Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Dodgy sex: Parliament House is no different to other workplaces

David Leyonhjelm has been there and not done that. He exposes a fraudulent report. When I was a skeptical academic, I learned to look at the "Results" section of a report rather than the conclusions. It was more work but often showed a severe mismatch between the actual findings and the claims about them. Leyonhjelm has obviously done the same

Late last year we were told that Canberra’s Parliament House is plagued by bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault. A 456-page report by Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, claimed half of all people in Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces (CPW), that is Parliament House or electorate offices, have experienced at least one incident of bullying, sexual harassment or actual or attempted sexual assault, and one in three people working in federal Parliament have experienced some kind of sexual harassment there.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the statistics as appalling and disturbing. Brittany Higgins, whose claims of rape in Parliament House prompted the inquiry, called for ‘immediate action’. Along with most media, the Guardian said that Parliament had a ‘toxic workplace culture’.

Having spent five years in Parliament House, I decided to read the report in full. What I discovered was that while it sets out to show Parliament in a bad light, it reveals the opposite. As a workplace, Parliament is both ordinary and representative — neither sexual assault nor harassment occur any more frequently than in other workplaces, and there is no reason to believe bullying does either. The report is just a shoddy attempt to legitimise social engineering based on cherry-picked data.

The data in the report are derived from a survey of people who work in the Parliament or electorate offices. There are two types of surveys: those in which the data drive the conclusions, and those where the conclusions drive the data. This one is in the latter category.

There were 935 responses from 4,008 people invited to participate. The sample is self-selected, which means those who choose to participate are not necessarily the same as those who do not. The report says responses were weighted to ‘correct imbalances in the results due to any non-response bias’ but gives no details. It is not true.

Given the Higgins allegations, sexual assault is a priority. However, only nine respondents reported such assault, or around 1 per cent of the sample. A 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey found 1.1% of Australian adults claimed to have experienced sexual assault in the past 12 months. That is, sexual assault is no more common in CPWs than in the community.

The report says 33 per cent of respondents (40 per cent of women, 26 per cent of men) have experienced sexual harassment in a CPW, with victims including both parliamentarians and staff. This is the same rate as in the broader population and is also unchanged from a similar survey in 2018. In other words, sexual harassment in the parliamentary environment is no greater than in the community and is not increasing.

The report also says 37 per cent of respondents claim to have experienced bullying in a CPW. Women are twice as likely as men to be bullies, women are more likely to be victims, and in three-quarters of cases, the perpetrator was more senior. The most common case is a junior woman claiming to be bullied by a senior woman. However, the report provides no comparisons with other workplaces and no basis for implying that CPWs are exceptional.

Although the survey contained 200 questions, potentially yielding a lot of useful information, the report provides very little. There are literally no responses to individual questions, and none of the tables and crosstabs normally found in opinion research reports. Despite 44 questions about sexual assault, no responses are reported – hence there is no information about location, timing, gender, age, relationships, employment, or about the perpetrators.

It is much the same with the other two issues. Despite 49 questions about sexual harassment, the analysis is brief and superficial. The report notes that reported rates of sexual harassment are higher when specific behaviours are mentioned rather than just a short legal definition. The questionnaire gives the legal definition in one question and mentions ‘Inappropriate staring or leering that made you feel intimidated’ and ‘Being followed, watched or someone loitering nearby’ as examples of sexual harassment in another question. But responses to either question are not provided.

There is little, also, about the responses to the 48 questions about bullying. As with sexual harassment, responses were probably influenced by how bullying was defined: examples in the questionnaire included ‘Others spreading misinformation, or malicious rumours’ and ‘Assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to the job’. Either way, we are not told.

The overall design of the questionnaire is flawed. Well-designed surveys ensure responses to key questions are not influenced by prior questions or information. Not in this survey. All the questions about sexual assault, harassment and bullying are preceded by questions like, ‘Is the workplace safe and respectful? Are sexual assault, sexual harassment or bullying tolerated? Are people treated fairly and equally regardless of age, race or cultural background, sexual orientation, disability or religious beliefs? Are there negative attitudes to women?’ By the time respondents get to questions about their own experience, their thinking might well have changed.

The whole objective of the report is to promote its recommendations, claiming there is an opportunity ‘for meaningful and lasting reform that ensures CPWs are safe and respectful workplaces that uphold the standing of the Parliament and are a worthy reflection of people working within them.’

These recommendations are designed to address the ‘drivers’ of misconduct in CPWs, which the authors of the report say are power, including power imbalances, gender inequality, a lack of diversity and absence of accountability. The report recommends targets to achieve gender balance among parliamentarians and parliamentary staff, and targets to increase the representation of First Nations people, people with disability and LGBTIQ+ people. An Office of Parliamentarian Staffing and Culture is proposed to ‘drive cultural transformation’, accompanied by a code of conduct.

Not one of the recommendations is based on the findings of the survey, and even if the survey had identified a problem with sexual assault, harassment and bullying, the report provides no evidence that a lack of gender balance or diversity is to blame. Naturally, there is no attempt to explain why its recommendations would make any difference. Its aim is to stampede the government into adopting a woke agenda using a dodgy survey.

The report is not worth the paper it is written on. The cost of producing it was a waste of taxpayer funds, and it will be a waste of taxpayer funds if the government takes it seriously and attempts to implement any of its recommendations.


Journal retracts Indigenous article for plagiarism

This fake Aborigine was fake about a lot of things. She was probably relying on the uncritical acceptance that tall tales about Abogiginal ancestry and customs receive

An Indigenous language scholar from Stradbroke Island has had her latest paper recalled after plagiarism complaints.

Quandamooka woman Sandra Delaney had her article ­“Reconceptualising a Quanda­mooka Storyweave of language reclamation”, published by Sage Journals in July, passed by a “double-blind” peer review process.

Shortly after it was published in the International Journal of Cultural Studies, the journal was contacted by two First Nations language researchers from the US who said their work had been plagiarised.

In a review, Sage editors found five more cases of plagiarism and this month issued a retraction of the article.

Many of the plagiarised papers were unpublished PhD theses from American and Canadian universities dealing with the ­effects of colonisation on Native American languages and reclamation of those languages.

The rest were published in education and nursing journals and publications specifically relating to colonisation issues.

The paper dealt with colonial theft of land and how it led to the partial loss of local Jandai language and how it had been rediscovered through visual story­­telling. “This article outlines a complex, vibrant, interweaving of language as a decolonising practice through creative outcomes,” the original abstract said.

“I will summarise how the Quandamooka tradition of weaving served as a theoretical framework for the reclamation of Jandai language. Shaped by a paradigm of language reclamation, it describes a Quandamooka worldview which is based on the connection Quandamooka people share with our ­Ancestors and our Country.”

It details the creation of the “Quandamooka Storyweave” as a forum for elders to more comfortably share their stories.

Ms Delaney is a prominent figure among Nunagal, Goenbal and Ngugi people, whose ­traditional homeland, Quandamooka, was the mainland, islands and water around Moreton Bay, off Brisbane.


Why are Australian housing prices so high?

Robert Gottliebsen points to low borrowing costs, perverse incentives to banks and regulation failures

Australia is going to require unprecedented amounts of business capital investment in the next decade as we catch up with the technology revolution, decarbonise, become more independent from imports and cater for world resource needs.

But our banks, including their institutional shareholders and regulators, are not prepared for what is ahead.

And the housing market is certainly not prepared for the change in money directions that will be required. This looming revolution will become one of the nation’s biggest debating points once the Covid problem is brought under better control.

The first step to solving a problem is identifying it.

Here we are helped by a remarkable graph prepared by Dr Wilson Sy, a former Principal Researcher at APRA working on housing credit risk, insurance, superannuation governance and investment performance. He was also a senior adviser to the Cooper Superannuation review. The Sy graph forms the base of a detailed paper on the issue prepared by former ANZ Bank director John Dahlsen.

In the decade before the 1987-89 crash banks poured vast sums into business credit but they were enticed by property developers and the 1987- 89 crash triggered heavy losses. Westpac and ANZ hit deep trouble. Banks began cutting back their business investment and directing money into housing.

Twenty years ago, around 2001, housing credit became greater than business lending and it has never looked back. It played a big part in the latest house price boom. But the gap is not sustainable particularly as we are way out of line with the rest of the world. Residential mortgages represent well over 60 per cent of Australian bank balance sheets — more than double the US and UK and much higher than similar countries.

To restore at least part of the balance requires an understanding what caused the imbalance.

In his paper Dahlsen isolates a series of them:

1. Business banking is much more complex than home lending and it needs relationship managers to understand the business model, its risk , the sector risks plus, most important, the people behind the business. In the business market, the banks have removed a huge number of relationship managers and are now much more reliant on technology, rules and box ticking. The banks have standardised business lending practices often with a narrow product range that does not always fit the customer.

2. APRA deems home loans be far less risky than business bank products, so substantially less capital is required to fund home purchases. The banks are able to leverage the lower capital required to significantly improve return on equity.

3.Where banks satisfy the regulatory authority that they have appropriate risk models, they are free to calculate the capital required for residential mortgages. That freedom set the housing market alight.

4. Interest rates have been lowered to record levels to boost demand for housing and there has been extensive money printing. The Reserve Bank has been too slow to reduce the stimulation so dramatically boosting asset values. Without policy changes house prices and asset values will continue to rise.

5. There has been significant increase in the amount of home lending on each dollar of borrower income. And so in 2011 the average median house price was $480,000 and average earnings were $55,760 — a price to earnings ratio of 861 per cent. Ten years later the average house price was $771,000 and average earnings are $69,862 — a price to earnings ratio of 1104 per cent. Although the rise of two income families has helped, the increase should be ringing alarm bells.

Overheated Housing Market

However, the pandemic caused Australians to recognise that they are over borrowed so they have increased their repayments substantially.

Next year there will be tighter lending standards and if with likely higher interest rates. If this creates a crisis it will be those who borrowed recently who will be most impacted.

House price inflation means that it is now taking the youth of today much longer to fund deposits. Any further house price inflation will greatly worsen the fundamental community divide that has been created with adverse social implications.

The Australian middle class is shrinking as the upper middle class are joining the wealthy and others are dropping into lower income brackets.

More parents and grandparents are paying or contributing to their children and grandchildren’s housing deposits, education and cars.

Superimposed on these massive social challenges is the need for more bank lending for business. But the banks’ institutional shareholders love the high capital returns that come from housing and the relatively low risk.

They are concerned that the banks will not have the management ability to manage a substantial increase in business lending without creating the danger of another 1987-89.

Both the National Australia Bank and the Commonwealth have stepped up their efforts in business lending and the NAB’s housing contribution to profit is lower than any of the other banks.

But there is a long way to go. The Federal government and the regulators have vital roles in the required transformation which must includes a massive rise in cash flow lending to business.

The government has moved well to speed up payments and end the unfair contracts scandal. But it is yet to tackle the broken and unfair business tax collection system.


How to make a martyr out of a molehill

JANET ALBRECHTSEN points out that the grounds given for his deportation were truly obnoxious -- almost Soviet

In his book, "Say Nothing, The Murder and Memory of Northern Ireland", Patrick Radden Keefe recounts one of the more curious ways Margaret Thatcher dealt with Gerry Adams when he was a Sinn Fein MP in Westminster. Apparently threatened by the power of ideological seduction, Thatcher banned the sound of the IRA and Sinn Fein from the airwaves.

This peculiar rule meant Adams could be seen on TV and speaking to radio, but his voice was prohibited. It was a monumentally stupid restriction. Soon enough, broadcasters employed actors to dub the former IRA leader’s voice whenever he appeared on the airwaves. Rather than shut down Adams, this drew attention to him whenever he spoke.

Let’s be clear: Novak Djokovic is no Gerry Adams. Not even close. And lord knows Scott Morrison is no Margaret Thatcher. But dissent and state power frequently rub up against each other and leaders of varying abilities across the ages, even in democracies, have come up with ways to use their power to deal with dissent.

Those who crack down on dissent can be prone to illogical overreaction, often for base political purposes. For example, India, the world’s largest democracy, blocked access to the internet in late 2019 in Kashmir for months, arguing it was trying to avoid “the permanent loss of life”. What loss of life is not permanent? Like I said, logic is not a hot commodity when governments are trying to crack down on dissent.

Covid became the perfect vehicle to shut down dissenters, with governments across the country catastrophising on the grounds of health. State governments banned lockdown protests in the name of safety, while allowing Black Lives Matter protests. A pregnant woman who posted something naughty on social media was arrested in the name of public safety.

Even as the country enjoys one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, the Australian Immigration Minister’s decision to deport Djokovic has showcased the Morrison government’s attitude to dissent and the brute force of state power. In the process, it made a martyr out of a molehill.

Alex Hawke didn’t deport Djokovic for having a dodgy visa that relied on faulty medical exemptions or factual errors on his arrival documents. Hawke told the Federal Court he ordered the deportation because of the tennis player’s beliefs about vaccination, claiming his presence would whip up anti-vax sentiment. In other words, Hawke chose to advertise the federal government’s attitude to dissent.

Whether you agree with a person who chooses not to get vaccinated or not – and I don’t – it is not yet illegal to be unvaccinated. Until that happens, there ought to be room in a democracy for idiots, even for foreign ones. But then, Morrison has never been a great friend of free speech, unless it involved playing footsies with opinionated backbenchers to maintain his wafer-thin majority.

Partner at Thomson Geer Lawyers Justin Quill says Australia is tainted by the Novak Djokovic ordeal. “I don’t think… it’s so much the decision to deport him, it’s the whole affair,” Mr Quill told Sky News Australia. “He started it, but the way we handled it could not

Deporting Djokovic also reveals the Morrison government’s attitude to power. If you’ve got it, use it, especially for brazen political purposes. Hawke’s written statement to the Federal Court was so lightweight in its submissions and evidence that it clearly dared the court to interfere with the power of the minister to deport Djokovic

And the Federal Court on Sunday didn’t dare intervene. The full bench of the court held that Hawke’s deportation order was legal under the wide personal discretion vested under sections 133 and 116 of the Migration Act, enacted in 2014.

Legal, yes. But the court’s decision doesn’t render the minister’s decision sensible or logical or fair for the simple reason that those factors are irrelevant to the minister’s exercise of state power.

What makes this case interesting is that Hawke didn’t need to state his reasons. But through his legal team, the minister quoted a BBC article to the court to prove Djokovic’s opposition to vaccination. The minister didn’t bother quoting the rest of what the tennis player said in that April 2020 interview – that as he was “no expert” he would keep an “open mind” and “wanted the option to choose what’s best for my body”.

In fact, section 133 of the Migration Act expressly exempts the minister’s decision from the ordinary rules of natural justice. Out goes audi alteram parte, Latin for “hear the other side”. Out goes nemo debet esse judex in propria sua causa, meaning “no one shall be judge of his own case”.

Therefore, Hawke didn’t have to table evidence that Djokovic’s presence at other tournaments had whipped up anti-vax sentiment. It was also irrelevant to ask other logical questions of the minister. If Djokovic’s presence was that dangerous to the country, why wasn’t Hawke more vigilant in refusing him entry in the first place?

Didn’t the government’s deportation decisions to kick out Djokovic stir up anti-vaxxers, rather than the tennis player’s arrival into the country? After all, he wasn’t planning a countrywide tour to speak against vaccination. He came to play tennis.

The Immigration Minister based his deportation order on another concern – that people may “perceive” Djokovic to have risky views against vaccinations. What a rotten precedent, holding a person responsible for how others may perceive them. If this is the upshot of the minister’s so-called God-like powers, it explains why I’m an atheist.

Deporting Djokovic is worthy of a chapter in any new book about the Morrison government because it points to how Morrison is willing to exert border powers, stifling dissent with phony claims of safety, to win the 2022 election.

It is a “wake up call” to see the Minister for Immigration’s sweeping powers “in action,” according to NSW Council… for Civil Liberties’ President Pauline Wright. Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke used his ministerial powers to cancel tennis star Novak Djokovic's visa last Friday

As the Prime Minister told Ben Fordham on Monday morning, “It’s not our first rodeo, Ben”. That’s true. As a former immigration minister, Morrison understands the politics of borders better than most. The difference is that as immigration minister Morrison had a running rail – a clear instruction from then prime minister Tony Abbott to destroy the evil people-smuggling business model. And he did just that. It was a difficult and ultimately sensible policy.

Calling the shots as PM, Morrison is prone to the reactive politics of populism over carefully considered policy. And why would he change tune now? The country has been conditioned at state and federal levels with fear and hysteria for more than two years. If Australians feared the brute force of state power more than the arrival of an unvaccinated tennis player, the federal government would be more measured. Because the PM would sniff that wind, too.


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)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)


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