Saturday, June 04, 2011

Greenie nonsense leads to bad government

But if it leads to distrust of Greenie policies, that may be a price worth paying

Robert Carling

The rule of law stands as a bulwark against the arbitrary exercise of power by government. As such it is fundamental to fairness, the freedom of the governed, and the success of the liberal market economy – but it is frequently under attack, sometimes from unexpected quarters. Two recent examples spring to mind.

Retrospective legislation is antithetical to the rule of law. It is like changing the rules of the game after it has been played. But governments sometimes resort to it, citing extraordinary circumstances as the justification.

The freshly minted O’Farrell government in NSW is planning to tear up contracts entered into by its predecessor, which had promised to pay participants in the solar energy scheme a very generous 60 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity generated (the ‘feed-in tariff’). It plans retrospective legislation to invalidate the old contracts, cut the price paid, and deny participants in the scheme any legal recourse against the government.

The solar scheme was an atrocious act of public policy, adopted by the previous government in the expectation that the nasty fiscal consequences would be someone else’s problem.

But can an action of one government be so bad that it justifies retrospective legislation by a successor government? Opinions will differ on this, but the avoidance of retrospectivity is such an important principle that the justification should be very strong indeed, and in my opinion stronger than in this case.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 3 June. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Italians show benefits of immigration, says Gillard

I myself have the highest opinion of Italians and heartily agree with what my Prime Minister has said about them below. As well I might do: Italians are the heirs to TWO great flowerings of civilization: The Roman empire and the Renaissance. And to this day Italy is a powerhouse of culture. So it is NO surprise that Italian immigrants have made a great contribution to Australian life.

But when we look at illiterate Afghans and their primitive 7th century religion, we are at the opposite end of the scale. And it is mainly Afghans who are flocking to Australia as illegal immigrants at the moment. They are a disaster waiting to happen. They should be sent back to their native hellhole

There are undoubtedly many worthy Afghans but those who try to force themselves on Australia are ipso facto unlikely to include many of those

JULIA Gillard says the integration of Italian migrants in Australia shows the strength and the benefits of immigration to the nation.

The prime minister acknowledged the contribution Italian migrants have made to Australia at a dinner marking the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification.

Ms Gillard said thousands of Italians have made the "momentous decision" to sacrifice their home to journey across the globe and realise their hopes in Australia.

"But if Australia was a land of opportunity, it only came at a price," Ms Gillard said at the Italian National Day Ball in Sydney today. "Years of backbreaking labour in places like the Snowy or the cane fields, working two or three jobs, sometimes facing misunderstanding and discrimination. "But in spite of these difficulties, you held fast and saw Australia as it could be."

She said Australia changed for the better as the nation absorbed these migrants. "That is why we must always regard immigration as a source of strength," Ms Gillard said. "Because it renewed and enriched our nation at its core, precisely at the time when the world was opening up and our old insular habits could no longer be sustained.

Ms Gillard said the unification of the city-states into the nation of Italy in 1861 led the way for the prosperous, innovative European country of today.

"Friends, Italy has given many great gifts to the world: her culture, her food, her sense of style - but the greatest gift of Italy has been her people," she said.

"Around 60 million people outside Italy claim Italian heritage. "And for this gift, Australia will always give thanks."


The latest defence equipment bungle: And it's a big one

THE head of defence acquisition for the Gillard government has admitted that the nation's largest defence project, the plan to build three new air warfare destroyers, is a "crisis" that threatens the reputation of Defence and everyone involved in the $8 billion plan.

The comments, made by Defence Materiel Organisation head Stephen Gumley to defence industry colleagues in late April, directly contradict the Gillard government's public spin this week, which sought to portray the AWD problems as being "not unusual" for such a complex naval construction.

The Weekend Australian has learned that Mr Gumley was only fully briefed on April 20 that the AWD project was in deep trouble, running two years late.

That was about seven months after serious construction problems began to emerge in a Melbourne shipyard and despite the fact that, in February, the project's sub-contractor BAE Systems told the publicly owned Australian Submarine Corporation that flawed design data being used to build the AWDs would ensure further delays and cost overruns.

It is unclear whether ASC failed to pass these warnings to Mr Gumley or whether the DMO head did not act on BAE's claims at that time.

Insiders say that when Mr Gumley was finally fully briefed in April he was stunned by the extent of the AWD problems, describing the situation as a "crisis". He warned that the setback to the flagship project could harm the reputation of the DMO and all other parties involved in the project.

A Defence spokesman confirmed last night that Mr Gumley had described the AWD project as being in crisis in April, but said he was "pointing out the seriousness of the situation in an attempt to get a speedy resolution". "Since then all parties have worked co-operatively to achieve that resolution," the spokesman said.

Mr Gumley's claim to others that he had learned of the gravity of the crisis only on April 20 raises questions about whether the AWD project manager, the AWD Alliance, failed to keep the DMO chief abreast of the series of problems engulfing the project. It is further evidence of a dysfunctional relationship between Defence and industry that has contributed to delays and cost overruns on billions of dollars' worth of defence projects.

The alarm that Mr Gumley expressed to colleagues in private was in stark contrast to the public spin employed by the government this week as it attempted to play down the issue.

The Australian revealed this week that the project to build the three new AWDs had been paralysed by faulty construction and design, poor project management and bitter in-fighting between shipyards.

When asked about the setback to the warship project, the head of the AWD Alliance, Rod Equid, claimed that it was nothing out of the ordinary. "Problems in the early stage of construction for a project of this size and complexity are not unusual," Mr Equid said. "What is important is they're quickly recognised and action is taken."

Defence Minister Stephen Smith also played down the extent of the AWD problems. "We have confidence that it is on track, but we also understand it's a considerable project and there have been difficulties," Mr Smith said.

The minister is said to be privately furious about the delays to the AWD project and has announced a reallocation of work between shipyards in Melbourne, Adelaide and Newcastle in an attempt to reduce the current two-year delay by up to 12 months.

News of the setbacks has not filtered through to the DMO website, which this week continued to state that the AWD project "remains on schedule and budget".


Orthodox Roman Catholics getting fed up with arrogant clergy who pervert the faith

THREE or four times this year, groups of up to 50 Catholics have gathered to pray outside St Joseph's in Newtown during its gay-friendly Mass.

Sometimes they stop worshippers as they leave the service, demanding to know if they took Communion. If confronted by the parish priest, Father Peter Maher, they recite the rosary. On other occasions, one or two enter the church mid-service, and watch from the back.

A parishioner, Paul Harris, said the incidents affected how other parishioners looked at newcomers. "Any strangers that come along you greet them and welcome them and hope they're there for the right reasons," he said.

Those who are not have been dubbed the "temple police" - orthodox Catholics, either individuals or groups, who report what they see as liturgical abuses to bishops, or to Rome.

Not that all complaints make it to the Vatican. When St Joseph's began sponsoring a school in Pakistan, it was reported to ASIO.

But last month these often anonymous upholders of orthodoxy claimed what might be their biggest scalp when the bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris, was forced to resign, ostensibly for raising issues such as female or married priests.

Father Hal Ranger, an associate pastor at St Patrick's Cathedral in Toowoomba, said most of the diocese was still hurt by the loss of the bishop.

But he believed the influence of this militant minority was experiencing a resurgence in the Australian church, which was preparing to introduce a more literal translation of the Latin Mass that some priests had vowed they would not use.

"It's pretty much what the Scribes and Pharisees were doing to Jesus," he said. "They were saying 'here is the law book … you have just cured a person on the Sabbath day, and the book says you shouldn't'."

A former Sydney barrister, Paul Brazier, who died recently, revealed how effective complaints could be when co-ordinated. Through his now-defunct Australian Catholic Advocacy Centre, in the 1990s he developed a checklist that could be tucked discreetly into a prayer book to track liturgical transgressions in a Mass and used for statutory declarations to be sent to authorities.

These complaints highlighted the "tolerance" of liturgical laxity in the Australian church, which was addressed in a dressing down from the Vatican called the "Statement of Conclusions" in 1998. Rome is still perceived to be suspicious about liberal elements in dioceses such as Toowoomba.

"Little wonder," wrote Mr Brazier's former colleague Michael Baker in an online tribute, "that no bishop attended his funeral at St Mary's Cathedral" last month.

But Richard Stokes, the parishioner most often associated with the term "temple police", told the Herald they were "a figment of the imagination of those priests who may consider that they are a target, for whatever reason".

Mr Stokes, who has visited about a dozen parishes to attend Mass every day, said he did not know anyone who travelled around churches looking for trouble. But his evidence proved instrumental in the dismissal of Father Peter Kennedy as the parish priest of St Mary's in south Brisbane in 2009.

A month after St Mary's refused to hold daily Mass if he attended, he was banned from St Eugene's in north Brisbane by its assistant priest.

"I gathered from his harangue that my 'offence' was 'writing to the archbishop'. The only other words I could follow were 'stupid letter', 'nonsense', 'ridiculous', 'rubbish' and so on," he wrote in the orthodox newsletter Into the Deep.

This Victorian-based newsletter for "orthodox Catholics who have grown tired of seeing the church we love being abused and neglected by those within it, and have begun to speak out," details the successes, frustrations and observations of others such as Mr Stokes.

Such as this about some colourful banners in a regional NSW cathedral: "Either there's a new rainbow liturgical season that I haven't heard of yet, or there's a strong 'gay pride' thing happening in Bathurst diocese."

The editor of Into the Deep, Janet Kingman, used the analogy of reporting a teacher who instructs students in incorrect spelling and grammar, deeming it unimportant. "The real question is, how can a teacher be teaching the wrong stuff? And how can the principal tolerate it, or encourage it?"

But Father Maher said he could justify St Joseph's liturgy to any bishop, though there was no way to engage with the anonymous people standing outside who thought ministering to gay and lesbian Catholics was sacrilegious. "That is obviously horrendously incorrect, but who corrects them?"

As for the new Mass, St Joseph's would use it when it came in in November, Father Maher said. As will Father Ranger in Toowoomba, although he said he would deviate from it should the circumstances warrant.


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