Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Sydney newspaper apologises for 'anti-Semitic' cartoon after Attorney-General brands it 'deplorable'

The cartoon was clearly implying that the Jewish guy in the chair was using a remote control to blow up Gaza,  which is a terrible distortion of the deadly risks that Israeli soldiers take in Gaza -- leading to death for some of them.

A newspaper has been forced to apologise for publishing a cartoon that showed a Jewish man   watching the bombing of Gaza from his armchair to accompany a column about the Middle East crisis.

The Sydney Morning Herald was slammed by the Attorney-General and the Jewish community for using the drawing of an old man seated in an armchair emblazoned with the Star of David, watching comfortably from a hill as bombs dropped on Gaza.

The paper's Editor-in-Chief Darren Goodsir on Monday said it was a 'serious error of judgement' when they published the cartoon drawn by Glen Le Lievre on July 26.

'The Herald now appreciates that, in using the Star of David and the kippah in the cartoon, the newspaper invoked an inappropriate element of religion, rather than nationhood, and made a serious error of judgment.

'It was wrong to publish the cartoon in its original form,' Mr Goodsir wrote.

His apology came after the Attorney-General George Brandis reportedly accused Fairfax Media of publishing anti-Semitic commentary on the Middle East.  'I thought the cartoon was deplorable,' Senator Brandis told The Australian.

The Sydney Morning Herald said the cartoon was based on real life photographs that showed men seated in chairs 'observing the shelling of Gaza from the hills of Sderot'.

The column's writer Mike Carlton tweeted examples of such photographs on Monday.

'It was wrong to publish the cartoon in its original form. We apologise unreservedly for this lapse, and the anguish and distress that has been caused,' the Herald's apology continued.

Carlton told Daily Mail Australia on Monday that although he does not wish to comment on the cartoon that was used to illustrate his column, he stands by every word that he wrote.

'It is not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel. Just this morning the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon,  condemned an Israeli air strike on a school as a "moral outrage and a criminal act".

'While I have been fiercely slandered by the Jewish community, I have received overwhelming majority support from the wider Herald readership,' he said.

In his strongly-worded article, which came as a reaction to the death of hundreds of Palestinians, Carlton said Israel 'is waging its own war of terror on the entire Gaza population of about 1.7 million people. Call it genocide, call it ethnic cleansing: the aim is to kill Arabs'.

He said he believed that the Israeli response to attacks from Hamas 'has been out of all proportion, a monstrous distortion of the much-vaunted right of self defence'.

However, the Australian Jewish News website criticised Carlton's column, calling it 'insidious'.  'This column was no longer about a country, this was about a people and a race,' the editorial said.  'How low can a columnist in a mainstream newspaper sink? How low can a mainstream newspaper sink?,' it asked.

Around 1,700 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since the latest conflict began more than three weeks ago. It's reported 66 Israelis - all but two of them soldiers - have also died.


Crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm rules out backing PPL, Direct Action, in talks with Joe Hockey

The Federal Treasurer's round of cross-bench diplomacy is in trouble, with Joe Hockey battling to get support for some of the Government's signature budget measures and policies.

Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm says he has told Mr Hockey he will never support the Abbott Government's Direct Action climate change policy, nor the $5.5 billion paid parental leave (PPL) scheme.

Mr Hockey has been meeting with crossbench senators to try to win their support for billions of dollars worth of budget initiatives, as well as the PPL.

The Direct Action scheme, the Coalition's replacement for the carbon price, includes a $2.5 billion pledge for a competitive grant-style Emissions Reduction Fund and a plan to plant trees, but the policy lacks majority support in the Senate.

"Irrespective of what you think about climate change, that scheme won't do anything," Senator Leyonhjelm told reporters in Sydney today.  "It won't reduce emissions."

Not all of Direct Action needs to be passed by the Senate; Environment Minister Greg Hunt says some of it can be passed by regulation.

A 2010 document outlining the Direct Action Plan on Mr Hunt's website predicts the policy will cost $3.2 billion over four years.

Senator Leyonhjelm says Australia cannot do anything in the absence of the rest of the world acting on climate change.  "Even if everybody turned off their electricity, shut down their cars, did nothing to emit a thing for the next 12 months, it would not make the slightest bit of difference to global warming anyway," he said.  "Australia's economy is too small."

The Liberal Democrat senator also says he has made his opposition to the taxpayer-funded PPL scheme clear in talks with Mr Hockey.

"Paid parental leave, it would never have my support," he declared.  "I think the Government's priority should be on making childcare affordable by reducing the regulatory burden that drives up the cost of childcare."

Palmer United Party (PUP) leader Clive Palmer is a known critic of the PPL, and has today promised the scheme will not pass while his party holds the balance of power in the Senate.

Mr Palmer says that while the Government has not discussed the PPL with him, he views it as "simply inequitable", and he will be pushing for his own alternative plan to get more women back in the workforce.

Mr Hockey has conceded "there is a lot of work to do" to secure support for the PPL, including from some of the Government's own backbenchers.

As well as talking to Senator Leyonhjelm, Mr Hockey has met with independent Senator Nick Xenophon, Family First Senator Bob Day, and PUP's Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie.

He will soon meet DLP Senator John Madigan and Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir.  "I'll meet with anyone who is sensible," Mr Hockey told Channel Nine.

"The independent senators so far are proving to be sensible, unlike some of the others in the Upper House."

The Government is struggling to win support for a number of controversial budget changes, including the plans for a Medicare co-payment, and moves to increase fuel excise.

Voter support for the Coalition has slumped in the wake of the May budget, which critics have described as unfair.

Today Mr Hockey said Treasury Department figures published by Fairfax Media under Freedom of Information laws, which said low-income families would be worst hit by the budget, were "misleading".

"It fails to take into account a range of things, like higher income households pay half their income in tax. Lower income households pay virtually no tax," he said.

In the past few years, budget papers have included tables outlining the impact of measures on individuals and families with different household budgets - but the information was not included this year.

The ABC had also put in an FOI request for the information, but it was rejected.


Business head calls for fewer uni students

Australian universities are enrolling too many domestic students who should opt for vocational education and training instead, a leading business figure says.

Catherine Livingstone, the new Business Council of Australia president, said a large number of school leavers would be better off undertaking education and training that gave them job-related and technical skills first.

 At an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch in Sydney last week, Ms Livingstone gave her first major speech as BCA president to argue that building innovation infrastructure would ensure a strong and competitive economy in a rapidly changing world. She said better teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics was an essential part of this push.

In an interview she said urgent intervention was needed in the education and training system as early as kindergarten, to protect future prosperity.

Asked about the government’s plans to allow universities to set their own fees, Ms Livingstone said the price signal would give school leavers a greater opportunity to weigh up the benefits of different types of education.

"I would say there are too many people going to university and not enough going through the VET system," she said. "It does not preclude them from later entry into the university system. I just think some students would be better off with vocation and skill training and having work experience."

Ms Livingstone, however, expressed concern about postgraduate university students paying fees for the first time and the "unintended consequences" of certain decisions, such as the cuts to high level research having a disproportionate impact on collaborative research programs with business and other institutions. She said Australia needed to support a greater number of students undertaking high-end research.

Her comments were made before a speech by Group of Eight universities chairman Ian Young to the National Press Club last week when he revealed that many elite universities, such as his own Australian National University, would probably enrol fewer students under a deregulated fee system.

The enrolment figures of Australia's top research universities, such as ANU, Sydney and Melbourne, exceed world standards; they typically reach up to 50,000 students, compared to Stanford in the US with 15,000.

This is because, under the capped fee system, universities must enrol huge numbers of students to subsidise their research programs.

If elite universities are allowed to increase their fees then they will be able to reduce the size of their institutions and offer a more personalised learning experience, Professor Young said. This is exactly what some of his fellow vice-chancellors have told him they will do.

He said this downsizing would have a "trickle-down" effect throughout the university sector and lead to more high-achieving students attending regional and suburban universities.

"In a sense, if you’re not a Group of Eight university that should be good news, because what it means is it’s going to free up in the future more capable students for other institutions," he said. "I think there will be a trickle-down or a flow-across effect as a result of that, and I think that will be good for the quality of education we provide and indeed for the quality of research we provide."

Regional Universities Network chairman Peter Lee said he was "very sceptical" about Professor Young's predictions.

Professor Lee, who is the vice-chancellor at Southern Cross University, said any slimming down at elite universities would happen gradually over a long time frame.

He said he doubts that regional universities would benefit from a "trickle down" of high-achieving students who could no longer find a place at elite universities.


Self-righteous Greens must obey law

‘‘IF you are going to steal,’’ they say in America, ‘‘steal big.’’ Jonathan Moylan did just that: by issuing a fraudulent ANZ press release claiming the bank had withdrawn its support from the Maules Creek mining project, he knocked $300 million off the market capitalisation of Whitehaven Coal.

But far from imposing the maximum penalty for market ­manipulation of 10 years in jail, the NSW Supreme Court has now let him off with a gentle slap on the wrist, releasing him from a sentence of 20 months’ imprisonment in exchange for $1000 and a two-year good behaviour period.

Moylan, you see, is a green; and although “the market was manipulated, vast amounts of shares were unnecessarily traded and some investors lost their investment entirely”, the court concluded leniency was warranted, as the anti-coal activist, who has a long string of trespass offences to his name, did not act for or obtain a personal financial gain.

No, Moylan wasn’t motivated by a thirst for yachts, fast cars and the company of starlets. He gets his kicks dreaming of a world without coal.

But if fanaticism excuses crime, are jihadists now entitled to issue misleading financial information about Jewish-owned companies in their quest for the global ­caliphate?

Or is there one law for the zealots of Gaia and another for everyone else?

Moylan was hardly unaware that he was committing a crime. On the contrary, immediately before issuing the fraudulent press release, he downloaded the relevant legislation, which specifies that the maximum penalty for the offence of market manipulation was doubled in 2010, reflecting the harm fraud does to investors and to public confidence in the financial system.

But Moylan was convinced that “change doesn’t happen without people taking risks”; so he methodically prepared his crime, creating a false web address with the ANZ’s name, analysing previous ANZ market announcements, illegally copying the ANZ logo, and identifying the names and phone numbers of the ANZ officers listed on press releases of investor information.

He also studied the impact that market developments had had on Whitehaven’s share price, found its share price to be “volatile” and concluded that Whitehaven’s “current profit margin is paper thin”. It must have been obvious to him that his false press release could cause chaos.

And indeed it did. On the day of his fraud, trading in Whitehaven shares was three times greater than it had typically been, as panic-stricken small investors and managed funds liquidated their holdings, taking heavy losses.

Nor did Moylan try to prevent the chaos once it started to unfold. Masquerading as an employee of the ANZ to a journalist who phoned the number he had given, his first reaction was to try to bluff his way through. It was only when it became clear that the press ­release was a hoax that he fronted up, and even then he continued to lie, including to callers from the ANZ itself.

Yes, once he was uncovered, Moylan confessed; but the evidence against him was overwhelming. It is also true that he subsequently apologised to the ­investors he harmed. But as the court found, until sentencing loomed, “many of the earlier expressions of remorse were somewhat qualified”, and he has never expressed regret for the damage to the ANZ’s reputation and to Whitehaven Coal itself. Instead, he blamed the media for not spotting the fraud more quickly and submitted that “the journalists more than the offender ought to be held to account for the ultimate effect on the market”.

Moreover, Moylan is no Nelson Mandela: lacking the moral courage to take responsibility for his actions, he “chose not to give evidence at the sentencing proceedings”, preventing “his understanding and expectations” of how the market works from being ­tested.

This was, in short, “offending attended with a considerable degree of planning and premeditation”, whose consequence in terms of “actual damage was considerable”, undertaken in full knowledge of the penalties by a well-educated man who “has been prepared to break the law on a number of occasions”.

Sure, he sought “to further the causes in which he believes”. And he is, no doubt, full of “passion and concern for social justice”. But he committed the serious crime of fraud, using “thorough planning so that at least in the short term the recipients of the false media release would believe the truth of what was contained within it”.

The leniency therefore not only adds insult to the injury Moylan’s victims suffered; it also suggests an abhorrent double standard, in which the self-­appointed guardians of the planet are shielded from the law’s full force.

Yet it would be wrong to blame the court alone. Rather, its decision reflects an environment in which, day after day, the Greens, led by Christine Milne, paint mining coal as a crime, thus legitimising those who, having failed to convince voters of their cause, descend into illegality to prevent mining occurring. And it is merely the latest incident in which the greens and their fellow-travellers celebrate actions, such as those of the Sea Shepard, which flaunt a disregard for legalities.

But to have one law for the greens and another for everyone else is to have no law at all. If that is where we are, then our clocks, like Baudelaire’s, should have their hands removed and bear the legend “it is too late”. Too late for thought; but not too late for stupidity so grievous as to slow the rotation of the earth. Too late for honesty; but not too late for the shrill arrogance of the self-righteous. And worst of all, too late for justice, which, no longer blind, has been struck deaf and dumb.



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