Monday, December 9, 2013

ALP Democracy: We're Coming for Them!

I left the comment below on a post by Michelle Grattan at The Conversation: Factional chiefs triumph – again regarding the abuse of ALP National Executive by factions to prevent the membership voting on State Upper House preselections for the November 2014 Victorian elections. Grattan argues that:

It’s another triumph for Labor’s faceless men - another indication that, for all the talk of making the party more democratic, you can’t keep the factional chiefs down.

The cost of this exercise in factional muscle is anger and disillusionment among those grass roots members who thought the move to give the rank and file a say in electing the national leader might be the start of a new way of doing things. Silly them.

Michelle is on the money. My somewhat restrained response:

The National Executive are not the 'faceless men' of the old days. At least ten of them are Federal or State MPs including Bill Shorten, Anthony Albanese, Kim Carr and Stephen Conroy. Others are often in the news such as the Shop Assistant's Joe de Bruyn.

It seems that party democratisation is always just around the corner. It is a joke to be promoting community campaigning with local candidates and at the same time reverting to the worst of factional politics that goes in the opposite direction.

The dropping of charges against Victorian MP Geoff Shaw enabled a win-win situation. No anger, no losing face. Smiles all round.

The National Executive could have given us a new start - they fell at the first hurdle!

Being a life member, like many in our ageing party, I feel like it's a life sentence! However, there is something to offer new members and those thinking of joining us. It is the chance to get rid of self-interested factional hacks across the party. We're not going away. If they're not part of the solution, then we're coming for them!

Watch this space or send this to @billshortenmp and friends.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Criteria for Selecting a Liberal Party Leader

In the spirit of balance the following is a list of Selection Criteria for a Liberal Party leader:

Liberal Leader - Selection Criteria
  • Quick as a wink
  • Complete faith in the trickle-up theory of economics
  • Bowed when being duchessed
  • Looks good in lycra
  • Not suppository of all knowledge
  • Can tell the baddies from the goodies
  • Not-bad-looking daughters
  • Friends in high (media) places
  • Master of monosyllabic catch phrases
  • Fetching in orange safety vest and hardhat or butcher’s apron
  • Tunnel and rear vision
  • Parrots platitudes perfectly
  • A touch of homophobia and misogyny
  • Avoids in depth media events
  • Attends weddings and sporting events on taxpayers
  • Invisibility: Answer no questions, tell no lies
  • Agility to keep an election promise without meaning to

Any resemblance to Tony Abbott is purely intentional.

Please add your thoughts on criteria in comments.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Albanese versus Shorten: Democracy is coming... to the ALP?

All members of the Australian Labor Party and its supporters should be very pleased about the upcoming ballot for Federal leader. So should all those who are interested in seeing a healthy and vibrant democracy down under.

Update (24 Sep): It's definitely a presidential style campaign to fit the nature of politics these days. The vote for #LaborLeader has turned into a version of the US primaries. We have two party debates for ALP and union members this week: one in Sydney tonight, the other in Melbourne on Friday. Both are sure to be booked out already. You can watch the first one live on ABC24 at 7.30.

The media will be looking for knockout punches or embarrassing moments. Let's hope we get some vision and real policy ideas.

Update (23 Sep): The candidates seem to be agreeing with one another quite a lot. The latest is the cutback to single parent benefits. Are we about to enter another golden age of consensus Labor politics? Incidentally, who is the silver bodgie, Bob Hawke, supporting?

Meanwhile ALP member Patricia Amphlett aka Little Pattie has a video endorsement for comrade Albanese:

Comments are disabled for this video but you can can learn more about why "It's Time for Albo" at the Artists for Albo Facebook page where comments are allowed.

Update (21 Sep 2013): Please click to hear Bill Shorten's radio interview with Richard Glover on 20 Sep on 702 studio.(ABC Local)

Update (20 Sep 2013): Attended the Per Capita event on Thursday with Albo and will get to next Wednesday's forum with Bill.

I'm still waiting for more detailed proposals for party reform, including those to modernise the relationship with the unions and their membership. Anthony stated the obvious when he said the party without trade unions is not a Labor party. Party members need more commitment from both candidates on this vital issue.

The transcript of Albo's speech to Per Capita forum is here. The video is also now online. Does anyone has a version without SkyNews branding or the latest video from Bill Shorten's campaign??

Update (17 Sep 2013): I've just joined a Facebook group Local Labor: members supporting the Faulkner/Bracks/Carr reforms. Take a look if you're a party member or thinking of joining. It's an open group - just ask to join.
Local Labor is a cross-factional voice inside the ALP advocating on behalf of ordinary members and local branches for the implementation of urgent reforms to revitalise the Party and more deeply engage with our communities.
The decision of the National Executive to give all ALP members financial on election day is a real breakthrough, if just one important step towards a more democratic, collaborative party.

I'll be more than satisfied with either Anthony Albanese or Bill Shorten as our leader. At this stage I'm in the undecided camp with a leaning towards @Albo.

It is time to develop a set of Selection Criteria:

My suggestions include, in no priority order:

ALP Leader - Selection Criteria
  • Public profile and reputation
  • Potential election winner
  • Strong, articulate political performer
  • Vision for Australia
  • Proposals for ALP democratisation and revitalisation
  • Position on current issues: eg. Repeal of Emissions Trading Scheme/Carbon Price; Asylum Seekers/Refugees; Marriage Equality; Indigenous Australia
  • Ideas for Policy Change & Innovation
  • Personal Qualities
  • Communication skills

Please add your thoughts in comments. Will publish an updated list before ballot papers arrive.

For some balance: Criteria for Selecting a Liberal Party Leader

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Andrew Robb: Master of Weasel Words on Overseas Aid

I was no great surprise that Shadow Finance Minister and Federal member for Goldstein was party to the $4.5 billion cut to Overseas Aid announced today by the Liberal/National Coalition as part of their shameful five minutes to midnight election costings.

I'm reposting my coverage of the Goldstein forum during the 2010 election for Th!nkAboutIt, Survive Past Five: Making Poverty Political, for those who care to listen to Robb's 'qualified' support for overseas aid. The developing world can now eat his words, as the Opposition has walked away, not just from 0.7 but from 0.5 of Gross National Income by 2015.

Words such as  opportunist and populist do not come close to capturing the cynicism of this electioneering ploy.

Celebrating a child's fifth birthday is not an unusual event in Australia. However, a birthday cake with five candles and lots of cards is not what you normally expect at a political debate.
For many in the developing world surviving till your 5th birthday can be a special achievement. On average 25,000 children die each day from preventable diseases.
One of the Make Poverty History Electoral Forums drew a crowd of 280 in Melbourne's Goldstein House of Representatives seat on Friday night 28 May 2010. Over 550 birthday cards were handed to the local parliamentarian to take to Canberra instead of the customary petition. They urged all political parties to increase our Overseas Aid to the UN Millennium Development target of 0.7% of Gross National Income by 2015.
The Speakers included three candidates for this year's Federal election: Andrew Robb MP (Current Member, Liberal Party of Australia) Nick Eden (Australian Labor Party) and Neil Pilling (Australian Greens). Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia - co-sponsors of the event, also addressed the meeting.
It was an unusual political event for other reasons apart from the presence of many locals well below the voting age. It was held in the Ormond Anglican church with sponsorship from Non Government Organisations (NGOs) including those with religious ties. The audience reflected that. Mention was made in the introdcution of a health project by TEAR Australia that styles itself as 'Engaging Christians in God's work of justice and compassion'.
The focus was Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5: reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. Issues raised included the effectiveness of aid money and programs, economic and budgetary constraints, use of consultants and technical assistance, corruption, and government funding of NGOs. An audience question about 'climate change refugee visas' raised the political heat several degrees.
It was well attended for a political forum even though few of the parties' faithful seemed to be in attendance. I'm an Australian Labor Party member and recognised only one other apart from our candidate.
The video is in two parts.
First, the non-politicos: Host Jennifer Lumsden of the Micah Challenge, junior local Barbara, Tim Costello from World Vision and Chair of Make Poverty History, plus the 5th birthday presentation:
Next come the candidates of the 3 main political parties:
It's seven minutes from seventy but hopefully it's representative of their contributions. To those at the forum: If it seems unbalanced or taken out of context, please use the comments section to set the record straight. Remarks by the Greens candidate, which received the loudest applause of the evening, are absent because I was changing the tape. Sometimes two cameras and two hands are just not enough.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Anthony Albanese's Campaign Speech a Bottler

In case you missed it, here's Anthony Albanese's Campaign Speech at the official launch today.

Star quality!

Transcript of Anthony Albanese's Campaign Launch Speech


Good morning and welcome to the Australian Labor Party 2013 Federal Campaign Launch.

I would like to welcome Lara Watson and her daughter Shania to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land.

[Lara Watson Acknowledgement of Country]

Thank you Lara.

Please welcome Jessica O'Bryan, who will sing the National Anthem.

[Jessica O'Bryan sings the National Anthem]

Thank you Jessica and it’s great to be here.

Today is Father’s Day.

So I begin with a big shout out to all the fathers in the audience and at home.

And a special shout out to my son and mate Nathan, and of course his wonderful mum Carmel who are here.

Thank you for your support today and every day.

It’s certainly a Father’s Day to remember.

One of the motivations of the labour movement has always been to provide the next generation with a greater quality of life than the current one.

It’s why Labor seeks to both create and anticipate the long term future, whilst at the same time dealing with more immediate issues.

It is great to be part of a modern Labor Government that is building the jobs, the schools, the infrastructure and the hospitals of the future.

I’ve come a long way from Camperdown.

I never imagined when I was Nathan’s age that I would one day be standing here as the Deputy Labor Leader and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.

Labor seeks to govern because we understand that government can enhance opportunity and improve peoples’ lives.

Our opponents seek government because they believe it is what they are entitled to.

For Labor, government is never the end in itself. We govern so that we can build for the future. It’s the Labor way.

We built the age pension.

We built the trans-continental railway.

We built the Snowy Mountains scheme.

We opened up universities.

We built Medicare and now we’re building DisabilityCare.

Over the past six years, both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have led good nation building governments that saw us through tough global economic times.

We created almost one million jobs.

We have low inflation.

We have low interest rates.

We have higher workforce participation.

We have lower industrial disputes.

And we’ve achieved all this with a triple A credit rating.

We returned fairness to the workplace.

We are increasing the superannuation guarantee from nine to 12 percent.

We introduced the largest pension increase in Australia’s history.

We took a million of the poorest paid Australian workers out of the tax system by tripling the tax free threshold, something that I know my friend and passionate advocate for the disadvantaged Wayne Swan is particularly proud of.

We’ve taken action on climate change.

We’ve supported the development of renewable energy – and to give you just one example, more than one million solar panels have been installed across Australia on our watch.

We are delivering sustainability for the Murray Darling Basin, talked about for decades, delivered by Labor.

In infrastructure, we’ve doubled the roads budget, rebuilt one third of the interstate rail freight network and, something I’m particularly proud of, invested more in urban public transport since 2007 than all previous governments combined since Federation.

The Howard Government spent not a single cent, the same amount that Mr Abbott has promised to spend.

And of course our most important visionary infrastructure project is the National Broadband Network. The NBN will transform the way we work and the way we live.

If any single issue defines the failure of the Coalition to build for the future, it is their support for the out-dated, unreliable copper network of last century.

All these gains are at risk on September 7.

Remember Medibank – introduced by Whitlam, removed by the conservatives.

It took the great Bob Hawke to deliver and entrench Medicare, along with other social and economic reforms through the Accord.

I pay tribute today to Australia’s longest-serving Labor Prime Minister, Bob Hawke.

And I welcome Bob and Blanche here today.

Bob worked with this nation’s greatest Treasurer, who went on to become Australia’s 24th Prime Minister.

Paul Keating transformed our economy, laying the foundation for 22 years of consecutive economic growth.

He delivered the best superannuation system in the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like you to welcome Paul Keating.

I say to Bob Hawke and Paul Keating that John Howard may have become Prime Minister in 1996 but much of your tremendous legacy is intact today because you gave us long term Labor government.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve had a bit to do with John Howard.

Whatever you say about John Howard, he was a man of intellect, who had a vision for his country.

Not my vision, but a vision nonetheless.

But let there be no doubt: Tony Abbott is no John Howard.

Mr Abbott is a man mired in pessimism and stuck in the past.

He just sits in the Parliament and says no, no, no.

He’s sharp when it comes to three-word slogans, but dull when it comes to new ideas.

He’s energetic when it comes to running around Lake Burley Griffin, but he’s lazy when it comes to policy development.

If you want a bloke who can jump through tyres, you can vote for Tony Abbott.

If you want a bloke who can guide you through the next financial crisis, vote for Kevin Rudd.

Mr Abbott is a true blue conservative in every single sense of the word.

He finds comfort in the status quo. He struggles with change and because of that he offers no progress.

In today’s fast moving world, if you are standing still, the world goes straight past you.

He’ll tell you what he thinks you want to hear, but he won’t tell you what you need to know.

What you need to know is whose jobs will be destroyed by Mr Abbott’s cuts if he wins next Saturday.

While we build for the future, Mr Abbott lives in the past. He talks down our economy and he talks down our nation.

He doesn’t have a plan for next week, let alone a plan for next month, next year or a decade from now.

Where is Tony Abbott’s vision? What are his priorities?

During the debate about action on climate change, Mr Abbott described the science around the issue as “absolute crap’’.

His policy response is to plant trees – a laudable aim on its own but no answer to a problem so profound that it requires the sophistication of a market-based solution in the form of an emissions trading scheme.

It is one thing to be a climate sceptic but it is another thing altogether to be a market sceptic.

Mr Abbott is both.

When Labor asked Parliament to consider what has been recognised as the world’s best-targeted economic stimulus package to save the jobs of Australians during the global financial crisis – where was Mr Abbott?

He was snoozing in his office.

When Labor moved to wire Australia to the world via the National Broadband Network, an economic game-changer that will create jobs and revolutionise communication, Mr Abbott said he had appointed Malcolm Turnbull to “destroy’’ the project.

His words, not mine.

At least it shows Mr Abbott have does a perverse sense of humour.

We know Mr Turnbull believes in his fraudband policy of fibre to 40,000 fridge type cabinets about as much as he does in direct action on climate change – which he called “a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale”.

Let’s be clear: The Coalition’s plan is like building a four-lane bridge to a dirt road. You won’t get any benefit from that bridge unless you also widen and upgrade the road.

And it will cost you more when you have to go back and do it again later.

On Broadband we will do it once, do it right and do it with fibre.

Today Australia took over the presidency of the United Nations’ Security Council in New York. This puts our nation at the centre of global power at a critical time.

When Mr Abbott heard Australia was seeking this role in 2011 - what was his response?

He said: “I don’t think we should be spending money we don’t have to promote a cause which is unlikely to come to anything.’’

No issue is too big for Tony Abbott to show exactly how small he is.

He’s got something to offer if want someone to join you on your morning run.

But running the country? He’s not just up to it.

His ideas are too narrow, his world view is too restricted and his ambition is just too small.

The problem isn’t that Mr Abbott is stuck in the past. The problem is that he wants everyone in Australia to stay back there to keep him company.

He doesn’t like public transport.

He doesn’t like public schools.

He doesn’t like public health.

He doesn’t like public delivery of broadband.

I sense a pattern here.

Mr Abbott just doesn’t like the public.

Ladies and gentlemen, elections are about choices and in this election, the choice could not be more stark.

I've worked with Kevin Rudd for 15 years.

I have never met anyone more focused on his vision for our country.

His ambition for Australia is as big as this great country itself.

His enthusiasm for serious, ground-breaking reform in the grand Labor tradition is extraordinary.

Kevin has had his critics but one thing we know about him is that he cares about our country and he really is here to help.

Is Kevin Rudd a bit of a nerd?

You bet.

Would I pick him in a rugby team or in a boxing match ahead of Tony Abbott – no way.

But he is the right man to lead this country:

He’s the right man to build the schools and hospitals of the future.

He’s the right man to build the NBN.

He’s the right man to continue to deliver economic growth, jobs and prosperity.

He’s the right man to deliver the better schools plan.

He’s the right man to take action on climate change for this and future generations.

Kevin Rudd cares about your job, your family and your future and when he says that we all know he means it.

Kevin is going to come on stage soon and tell you about his plans.

But to introduce him, let’s hear from someone who knows him better than anyone.

Please welcome Therese Rein.

My score:

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Spin the Voter Propaganda Wheel

For some fun, play the Spin the Voter Propaganda Wheel. Choose a power & persuasion technique and then pick your favourite examples from Australian politics and/or election campaigning to match it.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Why I am in the Australian Labor Party (2)

Nicola Roxon's valedictory speech in the house of Representatives is a strong affirmation of Labor values and an excellent summary of ALP achievements since the 2007 election.

About the current state of politics:

"We can't let the critics, the naysayers and the nasties define us," she said. "The truth is, we might be down, but we're not out."

About Julia Gillard:

"We have a capable, tough, determined, smart woman as prime minister, yet she has been subjected to some of the most crass, silly, petty, sexist and just plain rude behaviour for years."

The speech in full:

The full speech may also be viewed on About the House TV. Just click on the link to the right.

From Hansard:

"I intend to start this speech rather than finish it with my personal thanks, because I think they are the easy ones to miss at the end in a rush. All that we as politicians can achieve for the community fundamentally relies on a lot of other people. Families, friends and staff help us, support us, sooth us and share our triumphs. I have been incredibly blessed on all of those fronts: a wonderful mother and sisters, the best staff imaginable—a number of them are here today; you can see that getting this out early is a good idea—and, of course, plenty of friends in and out of politics have helped to keep me sane. Most of all I thank my gorgeous, reliable and very funny husband, Michael. Together, Michael and mum helped me manage a busy life as a senior cabinet minister with a young child, the first woman to combine such roles. Without mum travelling with me for the first year while I was breastfeeding, I am not sure I would have managed, and without Michael, then and ever since, I certainly would not have. Deb and Tiffany have also helped make Rebecca the happy, confident and loving little bright spark that she is.

Mum is responsible for a number of funny moments in my political life, and the former Prime Minister might remember one of them. My favourite was in 2007 when mum marched up to Kevin, then just a newly sworn-in Prime Minister, on the very day that we were at Government House, pushing ministers to the side and demanding that he promise to give me some time off to get married, or she feared it would never happen. That is probably the only time I have seen Kevin stuck for words.

In 15 years in Canberra, I have also been very lucky to have good friends to flat with— for many years with Adrienne and for last four years with Lisa, Michael and their three children. Warm company, nonpolitical discussion and chocolate was a much needed balm on many occasions after a day in this place, and I thank them. Perhaps weirdly, I also need to thank Tony Abbott. I wish to thank him for providing the material for some of the most memorable moments of my political career: standing me up and then swearing at me at the Press Club in the 2011 election campaign, although it was awkward at the time, I think cost him and the Liberal Party much more; for producing those silly golf balls that made for an irresistible gag in the parliament; and for continuing to take donations from tobacco companies, allowing me to coin the phrase, 'Kick the habit, Mr Abbott.'

More seriously, thank you to the ALP «members» in Gellibrand and the electors of Gellibrand, allowing me the honour of representing them at five elections. From Western Health, ethnic community leaders, the Bulldogs and Maidstone community house to local councils, I have loved working with the community and hope that I have lived up to their expectations.

There have been more staff than I can thank here for their friendship and their hard work. Suffice to say that any of my successes were theirs too. I am glad some of them are here today. I am looking forward to the big cook-up that I am doing for them soon. Getting and keeping good staff is one of the best compliments a minister can get and is one of the wise investments to make in political life. I want to particularly thank my longest-serving staff «member» , Narelle, for her professionalism and friendship, and Angela for her brains and leadership over so many years. I would like to take this chance to wish Chris and Connie all the best for their upcoming wedding.

for colleagues, it is an exercise of love and loyalty to work for this great Labor cause that we believe in, but to do it together makes it even more satisfying. Thank you to my friends here, particularly to my Victorian colleagues, the class of '98 and my ministerial friends. A particular thank you to Mark, Justine, Warren and Catherine for their work as the health team during the very busy health reform days. This brings me to a special thank you to the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. She is an amazing Prime Minister, a great Labor leader and an impressive woman, and she is a good friend to me. We should be proud of her and her work, but more of that later.

Thank you also to the staff of the parliament and the two secretaries and staff of the departments of health and the Attorney-General's. People love to send up bureaucrats, especially Canberra bureaucrats, but I found you and your teams highly capable, very professional and hard-working—and I thank you. I fear that those opposite, in wanting to tap in to this common prejudice against public servants, will slash many staff without really understanding the scope of the work that they do. The PBS cannot list new drugs for sick Australians if bureaucrats do not work through the process of approval. Emergency hotlines cannot be staffed if the importance of having a person at the end of the line is not recognised, whether it is for flood assistance or a GP after-hours service. Already we know that we stand to lose more than 40 front-line health workers locally—psychologists, mental health nurses and pharmacists—if the Liberals are elected and abolish Medicare Locals, as they have committed to doing.

Of course, I could not stand up today in this place, in this line of work, and not acknowledge that it does not feel like I am giving a speech at a hard time from Labor. Even for true Labor believers there are times when it can feel frustrating or hard work to come out and support a cause that we all believe in deeply for a party that we all love deeply. But for Labor, by its nature and its causes, we are a party of optimists—a party that believes that we can, through politics and government, help improve the lives of those around us. We cannot let the critics, the nay-sayers and the nasties define us. They are never going to acknowledge our hundreds of achievements, so the truth is we might be down but we are not out. Our party is older than the nation itself. Our causes are timeless, although they take on different forms over different decades.

Whether it was Medicare and the Snowy Mountains schemes of the past or DisabilityCare and the National Broadband Network of the future, Labor are the only party that delivers compassion and nation building in equal measure. We can and should be proud of this. We can and should focus more on this. We have allowed internal tensions to overshadow our core mission for too long. We are a proud party with a proud record; now we need to start behaving like one.

Politics moves so fast these days that we find it hard to reflect on and absorb what has been done. The media struggle to report policies that salve decades-old ailments, preferring the daily itch. Perfect examples of this are the NDIS, health reform, the National Plan for School Improvement and the NBN, even the new ASIO review system. These are structural, compassionate, complex reforms and investments that will deliver lasting improvements for the nation. Because progressive parties like ours want to achieve so much, we do not often take the time to reflect enough on what has been achieved.

Labor in government has been so busy, arguably too busy, that we have been on to the next challenge without taking the time to stop, appreciate and be proud of all the work that we are doing. Retiring gives me a good excuse to pause and focus on what has changed in my time here; locally in my electorate of Gellibrand, but more broadly for the nation. Not all my hopes of 15 years ago in my first speech have been fulfilled—that is true; becoming a republic is one of them. But a great many others have, and those issues that are left and new ones to come just underline the point that Labor's mission is still a work in progress, not one where our work is complete.

Locally we can take great pride in the reduction in unemployment and pulling many thousands of families living in poverty up into better circumstances. We have opened up university for more kids than ever before. We have set up the National Congress for Australia's First Peoples. We have ensured that people have better access to doctors and nurses when they need them, and more chance of becoming them if that is what they want. We have put fairness back into the workplace and introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

As an issue I raised strongly in my first speech, I am pleased that we have achieved much for women; although that path still has a long way to travel. We should celebrate supporting pay equality for the lowest-paid women in the workforce; increasing government assistance for child care; having the first female Governor-General, Attorney-General and Prime Minister; and better protection from violence against women and children in family laws. And we have paid parental leave—at last—thanks to Labor.

We can be proud of those things and many more, yet I cannot help but despair a bit on this front as well. We have a capable, tough, smart, determined woman as our Prime Minister, yet she has been subjected to some of the most crass, silly, petty, sexist and just plain rude behaviour for years. At the same time we have the Defence Force grappling with degrading, demeaning and plain awful treatment of women in and out of the workforce. The proper treatment of women has long been a priority for me. In the law, before I came here, I acted for too many women, young and old, who were treated appallingly in their workplaces—from pizza shops to TAFE colleges. These latest events show us that there is a dangerous underbelly still compromising women in Australia and that the feminist cause is just as urgent as before.

It really is time for people to understand how corrosive sexism is, to acknowledge that it deliberately sets out to diminish authority and sideline the real issues, and to realise how constantly sexualising women disempowers them and how extreme and violent language can turn into or encourage violent and dangerous behaviour. I am proud to be on this side of the House amongst so many Labor women and men fighting to tackle these issues that affect so many Australians in many walks of life. Men are joining women in these fights. Stephen Smith, as the Minister for Defence, could not have been more clear in his expectations for our military despite his strong stand being criticised initially within defence. Bill is fighting to get rights to request part-time work into our laws. Simon and Kevin, as leaders, were never afraid to have good women in senior roles in their show.

Personally, I would like to thank Joe Ludwig for covering me so willingly while I was on maternity leave, and Anthony Albanese for insisting that I be given leave to attend Rebecca's first day at school. These fights are both small and big, national and personal. I am proud that, for Labor, it is the men and women fighting together for these changes. These changes will make us a better nation. They will utilise the nation's potential more thoroughly. After all, is that not what Labor is about? Whether it is women fulfilling their potential freely or getting all Australians access to high-speed broadband whether they are in city or country, rich or poor, for education, for employment or just for fun, or better schooling for kids who need the most help, this is the great work of our party. These issues along with many others highlight that our work is not yet done here and that our efforts are all part of a long Labor continuum that will continue well past today. Each step is just one in the great sweep of Labor history, taking years if not decades to build a better country.

As we fight each and every new challenge, we must remember that Labor is on the side of the nation's history. It is a record and history we need to discuss more widely and use to help shape a positive future. Focus on this example: when I was elected 15 years ago, a bright young kid in my electorate who dreamed of being a doctor could not train in the west of Melbourne at all. Now they can study in new science labs at Braybrook secondary school, or they can do their whole medical training in the west at Sunshine Hospital or at Werribee. Sunshine Hospital is home to Melbourne University's first new medical school in a century. They can train near home where their professional skills are sorely needed in a community they understand and are part of—all because of Labor investments. This story is replicated across the country, from the first Northern Territory medical school—making a medical degree more of an option for Indigenous kids wanting to stay close to land—to the Blacktown clinic or school training much needed health staff for the busy western suburbs of Sydney.

Of course, not all our kids want to be doctors, so we have invested in other facilities. In my electorate, budding young chefs can visit the hospitality school at Victoria University or see the new aviatronic centre being built at Footscray City College—all built as part of Labor's education revolution. We are the ones who rebuilt the schools and kept the nation's tradies in employment when other countries dipped into severe recession. We are the ones who invested in hospital, cancer and GP infrastructure. The states let down communities like Bega, Albury, Nepean, Whyalla, Townsville and so many more.

We have invested in people as well as infrastructure. In my part of the country that is the ring road, regional rail and now Melbourne Metro. All the while, the Liberals are promising to ease traffic burdens in the east. But this story is replicated across the nation. And that is not even to mention some of the long list of small investments, nevertheless significant, in Gellibrand such as the community chef in Altona; wonderful new housing for the homeless and disabled; the Australian Ballet warehouse; the Yarraville community centre; the Bulldogs sports centre; community child care; and green investments in industries such as Toyota and CSR sugar. The point is that locally and nationally we are giving people a better future, investing to build a nation and investing compassionately.

In my first speech, I mentioned my dad having died from cancer of the oesophagus when I was young. I did not imagine then that I would be later staring down tobacco companies and defending our actions in the High Court or that I would be speaking to the United Nations about our world-first plain packaging laws. Nor did I expect to be serenaded by Simon Chapman and Paul Grogan with their unique take on the song Leader of the Pack or to have Michael Bloomberg declaring in his New York drawl that 'when it comes to health prevention Nicola Roxon is a rock star'! I am very proud of that work. Whether it was my father dying too young 35 years ago or Minister Emerson's brother just last month, I am proud that we are trying to reduce the harm to other families. And I am proud of our regional cancer centres, PBS listings, High Court appointments and properly recognising midwives and nurses. I must say that the national pricing of performance measures in health and establishing e-health records must rate amongst the least sexy reforms to advocate, but they will enable efficiency and innovation into the future. I could keep going on with a much longer list—from the importance of setting up the royal commission into child abuse to at last seeing a national children's commissioner established—but I would keep you all here until dinnertime.

From here on in, it is about members like all of you here and branch members, candidates and an army of Labor believers who will have a chance to play their part in the ongoing Labor story that we all work so hard to shape and deliver. The nation needs you to tackle the growing insecurity in employment that is starting to haunt workers, particularly women. We need you to jump on racism rearing its head again, whether in the AFL or close to home with the Sunshine police mocking our African communities. We need you to protect the environment and be champions of our mental health and dental care reforms. There are so many new chapters yet to be written in Labor's grand history and it is our collective responsibility to keep focused on this purpose, delivering to those in the community who need us to voice and act on their concerns. Nation-building and compassion, looking after those who need a bit more help and a lot more opportunity—this is Labor's enduring mission, it is one to be proud of, and it is a mission that we should fight for. Thank you."

For more please see my original post: Why I am in the Australian Labor Party

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why I am in the Australian Labor Party

Nineteen year-old Brontë Cleary joined the Australian Labor Party recently, more than forty years after I took the pledge. Her story is a positive response to the recent deluge of negative coverage:
Why I joined Labor

After reading Andrew MacLeod’s piece on The Age website about why he left the Labor Party, I found myself reflecting on the reasons I decided to join up in January and, more importantly, why I’m in it for the long haul.
Unlike Andrew she isn’t looking for a new centre-left party:
Today, the Labor Party’s belief in social justice is reflected in countless policies. The recent change to the Sex Discrimination Act will reduce violence against women and children, while the delivery of DisabilityCare will impact a long-marginalised group of Australians.

While there are vocal and – at times – very public debates within the Labor Party on issues like marriage equality and asylum seekers, I know by being a vocal and active member of the Party that I can fight for my personal beliefs and for a stronger Labor Party.
Andrew McLeod argues for the creation of new political parties on the progressive and conservative sides of politics. On the right he’s too late as the Liberal Party has given up any pretence of small-‘l’ liberalism and might as well call itself Conservative. On the left, perhaps he wants to see a re-birth of the Australian Democrats or a more electorally acceptable version of the Greens. Good luck!

Climate Change and Industry Minister Greg Combet addressed the National Press Club on 6 June 2013. His speech The Clean Energy Future - One Year On didn’t get much publicity but it is a gem. It was a mixture of reasoned arguments about the government’s climate policies and an impassioned call to defend the positive record of the last five and a half years:
We will fight to win the election. 
Our economic management has been strong through difficult international times:
  • we have solid economic growth, and relatively low inflation and unemployment;
  • private investment remains strong; and
  • contrary to the Opposition's hysteria, debt to GDP is low. 
We have made hugely beneficial reforms for the economy and the community:
  • in education - to improve schools and improve the opportunities for kids from less advantaged circumstances;
  • in universities - dramatically increasing the number of places in degree courses, especially for young people from low income families;
  • in health - making huge extra investments in healthcare, in extra doctors and nurses, in mental health, in dental health and in aged care;
  • in support for families and pensioners - with a record increase in the pension, the child care rebate, a paid parental leave scheme, improved family tax benefits, and better superannuation savings for workers;
  • in workplace relations - protecting people's rights at work;
  • in supporting people with disabilities;
  • in delivering broadband, and massive infrastructure investments;
  • in promoting innovation, and supporting people through structural change in the economy.
I could go on - it's a long list. 
They are all things worth fighting for. 
And fight we will.
I’ve been a member of countless ALP branches in Victoria, as well as in the NT and Western Australia. Others can talk better about what the party stands for. The overwhelming majority of the people I’ve met have shared common values and a vision of where we should be headed. There has been plenty of debate, sometimes positive and sometimes wasteful brawling centring on personalities and factionalism.

There have been plenty of issues that have caused division within the party since I first voted. War, conscription, uranium mining, East Timor, the US alliance, State aid to non-government schools are just a few. The current policy failures such as treatment of asylum seekers and same sex marriage will be worked through.

There have always been tensions between the rank-and-file and the party organization, particularly when in government. The power of unions and factions has been hotly debated at least since the 1960s. Ironically, today’s ‘faceless men’ have national profiles. Their relationship with the party is one that urgently needs thrashing out. However, it must be remembered that during some of the darkest days following electoral debacles, the unions have been a key part in Labor’s survival and revival.

After attending Julia Gillard's Community Cabinet on 17 April in Ringwood Victoria, this was part of my response:
Somewhat upexpected was the very warm and loud reception Julia Gillard received from the standing-room only crowd. At times it felt more like one of Gough Whitlam's public meetings, with plenty of true believers in attendance. In addition, the government's DisabilityCare program seemed to have attracted a significant number of the participants. 
The level of civility was also surprising given the depths of public abuse and denigration our political discord has reached recently. Exchanges were good-humoured and without interjections. Great to see that democracy can flourish without descending to some parody of a survivor reality TV program. No testosterone, and no belittling! 
In fact, there was very little spin. Don't take my partisan word for it. Watch the video.
I am very happy to stand and fight the next election alongside people like Julia Gillard, Greg Combet, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus and Victorian State Opposition leader Daniel Andrews. Not to mention the members of my local Black Rock branch, and Brontë Cleary of course.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Budget: What's in it for...

Labor's 2013-14 Federal budget deserves a close look.

First, an ALP video for the true believers: The Federal Budget in 3 minutes

Next is the usual calm economic analysis from Greg Jericho (Grogs Gamut). For fans of Greg's graphs, this post has six:
The coverage of budgets is invariably an attempt to find the narrative - some overreaching story which apparently explains what has happened and what is coming in the next year or more.

Some stories can be written without even paying heed to the innards of the budget papers. Take the Treasurer's speech which began:

Tonight this Labor Government makes the choice to keep our economy strong and invest in our future. To support jobs and growth in an uncertain world.

This could be cut and pasted and used in any future (or past) budget speech regardless of party, year or state of the economy.

For the most part the political narrative has been written as well. This is the final Swan budget, the Swan song, the attempt to lock in Labor's legacy. No budget is ever really a political game changer, and for the Government this budget comes very much in the shadow of last year's.

A year ago the narrative was about a surplus - the path to surplus was clear and it was also writ in stone as a holy good.

This year, if there is any real narrative beyond the usual humdrum, it is that we might finally be facing up to the reality of the post-GFC world.
Budget faces up to Australia's economic reality

Religious-based Overseas Aid NGO Micah Challenge expressed concerns that the foreign aid target of 0.5% of Gross National Income has been delayed a year and funds diverted to asylum seeker programs within Australia. However, its response contained a strong plus side:
The aid budget will grow by $518 million from last year, reaching almost $5.7 billion dollars, or 0.37% of Gross National Income (GNI).

...the Foreign Minister went out of his way to note the strength of the community campaigning, and Parliamentary lobbying, that led to foreign aid being increased, when many other Government programs are being cut.

...Second, there was a bigger than expected increase in funding to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) programs – a 70% increase from $164 million last year to $279 million in this budget.

...The Government also announced a commitment to invest $391 million over the next for years to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific – targeting, particularly, MDG 1 on hunger, MDG 2 on education and MDG 5 on maternal mortality.

Finance commentator Michael Pascoe has had this to say to the scaremongers:
After all the rather mindless carry on about having a surplus or not having a surplus and then just how big a deficit it might be, we can at last breathe easy with the knowledge that the federal government will finish this financial year with a deficit of about $19 billion. And that’s actually a fine thing.

And so is a deficit of about $18 billion for the next financial year. Substantially smaller deficits this year or next really wouldn’t be worth the economic cost.
Thanks for the deficit, really
Finally, the expenditure about which Julia Gillard's government, indeed all Australians, should be justly proud - the National Disability Insurance Scheme (DisabilityCare). From Julia's speech to parliament:

Much of the mainstream media have chorused that none of this matters because the election result is in the bag for Abbott's austerity Coalition. They seem to acknowledge that the Liberal National razor will cut most worthwhile initiatives if they win. For the rest of us, there are votes to cast in four months time - a chance to vote for meaningful progressive programs.

A chance to vote against the cynicism and negativity bred of self-interest and greed.

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Disability Funding Triumph: Progressive Blogosphere Abdicates

This week we saw a major achievement in Australian policy - the bi-partisan acceptance of an increase in the Medicare levy to help fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (DisabilityCare). There was considerable activity on social media before Tony Abbott's concession but there has been a deadening silence in the progressive blogosphere since.

When you google Oz blogs for the last four days, there are no posts heralding this policy triumph. In fact it seems that many have just accepted it as a political victory for Abbott, not a policy win for Julia Gillard's government. A lone voice has been Gary Sauer-Thompson at Public Opinion but even his post was titled Perhaps:
The disability people got what they wanted: a secure funding source that will partially pay for the NDIS and bipartisan support. That means the Coalition will find it hard to renege at a later date because they are publicly committed to the national disability insurance scheme.
If the conservatives keep their word, the NDIS will be a major legacy of the Labor government, whether it is reelected or not. Abbott's "conditional" support of the levy contained his usual dissembling but once the legislation is passed, he should be locked in.

Yesterday Victoria signed up to NDIS, just as we are abandoning the field to the Liberal National Party policy void. Despondency over the polls and government policy failures must not make Abbott's austerity a fait accompli.

Schools, climate change and the NBN are just a few reasons to keep up the political fight. If progressive bloggers cannot step up, then it is probably time to archive their blogs and retreat into the twitter ether or a subscription to Foxtel.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Julia's Community Cabinet: Policy Sounding Without Fury

There were quite a few surprises at Julia Gillard's Community Cabinet on 17 April 2013, hosted by Norwood Secondary College in Melbourne's eastern suburb of Ringwood.

Cabinet members held one-on-one interviews before a public forum that lasted over an hour. The government school is in the Federal seat of Deakin held by Labor's Mike Symons. Deakin only needs a swing of 2.41% to change hands but Mike certainly is not conceding anything.

First surprise was that the protesters outside came from only one interest group: the Animal Justice party had mustered over 100 supporters. There were no climate sceptics, no refugee advocates, no University students highlighting funding cuts, no representatives of the monied classes protesting class warfare. This was despite the school being well served by public transport and freeways.

Secondly, the usual suspects did not appear to be inside the event either. Registration was open to all-comers, taking three days to fill apparently. Questions were taken at random. If they were rigged then the PM's slip, in nominating a woman incorrectly as a man, belied that notion.

Someone was handing out the Citizens Electoral Council of Australia newspaper. It is a very reality-challenged organisation - see footnote*** for a taste of their parallel universe.

Somewhat upexpected was the very warm and loud reception Julia Gillard received from the standing-room only crowd. At times it felt more like one of Gough Whitlam's public meetings, with plenty of true believers in attendance. In addition, the government's DisabilityCare program seemed to have attracted a significant number of the participants.

The level of civility was also surprising given the depths of public abuse and denigration our political discord has reached recently. Exchanges were good-humoured and without interjections. Great to see that democracy can flourish without descending to some parody of a survivor reality TV program. No testosterone, and no belittling!

In fact, there was very little spin. Don't take my partisan word for it. Watch the video. It isn't very entertaining unless you're a political junkie. (I met one of those at Ringwood station afterwards, a young man complete with suit, who was bitterly disappointed that he had not managed to have his photo taken with Julia. I had to settle for a brief encounter with our outstanding Health Minister Tanya Pliberek.)

Issues raised by the participants included: climate change, legal aid, same sex marriage, the Royal Commission into child abuse in religious institutions, gay rights in aged care facilities, school education funding, industrial relations, pensioners.

One question that brought agreement from much of the audience was a non-policy one: "The Labor Party has been making a difference for the whole of Australia. Why on earth doesn't the general public know?". Might sound like a Dorothy-Dixer but it wasn't: "Labor's promotion and publicity is absolutely woeful."

The Community cabinet was sound rather than sensational. Julia Gillard certainly hasn't given up and her focus was on what distinguishes her government from Abbott's austere opposition: good policy. Substance over noise!

[*** From the CECA's The New Citizen: "Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II have openly, repeatedly proclaimed their intent to kill some six billion human beings, in order to consolidate permanent, worldwide British imperial rule." Won't waste your time by including a weblink.]

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fresh Air: Back to Campaign Fundamentals

After watching the self-parody on ABCTV 7.30 on Monday, I’ve made a decision.

I’ve been following the media and politics for more than half a century. The advent of the internet has enabled the average punter to document and critique the media's role in day-to-day news coverage and opinion, and election campaign coverage in particular. Increasingly I’ve become one of those critics.

Reluctantly I’m withdrawing from the field until after the Federal election and leaving it to the growing band that have been inspired by bloggers such as Grog’s Gamut and Mr Denmore.

It’s time to get back to some campaigning fundamentals. Elections should be about vision, policies and programs. The focus should be on past and present achievements, options and promises, the skills and expertise of candidates, the quality of the leadership.

Paul Keating famously said, “when you change the government, you change the nation”. It also changes our international role: at the UN, in climate change forums etc. The election should be about the choices we have and the kind of nation and world we want.

Those interested in the game rather than the result can salivate over opinion polls, leadership speculation, personal attacks, fancy public relations and spin. It should not be about standup comedy, glib lines and media stunts. Politics is too important to be just another reality show as part of Planet Hollywood.

Those who try to hold the media accountable when it dresses up regime change as news and entertainment as analysis have a vital job to do. Please keep it up!

Just bowing out of covering the media circus, blow by blow. Not political discourse itself. Will leave Tony Jones, Chris U, Leigh Sales, Kochie and Karl, Michelle and Laurie, Piers and Andrew to the rest of you.

I’m enjoying the fresh air already. I’ll be lurking on the policy patch. It’s the deep end so it’s not crowded. Most of the media would be out of their depth. (Love a mixed-metaphor!)

PS. Of course, media concentration and public broadcasting are public policy areas that remain inbounds.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Turning the Crime Commission into the Real Sports Villain

So is the real villain in Aussie sport the Australian Crime Commission, closely followed by the Federal government? From the ACC website:
'As an agency we provide intelligence, investigation and criminal database services.

...We are a niche, complementary agency that delivers specialist capabilities and intelligence to other agencies in the law enforcement community and broader government.

...The ACC can draw on special coercive powers which enable it to source information that cannot be accessed through traditional policing methods.'
So they're a small, secret and apparently toothless mob (in the Aussie sense of course). The latest report is part of Project Aperio which investigated 'the extent of use of PIEDs by professional athletes, the size of this market and the extent of organised criminal involvement.' It is supposed to provide 'an important opportunity for Government, regulatory bodies and the sporting industry to address these issues head on'. It is a follow-up to their 2010–11 Illicit Drug Data Report.

According to the ministerial statement by Jason Clare and Kate Lundy:
'The Australian Crime Commission has referred its findings in relation to suspected criminal activity to relevant law enforcement agencies including the Australian Federal Police and all State and Territory Police Forces.

ASADA [Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority] and other regulatory agencies will undertake additional investigations on the basis of the Crime Commission findings.'
The thinnest parts of the report concern organised crime links, and match-fixing. The hot bits are in the full report no doubt. The ACC works and reports in secrecy it seems. It will be interesting to see if any prosecutions result or is it just a “wake-up call”.

Part of ASADA role is to enforce 'any breach of a policy by ensuring those violating anti-doping rules are prosecuted and sanctioned'. According to its media release:
' has met with the two major sporting codes following the commencement of its formal investigation in late January 2013.
During the course of ASADA’s investigation, it will approach individual clubs as required to complete its investigative work.'
Unfortunately for those who would like names named:
'ASADA is not able to talk publicly about its investigation of these codes and that includes speculating about, or naming clubs or individuals until such time as its legislation permits.

This ensures the integrity of the investigation and the privacy of any individual under investigation is protected.'
It seems that all those innocents in the sports industry who are currently outraged about the ACC processes have nothing to fear but... possibly unavoidable collateral damage such as loss of sponsorships. The alternative seems to be keeping the public in the dark about the extent of the problems surrounding sports doping, match-fixing and criminal connections.

Sponsors can take Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Pottharst's advice: 'Time for sponsors to put their $'s in clean sports and Aussies that don't cheat'.

The ACC was established by the Howard government in 2002. Its powers, and those of similar bodies, reflect our lack of vigilance following September 11,2001.

It didn’t take long for the conspiracy theorists to decide that the government had released the report to deflect publicity from itself. I favour the alternative: Pope Benedict has fallen on his sword to save Aussie sport.

For some early responses in the blogosphere and twitterverse, please see:

Australian Sport: Drugs, Match Fixing Linked to Organised Crime

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Australian Media Fuelling Doubt with Speculation Specfest

It hasn't taken ABC Radio National's Breakfast program long to get back to normal. Its bleak view of the world in general and Australia in particular was in full swing this morning.

Presenter Fran Kelly and Michelle Grattan, daily guest from Fairfax's newspaper The Age, shared their usual specfest about the national political scene. They hit a new low, discussing the speculation that there may be further ministerial resignations from the Gillard government before the 14 September election.

The analysis: "it is fuelling doubt". It's all about perceptions: "impressions of chaos", "perceptions have taken over". As Kelly noted, Grattan's article on Saturday argued that "JULIA Gillard's problems with her reshuffle will be how it is perceived".

By whom, the press gallery? I'm sure they're not using terms such as "sinking ship" or "spinning out of control". On ABC Tv news, Greg Jennett offered this gem when introducing Gillard's press conference with the two retiring ministers: "These are the melancholy days of governing". An "emotional" event in the PM's words, a sad day. Why the hyperbole, with an emotive, negative and inaccurate word like "melancholy"?

Just who is fuelling doubt?  What was the origin of this speculation? Michelle's take on more resignations: there are "none known about. The government probably doesn't expect anymore". BUT "you never know what happens".

There aren't even the usual anonymous party sources or leaks used as justification for this kind of beat-up.

You can listen to their segment here.

This kind of negativity goes hand-in-hand with the constant talking-down of the Australian economy. If you believed the gloom on Breakfast and other ABC programs, you'd have sold all your shares months ago and slashed your financial wrists.

Another Fairfax journalist is grappling with this problem. Economics editor Ross Gittins wonders:
It's long been clear from polling that the electorate doesn't regard the government as good at managing the economy. 
Why this should be so is a puzzle.
At least Ross usually tries to counter this perception. The headline might well be a factor: Why voters believe the economy is in trouble

Another Fairfax publication, the Australian Financial Review, joined in the specfest in
Gillard feared leadership tilt. According to Phillip Coorey and Laura Tingle:
Fear of sparking a leadership ballot at the end of last year was a key ­reason Julia Gillard delayed until last week the decision to reshuffle her cabinet.
Or did she? Later the article gives the game away. It clearly contradicts itself under the sub-heading MEDIA SPECULATION:
While the Prime Minister did not think there was a likelihood of an actual challenge, media speculation at the time was stoking unrest.
Perhaps Phillip and Laura took turns to write paragraphs.

Apparently, the Insiders managed to get to policy matters 47 minutes into the hour long TV show. I'll rely on twitter as the source. It's as reliable as "you never know what happens"!

Anyway the current specfest is a substitute for the usual mindless speculation about the date of the election or the Kevin Rudd challenge meme. When there is no challenge or likelihood of one, the journos have to dance around it, creating their own smoke.

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