Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Individual responsibility upheld at long last

Blame for drunken folly falls on drinkers in High Court judgment

THE High Court has dramatically shifted the responsibility for drunken actions on to the individual, ruling that the nation's publicans have no general duty of care to protect patrons from the consequences of getting drunk.

Hailed as a victory for common sense, the country's highest court yesterday tilted responsibility for the safety of drunken patrons towards "the drinker, rather than the seller of drink". Without dissent, five judges overturned a decision of the full bench of Tasmania's Supreme Court that found a publican who returned motorcycle keys to a drunken patron, who then died in a crash, had failed in a duty of care.

Three of the judges opted to make a more detailed explanation of their decision to "avoid repetition" of such cases and to warn against "interfering paternalism". They ruled that outside exceptional cases, hotel owners and licensees "owe no general duty of care at common law to customers ... (requiring) them to monitor and minimise the service of alcohol or to protect customers from the consequences of the alcohol they choose to consume".

"That conclusion is correct because the opposite view would create enormous difficulties ... relating to customer autonomy and coherence with legal norms," ruled justices Gummow, Heydon and Crennan. "Expressions like 'intoxication', 'inebriation' and 'drunkenness' are difficult to both define and to apply. "The fact that legislation compels publicans not to serve customers who are apparently drunk does not make the introduction of a civil duty of care defined by reference to those expressions any more workable or attractive."

Public health experts said the decision was "immensely worrying" and could undermine responsible service of alcohol.

The publican at the centre of the case, Michael Kirkpatrick, said he was "over the moon" at the decision. The Australian Hotels Association cautioned against patrons seeing the judgment as a green light to "get plastered" at licensed venues. But the AHA and individual publicans hailed the ruling as sending a strong warning to drinkers to take responsibility for their own actions.

Sydney University professor of public health Simon Chapman said yesterday's legal decisions "will effectively mean that publicans will seek to reduce costs and reduce security". "It reveals the whole pretence of responsible service of alcohol as farcical, to say the least," Professor Chapman said.


At last I've been singled out by the PM

By Andrew Bolt

I HAD no idea I was a corrupt, reckless, arrogant, dangerous and gutless conspirator who'd rather put my children in danger than help the Prime Minister stop global warming. But so Kevin Rudd has told the nation, naming me as one of just four Australians who've joined a global cabal plotting to stop him from saving you.

Never have I heard such a mad speech from a prime minister as the one Rudd gave on Friday at the Lowy Institute, when he exposed an alleged "legion of climate change sceptics" who were "active across the world" and had "tentacles" deep in the Opposition. These "deniers", now a "major force", "simply do not care" that "the clock is ticking for the planet" since "the vested interests at work are simply too great". So "well resourced" were we "political cowards" that we were "prepared to destroy our children's future".

And four times Rudd singled out the four villains at the heart of this plot, as in: "Malcolm, Barnaby, Andrew and Janet - stop gambling with our future." From the left, that's Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull (actually a climate change dupe), Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, me and Australian columnist Janet Albrechtsen.

Has any past prime minister singled out just four people - two mere journalists - as part of a conspiracy to hurt the Australian way of life? It is grotesque, a misuse of Rudd's authority. But it also shows how fatally weak is Rudd's reason - or at least his reason for wanting to hit us with a colossal tax on our emissions that will shut power stations, throw thousands out of work and yet do nothing to lower the world's temperatures.

Rudd's speech also confirmed he had no answer to my challenge last week: to tell us how much he'll pay of the $7 billion a year the United Nations asks from us under the draft Copenhagen treaty he wants to sign next month.

Let me make a few things clear to Rudd. First, no one pays me a cent to be sceptical; in fact, my boss suggests I "give the planet the benefit of the doubt". Your claim that I argue from just a "vested interest" is a despicable lie.

Second, the real "vested interests" in this debate are behind the alarmists, not the sceptics, which is why your Government has just given a $90 million grant to a trial "green" energy plant whose shareholders include doom-preacher Tim Flannery - even though all three wells of the company's first geothermal plant have broken down.

Third, what threatens my children's future is not my scepticism but your mad plans to waste billions of dollars on a threat that seems not to exist.

Fourth, you deceive when you say "4000 scientists" wrote the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on which you base your claim man is heating the world to hell.

In fact, just 60 of those (actually fewer than 3000) scientists specifically endorsed that claim, and even they admitted they were just 90 per cent sure. Moreover, their finding has been rejected by petitions signed by thousands of other scientists.

Lastly, I'm in no conspiracy, and until a year ago fought almost alone here as a sceptic. The real "political cowards" are those of your own ministers who know your global warming plan is a hoax fix to a hoax scare, but dare not speak.

Now this, Prime Minister, is how to argue. By citing evidence. Checking predictions against reality. Your attempt to instead demonise me as a menace to even my own children proves nothing but that you have no facts to justify your megalomaniacal plan - and that you may be unworthy of your office.


Rudd's hysteria is certainly telling -- JR

Ban Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka urges

OFFICIALS in Sri Lanka are urging Australia to ban the militant group the Tamil Tigers and strike a clear distinction between genuine refugees and economic opportunists. As Foreign Minister Stephen Smith flew to Singapore following talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, aimed at stopping the flow of boats, officials in Colombo told The Australian Sri Lankan people fleeing their country did not need protection.

Yesterday, Mr Smith announced Australia would provide $11 million in funding to Sri Lanka. Most of the money, $6m, will fund de-mining and rehabilitation in the nation's north after decades of violent conflict, while the rest will go towards housing, food and resettlement services. The two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at increasing joint anti-people-smuggling efforts and intelligence-sharing.

The talks follow a surge this year in the number of asylum-seeker boats leaving Sri Lanka for Australia. Senior Australian envoy Brian McCarthy and people-smuggling ambassador Peter Woolcott will stay on in Colombo for a series of meetings aimed at hammering out the details of the agreements.

Yesterday, Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry secretary Romesh Jayasinghe said there was a need for a clear distinction between genuine refugees and those not in need of protection. "The fact is that the (1951 Refugee Convention) provides for refuge in instances when there is a well-founded fear," Mr Jayasinghe said. "I would submit to you that there is no such situation in Sri Lanka."

Mr Jayasinghe said the legal status of the separatist Tamil Tigers, or LTTE - whose defeat in May by the Sri Lankan government triggered the massive internal displacement Labor says is behind the surge in boats - was also a significant issue for Colombo. "The LTTE in the form it was known is no more," Mr Jayasinghe said. "But there are sinister elements that are endeavouring to try to re-stoke the cinders of secessionism. It is necessary to be vigilant and prevent such attempts. "That's the position that was presented quite clearly by our side to our Australian guests."

At a press conference on Monday, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama explicitly linked the Tamil Tigers with people-smuggling: "Sri Lanka's stand has always remained, that people-smuggling has been part of terrorist activities - it has previously been associated with LTTE activities."

The Tamil Tigers are a banned terrorist organisation in the US and Europe but have never been proscribed in Australia.

Yesterday, the 78 Sri Lankans on board the Customs ship Oceanic Viking managed to communicate by hand signals that they remained unwilling to come ashore to a detention centre at Tanjung Pinang, on Indonesia's Bintan island. As another delegation of Australian officials boarded the vessel in a bid to break the deadlock, some of the Sri Lankans made crossed forearm gestures to demonstrate there was still no deal. The major sticking point remains the issue of where the asylum-seekers would be held if they agreed to go ashore, with many having already spent several years in Indonesian detention centres.

Australian claims that the Indonesian side is considering a request to house the Sri Lankans in community facilities has been met with bewilderment by senior officials, on and off the record.


The unreasoning fearmongers

By Janet Albrechtsen

And the prize for giving vacuous prizes goes to... the Left. Last week John Pilger delivered a speech after becoming the 2009 recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize. Predictably, he railed against the war in Afghanistan. There are no terrorist training grounds there, he said. No mention of Al Qaeda from Pilger. He railed against the suffering on the "besieged people of Gaza". No mention of the role of Hamas from Pilger.

And then he railed against Australia’s immigration policy and the "concentration camp on Christmas Island." No mention that the 78 Sri Lankans on board the Oceanic Viking are determined to take up residence on Christmas Island.

What Pilger has done for peace is not entirely clear. But the progressive mindset says that if you are expert enough at crafting emotional arguments that’s enough to deserve a prize. One need only look at the two big issues of the day – climate change and border protection - to realise the progressive predilection for emotion over reason and stealth over honesty. Some of them – mostly politicians - use emotion for calculated political purposes. Others – commentators and activists - seem to genuinely suffer from arrested development, frozen in perpetual adolescence where emotion trumps reason.

A few months ago, NSW Premier Nathan Rees labelled those sceptical about the climate change science as akin to Nazi appeasers in the 1930s. Last week at the Lowy Institute Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that those same people are fear mongering, gambling with their children’s future. It’s a powerful allegation, full of emotion. It is also dishonest.

To be curious about the state of science, to ask questions of the orthodoxy, to suggest that we not rush ahead of other countries in a way that will punish the Australian economy is the antithesis of fear-mongering. It says let’s draw breath, put aside the wild hyperbole, ignore the growing group think, the cheap symbolism and think rationally about climate change. Those who predict the end of the world, those such as Al Gore who tell us sea levels will rise by six metres in by 2100, those such as Tim Flannery who say it’s now or never, telling us we have about 20 years to act on climate change or else place our future at risk of apocalyptic droughts, floods, war and famine. Here are the fear-mongers.

The emotional claims by Rees and Rudd do nothing to advance debate. That is not their intention. Their aim is to shutdown debate by shaming opponents into agreeing with them, or at the very least, just shutting up. Anyone who disagrees with the Left on a range of issues is invariably labelled as cold-hearted and lacking basic human compassion.

No issue highlights this more than border protection. Here, once again, the language used by the Left is replete with emotion. On Sunday morning on ABC1’s Insiders, journalist David Marr ABC1’s said that Australians – unlike any other people in the world – fear refugees. Fear is a strong word. It is full of emotion. It is also a dishonest way to describe the attitudes of Australian attitudes border control. Recent polls movements against the Rudd Government suggest that Australians remain concerned about border protection. But being concerned about border control is not the same as being fearful of refugees.

Those on the left, such as Marr, pepper their language with emotion because their thinking is premised on the same. They cannot fathom that Australians have long expressed a rational preference for an orderly, controlled system of immigration and border protection. It’s nothing to do with fear, David. It’s to do with facts. And a simple compact.

As former Prime Minister, John Howard, reminded us in his weekend interview, the facts speak for themselves. Under Howard the boats stopped. And, as he said, "the consequence of our policy was that because we stopped the boats public support for a higher immigration rate to Australia rose—and public support for a humanitarian refugee program was maintained and even strengthened. "The Australian public will always support a reasonably high immigration program if they think it is properly managed and serves the interests of Australia."

Howard was not alone in understanding that and formulating policy to reflect that deal with the Australian people. As my colleague, Paul Kelly, sets out in his book, The March of Patriots, the politics of people movement grew from an enduring compact that began with the Chifley Government in 1945 when increased immigration became both a reality and a necessity in a globalised age.

It is, as Kelly writes, "the most powerful political compact in Australia’s history. Mass migration was presented to people, business, unions and churches on the condition that government would control who came to Australia in the interests of people." And that policy platform has been maintained by every Prime Minister from Chifley to Rudd.

How easy the Left forgets or deliberately ignores the facts underscoring that compact. Remember in the 1970s it was Gough Whitlam who said: "I’m not having hundreds of f.... Vietnamese Balts coming into this country with their political and religious hatreds." And Bob Hawke in 1990 who said: "Do not let any people… think that all they’ve got to do is break the rules, jump the queue, lob here and Bob’s your uncle. Bob is not your uncle on this issue. We’re not going to allow people to jump that queue."

And Paul Keating, who, as Prime Minister in 1992 introduced mandatory detention for unlawful arrivals.

How easily the Left forgets or deliberately ignores the success behind that compact. As Kelly records, from the 1940s Australia became a story of mass migration, accepting about seven million migrants, the highest per capita outside of Israel. By the time Howard left office, one in four Australians have been born overseas. The compact between the Australian people and the government of the day to support and sustain an orderly immigration program has been integral to Australia’s success as a country that has accepted millions of people from around the world.

Rudd understands the compact. But in his quest to be all things to all people, he now finds himself and his policy held to ransom by a group of savvy asylum seekers who are highly strategic in their actions and demands. Clearly, Rudd did not count on the resolve of the 78 Sri Lankans on board the Oceanic Viking. But as he figures out what to do, he can count on the resolve of the Australian people in expecting - not through fear, but through reason and proven success – that his government will keep his side of the compact on immigration policy. Better Rudd listen to history than the overblown and unthinking emotion of those on the Left.


A tribute to Quadrant magazine

By Rafe Champion

As we celebrate the Fall of the Wall 20 years ago we should remember the effort that was put in by the friends of freedom in the West during the Cold War. I am thinking of the worldwide network of groups which resisted the propaganda efforts of the communists and their fellow travellers. This was an uneasy alliance at times, involving a coalition of social democrats, social conservatives, classical liberals and others. Not surprisingly, the alliance did not long survive the Fall of the Wall. Robert Manne, who earned our gratitude for his principled stand on communism did not maintain alliance with the free traders, for example.

Quadrant magazine was the Australian organ of his effort, initially under the editorship of James McAuley. The early issues make interesting reading, especially for those of us who came to it years after when we had been told that it was a magazine of unbridled rightwing prejudice. For the most part, excepting a fiery editorial and mission statement from McAuley it was nothing of the kind. It hosted a wide range of opinions which were expressed with the utmost civility. This is Peter Coleman’s account of the McAuley Quadrants.

The first issue was far more literary than some of McAuley’s polemics had suggested it might be. He would not allow Quadrant, he had announced, "to exemplify that ideal of a completely colourless, odourless, tasteless, inert and neutral mind on all fundamental issues which some people mistake for liberalism." The first issue had poems by Rosemary Dobson, Judith Wright. A.D.Hope, Vincent Buckley and Roland Robinson. (They all were metrical and rhymed.) There were articles by Hope, Alan Villiers, George Molnar, and George Kardoss. There were reviews of Patrick White, David Campbell and Judith Wright.

The friends of communism had a windfall when it was found that the CIA contributed funds to the freedom movement, including Quadrant. As if this invalidated a single word that was printed in the magazine. The knockers of Quadrant have yet to understand or admit that in the Cold War the friends of Quadrant were on the correct side and the communists and fellow travellers were not.

Rest in honourable peace, James McAuley, Richard Krygier and other helpers.


No comments: