Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Abbott government cares little for our sovereignty

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Sovereignty is the quality of having power over a geographical area. Traditionally, this has referred to governments being able to exercise political power and control over their jurisdictions.

In the recent election campaign, Tony Abbott made much of the supposed threat to our sovereignty from people seeking asylum in Australia. The Abbott government even went as far as to name its refugee policy "operation sovereign borders" and militarise the operation by appointing a 3-star general to oversee it.

However, while desperate people seeking asylum on leaky fishing boats are characterised as a threat to our sovereignty worthy of a military response, a true threat to Australia's sovereignty has quietly become government policy.

On the eve of the last election the Coalition quietly released its trade policy [PDF] which significantly changed the previous government's approach to investor state dispute settlements (ISDS) in trade treaties. ISDS' are clauses which allow multinational corporations to sue national governments that are signatories to a treaty for passing laws that are harmful to the interests of these corporations. These cases are not heard in national courts but in tribunals that are often presided over by representatives of multinational corporations - hardly independent arbiters.

This effectively allows multinational corporations to over-ride government's powers effect legislation without the threat of significant legal action. Already, Australia is being sued in Hong Kong by tobacco companies for passing a law to enforce  plain packaging of cigarettes. This law was passed by both houses of the Australian parliament and confirmed by the High Court, however, the ISDS in a bilateral treaty now has the potential to penalise the Australian Government for performing its democratic function.

The previous government rejected the use of ISDS' as not being in the national interest, however, the Abbott Government's trade policy remains open to the use of ISDS'. The Abbott Government has stated that it is keen to conclude free-trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - a treaty negotiated in secret that contains ISDS'.

Leaked sections of the TPP indicate it will potentially undermine fair access to copyright material and limit environmental protection laws, public health measures and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Governments will be limited to legislate in these areas by the threat of serious financial penalties - even if it is in the national interest to legislate.

At the recent APEC conference Malaysian Prime Minister Razak characterised the TPP as:
"impinge[ing] fundamentally the sovereign right of the country [Malaysia] to make regulation and policy''.
This curtailment of a government's sovereign power represents not only a threat to democracy, but a fundamental shift in political power from the citizenry to multinational organisations.

When the Coalition said that 'Australia was open for business' what they really meant was that 'Australian sovereignty was for sale'.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Pulled Pork


1 kg Pork Shoulder
1 Onion
1 Clove Garlic
2 tsp pickled jalepeno chilies
300 ml Dry cider

Spice Rub
2 tsp Smoked paprika
1 tsp Chili flakes
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Coriander
1 tsp Fennel
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1 TBSP brown sugar


Take the skin off the pork shoulder (use it to make crackling!)
Rub the spice rub into the pork.
Slice the onions and place them in the pressure cooker
Add the garlic and pickled chili
Place the pork on top of the onions and add the cider and any leftover spice rub.
Pressure cook for 1 hour.
Once cooked remove the pork from the sauce and pull the pork apart with a fork.
Add the shredded pork back to the sauce and bring to a simmer. Add cornflour if it needs thickening.

Serve with a good coleslaw (on a bun or in a taco)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ministerial Responsibility

There has been much criticism of Prime Minster Abbott's assigning policy responsibility for the status of women to the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) portfolio. This is understandable considering Abbott's many sexist public statements. 

Abbott has gone on the record saying:
"I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons"
So it is unsurprising that there was a strong reaction to Abbott essentially appointing himself Minister for the Status of Women. However, it has been pointed out that the bringing of the Office of the Status of Women into a central policy making agency such as Prime Minister and Cabinet has the potential to make policies affecting women closer to the heart of the decision making process.

While this is true, the corollary of this is that now Abbott himself, as the Minister, is accountable for every sexist comment of his Government, sexist policy (in any portfolio) and his passive acceptance of any sexist comments from his cheerleaders in the media. So next time Abbott spouts his sexism, he cannot hide behind being a "daggy dad". Every time shock jocks spout their sexism, he cannot let it pass and every time his Ministers make gender based attacks on women in parliament it is Abbott who is responsible for holding them to account.

If Abbott was truly going to take responsibility for stemming the sexism that he himself unleashed it would be worth giving him the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately he has already shown his mettle.

In his first media interview since becoming the Minister, Tony Abbott, Minister for the Status of women said:
"I don't think women suffer legal discrimination and I don't think anyone these days sets out to do the wrong thing but it is very difficult for women to combine work and family if they don't have a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme and that's going to change very soon under the Coalition."
Legal discrimination? All discrimination on the basis of gender is illegal. Bringing the Office into PM&C may be a positive step for policy making but it is clear that the Minister to whom they report is sexist and unfit for the the office.