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Link taxes, MOP(S) mistreatment, AAT stacking, welfare cuts, and more: Reading list for February 26th 2020

Joey Mann
Joey Mann
Good morning everyone,
Welcome to the first edition of my reading list newsletter, where I share links to articles on assorted topics that I find interesting (see the list at the bottom of this letter).
This week, the government nerfed the link tax in response to a Facebook news boycott the, we learned more about the government’s mishandling of assaults of their parliamentary staff, and JobSeeker received a massive “rise” (which is actually a massive cut).
Meanwhile, in Greece, the right-wing New Democracy government has seen an authoritarian turn.

New from me
I know it’s a bit late but scrap the link tax
…and more on the link tax.
Ignore basically all the commentary from Australia on this issue. The think thanks and media lobbyists here got crushed, but they obviously won’t acknowledge it. (Faruqi 2021)
Since the publication of my post, the government has relented and has agreed to amendments that most argue will mean that it will only tenuously apply to Facebook. Despite this, the Government and the Australian media are portraying this as a win.
Why Facebook’s Australian news ban was a predictable move
On the same morning as my blog post went live, Osman Faruqi wrote this op-ed for the Sydney Morning Herald along similar lines to my article: pointing out the farce of the link tax. He even proposes a revenue tax, as I did. Nice to see that others here in Australia are on the same brainwave.
Decoding the code: a law that may never be used on its intended targets
Michael Bradly over at Crikey pointed out that the amendments to the Code agreed to by the Government effectively disapply it to Facebook by requiring its application only to intentional “publication” of regulated news articles.
This effectively means that Facebook’s News Feed and Google Search are presumably no longer covered since they unintentionally display news at the command of its users or as a result of automatic, content-neutral, web crawling (respectively).
Australia's bad bargain with platforms
As the quote I’ve included from Oz at the top of this section, and my own article on the subject, points out: the media coverage of the link tax here in Australia has been bereft of intelligent critique of the link tax proposal.
Here I’ve linked to The Verge’s Casey Newton’s analysis on his Substack blog Platformer. Newton’s analysis of the matter is much more even-handed than almost anything in the mainstream Australian media: going over the poor incentives for platforms, and the lack of analysis of how it will improve the prospects of local media companies.
MOP(S) mistreatment
MOP(S) is the name of the staff of Members of Parliament. The name comes from the legislation which allows MPs to hire such staff.
In the aftermath of Britany Higgins’ disclosure of her assault by a senior colleague in Linda Reynolds’ ministerial office, three more women have come forward accusing the same advisor of similar sexual misconduct. Higgins has since announced that she will go to the police, and by the time this newsletter is live, she will have done so.
Alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins to make formal statement as Linda Reynolds sent to hospital
Reynolds is, as I write this, in Canberra Hospital as a precaution for a preexisting heart condition after what I imagine has been an incredibly stressful two weeks. The rest of the Liberal caucus have responded in a very cool and very normal™ way, as Samantha Maiden pointed out:
Samantha Maiden
In the Senate, @SenatorHume just told @SenatorWong "you've done enough! presumably trying to suggest Labor is to blame for @lindareynoldswa being hospitalised ?! @newscomauHQ
If one needed any more evidence that MOP(S) reform is urgently needed, this should be it:
This week it was also revealed that the [now-former] Liberal firebrand MP Craig Kelly’s chief of staff Frank Zumbo is the subject of an apprehended violence order. An order applied for by a former intern.
Department of Finance investigation launched into Craig Kelly's office over staffer Frank Zumbo allegations
It’s quite telling that a person with an AVO - who would be ineligible for almost any role in the Public or Parliamentary Services - is deemed to be fit and proper for a role in the MOP(S) service because there is no framework to ensure professionalism amongst staff and little to ensure the safety of other staff.
Kelly has now left the Liberal party for the crossbench and has presumably taken Mr Zumbo with him.
Patronage at the AAT
Most people reading this are probably aware that the Commonwealth Government of Scott Morrison has been uniquely loose with integrity and transparency.
No better example of this exists than the Administrative Appeals Tribunal where, as Crikey has spent the past few years revealing, Attorney-General Christian Porter has been appointing Liberal party hacks to high-paying Tribunal Member positions to review the Liberal government’s decisions.
From Frydenberg campaign to big bucks tribunal job — the sweet rewards of party service
In Crikey’s newsletter on Wednesday, their main headline was ominous: “How to land a $500k government job”. The answer?
Be a member of the Liberal Party, of course. As David Hardaker pointed out last Monday, you don’t even have to be qualified: as long as you campaign for Josh Frydenberg.
Former Liberal senator Karen Symon was recently appointed to the AAT by Christian Porter, but according to Hardaker has not been a legal practitioner for the requisite five years to qualify.
See also:
In Christian Porter's world, party mates override process or merit
JobSeeker cut by $95: Government calls it a "raise"
You may remember the Government’s $150 “supplement” to JobSeeker which brought the rate of JobSeeker up from a “starvation payment” of $565.70 to just at the poverty line ($715.70)
The government has now announced what the fortnightly rate will be when the supplement ends on April 1st: $620.80.
The media, in vile unison, is painting the government’s rate change as a “raise”. It is actually a 14% ($94.90) cut from the supplemented rate.
In addition, the government has - in yet another move which shows their hatred of the poor and vulnerable - announced a new snitch-line for exploitative employers to dob in recipients who don’t take their poorly paying jobs. Small business and the ACTU has responded with ridicule and contempt.
AUWU, the unemployed workers’ union, has pointed out that there are significantly fewer job vacancies than jobseekers. Many jobseeker claimants also already have a job but are underemployed, meaning they don’t get enough hours and (as a result) don’t get paid much.
I wonder how much cheaper it would be for the government to just pay poor people a social wage rather than paying bureaucrats and contractors billions to use carriage services to menace and harass the poor while calling it cost mitigation.
Federal Labor has, inexplicably, not proposed a better number despite acknowledging that this new rate is still too low. The excuse being that they are “not in government” and thus (for reasons unclear) are powerless to even list a desired range of options.
Note: Since this newsletter I submitted this edition for publication, Labor voted in the Senate in favour a Greens motion calling for the rate of JobSeeker to be set “above the poverty line”, suggesting support for a rate higher than the current supplemented rate.
New Democracy!? More like... not that.
Lastly this week, the police in Greece brutalised student protesters in Thessaloniki in response to the government’s university reforms. The latest in a number of incidents at protests against the Greek government’s university reforms, widely seen as an abridgement of academic freedom.
In this Twitter thread, politics researcher Giorgos Katsambekis compares Greece’s authoritarian turn under [ostensibly] centre-right party New Democracy‘s rule to other democratically distressed states like Orban’s Hungary and Duda’s Poland.
Giorgos Katsambekis
I don't do this often so please bear with me. Here's a thread about the alarming developments in #Greece & #New_Democracy's hard-right/#authoritarian turn.👇This photo by D. Tosidis (credit: EPA-EFE; Source:
ANA-MPA) can act as an intro to the thread. 0/ https://t.co/cgaJuHNdGC https://t.co/AJp89O3dGH
The New “University Police” Shows Greece’s Authoritarian Turn
As per Moira Lavelle’s piece in Jacobin, the law abridges such freedom by:
  • creating a University police force (police are normally banned from campuses without permission); and
  • setting stricter admissions and completion criteria; and
  • cracking down on “dangerous” student groups and
Thanks!
(please ignore my messy room)
(please ignore my messy room)
Thanks for reading this first edition of my reading list! If you liked it, feel free to share it with (or forward it to) your friends and colleagues :)
If you find a link to an interesting read on any of the topics below or have any feedback: feel free to send it in.
I’ll be back next week with another newsletter, in the meantime you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Mastodon if you don’t already.
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Joey Mann
Joey Mann @iosefmann

This newsletter focuses on my interests in governance (especially corruption and integrity here in Australia), trade unionism, antifascism, democratisation, political history, and the media. It is an extension of my website, iosef.org, where I occasionally post on these issues.

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Any electoral matter is authorised by J Mann, Canberra ACT 2601