Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Competitive political fundraising comes to Australia

This has been big and accepted in America for a long time

In announcing his move to the United Australia Party last week, Craig Kelly – presumably unintentionally – made a persuasive case for campaign expenditure reform. In a surprisingly frank explanation of his reasons for joining Clive Palmer’s UAP, the former Coalition MP boasted: “We have a huge war chest, we can run television commercials, ads, we can finance a proper campaign that no other minor party or independent can.”

Did Kelly, in extolling the capacity of the UAP to lavish enormous largesse on campaigning – a capacity unrivalled by other minor parties and independents – spare a passing thought for our democracy, and what the consequences are of inequality of opportunity to compete for election? For the reality that the less level the playing field, the more unrepresentative our constitutionally enshrined system of representative government becomes?

It is unarguable that our current system of uncapped electoral expenditure has produced a field that is not only not level, but substantially tipped in favour of those with resources. As the situation stands, what are minor parties and independents wishing to compete with the UAP’s ability to dump enormous sums into its campaigns to do? Desperately raise funds to plough into their own campaigns?

For as long as electoral expenditure remains uncapped, there will exist a temptation for parties and candidates to chase donations to fund their campaigns – donations that, in some cases, might come with no strings attached; in others, might openly be to buying access (though the High Court has reminded us that the line between ingratiation and access, and corruption, “may not be so bright”); and in yet others, may be for something that poses an even greater threat to our democracy.

Research by the Centre for Public Integrity has concluded that electoral expenditure caps should apply to political parties, associated entities and third parties, and be coupled with specific restrictions on political advertising.

The current arms race, where parties and candidates vie for donations to fund their campaigns, could be replaced by public funding and distribution of advertising space (based on existing models in Britain and New Zealand). This would avoid scenarios such as that in 2019, when the UAP’s digital spend was claimed to have driven up the price of purchasing and boosting digital ads, with the consequence that the ability of less well-resourced parties to access space was impeded.

By making the political advertising landscape more equitable, reforms such as these effectively democratise elections.

Kelly’s announcement also puts the issue of truth in political advertising squarely on the agenda, in light of the UAP’s claims during last year’s Queensland election that Labor planned to introduce a death tax – a claim Labor vehemently denied and sought to have removed from Facebook and Twitter.

Since the High Court decided in 1983 that a provision of the Commonwealth’s electoral law prohibiting false statements likely to mislead a voter “in or in relation to the casting of his vote” did not extend to statements influencing the voter’s formation of a judgment about the candidate they wished to vote for, there has been a clear case to adopt an appropriate truth in political advertising provision at federal level (and indeed, in the states and territories – currently, only South Australia and the ACT require truth in political advertising).

In offering his view that it would be unconstitutional to block his advertisements (presumably in reliance on the implied freedom of political communication), Kelly complained: “Now we are in a society where if you have an alternate [sic] opinion then shut up.” Opinion is one thing; material presented as fact, of course, is entirely another.

As former High Court Justice Mary Gaudron saw it, insofar as the freedom of political communication concerns information and ideas, false or misleading material does not enjoy the same protection. It is not constitutionally impermissible for a law to infringe upon the implied freedom of political communication, as long as – among other things – the law serves a legitimate end. In a representative democracy, can a law prohibiting citizens from being misled in exercising their democratic right to vote be anything other than a legitimate end? And how many of us would disagree with the proposition, put by Professor Dean Jaensch AO, that electors should have an equivalent “consumer protection” as that bestowed upon parties to commercial transactions?

While many additional reforms are needed to protect the right of citizens to engage with their information environment in a meaningful way, electoral expenditure caps and truth in political advertising are undoubtedly the most pressing.


University students will be trained to spot foreign interference

Paranoia about China

University students will be trained to spot foreign interference threats on campus and report them to authorities under proposed new rules aimed at significantly beefing up universities’ responsibilities for countering Chinese government influence on campuses.

Academics and students involved in research collaborations with overseas institutions will also get specific training on how to “recognise, mitigate and handle concerns of foreign interference”, following security agencies’ concerns about critical research being stolen.

The measures are contained in new draft foreign interference guidelines for universities, which are being furiously debated among university leaders and government officials. The federal government has already been forced to review a key element of the guidelines, which would have required all academics to disclose their membership of foreign political parties over the past decade, following a fierce backlash from university chiefs.

Following growing concerns from Australia’s security agencies about the risk of research theft by China and other foreign actors, the guidelines state that students and staff are to “receive training on, and have access to information about how foreign interference can manifest on campus and how to raise concerns in the university or with appropriate authorities”.

The measures are also aimed at addressing reports of students and academics being harassed by pro-Beijing groups on campuses. They propose that orientation programs should be used to “promote to all staff and students ways to report within their university concerns of foreign interference, intimidation and harassment that can lead to self-censorship”. Universities will also be required to have policies that set out how reported “concerns are tracked, resolved and recorded and shared” internally and when they should be reported to outside authorities.

To oversee these measures, the guidelines state that universities must have an “accountable authority” – either a senior executive or executive body – that will have responsibility for research collaborations with overseas institutions, and reviewing security risks and communicating them with the government.

The guidelines have been drafted by the Universities Foreign Interference Taskforce (UFIT), a collaborative body that includes university vice-chancellors and government officials. The final version will replace existing guidelines, which are far less prescriptive. The proposal has prompted considerable concern among academic leaders about the mandatory language underpinning the new requirements, and what consequences, if any, universities will face from government if they fail to implement them.

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge has declined to comment on “what is and isn’t in the draft guidelines”, but said earlier this year he was deeply concerned by a Human Rights Watch report that revealed accounts of Chinese international students being surveilled and harassed by their pro-Beijing classmates.

The report found that students were self-censoring in class out of fear comments critical of the Chinese Communist Party would be reported to authorities, with several students saying their parents in China had been hauled into police stations over their campus activities. Academics interviewed by Human Rights Watch also reported self-censorship practices, saying sensitive topics such as Taiwan had become too difficult to teach without a backlash from pro-Beijing students.

The report’s author, Sophie McNeill, said the draft guidelines indicated the government had taken the report’s findings into account.

“This focus had been missing from the previous guidelines, so it is very welcome these issues are now being recognised and addressed. It is critical the final guidelines include practical measures to safeguard academic freedom and address issues of harassment, surveillance and self-censorship faced by international students and staff,” Ms McNeill said.

Some universities have already taken steps to respond to the issues highlighted by Human Rights Watch. The University of Technology Sydney, for example, updated its orientation program for international students this semester to include guidance on acceptable behaviour and how students could report intimidation or surveillance by other students.

“We have certainly made it clear to students that what is discussed in classrooms is not something that should be reported on to the embassy,” Mr Watt, UTS deputy vice-chancellor, said.

“We’re not encouraging students to spy on each other. But rather, it’s saying: if you get doxxed or bullied or feel unable to express your views in a lecture here is the support available to you and here’s what you should do.”

The university’s misconduct rules allow for a range of penalties in response to unacceptable behaviour, including potential expulsion in serious cases.


Dandenong councillor proposes separate seating for men and women

A Dandenong councillor's call for separate seating for men and women at a park so Muslim men and women can sit apart is "a disgrace," according to the IPA's Bella D'Abrera.

Councillor Jim Memeti has raised the idea of separate seating at Norine Cox Reserve in Dandenong South in order to accommodate Muslim men and women.

Dr D'Abrera told Sky News host Rita Panahi, the idea is "completely at odds" with the values of a liberal democracy.

"We've been struggling for decades to have equality between men and women.

"And in one fell swoop, this is a massively retrograde step, putting women on one side and men on the other is basically gender apartheid."


‘Barrage of abuse’: Molan denies Asian accent jokes were racist

Broadcaster Erin Molan has defended using Asian accents in a series of jokes with her radio co-hosts, denying the gags aired in 2019 – including one in which Molan imitates a Chinese sex worker – were racist or inappropriate.

Instead, the team’s “mimicking” of accents was funny because it was “self-deprecating”, she told the Federal Court on Tuesday.

Molan, 39, is suing the Daily Mail for defamation over an article and two tweets published in June 2020 which she says falsely implied she is racist, callous and arrogant.

The article and tweets in question refer to a May 30, 2020 broadcast of The Continuous Call Team show on Sydney radio station 2GB in which Molan used the phrase “hooka looka mooka hooka fooka” in reference to the names of Pacific Islander NRL players. But in its defence, the Daily Mail dug up more than 20 other examples of the show’s hosts, including Molan, using accents in a way it claims was racist.

Molan, who is employed by Nine – the owner of this masthead – is seeking aggravated damages from the Daily Mail. Fighting back tears on Tuesday, she told the court that after the stories were published she was in a “very bad place” and had received multiple death threats targeting herself and her young daughter.

She said she was “inconsolable” and “struggling to cope” after the articles were published and she received a “barrage of abuse” including from “a lot of people I respect and admire and a lot of prominent people”.

Under cross-examination from barrister Bruce McClintock, Molan was then played a series of clips of the show from 2019 in which she engaged in jokes, imitating Asian accents, with co-hosts including Ray Hadley and Darryl Brohman.

In the first of these clips, from April 1, 2019, Molan imitates an Asian accent saying “I wuv you wery long time, wery handsome man”.

After playing the clip, Mr McClintock challenged Ms Molan to repeat her words “in the way you said it on the program”. She said the words, but did so without the accent.

“That’s not what you said, is it? You changed the ‘r’ to a ‘w’,” Mr McClintock said. Molan agreed.

“I wuv you wery long time, wery handsome man”, he proffered. “You’re putting on, again, what I would say is a Chinese accent?”

Again, Molan agreed. But to his suggestion she was “imitating a Chinese prostitute”, she said no. Rather, she said she was quoting a movie – but “I coudn’t tell you” which one.

Asked why it was funny, she said: “I guess because my accent was so bad”. She told the court she wasn’t sure what was funny about some of the jokes, and “it’s just part of banter on our show”.

She denied multiple times that the accents constituted mocking.

Molan said her role on the show was sometimes to question whether they were “going too far”, which is why on a number of occasions during the clips played to the court she said: “sorry, was that racist?” or “how is that, in this day and age, allowed?”

However, she said she never concluded that the jokes were inappropriate.

Molan said she trusted the audience to let the show know if anyone found their jokes were offensive. “Not one person ever expressed offence, and as you know in this day and age there are plenty of platforms to express offence,” she said.


Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM -- daily)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)


1 comment:

Paul said...

"University students will be trained to spot foreign interference threats on campus and report them to authorities under proposed new rules aimed at significantly beefing up universities’ responsibilities for countering Chinese government influence on campuses."

of course certain other foreign presences will remain off limits to scrutiny.