Friday, November 18, 2016
Gillian Triggs to go as human rights chief, Turnbull confirms
Gillian Triggs will not continue as president of the Australian Human Rights Commission after her term expires next year, Malcolm Turnbull has said.
The statement has been interpreted to mean the government is refusing to reappoint her to the position, but Guardian Australia understands she has told the government on several occasions she will not seek to be reappointed when her term expires.
On 2GB radio today the broadcaster Ben Fordham asked the prime minister about the future of the commission’s president. The host argued that the commission had mishandled the Queensland Univeristy of Technology racial discrimination case and noted that she had given incorrect evidence to a Senate committee about her comments in an interview.
Turnbull replied that Triggs “holds an independent statutory office” and “wasn’t appointed by me or by the Coalition”.
“Her term runs out in the middle of next year but it’s not productive for me to get in a slanging match with her.
“Obviously she’s got to defend and justify her own conduct … but there clearly will be a new president after her term expires in the middle of next year.”
Asked to confirm that Triggs’ appointment would not be renewed, Turnbull said: “There will be a new president, that’s right.”
He said people “cannot expect to have their terms renewed”, although the government could do so. “In this case, there will be a new president of the Human Rights Commission.”
The conservative senator Eric Abetz welcomed his words, saying the Australian people were fed up with “the repeated incompetence displayed by Professor Triggs”. He cited the QUT and Senate committee testimony controversies.
Abetz said Australians felt “let down” by the commission “masquerading as a self-appointed PC-police unit”.
Turnbull said section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was an important issue because it affected free speech. He described the treatment of the three students sued in the QUT case as “indefensible”. The controversial case was rejected by the federal court after three years.
The government had initiated an inquiry into section 18C, he said, because there were “a range of views” on it. “I’m not ignoring the issue, far from it.”
In October Triggs was grilled in a Senate estimates committee about an interview she gave The Saturday Paper in April in which she reportedly said politicians were “usually seriously ill informed” and had “lost any sense of the rule of law”.
Triggs told the committee her comments were “taken out of context” and some quotes were inaccurate. She suggested that one quote that she could have “destroyed” the committee questioning her about the commission’s Forgotten Children report was “put in by a subeditor”.
But when the editor of The Saturday Paper, Erik Jensen, revealed a tape of the interview existed, Triggs clarified her evidence and accepted it was an “accurate excerpt from a longer interview”.
Triggs said she had answered questions regarding the article in good faith and based on her best recollection.
Coalition parliamentarians including Peter Dutton, Cory Bernardi, Ian Macdonald and Michael Sukkar criticised Triggs, claiming she had misled the Senate
Donald Trump's gift to Australia worth billions in the long run
As we sit in the foggy aftermath of one of history's most extraordinary elections one thing is clear enough – Australia just received an enormous shot of financial adrenalin. We are accidental collateral winners from the Republican victory in the US. Call it the Trump gift and it's worth billions.
Trump's policy centrepiece to spend $1 trillion to rebuild America's infrastructure signals a massive increase in demand for commodities like iron ore and coal, which Australia produces. And since declaring he was set to "fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals", the prices of these commodities have taken off like a rocket.
The price of Iron ore – our biggest export – has soared to almost US$75 a tonne which is almost double where it was at the start of the year. In the past few days since the days it has gained more than 8 per cent.
According to Australian government's budget papers, the effect in 2017/18 of a change in the iron ore price alone is huge, with every $US10 a tonne change impacting tax receipts by $3.9 billion and nominal GDP by $13.4 billion.
In the latest budget the Turnbull government had factored in a price of $US55 a tonne up from the previous forecast of $US39.
If these price levels are sustained it will a positive king-hit to the budget deficit.
Not in its wildest dreams would it had expected the current price levels.
Coal which had already risen steeply this year also got a fresh tail-wind and is up again strongly with the contract price more than doubling this year and the spot price moving into the stratosphere.
Until last week many of the best commodities experts were tipping the price of iron ore and coal would move down by the end of this calendar year and stay there in 2017.
The unexpected Trump victory has turned the expectations for commodities prices upside-down.
Even though Australia doesn't supply the US with coal and iron ore, the fact that the global demand for these commodities will rise thanks to Trump's big infrastructure plans, means the global prices will rise.
Just how much demand will grow is unclear at this stage so its expectations and sentiment in the futures markets that are responsible for the prices soaring. Further turbocharging the expectation of increased demand is the fact that China is also undertaking an infrastructure building program, One Belt, One Road, to boost its own economy.
The commodities bulls are predicting the two countries are now set to start of the mother of all infrastructure building competitions.
And in the space of only a few days since the US election the fear of a massive trade war between the two largest economies in the world appears to have eased significantly.
Realistically Trump's ability to turn back the clock on global trade would be limited if it resulted in huge price hikes for US consumers on goods that they have become accustomed to getting cheaply from China.
And even if Trump places imposed tariffs on goods imported from China, the response from the Middle Kingdom could be to further stimulate its own economy.
From an economic perspective there are some negatives for Australia not the least of which is having to ditch the Trans-Pacific Partnership which over time could have delivered new markets to our beef, wheat and dairy producers.
But these will be easily outweighed by the benefits of improvements in mineral commodity prices.
And for investors in Australian commodity companies the past few days has been a bonanza.
Fortescue Metals has risen from $5.22 to $6.17 over the past few days. BHP Billiton shareholders have seen the stock spike from $22 to around $25 and Rio Tinto is similarly strong.
Do toddlers really need to learn about racism?
This is no longer a rhetorical question but a critical issue every parent of a young child in Australia now has to consider. Even if that child is just three years old.
How long will it take before we witness the end of the innocence in our race to the bottom?
This week we have slipped further down the cliff with a baffling new Australian Human Rights Commission program. Building Belonging is the result, we’re told, of surveyed early childhood educators who said they had been asked challenging questions about culture. Things such as: “Why are there black people?”
Pipe cleaner sculpture and jigsaws are passé. Lessons in racial prejudice and what you, yes, you the preschooler, are going to do about it are now on the agenda.
An obsession with force-feeding our youngest, malleable generation with unpalatable “facts” about diversity has sparked one of our most ridiculous school programs to date.
And that’s saying something given the utter bewilderment many of us mums and dads still feel about the maligned Safe Schools program, which focuses on gender blending and patronising traditional family values.
In that scenario bad mum had to be whipped into shape about gender ideology. And it doesn’t take Einstein parenting to work out that kids at age three don’t identify with racism, so why introduce it as a concept?
But in order to foster “cultural competency”, there will be songs to spotlight racial harmony/intolerance with verses about brown and blue-eyed kids who “both like to tuck into yummy stir-fry”, according to reports.
The rationale is that if not addressed/brainwashed out of tiny little minds, these inquiries will fester into full-blown racism or a mild case of a prejudice — at a minimum.
According to reports, there will be rainbows, fruit, tablemats and an e-book All My Friends and Me plus a lesson encouraging kids to befriend someone from another racial background.
What are with “acceptance” drills on culture when parents are sending their kids to preschool in the naive understanding that this will someone prepare them for reading, writing and maths lessons at “big school”.
One of the most marvellous things about children is their unsullied but expansive imaginations, refreshingly bereft of the PC dribble many adults seem content to endlessly sup. If a kid wants to play with another kid, they’ll play. If they want to share that story about ants crawling into the Lego box, then they tell another child and watch delightedly as their friend collapses in giggles.
There’s no crippling checklist with an imaginary quota of gay, black, Muslim or Asian pals to tick off in an effort to be oh-so-2016 and inclusive.
When I heard about Building Belonging, my gut said: “Not again.’’ I am not condoning racism but I find the frenzy to socially engineer our kids abhorrent. If you make them focus on differences then that will become their instinct. Our prejudices then become theirs.
What is wrong with allowing them to make their own discoveries, however uncomfortable and obviously within reason, so they evolve into balanced humans who can think for themselves. Isn’t that what we want for our children?
The alternative is a split-second but corrosive hesitation that will embed in their personalities as they begin to question why they look and sound different to Sarah or Sayeed.
Overemphasising differences is no better than avoiding the topic.
And that’s when you find yourself speechless after saying “Let’s get some Chinese food for dinner” and some smart alec neighbour’s kid in the back seat pipes up with: “That’s racist!’’
As a parent I want evaporating teacher time to focus on literacy and numeracy rather than How To Spot a Bigot in 10 words or Less.
Leave us mums and dads to tackle these issues — racism, transgender and homosexuality — with our child ourselves when they are old enough to ask.
This week a friend of mine told me about an encounter she had with the mother of her preschooler’s friend who had come for a play date. Her Jedi fan son was showing his little visitor his two pet green tree frogs. In deference to his favourite movie, one was called Yoda, a huge brilliant green specimen, and the other Mace Windu.
When the mother came to pick up her son, he dragged her over to the frog tank and said: “Look mum, frogs. Can I get some? They’re called Yoda and Mace Windu.”
The mother turned to my friend’s son and asked how he had come up with the names. “Well,” said the little boy, age 3.5. “Yoda has green skin and Mace Windu is brown.” No sarcasm, no sinister racism here.
The mother turned on my friend and told her how inappropriate it was to encourage such labelling behaviour.
‘‘He calls it as he sees it,” my nonplussed friend said in response. There have been no reciprocal invites for a play date.
If we want to interfere in every nook and cranny of children’s pint-sized psyches to make sure they are going to turn out OK, then maybe it’s time to turn our thoughts to creating the perfect human and cloning them.
And wouldn’t that make for an adventurous and bold new world. The alternative is to just settle the blades of our helicopters and leave our kids to be kids.
Labor at odds over US alliance
The bipartisan consensus towards Australia’s 65-year alliance with America is at risk of fracturing after a political row erupted over the strategic response to Mr Trump’s victory in the polarising US presidential race.
Malcolm Turnbull accused Labor yesterday of using Mr Trump’s win to try to weaken ties with the US and pave the way for an exit from the ANZUS alliance after opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong made the case for a switch in priorities from the US to Asia.
The Prime Minister seized on the repositioning to argue that Labor was threatening relations with Australia’s “strongest, most important, most trusted, enduring ally” and placing national security at risk.
In an appeal to Australian strategic interests and values, Senator Wong argued in an opinion piece in Fairfax newspapers that Mr Trump’s campaign rhetoric ran counter to the views of most Australians and embraced positions that did not align with our interests in the Asia-Pacific.
She pushed for a considered recalibration of Australia’s approach to the alliance, framing the US election result as a historic “change point” that had the potential to fashion a “very different world and a very different US”.
But Mr Turnbull said yesterday that the call for a rethink reflected an enduring scepticism towards the alliance. He said the Labor Left had broken from the Right and was using Mr Trump’s election as an “excuse to move away from the United States”.
“What Penny Wong is doing is sending the message from the Left of the Labor Party, which has always been uncomfortable with the US alliance,” Mr Turnbull said in Canberra. “The Labor Party is divided on that point.
“You have Penny Wong going in one direction, wanting to move away from our strongest, most important, most trusted, most enduring ally, wanting to move away — put our nation’s security at risk — and then, on the other hand, you have the Right of the party trying to crab-walk back to where she’s gone.”
Former Labor leader Mark Latham, who once described Coalition MPs as a “conga line of suckholes” for their support of the Iraq war, was last night scathingly critical of Senator Wong’s position. “The truth of Penny Wong’s position is she’s arrived at the right destination but through the wrong process because ... she’s actually citing a major shift in foreign policy direction without any foreign policy detail,” he said on Sky TV. “This hasn’t been done on the basis of the Americans got it wrong in Vietnam, the Americans got it wrong in Iraq, the Americans have had it wrong in the South China Sea; it’s none of those things.
Penny Wong’s objection to the US is Donald Trump and the objection relates to identity politics. They’ve demonised Trump, in many cases on faulty ground, to say that he is against the Latinos and blacks and everyone under the sun ... And Wong has foolishly fallen for this and has made, shamefully, a foreign policy decision on the basis of identity politics and political correctness. The process is a shocking reflection on the modern Labor Party.”
The political brawl over the future of the alliance follows the striking of a key deal by the Turnbull government with the outgoing Obama administration to settle up to 1600 asylum-seekers being held on Nauru on Manus. It also comes on the back of strong criticism by Mr Trump about the value of maintaining alliance relationships with key partners in the Asia-Pacific, such as Japan.
Senator Wong rejected claims she was pushing for a watering-down of the US alliance, saying the ANZUS treaty — signed in September 1951 — continued to have bipartisan political support and remained a “critical aspect” of Australia’s foreign and security policy.
She told ABC radio yesterday Mr Trump’s foreign policy represented a marked departure from that of President Barack Obama, noting that he had raised the prospect of a trade war with China, questioned the value of the US alliance system and taken a different approach to international action on climate change.
“I think it’s a sensible thing to have a discussion about how we respond to that and how we deal with that within the context of the alliance,” she told ABC radio. “I … think it’s important for us to have a sensible and adult conversation here about how we continue to assert Australian interests in the context of an alliance framework.”
The charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Canberra, James Carouso, said it remained in America’s interest to “lead, to be a Pacific power and to work toward greater regional integration”.
“The ANZUS treaty has been in place for 65 years, during which it has provided for our mutual defence, anchored regional stability, and fuelled economic growth,’’ he said. “It is also in the US interest to support the principled, rules-based, international order. Both president-elect Donald Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have reaffirmed the US-Australia alliance.”
But Senator Wong won the backing of former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr, who said the alliance needed to shift in Australian calculations because of changes in US policy flagged by Mr Trump. Mr Carr, who heads the Australia China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney, warned that the US was moving away from multilateralism and risking the prospect of an arms race in the Asia-Pacific.
“It’s not a choice for Australia, the decision has been made for us,” Mr Carr told The Australian.“Our American ally is committed to a trade war with China; to weakening alliance systems; to unravelling nuclear non-proliferation and downgrading multilateralism.
“None of these is in Australia’s national interest. We haven’t changed. But America has changed and embraced positions opposed to Australian values and Australia’s national interest.”
Professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University and a former deputy secretary of defence Hugh White said the government could not continue to base its “entire foreign and defence policy” on the assumption America would continue to “play the same role in Asia”.
Bill Shorten said the alliance would continue to be supported by Labor regardless of who was US president. “We have shared values with the United States, but we are not exactly the same as the United States. So when people talk about the future of the American alliance, I am optimistic about it, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t also be engaging in Asia,” he said.
Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating has also backed a recalibration, urging Australia to “cut the tag” with American foreign policies.
Opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles said Senator Wong had not drawn the future of the alliance into question. “Our alliance … continues to be the central feature of our defence strategy. It continues to be the central feature of our foreign policy,” he said.
Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said it was best to take a cautious approach
“We’ve got a US that seems to be getting closer to Russia ... is that official policy or is that something that president Trump has just said in interviews?”
Search for truth on hospital death — no one deserves to die the way Stephen Herczeg did
THE full details of the circumstances leading up to the death of Stephen Herczeg in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital on September 19 remain unclear.
But one thing is certain — no one deserves to die the way he did.
The cause of the former Socceroo’s death is the subject of an ongoing inquiry before the Coroner’s Court.
The court heard last week that Mr Herczeg died as a result of his catheter bag being mistakenly connected to oxygen, which pumped 15 litres of air a minute into the 72 year old.
That led to respiratory failure caused by a ruptured bladder and collapsed lungs.
Exactly how Mr Herczeg’s catheter bag was connected to the oxygen supply is unknown at this stage.
And the answer to that question is hampered by evidence that police did not fingerprint the bag following his death.
On Wednesday, Premier Jay Weatherill took the unusual move of weighing into a sitting coronial inquest.
He told reporters it was “shameful” that speculation was “pointing the finger” at nurses before Coroner Mark Johns handed down his findings.
He then mentioned a police report “which is speculating that the death was caused by the actions of the patient” — a suggestion strongly rejected by Mr Herczeg’s family.
After deflecting attention on to Mr Herczeg — a man who is sadly not here to defend himself — Mr Weatherill said everyone needed to wait for Mr Johns’ finding before jumping to conclusions.
It’s a shame Mr Weatherill didn’t follow his own advice before casting doubt on the actions of a man who died in agony in a State Government hospital.
Now is not the time for Mr Weatherill to leap into damage control.
Instead he, along with Health Minister Jack Snelling, should be quietly focused on the evidence being presented to the Coroner’s Court.
Then, once the inquiry is complete, the government’s job will be to respond to Mr Johns’ findings and address any recommendations.
In the meantime, Mr Weatherill would do well to display a little more consideration for Mr Herczeg’s family, who, like the rest of us, are waiting for the truth to come out.
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