Friday, April 15, 2011

Do-gooder was a goon

His current political campaign is to "protect" people from spending too much of their money on gambling

INDEPENDENT MP Andrew Wilkie says he cannot remember ordering military cadets to honour Adolf Hitler. But he says he is regretful of other inappropriate behaviour when he was at Duntroon Military College almost 30 years ago.

As a senior cadet in 1983 Mr Wilkie allegedly forced his juniors to salute the 50th anniversary of Hitler's rise to power, News Ltd has reported.

"I honestly cannot remember anything about that specific allegation," Mr Wilkie told reporters in Hobart today. "But I have never made a secret of the fact that I was one of many cadets involved in the bastardisation scandal at the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1983. "In fact I was disciplined for misconduct at the time." Mr Wilkie said he was "obviously regretful" of that.

He acknowledged the behaviour was wrong and inappropriate but insisted it wasn't physical or sexual. "I've obviously grown up a lot in the last 30 years."

Mr Wilkie said he was a cadet in his early 20s at the time. "That sort of behaviour at the time was wrong, and I regret I was in any way involved in that sort of behaviour," Mr Wilkie said.

"I am absolutely appalled at the stories that are coming out of the defence force academy these days, I applaud the Defence Minister Stephen Smith for intervening and taking the strongest possibly action to stamp out misconduct at the academy."

Mr Wilkie refused to apologise over the Nazi allegations because he couldn't remember "that particular incident".

"If there's anyone in this country who, to this day, feels aggrieved in any way by anything I've ever said or done to them, then I apologise unreservedly," he said. "But I will not apologise for the allegation in the paper because I honestly have no recollection."

The Tasmanian MP noted he gained security clearance to undertake intelligence work later in life and passed "repeated" character tests during his military career. "So I would hope that no one would have any doubts over my character these days, particularly as a member of parliament.

"This is happening ... against the backdrop of the poker machine industry launching its campaign ... against the government and me personally."

Mr Wilkie said it was as much a cultural problem as an issue with specific events. "What happened to me as a cadet when I was bastardised and then what I did to other cadets was endemic at Duntroon at the time to many cadets involved," he said. "It would probably clean out the senior ranks of the defence force if we were to search out and remove every person who in anyway brushed up against bastardisation."

Mr Wilkie urged the government to conduct a specific review of Duntroon in the wake of the Skype sex scandal. "I have no reason to think that there's a problem at Duntroon these days," he said. "(But) if we are going to have a fresh look at what's going on ... it would be healthy to not just look at the (Australian) Defence Force Academy but to look at Duntroon as well."

ADFA provides university education for officer trainees from all services while Duntroon trains army officers.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard noted the alleged events took place when Mr Wilkie was a "very, very young man".

But she wouldn't comment on the detail of the report. ``I didn't know the Andrew Wilkie of 30 years ago, I'm sure he can speak for himself," Ms Gillard told Austereo. ``Andrew Wilkie is the only person who can tell his life story."

An anonymous barrister has also publicly described the mental, physical and sexual abuse he and others suffered at Duntroon in the early 1990s.

Former cadet Brendan Etches said he was disappointed to be rebuffed by Mr Wilkie after making an appointment to see the Member for Denison on Tuesday. He was at first assured that Mr Wilkie would speak to him but later told the politician refused to discuss his time at Duntroon.

Mr Etches said he has wondered if and when the independent MP would speak out against the harsh treatment that the then Senior Cadet Wilkie and others condoned - and sometimes inflicted - on teenage cadets.

In his book Axis of Deceit, Mr Wilkie admits he was a "larrikin" while at Duntroon and that he set "some sort of record" for incurring punishments for offences such as "giving junior cadets a hard time".

Mr Etches, whose grandfather had fought against Hitler's troops at Tobruk, said he had been shocked at orders to salute the Nazi regime. "He was drilling us before breakfast," Mr Etches said. "I have a memory of him in a dressing gown, watching as the other senior guys were running around giving us a hard time."


Aboriginal sophisticates betray bush sisters

Marcia Langton

LARISSA Behrendt's foul Twitter message about Bess Price's comments on the absence of rights for Aboriginal women in her community on ABC Television's Q&A program is an exemplar of the wide cultural, moral and increasingly political rift between urban, left-wing, activist Aboriginal women and the bush women who witness the horrors of life in their communities, much of which is arrogantly denied by the former.

Whereas Bess, a grandmother who resides in Yuendumu, is a first-hand witness of terrifying violence against women, lives in one of Australia's poorest communities, and campaigns for the needs of women and children, especially their safety and everyday physical needs, professor and lawyer Larissa Behrendt lives in Sydney in relative luxury as compared with Bess's situation, has no children, has a PhD from Harvard and is the principal litigant in a case against conservative columnist Andrew Bolt, who published several columns accusing the "fair-skinned" Behrendt and others of falsely claiming to be Aboriginal to get the perks.

Australians, whether they support reconciliation or not, must be astonished at the viciousness of the twittering sepia-toned [not black] Sydney activists. Andrew Bolt should be rubbing his hands with glee - Behrendt has delivered on all of his stereotypes, and this time I have to wonder if he is not right after all.

What indigenous or human rights, or for that matter, civil rights, are Behrendt and her Twitter followers defending in this extraordinary exchange? Which Aboriginal woman should I listen to, many must be asking.

On Monday night this week, Bess was the subject of shocking personal abuse by Behrendt in a Twitter message following Bess's appearance on the Q&A program that focused on the sex scandals in the ADF and the calls for reform of the culture of abuse of women.

Behrendt twittered: "I watched a show where a guy had sex with a horse and I'm sure it was less offensive than Bess Price." This was one of several Twitters circulating among the Aboriginal protestati of Sydney. While none were as offensive as Behrendt's, at least one that consisted of outright lies was far more damaging to her and her husband's reputations.

I have never in my life witnessed such extreme disrespect shown by a younger Aboriginal woman for an older Aboriginal woman, except where the perpetrator was severely intoxicated on drugs or alcohol. Nor have I witnessed, except once or twice, such snide dismissal by a younger Aboriginal woman of an older Aboriginal woman's right to express her views. Those of us who were brought up in the Aboriginal way were taught from a young age to show respect for our elders and not to speak while they are speaking. This is a fundamental and universal law in Aboriginal societies.

What Bess said to incite such abuse was this: "Equal opportunity doesn't exist for our women, and once the military have done their overhaul of their men and policies . . . maybe they could come our way and sort some of our fellas out, because what's happening now women just haven't had a voice." They "want to move forward and be respected and be seen as equals". What happened to the girl whose complaint brought these matters to a head "was not right", Bess said.

Asked by Emma Beard what was the most important thing that could improve the standard of living for Northern Territory Aboriginal people, Bess replied: "Education is the first one on the top of the list . . . from six up to 18, children don't know how to write their names." She responded to another questioner who cited "treaty obligations" that if the UN indigenous rights rapporteur who visited the Northern Territory had been a woman, there would have been more understanding and a better outcome for Aboriginal women.

Asked by Tony Jones if she still supported the intervention, Bess said: "I am for the intervention because I've seen progress, I've seen women who now have voices. They can speak for themselves, and they are standing up for their rights. Children are being fed, and young people more or less know how to manage their lives. That's what's happened since the intervention."

I met Bess Price on the banks of the Katherine River with her husband in 1980. It was a delight to meet a well-educated young Aboriginal woman. Bess and her husband were engaging and optimistic, and we were in agreement on so many things in those heady days when land rights were new and great changes in the administration of Aboriginal affairs were afoot.

More here

Minister unleashes his inner Germaine Greer

By Ted Lapkin, who served as an infantry officer in the Israeli army. He has an important point but I still think officers can be gentlemen

THE sex scandal at the Australian Defence Force Academy has sent the Gillard government into a conniption fit of political correctness.

In a gross overreaction to this sordid episode, the Prime Minister has set in train a contradictory set of initiatives that would be ludicrous if they weren't so tragic.

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner has been directed to investigate the defence force with the intention of rooting out loutishness in the ranks. But Defence Minister Stephen Smith also wants to see women serving in front-line roles where they will encounter close-quarters barbarism of the worst sort imaginable.

The rank incoherence of these policies is obvious. If women require special protections against a bit of coarse sexual barrack-room banter, how can they be expected to deal with the unbridled savagery of infantry combat?

The battlefield is a brutal, physically exacting and unforgiving environment where there's no Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to be found.

Appeals to fair play will do nothing to help an infantrywoman against an AK47-wielding jihadi who seeks to thrust a bayonet into her chest.

There is no place for special dispensations in war. Our enemies couldn't care less whether our armed forces operate according principles of gender equality.

The government has seized on the ADFA scandal as the trigger for a full-fledged assault on what it sees as the army's culture of machismo-laden aggression. Yet the Defence Minister seems oblivious to the reality that martial belligerence is what wins wars.

The military is a killing machine that in the final equation exists to vanquish Australia's foes by shooting people and blowing up things. It's an institution that has no parallel elsewhere in civilised society.

And, as such, the Australian Army operates according to a unique set of rules that are designed to fit the exceptional circumstances it encounters when the bullets fly. Nowhere else can you be ordered to advance against people who are trying their best to kill you, and nowhere else can you be sent to prison if you refuse. Nowhere else do you receive accolades for slaughtering human beings wholesale.

Since time immemorial, groups of young men have been melded into effective fighting units through a chest thumping, testosterone-laden macho warrior culture. Shakespeare perfectly captured this emotional dynamic with in his famous Agincourt "band of brothers" speech from Henry V.

A singular sense of brotherhood is what makes soldiers willing to assault an enemy machinegun when every rational instinct screams at them to run like hell the other way.

The integration of women into combat units will disrupt the psychological small group dynamic that forges rifle companies into effective fighting machines.

Military feminists seek to impose on the war room a set of principles taken directly from the boardroom. The arguments in favour of a gender-neutral Australian military are all couched in the civilian language of equal opportunity.

No one even tries to claim that permitting women to serve as infantry soldiers will enhance the combat efficiency of the ADF. Activists pushing for this revolutionary change in military culture are utterly indifferent to the impact it will have on the army's ability to fulfil its most basic purpose, winning our wars.

And then there's the inevitable issue of sex. The lifestyle of any ground combat unit in the field is rough, rude and raw.

Writer Sebastian Junger accompanied a unit of American paratroopers three years ago through their 15-month deployment to Afghanistan.

In his bestselling book War, Junger described his platoon's outpost as "a hilltop without hot food, running water, communication with the outside world or any kind of entertainment".

Anyone who believes that there'll be no hanky-panky if young men and women are posted in such conditions is naive to the ways of the human heart. And romantic affection, with its instinctive passions, jealousies and favouritisms, will wreak havoc when injected into the tightly knit fraternity that is a rifle platoon.

It's also time to dispel the mythology about the status of women in the Israeli military that has been bandied about in this debate.

In its 1948 War of Independence, the Israeli army quickly scuttled its egalitarian experiment with female fighters. It turned out that male soldiers were so focused on protecting their female colleagues that they neglected their unit's mission objectives.

And today women still do not serve in the front line units of the Israeli army that engage in close combat with the enemy. The single mixed-gender "Caracal" battalion is assigned to gendarmerie duties along the sleepy Sinai border between Israel and Egypt. Women also carry out rear area security duties with the paramilitary border police. But there are no female fighting personnel in Israel's infantry, tank or combat engineer units.

Elevating the theory and principle over tactics and practicality, the Gillard government seeks to transform the Australian military into a softer and more sensitive institution. But close quarters combat is a savage business and a feminised army will not fare well at the sharp end of war.

The ADF must never be used as a laboratory for trendy social experimentation because the stakes are so high. Getting it wrong means dead Australians and battlefield defeat.

It's fine that Smith has discovered his inner Germaine Greer. But in that process he's dragging the Australian Army down the primrose path of political correctness that will ultimately kill people. The wrong people. Our people.



Three current articles below

Friends and foes flay carbon tax

THERE is now a common view among the Gillard government's friends and foes about the additional costs to industry of a carbon tax.

That is, it could be the straw that breaks the camel's back in relation to future investment, the survival of some of the manufacturing sector and the full recovery of a still fragile, patchwork economy.

Company chiefs and shop-floor workers find they are now on the same side. There is also a common view among employers and employees that the government's process and timetable are flawed, short on detail, politically motivated and not guaranteed of success.

Such sentiments may have been shared by some of those same people during the Rudd government's negotiations of the failed carbon pollution reduction scheme, but there have been dramatic changes to the economy, industry, jobs and the body politic since 2009.

Not least among those is the fact the Gillard government is now a minority one dependent on independents and the Greens to get its agenda passed.

Perhaps the biggest difficulty the government faces is that workers' concern for their jobs, whether based on the real impact of the carbon tax or not, is so deep the previous goodwill on climate change, faith in Labor looking after Australian workers and suspicion of Tony Abbott are evaporating. Labor's working heartland is rebelling because of concern for job security and not because they are climate change deniers or extremists. Chief executives of big companies and welders on the shop floor are seeing eye-to-eye on the threats from a carbon tax and the government appears to be losing the argument badly on compensation for want of detail since Julia Gillard announced the carbon tax on February 24.

These changes and difficulties are not just about more complicated and delicate negotiations with MPs on the cross benches but go to the heart of the challenges faced by the government: a lack of authority, a sense of growing cabinet and leadership tension, emboldened critics, community scepticism towards reassurances and a growing list of sections of industry and the community angry with government policies.

A negotiated government born without electoral momentum is sinking as its friends question its ability to get things done and its foes press home an advantage.

Not least among those foes is the Leader of the Opposition, who has played up industry and business concerns on the effect of the tax on investment and development, harped on increased prices for food, petrol and electricity, and argued that the tax will not cut greenhouse emissions.

What's more, Abbott has not only attacked Gillard's integrity about going back on her promise about a carbon tax and run a highly successful negative campaign, he also has started to split Labor from its formal allies in the Greens and labour movement.

Three weeks ago Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told industry leaders the compensation for business for the carbon tax would not go beyond the compensation earmarked for the CPRS in 2009-10 under Kevin Rudd's prime ministership. He told the coal industry not to expect any compensation for coalminers and exporters beyond 2009.

Industry and unions want it to be the starting point.

Combet was told oil refinery investment in Australia was threatened by a carbon tax, help for the natural gas sector had to be revisited and a range of exporting industries were threatened. Shell and Caltex expressed concerns about the future of oil refinery investment in Australia because a series of taxes and costs were accumulating and the carbon tax represented the fatal straw.

Since then the liquefied natural gas industry has sought an exclusion from the tax, at least a rise in free permits to emit greenhouse gases to 94.5 per cent, because of fundamental changes in the industry and as it ponders investments in the near future of $130 billion. Shell has signalled the closure of its Clyde oil refinery in Sydney with the possible loss of 500 jobs and Ford has announced a downsizing of 240 jobs. To cap it off, Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes has declared he is facing a workers' revolt on the tax and that if one job were to be lost then the union's in-principle support would also be lost.

Howes has been forced into the open by Abbott's dual campaign against Gillard and the tax and against the union leadership for not addressing members' concerns. Since the announcement of the tax Abbott has visited at least 16 workplaces, including a steel works and a cement plant, to campaign against it. At the OneSteel rolling mill at Laverton in Gillard's electorate of Lalor in Melbourne, Abbott observed the growing opposition of workers and drove a wedge between union officials and their members.

"The steel market is highly competitive. They're under a great deal of competitive pressure, particularly from imports, and that's why Julia Gillard's carbon tax is a dagger aimed at the heart of manufacturing in this country . . . it will cost jobs big time," Abbott said. "Most of the workers here are members of the Australian Workers Union and I think if Paul Howes was doing the right thing by his workers he would be talking to the Prime Minister and saying: 'Think again, if we want manufacturing jobs in this country, think again about this bad tax.' "

Don Voelte, chief executive of the biggest Australian-owned LNG company, Woodside Petroleum, argued that while existing projects would not be affected future investment could be directed elsewhere in the world and "carbon leakage" meant China's contribution to global carbon emissions would increase at the cost of Australian LNG exports.

On the face of all this, Combet tried to turn the public discourse back in the government's favour this week by releasing a compensation package for households. It had a guarantee that more than 50 per cent of the revenue raised would be used for permanent compensation to households.

But the package, like all the others, lacked the detail that would enable those fighting for a carbon price to actually have something to use in an argument rather than assurances and moral arguments. As well, the basic concern being felt on the shop floor, worry about keeping your job, wasn't addressed at all by reassurances of compensation for rising costs. When Howes and Voelte agree that workers are worried about the same thing the debate's not favouring the government.


"Green" senator from a distinguished Communist background unrepentant in her hatred of Israel

Her parents were both lifelong members of the Communist Party of Australia and her own views are Trotskyite. Trotsky was the chief murderer of Russia's Red revolution

INCOMING Greens senator Lee Rhiannon says she will support a controversial boycott of Israel right up until she enters Federal Parliament. She will continue to speak out for the sanctions against Israel even though it clashes with the policies of federal Greens leader Bob Brown.

And Ms Rhiannon insisted the stance, part of the Greens' New South Wales platform, is not anti-Israel. She told Sky News the aim was to "bring forward policies that will work for Palestinians because at the moment Palestinians just don't have a lot of the human rights we take for granted".

"I said that yes, we have that position in NSW and I'll support the NSW position. But it's not something we're taking to the Federal Parliament," she said.

Mr Brown suggested Labor should share some of the flak over Marrickville Council's decision to ban Israeli products.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd earlier today slammed the boycott as "nuts" but Senator Brown said that it was not just the NSW Greens that had voted for it. "It was four Labor councillors that made that policy possible," he told reporters in Canberra. "Kevin Rudd's Labor party is as every bit responsible for the outcome ... as the Greens were. "So he might address that issue."

The federal coalition has already called on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to distance herself from the Labor councillors who voted for the boycott in December. More than 20 ALP-affiliated unions have also backed banning trade links with Israel.

Ms Rhiannon said the boycott was part of a global movement. She said: "My own position is that its not an anti-Israel position at all. "It is about a boycott to bring forward policies that will work for Palestinians because at the moment Palestinians just don't have a lot of the human rights we take for granted, they cant move easily around their country, there's not equity in jobs and education, they cant be confident their house isn't going to be blown up."

The NSW Greens were strong contenders for the state seat of Marrickville until its candidate, the local mayor Fiona Byrne, was targeted by a media campaign over her inconsistent position on the boycott to isolate Israel.

The move has drawn the ire of politicians, business leaders and the Jewish community.

The Greens controlled council continues to back sanctions, even though its own business papers have revealed it could cost it $4 million. Ms Byrne issued a statement yesterday saying the sanctions would be implemented in such a way as to not financially disadvantage residents and businesses.

New Premier Barry O'Farrell has written to Marrickville mayor Fiona Byrne threatening to sack the council unless it drops the boycott within 28 days. "We're happy to take whatever action is required to get Marrickville Council back focused on the needs of its ratepayers, not trying to engage in foreign affairs," he told Macquarie Radio today.

He advised Ms Byrne to leave the council and run for federal parliament if she wanted to pursue the boycott.


Solar panel boondoggle

It's an object lesson in how not to run government policy. Solar roof panels on domestic houses deliver relatively little greenhouse gas abatement at a very high cost that is borne disproportionately by the poor.

An economy-wide carbon price delivers a lot of abatement at about one-tenth of the cost and can fund compensation to make sure the heaviest cost falls on the people who can afford to pay.

IPART, the pricing regulator, is warning that the former scheme is eroding the willingness of the public to consider the latter.

Yesterday's report reveals NSW homes are already going to be paying about $100 a year more in annual electricity bills to cover the benefits flowing to people who can afford to put solar panels on their roofs. And there's no compensation to pensioners or low-income earners for that.

The concern is that people are now likely to be less willing to pay $140 to $200 a year more on their annual household bills to cover the cost of the carbon tax, even though low and middle income earners will get compensation for that impost.

How did we get into this back-to-front position? Governments didn't think the policy through.

After spending more than $1 billion on direct rebates for solar photovoltaic cells, continued cost blowouts forced the cancellation of the federal scheme in 2009. It was subsumed into the renewable energy target - a policy actually designed to help large-scale renewables attain a viable market share in the lead-in to a full carbon price.

But the small-scale rooftop incentives swamped the market and rendered the big projects unviable, so the government hived them off into their own scheme - requiring electricity generators to buy all the renewable certificates they generated and giving four extra certificates for every certificate actually earned. The retailers warned from the get-go that the new scheme could also blow out.

On top of this incentive, state governments offered households feed-in tariffs to sell the electricity they generated back into the grid.

Both the federal and former NSW government have already tried to wind back their lucrative incentives, but the message from IPART is that they are not doing it fast enough.

The result is the risk that a bad policy cruels the chances of a potentially efficient one.


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