Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Federal Department spends $500,000 on legal fees fighting $6000 child support dispute

The Department of Human Services has spent more than half-a-million dollars of taxpayers' money in legal fees fighting a child support dispute over $6000.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says the case is a "scandalous waste of taxpayers' money … to protect the butt of the department".

Now the department, which runs the Child Support Agency and Centrelink, has hired more high-end lawyers to try to block the release of information on its own conduct in the matter, exposing taxpayers to up to a million dollars in legal and other costs.

Child Support Agency bosses have spent the money despite knowing, since August 2011, that their public servants broke the law in the man's case and were on shaky legal ground from the beginning of the dispute.

DHS has been ordered by the government's information watchdog to hand over a briefing it prepared for its minister, along with other documents, but the department has hired top-end lawyers Clayton Utz to fight the decision of the Australian Privacy Commissioner.

Throughout the three-year legal battle with the father, a determined litigant known simply as "DT" because of strict Family Court rules on identifying parties, Human Services have tried to resist handing over documents to the court and defied orders to release information to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Transparency and accountability at Human Services, the government's largest department, has been under fire since a report by the Australian Information Commissioner revealed an organisation obsessed with process, that preferred legalese to plain English and had increasingly lost sight of its duty to share information.

As of April this year, DHS had paid more than $500,000 to defend the DT case and refuses to say what has been spent since.

The department refused this week to say how much taxpayers' money was being paid to Clayton Utz for the latest legal manoeuvre but a spokeswoman insisted the department was justified in another round of legal action to keep documents suppressed.

"Matters are generally appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal where the decision being appealed contains an error of fact or an error of law," the spokesman said.

"As this matter is subject to ongoing litigation, the department will not be providing further comment at this time."

Senator Nick Xenophon has been trying to use the Senate Estimates process to get answers on the spending on the case, but his questions have been taken on notice, with Human Services then refusing to answer, citing "confidentiality".

"This is bureaucracy gone mad and now they're refusing to answer how much has been involved," Senator Xenophon said.

"Taxpayers should expect a better response than this, they are hiding behind confidentiality and it seems a cowardly way to avoid accountability.

"This seems to be a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money for no good effect other than to protect the butt of the department."


Say 'no' to the Nanny State, paid for by you, for your own good

The Centre for Independent Studies has just announced the 2014 "Nannies" for the most passive-aggressive impositions by government bureaucracies or their surrogates.

The CIS trawled through the excesses of our burgeoning, over-regulating, micro-managing, unsustainable nanny state and pointed to the worst excesses of pointless government intervention, giving each a Nanny.

The NSW Roads and Maritime Services is awarded a Nanny for the numerous illuminated roadside signs its puts up – it is by far the biggest visual polluter in the state, far ahead of McDonald's. The most irritating of all these big brother messages are the large, illuminated signs that say: "Distracted drivers cause accidents".

Then stop distracting drivers! Stop polluting the highways with pointless little lectures. Spend the money on something useful, like better road signs, or cut the budget.

The Nanny for the most belligerent act by government (and its monopoly surrogate) is shared by the NSW and Victorian governments, along with support from the Taxi Council, which have banned smartphone apps that enable private drivers to offer passengers a lift and charge for the service. The most famous such app is Uber, and it has been shown to slash the cost of fares by around 50 per cent.

Apps like Uber would have a devastating effect on the monopoly rents charged by the state governments and the taxi industry by disrupting this highly regulated and dysfunctional industry. Deregulation! We can't have that. It might not be neat and lucrative for government. The mantra of Your Safety will always be the argument given for this monopoly, as if the mantra of Your Choice was immaterial.

A Nanny went to the Western Australian Opera, a state-subsided, state-sponsored company which cancelled a performance of Bizet's Carmen that was to have been held in a tobacco factory because it may have sent the wrong message. Given that the fictional Carmen worked in a tobacco factory, the original decision was an inspired idea. But WA Opera was concerned it might offend a major sponsor, the West Australian Health Promotion Foundation. 

So it cancelled Bizet's Carmen at the tobacco factory.

The Health Promotion Foundation is a branch of state government operating under the brand, Healthway. It describes itself as "a health promotion foundation with a legislated obligation to promote good health and encourage healthy lifestyles [and] empowering individuals, groups and communities to be healthier."

What is it about bureaucracies and "empowering" people? The WA government, which has a serious budget problem, would do better by fulfilling its obligation to fiscal prudence and de-legislating and disempowering this cliche factory.

The West Australian government scored another Nanny, via the WA Supreme Court, for its ruling that people trying to give up smoking cannot use nicotine-free e-cigarettes because the state law prohibits the sale of any product that even looks like a cigarette. Rather than amend the law, the WA government banned e-cigarettes.

Another government agency, the Advertising Standards Board, won a Nanny for banning an ad that showed a man cavorting in a warehouse, standing on the front of a moving fork-lift truck, throwing a box to someone in a bear suit, and walking along parcels. Apparently this fictional parody was an affront to occupational health and safety standards and must not be seen by the public.

Not every Nanny went to a branch of government. A group behind a website called No Gender December called for an end to gender stereotypes and "gendered" presents at Christmas. The website is full of excruciatingly earnest judgemental jargon such: "Gendered marketing informs children's feeling about whether it's socially acceptable to show interest in a toy. Some take the 'knowledge' into the playground, where they quickly chastise any child who demonstrates an interest in the 'wrong' colour or toy for their gender."

This presumptive, patronising, poorly-written sanctimony, wrapped in the hopelessly dated, lazy, inarticulate "inverted commas" of academic irony, may be a highly marginal ideological lobby group but it deserved a Nanny based on the its presumption alone.

No Gender December is, no surprise, supported by the Greens, the champions of the nanny state, funded by you, for your own good.

As Helen Andrews of the CIS said, in announcing the 2014 Nannies, "The Nannies will highlight the year's most abysmal examples of trying to prevent, shield and badger us in the clear assumption that we are unable to, or should not be allowed to, make our own choices."

Hopefully, the Nannies will become a December tradition. Australia is a nation of nearly 16 million adults yet we allow our governments to treat us as if we are 23 million teenagers.


Time to wake up to the Muslim menace

1. They haven't woken up yet. Certainly not in Australia. Even after the deadly terrorist attack at a cafe in Sydney, parts of the institutionalized Australian media are still trying to delude their audience, maintaining that it was a "lone-wolf" who perpetrated the horrific assault. The Australian prime minister "took comfort" in the knowledge that the assailant had a history of mental illness.

A European court decided this week that Hamas is not a terrorist organization -- it is a charity group with some "lone-wolf" members. The West's basic instincts have become dull, after decades of suppressing its own survival mechanism by self-imposing a stern "politically correct" regime. Most of the leading figures in the West (and in Israel) are more concerned with how they are perceived by the community, and that they say the "correct" words that they are allowed to say, than they are with actually confronting the truth.

Who is responsible for most of the terrorist acts around the world today? Mother Theresa? What percentage of Muslims support militant Islamist organizations? These are not "lone-wolves" -- this is a serious phenomenon with grave implications on the free world. It is something that needs to be confronted, rather than ganging up on anyone who points it out.

In February 2007, Professor Raphael Israeli -- an international expert on Islam and professor at Hebrew University -- was interviewed by an Australian newspaper. In the interview, Israeli warned that the Muslim minority living in the continent posed a real threat to the Australians. His studies suggest that life can become unbearable when the Muslim population of a Western country reaches critical mass (in one study he even attached a number to this idea of critical mass: 10 percent of the general population). It is a rule of thumb, he said, and if it applies everywhere, it certainly applies in Australia.

As an example, he cited the riots in Paris in 2006. Israeli suggested that the Australians ban the entry of Muslim radicals and adopt a preventative approach to avoid flooding the continent with immigrants from Indonesia. Muslim immigrants, he argued, have a reputation of taking advantage of Western tolerance and hospitality to advance their own ends. Trains in London and in Madrid were not blown up by Christians or Buddhists. They were blown up by Muslims. Precautions must be taken, he warned.

Not too far from Australia, in Bali, Islamist organizations perpetrated two horrifying terrorist attacks in 2002 and in 2005. Bali bomber Amrozi bin Nurhasin, who was charged with causing the deaths of more than 200 people, stood up in court in front of the global media and cried out "Jews! Remember Khaibar. The army of Muhammad is coming back to defeat you." Not one of the 200 victims was Jewish. The Australians watched, read the warnings, and went back to what they were doing.

When Israeli was interviewed, the Bali attacks were still fresh, but the regime political correctness made sure to take the string out. Israeli became the target of a Bolshevik-style witch hunt. He was accused of racism, xenophobia, and was called a plethora of derogatory names. He received death threats. In response, the Middle East expert told the Australians to wait and see what happens. This week, one would hope that the Australians recalled Israeli's cautionary words. Maybe some of them wondered why they didn't heed his warning. Maybe.

2. On Monday, radio personality Tali Lipkin-Shahak interviewed Professor Israeli. It wasn't the interview that was notable, but the style in which it was conducted -- a style shared particularly by many Israeli journalists, and Western journalists in general. "You were ahead of your time," she said to him. Israeli replied that he had been investigating the Muslim "diaspora" in Western countries for over a decade, and that in that time the Muslim population has grown to alarming proportions.

"But why do you attribute violent intentions to the immigration process?" the interviewer asked him. "Joseph also immigrated to Egypt," she remarked, evoking the Book of Genesis.

True, the professor answered, remarking that he had written five books on the subject, "but Joseph's family had not proclaimed that it planned to conquer Egypt or to convert Egypt to become Israelite."

"The Muslims explicitly say that they did not come to Europe in order to become European, but to Islamize Europe." They have vowed that a Muslim flag will wave over 10 Downing Street in England and over Versailles Palace in France within 25 years, he explained.

Lipkin-Shahak then said that "one can always [always!] talk about those people in terms of a negligible, extremist minority, including the terrorist attackers." Even ISIS, she said, "has no more than several thousand members."

Israeli insisted that these atrocities are nothing new. In the past, Muslims who immigrated to Australia, Scandinavia and Germany, as well as other places, have perpetrated very serious attacks.

The overly concerned interviewers rushed to protect the ears of her tender listeners, saying "I have to be the one to tone things down, or at least present the opposing view," she said. "What you are saying, it is very serious. You are vilifying an entire population; you are contributing to the process of hatred and counter-hatred, which only causes harm and intensifies the violence."

Israeli was not surprised. "That is exactly what they told me in Australia, until they became the victims of a catastrophe…This is my job. Anyone who wants to listen can listen. Anyone who doesn't, they can wait for the next catastrophe."

Lipkin-Shahak stuck to her guns: "We listened, but we voiced a skeptical opinion. We disagree."

"What are you basing your opinion on?" Israeli wondered in desperation. "I am basing my opinion on thirty years of research, studying Islam, and you are basing yours on a trend, on the fact that it is not nice to say these things. We are talking on two completely different planes."

Indeed, two completely different worlds. Facts vs. beliefs. Reality vs. fantasy. Make love not war; imagine there's no countries, and no religion too. A very special kind of liberal fundamentalism. The moment the truth comes knocking, they retreat into their politically correct shells and refuse to recognize the facts. There is no such thing as Muslim terrorism. The terrorists come from outer space. Islam is a religion of peace and we mustn't link it to all these terrible acts perpetrated in its name. Sadly, the people who think this way -- the politically correct -- have the microphone. The researcher with the facts is only a momentary guest.

3. The politically correct mechanism that launders the language that we use makes it very hard to express doubt in these John Lennon-esque fantasies, like the Oslo Accords for example. It may be hard to believe, but the principles of the Oslo Accords are still being marketed, under new names, to this day. Case in point: The recent empty declarations made by newfound partners Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog regarding their ability to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For our own good, we need to examine the remarks made by the late Arab-Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein, who, in 1979, murdered Boaz Lahav of Tiberias and David Lankri of Beit Shean and seriously wounded five others when he detonated an explosive device inside a trash can on a busy Tiberias street.

In July, 2006, Abu Ein told Al-Alam Iranian television that "the Oslo Accords are not the dream of the Palestinian people. However, there would never have been resistance in Palestine without Oslo. Oslo is the effective and potent greenhouse whish embraced the Palestinian resistance."

"Without Oslo, there would never have been resistance. In all the occupied territories, we could not move a single pistol from place to place. Without Oslo, and being armed through Oslo, and without the Palestinian Authority's A areas, without the training, the camps, the protection afforded by Oslo, and without the freeing of thousands of Palestinian prisoners through Oslo -- this Palestinian resistance and we would not have been able to create this great Palestinian Intifada."

Isn't it time to wake up?


The Greens: Australia's party of "social justice"

If it really were justice, it would not need the adjective "social"

No sooner had he won the Greens first seat in the House of Representatives, than Adam Bandt -- now Deputy Leader of the Greens -- was explaining to ABC radio that "social justice concerns have been...in our DNA since the Greens started". Social justice is a nebulous policy term. Everyone supports social justice because no one would consciously promote social injustice. But what does social justice mean to the Greens?

Apparently social justice involves increasing taxpayer funded Paid Parental Leave (PPL) payments from $11,539 to 26 weeks of parent's replacement wages. Social justice requires taxpayers to fork out $50,000 to parents earning above $100,000, in addition to any PPL workplace entitlements they might have, while those earning less than the (full-time) minimum wage get $16,667. Stay-at-home parents get nothing.

This is an interesting policy position for a party that purports to believe "...the social problems we have today...could be dramatically improved if we focus on eliminating extreme inequality in Australia...". It would seem using taxpayer's money to entrench certain types of inequality is ok provided it benefits your professional inner-city constituency.


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