Friday, September 24, 2010

Sydney artist rips the lid off controversial cover-up

SECURITY has been called in after tensions threatened to boil over a provocative mural to ban burqas at a Newtown workshop. Following artist Sergio Redegalli's painting opposing the Islamic face covering veils with the slogan "Say no to burqas", security outside the premises has been called in after tensions threatened to boil over.

Police also attended the unit at Wilford and Station St after a female resident allegedly unleashed a foul mouthed tirade against the picture and attempted to deface it with paint.

Security guard Nathan Daniels, called in by Mr Redegalli to protect his work, said there had been a lot of abuse - nearly all from women. "The trouble has been mainly from feminists saying it was sexist and racist. This one woman was abusing the artist - shouting and swearing at him as well as making threats that she's `going to get him', so we had the police called in," Mr Daniels said.

"The thing is Mr Redegalli is trying to get the message across that by women wearing the burqa their identity is being wiped out. A policeman said to me it has practical problems for them, such as identifying people," he added.

A resident, who did not want to be named in case of reprisals, said: "I'm only a pensioner but I would like to give the guy $50 for doing this. "These people come to our country so the least they should do is try and integrate a bit. I don't want to be named because I fear for the safety of my family and friends - everyone's scared of them."

Mr Redegalli said the painting was a rallying call against the creeping growth of extremism in Australia and was not anti-Islam. "It's about the burqa and extremism and not Islam. This mural has come from frustration," he said. "You can't say anything about Muslims without getting in trouble."

The image, which faces one of CityRail's busiest corridors, has been defaced twice since painting began on Monday.

Marrickville Mayor Sam Iskandar said he "condemns" the painting but council did not have the right to remove it.

Muslim Women's National Network Australia president Aziza Abdel-Halim said the image was disrespectful, insulting and an "immature way" of starting a debate. "I don't think [Mr Redegalli] is really even worth thinking about," she said. "[Wearing a burqa] is a matter of personal choice."


Incredible Greenie nonsense in NSW

Homeowners who sandbag coastal areas to protect their properties during storms could face fines up to $247,000 under tough new coastal protection laws. Councils will also be given the power to impose levies on coastal property owners to build sea walls.

Environment Minister Frank Sartor is in negotiations with the Greens to get his Coastal Protection Bill through Parliament, with the Opposition opposing it and organisations such as the Property Council lobbying to have it defeated.

The Bill includes provisions for $495,000 fines for corporations and $247,000 fines for residents who install illegal measures to protect their homes from sea level rises. Residents who do not gain approval for sandbagging would also pay up to $22,000 a day in fines if they continue.

Mr Sartor's laws - which he introduced into Parliament this week - have raised the ire of NSW coastal residents. The laws apply to properties within 1km of coastal rivers and estuaries as well as seafront properties.

Pat Aiken of Saratoga on the Central Coast has set up a community organisation to oppose the Bill. "Gosford Council has identified 9000 properties as potentially affected by sea level rise," he said. He said it was not just rich residents of Byron Bay who were affected but "people with the arse hanging out of their pants" in suburbs such as Woy Woy and Booker Bay.

"The estuary, river, bay and lagoon people probably have no idea what is about to come down on them - another big government tax on the back of climate change," he said.

Collaroy property owner Robert Wiggins said the Bill was about removing liability from government for not building sea walls.

Property Council of Australia acting executive director Edward Palmisano was "concerned that property owners who purchased or developed land in good faith will lose the capacity to take reasonable measures to protect their property from sea level rise".

"The Bill creates potential limitations on the opportunities available to homeowners to protect their property. Such restrictions do not apply to properties under threat from bushfires or floods, so why should sea level rise be treated any differently?" he asked.

Mr Palmisano said the Bill had the potential to impose "huge burdens on property owners" including "onerous new levies".


Gillard dances to beat of green drum

THIS minority government is in danger of falling down a policy rabbit hole.

JULIA Gillard, provided she doesn't find a Liberal rat and decides to appoint the long-suffering, second or third-choice Harry Jenkins as Speaker, faces a majority of just one vote in the House of Representatives.

It's going to be hard-ball politics and the independent MPs of the "new paradigm" will find themselves confronted with the fact that their vote is going to count on every issue, and they are going to have to be there to support the Labor government they backed into office.

While there is a dramatic sense of theatre about every division deciding the fate of the Gillard government and threatening to send Australia back to the polls, it's exaggerated: under the new standing orders, the government is not about to be brought down by an MP trapped in the toilets during a division.

What is of far greater importance than the day-to-day vote is Labor's policy and legislative agenda. Just what is going to get priority during the 43rd parliament, and what will proposed legislation look like at the end of the committee process that is minority government?

Yesterday's list of proposed legislation for the parliament in the coming weeks is little more than housekeeping. The issue of "strengthening water efficiency labelling for products", which Gillard described yesterday as a significant piece of legislation, seemed to struggle for prominence over an emissions trading scheme, a mining tax, a carbon tax, an East Timor refugee processing centre, tax reform, population restraint and billion-dollar rail lines during the 2010 election campaign.

In truth, the legislative list is a grab bag of things that had no priority previously and serves as an excuse to fill a program that can't even look at a new mining tax, climate change bills, tax reform or a National Broadband Network for months at least, even with the best will in the world.

The real problem for Labor is that its tenuous majority and lack of a meaningful agenda to be put to the parliament means there is a vacuum that various groups will be looking to fill, and Gillard will not be in control of the outcomes. For a start, Tony Abbott, having decided to pull the pin on any gentleman's agreement about pairing the Speaker in divisions and thus denying Labor the luxurious buffer of two votes, intends to attempt to overturn the Queensland state Labor government's wild rivers laws that control development by indigenous landowners on Cape York Peninsula and have split Labor and indigenous ranks. There is also split support for the proposed motion among the independent MPs.

But for Gillard the far more worrying prospect is that of her alliance partner the Greens pursuing their policy agendas, which will simultaneously create tensions with the Labor Party and build the profile of the Greens as they eat away at Labor's base.

To make matters worse for Gillard, the Greens are having their own crisis of policy determination and priorities that will distort her agenda. Only two weeks ago, when the negotiations were under way to form minority government, Greens leader Bob Brown nominated climate change and same-sex marriage as the Greens' priority.

Since then, pushing for changes to euthanasia laws nationwide has become a general Greens' aim and Brown has declared changing the euthanasia laws is his priority. It's worth noting in that time the Greens have signalled they will negotiate with the government on a carbon tax or price, they will not allow blocking the mining tax to bring down the government, and have conceded that uranium mining is the province of the states.

Brown has also walked away from some of the more embarrassing and economically challenging policies -- such as death duties -- and has embraced euthanasia as the new priority.

This week Brown has accused Abbott of "not understanding minority government" and declared he intends to introduce a euthanasia bill in the first private members' opportunity of the new parliament with the new rules Labor has endorsed.

"My bill would restore the right of territory parliaments to pass laws that would allow terminally ill people to choose a death with dignity," Brown said. "This right was taken away under the Howard government. While this bill is about territory rights, a huge majority of Australians support voluntary euthanasia, and it is time for federal parliament to debate the issue."

This is a double danger for Gillard; in the first place it will be the tail wagging the dog of the rainbow alliance and the public debate will become enmeshed in an issue that evinces strong emotions but is not a top-order issue for the public; and, in the second case, this is an issue tailor-made to contrast Kevin Rudd as a leader who stands for something with a prime minister who is reluctant to state a position.

Unlike the question of same-sex marriage, which just before the election Gillard said she did not agree with on cultural grounds, the issue of euthanasia is one Gillard refuses to be drawn on.

Consider this scenario: in the next few weeks the Labor minority puts up a series of housekeeping bills, the opposition puts up embarrassing bills, and the Greens grab centre stage with a euthanasia bill that Gillard has already promised would be a conscience vote.

Gillard, trying to reassure voters during the election that she was being tough on border protection, wants to cut population growth, introduce offshore processing for illegal boat arrivals, and ease pressures on working families, would be opposed to her former leader Rudd, who is already proving to be a media magnet and who is attractive to conservative voters on life issues.

It was a signal this week of what will come when Jesuit priest Frank Brennan, head of the government's constitutional committee on a bill of rights and the man who accompanied Rudd to the ministerial swearing-in, opened hostilities over euthanasia in New Matilda: "So now we have a hung parliament and Brown wants to agitate the issue of euthanasia once again," he said.

"There is little pressure from the people and legislatures in these places about what is presently an academic issue. To date no state parliament has legislated for euthanasia," he said, as Western Australia rejected a Greens euthanasia bill. "I doubt that a hung parliament will have the time and resources to consider these complex issues in its early days. As Tony Abbott says, there are real 'bread and butter concerns' that this parliament needs to get its head around."

This is not just a point of principle, it is a political point: Labor should not let itself be sidetracked by issues that aren't priorities for the people, aren't Labor promises, and will only draw attention away from Labor's own agenda.


Victoria's top cop goes too far

An editorial from the Herald Sun

WHEN does a police force cross the line from protection of the community to an intrusion into its legitimate affairs?

Victoria Police and Chief Commissioner Simon Overland have done that by secretly gaining access to the private telephone records of this newspaper in a witch-hunt for whistleblowers within its own ranks.

The Herald Sun freely admits it has embarrassed Chief Commissioner Overland by exposing the blunders within his own office. That is the job of a free and independent newspaper in holding not only Mr Overland to the utmost scrutiny, but also the Government that appointed him.

But legitimate scrutiny is not what the police force is doing in the case of the Herald Sun and perhaps other companies going about their daily business.

The police have paid telecommunication providers for access to phone records in the hope of identifying any of its members who might have spoken to our journalists.

It is ironic that we were alerted by police officers who, like us, think the surveillance is potentially dangerous and at the very least unwarranted.

If Mr Overland wants to close down any conversations between his officers and Herald Sun journalists, to the extent of controlling their every word through his media office, that is his concern. Spying on its members might also be a concern of the Police Association.

What is our concern is that the Chief Commissioner is not only using taxpayer money, he is diverting these funds from the pursuit of criminal matters. Better that he spend the community's money on preventing murders by criminal gangs and outlaw bikies, who have transferred their drug-related activities to Victoria after crackdowns in other states.

The Herald Sun, in its Right to Know campaign, is pushing for national shield laws for journalists to protect whistleblowers as much as the journalists they speak to. It is these witnesses to government and bureaucratic maladministration who keep institutions honest. This is right and proper and Victoria Police is one such institution whose own members are best placed to watch for similar excesses.

But just how far does police surveillance intrude into the business of companies other than the Herald Sun? Does it extend to even the higher echelons of the Victorian Government? How long has this surveillance being going and will these records be destroyed? Where are the checks and balances and what other investigations have been hindered as money has been diverted?

Tapping phone conversations requires a court order from a judge and the Herald Sun argues that the monitoring engaged in by the Victoria Police requires the same judicial oversight. Under its current code of intrusion, it needs only an inspector to sign off on an order to save what Mr Overland might consider an embarrassment.

The next phone call the Chief Commissioner receives should be from Premier John Brumby to tell him to get on with the job of catching criminals.


No comments: