Australian politics Opinion: The foreign donation bill is a smokescreen to attack civil society – Lee Rhiannon in The Guardian

The government claims they’re finally listening to Australians and addressing political donation reform. But they’re not

Australian Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon. ‘Instead of tackling the issue of big money, the Turnbull government ignores the evidence, ignores the public outcry for change’

Australian democracy has been under threat for some time. There is a group of political operators who are able to walk the halls of parliament, arrange meetings with decision-makers at the drop of a hat, funnel big money into political parties, and influence regulations, policies and legislation. Nobody reading this will be surprised when I say that this group of powerful political operators comprises corporations and industry lobby groups.

However, unless you’ve been following the Turnbull government’s electoral funding and disclosure reform bill, you might be surprised to learn that apparently there is a bigger threat to democracy, a more powerful group of political operators in Australia – charities and community groups. That is the laughable idea the Turnbull government would have you believe.

After years of donations scandals including the jailing of disgraced MPs; after witnessing the revolving door between powerful industries and MP and political staffer positions; and after over $1bn in political donations have been made – the government claims they’re finally listening to the people of Australia and addressing political donation reform.

Only, they’re not.

The Turnbull government is using the overwhelming public appetite for politics to be cleaned up as a smokescreen for pushing through legislation that will curtail the activities and voice of charities and community groups.

Tim Costello, the Human Rights Law Centre, the Hands Off Our Charities Coalitionand many others have highlighted the disastrous consequences this legislation will have on our civil society if allowed to pass.

There is a glaring discrepancy in this bill. Not only does it act as a smokescreen for the government to attack civil society, it completely fails to address the actual, documented threat to our democratic system – big money.

Please go on reading this article in The Guardian here:


What would Jesus do about tax and government spending?



It’s Easter, so let me ask you an odd question: have you noticed how arguments about governments’ intervention in the economy – should they, or shouldn’t they – often rely on an appeal to Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan?

No, me neither. Until I read a little book called, The Political Samaritan: How Power Hijacked a Parable, by Nick Spencer, of the British religion-and-society think tank, Theos.

This is my take on what I read.

Polling in 2015 by the British Bible Society found that 70 per cent of respondents claimed to have read or heard the parable, but in case you missed that day at Sunday school, I’ll summarise.

One day a lawyer trying to trap Jesus quoted the Old Testament law to “love your neighbour as yourself”, but asked, who is my neighbour?

Jesus replied with a story. A man was travelling down a road when he was attacked by robbers and left half-dead. A priest came down the road and saw the man, but passed by on the other side. So did a religious functionary.

But next came a Samaritan who took pity on the man, bound his wounds and took him to an inn, where he looked after him. Next day the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to look after the man until he was well.

Then Jesus asked the lawyer which of the three was a neighbour to the man who’d been robbed. “The one who had mercy on him,” the lawyer replied. Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise”.

Politicians have been using this parable to support their arguments at least since British evangelicals were campaigning for the abolition of slavery in the early 1800s. Martin Luther King spoke about the parable at length in his last sermon before he was assassinated in 1968.

George W Bush spoke about it, as did Hillary Clinton. But it’s been a particular favourite of the British Labour Party.

Early in his establishment of New Labour, Tony Blair said: “I am worth no more than anyone else, I am my brother’s keeper [an allusion to Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis], I will not walk by on the other side. We are not simply people set in isolation from one another . . . but members of the same family, same community, same human race. This is my socialism.”

Blair’s successor as British prime minister, Gordon Brown, son of a Presbyterian minister, said “we are prepared to spend money to help the unemployed; we are not going to walk by on the other side, we are going to help them.’’

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, Brown said: “In a crisis what the British people want to know is that their government will not pass by on the other side, but will be on their side.”

So, to politicians on the left, the Good Samaritan is the all-purpose justification for state intervention to help anyone anywhere with a problem. It’s about collective responsibility and collective action.

To a politician like Margaret Thatcher, however, it’s about precisely the opposite. The Good Samaritan was an individual; he saw someone with a problem and he acted to help them. He didn’t tell the government to do something about it.

People shouldn’t hand over to the state all their personal responsibility. Point one.

Point two: the Samaritan needed money to be able to help the half-dead man, and he had it. But the more we’re taxed, the less we have to discharge our personal responsibility to others.

So what was Jesus really saying? First, according to Spencer, he was reacting against the lawyer’s legalism.

Jesus was concerned with following the spirit of the law, not exploiting its letter. And he was saying the law of neighbourly love is the key commandment which, in cases of conflict, overrides other commandments.

The Samaritan was from an ethnic group the other people in the story despised. So neighbours aren’t just the people in our street, our friends, our fellow Australians, they’re everyone, including those we don’t know or don’t like. The parable is relevant to our treatment of other races and asylum seekers.

The world has changed a lot in the 2000 years since the parable was spoken, so I think we should be wary of assuming it speaks definitively about every modern practice. It doesn’t explicitly authorise compulsory state redistribution of income from rich to poor, nor is it condemned. It doesn’t even give the tick to organised charities.

Conservatives are right to emphasise that our personal responsibility for others is fundamental. But I think supporters of collective action may claim that it’s consistent with the spirit of the parable.

Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor 


Recent comments

  • mitch of ACT
    @sh5 & Bazza, Your skepticism about the actual existence of Jesus must be shared by those who espouse all that is good …
  • SlowBob
    It wouldn’t matter what Jesus said. Some one with a clever accountant would be able to construe His words any way the…

View all comments

Ross Gittins

Ross Gittins is economics editor of the SMH and an economic columnist for The Age. His books include Gittins’ Guide to Economics, Gittinomics and The Happy Economist.

Lutein And Zeaxanthin: Eye And Vision Benefits

About the Author: Gary Heiting, OD, is senior editor of Dr. Heiting has more than 25 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear industry. His special interests include contact lenses, nutrition and preventive vision care.

Shereen Jegtvig, Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS), also contributed to this article.

[Page updated December 2017]

Lutein And Zeaxanthin Supplements

Because of the apparent eye and cardiovascular benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin, many nutritional companies have added these carotenoids to their multiple vitamin formulas. Others have introduced special eye vitamins that are predominantly lutein and zeaxanthin supplements.


Foods Containing Lutein And Zeaxanthin

The best natural food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are green leafy vegetables and other green or yellow vegetables. Among these, cooked kale and cooked spinach top the list, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Non-vegetarian sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include egg yolks. But if you have high cholesterol, you’re much better off getting most of these yellow nutrients from fruits and vegetables.

[Try these easy recipes — all contain lutein and zeaxanthin: sunset gazpachochicken chopped saladafter-workout tropical smoothiebroccoli rabe with tempeh and pine nuts.]

On this page: Eye benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin • Lutein and zeaxanthin foods • Supplements

Good nutrition is important to keep your eyes healthy and functioning their best throughout your lifetime. Two very important eye nutrients that may reduce your risk for macular degeneration and cataractshave names you may not be familiar with: lutein (LOO-teen) and zeaxanthin (zee-ah-ZAN-thin).

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two types of carotenoids (kuh-RAH-teh-noids), which are yellow to red pigments found widely in vegetables and other plants. Though lutein is considered a yellow pigment, in high concentrations it appears orange-red.

Cooked spinach is one of the best natural food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Cooked spinach is one of the best natural food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.

In nature, lutein and zeaxanthin appear to absorb excess light energy to prevent damage to plants from too much sunlight, especially from high-energy light rays called blue light.

In addition to being found in many green leafy plants and colorful fruits and vegetables, lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in the maculaof the human eye, giving the macula its yellowish color. In fact, the macula also is called the “macula lutea” (from the Latin macula, meaning “spot,” and lutea, meaning “yellow”).

Recent research has discovered a third carotenoid in the macula. Called meso-zeaxanthin, this pigment is not found in food sources and appears to be created in the retina from ingested lutein.

Lutein and zeaxanthin appear to have important antioxidant functions in the body. Along with other natural antioxidants, including vitamin Cbeta-carotene and vitamin E, these important pigments guard the body from damaging effects of free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can destroy cells and play a role in many diseases.

In addition to important eye and vision benefits, lutein may help protect against atherosclerosis (buildup of fatty deposits in arteries), the disease that leads to most heart attacks.

To continue reading please go to:


The Lady and the Unicorn, the Tapestries, Art Gallery NSW

We went yesterday to the Art Gallery of NSW. We saw there this picture:


In the Art Gallery Shop were a lot of different things for sale that promoted the theme of “The Lady and the Unicorn”. I was interested in finding our more about the tapestry.


it says among other things:

“The six tapestries can be viewed as an allegory of the five senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell – plus a sixth ‘internal’ sense – heart, desire or will.

Made at the very moment of transition from the Medieval period to the Renaissance, they continue to reveal a poetic medieval world of the senses, the spirit, romance, chivalry and morality.”


In the above link it says the following about the rediscovery of the tapestry:

“The lady and the unicorn was rediscovered in the mid 1800s in very poor condition. The tapestries were described as laying ‘abandoned and rolled into a corner … where rats and dampness had started attacking the edges’.”


An Article from the German Chancellery in Berlin published in the International SPIEGEL ONLINE

Germany used to be an anchor of international stability. But that’s changing. The political chaos surrounding Angela Merkel’s attempts to create a new government serve as a warning that the country is not immune to factors that are destabilizing other European countries.

© Roland Bäge

A Commentary By 

The German Chancellery in Berlin


Something strange is happening in the land of boredom. Until last Friday, German politics seemed neat and orderly. The next “grand coalition” (or GroKo) was to be formed — with familiar faces, modest projects, no surprises. The planned third edition of the pact between the conservative Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) under Angela Merkel’s chancellorship didn’t promise Germany, Europe and the rest of the world much, but at least it seemed to guarantee stability.

.  .  .  .  .


This article has also been published in German.

Henrik Müller is a professor of economic policy journalism at TU Dortmund University.

GetUp: It’s time to fight back!

If the hard right’s attack on our democracy succeeds, it will devastate progress on every single issue we care about – Stopping Adani, bringing the people on Manus and Nauru to safety, and corporates paying their fair share of tax. This is the biggest threat our movement – and a progressive Australia – has ever faced.

The hard right is throwing everything they have at ending the GetUp movement by attacking the right of everyday people to participate in political decision making.

And it’s not just GetUp under threat – community groups, civil society organisations and even charities are in the firing line. 

The bill containing these attacks is deliberately convoluted – because the hard right are trying to disguise it as a “national security measure”. It’s a clever ploy intended to head off opposition and obscure the truth at the heart of the legislation.

If we’re to see this bill defeated in the Senate we need to expose it for what it really is by mounting a huge Statement of Opposition – signed by tens of thousands of people – and delivering it to every single MP in Parliament.


Coalition’s GetUp crackdown could harm support for foreign interference bill, Labor warns (copied from “The Guardian”)

 GetUp insists it receives almost no foreign funding, with only 0.5% of donations over its lifetime coming from overseas. Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAP

GetUp says the foreign donations bill is an attack from the ‘hard-right’.

Mathias Cormann concedes Coalition may have to change foreign donations ban

Crossbench senators revolt over burden bill places on minor parties, charities and activists

Tim Costello compares Coalition’s foreign donation ban to Putin’s crackdown on dissent

World Vision Australia chief advocate says bill is part of a ‘zeitgeist of a silencing and gagging of civil society’

World Vision Australia chief advocate Tim Costello has issued a strong warning against the Australian government’s foreign donations bill.