Thursday, July 28, 2016

ABC ‘sorry’ for airing Q&A Israel-ISIS tweet

The ABC has been forced to apologise and admit an error after ­allowing an “inflammatory’’ tweet likening Israel to Islamic terrorists to appear on live TV during its Q&A program.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield raised concerns with the broadcaster on Monday after the tweet aired.

An ABC spokeswoman blamed “moderator error” for ­allowing the tweet by Twitter user supercatsimon to air prominently. “Any young radicals who join ISIS or Israel should not be allowed into Australia,” it read.

The tweet was labelled “totally inappropriate” and “wildly inaccurate’’ by Jewish community leaders, who called for a review of the show’s moderation process.

“An audience tweet was broadcast on Q&A which implied false equivalence between ‘radicals joining ISIS’ and Israel,” an ABC spokeswoman said. “It was a moderator error. Q&A apologises for any offence and removed the tweet from future broadcasts.”

It is not the first time the broadcaster has had to apologise for the actions of Q&A. Last year, former ABC managing director Mark Scott apologised to Tony Abbott via text message after a tweet from an account called “AbbottLovesAnal” was aired.

Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council’s executive director Colin Rubenstein last night said several tweets on Monday night displayed “raw bias” and the moderators should be reviewed.

“It seems to be a certain pattern, an element of bias,” he said. “It’s totally inappropriate and unfair ... Of the thousands of questions they must get, how does that one get chosen? It’s wildly inaccurate and inflammatory.

“The core issue is the selection criteria they use,” he said. “Something’s going on, and someone needs to have a look at it.”

Last week Senator Fifield demanded the ABC explain how Muslim man Khaled Elomar, who had denigrated two female politicians online, was allowed to ask Pauline Hanson a question.


Turnbull at risk of being a do-nothing government

With an extremely slim majority in the lower house and a large crossbench in the Senate, there is a very real prospect that the Turnbull Coalition Team — to borrow from Malcolm Turnbull’s presidential campaign logo — will be a do-nothing government.

In one sense, I have no problem with do-nothing governments.

At least they don’t bother to propose slews of legislation that impose additional costs on weary taxpayers and create even more burdensome regulation for put-upon businesses.

It always struck me as extraordinary that the Gillard minority government would brag about the hundreds of pieces of legislation that it managed to cajole crossbenchers in the lower house to pass and that were then waved through by Greens, in partnership with Labor, in the Senate.

Anthony Albanese — shall we call him Albo? — was always banging on about the hundreds of bills that were passed during the period of the Gillard minority government as if the total number of new acts is the principal KPI (key performance indicator, in business-speak) of an elected government. One newspaper even attempted to calculate the “productiveness” of the Gillard government by adding up the number of pieces of legislation that received royal assent during her term in office and to compare this number with the achievements of other prime ministers.

Let’s face it, several of those acts of the Gillard government are causing us all sorts of headaches now because they were badly conceived, hastily drafted and locked the taxpayer into uncontrolled, higher expenditure.

Take the legislation setting up the National Disability Insurance Scheme. There are several flaws in this act, particularly in relation to the governance of the scheme.

Another example is the legislation that set up the so-called Gonski funding of schools. The legislation was rushed — by that stage Julia Gillard had former prime minister Kevin Rudd breathing down her neck — and as a result there are some substantial defects in that act.

Gillard ended up negotiating separate deals with most of the states that have quite distinctive elements — so much for a national and consistent needs-based funding arrangement.

A do-nothing government can have its advantages. But the problem for the Turnbull government — I really can’t come at the Turnbull Coalition Team, I’m afraid — is that there are numerous policy debacles that need to be fixed, and many of them can be sorted only by changing the legislation.

Of course, pointing this out doesn’t go to what the government hopes to achieve, apart from further alienating the party base by pushing through the superannuation changes and wasting a large amount of taxpayer money on overpriced submarines in the name of saving a few votes in South Australia but calling it exciting industry development. Maybe I missed something in the six-week election campaign.

Although dealing with the messes created by one’s predecessors is not an obvious recipe for re-election, someone still has to do it. Consider the problems in higher education and vocational education. In the hands of the owners and managers of untrustworthy institutions — and I am not exempting universities here — hellbent on getting their hands on government funds via easy-to-access student loans, the fiscal cost to the taxpayer has exploded.

Without any change to the various versions of the Higher Education Loan Program, it is estimated that in 10 years the annual cash cost to the budget of HELP will be more than $11 billion; presently it is under $2bn. Of a total loan book that will be more than $300bn within the decade, it is estimated that more than one-fifth essentially will be bad debts and will need to be written off.

Having sorted out these problems, the government needs to act quickly to establish a coherent energy policy providing secure and affordable electricity to industry and households. In one sense, we are lucky to have the South Australian experience before our eyes — it tells us what to avoid.

We need to find means of crimping overdevelopment of highly subsidised renewable energy, something that is difficult to do given the operation of the defective mandatory renewable energy target.

Then there is industrial relations, a topic the Prime Minister studiously avoided during the election campaign, notwithstanding the fact the failure to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission was the trigger for the double dissolution.

On the basis of the numbers in the two houses, it would seem highly unlikely that the government would seek a joint sitting to secure passage of the ABCC bill (and the registered organisations bill dealing with trade union governance). My advice would be to negotiate directly with Senate crossbenchers. It just may be that with a tweak or two, these bills can pass the Senate in the normal way.

As for “doing something” about the agreement covering the Country Fire Authority in Victoria and the bid by the United Firefighters Union to control the volunteer firefighters, good luck with that.

By the time parliament sits again and the Prime Minister and Michaelia Cash, the Employment Minister (note that she is not really the employment minister, she is the anti-employment minister; the better title would be workplace relations minister) have dreamt up some unworkable solution, the agreement will have been certified. At this point, there is little the federal government can do to have the agreement terminated.

The only hope was to deal with this matter much earlier, before the caretaker period, on the grounds that the agreement covered volunteers, which was not allowed under the act; that the agreement violated anti-discrimination laws; or that there had been inadequate consultation.

But the time to act was then, not now. The problems with the agreement have been known for a long time, dating back to last year. But passivity is the hallmark of this government’s approach to industrial relations.

Just check out the government’s failure to make a submission to the penalty rates case, even though it has been common past practice for governments to make detailed submissions to important cases before the Fair Work Commission.

So a do-nothing government in a legislative sense can have its upside, but a government that doesn’t seek to remedy glaring policy defects is a real problem for the country.


Denial of speech is one step towards totalitarianism


What exactly did they slip in the water at the ABC that prompted Sam Dastyari to release his inner Muslim? One moment he was reprimanding a fellow Q&A panellist about the politics of hate and the next was baring his soul.

“Somewhere in Tehran there’s a document that sits that says beside my name the word ‘Muslim’,” the senator revealed.

Pauline Hanson seemed genuinely surprised. “Are you a Muslim? Really?”

“Yeah,” replied the senator, “and I have never hidden away.”

It was hardly the shahada, the declaration that: “There is no god but God and Mohammed is his messenger.” As an atheist, Dastyari would struggle to embrace the first pillar of Islam, never mind all five.

“And are you a practising Muslim?” Hanson continued.

“No, no, no,” Dastyari replied. “I think you’re trying to make a joke of what is a serious …

“No, I’m surprised,” replied Hanson. “I didn’t know that about you.”

Dastyari’s revelation was not so much a declaration of faith as a statement of political identity, an expression of solidarity with the members an oppressed minority, many of whom happened to be in the Q&A audience that evening. Dastyari, unlike Hanson, feels their pain.

Hanson’s second coming has caught the political establishment by surprise. The first lesson from the election, for those prepared to absorb it, is that the world looks quite different when viewed from Caboolture than from Carlton. The second lesson is that the political and media classes are strangers in their own country.

News that One Nation secured 226,000 first-preference votes in Queensland came as a rude awakening to The Sydney Morning Herald’s Alan Stokes.

“Find that embarrassing? Shocking? A bit weird even?” he wrote. “Not as weird as this: the Greens attracted just 168,000 Senate votes in Queensland.”

Stokes’s surprise at the shape of the universe beyond his immediate orbit is not uncommon. You don’t have to delve far into Facebook to discover Britons who know no one who voted for Brexit or Americans who say they’ve never met a Donald Trump supporter. Yet even by the standards of the histrionic Left, the reaction to Hanson’s election to the Senate has been extraordinary.

Outside the ABC’s inelegant but fashionably located inner-city headquarters before her appearance on Q&A, a bunch of random Hanson-phobic Islamophiles vented their disgust at the excessive use of free speech by people with whom they disagree.

Less than 12 hours earlier, Nine Network presenter Sonia Kruger’s refreshingly honest response to the threat of radical Islam provoked an effusion of invective on social media.

It was as if Twitter were hosting the national vulgarity championships. Who could compose the most impolite message using 35 four-letter words or fewer?

While some saw it as an outbreak of the culture war, the ferocity of the response to Kruger and Hanson suggests something far less trivial. The intelligentsia’s divorce from Middle Australia is now absolute and it is fighting for the sole custody of truth.

The determination to deny their opponents a platform, the merciless attacks on character, the insistence that their enemies not only apologise but do so grovellingly like some shaven-headed dissident at a show trial suggest the Left, once again, is flirting with totalitarianism.

For the twittering vigilantes, who police what can and cannot be said on mainstream media, Kruger’s call for a ban on Islamic migrants — live and uncensored on breakfast television — represented a serious breach of security.

Worse still, it became clear that Kruger was not alone; the suggestion seemed tempting to an unacceptably large number of her viewers as they absorbed the horrors of the Bastille Day attack in Nice.

If radical Islam presents a threat unimagined by the genteel architects of Australian multiculturalism — and it clearly does — we must select our migrants carefully. Yet most Australians understand the difference between selection and discrimination

To borrow the words of Martin Luther King, migration in Australia is decided not by the colour of the applicant’s skin but the content of their character, and it is on character that eligibility must be judged.

One does not have to think Kruger is right to recognise that those who want to silence her are desperately and dangerously wrong. And that a dark cloud of ­illiberalism hangs heavy over civic society that must be resisted at all costs.

The road to totalitarianism begins with a love of humanity and a contempt for humans. The pathology of 20th-century totalitarianism is well known, starting with the suspension of freedom of speech and the rule of law — temporarily, it is claimed — to fight an existential threat to an idealised vision of the nation.

There is one important detail about the early fascists that the Left intelligentsia have been inclined to overlook: the early fascists were metropolitan sophisticates rather like today’s intelligentsia — artists, writers, academics and dreamers convinced of their own superior wisdom.

The resemblance between totalitarianism and modern-day political correctness is hardly surprising. As Tony Judt wrote in his expansive volume on the history of Europe from 1945, a monopoly of authority requires a monopoly of knowledge, the assurance that the official “truth” on any given topic would not be challenged or, if it were, that the challenge should be suppressed with exemplary force.

Kruger’s dissident voice was countered last week with such vehemence because she challenged the conventional wisdom on immigration and breached the narrow parameters of what is and what is not permissible for discussion on morning television.

It is no coincidence that the intelligentsia, which champions political correctness today, once championed the Soviet Union where the state sought to control not just what people said but what they thought.

It aspired to set the limits not only on Dimitri Shostakovich performances but also his compositions. Stalin, if he could, would have cracked down on Shostakovich not just for the music he conducted but the music going on in his head.


Selling farm policy

Michael Potter 

A Productivity Commission draft report has found that Australian farm businesses are subject to a "vast and complex array of regulations". The report won't be pleasant reading for any of the major political parties: it criticises bans on genetically modified crops and foreign shipping, which are generally supported by the ALP. But there are also criticisms of policies supported by the Coalition; such as effects test in competition law, tighter restrictions on foreign investment, and several monopoly marketing regulations.

The Coalition will need contortions to deal with the report's finding that the tightening of foreign investment rules for farms is not warranted. While foreign investment is usually reviewed for businesses worth over $252m, the Coalition has mandated that review is required for farm land and businesses worth more than $15m.

The PC skewers the main arguments for this stricter rule, confirming yet again that foreign ownership of farm land won't endanger Australia's food security or sovereign control and won't cut employment opportunities for locals. The PC also argues existing land use rules apply equally to foreign owners as local owners, so the argument that foreign owners will 'misuse' land is a furphy, and many farm businesses were started as a result of foreign investment.

So the benefits of tighter regulation are minimal; and the PC unsurprisingly confirms that costs of tighter foreign investment rules may be substantial, although precise costs are difficult to estimate.

But these criticisms of the Coalition's foreign investment policy should provide no joy to the ALP, as they (along with the Greens and others on the Left) have been extraordinarily critical of foreign investors in the debate over company tax. If the ALP argues investment in farm land is to be promoted, why not promote investment in all industries through a company tax reduction?

We can only hope politicians actually study the arguments in the PC report and don't take the easy way of arguing the report is brilliant where it helps their position and woeful when it opposes their preferred view of the world.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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