Sunday, November 09, 2014

Muslims attempting fraudulent takeover of Labor party branch

Hicham Zraika's home is a modest affair in the western Sydney suburb of Berala.  So the former Auburn mayor and aspiring NSW MP must occasionally feel the squeeze of sharing the abode not only with wife Dania and their three daughters but also more than a few of his closest political supporters.

According to Labor Party records, also living in the home are eight members of the party's Regents Park branch, of which Councillor Zraika is the secretary.

They include Moustafa Zraika and seven Zreikas: Abdulrahman, Fawaz, Ibrahim, Mohamad, Moustafa, Mustapha and Wassim.

It is not just Cr Zraika – set to fight a preselection battle against incumbent Auburn MP and former minister Barbara Perry –who apparently favours keeping members of his political machine at close quarters.

In the neighbouring suburb of Newington, another of Cr Zraika's supporters, Osman Fayad, appears to be following suit.

Mr Fayad – who ran unsuccessfully for Auburn council on the ALP ticket headed by Cr Zraika in 2012 – operates a firm, Pinnacle Business Advisory, in an industrial estate on the Avenue of the Americas.

ALP records show the business address is named by nine branch members as their place of residence. But Mr Fayad says he knows nothing about it.

"That could have been a typo," he said. "There could have been an error filling out the form by members".

Asked how the branch members – who all share his surname – could have come to list his business address as their residence, Mr Fayad could only guess.

"They may have been filling out the [membership] form there," he said. But asked what he knew of this, Mr Fayad declared: "Nothing".

Perhaps even more impressive is the Yassine household in Auburn, which records suggest houses 15 members of the party's Regents Park branch.

The unusual arrangements can be revealed amid a surge in membership of the Regents Park branch since 2012 as the ALP prepares to preselect its candidate for Auburn at next year's state election.

If he nominates as expected, Cr Zraika is likely to defeat Ms Perry in the preselection which was opened on Friday.

But as Fairfax Media has previously reported, questions are being asked by Ms Perry's supporters about possible branch stacking as numbers in Regents Park have exploded to more than 300.

The branch now contains close to half of the ALP membership in the Auburn electorate.

Under ALP rules, those who wish to join a branch must be enrolled to vote in federal elections and supply the residential address at which they are enrolled.

For some, the presence of so many members claiming to live at a single address casts doubt on the legitimacy of the process overseen by ALP head office in Sussex Street.

It is understood many of those listed in Regents Park branch are either not enrolled to vote or enrolled at addresses different to those given to the ALP.

"It appears that head office has turned a blind eye to the serious manipulation of the party membership which has been happening for some time," a Labour source who is a supporter of Ms Perry said.

"This doesn't say much for party reform and in fact points to the hypocrisy of [NSW ALP secretary] Jamie Clements who said at the 2014 NSW state conference, 'no more ethnic branch stacking'," the source said.

Mr Clements, who has been general secretary only since September last year, said Ms Perry was free to refer any allegations to the party's internal appeals process.


No free speech in Australia?

When Immigration Minister Scott Morrison unexpectedly cancelled United States pick-up artist Julien Blanc's visa on Thursday it capped off a week that started with an online campaign and ended in a real-world protest.

Blanc was in Australia to host a series of seminars on how to attract women. His repertoire includes choking women, grabbing their heads and pushing them toward his groin and advising his followers how to destroy a woman's "bitch shield".

Critics were quick to condemn what they said was Blanc's promotion of abuse towards women. Social media lit up with the hashtag #takedownjulienblanc, which trended for the rest of the week. Thousands of people tweeted and posted comments on Facebook against Blanc; almost 35,000 signed an online petition.

"Julien Blanc is sexually assaulting women and then teaching rooms full of men to do the same. He should be arrested,"one Twitter user wrote.

The hashtag phenomena, spilled over into the real world, culminating in a protest on the banks of the Yarra River on Thursday night. The river cruise boat that was hosting him cancelled the event before it started and asked police to remove men who had come to hear Blanc speak after they refused to leave.

Although Blanc has left the country, in his wake he has left an argument over freedom of speech.

His advice may be deplorable, but Blanc's seminars are not illegal. Should he have been allowed take to the stage without disruption, let alone kicked out of the country?

Simon Breheny, director of the legal rights project at the Institute of Public Affairs, said it would have been better to let his seminar go ahead.

"The answer to bad speech is more speech. If someone says something I don't like, rather than calling in the police and saying this guy should be fined or sent to jail, we should explain to people why we think those ideas are bad and why we shouldn't listen to him," he said.

"Why is it that a government bureaucrat gets to decide what ideas you and I hear at forums we freely choose to attend? That's a very concerning idea."

Deakin University social media academic Deb Waterhouse-Watson was surprised Blanc's visa was cancelled, but supported Scott Morrison's intervention.

"I was surprised it went that far, but yes, I think it was the right thing to do," she said. "You shouldn't have freedom of speech if you're advocating crime."

Blanc's arrival came just days after Victoria Police chief commissioner Ken Lay described "vulgar and violent attitudes towards women" as a key cause of gender-based violence. Twenty-nine women were killed by the partners in Victoria in 2013.

Lay described Blanc's work as "deeply disturbing and offensive".

Feminist and writer Clementine Ford said she was most concerned that there was an audience eager to listen to Blanc's advice.

"It won't help them communicate with women. It doesn't encourage any kind of genuine connection between men and women. It only encourages objectification," she says.

The global protest against Blanc has now moved to Japan, where he is next due to appear.

Blanc has not commented, but one of his colleagues at dating company Real Social Dynamics has downplayed the incident, saying the controversy stems from one video being taken out of context.

"I think Julien's video was absolutely stupid," co-founder Owen Cook, who uses the name Tyler online, wrote on the company's web forums.  "It was totally out of context and he posted it to get shock, not realising the full outcome. I'm sorry about the video."


Army says topless barmaids incorrect

Is the army leadership a bunch of old maids?

A Queensland soldier was demoted for hiring topless barmaids at an Oktoberfest party only to have his rank reinstated, the Australian Defence Force has confirmed.

Four topless barmaids were hired for the party at the defence force's Townsville base, in direct defiance of the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

It is understood more than 100 personnel attended the event on September 26, at which a roast pig and about $6000 worth of alcohol was served at a venue known among troops as "the boozer".

"Prior to the event, both written and verbal orders were given directing that bar staff were to assist in the service of food and beverages only and were to remain fully clothed at all times," the Australian Defence Force said in a statement.

"It was reported to the chain of command that the member organising the event had disobeyed this order."

The commanding officer subsequently took action against the soldier, who was charged under the Defence Force Discipline Act.

The soldier, understood to be a corporal, was found guilty of breaching the commanding officer's orders, stripped of his rank and sentenced to 14 days' detention. However, the soldier lodged a petition against his conviction and demotion.

As a result, the soldier's rank was reinstated and his conviction overturned.

The petition was reviewed and granted on the day it was received.

Earlier this year, complaints emerged about topless barmaids partying with special forces at a Defence Forces club in Perth.

Defence launched an inquiry in August to determine how the barmaids appeared at the Special Air Service (SAS)'s Gratwick Club, despite a ban being issued last year.

"Defence expects all members to act in a positive and professional manner which reflects the values and ethos of the Australian Defence Force," the statement said.

Last year, army chief David Morrison issued a stern warning to personnel after dozens of soldiers were linked to the distribution of an email denigrating women.

"I will be ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values," General Morrison said.


We need fossil fuels says Qld. Premier Newman

Queensland must transition away from its fossil fuel reliant economy, Premier Campbell Newman says.  But not yet.

He was responding to the United Nations report on climate change, which found the world must stop almost all greenhouse gas emissions through a phased elimination of fossil fuels by 2100 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Mr Newman agreed that in "the longer term, Queensland has to move to a new type of economy".  "And I have said that before," he said.

"I mean, coal has been great for this state over many decades and coal will be very important for some decades to come. Gas as a transition fuel, is a cleaner fuel, and that is a great opportunity and that is why this government backs gas, because it is cleaner than coal.

"Those who say we can immediately change, I am afraid, are condemning people in China, and particularly in India, who live in poverty, are condemning them to that poverty."

The Queensland government has been an unapologetic supporter of mining projects and is relying on mines opening in the resource-rich Galilee Basin to turn around the state's economy.

The projects, particularly the Indian-owned Adani Carmichael mine, which once operational will become the biggest coal mine in the country, have faced fierce opposition from conservationist and environmental groups.

One Indian conservationist has brought legal action against the Carmichael mine in the Queensland courts on the basis of the damage it will bring Indian communities who live near its final destination. 

But Mr Newman said if India didn't take Queensland's coal, it would buy it from somewhere else.  "I think the point needs to be made that to take 1.3 billion people in India out of poverty is going to require significant energy and coal, particularly, is what they are after," he said.

"And if Queensland doesn't sell our cleaner coal, our low emissions coal to them, it will be acquired from other places where the coals have all sorts of nasties like sulphur in them and it will be burnt.

"They will improve a lot of their people and I think the opportunity for Queensland is to sell them a superior product as we then work here to try and transition our economy to a new type of economy in the future."

Adani is expected to begin work on its Galilee Basin projects next year.


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