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John Passant

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March 2014



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



The Hazelwood mine fire: privatising disaster

The establishment consensus is that markets do everything better. Resource allocation, social welfare, wealth creation – you name it. Power generation is just one counter-example to such garbage writes Kim Doyle in Red Flag.

In 1996, the Kennett government privatised the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. Kennett claimed that the commission was laden with debt and needed to be sold off. In fact, in its last year of operation it paid $995 million in interest, a $191 million dividend to the state government, and a profit of $207 million.

Kennett claimed that with the bloated state-run commission in private hands, the delivery of electricity would be better and cheaper. It’s worth remembering this when you open your next power bill.

From 1995 to 2012 the price of electricity increased 170 percent, according to research from the Australia Institute. Its 2013 report “Electricity and privatisation: What happened to those promises?” estimates that power prices increased at four times the rate of the consumer price index.

The report also found that the number of managers in the electricity sector has increased by 217 percent since 1997. Yet, over the same period, there has been an increase of just 28 percent in front line staff, such as technicians and trades workers.

The number of sales workers has increased from 1,000 to 6,000. “It seems remarkable that a sales force of 6,000 people is necessary to sell a product which everyone needs”, said David Richardson, who headed the report.

Those are the wonders of privatised electricity for you.

But the cost of the privatisation of power is not only being paid out of the public’s hip pocket; it’s also costing us our health and our environment. The thing the market excels at is disasters. Victoria’s Latrobe Valley is testament to that.

Fire in the Valley

The coal fire that has been burning in Morwell for more than a month is the worst in Australian history. It is nothing short of a national disaster – one that was totally preventable.

At a 2 March community meeting in Morwell, Luke Van Der Meulen, president of the Mining and Energy Division of the CFMEU, spoke of the recent history of disasters in the valley, including the 2007 Southern Batters fire in the Morwell mine.

“They had an inquiry after that. The simplest inquiry could’ve told them that what you need to do is get rid of the batters [the incline section of the mine wall]. Cover them over with dirt and you won’t have any more fires”, he said.

“That same year, in 2007, the Latrobe River burst its banks. The regulator let the Yallourn mine go far too close … and the batter collapsed and the Latrobe River collapsed into the mine …

“In 2011, we were without our Princes Freeway for how many months? Three? Five? In 2012, the river diversion that goes through the Yallourn mine collapsed. What happened there? Again, it was a regulator failure.

“Now, they’ve had inquiries about all of these and what comes from any of these inquiries? Zip. The same people come up with the same solutions, which is, the companies have to do nothing.”

You would think that this enterprise has been a complete disaster. But you’d be wrong. By the key measure that matters – profit – Hazelwood power station and the mines that feed it are enormously successful.

As Luke pointed out when speaking to Red Flag after the meeting, “At the end of the day, everyone in there [the town meeting] is talking about what Hazelwood should do. The only thing Hazelwood’s interested in doing is putting money in its shareholders’ pockets. That’s the only responsibility they’ve got. They got no responsibility to Morwell or the Latrobe Valley community.”

Hazelwood is owned by International Power, a London-based company that since 2012 has been wholly owned by GDF-Suez. GDF-Suez is the world’s largest energy utility company, with interests on every continent except Antarctica.

The Morwell fire took off in a disused section of the mine. In 1996, the Victorian government set the rehabilitation bond for the Hazelwood mine at $15 million. Rehabilitation bonds have been a requirement since the 1980s. Companies have to purchase them in advance of production. But the cost of a bond represents only a fraction of the rehabilitation cost.

So when GDF took over in 2010, it made the business decision not to properly rehabilitate the mine. The company calculated that it would be much cheaper to ignore it.

In fact, last year, in a response to a parliamentary inquiry into mineral exploration, the government argued that rehabilitation bonds were too much of an imposition on mining companies.

“The government understands that bonds can impose significant costs for some industry members during the early development phases of their projects and may prevent the commencement of mining and quarrying projects. The government will reduce the impost that the rehabilitation bond scheme places on some mining and quarrying projects to start up”, it said.

Governments everywhere rely on big business for investment and revenue. Even the threat to withdraw investment can be enormously persuasive. The most important thing for government is to help big business make money, not to provide services to the public.

Companies and government have no problems dumping their rubbish on communities like Morwell. It is one of the poorest towns in Australia. According to an Australian Bureau of Statistics report, Morwell ranks in the bottom 10 percent of socioeconomic advantage. Poor people are expendable. They are less likely to have the means to litigate.

When the fire broke out, GDF’s mine manager was on holiday in Queensland. That was a luxury most residents couldn’t afford. Instead they’ve been sending themselves broke trying to protect their families from toxic smoke.



Pingback from The Hazelwood mine fire: privatising disaster | OzHouse
Time March 10, 2014 at 8:11 pm

[…] Mar 10 2014 by admin […]

Comment from Caroline Storm
Time March 11, 2014 at 10:54 am

From 1995, when Kennett stopped psychotherapy for the severely mentally ill and began deinstitutionalization, until 2000, the ABS suicide graphs show a very large spike. Irrelevant to your subject, but that man is culpable!

Comment from Lorikeet
Time March 11, 2014 at 11:31 am

Yes, corporates like to ration everything, leave equipment and resources in disrepair, provide a substandard service, abuse their workers and get rid of experienced personnel to rip off more money for themselves.

Price increases in the electricity industry are probably sending more Australian money offshore.

It is my belief that the major aim of the Superannuation system is to allow money hungry global bankers to control everything and disempower individual national governments.

I would do a steady u-turn and windback to a government run pension system, with the government controlling and running all of its own income producing assets and utilities.

When I participated in a survey on electricity supply, I made it clear that I wanted the government to set a price and go back to running the system itself.

Yes, I’m sure one of Senator John Madigan’s workers told me that electricity generators in the Latrobe Valley were not even complying with the government’s rules. That would have been at least 2 years ago.

The situation is no different with Unitywater here in Queensland.

Comment from john ward
Time March 12, 2014 at 1:33 am

Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican to be President also had plenty to say about corporations…
“The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. The banking powers are more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. They denounce as public enemies all who question their methods or throw light upon their crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.”
“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.”

Unfortunately, Lincoln’s suspicions were anything but groundless. They were in fact, prophetic. After the Civil War, corporations began aligning themselves with Republican politicians, who proved themselves to be up to the task of helping corporations gain more power. Corporations had free reign and total power over its workforce and could sell virtually anything they wanted even if the product was a bad one. Corporations treated workers like slaves. Wages were extremely low. Workers received no benefits, no vacation days, no health insurance, no workers compensation. President Grover Cleveland witnessed how corporations treated its labour force and had this to say in 1888,

“As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear, or is trampled beneath an iron heel.

Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.”

“And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

Thomas Jefferson, November 13, 1787, letter to William S. Smith.

Does it have to come to this, to save Australia from these monsters?

Comment from Lorikeet
Time March 12, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I hope Kay gets a chance to read John Ward’s comment.

I wonder what these American leaders would have to say about Superannuation.

Comment from Kay
Time March 13, 2014 at 10:44 am


A little out of date, n’est pas? I think we all know that under capitalism, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. But in a democracy, there are some checks on this. It is a constant bottle to try to equalise things a bit. But the alternatives are all worse! Surely you don’t imply that the ordinary workers today are no better off than in Thomas Jefferson’s day?

Re superannuation. You have an obsessive hatred of superannuation – although all your comments indicate that you have zero understanding of it! I gave you a real life example recently. After 45 years of work, a person retired with $420K in an allocated pension fund. The person drew $30K per year for 14 years. Despite the GFC, the current pension balance is still $420K. What’s not to love about that?

And what have you got to support your point of view? A lot of conspiracy theory rubbish about the evil UN, evil bankers, plans to euthanase everyone, and other such rubbish. Get real!!

Comment from Lorikeet
Time March 13, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Does a person really have to put up with these insulting comments coming from the very narrow minded?

I’m sure Kay loves her money, but I think she should be aware that the superannuation holdings of the average Australian are only around $100,000 for a man and $50,000 for a woman. Perhaps Kay should try drawing a $30,000 pension from that.

No doubt $30,000 was worth quite a lot more 14 years ago. Now I think it could be less than the minimum wage. It is certainly nothing to write home about, let alone a reason to create a big song and dance about.

Time will tell who is going to be wearing egg on her face. Most other critics fell into silence some time ago.

Lots of people are using the wrong word “euthanase” instead of “euthanize”.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time March 13, 2014 at 7:26 pm

I think Lincoln, Cleveland and Jefferson were all much faster learners than our friend, Kay.

Comment from Kay
Time March 14, 2014 at 7:03 am


$30K? Not enough to live on? No, but that may form only part of an income stream for a couple. But you miss the point as usual – the point was about how investment can benefit the individual, not about the actual pension from that investment. You constantly attack superannuation as the pawn of the devil bankers and the evil UN. Yet self funded retirees (who were ordinary workers before retirement) are now enjoying their superannuation pensions without being dependent upon the welfare state for some pitiful handout. You know that quite well from the many self funded retirees on the seniors’ blog. Are you jealous? The example I gave was to prove that in the REAL WORLD, superannuation is a good thing – once confined to public servants and the rich, but now applying to all workers. But, not only are you not a fast learner, it seems you can’t learn at all! You have been criticised for your crazy, ill-informed ideas for many many years on the seniors’ blog, but yet you don’t learn at all from other seniors’ real life experiences.

“Most other critics fell into silence some time ago.”? What on earth are you talking about? On the seniors’ blog, most bloggers just don’t bother addressing your crazy postings – because you apparently can’t learn. Generally a waste of time arguing with you, because nothing ever changes – no matter how many times you are ridiculed and proved to be wrong. Same thing on this blog – you declined to support your views recently when challenged by John.

You were a public servant. What did you do with your superannuation? Maybe you cashed it out without the employer component like a former colleague of mine did? She spent hers on a trip to the US, then put her hand out for a pension.

Actually, ‘euthanase’ is an acceptable verb from the noun ‘euthanasia’. It is the word that was always used, certainly in veterinary dictionaries, until the alternative version started to sneak into the vernacular. But hey, you are an expert on euthanasia, aren’t you? You talk about it constantly – on all forums.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time March 14, 2014 at 4:01 pm

As I remember, the Moderator on the Seniors blog stopped Kay and others from attacking me a couple of years ago, although she seems to be able to get in a little snipe from time to time.

Now she seems to be getting away with telling lies about me here.

I have been both a State and Commonwealth Public Servant in the past. When I was forced to quit 2 jobs due to parenting responsibilities and/or my husband taking jobs in which he had to travel, I was given a refund of contributions plus a measly percentage in interest.

Then later I was fired because I had a workplace injury and illegally refused a Superannuation Pension. Once again, I received a tiny lump sum plus interest, which was quickly used up paying lawyers. The test case for damages failed in the courts.

When I was divorced, I received part of my husband’s superannuation, but I was not allowed to roll it into a superfund, which affected the payment I received from Centrelink.

As we know, the rules on superannuation change very regularly. I think everyone knows that it is an inequitable scheme which gives the rich and middle class a much higher pension than low income earners. Over the years, it has also prevented people from controlling their own money and absolved high income earners from the responsibility of paying their share of the tax (with more indirect taxes being brought in that affect everyone). This is not my idea of democracy in action.

I learned the word “euthanize” from the Greens. Perhaps they had the word changed from “euthanase” because it sounded a little less like someone being put down.

BTW I only contribute to 2 forums.

Unfortunately you never understand what I’m talking about because I am generally too far ahead of most other people’s thinking.

Once the government has destroyed the welfare system (including the Age Pension) and brought in a “user pays” system for everything, what do you think is going to happen to those who have no money to pay?

Perhaps if you spent less time sinking the boot into intelligent people and suggesting that they might have blown all of their money in order to access an Age Pension, you might have time to understand the diverse circumstances of other Australians.

Please try changing from microview to macroview, as this will help substantially.

Comment from Kay
Time March 15, 2014 at 4:37 pm


Sounds like you did the same as my colleague with your superannuation. When a public servant resigned, the choice was: take your own contributions plus interest; OR defer your benefit until retirement/preservation age, thus retaining the employer component as well (worth 2.5 times the employee contributions) – a much better option long term. Obviously you and my colleague did the former; I chose the latter, even though the money would have been nice to put against my mortgage. I actually used to manage the organisation’s superannuation scheme when I was a Commonwealth public servant, and was responsible for advising resigning employees of their options.

The latest types of superannuation schemes are based on investing employer contributions (and employee contributions where relevant) in whatever investment mix the employee chooses. Each investment choice has pros and cons, but it is a personal choice. Naturally, higher paid employees accrue more super than lower paid employees. But many lower paid employees have made other canny investments which can be added to their super funds – in accordance with the rules which have changed from time to time. The government has even matched some extra contributions (under certain conditions). All of this is to encourage ordinary workers to move from a government age pension scheme to a self-funded retirement. This is essential to fund the retirements of the rapidly ageing population. These are facts. I believe the broadening of superannuation to include ALL workers has been a very positive move.

Re the other seniors blog – I think the other bloggers would all agree the blog had to be modified to insert a moderation process before publication – like most other blogs (including this one) are managed – in order to stop YOUR vicious attacks. You were the odd one out. Other bloggers merely defended themselves from your nastiness and insults. This was confirmed to me in private correspondence with the Moderator.

I am happy for others to judge me on the quality of my blog comments. Unfortunately for you, you too are judged by the quality of your comments. So telling everyone you’re some genius and everyone else is way behind, does you no credit at all. As I said, you will be judged by the quality of your comments.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time March 15, 2014 at 7:05 pm

As I said, I had very little superannuation and there was no opportunity in place to leave the money in the fund. If you paid more attention to what is printed on the seniors’ site, you would know this simple fact, and that lots of women have very little superannuation.

No one discussed any options with me at all. I should have received a Superannuation pension when I was fired from my job, but the employing department, Comcare, Comsuper and CMO all worked together to ensure I received no income support at all. My husband and I almost lost the roof from over our children’s heads.

I am sure you must be aware that any attempt to do away with the Age Pension will primarily affect women.

I disagree that workers on low incomes have an equal opportunity to amass retirement funds.

If you look at the ABS Population Pyramid for 2013, you will find that Treasurer Joe Hockey’s claim that most Australians live to age 85 is a fraud. There is a gradual tapering off from age 65.

I agree that I was often the odd one out on the seniors’ blog, but this was mainly because of attacks by poorly informed people who rely on the idiot box (Murdoch Press and government) for most of their information.

As I said, time will tell who will be wearing egg on her face and who wants to engage in vicious attacks on other bloggers.

Your suggestion that I blew my superannuation to get an Age Pension is highly offensive for starters, especially since I am only 58 and have specifically mentioned that I was illegally fired when I had a workplace injury.

I would still like an answer to the following question:

Once the government has destroyed the welfare system (including the Age Pension) and brought in a “user pays” system for everything, what do you think is going to happen to those who have no money to pay? A lot of these people are likely to be elderly widows.

One final question: Is there any chance you could start helping me knit for the homeless?

Comment from Kay
Time March 16, 2014 at 8:51 am


It is a pity that you were not given proper advice re your super options – an indictment on the HR area of your workplace. But if you were in the old Commonwealth super scheme (defined benefit) you would have had a deferred benefit option. So, even if your own contributions plus interest was only, say $20K, the deferred benefit kept until your preservation age would have been at least $70K. That $70K could then have been transferred to the State super scheme (less 15% tax if it moved from an unfunded (Commonwealth) scheme to a funded (Qld government) scheme) – a good start anyhow. My colleague had $20K which she blew on a trip to Disneyland for herself and her daughter – and as she too was in HR, she did know her options. I too had nearly $20K after 10 years in the Commonwealth scheme, which I deferred and subsequently transferred to the State scheme.

I agree that women are usually well behind the eight ball when it comes to superannuation outcomes – lower incomes, breaks to raise children, work disruptions to follow hubbie to a new location. I too had very little super compared with my first husband when I divorced because I only started work once my 4 kids were at school – and I got no recognition of that – only half the house plus my car. But I upped the mortgage, continued working and subsequently remarried. But I did add to my super by some property investments (in Ipswich, when it was very cheap there, $50K per house – which we then ‘did up’ for rental). Because of the superannuation difficulties faced by women, I support Abbott’s paid parental scheme in principle – although whether it is affordable right now is another matter. You should be aware that the current Labor PPL scheme is inequitable – those employed in the public service, plus those employed in big companies with generous PPL schemes, ‘double dip’ – that is, they get the benefits of their own PPL schemes PLUS the Labor provisions. Other women, especially those employed by small business, only get the Labor provisions. Abbott’s scheme intends to stop the ‘double dipping’, giving ALL employees (including same sex couples) the same provisions – much more equitable. Big business would fund much of this, and the taxpayer the rest. But Abbott’s PPL scheme seems to have dwindling support.

Re the other blog: uniting against your outrageous insults had the rare result of uniting left and right wing bloggers into one bloc! After moderation controlled your input, the arguments became more left versus right wing. As of now, the other blog is almost moribund! But, as a general rule, we now all let you you rabbit on about the evil plans of the UN to impoverish us and then kill us all off! Nothing will change your very rigid conspiracy-theory type views! After many many years we all realise that. It appears you are unable to modify your views at all by learning from many others’ well reasoned, informed and intelligent comments.

I admire your dedication to the homeless, including your knitting. In that respect, I agree I am much more selfish in that whilst we are still fit enough to travel, we want to enjoy expanding our experiences and knowledge to that provided by overseas travel. But one can only travel whilst one is fit enough! In fact, our planned cruise around South America this month had to be cancelled due to urgent surgery for my husband (who is nearly 80). You will note that most self funded retirees on the other blog are traveling as much as they can while their health permits it. But, thanks to superannuation, at least they can travel, a joy denied to most of those on government funded age pensions. My wish is that ALL workers will get to enjoy the rewards of their lifetime of hard work by being financially able to do what they wish in their old age – not just public servants, the rich and higher income workers.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time March 17, 2014 at 10:51 am

I will try to ignore the insults dished up here, Kay. Eventually you will come to understand what I have been trying for years to impart.

It is certainly not true that I am a narrow thinker. Those who know me well say I am the broadest based thinker they know.

Yes, some very experienced politicians called me a lunatic, nutcase etc before the penny finally dropped and they began to understand the intricate interactive web being used to suck us all into a highly abusive financial system.

Yes, I was being attacked on the other blog mainly because I belong to the Centre of politics. Of course there would be attacks from both the Left and Right under these circumstances.

As we know, many people in their senior years are very rusted-on Liberal and Labour supporters, who like to sink the boot in to anyone with a more forward thinking view.

I don’t support a Paid Parental Leave scheme of any kind as I believe the main aim is to make women work for the whole of their useful lives, which will cause both men and women to die much younger.

When the Retirement Age is lifted to 70, and modern technologies knock most of the over-50s out of the workforce, I doubt if anyone will be around to enjoy their retirement.

You could help me with the knitting when you are at home watching TV. If you could please make just one cardigan or jumper for an adult male or female, this would be greatly appreciated by someone.

There is always a shortage of adult jumpers, cardigans, vests, beanies, gloves, socks and bed socks. It only takes about 3 hours and $2.00 to $3.00 to make one double-knit beanie.

BTW I have never amassed anything like the superannuation holdings you are talking about, as I was fired by the Department of Social Security in 1987 with a permanent workplace injury.

Financial difficulties led to the breakup of my marriage in 1997, and I have been on my own living on a very low income ever since, while raising the youngest of my children alone.

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