Friday, February 19, 2021

The authoritarian Green/Left

A note from a reader in Victoria

Access to many beaches and sections of coastlines, river banks, walking and vehicular tracks through state forests, climbing sites,... all about the country and particularly in Victoria, one by one, are having public access banned, mostly for two reason - supposed safety reasons and because they are Aboriginal sacred sites.

Many miles of my own favourite coastline in western Victoria, The Kraggs, now has access banned because Aborigines used to collect shellfish there. Therefore no one is allowed to walk along the rocks and beaches there anymore.

Parts of the Grampians and Langi Ghiran National Parks near me have been made illegal to enter -- no public access -- either because the area was significant to Aborigines or with no explanation.

Venturing into state forest and National Parks in my area, it is not uncommon to be stopped by Vic Parks workers and grilled on what I am doing there. In a State forest near where I live I have even had my perfectly legal little cooking fire quenched, even though it was winter time and cold and wet, and the billy can tipped out, told to put my dog in the car, told I had no right to be there and told to leave.

I refused. Eventually they left. One of my martial art students worked for Vic Parks but resigned because he could not tolerate the us-and-them authoritative attitude of his colleagues towards the public.

In contrast with that, a radical leftist authoritarian greenie friend is applying to work with Vic Parks because she wants to "save nature from humans". She frequently utters opinions such as, "People should not be allowed to do that", and, "That should be banned."

Authoritarian freedom-hating greenies and leftists are attracted to working in Parks. They want to keep everyone except themselves out of the parks


Secondary school students should be better taught Australian values, Indigenous history and citizenship studies to increase their knowledge of and engagement with civics and democracy, a bipartisan parliamentary report has urged

This is badly needed but the devil will be in the details, of course

An 18-month Senate inquiry into Australian nationhood, national identity and democracy has called for a wide-ranging review of the curriculum and the specific inclusion of more content about First Nations history and issues of citizenship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

But the inquiry failed to reach a unanimous position on overturning the controversial laws which prevent dual nationals from being elected, which led to 15 MPs resigning during a constitutional crisis in the previous term of Federal Parliament.

Several recommendations - which were not all supported by Coalition members of the committee - also included proposals for engagement with the Uluru Statement from the Heart, increased public funding of political parties and candidates and a federal anti-corruption commission.

The inquiry was established in September 2019 against a backdrop of rising populism around the Western world and a perceived weakening of traditional institutions, often linked to global events such as the Global Financial Crisis in 2007, the election of former US president Donald Trump and Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The bipartisan committee agreed that schools should increase the time dedicated to civics and citizenship education to at least 30 hours a year, the topics should be compulsory in years 9 and 10 and be conducted by “appropriately trained” teachers. It would include resources developed by First Nations people and be made more engaging for students.

The civics and citizenship curriculum would be reviewed five years after its implementation to assess its effectiveness in increasing knowledge and engagement of young people, the report recommended.

Chaired by veteran Labor senator Kim Carr, the review made 18 recommendations including providing prospective citizens with an “engaging and informative” history of Australian democracy and system of government as part of their citizenship preparation process.

He said the report is a snapshot of Australia at a turbulent time in its history and that of the wider world.

“What is undoubtedly true is that the level of civic engagement and debate in this country is disturbingly low,” Senator Carr said.

The report, released on Tuesday night, recommends the federal government improve educational and school programs to tackle prejudice and build tolerance and “understanding, empathy, and an openness to diversity”.

The committee also recommended that the Australian government works with the journalists union, the Australian Media Alliance, to develop a national strategy to tackle fake news and misinformation. Coalition MPs on the committee, however, urged caution against any proposal which limits or regulates free speech and said the government had already taken steps through its digital platforms code and proposed online safety bill.

Labor and The Greens supported a recommendation the government investigate options to allow dual citizens to run for, and sit in, the Federal Parliament, but it was rejected by Liberal senators Sarah Henderson and Paul Scarr.

The crisis in the previous Parliament, arising from section 44 of the Australian Constitution, which prohibits parliamentarians from having allegiance to a foreign power, especially citizenship, cost several MPs their careers and brought the government to the brink.

In a dissenting report, senators Henderson and Scarr said they were troubled by the notion a dual citizen could sit in Parliament. “The act of renouncing citizenship is an act of renouncing allegiance to a foreign power; it is not a rejection of one’s heritage or multicultural origins,” they said.

“Yes, we agree that Australia imposes a strict approach to political citizenship. However, this we believe helps to engender the trust and confidence of Australian citizens in their political representatives, which is a fundamental tenet of our parliamentary democracy.”


Presbyterian church head says Victorian ban on gay conversion practices should be ignored

The head of the Presbyterian church in Australia says its pastors will not be directed to obey the Victorian government’s new law banning gay conversion practices, calling the bill “a declaration of war on scripture”.

In an interview with Guardian Australia on Thursday, the moderator general of the Presbyterian church in Australia, Rev Peter Barnes, called the bill – which passed Victoria’s parliament earlier this month – “authoritarian” and said the church would ignore it on the basis that church leaders “don’t get our instructions from parliament house”.

“Civil authorities have a God-given right to govern, I’m not questioning that, but its authority is not open-ended,” he said.

“If the government passes legislation I don’t think is wise, that’s one thing. You’re not going to please all people all the time. If I think they should lower taxes but they raise them, I still pay my taxes.

“But there are limits, and this legislation puts itself very obviously against scripture. It was a declaration of war against scripture.”

The bill, which passed the parliament in February, outlaws practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Penalties for those found to have engaged in conversion practices resulting in serious injury face penalties of up to 10 years jail or up to $10,000 in fines.

The bill also empowers the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to investigate reports of suspected conversion practices.

Advocacy groups including the Brave Network, the LGBTQIA+ committee of the Uniting church in Australia and Rainbow Catholics lauded the bill as the “world’s most significant achievement in legislation curtailing the diabolical influence of the conversion movement”. During a marathon debate on the bill in parliament, Labor’s Harriet Shing – the first openly lesbian member of Victorian parliament – said the bill helped to “recognise the pain and the trauma and the hurt of victims and survivors”.

The bill goes further than one passed in Queensland last year in that it prohibits harmful practices not only in healthcare settings but also in religious settings.

This includes “carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism”.

A number of religious groups opposed the bill when the Victorian government put the proposal out for consultation in October last year, or pushed to have it cover only conversion practices deemed to be carried out without consent.

That report quoted survivors of conversion practices who spoke about the lasting impact it had on their lives and mental health, including one anonymous submission which discussed feeling “shame to such a degree that my mental, physical and spiritual health all suffered” and experiencing “suicidal ideation” after attending a prayer therapy group which sought to fix the person’s “sexual deviance”.

Barnes published a statement on the church’s website earlier this month entitled “Where to from here?” after the bill passed. In it, he wrote that the church was “obliged before God to preach all that He has revealed to us, whether law or gospel, and to do so in a spirit of love and truth”.

“There is nothing unique in such legislation. When King Darius exceeded his God-given authority, Daniel did ‘as he had done previously’,” he wrote.

Asked by the Guardian on Thursday whether that meant he was advocating in favour of ignoring the legislation he said: “I’m saying that and a lot of people feel the same way.

“The official policy of the church is to preach the whole counsel of God – I was just saying that’s what we signed up for.”

During the debate around the bill, religious groups distanced themselves from older practices including electro-shock treatment or aversion therapy, and Barnes said he had “never heard of that happening”. But he said if someone “comes to me and asks me to pray for them or help them” he would not “turn them away”.


One Nation's Malcolm Roberts calls for law making it easier to sack workers

The One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts has called for legislation to simplify small business pay arrangements, allow them to more easily sack workers and defend unfair dismissal cases.

Roberts’ submission to the Senate inquiry into the Coalition’s industrial relations omnibus bill underscores the difficulty the government will have in winning crossbench Senate support for the bill.

The industrial relations minister, Christian Porter, has removed the most controversial plank that would have allowed pay deals that leave workers worse off, but all five crossbench senators have expressed other concerns.

Roberts submitted that the bill “could directly hurt everyday Australians and many Australian businesses”.

The One Nation senator complained that the award system of minimum entitlements “does enormous damage to small businesses” because “it is highly confusing, difficult to interpret and lacks the flexibility that small businesses need”.

He said small businesses were “constantly at risk of failing to meet their obligations” due to “the myriad of entitlements and varying rates of multiple applicable awards”.

“A simple small business modern award which links coverage to number of employees could make identifying the correct entitlements for employees much simpler, reducing the risk of underpayment, which is to employers’ and employees’ benefit, and will ease the administrative burden and anxiety of uncertainty for small businesses.”

A simpler award was one of the central demands of small business groups in the roundtable process but was rejected by Porter in favour of incremental changes more likely to pass the Senate.

Roberts noted that under the Howard government’s WorkChoices regime, businesses with fewer than 100 employees were exempt from unfair dismissal cases, but after the Fair Work Act was introduced claims “increased substantially”.

Roberts argued that businesses paid workers “go away money” because it was not commercially worthwhile to defend a case or engage in arbitration, “even where an employer believes they had good reason to dismiss an employee”. “This approach represents a failure for the current IR system.”

Roberts called for the small business code – which allows small businesses to sack workers on the spot if they have “reasonable grounds” to believe they have committed serious misconduct – to be “strengthened”.

The government must “ensure protections for small to medium business from costly court action that they can’t afford”, he said.

Roberts called for the provision allowing eight-year pay deals for new work sites to be extended to second-tier construction companies to enable them to grow. Unions oppose extension of greenfields agreements because they prevent workers renegotiating mid-project to win higher pay.

Roberts called for a “full review” of industrial relations laws after 12 months.

He shares concerns with the union movement and the independent senator Jacqui Lambie about the provision allowing employers and employees to determine who is a casual, regardless of whether they have regular and systematic hours.

Roberts submitted that “casual workers in the black coal industry earn less than their permanent counterparts” and workers cannot plan their lives, such as getting a mortgage or accessing paid leave.

“If left unchecked, we predict that there could be an explosion in casualised labour in the mining sector and beyond.

“Australian employers could be inappropriately enticed to shift their workforce to a labour hire model that will further weaken employees’ legal rights.”

The independent senator Rex Patrick told Guardian Australia it was “very unorthodox” for Roberts to make a submission to a Senate committee he himself can sit on.

Patrick has called for the bill to be split up, warning it will be difficult for Porter to win three of the five crossbench votes. He said he had “considerable concerns” about the remainder of the bill but would judge it if and when Porter won agreement from two of the other crossbenchers.

Lambie has warned that the bill encourages casualisation and deprives long-term casuals of the entitlements of permanent workers.

Stirling Griff has said Centre Alliance also has concerns about the clause that allows employers to use “the excuse of Covid” to change the location and duties of work for two years.

“We don’t see the reason for any form of extension of jobkeeper flexibilities: there are issues with the recovery in Victoria but not the rest of Australia,” he said.

On Thursday the Australian Council of Trade Unions president, Michele O’Neil, warned that the omnibus bill “is not fixed”.

O’Neil said the bill made “permanent changes” to the bargaining process, allowing employers to put proposed pay deals to staff without explaining them, and the 21-day time limit for the Fair Work Commission to approve deals amounts to a “tick and flick”.




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