Monday, June 14, 2010

Muslims can do no wrong?

The man carrying a legal bomb into courtroom 11A in the NSW Supreme Court building on Friday morning did not look menacing and is not menacing under normal circumstances. But these were not normal circumstances. This was cultural war. The legal bomb was brought to court by the once leonine figure of Clive Evatt, a veteran defamation lawyer who now walks with the aid of a cane, on which his severely bent frame leans heavily.

As Evatt took his place at the plaintiff's bench, the man on whose instructions he was acting, Keysar Trad - a thickset, bearded man wearing a grey suit, blue shirt and tie - sat alone in the back row of the public gallery.

Trad is no stranger to litigation. Over many years he has expended untold hours making formal complaints to the NSW Supreme Court, the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, the Anti-Discrimination Board, the Human Rights Commission, the Press Council, other review bodies and, above all, the media, where he has operated as a quote-machine representing the Muslim community in Australia.

He was in court on Friday because of a disaster of his own making. After delivering a hostile tirade against Sydney's top-rated radio station, 2GB, during a "peace" rally in 2005, Trad was himself criticised the next day by a 2GB presenter, Jason Morrison, though not in the same language Trad had used at the rally where he claimed to speak on behalf of Muslims in Australia.

Trad sued for defamation. He was the star witness for his own case. The senior judge, Justice Peter McClellan, the chief judge of common law in the NSW Supreme Court, found against Trad, and found him to be a witness of little credibility, a man of extreme views and, in summary, "a disgraceful individual".

Such was Trad's performance under oath that on Friday the counsel for the defence, Richard McHugh, SC, delivered this devastating portrayal of his credibility under oath: "[Trad] attempted to evade responsibility for his statements by claiming he was misquoted, by claiming he was taken out of context, by claiming he had changed his mind, or by claiming he did not even know what he had said or written at the instant he said or wrote it. He was entirely disbelieved.

"[His] evidence that he did not know who was the author of Mein Kampf - and his feigned attempts at a thought process to recollect the author's name - were a low point in this trial. The transcript in this case can supply only a colourless picture of the evidence at trial."

Even before this appeal, Trad was facing legal costs exceeding $250,000. He decided to up his risk. On Friday morning, I counted 16 lawyers in the court. At this level, justice is neither fast nor cheap.

His appeal was based on several major grounds but the most prominent and contentious, made repeatedly in oral and written submissions, was that Justice McClellan had erred fundamentally by taking Trad's provocative comments over the years out of the context of the Muslim community. To quote Evatt: "His honour did not take into account that Australia is a multicultural society and the viewpoints of ethnic groups are recognised by the Australian community even though not all members of the community agree with them."

And this: "His honour did not refer to or even consider the likelihood the average citizen would recognise that the views expressed by [Trad] were similar to beliefs shared by Muslims throughout the world including Muslims in Australia." And this: "His honour appears to have given no weight to the fact that the speech was made to Muslims in a mosque and not in an address to the general community."

And this: "His honour overlooked the fact Sheikh Hilaly's speech [defended by Trad] was not made to members of the Australian community but to Muslims and others who attended the Sidon Mosque in Lebanon."

This is an explosive argument. It means this aspect of the appeal may rest on the argument that the Muslim community operates under different standards than the rest of society and cannot be judged using the same standards. Further, these standards, even if judged to be extreme by the rest of society, should be respected.

It is fair to say the bench became restive on Friday. There were plenty of tart exchanges from the three judges, justices Murray Tobias, Ruth McColl and John Basten. But this was nothing compared with the fire and brimstone from the defence.

This appeal was an attempt, McHugh argued, to turn the case into one about "freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and that the appellant has been unfairly branded as a racist, homophobic, terrorist-supporting, woman-hating bigot when all he was doing was expressing views consistent with his Islamic faith and his role as a prominent Australian Lebanese community spokesman … The question here is whether the deliberate peddling of grossly sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic filth is not dangerous and disgraceful and an incitement to violence and racist attitudes in Australia in 2010. The most extraordinary claim is that his extreme views are [a] 'Muslim view'. This ought not to be accepted."

If Trad does prevail in his appeal, this case, Trad v Harbour Radio, will be corrosive to the idea of mainstream Muslim moderation, and to the ideal that most Muslims are naturally part of a cohesive element in the weave of Australia's culture rather than functioning under de facto Islamic law while giving mere lip service to the Australian legal system and the values it upholds.


No sign of global warming on Australia's ski fields

Quite to the contrary. The slopes are open unusually early

VICTORIA'S ski-fields have enjoyed the best opening of the season in years, the resorts say, with enough snow and selected lifts operating for revellers to take to the slopes on skis and boards.

Snow began falling on the mountain resorts of Mount Buller and Mount Hotham in the past week, and both have bolstered coverage with man-made snow.

The sun was shining, the sky blue and the air crisp and dry at both resorts yesterday.

For the first time on the Queen's birthday opening weekend since 2003, three of the 13 ski lifts at Hotham were operating and three runs were open: Summit Trainer, Playground and the Big D, said resort spokeswoman Gina Woodward. "It hasn't got warmer than minus 3 for at least the last week," she said. "That's pretty cold for Australia - there's no sign of climate change around here right now."

Skiers had an average of 13 centimetres of snow under their skis on the runs. "Last night it dropped down to minus 6.3 and we made another 15,000 cubic metres of snow," Ms Woodward said. "Things are looking good for the coming weeks."

At Mount Buller, people were skiing on this opening weekend for the first time since 2007, said Buller Ski Lifts spokeswoman Rhylla Morgan. Snow depth ranged from 18 to 45 centimetres. Four of the 22 lifts were operating, with Bourke Street, Baldy and Shaky Knees runs open.

"It's been an absolutely amazing opening weekend … the mountain looks absolutely spectacular," Ms Morgan said. "We started grooming [the slopes] a few days ago. This morning, when the sun came up, the runs were completely smooth and looked like carpet."

Ms Rhyll said the temperature was expected to peak at about 3 degrees yesterday, and was expected to drop to about -5 or -6 overnight, which was ideal for making snow. "We had about 15 centimetres of natural snowfall just before the weekend," she said. "We have prime conditions for making snow … to give Mother Nature a hand. "To have this much of the mountain open and people skiing on the opening weekend is cause for celebration."

About 10,000 people were venturing to Mount Buller for the opening weekend, and in their hundreds to Mount Hotham, according to official estimates.


Appallingly negligent NSW cops

Parents not told after predator made abduction attempts at Sydney schools

A SUSPECTED paedophile made three attempts to grab children from elite Sydney private schools before police notified parents.

Police were called after the first attempted abduction outside Scots College at Bellevue Hill on Tuesday morning. They made the attack public at 4.30pm on Wednesday.

During that time the predator struck again at neighbouring Cranbrook School between 2.20 and 3.15pm on Wednesday, prompting police patrols around the schools and at bus stops.

Police also told the schools they were aware that a man fitting the same description had been spotted offering inducements to children at a park in nearby Vaucluse, yet there was no public announcement or warning.

All the abduction attempts were unsuccessful.

Schools and pre-schools in Rose Bay and Bellevue Hill have now, days after the first incident occurred, warned parents not to leave children in the car even while picking up or dropping off.

Cranbrook has put itself on "high alert" and a local pre-school has written to parents saying: "Please be sure you DO NOT leave any of your children in the car when you are picking up your child."

The lapse comes despite a directive from the NSW Government to police chiefs to notify the public of attempted child abductions as soon as possible.

Police caused outrage in almost identical circumstances in 2008 when two boys were almost snatched in Cambridge Park, in Sydney's west, a day after an attempted abduction on a girl that police did not inform parents about until 14 hours later.

A mother from Rose Bay, who asked not to be identified, said she was appalled to have found out so late.

"It gives me chills to think this bloke is out there at all but it's far worse to think we didn't know about it for days," she said. "We're a pretty close-knit, trusting community and we expect our kids will be safe around the neighbourhood. "Now I'm worried about letting my son out of my sight for a second with this guy still around - but even if they catch him I'll be worried about whether police will alert us to future dangers."

The man is caucasian, in his late 50s, with an average build, grey, short, unkempt hair and wearing clear-rimmed reading glasses. He drives an older model white Holden Commodore station wagon with a "Roosters" sticker on the left side of the tailgate.

There is no suggestion of any delay or impropriety from either school.

Police said they waited to interview the boys before releasing a statement.


Australian Federal Govt wants access to your emails, browsing history

The Fed Govt is considering forcing Australian ISPs to retain data on how Australian citizens are using the internet, such as their sent and received email and browsing history

The Federal Government has confirmed it is considering a policy requiring Australian internet providers to retain precise data on how their users are using the internet, with the potential to include information on emails sent and — reportedly — their web browsing history.

“The Attorney-General’s Department has been looking at the European Directive on Data Retention, to consider whether such a regime is appropriate within Australia’s law enforcement and security context,” a spokesperson for the department confirmed via email today. “It has consulted broadly with the telecommunications industry.”

The spokesperson’s confirmation was also contained in a report by (which broke this story), which stated that ISP industry sources had flagged the potential for the new regime to require ISPs to record each internet address (also known as URL) that an internet user visited.

APC has contacted spokespeople from major ISPs such as Telstra, Optus, iiNet, Internode and Adam Internet to ask for a response on the matter, as well as the Internet Industry Association, a group which represents the ISPs. The office Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and the office of Attorney-General Robert McLelland have also been contacted for comment on the matter.

The European Directive on Data Retention (2006) requires communications providers to retain a number of categories of data relating to their users.

Broadly speaking, they must retain data necessary to trace and identify the source, destination, date, type, time and duration of communications — and even what communication equipment is being used by customers and the location of mobile transmissions.

According to the directive, where internet access is concerned, this means the ISPs must retain the user ID of users, email addresses of senders and recipients of email, the date and time that users logged on and off from a service, and their IP address — whether dynamic or static applied to their user ID.

For telephone conversations, this means the number from which calls were placed and the number that received the call, the owner of the telephone service and similar data such as the time and date of the call’s commencement and completion. For mobile phone numbers, geographic location data would also be included.

The EU directive requires that no data regarding the content of communications be included, however, and it has directives regarding privacy, including the fact that data would be retained for periods of not less than six months and not more than two years from the date of the communication.

Any data collected is to be destroyed at the end of that period.


1 comment:

Ruby of Toowoomba said...

All we can hope for is a change of Government as soon as possible and that this direction be reversed.

Australians do not want communism and it is being enforced on them by stealth.
I just hope that Australians do not vote Green or they will have this disgraceful Labor Govt returned by stealth!. Be aware!