Thursday, June 23, 2016
Prominent Australian homosexual rejects democracy
Because it might cause people to discuss the issues! She is a duly elected Senator and yet she is suffering from discrimination? A lot of people would like to be that discriminated against. She is just a whiner. We all have our problems but hers would appear to be small compared with many. Getting a fancy bit of paper means little these days. Large numbers of couples live together without one
Heterosexual politicians calling for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage don’t understand the fear and animosity faced by LGBTI Australians, the senior Labor frontbencher Penny Wong has argued.
Wong made the remarks in the Lionel Murphy memorial lecture at the Australian National University on Tuesday.
She raised the fact that LGBTI Australians face abuse online, that they are still victims of assault and fear holding hands in public, to demonstrate their opposition to a divisive plebiscite is well-founded.
It comes after the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said on FM radio in the Northern Territory on Tuesday that Bill Shorten was “running a scare campaign about a plebiscite on gay marriage”. Turnbull said a plebiscite would be conducted in a civil and respectful way.
“Bill Shorten should have more respect for the decency and common sense of Australians,” he said.
Labor has stepped up its attack on the government’s plan for a plebiscite on the issue, Shorten describing it on Sunday as “a taxpayer-funded platform for homophobia”.
In the lecture, Wong said the non-binding plebiscite was “just the latest in a series of obstacles erected by opponents of marriage equality”.
The senator said the former prime minister Tony Abbott had proposed a plebiscite “because he had exhausted other avenues to stymie the demand for a free vote in the Liberal party room”.
Wong said Turnbull’s claims the plebiscite campaign would be respectful were “the hollowest of hollow words”. “I know that a plebiscite designed to deny me and many other Australians a marriage certificate will instead license hate speech to those who need little encouragement.”
“Mr Turnbull – and many commentators on this subject – don’t understand that for gay and lesbian Australians hate speech is not abstract,” Wong said.
She said she faced abuse in her Twitter feed that signalled “words that hurt” would be used in the debate against LGBTI Australians less resilient than herself.
Wong said assaults – and worse – of LGBTI Australians were not unknown, even today. “Many gay and lesbian people don’t hold hands on the street because they don’t know what reaction they’ll get,” she said. “Some hide who they are for fear of the consequences at home, at work and at school.
“Not one straight politician advocating a plebiscite on marriage equality knows what that’s like. What it’s like to live with the casual and deliberate prejudice that some still harbour.”
Wong argued Australia did not hold plebiscites on other fundamental issues of justice and human rights, such as abolishing the death penalty, ending the white Australia policy or enacting the native title regime.
“I don’t oppose a plebiscite because I doubt the good sense of the Australian people. I oppose a plebiscite because I don’t want my relationship – my family – to be the subject of inquiry, of censure, of condemnation, by others.”
The Greens’ LGBTI spokesman, Robert Simms, told Guardian Australia he was worried about the effect of the plebiscite on young people.
“I remember my own process [of] coming out. How in my home state of South Australia at the opening of the gay lesbian pride parade there were street preachers [railing against homosexuality],” he said. “I would hate to imagine the effect we’d see in a national plebiscite.”
Australian Marriage Equality has renewed its calls for same-sex marriage to be legislated by parliament, with a campaign in the federal election opposing the plebiscite.
Wong’s speech comes as the Australian Christian Lobby released an election guide blasting Labor for opposing a plebiscite. It also claimed Labor’s policies to recognise transgender people’s gender identity would “make public toilets unsafe for women and girls”.
AME national spokeswoman Shirleene Robinson told Guardian Australia: “Everyone is entitled to their views but we must remember we are talking about real people, members of our families, our friends and neighbours and our tone and and language must respect their dignity.
“Words can inflict terrible harm sometimes and we would ask that people of all opinions remember that. Our Australian values are based on a fair go and respect for all and its important that these values underpin our national conversation on marriage equality.”
Debate in Australia has been marked by controversial material against marriage equality, including a pamphlet printed by a former MP claiming children of same-sex couples may be more likely to be victims of sexual abuse or abuse drugs, and a booklet sent to Catholic schools warning that “same-sex friendships” are very different from “real marriages”.
Foreign farmland ownership poll finds almost nine out of 10 Australians opposed
This is a bit irrational. The Chinese cannot exactly pick the land up and take it back to China
A growing number of Australians are opposed to foreign ownership of Australian farmland, according to a poll by the Lowy Institute.
The poll was taken after the initial Chinese bid on Kidman holding was rejected
The poll showed that 87 per cent of respondents were against the Federal Government allowing foreign companies to buy Australian agricultural land — six percentage points higher than a similar survey four years ago.
The Lowy Institute also said the proportion of people in favour of overseas ownership has fallen from 18 per cent to 11 per cent.
"Our 2016 results show that foreign investment in agricultural land has become increasingly unpopular, suggesting it will remain a politically fraught issue," said Dr Michael Fullilove, executive director of the Lowy Institute.
The national telephone poll of 1,200 Australians was conducted between February 26 and March 15, about two months after the Federal Treasurer's initial rejection of a Chinese bid for the Kidman cattle empire which includes Australia's largest private landholding.
Treasurer Scott Morrison formally rejected a reworked Chinese-Australian bid for S. Kidman and Co in April this year.
The ABC today revealed that Mr Morrison has granted the foreign owners of Cubbie Station an extra three years to comply with an original condition of the sale, that it sell down its stake from 80 per cent to 51 per cent.
Mr Morrison's office has confirmed that Chinese textile giant Shandong Ruyi requested more time to find an additional investor, indicating it was unable to meet the original October 2015 deadline.
Melbourne-based family company Lempriere took the remaining 20 per cent stake in Cubbie when it was sold in 2012.
The sale sparked a fierce national debate over foreign investment and the National Party and several independents fought to stop it.
"Consistent with Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) advice, the Treasurer granted a three-year extension which was reflective of the genuine undertakings [Shandong] Ruyi has made to sell-down its interest," Mr Morrison's office said in a statement to the ABC.
"It also recognises the fact [Shandong] Ruyi has met the other undertakings placed on it through the FIRB approval process."
But Tim Burrows from lobby group Agribusiness Australia said he was concerned the Government approach to foreign investment deals was inconsistent.
"The industry's quite happy to have a firm 'yes' or 'no', but they need to know before they go into the due diligence or analysis or the proposal of a purchase as to what the rules are," he said.
"We can't have a situation where the rules change many months after the investor's started looking at the project or the proposal."
Going Out With A Bang: Could Algal Sex Save The Reef?
It’s no secret that the domestic situation between corals and the algae that live inside has become a little heated in recent months, but scientists may have found a way to get that steamy relationship get back on track.
First, a bit of background: The mass coral bleaching that has savaged the Great Barrier Reef over recent months occurred because of unusually warm ocean temperatures, driven by climate change and an El Nino weather system.
The bleaching starts when corals expel a type of algae that normally lives inside them, and gives them their colour. When the water becomes too warm, the algae gets all hot under the collar, and starts producing toxins that damage the corals.
That’s why the algae get turfed out. But the algae are the coral’s main source of food, so they starve, get bleached white, and are eventually overrun by a different kind of algae.
Clearly, it’s a marriage in crisis – which is why scientists have mounted an intervention.
New research published in the Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution has revealed that the water of the Coral Sea isn’t the only thing that has been getting hot of late.
The algae appear to have responded to the conditions by starting to reproduce sexually, instead of asexually, and it turns out this promiscuity could help save the corals’ relationship with their special algae friends too.
The difference is that when the algae produce asexually they produce a more-or-less identical copy of themselves. If they produce sexually, different algae’s genetic codes get spliced together, which produces new variants of algae.
The algae that can stand the heat are less likely to get all toxic, and therefore less likely to be sent to the dog-house by the corals, which are in turn less likely to bleach. It’s a raunchy sort of survival of the fittest.
Professor Madeleine van Oppen, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, was one of the scientists involved in the study. She said the findings are “critical in terms of developing more climate-resilient algae and corals”.
The algae’s sexual reproduction was only a small part of the study. The main finding was that some algae use a mechanism to switch on genes which produce special proteins in order to protect themselves from heat exposure and mop up some of the toxic chemicals that poison their symbiotic relationship with the coral.
The sexual reproduction is important, though, because it speeds up evolution and might allow the algae to adapt quickly enough to tolerate the rise in sea temperatures.
It’s a bit of good news in a sea of bad, for those of us rooting for the Great Barrier Reef.
Federal election 2016: AMA head calls out Shorten’s Medicare scare
Bill Shorten has been called out over his scare campaign against “privatising Medicare”, as the nation’s peak doctors’ group rejects his claims and backs the case for fixing the “rusty” payment system that supports universal healthcare.
The Australian Medical Association has broken with Labor to insist that outsourcing the payments would “in no way” amount to the privatisation of Medicare, demolishing the argument that is now central to the Opposition Leader’s election campaign. With the claims over Medicare emerging as a test of trust for voters, Malcolm Turnbull has launched an advertisement that rejects the Labor claims as he accuses Mr Shorten of attempting the “biggest lie” of the election campaign.
New AMA president Michael Gannon told The Australian that he and his colleagues backed Labor on some of its policies but that its claims about privatisation went too far.
“The idea that you might outsource the payment system to the private sector is in no way the privatisation of Medicare,” Dr Gannon said. “The current system is old and many elements of it date well back to the early 1980s. They’re antiquated, they’re rusty and the system needs substantial investment.”
Labor has made the fear of a Medicare sell-off its dominant message since its official campaign launch last Sunday, when Mr Shorten told voters the government was “privatising Medicare” and seeking to “tear down” the entire system. The Labor campaign is based on the assumption that the payment system is the same as Medicare itself, but Dr Gannon rejected that argument and said Medicare was the provision of universal healthcare in hospitals and bulk-billing for visits to the doctor.
“A move to change the payments system would not involve the privatisation of the whole show,” Dr Gannon said.
Mr Shorten yesterday told a wheelchair-bound 12-year-old girl “if I become prime minister we’ll properly fund hospitals” as Labor was accused of calling pensioners late at night and claiming Medicare was under threat.
“What has been happening down there is union officials and others from the Labor Party have been ringing women over the age of 65 in their homes and telling them this lie about Medicare,” Scott Morrison said.
The government has spent or budgeted more than $10 million to examine private sector options to fix the system, including hiring consultants to examine “commercial provision” of payment services. The Australian has obtained government documents under Freedom of Information laws warning that a new system would be needed within four years “whether resulting from outsourcing, replacement or upgrading” to improve services for patients.
At one point, the Claiming Medicare Benefits Online facility was unavailable for 24 hours, and a heavily redacted minute for the department secretary reveals it was taken offline “to arrest the sudden increase in potentially fraudulent claims” and implement additional controls. “It is expected that this will reduce exposure to fraud but will not eliminate all risk,” the minute states.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, which is running an advertising campaign highly critical of government savings on Medicare rebates, backed the case for fixing the payment system. College president Frank Jones said: “We have a fairly complicated infrastructure for a payment system in Australia, it’s fairly clunky and I’m sure IT can bring us into the 21st century. But it’s got to work for the benefit of patients, GPs, principals and practice staff.”
The AMA president’s remarks are important because the peak body supports Labor on several of its health policies but is drawing the line on the privatisation claims.
“We’ve very strongly supported the Labor Party’s policy on increased funding for public hospitals; we’ve very strongly come out and supported them on their policy to undo the freeze (on the indexation of Medicare rebates),” Dr Gannon said. “And just last weekend I was very happy to support the Labor Party’s announcement that they were going to deal with potential out-of-pocket costs for radiology and pathology. On the area of privatisation of Medicare, I don’t think they’re right.”
Labor has based its scare campaign on two government reviews, including a May 2014 program to seek commercial ideas from payment service providers and a Productivity Commission review of government services delivery.
Dr Gannon, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St John of God Subiaco Hospital in Perth, said there was no risk to patients from outsourcing the payment system.
In a sign of the political danger from the issue, Labor and the ACTU are calling voters to warn of the “serious disadvantage” from the “privatisation of Medicare” under the Coalition. One voter who received one of the calls told The Australian yesterday it was “absolutely unconscionable” for the ACTU to make the false claim in its unsolicited call.
Mr Turnbull has rejected the outsourcing of the Medicare payments in the hope of neutralising the Labor claims but is facing questions over his claim the matter had “never” gone to federal cabinet.
But the Health Department decision on the documents sought by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws ruled that a letter from the Prime Minister to Health Minister Sussan Ley last October could not be released because it was a cabinet document.
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