Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Extremist group hires town hall in Melbourne for rant against Israel and democracy

A VERY strange way for the council to be "vigilant and ensure that our city's facilities are not used to incite violence, racism, sexism or religious intolerance". Just another example of addled-brain Leftism, I guess. Black can be white when required

An extremist Muslim group banned in several countries was cleared by police and a local council to use a town hall to spread its message. The radical Hizb ut-Tahrir - Party of Islamic Liberation - paid Melbourne's Moreland Council $300 to use Brunswick Town Hall for an Israel-bashing conference in which it claimed that armed conflict was a legitimate response to defend the Islamic "caliphate" against the West.

The extremist group has previously said insurgents fighting against Australian and other Coalition troops in Iraq had a "universal right and religious duty". It is banned in Russia, Germany, China, Egypt and Jordan as an organisation capable of inciting terrorism.

Just last month the controversial group sparked protests when they held a meeting in Sydney urging all Muslims to shun democracy.

However Moreland chief executive Peter Brown yesterday defended his council's decision to allow the conference to go ahead, arguing Hizb ut-Tahrir was not banned in Australia. Mr Brown said the council supported cultural and religious inclusiveness.

Hizb ut-Tahrir's mantra is "democracy is a bankrupt and irrational idea" and "all indicators are pointing to the decline and inevitable collapse of Western ideology".

ASIO and some other Western spy agencies have advised that banning the group would drive supporters further underground. About 40 people attended Sunday's meeting, including three community policing officers and an Australian Federal Police agent.

Mr Brown said he was advised by police last week that Hizb ut-Tahrir presented no security risk. "Council's decision to accept the booking came after receiving advice from the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police that the group was not a threat and was not banned," Mr Brown said.

"This decision is based on our strong belief in political and religious freedom but council will remain vigilant and ensure that our city's facilities are not used to incite violence, racism, sexism or religious intolerance. "Our ethos is 'One community proudly diverse', and with that we welcome political debate. But we will always protect that in the process, all of our residents are treated with the respect that makes Moreland a great place to live."

Moreland councillor Lambros Tapinos said he voted against the group using the town hall on the basis its message could breach discrimination or race hate laws.

Hizb ut-Tahrir's Australian headquarters released a statement about the conference under the title "Israel is an occupation that must be reversed". "The Islamic solution to any unjust military occupation is for that occupation to be repelled and reversed . . . be it in Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir, or elsewhere," it said, adding that Islam was not against Jews.

"Islam is a message directed to all humankind, without distinction of race or ethnicity. "There is no room for anti-Semitism or any other form of racism in Islam. In Palestine, Islam is in conflict with 'Israelis' not in their capacity as Jews, but in their capacity as occupiers and aggressors."


Leftist workplace laws an expensive legal headache for small and medium sized businesses

BRUCE Young has had to pay his lawyer $40,000 in the past six years to make sure his staff are paid correctly. His company, Speedwell eBusiness Solutions, like many others have been forced to renegotiate staff contracts with the aid of legal professionals twice since the introduction of WorkChoices in 2006.

Mr Young said the single biggest issue his business faced was paying legal fees to ensure staff were being paid under the correct award. "We had to pay our lawyer $20,000 when WorkChoices came in and we have had to pay another $20,000 since the new system has been put in," he said.

"For big business it's not an issue because they all have in-house counsel, but smaller businesses can't afford to keep shelling out for legal advice because the system is so complicated.

"They have tried to make it simpler but it's nowhere near good enough. Even the government helplines set up to address this problem can't tell us what award some of our staff are meant to be on."

Mr Young said he still planned to expand his Brisbane-based business into Sydney and Melbourne but he needs stability in the industrial relations system to execute his plans. "We just need time to sit, pause and catch up and figure out where everybody stands," he said. "We need certainty about IR laws more than anything else."

The CEO Institute, a business think tank, has conducted a survey that found the federal election is tipped to be the biggest downside risk to Queensland businesses this year, followed by the proposed mineral resources rent tax. The survey also showed that only 58 per cent of executives believed that the economy was heading in the right direction, down from 82 per cent last quarter.

CEO Institute Queensland director Sue Forrester said the poll taken in July shows Queensland executives are not as bullish as three months ago. "Issues CEOs faced during the global financial crisis have resurged," she said. "It was not mentioned directly six months ago, but is now a significant concern for our members."

The only bright spot in the survey showed that 61 per cent of businesses trading in Queensland expect to invest more and employ more people in the next six months.

Even larger companies that responded they would be looking to hire and invest in the coming months said they were concerned about complying with industrial relations laws. Mining services provider Industrea Ltd's chief executive Robin Levison said compliance measures were becoming worse each year.

"Even for larger companies one of the biggest problems is the time it takes to make sure all your staff, especially those in different states, are all under the correct award," he said. "Year on year there is just more and more red tape for businesses. I just can't figure out who benefits from it."

Mr Levison said the handling of the resource super profit tax, before the new negotiated package was agreed to, tarnished Australia's reputation to international investors. "(The RSPT) continued to erode confidence in Australia's governance measures from our international investors," he said.

Despite losing some confidence in the direction of the Australian economy, Mr Levison said Industrea planned to invest in new equipment and staff to continue expanding into overseas markets, such as China. "We are a little bit removed from all the noise about the Australian economy because a lot of our growth markets, particularly in mining safety services are in emerging economies," he said.

The drop in confidence about the strength of the Australian economy comes at a time when international businesses are worrying about a prolonged double-dip recession in either Europe or America.

According to research recently published by The Economist, nearly one-third of international businesses believe a double-dip recession in western economies is the most likely risk to profitability.


Let juries hear ALL the evidence? Preposterous!

JURIES would be allowed to hear the past convictions of some accused criminals under a groundbreaking [South Australian] State Government proposal. Attorney-General John Rau will today begin seeking the opinions of the judiciary and the criminal legal profession over an election promise to amend the 1921 Evidence Act.

He said the draft Bill would allow juries to hear similar fact evidence, propensity evidence and evidence of uncharged acts "in appropriate cases".

But members of the legal profession have questioned the need for change. Critics say the proposal could undermine the basis of the legal system - the presumption of innocence at trial - and unfairly influence a jury. Mr Rau said the existing Evidence Law was confusing.

He said the Government's proposed changes would better guide judges on when it would be appropriate for a jury to hear about an accused person's criminal past. "Serious criminals, particularly those who have a history of violence, or are child-sex offenders or internet predators, should have to account to a court for their past actions and behaviour, particularly when there is a clear pattern of offending relevant to that case," Mr Rau said.

Currently, juries only hear evidence of prior similar offences when a judge rules its value significantly outweighs the risk of any prejudice to the accused.

Mr Rau said the change would provide clarity about when that information should be put before the court. "It is clear that there are some limited occasions when I believe it is right that past offending and behaviour of a defendant should be heard by a jury, because that behaviour is so clearly relevant to the case which is being tried," Mr Rau said. He said the change could lead to more guilty pleas and help reduce the backlog of cases piling up before the District Court.

Former Director of Public Prosecutions Paul Rofe said that, in his experience, existing evidence laws were adequate. "With competent judges and counsel the law works," Mr Rofe said. Allowing juries to hear evidence of earlier crimes would "skew the whole process", he said. "You should be able to get a conviction based on the evidence of the alleged incident and why the person was charged in the first place without resorting to past history."

Civil libertarian George Mancini questioned the need for any amendment to the Act. "It may not reflect any great need or community concern or demand for change," Mr Mancini said. "The Government has to be seen to be doing something."

He said SA's laws were in line with the rest of the nation and it was only in "extremely rare" circumstances that an accused person's criminal past was put before a jury.

Law Society president Richard Mellows said he would be apprehensive about changes which would remove an accused person's presumption of innocence at trial. "We want everyone who has committed a crime to be brought to justice, but we want to make sure everyone gets a fair trial," he said. "It's important a case is decided not on someone's record, but on the evidence in relation to the alleged crime before the court."

Criminal defence lawyer Craig Caldicott said the proposed changes were "fraught with danger". "Even with the best will in the world, jurors might have undue regard for a prior conviction and decide a person's guilt or innocence on something that might have happened in the past," Mr Caldicott said. "It could lead to wrongful convictions." [No problem that the present system leads to wrongful exonerations?]

A spokeswoman for Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond said the Liberal Party would support a proposal clarifying the laws, if properly examined. "There needs to be close examination of how that would be done and of the nature and crimes it would apply to," she said.


Julia the non-marionette

She seems to be selling herself rather than her policies. What is she? A lady of the night?

The Prime Minister declares that she's unleashing "the real Julia" and taking "personal charge" of the campaign. Which raises the questions: "Who, precisely, have we been seeing? And who has been running the campaign up to now?

Clearly Gillard has looked too confected, and her pitch in the first fortnight sounded too scripted. But the adjustment needed to be more subtle than the PM taking up a foghorn to announce she'd been acting a part in someone else's play. "I think it's time for me to make sure that the real Julia is well and truly on display. So I'm going to step up and take personal charge of what we do in the campaign from this point", she told News Ltd newspapers.

It makes her sound shrill, and invites concerns about why she has apparently allowed people to persuade her to be other than herself. Gillard leaves the impression that unknown forces have had her tied up as a sort of political prisoner.

This line feeds back into the worries about her being installed in the leadership by factional leaders. It could add to the unease some voters feel about the way in which Kevin Rudd was unceremoniously ousted.

One of Gillard's problems has been her difficulty in defining herself to the voters. It's hard for her to look back to the Rudd government, and she hasn't put out much of a new story for the future. Getting the government "back on track" has involved patch ups on the mining tax, asylum seekers and climate change. Now she is suggesting that she personally was subject to a patch up too. And that it didn't work and now she's scraping the varnish off and getting back to the basic Gillard.

The "real Julia" also seems to need someone to punch, apart from Tony Abbott. She is reportedly "absolutely ready" for a fight against the education unions over a proposal she has to give school principals more power. Oh, and the "real Julia" has a few nice words to say about John Howard's "even demeanour" and "commonsense approach". "I'm somewhat of an even-tempered and commonsense approach too", she said.

This week, Labor is attempting to shine the spotlight on Abbott — the contradictions he's had in in his positions on issues like climate change, industrial relations, and parental leave. It wants to talk up Abbott as a risk. By having the debate focus on the "real Julia", however, Labor once again lessens the attention on the opposition leader and keeps it, quizzically, on Gillard.

Clearly Gillard and the Labor campaigners are panicking in the face of the polls (both Nielsen and Newspoll) showing the government staring defeat in the face. But to announce her change of tactics so dramatically puts that panic on far too obvious display.


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