Sunday, June 12, 2011

The usual Leftist ethics on display

A SHADOWY unit within the Gillard Government is instructing Labor advisers on how to compile secret dossiers on political rivals. An instruction manual obtained by The Sunday Telegraph also reminds advisers to remember that "every flower must grow through dirt".

According to the leaked documents, the taxpayer-funded unit is training Labor staffers to monitor Tony Abbott's front bench, including their financial interests.

But the unit warns Labor operatives to hide their surveillance activities by saving intelligence on private email accounts and mobile USB storage devices to avoid it being detected on Government computers.

It warns staff against keeping the "shadow folder" on the "shared drive" because ministerial computers were subject to Freedom of Information laws and could be uncovered by the Opposition. "Notebooks disencouraged", the document says.

The document - titled Shadow Watch - details how to "track" and "neutralise" their opponents and how best to "share intell".

The bizarre how-to guide for political players was defended yesterday by Special Minister of State Gary Gray as providing "legitimate" scrutiny of Tony Abbott's shadow front bench.

The unit, which operates behind frosted glass offices in Parliament House, has urged staffers to conduct what is described as "shadowy endeavours" by collecting information on Coalition MPs. It is run by the Caucus Communications Team with an annual budget of over $600,000 and provides advice to more than 40 staffers known as Caucus Liaison Officers on ministers and MPs' staff, including in the PM's office.

The documents quote Harry Potter novelist J. K. Rowling, urging "Constant vigilance!" on shadow ministers. It urges staffers to spend their time setting up Google alerts, signing up to rivals' Twitter and Facebook and trawling through their financial records in the pecuniary interests register. "One can bury a lot of one's own troubles by digging in the dirt," the document states.

It also contains images of Malcolm Tucker, a fictional government spin doctor based on Tony Blair's communications director Alastair Campbell who brutally enforced government discipline with abuse, threats and smears.

Asked whether these documents suggested the Caucus Communications Team was acting at odds with a previous pledge not to conduct media monitoring and research on the opposition, Mr Gray's spokeswoman replied: "No." "Ministers are expected to track the activities and commitments of their Opposition counterpart. This is proper and appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of Opposition shadow ministers," she said.

In the last year of the Coalition government the then Government Members Secretariat had 15 staff with an annual salary and parliamentary staff allowance entitlements cost of over $1.4 million. This compares to the CCT annual salary and parliamentary staff allowance entitlements cost of about $620,000.

But several staffers dismissed the activities of the unit as the product of people who had spent "too much time watching (cult US political drama) The West Wing".


Government trying to get tough on illegals

THE 274 asylum seekers and crew who have arrived on Christmas Island since the Malaysia policy was announced will be processed in another country, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed yesterday. Mr Bowen said the federal government would stand firm on its policy to close the door, despite uncertainty over Malaysia's acceptance.

Malaysia said yesterday it is considering taking at least some of the asylum seekers who arrived ahead of the swap deal being formally signed, a shift from its previous position.

A Malaysian official said the deal was all but sealed, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees "on board". The UNHCR declined to comment. "We've made it clear that those 300 are not necessarily to be included in the 800 … our position is that they would be processed in a third country," Mr Bowen told ABC Radio.

There is little chance of a speedy deal with Papua New Guinea to reopen the Manus Island centre, as turmoil continues there following the sacking of Foreign Minister Don Polye, the main supporter of a deal.

Mr Bowen said the government was "in discussions with countries across the region" about stopping the people smugglers' trade.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, who will travel to Nauru at the weekend with leader Tony Abbott, said there was "a taxpayer funded processing centre on Nauru which can be opened within weeks". He said asylum seekers sent to Nauru would not have to be tagged to avoid caning.

Mr Bowen told ABC Radio he had "said on many occasions" that people transferred to Malaysia would not be regarded as illegal migrants, and he and the Malaysian government had repeatedly guaranteed they would not be caned.

The 4000 refugees brought to Australia under the deal would be mostly Burmese, who "can't afford a people smuggler because they're in very difficult circumstances or they don't want to risk their life", he said.

The Age reported last week that the 800 sent to Malaysia would carry a UNHCR card and would not be classified as illegal immigrants. The federal government will pay for all their costs - including health checks, education, and monitoring by immigration officials. Asylum seekers in Malaysia live in the community "and can move freely", the UNHCR said.

Tomorrow, the UNHCR will launch a research report into alternatives to mandatory detention, highlighting the use of community accommodation to process asylum seekers.

La Trobe University contributed to the research, which found that asylum seekers rarely abscond while waiting for the outcome of a visa application, and rarely abscond from a transit country if they can meet their basic needs legally, are not at risk of being forcibly returned and remain hopeful of their prospects. They are more likely to comply with a negative decision if they have explored all legal options to remain in the country.

A joint parliamentary inquiry, pushed by the Greens, will examine Australia's mandatory detention policy and its alternatives. But it remains the policy of both the government and Coalition.


His Grace is a rare Anglican

The Archbishop of Sydney condemns homosexual "marriage"

COMMENTS by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen that allowing same-sex marriage could lead to the acceptance of polygamy and incest are "alarmist" and unfounded, gay rights advocates say.

In an article in the church's newspaper, Southern Cross, Dr Jensen wrote that having same-sex unions enshrined in the Marriage Act was an "abuse" of the tradition and could pave the way for other changes.

"Ensuring public honour of same-sex relationships by calling them marriages is an abuse of marriage itself," The Sydney Morning Herald reported Dr Jensen as writing.

"It imposes, through social engineering, a newly minted concept of marriage on a community that understands it in quite another way.

"This claim for a right to be married could open the way for other forms, such as polygamous marriages or perhaps even marriage between immediate family members."

Australian Marriage Equality convenor Alex Greenwich hit back at the comments, saying any amendments to the Marriage Act would only mean that celebrants outside the Anglican community could perform same-sex marriages.

"The Archbishop should acknowledge we live in a secular, multi-faith society, and as such he must understand that his views should not be imposed on those religions that want to perform same-sex marriages, such as the Quakers and progressive Synagogues," Mr Greenwich said in a statement on Saturday.

"Not one of the alarmist predictions made by the Archbishop have come to pass in any of the countries that allow same-sex marriages to take place, including Catholic Spain, Portugal and Argentina."


Minimum prices for alcohol

By Luke Malpass

The term ‘nanny state’ gets a bad rap. Those who believe the state should protect people from themselves fulminate about this pejorative label. ‘But don’t you understand?’ they say, ‘we are helping people; “nanny state” is used by people who don’t care about others.’

But what is using the coercive power of the state to curtail potentially risky behaviour, if not nannying?

Nanny might soon be given another lever. The federal government is considering a recommendation from the National Preventative Health Agency (a new bureaucracy whose job is to recommend laws and taxes to prevent people from consuming alcohol, tobacco and fast food) to introduce a minimum sale price per standard drink of alcohol. Taxes aren’t working, apparently because competition (usually considered a virtue) has kept prices of some types of liquor low. Moreover, people are drinking too much! So a minimum price is being mooted to discourage drinking.

A minimum price regime, in effect state-mandated price fixing, would make liquor a more protected industry. It would encourage trade in illegal cheap alcohol, and would also be highly regressive. Low-income drinkers would have to spend an even higher portion of their income to have a drink. No doubt the minimum price would rise over time, as it became obvious that alcohol consumption had not been sufficiently reduced.

Minimum prices are blunt impositions that hamper the operation of entire markets. In the case of alcohol, they would penalise people who drink in safety and moderation.

Minimum prices are a woefully inadequate way to try and prevent some of the problems of excessive alcohol consumption such as violence and alcohol poisoning. People addicted to substances are the least affected by price increases.

At best there could be a slight reduction in harmful drinking (but at what cost to other drinkers?); at worst, those who are poor and have an alcohol problem will substitute liquor alcohol for meths or something even more dangerous.

This proposed policy fails on the grounds of equity, efficacy and the ‘do no harm’ principle. It won’t even be effective nannying.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 10 June. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Charter's quest for utopia imperils existing freedoms

By Ted Lapkin (Lapkin was a captain in the Israel Defense Force in his earlier years so has the self-confidence and outspokenness you would expect from that)

Human Rights are supposed to be one of those motherhood and apple pie ideas that enjoy universal support without qualm nor question. At least, that's the theory.

But in the reality of 21st century politics, the term has been hijacked by the left and invested with a distinctly partisan tinge. In contemporary policy debate, the rhetoric of human rights is routinely deployed as a polemical weapon. And all too often, the spectre of a bigotry allegation is enough to intimidate into silence those whose views deviate from politically correct orthodoxy.

Now that the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities is up for its quadrennial review, we've been treated to a surfeit of such moral posturing. Former British attorney-general Lord Goldsmith blew into town on a brief visit to give us a tuppence worth of hectoring and lecturing.

His Lordship primly instructed us that we must renew the charter as "the hallmark of a civilised, democratic society". Apparently, anyone who harbours misgivings about the charter is both uncivilised and anti-democratic.

Liberty Victoria president Spencer Zifcak made claims of similar pomposity, arguing that the charter established a "floor beneath which a life of dignity can no longer be led". Presumably, before the enactment of the charter in 2006, we were all eking out an infelicitous existence of vulgar barbarism.

But I refuse to be cowed by a left-leaning human rights industry that brazenly attempts to arrogate the moral high ground in the debate over the charter. I will step up to express my reasoned concerns about the pernicious impact of the charter on Victoria's democracy and political liberties.

I want the laws that govern my life to be written by people who are answerable to me at the ballot box. Like Thomas Jefferson, I believe that governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

But the charter is all about transferring power from our elected parliamentary representatives to a coterie of unelected judges beholden only to themselves. It injects the judiciary with a dose of political steroids, tempting it to become an active player in the dance of legislation.

The charter entitles the Supreme Court to declare a law "incompatible with human rights". And while Parliament may override such a declaration of incompatibility, the intervention by unelected judges into the business of our elected legislature entirely distorts the political dynamic. It offends against the separation of powers principle that is a foundation stone of modern democracy.

The empowerment of our own judges to meddle in affairs beyond their proper brief is bad enough. But the charter also authorises the Victorian courts to predicate their incompatibility rulings on the opinions of non-Australian judges. Section 32 (2) declares the judgments of "foreign courts and tribunals relevant to a human right may be considered in interpreting a statutory provision".

Think about that for a moment.

We live under a system of Victorian laws enacted by a Victorian Parliament chosen by the Victorian people to reflect Victorian moral sensibilities and standards. But the charter invites activist judges to cherry pick foreign judicial rulings in order to foist alien legal fads and fashions upon us.

While our judiciary is not directly answerable to the people, at least the Victorian governments that appoint judges must front up to the ballot box every four years. But when it comes to the foreign judges whose rulings are authorised for use in Victoria by the charter, we are deprived even of that indirect influence.

Thus the charter is doubly anti-democratic. It rewards the pretentions to power of an unelected local judicial elite. It also encourages a reliance on rulings of foreign courts whose philsophy and values are alien to our system of common law.

The essence of representative democracy was encapsulated in a single sentence by Abraham Lincoln when he spoke of "government of the people, by the people and for the people". But democracy is imperiled if an overseas court ruling can be used to negate the will of the Victorian people.

The charter is replete with many other serious shortcomings, most notably its failure to protect one of the most essential rights of all – the right to own and acquire private property. And a convicted sex offender exploited the charter to emasculate the Extended Supervision Orders that are designed to keep our children safe from sexual predators.

But the most profound flaws of the charter stem from something much more central to its philosophical core. It was H.L. Mencken who observed: "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false-face for the urge to rule it."

In a utopian quest for the perfect society, the charter imperils our existing democratic liberties and freedoms.


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