Sunday, October 13, 2013

An obnoxious Muslim

Then there is this curious Federal Court case in which the judge deleted any reference to the religion, language and birthplace of the two parties before him, and even gave them Anglo-Saxon pseudonyms (Mr & Mrs Irvine) although every detail suggests Islam is the issue.  One wonder exactly WHY the religion is seen as in need of protection:

    This is a wholly extraordinary case. I hope I never have another like it. For reasons which I hope will become apparent, it has been a proceeding almost impossible properly to control, essentially because of the position adopted by the respondent husband, a position unique in my experience on the Court…

    On 27 February 2013 the wife filed an Application for Divorce… The application asserted that the applicant wife was born on (omitted) 1967 in (country omitted) and had lived in Australia since (omitted) 1970. It affirmed that the husband was born on (omitted) 1964 also in (country omitted) and had started living in Australia on (omitted) 1989…

    The application further revealed that the husband did not regard Australia as his home, was an Australian citizen by grant of citizenship but had not lived in Australia for the previous twelve months…

    On 22 March 2013, the wife filed a Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence, or Risk of Family Violence form. This asserted an assault by the husband on the wife in January 2010. It also asserted that in January 2012, a further daughter, U, had been threatened by the father in (country omitted) by pointing a knife to her neck and had had her Australian passport destroyed…

    She alleged that the husband verbally, psychologically and financially abused her and used all his earnings for himself and bought properties in (country omitted) and in (country omitted)…

    On 11 April 2013, a Divorce Order was made in standard terms by a Registrar of the Court… I note that at paragraph 27, the wife deposed:

        “I believe that the Respondent Husband may be avoiding service because he does not believe that under (religion omitted) I have grounds to seek a divorce."…

    The respondent husband was served with the Initiating Application and supporting documents ... by the applicant’s solicitor. On 22 May 2013 the matter returned before the Court…

    First of all, Mr Irvine stated in the clearest of terms that the Court did not have jurisdiction to entertain the applications before it. This was because, as he put it, his marriage was governed by a contract entered into pursuant to (religion omitted), and it was not open to this Court to interfere with it… It will be noted that the husband repeatedly refused to answer very straightforward direct questions put to him, such as whether he was an Australian citizen or not…

    The affidavit filed by Mr Irvine asserts at paragraph 7 that:

        “he holds firmly to the fact that his religious beliefs, customs and practices are absolute perfect, sacred and honoured”. He also asserted at paragraph 8: “no other belief, laws or way of life and practices may be regarded as applicable, nor equal or superior and may not be allowed to go or act contrary to, violate or contravene the Commandments and Orders of (omitted)”.

    The affidavit went on to say at paragraph 11:

        “(religion omitted) must be governed at all times and in all circumstances & conditions, only in accordance with (religion omitted) as a mandatory basis of our religious faith and belief”.

    At paragraph 14, the affidavit states:

        “(religion omitted) is the only form of law that may be applicable for the conduct, governing and jurisdiction of a (omitted), what is generally termed as a “(omitted)” (marital) relationship between (religion omitted). The official power to make lawful and legal decisions, judgments and the extent of this power, is explicitly limited to the parties who are contractually bound to its terms and conditions in (religion omitted)”.

    Paragraph 19 of the affidavit relevantly says:

        “… The sole “Parties” to a contract in (omitted) are the (religion omitted) man and (religion omitted) woman only and no third party or entity of any type is a party to any (omitted) contract. Any party wishing to interfere outside is deemed as absent jurisdiction, a third party interloper and any court magistrate or parties acting in such regard commits a tort. ...”

    The husband purported to say that he did not understand the proceedings. Nonetheless, it should be noted that his command of English is excellent and he is an educated man… The husband purported to express a lack of understanding as to what was happening both on the day and previously. I should record that while such matters must be approached with caution, everything Mr Irvine did and the way that he did it suggests to me that he is a highly intelligent man who is engaged in an extensive filibuster with a view to enforcing his basic position that the Court does not have jurisdiction…

    The wife went on to say that she was being terrorised by the two elder children, V and X…

    It is quite apparent from the materials that the husband has filed that it is his view that the wife, under (religion omitted), has no capacity or entitlement to make any decisions, although she is required to be consulted. I indicated on 22 May 2013 that it would be appropriate to give (religion omitted) such consideration as is appropriate in considering the children’s best interests in the final trial. As things have turned out the only emphasis given by the husband to (religion omitted) has been his essential proposition that this Court should not inter-meddle in the matter at all.

    It is quite impossible to evaluate the force and effect that should be given to the (religion omitted) background of the parties given the paucity of evidence in this case.

The judge ended up giving the woman all she asked


The ironies of Australia's public health policy regarding "obesity"

Jeremy Sammut

This week the CIS' WasteWatch blog focused on a new taxpayer-funded growth industry - the ever increasing number of reports into Australia's obesity 'epidemic'.

This is a very lucrative business for public health academics, especially now that the National Preventive Health Agency is able to fund research into the stubborn problems of over-eating and sedentary lifestyles.

However, the proliferation of obesity-related reports reflects the hard truth of public health policy - we have next to no idea about what actually works in terms of getting people off the couch and out of the takeaway shops.

The evidence regarding the effectiveness of the billions of dollars that Australian governments already spend on the promotion of healthy lifestyles is very weak.

This was the central finding of the UK Wanless review of public health policy, which found, in particular, that 'there is little evidence about what works among disadvantaged groups to tackle some of the key determinants of health inequalities.'

The lack of evidence reflects the fact that in a free society, governments rightly have limited authority over unhealthy lifestyle behaviours and lack the ability to micro-manage daily dietary and exercise habits.

Achieving lifestyle change is also extremely difficult as it ultimately depends on personal qualities - will, self-discipline, and impulse control - that public health policies struggle to instil in people who do not already possess them.

Not for nothing, therefore, have anti-obesity campaigns been accurately described as a 'policy looking for an evidence base.'

Obesity invites endless investigation and report after report after report.

Herein lies a greater irony. Those who endlessly warn the community about the perils of eating too much junk food have much in common with so-called 'vice industries' they love to attack.

Like those who trade in fatty foods and sugary and alcoholic drinks, the public health lobby is equally dependent on the flaws and weaknesses inherent in human nature to justify its call on public resources.

Rather than continuing to pour money into public health research that implausibly seeks to straighten the crooked timber of humanity, policy makers would be better off recognising the limits of government activity in relation to obesity.


Australian researchers reveal upside to gaming

The benefits of playing video games may offset the negative impact of exposure to screen violence, according to Australian-led research.

Experts are divided over whether brutal games increase the likelihood of aggressive behaviour and desensitise people to violence.

The chief executive of the young and well co-operative research centre at the University of Melbourne, Jane Burns, said gaming could provide stress relief and social engagement for adolescents.

"Moderate gaming can reduce stress and improve health and wellbeing," she said. "It also helps young people form connections with peers because gaming creates a sense of community, mutual participation and a shared passion. That's the kind of thing that young people could harness to improve their mental health."

While there were risks associated with "extreme" gaming, she said the vast majority of young Australians were not in that category.

A professor of community, child and family health at the University of Newcastle, Graham Vimpani, said there were conflicting views about the dangers associated with violent video games.

In a presentation to the Australian Council on Children and the Media conference in Sydney last week, he said the Australian government had reviewed the evidence and found it to be inconclusive, but the American Academy of Paediatrics said screen violence "represents a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents".

Research presented at the conference claimed exposure to screen violence in adolescence changed the development of young people's brains, leading to increased aggression, reckless behaviour and decreased empathy. The chief executive of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association of Australia, Ron Curry, said there was no "strong evidence that violent video games can cause long-term effects on aggressive behaviour".

Research commissioned by the association found 68 per cent of games submitted to the Australian Classification Board for rating in the first eight months of this year were either G or PG rated.

Morgan Tear, a social psychology researcher at the University of Queensland, said playing violent video games was one of many activities which could produce negative effects on social behaviour.

"As a society we say it's OK for children to play contact sports which can be very aggressive and inflict real pain but at the same time worry about the impact of violent video games," he said.

"I'm not sure we should be so concerned about violent video games when there are a number of other activities which could be just as bad."


The future is not bright for the deeply divided Green Party

ARE the Greens finished? Christine Milne, explaining the poor election result, says minor parties build up their political capital in opposition and spend it in alliance with governments.

But an alternative explanation is that the Greens are in terminal decline, suffering voter capital punishment rather than cycles of political capital. Which is it?

One thing is certain: events in the past few weeks demonstrate that the Greens are no different from any other political party. All parties contain internal divisions which they struggle to overcome. Some have Left and Right, some have "Rudd and Gillard", some have Victoria and NSW, but the Greens have all of these and more. So extensive are the divisions inside the Greens parliamentary party that the party's future must be bleak.

One rift of significance is a generational one, between Sarah Hanson-Young and Milne.

Milne is a hard warrior learning her craft in the heat of activist battle. She adopts what is called a strong ecological modernisation stance. This approach says that dirty industries are ruining the planet and must be fundamentally transformed.

Milne has no time for fossil-fuel industries such as the electricity industry. For her, these industries must be transformed root and branch. They are beyond saving. Get rid of them.

By contrast, the younger generation, supporters of Bob Brown, are weak ecological modernisers, parliamentarians, negotiators, conciliators. Like Brown, they are deal brokers who consider dirty industries to be salvageable with the right incentives for renewables. They are also interested in issues beyond the environment, such as asylum-seekers and cancer victims among firefighters.

The question of what to do about industries becomes critical now that there is a new Coalition government committed to an approach to climate change that it calls Direct Action.

Direct Action, unlike carbon pricing, discriminates against industries, quarantining some, such as the electricity industry, from emissions reduction. The rationale is to protect consumers from electricity price rises. Direct Action will open up these divisions within the Greens.

Old versus young, weak ecological modernisers versus strong ecological modernisers, as well as Tasmania versus the mainland - not to mention the NSW watermelons (Green on the outside, red on the inside) versus the rest. The rifts that lay hidden within the Greens are revealed.

Milne can say the party is united but the leadership challenges ahead are acute. Not only does she have to manage the divisions within her own party but she has to retain the support of the broader environmental movement. The Greens' decision to join Julia Gillard's multi-party climate change committee opened up divisions between the Greens and the broader environmental movement, contributing to a fall in support for the party at this year's election.

The Greens leadership has to decide which way to go: co-operate with Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt on Direct Action or continue the carbon-price fight? Either way, it will be difficult to contain the divisions within the parliamentary party and with the broader environmental movement.

In politics, context is everything. The context has changed. The Greens must lead the environmental movement to accept that there is more than one way to reduce emissions. The obsession with a carbon price does not fit the times. Direct Action is an acceptable alternative to a carbon price aiming to reduce emissions by capping the amount spent on greenhouse gas reduction rather than capping the emissions themselves.

The Greens will be able to contribute to a reduction in emissions, and save themselves from destructive divisions internally, if they are able to adjust to the changed political and policy context in Australia. However, this will take formidable leadership skills inside the party.

Nikita Khrushchev said to John F. Kennedy that the two of them should not pull tightly on each end of a rope, for that would tighten a knot that would then have to be cut. Last week, Hanson-Young and Milne each pulled on the rope and tightened the knot of division. This knot will have to be cut. Either she goes, or she goes? That is the question for the Greens as they work out how to deal with the weak ecological modernisation of Hunt and Direct Action.


No comments: