Sunday, October 09, 2016
De mortuis nil nisi bonum?
The traditional Latin piece of advice above translates as: "Speak only good of the dead". But is it not absurd? Should we speak only good of Hitler?
Absurd or not, it seems widely regarded as good manners. So when an Australian Senator made a perfectly factual comment about a dead person that alluded to something unpopular about that person, that was widely condemned.
The person concerned was a popular media personality and she was being very fulsomely praised in something of a media frenzy. I infer that the Senator was only trying to restore some balance to the commentary about her. I don't see that he has anything to apologize for. An alternative point of view is often unpopular but is all the more important for that
A senator has been slammed on social media and faces calls to resign after a 'horrid, dreadful' tweet about sports journalist Rebecca Wilson.
The 54-year-old broadcast and print veteran died at home on Friday after a 'long' battle with breast cancer she had kept very private.
Just hours after the Daily and Sunday Telegraph columnist's death, Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjlem tweeted: 'Doubt there'll be many #WSW (Western Sydney Wanderers) fans at Rebecca Wilson's funeral #innocentlivesdamaged.'
He quickly came under attack for the post - a reference to Ms Wilson naming and shaming fans allegedly on Football Federation Australia's banned list, nearly half who were fans of the western Sydney club.
Fairfax investigative journalist Kate McClymont said: 'Shame on you, Senator @DavidLeyonhjelm. 'You mightn't have agreed with Rebecca Wilson but with her death so fresh show some human decency.'
'That's a pretty horrid thing to say so close to her death,' tweeted TV critic Steve Molk.
Victorian state Attorney-General Martin Pakula said: 'Resign from the Senate @DavidLeyonhjelm'.
Punter Steven Milburn said: 'Just dreadful mate, time to get out the full-length mirror.'
Christopher Brereton said: 'Just find something better to do than have a go at someone who's passing was reported mere hours ago.'
Syria refugee intake reveals 22 terror cases
Up to 22 people trying to join Australia’s extra refugee intake of 12,000 Syrians face rejection because of fears they are linked to terrorist organisations, including Islamic State, which used refugees as “camouflage” to enter Europe and carry out the Paris attacks last year.
The Weekend Australian can reveal the government’s independent security checks, involving biometric data and shared intelligence reports, have found at least 22 “potential national security concerns” among refugee applicants since the special intake of Syrian refugees was announced in September last year.
All those applying for Syrian refugee status to Australia in the Middle East have to undergo health, character and security checks before being accepted.
The 22 security concerns include those with links or suspected links to terrorist groups including Islamic State, which terrorised and plundered large areas of Syria and Iraq and claims to have sent 4000 trained terrorist fighters into “sleeper cells” around the world.
In the past few weeks, European security chiefs have disclosed that seven of the nine attackers in the Paris shootings and bombings last November, who killed 130 people and injured 368, passed into Europe through Hungary in last year’s uncontrolled mass migration.
In September last year, Tony Abbott announced that in response to the refugee crisis caused by the fighting in Syria and predations of Islamic State, Australia would take an extra 12,000 refugees over and above the 17,500 annual humanitarian intake.
The then prime minister promised to help Christians and other persecuted minorities who could never return to Syria and said it would be completed “as quickly as possible”.
Since then, the government has been heavily criticised for taking too long in processing the promised Syrian refugees and for not following Canada’s lead of accepting 26,000 refugees cleared by the UN and flying them out in a matter of weeks.
In February, five months after the announcement, Australia had resettled only 26 Syrians under the extra program.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was criticised by the UN Human Rights Commissioner, refugee advocacy groups and the ALP for taking too long.
The UNHCR said families sheltering in nations such as Lebanon and Jordan, where Australia was processing refugee applications, were struggling to find shelter, food, education and work, prompting them to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean.
Labor’s immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, said Mr Dutton needed to explain why there was such “a pitifully small number” who had been brought to Australia.
Refugee Council of Australia chief executive Paul Power said many people were desperate and “the fact Australia’s offer is happening so slowly is certainly not helping an incredibly difficult situation”.
In response, Mr Dutton said the government would not take shortcuts on security checks and it was vital they were carried out before the granting of a visa: “The government’s prime responsibility is to protect the Australian community; Australians would understand that these checks must be carried out in the current global security environment.
“As a government, we made it clear at the outset this special intake would take time to fulfil, that processing would be thorough, that there would be no shortcuts.”
Mr Dutton said he told Australian staff in Amman, Jordan, and in Beirut, Lebanon, “that we’re not going to sacrifice anything in terms of security checks that need to be undertaken”.
“ So, if we’re in doubt about a particular person’s identity or we think that maybe their documents aren’t legitimate, then we’re moving on to the next application,” he said.
When he was in New York for the UN’s special conference on refugees and security two weeks ago, Mr Dutton said Australia had now issued visas to more than half the intended 12,000 extra Syrian and Iraqi refugees and resettled a quarter in Australia.
“As of 2 September, 6678 visas have been issued and 3532 of these people have settled in Australia,” he said.
“Another 6293 people have been interviewed and assessed as meeting threshold requirements for a visa. These people are awaiting the outcome of health, character and security checks.”
After the Paris bombings and shootings last year, Mr Dutton said the government would continue with rigorous security checks on refugee applicants from the Islamic State strongholds of Syria and Iraq.
Renewable energy faces stormy weather
Could Australian politics sink to a more juvenile level than it did last week after an entire state was hurled back into the dark ages by a freak storm?
Malcolm Turnbull, quite rightly, seized the opportunity to tell the states they had to sharpen up on energy security and consider an achievable single renewable energy target.
It wasn’t simply a case of a politician not wasting a crisis, it was a case of a leader reacting immediately to an unprecedented crisis with the potential to recur with even more devastating consequences rather than simply emoting in front of the media.
Instead of addressing the issue at hand, state and federal Labor leaders, clutching hymn sheets from central command, fell over each other to get to the cameras to express their outrage that the Prime Minister dared suggest their policies were inappropriate or unworkable.
It was as predictable as it was pathetic. Turnbull had, according to everyone from Bill Shorten down, turned into Tony Abbott — who, it has to be said, deserves 10 out of 10 for consistency since he lost the leadership by saying one thing publicly on the leadership and something else privately. But I digress.
Neither Turnbull nor federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg questioned that the blackout was caused by the weather. What they questioned was the reliability of the state’s power sources in the face of such an event.
Yesterday’s interim report by the Australian Energy Market Operator suggesting wind power was the root cause of the blackout showed they were spot-on to do so. Rule one, as Turnbull put it yesterday, was to keep the lights on, and again urged South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill to own up to his responsibilities.
The South Australian experience has highlighted the possible disastrous consequences of the political one-upmanship on renewable energy targets (which peaks in the ACT, where it has been set at 100 per cent by 2020) yet the response of premiers and their energy ministers has been to accuse Turnbull of “politicking” or morphing into a climate change denier a la Abbott.
Even if he has morphed (and he hasn’t) they, as climate change believers, are the ones preaching catastrophic weather events will become more frequent. If they are right, we can expect more freakish storms more often, wreaking the kind of havoc witnessed in South Australia.
Surely, then, their immediate duty is to ensure they have the capacity to protect their citizens instead of responding with mantra or ideology or insult.
At the meeting of energy ministers in August, Frydenberg had already proposed they should look at the impact on the stability of the system and energy prices of state-based renewable targets. Unsurprisingly, the two most ideologically driven states, Victoria and the ACT, opposed the idea. Queensland was sceptical and NSW strongly supportive.
To his credit, South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis was constructive. Koutsantonis could not be anything else given only weeks earlier he had written to the chairman of the Energy Market Commission, John Pierce, conceding the high uptake of wind and solar had made electricity security a “complex matter”.
Eventually, after a tense stand-off, ministers agreed the review should proceed and it was announced in the post-meeting communique.
Victoria’s opposition to the review is consistent with its ostrich-like approach to the possible closure of the Hazelwood power plant in the Latrobe Valley, which supplies 20 per cent of the state’s energy needs.
Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio responded to the news of a possible closure by saying the state had the lowest prices in Australia and there was an oversupply of electricity. She insists the state would be able to cope, and does not expect it to affect the state’s energy supply.
D’Ambrosio continued her tedious recital from the hymn sheet on Tuesday, saying Turnbull was being hypocritical and clearly hadn’t done enough hand-wringing over the plight of South Australians. As if that would help.
While condemning the Prime Minister for playing politics rather than showing more empathy, D’Ambrosio showed herself to be a dab hand at politics: “At least with Tony Abbott, the people of Australia knew where they stood on climate policy, we don’t have that when it comes to Malcolm Turnbull.”
Because of the complexity of the issue, the review commissioned at the August meeting will not be ready until the end of the year, so Frydenberg tells me his primary goal at tomorrow’s meeting is to actually get the states to confront the issue. First they have to acknowledge a problem exists.
“What is the goal?” Frydenberg asks. “It is to reduce emissions, but the renewable energy target is a means to an end. If you haven’t got the best systems in place, you increase the costs to consumers or you undermine energy security. Then we are all stuffed.”
Meanwhile Labor glides over its policy of 50 per cent renewables by 2030, with not one detail about how to get there. We were told we had to wait until October next year for an answer to that (pending an election win by Labor), although Frydenberg helpfully has suggested that installing 10,000 wind turbines at a cost of $48 billion may be one option.
When opposition environment spokesman Mark Butler was asked on Sunday on Sky News when we could expect to see the modelling or consequences of its target, Butler confessed it couldn’t be done from opposition, only from government, so an answer could be a long time coming.
Trouble brewing for childcare
Just as the Education Minister has disabled the landmine that was Labor's troubled VET fee help scheme, he's having to deal with the news of rorting on a massive scale in family day care (FDC).
Now, I confess that a bit of a mea culpa is in order. Whenever a government says they can find budget savings (usually to offset larger spending) through cracking down on rort and fraud, my usual response is 'yeah, right!' In this case I was utterly wrong, as this reporting on a Canberra man charged with ripping upwards of a million dollars off the taxpayer shows.
It's too perfect. Labor in government almost immediately got set to work on this brand spanking new set of regulations, the National Quality Framework, to bring state-regulated childcare systems under one federal jurisdiction (when has that ever ended badly). And in the process of micromanaging every experience that children might have in care they forgot something pretty crucial -- making sure that subsidies are being paid for kids who are actually being cared for.
State governments are now blaming the federal government for not giving them enough money to handle compliance and accreditation. This is despite the Commonwealth already carrying the can for the increased costs of all this quality regulating, and funding ACECQA -- the body in charge of the quality rating process.
The laws governing the NQF are codified at the state level, with each state and territory having its own separate Act that legislates broadly the same thing. But if the Minister wants to change it, he'll have to get them all to agree. Which, given the trajectory of other negotiations at the COAG level, is not going to be a painless exercise for him.
Furthermore, it spells trouble for the government's landmark childcare reforms which, in an effort to reduce the administrative costs, want to provide subsidies to providers rather than parents -- even though this is exactly the type of provision that has been taken advantage of.
So can the indefatigable Birmo [Senator Birmingham] fix it? As much as I think it is sad for governments to blame their policy problems on governments three years gone, in this case it's definitely a tough one for the poor Minister. Good luck to him.
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