Friday, June 13, 2014

Exaggerated claims of racism

So who’s a racist? Not you, of course. Certainly not me. Hey, maybe none of us.

No, that’s not what people were saying this week as the sports commentator Warren Ryan quit his job over an on-air quote from Gone with the Wind that included the word ‘‘darky’’.

Here was another controversy, depressingly fresh on the heels of last year's furore over indigenous AFL player Adam Goodes being called an ape by a young spectator.

It may pay to look at the bigger picture. After all, aren’t we living in a era when evil is an outmoded concept, when there are no bad people, only bad acts? On that basis it seems counter-intuitive and frankly crazy to label people racist on the basis on one or two remarks.

Yes, of course, ‘‘the standard I walk past is the standard I accept’’, to quote another example of vogue reasoning. Sorry but I have walked past it plenty.

I walked past it when a man in Spain told me he was ‘‘working like a black’’, when an old girlfriend asked whether I still ‘‘smoke like a Turk’’ and when a fella in country NSW offered me his ultimate accolade: ‘‘Thanks mate, you’re a white man.’’

Hey, I also walked past it when people assert that Australia is a uniquely wicked racist country. Get real.

Yes, Australian country towns once banned Aborigines from swimming pools. From this came the Freedom Rides led by Charlie Perkins. And the treatment of indigenous Australians by white settlers and government authorities remains unfinished business.

But how many people alive today are honest to god racist? You know, willing to stand at the school gates like a southern US governor in the 1950s and ’60s and say non-white children will not pass? Refuse to shake the hand of a non-white person? Oddly, when Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani failed to offer his hand to European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, there was not a glimmer of protest. (Rouhani saw fit to shake hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin).

Are white South African migrants to Australia racist? Are black Zimbabwean leaders racist for pushing whites off farms? Considering the hierarchy of oppression that is so fashionable now, are any non-white people racist at all?

Certainly it is much easier then to turn on some middle-aged white bloke for saying something, well, stupid.

For seemingly endless days in May, CNN’s television coverage was obsessed with the Donald Sterling controversy. The billionaire owner of the US basketball team the Los Angeles Clippers was rightly denounced in all quarters for moronic comments about black people. He now has to sell the franchise and will end his days as a pariah. Isn’t that enough? Not for CNN, though that network was not alone. Its anchors weighed every nuance, parsing comments by his wife that Sterling had dementia, interviewing each other endlessly.

For what? Only because there are dollars at stake did Sterling even matter. Otherwise that old man’s thoughts are irrelevant to everyone but him and the nurse with the bedpan. I’d rather ask how healthy it is for any sporting team to be owned by a single plutocrat.

My contention is that people can say racist things because they are afflicted, temporarily or permanently, with stupidity, but that doesn’t make them a racist. Why? Because I don’t believe there are that many true racists. These would be people obsessed with the supremacy of their race to the exclusion of any other topic. Sure they are out there. But their numbers are negligible. And if the best frontman they can present is still Jim Saleam, as John Safran found in Good Weekend last Saturday, they ain’t growing the brand. Pauline Hanson? Sorry. Seriously, no.

I’d wager that the overwhelming majority of us, no matter the colour, are roughly as ‘‘racist’’ as each other. In other words, not really racist at all. It’s just that we sometimes say the stupidest things.


Academic slams tyranny of the greens

Professor Ian Plimer has never been renowned for moderation in his opinions about the extremist elements of the green movement and in this book he launches on them in a full-blooded, broken-bottle attack.

In his own words: “What started as a ­laudable movement to prevent the despoilation of certain areas of natural beauty has morphed into an authoritarian, anti-progress, anti-democratic, anti-human monster.” That Plimer should attack the greens is no surprise. More impressive is the book’s foreword, written by Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, who fully ­supports Plimer.

He congratulates Plimer for a book that provides a “different . . . and extremely rational look at the agenda of the green movement today”. “In many respects, they have become a combination of extreme political ideology and religious fundamentalism rolled into one,” Moore says.

“There is no better example of this than the fervent belief in human-caused ­catastrophic climate change.” Moore even rejects the core green belief that carbon dioxide emissions are harmful.

Plimer’s thesis is that the real agenda of green groups (often registered as charities) is nothing less than the destruction of modern civilisation and that a key aim is to kneecap the global energy industry which provides society with electricity. It has always seemed odd that greens are so hostile to a gas which is vital for the life of trees. As a trained geologist, Plimer is well aware that the planet’s climate has been changing since its birth 4½ billion years ago. “If the Earth’s climate did not constantly change, then I would be really worried,” he says.

What he contests is that manmade carbon dioxide has anything much to do with such change. It must be comforting for left-wingers to blame evil industrialists for destroying our planet, but in fact carbon dioxide accounts for only 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere and man-made carbon dioxide accounts for maybe 4 per cent of that, so Plimer regards the proposition as nonsense.

Also, carbon dioxide emissions do not accumulate quickly in the atmosphere.

After five to seven years, they are absorbed by the oceans, trees or rocks. Plimer believes that for scientists to argue that traces of a trace gas can be the driving force for climate change is fraudulent.


Sceptical scientists do not know what causes climate change but it would seem a complex combination of factors. Plimer believes the atmosphere is merely the medium through which climate change manifests itself and the major driver is “that giant fusion reactor we call the sun”.

He says: “It is quite capable of throwing out immense clouds of hot, ionised gases many millions of kilometres into space, sometimes with drastic effects on both the Earth’s atmosphere and on spacecraft travelling outside the lower atmosphere and the Earth’s protective magnetic shield.” Plimer, who is not renowned for pulling his punches, describes green extremists as hypocritical – “a malevolent unelected group attempting to deconstruct healthy societies that have taken thousands of years to build”.

That may sound extreme, but it’s difficult to find an alternative explanation for the change they have forced upon the Drax power station in Yorkshire.

Drax used to boast it was the largest, cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power station in Europe, generating up to 3960 megawatts. Greens demonstrated against it, saying Drax was the largest carbon dioxide emitter in Europe. So Drax is changing from coal to biomass. Plimer says it intends to import timber from North Carolina for fuel. This is madness, both economically and ecologically. A plant which used to burn 36,000 tonnes of coal a day will instead burn 70,000 tonnes of wood.

Forests will have to be chopped down in North Carolina, which must involve some destruction of native habitats of creatures such as otters and woodpeckers. Habitat destruction kills birds and animals more surely than climate change ever will. The timber will be reduced to pellets in factories fuelled by conventional fuels, then shipped across the Atlantic in diesel-burning boats. Over the 20-year life of the power station, that would involve the destruction of ­511 million tonnes of wood.

The energy density of wood is about half that of an equivalent weight of coal, so wood will produce more expensive ­electricity. Burning wood also releases its stored carbon dioxide.


The European Environment Agency has ruled that burning wood is carbon neutral because the carbon dioxide will be absorbed over time by the oceans or other trees.

That leaves the EEA in the odd position of believing that a molecule of carbon dioxide emanating from wood behaves differently to a molecule emanating from coal.

The greens, having achieved their aim, have stopped demonstrating although there is a strong argument that the conversion of Drax will make it more, not less, harmful to the planet.

Wind farms and solar power stations are unreliable and totally unable to provide base load electricity.

Plimer gives calculations which show that wind turbines are barely able to generate as much electricity in their lifetime as it takes to make them.

. Even more bizarre was the Spanish solar plant which enjoyed such large subsidies that it could make profits generating electricity at night by shining floodlights on the panels. The floodlights were powered by a diesel generator. These are only three examples of green illogic from a book crammed with them. Plimer has assembled a massive case which needs answers.

Even more bizarre was the Spanish solar plant which enjoyed such large subsidies that it could make profits generating electricity at night by shining floodlights on the panels. The floodlights were powered by a diesel generator. These are only three examples of green illogic from a book crammed with them


Forced redundancies for 70-plus public servants at Australian Valuation Office

More than 70 staff at the Australian Valuation Office will be made involuntarily redundant, according to Senate estimates hearings this week, sparking claims about broken promises regarding natural attrition.

The office's closure was formally announced earlier this year, bringing an end to about a century of history as the Australian government's primary source of advice and information on valuations of real property, intellectual property and non-current assets.

The office ceases to exist at the end of this financial year and the final 100 staff of the formerly 198-strong entity will leave then, or in early July, after loose ends are tied up.

More than 40 AVO staff have taken voluntary redundancies. Another 31 have expressed interest in voluntary redundancies and 10 of the original 198 AVO workforce were contractors whose contracts ended quickly after the announcement of closure. Three AVO employees have swapped redundancies with colleagues in the Australian Tax Office. One AVO staff member has died.    

Fraser MP and the opposition's assistant Treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh said ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja repeatedly promised before the election the Coalition would only cut jobs from the public service through natural attrition, not through redundancies.

"We now know that, by the end of the month, dozens of AVO staff will be forced out the door," Dr Leigh said.  "How can Canberrans trust anything the Liberals tell them now?"

Mr Seselja fired back by saying the closure of the AVO was a hangover from Labor's long-standing efficiency dividend.

"The former Labor government, which Andrew Leigh was part of, applied efficiency dividends to many government departments," Mr Seselja said.

"These departments in turn reduced their spending on the AVO – like the Department of Human Services, which reduced its spending by 50 per cent.

"Their work alone accounted for 80 per cent of AVO revenues. Andrew Leigh and Labor made a decision, which they did their best to hide, to cut 14,500 public service jobs and these decisions are now flowing through the bureaucracy.”

The Coalition went to the last election promising 12,000 public service job cuts through natural attrition. It has since said it has parked that policy after finding 14,500 "hidden" cuts Labor were making – a claim backed up by the finance department's David Tune but disputed by Labor. The Coalition has since committed to a reduction in the bureaucracy of 16,500. 

Earlier, public servants about to be dumped from the office were gagged from venting their feelings to reporters or on social media amid the political row over the office's closure.


AWU official told to keep quiet by Shorten
WHEN a senior official raised concerns about a union slush fund and dodgy dealings he was told by a young Bill Shorten to think about his future, a royal commission has heard.

Robert Kernohan was in 1996 also bullied at the Australian Workers' Union, a union corruption inquiry has heard.

He was sent three bullets in the mail and bashed by at least three men when it became known he was planning to go to the police with concerns about union bank accounts and the sale of a property.

"Keep your f****** mouth shut. Stop talking to the press, you grub," the men yelled during the July 1996 beating, Mr Kernohan said in his statement to the royal commission into union corruption.

Mr Kernohan's worries began earlier in 1996 when he was served with a subpoena to attend the Federal Court in Sydney as one of 20 defendants in an action launched by the AWU.

He had accepted $6500 in a meeting that "took no more than 30 seconds" from notorious union figure Bruce Wilson, to help with AWU election costs.

Mr Kernohan said he rang Ian Cambridge, then an AWU official investigating irregularities in the union's accounts, "and told him the genesis of the $6500."

"I told him that a lot more has been going on than I have been made aware of and I'm the (AWU) president (in Victoria)," he said.

"I also told him I would be going to the police."

Mr Kernohan said his friend and campaign manager Bill Shorten had at the time told him he was "lined up to take a safe Labor seat of Melton in the Victorian parliament."

When he raised concerns about the Sydney court proceedings, Mr Shorten said "Bob, think of your future," according to Mr Kernohan.

"If you pursue this, a lot of good people will get hurt and you will be on your own."

Mr Kernohan said that was the end of his political ambitions.

"Any chance I had of entering parliament ... I knew that had evaporated the minute I walked away from Bill Shorten," he told the commission.

Outside the commission hearing on Wednesday, an angry Mr Kernohan continued to slam the AWU.

"A fraud, a cover-up, a scandalous cover-up that resulted in Nicola Roxon, Bill Shorten, Stephen Conroy ending up in the Gillard cabinet," he told reporters.

"People have got to ask themselves would that cabinet have been constructed the way it was had this been properly investigated all those years ago and, more importantly would Julia Gillard have become prime minister?"

Mr Kernohan said Mr Shorten, who has said police and not a royal commission were the best way to investigate union fraud, would never be prime minister.

"Once this matter is properly investigated and recommendations are handed down by this royal commission Bill Shorten will be exposed for what he is, just another key player in the cover-up over all these years."

Mr Kernohan said current AWU secretary Bill Ludwig was the "most powerful ALP figure in this country".

"It was Bill Ludwig who installed Julia Gillard into the prime ministership of this country. Bill Ludwig knew full well about the scandal ... and for that he should be condemned," he said.

Mr Kernohan said there were "two frauds perpetrated."  "The first was on the Australian Workers' Union and its members.   "The second was on the Australian people."


1 comment:

Paul said...

"Australian country towns once banned Aborigines from swimming pools."

Certainly in Cairns in very recent memory the Parkies were thrown out of the lagoon area and banished from the Esplanade. The main reasons why floated to the surface sometimes.