Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Govt to cut jihadists' social security

AUSTRALIAN jihadists fighting in Iraq and Syria are to have their dole payments cut.

THE federal government estimates about 60 of them, mostly young radicalised Muslim men, are fighting in the two conflicts.  Legislation implementing a range of measures against returning jihadists will be introduced to parliament the week after next.

Australia didn't want them back, Attorney-General George Brandis said on Friday.

And the government certainly wouldn't be paying welfare benefits to people who had left Australia to fight in the conflicts.

The Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 carries a maximum 25-year jail term and the government wants to make it easier to prove someone has participated in a foreign conflict.

Under proposed changes, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will be able to certify a particular region or conflict under the foreign incursions legislation.

"There can be a presumption that they were there for no-good purpose," Senator Brandis told Macquarie Radio.

Security laws will be changed to give Australia's domestic spy agency better access to computer systems.  Laws now require ASIO to seek a warrant for a particular computer, which doesn't allow access to others on the same network.

Access to networked systems will be the subject of a single warrant.  That will "immensely" enhance ASIO's capacity to engage in electronic surveillance, Senator Brandis said.


Misplaced compassion threatens us all

CALLS are being made for Canberra to nominate Tasmania as a haven for those awaiting an outcome on a refugee claim.

At first glance, this would save money, provide local jobs and make asylum applicants happier.  So what’s not to love? ­Plenty, as it turns out. And for several reasons, the idea is a non-starter.

First, think how mainland authorities would feel about locking in federally funded refugee hosting as a cottage industry here.

They know Tasmania’s economic woes have arisen mainly from shooting down major job-creating projects to placate an inner-urban anti-development minority.

The recent election landslide may have ended that syndrome, and neither major party would risk reviving it by dulling the pain of our self-inflicted financial damage.

As with Greece and the EU, nobody respects the proud beggar who demands charity on his own terms.

Second, as for onshore processing anywhere, Australia’s back gate was only recently shut against those intending to self-select as permanent residents with full welfare rights via people smugglers.

Not even Labor would re-establish the asinine “reforms” that Kevin Rudd himself abandoned as a hopeless disaster.

Local open-border enthusiasts may never admit how their misplaced “compassion” helped cause more than 1100 deaths at sea, wasted billions of dollars and severely damaged our previously fair-minded migration program.

But four-fifths of Australia, according to recent polling, recalls that under Rudd and Julia Gillard an annual 5000 unauthorised arrivals rapidly grew to 50,000 with no end in sight, and those voters won’t be fooled again.

Most tellingly, even ­officially sanctioned arrivals are now creating big trouble here and elsewhere.

Violent turmoil across Arabic-speaking lands ensures that to accept large numbers of such refugees could infect any peaceful host nation with this unwanted malady.

The UN’s 50 million “official” refugees are now mostly Muslims fleeing Muslim lands.

They understandably prefer the nicest, not the nearest, haven available.

The gold standard is ­English-speaking countries where, ironically, many so-called intellectuals now express outright contempt for their inherited culture and yearn for something, perhaps anything, dramatically different.

Examples are legion, but a classic instance occurred at the current, uber-fashionable Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

Only outraged protests stopped the festival manager, university “ethicist” Simon Longstaff, from enabling an ­Islamist firebrand to argue from the rostrum that “Honour Killings Are Morally Justified”.

A glum Longstaff later claimed the session’s pre-announced title had done insufficient justice to that Islamist’s “nuanced argument”.

Whatever quasi-intellectual undermining of mainstream values is in vogue among our chattering classes, an immediate danger is posed by similar thinking among battle-ready Muslim youths who carry Western passports.

Everywhere it is mostly ­second-generation migrants being radicalised, not their parents.

Already, 20 war-tested ­jihadists have returned here from the Syrian conflict, with 150 probably fighting there.

France’s jihadist headcount is 800 and from Britain an estimated 1500 with 300 returned, adept at creating whatever mayhem their “British” imam decrees.

Nor will any allegedly moderate majority influence this homicidal subculture.

A recent study of Britain’s 1700 mosques shows only two follow modernist theology, while a quarter won’t even allow women on the premises.

It’s absurd, says author Leo McKistry, to call followers of this toxic world view British at all.

Young Muslims are often now radicalised in UK prisons and, after release, overwhelm police with monitoring tasks.

Any peaceful society whose media reports all this, but would still indiscriminately welcome numerous Muslim exiles from the Middle East out of “compassion”, is simply begging for trouble.

So where does that leave those of us moved by the current suffering but who also know we cannot curb Muslim misery by transplanting its ­essentially anti-Western ethos here? With our small population and stubbornly immovable unemployment figures, Australia should assess even legal migration as an engineer assesses moving volatile fuel such as petrol into a depot.

Yes, we may sometimes ­require more. But how much more is really needed just now and could be melded into existing circumstances without fresh dangers that arise from mishandling an inherently risky resource?

Real compassion doesn’t ­require plucking out a sample of overseas victims to house them here. Nor should our ­politicians reflexively whip out the taxpayers’ chequebook and pledge yet more millions to add to our already alarming federal debt.

As individuals we could ­instead walk our own talk and spend our own money or personal energies to aid those we pity.

Various charities can do plenty for refugees stuck near war zones, expecting to return home some day. So let’s help these unfortunate people where they are, instead of ­naively pining for some happy medium between Yes and No to people-smugglers, or recklessly ignoring the old caveat: “better safe than sorry”.


Preventive health is a snark

Speak no ill of the dead, the saying goes. Inasmuch as this past Wednesday's Senate committee hearing into a bill that would abolish the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) was equivalent to a funeral for the soon-to-be departed agency, it was reasonable to expect the speakers to highlight its best qualities.

But some of the remarks at Wednesday's hearing went well beyond eulogistic kindness. They instead indicated that ANPHA's defenders still fundamentally misunderstand the role that preventive medicine should play in our healthcare system.

If we do not understand the shortcomings that made Australia's three-year experiment with a national preventive health agency a failure, we may end up repeating the same mistakes.

'Health promotion and disease prevention are essential to sustainable change, and investment is highly cost-effective,' declared Jerril Rechter, CEO of VicHealth. This claim - that 'investment' in preventive care will save money in the long term - was repeated several times during the day's testimony, by representatives of multiple organisations.

But it depends what sort of preventive care you're talking about. Simple interventions like vaccination and some cancer screenings can indeed be cost effective. These forms of care are handled by the Department of Health and associated agencies.

ANPHA, on the other hand, was in charge of less tried-and-true fields of prevention: obesity, alcohol, and tobacco. In these areas, there is far less evidence that government interventions can lead to long-term changes in individual behaviour, or that such interventions can reduce long-term health costs.

ANPHA's healthy food cookbook, on which it spend $200,000 of taxpayer money, is a perfect example of a preventive health policy that aims toward a worthy goal (in this case, a less obese Australia) without any evidence to substantiate a link between the policy and the desired outcome.

In the past year, ANPHA's greatest accomplishment has been a report on the possibility of a per-volume floor price for alcoholic beverages. The report concluded that raising the price of alcohol is a great idea but a floor price would be the wrong method, since it 'would lead to profit increases flowing to the private sector.' It recommended a tax increase instead.

This is a good example of the other main problem with ANPHA: its political slant. In its enthusiasm for tax increases and its reluctance to work collaboratively with private industry, ANPHA risked becoming a politicised lobby group rather than an objective health agency.

The abolition of ANPHA will have no effect on proven forms of preventive care like vaccines and screenings. It simply puts the brakes on the kinds of nanny-state programs that -contrary to what some of Wednesday's speakers suggested - just don't provide value for money.


Freedom to believe must mean freedom to practice

UK civil liberties group Liberty has criticised the decision of the European Court of Human Rights to uphold a French law banning the wearing of the niqab.

The Court's decision appears to threaten the nexus between religious belief and religious practice.

Liberty's director Shami Chakrabarti declared that the ruling oppresses women and restricts their right to freedom of religion. She linked the decision to 'the rising racism in Western Europe.'

The case was brought by a woman who argued that the state's ban on wearing the niqab infringed her right to freedom of religion under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 9 upholds the right of freedom of religion and also the freedom to manifest one's beliefs. But the Article also allows for legal limits to those freedoms if they are in the interests of social cohesion.

In other words, the Convention states that the right to religious liberty is not an absolute right. It must always be balanced against other rights and freedoms enjoyed by citizens of the liberal state.

The Court heard submissions from the French government that the face 'played a significant role in social interaction' and the law was intended to promote the cohesion of a very diverse society.

Accordingly, the Court found there had been no breach of Article 9 and allowed the law banning the niqab to stand in the interests of promoting ease of living for all French citizens.

Given the need to balance the rights of the complainant against the particular demands and circumstances presented by French society, the Court has made a reasonable decision.

The limits of religious freedom and the extent to which the state may restrict the free and public expression of religious ideas are also being debated in Australia.

Australia is committed to upholding freedom of religion. Anti-discrimination legislation contains exemptions protecting the right to religious liberty ensuring it is balanced against other rights.

But religious liberty is under threat here from an aggressive secularism that wants to drive religion out of the public square where it is practised, and into the private and confined realm of the mind.

We see it, for example, in the push by certain groups led by the Australian Greens to introduce same sex marriage in the name of tolerance, dignity and 'marriage equality'.

But the push for equality imposes a tyranny of tolerance upon the individual, law-abiding religious believer which, in turn, threatens the freedom of religious belief and expression.

Rather than imposing models of equality upon the individual, the state needs to allow believers and non-believers alike, with differing and conflicting beliefs and practices, to live together in peace.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Indigenous preventative health is not merely a snark, it is also a shameless rort.