Thursday, January 20, 2011

A rather surprising victory for free speech

If conspiracy theories were to be used as grounds to discriminate against someone, the 50 million (or thereabouts) Americans who believe that the 9/11/2001 attacks were a hoax could also be discriminated against. And making someone's political opinions grounds for an adverse psychiatric diagnosis would be to go the way of the old Soviet union. And Christians -- who believe in an invisible entity -- would be at risk too. So kudos to the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal

A man declared a white supremacist by police and ruled a possible risk to public safety by a psychiatrist has been granted the right to possess a handgun.

Darryl Potts, who believes there is a Jewish conspiracy to destroy other races, had his AB firearms and probationary pistol licences revoked by police after he expressed "white supremacy views" to officers during an incident involving domestic violence.

But, in a landmark case, the Administrative Decisions Tribunal has ruled that, even though Mr Potts might hold extreme and offensive views, that does not mean he is mentally impaired and he is legally entitled to a firearm licence. The decision was at odds with the opinion of police, the Firearms Registry and a psychiatrist's clinical assessment that Mr Potts had the potential "to put public safety at risk".

Mr Potts, an elevator technician at Federal Parliament, pursued the case because he believed having a revoked firearm licence could affect his security clearance to work in government buildings. He said he wanted to take a stand against the trend of removing people's firearms.

Both during the case and in extensive interviews with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Potts made a series of bizarre claims about Jewish people. He told the tribunal he did not believe six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. "I say the six million is a load of hogwash," he said.

After having his licences reinstated, he said he believed Jews were plotting to dilute other races by encouraging mixed-race children and he had unwittingly played into their hands by having children with his Korean-born wife - from whom he has separated. "If I had've known this information I would not have participated in mixed-race marriage," he said.

He also said Jewish spies, posing as "Israeli art peddlers" were visiting his house because he was "a person of interest" to them.

After the 2009 domestic dispute at his estranged wife's house, the Firearms Registry referred Mr Potts to a psychiatrist on the basis that he "has expressed white supremacy [sic] ... views that have raised concerns regarding his mental health".

After Mr Potts stated, "I am a very angry man", the psychiatrist diagnosed him as having a personality disorder.

ADT member Peter Molony rejected the psychiatrist's opinion and ruled, "Mr Potts is an intelligent, manipulative and calculating man".

"The fact that he holds political and religious views and opinions that are offensive is not, in my opinion, sufficient to find that the public interest requires that he no longer hold a firearms licence," Mr Molony found. "To do so would be to embark on a slippery slope ... to totalitarianism."


Some things never change: Welfare money meant for blacks pours into the pockets of white bureaucrats

And the bit that gets to blacks is useless to them anyway. The bureaucracy is clueless as well as being a leech. Giving Aborigines one-bedroom brick houses is a towering absurdity if you know anything about Aborigines: A total lack of cultural sensitivity. Aborigines in remote areas live communally. Leftists talk the talk about cultural sensitivity but they don't walk the walk

Half the funds set aside to construct and renovate houses in the remote Aboriginal community of Wadeye are going towards administration and company costs. A leaked draft budget, prepared by the company contracted under the federal government's Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program to perform the work at Wadeye, allocates $20.642 million for administrative and establishment costs.

According to the government's published budget for SIHIP, the Wadeye package, which consists of 105 new dwellings, 167 refurbishments and 28 rebuilds, will cost $65.375m, putting the administration and establishment costs at 31.6 per cent of the total budget.

The Coalition's indigenous affairs spokesman, Nigel Scullion, said this was before the guaranteed profit for the company of up to 20 per cent that was written into the contract and the project management fees of 8 per cent were deducted from the program budget.

New Future Alliance was awarded the contract to perform the work at Wadeye. It is doing the refurbishments and rebuilds but has subcontracted most of the work on the new houses to Thamarrurr Development Corporation. Ninety out of the 105 houses planned for Wadeye are either completed or under construction.

The budget obtained by The Australian is a New Future Alliance budget. It details the appointment of 14 supervisors and managers including one salary of $894,700 for less than two years' work. There is provision for a vacation student to be paid $25,500 for three months' work experience.

"SIHIP is intended to build or renovate houses for Aboriginal people and not to provide high-paid jobs and work experience for construction companies," Senator Scullion said. "When you include the budget allocation of $18,000 for tea and coffee for the managers and supervisors it is no longer a mystery as to why only one-bedroom houses and limited maintenance is all that can be delivered to the residents of Wadeye."

A spokeswoman for Acting Indigenous Affairs Minister Mark Arbib said the government disputed the interpretation of the costings.

"The budget for Wadeye includes costs which are an essential part of building houses," the spokeswoman said. "You cannot build a house without proper planning, or a workforce to deliver the project. This includes essentials such as project design and scoping, site cleaning and waste disposal, site management, compliance with building and planning regulations, transitional accommodation for residents whose houses are being replaced or refurbished, and the costs of establishing and operating camps for the workforce."

The spokeswoman said the site manager and other positions carried a high level of responsibility for managing a major construction project in a very remote location. "Alliances are competing with the mining industry and other major construction projects to attract the right people to these jobs," she said.

"The employee costs include provision for annual leave, long-service leave, public holidays, payroll tax, workers compensation, superannuation and training. They are not simply the salary an employee receives. As with other employers, the total cost of the employee is greater than the salary in the wage packet."

SIHIP was announced in April 2008, but became bogged down soon after amid claims of poor administration and wastage.

After The Australian revealed the difficulties, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin ordered a review that led to administrative changes. SIHIP is one element of the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing, which is delivering $5.5 billion over 10 years to tackle the housing backlog in remote Australia.


Grantham flood survivor threatened with arrest

Disturbing authoritarianism designed to protect the politicians from bad publicity, it seems. Also disturbing that this was reported on far-Leftist sites only. It seems that the media are in the pocket of Gillard and Bligh

Queensland police threatened Grantham service station owner Martin Warburton, 41, with arrest on Thursday if he attempted to speak with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh about the failure of their governments to provide timely and adequate assistance to the flood-ravage community. Warburton, who is chairman of the Grantham relief committee and a former councillor, was told by the local police sergeant he could be arrested and charged for "inciting fear and anger in the community".

The threat was issued a day before Gillard and Bligh were scheduled to visit a local evacuation centre and followed warnings to the media by Queensland Flood Recovery Taskforce head, Major-General Mick Slater, that any reportage of community "divisiveness" would hamper the "success" of the recovery operation. These developments further highlight the political reality that the principal concerns of the Flood Recovery Taskforce is not the plight of ordinary people but protecting the state and federal governments and corporate interests.

Grantham, a small town of 370 people in the Lockyer Valley about 100 kilometres west of Brisbane, is regarded as the "epicentre" of flash-flooding that hit Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley communities in south-east Queensland.

The town was devastated by a massive wall of water that swept through the town on January 10, destroying all in its path-houses, cars and small businesses. More than 30 people have been killed in the Queensland floods. Eighteen of those are from the Lockyer Valley and Toowoomba areas, with 10 people still listed as missing, feared dead. Residents were given no official warnings of the impending disaster but fought heroically to save those caught in the raging torrent.

Martin Warburton spoke with the World Socialist Web Site yesterday about the police threat and the physical and psychological impact of the flood on the small community. He said Grantham residents were outraged by lack of flood warnings, inadequate support and lack of night-time security in the town following the disaster.

Martin Warburton: I spent a whole day in Gatton [a nearby town] trying to get answers or an ear that would listen to our concerns after the flood wiped us off the map. Admittedly I wasn't dressed for the occasion-I had my old clothes on and was ready to go back home and begin cleaning up-but a mongrel dog in a pound would have been treated better. By sundown that afternoon I realised I wasn't getting anywhere.

We'd been locked out of the town, which is now classified as a crime scene, and told there had to be a complete search and recovery through the whole area. We agreed with that but wanted our town secured at night.

People in Grantham have been through the worst experience of their life and the last thing they should be worrying about is whether their possessions would be there when they returned. I'd guarantee if this happened in Anna Bligh's or the prime minister's neighbourhoods there'd be round the clock security.

But it didn't matter what we said they wouldn't listen and the authorities kept falsely accusing us of wanting people taken off search and rescue. I finally reached the mayor and we went to the media. I told the press we'd been diplomatic but we were getting nowhere and they should listen to what we had to say about the lack of support from our governments.

Prime Minister Gillard and Anna Bligh were coming out here on Friday but instead of being able to raise these issues I was told in no uncertain terms by the local police sergeant that if I approached either of them, or made a scene in front of the media, I'd taken away and charged with inciting fear and anger in the community. I have witnesses-the local mayor Steve Jones heard it.

Richard Phillips: What was your reaction?

MW: I was shocked and tried explaining the situation to the local sergeant. You'd think there'd be a bit of compassion or sensitivity, but he wasn't interested. I don't know whether he was being directed or where his orders came from but he made it quite clear that they-the politicians-didn't want any bad press.

In the last few days things have changed and the government and private individuals have started to give us some real assistance, which we really appreciate. But why did it take five days, including two days of smacking our heads up against the wall, before someone started to listen to us. None of this would have happened if we hadn't raised our voices.

I can understand some things take time but why so long? There are children that saw their own family members and neighbours die. Why did the government wait five days to get counsellors to those kids? It's wrong. And the evacuation centres in this area-they were set up by ordinary people, not the government. Without this community spirit we would have had nothing.

RP: Could anything have been done to prevent the flash-flooding?

WM: I don't think so, but we should have been alerted. The Toowoomba flooding happened an hour before it hit us and yet we weren't warned. Why not, don't the powers that be know that water flows down hill?

I started getting phone calls from friends and relatives about the wall of water and to get out of town. They told me about water levels at bridges that didn't seem possible but I knew they wouldn't lie to me and so I had time to run down the street telling people to get out.

The wall of water didn't come along the creek but rushed down the main road and it was at least six metres high. If we'd been warned much earlier the death toll wouldn't have been anywhere near as bad as it is.

RP: Has there been any discussion about rebuilding?

MW: We don't know where we are with that yet because some people don't even know whether their homes are still standing, and some say they won't be coming back.

Our concerns were not directed against the foot soldiers on the ground or the two police officers at each end of the town but against those higher up, the bureaucrats and powers-that-be who left us for dead.

We're determined to get our community back on its feet again, but why did it take two days of us banging our heads against the wall and being threatened with arrest by the authorities for things to finally start happen?

RP: And the psychological impact of the disaster?

MW: This has scarred me for life. There's no doubt in my mind that once things settle down I'm going to need an awful lot of help to deal with the things I've seen. I'm not blowing wind up my own skirt but I'm a pretty tough sort of fellow and this is something I'll never forget. Hopefully I'll learn to manage these issues.

I know people living on the hill in Grantham who are going to need counselling and other assistance. Their homes weren't directly affected by the water but they saw all the devastation unfold. Many of them were on the railway bridge trying to save people from the roofs of their cars and then unfortunately saw them being swept away, never to be seen again.


A racist Greenie

But Greenies don't like anyone much so a bit of xenophobia should be no surprise

With the fires still underway and the death toll rising, Senator Bob Brown commented at the time that the extent and ferocity of the fires was a pointer to the reality of global warming. Maybe so - not being a scientist I couldn't say - but the more pressing issue was one of time and place. On both counts, Bob Brown failed the taste test, and quite spectacularly.

With the flood crisis now turning to Victoria, and the death toll expected to increase in Queensland as the recovery continues, Senator Brown has now decided to use this latest national tragedy to launch an attack on the coal industry. Unlike the bushfires, it's difficult to identify any precise link between burning coal and the re-occurrence of a flood pattern which has been with Australia since well before white settlement, but the Greens Leader clearly didn't want to let the opportunity pass him by. As Queensland Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce pointed out in a moment of lucidity, in 1893 the Brisbane River flood gauge reached 8.35m. "Was the coal industry responsible for that as well?" Joyce asked.

Brown's overstatements are such that they test the patience of those of us who believe in climate change. Global warming aside, there was one aspect to his comments about the coal industry which exposed the strange jingoism which underpins his world view and that of many on his flank of politics. It's the kind of sentiment which has been heard most commonly from supporters of Pauline Hanson's old One Nation Party, and it exposes how on both the far left and far right of politics there's this quaint "Stop the world I want to get off" nonsense which sees globalisation as the root cause of all known social evil.

When such views are expressed by Hansonites they'll face accusations of racism, which is something which you would think Bob Brown abhors, but this is what he had to say anyway:

"Burning coal is a major cause of global warming. This industry, which is 75 per cent owned outside Australia, should help pay the cost of the predicted more severe and more frequent floods, droughts and bushfires in the coming decades. It is unfair that the cost is put on all taxpayers, not the culprits."

Setting aside the fact that this flood is less severe than others which have occurred in the past in terms of its size, Brown's comments could so easily have emanated from the mouth of someone such as Hanson. The fact that we are now living in a global economy is presented not as the basis of our increased national prosperity, but the source of our apparent ruination.

This is a recurring theme in public life in Australia. Groups and individuals often cloak their arguments in this absurdly retro dinki-di rhetoric to capitalise on a misplaced sense of national sentiment.

Dick Smith built a company out of it, the big retailers tried it on last month when they attacked our right to shop online, ignoring the fact that it's their own pricing policies, and their support for protectionist racketeering such as parallel import restrictions which artificially inflates the cost of products such as books. Those factors play as big a part as the fluctuation of the dollar in encouraging consumers to buy offshore, but it doesn't sit with the Buy Aussie sentiment they're using to bolster their self-interested arguments.

One of the best expos‚s of this protectionist nonsense came on the floor of the NSW Labor State Conference in 2007 when the rambunctious former treasurer Michael Costa took on the labour movement and the parliamentary left over electricity privatisation.

The unions and their backers in Caucus had done a very passable impersonation of Hanson by peddling the line that if NSW sold its power industry it could end up being bought by the Chinese. No evidence for that, but invoking the prospect of those inscrutable Orientals buying Energy Australia was too good a PR opportunity to ignore. In a passionate and ranting speech at the conference, which was so abusive that it probably helped ensure the failure of the power sale, Costa pointed out that the bright yellow protest T-shirts being worn by the anti-privatisation delegates had themselves been made in China.

Surely if the delegates were consistent and pure they would have paid five times as much to get them from a local manufacturer.

The simple economic reality is that for everything we now import there are plenty of locally grown or locally made products and services which are now able to enter markets overseas which have also reduced protections as world trade becomes freer.

The irony with Brown's attack on the coal industry is exposed by the estimated damages bill from the floods themselves. Canberra is putting the cost at between $5 billion and $8 billion but the Reserve Bank believes it could top $15 billion. Much of the cost would come from the fact that large sections of the coal industry have been shut down by the floods, or the roads which are used to transport coal are now inoperable. Which means fewer exports to China. Which means less money to Treasury.

Which means less money for public schools, bike lanes and community arts grants, all the things which people such as Bob Brown apparently adore.


Floating restaurant rescued -- with a lot of help from its friends

Along with The Islander, Riverwalk, and the `Little tug that could’, Drift was probably one of the most talked about river events, in the Brisbane City floods, as it’s pontoon ripped away and floated down stream, while the rest of it sank below the waters. Owner David Moore was devastated to have to make the decision to smash the floor to ceiling windows and let the place sink, so it wouldn’t be a dangerous floating missile in the river. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have to do that.

We all thought that was the end of Drift- but it seems the river is not to have her. She has been refloated, retrieved from the sticky black mud at the bottom of the river.

I went down there yesterday, to unbelievable scenes. Wires poked out from studds where walls once were; workers were up in the ceiling, shovelling mud into plastic bags which were then dropped through the manhole. The kitchen was gutted and a grand piano sat sadly on it’s side. There were hundreds of plates, cups, baking dishes and cutlery that had to have the sticky blackness removed before they could be professionally cleaned and put into storage.

Volunteers of all ages squatted beside buckets, cleaning off hundreds of bottles of wine and beer. The stench was terrible- mud and rotting food, but the amazing volunteers didn’t shirk at doing anything and the huge pile of unsalvageable material grew on the riverside walk.

I saw a lot of faces I recognised from hospitality- Marilyn Domenech of Baguette sitting on a bucket washing plates. Others I recognised as wait-staff from other restaurants but didn’t know their names. Then there were just the regular people, people who popped in and out giving help where they could, whether an hour or all day. Fantastic to see so many young people too-obviously genYers get a bad rap sometimes; they were all so incredibly selfless.

David had no flood insurance, as he wasn’t able to get any-being on the river has it’s disadvantages, but he seems optimistic that Drift will live again. I hate to see people’s dreams washed away like that but looking at the damage, I just can’t imagine how it can happen without a massive amount of money.


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