Thursday, October 02, 2014

My goodness, what a fuss!

Peter Hartcher, the Sydney Morning Herald political and international editor, is in a pet below because Tony Abbott is not prepared to put a blanket ban on wearing the burka.  Hartcher says that banning the burka is standing up for the freedom of women -- but not the freedom of women to wear what they like apparently.  Abbott is clearly the one standing for freedom.  The amusing thing is that burka bans are usually promoted by the Right -- while the Left oppose such bans. So is the SMH now to the right of Abbott?  That would be a turn up. But it appears to be so.  Hartcher could well get a rap over the knuckles from his bosses over this.  Hartcher as an Islamophobe -- that has an certain ring to it!

Does Australia stand for the freedom of women? Or for their oppression? As the country confronts the barbarians of the so-called Islamic State, the answer from the national leader should be strong and clear.

The Prime Minister had an ideal opportunity to demonstrate leadership today with a powerful affirmation of the freedom of women.

But, asked whether he thought that women should be banned from wearing burqas, Tony Abbott hedged. He missed the opportunity.

He reverted to the same position he held as head of the opposition, a tribal leader and not a national one.

"I have said before that I find it a fairly confronting form of attire," Abbott told a press conference today.  "Frankly, I wish it was not worn."

When he first used this formula, the world had not heard of IS. It did not know that these barbarians were committed to the indiscriminate butchery of anyone who disagreed with them.

The world did not know that they were about to take over a swath of territory twice the size of Switzerland.

And the world did not know that they operated what the former Egyptian minister for families, Moushira Khattab, has called a "master plan to degrade and demean women".

The savages of IS have imposed on women mass rape, mass sexual slavery, genital mutilation, and a market in Mosul where women are sold for 100,000 Iraqi dinars, or about $90, each.

The barbarians are the worst kind of oppressors. Australia is going to war to defeat them. An Australian prime minister should be a forceful champion of freedom, including the freedom of women in Australia to wear what they choose, whether burqa or bikini.

Abbott did go on to make a statement of principle in favour of freedom: "But we are a free country, we are a free society and it is not the business of government to tell people what they should and shouldn't wear."

Unfortunately, he then hedged again: "It is a little different, obviously, in a situation where peoples' identity is important. My understanding is that in courts, for instance, people may be required to show their face. In certain buildings, people may be required to show their face and I think that is perfectly appropriate."

Why say this? Because he wanted to show sympathy for the two members of his government's backbench, Cory Bernadi and George Christensen, who are campaigning for a burqa ban in Parliament House.

Even though all visitors go through metal detectors. Even though members of the public have never, in the history of the building, been required to have their identities checked. Even though motor registries in western Sydney have perfectly acceptable procedures to check the faces of covered women where necessary, without fuss or offence.

The two backbenchers argue that a ban on burqas is necessary for security purposes. So if they are so concerned about security, where are all their other proposals for better security? They have none.

They are not interested in security. They are only interested in fanning prejudice.

Abbott has implicitly endorsed their dirty, divisive dogwhistle politics to appease them. Instead of winking at their intolerance, a real leader would have shut them down in a moment of crisis.

He would have done well to heed the words of his own Attorney-General, George Brandis, who told the National Press Club on Wednesday that, in the face of a rising risk of terrorism, "there could be no greater error than for Australians to demonise our fellow Islamic citizens".

Australia's social cohesion is at risk. The Prime Minister's responsibility is not to play with it but to protect it.


New national security laws pave way for 'police state', says Andrew Wilkie

Any laws mandating secrecy are of concern but Wilkie needs to go for a walkie over this one.  The law is quite narrowly drafted and it would be unreasonable to allow journalists to sabotage anti-terrorist operations

Former intelligence whistleblower turned federal MP Andrew Wilkie has accused the federal government of exploiting fears about terrorism to rush through new national security laws that push Australia towards a "police state".

The government's first tranche of national security changes passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday with the support of the Labor opposition, although one Labor backbencher broke ranks to speak out against the laws.

Tasmanian independent Mr Wilkie, Victorian independent Cathy McGowan and Greens MP Adam Bandt all voted against the laws, which passed on the voices.

The laws include jail terms of up to 10 years for journalists who disclose details of ASIO "special intelligence operations" and provide immunity from criminal prosecution for intelligence officers who commit a crime in the course of their duties.

Under the laws, ASIO officers will also be able to access, modify, disrupt or alter an unlimited number of computers on a computer network with a single warrant, which many have feared could allow the entire internet to be monitored, as it is a "network of networks".

ASIO can apply for the computer warrants to be issued and they can only be authorised by the Attorney-General, who is currently George Brandis QC.

Mr Wilkie said he was especially concerned the laws would encourage ASIO officers to use force without the "inconvenience" of including trained Australian Federal Police officers in their operations.

"At some point in the future we'll have spies kicking in doors and using force with no police alongside them and that is another step towards a police state," he said.

"Why is the government – with the opposition's support – wanting to overreach like this?

"I can only assume the government is wanting to capitalise on and exploit the current security environment. I can only assume that the security agencies are delighted they have been invited to fill in a blank cheque.

"It is clearly overreach by the security services who have basically been invited to write an open cheque. And the government, which wants to beat its chest and look tough on national security, said, 'We'll sign that'.

"And the opposition, which is desperate to look just as tough on national security, said, 'We'll countersign that cheque too'."

Mr Wilkie said the new penalties for journalists and whistleblowers who disclose details of "special intelligence operations" (SIOs) amounted to the government "bullying" the media into more compliant reporting.

"This is clamping down on free speech; this is clamping down on oversight of what the security agencies are up to," he said.

"This is absolutely disgraceful," Mr Wilkie said, who was a former whistlerblower who warned Australia not to go to the Iraq war as there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

Labor backbencher and member for Fremantle, Melissa Parke, also spoke out against the bill, breaking ranks with her colleagues.

"I do not support a number of key elements in this bill, and I am aware there are further even more controversial bills coming before the Parliament in the near future," she said.

"There has not been convincing evidence of inadequacies in the existing legal framework that warrant the broad extensions of powers we see here," she added.

"I am particularly concerned that this bill entrenches and amplifies the lack of protection for whistleblowers regarding intelligence information and penalises with up to 10 years jail the legitimate actions of journalists and others doing their jobs in holding the government to account in the public interest."

Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt raised concerns that the media would not be able to report on innocent bystanders killed under bungled SIOs.

"If these laws pass, our security agencies could inadvertently kill an innocent bystander and journalists would not be able to report on it," Mr Bandt said.

He also raised concerns about journalists being put behind bars for up to ten years for revealing the existence of an SIOs.

"People could go to jail under this! People could go to jail under this legislation," Bant yelled.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the government made "no apologies" for trying to protect the secrecy of covert intelligence operations.

"This is not, as has been wrongly suggested, about preventing the release of information that might simply embarrass the government of the day or expose it to criticism," he said.

"This is about providing a necessary and proportionate limitation on the communication of information that relates to the core business of intelligence agencies. And I need hardly add that unauthorised disclosures of intelligence-related information, particularly on the scale that is now possible in the online environment, can have devastating consequences for a country's international relationships, a country's intelligence capabilities and very importantly for the lives and safety of intelligence personnel."

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dryfus said the new laws were justified and carefully-targeted, but the government had not explained them well to the community.

"I must say that in the case of the SIO scheme the government has not explained itself well," he said. "It has allowed some misunderstandings of what this legislation enables to gain currency."

Mr Drefus said Labor had demanded amendments so that only journalists who knowingly disclose details about secret counter-terrorism and counter-surveillance operations would face persecution.

"The community should be reassured of the limited scope of the offence provisions," he said.

"Labor would not and will not ever support laws which prevent journalists who report on security and related matters from doing their jobs."

"No-one can inadvertently breach this provision. But where journalists are aware of the possibility of endangering ASIO officers we expect them to act responsibly.

"These laws will not criminalise the good-faith activities of journalists."

Crossbencher Ms McGowan said, "It is not a time to rush through legislation. This is a time for considered approach, this is a time when we should be our best selves as the Prime Minister reminds us."


Must not mention the sex life of politicians?

An interview with former prime minister Julia Gillard on Channel Ten's The Project has caused a backlash on social media.

Twitter has lit up with angry comments over an interview segment that featured former Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Channel Ten's The Project.

On Monday night, Gillard appeared on the show to speak about her new memoir, My Story, which details her time in the office as Australia's first female Prime Minister and the sexism she encountered.

After a brief introduction to Gillard's political legacy, the interview kicked off with birthday wishes from panelists Rove McManus and Carrie Bickmore, with the latter asking, "What has Tim [Mathieson] got you for your birthday, Juilia?”

When Gillard responded that she and Mathieson will be celebrating after she returns from her book tour on the weekend, McManus joked, "Is that a euphemism? Will he have a 'birthday suit'? Is that what you're suggesting?"

Despite visible discomfort at the inappropriate comment, the former PM responded good-humouredly, saying, “No, that was just a straight-up answer.”

Commenters on Twitter, however, weren't as forgiving, immediately calling out the disrespectful nature of the joke:


ABC must present both sides of the debate on terrorism

by Gerard Henderson

THE Attorney-General’s assessment of the present danger is correct. Last Wednesday, George Brandis told the Senate that Australia faced a more immediate security threat than it did during the Cold War.

In the late 1940s and during the 50s, some members of the Communist Party of Australia planned to kill their fellow citizens if and when the CPA came to power. But Australian communists were not into murder or acts of terrorism in the lead-up to their anticipated victory, which they expected would take place as a result of rampant revolutionary fervour.

Currently, Western nations face a two-tiered threat. There is an attack by foreigners, of the kind that took place in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. And then there is the
lone-wolf attack by a citizen or resident, of the kind that took place in Times Square in 2010 and Boston last year.

So far there has been no foreign-based attack on Australians in Australia. However, in the Operation Pendennis exercise in 2005, security agencies and federal and state police thwarted planned attacks on high-profile targets. On Tuesday, Melbourne-based teenage Numan Haider arrived at the Endeavour Hills police station with the intention of murdering two  police. He was shot dead at the scene.

Evidence has emerged that Haider was tracking the movements of senior politicians, including Tony Abbott. It made sense that, even before Haider’s attempted murders, security at Parliament House had been increased. It may be necessary to increase security at some or all police stations.

It would be irresponsible for Australians, politicians, ­
law-enforcement officials and more besides to ignore the warning of Islamic State. Spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani Ash-Shami last weekend called on supporters to “kill an American or European infidel, especially the spiteful and cursed French, or an Australian or a Canadian or any other disbeliever”. Not long after, Haider arrived at the Endeavour Hills police station carrying two knives and an Islamic State flag.

In the climate of genuine security threat, it is reasonable to expect the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster would act responsibly. This, at the very least, requires a proper balance in the ABC’s presentation of security issues. So far, Mark Scott, the ABC’s managing director and editor-in-chief, has failed to exercise proper editorial control over his employees.

Take Monday’s Q & A, for example. It was a travesty in so far as fair and balanced coverage is concerned. Originally, the focus of the program was to be infrastructure. However, after the police raids in Sydney and Brisbane on September 18, the topic was changed to “Be alert but not alarmed”.

Fair enough. But not for long. For this crucial program, Q & A put together a panel that was grossly unbalanced. Justice Minister Michael Keenan was the political conservative on the panel. The social democratic Mark Dreyfus, Labor’s shadow attorney-general, also got a guernsey. No problem so far.

But the rest of the panel was loaded up with critics of the security approach taken by Abbott and Bill Shorten at home and abroad. Namely, Greens senator Scott Ludlam, university researcher Anne-Azza Aly and writer Randa Abdel-Fattah.

Keenan, with some help from Dreyfus, maintained that the police raids were a response to a genuine security threat. But the rest of the panel, cheered on by a large section of the audience and not discouraged by presenter Tony Jones, was having none of this. Ludlam suggested the raids were an “amazing coincidence” in view of the planned changes to national security legislation.

Paul Barry presented the Media Watch program before Q & A went to air. Barry cited with approval a comment in The Guardian Online by Richard Ackland (a former Media Watch presenter) that the media had become “willing pawns in the politics of terror drama”. To Ackland, the raids were but a splash of “commando bombast”.

On September 19, in the wake of the Sydney and Brisbane raids, Lateline ran a “Friday Forum” segment on national security. There was scant debate as defence commentator Allan Behm essentially agreed with human rights barrister Greg Barns.

There was a near common view the raids had been exaggerated by the police (Barns) and overegged by the media (Behm). No view supporting the need for such raids was heard.

It was much the same on Radio National’s Late Night Live last Monday. Phillip Adams, columnist with The Australian, was in the presenter’s chair with academic lawyers Patrick Emerton and Kiernan Hardy as guests. Adams essentially agreed with the two that the proposed amendments to the security legislation were too tough.

Emerton alleged that in 2007 ASIO officers had committed “serious crimes” of “kidnapping and false imprisonment”. He implied that the Abbott government was intent on making kidnapping “lawful when ASIO does it”. In fact, no ASIO officer was ever charged with, let alone found guilty of, kidnapping and false imprisonment in 2007. But neither Adams nor Kiernan clarified Emerton’s hyperbolic comment.

Every now and then, the ABC engages an employee in the commercial media to become a regular commentator on the public broadcaster. Channel 10’s left-of-centre Paul Bongiorno appears on RN and Radio 702 in Sydney. On 702 last Thursday, he declared the Abbott government “certainly is panicking the community” on security. No other view was heard.

The ABC remains a Conservative Free Zone, without a conservative in any prominent presenter, producer or editorial position. In his role as editor-in-chief, it is up to Scott to ensure a diversity of views is heard during a time of national emergency.

If he fails to do so, it is the responsibility of the ABC board to ensure that the ABC managing director does what he is paid to do. It’s called governance.


1 comment:

Paul said...

As I was told, the Lodge Security Detail got thoroughly sick of arrogant Timmy parading around in his birthday suit.