Friday, April 29, 2016
Greenies trying to stop oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight
It's Greenies doing what Greenies do and compromise is unknown to them. But if drilling is to be banned there, drilling is impermissible anywhere. For most of the length of the bight (over 1,000 kilometers), the land adjoining the Bight is basically desert. There's nothing there. So virtually no people to endanger in any way. The land concerned is not called the Nullarbor plain for nothing. Most people seem to think it is an Aboriginal name but it is in fact Latin -- meaning "No trees". That's how barren it is.
And the minimal runoff from the land means that there is not much to encourage life in the seas there either. There will of course be marine life feeding off marine algae and the like but there is no reason to think any of it is unique, let alone importantly unique. All deserts have creatures in them at low densities so the Greenies can claim that creatures on land and sea there are "endangered" but that is just a reflex. Nobody that I know has shown that there are in fact unique creatures there, let along importantly unique ones. No doubt there are whales etc there but are there any whales there that are not found elswhere? Even the Greenies have not yet claimed that.
So if exploration even in a desert area is impermissible, where is it permisible? To Greenies NO oil exploration or new production is permissible but less obsessed people do not have to agree
When executives of the global oil giant BP fronted the company’s general meeting in London this month they knew they faced plenty of upset shareholders.
The mop-up from the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had just eaten up another $US20 billion ($25bn) of shareholder funds in a major legal settlement, and collapsing world oil prices had smashed the company’s full year profit, causing an investor revolt over an executive bonus scheme that seemed completely at odds with the financial performance.
But when the most senior BP executives faced investors, the level of hostility towards an oil exploration project 16,000km away took them by surprise.
“Gosh, this investment in Australia is not very popular today,” BP chief executive Bob Dudley said. But he couldn’t see why all the fuss. “The country had an area and invited people to participate in a bid,’’ Dudley said. “We do this around the world in exploration; it is not a particularly unusual or harsh area.”
BP’s plans, along with rival oil giants, to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight is highly contentious, but the potential rewards — up to 1.9 billion barrels of oil worth up to $110bn (at today’s depressed prices) are great. But so are the risks. It could be the next Bass Strait, enthusiastic backers claim. Or it could be the next Deepwater Horizon disaster, passionate opponents warn.
At the general meeting, BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg emphasised that the company was not trying to pressure governments. “To run Bight or not run Bight is not a decision for BP,” he said. “It is a decision for Australia.”
Now, as BP plans a $1bn exploration program and a $US750 million drilling rig nears completion in a South Korean shipbuilding yard, the federal Senate is taking a very keen interest.
Today, a Senate inquiry holds its first public hearings, hoping to determine how the contentious drilling permits were issued and administered and whether the great risks in drilling in such a hazardous environment as the Great Australian Bight were properly assessed.
The Bight drilling program is at a very early stage but is vigorously touted as being the next Bass Strait: an area containing billions of dollars worth of oil reserves that could transform Australia from a net importer of crude oil into an exporter.
For risk-hungry explorers it represents one of the world’s great unexplored deepwater oil regions, similar in potential to that of the Niger and Mississippi deltas. Major oil companies, led by BP, Statoil, Chevron and Santos, are lining up for a piece of the action.
But the calamitous events six years ago in the Gulf of Mexico, when an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon well killed 11 workers, spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean, killing countless wildlife, ruining fisheries and decimating local communities, mean that the Great Australian Bight drilling plans have put environmental groups on high alert.
Leading environmental groups have spent many months war gaming a major confrontation with BP over its Great Australian Bight plans. The campaign dovetails into a broader agenda to limit fossil fuel developments, most particularly in new frontier and potentially difficult areas like Alaska and deepwater targets such as the Great Australian Bight.
BP says in its submission to the federal Senate inquiry, it wants the matter concluded quickly “given the Senate has taken the unusual step of specifically naming our company and its proposed investments in Australia”.
Global oil and gas production will keep rising over the next two decades, it says, to help meet world demand for primary energy. It points out that Australia has produced oil since the 1960s with a history of drilling in Commonwealth Marine Areas, including the Great Australian Bight. And Australia is a net oil importer, as consumption keeps rising despite domestic oil production steadily falling. The whole nation would benefit from the discovery of a new oil or gas region, and not just through tax and other macroeconomic benefits, BP says.
“Wood Mackenzie, an independent oil and gas analytical firm, estimates the potential resource in the Great Australian Bight to be 1900mmboe (million barrels of oil equivalent) of oil — more than 20 times the entire Australian production in 2014,” BP’s Senate submission says. “A new oilfield development could make a material difference to the balance of payments — and to tax revenues.”
Ironically, BP was granted special tax arrangements over its Great Australian Bight exploration program and can deduct 150 per cent of costs from its royalty obligations. But in response to publicity about the tax arrangements, the company said it “considers transparency an important requirement to increasing trust in tax systems around the world”. The company told an earlier Senate hearing into tax avoidance that BP Australia’s effective tax rate had averaged 28.4 per cent over the past five years with income tax payments alone exceeding $2.2bn.
Given the company’s recent history in the Gulf of Mexico, however, it is not tax matters that concentrate the minds of environmental groups.
The Great Australian Bight is an “extraordinary ocean and coastal environment of global conservation significance”, the Wilderness Society says in its Senate inquiry submission. “It is remote, wild and pristine, with more local marine life diversity than the Great Barrier Reef.
“While scientists are still trying to understand the diverse ecological values of the Bight, we know already that it is a major haven for whales, including the threatened southern right whale, and home to other significant marine wildlife such as the Australian sea lion, giant cuttlefish, dolphins, great white sharks and a vast array of seabirds. All of this life and immense natural beauty supports thriving fishing and tourism industries and a uniquely Australian way of life for the many coastal communities of the Bight.”
Both sides are haunted by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. According to BP, if the Bight was hit by a worst-case scenario — a loss of control of the well resulting in uncontrolled flow of petroleum into the ocean, “oil would take several weeks to reach shore and the direction in which it could drift varies due to seasonal differences in current and wind direction”.
But the Wilderness Society says an oil spill from a deep-sea well blowout could close fisheries in the Bight, Bass Strait and even the Tasman Sea while even a low-flow oil spill could affect all of southern Australia’s coast, from Western Australia right across to Victoria through Bass Strait and around Tasmania.
BP aims to begin exploratory drilling in October and has a $US750m harsh environment, semi-submersible oil drilling rig nearly completed in South Korea and ready to ship to the Bight.
The Senate has a fortnight to investigate but given the looming federal election, it is feasible the Senate may not finish the task. The inquiry terms of reference call for an assessment of the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of BP’s plans, including the risks of something going wrong.
Submissions to the inquiry include local councils and fishing groups. The city of Victor Harbor thinks the risk of an oil spill within the Bight may be low but the consequences potentially catastrophic. It points out that the Bight is a pristine environment and a critical sanctuary for many threatened species that support two significant industries: fishing and tourism.
The South Australian Oyster Growers Association says it does not want to block potentially beneficial oil projects for the Eyre Peninsula and South Australia. But drilling for oil does pose a “significant risk to the currently pristine unpolluted environment and the image of this”.
“These are the features that our reputation and credentials in the marketplace are based upon, and have taken decades to establish and promote,” the association says.
Then there’s damning evidence by the world’s foremost engineering disaster expert, Bob Bea. Bea, nicknamed the “Master of Disaster”, criticises BP, saying there is not “sufficient information to determine if BP has properly assessed the risks”.
“The information that has been presented indicates that BP has apparently integrated the key aspects of what has been learned about drilling in high-risk environments,” Bea says. “However, the information is not available to determine if BP has properly assessed and managed the risks associated with an uncontrolled loss of well control.”
Bea, professor emeritus at the Centre for Catastrophic Risk Management, University of California-Berkeley, has worked for more than 55 years on offshore oil and gas industry operations in 72 countries.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers journal says: “If Robert Bea turns up on your project, it’s not a good sign. Either you’re in the middle of a major disaster or someone is worried enough to send out the nation’s foremost forensic engineer to take a look.”
The Wilderness Society says BP has admitted containment booms and skimmers will not work in the Bight and that the area is “right on the edge of” the reach of helicopters. But of major concern is the level of secrecy imposed by the government-sanctioned approving authority, which has all of the environmental powers of the federal government over the offshore exploration area including endangered and listed marine species.
The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority is an independent statutory authority that is the national regulator for health and safety, well integrity and environmental management for offshore oil and gas activities in Australian waters.
Green groups demand that BP release its environmental plan and that the federal government assemble an independent expert panel to look at oil drilling in the Bight. They claim NOPSEMA does not have necessary environmental expertise. “While we know the Bight is a pristine marine environment with at least 36 species of whales and dolphins, there is still much we don’t know as the GAB Research Project, which BP has partly funded, won’t report until mid-2017,” a Wilderness Society spokesman says.
The Wilderness Society is demanding a transparent process. “Instead, we have an Environment Minister who has handed off his responsibility to protect the environment to a poorly known regulator; one running a highly flawed and opaque process that fails to ensure the protection of our environment or properly assess the cumulative impacts of all potential oil development in the Great Australian Bight.”
BP is no doubt banking on the Senate inquiry falling victim to the electoral cycle. It wants to start drilling in October and the federal government has delegated the decision to its regulator.
In its own Senate submission, NOPSEMA says a final decision on the BP plans for the Bight is yet to be made. It notes that two statutory independent reviews found NOPSEMA to be a “robust, rigorous and competent regulator”.
Manus Island asylum-seekers in legal limbo as PNG shuts detention centre
Malcolm Turnbull has categorically ruled out bringing the asylum-seekers detained on Manus Island to Australia, warning against becoming “misty-eyed” about the plight of more than 900 asylum-seekers and refugees in limbo on the island.
Although his Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has chosen his words carefully – indicating some refugees may be allowed to come to Australia on a non-permanent basis – the Prime Minister today declared “none of the detainees there will come to Australia”.
“We are seeking to ensure that the people detained at Manus can either settle in PNG as they have the opportunity to do, or in third countries, but they will not come to Australia. I want to be very, very clear about that,” Mr Turnbull said in Hobart..
“There will be no transfer of those individuals to Australia because to do that would send a signal to the people smugglers to get back into business, and that is utterly unacceptable.”
Mr Turnbull said the government needed to show people smuggling syndicates that Australians were “very clear and determined” in defending their borders.
“If we want to have secure borders – if we want to ensure that women and children are not drowning at sea, put into leaky, dangerous boats by criminals and gangsters, by people smugglers – then we must have secure borders and we do and we will, and they will remain so, as long as I am the Prime Minister of this country.”
Bill Shorten pledged a “unity ticket to defeat the people smugglers” but blamed the Coalition’s “incompetent” handling of Manus Island for the political “train wreck”. “Labor is resolute against the people smugglers. It doesn’t matter about Liberal or Labor we have the same position on opposing the people smugglers,” the Opposition Leader said.
“But Minister Dutton and Prime Minister Turnbull have created a situation, an almost unworkable situation of semi-permanent, indefinite detention.”
Victorian independent senator John Madigan said the government needed to “man up” and accept the asylum-seekers, warning of “devastating effects”. “The government’s policy on asylum seekers has always rested on the idea that we must treat those who arrive on our shores as harshly as possibly as a deterrent to others. Whether or not this is effective, it is immoral,” Senator Madigan said.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young claimed the government’s policies were about “fear-mongering, punishing people and winning votes”. “We don’t need to have this cruel treatment of people seeking asylum, there is a better way. Assessing people’s claims quickly and fairly, so that they can be flown here safely, is the answer,” she said.
International lawsuit may force Manus detainees’ return
Papua New Guinea could bring an international lawsuit to force Australia to take back more than 800 asylum-seekers from Manus Island, Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs said today, with the Turnbull government refusing to permanently resettle any of the refugees.
The federal government was scrambling to decide on a response last night after the O’Neill government demanded “alternative arrangements” for the 905 asylum-seekers and refugees on the island, sparking renewed calls to settle them on Australian soil.
PNG High Commissioner Charles Lepani today insisted the asylum-seekers were “within Australia’s responsibility” and his government never understood it has been asked to hold them “for such a lengthy period of time”.
“It’s an issue that Australia has to deal with. That’s our position,” Mr Lepani told ABC radio.
“This is within Australia’s responsibility; they are there on account of us trying to help Australia resettle and process these people. That was the original intention — to process these people, not to have them for such a lengthy period of time.”
However Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was adamant the men would not find permanent sanctuary in Australia.
“The men off Manus Island will not be settling permanently in Australia and we will work with the Papua New Guinea government to help them return home or back to third countries,” he told the Nine Network.
Professor Triggs said the stand-off could ultimately be resolved by both governments submitting to arbitration by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
“Basically of course Australia can’t force Papua New Guinea to hold people who were originally Australia’s responsibility, but equally of course for practical matters it’s very difficult for Papua New Guinea to force Australia to take these asylum-seekers back,” she told ABC radio.
“International law always has the option of perhaps initially some form of mediation or conciliation, possibly even an agreed arbitration of the matter, but ultimately it would be of course possible for one to bring another state before the International Court of Justice — the world court — for determination.
“There’s a long way to go to think about that, but these are always options in international law.”
Professor Triggs said it seemed “very unlikely” that either major party would buckle on its “politically successful” policies on the eve of an election.
“It may very well be that it takes a unanimous decision of the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court to finally shift certainly public opinion and maybe hopefully also political views,” she said.
Greenies trying to worm their way into Primary school classes
A new program is being launched to Primary Schools during Term Two by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) Australia. The Future Generations program focuses on bringing the cross curriculum priority of sustainability into every subject – from the Arts to Humanities and English.
Through consultation with Primary School teachers across the country, FSC Australia found that incorporating sustainability into subjects other than science was sometimes difficult and resources were limited or hard to find. “We are a five star sustainable school and sustainability is core to our values, but we still struggle to integrate sustainability into lessons. And it’s so important for the children to take an active interest in sustainability and the future of our world,” said Stephen Rothwell, Principal, Chatham Primary School.
Working closely with Deakin University and with the support of Tork® Professional Hygiene, FSC Australia has developed a series of lesson plans and activity sheets. These free lesson plans are available for primary levels from one up to six and are inline with AusVELS curriculum. The lesson plans and activities are creative and thought-provoking and cover topics including deforestation, ecology and the food chain.
The role of FSC is to help take care of forests, their wildlife and the people who live and work within and around them. Forests provide material for so many things in our lives such as books, tissues, furniture, buildings and more. As Adam Beaumont, CEO of FSC Australia puts it, “By ensuring these resources are managed responsibly, we at FSC seek to strike a balance between the needs of society and the needs of the forest. The Future Generations program aims to increase awareness of FSC and its role within the next generation.”
The Future Generations Lesson Plans and Activity Sheets are available and free to download through the FSC Australia website.
Press release from FSC
'Sneaky' move gives Queensland Premier major advantage at the ballot box
Queensland's opposition has likened Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's controversial voting reforms to Greg Chappell's infamous underarm bowling tactics that embarrassed Australian cricket 35 years ago.
Liberal National Party leader Lawrence Springborg says while parliamentary rules allowed the Labor minority government to 'sneak' through compulsory preferential voting last Thursday, they weren't in the spirit of the game.
The shock move, without public consultation, gives Labor a major advantage at the ballot box, assisted by preferences far more than the LNP.
A still-fuming Mr Springborg compared the blindside to what former Australian captain Chappell did when he ordered his younger brother, Trevor, to bowl underarm in a one-day international final to deny New Zealand a six for a possible last-ball tie.
'What the Labor Party may have done in parliament may have been in the rules but just the same as the infamous underarm bowling incident with Trevor Chappell in 1981 it may have been in the rules but it doesn't make it right,' he said.
'Ms Palaszczuk came to power in Queensland promising to be open, accountable and, above all, consultative. 'Last Thursday in parliament she became all of those things she rallied against in 2014-15.'
Ms Palaszczuk defended the government's actions, saying it would help prevent informal voting and bring Queensland in line with federal elections.
She also said she was looking at compulsory preferential voting in local government elections, much to the chagrin of the Brisbane lord mayor.
Graham Quirk said Labor councillors had already spoken about wanting compulsory preferential voting two weeks before, and said the public should view the change in a 'cynical' way. 'This was a choreographed piece - this is a premeditated arrangement,' he said.
Conservatives love to hate political correctness, but the left should rail against it too
A Leftist below argues for civil debate over political issues. She may even mean it. Leftists are normally civil only to those who agree with them, so a call for civility from them is usually a demand to agree with them
By far the most insightful person on Australia’s Q&A program this week was the Catholic theologian and philosopher John Haldane. He took complicated and charged questions and tried to make sense of them. In doing so, he spoke of something critical in a liberal democracy, something we are at risk of losing – the idea of “reasonable disagreement” on controversial issues.
“People who hold contrary views on these matters are neither stupid nor wicked,” he said. “In the US, conservatives tend to think of liberals as being bad people, immoral people, but liberals think of conservatives as if they are stupid.” The answer was not moral relativism, or a failure to make decisions, but “civic friendship” in the way we discuss these issues.
“We’ve got to keep the conversation open.”
I am wary of religious doctrine whatever the faith. Religions have a history of intolerance and there is a remarkable lack of self-awareness by those who complain it is now the religious who are being silenced on debates such as same sex marriage.
Yet Haldane identified a trend that is no longer a fringe tendency in Australia and in many parts of the western world. Labeling people who have an unpopular view as somehow intrinsically bad or immoral, declaring such views as intolerable even to hold, is now a big part of our culture and is having an impact on our conversations and our politics.
This is not just about religious conservatives feeling that their views, while not silenced, are so ridiculed and personalised that few feel comfortable expressing them. It is just as prevalent in the attempts to silence or attack those who identity as progressives but who may have sent an insensitive tweet, or hold a view that transgresses the orthodoxy of the moment.
For many supposed progressives, disagreement must now be accompanied by a personal attack against someone who doesn’t deserve a say because of who they are, not for what they believe.
I support same sex marriage, yet am deeply uncomfortable with the assumption that anyone with reservations must be a bigot and a homophobe. That is the level of the debate in Australia, and it is championed by so-called “progressives”, who display with glee the same intolerance they rightly accuse churches as historically holding.
It is an insidious tendency because of course progressives should stand up for greater levels of equality and for the human rights of the marginalised and disadvantaged. But to do so by devaluing free speech and thought on the grounds of championing the aggrieved is a betrayal of progressive politics in a fundamental way.
It has not been helped by our well-meaning discrimination laws, which have endorsed and encouraged the view that being “offended” should be unlawful. The very idea debases notion that debate, ideas, and openness to complexity is the way to make progress.
It is a symptom of what’s gone wrong that the Tasmanian anti-discrimination commission deemed the Catholic Church had a case to answer for its booklet opposing same sex marriage on the grounds that it could offend, humiliate or insult same sex couples and their children. To be offended and insulted is distressing, but nobody should be legally protected against it in a democracy, even on a highly emotional issue such as this.
The insistence on personalising disagreement is pervasive.
Actor and writer Stephen Fry has apologised for a few sentences he uttered at the end of a long and fascinating interview in the United States. The irony of this little incident gives it a poignancy beyond the familiar pattern: someone says something that deliberately or accidentally offends people, who declare their hurt and anger, demanding the person is sacked from their job or at least be publicly shamed. The targeted one, sometimes famous, sometimes not, says “up yours”, or more likely grovels an apology, perhaps deleting their social media account to crawl into a hole for a time.
Fry’s was just one example, but it was so telling that he was shamed when the entire purpose of his interview was to discuss the so-called “regressive left”. What happened to Fry was exactly what he was talking about – to be pilloried by the left for something he said that was certainly insensitive, but hardly worth the vehemence of the reaction.
More broadly, he was talking about the phenomenon of people identifying with the progressive side of politics being so intolerant of views deemed unacceptable, especially regarding anything to do with race, gender, sexual identity and religion.
Fry appeared on The Rubin Report, a program that regularly scrutinises this phenomenon. Host David Rubin is convinced that the regressive left is the equivalent of America’s Tea Party – dangerous for progressive politics, whose purpose should be to champion reason and debate to achieve greater equality and improve human rights. “If we don’t have the courage to stop them, then a year or two from now we’ll wonder why our system is screwed up even more than it is now,” says Rubin, who thinks of himself as a progressive.
I don’t think Rubin is overstating the dangers of declaring certain thoughts and speech unacceptable. Although, as Fry would say, it’s complicated.
In the 11-and-a-half-minute interview, Fry mused about all this in his erudite, amusing and slightly pompous way, and said he feared that “the advances of the Enlightenment are being systematically and deliberately pushed back” – the idea of free thinking, open societies not ruled by churches or “enforced thinking”.
“Enforced thinking” was prevalent because “life is complicated and nobody wants to believe that life is complicated, this is the problem. You might call it infantilism of our culture”. The example he gave was the campaign, ultimately unsuccessful, by some students who demanded Oxford University remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College.
Rhodes was a student at Oxford and left money to provide a prestigious scholarship. He was also undoubtedly an imperialist with a belief in the racial superiority of Anglo Saxons. Even in his own time, his views were considered extreme by many.
For outspoken students, a Rhodes’ statue should not grace a university where minority students already felt intimidated – it was offensive to them and a sign that Oxford had failed to come to terms with its past. Pulling down monuments to people who do not have views acceptable in our own age would keep all of us busy for many years, yet the students made a valid point – who would not understand why Confederate flags in the US are so deeply offensive to African Americans?
Fry’s view was that the student campaign was an example of a tendency to declare someone good or bad, full stop. “To remove his statue strikes me as being stupid,” he said. “The way to fight colonialism and the ideas behind it is not to pull down statues. It’s to reveal, to say who he is … look at him, occasionally throw an egg on it.” How very old-fashioned of him to argue that free speech and argument can expose repellent views, that it isn’t necessary to erase them from history, to “unperson” them.
Fry went on to discuss the movement particularly on American campuses to ban people from speaking who might offend or “trigger” deep feelings in some students because of their experiences or their identity as a minority. “There are many great plays which contain rapes, and the word rape now is even considered a rape. To say the word rape is to rape,” Fry said.
Rapes are “terrible things and they have to be thought about clearly”.
“But if say you can’t watch this play, you can’t watch Titus Andronicus, or you can’t read it in a Shakespeare class or you can’t read Macbeth because it’s got children being killed in it, and it might trigger something when you were young that upset you once, because uncle touched you in a nasty place, well I’m sorry. It’s a great shame and we’re all very sorry that your uncle touched you in that nasty place – you get some of my sympathy – but your self pity gets none of my sympathy…. The irony is we’ll feel sorry for you, if you stop feeling sorry for yourself. Just grow up.”
I know what he meant, but Fry expressed that woefully. In the context of all that had gone before, he was not saying that victims of sexual abuse should just “grow up”. He was trying to say – clumsily – that if you’re a woman, or a victim of sexual assault, or a racial minority for that matter or a transgender or homosexual or all the other signifiers of identity politics – your personal feelings and experiences are not enough to censor other views, to restrict free speech.
There are real examples of sexism and racism and of course they need challenging. And nobody pretends free speech is absolute. In many ways, I love the fiery pushback from people who have indeed been, and still are to varying degrees, marginalised in a culture that privileges the white middle class heterosexual man. Yet the words “racist” “misogynist”, “homophobe” and “bigot” are so routinely bandied about now they have lost their power.
The cry of “shame” at something someone said or did, the social media pile on, perhaps wouldn’t matter too much except that its impact is to stop people being honest about what they think for fear of being attacked by the mob. Not just that. It’s an insistence that people who hold such views are morally bad.
Many people now roll their eyes at feminist Germaine Greer, but recently on Q&A she refused to be bowed, and there was something brave about it.
It is a sign of human progress that transgender people at least in parts of the West are far more visible and that discrimination against them is being acknowledged and starting to be addressed. Yet as hurtful as it must be for the trans community, I don’t think Greer is alone in questioning the insistence that, somehow, Caitlyn Jenner was always a woman, even at birth.
Did anyone else groan when Glamour Magazine named the famous trans woman its “woman of the year”, or when Jenner declared the hardest thing about being female “figuring out what to wear”?
These are hard issues to raise, and it’s an old feminist debate, but Greer doesn’t accept that men who identify as women are women. She hits a nerve when she says in her outrageous way that, “I don’t believe a woman is a man without a cock”. Call her transphobic if you like, but better to loudly present the arguments why she’s wrong, or just ignore her.
But the outraged don’t want that – last year, Greer faced a campaign by campus feminists to ban her from speaking at a university about a different subject because of her “transphobic” views. Feminists are tied up in knots with intersectionality and understandably want to support marginalised women. But trying to shut down dissenting or offensive views is another kind of intolerance.
And so what happened to dear old Stephen Fry, a homosexual and bipolar sufferer who has fought hard against intolerance and discrimination? The symbiotic relationship between the mainstream media and social media makes the trajectory predictable. A few people were “outraged” on Twitter about Fry’s remarks about victims of sexual abuse. And so the Telegraph in London had a story: “Stephen Fry tells sex abuse victims to ‘grow up’ prompting social media outrage.”
That’s the story – social media outrage. I am sick of reading stories that begin “Twitter was outraged” but it’s obvious why it’s become routine. Conventional media, as well as platforms like Facebook, need drama to achieve online traffic.
“There is a toxic relationship between mainstream media and social media,” said Jon Ronson in an interview recently. Ronson’s book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, chronicles how lives can be ruined by social media humiliation. “To begin with old media just ignored Twitter,” he said. “Then it tried to emasculate it by doing ‘the 50 best tweeters’ pieces, trying to control it ... and then what happened was that mainstream media began to bow to Twitter’s agenda setting.”
So Fry was fried, but surely nothing he said in his interview justified the ugliness of some of the response.
The right loves all this stuff. Conservatives rail against “political correctness” but have little commitment to social justice or addressing structural inequality. Yet progressives should rail against it too, much more strongly than they are now. Because it’s not progressive in any way. The censors of the left may have the best of intentions, but too often, they’re just another bunch of reactionaries.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
On Anzac Day Dissent And Political Correctness
Michael Brull is a far-Leftist Australian Jew. So he hates Israel and Australia in roughly equal measures. But he is always good for a laugh. His talent for missing the point is unfailing. As with many Leftist articles, his article below is very long-winded. I have however reproduced it all so that people can see that he just doesn't get it.
Yet his basic point can be expressed quite simply. He says that Leftist criticism of the ANZAC commemorations is somehow disallowed or suppressed. But he quite spoils his own argument by listing towards the beginning of his article all the Leftists who HAVE criticised it, some of them quite prominent.
And if such criticisms have been suppressed, how is it that way back in the benighted early '60s my junior High School curriculum included a study of what is probably the most anti-ANZAC story ever written -- Seymour's "One day of the year". And that was during the Prime Ministership of Sir Robert Menzies, an archetypal conservative. Brull is talking through his anus.
He seems to have realized that his article lacked point and was wandering all around the place like Brown's cows so he concluded it by saying: "We are entitled to different values, and we are entitled to say so". It's a conclusion that is quite detached from the rest of his article. If he had shown that someone has denied him those entitlements, it might have made sense -- but he did not. All he shows is that conservatives sometimes criticize criticisms from Leftists. Is it not allowed to criticize Leftist criticisms? Is it only Leftists who are allowed to criticize? He seems to think so: Typical Leftist bigotry.
The big thing that is totally missing from his article is any awareness that ANZAC day is a day on which we remember the premature deaths of our relatives. I had relatives who died in both world wars. I never knew them. I was too young at the time. But I know the families and know they must have been people like me who felt like me and I know how grievous their deaths were at the time. An uncle Freddie of mine in particular was much loved and I regret that I never got the chance to know him.
And most people who attend ANZAC day ceremonies are like that. Their degree of closeness to the dead will vary but they will all be mourning relatives. And the ex-servicemen who march will be remembering close friends who were lost.
And enlisting in the armed forces is an heroic act. We walk into great danger. We offer to put our lives on line to defend our families from an enemy. And on ANZAC day we honour that heroism
And, Yes. I myself did voluntarily enlist and serve in the Australian army in the Vietnam era. I never got to Vietnam but I did apply to go
Go beyond the tedium of mainstream Anzac Day coverage and you’ll see the meaning ascribed to the Day, and the way the history around it is constructed, remain hotly contested. In a fundamentally political disagreement, shutting sceptics out should be seen as an act of political correctness, writes Michael Brull.
Once again, Anzac Day has sneaked up on me. For those of us who are unpatriotic, it is easy to feel like we’re a negligible minority. It is easy to think that your feelings of ambivalence, indifference, or even hostility to Anzac Day are totally marginal and isolated. It is just you and a few of your friends, while the rest of the nation patriotically gets up early and cries on cue at the heroism of our diggers. Yet the truth is that there is plenty of dissent about Anzac. The only reason you don’t hear about it so often is that it’s usually shut out of the mainstream media.
Right-wingers are perfectly aware of this. Since 2009, right-wing historian Mervyn Bendle has been complaining about academics trashing the Anzac legend, in a series of long and tedious essays for Quadrant. The “intelligentsia and the Left”, he complains, offer a perfunctory nod to the bravery of the Australian soldiers in World War One, only to follow by emphasising what they think really matters: an approach which is “always critical, debunking and even denunciatory of the legend, applying a form of methodological nihilism to allege that at the core of the Anzac legend there is nothing—only meaninglessness, futility, error, ‘a nightmare happening in a void’ as George Orwell remarked of Great War literature. Alternatively, if there is something at the core of the legend, it is shown by the revisionist to be unworthy, wicked and iniquitous—militarism, imperialism, colonialism, racism, sexism, masculinism—and therefore can and must be condemned and ridiculed.”
One summary of a collection of academic writings by Adrian Howe, an Associate Professor at RMIT University, identifies the Anzac legend as “a masculinist and British imperialist military tradition”; a “nationalistic, militaristic tradition [that is]class-based, race-based, ethnocentric and male-centred”; while Anzac Day is “a day celebrating Anglo-Australian manhood, militarism and a bloody defeat in an imperialist war [and]should be abolished”.
The list of offending scholars is long. They include Anthony Burke, Mark McKenna, Henry Reynolds, Marilyn Lake, James Brown, and David Horner. Military historians come in for a particular scolding, including Joan Beaumont, Brown and Horner again, Peter Stanley, and two books edited by Craig Stockings. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating is also counted among the unpatriotic. Bendle grumbles that in a speech, Keating “largely regurgitated the nihilist view that the conflict was pointless and futile, which has long been the default ideological position of the Left.” Alas, Keating dismissed “the war as the lamentable product of European tribalism, ethnic atavism, nationalism and racism in which Australia had no stake”.
Bendle assures readers in the tiny, largely unread magazine of the aggressive, purportedly highbrow intellectual right that Keating’s “facile, unhistorical ramblings” are wrong: “the Anzacs who sacrificed their lives or their health in battle did so for a great cause. To pretend otherwise is to betray their memory.” Thus, to doubt the cause of World War One, 100 years later is to betray the soldiers. It turns out that to be properly patriotic, we must not just mourn the dead. We must also celebrate the reasons they were sent to die.
In a sense, Anzac Day isn’t just about remembering suffering of soldiers. The sanctification of their memory is done with a political intent, with particular political aims.
The parallels to today are not hard to find. Many people thought it was really terrific how there were such widespread demonstrations around the world before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Even if they didn’t stop the war, at least they showed anti-war sentiment. Was there any precedent for such anti-imperialism?
Yes, there was. Adam Hochschild reminds us of the large anti-war demonstrations across Europe before World War One. As Austria declared war on Serbia, 100,000 protesters converged at the heart of Berlin against war. The French Socialist leader Jean Jaurès stood with his arm around Hugo Haase, co-chair of the German Social Democrats, before an audience of Belgian workers. In Britain, Keir Hardie spoke to an enormous crowd at Trafalgar Square, “the largest demonstration there in years”. To wild cheers, according to Hochschild, he urged a general strike in the event of war.
As is known, these protests more or less ended as the war started. As in 2003, the media decided to “support our soldiers”. Like Bendle, this support for the soldiers in practical terms meant stifling any doubts or criticisms about the cause for which they were sent. Though the interests of soldiers and the politicians who command them are not necessarily the same, they are conflated by leading political figures. The loyal scribes of these politicians assure the public that to doubt the politicians is to doubt the soldiers, and how dare anyone cast aspersions on those risking their lives to keep us safe and defend our freedom? How dare anyone belittle the sacrifice of the soldiers, by questioning the values and wisdom of the politicians who send them into harm’s way?
Last year, Scott McIntyre was fired from the SBS for his blasphemies about Anzac Day, at the behest of Malcolm Turnbull, then, judging by Turnbull’s own words, the Minister for Right-Wing Communications. Though McIntyre’s tweets were condensed due to the nature of the medium, his supposedly inflammatory comments were duly analysed by academic specialists on the Anzacs. Professor Phillip Dwyer, Director of the Centre for the History of Violence at University of Newcastle, agreed that the Anzacs were “no angels”, whose members included those who behaved in “overtly racist manner”, and also rapes and summary executions. Geoff Lemon observed that it was hard to argue that Gallipoli was “an imperialist invasion of a foreign nation that Australia had no quarrel with”.
Recording historical facts about wrongdoing by Anzacs makes it harder to valorise the soldiers. They shift from becoming our heroic diggers, to human beings, many of whom acted in the flawed ways armies often act in conflict zones. Yet historians have not just challenged the factual basis for hero-ising the soldiers. They are also resolutely sceptical about the value of worshipping the Anzacs. Frank Bongiorno commented that “Anzac’s inclusiveness has been achieved at the price of a dangerous chauvinism that increasingly equates national history with military history, and national belonging with a willingness to accept the Anzac legend as Australian patriotism’s very essence.”
Academics are not infallible. Academic specialists can be wrong, just as academic specialties can function to mostly serve power. Anyone who has too much reverence for academic specialists should revisit the performance of all the economists who failed to predict the 2008 crash. They may know more than the rest of us about what happened during the war, but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily more right about the reverence with which the Anzacs should be treated.
My point in reviewing their Anzac scepticism is not to suggest that academics verify or vindicate such suspicion. It is to suggest that jingoism tries to pretend a moral or political disagreement is somehow inherently illegitimate. There are many different ways to approach history. Trying to sanctify one approach to one aspect, and acting horrified at those who dissent from this particular approach is a political act.
As noted by Jumbunna researcher Paddy Gibson, in response to Aboriginal protests of Invasion Day, Prime Minister Bob Hawke started to push Anzac Day as an alternative to Australia Day as a way to cement Australian nationalism. This support for Anzac Day since the late 1980s has revived and reshaped Anzac Day, as the government has sought to push Anzac Day, and the particular values of its modern incarnation, on the general public. This culminated in the extravaganza of last year, when the government spent over $300 million on Anzac commemorations. Yet there were signs this had limited effects. Australians didn’t tune in to the World War One documentaries. Attempts to flog Anzac merchandise were increasingly seen as tacky. Everyone tried to cash in. Woolworths and Target put the Anzacs in their marketing. Now folded soft-porn mag Zoo featured a woman in a bikini with a poppy to mark the special day.
This kind of marketing was seen by some as exploitative. But using Anzac Day as a way to promote the virtue of World War One while hiding behind the political sanctity of Australian soldiers who died seems comparably cynical.
If we’re going to remember the past, and celebrate parts of it, why single out Australian soldiers? Why not celebrate Aboriginal warriors, who died resisting the invasion of their land and the decimation of their peoples and cultures? Why not celebrate trade unionists, who secured some of the best working conditions and entitlements across the world, and kept Australia one of the more egalitarian Western countries until the 1980s? Why not celebrate the suffragettes, who earned white women the vote in Australia before most of the rest of the world? Why not celebrate the activists for Aboriginal rights, who fought for land rights, treaty and sovereignty? Or those who won Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples the vote, and dismantled most elements of formal racial discrimination in Australia? Why not remember and celebrate the Australians who fought against World War One? Or those who successfully campaigned against conscription in Australia during World War One, or those who successfully ended Australian involvement in the war on Vietnam?
We can imagine a conservative response to these suggestions. Ah, but you see, these are political choices. Celebrating feminists, anti-imperialists, Aboriginal resistance and trade unionists doesn’t reflect the entire political spectrum. We couldn’t base nationalism on the political values of a segment of the population. It would leave out the rest of us.
Perhaps that’s fair enough. But what about those who feel left out by Anzac Day? Honouring those who fought in a war, while refusing to permit reflections on whether the war was unjust or not, is political. And so are nationalism and patriotism.
Some people may be proud Australians, who think ours is the greatest country on earth, with a largely, if not entirely unblemished history. Those who disagree are not committing a crime, they are simply engaged in a political disagreement. Australians who are horrified at Anzac sceptics are simply trying to enforce their political correctness on the rest of us. We are entitled to different values, and we are entitled to say so.
Police close down Facebook page exposing Police bullying and suicides
NSW Police have abused their power and in effect directed Facebook to take down a support page for police, former police and their families who are dealing with mental health problems such as stress, depression and to help with suicide prevention. Posts on the page were broad and allowed people with mental health issues to reach out for support while other posts gave families and friends the opportunity to pay tribute to deceased officers.
It seems the only reason that the Facebook page (The Forgotten 300) was taken down is that a few posts criticized some serving officers and other posts were critical of the lack of support within the police force for officers and former officers suffering mental health issues.
The police have admitted that they had Facebook take down the page (18th March 2016) yet there was no allegation that any crime had been committed or anyone had been defamed. There was no legal basis given to have the page taken down so one has to assume there is none.
The NSW police say they did not like the fact that a number of serving officers were criticised on the page:
“With regards to the Forgotten 300 Facebook page, I can confirm that the NSW Police Force did contact Facebook regarding concerns over numerous posts considered offensive and detrimental to the wellbeing of particular serving officers.”
“My understanding is that Facebook independently reviewed those posts and has taken action in accordance with their own terms and conditions.”
“The NSW Police Force respects the privacy and wellbeing of all its employees. If content appears on social media channels that is offensive and causing distress to current officers, we have an obligation and responsibility to ensure these officer’s wellbeing and will act to provide advice and support.”
They say “posts considered offensive and detrimental to the wellbeing of particular serving officers”. Where is the evidence supporting that statement? And where is the concern, when the page was deleted, for the stress and duress suffered by people who used the Ther Forgotten 300 page for support?
You can’t close down the internet
The Forgotten 300 Facebook page had over 54,000 followers and was started in 2012 when the NSW state government capped compensation claims for injured police. The 300 related to the number of officers that were short-changed the compensation they would have been previously entitled to. The page was started by the wife of a former police officer.
In 2013 the administration of the page was handed to former police officer Berrick Boland. The Forgotten 300 page was deleted by Facebook on the 18th March 2016 and while it did get some media coverage (Click here to read) it should have been a lot more.
Berrick Boland has not sat idle since the page was taken down and another page has been set up called The Forgotten 000’s which has been broadened to cover all emergency services people such as Firefighters and Ambulance Drivers etc. Mr Boland has also set up a website https://theforgotten000s.com which is still under construction awaiting a first post but will be up and running soon.
Labor’s child care ‘crocodile tears’
Labor’s rank child care hypocrisy was on stark display in an astonishing press release today that ignored the work the Coalition has done to reduce the ballooning child care fee growth that became the norm under Labor.
“The reality is that this Government hasn’t done a single thing to help families access affordable child care.” - Kate Ellis, Media release, 24/4/16
What the Opposition spokesperson for early childhood Kate Ellis has hoped no one would remember is that child care fees grew at an average of 7.8 per cent per year during Labor’s time in government and spiked up to 12.5 per cent in 2009.
That’s compared to the Coalition’s record where we’ve brought that growth under control, with child care costs increasing by only 3.6 per cent in the last year.
What this shows is that we have reduced the growing cost burden for families and taxpayers by taking action to cap certain types of hourly fees and streamline payments to parents who are studying.
In an act of startling admission, Labor also confirmed that their stalling and blocking tactics have prevented almost one million families getting more accessible, affordable and fairer child care.
“This is nothing but a cruel promise to hard working families – to pretend to offer help and get their hopes up…” - Kate Ellis, Media release, 24/4/16
At every turn Labor has stood in the way of the savings required to fund the Coalition’s more than $3 billion additional investment in child care that will give more children access to early education and care and will support families and parents who most depend upon child care in order to work, or work more.
Bill Shorten and Kate Ellis have zero credibility when it comes to child care and pre-school education. Their mistakes in government left a legacy of accelerating fee increases.
Labor’s 2008 change to the Child Care Rebate, without a check on what providers could charge, was described by the Productivity Commission report into the sector as having “accelerated” the climb of child care fees (Page 391), meaning families and taxpayers pay more.
Where the Turnbull Government has tried to fix Labor’s mistakes, the Opposition has only sought to play politics and cry crocodile tears while families suffer.
The Coalition is the only party with a plan to deliver the flexible, accessible and affordable child care system that today’s modern families require.
Press release from Sen. Birmingham
Anti-Islam parties after your vote on election day
THEY’RE the far right wing parties hoping for a Trump-style revolution in Australia at the federal election.
From a party calling for an end to the “Islamisation of Australia” to another whose leader has a criminal past — how much do Australians know about these parties?
After being deposed as prime minister last year, Tony Abbott warned that a splinter right-wing movement could damage the Coalition.
“The last thing we need is another conservative party, particularly a rogue conservative party that is raging against the world. That’s the last thing we need,” Mr Abbott told Fairfax last year. He also said the emergence of One Nation almost led to defeat for John Howard in 1998.
Will the rise of Donald Trump in the US, some Coalition voters disenchanted with Malcolm Turnbull and the rising threat of terrorism lead to a groundswell of support for these extreme parties? What realistic chances do they have on July 2 or are they just standing for election to make some noise? News.com.au went to find out.
Jim Saleam is a survivor of far right politics in Australia. He has stood in elections since the 1980s, helped start the nationalist party National Action in 1982 and has spent time in jail. He now runs the Australia First Party out of his home on a busy highway in Tempe, south of Sydney.
The party will have candidates contesting the Federal Election, including Dr Saleam standing in the western Sydney seat of Lindsay.
It is an important area for the anti-immigration party, with debate over a mosque at Kemps Creek helping Australia First gain some traction.
(The party had a councillor elected to Penrith Council in 2012 before he resigned from the party to continue on council as an independent councillor).
Most recently, Dr Saleam stood against Treasurer Scott Morrison at the 2013 election and only gained 617 votes.
But the party isn’t really interested in getting elected. It’s just keen to get its controversial message out there. “We see the electoral process as a chance to put some of our views out there but also an opportunity to mobilise people around movements and issues,” Dr Saleam tells news.com.au.
The party’s “eight core policies” include an end to multiculturalism and limiting immigration to white Europeans.
They want to see the White Australia policy reinstated. “I had the great privilege of being born into that sort of Australia. And I made a personal decision many years ago that my children would die in that sort of Australia,” Dr Saleam said.
He mocked other far right parties such as the Australian Liberty Alliance that are opposed to Islamic immigration. “Diversity minus Islam is still diversity.
“As Pauline Hanson always says there’s a right way and a wrong way (to enter Australia). We say, ‘No right way, no wrong way, no way’.”
He believes Australians are being “ethnically cleansed”.
But Dr Saleam’s past and the party’s extreme views mean it will never attract a big following.
(The party was deregistered last year because of a lack of members, only to be reinstated this year when it reached the minimum number of members of 500).
In the 1990s, he was jailed for three and a half years for supplying a gun to two men who shot up the home of an African National Congress representative.
(After getting out of jail, Dr Saleam spent five years at Sydney University where he did a PhD on right wing politics in Australia).
He still maintains he was set up by the police and his case was one of “four great political trials in Australia”.
As for being labelled a racist, he doesn’t seem to mind. “I really don’t care. It’s something that’s inevitably said because obviously I exercise a racial preference,” he said.
“The label of racist doesn’t really disturb me that much, it’s more (important) that people read what we actually do say.”
Kirralie Smith rose to prominence with her anti-halal website Halal Choices, which has more than 24,000 followers on Facebook and aims to take action against the halal industry. She saw a move into politics as the next logical step.
She will contest the Federal Election in the NSW Senate with the new far right-wing party Australian Liberty Alliance. The anti-immigration party will have candidates running for the Senate in every state and territory. The party was launched by anti-immigration Dutch MP Geert Wilders late last year, with Ms Smith saying it now has “thousands of members”.
Ms Smith is quick to point out the party has 21 policies, but its anti-Islam stance has naturally drawn the most attention. Among its core policies is to “stop the Islamisation of Australia” and for “integration over separation”.
“Islam is not merely a religion, it is a totalitarian ideology with global aspirations,” the party’s website says. The party says Islam “seeks dominance over all aspects of human life and society”.
Ms Smith got involved with the party because of her concern about “political correctness”. “I thought if I waited any longer then we might be in real trouble,” she told news.com.au.
Ms Smith said political correctness was “shutting down debate” on issues such as same sex marriage and the Safe Schools policy.
Mr Wilders has been a controversial figure in European politics. He has compared the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and called for it to be banned.
“I may not agree with every statement he’s made, but I generally agree with his sentiment. I’m generally on the same page, but maybe I wouldn’t say things the same way he does,” Ms Smith said.
“I’ve read the Koran, but haven’t read Mein Kampf, so I couldn’t make that comparison. But what I will say is the Koran is an extremely dangerous book. “There are over 100 passages that incite violence against non-Muslims.”
Ms Smith said claims the party was racist were “ignorant”. “We have members of all backgrounds and all ethnic grounds and all belief systems, well almost all belief systems,” she said.
When asked if the party had any Muslim members, Ms Smith said: “I don’t know, I don’t know every member”.
The party and Ms Smith have been likened to Trump because of calls for zero immigration, with Ms Smith laughing off any similarities. “That’s just sensationalism,” she said. “I’m not going for prime minister, but I just call a spade a spade. That’s about as far as the comparison can go.”
It was Pauline Hanson’s One Nation that was the first right wing party to win widespread appeal when it was formed in 1997.
The party outpolled the Greens and the Australian Democrats in the following year’s Federal Election in the lower house. They received one million votes for the Senate to win one seat.
Now back at the helm of One Nation, Ms Hanson will run for a Queensland Senate seat at the Federal Election.
Ms Hanson, who has been more known for her appearance on Dancing with the Stars in recent years, shot to fame with her maiden speech in Parliament in 1996.
Then the independent MP for Oxley, she said Australia was being “swamped by Asians”. “(They) have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate,” she said.
Twenty years later, Ms Hanson said voters had realised what she said all those years ago had proven correct. “I’ve been on the political scene for 20 years and people are realising that what I said years ago is actually happening,” she told news.com.au.
In her maiden speech, she also called for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) to be disbanded (it was in 2005) and opposed privatising Telstra.
Ms Hanson also said offshore processing for asylum seekers was another One Nation policy later implemented.
The former fish and chip shop owner has contested state and federal elections in recent years without success. Last year she narrowly lost the seat of Lockyer in the Queensland State Election by 214 votes after preferences.
She said changes to Senate voting at the July 2 election would give her a greater chance of a return to federal politics. “Previously the Liberals, Nationals and the Greens have always preferenced One Nation last. This gives the preferences back to the voters,” she said. Ms Hanson said preferences had always “destroyed” One Nation.
But Ms Hanson was dismissive of parties such as the Australian Liberty Alliance.
“They’re a one issue party — you’ve got to look beyond that,” Ms Hanson told news.com.au.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Now the Left are turning on a feminist icon
Recently I received a letter, as NSW Finance and Property Minister, demanding that I urgently remove the ‘Germaine Greer’ plaque from the Sydney Writers Walk in Circular Quay.The reason for the demand, sent from a concerned, vigilant citizen, was that Ms Greer holds horrifically bigoted views on transgender issues, so her name can no longer defile public places in NSW.
Although it was just one letter, it’s a telling example of the Left’s ruthless totalitarian reflex. As Stalin erased Trotsky from Soviet photographs, so Ms Greer must be expunged, our public places sanitised – that’s progress, comrade.
Ms Greer is a particularly interesting target for the Left because she was once its darling; a feminist pioneer at the vanguard of the gender revolution. She stuck it to the man, and is still sticking it to him.
Unfortunately for Ms Greer, these days the man sometimes identifies as a woman, which means the once-celebrated feminist is now guilty of le thoughtcrime du jour: transphobia. Explaining her position on Q&A last week, Greer didn’t retreat: ‘If you’re a 50-year-old truck driver who’s had 4 children with a wife and you’ve decided the whole time you’ve been a woman, I think you’re probably wrong.’ See, this insolent fuddy duddy refuses to grasp that such thoughts are no longer ‘acceptable’. In the ever-shifting hierarchy of progressive issues, the trans-agenda now trumps feminism. So for Ms Greer, it’s confess, recant, conform, or you’re out.
That anyone would think it appropriate to denounce Ms Greer to a Minister of the Crown came as a shock to me. But this is the world we are in: public office holders are under increasing pressure to use state power to enforce the ‘progressive’ agenda. Sadly, too many are caving.
Take Germany, where a comedian is now the subject of a government-approved criminal investigation – for making jokes about the president of Turkey. Or Tasmania, where the Catholic Archbishop is being dragged before the anti-discrimination commission for publishing a pamphlet explaining his own Church’s teaching on marriage. Or Scotland, where the Glasgow police – providing locals with some helpful advice on the perils of social media – recently tweeted: ‘Think before you post or you may receive a visit from us this weekend…’
That’s right McDougall: you’re just one Facebook post away from hearing the friendly local constabulary’s jackboots crunching up your driveway.
Defending freedom doesn’t mean agreeing with every offensive statement anyone makes. A case in point: a few weeks ago some unruly footy fans unfurled a banner at the MCG emblazoned with ‘STOP THE MOSQUES’.
The reaction was swift and ruthless. Eddie McGuire told the ABC that those responsible should be banned from footy. AFL boss Gillan McLachlan got busy ‘talking to the Victoria Police to see how they may prosecute’. No matter that there are no grounds for prosecution: where there’s a will, there’s a gulag.
When a similar banner was unfurled at a game in WA, the police jumped straight in, marching the fans out and banning them from the ground.
When I’m watching a match, I pre- fer not to be distracted by louts with offensive banners trying to stir the polit- ical pot. But if footy codes are going to politicise games with statements about refugees and rounds where players wear rainbow bootlaces and the like, it’s not clear to me why one set of political statements is permitted, and another isn’t; why we’re free to use the game to spruik (invariably left-wing) political views on some issues, but get bundled away by cops for voicing opinions on others.
If you’re banning the Sydney University Evangelical Union for the unspeakable crime of requiring its executive to believe in Jesus (Marx forbid!), more power to you. If your target is George Pell, or Tony Abbott, or some other conservative punching bag, go ahead and spew your hate-filled bile from the rooftops. You’ll be lauded as brave and a hero and get interviewed on ABC, and maybe even nominated for Australian of the Year (or at the very least a Logie).
But if you want to use your freedom to challenge the dogmas of the new orthodoxy, I’m sorry comrade, that’s not what freedom’s for, so put a sock in it. Or else.
As Ms Greer’s cautionary tale illustrates, conservatives aren’t the only ones liable to find themselves on the wrong end of a progressive truncheon.
The revolution always eats its own, because there is no rhyme or reason to the opinions ‘progressives’ endorse from one day to the next. Their beliefs – no matter how ruthlessly enforced – may be useful in advancing ‘progress’ to some fabled utopia, but once their utility has expired, those beliefs can be discarded like last season’s flared corduroys. That’s where serious thinkers like Ms Greer run into trouble. Because serious thinkers have serious arguments rooted in serious principles that can’t simply be jettisoned.
When you abandon your principles, it’s hard to see the point of debate, other than to see who can shout the loudest. Contests of ideas degenerate into contests of fists. That’s not progress.
True progress demands a truly free exchange of ideas, because the best ideas are forged in the furnace of fierce disagreement – the battle of ideas, where wits are sharpened, arguments blunted, minds expanded, and gradually, truth revealed.
Nothing has made this clearer to me than the responsibility of legislative decision-making. Free debate is simply indispensable in that process. But I have felt the chill setting in – the reluctance to speak out, even among colleagues, on matters of huge importance, for fear of falling foul of the PC police.
This is the path to dead-end, unthinking government. If democracy is to survive, we must defend freedom. We must resist the growing pressure to deploy the state’s firepower to enforce a ‘progressive’ agenda that criminalises dissent. Because you can only have progress with a contest of ideas. And you can only have a contest of ideas if you are free.
Biodegradable bags aren’t better than regular plastic bags, report finds
CONSUMERS like to believe we’re doing the right thing for the environment. Purchasing plastic bags or coffee cups marked “biodegradable”, “compostable” or even plain old “environmentally friendly”, helps us sleep better at night.
But a new Senate inquiry into the threat of marine plastic pollution in Australia has found that “biodegradable” plastic bags are just as bad as regular plastic bags.
“While consumers might feel they are ‘doing the right thing’ by choosing biodegradable or degradable plastic, these products simply disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces to become microplastic,” read the report based on the senate’s findings.
“The committee also notes that there is some community confusion regarding the differences between biodegradable, degradable plastic, compostable and traditional plastic.
“The committee strongly considers that education campaigns are required to ensure consumers make informed choices about the alternatives to traditional plastics being offered.”
Normal plastic bags are usually made from petroleum, while biodegradable bags are made from plant or organic material which can decompose much faster.
But UNSW biodiversity expert Mark Browne, one of several scientists who made submissions to the inquiry, says the biodegradable material has the “same level of environmental impact” as that in regular plastic bags.
“These pieces of microplastic can be ingested or inhaled by animals,” Mr Browne told news.com.au.
“They can enter their lungs or guts and can transfer chemicals into the blood and surrounding tissues, which can affect how well they’re able to fight off infections.
“In plants, they can block the plant’s access to light, and plants need light to photosynthesise and produce food,” he said.
Plastic bags can kill marine life. Here a scuba diver swims over a discarded plastic bag tangled on a coral reef.
Plastic bags can kill marine life. Here a scuba diver swims over a discarded plastic bag tangled on a coral reef.Source:Getty Images
These microplastics can also affect how much food and water animals can consume.
“The particles fill up the animals’ guts and they’re not able to consume as much water or food. They may die from dehydration or starvation or being infected because their immune systems have been reduced,” Mr Browne said.
“The public is buying or using these bags thinking that they’re a quick fix, but there is not enough testing to prove they’re safe.”
Clean Up Australia managing director Terrie Ann Johnson told the inquiry marine plastic pollution is a growing global threat to biodiversity.
“[It’s already having a devastating impact on the Australian environment with significant potential to disrupt our lifestyle and lead to substantial economic loss,” she wrote in a submission.
Ms Johnson said it was a common misconception that marine debris and plastic pollution in Australia is a result of international pollution, or waste generated “at sea”.
According to the CSIRO, around 75 per cent of our marine debris is generated by Australian people, “not the high seas, with debris concentrated near cities”.
ABC inconsistent on sexism
Twitter provides a wonderful insight into the real thoughts, leanings and character of public figures — especially journalists. Last year, on this very day, for instance, we discovered what SBS sports reporter Stuart McIntyre really thought about the hundreds of thousands of men and women who risked their lives or sacrificed them in defence of our freedom and security.
Paul Bongiorno is a MWW favourite for his green Left commentary on RNBreakfast. We often ponder why he is paid by taxpayers to add his hard Left views to a radio network that already defies its charter obligations on balance to run a green Left agenda.
My theory is that Radio National pays Bonge to make the likes of Fran Kelly, Phillip Adams and Jonathan Green appear more mainstream.
Bonge is often first to harangue anyone from the right-of-centre over any comments that could be construed as sexist, xenophobic or insensitive. Yet in a revealing moment last week he tweeted about an American actress, Bel Powley, who was suggested to play Monica Lewinsky in a telemovie. “The actress not ugly enough,” tweeted Canberra’s Italian stallion.
Really? The former priest chose to publicly ridicule Lewinsky — surely a victim of sexual harassment if ever there was one — as ugly. Apart from being absurd and nasty it raised the question of why he would want to demean a woman in such a way.
We are left to presume it had something to do with how Lewinsky’s treatment helped to harm the reputation of progressive hero Bill Clinton. Clinton, of course, cops no abuse from Bonge; he saves that for the victim. Given the way Bonge (rightly) railed against sexist attacks on Julia Gillard, he is left looking like a misogyny hypocrite — just the sort we might expect Kelly to call out on RNBreakfast. We’ll listen with interest.
We couldn’t accuse the ABC of being inconsistent on border protection. Well OK, they went a little quiet on it for six years of chaos under Labor. But when they focus on it, they are consistent — in short, they are against border security and are prepared to run, unchecked or unverified, all sorts of claims about the mistreatment of asylum-seekers.
In an exchange related to border security last week the host of ABC radio’s PM, Mark Colvin, tweeted: “It’s the job of journalism to ask government for facts.” Had Colvin suddenly developed a naive faith in government? No, it transpires that Colvin was backing his ABC colleague, Peter Lloyd, in a rant against the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, apparently because he wasn’t responding to questions about an asylum boat turned around by the Sri Lankan navy.
Yet it seems Lloyd only knew about the turn-back because Dutton had announced it, and talked about it on 2GB. On Twitter, the Minister included a link to the Sri Lankan navy’s website for additional information. Still, Lloyd and Colvin were publicly chastising Dutton for his failure to respond to a list of 20 questions — there was “no reply” as yet, tweeted Lloyd as Colvin tweeted this was despite the “large numbers” of media types employed by the department.
As is the way in the new unbearable lightness of journalism, Lloyd also tweeted his questions. He wanted to know the date and port of the boat’s departure, when it was intercepted, how many people were on board etc. Well, I can tell him. There were nine people (five men, one woman, two boys and a girl) on the fishing vessel Rishna Duwa, intercepted at 6am on April 19th, about 30km off Negombo, the port of its departure. It was a colourful little boat painted bright green, yellow and orange. I can tell you this because all this information, and more, was available on the Sri Lankan navy website via the link Dutton had tweeted nearly 24 hours before the Colvin and Lloyd twitter protests.
Perhaps, in future, when the Sri Lankan navy does something in Sri Lanka, Lloyd and Colvin will contact the Sri Lankan government. Or perhaps they’ll click on the link supplied by the Australian government to help out. Or perhaps they’ll get on to Twitter complaining about another Coalition government conspiracy of silence over shameful border security policies.
English to become compulsory in Qld schools
English is set to become a compulsory subject for year 11 and 12 students in Queensland. While most students in those years study English, it is ultimately up to schools to decide whether it is compulsory.
The Queensland government wants to make all students to complete an English subject in their final years of school to ensure they have necessary communication skills for the digital age.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said about 98 per cent of students in years 11 and 12 currently studied English. "Let's make it compulsory and get the other two per cent," she said while launching the 2016 Premier's Reading Challenge on Tuesday.
Education Minister Kate Jones said a taskforce examining senior assessment and tertiary entrance would next week decide whether English would be made compulsory. "Our view is that we think that this sends a very strong message about the quality of education in Queensland," Ms Jones said. "We understand that in the digital economy having good quality communication skills is critical."
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Just a "boy". No mention of a terrorist suspect's religion. How strange!
The "extremist" literature he had was Presbyterian, perhaps? Presbyterians can be pretty extreme about discouraging gambling
A 16-year-old boy has been charged with planning to carry out an Anzac Day terrorist attack in Sydney. The teenager was arrested near his home in Auburn, in Sydney's west, on Sunday by counter terrorism police.
On searching his home, police did not find any weapons or explosives but they did uncover extremist propaganda, 9News reported. They also allege the boy was trying to source the method and the equipment for carrying out the attack.
The boy was charged with one count of acts in preparation for or planning a terrorist act, which carries a maximum penalty of a life imprisonment.
Police say he was acting by himself and he was refused bail to appear before Parramatta Children's Court later on Monday.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said it was 'really concerning' to see a 16-year-old charged with the offence.
'We will be suggesting that there was a proposed attack to happen on this day [Monday] and that being Anzac Day, it is very, very concerning,' he said.
Comm Scipione would not reveal which suburb the boy had targeted but he did confirm the attack was planned for Sydney.
He also urged families heading to Anzac Day services not to be deterred by the incident.
'The risk from this particular threat has been thwarted... Do not let an event like this stop you from going out,' Comm Scipione said.
'So, please, don't be perturbed. We are doing absolutely everything we can to keep people safe. This threat has been dealt with. Enjoy your day.'
The boy appeared to have been acting alone in planning the alleged attack.
'People shouldn't have concerns that this person may have other associates out there that may have been joining in the threat,' Comm Scipione said.
'We believe it was one person by himself and at this stage we are satisfied.'
Comm Scipione said NSW Police had increased their presence around the state following the arrest.
'At this stage it is a noticeable increase... we are not leaving anything to chance at the moment,' he said.
Comm Scipione said counter terrorism police were forced to act on Sunday afternoon in order to ensure public safety.
'Clearly we have taken swift action to ensure community safety on the eve of a sacred day on the Australian calendar,' Commissioner Scipione said.
'I want to assure the NSW community that our counter terrorism capability is such that we were able to move quickly to prevent harm.
'The age of the individual is obviously a concern for us, and it remains a measure of the ongoing task facing law enforcement and the community.'
AFP State Manager Sydney Office, Commander Chris Sheehan, said family and friends are vital when it comes to connecting with those young people who may be susceptible to carry out criminal acts that attract significant penalties.
African gang members who attacked Chinese students during a spate of home invasions were out on bail for similar attacks
"Suspected Sudanese Apex gang members who were arrested after allegedly assaulting a group of Chinese international students were released on bail for similar attacks.
Five teens - aged 16 to 19 - of African background were arrested on Saturday night over a recent spate of violent home invasions and car thefts in Melbourne's south-east over the weekend.
According to the Herald Sun, several of the youths were freed on bail accused of carrying out similar violent offences.
The revelation comes after detectives from the Taskforce Tense arrested five teens over an alleged crime spree in Brighton East and Ormond in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Investigators executed warrants at neighbouring suburbs Cranbourne and Hampton Park later that night, and allegedly recovered a stolen BMW, Honda CRV, mobile phones and a computer.
According to the Herald Sun, five Chinese nationals living at the Ormond home were awoken at 6am on Saturday when six African youths broke into their townhouse.
'I thought, why did they choose our house? What's their aim,' one of those Chinese students, named Tony, said. 'One or two of them had weapons — hammers. I don't want to die, I thought about that,' he said.
'I've got no idea why they picked here. I now think Australia's not a safe place. I thought it was safe before, but not now.'
The rampaging youths allegedly demanded car keys and sped off with a stolen Honda SUV and white BMW 7 series car.
Two of the arrested men have been charged with aggravated burglary, assault, theft of motor car, handle stolen goods and possess proceeds of crime.
They remain in police custody and will appear at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Sunday.
A third man, 17, will appear at a children's court at a later date to face the same five charges. Two more men, 18 and 16, were released without charges.
The Herald Sun reported that Chinese nationals were being targeted by the infamous Apex gang because they are seen as unlikely to fight back when threatened by gang members.
Victoria police say the arrests are 'part of an ongoing commitment toward dealing with violent gang-related offending seen across southern metro region suburbs in recent months.'
Last month, a violent gang-related riot in Melbourne shut down parts of the city and terrorised the public.
The Apex gang were filmed causing chaos on March 12 as more than 100 members clashed in Federation Square and on Swanston Street in front of families attending a Moomba community event.
The Apex gang had threatened on social media to return and run amok again on Sunday night but police managed to disperse the group.
Channel Seven slammed for crossing to an ad break while the Last Post was being played
Leftists have long mocked ANZAC day so I think we can guess the politics of the person who did this
Channel Seven has come under fire from viewers after the broadcaster cut to an ad break during the Last Post before the Richmond-Melbourne game on Sunday night.
The Last Post was being played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) when Seven cut to an ad for one of its other programs, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.
The bugle call, which signifies the end of the day's activities in military tradition, is sounded at commemorative services such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.
Seven reportedly cut to an ad for an episode of My Kitchen Rules.
Viewers took to social media to share their disappointment at the broadcaster's action.
One person wrote: 'An actual human being, made a conscious decision, to press a button, to interrupt The Last Post'.
Another questioned where Channel Seven's Anzac spirit was, while a further person commented that they 'weren't surprised'.
Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison defends anti-gay commentator at Australian Christian Lobby event
Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has defended the right of a Christian commentator to make controversial statements concerning homosexuality, which have included likening the advancement of gay rights to the rise of Nazism in pre-war Germany.
"I respect everybody's opinions, I just hope and wish others would do the same," he said, after speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby conference. "I have always respected everybody else's faith and always sought to respect everybody else's view."
The ACL has been criticised for inviting conservative American commentator Eric Metaxas as keynote speaker at Saturday's event in Sydney. The author and radio host has drawn parallels between the current push for equality and the Church failing to stand up to the Nazi party.
He is also a supporter of gay conversion therapy and claims "normalising" homosexuality is an attempt to break down all sexual boundaries.
The Treasurer's speech to the 600 people attending the ACL's "Cultivating Courage" conference focused on the importance of marriage and the family, which he called "the most sacred national institution". "To protect our country, to protect our society, to protect our economy and to protect our children, we must protect the family," he said.
He thanked the "millions of people … who I know pray earnestly for our political leaders".
"I'm a big believer in prayer, I've seen the impact of it in my own life and I know it works," he said.
But the Treasurer declined to discuss further his own strong Christian beliefs. "My faith is not my politics. My faith is an important part of who I am, as it is of every human being, whatever their faith might be. Judge me on my policies. My faith is my business."
ACL managing director Lyle Shelton told the conference that it was becoming harder to be a Christian in Australia. "We face false slurs and labels, designed to demonise us into silence," he said.
"Bigot, homophobe, hater, are just some of the pejorative terms that have been used to characterise us ordinary Australians, who simply believe that marriage [should be] between a man and woman."
A small group outside the Wesley Conference Centre staged a protest in favour of same-sex marriage and gay rights. Cat Rose, from the Community Action Against Homophobia, criticised Mr Morrison's decision to speak at the ACL event. "We've got no problems with the Christian lobby but all they do is talk about gay rights and how to stop them," she said.
Conference attendees were asked to "refrain from going outside at any time" to avoid protesters.
Mr Shelton also criticised public support from large corporations, including Telstra, for marriage equality. "If you work for a big corporation like Telstra, you'd better keep your head down because you might end up with a tap on the shoulder by the diversity officer," he said.
"Such has been the capitulation and capture of corporate Australia by rainbow politics."
In 2014, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten used his appearance at the ACL conference to make a case for marriage equality and argued that freedom of worship did not mean freedom to vilify.
Labor is taking Europe’s road to ruin
It is easy to understand why Labor wants to increase taxes on higher-income earners. And it does not take much nous to figure out why the government might feel under pressure to do so too. But what does require explaining is how the need to raise taxes in next month’s budget has become an unchallenged part of the conventional wisdom.
After all, we are hardly slouches in the revenue stakes. On the contrary, data from the International Monetary Fund shows Australia is exceptional in the reliance we are already placing on higher revenues, rather than on better controlled public spending, to restore budget balance.
Taking the advanced economies as a whole, about 25 per cent of the projected fiscal improvement over the decade will come from increasing the share of taxes in GDP, with the remaining 75 per cent being achieved by slowing the growth of outlays. In Australia, however, virtually all the fiscal effort will be on the revenue side, with public spending growing at a rapid rate.
Yet there is little reason to think that our lopsided emphasis on raising revenues makes any sense. Rather, simple economics suggests the emphasis should lie squarely on public expenditure restraint.
An example illustrates the point. Assume the last dollar of public spending yields 10c in net benefits, but that by reducing the incentives to work, save and invest, the additional dollar in taxes required to make that spending fiscally sustainable would impose 30c worth of costs. In that case, cutting spending would clearly be preferable to boosting taxes. Conversely, it is only if the net benefit from the last dollar of public spending exceeds the cost of raising taxes that a tax hike might be justifiable.
The question, in other words, is how the social loss from higher taxes compares with the social benefit of sustainably higher expenditure. And while such comparisons are inevitably fraught, the former is likely to greatly exceed the latter.
That is partly because the options for tax increases have been narrowed to the point where only the most inefficient possibilities remain on the table. Obviously, no tax is costless, but some are plainly more distorting than others. And with the top rate of income tax already at 50 per cent (and closer to 58 per cent when the GST is taken into account), plugging the deficit by raising that rate could reduce national income by up to 60c for each additional dollar in revenue raised. Such a tax increase would therefore only be sensible if each dollar of public expenditure yielded $1.60 in benefits.
The hurdle would not be any lower were taxes hiked on superannuation or capital gains. An efficient tax system should be neutral between consuming today and consuming tomorrow; ours isn’t, taxing many savings heavily.
Aggravating those distortions would have substantial economic costs. That doesn’t mean total savings would necessarily fall were taxes on savings raised. Rather, just as higher income taxes — by making taxpayers poorer — may force them to work longer hours, so taxpayers, faced with steeper taxes on savings may offset some of the impact on future incomes by maintaining their savings effort.
But much as it would be absurd to believe the longer working hours meant the higher income taxes had not distorted decision-making, so it is foolish to claim, as the Grattan Institute’s John Daley regularly does, that the near constancy of total savings implies raising taxes on savings is harmless.
Instead, put in the jargon of economics, the “income” effects of the tax hike — which raise savings — disguise the “substitution” effects, which reduce them; but it is those “substitution” effects that measure how seriously efficiency is being undermined.
The efficiency losses would be every bit as great were negative gearing abolished. In simple terms, this would raise the cost of providing rental housing, compared with the cost of owner-occupancy, by a further 6-10 per cent in a market where that choice is already severely distorted.
Of course, those costs could be worth bearing if the spending they made sustainable had high net benefits. In reality, as public spending has burgeoned so its quality has deteriorated, to the point where its benefits are far below the thresholds needed to justify raising taxes.
For example, real commonwealth expenditure on childcare has increased from $1.8 billion in 2002-03 to just less than $7bn, so that spending per child under the age of five has literally trebled; yet there are few signs of any social returns from massively boosting outlays. Merely reversing that increase would yield savings that exceed the revenues that could plausibly be obtained from abolishing negative gearing and halving the capital gains tax concession.
Equally, real commonwealth school spending per school-aged child has doubled since 2002-03, but the proficiency level of lower performing students has barely increased, while that of higher-performing students has dropped. And in healthcare too there is a great deal of “flat-of-the-curve” spending, which yields no health benefits, and evidence of widespread waste.
Obviously, reforming spending programs is tough. But it is not the substantive difficulties that impede reform: it is the fact that in those areas and others the benefits of the spending have been captured by producer lobbies, going from the teacher unions to the self-appointed welfare advocates, whose swarms of petty appetites are as vicious as their rhetoric is sanctimonious. Taking them on is far harder than shafting taxpayers, all the more so when the slugs can be cloaked in the mantle of “fairness”.
That has been Europe’s road to ruin. And it has long been Labor’s chosen road too. The test for Scott Morrison is whether the Coalition can do better.