Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Deconstructing Greer

Now the Left are turning on a feminist icon

Dominic Perrottet

Recently I received a letter, as NSW Finance and Property Minister, demanding that I urgently remove the ‘Germaine Greer’ plaque from the Sydney Writers Walk in Circular Quay.The reason for the demand, sent from a concerned, vigilant citizen, was that Ms Greer holds horrifically bigoted views on transgender issues, so her name can no longer defile public places in NSW.

Although it was just one letter, it’s a telling example of the Left’s ruthless totalitarian reflex. As Stalin erased Trotsky from Soviet photographs, so Ms Greer must be expunged, our public places sanitised – that’s progress, comrade.

Ms Greer is a particularly interesting target for the Left because she was once its darling; a feminist pioneer at the vanguard of the gender revolution. She stuck it to the man, and is still sticking it to him.

Unfortunately for Ms Greer, these days the man sometimes identifies as a woman, which means the once-celebrated feminist is now guilty of le thoughtcrime du jour: transphobia. Explaining her position on Q&A last week, Greer didn’t retreat: ‘If you’re a 50-year-old truck driver who’s had 4 children with a wife and you’ve decided the whole time you’ve been a woman, I think you’re probably wrong.’ See, this insolent fuddy duddy refuses to grasp that such thoughts are no longer ‘acceptable’. In the ever-shifting hierarchy of progressive issues, the trans-agenda now trumps feminism. So for Ms Greer, it’s confess, recant, conform, or you’re out.

That anyone would think it appropriate to denounce Ms Greer to a Minister of the Crown came as a shock to me. But this is the world we are in: public office holders are under increasing pressure to use state power to enforce the ‘progressive’ agenda. Sadly, too many are caving.

Take Germany, where a comedian is now the subject of a government-approved criminal investigation – for making jokes about the president of Turkey. Or Tasmania, where the Catholic Archbishop is being dragged before the anti-discrimination commission for publishing a pamphlet explaining his own Church’s teaching on marriage. Or Scotland, where the Glasgow police – providing locals with some helpful advice on the perils of social media – recently tweeted: ‘Think before you post or you may receive a visit from us this weekend…’

That’s right McDougall: you’re just one Facebook post away from hearing the friendly local constabulary’s jackboots crunching up your driveway.

Defending freedom doesn’t mean agreeing with every offensive statement anyone makes. A case in point: a few weeks ago some unruly footy fans unfurled a banner at the MCG emblazoned with ‘STOP THE MOSQUES’.

The reaction was swift and ruthless. Eddie McGuire told the ABC that those responsible should be banned from footy. AFL boss Gillan McLachlan got busy ‘talking to the Victoria Police to see how they may prosecute’. No matter that there are no grounds for prosecution: where there’s a will, there’s a gulag.

When a similar banner was unfurled at a game in WA, the police jumped straight in, marching the fans out and banning them from the ground.

When I’m watching a match, I pre- fer not to be distracted by louts with offensive banners trying to stir the polit- ical pot. But if footy codes are going to politicise games with statements about refugees and rounds where players wear rainbow bootlaces and the like, it’s not clear to me why one set of political statements is permitted, and another isn’t; why we’re free to use the game to spruik (invariably left-wing) political views on some issues, but get bundled away by cops for voicing opinions on others.

If you’re banning the Sydney University Evangelical Union for the unspeakable crime of requiring its executive to believe in Jesus (Marx forbid!), more power to you. If your target is George Pell, or Tony Abbott, or some other conservative punching bag, go ahead and spew your hate-filled bile from the rooftops. You’ll be lauded as brave and a hero and get interviewed on ABC, and maybe even nominated for Australian of the Year (or at the very least a Logie).

But if you want to use your freedom to challenge the dogmas of the new orthodoxy, I’m sorry comrade, that’s not what freedom’s for, so put a sock in it. Or else.

As Ms Greer’s cautionary tale illustrates, conservatives aren’t the only ones liable to find themselves on the wrong end of a progressive truncheon.

The revolution always eats its own, because there is no rhyme or reason to the opinions ‘progressives’ endorse from one day to the next. Their beliefs – no matter how ruthlessly enforced – may be useful in advancing ‘progress’ to some fabled utopia, but once their utility has expired, those beliefs can be discarded like last season’s flared corduroys. That’s where serious thinkers like Ms Greer run into trouble. Because serious thinkers have serious arguments rooted in serious principles that can’t simply be jettisoned.

When you abandon your principles, it’s hard to see the point of debate, other than to see who can shout the loudest. Contests of ideas degenerate into contests of fists. That’s not progress.

True progress demands a truly free exchange of ideas, because the best ideas are forged in the furnace of fierce disagreement – the battle of ideas, where wits are sharpened, arguments blunted, minds expanded, and gradually, truth revealed.

Nothing has made this clearer to me than the responsibility of legislative decision-making. Free debate is simply indispensable in that process. But I have felt the chill setting in – the reluctance to speak out, even among colleagues, on matters of huge importance, for fear of falling foul of the PC police.

This is the path to dead-end, unthinking government. If democracy is to survive, we must defend freedom. We must resist the growing pressure to deploy the state’s firepower to enforce a ‘progressive’ agenda that criminalises dissent. Because you can only have progress with a contest of ideas. And you can only have a contest of ideas if you are free.


Biodegradable bags aren’t better than regular plastic bags,  report finds

CONSUMERS like to believe we’re doing the right thing for the environment. Purchasing plastic bags or coffee cups marked “biodegradable”, “compostable” or even plain old “environmentally friendly”, helps us sleep better at night.

But a new Senate inquiry into the threat of marine plastic pollution in Australia has found that “biodegradable” plastic bags are just as bad as regular plastic bags.

“While consumers might feel they are ‘doing the right thing’ by choosing biodegradable or degradable plastic, these products simply disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces to become microplastic,” read the report based on the senate’s findings.

“The committee also notes that there is some community confusion regarding the differences between biodegradable, degradable plastic, compostable and traditional plastic.

“The committee strongly considers that education campaigns are required to ensure consumers make informed choices about the alternatives to traditional plastics being offered.”

Normal plastic bags are usually made from petroleum, while biodegradable bags are made from plant or organic material which can decompose much faster.

But UNSW biodiversity expert Mark Browne, one of several scientists who made submissions to the inquiry, says the biodegradable material has the “same level of environmental impact” as that in regular plastic bags.

“These pieces of microplastic can be ingested or inhaled by animals,” Mr Browne told

“They can enter their lungs or guts and can transfer chemicals into the blood and surrounding tissues, which can affect how well they’re able to fight off infections.

“In plants, they can block the plant’s access to light, and plants need light to photosynthesise and produce food,” he said.
Plastic bags can kill marine life. Here a scuba diver swims over a discarded plastic bag tangled on a coral reef.

Plastic bags can kill marine life. Here a scuba diver swims over a discarded plastic bag tangled on a coral reef.Source:Getty Images

These microplastics can also affect how much food and water animals can consume.

“The particles fill up the animals’ guts and they’re not able to consume as much water or food. They may die from dehydration or starvation or being infected because their immune systems have been reduced,” Mr Browne said.

“The public is buying or using these bags thinking that they’re a quick fix, but there is not enough testing to prove they’re safe.”

Clean Up Australia managing director Terrie Ann Johnson told the inquiry marine plastic pollution is a growing global threat to biodiversity.

“[It’s already having a devastating impact on the Australian environment with significant potential to disrupt our lifestyle and lead to substantial economic loss,” she wrote in a submission.

Ms Johnson said it was a common misconception that marine debris and plastic pollution in Australia is a result of international pollution, or waste generated “at sea”.

According to the CSIRO, around 75 per cent of our marine debris is generated by Australian people, “not the high seas, with debris concentrated near cities”.


ABC inconsistent on sexism

Twitter provides a wonderful insight into the real thoughts, leanings and character of public figures — especially journalists. Last year, on this very day, for instance, we discovered what SBS sports reporter Stuart McIntyre really thought about the hundreds of thousands of men and women who risked their lives or sacrificed them in defence of our freedom and security.

Paul Bongiorno is a MWW favourite for his green Left commentary on RNBreakfast. We often ponder why he is paid by taxpayers to add his hard Left views to a radio network that already defies its charter obligations on balance to run a green Left agenda.

My theory is that Radio National pays Bonge to make the likes of Fran Kelly, Phillip Adams and Jonathan Green appear more mainstream.

Bonge is often first to harangue anyone from the right-of-centre over any comments that could be construed as sexist, xenophobic or insensitive. Yet in a revealing moment last week he tweeted about an American actress, Bel Powley, who was suggested to play Monica Lewinsky in a telemovie. “The actress not ugly enough,” tweeted Canberra’s Italian stallion.

Really? The former priest chose to publicly ridicule Lewinsky — surely a victim of sexual harassment if ever there was one — as ugly. Apart from being absurd and nasty it raised the question of why he would want to demean a woman in such a way.

We are left to presume it had something to do with how Lewinsky’s treatment helped to harm the reputation of progressive hero Bill Clinton. Clinton, of course, cops no abuse from Bonge; he saves that for the victim. Given the way Bonge (rightly) railed against sexist attacks on Julia Gillard, he is left looking like a misogyny hypocrite — just the sort we might expect Kelly to call out on RNBreakfast. We’ll listen with interest.

We couldn’t accuse the ABC of being inconsistent on border protection. Well OK, they went a little quiet on it for six years of chaos under Labor. But when they focus on it, they are consistent — in short, they are against border security and are prepared to run, unchecked or unverified, all sorts of claims about the mistreatment of asylum-seekers.

In an exchange related to border security last week the host of ABC radio’s PM, Mark Colvin, tweeted: “It’s the job of journalism to ask government for facts.” Had Colvin suddenly developed a naive faith in government? No, it transpires that Colvin was backing his ABC colleague, Peter Lloyd, in a rant against the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, apparently because he wasn’t responding to questions about an asylum boat turned around by the Sri Lankan navy.

Yet it seems Lloyd only knew about the turn-back because Dutton had announced it, and talked about it on 2GB. On Twitter, the Minister included a link to the Sri Lankan navy’s website for additional information. Still, Lloyd and Colvin were publicly chastising Dutton for his failure to respond to a list of 20 questions — there was “no reply” as yet, tweeted Lloyd as Colvin tweeted this was despite the “large numbers” of media types employed by the department.

As is the way in the new unbearable lightness of journalism, Lloyd also tweeted his questions. He wanted to know the date and port of the boat’s departure, when it was intercepted, how many people were on board etc. Well, I can tell him. There were nine people (five men, one woman, two boys and a girl) on the fishing vessel Rishna Duwa, intercepted at 6am on April 19th, about 30km off Negombo, the port of its departure. It was a colourful little boat painted bright green, yellow and orange. I can tell you this because all this information, and more, was available on the Sri Lankan navy website via the link Dutton had tweeted nearly 24 hours before the Colvin and Lloyd twitter protests.

Perhaps, in future, when the Sri Lankan navy does something in Sri Lanka, Lloyd and Colvin will contact the Sri Lankan government. Or perhaps they’ll click on the link supplied by the Australian government to help out. Or perhaps they’ll get on to Twitter complaining about another Coalition government conspiracy of silence over shameful border security policies.


English to become compulsory in Qld schools

English is set to become a compulsory subject for year 11 and 12 students in Queensland. While most students in those years study English, it is ultimately up to schools to decide whether it is compulsory.

The Queensland government wants to make all students to complete an English subject in their final years of school to ensure they have necessary communication skills for the digital age.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said about 98 per cent of students in years 11 and 12 currently studied English. "Let's make it compulsory and get the other two per cent," she said while launching the 2016 Premier's Reading Challenge on Tuesday.

Education Minister Kate Jones said a taskforce examining senior assessment and tertiary entrance would next week decide whether English would be made compulsory. "Our view is that we think that this sends a very strong message about the quality of education in Queensland," Ms Jones said. "We understand that in the digital economy having good quality communication skills is critical."


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