minister used her numbers late last year to install him. The Prime Minister, to uphold the integrity of the Parliament, needs now to require the Speaker to step down until these matters are resolved.  It’s also incumbent upon the Australian Federal Police to swiftly investigate the potentially criminal allegations that have been made against the Speaker. 

I can’t underestimate the seriousness of this. The Speaker is required to maintain parliamentary standards and yet there are now these extremely serious allegations against the Speaker himself. So in order to maintain the respect and the reputation of the Parliament, in order to preserve the integrity of the Government and our institutions, it is very important that the Prime Minister act swiftly to require the Speaker to step aside and it’s very important that the Australian Federal Police quickly investigate these matters so that they can be resolved as soon as is humanly possible.

So these aren’t the first allegations against him. Should this have been dealt with a long time ago?

Well these are matters that have been referred to a court. These are matters where legal documents have been lodged. These are matters that are now to be the subject of proceedings in court, so these are of a vastly more serious and substantial nature than anything that has been alleged against Mr Slipper in the past.

After everything that’s been going on with Craig Thomson, I suppose the question is, you know, where to from here? Does she need to make a stand now?

Well this does go to the integrity not just of the Parliament but of the Prime Minister and of the Government. The Prime Minister cannot wash her hands of this business the way she has tried to wash her hands of the allegations concerning Mr Thomson because Mr Slipper is no mere backbencher. Mr Slipper is the Speaker of the Parliament. Mr Slipper occupies a very, very important office. He is the guardian of the standards of the Parliament, the protector of the reputation of the Parliament and now there are these extremely serious allegations against him and that’s why the only proper way forward is for the Speaker to step aside while these allegations are being dealt with. If he doesn’t do so voluntarily, the Prime Minister should indicate that she will require him to step aside until these matters are resolved.

Do you have any thoughts on who should take his place while the investigation is ongoing?

Well, as a matter of ordinary parliamentary procedure, if the Speaker is unable to take the chair, the senior Deputy Speaker automatically would take the chair.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran should live

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran should live.  They have done their time in jail for the crime of smuggling drugs into Bali.  They have both turned their lives around.  They do not deserve to die.

It appears that the Indonesian Government and President Joko Widodo are intent on killing them very soon by firing squad.

I respectfully ask President Joko Widodo to please spare their lives and give them a pardon.

I ask the Australian Federal Police to consider their role in this.  If these two are killed, the AFP will have Andrew Chan's and Myuran Sukumaran's blood on their hands.


Thursday, April 02, 2015

Some ideas for taxation

Some ideas for taxation and other revenue measures in Australia.

Save $10b per year scrapping fossil fuel subsidies - including $4b per year scrapping diesel fuel excise subsidy for big mining

Save $5b per year scrapping negative gearing subsidies for investors buying houses

We saved $5b per year when Abbott scrapped his Paid  Parental Leave Scheme

Save $31b per year scrapping subsidies for religions.

Tax the proceeds of houses sold for over $2m

Reintroduce a carbon tax. This will raise revenue and provide an incentive for high carbon polluters to reduce their emissions - as happened under the previous carbon tax. Since your government removed it, emissions are again rising. A carbon tax on big companies could generate $5b+ per year and be used to develop clean energy alternatives.

Increase resource taxes on mining so that the companies who extract and sell Australia's non-renewable mineral resources make a fair contribution to Australia.  This could generate $10b+ per year.

Simplify the taxation system for ordinary people.  The current system requires most people to become book keepers and hire accountants to do their tax returns every year.

Remove all direct and indirect government subsidies for the logging of native forests.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Tony Abbott, please keep your promise and retain the RET

Open letter to Josh Frydenburg, Kooyong.


Late last year Prime Minister Abbott broke an election promise when he called for devastating cuts to the Renewable Energy Target. 

This week the Abbott government has used national media channels to deliver veiled threats: take our offer to slash the Target to around 31,000 GWh, or we'll walk. 

I ask that you represent my views in the Australian parliament and your Party Room on retaining the RET in its current form. 

Solar energy is a clean renewable solution for the future. You are attacking on solar energy if you reduce the RET, and breaking a clear election promise. 

Please keep the Renewable Energy Target strong. The Renewable Energy Target is one of the most successful pieces of nation building legislation in past years. 

Not only has the Target helped more than 5 million Australians go solar, it also benefits the entire country - increasing investment, growth, jobs and regional development. 

Yours sincerely, 
Peter Campbell
[home address supplied]


You can send an email like this to your local MP, asking them to retain the RET and stop attacking renewable energy, from [here] 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tony Abbott, the Game of Thrones and why party politics is failing

Its interesting to watch the decline of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.  I was concerned when he became Prime Minister that he would not be a good leader.  My worst fears have since been realised.

Tony Abbott: Source

The list of broken promises and bad policies gets longer almost every day, here are just a few:
  • Funding cuts to ABC and SBS (a broken promise and appalling "efficiency levy lie)
  • "Loggers are the ultimate conservationists" and "no more national parks" (appalling lie)
  • "Coal is good for humanity" (appalling lie)
  • Deregulation of university fees - that could result in $100,000 degrees (no policy for this during the 2013 election campaign)
  • Continued incarceration of asylum seekers (including children) in concentration camps and offshore processing centres - a clears breach of human rights and the UN Convention for Refugees. (Note this is also supported by the Labor opposition)
  • Encouraging Islamaphobia is making Australia less safe, rather than considering the causes of radicalisation of the minority who join the likes of ISIS, and how we can prevent this happening.
  • Lifters and Leaners: vilification of low income earners and protection of corporate tax evaders
  • A budget emergency that actually did not exist, but is now being created by the failed LNP budget and policies.
  • Ongoing denial of climate change accompanied by policies that are crippling our transition to renewable energy and a zero carbon future.
  • The proposed GP Copayment - research indicated that this will have a negative effect on health care outcomes and greatly disadvantage low income earners.
All these policies have a common thread - they are based on ideology rather than evidence.

However, for all this I don't just blame Tony Abbott.  

We have serious systemic problems with political parties, where their policies come from, how their leaders are elected, and the basic failure of representational democracy.

Political parties actually only represent their own traditional support bases:
  • Liberal - medium to high income earners, "the big end of town" corporates, media barons etc. Notional "conservatives".
  • Labor - "working families", unions (some but not all), Notional "progressives" etc
  • Greens - conservationists, some unions, progressives disillusioned with Labor and the Coalition
  • Nationals - the notional "rural vote"
The average citizen has next to zero input into party policies.  Many actual party members (a small fraction of voters) also have little or no input to party policies.

Party policies come from secretive processes that are largely controlled by internal and vested interests.

The basic failure of representational democracy is twofold:
  1. Yet we vote for our local Members of Parliament, who are supposed to represent us. In reality, they vote the way their party instructs them most of the time.
  2. Parties have policy platforms during an election that are not binding - promises are routinely broken once government and policies that were not part of their election platform are forced onto society.
Our Prime Ministers are selected by internal party processes such as Party Room votes.  There is never any public participation with this - MPs decided when to sack a sitting Prime Minister and appoint a new one.

Recently, this has been chaotic.

The Labor Party sacked Kevin Rudd due to internal problems they had with his autocratic leadership style.

The Labor Party then sacked Julia Gillard and reappointed Kevin Rudd because nervous Labor MPs thought she couldn't win the 2013 election - which Rudd went on to lose.

Malcolm Turnbull was deposed as Coalition Opposition Leader in 2009 by the Liberal Party room, many of whom were concerned by his bipartisan support for an emissions trading scheme.  Tony Abbott won by one vote and went to become Prime Minister.

Now in 2015, it is evident to the wider electorate that Tony Abbott is manifestly unsuitable for the role of Prime Minister, so nervous back benchers (scared of losing their seats) bring on a "vote of no confidence" in him, which is defeated (61 votes for him, 39 against) with no alternative candidate. 

Since then, Abbott has continued to prove himself incapable of governing the country, he is locked into "attack mode" where he insists he well "beat Bill Shorten" and he continues to bully and threaten anyone who doesn't agree with him such as Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs.

It now seems likely that the Coalition Party Room will vote again on who will be Prime Minister (if someone challenges) and that Tony Abbott is considered likely to now lose.

So these are some big problems.  

Here are some possible structural solutions:

Constitutional change: Form governments based on the skills of elected MPs rather than party allegiances and membership

Constitutional change: Ban binding party votes - make every vote a conscience vote

Constitutional change: Provide voters with the opportunity to directly elect political leaders (e.g Prime Minister, Head of State) and move to some form of Republic

Legislative change: Ban large political donations - these fundamentally corrupt politics as they buy influence and large media driven election campaigns.

Constitutional change: Citizen initiated referendums and issue/policy referendums - give voters the opportunity to vote on binding policy matters that governments must then implement.

If we don't reinvigorate our democracy will continue to be subjected to the whims and vagaries of a largely autocratic political elite that don't act in the best interests of the nation and all citizens.