Friday, January 04, 2013

Threat to compulsory voting puts our democracy at risk?

By Nick McGowan,  who appears to be what Americans would call a RINO  -- and who spouts arrant nonsense.  The USA, the UK and most other countries do not have compulsory voting and those who do (Belgium and Ireland) are not much of a model.  So the USA and the UK are not democratic?  There seems to be no end to the nonsense you can find in newspaspers

THE threat to end compulsory voting in Queensland is the most serious attack on our democratic way of life since the end of World War II.

Non-compulsory voting is inherently undemocratic and dangerous. It disenfranchises the uneducated and the poor, whose voices tend to be harder to hear when a system becomes dominated by cashed-up minority groups with fringe agendas that affect the majority. Taken to extremes, this becomes the vocal minority dictating to the silent majority.

In any debate around electoral reform we must recognise that with the right to vote comes an inherent and corresponding duty.

As a former UN civilian peacekeeper, I have seen people prepared to die for the rights we are now questioning.

Afghans and Africans recognise intuitively that having acquired this most basic right - to free determination - they bear a duty and often fulfil it under threat of violence or even death on polling day.

Having seen their courage and determination first hand, I take great pride in coming from a nation that leads the way when it comes to the conduct of free and fair elections.

Our democratic "currency" is important because it shows there is a successful alternative to violent dictatorship and military regimes.

That is why Australia is known among the world's nations as a beacon for democratic stability and success.  And believe me, that's not as common as we'd like, even today.

The strength of Australia's compulsory system is that it enforces the individual's duty to register to vote and cast a ballot on election day. But, critically, does not mandate what one must do.

That is, you don't have to vote for anyone, but you do have to participate.

In political circles, no ones likes to talk about informal votes or ballots with words, even obscenities, scribbled across them because they are "spoilt" and lost to all candidates and political parties. But this may well be the citizen's intention, and it is certainly their right.

If we as citizens fail to participate in elections, then we fail the most basic test of any democracy - rule of the people by the people.

This has also been the international experience.

Critically, compulsory voting in Australia has actively guarded against the worst excesses of cashed-up minority interest groups (and powerful business interests) and their influential backers and lobbyists.

It has ensured we have a level playing field no matter the political or social cause or motivator.

You need look no further than the US and the gun lobby to see what ruin would come with this so-called reform.

We've taught our children since primary school that everyone counts. We'd be foolish to abandon that for a US or British-style experiment that does more to disenfranchise voters than our compulsory system ever has.

Right now Australia needs more participation by its people, not less.

Since Federation in 1901, compulsory voting has been the linchpin in our social stability and economic prosperity. 

The threat in Queensland today is a threat to all the states and territories of Australia - a threat to the very fabric of our democratic success story.

If we continue to expect less of people in our society, we diminish the whole society we have spent decades and fought so many wars creating. [Just a string of unproven assertions]


Another Middle Eastern crook?

A Sydney cruise company is still accepting bookings despite leaving people stranded at Darling Harbour on New Year's Eve.

The Department of Fair Trading has launched an investigation.

The Castle Hill company Eve Harbour Cruises promised a night to remember for up to $450 a ticket.  But as the midnight fireworks came and went, about 150 people realised the charter boat MV Eve was not going to arrive.

The company's director, Allen Yousif, has blamed mechanical difficulties and says he has avoided calls from customers because of angry comments directed towards him on social media.

The assistant commissioner of Fair Trading, Robert Vellar, says that is not good enough.  "He has continued to take deposits and money for trips, knowing full well that the trips won't be able to be made," he said.

The department has warned people not to deal with the company.


Female graduate pay gap doubles: report

But in some occupations women earn more  -- so there is a choice

New figures show the pay gap between Australian female university graduates and their male colleagues more than doubled last year.

A report by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) says female graduates are losing the battle for pay equality, with the gap now reaching $5,000, up from $2,000 for the previous year.

The agency's 2012 GradStats report shows men's starting salaries increased over the past year to $55,000, while women's salaries stalled at $50,000.

The gap is highest in architecture and building, with $52,000 compared to $43,000, followed by dentistry, optometry and the law.

WGEA research executive manager Doctor Carla Harris says it is disturbing that women's salaries have stalled in the past year, especially since the majority of university graduates are women.

"The lesson here is that the gender pay gap continues to have a very real impact on the bank balance of young women starting their careers," she said.

"I'm certain that any female school-leaver contemplating a career in dentistry, would be outraged knowing she can expect to earn more than $14,000 less than a man in her first year on the job."

Only seven occupations have women earning more than men, including pharmacy, Earth sciences and computer sciences.  Pharmacy leads the male inequality, with women earning $39,700, or 10.3 per cent more than men.

The report shows men and women earn the same in only three occupations - education, humanities and medicine.

We need to be looking at how we are structuring our work practices to cope with the fact that women do need to take time off to have children. Frankly, it takes two to tango.

Dr Harris says the lack of salary transparency may make it difficult for a woman to judge whether she is being underpaid for the same work as men.

"The thing is, it is very difficult to find out what salaries are. There is such a lack of transparency around what people earn," she said.

"You almost never know, but she certainly has the right to know and if she finds that she's not earning the same, she needs to go and ask why not."

Dr Harris says it is still the case that employers may be discriminating because they believe young women will only work a few years before starting a family.

"I think that that is certainly something which does go into people's minds and that's frankly, that's discrimination and we need to be looking at how we are structuring our work practices to cope with the fact that women do need to take time off to have children.


Delightful Muslim family?

A Sydney family involved in a brawl with dozens of police say the officers used excessive force.

Hussain Mehanna was released from custody yesterday after he, his father and three siblings were granted bail at a Parramatta court.

The 18-year-old said police picked a fight with them outside their Bankstown home, and used "too much aggressive force" on Wednesday.

But police documents have told a different story.

They allege the entire family punched, bit and jumped on several police officers.

Police documents tendered to the court said one officer was allegedly forced to punch Mehanna's mother when she overpowered a senior constable.

Another tried to use a Taser, but it did not work.  Police used capsicum spray and called dozens of officers for back-up.

The family were charged with assaulting police, affray and resisting arrest.

Mehannah's mother Rafah, 41, attended court today with a black eye to support her family.

The family's lawyer, Greg Heathcote, said her black eye was not her only injury.  "You can see how she's feeling a little bit, but she's got bruises that you can't see," Mr Heathcote said.

Ms Mehannah's husband and children were granted conditional bail today and ordered to face court in three weeks.  She will face court in February.


More details here.  Police were called to a domestic dispute but family members were aggressive to police from the get-go.  The father involved was Mohamed Mehanna.  They are fair-skinned people so are probably Lebanese Muslims, a well-known troublesome group often in conflict with the police

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