Tuesday, August 30, 2016
If they take our concert, what's the point of Australia Day?
I am not sure why the article below is appearing in August when the holiday is in January but maybe it is entirely ironic. At any event, Australia day was always low-key. Our real national day is Anzac day. As I see it, Australia day is becoming more popular. People fly flags on their cars these days, which they never used to do. It has become a day for reunions over a BBQ and that seems just fine to me
It's bad enough that they've canned Canberra's annual Australia Day Eve Concert on the lawns of Parliament House .
It's worse that they're turning the Australian of the Year Ceremony into a invite-only affair inside the ultra-exclusive, high-security, hermetically sealed Parliament House.
A more un-Australian effort is hard to imagine, but it gets worse. Have the people behind this so-called decision considered the ugly gaping hole they've gouged into the heart of our national holiday?
We go on a lot about the laid-back, low-key nature of the January day-off, how all those scorched sausages, backyard cricket games and beers reflect our easy-going way of life and how we're glad we're not like those chest-thumping Americans.
All true, but isn't that a bit of a cover story for the vacuum at the heart of our big national holiday?
Where, after this appalling decision, are we supposed to gather in our thousands, waving silly little plastic flags and get all enthusiastic about, well, just about being Australian?
Rocking up to the Sydney Big Day Out – before they canned that – in a pair of Aussie-flag boardies doesn't count. Never did.
I'm not saying Australia Day Live was clever, I'm definitely not saying it's cool, but most other nations around the world get to have a thing, a central thing for their national day.
The French mark their Bastille Day with military parades, fireworks and concerts in major towns and cities, in Ireland St Patrick's Day sees the massive parade through the streets of the capital and have you seen Red Square on May Day?
The Australia Day Concert is daggy, no denying that, but we always accept, even expect a little naffness with our official celebrations. Attempts to be cool at these affairs are best avoided, for all sorts of good reasons.
The kids love the concert, that's important, and while it can't claim the be the only multi-generational event going around, it is nice to see family groups of 8 to 80-years having a nice time on the lawns every January.
If you can't or won't go to Canberra, it's on the telly. Even locals in the capital who wouldn't be seen dead at the thing are still kinda glad that its around.
Compared with the bombast on show at other national days around the world, the concert and its prize-giving is low-key, non-militaristic, has a festival feel and has never lost sight of its central purpose: it celebrates the best thing about Australia, its people.
Now, the bureaucrats of the Australia Day Council - and I'm suspicious about whether these people are really fair dinkum Aussie public servants – have denied us even that.
To say nothing of what Jimmy Barnes is supposed to do for a gig during that quiet January period. Who's thinking of Barnsey in all of this?
And as for the excuse trotted out by Australia Day Council chief executive officer Chris Kirby for canning the concert: that this year's storm "brought the event to a standstill and potentially put the public at risk".
Lame Lame Lame. If the Prime Minister can get one of his magnificent suits wet and not mind (that much) then Mr Kirby should bloody well harden up.
Fire and flood and famine, Chris, remember that bit?
No, my friends, this is unacceptable. A nation cannot sustain itself on beer, backyard no-balls and burnt snags alone.
The concert must be restored, immediately, before our already low-profile national day dwindles to nothing.
Turnbull's betrayal on 18c
Okay, let’s stop pretending that the Liberal Party has a deep commitment to free speech. We’re now at the stage where ‘Liberal Party’ and ‘commitment to free speech’ go together about as well as ‘European Union’ and ‘democratic decision-making’ or ‘Mike Baird’ and ‘greyhound racing’. It’s plain that a lot of Liberal MPs simply don’t give a rat’s you-know-what about one of the core Enlightenment values that powered the West’s success and prosperity these past couple of centuries. Beyond the occasional Je suis Charlie tweet, to indulge in a little bit of bumper sticker moralising and virtue signalling, these parliamentarians simply don’t get the value of the John Stuart Mill conception of free speech (assuming they know who Mill was) and are not likely to change any time soon.
And it’s worse under Turnbull than it was under Abbott, if you can believe it. I was assuredly one of the loudest and angriest critics of Tony back when he caved in on his attempt to repeal most of 18C, our invidious Labor-legislated hate speech law. I thought at the time Abbott was making a huge mistake by selling out his political base to try and win a bit of slack from the ABC (laughable, when you think about it) and from what he called ‘Team Australia’ which is a euphemism for the ethnic vote, and especially the Muslim vote. Again, on what planet does it make sense to sell out one of your core values – because it was and is a core value for Abbott personally – for such an ethereal and unlikely prospect of getting these votes based on the sole fact you did not press on with repealing 18C?
But to be fair to Abbott it was clear that many in his party did not share his personal desire to be rid of 18C. Whoever the people preselecting Liberal Party candidates are, they don’t care about free speech. Just look at the new intake of MPs. More than a few seem to hold Labor-lite views generally; a bunch haven’t got a word to say in favour of free speech; and of those that do voice support for free speech I’d be surprised if any of them would go to the wall and cross the floor to support it. Okay, maybe one or two. For the rest, the job and a cushy pension come above all else.
So Abbott had to deal with that in caucus. And he had a feral Senate that would never have passed a Bill amending 18C. Nevertheless, it would still have been the politically right thing to do to push on and make the Senate block the repeal of 18C. Right in principle and right politically for the party, and for him in keeping his PM’s job. So Abbott made a huge error in not doing so. Indeed, very recently in his speech at the Samuel Griffith Society he acknowledged this error and that he should have tried.
Which brings us to his successor, the most left-wing Liberal party leader and Prime Minister ever. Mr Turnbull last week laid down the law. Everyone in Cabinet was ordered not to vote for any Private Member’s Bill seeking to water down 18C. This is a disgrace. This isn’t giving up on trying for reform, as Abbott did. This is actively blocking reform.
So out trots Mr Morrison soon after the Turnbull edict on 18C came down to say his focus is elsewhere; it’s on the economy, not on free speech. In themselves those words are pretty frightening, given that Morrison has thus far proven to be a big spending, high taxing, Labor-lite Treasurer. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty happy if Morrison focused on just about anything other than our economy, given the decisions he’s made so far. I bet not many of you thought that Joe Hockey’s successor could one day make you get down on your knees and wish Hockey were back as Treasurer.
But who’s Morrison kidding? You either decide to support emasculating 18C, and so reinvigorating free speech in this country, or you don’t. Focus on whatever you like. Just vote for Bob Day’s private member’s Bill to delete the words ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ from 18C. Heck, this is a watered-down, half-hearted response to the awfulness of 18C to begin with. There’s nothing taking him away from his core Ministerial responsibilities involved here, and it’s embarrassing that Morrison could pretend otherwise.
Then there is our Attorney-General Mr Brandis. Last year he had some sort of Damascene conversion. Beforehand he’d travelled the country beating the drum for some sort of repeal of 18C, often likening himself to a latter day John Stuart Mill. Today the man can’t even support the QUT students being dragged through Human Rights Commission 18C hell, and through the courts. Brandis has the power to at least indemnify the legal costs of these students. He has decided not to do so. What a disgrace for someone who styles himself a Liberal. Then again, this is the same Attorney General who appointed Ed Santow to replace Tim Wilson on the HRC, the same Ed Santow who has yet to say a word in defence of free speech. Brought to you by your Liberal Party, my friends.
And that brings me to various acquaintances who listed Malcolm’s support for free speech (and Tony’s lack of such support) as the main reason they favoured the defenestrating coup. Still think the shift to Turnbull was a good idea? Still think the massive transaction costs involved in ditching a sitting PM and alienating a million plus party members was worth it? Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Turnbull doing the undermining of Abbott on 18C back before the latter threw in the towel on this.
Andrew Bolt asks ‘name one thing that Turnbull has done in his year in the job?’ That’s not quite right because he’s done plenty. It’s just that they’re all left-leaning; like throwing more money at renewables and ‘innovation’ (don’t ask me??), trying to buy a few seats in SA by coughing up huge amounts on inferior home built subs, undermining superannuation, doing deals with the Greens, and so on. The actual question should be ‘name one thing that Turnbull has done in his year that a Liberal voter could be proud of?’ Those of you who thought fixing up 18C might be on this invisible list might like to concede you were wrong.
Mapping the Indigenous program and funding maze
More than $5.9 billion in government and not-for-profit funding for Indigenous programs is disappearing into a black hole because no one is really tracking what is happening to that money and whether it is delivering results.
Although there is much goodwill in Australia to improve Indigenous outcomes, too many programs are implemented because of their perceived benefit rather than a rigorous assessment of what works.
Of 1082 Indigenous-specific programs identified in a review of government and non-government programs, only 88 (8%) have been evaluated. And of those programs that were evaluated, few used methods that actually provided evidence of the program's effectiveness. On the whole, Indigenous evaluations are characterised by a lack of data and an overreliance on anecdotal evidence.
But calling for more evidence does not mean adding to the voluminous collection of meaningless data that already exists. Currently there are seven federal government reports reporting on Indigenous outcomes and disadvantage. Together, these reports and the data that accompany them come to more than 7000 pages, with much of the data duplicated across the reports.
Instead of endless data monitoring the lack of progress in 'closing the gap' between Indigenous and non-Indigenous outcomes, the government should focus on making organisations and agencies formally account for how they are spending money. This can only be done by providing credible evidence of the program's impact and whether it is meeting its intended objectives - and making this evidence publicly available.
Because of the lack of accountability there have been cases of outright fraud, such as the 44 organisations being investigated by compliance officers at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet's Indigenous Affairs Group for misuse of funds. One organisation had not filed any annual reports for eight years.
If Indigenous people are to ever benefit from the considerable investment by government and the not-for-profit sector, the lack of accountability that has plagued the Indigenous sector must end.
Is the gay marriage plebiscite heading down the gurgler? Bill Shorten indicates Labor will block the PM’s plan
Labor appears set to block Malcolm Turnbull's same-sex marriage plebiscite amid mounting fears a popular vote would set back equality in Australia.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten stopped short of pledging to scuttle the vote, but has stepped up his rhetoric against the planned February poll.
'I'm worried Malcolm Turnbull will just stuff it up,' he told the Sun-Herald.
Labor has not yet reached a final decision on the plebiscite, but it appeared the party was set to vote it down after closed-door discussions over the past week.
The party strongly supports gay marriage, but was worried the plebiscite would fail and make it harder for it to be legislated once it is back in government.
It insists research shows the vote would fail, especially if the vote is not compulsory and the motivated and well-resourced 'no' campaign pulls out all the stops.
There were fears Mr Turnbull would put little or no effort into supporting the 'yes' campaign because of friction in his party, giving opponents the upper hand.
Mr Shorten has instead called for a free vote in Parliament, and hoped Labor's opposition to a plebiscite would pressure him to defy conservative Liberals.
'He's only doing it because he is too weak to stand up to the radicals in his own party. Why should everyone else have to pay for his weakness?' he said.
'The plebiscite is unnecessary, expensive and divisive. There's a better, faster way to make much marriage equality a reality. The Parliament should do its job and deal with a marriage equality bill, with all parties afforded a free vote.'
However, Coalition sources told the Sun-Herald Mr Turnbull was unlikely to reverse his position because of his tenuous hold on the House of Representatives after the close election.
Labor was also concerned the plebiscite would cost as much as $250 million - far more than the frequently cited $160 million - and stretch the Australian Electoral Commission too far.
The Greens have already pledged to oppose a plebiscite, meaning if Labor blocked the poll the government would need the support of minor parties in the Senate.
One Nation has signalled it's support but Nick Xenophon and others want Parliament to decide, leaving Mr Turnbull without enough votes.
There were widespread concerns the campaign leading up to vote could be bitter and lead to 'hate speech' against gay Australians.
Mr Shorten called it 'a taxpayer-funded platform for homophobia' at his election campaign launch in June.
Tony Abbott, who does not support same-sex marriage and came up with the plebiscite idea before he was deposed as Prime Minister, remained staunch in his support for the poll.
'Why do they think the politicians are so much wiser than the public,’' he told the Sunday Telegraph. 'I can’t see why Labor and the Greens won’t trust the people to make this decision.’'
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