Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Debating homosexual marriage is "hate speech" (?)
The usual intolerance of dissent that characterizes the Left below. They just KNOW all the right answers and everyone else should shut up. Stalin thought the same.
The writer is commenting on a proposal to have a popular vote on whether homosexual marriage should be allowed in Australia. The Left are showing how antidemocratic they are by opposing the idea. The people are not fit to make decisions affecting their own lives, apparently
Here's a question that, on the face of it, seems refreshingly simple to answer: should public money be used to promote hate speech?
And at first glance the answer would appear to be "no, obviously". But when you think about it a little bit more deeply, the answer becomes: "Seriously? Still no, for all sorts of legal and moral reasons. Why are you even asking this? Do you need a hug and some quiet time?"
However, it's the question which the Coalition party room is going to be inexplicably struggling with this week as it decides whether or not the $160 million plebiscite on whether or not to legalise same sex marriage should be even more expensive by using even more public money to fund publicity campaigns for the Yes and the No cases.
The problem that the No case, and by extension the federal government, have with funding such a campaign is that it would encourage activity which is arguably illegal.
In 2013 the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013 was passed, meaning that it is illegal to discriminate "on the basis of sex, marital or relationship status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, breastfeeding, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status."
This little problem, incidentally, is why there was a push to suspend our anti-discrimination laws for the duration of the plebiscite - an option which was immediately ruled out by Attorney-General George Brandis in February, who pointed out that "There are very obvious practical problems with that, among them... that most anti-discrimination laws in this country are laws of the states, not the Commonwealth."
The fact that a No campaign would appear to be arguing for something which is prima facie illegal is just one more problem for those seeking to prevent same sex marriage being recognised in Australia, along with the enduring problem that there's no sane reason to deny Australian citizens equal rights because of their sexuality, and the fact that those most strongly advocating the No case are not exactly the most charming, persuasive and charismatic people the country has to offer.
Speaking of which, dumped minister Kevin Andrews was predictably one of the first to start complaining that Malcolm Turnbull had supposedly promised sweet, sweet cash to advocates of the No camp, including the Australian Christian Lobby - which the PM denies, since he'd have been insane to do so.
Andrews, however, reckons otherwise. "The Prime Minister's statements were clear that there would be a quantum of public funding for a yes and no campaign similar to a referendum," he said, with trademark elan. And then the usual chorus of conservative sabre-rattlers joined in.
South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi is worried that the poor, struggling anti-gay institutions will be overwhelmed by "money-wealthy individuals overseas" for some reason, while Senate-leader-turned-backbencher Eric Abetz was in typically florid form, insisting that "with a change as fundamental as changing society's basic foundational institution, there is an imperative that the arguments be able to be put. That requires funding."
And sure, many have accurately pointed out that the last time the Marriage Act was changed - in 2004, to explicitly exclude same sex couples - it didn't require a massive public vote or any imperative that the arguments for and against were able to be put to the electorate, but was passed by a parliamentary vote like all other legislation.
But let's take Abetz and his fun-lovin' bunch of pals at their word and think back to a time where there was a change to society's supposed basic foundational institution. Like, for example, the passage of the Family Law Act in 1975, which enshrined no-fault divorce.
Was there a public campaign to determine whether or not ending a marriage - the very thing which Ezza claims is the basicest, foundationalest institution for society - needed to endure a mighty campaign of arguments in favour of and in opposition? Here's a clue: no, there wasn't.
And legalising divorce is a pretty decent comparison, since all it did was take a situation that already existed - married people breaking up - and made the process less complicated, less damaging, less stigmatised, and far more equitable.
Similarly, marriage equality just recognises reality. Gay couples already exist. Gay families already exist. Legalising marriage just makes everything more straightforward. It's also a step forward for human joy, which is a pretty great reason in itself.
And, like same sex marriage, there are people who vehemently hate divorce and think that those that seek it deserve to be punished - and we, as a society, are perfectly happy to ignore those cranks because they're just being provocatively ridiculous. We really should be able to do the same with opponents of marriage equality, yet here we are.
To be fair, though, this was the entire point of the plebiscite when then-PM Tony Abbott announced it was the government's new policy: to be difficult, unpopular and divisive and to cynically transform what should really have been a simple process into a symbolic conservative battle for the supposed soul of the nation.
And by that standard, everything's going exactly to plan.
Pauline Hanson gets some new supporters
'We're called racist just because we want to discuss our safety': Residents reveal their fears after 'terror attack' by a frenzied Muslim knifeman
Residents of a normally quiet suburban street have revealed their fears after an alleged terror attack resulted in one neighbour being repeatedly stabbed and another arrested.
The shocking, violent and unexpected attack, allegedly inspired by ISIS has left those who live in Minto, south-west Sydney, rattled, fearing for their safety and concerned trying to discuss terrorism will result in them being labelled 'racists'.
On Saturday afternoon, grandfather Wayne Greenhalgh, 59, was walking his dog when he was attacked by a knifeman, allegedly Ihsas Khan, 22, who severed his fingers, slit throat, punctured his lung and caused deep lacerations.
Brave neighbours came to Mr Greenhalgh's aid and held off the attacker while he hid in a hairdressing salon on Ohlfsen Road until police arrived, shown in footage obtained by A Current Affair.
Khan was alleged yelling 'Allah Akbar' and inspired by ISIS, and has since been charged with committing a terrorist act and attempted murder.
But the residents say it's too close to home and feel like their privacy has been violated.
Mr Brooks said Australia had to find a way to deal with terror attacks.
'We need to start having a conversation instead of everybody being shut down as soon as they start to speak on the subject, called some sort of racist just because we want to discuss our safety.'
Mrs Brooks said: 'If it comes to somewhere like Minto, where are we safe? Where to you go? 'A little salon in Minto with a man that was just going for his daily walk.
'I still can't make sense of it. It's closer to home than I ever imagine. It can happen anywhere anytime to anyone
People had seen people going in and out of Khan's house in the weeks leading up to the attack - weeks during which the accused's behaviour had become increasingly erratic and bizarre.
Mr Houghten said: 'they were dressed in their Islamic wear. What do you say? He considered calling police and discussed it with neighbours, but they thought the fact they were all aware was enough.
Asked if he wished he'd told police earlier, he said: 'I wish I had, course I do'.
Khan was known to police and had previously been charged with two counts of larceny and two counts of maliciously damaging property after cutting up Australian flags with scissors in 2013, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
At the time, he told police he 'hated' the country for its participation in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
He's believed to have schizophrenia and the larceny charges were dropped on mental health grounds provided he take psychiatric medication and attend medical appointments.
Police allege Khan chose to attack Mr Greenhalgh because he 'embodied Australian culture'.
Leftist economist Ross Gittins gives Turnbull's Super tax reforms a seal of approval
The reforms will only hit the very rich
Everyone wants to know what achievements Malcolm Turnbull can point to after his first year as Prime Minister. Well, I can think of something: his reform of the tax breaks on superannuation – provided he gets it through without major watering down.
Why is it such a big deal? Because it ticks so many boxes. Because it makes the taxation of super much less unfair.
Note, I didn't say much fairer. It will still be an arrangement that gives the least incentive to save to those who find saving hardest, and the greatest to those whose income so far exceeds their immediate needs that they'd save a lot of it anyway.
A report by John Daley and others at the Grattan Institute, A Better Super System: Assessing the 2016 tax reforms, independently confirms the government's claim that the changes will adversely affect only about the top 4 per cent of people in super schemes.
That still leaves a lot of well-off people – including the top 4 per cent – doing very nicely out of super.
Remember this when Turnbull's backbenchers embarrass their leader and add to their government's signs of disarray by pressing for the changes, announced in this year's budget, to be watered down.
Whose interests did you say the Liberal Party represents? Why exactly does it claim ordinary middle-income voters can trust the party to look after their interests?
But back to the reform's many attractions. It would cut back one of the major loopholes that make tax paying optional for the well-placed but compulsory for everyone else; that allow very high income-earners to end up paying a lot less tax than they're supposed to.
A lot of the savings from reducing concessions to the high fliers (who, you should know, include me) would be used to improve the bad deal given to low income-earners and to make other changes but, even so, would produce a net saving to the budget of $770 million in 2019-20.
This saving would get a lot bigger over time.
So the super reforms would contribute significantly to reducing the government's deficits and debt, but do so in a way that spread the burden more fairly between rich and poor than the Coalition's previous emphasis on cutting welfare benefits.
A lot of well-off people have been using super tax concessions to ensure they leave as much of their wealth as possible to their children – a practice lawyers refer to euphemistically as "estate planning".
Wanting to pass your wealth on to your children is a human motivation as old as time. The question is whether it should be subsidised by other taxpayers.
If it is, rest assured it's a great way to have ever-widening disparity between rich and poor. In the meantime, it adds to (recurrent) deficits and debt.
The rationale for Turnbull's changes is the decision that superannuation's sole purpose is to provide income in retirement to substitute for, or to supplement, the age pension.
They fall well short of eliminating the use of super tax concessions to boost inheritance, but they make a good start.
This is the goal of the three main measures Turnbull wants. Reducing the cap on before-tax contributions to $25,000 a year will save almost $1 billion in 2019-20.
Capping at $1.6 million per person the amount that can be held in a retirement account paying no tax on the annual earnings. Any excess balance will have its earnings taxed at the absolutely onerous rate of 15 per cent – less dividend imputation credits. This will save $750 million a year.
Introducing a $500,000 per person lifetime cap on after-tax contributions, counting contributions since 2007, will save $250 million a year.
If those caps strike you as low, you're just showing how well-off you are. The huge majority of people will never have anything like those amounts.
They're set at levels sufficient to allow a comfortable retirement even for those anxious to maintain a high standard of living. Anything more and you're in estate planning territory – or you just want every tax break you can get because you're greedy.
The claim that starting to count contributions towards the $500,000 cap in 2007 (the time from which good records became available) makes it "retrospective" is mistaken.
The measure is prospective in that it applies to income earned after the day it was announced, not before.
Where contributions in excess of the cap have been made already, they won't be affected by the measure.
Any tax change is likely to affect the future tax consequences of actions taken in the pass. That doesn't make it retrospective.
To say "I had planned to do things in the future to reduce my tax which now won't be effective" is not to say the changes are retrospective.
Sometimes politicians announce changes well before they take effect, to allow people to "get set". But it's common for them to make tax changes that take effect from the day of announcement, precisely to stop people getting set. That doesn't make the change retrospective, either.
As Daley says, "the proposed changes to super tax are built on principle, supported by the electorate, and largely supported by all three main political parties. "If common ground can't be found in this situation, then our system of government is irredeemably flawed."
Sweeping Medicare changes to curb rorts
The taskforce reviewing the $21 billion Medicare Benefits Schedule is finalising the most sweeping changes in more than a decade to crack down on rebate rorts and protect patients, including restricting GPs ordering powerful scans for back pain and reducing the number of colonoscopies and sleep tests.
The MBS Review Taskforce has called for feedback on a series of landmark recommendations from specialist clinical committees established to examine areas as diverse as diagnostic imaging and maternity care.
The new proposals include a requirement for mandatory health testing for pregnant women and new mothers, restrictions on GPs ordering expensive service such as low back scans, and a strict limit on surgeons ordering multiple MBS items for a single service.
But perhaps the most significant changes foreshadowed by the taskforce come from its 11-member MBS principles and rules committee, headed by former Royal Australasian College of Surgeons president Michael Grigg and including various specialists and a consumer representative.
The committee, tasked with safeguarding Medicare rebates and improving compliance, has called for medical professionals to be required to pass a test on their knowledge of MBS rules and billing requirements before gaining their Medicare provider numbers.
“Many providers have limited awareness of the rules and procedures involved in billing for MBS services, and may adopt questionable practices on the advice of colleagues,” the committee warns.
The committee has also seized on the problem of Medicare being billed for up to 18 MBS items for a single service, with flow-on costs to patients.
It recommends a three-item limit, which would almost certainly trigger separate examinations of the cost of providing a service.
While most services attract three or fewer MBS item number claims, surgical specialties in particular bill more frequently: 39 per cent of cardiothoracic surgery benefits, amounting to almost $10 million in 2014-15, involved four or more MBS items; as did 36 per cent of neurosurgery benefits ($15m), 26 per cent of urogynaecology ($402,019), 17 per cent of ear, nose and throat cases ($17m) and 13 per cent of plastic and reconstructive surgery ($9m).
“This practice is not transparent, (is) potentially unfair and appears to be a misuse of the intention behind the multiple operation rule, although it is partly a symptom of the out-of-date nature of many items and their descriptors,” the committee found.
It also concluded that — contrary to the argument that patients gained from a higher total of Medicare benefits being claimed — their out-of-pocket expenses were usually higher. It cautioned that “gaming of the MBS for any purpose, even the ostensible benefit of patients, is inappropriate”.
While the review was commissioned after the failure of the GP co-payment policy, there is no indication of the scale of potential savings to government. The recommendations are yet to be costed.
Health Minister Sussan Ley, however, continues to talk of making Medicare sustainable and the head of her department, Martin Bowles, told the taskforce it needed to help government “bend the cost curve”.
More patients are seeing more doctors, more often, and getting more referrals. Between 2004-05 and 2014-15, MBS benefits per capita rose from $492 to $843.
The Australian revealed last week that the taskforce’s interim report, delivered to government in January but not released publicly, showed health professionals nominated largely routine or administrative consultations as the most “low-value patient care”.
With medical professions questioning the value of seeing patients in person for repeat referrals or prescriptions and signing time-off-work certificates, the review was told other staff could play that role and communication with patients could be by email or text messages.
But the renewed focus on primary care sparked an unexpected social media campaign against government cuts to general practice and perceived devaluing of the profession.
Ms Ley apparently felt compelled to respond on Twitter, where, over the weekend, she said health practitioners had nominated the low-value tasks to the review, not the government.
When the interim report was released, including data on Medicare expenditure growth, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners said it “vastly overstates the waste and inefficiency in general practice” and was being used to fuel a government campaign against GPs.
The committee also sought to maintain the role of GPs as gatekeepers of the system, although recommending changes to time periods and criteria for referrals to specialists, ostensibly to reduce the opportunities for specialists to charge higher fees.
The committee also found fault with clinicians claiming for a consultation when also claiming for a procedure, despite little talking being done.
Taskforce head Bruce Robinson, the former dean of the Sydney Medical School, said health practitioners and consumers were invited to comment on the proposals. He hopes to make recommendations to the government by the end of the year.
“What we hope — what all the people who are taking part in this hope — is that by being more sensible about how healthcare dollars are spent we are able to spend them on services that are better value for patients and on more patients who need them,” he said.
Ms Ley previously promised to consider lifting the contentious freeze on Medicare rebate indexation if sufficient savings could be identified by the review and elsewhere, but no time frame was set.
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