Monday, December 17, 2012
Qld. National parks to be unfrozen
Radical! People will actually be able to use them!
THE State Government has stepped away from fundamental national park protection introduced by a conservative government more than 50 years ago.
It is set to ignore the cardinal principle, which determines that national parks have the highest protection of all land classes, by approving recreational activities and introducing 30-year leases for resort developments.
National Parks Association executive director Paul Donatiu said the cardinal principle was already being eroded by starting mountain biking in Conway National Park in north Queensland, quad bike tours in Woondum National Park on the Sunshine Coast and horse-riding in other parks.
This gave recreational enthusiasts free rein to damage parks, as had occurred with 4WD, horse and bike riders trashing Beenleigh's Plunkett Conservation Park.
Under the cardinal principle, introduced in 1959, outdoor recreation that is nature-based and ecologically sustainable is encouraged provided it does not conflict with or degrade other values such as the conservation of nature.
Mr Donatiu said the cardinal principle was embodied in the Queensland Biodiversity Strategy, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Master Plan and underpinned every management action.
"Queenslanders should be very concerned that anticipated changes to the Nature Conservation Act could remove, erode or lessen the application of this principle," he said.
Premier Campbell Newman did not respond to questions about the cardinal principle yesterday, saying the Government sought to encourage tourism.
"We want Queenslanders to enjoy national parks rather than be locked out," he said.
Mr Newman said the previous government's move to stop 4WDs using two small sections of Moreton Island beaches to allow safe pedestrian access was heavy-handed. "We are ending that sort of nonsense," he said.
Asked if National Parks Minister Steve Dickson would abandon the cardinal principle, a spokeswoman declined to answer but said the department was consulting with industry as part of a review of the Act.
"Part of this will include the option of 30-year leases for development of eco-tourism facilities," she said.
"For too long, eco-tourism has been choked by legislative red tape, while other naturally beautiful regions including Tasmania and New Zealand have forged ahead in creating multibillion-dollar industries."
Mr Donatiu said the comparison was incorrect because Queensland parks occupied less than 5 per cent of the state compared with Tasmania 24 per cent and NZ with 11.4 per cent.
Mr Donatiu said significant numbers of park-associated resorts had gone into receivership this year and many larger US parks were removing heavy tourism infrastructure.
Aboriginal climate change
The entire premise of man made climate change is that we, mankind, because of our modern industrial lifestyle, have altered the natural order of the climate system and this is bad. It is so bad that mankind needs to do something to fix what we have done and stop what we are doing.
More and more however it seems that the climate change academia complex is undermining their own case for the very premise which is the foundation of their theory, not to mention their considerable tax payer funding. It is easy to see how this happens, academics knowing there is a honey pot of money for any research having to do with climate change combined with their undying faith in the reality of man made climate change conduct studies which to an objective observer actually undermines their case but to the academics it acts as another warning to the uniformed public..
The other day I pointed to a report of a study on how climate change had helped lead to the downfall of the Mayan Empire. The authors seemed not to realize that their findings went a long way towards undermining the "man made" ingredient of the entire theory. Everything that the alarmist community is trying to "sell" society is dependent on the idea that what we are experiencing or will experience is unprecedented and of course man made. So when they do studies which show that conditions in the past were as bad or worse than what we are experiencing or forecast to experience a reasonable person would ask how have we impacted the climate if the climate has always acted this way?
Again we have another example of a study disproving "man made" climate change out of the University of Queensland called Ancient culture affected by climate
Associate Professor Hamish McGowan from UQ's School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management said the studies in the north west Kimberley have shown there was a rapid change in climate around 5,500 years ago.
If there could be rapid change in climate 5,500 years ago in aboriginal Australia doesn't that sort of put a damper on the whole unprecedented not to mention man made claims of todays far less dramatic events? If you want to talk about some serious climate "disruption" consider this:
“Our research shows that the likely reason for the demise of the Gwion artists was a mega-drought spanning approximately 1,500 years,...."
A mega drought lasting 1500 years without benefit of modern society's fossil fueled input? is that even possible? What would cause such a thing?
"...brought on by changing climate conditions that caused the collapse of the Australian summer monsoon,”
If naturally occurring changing climate conditions could cause such havoc, I would consider a 1500 year long drought severe, why are our modern day soothsayers so convinced that we are responsible for far less dramatic climate change?
Just another example of pre-industrial severe climate change, far exceeding anything which sends the alarmist community into apocalyptic tizzydom.
Stroke patients receiving 'substandard' care
The National Stroke Foundation says four out every 10 stroke patients receives substandard care in Australian hospitals.
The foundation is launching a national action plan which calls for a $198 million injection into stroke care and rehabilitation over the next three years.
The report says stroke is the second biggest killer in Australia, but there has never been federal budget funding for a comprehensive stroke strategy.
The foundation's chief executive, Erin Lalor, says more than half of the funding requested would be spent on bringing hospital care up to standard.
"We still have a number of large hospitals in Australia that don't have a stroke unit where they should, but in those hospitals where there was a stroke unit, we found many people still weren't able to get access," she said.
"In some instances it is bed management issues, in some instances they don't get transferred.
"They're still not getting the specialised stroke care that they need in those situations."
She says urgent attention is also needed to improve rehabilitation and community care programs offered to patients when they're discharged from hospital.
"We've seen more and more people surviving in the community after a stroke with no services there in a coordinated manner to support them," she said.
"You can only imagine suddenly facing life with a disability and emotional and psychological responses to stroke."
No price on free speech
by LOUIS NOWRA, a prominent Australian playwright
AT first I thought it was a joke, but it turned out to be true. Two women decided to take me to the Human Rights Commission, complaining about a play I had written. Set in Sarajevo, it was based on a beauty pageant held during the siege in the Balkan conflict. I wrote it because I was tired of films and plays that depicted the misery of the events, always portraying the besieged as victims. I was more interested in the beauty contestants symbolising the resilience of the human spirit.
The two women had no connection to the siege or the ethnic groups involved. However, they had decided that I was pro-Serbian and the clincher was that one of the actresses in the Melbourne production had a Serb background. The women wanted royalties from previous productions confiscated and demanded the play be banned because it was a piece of Serbian propaganda.
Their interpretation of the play couldn't have been more wrong, so much so that I wondered just how bright they were. But if I thought the ludicrous nature of the complaint would be laughed off by the HRC, then I didn't understand its bureaucratic mission. For a year I had to deal with hundreds of pages pouring out of the commission and had to engage a lawyer. The complaint eventually was thrown out but, not to be denied, these two dolts found a loophole in the law and appealed again. It was nearly another year before this appeal was dismissed.
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During this time I didn't write a play. I found I was censoring myself. Just what could I write that wouldn't offend anybody, even if they took offence from a total misinterpretation of the play? What subjects would cause other people to take me to the HRC? What disturbed me above all was that there was no attempt to understand my side of the story. If the two women intended to creatively paralyse me then they couldn't have found a better bureaucratic vehicle.
During my career a Christian family tried for several years to have my play Summer of the Aliens banned from the school curriculum using newspapers and television to promote their cause. Film reviewer David Stratton considered a film I wrote to be racist and I found myself tabloid fodder. (He made the classic mistake of believing that if a character is racist then the writer and director must be.)
You'd think that left-wingers would defend freedom of speech but, as I was to discover, they may espouse liberal views but not when it concerns themselves. I wrote pieces on Germaine Greer, Bob Ellis and mentioned in passing the humourless Richard Flanagan, all with progressive attitudes, but the first response of all three was to threaten to sue. Not that academics are much better. Two female academics withdrew their subscriptions from the magazine that published the Greer article; the frightening thing was that they were proud of the fact they refused to even read the piece.
What truly bothered me was that some people said it was brave of me to have written the article and it confirmed just how conformist and insular are most of those who would describe themselves as liberal or left-leaning. It is not as if authors are any different. It seems many subscribe to the idea that novels must be of educational and moral value.
Writer and teacher Christopher Bantick recently wrote that Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera should not be taught to final-year high school students because it "says repeatedly that screwing a child for art's sake is excusable". In the novel the main character, an amoral Lothario, Florentino Ariza, has an affair with a 14-year-old girl when he is 76. Bantick doesn't see a complicated character and ambiguous morality working here; all he sees is child abuse.
I was once talking to some of Australia's best women writers and all loathed Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita, summing up the beautiful, morally complex story as "a pedophile's charter". In other words, these writers treat literature as a form of moral instruction and therefore their sensibilities are easily offended by authors such as Marquez and Nabokov.
But just what is offensive? Twitter's billions of tweets carry some of the most vile remarks one could read. Take, for example, Aboriginal academic and lawyer Larissa Behrendt. In one tweet she described watching bestiality on television as "less offensive than Bess Price", an Aboriginal woman in favour of the Northern Territory intervention. Behrendt blamed the comment on the TV show Deadwood which, she said, "seemed pretty offensive". The logic seemed simple: she was offended, so she was careless about offending someone whose views she didn't agree with. All it did was offend Price and reveal Behrendt's real thoughts, and they're not pretty (though the tweet did have a vividness missing from her banal novels).
Cartoonist Michael Leunig has been frequently criticised for his supposed anti-Semitic attitudes. Recently a cartoon of his in The Age equated the actions of Israel in Gaza to those of the Nazis, and for many Jews it seemed that Leunig was saying that the Jews were committing genocide against the Palestinians. The cartoonist justified his position as "all nations that throw their military weight around, occupying neighbouring lands and treating the residents with callous and humiliating disregard, are already sliding towards the dark possibilities in human nature." Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, criticised the cartoonist and wondered "how a survivor of the Holocaust would react when they came upon his cartoon". If one did, I am sure that he or she would be offended, but is offending one person a reason to ban a cartoon?
There are many cartoonists who view it as their job to take unpopular stances that many may judge as offensive. Frankly I found Bob Carr forcing the Prime Minister to change her support for Israel in the recent UN vote on Palestine more offensive than any cartoon. Carr took the action because NSW Right Labor MPs feared a no vote could offend Middle Eastern and Muslim communities in marginal southwestern Sydney seats before next year's federal election. Never mind that many Muslims, especially those of the Middle East, are anti-Semitic.
I may be offended by anti-Semitic comments but I believe that even Holocaust deniers have a right to free speech. Of course it's always nice when a denier such as historian David Irving gets his comeuppance, as happened when he brought an unsuccessful case against another historian, with the judge finding Irving was an anti-Semite, racist and associated with neo-Nazis.
Louis Theroux's recent documentary on a fundamentalist church in the US whose members turn up at the funerals of American servicemen with placards calling the dead men and their families "Fags" and "Dirty Jews" was shocking, yet I respect a nation that allows even these crazies the right to offend.
Australia is less tolerant because we are a very conformist society that dislikes whistleblowers, eccentrics and the unusual. We put up with the Defence Force and government treating us like dummies. The war in Afghanistan is reported to us through spin doctors. We see VC winners and rescued dogs but not the true nature of the conflict. If we want to know what is really happening then we must read the huge library of American and English journalists in the field. Julia Gillard talks as if we're winning there, even though the Pentagon has realised that the withdrawal of US forces will be a disaster for Afghanistan. The equation is easy in Australia: if you criticise the war then you must be criticising our brave troops. Few nations would put up with this codswallop.
If we allow anyone behavioural latitude, then it's towards the larrikin. Two such larrikins, DJs working for 2Day FM radio, made a hoax call to an English hospital where they tricked ward nurses into giving details about Kate Middleton, who was in the hospital at the time. The prank allegedly so devastated one of the nurses that she committed suicide. The result was that the two DJs were vilified by the media and those on the net, and their protective status as larrikins vanished in the media hysteria. Columnist Miranda Devine said of the prank that "we are witnessing the Boratisation of our culture, where decent people are deliberately offended".
But just who are the decent people? Devine herself? Quite simply, it's becoming very easy to offend.
Shock jock Alan Jones made a callous comment about Gillard's recently deceased father. The result was an uproar where those thousands who were offended ganged up on him and forced advertisers to withdraw from his talkback show. It was an example of what is becoming common - cyber lynching. Like those mindless mobs in the Wild West, they are driven by self-righteousness and lust for revenge. One has to ask where were these thousands of offended people when Jones called Sydney's Lebanese Muslims "vermin" who "infest our shores" and "rape" and "pillage" our nation. Jones's incitement was more than offensive; it was despicable.
Some people are easily offended, others are not; yet we have the Racial Discrimination Act that makes it unlawful to "offend" people. Attorney-General Nicola Roxon is preparing to consolidate present anti-discrimination laws from five acts into one planned overhaul of anti-discrimination laws. Her view of the Australian people is that of a private school headmistress announcing to her pupils that the new laws will "help everyone understand what behaviour is expected".
Exactly what behaviour is expected? Probably it will be based on her own middle-class, middlebrow values and attitudes.
This is part of an ongoing project by the Labor government to impose its morality and values on our culture. Part of its mission is to tame what it sees as an unruly populace and media. It used the British phone-hacking scandal to hold an inquiry into the Australian media. Really, this was the government wanting to get back at their critics, especially News Limited. The Finkelstein report proposed a News Media Council, which would have the legally enforceable power to adjudicate on journalist fairness and make the media answerable to the courts. A deadly and expensive combination of lawyers and academics would make up the panel.
The trouble with that is that many academics are not interested in free speech and are captives of groupthink. They may make token comments about liberal values but universities, as I found out as a student and later a teacher at Queensland University and Yale, are anything but bastions of free speech. They promote a culture where if you do not agree with the prevailing ideological orthodoxy then it's death to your career. The attitude is summed up by Wendy Bacon, who heads the journalism school at the University of Technology, Sydney. She saw the Finkelstein report as it really was - an attack on News Limited - and given she considered that organisation a threat to free speech, chose not to defend the concept. Like many of her ilk, she appears to loathe the tabloids and any organisation that disagrees with her left-wing values. The idea of competing ideas and diversity of opinions seems to be anathema to her.
After Ray Finkelstein handed in his report, Lord Justice Brian Leveson, head of Britain's media ethics inquiry, delivered his 2000-page report into what was morally reprehensible behaviour by some British journalists and editors. But it was interesting that only five paragraphs in the report were about the net and the issues it raises for media regulation. Like Finkelstein, Leveson viewed his job as neutering the press by the subtle threat of an independent board. What he didn't realise was that compared with the internet even the most feral tabloids are models of restraint. Rumours, gossip and hatred are part of the DNA of cyberspace. Newspapers obey court injunctions, but the embargo is broken by the net. It has been all too common to see on the net the news that someone has died, who hasn't, people named as pedophiles when they're not, and private photographs plastered on websites.
Some people point to WikiLeaks as something that could happen only on the internet. But Julian Assange is no journalist. He was able to funnel a huge amount of information given to him and release it on the net. He was just a facilitator. But it required newspapers to print the material for it to really matter in the wider world.
The net may provide photographs and information that journalists can't cover but newspapers are more essential than ever. It requires time, money and resources to undertake thorough investigations. If it weren't for journalists we wouldn't know the extent of corruption in NSW Labor politics and there wouldn't be the present Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation of the Obeid family and disgraced politician Ian Macdonald.
The net cannot offer anything like that. It's a medium that celebrates a short attention span. It glories in cyber-lynchings as if the foaming indignation is a sign that those taking part in it - and all you have to do is push a button - are morally right. Much of its vitriol is delivered by anonymous people; it's a medium for cowards.
What is of concern in the real world is that a small group of like-minded elites are determined to restrict free speech unless the speech agrees with their outlook on life and values. Instead of diversity and inclusiveness, these people want to determine our proper "behaviour", to use Roxon's term.
It's a sign that Australia is losing its larrikin personality and that those cultural and political elites want a tame society in their image. It's not unlike middle-class professionals shifting into the red-light district of Kings Cross and afterwards sanitising it, excluding and deriding everyone except clones of themselves.
An integral part of this push is the notion of offence. But really offence is hard to define. Yes, comments such as Behrendt's are offensive, but do they do deep harm? She suffered justified criticism and repented. Leunig's cartoon may offend a Holocaust survivor but it may have forced many readers to rethink their attitudes towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The notion of offensiveness is one that changes through the years. We once banned offensive novels such as Lolita and Ulysses; now they are studied. As we discover in the playground, sticks and stones do not hurt as much as words. But that is the nature of human beings; we can taunt and hurt with what we say. If there is one thing that shouldn't be condoned it is comments that go beyond offensive abuse to the incitement of hatred and physical violence.
There has been a slow and sinister attempt to control the old media and to modify our words and thoughts through legislation. The problem is that free speech is coming under attack from those who think it's their duty to morally correct us. Any time a government does that then it becomes certain that the laws they bring in will be used in the future to control us even more