Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A rare flash of light illumines the brains of a chronically dense bureaucracy

LONG overdue, though. Note the unprecedent thought in red below. Against all precedent, they actually want to buy something that works!

A TENDER for an automatic grenade launcher for Australian troops in Afghanistan has been scrapped 3½ years after bids were received, after the Department of Defence accused the company provisionally awarded the contract of breaking promises.

The Defence Materiel Organisation confirmed last week that the negotiations over the contract, believed to be worth about $150 million, had been cancelled. A Defence spokesman said the effect on the troops in Afghanistan would be "minimal".

But tender documents show the weapons were to address "the current direct fire support deficiencies" in infantry battalions. "A weakness exists … in that at the rifle company/combat team level, the principal systems are limited to small arms with an effective range of 400 metres."

The tender states the automatic grenade launchers must be able to fire a stream of grenades at least two kilometres.

"Defence has cancelled contract negotiations with the preferred tenderer because it became clear that the company was not going to deliver what Defence had assessed it had promised," the spokesman said. He did not name the company but it is believed to be a Melbourne business..

The spokesman said Defence was working out the best way to give troops automatic grenade launchers and might turn to the "off-the-shelf" weapons used by allies in Afghanistan.


Single carriageway claims another life

Julia can find $46 BILLION to build a white-elephant fibre network but can't find the money to make Australia's major North/South road safe?? Insane priorities

The single-carriageway stretch of the Pacific Highway where a male motorist was killed in a fiery collision with a semi-trailer was only 500 metres from where two elderly women were killed in a crash just weeks ago.

A 30-year-old Alstonville man died after he was thrown from his southbound Subaru when it collided with a northbound semi-trailer at Warrell Creek, just south of Macksville, at 4am yesterday. The semi-trailer, which was loaded with chemicals, almost immediately burst into flames and incinerated both vehicles.

Despite the inferno, the 52-year-old semi driver was able to get far enough away from the blaze that he suffered only minor injuries. He was released from hospital yesterday.

The fire left little more than a charred wreck and closed the highway to traffic in both directions for 11 hours.

Investigators are examining whether the collision occurred because the Subaru was trying to pass another truck on a no-overtaking section of the highway. It is believed the Subaru crossed to the other side of the road and struck the semi-trailer going the opposite way.

The crash occurred 500 metres north of a roadside memorial erected to mark where two sisters, aged 77 and 78, from Tuncurry died in a head-on collision on February 16.

Five kilometres north of that site a man was killed in October 2009 when his car was ripped in half after going under a truck as he tried to overtake two semi-trailers.

It took fire crews more than two hours to extinguish the fire yesterday. Firefighters had only limited access to water because of the remote location.


Spray and pay: repeat graffiti offenders should face jail, says new NSW A-G

YOUNG people repeatedly convicted of graffiti offences and property damage should be given jail terms as a reminder that graffiti is a "serious offence", the new state Attorney-General, Greg Smith, has said.

Graffiti infuriated the community, said Mr Smith, who knows the problem first hand: the building housing his Epping electorate office is targeted every few weeks.

Youths accused of graffiti crime should be brought before the courts, not diverted to youth conferencing or given cautions. A repeat offender could be sent to jail, lose their driver's licence or be ordered to clean up graffiti, the former Crown prosecutor said.

"I don't think it is just a spanking offence myself. It is also a sign for the lack of respect of the community. If it is unchecked, a lot of the young guys … get worse and move into worse crimes," he said.

Although graffiti is not his first priority, he spoke about it with passion.

Mr Smith listed his first priorities as appointing a new chief justice and director of public prosecutions, closely followed by reviews of the Bail Act, sentencing legislation and standard non-parole periods.

Recent changes to the Crimes Act and apprehended violence laws would also be reviewed, he said, citing the case involving the 2GB broadcaster Ray Hadley.

Mr Smith wants judges to have more discretion to give weight to the trauma of relatives of murder victims by allowing judges to take into account their victim's impact statements.

The job of the DPP would be advertised, he said, and a selection panel would choose the preferred candidate, while the chief justice would be selected after consultation.

Mr Smith refused to be drawn on likely candidates, saying of the DPP appointment: "I don't have a shortlist but I have in mind [some of] the people who are likely to apply."

After a decade of dispute between the previous DPP and the attorney-general, Mr Smith said there was a need to mend bridges between the departments.

And there are other jobs to be filled; the Coalition wants to reinstate the position of inspector of corrective services, which Labor abolished.

Mr Smith said he had no plans to get rid of the head of the Corrective Services Department, Ron Woodham. But, he added: "I may have wondered out aloud whether he would fit in with the changes I would like to see."

The Coalition had talked about reducing the prison population and criticised Mr Woodham and the "penal culture" in NSW. Jail should be reserved for violent offenders and others should be given greater support for rehabilitation, they said before the election.

Mr Smith also promised to introduce shield laws to protect journalists and their sources, saying: "I think it is time we recognise the importance of those laws."

This week the NSW Law Society also called for a review of court funding and staffing, improved funding for DNA testing, a charter of human rights and rationalisation of the model of personal injury claims.


Feisty mayor of South Australian city

THE mayor of a regional city in South Australia has threatened to set the dogs on Aborigines from interstate if they try to squat in her town.

Port Augusta mayor Joy Baluch said she would bring in the dog squads to stop illegal camping in the South Australian city, The Northern Territory News reports.

Dozens of indigenous people from the Northern Territory have moved to Adelaide after fighting in the Central Australian community of Yuendemu.

"They will not camp illegally in my city," Ms Baluch said. "We have got the police, we have got a dog squad and I would arrange merry hell.

"Anybody who comes and camps illegally on the foreshore or anywhere else in Port Augusta would be moved on. I would not tolerate such stupidity.

"I would not put up with any government authority, any government agency, that allowed that to happen in my city."


Racial Discrimination Act has chilling effect on freedom of speech

By James Allan (Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland)

COLUMNIST Andrew Bolt is before the Federal Court because various plaintiffs are seeking a declaration against him under the Racial Discrimination Act (together with a court-ordered apology, which sounds Orwellian even writing it down).

They want the court to declare that Bolt's opinion pieces about light-skinned Aborigines were unlawful under the act, which strangely enough need not be the same thing as being a criminal offence under that act. And they want the court to enjoin their being republished.

In 1995, the last year of the Keating government, this act was amended to include racial vilification, meaning it became unlawful "to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group" on the basis of their race. But because of the fear of how stifling this could be for free expression in this country, the act also limits remedies for this as well as providing for lots of exemptions. So you don't infringe the act if your words were said reasonably and in good faith in such contexts as being part of an artistic work, or an academic debate, or was "a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest".

The Bolt trial is testing the limits of this legislation. We will see how this 1995 legislative amendment, controversial even back then, is interpreted by the courts. We will see how much room there is in Australia to say things that offend others, the sort of issues that really do lie at the heart of free speech concerns.

Four comments only indirectly related to that trial are worth making. First, I have always said that Australia has more free speech than Canada and Britain. And in practice, if you factor in the sort of self-censorship you see on American university campuses, then we have more scope to speak our minds here than even in the US.

Depending on how this trial goes, that could all change.

Second, a number of commentators have mistakenly claimed this couldn't happen if we had a bill of rights. Wrong! Canada has one of the strongest bills of rights in the common law world. It also has way more limits on your scope to speak your mind when it comes to so-called hate speech, and indeed defamation and campaign finance rules, than we have here. That's why Mark Steyn was dragged before courts and pseudo-courts in Canada, bill of rights and all. The mistake is to think a bill of rights with its "right to free speech" somehow gives you an absolute right along those lines. Wrong. All you buy with a bill of rights is the judges' views about the proper scope of the right, how it relates to other enumerated rights, and what limits on it are reasonable.

Put differently, you can be an unstinting critic of bills of rights at the same time as you are in favour of lots and lots and lots of free speech. There is nothing inconsistent in that and people who point to some supposed mismatch between the two simply don't know how bills of rights work. When you buy one, you are simply buying the views of the unelected judges. You are not buying absolutist guarantees of rights.

Third, however this court case goes, and even if there be some sort of appeal, the people to blame for this infringement of free speech are our legislators. This 1995 amendment ought to be repealed, and now. Sure, you can read this statute as giving such wide exemptions that you could drive a truck through them. So maybe Bolt will walk away unscathed.

But the very fact he (and you) can be brought to court at all can impose a massive chilling effect on free speech. We shouldn't have an act that allows complaints of a quasi-defamatory nature to be turned into ones dressed up as racial vilification. Those who think, like me, that the valuable sort of free speech is the kind that protects stuff many find offensive and distasteful will want this 1995 amending legislation repealed.

Otherwise claims to be in favour of free speech start to look like favouring only the warm, fuzzy varieties of free speech.

The only valuable sort of freedom of speech is the sort that allows people to do or to say what others find wrong-headed, offensive, distasteful and intolerant.

Being free to say and do what everyone else wants you to say and do is not a liberty or freedom you will ever have to fight for; it will make little difference to anything.

Already this Bolt trial is getting publicity in the US. Steyn is writing about it, as are others. And they're painting us as a Mickey Mouse little jurisdiction where being offended is enough to allow victims to paint some speakers as acting unlawfully. Some are suggesting we might be heading down the road Canada travelled.

I think any good, well-functioning democracy requires its citizens to man up and grow a thick skin. If you're offended, tell us why the speaker is wrong. Don't ask for a court-ordered apology and some two-bit declaration.

Of course none of this is the court's fault. They didn't pass this legislation. Our legislature did. And it's time to repeal it. Now.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"They will not camp illegally in my city," Ms Baluch said. "We have got the police, we have got a dog squad and I would arrange merry hell.

A real Mayor. How about that. We have seen a huge drift of skanky, drunken Aboriginals into Cairns since the grog bans (er..alcohol management plans) were brought in. The Housing Commission is shoving them into previously untouched suburbs and turning a blind eye to their largley sex and toilet-based behaviour. What the commission doesn't house Lotus Glen (the jail) does.