Wednesday, June 24, 2015
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is displeased at an extremist Muslim appearing on ABC TV
Strange days: "New Matilda" agrees with the Abbott government
They have overcome their chronic Leftist rage long enough to see that the Abbott government really is trying to be fair. I can rarely read much of "New Matilda". Wading through all that rage is too depressing for a cheerful soul like me. So am pleased to find something sensible and positive for a change
Last week, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said something rather unusual. “I commend the Australian Greens, and their new Leader Senator Di Natale, supported by Senator Siewert, for their constructive engagement with the Government,” Morrison wrote in a media release.
Did you read that right? Was Scott Morrison commending … the Greens?
Yes, he was. Morrison was talking about the government’s latest move on pension reform: a change to the way the pension is tested. As a result of the changes, about 170,000 mostly poorer pensioners will receive higher pension payments, while more than 320,000 wealthier pensioners will be negatively affected. Perhaps 90,000 Australians will lose their payments altogether.
The pension move saves the government $2.4 billion over four years. It also gets the Coalition out of a tight spot. Joe Hockey’s horror 2014 budget had foreshadowed a big cut to pension indexation, reducing all pensions inexorably over time.
Like so much of Hockey’s first budget, the pension indexation crimp was abandoned last year in the face of widespread community opposition to the measure. The new Liberal-Greens deal on pensions replaces that measure, but still saves the government some money.
The decision by new Greens leader Richard Di Natale to strike a deal with Morrison and the Coalition has drawn considerable criticism. Labor has launched a stinging attack on the compact, arguing it leaves many retirees on middling incomes worse off.
“The Greens and the Government have done a deal to sell out pensioners,” Labor’s Jenny Macklin thundered last week. “While the Government would like to portray this measure as only affecting millionaires, the reality is this pension cut is an attack on middle Australia.”
The Greens deny this. They say the current reform will make for a fairer pension system. They also point out it is longstanding Greens policy.
“More Australians who don’t have the advantage of a healthy super balance will be able to access a full pension when we undo John Howard’s tampering with taper rates,” Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said last week.
The Greens have put out a fact sheet that details the government modelling of the pension changes. This shows that the pension reforms do indeed help those at the lower end of wealth spectrum. But they also affect many pensioners in the middle and upper tiers.
So who’s right? The University of New South Wales’ Rafal Chomik has crunched the data... As you can see, the new pension test cuts in at a higher initial figure, but then tapers more quickly.
What this means is that some senior Australians with fewer assets will receive higher pension payments. Some pensioners with a lot of assets will lose their part-pension altogether.
In other words, the changes are progressive, even as they punish pensioners with higher assets. They help those in the lower tiers, and exclude more of the wealthy from accessing it.
For pensioners with very little, the changes will have no impact. There are nearly a million pensioners who neither own their home nor have more than $300,000 in assets. These pensioners will not be affected.
"Stolen Generation" court case decisively lost by Left-supported Aboriginal family
The W.A. government's actions were not improper -- just a child welfare case
An Aboriginal family left devastated more than four decades after seven of their children were removed in the 50s and 60s are now asking the High Court to appeal a decision ordering them to pay the WA government’s legal costs following an unsuccessful Stolen Generations test case.
In the absence of any national or state-based compensation scheme for victims of the Stolen Generations, Donald and Sylvia Collard took their claim for damages to the WA Supreme Court in 2013, saying the state had breached its fiduciary duty in forcibly removing their children.
The Collards had seven of their children taken from them from 1958 to 1961 and placed in the ‘care’ of the Child Welfare Department, where they were separated into state homes.
The test case was the first of its kind in Western Australia and was significant for other Stolen Generations victims in the state who have waited a lifetime for full reparations.
Apart from damages, the Collards told the court they “wanted answers”. One daughter, taken from a hospital when she was only six months old, said she wanted “some explanation why I was taken as a little baby and why my life turned out the way it did because of this”.
Justice Janine Pritchard said in the judgement “there is no doubt that all the children, and Don and Sylvia, have been deeply scarred by their separation, by the fracturing of their family relationships and by their disconnection from their Aboriginal culture”.
But in April 2013, Judge Pritchard ruled against the Collards in a 410-page judgement, saying “the evidence leads to the conclusion that the state was not, and is not, subject to the fiduciary duties alleged by the plaintiffs”.
"Even if the state was subject to those duties, the plaintiffs did not establish that the state breached those duties, other than in relation to a decision which was made in November 1959 not to return Ellen to Don and Sylvia's care,” Judge Pritchard said.
It was a devastating decision for the family, with father Don Collard telling NITV at the time it had made him “bitter”.
Judge Pritchard ruled against the usual practice of the unsuccessful party covering the costs of the successful party, saying that the Collard’s case was “rare and exceptional” and they wouldn’t have to pay the WA government’s legal costs.
The WA government successfully appealed that decision this year, which could run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
The Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia and the Human Rights Law Resource Centre last week said it had asked the High Court for permission to appeal.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s Ruth Barson said the WA government’s appeal on costs had added “salt to the wounds” to an already devastating decision.
“Legal cases on issues of public importance, like redress for past policies of forced removal, are an important part of our legal system. While appropriate safeguards around litigation are vital, the ability to bring cases of public importance should not be restricted to the wealthy,” said Ms Barson.
“Losing such a significant case was devastating for the Collards, so being left with the Government’s hefty legal bill is just like adding salt to their wounds.”
Aboriginal Legal Service of WA CEO Dennis Eggington said the test case was critically important and that Aboriginal people shouldn’t be threatened by the prospect of huge legal costs Why not?
Tony Jones apologises after claim Australian Muslims are 'justified' to join IS on Q&A
The ABC's Q&A reaches a new low of Leftist pandering
The first Australian to be charged under the nation's counter-terrorism laws claimed Muslim Australians who disagree with Liberal Party politicians are "justified" in joining the Islamic State on Monday night's Q&A.
Zaky Mallah, who was charged with planning a terrorist act in Sydney in 2003, drew on his own experience when questioning the panel on whether the power to strip dual national terrorists of their citizenship should rest with a government minister or the courts.
Mr Mallah complained he was treated by authorities "like a convicted terrorist" when he was subjected to "solitary confinement, a 22-hour lockdown, dressed most times in an orange overall".
In a strident attack, Foreign Affairs and Trade parliamentary secretary Steve Ciobo said he believed the only reason Mr Mallah was acquitted of terrorism was that the terrorist offences "weren't retrospective in application", and that he would be glad to see Mr Mallah sent out of the country.
A worked-up Mr Mallah responded: "The Liberals have just justified to many Australian Muslims in the community tonight to leave and go to Syria and join ISIL because of ministers like him."
Tony Jones seized on Mr Mallah's words and apologised for his comment: "I think that's a comment we are going to rule totally out of order. I'm sorry about that. I don't think there is much more to say at this point."
Mr Mallah was acquitted on terrorism charges in 2005, but pleaded guilty to threatening to kill government officials.
He initially posed a hypothetical to the Q&A panel, asking how his case would have unfolded had a minister, rather than a court, made the ruling.
Mr Ciobo said based on the facts of his case, he believed Mr Mallah should be sent out of the country. "I'm happy to look you straight in the eye and say I'd be pleased to be part of a government that would say you're out of the country as far as I'm concerned. I would sleep very soundly at night with that point of view."
Mr Ciobo added that Mr Mallah had done the Muslim community a disservice by making the explosive claim.
"As best as I know, your circumstances, the comments you have made, the threats you have made that you have pleaded guilty to, to me more than justify the concerns that the government has. I think that it is very wrong, frankly, for you to portray the Muslim population as all being incentivised to do those things. I know a lot of Muslims who are very good people and they can be recoiling at what you just said."
Mr Mallah, who travelled to Syria when the civil war began, said he met the Free Syrian Army to "go to the frontlines and see what the war was all about". "I went to Syria to experience the situation for myself and why the uprising had begun."
Mr Mallah spent two years in high security in Goulburn jail before he was acquitted on two terrorism charges.
In a statement released on Tuesday morning, the director of ABC TV Richard Finlayson admitted the program made an "error of judgment" in inviting Mr Mallah as an audience member. The broadcaster said the circumstances of his appearance would be reviewed.
"In attempting to explore important issues about the rights of citizens and the role of the Government in fighting terrorism, the Q&A program made an error in judgment in allowing Zaky Mallah to join the audience and ask a question," it read.
"Mr Mallah has been interviewed by the Australian media on a number of occasions. The environment of a live television broadcast, however, meant it would not be possible for editorial review of the comments he might make prior to broadcast, particularly if he engaged in debate beyond his prepared question.
"As has been the case in the past on Q&A, circumstances will happen that are not anticipated. The critical question is whether risks could have been managed and the right editorial judgments made in advance."
Mr Mallah's comments sparked a flow of derision on Twitter.
Death, taxes and political advertising
It feels like aeons ago that Kevin Rudd referred to taxpayer-funded political advertising commissioned by governments as "a long term cancer on our democracy." Over the course of their first term in office, the Rudd government went from having advertising campaigns of more than $250,000 approved by the Auditor-General, to replacing this role with a hand-picked 'independent' committee of former public servants.
And now? It seems whatever guidelines may exist to ensure proper use of taxpayer funds for information campaigns, they are being rather liberally interpreted. In the last few months, the Abbott Government embarked on a $15 million campaign for its higher education reform package before the policy had even passed the Senate. And this week it was announced they would do the same with the Jobs for Families package (the childcare reforms), spending $18 million when it also hasn't passed the Senate.
Not that this is a new trend. Rudd MkI spent $38 million to defend the mining tax, before the campaign against the policy was even fully formed. There was the Gillard Government's $12 million to sell the carbon tax. And then Rudd MkII's $30 million domestic campaign that spruiked their border protection policies, in the midst of an election campaign no less.
These advertising programs are definitely a waste of taxpayer money in that they serve naked political self-interest. Being obliged to pay for an advertising campaign, which has arisen directly out of government's inability to campaign on reform, is an indignity.
But the fact that they happen so frequently -- and that governments that attempt to curtail the practice eventually give up -- speaks to a broader truth about politics: survival is the main game. Ultimately, the dignity of taxpayers and voters will always play second fiddle.