Friday, August 19, 2011

Burqa law to be extended to jails and courts in New South Wales

NEW laws giving police the power to insist Muslim women remove their burqas so they can be identified will be extended to prisons and courts in legislation New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell will take to parliament next week.

Under the laws, police will not be able to forcibly remove a face-covering if the wearer refuses to do so. However, those who do refuse the request will be charged and face $220 fines. For motorists, the penalties will be even greater, with fines of up to $5500 or a year in jail. Refusing to remove a headcovering in a courtroom will carry a $550 fine.

The laws will also apply to helmets as well as to niqabs, masks and burqas according to The Daily Telegraph.

If the subject of a police roadside stop pleads cultural sensitivity as a reason for refusing to remove a head covering, they can ask to go to a police station to remove it.

The Ombudsman will review the laws in 12 months.

Mr O'Farrell will announce the changes to the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act today. Mr O'Farrell said that under the current laws, police could ask someone to provide identification but had virtually no powers to require someone to remove a face covering.

"Under the changes, police will be able to demand the removal of any face covering including a helmet, burqa, niqab, mask or any item of clothing when requiring people to prove their identification," he said.

"There will be strong safeguards to ensure that the new powers are used sensibly. "People will only be required to remove a face covering for as long as it takes to identify them.

"In other words, we want to ensure that identification occurs as quickly as possible and with privacy if the person requests it. At the same time, we are going to give police the powers ... to make a clear identification of those suspected of committing offences."


Can we have some diversity of opinion at their ABC

LAST week's coverage of the London riots by our national broadcaster provides yet more evidence of the deep and damaging divide between mainstream Australians and the so-called intellectual class. The term "so-called intellectual class" is deliberate. Many of its apparently well-educated members are more ideologically blinded than they are intellectually curious.

Take PM, the ABC radio's premier political program. The program was abuzz with talk about the causes of the criminal mayhem, except the causes that fall outside the bounds of respectable Left-liberal orthodoxy.

We are used to being intellectually underwhelmed in Sydney by ABC local radio's Deborah Cameron. Her constant lightweight crusades are just that: they represent the unthinking Left.

Even former ABC chairman Donald McDonald has pointed to Cameron's morning stream of consciousness and asked why can't the ABC do better? Good question. A better question is this: aren't we entitled to expect more from PM, which describes itself as "one of the grand institutions of Australian public broadcasting"?

Sadly, the highbrow program let us down. Early in the week, PM's host Mark Colvin and London-based reporter Rachael Brown kept making comparisons with the race riots in the 1980s.

When it became clear that the riots were not political protests, but instead rampant, opportunistic crime, the program then canvassed every Left-liberal excuse for the shocking violence.

We heard about the hot weather, high unemployment, bad police communications, unfairness, inequality, austerity cuts, culminating in PM interviewing author Will Hutton, who blamed the crime wave on capitalism.

By Friday, not even the ABC could ignore another possible explanation: the poisonous cocktail of welfare dependency, broken schools, the absence of family authority and a vacuum of values that bind communities. Yet, even then, PM's interview with Theodore Dalrymple, a critic of the welfare system, looked like a token effort to placate a broadcasting charter that requires the ABC to present different perspectives. After all, why didn't the ABC's premier political program evince earlier and more genuine curiosity about the riots? Plenty of people have asked questions about the damaging role of welfare.

The journalists at PM could have spoken with Frank Furedi or Brendan O'Neill, to name just a few who have provided thoughtful analysis that challenges leftist sacred cows. If PM didn't want to take its cue from this newspaper, which featured both men, the program could have interviewed many others who reject the so-called progressive orthodoxy of welfare.

The term "so-called progressive" is also deliberate: the London riots have shown that decades of progressive welfare policies have not provided a path to progress for the people who need it most.

Colvin's evening political coverage could have included Katharine Birbalsingh, for example. The former state school teacher made headlines last October after her passionate speech about education to the Conservative Party conference attacking the deep "culture of excuses, of low standards and expecting the very least from our poorest and least disadvantaged".

Colvin's PM program could have explored what turned Birbalsingh from a self-described serious lefty who read Marxism at university and flirted with the Socialist Workers Party into a well-placed critic of a leftist ideology that has long since stopped helping children.

The 37-year-old teacher told the conference that when she tells a child who has caused trouble to repeat "I am responsible for myself, Miss", she is "fighting a generation of thinking that has left our education system in pieces".

From front-line experience, Birbalsingh blames the "well-meaning liberal" for the dumbing down of schools 'that even the children themselves know it", where the children are crying out for structure and discipline (one child pleaded with her: "Miss, I want to be in your class because I hear you're really mean").

In schools and in society, "we need high expectations; we need to instil competition among our kids and help build their motivation". A few days after saying these things, Birbalsingh was asked by her employers to work from home and she has since parted ways with the British state school system.

Perhaps PM will interview Birbalsingh when she comes to Sydney to speak at a Sydney Institute function next month. That they failed to cast Aunty's net of analysis wider during the London riots tells us much about the state of debate on important issues in this country.

This is a debate that requires some genuine curiosity and courage from the broader political class if we are to learn anything from the riots across London.

And there is plenty to learn. Lessons such as what happens when we fail to attribute responsibility to individuals for their actions, when we fail to lay down boundaries for behaviour, when there are too few expectations on people, when generations grow dependent on the state, when they have only a sense of entitlement to handouts rather than a sense of contribution to the community in which they live.

After all, people don't jump up and start demolishing their own community because benefits are cut back.

If the austerity cuts are to blame for the violence, then handing benefits back won't restore the moral values that were absent on the streets of England last week. The mentality that led to the riots was quietly brewing while public expenditure in Britain has skyrocketed for the past few decades.

Instead of using the riots to attack capitalism, we could relearn some basic economic lessons too. As Irving Kristol once said, it's true that a market economy creates inequalities of income and wealth but "there is simply no alternative to 'trickle-down economics' which is just another name for growth economics".

As Kristol said: "The world has yet to see a successful version of 'trickle-up economics', an egalitarian society in which the state ensures the fruits of economic growth are universally and equally shared" because this socialist ideal has never produced the fruits in the first place.

When the state grows bigger and more intrusive, assuming greater control over individuals, the other side of the equation necessarily gets squeezed. Individual freedom, accountability and responsibility for our actions as free agents diminish in equal measure.

Jed Bartlet, the fictional Democrat president on The West Wing, best described the consequences of not taking responsibility when he said: "We come to occupy a moral safe house where everyone's to blame so no one's guilty". In response to his wrongdoing, Bartlet said: "I'm to blame. I was wrong."

When governments and the broader political class, when schools and bureaucracies, and when parents raising children relearn the importance of individual responsibility, then we will see real progress for those who most need it.



Three articles below

Powerful states say all options considered in battling Gillard government tax

THE nation's most powerful states will confront Julia Gillard with a demand to tear down the carbon tax or face a revolt over multi-billion-dollar asset writedowns and sweeping job cuts.

NSW and Victoria yesterday foreshadowed a bitter scrap with the Gillard government at Friday's Council of Australian Governments meeting amid growing calls to scrap the tax.

The NSW government has dramatically widened its line of attack on the tax fallout by revealing that federal Labor's renewable energy scheme had slashed the profitability of its state-owned electricity generators.

NSW Treasury has warned that if the Gillard government fails to phase out the scheme when the carbon price starts, it will consider seeking compensation, with NSW Treasurer Mike Baird revealing that all options -- including suing -- were on the table.

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu led a chorus of cabinet criticism, with his government warning that alone, the closure of the Hazelwood power station in the brown coal-dependent Latrobe Valley would cost up to 5000 jobs.

Unemployment under a carbon tax could soar to 16.5 per cent in the valley, in the state's east, and Victoria has demanded that the tax be dumped. "Now is not the time to add another cost," Mr Baillieu warned.

NSW and Victoria are likely to be joined by Western Australia in opposing the tax, pointing to a serious test of the Prime Minister's diplomatic skills and willpower.

Although fighting on different battlegrounds, the powerful union of conservative states has the potential to further undermine Ms Gillard's hard-sell of the tax.

Victoria has threatened to scuttle the proposed national maritime safety regulator and WA has raised concerns about the transport package, especially relating to the heavy vehicle component.

The NSW government has previously focused its criticism on the prospect that the carbon tax would force multi-billion-dollar write-downs to the state-owned power stations, but NSW Treasury has now warned: "In view of its adverse impact on generator profitability, in the event the commonwealth does not phase out the Renewable Energy Target with the introduction of a carbon price, the NSW government could consider seeking commonwealth compensation for the adverse impacts of the RET on generator profitability."

The warning is contained in a submission to a Senate select committee inquiry into the carbon tax, which also suggests the NSW Treasury is trying to put a figure on the size of the losses triggered by the RET.

Yesterday, when asked whether the NSW government would consider legal action for compensation, Mr Baird said: "We are looking at all options."

The state-owned power stations, which include the nation's largest portfolio of power stations run by government-owned Macquarie Generation, are all coal-fired.

NSW argues the RET is a "very inefficient" way of achieving carbon abatement as it costs about $90 a tonne -- almost four times the $23-a-tonne carbon tax.

The state argues that many of the commonwealth's green policies are not complementary to the carbon tax and should be phased out. "To be complementary, they would most obviously need to relate to sectors not covered by the tax, like agriculture, or demonstrate their capacity to be self-funding, as might be the case with some energy efficiency measures," the submission states.

"Of particular concern to NSW is that the RET has created significant losses of value for NSW government-owned generators and is expected to lead to even more losses in the future."

NSW also warns it will receive $45 million less in payments from its generators this year, rising yearly to $290m less in 2014-15.

On top of this, NSW could come under pressure to compensate participants in the state-based Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scheme and the Energy Savings Scheme, as these are expected to be unwound as a result of the carbon tax.


State premiers turn up heat on Greens over their reservations about coal seam gas

QUEENSLAND Premier Anna Bligh has lashed the Greens over their attacks on the coal seam gas industry, warning the party can't cherry pick science to suit its ideology.

As state premiers converged on Canberra today for the Council of Australian Governments, Ms Bligh threw her support behind coal seam gas as an environmentally-friendly transitional fuel.

“There is absolutely no doubt that if Australia wants a clean energy future, gas has to be part of that and it has to be part of our transition,” Ms Bligh said.

Greens leader Bob Brown has questioned whether coal seam gas is a more greenhouse-friendly fuel than coal, due to the release of methane gas during its extraction.

Ms Bligh said she was disappointed in Senator Brown's comments, saying the science on gas was clear. “Frankly you can't pick and choose your science to suit your ideology,” she said. “You either believe the science on climate change, believe the science on gas emissions, or you don't. “You can't pick and choose to suit an ideological point and that's what I've seen from the Greens.”

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell also weighed in, accusing the Greens of being “all over the place” on the issue. He said gas had a role to play in the energy mix. “Gas is clearly important, but it can't be gas, coal or some other mineral at the expense of the rest of the economy and at the expense of agricultural land,” Mr O'Farrell said.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said there were environmental issues with coal seam gas that needed to be managed, but the fuel had “great potential” to clean up power generation on the nation's east coast. “The emissions from gas are about a half to a third of what they are from a coal plant,” he said.


Conservative NSW government gives Greenie pests the boot

THE Barry O'Farrell government has embarked on its first round of public-service job cuts, announcing it will slash the number of positions at a research facility within the Department of Primary Industries by more than a third.

Staff at the Forest Science Centre, which is associated with Forests NSW, were told yesterday that 11 of their 31 positions would be abolished.

A number of senior scientists were told they could reapply for a reduced number of positions within the unit. Others were told they had two weeks to apply for voluntary redundancy. Alternatively, they could seek redeployment within three months after which they would be forced to take redundancy.

"We were really stunned that they targeted the science unit," a source told the Herald. "It's national science week this week."

The centre is the only unit undertaking research into the ecological sustainability of forests and agriculture. It also employs biodiversity researchers who look at species threatened by logging. "This will decimate the state's capacity for research in these areas," the source said.


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