Human Rights and the Selfish Society.

On the generally agreed upon date of 28th July, 1914, the Great War began. Some nine million combatants and seven million civilians were killed. The War caused such great trauma to people and nations  that they agreed this kind of tragedy ought never happen again. War had passed from a local and even romantic notion to being a cancer so evil that nations must suffer whatever is necessary to avoid being consumed by such blood lust ever again.

The peace didn’t last long; the geopolitical landscape was so scarred and irrevocably damaged, peace could only ever be temporary and even illusionary. Russia fractured along the old imperialists and the new socialists. The cleave wasn’t clean: both sides, the Reds and the White, had moderates and extremists, and both sides committed crimes of unimaginable violence and scale. for that time. Even as the war between armies died, the war on civilians continued. Russia’s economy was utterly destroyed by the wars, millions perished, and yet worse was to come.

Meanwhile, aggrieved victor nations of the Great War demanded more and more from the bankrupted vanquished. Tapping into the fear, the pride, and the resentments of impoverished citizens was increasingly easy nourishment for many politicians. Great evils were brewing.

As if a plot to ensure Fascism cancerous growth, Capitalism rejected any sensible regulation and began to eat itself. The 1929 crash and subsequent Great Depression, if not wholly predicable, was foreseeable. The collapse of economies due to banks’ habit of favouring loans to short-term stock speculators instead over long term capital investors would be borne by millions of taxpayers around the world instead of the decision makers, a situation curiously mirrored nearly 80 years later. The Fascists found a rich vein of xenophobia and disillusionment to mine.

By the time the dangers of Fascism were realised and armies began to mobilise again for global total war, it was too late. Spain had spilled blood and served as a place for Germany to hone their battle skills. Italy decided conquering “lesser” peoples to pay homage to their Roman ancestors was the appropriate path. Japan orchestrated false emergencies in China and elsewhere in Asia to satisfy their lust, greed and pride.

By the time Unconditional Surrender was signed on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, some 80 million people had died directly as a result of the war. That’s nearly four New York Cities, two and a half Tokyos, or three Australias. Gone. And that’s not including incidental and indirect deaths. The figures are debatable to a degree, but the differential is a hair’s breadth compared a length of a river.

Those decades of trauma on the world left a profound wound on humanity. Citizens and leaders decided that too much blood had been shed, and the circumstances that led to such human induced cataclysm should never be allowed to happen again. Part of the solution, and the healing, was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The UDHR isn’t a notion or an ideal: it’s a contract of which you and your government have signed. Should your government decide to breach this contract, there are ways to compensate you. For example, you can be declared a refugee and any country you ask for asylum has to provide you safe haven: it’s not optional. It’s an obligation.

Now, nearly 70 years after humanity’s worst self-inflicted crisis, and the resultant UDHR, it seems that people have forgotten why we have it, what it offers us. It seems that some politicians see the UDHR as an obstacle to legislate around rather than as an instrument to help. Generations of citizens, too, see the UDHR as either not relevant to them or today. The question is why. Possibly one answer is the horrors of 1916-1946 is not real. There are very few alive today to share their experiences; it’s no longer in our collective living memory.

We go about our daily business, borrowing money without thought to pay for anything from a small meal to holiday on a foreign shore. We no longer think about our freedoms as hard won. We don’t share what we have because it’s easy for us to get what we want so it must be just as easy for anyone else, too: if not they must be somehow undeserving. For all our hyperconnectivity, we have never been so isolated. For all our vast data warehouses, we have never been so disconnected from valuable information.

We need to study our history to see where we are going. If we don’t, states may grain by grain erode our rights as laid out in the UDHR and other treaties signed post WWII. We are witnessing this in Australia right now. The parliament has legislated to spy on citizens, to punish refugees seeking asylum, and now it’s legislating to give the government itself arbitrary powers to decide who is a citizen, and to make people it deems unworthy stateless and leave them exiled, Not only do many experts agree this latest attack is unconstitutional, it also contravenes the UDHR. However the Abbott Government seems undeterred.

I hope enough people realise and we stop this before it’s too late, before the next crisis becomes inevitable and wholly foreseeable.


The Faceless Men of the Liberal Party

Frances Jones

By Father Kevin Lee

OK I know people reading this are going to say, “He is suffering from ‘sour grapes,’ but please try to understand. It’s like when you are in love with someone you overlook their flaws (even though you recognise them) and you can become despised enemies after you discover attributes you didn’t realise the other had. My position has changed due to discoveries I never anticipated. So reserve your judgment of me until you read the whole story.

I was a priest for twenty years and was always led to believe that separation of the Church and State was like two parallel lines that never meet, but I was soon to find out that like the celibate clergy, it’s a truth in terms of policy position only, it is not true in fact.

I discovered this painfully in my last parish, Glenmore Park.

In our community was…

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Don’t share needlers.

The tone of what passes for political discussion in Australia is, quite frankly, disgusting. It’s odious and we all should be ashamed.

Just a few remarks on the “commentators”, the people that are paid to express an opinion or two. The columnists who supposedly inform us of the issues of the general issues of the day, or week as the case may be.

To start with, that repugnant human being Howard Sattler. It wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t unfortunate. He plotted and planned those questions, and his bosses should have known. He has form. But why should we be surprised by this? Controversy sells, and that’s what he was employed to do; spruik his kind of polarising bull shit. This time, shock-horror, he went too far. Crossed the line it seems, so an apology is issued. He isn’t sorry, though. He hasn’t apologised. He’s rubbing our faces in it by suing his employer for sacking him. He’s even stated for public consumption that given his time again he’d ask the same questions. He reminds us even now that the Prime Minister ought to have known what was coming. Presumably, in his befouled little mind, she deserved it. What a grub.

Then, as some sort of anything you can do, I can go lower duet, fellow abhorrent human being Piers Akerman pops up and repeats the same slurs. Quite rightly most of the nation simultaneously rolled their eyes, laughed with utter disbelief and expressed their outrage. And that would be that, except the ignominious buffoon decides that he’d better explain himself in his regular News Ltd column by blaming the ABC, Barrie Cassidy, Lenore Taylor, Malcolm Farr, Twitter and anyone with a shred of decency to call him out on his tactless, repellant aspersion.

Now you could be forgiven for thinking one (or two) swallows do not a summer make, but this a wave crest of in the lake of sewage, years in the making. It’s not simply a case of sexism against one woman and a disgraceful slur on her partner, it’s systemic racism, homophobia and xenophobia against all manner of people.

The worst aspect of this whole sorry mess is the inescapable reality that it’s our fault. You read correctly. It’s us who watches the tawdry mess on the evening news. It’s us who buys the newspapers. It’s us who subscribes to the online version of the newspapers. It’s a free country and you can read and watch what you like, but for chrissakes stop sharing the smeared faeces that passes as political analysis or opinion on your social media accounts. Instead of ignoring every one of these vile trolls, the nation is clicking on your shortened URLs, and editors then rub their hands together in Machiavellian delight because they can give their advertising clients hard numbers, advertising which pays for these vicious grubs and encourages them to churn out even more bigoted bile.

So stop it. If you really want to make a difference, if you really are so offended by a piece that these intolerant ogres write and think everyone else should read it, then take a screen capture and post that instead. Don’t give these bloody bastards the satisfaction of knowing they’re comfortable and safe, protected from the rage by the soft blankets of money that a few lazy clicks bring.

Myki vs SmartRider

I had the “pleasure” of using Melbourne’s Myki system last week, to compare to Perth’s SmartRider.  Some observations:

Myki’s bad points:

• Readers take too long to register that it has touched on or touched off. This was especially a problem getting on crowded trams or getting through the barriers at closed stations during peak, like Melbourne Central or Flinders Street.

• The tones on Myki readers aren’t helpful. Error tones sound like normal tones and all tones are too quiet. Tones should leave the user in no doubt what happened.

• The display on Myki readers aren’t helpful. Unless you happen to be looking at it at the exact correct angle in the exact low level ambient light, for long enough to annoy those queueing behind you. Oh, and you may want to wear your reading glasses because the amount displayed appears to be in a 5 point font. At open train stations, they’re all mounted too high to be read from a wheelchair. Didn’t anyone consult disability advocates?

• What do all those lights mean? Green and Orange? Green and Red? What? What?

• Many Myki readers on trams simply didn’t work.  Worse, they’re either too high or too low. No consistent mounting. A few didn’t work on train platforms, but there were at least 2 readers, often more at open stations, so that’s no so bad.

• The rules regarding “touching off” are confusing. In all transport other than trams, patrons must touch off. On trams, patrons are encouraged not to touch off unless traveling wholly within zone 2. I noticed quite a few patrons ignoring that advice, possibly because they don’t trust the system, or because being human they like consistent rules.

• Myki readers don’t like any other contactless smart card being within cooee. This includes credit cards.

• Myki cards don’t like being too far from readers. More often than not I had to take the card out of my wallet to use it.

• There is no alternative cash ticketing.  The local response was to tell people without Mykis to ride for free. (Carrying on a grand Melbourne tradition of fare evasion, then.) There are no automatic dispensers, and not all stations have staff on hand to sell the cards, and even those stations that do, they aren’t open beyond business hours. Apparently 7 Eleven stores sell them, but 7 Eleven stores also sell $0.20 2 minute noodles for $1.00.

• The Myki top-up machines are poorly designed. It’s all touch screen (great), but the keypad for credit/debit cards is a million miles away from the action, and how anyone in a wheelchair could conceivably use it is anyone’s guess. To the visitor, the difference between Myki Money and Myki Pass is irrelevant; why is that an option anyway, if the system is supposed to calculate the cheapest fare?

• There is a time limit of 5 years on the card. Didn’t use up all the money you put on it? Tough. You’re a visitor and bought a card and won’t be visiting again in that timeframe? Tough.

• It’s like Melbourne is saying: “Hey, visitors, don’t use public transport because we hate you!”

• It cost the Victorian taxpayer $1.5 billion. I know, right?

• Fares possibly aren’t the best available, and compared to SmartRider are more expensive, eg:

Myki (adult)                                            SmartRider (adult, autoload)

42 km (zone2) $5.92 2 hrs                     42 km (zone5) $5.33 3 hrs

15 km (zone2) $5.92 2 hrs                     15 km (zone2) $3.00 2 hrs

9 km (zone1) $3.50 2hrs                        9 km (zone1) $2.03 2 hrs.

Interestingly, Myki is supposed to have daily caps, but it never seemed to apply to me. I fear it’s a scam similar to how telcos have caps on their mobile phone plans.

• Additionally SmartRider has a Free Transit Zone within the CBD, $0.50 fares for school children, and free travel for senior citizens, Age Pensioners and Disability Support Pensioners  from 9am to 3:30pm weekdays plus all weekends and public holidays.

• Pensioners using Myki can get free rides but only before 7am and only on trains. This consistent rule thing seems to be a problem in Victoria.

Myki’s good points:

• It fits into a wallet.

Now SmartRider isn’t perfect, but:

• It is usually very quick (so no bunching at gates).

• Tones are loud enough and pitched so that patrons know when they’ve tagged on, off, if they’re low on money or if there has been an error. (Hear the collective groans and see the collective eye-rolls from patrons as some people try to tag on, getting 5 annoying beeps everyone telling them there isn’t enough credit on the card to tag on.)

• My SmartRider still works even next to my MasterCard in my wallet.

• The rules are consistent; always tag on, always tag off. There are a couple of exceptions at some trains stations where buses drop patrons off inside the barriers, but patrons still tag off getting off the bus. The system automatically tags them on for getting on the train. The “tag on, tag off” rule isn’t violated as far as patrons are concerned.

• SmartRider readers are robust. Buses only have 2 readers, and some train stations only have 1. Policy is that if the SmartRider reader fails for whatever reason, and there is no alternative to tag on, SmartRiders get that part of the journey free. I’ve been in situations when a whole station’s readers went down. Normally the penalty for not tagging off is paying a default fare of 9 zones (for trains), but everyone was refunded the fare. Having a card snapped in two doesn’t count as being a reason to get a free journey.

• All train stations, buses and ferry terminals have paper ticket dispensers. Paper tickets don’t get the 15% (default) or 25% (autoload) discount fares that SmartRider has, but it least it means visitors, or any one really, doesn’t have an excuse to evade a fare.

It’s not just Myki letting down commuters and visitors to Melbourne. There are two standout features of Perth’s public transport system:

1) Integration. Buses which terminate/originate at train stations have timetables set around the train time tables. But it’s not just timetabling. No matter which private company is contracted, all buses have the same brand and livery. Nearly all buses have disabled access. All train stations have disabled access. It’s really is a pity Melbourne is so far behind in this.

2) Free Transit Zone. Traveling by train in the FTZ is free if you have a SmartRider. You still tag on and tag off, but it’s free. (For paper tickets, it’s a 2 section fare – $1.90 adult.) On buses, no need to tag on or tag off. If Melbourne had a FTZ, say, all stations on the Loop plus all tram and bus stops within the area bounded by the Loop, then getting across the Central Business District wouldn’t be such a hassle. Getting on the packed tram won’t mean all the horrible gymnastics of touching on, and then off later. It would also mean that ticket inspectors wouldn’t have to ride in the tram in the CBD. I found this an enlightening experience on the 86 tram going towards Docklands. The inspectors boarded at Spencer Street, and a once full tram emptied within moments. There were only 3 of us travelers left. Either nearly everyone on board wanted to get off at Southern Cross Station, or they were fare evading. As an aside, there are two types of ticket inspector in Melbourne; uniform and plain clothes. The latter look like they’re thugs straight off a film set of a gritty police drama, and have manners to equal the low-lives that smoke on trains and steal from pensioners. The uniformed mob are just tidier.

Final analysis: Myki is a lemon Melbourne will be stuck with for many years. Let’s hope the team behind Sydney’s Opal card don’t repeat the same mistakes.

A dining sore: tea retch

We have suffered too long with poor service and terrible tea.

On Saturday the 4th of March, 2012, I and some close friends had decided to view “Sculptures By The Sea,” an annual event of high quality on Perth’s premier post-card beach, Cottesloe. We had also decided to end the perfect morning by having a breakfast at a rather popular, and expensive, cafe in this rather exclusive suburb by the sea, the John Street Cafe.

Even by 8am, there was a cue of barristers, pediatricians and venture capitalists (both Alan Bond and Gina Rinehart live, in all senses of the term, around the corner.) After a short wait a table for 5 became available. The setting was beautiful, the menu options a little restricted and, let’s be honest, pricey.

To begin with, we were asked by an extremely pleasant waitress for our drinks order. My friends drink coffee – I don’t judge them. I, of course, think most coffee is over-rated and prefer the subtly of tea, and sensed the judgement rain down.

The menu didn’t list any particular tea, it simply stated “A selection of teas.” That’s not unusual these days, so I asked. My heart sank with the reply: “Earl Grey, English Breakfast, peppermint…” I didn’t want to make a fuss, but as anyone knows, two black teas does not a selection make. Certainly two of the most abused labels in the history of tea are not part of “a selection.” This is rather like China’s one party system being called “a selection” of democracy. Valiantly and in the face of adversity, I fought on: “Earl Grey, please. White.”

Admittedly it was a pleasant surprise when the service arrived. The cup was warmed; the pot, despite being a horrible stainless steel number, was hot; the strainer clean; and the milk jug chilled. Sadly, no pot of hot water however above average marks for effort.

A small sample was poured to check for colour: almost none. “Good,” I thought, “they assembled it all first and did the pot last.” Wrong! It was not going to get any stronger. After some remarks to my friends, we all had a look inside the pot. We could count the leaves on one hand. The poor, anemic brew had steeped as much as it could. So a hand shot up for some service.

After an initial misunderstanding (the poor waitress thought I had meant the tea was too strong!) it was taken back. A new, at least I hoped, pot arrived.

The colour was better, so feeling confident I poured, added milk, drank and almost spat the vile liquid over everyone. Whatever it was, it wasn’t Earl Grey. Nor English Breakfast. It tasted like detergent. No, worse, it tasted like poisoned detergent.

Normally in these situations, I’d recoil to the familiar and comfortable, doing what most reasonable and polite people do: passive aggressiveness. This would have been an easy option, as I wasn’t paying for the meal. However this abomination could not be laid to rest, someone somewhere ought to know that we tea drinkers are sick and tired of being treated like an untouchable’s untouchable. I decided to stand up (not literally) and take a stand: tea so horrible should never be served at the John Street Cafe ever again!

Having told the waitress when she cleared the table, she was a little taken aback, and not quite sure what to do. “Um, I’ll inform the boss, I guess.” By this stage I was thinking how handy it was to be in a cafe full of wealthy barristers with much Saturday morning time on their hands.

To their credit, the cafe did not bill for the tea, thus not being an additional $6.50 insult to my intelligence. Rather, of my friend who footed the bill. Yet I continued to wonder how a process so simple can be deviated from so catastrophically that the resultant effluent made sewage seem potable. What had I done to the universe to deserve such an obnoxious punishment?

Maybe it’s unfair to name-and-shame (“shaname”) a specific cafe for one pot when it’s really hard to find a barista anywhere that knows how to make a tea. Too bad. How can professional people put the face of Jesus on a flat white coffee but don’t know that it’s one for the teapot? Worst of all crimes, why are they charging the national debt of a failing African state for what is essentially a small pot of freshly boiled water with a measured amount of malted herb, in a process so simple a small child can do it?

Unless we demand a higher standard they won’t get better. My stand began last Saturday.

A review of Melancholia, A von Trier film

I started tweeting a review of Melancholia, but quickly it became obvious it deserved considerable thought, then proper blogging.

Admittedly I had reservations, having watched the trailers, but I wanted to give this a go. It won stuff at Cannes. I wanted to be stunned by the ultra high speed film replayed at twenty-four frames per second. I wanted to be immersed in beautiful cinematography. I wanted to be wooed by Lars von Trier’s intoxicating fantasies.

Some people may have the stamina and lack of imagination to last two hours and ten minutes of indulgent tedium. I do not. I expect most people don’t. It’s the filmic equivalent of watching frozen molasses drip from a spoon while slowly overdosing on Mogadon – you are sure something will happen eventually, but boredom inevitably sets in before you can remember why you were watching, or bother to care what that something is. Meanwhile, did I leave the iron on? The airconditioning is louder than usual. I really ought to have that mole checked out.

To anyone who managed to sit this steaming pile out, I admire you. I really do. You indeed have the tenacity of a leech that uses superglue for assistance. Your hobbies are fascinating– everyone should indulge in the cheap thrill of observing ice thaw.

This film ought only to be shown during assisted suicides, to ensure patients don’t change their minds. The premise, thick and rich like water vapour, is that Earth will be destroyed by a planet which somehow manages to dislodge itself from an orbit somewhere near Antares, a red super giant star some 600 light years away. Come on. This mysterious planet was able to dodge all collisions except the impending one with Earth, despite acting like an epileptic drunkard on skates whilst traveling the 600 light years in the time it takes to say “Kirsten Dunst’s breasts are surprisingly small once she takes that wedding dress off.” It couldn’t have hid behind the sun like a cat behind a sofa preying on a mechanical mouse, either. Based on von Trier logic, it could have Skyped us first and told us to put the kettle on. This should be enough to alert you to the extreme nonsense that binds the incredibly threadbare plot. This film requires more than a suspension of disbelief. It requires a cognitive dissidence several orders of magnitude greater than the combined total cognitive dissidence of the Young Earth and Literal Bible movements.

If this film was about being calm in the face of impending doom then the zen didn’t rub off. It stuck doggedly to the impossibly wandering planet like sea gull guano on a rock. The tiny, tiny amount of satisfaction knowing they all die at the end is crushed by the infinite tedium of the unbearable journey.

There is a scene that I thought made real time go backwards. The first act when Justine (Dunst) urinates on a golf course in her wedding dress. As interesting as that may sound, incredibly it isn’t. The scene of her copulating with her boss’s nephew in a sand trap ought to be exciting, but somehow von Trier manages to erase every microgram of spirit from this scene, rendering it with all the eroticism of pollination. Given the title, it may be appropriate or deliberate, except it was like watching a paper bag get run over by a truck. For a moment I secretly wished that paper bag was that horrible neighbour’s hideous cat. I wanted to elicit some joy from the scene, no matter how dark, yet it was more elusive than Pol Pot’s mercy.

Apparently Dunst is earning praise for her role. I’m not sure how; she exuded all the character and personality of a coffee table. From Ikea. Still flat packed. And this after wanting to like her performance and react with her character. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference, and that’s exactly how I feel about her performance (that I saw. I walked out, remember?)

Kiefer Sutherland appeared to be wanting to be needed elsewhere. I don’t blame him for that want. Shortly after walking out I felt that I’d have more fun at my mother’s unexpected funeral than watch these interminably insufferable people on screen. Or perhaps being at a party where I don’t really know anyone, just enough to know I don’t particularly like them, then watch as they predictably demonstrate how perfectly they fit their assigned stereotypes with their obnoxious vapidity. Sutherland didn’t disappoint, which is disappointing.

You may have watched Alexander Skarsgård in True Blood or Generation Kill. I enjoyed his performance in the latter. The end. Well, not quite. As the abandoned husband, Michael should have been a little likable, even pitied. A performance flatter than that Ikea coffe table flat pack box.

Then there is Charlotte Rampling. She played Justine’s overbearing, dominating, unloving mother, Gabby. Surely she should be despised? No. She’s like that objectionable bag lady that yells profanities at random objects, and somehow we adore her for that until she’s out of sight upon which we immediately forget she ever existed.

Last, and least is Charlotte Gainsbourg as Justine’s sister Claire. I know this because I bothered to look it up on Wikipedia. Somehow when Claire looks up “Melancholia” she arrives at a website dedicated to the wayward planet of doom. For God’s sake, people, donate to Wikipedia before we discover that this film is a metaphor for Occupy Wall Street, or, worse, it isn’t a metaphor for anything; that it was entirely inspired by the inappropriately etherial advertisement of Homer Simpson’s Mr Plow.

The rest? I’m so indifferent to them I have forgotten who they were. They either wore a dinner suit or an evening gown. Possibly both, as that fact would be easy to miss in the ferocious pace of this delightful, upbeat romantic comedy.

Don’t tell me how it really ends. If I should be unfortunate enough to find out even one of these miserable sods survive, I shall have to publicly hang the audience during the screening of Melancholia’s sequel before shooting myself. Before seeing this film I had successfully deceived myself into thinking that considering all the terrible things, this hasn’t been a bad year. Thanks Lars, you Nazi loving misanthropist, for ruining this year for everyone.

The visible hands.

Of late there has been a sustained attack on protestors, such as the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy (insert your nearest city’s name here) by the politics of the centre and the right.  Some of the criticisms are valid.  For example, the protests in Australia have been flimsy, with no real conviction (What do we want?  Something!  When do we want it?  Sometime reasonably soon if that’s at all possible, please!)  Or that the circumstances in Australia are not within cooee those in debt laden Europe and United States.


That’s fair enough.  What bothers me is the lack of understanding of what these protests are about.  Commentators of the political right are very happy to point to the loony fringe of these protests and dismiss why they are being sustained, longer than it took Egyptians to bring down Mubarak.


The right eagerly picks out sympathising celebrities who have shares in or own capitalist ventures, pointing them out as hypocrites.  The issue isn’t about capitalism (although hard left socialists and communists may argue it is), it’s about who owns the capital and how much.  This is why these protestors have locked onto the “we are the 99%” — they are not the 1% of Americans who own almost half of the capital.  It’s not enough to blame the Global Financial Crisis, or events such as the sub-prime real estate market that lead up to it for this inequity.  The problem is much more rooted and, without concentrated effort, impossible to solve.


The problem is the underlaying assumptions about how markets work.  The favored “less intervention = better” amongst economists and politicians is worrying.  Friedmanism is a theory, not an immutable law.  Beneath this there are underlying problems which most conservatives don’t wish to deal with.


An example.  In exchange for his vote of confidence in the Gillard Government, Andrew Wilkie MP wants macro-reform of the poker machine industry in Australia, in all states.  Opposing this is Clubs Australia, an industry group that wants to protect its investment.  I don’t blame them.  Clubs Australia is very good at reinforcing the view that any regulation inhibits individual freedom, that there is no such thing as problem gambling that can’t be addressed differently, and that we are all free to chose for ourselves whether to gamble our savings, and beyond, away.


The first fallacy is the fallacy of equal powers in market negotiations over time.  The idea that any swing to favour one negotiator over another somehow balances out is demonstrably false.  Ask anyone renting a home how inequitable the relationship is between landlord and tenant.  Or where monopolies exist, such as in the utility sector.  Don’t like how your power bill is going up?  Not much you can do about that, and even by going off grid all that happens is the company is forced to increase prices to make up for the shortfall.  That’s hardly an equal relationship between parties.


The core of this anger against corporate banking America and Europe is employment and social security.  Ironic that some of the harshest critics of the protests shout the never amusing “get a job” line at the protestors.  A bit like how those with means making the decisions to reduce their workforce and demand tax cuts from governments, citing a fabled “trickle down effect.”  If the money trickled down, there wouldn’t be unemployed people sleeping in Wall Street as a protest.  There wouldn’t be signs with “We are the 99%” written on them.


But the hypocrisy from the extreme right beggars belief.  For example, it has been revealed in Senate Estimates that the CEO of Australia Post – a government owned enterprise – was paid $2.89 million last year.  “Outrageous!” screams the right.  That’s more what the Prime Minister is paid.  That’s more than what the Governor of the Reserve Bank is paid.  That’s more than any chief of any government department.  Hang on a second: Australia Post is a profitable machine, and the citizens and residents of Australia are its beneficiaries.  The profit is returned to the government as a dividend. Also as a GOE, Australia Post is forced to have more services available in more places than would otherwise be commercially viable – it’s a social dividend.  For a business that turns over some $5 billion, is a $3 million pay packet that much?  “Yes, but…” the notion is false and unfair that somehow because a business is a GOE, its board doesn’t deserve to be paid in the same manner as that of a privately owned business.


The general complaint that the CEO is paid too much echoes the sentiment that any CEO is paid too much, in any sector, but particularly the financial sector in which governments around the world have invested enormous sums to prevent collapse.  While too many greedy individuals are rorting the system at the big end of town, ordinary citizens suffer the consequences.  The free market doesn’t appear to work here: CEOs are paid bonuses when the business is doing well or not.  Some are paid bonuses for sacking workers.  CEOs have access to government ministers directly while citizens don’t.  There is no level playing field here.


The disparity of negotiating sides goes beyond that of the protest in the street.  When New Ltd columnist Andrew Bolt was found to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act, the volume of outrage from commentators crying “It’s the death of free speech” was overwhelming, especially from Bolt himself.  Temperatures rose, passions inflamed.  As one commentator, Richard Flanagan, put it: “If you stood on the moon, two things are visible: the Great Wall of China and the self-pity of Andrew Bolt.”  A “victim” silenced by the death of free speech has never been so loud and so continual.  The issue for me isn’t this mythical free speech (speech has never been free — ask any defamation lawyer), but who controls the means of communicating opinions.  The Bolts and Bill O’Reillys of this world have been, and still are, in control.  They opine, in print, on TV or online, and followers disseminate the message as if such thoughts are fact.


When I read on Twitter that some people think that the Occupy (insert city) protesters should be locked up, I wonder how those people reconcile with their thoughts, that somehow Bolt has suffered an injustice.  It’s an extraordinary feat of mental gymnastics.  On one side, a single protester is unlikely to change the world. Their leverage is practically nil.  On the other side, Bolt, with backing of News Ltd, has been able to peddle the most offensive clap trap without fear of using facts.  How is the free market able to reconcile this imbalance?  Sure, if you don’t like Bolt, you don’t have to listen, read or watch, but his opinions are scattered about like dog turds on a skinny footpath: difficult to avoid completely and never far enough away from the stench.  In the cutthroat business of online press, a click on Bolt’s blog from someone who can’t stand him is just a precious as a click from his most ardent fan (other than himself).


The market isn’t free.  It’s not on a level playing-field.  If we continue on like this, we will end up mired in revolution as every bit as ugly and horrific as the French, American and Russian revolutions.  Surely there is a better way.