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John Passant

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May 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)



Q&A shows what’s wrong with the elite’s political ‘debate’

We interrupt normal programming to bring you politics from the street, writes Colleen Bolger in Socialist Alternative. That was what happened when the ABC’s Q&A panel was rendered speechless for two delicious minutes on 5 May by a group of rowdy students.

Their actions struck a chord for many reasons, not least of which is that we’re fed up with the banal drivel that somehow still passes for “robust debate”.

In a lot of ways, the show’s panel format epitomises what is wrong with Australian politics. Far from creating debate, it highlights how little real debate occurs. Take the episode in question. Viewers were treated to Liberal federal education minister Christopher Pyne, Institute of Public Affairs president John Roskam and Pallavi Sinha – whose claim to be a “human rights” lawyer is as suspect as Tim Wilson’s credentials as human rights commissioner.

Under the guise of “debate”, these conservatives chewed up airtime persuading us that the richest 2 percent of income earners pay too much tax and that there is too much public funding of scientific research. John Roskam lamented the fictional injustice of millionaires going to the doctor for free – as if they’ve ever spent hours in the waiting room of a bulk billing clinic – to sidestep the genuine injustice of the elderly and injured agonising over whether they can afford the incoming GP fee.

Support for these ideas is marginal beyond the exclusive memberships of the Australian Industry Group and Business Council of Australia and their think tank adjuncts like the HR Nicholls Society or the Institute of Public Affairs, all of which feature heavily on Q&A panels. The students’ chant, “No cuts, no fees, no corporate universities!”, is far more representative of public opinion.

It is not only the students who are condescended to. Before each episode, producer Peter McEvoy takes the stage to explain that “the show is about manners and respect, never about who can shout the loudest”. Be polite and put up your hand, says the headmaster.

This is exactly how ordinary people are supposed to behave toward their managers, or in politics toward the so-called “experts”. Democracy extends to the occasional opportunity to ask a question, but you are not expected or desired to proffer an answer. It’s Tony Jones’ democracy writ large.

In a panel on education, not a single student, student representative or educator was invited to put their views. It was left to a comedian – who did a valiant job of making Pyne’s smirk quiver – to stick up for them.

McEvoy says Q&A “offers engagement to the average person in the street who would normally not enjoy access to the politicians and community leaders who make the decisions that affect their lives”. The fact that elected leaders can be so thoroughly sheltered from real engagement with average people highlights the inadequacy of liberal democracy as we know it. No wonder so many have disengaged from politics.

McEvoy bemoans that the students gave away their chance to “‘persuade and influence” through arguing their case by “robbing” the audience of their “right” to view “reasoned and polite debate”. For liberals of the small ‘l’ variety, it is the exchange of ideas that drives change, and so the forum for that to occur is sacred.

But on the question of fee hikes, or for that matter a GP fee or lowering the pension rate, it’s not so much reasoned debate as bitter experience that informs people’s responses. Their ideas are formed through watching their grandparents already struggle to live on the pension, worrying about how a friend with a chronic illness will afford to get the health care they need or questioning how their children’s lives will be affected by starting life after uni with a debt in excess of $50,000.

Where the human rights lawyers or the ranks of the commentariat fail to connect is that people don’t need persuading; they need to know how we’re going to stop it.



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Comment from Lorikeet
Time May 13, 2014 at 10:32 am

I agree with most of this, John.

I think our universities are to become a money making racket for bankers, from which students will incur a huge debt but not a job.

I would personally ban high income households from attending bulk billing clinics, as across-the-board bulk billing not only ramps up Medicare costs but puts smaller community clinics with only 2 or 3 doctors out of business.

I think there are plenty of rich people around who have no Private Health Insurance and who head off to places that bulk bill.

Another huge cost to Medicare are the sexually reckless promiscuous people who are constantly being tested and treated for sexually transmitted diseases.

I wrote to Tony Abbott for a second time complaining about his PPL scheme (Greens Mark II model) and the fact he does not intend to even test this windfall against the partner’s income.

I also complained about the proposed attack on Disability Support and Age Pensioners and the need to assess people’s total income and assets (including Taj Mahal homes), instead of just picking on those who live in modest homes who have income earning funds invested outside of it (income test).

I have been told I can expect a written reply from the Minister for Social Services.

On Q&A I thought a couple of the students could have been a little less rude, but I can appreciate that they needed to take advantage of even the smallest window of opportunity to get their message across.

I think if Q&A was a democratic program, we would see Senators John Madigan and Nick Xenophon, and Bob Katter MP having a say about Australian manufacturing and farming, which would definitely NOT include a fuel tax to put family based farms out of business.

Comment from unwiley
Time May 13, 2014 at 11:43 am

Interesting to learn there are some who are yet to find an alternative to Q & A Like a decent book or even consider how time spent watching it only reinforces the A.B. (C.enate) role they seem to believe is theirs

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