Sunday, June 23, 2019

Climate activists are the establishment, not the underdogs

These well-to-do campaigners would happily make ordinary people’s lives harder.

On the eve of the Australian election last month, the righteous anger of modern politics turned to violence when a man was stabbed with a corkscrew.

His assailant, Steven Economides, is a senior 62-year-old partner at KPMG who lives in the Sydney suburb of Balgowlah Heights where the average three-room house costs around £1.5million.

The victim of this white-collar crime was a volunteer campaigner for former prime minister Tony Abbott, who stands accused of indifference to the future of the planet. Abbott was seeking re-election as MP for Warringah. Economides was a supporter of Abbott’s rival, independent Zali Steggall, whose call for real action on climate change is said to have won the seat.

Today’s typical Australian eco-warrior is affluent, educated and smug. These people are to be found in fashionable suburbs, frequently close to the water. They drive European cars, fly north in the winter and despair at the suburban bogans and their seeming indifference to the Greatest Ethical Challenge of Our Time.

The world looks somewhat different from the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland, where a proposal to develop Australia’s largest coal mine has raised hopes of economic activity and jobs.

The Carmichael Mine would be built by the Indian company Adani and would feed the increasing demand for coal-fired electricity generation in the sub-continent, the quickest and cheapest way to provide reliable power to a nation in which 18,000 villages still lack electricity.

The development has been frustrated by the largest and most sophisticated anti-development campaign Australia has seen.

The site of the mine is inherently unlovable, flat scrubby grazing land, plagued by drought, 400km inland on the edge of the outback. The campaigners responded by linking the development to the campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef. A powerful coalition of green groups, including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, launched deceptive campaigns to persuade the public that the mine was ‘near’ or even ‘in the heart of’ the reef. In reality, the mine will be further from the reef than the North York Moors are from London

In its form, the strategy is little different from the campaign that successfully stopped the development of hydro-electricity in the early 1980s and turned tree-hugging into a professional enterprise in Australia.

The campaign to stop the construction of the Franklin Dam on the Gordon River was led by a young environmental activist named Bob Brown who supplied 16mm movies of pristine wilderness to television stations as a ‘weapon of conservation’ and instructed activists to put on jackets and ties in preparation for media interviews.

Brown turned the Franklin into an internationally recognised icon with the help of the support of David Bellamy. The turning point for the Franklin campaign came when the opposition Labor Party came on board, turning it into an election issue that would help it gain votes in inner-city electorates on the mainland.

Bob Hawke’s victory at the 1983 election came despite a swing against Labor in Tasmania, where the workers were less concerned about the loss of native habitat than they were about the loss of jobs.

It was the start of Labor’s uncomfortable alliance with green politics that hastened its estrangement from working Australians and remains a nagging source of tension between the party’s industrial and intellectual wings.

Some 36 years later, the environmental movement pinned its hopes on a Labor victory in the recent election to stigmatise coal in the same way it had effectively ended the development of hydro-electricity.

Queensland’s state Labor government was caught in a bind. Approving the mine would have risked the loss of inner-Brisbane seats to the Greens. Blocking it would lose it seats in central and far-north Queensland.

Queensland premier Anastasia Palaszczuk decided to stall, relying on the ability of the public service to procrastinate, hoping that an incoming Labor government in Canberra would take the decision from her, or that the backers of the Adani mine might pack up and go home.

Palaszczuk badly underestimated the strength of the popular revolt building in the regions and the suburbs. Nor had she foreseen that the Coalition would grant federal approval for the project days before calling a federal election, thus putting the pressure on Labor.

There was a growing resistance to the sanctimonious campaign driven by activists from the south who put parading their virtue above other people’s jobs.

The arrival of Brown’s Stop Adani protest at Easter served only to cement the anger of local people. The procession of SUVs and well-appointed camper vans arriving from the south was met with a counter protest by local people driving utes and tractors.

The anger expressed at the ballot box was devastating for Labor, which received just 27 per cent of the vote in Queensland, its lowest share of the state vote since the federation in 1901.

It took the state government a matter of days to absorb the message and make a swift about-face. Premier Palaszczuk ordered her bureaucrats to stop stalling, giving them three weeks to make their decision.

Late last week her environment minister announced that the project was approved and preliminary construction began at the weekend.

The Adani approval is a considerable setback for Big Eco, the international coalition of activists which had invested heavily in turning a simple mine approval into the last stand for coal. Tens of millions of dollars was spent on lawfare to stymie the approvals process and shareholder activism aimed at starving the project of funds.

It is becoming harder for Big Eco to pretend that it is the underdog, bravely fighting against bully-boy corporations. It is becoming clear that the very opposite is true.

Increasingly, the activists have the upper hand. They are well-funded, ruthless and professional. They are in cahoots with media professionals who mix in the same circles and adopt the same assumptions, but are estranged from their fellow Australians.

The Adani campaign has sharpened the battle lines. The climate-change debate is not a contest between science and ignorance, belief and denial, or good and evil. It is a clash between those rich enough to enjoy the luxury of projecting their virtue and those who simply want to get on with the job.


ABC beginning to show awareness of their Leftist bias

What’s interesting about the ABC’s headquarters in Sydney’s inner-city Ultimo in recent times turns on that which is suddenly missing at the top of the organisation — namely, the prevalence of denial that has pervaded the public broadcaster for decades.

For eons, the ABC board, senior management and high-profile staff have denied the public broadcaster has a problem with bias or political diversity. This despite the fact the ABC has been, and remains, a conservative-free zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or ­online outlets.

Some ABC defenders have claimed there are many conservatives within the organisation — without naming one such person. Others have asserted this is a non-issue since there is no relationship between how journalists do their jobs and their political views. The latter position excludes the possibility of not only deliberate bias but also unconscious bias.

Ita Buttrose was appointed ABC chairwoman by the Coalition government in late February this year. On May 3, she announced that the ABC board had appointed David Anderson as the public broadcaster’s managing director and editor-in-chief. He had been acting in this position after Michelle Guthrie’s contract was terminated by the ABC board in September last year.

On May 30, Buttrose did an interview with Rafael Epstein on ABC radio in Melbourne. The left-of-centre presenter lobbed up what appeared to be a leading question in search of an expected reply. Namely: “There’s a lot of people in government who think we’re biased — how do you address that?” Epstein was referring to the criticism that the ABC is biased towards the left.

The answer was not what the presenter expected. Buttrose’s ­immediate response was: “Sometimes I think we might be biased. I think sometimes we could do more with diversity of views. I haven’t got a problem with anyone’s view but I think we can make sure ours is as diverse as we can make it to be.” Following further questioning, she raised the issue of unconscious bias.

Then on June 10, ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly queried the ABC chair about what she meant by saying that ABC people sometimes reveal a bias without really knowing it. Buttrose doubled down on her earlier view, stating “we’re all biased in one way or another”. She then reflected that media types did not respond well to criticism.

As far as I can recall, Buttrose is the first incumbent ABC chair to concede early in her term that the public broadcaster has a problem with bias. Maurice Newman, however, did made some criticisms to this effect towards the end of his term as chairman. Buttrose also told Kelly all media organisations are in a pretty similar position when it comes to bias.

Last Monday, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age ran an interview with Anderson by Jennifer Duke. He told the Nine newspapers’ journalist that in ­future the ABC will push for a greater diversity of viewpoints among guests on its panel shows.

In particular, Anderson said, “from time to time … the perspective of views that we represent is something that we could improve upon”. He mentioned that the greater diversity of opinion he had in mind included political views, ethnic background and gender.

Anderson then added: “I think that is what leads to people’s rush to judgment about the ABC being biased — perhaps that we haven’t accurately reflected what would be the views of the country, for whatever reason.”

As far as I can recall, Anderson is the first incumbent ABC managing director and editor-in-chief to concede the public broadcaster has a problem with presenting political pluralism and has failed, on occasions at least, to ­reflect the views of all Australians. He has not specifically conceded bias in the public broadcaster. However, a lack of political diversity does not occur without ABC producers and presenters making choices about who is invited — and who is not invited — on to their panels.

It is a matter of record that many an ABC panel takes place where everyone (the presenter included) agrees with everyone else in a left-of-centre kind of way. Such panels lack political diversity. That also makes them boring.

Anderson told Duke that some conservatives do not want to go on ABC panels. That’s true. But it’s also true that some conservatives have been effectively de-platformed by ABC producers and presenters.

It’s early days yet under the Buttrose-Anderson management team. It seems that more than 90 per cent serious criticism of the ABC’s lack of political balance relates to less than 10 per cent of its total output — with a focus on the public broadcaster’s news, current affairs and comedy production. It should not be all that difficult to inject some conservatives into prominent presenter, producer and editor roles at the public broadcaster.

In the lead-up to the May 18 election, Melbourne-based ABC presenter Jon Faine warned Liberal Party deputy leader Josh Frydenberg that Bill Shorten was about to address a Friends of the ABC rally with a promise to increase funding for the public broadcaster. The Treasurer was unimpressed. Moreover, Q&A presenter Tony Jones suggested that Scott Morrison should accept the “great opportunity” presented to appear on his program and, in doing so, “might get a sense of what the public was thinking”.

The Friends of the ABC had no impact on the election outcome — not even in Melbourne, where support for the public broadcaster is strongest. And the Prime Minister remained in his job without accepting Jones’s (condescending) invitation and without being unnerved by ABC chief political correspondent Laura Tingle’s confident prediction the Coalition would be defeated.

With the next election scheduled for mid-2022, there is time for the ABC to renew its somewhat strained relationship with the ­Coalition and improve its own performance with respect to its audience. Dropping the decades-long denial about real or unconscious bias and a lack of political pluralism is a good start.


PC terminology distorts the truth

Do readers remember when the term “political correctness” was on every conservative’s lips and at the fingertips of every commentator? That term, used as a phrase to denote intimidatory “right think”, is unfortunately fast leaving the lexicon. This is because so much of what was once scoffed at as political correctness has been absorbed into the mental and psychological landscape.

Today almost every political and social problem is looked at through a set of ideological prisms, and opinions on even the most serious issues are conveyed through a menu of acceptable tropes. The result is superficial, ideologically motivated mumbo jumbo.

Take violence against women. Lately the union boss John Setka got himself into a lot of trouble about this issue. Why? Not just because he himself has been charged with harassing a woman through phone and text messages, nor because he has publicly threatened Australian Building and Construction Commission inspectors, claiming their children will be made to feel “ashamed” of them, nor because he is the boss of a union that has used systematic bullying at building sites for years.

No, this is not why Setka has been threatened with expulsion from the ALP and his job. It is because he was perceived to criticise Rosie Batty, whose campaign against gender-based domestic violence has turned her into an untouchable icon of the virtuous right-thinking elite. Does anyone see the irony of this?

Of course, no one should criticise Batty, who had the hellish experience of seeing her child killed by his mentally deranged father. Her son was the victim of the most appalling laxity on the part of the police. Her husband had four outstanding arrest warrants and two intervention orders against him. He should not have been let loose to murder that child. At the inquest the police lack of action was criticised by the judge as revealing “a disturbingly relaxed attitude and a failure to accord an appropriate degree of urgency to the situation”. Obviously.

However, despite her devastating personal experience, Batty’s campaign will be fruitless, doomed to empty breast-beating. This is because it is a direct product of political correctness. The campaign, which was started during the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull with $100 million of taxpayer money, was never going to have any effect on the real causes of domestic violence, because it is seemingly not about looking at the real causes.

It has been hijacked as an ideological campaign by ambitious feminists, harnessing the mantra of gender inequality, to attack something that does not originate in gender inequality.

Rather, domestic violence has its origins in the twin social evils of alcohol and drug abuse, combined with poverty, large-scale family breakdown, and of course inadequate policing. Hence domestic violence is most acute in Australia in Aboriginal communities. However, that fact does not play to the anti-racism ideology. So while the professional feminists are using domestic violence as a vehicle to promote yet more talkfests and paid lectures, Aboriginal women and children are being continually subjected to the most degrading physical and sexual violence.

Meanwhile, in the alternative universe in which we white educated types live, the men are not allowed to question any of this. Instead, they are encouraged to pay homage to the phony gender rubric that frames any discussion about domestic violence by flinging off the scourge of their maleness and sporting white ribbons.

Women are too hamstrung by the platitudes of feminists to query this agenda. So we are all obliged to treat domestic violence not as a practical problem of the drug culture and of policing, but as a seriously vague “gender issue” about which men have to beat their breasts and women take the high ground as victims and then demand that governments should do something, even though government can do very little.

Domestic violence is not the only area where the demands of political correctness have skewed the mental landscape interfering with the truth of the matter. So-called identity politics is rife with this. The language is carefully policed and anyone going outside to call a spade a spade, even in the mildest terms, invites condemnation. Witness what happened to Barry Humphries when he was shunned by the very festival he helped to set up. His fault? He had called the current epidemic of transgenderism “a fashion”.

Then there was the fearless duo of Germaine Greer and the equally acerbic Julie Burchill, special subjects of the bleedin’ obvious, who pointed out, not in mild but in scathing terms, that you could “put on a dress and cut off your bits” but it doesn’t turn you into a woman — unless of course you live in Tasmania, where you don’t even have to cut off the bits.

Despite their “transgressions”, these people are safe by virtue of their fame and intelligence. However, look what happened to Israel Folau, who as a contracted football player was doing the only thing he can do. He was not safe. His case has a strange inverted relationship to that of Setka — who was condemned because he slipped up on the politically correct line rather than his transgressions.

Folau is a good man, a model family man who has nevertheless been pilloried as a bad man, an undesirable and lost his job.


The brouhaha surrounding his posts was caused by one thing. His employers did not sack him because of his religion, nor was it an employment issue. Folau’s big mistake was a political correctness transgression.

He crossed a threshold that the commissars of political right think will not allow. He should have left only one category [homosexuals] out of his list of sinners.

We are not interested in the salvation of drunks and adulterers, or anyone else for that matter. After all, there are people who have been taking drugs still playing for the Wallabies — not to mention the footballers of various codes charged with rape.


More houses needed
Official results show that 2018 was one of the strongest years on record for population growth, with the number of people living here rising by 404,780 during the year.

“This reinforces the need for state and territory governments to work with the Federal Government to implement microeconomic reform measures that will support the fast tracking of congestion busting infrastructure projects and more efficient planning, tax and red tape cutting regimes to support an increase in new housing construction,” Shane Garrett, Chief Economist of Master Builders Australia said.

The ABS data indicate that Australia’s population rose by 1.6% over the course of 2018. Net migration from overseas accounted for about 250,000 additional residents while the excess of births over deaths added 156,000 to the population.

“There is a very strong linkage between inward migration to Australia and the pace of job creation. The 270,000 increase in total employment during 2018 is very similar to the figure for overseas migration,” Shane Garrett said.

“Population and jobs growth drives construction activity right across the spectrum including for residential, offices, shops, schools and hospitals – not to mention all of the support infrastructure needed,” he said.

“Australia’s building sector is currently facing challenges in the form of weakening economic growth and difficulties around access to finance in some parts of the market. Fast tracking the rollout of previously announced government infrastructure projects would help strengthen confidence on the ground in addition to meeting the needs of a growing population,” Shane Garrett said.

“Master Builders estimates that between 193,850 and 201,705 new homes will need to be built each year over the coming two decades to accommodate future growth. Failing to do this will surely result in home ownership becoming an even more formidable quest for our younger generations,” he said.

“Given that we managed to build just 173,350 dwellings per year over the past 20 years, the onus is on all tiers of government to lift their game and ensure that land supply, planning policy and taxation settings are more conducive to the delivery of the homes and buildings we will require,”  Shane Garrett.

During 2018, the fastest rate of population growth was in Victoria (+2.2%), followed by the ACT (+1.8%) and Queensland (+1.8%). More modest growth was recorded in NSW (+1.6%) and Tasmania (+1.2%).

Particularly challenging economic conditions in the NT contributed to a 0.4% decline in its population during 2018. Population growth was quite modest in South Australia (+0.8%) and Western Australia (+0.9%).

For more information contact: Ben Carter, National Director Media & Public Affairs, 0447 775 507

Albo, take faith seriously

One of the first things new Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, needs to emphasise to his demoralised party is that they will not return to government without showing they take religion seriously.

Albo’s own seat of Grayndler — which Labor holds with a margin of nearly 16 per cent — is one of a number of Labor-held Western Sydney seats where the electorate includes many voters who are about God.

It matters to Australia’s Muslim, Christian, and Hindu voters — and all the others who have a religious affiliation — that they are free to practise their faith; and, if they wish, to talk about it openly.

No wonder Labor frontbenchers have warned Albanese that Labor needs to work constructively with the Morrison government to address concerns about religious freedom by passing new laws.

It sounds like simple and sensible advice. But the problem for the new Labor leader is that a decision to cooperate with the government on matters of religion is likely to further divide his party.

For a deep and possibly irreparable fissure has opened up — and runs right through the heart of the ALP.

On one side stand Labor’s traditional blue-collar and middle-class voters respectful of belief in God. But on the other side stand the battalions of Labor’s inner-city intellectuals who sneer at religion, dismiss faith as primitive superstition, and wield the cudgels of identity politics.

It is not the deity that commands the unswerving devotion of the elites, but diversity. And they impose on the rest of us what political scientist, Kenneth Minogue, once described as “a dictatorship of virtue”.

The ALP is going to have to get to grips with God if it hopes to occupy the government benches in the House of Reps again. But in order to do that, Albanese is going to have to work a miracle of his own.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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