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As Minneapolis burns, Trump’s presidency is sinking deeper into crisis. And yet, he may still be re-elected

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As Minneapolis burns, Trump’s presidency is sinking deeper into crisis. And yet, he may still be re-elected

Sipa USA Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS/Sip

Timothy J. Lynch, University of Melbourne

Violence has erupted across several US cities after the death of a black man, George Floyd, who was shown on video gasping for breath as a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck. The unrest poses serious challenges for President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden as each man readies his campaign for the November 3 election.

If the coronavirus had not already posed a threat to civil discourse in the US, the latest flashpoint in American racial politics makes this presidential campaign potentially one of the most incendiary in history.

COVID-19 and Minneapolis may very well form the nexus within which the 2020 campaign will unfold. Trump’s critics have assailed his handling of both and questioned whether he can effectively lead the country in a moment of crisis.

And yet, he may not be any more vulnerable heading into the election.

A presidency in crisis?

As the incumbent, Trump certainly faces the most immediate challenges. Not since Franklin Roosevelt in the second world war has a US president presided over the deaths of so many Americans from a single cause.

The Axis powers and COVID-19 are not analogous, but any presidency is judged by its capacity to respond to enemies like these. With pandemic deaths now surpassing 100,000, Trump’s fortunes will be inexorably tied to this staggering (and still rising) figure.

Worse, the Minneapolis protests are showing how an already precarious social fabric has been frayed by the COVID-19 lockdowns.




Read more:
Donald Trump blames everyone but himself for the coronavirus crisis. Will voters agree?


Americans have not come together to fight the virus. Rather, they have allowed a public health disaster to deepen divisions along racial, economic, sectional and ideological lines.

Trump has, of course, often sought to gain from such divisions. But the magnitude and severity of the twin crises he is now facing will make this very difficult. By numerous measures, his is a presidency in crisis.

And yet.

Trump, a ferocious campaigner, will try to find ways to use both tragedies to his advantage and, importantly, makes things worse for his challenger.

For starters, Trump did not cause coronavirus. And he will continue to insist that his great geo-strategic adversary, the Chinese Communist Party, did.

And his is not the first presidency to be marked by the conflagration of several US cities.

Before Minneapolis, Detroit (1967), Los Angeles (1992) and Ferguson, Missouri (2014) were all the scenes of angry protests and riots over racial tensions that still haven’t healed.

And in the 19th century, 750,000 Americans were killed in a civil war that was fought over whether the enslavement of African-Americans was constitutional.

Trump may not have healed racial tensions in the US during his presidency. But, like coronavirus, he did not cause them.

How Trump can blame Democrats for Minneapolis

Not unhappily for Trump, Minneapolis is a largely Democratic city in a reliably blue state. He will campaign now on the failure of Democratic state leaders to answer the needs of black voters.

Trump will claim that decades of Democratic policies in Minnesota – including the eight years of the Obama administration – have caused Minneapolis to be one of the most racially unequal cities in the nation.

In 2016, Trump famously asked African-Americans whether Democratic leaders have done anything to improve their lives.

What do you have to lose by trying something new, like Trump?

He will repeat this mantra in the coming months.

It also certainly helps that his support among Republican voters has never wavered, no matter how shocking his behaviour.

He has enjoyed a stable 80% approval rating with GOP voters throughout the coronavirus crisis. This has helped keep his approval rating among all voters steady as the pandemic has worsened, hovering between 40 and 50%.

These are not terrible numbers. Yes, Trump’s leadership has contributed to a series of disasters. But if the polls are correct, he has so far avoided the kinds of catastrophe that could imperil his chances of re-election.




Read more:
In Trump we trust: why continual disasters fail to shake the president’s loyalists


Why this moment is challenging for Biden

Biden should be able to make a good case to the American people at this moment that he is the more effective leader.

But this has not yet been reflected in polls, most of which continue to give the Democrat only a lukewarm advantage over Trump in the election.

The other problem is that the Democratic party remains discordant. And Biden has not yet shown a capacity to heal it.




Read more:
Third time’s the charm for Joe Biden: now he has an election to win and a country to save


Race has also long been a source of division within Biden’s party. Southern Democrats, for instance, were the key agents of slavery in the 19th century and the segregation that followed it into the 20th.

After the 1960s, Democrats sought to make themselves the natural home of African-American voters as the Republican party courted disaffected white Southern voters. The Democrats largely succeeded on that front – the party routinely gets around 85-90% of black votes in presidential elections.

The challenge for Biden now is how to retain African-American loyalty to his party, while evading responsibility for the socio-economic failures of Democratic policies in cities like Minneapolis.

He is also a white northerner (from Delaware). Between 1964 and 2008, only three Democrats were elected president. All of them were southerners.

To compensate, Biden has had to rely on racial politics to separate himself from his primary challenger – Bernie Sanders struggled to channel black aspirations – and from Republicans. And this has, at times, caused him to court controversy.

In 2012, he warned African-Americans that then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would put them “all back in chains”. And just over a week ago, he angered black voters by suggesting those who would support Trump in the election “ain’t black”.

Biden is far better than Trump on racial issues and should be able to use the current crises to present himself as a more natural “consoler-in-chief”, but instead, he has appeared somewhat flatfooted and derided for being racially patronising.

The opportunities COVID-19 and the Minneapolis unrest might afford his campaign remain elusive.

The protests over George Floyd’s death swiftly spread across the country.
ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA

There is reason for hope

America enters the final months of the 2020 campaign in a state of despair and disrepair. The choice is between an opportunistic incumbent and a tin-eared challenger.

But the US has faced serious challenges before – and emerged stronger. Neither the civil war in the 19th century or the Spanish flu pandemic in the early 20th halted the extraordinary growth in power that followed both.

Moreover, the US constitution remains intact and federalism has undergone something of a rebirth since the start of the pandemic. And there is a new generation of younger, more diverse, national leaders being forged in the fire of crisis to help lead the recovery.The Conversation

Timothy J. Lynch, Associate Professor in American Politics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Three years on from Uluru, we must lift the blindfolds of liberalism to make progress

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Three years on from Uluru, we must lift the blindfolds of liberalism to make progress

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Stan Grant, Charles Sturt University

The Uluru Statement from the Heart offered a new compact with all Australians that would reset our national identity and enhance our political legitimacy. But its poetic vision and pragmatism proved its death knell.

Trying to reconcile two historically divergent if not hostile ideas – Indigenous sovereignty and the sovereignty of the Commonwealth – asked the nation to embark on a project of rehabilitation: “Voice, Treaty, Truth”.




Read more:
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The proposed constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament was rejected; treaty remains a dream, and the Australian people appear generally indifferent to historical introspection.

The Uluru Statement offered nation-building for a nation that seems content with itself.

It was an easy target for conservative politicians.

The great lie of the Turnbull government – that the Voice would be a “third chamber” of parliament – prevailed over Indigenous truth because to enough ears it sounded right.

The appearance of Indigenous people enjoying rights not shared by other Australians was cast as offensive to liberal principles. Indigenous advocates had no simple answer to the bumper-sticker slogan that they were putting race in the constitution.

They were left to try to convince Australians with complicated, long-winded arguments about the scientific fiction of race. The Voice would not be a veto; the “truth” would set us free.

The Uluru Statement was junked and Australians, hitherto generous to the idea of constitutional recognition, barely raised a whimper.

What should have been a high watermark of Australian liberalism became instead a victim of Australian liberalism.

It poses an existential question: can liberal democracy meet the demands of First Nations people?

For classical liberals the answer is no, if it means privileging group rights over the individual.

Some Indigenous people reject liberalism itself as an inherently and irredeemably racist colonial project.

They adopt an ethical stance of “refusal”, citing Canadian First Nations scholar Glen Coulthard, who argues that the liberal form of political recognition reproduces:

the very configurations of colonialist, racist, patriarchal, state power that Indigenous people […] have historically sought to transcend.

Indigenous liberals are in a bind: caught between other Indigenous people who share their struggle and liberals with whom they seek to find common cause.

Can we untie this Gordian knot? Political philosopher Duncan Ivison believes so.

The Uluru Statement, he argues, presented an opportunity for “a refounding of Australia”.

It was an invitation to re-imagine Australian liberalism around what the profoundly influential American political thinker John Rawls called “reasonable pluralism”.

Can a liberal state negotiate unavoidable deep moral and political disagreements without fracturing civic unity?

Take the issues of rights and history: the Scylla and Charybdis of Australian politics.

Navigating the straits between them is treacherous, invariably triggering culture wars over who owns the truth.

Ivison says if Indigenous people are to accept the legitimacy of the state, then the most important shift liberalism can make is to “embrace a more historically informed approach to justice”.

Yet liberalism is a progressive idea that seeks to transcend history.

Political scientist Francis Fukuyama went as far as to declare the Cold War triumph of liberal democracy over Soviet communism the “end of history”.

There is a persuasive imperative of “forgetting”: to “move on” to build a peacefully reconciled nation, free of historical grudges.

Australians may be interested in learning more about our past, but that stops short of national catharsis.

Australians generally don’t think history is a debt to be repaid. Liberalism looks forward, not back.

Symbolic acts of reconciliation – the Stolen Generations apology – are okay, but separate rights not so much.




Read more:
Constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians must involve structural change, not mere symbolism


Any full consideration of rights is beyond this article, cutting across issues like recognition, identity and political power.

The pertinent tension here is between group rights or individual rights.

Ivison concedes it is a tight fit.

It is not beyond the scope of liberal democracies to embrace group rights.

Ivison’s native Canada incorporates what’s been called “a doctrine of Aboriginal rights”: not so Australia.

Even Native Title – a group right – was a legislative response to rein in the scope of the historic Mabo High Court decision amid concerns among pastoralists and miners, and a scare campaign that Australians could lose their backyards.

Indigenous rights challenge the Australian identity as egalitarian, multicultural, and tolerant: the fair go does not mean a better go.

Australians can support assimilationist projects of equality as they did overwhelmingly in the 1967 referendum when they were told Aborigines “want to be Australians too”.

However, mischievous politicians miscast the Indigenous Constitutional Voice as quasi-separatism. The inference was it was not just illiberal, but un-Australian.

To change Australia, Australians must want to change.

Consistent polling shows healthy support for the concept of constitutional recognition, but history reminds us how goodwill can dissolve against a fear campaign.

Ivison and other like-minded liberals make a heroic attempt to renovate Australian liberalism, but the people seem content with the liberalism they have.

To paraphrase Bertolt Brecht: what do you want to do, elect a new people?

Like Ivison, I believe liberalism is an idea worth preserving.

The Uluru Statement was a clarion call for all Australians to walk together for a better future.

To find our way, we may first have to lift some of the blindfolds of our liberalism.The Conversation

Stan Grant, Vice Chancellors Chair Australian/Indigenous Belonging, Charles Sturt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Morrison’s 3-Step Framework for a COVIDSafe Australia

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Australians are about to discover that a national framework does not end the confusion over what is allowed when social restrictions are eased.

Scott Morrison has outlined a three-step plan to relax the curbs but he is outnumbered in national cabinet and cannot decide the changes.

Sydney Morning Herald’s David Crowe asserts that:

This is a test for the national economy and so far its leaders are falling short. Rather than agree on rules that will be applied as uniformly as possible, with as much certainty as possible, the national cabinet has only listed the options.

It is up to state and territory leaders to name the measures they will take in each step of the plan, with their own timeframes.

In other words, the framework is merely a menu. Victorians are likely to discover the meal they want is not available in their state even when it is ready to be served in Queensland.

One size does not fit all in a country as big as Australia. The argument for state and territory sovereignty is the coronavirus case numbers are different in every jurisdiction, although this is true only up to a point. The trend is incredibly positive in every location, yet the rules are different on matters as minor as fishing and golf.

It is up to the premiers and chief ministers to get it right. While Morrison wants to restart the economy, the controls are out of his hands.

Description:

This infographic presents the 3-step framework for a COVIDSafe Australia.

Underlying principles:

  • Maintain 1.5m distancing and good hygiene
  • Stay home if unwell
  • Frequently clean and disinfect communal areas
  • COVIDSafe plan for workplaces and premises
Overview of steps:
  • Step 1: The important first small steps — connect with friends and family — allowing groups of people to be together in homes and in the community.
  • Step 2: Slightly larger gatherings and more businesses reopening. Higher risk activities have tighter restrictions.
  • Step 3: A commitment to reopening business and the community with minimal restrictions, but underpinned by COVIDSafe ways of living.

​​​​​​​GATHERINGS & WORK

STEP 1: The important first small steps — connect with friends and family — allowing groups of people to be together in homes and in the community. Some businesses reopen.

  • Non-work gatherings of up to 10
  • Up to 5 visitors at home in addition to normal residents
  • Work from home if it works for you and your employer
  • Workplaces develop a COVIDSafe plan
  • Avoid public transport in peak hour

STEP 2: Building on slightly larger gatherings and more businesses reopening. Higher risk activities may have tighter restrictions.

  • Non-work gatherings of up to 20
  • States and territories may allow larger numbers in some circumstances
  • Work from home if it works for you and your employer
  • Workplaces develop a COVIDSafe plan
  • Avoid public transport in peak hour

STEP 3: A commitment to reopening of business and the community with minimal restrictions, but underpinned by COVIDSafe ways of living.

  • Non-work gatherings of up to 100 people
  • Larger gatherings to be considered
  • Return to workplace
  • Workplaces develop a COVIDSafe plan
  • Avoid public transport in peak hour

EDUCATION & CHILDCARE

STEP 1: The important first small steps — connect with friends and family — allowing groups of people to be together in homes and in the community. Businesses reopen, and more people return to work.

  • Child care centres, primary and secondary schools open as per state and territory plans
  • Universities/technical colleges to increase face-to-face where possible and prioritise hands-on, skills based learning

STEP 2: Building on slightly larger gatherings and more businesses reopening. Higher risk activities may have tighter restrictions.

  • Child care centres, primary and secondary schools open as per state and territory plans
  • Universities/technical colleges to increase face-to-face where possible and prioritise hands-on, skills based learning

STEP 3: A commitment to reopening of business and the community with minimal restrictions, but underpinned by COVIDSafe ways of living.

  • Child care centres, primary and secondary schools open as per state and territory plans
  • Universities/technical colleges to increase face-to-face where possible and prioritise hands-on, skills based learning
  • Consider reopening residential colleges and international student travel

RETAIL & SALES

STEP 1: The important first small steps — connect with friends and family — allowing groups of people to be together in homes and in the community. Businesses reopen, and more people return to work.

  • Retail stores open
  • Retail stores and shopping centre managers must develop COVIDSafe plans
  • Auctions/open homes can have gatherings of up to 10, recording contact details

STEP 2: Building on slightly larger gatherings and more businesses reopening. Higher risk activities may have tighter restrictions.

  • Retail stores open
  • Retail stores and shopping centre managers must develop COVIDSafe plans
  • Auctions/open homes can have gatherings of up to 20, recording contact details

STEP 3: A commitment to reopening of business and the community with minimal restrictions, but underpinned by COVIDSafe ways of living.

  • Retail stores open
  • Retail stores and shopping centre managers must develop COVIDSafe plans
  • Auctions/open homes can have gatherings of up to 100, recording contact details

CAFES & RESTAURANTS

STEP 1: The important first small steps – connect with friends and family – allowing groups of people to be together in homes and in the community. Businesses reopen, and more people return to work.

  • May open and seat up to 10 patrons at one time
  • Need to maintain an average density of 4 square metres per person
  • Food courts are to remain closed to seated patrons

STEP 2: Building on slightly larger gatherings and more businesses reopening. Higher risk activities may have tighter restrictions.

  • Cafes and restaurants can seat up to 20 patrons at one time
  • Need to maintain an average density of 4 square metres per person
  • Food courts are to remain closed to seated patrons

STEP 3: A commitment to reopening of business and the community with minimal restrictions, but underpinned by COVIDSafe ways of living.

  • Cafes, restaurants and food courts can seat up to 100 people
  • Need to maintain an average density of 4 square metres per person

ENTERTAINMENT & AMUSEMENT VENUES

STEP 1: The important first small steps — connect with friends and family — allowing groups of people to be together in homes and in the community. Businesses reopen, and more people return to work.

  • To remain closed: Indoor movie theatres, concert venues, stadiums, galleries, museums, zoos, pubs, registered and licensed clubs, nightclubs, gaming venues, strip clubs and brothels
  • Exception: Restaurants or cafes in these venues may seat up to 10 patrons at one time

STEP 2: Building on slightly larger gatherings and more businesses reopening. Higher risk activities may have tighter restrictions.

  • Indoor movie theatres, concert venues, stadiums, galleries, museums, zoos may have up to 20 patrons
  • To remain closed: pubs, registered and licensed clubs, RSL clubs, casinos, nightclubs, strip clubs and brothels
  • Exception: Restaurants or cafes in these venues may seat up to 20 patrons at one time

STEP 3: A commitment to reopening of business and the community with minimal restrictions, but underpinned by COVIDSafe ways of living.

  • Venues open in Step 2 may have up to 100 patrons
  • Consideration will be given to opening bar areas and gaming rooms
  • Exception: Restaurants or cafes in these venues may seat up to 100 patrons at one time
  • To remain closed: strip clubs and brothels

SPORT & RECREATION

STEP 1: The important first small steps — connect with friends and family — allowing groups of people to be together in homes and in the community. Businesses reopen, and more people return to work.

  • No indoor physical activity including gyms
  • Community centres, outdoor gyms, playgrounds and skate parks allow up to 10 people
  • Outdoor sport (up to 10 people) consistent with the AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport
  • Pools open with restrictions

STEP 2: Building on slightly larger gatherings and more businesses reopening. Higher risk activities may have tighter restrictions.

  • Up to 20 people allowed to participate in outdoor sports consistent with the AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport
  • Up to 20 people allowed to participate in all indoor sports, including gyms
  • Need to maintain an average density of 4 square metres per person
  • Pools open with restrictions

STEP 3: A commitment to reopening of business and the community with minimal restrictions, but underpinned by COVIDSafe ways of living.

  • All venues allowed to operate with gatherings of up to 100 people
  • Need to maintain an average density of 4 square metres per person
  • Community sport expansion to be considered consistent with the AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport

ACCOMMODATION

STEP 1: The important first small steps — connect with friends and family — allowing groups of people to be together in homes and in the community. Businesses reopen, and more people return to work.

  • Continue current arrangements for caravan parks and camping grounds (closed to tourists in some states and territories)
  • Hostels and hotels are open for accommodation

STEP 2: Building on slightly larger gatherings and more businesses reopening. Higher risk activities may have tighter restrictions.

  • Caravan parks and camping grounds fully open
  • All accommodation areas open and allow gatherings of up to 20 people

STEP 3: A commitment to reopening of business and the community with minimal restrictions, but underpinned by COVIDSafe ways of living.

  • All accommodation areas open and allow gatherings of up to 100 people

WEDDINGS, FUNERALS & RELIGIOUS SERVICES

STEP 1: The important first small steps — connect with friends and family — allowing groups of people to be together in homes and in the community. Businesses reopen, and more people return to work.

  • Weddings may have up to 10 guests in addition to the couple and the celebrant
  • Funerals may have up to 20 mourners indoors and 30 outdoors
  • Religious gatherings may have up to10 attendees
  • Every gathering must record contact details

STEP 2: Building on slightly larger gatherings and more businesses reopening. Higher risk activities may have tighter restrictions.

  • Weddings may have up to 20 guests in addition to the couple and the celebrant
  • Funerals may have up to 50 mourners
  • Religious gatherings may have up to 20 attendees
  • Every gathering must record contact details

STEP 3: A commitment to reopening of business and the community with minimal restrictions, but underpinned by COVIDSafe ways of living.

  • Allow gatherings of up to 100 people
  • Every gathering must record contact details

HAIR & BEAUTY SERVICES

STEP 1: The important first small steps — connect with friends and family — allowing groups of people to be together in homes and in the community. Businesses reopen, and more people return to work.

  • Hairdressers and barber shops open and record contact details
  • Beauty therapy and massage therapy venues, saunas and tattoo parlours remain closed

STEP 2: Building on slightly larger gatherings and more businesses reopening. Higher risk activities may have tighter restrictions.

  • Hairdressers and barber shops open and record contact details
  • Beauty therapy and massage therapy venues and tattoo parlours can open with up to 20 clients in the premises and record contact details
  • Saunas and bathhouses remain closed

STEP 3: A commitment to reopening of business and the community with minimal restrictions, but underpinned by COVIDSafe ways of living.

  • All establishments allowed to open with up to 100 people
  • Record contact details

DOMESTIC TRAVEL

STEP 1: The important first small steps — connect with friends and family — allowing groups of people to be together in homes and in the community. Businesses reopen, and more people return to work.

  • Allow local and regional travel for recreation
  • Refer to state and territory governments for border restrictions and biosecurity conditions

STEP 2: Building on slightly larger gatherings and more businesses reopening. Higher risk activities may have tighter restrictions.

  • Allow local and regional travel for recreation
  • Consider allowing interstate recreational travel depending on the situation in each state and territory
  • Refer to state and territory governments for biosecurity conditions

STEP 3: A commitment to reopening of business and the community with minimal restrictions, but underpinned by COVIDSafe ways of living.

  • Allow interstate travel
  • Refer to state and territory governments for biosecurity conditions

‘They are all dead’: for Indigenous people, Cook’s voyage of ‘discovery’ was a ghostly visitation

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‘They are all dead’: for Indigenous people, Cook’s voyage of ‘discovery’ was a ghostly visitation

Alison Page, University of Technology Sydney

Captain James Cook arrived in the Pacific 250 years ago, triggering British colonisation of the region. We’re asking researchers to reflect on what happened and how it shapes us today. You can see other stories in the series here and an interactive here.


On a recent trip to Cape York, I was privileged to sit with Kaurareg/Gudang Yadhaykenu man Uncle Tommy Savage, on a beach in the town of Umagico.

We listened as he sang a song called Markai an Ghule (meaning “ghost ship”), composed by his ancestors when James Cook arrived at Possession Island in August 1770.

A new series from The Conversation.

A sad lilt permeated the song, an expression of the grief the Kaurareg people felt at having to hide their cultural system, while they determined what the arrival of this preternatural being and his big ship was all about.

We recorded Uncle Tommy’s song for inclusion in The Message, a film commissioned by the National Museum of Australia and opening in April to coincide with 250 years since Cook arrived.

While researching the film, I spent much of last year travelling Australia’s east coast interviewing historians, curators and traditional owners, piecing together stories from the ship and the shore. Here are the stories that have stuck with me.

A voyage of the dead

What is so often described as Cook’s “voyage of discovery” has been viewed consistently by Indigenous people as a voyage of the dead; a giant canoe carrying the reincarnation of ancestral beings.

At the first encounter in Botany Bay, two Gweagal warriors throw stones and spears to Cook, saying “warrawarrawa,” meaning “they are all dead” (not “go away”, as it is often translated).

Perhaps this explains why Banks and Cook write of Aboriginal people persistently declining any of the gifts they were offered. You would have to be crazy to take gifts from the dead!

The warnings about these ghostly visitors were quickly and accurately sent by fire, smoke and message stick up the coast, adding a deeper meaning to the many fires Banks and Cook noted as they travelled north (“Saw several smooks along shore before dark and two or three times afire in the night,” Cook writes).

A collision of beliefs

When the Endeavour smashes into the reef in Cooktown and is forced to stay for 48 days on the river for repairs, Cook and his crew captured “eight or nine” turtles (tellingly, Banks refers repeatedly to “our turtles”).

A contingent of local Guugu Yimithirr men board HMS Endeavour and try to take at least one turtle back, but Cook’s men soon wrest it away – refusing to share or acknowledge the possibility they’d taken too many.

Lamenting this environmental loss, a group of warriors light the grass fires in protest (“I had little Idea of the fury with which the grass burnt in this hot climate, nor of the dificulty of extinguishing it when once lighted”, Banks writes) and Cook shoots one of the Guugu Yimithirr men.

The rising tension is then released by an older man who stands forward in an extraordinary act of governance and breaks the tip off a spear to signify “weapons down”.

‘… in reality they are far more happier than we Europeans’

The incident brought together threads still relevant in Indigenous-settler relations today: environmental care, reconciliation and cultural governance. And this collision of beliefs, it seems, was not lost on Cook.

As he sailed off from the tip of Cape York, Cook wrote an unusual diary entry:

From what I have said of the Natives of New-Holland, they may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon Earth, but in reality they are far more happier than we Europeans; being wholy unacquainted not only with the superfluous but the necessary conveniencies so much sought after in Europe, they are happy in not knowing the use of them.

They live in a Tranquillity which is not disturb’d by the Inequality of Condition: The Earth and sea of their own accord furnishes them with all things necessary for life; they covet not Magnificent Houses, Houshold-stuff […]
[…] they live in a warm and fine Climate and enjoy a very wholsome Air, so that they have very little need of Clothing and this they seem to be fully sencible of, for many to whome we gave Cloth to, left it carlessly upon the Sea beach and in the woods as a thing they had no manner of use for.

In short they seem’d to set no Value upon any thing we gave them, nor would they ever part with any thing of their own for any one article we could offer them; this, in my opinion argues that they think themselves provided with all the necessarys of Life and that they have no Superfluities —

For a working class man from Georgian England to see and appreciate the cultural values of Indigenous people is remarkable, considering that clarity of understanding is only just dawning on the average Australian.

The role of Joseph Banks

After all the conversations I’ve had over the last year with historians, traditional owners and curators, I’ve come to believe that history has been unkind to Cook. He is blamed for the many wrongs inflicted on my people.

Joseph Banks, however, emerges as a much colder, unkinder figure. It was Banks who convinced the British government that Australia would be perfect for a penal colony, given it could no longer send convicts to America.

Banks’s view that Australia was “thinly inhabited” (and he speaks frequently of savagery and simplicity of its people) fed directly into the declaration of terra nullius. Banks never went inland, but declared with great hubris that it was almost certainly “totally uninhabited”.

In the end, the decisions made in the 18 years between Cook leaving and the First Fleet arriving have shaped modern Australia far more than those early fleeting ethereal encounters.

There are so many lost chapters in the story of Australia.

But as a nation, we can invite Uncle Tommy and his people – and all those other excluded songs and stories – to come out of hiding.

Revealing our shared history is the only way to make peace with those ghostly visitors of the past. But we will only find that peace in the truth and it’s the truth of our history, which will be our new voyage of discovery.


Alison Page was commissioned by the National Museum of Australia to create the film The Message for the museum’s Endeavour 250 exhibition, opening on April 8.The Conversation

Alison Page, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Make no mistake: Cook’s voyages were part of a military mission to conquer and expand

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Make no mistake: Cook’s voyages were part of a military mission to conquer and expand

Stephen Gapps, University of Newcastle

Captain James Cook arrived in the Pacific 250 years ago, triggering British colonisation of the region. We’re asking researchers to reflect on what happened and how it shapes us today. You can see other stories in the series here and an interactive here.


The military nature of the Endeavour’s voyage – as part of an aggressive reconnaissance and defence against Indigenous resistance – has historically been overlooked or downplayed.

But musket fire was used many times to teach lessons of British military superiority. Violence underscored almost all of Cook’s Pacific encounters with Indigenous peoples.

In the broader strategic sense – as all 18th and early 19th century scientific voyages were – Cook’s voyages were part of a European drive to conquer. The aim was to claim resources and trade in support of the British Empire’s expansion.

At its heart, Cook’s first voyage was first and foremost a Royal Navy expedition and he was chosen as a military commander who had a background in mathematics and cartography.

A new series from The Conversation.

Imperial science and ‘ships of force’

During the “great age” of Pacific voyaging, expeditions always had several goals at once.

Cook’s first voyage in 1769 occurred during the perennial cold war of Anglo-French rivalry after what has been regarded as the first global conflict, the Seven Years War (1756-1763). This was also at the height of the promotion of “imperial science” – the idea that scientific advancement and colonial expansion were twin goals.

As industrialisation drove upheaval in Europe, scientific “discovery” was seen as a critical part of establishing, developing and controlling an empire.

The seeds of Cook’s “secret instructions” to seek out the fabled southern continent were sown by an astronomer, Professor Thomas Hornsby.

In 1766 Hornsby called for a “settlement in the great Pacific Ocean” led by “some ships of force”. This expedition would be advantageous to astronomers, but also “add a lustre” to a nation already distinguished “both in arts and arms”. It seemed a natural fit to the scientist Hornsby that the Royal Navy spearhead a British presence in the Pacific.

Even Cook, as was expected of any sea-going commander visiting distant stations, made military reconnaissance notes.

In November 1768, when the Endeavour reprovisioned at Rio de Janeiro, the local Viceroy was suspicious of a voyage supposedly to observe the transit of Venus. He suspected Cook of seeking to extend British influence in the Pacific.

Cook duly noted in his journal the state of local defences in and around Rio de Janeiro and that

it would require five or Six sail of the Line to insure Success.

Cook felt insulted at being carefully watched and had a low opinion of the Viceroy’s scientific ignorance. But, in fact, the Viceroy was correct.

After opening his supplementary instructions (so-called “secret orders” issued by the British Navy) Cook headed off to attempt to find and claim for Great Britain the supposed southern land thought to exist in the vast southern ocean.




Read more:
The stories of Tupaia and Omai and their vital role as Captain Cook’s unsung shipmates


Policy emanated from the barrel of a gun

Every European ship that voyaged the Pacific was, in the first instance, a floating fortress; an independent command with the ability to send out small shore parties or to concentrate firepower as needed.

And this was at the heart of all contact, all encounters, all attempts at communication with Pacific and other peoples. Make no mistake, restraint in British policy and conduct with Indigenous peoples in the Pacific emanated from the barrel of a gun.

Cook’s voyaging did not take place on a blank canvas, but across a rich tapestry of thriving, voyaging cultures that were ultimately the target of European aggression.

Cook has often been feted as one of the few 18th century voyaging captains renowned for his “tolerance” of Indigenous people and cultures. But ultimately, this was a tactic used in pursuit of domination. The best military commander only rarely has to resort to open conflict.

A lesson learned well before Cook

Cannon – such as those Cook dumped overboard to lighten his ship after he struck the Great Barrier Reef in 1770 – make good museum objects and monuments in public parks.

But like those on Cook’s ship the HMB Endeavour, the fact is many cannon on later voyages were hardly used – if ever. The power of artillery fire had been swiftly learned by Pacific peoples since Europeans first arrived in the 1500s, many years before Cook.

Resistance warfare occurred across the Pacific from the 1500s right through to conflicts such as Samoan resistance to German imperial rule in 1908. But like the Australian Frontier Wars, these conflicts have often been neglected by military historians.

Yet conflict across the Pacific was surprisingly inter-connected, and influenced military thinking back in Europe.

A long history of oceanic warfare and navigation

One such example is The Battle of Mactan in 1521, in which Indigenous warriors in the Philippines fought and defeated an overconfident, numerically small Spanish force fighting under Portugal’s Ferdinand Magellan (famous for circumnavigating the globe).

And in 1595, the Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendana was searching for “Terra Australis” when he arrived in the Marquesas Islands. He was met by several hundred canoes and more than 200 Marquesans were killed in the ensuing conflict.

European voyagers were often unaware that many major island groups across the Pacific were in regular communication with each other.

At least 174 years years after the Spanish devastation in the Marquesan islands, Tupaia – the Tahitian priest and navigator with knowledge of more 70 islands in the Pacific – joined the Endeavour voyage, in effect as a pilot and intermediary.

Tupaia drew a map with more than 130 islands on it, and included the Marquesas Islands on it. He described to Cook and Joseph Banks how, in the distant past, four islands were visited by ships similar to the Endeavour. His map drew on Pacific knowledge of previous conflicts and navigation techniques.

Tuaia’s first map of the Pacific islands.
Wikimedia

When the British captain Samuel Wallis arrived at Tahiti in the HMS Dolphin in 1767, just two years before Cook, according to Jean-Claude Teriierooiterai, the Ari’i Amo (king) of Tahiti probably recognised these voyagers as the same white people who had attacked the Marquesans.

Around 100 double war canoes loaded with stones attacked the Dolphin for four days until Wallis fired his cannon into the Tahitian fleet (and at villages ashore for good measure). The Tahitians rightly regarded this firepower as all but invincible and soon became hospitable.

Attack of Samuel Wallis and his crew aboard The Dolphin by the people of Otaheite, Tahiti.
Royal Museums Greenwich

When the French voyager Louis-Antoine de Bougainville arrived at Tahiti a year later, he thought the Tahitians the friendliest people in the world, living in a paradise. He did not know that he had Wallis’ cannon fire to thank for his reception.

It is important to remember the military factors in Cook’s and all other voyagers experiences in the Pacific and around Australia. They remind us of what underlined, if not defined, cross-cultural encounter moments.

Addressing the fact that these expeditions were all of a military nature reminds us that European colonisation was resisted from its very first moments.The Conversation

Stephen Gapps, Conjoint Lecturer, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

250 years since Captain Cook landed in Australia, it’s time to acknowledge the violence of first encounters

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250 years since Captain Cook landed in Australia, it’s time to acknowledge the violence of first encounters

Phoebe Roth, The Conversation; Sophia Morris, The Conversation, and Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation

Captain James Cook arrived in the Pacific 250 years ago, triggering British colonisation of the region. We’re asking researchers to reflect on what happened and how it shapes us today. You can see other stories in the series here and an interactive here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander listeners should be aware the podcast accompanying this story contains the names of people who are deceased.


It’s 250 years since Captain James Cook set foot in Australia, and there’s a growing push to fully acknowledge the violence of Australia’s colonial past.

On today’s episode of the podcast, historian Kate Darian-Smith of the University of Tasmania explains that the way Australia has commemorated Cook’s arrival has changed over time – from military displays in 1870 to waning interest in Cook in the 1950s, followed by the fever-pitch celebrations of 1970.

Now, though, a more nuanced debate is required, she says, adding that it’s time to discuss the violence that Cook’s crew meted out to Indigenous people after stepping ashore at Botany Bay.

“I think discussing those violent moments is quite confronting for many Australians, but also sits within wider discussions about Aboriginal rights and equality in today’s Australia,” Darian-Smith told The Conversation’s Phoebe Roth.

In her companion essay here, co-authored with Katrina Schlunke, Darian-Smith argues many of the popular “re-enactments” of national “foundation moments” in Australia’s past have elements of fantasy, compressing time and history into palatable narratives for mainstream Australia.

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Additional audio credits

Kindergarten by Unkle Ho, from Elefant Traks.

Podcast episode recorded by Phoebe Roth and edited by Sophia Morris.

Tasfilm report on the 1970 commemorations of Cook’s arrival.

1970 news report of protest.

Lead image

David Crosling/AAP




Read more:
As we celebrate the rediscovery of the Endeavour let’s acknowledge its complicated legacy


The Conversation


Phoebe Roth, Deputy Editor, Health+Medicine, The Conversation; Sophia Morris, Editorial Intern, The Conversation, and Sunanda Creagh, Head of Digital Storytelling, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Captain Cook ‘discovered’ Australia, and other myths from old school text books

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Captain Cook ‘discovered’ Australia, and other myths from old school text books

A picture titled ‘Captain Cook taking possession of the Australian continent on behalf of the British crown, AD 1770’. Drawn and engraved by Samuel Calvert from an historical painting by Gilfillan in the possession of the Royal Society of Victoria.
Trove/National Library of Australia

Louise Zarmati, University of Tasmania

Captain James Cook arrived in the Pacific 250 years ago, triggering British colonisation of the region. We’re asking researchers to reflect on what happened and how it shapes us today. You can see other stories in the series here, and an interactive here.


Approaching the 250th anniversary of Cook’s first journey to the Pacific, The Conversation asked readers what they remembered learning at school about his arrival in Australia.

Most people said they learnt Cook “discovered” Australia – especially if they were at school before the 1990s.

Screenshot from Facebook.com

Depending on when you went to school, you may have learnt differently about Captain Cook’s role in Australian history. To find out how the teaching of Cook in Australian schools has changed, I examined textbooks used in the 1950s until today.

Screenshot from Facebook.com

School years 1950s and early 1960s

Conquering the Continent, 1961.
Author provided

If you were at school after the second world war to the mid-1960s, Australia still had strong links to the British Empire.

Cook was portrayed as a one of the greatest explorers in history and textbooks presented clear messages Cook “discovered” Australia and “took possession” of the land for England.

The 1959 Queensland text Social Studies for Standard VIII (Queensland) by G.T Roscoe said Cook “landed on Possession Island, hoisted the Union Jack, claiming the country for the King of England”.

A new series from The Conversation.

In Conquering the Continent (1961), C.H. Wright mentions some contact with Indigenous people at Botany Bay, but there is no mention of conflict. Wright writes

The blacks offered little resistance; they quickly stood off after being frightened by gun shots.

C.H. Wright, 1961. Conquering the Continent: The story of the Exploration and settlement of Australia.
Author provided

School years 1965 to 1979

Birth of a Nation, 1974., Author provided

If you went to school between 1965 and 1979, you were learning during the era of the Whitlam, Fraser and Hawke governments.

This was when awareness was beginning to grow of the negative impact of colonisation on Australia’s Indigenous people.

E.S. Elphick’s 1974 Birth of a Nation continued the “discovery and possession” narrative, but acknowledged Indigenous people were in Australia beforehand:

The first Australians came here at least 30,000 years ago, and for all but the last 200 years of this period enjoyed uninterrupted possession of the land they came to[…] The white man, in fact, took a very long time to arrive.

Paul Ashton’s chapter in David Stewart’s Investigating Australian History Using Evidence (1985) encouraged students to “work as historians” by examining primary sources (in this case old maps) and evaluating interpretations of history.

Ashton emphasised the importance of the scientific “discovery”:

Cook’s achievements were indeed great, as were his talents as a navigator. At last, a reasonably accurate chart of the east coast of Australia could be added to European knowledge of the continent, along with a mass of natural and scientific discoveries. However, the discovery was not as yet completed […]

School in 1981 to 1995

If you went to school in the 1980s and early to mid ‘90s, you may have learnt history from a more inclusive perspective that included the lived experiences of those who were largely left out of the traditional narrative, such as children, women and Indigenous people.




Read more:
‘I spoke about Dreamtime, I ticked a box’: teachers say they lack confidence to teach Indigenous perspectives


But in Australia: All Our Yesterdays (1999), author Meg Grey Blanden presented a benign account of Cook facing no resistance from Indigenous people:

On a small island now named Possession Island, Cook performed the last and most important official task of his entire voyage. Like others of his time, Cook was undeterred by the presence of native people on the island. He noted that they obligingly departed and left the Europeans to get on with their ceremony.

School in 1996 to 2015

In the first decade of the 21st century, history was embedded into social studies in all states and territories, except New South Wales. Australian colonial history focused on “discovery”, foundation and expansion was relegated to years four to six.

Some teachers may have chosen to use critical inquiry to teach about Cook’s expedition in year nine. Most tended to focus on the more complicated 20th century history of world wars and progress in year nine and ten syllabuses.

Screenshot from Facebook.com

The Australian Curriculum, which was implemented in all schools from 2012, has maintained this chronological divide of historical knowledge. In year four, students learn about Cook by “examining the journey of one or more explorers of the Australian coastline … using navigation maps to reconstruct their journeys”.

It would be unusual for secondary teachers these days to teach their students about Cook because the topic is not in the secondary curriculum.

This means if children do not learn about Cook’s achievements in the primary years it’s quite possible if they were asked what they learnt about Cook in school, they may not know anything about him.The Conversation

Louise Zarmati, Lecturer in Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Newscorp runs Government

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Regulators expect Google and Facebook to sue the Government over a looming “mates-deal” to protect Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Nine Entertainment from competition. Taxpayers will be on the hook. Quentin Dempster reports on the latest media battle.

With Australians about to lose their local and metropolitan newspaper coverage the competition watchdog, having been sent to the rescue, is now facing the prospect of lawsuits from tech giants Google and Facebook.

This became clear as Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims revealed the ACCC now had “considerable vital and urgent” work to be done to develop the world’s first mandatory news media revenue sharing laws. The draft laws will be ready by July and are likely to be legislated with bipartisan parliamentary support later this year.

The laws will stipulate that digital platforms, which include the market dominant Google and Facebook, will have to comply with “the monetisation and the sharing of revenue generated from news through data sharing, ranking and display of news”.

But because the new laws will mandate “revenue sharing” rather than a European “Google tax“ or an “aggregators’ fee” imposed in Spain, the ACCC has asked its legal advisers to frame the legislation in anticipation of a legal challenge in the Federal Court and ultimately the High Court to test both competition and copyright law in Australia. Any precedent established in Australia is likely to have flow on effects in all other jurisdictions worldwide.

Google and Facebook, both United States enterprises, have devastated American local and metropolitan media with closures of print mastheads across the US after collapsing ad revenues, rapid circulation declines, dramatically depleted local coverage and the vaporising of thousands of media industry jobs. There has been little or nothing traditional print media companies in the US have been able to do about it.

Print and online media have been devastated by the loss of advertising

Former News Corp CEO Kim Williams told an Australia Institute “Media in Crisis” webinar that, while regional print was effectively over, all Australia’s metropolitan masthead newspapers also were now “terminal” within a matter of years.

The pot calls the kettle

News Corp’s Australian newspapers are quick to attack union leaders and local government bureaucrats for being overpaid, but somehow they’ve missed the biggest salary looting exercise by their own bosses in the history of public company capitalism.

Google Australia cut the ribbon on its new offices on the foreshore of Darling Harbour in mid 2009. The “Googleplex” is just a stone’s throw from the Sydney headquarters of Fairfax Media.

Fairfax paid $175 million in tax that year. Google paid zero. Last year, their revenues in Australia were roughly $2 billion apiece, but Google’s total tax expense was only $466,802 while Fairfax, although reeling from a $275 million pre-tax loss, still paid $38 million in tax on top.

Australian tax authorities should/must ignore royalties, service fees, cost mark ups and other structures (usually directed through tax havens) as being no more than internal transfers of cash. Tax deductions against local revenue should be no more than a pro rata share of the consolidated result. Such arrangements would likely restore Australia to the same corporate tax basis it enjoyed prior to the 1980s.

Australian Companies Revenue 2017 – 2018

Regulators expect Google and Facebook to sue the Government over a looming “mates-deal” to protect Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Nine Entertainment from competition. Taxpayers will be on the hook. Quentin Dempster reports on the latest media battle.

With Australians about to lose their local and metropolitan newspaper coverage the competition watchdog, having been sent to the rescue, is now facing the prospect of lawsuits from tech giants Google and Facebook.

This became clear as Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims revealed the ACCC now had “considerable vital and urgent” work to be done to develop the world’s first mandatory news media revenue sharing laws. The draft laws will be ready by July and are likely to be legislated with bipartisan parliamentary support later this year.

The laws will stipulate that digital platforms, which include the market dominant Google and Facebook, will have to comply with “the monetisation and the sharing of revenue generated from news through data sharing, ranking and display of news”.

But because the new laws will mandate “revenue sharing” rather than a European “Google tax“ or an “aggregators’ fee” imposed in Spain, the ACCC has asked its legal advisers to frame the legislation in anticipation of a legal challenge in the Federal Court and ultimately the High Court to test both competition and copyright law in Australia. Any precedent established in Australia is likely to have flow on effects in all other jurisdictions worldwide.

Google and Facebook, both United States enterprises, have devastated American local and metropolitan media with closures of print mastheads across the US after collapsing ad revenues, rapid circulation declines, dramatically depleted local coverage and the vaporising of thousands of media industry jobs. There has been little or nothing traditional print media companies in the US have been able to do about it.

But under the proposed new laws here, the Australian Communications and Media Authority will be the assigned digital platform regulator with enforcement powers through fines and copyright “take down” orders.

The ACCC’s digital platforms inquiry last year, the most comprehensive investigation ever undertaken, recommended requirements for “designated agents of digital platforms” to be available during Australian business hours and for bulk notifications to stop and penalise repeated infringements.

Google and Facebook both say they had been negotiating in good faith for the development of a voluntary code before Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher intervened last week to order the ACCC to urgently move to develop a mandatory and enforceable code. The ACCC had formally reported to the government that any voluntary code appeared to be non-negotiable.

“Google this”, Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian provocatively headlined when breaking the news of the Treasurer’s determination to regulate the tech giants. News Corp Australia’s chairman Michael Miller and Nine Entertainment CEO Hugh Marks have been leading the lobby pressure on the Morrison Government for regulation. Both entities operate pay walls for access to their many masthead sites but have complained that the tech giants effectively plagiarise their news articles through what are called “snippets”, short descriptions which appear when users “google” a topic or question.

Nine, which publishes The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Australian Financial Review has a separate commercial arrangement with Google but has demanded tech platform regulation nevertheless.

Google and Facebook have argued that the use of “snippets’ is allowable under fair dealing conventions and generate click-through traffic to news sites from which paying subscribers may be signed up. The ACCC inquiry did not recommend banning or licensing the use of snippets, instead urging parties to negotiate commercially over their content and length”

In the last 10 years as the tech giants gathered user ubiquity and market power in Australian advertising and commercially exploitable mass consumer data, the loss of revenue, coming after “rivers of gold” classified advertising migrated to separate website businesses from the 1990s, has hit even harder.

In the ten years to 2018, a net total of 106 newspapers closed. The ACCC found 21 local government areas initially serviced by at least one local or regional newspaper were left with no coverage.

And now through the COVID-19 pandemic all print and online media have been devastated by the further loss of advertising during the national lockdown.

Regional mastheads have suspended their print editions during the crisis. News Corp suspended the print editions of 60 community newspapers. So severe is the revenue impact that the Federal Government has announced $100million of direct financial stimulus and grants to help save regional media from insolvency.

It seems unlikely that many of these print mastheads will return after the COVID-19 lockdown. And last week former News Corp CEO Kim Williams told an Australia Institute “Media in Crisis” webinar that, while regional print was effectively over, all Australia’s metropolitan masthead newspapers also were now “terminal” within a matter of years.

While their names may live online with digital subscription revenues increasing, metro newspaper circulations were still rapidly declining caused by the loss of advertising revenues and consequential depleted coverage.

The ACCC’s digital platforms inquiry found that while total advertising expenditure in Australia has risen with population growth to $16 billion annually by 2018, radio, TV, outdoor and cinema and print ad revenues have fallen consistently since 2007. By 2018 Google, Facebook, and online classified sites had taken half — $8 billion. Although the ACCC has coercive powers to break through commercial-in-confidence secrecy, it has not posted any conclusive findings on the revenues calculated to be generated specifically by news content searchable on both Google and Facebook.

The digital revolution in Australia has produced free online-only starts ups like Guardian Australia, The New Daily, The Conversation and Michael West Media which should all benefit financially from any revenue sharing. These free news and current affairs sites acknowledge they all benefit from user traffic directed to them via Google search, Facebook, Twitter and social media generally. They are happy that their content is freely accessible as is the content from the public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS.

There is concern that if the ABC and SBS earn income from any new level playing field revenue sharing regime a hostile federal government will simply discount their taxpayer appropriations by the requisite quantum each year. This is likely to be a contentious point as both public broadcasters complain of funding starvation. Kim Williams, currently chairman of the Copyright Agency, told last week’s webinar that the ACCC’s mandatory code may not be the way to go to build a dynamic, competitive Australian news media industry particularly at the regional and local level.

Negotiations with the digital platforms have involved only 25 invited Australian media companies but not the now substantial freelance journalism sector.

“The ACCC is generally disinclined to support collecting society models,” Mr Williams said. Such models as the Australian Performing Rights Association, the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia, Screen Rights and the Copyright Agency operated under the Copyright Act and consolidated monies which were distributed to original content creators and publishers through usage and sampling technologies. “This is about copyright. The digital companies use material without properly compensating the true owners of that material,” he said.

The ACCC’s Rod Sims would not respond to Mr Williams’ remarks, instead saying the ACCC was “under direction” from the Federal Government to develop “a mandatory bargaining code that addresses the imbalance in bargaining power between Australian news media businesses and each of Google and Facebook”.

“Various issues will be considered during the code’s development, including its scope and potential arrangements for determining the value of content”.

But while the ACCC drafts its new laws in anticipation of a time-consuming test case from Google and Facebook, it may already be too late for much of
Australia’s remaining and still struggling advertising-dependent media.

As Quentin Dempster says, Google and Facebook have vaporised traditional media jobs and revenues. At Michael West Media, we agree Google and Facebook should pay for content but any deal which favours traditional media over independent media would simply entrench the power of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and Nine Entertainment which are organs of government and corporate propaganda.

It is not clear yet how content providers might be remunerated under the ACCC deliberations but coverage of the subject in Nine media suggested a size threshold may be introduced. Ominously, this augurs for yet another government “mates-deal” to subsidise friendly mainstream media.

Quentin Dempster

Quentin Dempster is a Walkley Award-winning journalist, author and broadcaster with decades of experience who now writes for The New Daily. He is a veteran of the ABC newsroom and has worked with a number of print titles including the Sydney Morning Herald. He was awarded an Order of Australia in 1992 for services to journalism.

Tax rorters 2017-2018 Groundhog Day

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Tax rorters tables - below

Alan Joyce CEO of Qantas has a take home salary of A$24,500,000 which turns out to be more than double the $10,955,067 tax Qantas begrudgingly paid to Australia. Effectively taxpayers have underwritten – kicked the can – subsidised Alan Joyce’s take home pay to the tune of $13million. And we are not even going to mention the $1billion grants and subsidies thrown Qantas way after it tossed 30,000 workers on the trash heap.

Company tax optional

About one third of large companies have once again failed to pay a cent of tax, according to the Tax Office’s latest corporate tax transparency report released on Thursday.

Tax avoidance or tax rorts?

More than one third of Australian companies have again failed to contribute to Australia

Grovelling governments keep falling over themselves in eagerness to please their masters. What’s required is endless tax cuts and corporate welfare for the rich, either deliberately unfunded or partially funded by slashing social welfare and public program funding for everyone else.

Exxon pays no income tax? Its financial statements provide a few clues: massive “debt-loading” – its Australian companies borrow billions of dollars from other Exxon companies overseas and funnel hundreds of millions of dollars offshore via interest payments on the loans.

Masters of spin. Company tax breaks, company incentives

NEOLIBERALISM IS an abomination of a term. For a start, there is nothing “new” or “liberal” about neoliberalism. It is a chimera or a chameleon, changing all the time, depending on the situation, morphing but not new. It is about much more than economics. It is an ideological belief system built around elitism and a perceived “natural order” of things, in which the 0.1% should own everything.

There is a wealth of literature and evidence, deep and wide, on many aspects of neoliberalism. How its fanciful, juvenile high principles and ideological constructs are often jettisoned in staggering hypercritical backflips and necessary “exceptions” to the rules when there’s a quid or two more to be trousered by the 1%, or some banks to be saved to pursue even more greed.

Exxon the biggest of the US oil majors, this corporation has been making fabulous profits in Australia for fifty years, yet has never paid income tax

How to minimise tax, increase write-off, obtain incentives, closed door concessions

Lobbyists, Fund raisers, Political donations

Tax rorters tables - below

Many companies have claimed tax losses and concessions that often go back several years.

There were 1,504 corporate entities in the 2017–18 data that reported tax payable of $52.3 billion — a net increase of $6.6 billion from the previous year.

The ATO’s report noted the increase was primarily driven by the mining, energy and water segment, off the back of strong commodity prices, which were up 15 per cent in Australian dollar terms in 2017–18.

ATO deputy commissioner Rebecca Saint said groups that consistently reported losses or unusually low taxable incomes were more likely to attract the ATO’s attention.

She told ABC News there were still instances of outright tax avoidance, in which multinationals attempted to shift profits outside of Australia to reduce their local taxable income, and these often resulted in the ATO’s Tax Avoidance Taskforce specialist teams undertaking audits.

“The positive trend we are now observing is that many companies have ceased generating accounting losses, and are now offsetting profits by utilising losses from prior years,” Ms Saint said.

“We expect many companies to exhaust these losses and begin paying income tax in the coming years,” she added.

The financial reports often give limited insight into a company’s Australian operations, and Mr Hirschhorn has called on companies to be far more transparent, including by providing more details about money flowing offshore to related entities in financial and/or other reports.

The ATO notes several limitations in its data. First, the 2,214 corporate tax entities are not necessarily standalone entities and are sometimes part of a group of entities.

“The majority of economic groups in the corporate transparency population have linked entities outside the scope of this measure,” the report said.

About 72 per cent of Australian private entities in the transparency population are linked to groups controlled by wealthy individuals, including high-wealth individuals.

The groups consist of close to 11,000 linked entities, including companies, trusts, partnerships and superannuation funds.

The ATO report said confidentiality provisions prevented the agency disclosing certain information about them.

“This means we cannot include details of the income and tax paid by other related entities,” the report said.

GetUp Campaigns Director Ed Miller said the tax system needed to be overhauled.

Tax rorters tables - below

ATO says it takes ‘strong action’ against tax avoidance

Ms Saint said laws passed by the Federal Government were helping the ATO take “strong action”.

She said more than $7 billion of sales income was now being booked in Australia as a result of companies, including Facebook and Google, restructuring in response to the Federal Government’s tougher anti-avoidance laws, including the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law (MAAL).

Of the 2,214 corporate entities covered in the data, 1,197 are foreign-owned companies with an income of $100 million or more.

Of the 1,017 Australian public or private entities, 594 have an income of $100 million or more, and 423 have an income of $200 million or more.

Corporate entities with an income of more than $5 billion represent only 2 per cent of the corporate transparency population but are liable for 53 per cent ($27.9 billion) of the tax payable for the population.

This share of tax payable decreased slightly from 57 per cent in the previous year, the ATO report said.

Why companies did not pay any tax

The proportion of entities with nil tax payable has fallen over the past three years, from 36 per cent in 2015-16 to 34 per cent in 2016-17 and 32 per cent in 2017-18.

“We look at the tax positions of these [large] companies very, very closely,” Ms Saint said.

“And we have observed that companies can and do make losses as part of usual business practices.”

The reasons why 710 companies did not pay any tax in 2017-18 included:

  • 269 entities that reported a taxable income but prior-year losses were available to deduct against that profit, so no tax was payable
  • 242 entities reported an accounting loss
  • 146 entities reported an accounting profit but reconciliation items (such as tax deductions allowed at higher rates than accounting permits) resulted in a tax loss
  • 53 entities reported a taxable income but were also entitled to offsets (such as the research and development tax incentive) at least equal to the tax otherwise payable

Tax rorters tables - below

Read who are the greedy, the unprincipled companies that once again decide Australian company tax is optional. COAL, GAS, LPG, OIL, ENERGY, AIRLINES

Whitehaven, Glencore, Exxon, Santos, Claremont Coal, Peabody, Puma Energy, Shell Energy, Stockland, Westfield, Toll, Virgin, Wilson parking, the list is endless. You decide if they deserve your custom.

They have paid zip, nil, na na, nothing for the privilege of creating wealth for themselves while firmly deciding that they have no intention of contributing to Australia.

Full List below

Discover which companies paid what tax, if any

Or is it more like a pittance of tax 2017-2018, according to the Tax Office’s latest corporate tax transparency report released on Thursday

Full List below

The politically connected and political donors

Almost 1,500 companies, controlled by rich Australians including Perth media billionaire Kerry Stokes, Melbourne packaging clan the Pratts and Sydney’s Belgiorno-Nettis family, are exempt from laws that require other large enterprises to file financial records that are available to the public.

For those who want to keep the loophole alive, it’s a valuable privacy measure that helps allay the fears some rich Australians have for their personal safety and let them get on with life outside of the limelight.

But to Labor’s shadow assistant treasurer, Andrew Leigh, it is, he told parliament during the week, a “cloak of invisibility” for government mates.

On each of the four sitting days this week he moved a motion to shut down the loophole. Each time, the government voted it down without debate.

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