Friday, January 08, 2016

Clemmie laments that men don't treat women courteously

Fairfax tame feminist Clem Ford is all steamed up -- as usual.  Recent impolite behavior to a woman by a government minister has excited her into sweeping generalities, which may or may not be reasonable.  What she forgets is that men were once much more polite to women.  In the presence of women they would avoid bad language and generally "mind their Ps ands Qs".  And who is responsible for the decay of such manners?  Feminists like Clemmie

Ask all the women you know if they've experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace and most of the time you'll be met with a 'yes'. These memories may vary in degrees of seriousness, but they'll be there nonetheless. Most of the time, we'll brush them off or tell ourselves it wasn't that big a deal. After all, aren't we always being told to "learn how to take a joke" or "stop overreacting"?

Women are only allowed to complain about the most serious of violations, you see - we are never permitted to feel uncomfortable or coerced or manipulated by the everyday events that remind us, oh so subtly, that a degree of complicity in maintaining men's power is required from us if we want to remain employed. That this is usually framed as women having to 'toughen up' implies men calmly and quietly field similar sexual harassment from their mostly male bosses or colleagues every day, but they have the inner strength and confidence not to be bothered by it. Convenient, isn't it?

Because of the persistent undercurrent of gaslighting that dictates women's recollection of our experiences, it won't be uncommon for us to blame ourselves for being too sensitive. The discomfort we feel when we assess certain situations will then be tinged by at least two shades of shame. The first will be the shame felt at being subjected to unwanted sexual harassment (particularly in our professional environments). You know what that's like - it's the sticky feeling of being not quite clean and yet unable to know exactly where to scrub to get the residue off. But the second will be the shame felt at being weak and overly sensitive, a child unable to handle the pressures of an adult world - because women have always been told that true maturity is just accepting everything that happens to us without complaint, especially if those things are being done by men, and for their pleasure or benefit only.

This is why, when a young female staffer working on an overseas posting has drinks with a government minister one night only to have him kiss her neck and make suggestive comments about her eyes, her complaints (filed later, and you'll be made to think that's important somehow) will be met by hand wringing over the ruination of HIS career. It's why his behaviour that night will be dismissed as peripheral to who he is a person, because he's a family man with a wife and three children, a stressful job and he was just blowing off steam with a few drinks and when men drink, they can't be held responsible for their actions. (Of course, this sits in stark contrast to the culpability assigned to women who happen to have been consuming alcohol when someone decides to sexually assault or rape them.)

It's why other colleagues will rally around him, lament the increase in restrictions on their activities and dismiss female critics as "mad f--king witches" instead of recognise them as journalists doing their jobs.

Sexual harassment in the workplace isn't a minor thing. People have a right to earn a living without being made to feel sexually tied to their employer or superior. And when you're a minister in the federal government, you should be particularly scrutinised for the choices you make that impact on the well being of other people. It doesn't mean that ministerial behaviour is at risk of being subjected to intolerably high standards. What it should mean is that high standards are finally becoming the benchmark of a government that takes pride in its ministry.


Queensland electricity prices rise as Government delays deregulation

Leftist governments don't like competition

THE State Government’s decision to delay deregulation of electricity prices has deprived households and small businesses of savings on their power bills by curtailing competition.

That is one of the findings in a damning assessment by the national regulator which slammed our state-dominated electricity market.

The Australian Energy Regulator’s state of the market report for 2015 also says “opportunistic” behaviour by the government-owned generators has contributed to Queensland having the highest wholesale power prices in the country – despite having surplus capacity.

“Queensland was the only region to record an increase in prices. It also had the National Energy Market’s most expensive wholesale energy prices for the first time in over a decade,’’ the report said.

That price volatility and a lack of competition in the retail market – exacerbated by the decision to delay deregulation by a year to July 2016 – means households and small businesses are missing out on potential savings.

The proportion of household budget swallowed up by power prices fell in every state except Queensland over the past two years, while the number of families being disconnected is at a six-year high here.

Alliance of Electricity Consumers spokesman Jonathan Pavetto called for an overhaul of the state’s electricity sector, saying it was “in a crisis”.

“The AER report shows the delay of price deregulation in Queensland has prohibited families and small businesses getting better deals on electricity.’’

Energy Minister Mark Bailey welcomed the AER’s scrutiny and said the Palaszczuk Government was working hard to tackle energy costs, including setting up the current Queensland Productivity Commission’s inquiry into electricity prices.

Wholesale prices were pushed up by demand, he said.

The regulator’s report said: “Retailers also reported wholesale market volatility in Queensland is an impediment to expansion.’’

And it noted retailers had deferred expanding marketing following the State Government’s decision to delay removing retail price regulation for a year.

That reduced competition is reflected in lower rates of Queensland consumers switching providers and the smallest savings from shopping around.

Acting Premier Jackie Trad said the Government was “focused and committed” to keeping electricity prices down.

“One of the first things that we did was to prohibit the energy companies from appealing against the energy regulator’s decision around the electricity price increase,” she said, pointing to a decision made last year.

The gap between the average contract price and the average standing price in Queensland is just 1.9 per cent — compared to up to 18 per cent in Victoria and 12.1 per cent in New South Wales.

The report said the regulated electricity price fell 6.1 per cent in Queensland during 2015 – after rising 39 per cent over the previous four years.

ABS data, adjusted for inflation, shows that from the lowest power prices in the country in 2006-07, Brisbane’s have risen by more than 50 per cent above the national average and are now the second most expensive behind Adelaide.

The AER report again highlights the issue of “late rebidding’’, saying that government-owned generators Stanwell and CS Energy — which control two-thirds of Queensland’s capacity — used the strategy to shift large volumes of capacity from low to very high prices late in trading cycles.

The AER says the volatility has also pushed up future prices in contracts.

Mr Bailey said: “The AEMC has now clarified the rules around late bidding and expect generators to absolutely comply with the new ruling, and I welcome ongoing scrutiny from the regulator to ensure they do.”


Navy’s Muslim officer Mona Shindy crossed the line with tweets

Former army officers and counter-terrorism experts say the navy’s most senior Muslim officer crossed the line when she published her political views through an official Twitter account.

But they are at odds over whether she should be allowed to tweet again.

Captain Mona Shindy, the Chief of Navy’s strategic adviser on Islamic affairs, has come under fire this week after The Australian revealed her Twitter account @navyislamic had been shut down following a series of contentious political tweets.

Roger Shanahan, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute and former army officer, said Captain Shindy’s behaviour as a high-ranking officer “seemed strange” and was “certainly an error of judgment”.

In some of her tweets Captain Shindy backed the Grand Mufti’s controversial response to the Paris terrorist attacks and also retweeted anti-Abbott sentiment.

“It’s the first rule of being a military officer: You can’t comment on government policy and you certainly can’t criticise ministers in public,” Dr Shanahan said.

“It wasn’t acceptable for her to do that, everybody knows that.’’

Chief of Navy Tim Barrett decided to close the account down last month after it started receiving a “growing number of contentious comments” and he had “counselled” Captain Shindy.

The Australian understands there is an ongoing review into use of the account and the navy’s social media policy.

John Blaxland, a senior fellow at the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre and former intelligence officer, said while Captain Shindy “crossed the radar threshold of controversy” her voice was too important to be silenced.

“The advice that she’s been giving has been ground-breaking within the Defence Force,” Dr Blaxland said.

“When you think about what she’s said and what she’s retweeted, it’s pretty mild. It’s not earth-shatteringly controversial.

“I would argue she should … recalibrate her scope but not turn off her scope. This is too important for our society to grapple with for her to be silenced.”

Anne Aly, an associate professor at Curtin University and counter-terrorism expert, said the more “authentic” voices speaking out against violent extremism the better, but acknowledged public servants should never politically express themselves.

“I don’t know it’s reasonable (the Twitter account) should be closed down, I just think it shouldn’t be used for personal political views,’’ Professor Aly said.


CFMEU will be spared delisting by the Turnbull government

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says that reinstating the construction industry watchdog was the government’s primary goal.

The looming merger of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union with the Maritime Union of Australia — creating what MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin boasts will be the “most powerful” union in the ­nation — has frustrated any push from within the Coalition to deregister the scandal-­plagued construction union.

The Australian has learned the government will not move to deregister the CFMEU despite evidence of widespread corruption and criminality but will instead seek to transform the “perverse culture” and “mindset” across the construction industry.

Accepting the view of the Heydon royal commission, which did not recommend deregistering the CFMEU, the ­Coalition believes such a move would be costly and lengthy, with the MUA merger having the potential to “forestall cancellation of registration” because the CFMEU would “cease to exist”.

The merger, which was to have been put to MUA members next month but could be delayed until later in the year, will bring together the most militant ­unions in Australia, uniting the CFMEU and its 100,000-plus members with the smaller but wealthy MUA. Mr Crumlin said in October the merger, backed strongly by both unions, presented an opportunity “to build Australia’s most powerful union”.

He told his members in a recent letter that the merger with the CFMEU would strengthen the political and industrial muscle of both unions, and also “the entire national and international labour movement”.

“The potential merger could present a strong, effective political and industrial opposition to the ongoing attacks and orchestrated anti-worker and anti-union campaigns from neo­liberal and other right-wing forces,” he said.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash told The Australian that reinstating the construction industry watchdog was the government’s primary goal because it would “address the fundamental problem of the culture and the mindset that exists in the ­construction industry” and re-establish respect for the rule of law. “The Heydon royal commission has once again confirmed there is a perverse culture in the construction industry, particularly in the construction division of the CFMEU, that complying with the law is seen as merely optional and breaking the law is normal practice,” she said.

“Unless and until there is a strong regulator enforcing legislation that actually deters people from repeatedly breaking the law, the culture in the industry will not change. The current laws have simply been insufficient.”

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption argued that deregistering the CFMEU would not fundamentally address problems in the construction sector and would impact adversely on members who are not at fault for the actions of rogue officials.

“Cancelling the registration of the whole union may have a disproportionate effect on union members who have not been ­involved in illegal activity,” the ­report said.

The Coalition is also acutely aware of the commission’s view that the proposed merger between the CFMEU and the MUA could be used to frustrate any push for deregistration by special legislation or through the existing Fair Work legislation.

Labor and the ACTU will vigorously oppose any push to deregister the CFMEU, given the very close links between the union’s leadership and the leadership of the party and the ACTU.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor last week defended the CFMEU and poured scorn on the suggestion it should disaffiliate from Labor. “To suggest because there may be individuals in an ­organisation, somehow that organisation is systemically corrupt, it does not hold water,” he told ABC radio.

His brother, Michael O’Connor, is the national secretary of the CFMEU, a key faction power­broker in the Labor Party and frequently an ally of Bill Shorten.

Former employment minister Eric Abetz yesterday described the proposed merger of the CFMEU and MUA as a “dis­astrous workplace relations cocktail”, telling The Australian that deregistration should be reserved by the government as a “secondary” option in the effort to crackdown on union corruption.

He said the priority, as outlined by Malcolm Turnbull, should be behind instituting a stronger registered organisations commission to oversee unions and reviving the construction industry watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

But Senator Abetz went one step further, proposing “consideration of the deregistration of particular officials of unions, if that is warranted, and divisions of particular unions”.

The royal commission described the CFMEU as a “dangerous” and finding misconduct to be “widespread”, with a dozen current or former officials referred to authorities for possible corruption, bullying and knowingly giving false evidence.

It follows several adverse court rulings against the union in recent years. In November, the Federal Court described the CFMEU’s previous repeated contraventions of the law as painting “a depressing picture”. It referred to the CFMEU’s conduct as displaying “an organisational culture in which contraventions of the law have become normalised”.

Bob Hawke, a former Labor prime minister and ACTU president, whose government deregistered the Builders Labourers’ Federation in 1986, lashed the CFMEU in a recent interview with The Australian. “The unions need to clean up their act and get their house in order,” he said. “It just is appalling. I mean, I wouldn’t tolerate it. You know what I did with the BLF — I would throw them out.”

The Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner — a statutory independent authority to enforce compliance with workplace laws, undertake investigations and commence penalty proceedings — was dismantled by the Gillard government in 2012. It was replaced by a new but weaker regulator, Fair Work Building & Construction.

“The ABCC was successful in starting to change the culture in the industry before Labor abolished it,” Senator Cash said.

“When there is an effective regulator who enforces laws with meaningful penalties, people think twice before breaking the law. As soon as the ABCC was abolished, the improvements in culture were lost almost ­immediately.”

The Coalition has repeatedly tried to reinstate the ABCC, but the legislation has been voted down by Labor and the Greens in the Senate. This legislation will be reintroduced next month and the government hopes to pass it into law by March.

“The government is focused on bringing about lasting change in the culture of the industry by re-establishing the ABCC and respect for the rule of law,” Senator Cash said. “The Heydon royal commission has recommended laws that will stamp out corrupt and unethical conduct between employers and unions. This is the government’s focus”.


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