Monthly Archives: April 2019

The seven things we hate most about Australian federal elections

Election year is here: at some stage in 2016, Australians will head to the polls to deliver their verdict on Malcolm Turnbull’s government.

But first we have to endure up to 10 months of electioneering.

From the scare campaigns to the sloganeering, the propaganda ads to the preference deals, here are seven of the worst things about election years. 1. The election date guessing game

Will it be March? August? September? October? Pre-budget or post-budget? A normal half-Senate election or a double dissolution? Before the football grand finals or after them? While Jupiter is ascendant or when Saturn is in Aries?

Julia Gillard never made it to her predetermined election date in 2013. Photo: Andrew Meares

While many states now have fixed four-year terms, under the federal system election timing is still at the prime minister’s discretion. So unless Malcolm Turnbull does a Gillard and names the date early – thereby surrendering an important tactical advantage – prepare for many months of speculation about when he’ll pull the trigger. 2. The scare campaigns and personal attacks

Thoughtful, mature debate hasn’t exactly been a hallmark of Australian politics in recent years. But in election years, things get much worse.

A Liberal TV ad from 2004.

The rhetoric ramps up and facts fall by the wayside. Politicians become even more inclined to lie, obfuscate and make promises they have no intention of keeping in a bid to win votes. The negative scare campaigns intensify and personal attacks become fair game: the GST is going up, penalty rates will be cut; Malcolm Turnbull is a Satanist, Bill Shorten is a death robot.

And so on. 3. The advertising

The election will fill acres of newsprint and put politics at the top of the nightly news bulletins. But even if all you want to do is watch My Kitchen Rules you won’t be safe from the propaganda.

The major parties will bombard the airwaves with their mostly facile, intelligence-insulting advertising; and the government will even get taxpayers to pay for its “public information campaigns”.

A Liberal Party election ad from 2010.

Worst of all, the ads are rarely clever or interesting; more often they’re cheap, rote and amateurish affairs.

Political advertising at the 2007 election. Photo: Peter Rae

And it won’t stop at your television and radio: more than ever before, politicians will be reaching into your social media feeds. 4. The campaign

All of this gets even worse during the official five or six-week campaign.

The last two federal campaigns – Gillard v Abbott in 2010 and Rudd v Abbott in 2013 – were among the worst in living memory: cynical and fearful, full of slogans and short on policy.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd campaigns with Bill Shorten in 2013 Photo: Chris Hyde

Malcolm Turnbull has indicated he wants this to change. He wants a new paradigm, a genuine contest of ideas. Australians want to believe him – but don’t be surprised if this year’s campaign is ultimately every bit as negative as those that preceded it.

Whatever the case, if you’re heading to your local shopping centre take some hand sanitiser and keep your babies out of sight.

Former prime minister John Howard campaigns during the 2007 election. Photo: Andrew Taylor

And if you’re in a marginal seat, maybe just stay home altogether. 5. The debate debate

No campaign is complete without it: the debate about the debates.

There’s no standard debate structure, so every campaign inevitably degenerates into a tiresome back and forth between the major parties: How many debates? When and where? What’s the format? Should we invite the Greens (hahahahah, just kidding)? Who should moderate and who should ask the questions: journalists or ordinary voters? What is the opposition leader afraid of? Why is the prime minister in hiding? Etcetera.

John Howard and Kim Beazley watch moderator Ray Martin flip a coin at the 2001 debate.

And then comes the anti-climax. When the debates finally occur they are invariably overly scripted and painfully dull, full of talking points but devoid of spontaneity, policy substance or, well, actual debate. 6. Voting day

It only takes an hour or so from your Saturday. That’s a small price to pay for democracy right?

Voters are greeted by political advertising on polling day. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

True, but nonetheless many Australians hate going to the polls. With local, state and federal elections – not to mention a plethora of planned plebiscites and referenda – it’s little wonder many people consider it a hassle. What’s more, compulsory voting means people have to drag themselves to the polling booths no matter how uninspiring the candidates, and no matter how disengaged or ill-informed they are about the issues. 7. Preference deals

After all that pain and suffering, at least the election result accurately reflects the will of the people, right?

Well maybe not. The arcane preference system means your vote can end up in some unlikely places, supporting candidates you’ve never heard of or don’t agree with. Micro-party candidates take advantage of this system to win seats – potentially giving them enormous crossbench power – after attracting just a handful of votes.

A metre-long Senate ballot from the 2013 election. Photo: Joe Armao

For example, Ricky Muir won a Senate seat in 2013 with just 0.51 of Victoria’s primary vote; on the other hand, Nick Xenophon’s running mate Stirling Griff missed out on a spot even though the pair won 25.7 per cent of South Australia’s primary vote.

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Did Angelina Jolie adopt another baby but not tell husband Brad Pitt?

The six children, Maddox, Pax, Shiloh, twins Knox and Vivienne, and Zahara, that the couple already have.It is being reported by The Sun that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have “adopted” a baby boy from Cambodia, taking their already sizeable brood to seven.

The British tabloid claims Jolie, 40, has taken a boy named Allouy Shoun into her care after she came across his family of 13 brothers and sisters when spending time in the town of Siem Reap, where she was directing her latest directorial project, First They Killed My Father.

It also goes on to say that the By the Sea actor failed to tell her 52-year-old husband about her plans to add to their family, and instead made the agreement with the child’s family, who she felt for after witnessing the squalor in which they lived.

A source told Radar Online: “Angie didn’t want Brad to get wind of what she was doing because she knew he’d throw a fit!”

The Academy Award winner is said to have made the decision after daughters Shiloh, nine, and Zahara, 10, bonded with the family.

It is unclear what Pitt thinks about the new addition to the family, but then again he did once say he wanted a “soccer team” of children.

Jolie first adopted Maddox from a Cambodian orphanage in 2002, Zahara from an orphanage in Ethiopia in 2005, and in 2007, Vietnamese Pax was taken into the Jolie-Pitt crew.

In 2006, Jolie gave birth to Shiloh in Namibia, and two years later she had twins, Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline, in France.

Jolie and Pitt have yet to comment on adopting a baby boy.

Meanwhile, First They Killed My Father is due out this year. It is a Netflix film adapted from a memoir by Cambodian author and human rights activist Loung Ung about surviving the deadly Khmer Rouge regime.

“I was deeply affected by Loung’s book,” Jolie said previously. “It deepened forever my understanding of how children experience war and are affected by the emotional memory of it. And it helped me draw closer still to the people of Cambodia, my son’s homeland.”

“Films like this are hard to watch but important to see,” she added.

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Short sellers’ retreat a good sign for the Australian sharemarket, Morgans says

Woolworths remains the most shorted stock on the ASX by value, Morgans says. Photo: Dallas Kilponen Short selling has retreated since the start of the year as the market fell 7 per cent and shed $100 billion Photo: Morgans

Investors betting against further falls in Australian shares after a horror start to the year have trimmed their bets, meaning they don’t expect things to get worse from here, stockbroking firm Morgans says.

Short positions have dramatically pulled back since the start of the year, as the market shed 7 per cent or $100 billion in value in a little over a week.

“Short selling has changed course from its strong ascent in 2015, signalling a possible reversal in the heavy skew in negative investor sentiment up to the end of the year,” Morgans equity strategy analyst Andrew Tang said.

Short selling is the practice of selling a borrowed security at a higher price before buying it back at a lower price, pocketing the difference.

Stocks with a “significant” reduction in their short positions outnumber those increasing positions by 2:1, meaning investors don’t envisage the ASX to fall much further below the 5000 mark, Mr Tang said.

Woolworths remains the most shorted stock by value, with $2.8 billion in bets against its shares.

The embattled supermarket chain, which issued three profit warnings and lost its chief executive and chairman in 2015  makes up 10 per cent of total short positions on the S&P/ASX 200, while making up just 2.4 per cent of the index by market capitalisation.

“Although an admired name with strong brand equity, we think with structural industry change currently underway, the turnaround strategy without a CEO at the helm will take years and not months to implement,” Mr Tang said.

“We continue to advocate trimming overweight positions in favour of some of our high conviction stocks such as Sydney Airport, which offers earnings certainty without the negative structural risk.”

The top 20 most shortest stocks on the ASX 200, calculated as a percentage of their free floating shares, include Flight Centre, at 25 per cent. JB Hi-Fi has 20 per cent tied up by short sellers, despite the expectations that its Christmas sales were strong based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“Similarly, Harvey Norman also saw a rise in short positions over the month.”

“Resources stocks also some some increased selling over the month [of December],” Mr Tang said.

Those short positions, including 15 per cent in Fortescue Metals Group and 16 per cent in Whitehaven Coal come amid a savage commodity rout deepened by concerns over China’s economy amid its sharemarket and currency turmoil.

Oil prices are the worst hit, having dropped 20 per cent this year alone, with Brent crude buying just $US30.80 a barrel on Wednesday.

For the ASX, while market short interest is around 50 per cent higher now than at the same time in 2014 and 2013, Mr Tang said 2016 looked poised to be an improvement on 2015, where the market ended 2.1 per cent lower.

“We think 2016 will shape up to be better than 2015 but volatility will be a constant reminder that stock selection and vigilance will be required,” he said.

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Retirees offer opportunities for a smarter community

Most discussion of retirement in Australia focuses on income. This is understandable, because people now live much longer lives and they need to ensure that they can support themselves.

But retirees also have to decide what they will do with the 20 to 30 or more years they will live post-work. Unfortunately, this vital aspect of retirement gets little attention. As a result many older people are not using their time as productively and satisfyingly as they might, and younger Australians often see retirees as an economic burden.

My own experience and that of many people I know is that retirement presents an opportunity for a full, rich life. My working life was busy and satisfying. But it was also all-encompassing and at times exhausting.

Since retirement in 2000 I have had led a more balanced life. I spend more time with family andfriends and have a rich and varied cultural and recreational life.

I also have time to think, and to contribute to community activities. In a social sense, this might be the most important aspect of retirement.

In our working lives we are absorbed in our jobs and in child-rearing. This is more the casetoday than ever. People work longer hours, and many parents spend a lot of time running their children to and from school and other activities.

One result of this is that membership of community organisations like Rotary, Lions andApex has declined.

Busy work lives also combine with the ubiquity of electronic and social media, political spin, advertising and consumerism to erode serious public discussion of matters crucial to our present and future wellbeing. Serious public deliberation and policymaking on issues like climate change, industry policy, health and education has virtually disappeared, crowded out by the the 24-hour news cycle and a general trivialisation of news and current affairs.

In Australia and elsewhere in the 19th and20th centuries, social action created universal public school education, adult education, public libraries and hence, an informed citizenry.

Since World War IIthere has been an alarming dumbing down of our public culture. It is not an exaggeration to say that today many Australians are both ill-informed and supremely manipulable.

Seen from this angle, the retirement years present an educational opportunity. Freed from work and other obligations, older Australians can learn through travel, cultural activities, conversation and courses.

Starting in France in 1973, a self-help style of seniors’ adult education, the University of the Third Age or U3A, spread to other countries including Australia. This model recognises that retired people have a lifetime of experience and, collectively, a vast amount of knowledge. This provides the basis for courses led by group members with specialist knowledge.

Newcastle U3A was established in 1990 and now offers 60 courses a year in a wide range of subjects.Students pay an annual fee of $50 which entitles them to attend as many courses as they like.All U3A work isvoluntary, including the development, teaching and administration of courses.

An information session will be held at Fellowship House, 152 Beaumont St Hamilton between 10am and noon on January 18.Visit hunter.u3anet.org备案老域名, or phone 0479 193 182 for more information. TIME TO SHARE: We need to recognise that retired people have a lifetime of experience and, collectively, a vast amount of knowledge.

Dr Griff Foley teaches at Newcastle U3A. He was formerly associate professor of adult education at the University ofTechnology, Sydney

Deadline looms for fox owners

SERIOUS PREDATOR: Foxes cause heartache for farmers and their livestock, but some European red foxes are kept in captivity locally as pets.LOCAL fox owners have until the end of this monthto apply for a permit to keep the declared pest species as a pet.

Hunter Local Land Services said in order to protect the environment and agricultural production in the region, anyone keeping a fox as a petin captivity is required to apply for a captive European red fox permit from Local Land Services byJanuary 31

HLLS invasive species team leader, Jamie Maddocks, said under a PestControl Order introduced by the NSW government, all European Red Foxes kept as pets prior to March 31, 2015, require an approved permit issued by Local Land Services to continue to be legally keptin captivity.

“The NSW government recognises there are a small number of people who have adopted foxes sowe are accommodating them by allowing existing pet foxes to be maintained under a permit,” MrMaddocks said.

‘The reality is that foxes are a serious predator of livestock. They have caused significant financiallosses to the farming community and pose a serious veterinary and public health risk.

“It is estimated that foxes cost Australia’s environment and economy as much as $227.5 million everyyear and that is a key factor for no longer permitting pet foxes.

“These animals have also played a central role in the demise and extinction of several nativespecies.”

A declared pest species under the Local Land Services Act 2013, the European red fox isinternationally recognised as one of the most serious threats to biodiversity in Australia.

To enhance the effectiveness of existing fox control programs throughout the state, the NSWgovernment introduced the Pest Control Order for the European red fox in December, 2014.

Mr Maddocks urged local captive fox owners to “do the right thing” and contact the Hunter Local Land Services office to apply for a permit before it’stoo late.

Failure to register an existing pet fox could result in a $3400 fine.

Applications for a new Captive European Fox Permit will not be issued after January 31, 2016.

Written permit requests can be emailed to [email protected]备案老域名.

Visit hunter.lls.nsw.gov备案老域名

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