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Market Deception is Not Funny or Justifiable

I had been doing my best to avoid writing about the Whitehaven Coal hoax perpetrated by Johnathan Moylan which we have all now heard about. But today I read a piece about the elaborate hoax and I decided that I just had to chime in. The wonderful piece was written by Mungo MacCallum and has to be the strangest take on the radical and irresponsible act that I have read to date. In short, MacCallum’s stance places him places him in a small and exclusive group- with a few Greens MP’s.

For those of you who have lived under a rock since last week, the disgraceful act perpetrated by Mr Moylan involved him issuing a fake press release purporting to be from ANZ, saying that the bank had reconsidered and was withdrawing their support of Whitehaven Coal. The stupid stunt fooled the press and the markets. Whitehaven shares dropped 9% on the news, an extraordinary slump by anyone’s estimation and the company lost $300 million in value before the ridiculous ploy was revealed.

But back to the post in question. The blog starts off with an introductory line about the media and standards, though one easily detects more than a hint of sarcasm in that line. This was followed by almost a whole paragraph where neither the act, now being investigated by ASIC, nor the man behind it was mentioned. Indeed, it is only the last two words which introduce us to the key player in the affair and not the event itself. That is outlined in the next paragraph.

The paragraph after that, at first glance, appears innocent enough. MacCallum talks about the money lost by investors and almost appears to call out Mr Moylan for his dumb and fraudulent act. Almost. But if you know Mungo’s work, then you should quickly realise that the sarcasm present early on will likely infest the whole article, and it does. The subtle quip about private property in that same paragraph should have given the game away for me- he’s perhaps not much of a fan of such indulgence.

From the next paragraph it becomes painfully obvious to all and sundry where the argument is headed. All doubt is from then on easily cast aside. MacCallum goes on to make excuses for Moylan, somehow equating how rumours influence the market with a deliberate act intended to deceive the market. But all deliberate attempts to deceive the market are simply unjustifiable, no matter how commendable or otherwise, the cause behind them is.

The piece becomes even more laughable when, in the second last paragraph, Mr MacCallum states that the stockmarket “thoroughly deserves having the mickey taken out of it as often as possible”. It is thoroughly wrong and not at all humorous to characterise what Mr Moylan did as some fine and dandy little piss take of the market.

Mr MacCallum, the carefully planned actions of Johnathan Moylan were not simply “a bit of satire to make an environmental point”. The only people laughing are you and a few Greens MP’s silly enough to quickly shun a transparently fake attempt at trying to appeal to the mainstream. There are probably a number of Greens supporters that applaud Moylan’s actions too, but frankly that number is likely so inconsequential.

The rest of us are not amused.

Equal Marriage Voted Down, Looks Like You Can’t Have National Civil Unions Either

The vote on the private members bill from MP for Throsby Stephen Jones on gay marriage has now been seen through both houses of parliament and of course the result was never in doubt. With the ALP allowing a free vote and the Coalition voting ‘no’ there was never any prospect of the bill having success. Yesterday the same-sex marriage bill was easily voted down in the House of Representatives, with just 42 parliamentarians voting in favour of the bill and 98 against. Today, the Senate also emphatically rejected the proposition of marriage equality, 41 votes to 26.

First, had the Coalition been afforded the opportunity for a conscience vote on the matter, it would have been hard, even impossible to foresee a different outcome to the one arrived at both yesterday and today. There would have been just as many, if not more on the Coalition side voting against the bill as there was on the Labor benches of parliament.

Particularly in the last few weeks there have been talks of pursuing the path of civil unions, clearly because the result finalised today was foreseen and an appetite to “do something” exists in the minds of some within the parliament. This barrow has been pushed publicly by MP’s, most notably Chief Opposition Whip, Warren Entsch and Malcolm Turnbull. Curiously, both of these MP’s are from the Liberal Party and have been the most vocal supporters of pursuing civil unions as a step toward equal marriage rights.

There has been and will of course continue to be a number of those in favour of marriage equality who view an interim step toward the inevitable as a ‘cop out’, but it’s not as the Greens are calling it a step backwards, it’s plainly not. It is however, not equality and would entrench “two tiers of love” as Adam Bandt today said. Overall however, it is closer to equal rights in marriage than the status quo.

Of course, the prospects of that step look doomed before the bill, according to Mr Entsch ready to go, sees the light of day. Tony Abbott today said “we really should let the dust settle on these parliamentary votes before we rush off and do something else.”

Mr Abbott further said that the concept of civil unions was the domain of the states and that is traditionally the case. But all we need do is look at the history of civil unions, particularly of late in Queensland and realise that the states too find positive change a challenge.

So why not push for the national recognition of civil unions? Surely achieving that end, though seemingly impossible at the present time, effectively dragging all states into line on a rights issue, would be a good thing? Clearly there are some deeper divisions within politics, but not the wider community,  stopping even such a small change toward what many in political circles view as the inevitable, same-sex marriage.

So, we’re at a stage where equal marriage has just been rejected. Even the prospect of civil unions at a national level seems equally despised and not wanted by just about all political parties in Canberra. The positive ideas of a few, whilst not great leaps forward, but still positive steps, albeit tiny ones, appear likely to stay just that, ideas.

Men In Black, Suits

For some months now we have been hearing reports that the Gillard Government have asked the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, better know as ASIO, to send agents out into the field to spy on coal protesters around the country. These revelations have drawn the ire of the Australian Greens, with whom anti-coal protesters would in many cases have a close allegiance or at least some of the same political aims at least as far as environmental protection goes.

These revelations appeared in Fairfax newspapers this morning following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the media  outlet which was directed to the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. The application was said to be rejected because it involved a confidential document from an “intelligence agency”.

Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Greens has called on the minister responsible for the department, Martin Ferguson to agree to the release of the documents so that the extent of the involvement of Mr Ferguson in organising the surveillance of the protesters can be brought to light.

Revelations of security agencies, be they state or federal police or higher spying on protesters have been around a long time in Australia and indeed many states, notably Queensland in the mid-to-late 1900’s have been clearly observed to have actively participated in the surveillance of protesters. Queensland too came down hard on protesters who marched the streets in contravention of draconian laws during the Bjelke-Petersen era in Queensland,   arresting and charging many.

At university, it was also said that ASIO were involved in spying on certain protesters, particularly those of the loopy left who are supporters of groups like S0cialist Alliance and the like, the sort of groups against any use of intelligence services in the first place, be it for peaceful purposes or otherwise.

On occasion when observing protests during my student days, aside from the boys and girls in blue coming onto campus to ensure that protests didn’t get too rowdy and that the targets of protests and university property didn’t have damage inflicted upon them I could have sworn I saw besuited men snapping the protesters getting rowdy.

These were men adorned in black suits, with tell-tale sunglasses with mobile phones raised every now taking happy snaps of the not so happy revolutionaries engaging in chanting incantations, sometimes into the atmosphere and sometimes at the objects of their collective ire, university administrators, public figures and even the police. But then I could just be paranoid with an overactive imagination.

Is it really such a bad thing to have security services engaged in spying on groups in society that are causing a bit of noise, sometimes a bit of damage or even a lot or perhaps even engaged in acts as serious as eco-terrorism?

Perhaps if ASIO are engaged in observing your everyday kind of protest gig where a bunch of people are just getting loud and boisterous and not really causing harm to anyone or property then their attendance would be complete overkill. This is relevant if there is no particular person or group that is being targeted and it is just an issue is being prosecuted by a march of a small group with a few signs.

That all changes when there is someone or a group of people who police or intelligence agencies have identified as being a direct threat to a particular person or persons or the interests of an organisation. In that case, it is entirely justifiable for high-level intelligence agencies to be involved in the investigation and oversight of such militant people or groups.

In all other cases the men and women of our state police would more than suffice as security and surveillance, with the ability to arrest protesters disregarding lawful directions or committing criminal acts.

Surveillance of people in most cases is not a necessary evil, but it is a reality that we have to get used to in some situations, particularly if we have been a bit on the naughty side.

The Oakeshott Bill is a Stealth Policy Dud

The Independent MP for the electorate of Lyne, Robert Oakeshott has a plan, a plan that he thinks in his infinite wisdom will end the deadlock over the over-hyped asylum seeker issue which plagues our political debate all too much for the scale of the problem that it actually presents in political reality.

Since the Government announced it had reached an agreement with Malaysia over an asylum seeker/refugee swap agreement, parties have been united in opposition against the policy, even the Australian Greens and the Coalition saw eye-to-eye on this since the first time in, well a long time frankly.

Not only this, but the High Court saw fit to decry Malaysia and offshore processing as inconsistent with Australian law and our international obligations, throwing all offshore processing policy into legal doubt.

The Member for Lyne has now decided to enter the asylum seeker debate with this bill which amounts to nothing more than the “Malaysian Solution” in both theory and practice.

The bill put forward by Mr Oakeshott would allow for the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen to form an agreement with any nation that is a member of the Bali Process, any one or more of 50 nations in the region. Surprise, surprise guess which country is a member of the Bali Process? It starts with “M” and it ends in “a”. Any further hints needed.

As if any further clarification was needed that this bill would lead to the implementation of the Malaysia deal then they only need to refer to the words of the Immigration Minister who confirmed that he would ask the Labor caucus to support the bill when it comes to a vote.

Did Mr Oakeshott really think that it wouldn’t take all of a first glimpse to work out that he was doing the bidding of the Gillard Government’s Malaysian asylum seeker swap policy? That simply surrounding it with other options would lead to the Government not picking Malaysia?

Coming from a man who wasted 17 minutes of our valuable time just to tell us what we already knew, we have another waste of time in a policy which has already been roundly defeated without even the need for a vote to confirm just how disliked the policy was. This time though there is far more time than 17 minutes to be wasted on a stealth policy dud from someone who would like to think he is a canny political operator.

Watching Those Who Are Not Whale Watchers

The overnight boarding of a Japanese whaling support ship and subsequent detention of the people involved has again raised the question of the legitimacy and political/policy sense of having a vessel patrolling those waters during the whaling season.This morning the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott reiterated a call for a customs boat to be policing the area when the whaling season is in force. This was met with a rare show of support for the position from the Australian Greens through their leader Bob Brown.The Government rejected the idea outright with Nicola Roxon labelling the idea as pure “chest-beating”. Ms Roxon affirmed that the Australian Government would continue to proceed in a diplomatic manner on both the specific and broader issues.

The use of an Australian customs vessel or the like, can be done in a sensible way, but there are some specific things any expedition of this kind must keep in mind.

Firstly, before any voyage of an Australian vessel into Antarctic waters during the whaling season, the Australian Government must make it abundantly clear to all, including participants from both sides and the Japanese Government that we do not support the horrific slaughter of some of our most endangered creatures. It must also be made clear to all participants that the Government does not condone the cowboy actions of a select few activists that think vigilantism is the way.

So here is how such a patrol could work…

An Australian Customs vessel or similar would make its way into the area ahead of the commencement of the whaling season, preferably and if possible, prior to the arrival of the Japanese fleet.

Any Australian Government vessel proceeding to, or once in the whaling zone must not be seen to be “baby-sitting” the anti-whaling fleet. Communication between the Sea Shepherd group and others should be kept to a minimum whilst in the area.

Where possible any deliberate acts of sabotage from either side should be policed and dealt with appropriately.

There is no denying that such a move is difficult for the reasons discussed, but is not impossible and certainly not unworkable even if it causes a little diplomatic pain. However, in my view, the diplomatic grievance would be much larger from the ICJ case.

If We Get a US Military Base Our Trade Partner China Will Not Dislike Or Attack Us

Over the last few days there has been growing speculation that there will be an announcement of a US military base in Darwin. This prediction/speculation/possible truth comes ahead of the visit of US President Barack Obama this Wednesday and Thursday to Australia, which includes a stop in the Northern Territory.

This increasingly likely announcement has attracted largely positive talk and the usual criticism from the Australian Greens, along with calls for parliament to debate the issue. Further, there have also been claims that US military presence in Australia would annoy our trading partner, China.

So is a US military base a good thing for Australia? Should we let forces from other nation’s base themselves on our shores? Do we really need to debate it in parliament? Will it really annoy China?
First things first, the Greens under leader Bob Brown are calling for parliament to debate the issue if it is indeed formally announced by the US President and the Gillard Government this week. This is not an altogether bad idea to debate the issue and get on record in Hansard the opinion’s of parliamentarians. However, it must be acknowledged that this may largely be a waste of time as it is likely the Greens would be the only party against the move.
Picture this: If, heaven forbid,  Australia comes under attack in the future from a rogue state (we likely won’t) and we had to invoke ANZUS, wouldn’t it be easier if at least one of our partners had a permanent presence here, from facilities as strongly equipped as a base?
Would our relationship with China really suffer as a result of a US military presence on Australian shores in the future?
Firstly, the level of anxiety between the USA and China to me seems well and truly overstated in terms of the militarisation of China. It seems much more reasonable to me to say that most of the anxiety from the United States toward China has more to do with the rapidly gathering economic strength of China, which holds a large amount of debt bonds for nations around the world, than with the concurrent military build-up in China.
It is not likely, in my view that having a US base on Australian shores will hurt the trade or diplomatic relationship that our two nations are growing to mutually enjoy. After all, it is just a base and last time I checked, a simple military base was not necessarily an outward act of aggression. If it was, with the sheer number of US bases around the world, we would have seen more major conflicts well and truly before now. Just think of the places around the world where the United States of America stayed behind post World War II.
So really, what is all the fuss about? Is it perhaps about the uneasy feelings which the Greens seem to have toward the US in all matters of defence? Is it a fear of the tiniest of possibilities which creep into the minds of conspiracy theorists? It could be. The base can happen, and should happen if announced. It won’t hurt our trade our diplomatic relations with China, especially not in a lasting way and it will provide for bolstered defense of our nation in the unlikely event of an attack on our country. So let’s do it and do it right. We can be friends and trading partners with China as well as military allies with the United States of America, we were a long time before we traded with China on such a large scale and the Chinese never seemed to mind…

The Major Players and Their Policy Platforms

This post is simply to give you links to the policy platforms of the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Greens. It serves as a tool to better inform readers of the pros and cons of the three players in Australian politics.

The current ALP Policy Platform is available here:

The current Liberal Party of Australia Policy Platform and Coalition partner the National Party can be downloaded here:

The current Australian Greens Policy Platform can be viewed here:

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