Friday, June 07, 2013

A victory for  free speech

It was unpleasant and foolish speech but clearly within the realm of political comment

IF THE internet put a bunch of cowboys in the saddle, some recent court decisions might have opened the stable doors.

Hero of the hooting and hollering posse is Brett David Starkey, a spammer who is not unrepresentative of a whole bunch of people for whom moderation and manners seem alien concepts.

Starkey sent 88 emails to more than 100 recipients over 46 days calling for the extermination of "left-leaning politicians and their associates".

Directly or through forwarded messages, his emails included assertions that "Australians need to arm themselves against the Labor and Greens parties who are puppets of the trillionaire, criminal global banking families who are conspiring to World Ownership/World Government run by the United Nations".

And: "The Australian Government, elected and staff, are riddled with Rothschild Globalist/Zionists" and that "Humanity has to declare war on all of them and deal with this treasonous filth appropriately".

More seriously in my view, he said former prime minister Kevin Rudd was "a treasonous criminal" who needed to be "jailed or shot" and called for "Labor and Green parties" to be "eliminated from existence".

He demonstrated his political ecumenicalism by naming Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Rudd, former Greens leader Bob Brown and Liberal Malcolm Turnbull as conspirators who should face charges of treason.

Such pleasantries earned him 12 months' probation when he appeared in Brisbane Magistrate's Court in December and was convicted of using a carriage service to menace when he sent the emails to 107 people between February and April last year.

However, this week District Court judge Kiernan Dorney overturned the conviction because he was not satisfied the emails were "menacing, harassing or offensive" when applied to the objective "reasonable person" test.

As for "menace" the objective test would imply the receipt of the email would cause apprehension, if not a fear, for the recipient's own safety.

He suggested that the main concern of the recipient might be whether to consign the emails to the "deleted" or the "spam" folder.

Large among the precedents Dorney cited was the split High Court ruling that upheld an appeal by Sheik Man Hafron Monis after he had been charged with using a postal or similar service in a menacing, harassing and offensive way when he sent horrible letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers.

That appeal was upheld because three of the judges agreed that a section of the Criminal Code was inconsistent with the implied constitutional freedom of political communication.


Ex-Labor pollster tips 'epic disaster'

For more than two years, Rod Cameron's pessimism about Labor's prospects has been a strictly private affair. Although he dubbed Tony Abbott unelectable, the former ALP pollster remained circumspect on the challenge facing the party he served in more than 50, mostly winning, state and federal campaigns.

"I didn't want to throw any curve balls in while there was a prospect that the party would do what I thought it would do - and that's just act out of self-interest," Mr Cameron explains. Now, "more in sorrow than anything", he is predicting an epic Labor disaster.

He is not alone. While the mood of the Labor caucus has been despondent for months, it seems that only now, 100 days from polling day, the gravity of what is in prospect is really sinking in.

For Mr Cameron and many others, the party's failure to return to Kevin Rudd, when the message from the polls was that he could restore Labor to a competitive position, has been an act of insanity that threatens Labor's existence.

"The majority of the modern Labor Party - the caucus, the leadership, the machine and, importantly, the union bosses who now dictate policy - has totally lost the plot," is how he expresses it.

"When they reaffirmed Julia Gillard's leadership, they really were turkeys voting for Christmas - and what a Christmas it will be. It will be a total wipeout in the outer suburbs of all the capital cities and the regional and rural areas to boot."

There's not much time left for Labor to turn to the polls around.
Maxine McKew, the giant slayer who defeated John Howard and became a Rudd loyalist, agrees. "What is being played out now is an absolute tragedy," she says. "Labor has been in tight fights before and had its back to the wall, but I don't think we've ever experienced anything quite like this."

Similarly perplexed is Barry Cohen, a minister in the Whitlam government, who anticipates an even worse result on September 14 than Gough Whitlam suffered in 1975 and 1977. Mr Cohen cannot fathom why backbenchers aren't petitioning Ms Gillard to step down for a fresh face, suggesting Bill Shorten would at least offer the prospect of a "reasonable defeat".

But it isn't that simple. Those who will soon face the voters can be divided into three camps: those, such as Ms Gillard and a swag of senior ministers, who are behaving as if a real contest still beckons; those who will support a return to Mr Rudd if the opportunity beckons; and those resigned to defeat but utterly opposed to Mr Rudd.

"You have to put yourself in the position of each caucus member," is how one former MP puts it. "Yes, you're desperate. Maybe you're resigned to a crushing defeat, and still slightly self-delusional that you may buck the trend. And you ask yourself: 'Do I support Kevin again? Does he deserve it?"'

One perspective inside the Parliament is that the antics this week of Joel Fitzgibbon, Senator Doug Cameron and, more subtly, of Mr Rudd himself are as treacherous as they are unhelpful. Another is that they are an understandable reflection of a situation that is almost entirely of Ms Gillard's making.

Internal perspectives don't change the assessment of Rod Cameron and other outsiders of what is likely to happen in September. He thinks caucus "will be reduced to a rump in the low 30s, and that's both number of seats and primary vote. And the new leader will take over a trade union party with a policy outlook totally at variance with the values … of the great majority of Australians."

Tellingly, Mr Cameron now describes Mr Abbott as the "hitherto unelectable" Tony Abbott. "I'm afraid I'm going to have that stamped on my gravestone - that I declared him unelectable."

One difference between the loss that beckons and past defeats, he says, is that Ms Gillard is in denial on the extent to which she is responsible for Labor's low stocks.

Inside the PM's bunker, there is steely confidence that a campaign built around education, disability reform, the national broadband network and economic management will yet produce a contest.

The only certainty, come September 15, is that there will be much to reflect upon.


No vote for gay marriage bill before election

GREENS MP Adam Bandt has accused Labor of deliberately delaying a vote on his gay marriage private members bill.

Australian Greens MP Adam Bandt had hoped his marriage equality private members bill, before the lower house, would go to a vote on Thursday.  However, it is not listed on the schedule.

Mr Bandt accused Labor and the coalition of deliberately delaying a vote.  "It's disappointing for me and heart-breaking for many others," he told AAP.

"Labor is worried about Kevin Rudd being on one side of the chamber and Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott sitting together on the other side trying to hold back the tide of history."

A spokesman for the manager of government business Anthony Albanese told AAP that debate on the bill was continuing and many more MPs wanted a chance to have their say.

Last year the Greens had pushed for a vote to be delayed for Labor backbencher Stephen Jones's gay marriage bill until there was more support within the parliament, he said.

Since last year's unsuccessful vote, France and New Zealand have legalised gay marriage.

A stream of Australian MPs have announced their support and a change of heart on the issue, including former prime minister Kevin Rudd.  Labor has granted its MPs a conscience vote on the issue.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has opened up some wiggle room and the prospect of a conscience vote for coalition MPs after the election.

Mr Bandt is optimistic another Greens bill, giving legal recognition to same sex marriages conducted overseas, might be voted on in the Senate before parliament rises at the end of June.



Three current articles below

Greenie fanaticism kills hospital patient

AN engineer has linked the state government's Climate Smart program with the decision to lower water temperatures at a Brisbane hospital where legionnaires' disease has broken out.

One patient has died and another is in intensive care after being infected with the bacteria, which has been found in water taps at the Wesley Hospital.

The hospital's entire water system is now being flushed out with hot water in a bid to kill the bacteria, with surgery and new admissions cancelled until at least next week.

An electrical engineer has told ABC Radio a push to save energy was one of the reasons water temperatures were lowered at the hospital.

He said the move was part of the government's now-defunct Climate Smart program, which aimed to help businesses and homeowners cut energy consumption.

He said anyone who used the Climate Smart service would have had the temperatures on their hot water systems turned down, something he says encourages bacteria such as Legionella.

"Anybody that's had the Climate Smart service had the temperature reduced from normally about 65 to 70 degrees, down to 50," he said.

The government has said the temperature was reduced to cut the risk of patients being scalded.


$600m of Australia's foreign aid to be blown on "climate change" programs

AUSTRALIA'S foreign aid program will spend $600 million on climate change programs in Third World countries.

Pacific, Caribbean and African countries will share millions of dollars to help tackle climate change while environmental advisers will be paid $200,000 or more to help some of the world's poorest countries.

Another $3 million will be spent developing five-star green energy ratings for fridges, airconditioners and other household appliances in the Pacific as AusAID searches for ways to spend its growing budget.

Millions of dollars will be spent to retrofit houses in poor African communities, while $15 million will be pumped into helping villagers along the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

The Opposition last night called on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to immediately suspend the "wasteful spending" on climate change.

The $600 million spend on climate change comes as the rapidly growing aid program - managed by AusAID - has reached a staggering $13.3 billion in managed contracts, according to documents published this week.

More than 6000 separate contracts are being managed by AusAID, with 4000 contracts negotiated in just one year, 2010-11.

Documents show about $3 million is being spent to "build a group of Pacific leaders" with a greater understanding of climate change, while $20 million will be spent to help East Timor better understand changing weather patterns.

Senior government ministers keen to slow the large sums being channelled into foreign aid are likely to use Kevin Rudd's demise as foreign affairs minister to argue for budget reductions.

Coalition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop labelled the climate change spending "an outrageous abuse of Australian foreign aid".

"I call on the Prime Minister to immediately suspend this expenditure on programs that will have zero impact on global emissions," she said.


$100m - Climate change deal with Indonesia including "online forest fire monitoring system" and teaching "sustainable and adaptable" farming techniques in schools

$20m - Undertake climate change research through "Pacific Climate Change Science Program"

$3m - Develop a group of Pacific "leaders" who can better understand climate change

$3m - Help Pacific nations introduce five-star "green energy" ratings for fridges, air conditioners and lights.

$2.3m - Help Caribbean establish ``disaster management emergency" agency

$232,000 - Fund an environmental management adviser in Fed States of Micronesia

$194,000 - Provide training materials and policy briefs for Indonesian Govt officials

$182,000 - Conduct "greenhouse gas emission assessment" of Vietnam

$36,000 - Develop a DVD titled "Climate Change in the Pacific"

$15,000 - Aust booth at Climate Change Education Expo in Indonesia


Australian business group wants rethink on greenhouse gas emission targets

Australia should reconsider its pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by mid-century given the slow global action on climate change, the country's most powerful business group says.

The Business Council of Australia also wants Australia not to increase its short-term emissions target beyond the minimum 5 per cent cut backed by both major parties.

The federal government's Climate Change Authority is reviewing the national greenhouse targets linked to the carbon price.

Australia has committed to cutting its emissions by at least 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

It has said it could commit to a 15 or 25 per cent cut in that time frame, depending on the level of international action. Its carbon price legislation includes a commitment to an 80 per cent cut by 2050.

In a submission to the authority, the council says emissions pledges made at United Nations talks fall short of limiting global warming to two degrees - the level scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

The council says with the world headed towards warming greater than two degrees, Australia needs to consider less ambitious targets that reflect its fair share of cuts under less ambitious global action.

The council's deputy chief executive Maria Tarrant said the authority should carry out modelling to determine what Australia's targets should be under different warming scenarios.

"There is a big difference between what countries are pledging and committing and what is actually happening," she said.

The Climate Institute's Erwin Jackson blasted the council's logic. He said avoiding the dangerous impacts of warming would require countries to put forward targets that were ambitious, and that 80 per cent was the bare minimum Australia should commit towards meeting the two-degree goal.

Some experts have recommended Australia lift its emissions targets to reflect a growing pace of action around the world.

Professor Ross Garnaut, Labor's former climate adviser, said with the US, Europe and China making significant headway in meeting their targets, Australia should adopt a 17 per cent cut by 2020.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Unpleasant and foolish maybe. Stupid too, given how that sort of approach sees one quickly relegated to the lunatic fringe, no matter where the germs of truth may lie.

(Not unhappy to see the Member for Goldman Sachs lumped in with the other treasonous bastards)