January 25, 2015

Election '15: costs of living

Australia is an expensive country, not many people would argue with that. We noticed it from the day we arrived – just over five years ago – and we're still noticing it. Last weekend, two simple, over-the-counter, tickly-cough and sore-throat remedies cost $30.

I have kept two lists since our arrival: one of items that are noticeably less expensive, and the other of those that cost a lot more than I was used to. The former is a short list, and includes prawns, light bulbs, accountants' fees and fuel; the latter is extensive and ranges from insurance (car, house contents, you name it) to hotel accommodation, eating out, wine, electricity, mobile phone tariffs, internet, new cars, car registration, bank charges, repairs (shoes, for example), medical costs (dentistry especially), window cleaning, hairdressing and cosmetics, flowers, entrance fees to tourist attractions, books… even tattoos!

In the last week, two items in the press backed this up: Australia is well up the top ten of most expensive countries.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-15/australian-housing-near-most-expensive-but-forecast-to-rise/6018696?section=business
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/21/map-expensive-countries_n_6510018.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

In addition to high retail prices, there are hidden service charges everywhere. When we moved into our first rental property, we couldn't pay our rent directly to the rental agency. Instead, we had to pay a middle man who then paid the agency. That privilege was going to cost us $2.50 a month, a nice little earner for someone. We refused the 'service', and the agency eventually agreed to let us pay them direct.

And then there's settling up front. You're already paying through the nose for even modest accommodation in a popular destination, and then you have to pay in full as long as month in advance. If you're renting a holiday house, there'll be a deposit to pay against damage. The conditions of a booking I have in a month's time is that the deposit be shown in the owner's bank account before I can pick up the key, and having already sent her a screenshot of the transaction.

If you have to make a claim on your car insurance, you have to pay hundreds of dollars of excess right at the start, before they'll instigate a claim, and you'll never know the actual costs.

The biggest item in the cost of living that worries most Australians is the price of electricity. Abbott's abolition of the carbon price didn't bring people's bills down like they'd been promised. In Queensland that's because the network companies over-invested massively in improving poles and wires. In itself, that was good, but energy companies overestimated their income at a time when power consumption was falling. More people were installing solar (nearly 400,000 homes in QLD now) and cutting their usage because of high prices. The high prices are not because of solar subsidies: this is LNP misinformation.

Electricity could be much cheaper if right-wing governments embraced renewables. There is masses of scope for solar take-up as the technology (including storage batteries) comes down in price. Large-scale solar farm projects have been scrapped rather than encouraged. The LNP is blinded by its love affair with fossil fuels (and mining donations) to the enormous scope of the Sunshine State.

There are lots of ways that I can see that people could cut their household budget. But I see little evidence yet of lifestyles being modified in order to reduce massive consumption. There has to be a will for there to be a way.


January 23, 2015

Vote for the Reef

Last night I attended the Great Barrier Reef State Election Forum, organised by the Australian Marine Conservation Society, at Brisbane City Hall. All political parties were invited. Unfortunately only two took their seats on the stage: the ALP's Environment spokesperson Jackie Trad, and Greens Queensland Senator Larissa Waters. The LNP didn't show up but sent some extraordinary video clips that allegedly summed up their Reef policy. And PUP spokesperson John Bjelke-Petersen sent a statement that was read out.

The LNP's video was received with sneers and jeers and lots of laughs. Their arrogance in not turning up for a debate on the most important environmental issue for many voters deserved such derision.

The Marine Conservation Society has six Reef commitments they are looking to the politicians to make, and that they suggest voters bring to the attention of candidates.
• Ban industrial dumping in order to minimise dredging
• Protect wetlands, the Reef's natural filters and nurseries
• Stop farming runoff pollution
• Protect rivers, bushland catchments, water resources and community rights
• Restore habitats, fish stocks and other marine animals
• Generation of more energy from renewables to check climate change

The Environmental Defenders Office – defunded completely by the Newman government and the Feds between them – are campaigning to have that funding restored. They, too, have an environmentally focused agenda of seven key changes they would like to see made. They link the Reef to the protection of other natural resources and add wider issues of citizens rights and the democratic process.

First look at their list of detrimental effects on the environment caused by certain pieces of legislation at http://www.edoqld.org.au/
assaults-on-qld/. More details of the seven key changes can be found at edoqld.nationbuilder.com. There's a petition to the pollies you can sign, as well.

Queensland Conservation is another organisation that lists all
the damage done to the environment in an 'election brochure' at http://qldconservation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/
qc_election_brochure-4.pdf. The Great Barrier Reef is at the top of their agenda, with climate change right behind it. Then comes uranium mining; public rights to appeal; protection of the Cape York Peninsula; the management of water resources; subsidies to fossil fuel industries and the monitoring of them; land clearance; and national parks.

I would add to all these lists, or perhaps attached to 'national parks', the problem of declared protected areas of high conservation value, such as nature refuges, being at risk of destruction from mining. Prime agricultural land also needs effective protection from mining encroachment, not merely glib talk about economic 'pillars'.

There are common themes between environmental organisations, but what leaps out is the broad range of subjects of concern gathered under the Environment umbrella. If you share those concerns, take them to as many candidates as you can in your constituency – on the corners; at election forums. Ask them where they stand and exactly what their policies are.

Saving the Reef has emerged as a big issue in this state election, but there are a whole host of other environmental matters that need their profiles raising. If you want to vote for the Reef, you're unlikely to choose the LNP I would have thought. If you don't believe Labor are promising enough, but neither do you think the Greens will be elected, then you have to choose your preferences carefully, and not vote for one only.

There are clear choices at this election between the main two parties on some of the key issues. That gives you a greater opportunity to achieve what you want, as long as you get the numbers right.

Update: I have just found this piece, which is the best summary of the problems for the Reef, with stats, and suggestions for the next government, whatever their colour. Read it and share.
http://theconversation.com/six-things-queenslands-next-government-must-do-to-save-the-great-barrier-reef-36258

This post was last edited on 24 January 2015


January 20, 2015

Election '15: jobs

There are more myths about jobs than there are about the LNP's handling of the Queensland economy. The biggest by a mile is how many people are employed by the state's mining industry, and coal in particular.

Coal mining employs a fraction of those engaged in service industries; building and construction; hospitality and tourism; retail; manufacturing; health, education and local government…

The Queensland Resources Council and the mining companies themselves include 'indirect' jobs in their figures in order to inflate them. So they'll garner numbers from a contractor supplying goods and services, for example. I think many people in Brisbane would be surprised to learn that 'direct and indirect spending' by minerals and energy companies supported more than 197,000 jobs in the Brisbane region, according to QRC Chief Executive Michael Roche.

When a company applies for a mineral development licence or an environmental permit to mine, it doesn't have to provide a cost benefit analysis that takes into account the 'value' of farmers displaced off the land or tourists deterred once a landscape has been laid waste. Neither does the assessment procedure take into account the future costs of dealing with the effects of increased carbon emissions, either in Australia or in the countries where coal exports are headed. In the case of the Reef, job losses in tourism will be considerable if the degradation continues. The reasons for its demise include warming oceans, agricultural run-off and a starfish invasion as well as the more widely publicised dredging and dumping for port expansion.

Jobs are glibly promised to accompany resource development or infrastructure project announcements. They are likely to be more numerous during the construction phase, rather than once a mine, for example, is up and running, especially with the high level of mechanisation. The reality of job numbers locally is often debated. Historically, many workers have come from overseas, either selected for their skills and entering on the infamous 457 visas, or brought in by foreign owners of the mines from their home states where labour is cheaper. Both are controversial. Job creation is used to justify ruining the landscape, losing prime agricultural land and upsetting ecosystems, thus reducing biodiversity. I'm sure most people don't expect to see half these projects materialise, even if the party who promised them are elected.

A couple of weeks ago, a man in search of a job rang into local radio to describe an extraordinary state of affairs. He had expressed interest in working on the Carmichael mine project in the northern Galilee Basin. He lives a couple of hours from the site, but was informed he'd have to fly in and fly out from Brisbane. This despite an Adani spokesperson assuring the Mackay Daily Mercury only last August that the company favoured applications from local people.

Mining workers are often housed in largely self-sufficient camps, thus depriving local communities of a lot of the business they'd expected to be generated by the mine.

Those people who believe no more new coal mining areas should be developed are criticised for denying jobs to areas badly in need of a new stimulus. Investment in renewable energy projects will create opportunities in regional Australia, such as the construction of large-scale wind and solar farms and community energy projects. Jobs have already been lost in the domestic solar market, thanks to uncertainty surrounding the Renewable Energy Target created by the Federal Government's lack of enthusiasm, and the Queensland government's threat to remove subsidies for solar power installation and feed-in tariffs.

In reality, alternative thinking and practice within new industries and communities will ultimately provide more opportunities than either of the major parties while they have their electioneering hats on.


January 18, 2015

Election '15: debt and asset sales

Few would dispute that Queensland should be concerned about its debt, but if you're from practically any other Western economy you might smile wryly as Australians angst about what seems to be a relatively small amount of it, and the near-obsession in this country with getting back to black.

Few ordinary people seem to care about triple-A credit ratings from agencies with silly names. (For years I thought one of them was Standard & Paws. Was its founder, Henry Varnum Poor, being ironic?) The difference between two As or three doesn't mean the state pays that much more interest on loans, some economists say. Others argue that a manageable amount of debt helps you finance infrastructure projects that you'd never begin if you waited until you could afford it.

The LNP have bitched about the debt they inherited from Labor ever since they came to power almost three years ago. They usually add at least $20 billion on to the real figure for effect, and they fail to mention that Labor's woes were added to considerably by costly natural disasters, namely the floods in SEQ and cyclone Yasi in FNQ, in 2011. And possibly the GFC. In the name of that debt, Campbell Newman's government ruthlessly axed tens of thousands of frontline public sector jobs while cutting trifling amounts of funding from valuable programmes such as $97,000 from the Environmental Defenders Office. At the same time, taxpayers were subsidising the expansion of Abbot Point port to the tune of almost $2 billion. The LNP agenda was clear.

Now they propose to lease and privatise certain public assets – namely power generation and distribution, the ports of Gladstone and Townsville, water pipelines and the Mount Isa rail line – to pay off some of the debt, seemingly forgetting that they are in power because the public never forgave former premier Anna Bligh for selling state assets, so they booted her out of office in 2012. Either that or he thinks Queenslanders are so stupid as to not see through the plan. With the demise of coal predicted by many economists over the next decade or two, are any private-sector investors going to pay the monies he needs (to reduce debt and fund his election bribes) for ageing coal-fired power generators or even brand new (hence higher electricity prices) but soon-to-be-obsolete poles and wires (as solar owners go off the grid in future)? He himself has expressed uncertainty about the prices he might get. And he'll have to wait for sales to be completed before he can deliver on his promises.

Labor announced details of its economic strategy last Friday. They have learned from past mistakes, and will not be selling or leasing the state's assets. They propose a longer-term debt action plan: to pay it off over a decade from dividends raised by state-owned corporations they keep as they are. Interestingly, Labor plans to merge the three electricity distribution companies (Ergon, Energex and Powerlink) and the two electricity generators (CS Energy and Stanwell), saving $150 million a year, they claim.

This link includes figures for dividends: https://independentaustralia.
net/politics/politics-display/here-we-joh-again-lnps-strong-choices-to-hit-families-hard,7273.

Talking about the past coming to haunt the you, it appears that Deputy Leader Jeff Seeney once wasn't such a fan of leasing. On 23 March 2013, in the Queensland Parliament, he said: 'Leases are a… sneaky, dishonest way to undertake asset sales.' And his colleague, Treasurer Tim Nicholls added, 'A 99-year lease is as good as giving away the farm'. Both were in Opposition then.

Some methods of reducing debt are rarely debated by either of the major parties. Doing away with mining subsidies is one of them. A recent report by TAI (The Australian Institute) claims a figure of $9.5 billion for Queensland, with the coal industry the largest beneficiary. Right-leaning critics dispute many of their claims. So here is another analysis: https://www.academia.edu/9719052/Calculating_Queensland_state_government_subsidies_to_the_minerals_and_gas_industries.

Another way is to increase taxes. Nobody dare mention putting up taxes to voters who complain loudly and frequently about the cost of living. Perhaps someone should be bold: in the Newman government's Strong Choices survey, a significant proportion of contributors expressed a preference for higher taxes rather than the sale of state assets. The LNP has completely ignored this. They claim that leasing is different from selling. This seems to me to be a red herring, to sweeten the privatisation pill. And the waters are muddied further by methods of profit maximisation, the role of the industry regulator, the potential life of the asset, and the terms of the statute defining the terms of the lease. Confused? Read this article written a few months ago: http://theconversation.com/making-the-case-for-selling-off-queenslands-power-assets-32488

There is a more general question, and that is, is privatisation in any form the way forward these days? This is an interesting idea that
I was completely unaware of over here on the other side of the planet: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/09/
tide-turning-against-privatisation. If you're Australian, don't be churlish about the fact that many of the examples are from the UK. Their experiences are pertinent, and the trend is not limited to northwest Europe.

The LNP's campaign rests on the claim that it has strengthened the economy over the last three years. This has been seriously challenged – see http://theconversation.com/the-true-state-of-queenslands-economy-without-the-spin-35959. The art of spinning statistics is a common thread I'm sure, in many a political campaign. The poor voter has to pick his or her way through huge numbers of numbers, most of which will be contested by someone or other.

Good luck.

Update Since writing this I have learned that the LNP government would benefit from an 'asset recycling initiative' by the Commonwealth government, in the form of a 15% incentive payment. More later.

This post was last edited on 22 January 2015


January 15, 2015

The electioneers

I've been back three days. Time to get down to the forthcoming Queensland election (31 Jan).

It's being called a snap election, which roughly translated means Campbell Newman was scrambling to catch everyone out. January is big-holiday time here: even state schools don't resume until the end of the month. He hoped the small Opposition team wouldn't be prepared. More significantly, he knows he is likely to be in deep water once the Senate enquiry into Certain Aspects of Queensland Government Administration related to Commonwealth Government Affairs kicks off in March, when the election was expected. The polls were more or less neck-and-neck when he took the plunge, but a lot can happen in two weeks and two days.

The bribery of voters is manifold: a youth employment scheme in Newman's constituency of Ashgrove if the people elect him rather than the more personable previous incumbent Kate Jones; a railway duplication for commuters north of Brisbane; and bottleneck-easing where the Gateway and Pacific motorways merge. Labor has promised more teachers; and a five-year programme to resuscitate the Great Barrier Reef. And all the photo-ops, complete with hard hats and high-vis vests; the awkward embraces of reluctant infants; or the obligatory nodding-party-faithful backdrop to the announcer of inducements.

What about the issues? As soon as the date was announced, The Guardian predicted: 'Queensland election: all about the environment, bikies and privatisation'. I wish. The environment, I mean. I sit here wearing my Bimblebox T-shirt as I write, willing Queenslanders to wake up to the continued trashing of their landscape.

So many issues are not being addressed. Why are vital Artesian aquifers and unique remnant ecosystems being put at risk by the proposed development of nine mega mines in the Galilee Basin of Central Queensland (not to mention the argument for leaving this coal in the ground)? Why are coal ports already being expanded for the export of the products of mines whose economic viability is seriously in doubt and which are nowhere near being operational? How will the decline of the Reef be arrested not only to keep UNESCO happy but also befit Australia's global responsibility for this natural wonder? Why aren't coal trains covered as they pass within a kilometre of 40,000 schoolchildren in Brisbane's southern suburbs? Why isn't renewable energy policy at the top of an urgent list of action on carbon emissions reduction? Why have sand mining operations on North Stradbroke Island been expanded, not wound down†? How will the Channel Country's ephemeral water courses be protected and Cape York's wild rivers remain untamed? Who will reduce the percentage of land under mining leases and gazetteer new national parks instead? Who will ensure the safety of coal seam gas extraction and prevent its further encroachment on prime agricultural land?

Many Queenslanders will list the cost of living – Queensland has the most expensive rego (car registration) and petrol, for example – the management of the economy and jobs creation as the biggest issues of the election. If you've been impressed by claims that Queensland's economy has been strengthened over the last three years then you had better read this: http://theconversation.com/the-true-state-of-queenslands-economy-without-the-spin-35959. Perhaps you should also be sceptical of numerous promises of vast numbers of new jobs – see http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/jan/14/with-queensland-election-promises-and-mining-projects-its-wise-to-keep-digging?CMP=share_btn_tw. And be generally wary of weasel words, doublespeak and the selective use of statistics.

There's no economic policy as yet from Labor. The last-minute appearance of meat on bare bones seems to be a feature of electioneering here. Tony Abbott did the same during the Federal election campaign in 2013. Did he reveal his economic intentions at all, in fact? My memory fails me, but it matters not, because he had reneged on many pre-election promises by budget time. Its unpopularity is one reason Campbell Newman doesn't want the PM coming up from Canberra to join the LNP campaign trail in Queensland.

And then there are the subjects no pollie, whatever their colour, thinks they can risk. Such as billions of dollars' worth of subsidies to the mining industry*. A good example of this was last November's announcement of the Newman government's Infrastructure Enabling Agreement with Indian coal company Adani to build a rail line linking the Carmichael mine to Abbot Point port**. The removal of such subsidies might help to reduce the state's debt, I think. As would raising taxes. Queenslanders pay less tax than in any other state, but woe betide anyone who suggests an increase. Even though, in the state government's Strong Choices questionnaire, people said they would rather see taxes raised than assets sold. 'As a State we have always been proud of our low tax regime, which encourages interstate and international investment,' they cry. They should cease bleating about the debt if they're not prepared to discuss the most obvious yet more radical solutions.

I can't vote in the state election. Neither can my friend, despite paying a lot of tax over the last five years. In Australia you have to vote, by law (and you have to be enrolled to vote). It's your choice to embrace your responsibility, or be a donkey (ranking candidates in the order they appear on the ballot paper rather than according to your preferences) or an 'informal' voter (spoiling your ballot paper or leaving it blank). Accustomed to voter apathy and low turnouts in the UK, I used to think compulsory voting was a good idea, but now I'm not so sure.

Enjoy the rest of the campaign. I'll keep you posted.

† http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/10/campbell-newman-is-in-quicksand-over-mining-on-stradbroke
   http://www.smh.com.au/comment/campbell-newman-lied-about-stradbroke-island-mining-promises-20150121-12vaoe.html
* Subsidies range from concessions to access rail services to infrastructure construction and maintenance to exemption from taxes. For more detail and figures, see 
Mining the age of entitlement, a paper produced by The Australian Institute 
http://www.tai.org.au/content/mining-age-entitlement. Not everyone agrees with their findings.
** http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2014/11/17/historic-agreements-bring-jobs-to-queensland

This post was last edited on 22 January 2015

December 30, 2014

Flying home for christmas

The great escape… from heat and humidity and terrific storms.

Taxi at 9 pm.
A no-wait, painless check-in at Brisbane's International terminal: reassuringly normal service from Singapore Air.
But a new rule: a strict weight limit on hand luggage. Since the G20, they said. Carry your laptop separately, they said.
Departure just about midnight. Strange time to fly anywhere.
A full meal is served: I am not hungry but I eat. I get hungry on planes despite doing nothing. And not being in control of my next meal makes me anxious.
Timelessness: night or day will be largely irrelevant for 24 hours.

A couple of hours' disrupted sleep. Then bright lights, hot flannels and breakfast. Still two hours out from Singapore.
Smooth landing at Changi. Still dark.
Coffee, shops, half-hour massage.
Slight delay to board our Airbus A380.
We had reserved seats A and C in the vain hope of an empty one between us. The intruder is an Asian lady who doesn't want the window seat. I won't give up the aisle, so my friend and I sit apart for the duration.

Thirteen hours and 40 minutes to LHR…
Sudoku, a second breakfast, 100 pages of Richard Flanagan (The Narrow Road to the Deep North), a little sleep, a film (The Hundred-Foot Journey), lunch, another 100 pages of Flanagan, a second film (Tracks), a further sleep.
My new policy: sleep when the need arises.
Flight-path wiggle north of Delhi. To avoid a storm? I ask why but never get an answer. They're busy.
Unusual route over Europe, not across the Aral Sea and almost as far north as Moscow. Where is Ukraine?
Stacked over Essex. Twenty minutes late landing.

Terminal 2 dysfunction. The longest walk to immigration. Vast queues. Passport scanner doesn't work for me. I am directed to a short queue for scanning failures.
Massive baggage reclaim hall but not all carousels are in use. Our flight sharing with another. Cases being taken off by airport staff and piled on the floor. Not easy to monitor piles and conveyor belt.
No signage. Where are car rentals? Where are the buses to car rentals?
Lovely Turneresque wintry sunset.
Bus ride to Avis complete with cheeky-chappy-Cockney chatterer.
My friend's name is not on the Preferred list ready for pickup. The car is brought to us. Small, sporty and only comfortable enough for two. Aggressive red. Tiny boot; cases on the back seat.

How do we get out of here? Wrong way along the Perimeter Road. The M25 seems crazy-fast after Australia. But no variations in the maximum speed limit, yay.

About half an hour later we arrive at our destination. Dorking, Surrey. Beep-beep-beep. Big hugs.

It is 6 pm. That's 30 hours door to door.


December 13, 2014

#auspol

Tweets using the understated hashtag #auspol trended the most on Twitter in Australia during 2014. Which just goes to show that, despite masses of disillusionment, disinterest and downright cynicism among Aussies about their pollies, in certain circles politics is still a hot topic. Having decried Twitter for years, I find it useful, now I'm on it, for several reasons, but especially for venting during a week such as the last one, which was a truly extraordinary newsweek.

Jeff Seeney channels King Canute (#climateactionnow)
The Deputy Premier of Queensland has ordered Moreton Bay Council to remove all mention of 'theoretical' climate-change-related sea level rises from their regional planning documents. This must be the most obvious denial of climate change in a while. Usually, LNP anti-science disinformers shroud their scepticism in woolly, action-evading witterings. While there is nothing to indicate that steadily increasing human-generated carbon emissions are not having an impact on the climate, there is a whole stash of evidence suggesting the opposite. So beware, those of you planning your dream home on the Bay: you will have to do your own research about the risks of ever-higher tidal reaches in future.

You might like to consult a draft CSIRO discussion paper*, details of which were revealed by the ABC this week. It warns about the high costs of damage done by extreme weather events. Its concern is that poor – or perhaps head-in-the-sand – planning will leave Australia increasingly exposed to bushfires, inland flooding and coastal inundation in a warming world.

The New South Wales government is not guided solely by dogma rather than science, however. There is a Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, and they have collaborated with the NSW and Australian Capitol Territory governments in detailed climate modelling**. Parts of northwest New South Wales – places such as Bourke and Moree, where we were in August – are expected to experience as many as 40 more days a year of temperatures reaching 35 degrees, by 2070.

Australia is Fossil of the Day, again and again and again… (#idiotabbott)
Following on from its G20 embarrassment, Australia garnered yet more international opprobrium in Lima at the COP20 climate change talks. Awarded by the Climate Action Network (CAN) – consisting of about 800 international environmental and climate justice organisations – the Fossil is given to those countries considered to have done most to block the progress of negotiations. This coincided with the Climate Change Performance Index 2014† rating Australia the worst-performing country on a list comparing the 58 nations that together are responsible for 90 per cent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that 'Six out of ten of [sic] Australians think Tony Abbott's Direct Action policy has left the country with an inadequate response to the problem of global warming, according to the latest Fairfax Ipsos poll.' This preceded a new analysis†† by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) claiming that Australia's current programme for future emissions will come nowhere near enabling the pledge it made in Copenhagen to cut five per cent of its 2000 level of emissions by 2020.

The branding of the Queensland Police Service (#hereweJohagain)
Above-average temperatures in southeast Queensland have produced serious storms in the last couple of weeks. But nothing like as ferocious as the outrage let loose on social media once the cat was out of the bag about Queensland police cars bearing the logo of big mining company Santos.
They may well have been part of an Outback road safety campaign, and there may have been only two police vehicles involved, and other commercial partners as well as the company putting essential water supplies at risk in the Channel Country of Far West Queensland, but Minister for Police Jack Dempsey completely missed the point as he defended the indefensible, hugely perturbing issue for anyone with half a brain. So, if you get pulled over on the Bulloo Developmental Road by a police car that may be principally engaged in Outback road safety but isn't going to ignore motorists infringing traffic laws, what do you think when you see Santos emblazoned on the vehicle? I know what I'd think. That the police might be influenced by the interests of their sponsors, that's what.

Imagine: 'Officer, I was just stopped at the side of the road taking a photograph (of a gas well, for my travel blog). Oh, I see you have the name of the gas company on your car…Are you the state police or do you work for the company…?'

Political hypocrisy knows no bounds (#liesandhypocrisy)
I vividly remember the extent of the Opposition's indignation and vitriolic criticism of Julia Gillard's introduction of carbon pricing, having famously announced prior to the 2010 federal election that there would be no carbon tax on her watch. Expediency soon ruled the day and she had to make deals with minority parties and independents in order to govern.

I also well remember Tony Abbott selling himself in the lead-up to last year's election: no broken promises; grown-up government, and a list of policies safe in LNP hands. His assertion that there would be no cuts to the ABC was the tripwire in his case. He has finally had to eat humble pie, although at first he had downgraded the ABC promise compared with repealing the carbon tax and stopping the boats. Cutting funding to the much-loved and highly valued ABC was necessary for balancing the budget, the final component of Abbott's retrospective big three promises. Expediency struck again, but it cuts both ways. Either it is acceptable for politicians, regardless of their political colour, to change their minds and policies as befitting altered circumstances, or it is not.

The damage has been done, however. Abbot simply cannot be trusted. He misjudged the popular support for the ABC and no amount of grovelling can redeem him now. He had no mandate to slash their funds, just as he had no mandate to take his climate change denialism to the extent of rendering Australia an international embarrassment, first at the G20 and now in Lima. So hopefully he's #onetermtony.

Not enough has been made of his gross hypocrisy, however. I don't suppose it will be by a massively right-leaning press (top). But this week he has added to the charges while defending his chief of staff, Peta Credlin. There is much disquiet in Canberra about the extent of her powers. I have noticed her sitting with him in places you would not expect, from Parliament to the United Nations, which is disconcerting. Abbott has criticised her critics by attributing their motivation to sexism. Do you remember how he reviled Gillard for playing 'the gender card'?

The beauty of hashtags is that, used wisely, they can be concise and incisive, witty and amusing. A Twitter 'storm' certainly makes the people's feelings felt. Sometimes, however, hashtags are dropped in far too liberally, in a #childlike fashion. Then they become #simple #irritating and a complete #wasteoftime.

As for the nature of the news this week, observe the writing on the wall. #youhavebeenwarned.

http://www.businessspectator.com.au/news/2014/12/10/policy-politics/csiro-warns-1-trillion-natural-disasters-exposure?utm_source=exact
** http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-06/nsw-climate-change-predictions-show-rising-temperatures/5947406
† https://germanwatch.org/en/7677 and http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/08/australia-named-worst-performing-industrial-country-on-climate-change
†† http://climateactiontracker.org/publications/pressreleases/181/Australia-Emissions-set-to-soar-by-2020.html