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Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
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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)



Paladin: Closed tenders and shady dealings

The Paladin Group is a small company with a shack on Kangaroo Island – until last week – as its head office.

After all the media interest, as well as a PO Box in Singapore, Paladin now has an office in Canberra. The phone might even work.

According to its website, Paladin is ‘… a leading provider of project support services in the Asia-Pacific.’

These include ‘security, facility maintenance, garrison and life support services in the region’.

According to an Australian Financial Review (AFR) report, however, the Paladin Group has ‘… little experience and a poor reputation’.g

But not to worry. Paladin won a tender worth $423 million over two years to run the Australian Government’s concentration camp on Manus Island.

Labor Senator Murray Watt asked the question on everyone’s lips:

‘How on earth did this tiny unknown company with no track record ever get $423 million in contracts from the Australian taxpayer?’ 

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told Parliament that it was the responsibility of the Department:

“If there are issues, my department, the secretary, will deal with those issues.”

Apparently,  Dutton doesn’t involve himself with any oversight at all of $423 million of taxpayer money.  Seriously?

Attorney General Christian Porter told Barrie Cassidy on Insiders that “there was a full and independent process in place” for the awarding of the tender to Paladin.

It is true there was a tender process. But it was a limited or restricted tender process. Here is what the Department of Finance says about limited tenders, after making the point that open tenders are the ‘default for all procurements valued above the relevant thresholds ($80,000 for non-corporate Commonwealth entities)’:

Limited Tender

  • Involves procurement based on quotes being sought directly from one or more suppliers.
  • Includes what was previously referred to as “sole source” and “select” or “restricted” source procurements.
  • Can be undertaken for any procurement under the relevant thresholds where it represents value for money. 
  • Can only be used for procurements above the relevant thresholds where it is specifically allowed by the CPRs [The Commonwealth Procurement Rules]. The value and reasons for the direct source must be documented.

Embedded video

In other words, Paladin was asked to tender for security services on Manus Island. It appears it was the only entity to tender.

No doubt the value and reasons for this direct source from Paladin are, as the Department of Finance says, documented. The Australian public deserves the release of this documentation to ensure nothing untoward has happened. However, according to the AFR report, not only did the draft contract attempt to exclude the arrangement from Freedom of Information (FOI), which was later reversed, it also specifically excluded the contract from the Commonwealth Procurement Rules (see above). 

It appears that we have a limited tender contract that may breach the mandatory requirements of the Department of Finance. Otherwise, why have the procurement rules excluded from the contract? 

The Department has been less than forthcoming:

‘Home Affairs refused to comment on its attempts to exclude Paladin from FOI laws or provide a reason why it was not subject to Commonwealth procurement rules.

“The department has nothing further to add,” it said in a statement.’

What else do we know, apart from the fact that Paladin appears to be a group of ex-military figures? We know that Craig Thrupp, one of the company’s key figures, ‘… left a string of failed contracts and bad debts across Asia.’

As well, according to Radio NZ,

‘Paladin’s local PNG director, Kisokau Powaseu, was detained in Port Moresby last month and charged with misappropriating funds and money laundering. One of the company’s directors, Craig Thrupp, is banned from entering PNG.’  

We also know that the company did not have enough money to begin the contract. The Government had to advance them $10 million to get started. On top of that, Paladin last week advised that it had ‘moved ownership of its Australian entity from Hong Kong to Singapore’. In information released last week, but with effect from 1 November 2017, all the shares in Paladin Aus were transferred from the Hong Kong holding company of Paladin to the Singapore-registered Paladin Holdings Pty Ltd.

This could have been to ensure the company met basic security requirements to win the tender. It might be for tax reasons. The timing raises questions.

According to AFR:

‘… on September 21, 2017, Paladin Solutions PNG was awarded the initial $89.2 million tender to provide security services at centres until a larger contract was awarded to the Singapore entity.’

That larger contract, for $176.8 million, was awarded to Paladin Singapore on 28 February 2018. The amounts have since been increased.

In addition, Paladin recently took over the PNG security company Black Swan. Black Swan allegedly has close links to Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill — links they both deny.

That is not the end of it. Catherine Graue on ABC Radio interviewed Charlie Benjamin, the Manus Island Governor, who called for an investigation into the Paladin contract. (The interview starts about 3.45 minutes.)

Paladin is the reality of so-called “border protection”. We deserve to know what our money is being misspent on.

Creative Commons Licence

This article of mine first appeared in Independent Australia. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

The Morrison Government: Teetering around the edges of governance – my full article from Independent Australia

By John Passant | 18 February 2019, 7:00am | 

Prime Minister Morrison during Question Time (Screenshot via YouTube)

The defeat of the Government on the Medivac Bill is the potential precursor to its defeat in the upcoming election, writes Canberra correspondent John Passant.

Last week in Parliament (12 February) the Government was defeated on the ‘Medical Evacuations Bill‘ and Question Time became the “longest in history” to avoid debate on a royal commission into the abuse of the disabled.

Climate change continues unabated. More than three million Australians live in poverty. Wages are falling. But hey, let’s talk about One Nation and sex.

Accusations arose that Palmer United Party Senator Brian Burston – formerly of One Nation – allegedly told one of Hanson’s staff he could help improve her mood by “fucking” her.

There was another possibly related story about some blood smeared on Hanson’s door. Bizarrely, Burston cannot remember the incident but has confessed to doing it. Then news emerged that Hanson’s adviser, James Ashby, had allegedly harassed the Senator and his wife by filming them at an event in Parliament House. Truly it was The Clash of the Tits, as Ross Jones wrote in IA yesterday. The upshot was that the President of the Senate has banned Ashby from Parliament House.   

Okay, now that is out of the way, what about drugs? The drug of choice in Parliament House and in society more generally is alcohol. Illegal drugs are only illegal because they threaten the social drug monopoly that the alcohol industry has enjoyed for decades.

That appears to be breaking down somewhat. In the A.C.T., a Labor backbencher looks set to succeed in de-criminalising the possession and small scale cultivation of cannabis. And yet those in the thrall of the big alcohol drug companies continue to fight back.

Nowhere is that clearer than in New South Wales where the State Government refuses to allow pill testing at music festivals, which can save lives. The reason for this stance? Well, umm, err … the Prime Minister has also failed to specifically support pill testing.

How much money do alcohol companies donate to the major parties? Together with gambling and tobacco interests, alcohol groups pay over $14 million into the pockets of the political parties — either when specific legislation that impacts on their interests is being debated, or in the run-up to elections.9

And how much does the fossil fuel industry contribute to both major parties? Over $1.2 million, plus their own big spending political ads. That political spending included $3.6 million by ACA Low Emissions Technology (ACALET), manager of the black coal investment fund, Coal21. (ACA, by the way, stands for Australian Coal Association. ACALET was‘formerly owned by the Australian Coal Association and now part of the Minerals Council for Australia’. 

A major part of that $3.6 million spending was on their campaign, “Coal – It’s an Amazing Thing“. The Minerals Council spent $1.3 million and this included their fossil fuel campaign, “Making the Future Possible“.  

But it is not just that big business tries to buy political influence through donations or advertisements, it is that we have a political process which produces politicians whose world view is about profit. These parliamentarians represent the today of capital rather than its future.

While the state is supposed to rise above individuals and their interests and take action to enable the system to operate beyond the next entry in the balance sheet, the Australian state has failed in future-proofing the system — one of its basic functions. The major parties’ paralysis on meaningful action to address climate change shows this clearly.

Immediate business interests (Adani anyone?) trump longer-term thinking. Climate change poses an existential threat to human existence. And the response of our politicians of left and right is, what exactly? At best, some fiddling at the edges. At worst, nothing. 

The drug that is profit pervades the thinking and reality of our politicians as much as it pervades the actions of business — except, apparently, for the 722 big businesses who paid no income tax in Australia in 2016/17.

Our governments are trapped by the immediate interests of sectors of business rather than the long-term interests of society. The solution is not in changing the jockey but in getting a new community-owned horse. Of course, that is very much a minority view, at the moment.

The rise of democratic socialism across the globe, from Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders to Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, suggests Australia cannot be too far behind. Let’s leave the discussion of where Australia’s Jeremy Corbyn is for another time

Which leads me to rock and roll. The 2016 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature wrote many years ago that the times they are a-changin:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall

But our parliamentarians are deaf. Their ears are stuffed with dollar notes. A backbencher’s starting salary is $207,000, putting them in the top two per cent of income earners. Cabinet ministers and prime ministers, of course, earn much more.

On almost every issue, our MPs and senators, or at least significant numbers of them, ‘stand in the doorway and block up the hall’. They are decades behind the rest of us on social and economic issues.

On same-sex marriage they were 20 years behind the majority. On refugees and asylum seekers, they remain out of touch with the growing compassionate sentiment.

The Morrison Government this week will vote for a motion in the House calling for a royal commission into the abuse of the disabled, but then will likely not call one.r

The Government thinks its defeat on the Medivac Bill could be its salvation. It has ramped up the lies and propaganda about “protecting our borders”. This resonates with some voters.

It’s unlikely this will be the Government’s Tampa moment. Part of the difference between voters in 2001 and the election in May 2019 is their standard of living.  Wages have fallen or been flatlining for some time while CEO pays has skyrocketed.  

The Morrison Government has no policy to fix this. Tax cuts have not and will not improve wages. Labor has some measures to allow a little more freedom for unions. These reforms – okay in themselves but part of Labor’s more subtle neoliberal approach – will not entrench a right to strike, which is the key to improving our living standards.

The baseball bats are out. The defeat of the Government in the Parliament on the Medivac Bill is the potential precursor to its defeat in the upcoming election. Then we can judge if the past has been dragged into the present. Our future beckons.

You can follow Canberra correspondent John Passant on Twitter @JohnPassantSigned copies of John’s first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformedare available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

The Morrison Government: Teetering around the edges of governance

The defeat of the Government on the Medevac Bill is the potential precursor to its defeat in the upcoming election, writes Canberra correspondent John Passant.

Click here to read the whole article,12385

The Morrison Government – avoiding parliamentary scrutiny and defeat is its main game

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling
From Senator Steele-John’s Facebook page

Thursday in Parliament House was another momentous day.

The Prime Minister tabled the 11th  Closing the Gap report in Parliament in the morning. It showed that far from improving, the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are going backwards compared to the rest of us.

Last year we were on track to meet 3 of the seven targets. This year it is only two. And next year? This report ‘Four lessons from 11 years of Closing the Gap reports’ by Nicholas Biddle in The Conversation explains in more detail the targets, their meaningfulness and progress towards them.

The platitudes and even action (such as the government’s current focus on education) will not change the systemic and fundamental issue at the heart of the problems – the genocide of ATSI people, their dispossession and death then and now at the hands of Australian capitalism. All the government and Opposition are proposing is band aids on the cancer, rather than addressing the cancer.

Image may contain: one or more people, text that says '14 February 1779 marks the death of Captain James Cook Killed while attempting to kidnap an Hawaiian chief, in order to reclaim a stolen cutter (small boat).'

In 2020 there will be another report, and more words, but
the situation will be much the same as it has always been – Indigenous people
die about ten years earlier than the rest of us on average; they have more
people living in poverty than any other group, they have the lowest education
levels etc etc.

Nothing that Morrison or Shorten talked about will address
that because they do not acknowledge let alone address the genocide and theft
of the land then and now.

Then there was question time.

The first bit of fun was when 12 people stood up in the
public galleries, one by one over about five or ten minutes and yelled that we
need to take action on climate change, stop subsidising coal, stop Adani and
the like.  After each individual was led
out, another stood up to proclaim a similar message.

Question Time begins at 2 pm on sitting days in the House, and goes till about 3.10 pm or 3.15 pm, when the Prime Minister rises to end the daily ritual. On Thursday, instead of getting to his feet at 3.15 pm and declaring Question Time over for the day Mr Morrison allowed it to continue. At 150 minutes, today’s Question Time was the longest in the Federal Parliament’s history

What was so important? Were there penetrating questions about the failure of Closing the Gap and how to fundamentally address the systemic genocide of ATSI peoples? No, not at all. Well one, but it was hardly penetrating or insightful; just a government backbencher asking a question about the government’s response to the latest Closing the Gap report and giving Morrison a few minutes to pontificate his platitudes.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

The rest of the questions from government backbenchers were almost exclusively on border security. It did not matter what the topic was, border protection got a mention in the question, and of course the Ministerial answers.

‘My question is to the Minister for the Arts. Can the Minister tell the House how strong borders helps Australian artists and are there any alternative approaches that threaten to destroy strong borders and with it the Australian arts scene?’ That basically was the calibre if not the reality of the Dorothy Dixers today from the Liberal and National Party backbenchers.

The answers of course included the usual lies from Ministers about rapists and murderers being allowed into Australia thanks to the Labor supported Medevac Bill passing the House on Tuesday and the Senate on Wednesday.

No photo description available.
Leahy’s view

Labor concentrated for the first half or hour or so on why Scott
Morrison had abandoned taking the big stick to Energy Companies
. The
Prime Minister called it rubbish. However the Government has removed its big
stick legislation from the agenda following the Greens foreshadowing an
amendment that, according
to Adam Bandt MP
, ‘… would also prohibit coal-fired power stations
from receiving public money.’ To avoid another defeat in the House the
government withdrew its big stick energy Bill from consideration.

Then in between a few questions about the leaks to the press
of the impending AWU raids, Labor changed its focus.  As the time moved on past the end of the
regular question time, Labor began to ask about a
Senate motion passed at 12.15 pm on Thursday to support a Royal Commission into
the violence and abuse against disabled people

By this stage, Greens’ Senator Jordan Steele-John was sitting just inside the exit doors of the House. He was the person driving the royal commission motion in the Senate. Government senators voted against the motion. The Senate agreed to send the motion as a message to the House of Representatives.  Senator Steele-John became angry as the penny dropped that the reason Question Time was continuing was to avoid dealing with the message from the Senate about the disability Royal Commission.  The government was basically wasting time to avoid another defeat on the floor of the House. ‘Call the vote, call a vote,’ he yelled.

Image may contain: text

After various questions on the issue, and intricate discussions
about matters of public importance, Senate messages, standing orders and
parliamentary practice, Bill Shorten moved a motion to suspend standing orders.
The aim was to allow a debate on his motion to allow enough time to debate the
royal commission issue. Morrison, after prevaricating for most
of question time about the royal commission question
, said during
this debate that the government had not resolved not to do it.

At 4.30 pm Question Time shut down, automatically under
parliamentary rules, and ended Labor’s attempt to suspend standing orders.

The disability violence and abuse royal commission will be on the agenda for debate next week. I understand that Morrison has now said the government would not oppose a Royal Commission, although as he pointed out during Question Time in his non-answers to Labor’s calls for a Royal Commission, the Government’s focus is the NDIS and the aged care royal commission. That is one way to remove a possible election issue, I guess.

However if your sole strategy is to avoid defeat on the floor of the House by any means necessary, what sort of government does that make you?

Meanwhile the banks continue to rob us, and Aboriginal people die ten years younger than the rest of us.

John Passant is a member of the Canberra Press Gallery.

The Banking Royal Commission: Business as usual for the Big Four

The Banking Royal Commission: Business as usual for the Big Four
With the release of the Banking Royal Commission report, it seems the banks have come out unscathed due to political protection, writes John Passant in Independent Australia.

Click here to read the whole article in Independent Australia.

No one is buying the Coalition’s neoliberal message

Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

Despite tax cuts and an ongoing fear campaign, the Coalition Government is gone, writes Independent Australia Canberra correspondent John Passant.

To read the article click here.,12319

Fascism, free speech and Facebook bans

Senator Fraser Anning (Screenshot via YouTube)

Independent Australia’s Canberra correspondent John Passant finds himself on the wrong side of Facebook’s “community standards”.

To read the article click here

Australia and the overpopulation myth

Is overpopulation just a construct? (Image by Arthimedes, via Shutterstock)

For many, overpopulation is the problem. It can also be code for keeping brown people out. For many activists, it might be unwitting but objectively, the overpopulation, anti-people scare campaign sends xenophobic and racist messages.

To read my full article in Independent Australia, click here.,12274

The St Kilda aftermath: Fascists and mainstream politicians

Fraser Anning shakes the hand of Blair Cottrell at the St Kilda rally (Screenshot via YouTube)

The St Kilda aftermath: Fascists and mainstream politicians
In the wake of the St Kilda rally, John Passant explores the ways in which fascism is creeping into our government. You can read the full article by clicking here.

The Morrison Government takes Australia from bad to worse

It will be more of the same neoliberal policies from the Coalition in 2019, I write in Independent Australia.

Click here to read the article.