Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pseudo-Aborigine slurs real Aborigine

Behrendt is as pink-skinned as I am. She is nothing like a real Aborigine, even if she has some remote Aboriginal ancestry. She is just a conventional Leftist. She is comfortably ensconced with others of her ilk at the University of Technology, Sydney, far away from the day-to-day problems of real Aborigines. Her many awards and honours suggest that her claims of Aboriginality have served her well, however. It's so comforting to give awards to "Aborigines" who are just like us. It helps to hide the real and sad differences that need to be dealt with constructively

HIGH-profile indigenous lawyer Larissa Behrendt tweeted that sex with a horse was less offensive than an Aboriginal leader who supports for intervention in the Northern Territory.

Professor Behrendt made the comments after watching Bess Price on the ABC's Q&A program on Monday night. "I watched a show where a guy had sex with a horse and I'm sure it was less offensive than Bess Price."

Ms Price has been vocal about the high levels of violence in central Australian indigenous communities and supported the Northern Territory intervention, angering left-leaning indigenous leaders who consider her a traitor.

Speaking from Darwin, Ms Price told The Australian yesterday she was appalled by the comment. She accused Professor Behrendt, an Australian of the Year finalist, of trying to silence her because of her different views. "I'm going to seek legal advice," she said. "This is worse than what she is accusing Andrew Bolt of."

News Limited columnist Bolt has spent the past fortnight in court fighting accusations that he vilified a group of nine Aborigines, including Professor Behrendt, on the basis of their race.

Professor Behrendt told The Australian yesterday the tweet was taken out of context and had been made as she watched the notoriously crude TV series Deadwood. "The tweet has been taken out of context. I did not mean any offence to Bess Price personally and I am on the record with views contrary to hers on the intervention and she knows that," she said.

Ms Price said the comment showed how out of touch the indigenous academic was with central Australian Aborigines.


Vilification laws unnecessary and counterproductive

Gary Johns

LARISSA Behrendt, a professor of law and indigenous studies at the University of Technology, Sydney and of Aboriginal heritage, is suing Andrew Bolt under the Racial Discrimination Act for racial hatred.

Following the appearance of Aboriginal woman Bess Price on ABC1's Q&A on Monday, it is reported in this paper today that Behrendt tweeted, "I watched a show where a guy had sex with a horse and I'm sure it was less offensive than Bess Price."

I assume Behrendt was offended by Price's firm support for the Northern Territory Emergency Response. I guess one Aborigine hating another in public doesn't cut it under the Racial Discrimination Act. Price will have to be satisfied knowing Behrendt is a gross hypocrite.

Still, Price may take a closer look at the response to Behrendt from fellow "academic" Padraic Gibson of UTS. As reported in this newspaper today Gibson tweeted: "ha! Being offensive pays. BessP and her white husband make a $packet$ doing 'cultural awareness' for NTER."

I think Price may find that the old-fashioned law of defamation may be appropriate. Gibson is co-editor of Solidarity, a socialist magazine, an Aboriginal rights campaigner and "researcher" with Jumbunna, a unit of UTS through which Aborigines can "gain special entry to university". I trust the university reviews the roles of Behrendt, Gibson, Jumbunna and any persons in the university with similarly prejudicial views.

Behrendt, Gibson and others may like to reflect on where 20 years of racial hatred, of the white man, has landed Aborigines. They may like to consider that the two most egregious instances of public racial vilification in Australia in the past two decades were the Aboriginal deaths in custody report (1991) and the report on the separation of Aboriginal children and their families (1997).

The deaths in custody inquiry began knowing that black deaths in custody were at a rate similar to white. There was no agitation to investigate white deaths.

Within the first six weeks of the inquiry the research revealed that a black in custody was no likelier to die than a white in custody. Indeed, the death rate for a black male was no greater in custody than in the community. Moreover, not one of 99 cases of black deaths in custody revealed wrongdoing by prison officials. And yet white society was publicly vilified for years during the inquiry. The assumption was that the white man had done in the black man.

Fortunately, but only incidentally, subsequent actions arising from the recommendations of the inquiry lowered white as well as black deaths in custody.

The speculative conclusion of the deaths in custody inquiry was that family separation was the principal cause of black incarceration. Apparently there was no interest in the causes of the incarceration of whites.

Speculation about the causes of black incarceration led to the second inquiry, into the separation of Aboriginal children from their families. It concluded that the commonwealth, that is, the white man, had deliberately set out to destroy Aboriginal culture by taking half-caste children and that this action was tantamount to genocide.

This outrageous public vilification was allowed to run at length until the test case - Lorna Cubillo and Peter Gunner - for the Stolen Generations was soundly defeated.

The separation of Aboriginal children inquiry was set up in 1995 under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, the same group that now administers the provisions dealing with racial hatred. These provisions are being used to prosecute journalist and broadcaster Bolt before the Federal Court.

The provisions in the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 inserted by the Racial Hatred Act 1995 were strongly opposed by the Coalition on the grounds that it might infringe free speech. I, along with Graeme Campbell and Jim Snow, opposed the bill in the Labor caucus on the basis that it was as likely to incite ill feeling between racial groups as stop it.

The provisions make it unlawful to insult, humiliate, offend or intimidate another person or group in public on the basis of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin if it is reasonably likely in all the circumstances to offend.

Fortunately, there are partial protections for free speech under the act, where "done reasonably and in good faith", someone can make public statements likely to offend in the course of, for example, a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment. These are the matters being tested in the Bolt case.

The most malleable part of the provision is to define what is "reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate".

According to the HREOC, the victim's perspective is the measure of whether an act is likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate. For example, if derogatory comments are made against Aborigines, the central question is whether those comments are likely to offend or intimidate an Aboriginal person or group. It is a very subjective test.

Granted, the victim's response to the words or image must be reasonable.

The "reasonable victim" test states that the victim "should not be a person peculiarly susceptible to being roused to enmity, nor one who takes an irrational or extremist view of relations among racial groups". The test allows the standards of the "dominant class" to be challenged by ensuring cultural sensitivity when deciding the types of comments that are considered offensive.

Almost certainly those who are politically active in ethnic or Aboriginal politics, such as Behrendt, are those who would be most sensitive to racial insults. Moreover, HREOC's role is to make people aware of their rights under the act, which may well make them more sensitive to insults.

It seems that HREOC has a conflict. It administers an act, the heart of which is reliance on sensitivity, the job of which may make people more sensitive.

Defamation laws have been available to "victims" for a very long time as a remedy for outrageous slurs. Apparently, the defamation laws were too insensitive.

What lies in people's hearts can be changed, but is it more educative or less educative to prosecute speech? Is racial hatred more or less likely in an overly sensitive electorate?

Following the Bolt case, it may be time to revisit public racial vilification and the role of HREOC.


Julia Gillard declares war on the idle

A worthy aim. Let's hope there is more to it than talk

JULIA Gillard has declared war on idleness, revealing she will use the May 10 budget to press Australians to "pull their weight" and not give in to welfare dependency and economic exclusion.

The Prime Minister last night vowed to use the prosperity of the mining boom to fund programs to boost workforce participation, arguing that many people on disability and other pensions should be working.

She said taxpayers should not have to fund welfare for people capable of supporting themselves, and that she would offer training opportunities as part of a push to "entrench a new culture of work".

Her uncompromising comments came in a speech to the Sydney Institute in which she also promised to withdraw government spending to reduce pressure on inflation as the private sector lifted its activity after a period on the economic sidelines forced by the global financial crisis.

Since ousting Kevin Rudd from the Labor leadership last June, Ms Gillard has frequently expressed her belief in what she describes as "the dignity of work" and promised to use education and training to deliver equality of opportunity. At the same time, the government has been working on policy to deal with the fact that current work participation rates will be insufficient to support the ageing population.

In her speech last night, Ms Gillard married the themes, declaring that Labor was "the party of work, not welfare" and placing respect for work and a fair go at the centre of the national policy agenda.

While she conceded there would always be some Australians who were unable to work because of disability, Ms Gillard said it was a "social and economic reality" that some people who could work would not. "Relying on welfare to provide opportunity is no longer the right focus for our times," the Prime Minister said.

"In today's economy, inclusion through participation must be our central focus." She said the nation's strong economy provided a perfect opportunity to target people stuck on welfare with reforms based on "high expectations that everyone who can work, should work".

While she gave no details of the reforms, the Prime Minister hinted at measures to help those she described as "hard cases" to prepare themselves to work by dealing with their health issues and providing opportunities for them to balance work with their family responsibilities.

Ms Gillard suggested welfare recipients could be ushered back into the workforce with the right mix of policies. This could involve training or measures "as simple as learning to read and write at a higher level". "It is not right to leave people on welfare and deny them access to opportunity," she said. And every Australian should pull his or her own weight. It is not fair for taxpayers to pay for someone who can support themselves."

The comments are likely to upset the welfare sector, which has recently warned against punitive measures to force welfare recipients to work.

Labor's left wing could also baulk at the reforms, although the opposition has been proposing its own measures to lift workforce participation, including grants to help the unemployed move to areas of high employment.

The Prime Minister said 230,000 Australians had been unemployed for more than two years, while 250,000 families did not have an adult in the workforce for at least a year.

"The party I lead is politically, spiritually, even literally, the party of work - the party of work, not welfare, the party of opportunity, not exclusions, the party of responsibility, not idleness," Ms Gillard said.

"The values I learned in my parents' home - hard work, a fair go through education, respect - find themselves at the centre of Australia's economic debate in the challenge to cut long-term welfare dependency."

Ms Gillard rejected claims that her pledge to return the budget to a surplus by 2012-13 was a political decision and that she could cause less pain for taxpayers if she delayed the plan.

The Prime Minister said that although her promise was political in the sense that she made it during the election campaign, it was also economically prudent for the government to cut spending after more than two years of heavy economic stimulus to offset the effects of the global recession.

"When the private sector was in retreat, the government stepped forward to fill the gap," she said. "Over coming years, as the private sector recovers strongly, it is the right time for the government to step back."

Ms Gillard also allowed herself a note of satisfaction, saying she was sceptical of "exaggerated" commentary about politics. She noted that people had predicted she would be unable to deliver reforms such as her flood levy, health reform package or her National Broadband Network legislation. In each case, she said, she had prevailed with patience and perseverance.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said last night the government's mismanagement and wasteful spending on programs such as the Building the Education Revolution, pink batts and the National Broadband Network "makes a mockery" of the Prime Minister's claim in her speech that Labor was committed to fiscal responsibility.

"The government's budget in May will not be worth the paper it is written on," Mr Hockey said. "It will not include the revenue and expenditure from its new carbon tax."

Former Labor minister Graham Richardson launched a blistering attack on what he said was the Gillard government's use of a politically unheard of "big-target" strategy on a series of issues ranging from carbon tax compensation to cuts to health research funding.

Mr Richardson used his Sky News show Richo to criticise the government for not giving details of the likely impact of the carbon tax and how people would be compensated. Planned measures to limit gambling on poker machines ensured that every pub and club in Australia would become a campaign office for the opposition, he said.

Mr Richardson added that it all got worse this week when it emerged the budget would cut $400 million in health research.

That was mean-spirited, he said. "If they do it, they're crazy."

Ms Gillard's appearance at the Sydney Institute dinner at Luna Park attracted a band of gay marriage protesters, who called on her to "open your heart" to "marriage rights now".


Childcare reforms 'will shut centres'

This was always obvious

THREE Gillard government ministers have been warned that childcare centres across the nation will collapse unless reforms to increase staff-child ratios are stalled.

The ministers were called on by the Child Care National Association to postpone for two years the reforms that are due to take effect on January 1.

With vacancy rates in centres across the nation at unsustainably high levels, IBISWorld has forecast an industry profit margin of only 0.3 per cent for this year.

Association spokesman Chris Buck said he had relayed his concerns informally to Education Minister Chris Evans and Childcare Minister Kate Ellis. He subsequently had a formal meeting with the staff of Schools Minister Peter Garrett and Ms Ellis to tell them the industry needed immediate assistance.

Mr Buck said the government was in denial about the unsustainability of the system and warned parents were pulling kids out of care and using informal care as costs rose.

The Productivity Commission Report on Government Services for 2010 advised the average utilisation for small childcare businesses to be a low 64.9 per cent, Mr Buck said. "Profitability is woeful. One of the worries I've got is that the banks will be studying that and they will be saying 'childcare centre in Wodonga prove to me that you are viable'," he said. "The government can't stick their head in the sand and say this isn't happening. It's their figures."

Mr Buck said people were finding other options for their childcare, including using relatives, to cut costs. "They are putting them with their grandparents and it's because they are being more frugal," he said.

The new standards will force centres to boost staff-to-child ratios and improve training.

Mr Buck said he had asked the ministers to stall the reforms for two years to ensure they did not cripple the industry. "We need a slowdown on the national quality framework. If you push the costs up, the utilisation will fall," he said.

The IBISWorld report says good news in childcare is "conditional on shrinking margins for operators".

"Government regulation mandating higher staff-to-child ratios and higher levels of staff qualifications are likely to increase wage costs for operators. As wages make up the single largest cost for childcare providers, operators trying to make a profit in the industry will find themselves increasingly pressured," it says.

"The industry as a whole is barely profitable, primarily due to the presence of not-for-profit community-based centres and a lack of economies of scale."

The report warns that profitability is likely to suffer as non-profit operators continue to proliferate, and increases in labour costs resulting from more stringent regulation cannot be fully passed on in the form of higher childcare fees.

The Australian revealed yesterday that workers would seek a 50 per cent pay rise this year. The United Voice union is planning a long-term industrial campaign to dovetail with new regulations.

The union's assistant national secretary, Sue Lines, said childcare workers with a Certificate 3 qualification -- which is equivalent to a six-month TAFE course -- earned the minimum wage of $17.46 an hour.



Four current articles below

Carbon tax may never happen, says key independent

He has rightly twigged that it "does nothing"

ONE of the independents Julia Gillard will rely on to get her carbon tax across the line has warned it may never become a reality.

New England MP Tony Windsor today said he would not vote for a package of climate change measures “that does nothing”. “There is no carbon tax, there may not be a carbon tax,” Mr Windsor told ABC radio this morning.

Mr Windsor said people in his rural NSW electorate were concerned about the lack of detail around the proposed carbon tax.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet released more details of the government's proposed carbon price yesterday, pledging more than 50 per cent of revenue from the tax would be returned to millions of households and reassuring businesses on the impact of the scheme.

The Prime Minister played down Mr Windsor's comments this morning, describing them as “perfectly consistent with everything he has ever said about pricing carbon”. “He has said consistently, and I very much respect this, that he would wait to the end and judge the full package,” she said.

Ahead of a visit to his electorate by the government's chief climate change adviser Ross Garnaut today, Mr Windsor said he was happy to work with other members of the multi-party climate change committee, but wouldn't guarantee his support for the carbon tax. “The Prime Minister doesn't have the numbers as I understand it,” he said. “When things get into the parliament people have a vote; I have a vote, others do as well. You can never get anything until it gets through a minority parliament,” he said.

“I'm not inclined to vote for something that does nothing if we can get something that does something I'm more than happy to vote for it.”

Ms Gillard said consultations with business, community and environment groups and unions would ensure a balanced package, which the government would present to parliament in the second half of this year.

“What Tony Windsor has said to me and said publicly is that he does believe climate change is real and that we need to tackle it, he does believe that pricing carbon is the best way, an important way of tackling climate change,” she said. “But for an individual legislative package he's going to look at the package and wait to the end and then judge.”


Working families to pay for the gesture

By Senator Barnaby Joyce

Minister Combet’s announcement that they are going to compensate working families for the cost of carbon tax should confirm one thing; a carbon tax is going to cost working families.

The fundamental issue here is that a carbon tax is not going to change the temperature of the globe or change the climate in any shape or form. It is merely a gesture. A gesture that means that those who are already finding it extremely difficult to get by are going to have that difficulty exacerbated by a pointless tax with a deceitful inference that it will the change global climatic conditions.

What is the point of taking money off people, spinning it around a bureaucracy and giving people back a bit of their own money and expecting be thanked for it? Why don’t you just let people keep their own money and go away?

In the meantime you put up the price of the fundamental mechanism of commerce, power, so what is now our competitive advantage? Obviously we don’t want lower wages so ultimately there will be fewer jobs.

Is Australia going to be reduced to a country that digs up red rocks and black rocks, iron and coal and sends them over to where they don’t have a carbon tax so they can produce the things we used to produce?

Doesn’t the government get it? The people don’t want this tax and surely the have some right in being respected on this decision.

Even on the CFMEU website, the majority of the workers don’t want a carbon tax. I’m sure that this is not a National Party stronghold, so my advice to the Labor party is, listen to your own people otherwise it will end up in tears, like the NSW election.


Marrickville council to boycott HP, others at $3.7m cost

Independent Marrickville councillor Victor Macri described the boycott as ludicrous. Picture: Jane Dempster Source: The Australian
A MOVE by a Greens-controlled council in Sydney's inner west to boycott goods and services from Israel will cost ratepayers at least $3.7 million and force the council to abandon Holden cars and Hewlett-Packard computers, among many other disruptions.

The stark warning on the cost of the council's decision to support the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign earlier this year is contained in a paper by the council's manager of services, Gary Moore, which is due for discussion next week and has been obtained by The Australian.

Marrickville, the only council in Australia that has approved an Israel boycott, has been a hotbed of political controversy since its Greens Mayor Fiona Byrne said she would push for a statewide version of the Israel boycott if elected to the NSW lower house at last month's election.

During the election campaign, Ms Byrne made contradictory remarks about the boycott, which was a factor in her failure to wrest the seat of Marrickville from Labor MP and former deputy premier Carmel Tebbutt.

Ms Byrne could have the casting vote next Tuesday on whether to continue with the campaign and slug ratepayers with the added cost, when a motion to repeal the boycott is put forward.

Mr Moore's paper details goods and services the council would have to forgo in order to comply with its directive, such as Hewlett Packard computers, Holden and Volvo cars, telephones and other equipment from Motorola and concrete from Fulton Hogan.

These companies, according to the council's original motion to join the global BDS movement, "support or profit from the Israeli military occupation of Palestine".

The report estimates the cost of replacing certain IT assets at $3.5m, and the annual cost of using a different concrete supplier at $250,000. It does not attempt to estimate the cost of replacing vehicles, and says changing waste-disposal service providers may not even be possible.

Mr Moore's paper admits staff have been unable to fully research ties between companies providing goods to the council and Israel and have largely relied on - an anti-Israel website.

Independent councillor Victor Macri described the boycott plan as ludicrous. "We weren't elected to do this; we were elected to look after the streets and trees and pick up garbage," Mr Macri said.

"People vote federally to direct foreign policy. A boycott of Israel will hurt Marrickville ratepayers far more than it will Israel."

The costs will likely be exacerbated after Randwick council in Sydney's east passed a motion last month that excluded Marrickville from collective purchasing agreements because its boycott would limit other councils' ability to negotiate for the best price.

Mr Moore's report found the boycott measure would lead to "substantial" impacts on council's operations. "Significant change would have to be planned for and managed to enable council operations to be maintained whilst new sets of providers of computer hardware, concrete, waste services, some vehicles and some other construction materials and consumables are obtained and existing contracts are completed/suspended," the report said.

It noted the council might need to spend $5000 to $10,000 in legal fees just to determine whether the original motion on the boycott was lawful under anti-discrimination laws. A council source said a "conservative approach" had been used in determining the cost of implementing a boycott.

"It's fair to say that the report is measured - built around realistically what the council is able to look at replacing," the source said. For example, the costs of breaking existing contracts or finding a replacement water supply to the Kurnell desalination plant, which is operated by Veolia, another company on the global BDS blacklist, are not included.

Mr Macri said if a complete divestment campaign were implemented, the council might as well "shut its doors".

Spread over Marrickville's roughly 40,000 homes, the costs estimated work out at about $100 a household. The council has an annual budget of about $72m.

Mr Macri said contrary to council policy, the BDS motion was not attended by detailed costings when passed in December.

Mr Moore's report described the cheaper option of phasing out goods and services as they expired, rather than divesting them completely, but found such a decision would "still have significant impacts on council's operations".

A council source told The Australian the cheaper option would cost at least $1m. Labor councillor Emanuel Tsardoulias said the costs associated with both options were "outrageous".

Mr Tsardoulias, who initially supported the boycott but later changed his mind, said he and others had had hundreds of complaints since the council's motion began getting attention.

Council is said to have received a petition of 4600 signatures.

Of Marrickville's 12 councillors, four Labor and two independents are expected to support Tuesday's motion to repeal the boycott; one independent is set to side with the five Greens in opposing the motion, although The Australian understands one Green is having second thoughts.


Commission slams desal plants

More Greenie waste of resources

PROLONGED water restrictions and expensive desalination plants are the least efficient way of providing water security, the government's key economic advisory body has found.

In a scathing draft report, the Productivity Commission yesterday called for an urgent overhaul of the urban water sector, declaring consumers were paying more than necessary for their water as a result of poor government decision-making.

The 600-page report is highly critical of decisions by state governments across the country to overinvest in expensive and inefficient desalination plants, with economic modelling indicating desalination plants in Melbourne and Perth alone could cost consumers between $3.1 billion and $4.2bn more than cheaper water-saving measures over 20 years.

The commission also criticised the federal government for "distorting investment decisions" by offering generous subsidies for the construction of desalination plants. But a spokesman for Parliamentary Secretary for Urban Water Don Farrell last night hit back, saying the federal government contributed to only two of the six major desalination plants in Australia, and this made up "only a portion" of the $1.5bn the government had spent on urban water security.

In a recommendation that will probably draw criticism, the commission also declared state governments and water bodies should be open to returning highly treated recycled wastewater to waterways for drinking.

The report says governments have been too quick to discount recycled wastewater for political, rather than economic, reasons: "Negative community perceptions have become entrenched in the absence of good evidence about the costs and benefits."

The Productivity Commission is the latest in a chorus of voices calling for the urgent reform of Australia's urban water sector, with the National Water Initiative last week declaring new consideration needed to be given to the use of recycled water, as well as the construction of new dams.

The commission wants to open up the market for urban water trading and remove all remaining bans on trading between urban and rural areas that would allow water to be purchased at its highest value. It also recommends that state and territory governments should move away from setting water prices to monitoring how utilities price water and whether they abuse their market power.

The Productivity Commission found water restrictions imposed by state governments were likely to cost the nation about a $1bn in lost production, and governments would be better off charging consumers extra for different tiers of water packages and allow the market to regulate water use.

A spokesman for Senator Farrell said the government welcomed the draft report, including the recommendation that recycled wastewater should be considered as a more effective way to manage water shortages.

Opposition water spokesman Barnaby Joyce said the Productivity Commission was correct to criticise investment in desalination plants, saying they should be any government's "absolutely last-ditch alternative".


1 comment:

Paul said...

Julia suddenly trying to out-Howard Howard? We really have shifted into bizarro world with our politics. Its amazing where a bit of market research can take you. She's so lucky she's a consummate opportunist or she may feel a twinge of regret for her almost unbelieveable dishonesty.