Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Manly football players to boycott NRL match over objection to club's pride jersey

They are entirely justified. The club had no right to impose political views onto its players -- JR

Seven Manly Sea Eagles players have withdrawn from selection for Thursday night's NRL match with Sydney Roosters over the team's decision to wear a gay pride jersey in the fixture.

On Sunday, the Sea Eagles announced they would become the first team in NRL history to wear an LGBTQIA+ jersey for the match, with a rainbow design replacing the strip's traditional white hoops.

But that decision has caused some unrest among players who are unhappy they were not consulted by club management.

According to Sydney Morning Herald, the boycotting group are Jason Saab, Tolutau Koula, Haumole Olakau'atu, Josh Schuster and Kiwi players Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Alioai, and Toafofoa Sipley.

Their objections are reportedly based on respective cultural and religious grounds.

Kieran Foran, Reuben Garrick and Sean Keppie were among those to help launch the strip but other players claim they learned about the move over social media on Sunday night.

Coach Des Hasler has reportedly supported his players' decision.

Club great Ian Roberts, who in 1995 became the first rugby league player to come out as openly gay, told The Daily Telegraph he was disappointed by the response of the players objecting to wear the jersey.

"I try to see it from all perspectives but this breaks my heart," Roberts said. "It's sad and uncomfortable. As an older gay man, this isn't unfamiliar. I did wonder whether there would be any religious push back. "I can promise you every young kid on the northern beaches who is dealing with their sexuality would have heard about this."

Rugby league broadcaster Paul Kent put the onus back on the club for trying to inflict its own political stance on the players. "The players, according to my understanding.. only became aware they were wearing these jerseys when they read about it in the newspaper," Kent said on NRL 360.

"The Manly club did this without any consultation of the players, they did it without board approval. It's basically a marketing decision and they've just assumed everything was okay.

"The club has imposed its own politics on these players and these players have inadvertently been embroiled in this scandal and they will be, hopefully, protected. But they will be under pressure now through no fault of their own.

"It's an embarrassing look for the club and it's a difficult one. This talk about inclusion, wearing the Manly jersey for me is inclusion.

"To inflict their own political views on the players who may not share that and are now being forced to deal with the consequences of that is a real oversight by the club and it’s something they should be embarrassed about."


Time to question Australia's pandemic response

Tell me how this ends? This question was posed in 2003 by General David Petraeus during America’s invasion of Iraq, and it cut to the dead heart of that catastrophic campaign.

It’s a handy mental tool for probing almost any public policy so let’s apply it to the latest spike in cases of COVID-19.

Unsurprisingly, it has prompted another epidemic of “expert” demands for yet more overweening government intervention in the lives of the vast majority who have nothing to fear from this disease. And, given the mob has now worked that out, the only argument for mask mandates is to protect the hospital system.

Cast your mind back to 2020 when the first lockdowns were imposed, expressly for the purpose of preparing the hospital system for the pressure that was bound to come. Then, we were assured, intensive care capacity would be buttressed, so it could be surged to more than 7000 beds.

And yet, 18 months into the pandemic, it emerged that hospitals in states such as Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia could not cope with even routine demand. Maybe that’s because the number of acute care beds in Australia has more than halved in the last 28 years.

That is a reason to change negligent governments, not licence for politicians and health bureaucrats to impose restrictions on populations to mask their breathtaking decades-long incompetence.

Exactly a year ago, this column said that, soon enough, the great lie at the heart of Australia’s COVID-19 elimination strategy would be revealed because “the disease can’t be eliminated”. It was the only rational conclusion and yet, at the time, a parade of luminaries were still clinging to the intellectual corpse of COVID-zero and those arguing against it were vilified.

In August 2021, the best minds in New Zealand’s health system decided the COVID elimination strategy could be continued indefinitely and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared it “a careful approach that says, there won’t be zero cases, but when there is one in the community, we crush it”.

Pause for a moment and consider the staggering stupidity of that statement in hindsight. But the point here is, the “expert” advice was self-evidently ridiculous at the time. Just three months later, after Ardern crushed her people and not the disease in a seven-week lockdown, she accepted the bleeding obvious: that not even a plucky island nation at the end of the world could live in isolation forever.

The Chinese Communist Party has soldiered on with COVID-zero and the despotic lockdown regime it exported along with the disease. Predictably, China’s economy has tanked and the misery the party has inflicted on its people is beyond measure. Perhaps the best result of that is it has prompted even the CCP cheer squad at the World Health Organisation to question its wisdom.

In May, Mike Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies director, made the startling observation that the effect of a “zero COVID” policy on human rights needed to be taken into consideration alongside its economic effect.

Parts of the city went into lockdown from March 28 before city-wide restrictions were indefinitely extended on April 5 in response to the number of COVID cases.

“We need to balance the control measures against the impact on society, the impact they have on the economy, and that’s not always an easy calibration,” he said.

Some have argued that those considerations had to be at the heart of the response from the outset and that the cure imposed risked doing more damage than the disease. Too often the Australian solution punished the many for the few. It preferred the very old over the young, reversing the risk equation most societies wager is the best way to protect their future.

So, the answer to the Petraeus question on coronavirus is clear and has been for more than a year. This only ends with Australian governments lifting all restrictions and actually learning to live with COVID-19 as just one more risk in a dangerous world. It is a decision other nations, such as Sweden and Norway, have already taken.

This is not, as eejits [idiots] would have it, “letting the virus rip”. To claim that is to wilfully ignore that we have endured more than two years of their miserable prescriptions racking up a taxpayer-funded bill probably somewhere north of $500 billion to keep the economy on life support and hit a vaccination rate of more than 95 per cent, precisely to prevent the virus from ripping through the community.

So now it is past time to ask another question: Where is the royal commission into the pandemic? This was a once-in-a-century moment that left no one unaffected, so there is no argument against holding the most rigorous test of how this nation fared.

It demands a panel of the best minds we can assemble to look dispassionately at what happened, how we responded, how we succeeded and where we failed. All Australian governments should participate and offer every assistance.

They have nothing to fear but the truth.


Crony capitalism in Australia: Big business, unions and government cut cosy deals to suit themselves

Son to father: I’m thinking of going into organised crime. Father to son: private sector or government?

Crony capitalism – it’s one of the most depressing aspects of modern market-based economies and I use the term market cautiously. It’s no longer about producers supplying quality, keenly priced goods and services to canny but grateful consumers, it’s about producers seeking regulatory and financial favours from politicians, and consumers simply having to make do.

Another sad fact is that the tendency to crony capitalism is not dependent on the political hue of the government. To be sure, centre-right governments may be slightly less inclined to enter into deal-making, but there’s not much difference compared to left-leaning governments. Let’s face it, most centre-right governments don’t govern according to their principles – the UK Johnson government is a case in point.

But with the election of the Albanese Labor government, it’s worth forecasting in what way our crony capitalist system will develop given the influences on elected Labor parliamentarians. The golden rule is follow the money so it’s reasonably certain what favours will be doled out quickly.

Of course, these favours always have alternative rationales – ensuring fair and equitable outcomes for battlers; acting on climate change; reducing the gender pay gap; reducing indigenous disadvantage and the like. But scratch the surface and you find preferential deals being handed out left, right and centre that provide financial gains and positions of power and public adulation to the designated beneficiaries. They often knock out competitors giving a substantial leg-up to incumbents.

The Labor government was quick to talk of lifting the superannuation guarantee charge from 12 per cent to 15 per cent. The union-related industry super funds will be licking their lips. It has also been decided that the timid super reforms of the Coalition may need to be rescinded, including the requirement that funds act in the best financial interest of members.

Labor will press on with legislation to define the role of compulsory superannuation which will exclude any discussion of members accessing their balances to pay for a home deposit or cover an unexpected catastrophe. The definition will focus solely on providing retirement incomes to lock in members’ funds until retirement and keep industry funds in clover forever.

On the other hand, what the hell was former Coalition industrial relations minister, Christian Porter, doing overseeing a classic exercise in crony capitalism with his exclusive roundtables on industrial relations? When something is called tripartite, the stench of crony capitalism is putrid. What gives puffed-up representatives the right to decide what is in the interests of businesses and workers, particularly as most of these representatives have never been elected?

When the ACTU and the Business Council of Australia went behind everyone’s back to seal a preferential deal – enterprise agreements would only be facilitated for union-backed arrangements – the disapproving shouts were loud. But what would you expect? It’s just typical of crony capitalism.

Climate change is a particularly fruitful space for rent-seekers in which to operate. Most of the time, the government won’t even know it is being taken down a peg or two, at taxpayers’ expense. And the ‘wise’ bureaucrats advising ministers will generally be on the side of the rent-seekers.

One current kerfuffle is about the carbon offset program whereby emissions-intensive producers can purchase carbon credits locally or overseas, as it may be more expensive (or impossible) to lower emissions in Australia. No doubt, the quality of overseas credits varies, although some UN agency is involved in their accreditation. But the real point is that the renewable industry hates them because they mean potentially less lucre for them and that will never do.

The billionaire chairman of Spanish renewable energy company Acciona, which has extensive investments in Australia, was recently bleating about the offset program because it would mean fewer handouts for his company. His supporters, academics and climate think tanks, peddle the same line.

It’s not just the federal government that is party to crony capitalism. State and local governments are up to their eyeballs making deals with mates. Arguably, that is the point of being in office – to hand out favours to companies, organisations, and individuals and, in return, the post-political careers of parliamentarians are sorted.

A recent proposed legislative amendment in Queensland takes crony capitalism to new heights – or should that be depths. You may recall my Speccie piece about ‘fake’ (aka the real deal) unions that have set up in competition with Labor-aligned registered unions. The new unions, which come under the Red Union Support Hub, have made real inroads into the membership of registered unions, particularly nurses in Queensland. (Charging considerably less than registered unions helps.) Naturally, the registered unions are not happy. Nor is the Labor party, which partly depends on direct and indirect contributions from the old unions. To them, competition is for the birds and should be regulated away.

Lip-service has to be paid to freedom of association for workers, in part because Australia has signed various international conventions. But here’s the logic of the proposed legislation. Any organisation can seek to be registered but the rules state that as long as there is an organisation to which workers can conveniently belong (that is the existing registered unions), then the application for registration by a new organisation will be denied. Geddit: the Red Unions can but they can’t.

And here’s the real sting in the tail: unless a union is registered, it cannot represent members on an industrial matter. Indeed, it will be an offence to do so. It’s a slam-dunk for crony capitalism – a win for Labor-aligned unions and a guarantee of the uninterrupted flow of money to the Labor party. What’s not to love, if you are a Labor parliamentarian in Queensland? It’s just a pity the power of competition is completely extinguished and the rights of ordinary workers count for naught.


Lost in the secular desert: Christianity under siege

We are on the way to becoming, for the first time, an avowedly anti-Christian nation. Not just non-Christian, but anti-Christian. The census tells us. The culture tells us. The law tells us.

The 2021 census represents an explosive dam burst, with a flood of biblical proportions to follow. For the first time in the modern nation’s history, only a minority of Australians identify as Christians.

This is not a gentle decline. It is a bus hurtling over a cliff. As recently as 25 years ago, nearly three-quarters of Australians called themselves Christians. In 2011, 61 per cent was still a solid majority; five years later it was 52 per cent, last year just 44 per cent and still falling.

That’s a staggering 17 per cent fewer of the population who are Christian in 10 years. Nothing as dramatic and consequential has happened in Australian belief and outlook since 1788.

To be sure, there are nuances in the census. “No religion” does not equate directly to formal atheism. The National Church Life Survey suggests a small majority of Australians believes in God. That’s consistent with the census. Non-Christian religions – Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism and others – take total religious affiliation above 50 per cent.

The census also has some surprises. Sydney, sin city, is the most God-loving part of Australia, just as London is the most religious part of Britain.

But difficult as it may be for some Christians to accept, and much as some secular commentators may want to play it down, claiming that Christian affiliation was formerly overstated or to avert the public gaze from the radical wave engulfing us, Christians must understand they are a minority. That should free them to become a creative, dynamic minority, offering something magnificent to society. They also should get the same rights as other minorities, but that’s another story.

In his brilliant 2021 book, Being the Bad Guys, Perth evangelical pastor Stephen McAlpine presents the dramatic transformation in Christianity’s standing: “Wasn’t it only yesterday Christianity was regarded as a societal good? Now? It’s not only unpalatable; it’s positively toxic.”

In a justly famous blog post a few years ago, McAlpine suggested most Christians accept that Christendom – with all its virtues and all its villainies – is over and they are now in exile. They envisaged this exile in a metaphorical Athens, debating their beliefs in polite and interested company. That was Stage One Exile. Now, Stage Two Exile, is in a much more hostile Babylon, where they confront a state and culture uninterested in their ideas, determined instead to bludgeon them into submission.

McAlpine says: “The elite framework that drives the culture is increasingly interested in bringing the church back into the public square, not in order to hear it, but to expose its real and imagined abuses and render it naked and shivering before a jeering crowd.”

Of course, the culture is not uniformly hostile to Christianity, but the “elite framework that drives the culture” certainly is.

I saw this in Hobart a few weeks ago. The so-called Dark Mofo, put on by the Museum of Old and New Art, MONA, was in full swing. A strand in Dark Mofo, much subsidised by innocent Tasmanian taxpayers, celebrates nihilism and ugliness. It frequently mocks and contemptuously misuses Christian symbols and terminology, and sometimes celebrates the repulsive and evil. One representative caption says: “Satanise your hands.” The Mofo jamborees have used inverted crosses, an old anti-Christian symbol; they have buried an artist underground for three days in mimicry of Christ’s resurrection; displayed a simulated man being hacked to death; re-created pagan customs; used foul animal carcasses; and much else.

No doubt there is great technical expertise in Mofo, but this dopey, second-rate, pretend radicalism – in truth about as radical as a ride in a limousine to a Hollywood fashion show – indicates a distressed and confused culture. It displays all the aesthetic insight and emotional maturity of an over-indulged teenager trying ever more offensive swear words to shock the parents who indulged him. When swearing no longer shocks, he lights a cigarette and stubs it out on their bed. That’s so cool, provocative, cutting-edge, subversive (the rank weasel word of our time). And so, so courageous. But on the Hobart waterfront, in counterpoint to Mofo, I attended a Christian exhibition titled Miracles. It was sublime, challenging, beautiful in design, with a quietly building narrative, engaged fully with science and reason. It examined the history of Christian miracles and explored their scientific investigation. Naturally it was subject to minor hostile demonstration.

So just who was authentically countercultural here? Who had something to say, an original vision? Who was serving truth and beauty?

Consider the ridiculous reaction to former prime minister Scott Morrison preaching a sermon at Margaret Court’s Pentecostal church in Perth. Morrison’s faith is the centre of his life. When he was PM, there was not one speck of effort to enforce, impose or privilege it. Morrison told the Perth congregation they could place a higher trust in God than in government, or even the UN, not that he said anything remotely against, much less delegitimising, government. He echoed the famous words of the psalm: “Put not thy trust in kings or princes.”

Scott Morrison delivers a sermon at Margaret Court's church.
Scott Morrison delivers a sermon at Margaret Court's church.
A welter of absurd criticism followed on commercial TV, radio and the ABC, denouncing Morrison for “inappropriate” and “jarring” comments. We live in an age of spectacular cultural and religious ignorance. Did any commentator acknowledge that secular politics was invented by Christianity (“Render unto Caesar …”)? Christians have always placed a higher trust in God, even as they pledge to obey all legitimate earthly authorities. Jesus himself said: “My kingdom is not of this world.”

Morrison’s sermon dealt constructively, sympathetically and theologically with anxiety. Did any denouncer bother listening to it? Most disheartening was Anthony Albanese’s criticism, which wrongly implied Morrison was spreading conspiracy theories.

Morrison tells Inquirer: “Having a strong faith and belief has always meant dealing with mockery and misrepresentation. It is increasingly going with the territory in Western societies, including Australia. History shows this has only ever served to make faith communities stronger.”

Christianity’s enemies in Australia stand poised to prosecute a bewildering range of legal attacks against Christians and their institutions, designed mainly to prevent them speaking in the public square. The NSW euthanasia law obliges Christian retirement homes to welcome kill teams into their homes. Legislation in some states, especially Victoria, makes it extremely difficult for Christian schools to hire Christian teachers other than for the principal, chaplain and perhaps religious knowledge teachers.

Schools are a huge battleground because the Bible is full of “dangerous statements”. Consider St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” This is a spectacular rejection of today’s zeitgeist.

No Christian expects the state to legally enforce their morality. And it’s certainly true that Christians routinely fail to live up to Paul’s ethos. But is it now a bureaucratic or even criminal offence for Christians even to speak and teach their beliefs?

If a Christian school merely teaches the New Testament, it could be sued for discrimination. If a school asks a boy transitioning to be a girl to just slow down and think things over, and instead of wearing a dress perhaps wear the sports uniform that is non-gender specific, it could be sued under several states’ anti-repression laws. Pastors have told me that if a man, suffering mentally and spiritually from confusion over sexual matters, asks the pastor to pray with him, the pastor can be prosecuted.

Most states have outlawed the seal of the confessional for Catholic priests, though there is no evidence this will help in the battle against child abuse. The confidentiality of the confessional has been a Catholic sacramental doctrine for many centuries. Priests have gone to their death rather than break it. Such confidentiality is allowed to lawyers and doctors. But good priests are to be criminals.

There are many more legal assaults on Christianity, under way or in preparation.

One question for Christian institutions is whether they bend the knee to the new state religion or continue the teachings of Christ and the Apostles found in the New Testament. The early Christians faced similar choices.

Under Roman rule, Jewish communities had an exception from paying homage to Roman gods, the official state religion. Once the Roman Empire distinguished Christians as a separate group, they lost that exemption. Early Christians were not looking for trouble, much less martyrdom, but they would not worship the divine god Caesar as Roman authorities designated their emperor.

Christianity in the past has frequently been at a low ebb and it has showed a genius for bouncing back. This always takes courage, resolution, shrewdness, innovation. New missions for new times. Despite today’s decline, there are many green shoots in the Christian garden. Jesus instructed the first Christians to proclaim his message, but also told them: “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

The Australian’s Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan says former prime minister Scott Morrison has been “irreverent… about the UN in a culture which abuses Christianity” when delivering a sermon at a church in Perth. “Every contempt and contumely is heaped on Christianity you can imagine,” he told Sky News More
Giving life to both halves of that injunction is challenging. How Christians respond to their newly difficult cultural circumstances will determine much of what happens to them, and to the truths they offer.

The Australian Catholic Church recently held a plenary council, a national consultative meeting. Its preparatory documents, emerging from a “new class” of Catholic institution bureaucrats, made a few gestures to the zeitgeist but was chiefly concerned with internal governance, positions of power and changing liturgy.

Philippa Martyr, a Perth academic who is a columnist at the Catholic Weekly, in a tough-minded judgment tells Inquirer: “One of the themes of the plenary council was that Catholicism doesn’t have to be this hard (in opposition to the culture). But in fact it does have to be hard (to be true). These gabfests are basically setting up income streams for people in future jobs. It’s all piffle. It’s got nothing to do with salvation.”

In the end, Christian denominations choose between surrender to the ideology of the culture or faithfulness to their beliefs. It’s not possible to do both. The Christian movements that accommodate the culture on its key points inevitably disappear, for if they are only offering what the culture already has, why would anybody bother?

Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher, at the start of the plenary council, admonished the preparatory documents for their lack of attention to three crises: the decline of Christianity produced by secularism and exacerbated by the abuse crisis and disengagement brought on by Covid; the need to protect “the unborn, pregnant, refugees, trafficked, frail elderly, dying and other invisibles”; and the growing cultural hostility to Christianity.

The early Christians, notwithstanding all the changes of 2000 years, faced similar challenges. I asked Melbourne’s Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli whether there were lessons from the early Christians for the church today: “Yes. I spend a lot of time in the Acts of the Apostles, to find ways to be active and Christian when you’re unknown. There’s a great ignorance of Christianity these days. Acts gives the church ways to be a faithful disciple when you’re small and not necessarily of interest, and if you are of interest you might be getting a bad rub.

“Life as a Catholic is a life of exile at the moment. That will be the way for some time. Identification with the faith is often with big institutions, schools, health care. But these are not the sites where we will rebuild faith. That will be in families and small communities.”

John Dickson, an Anglican cleric and a prolific and brilliant historian of the ancient world, believes profoundly in the example of the early Christians. It’s a theme of his superb new book, Bullies and Saints.

“The early Christians were cheerful being a minority,” he tells Inquirer.

“They were reconciled to having no power and being frequently insulted. They thought of themselves as a tiny minority which had stumbled upon a vast treasure. Of course the rest of the world didn’t have it, so they wanted to share it. They were characterised by cheerfulness, confidence, humility.

“The early Christians didn’t have social credibility, or emperors or senators who professed Christianity. All they had was prayer, service, persuasion and suffering.”

Dickson cites non-Christian sources from the early days of Christianity recounting Christians’ compassion and generosity, their care for the sick, their philanthropy. Women flocked to early Christianity. Celsus, a second century Greek philosopher who wrote the first systematic denunciation of Christianity, mocked it as a religion of women and slaves.

“Everyone found a social lung in the early church,” Dickson says, “everyone could breathe a bit easier.”

The Christian sexual ethic, of marriage as an institution of mutual love, of women equal before God to men, of girl babies valued, of restraint on the gratifications and brutalities of men – these were radical but ultimately deeply attractive to a pagan world that had elevated self-indulgence for the powerful, and especially male gratification, very high.

Edward Gibbon, in his classic and intensely anti-Christian Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, lists five reasons for Christianity’s triumph: the zeal of Christian belief; the promise of eternal life; the miracles, though the age of miracles was brief; the virtues of Christians; and finally the unity of the Christians, with people, priests and bishops working to a common vision.

Today’s Christians, like anyone else, would find these qualities hard to emulate. But history shows Christianity’s ability, metaphorical and literal, to rise from the dead. It’s done it before. In our society, will it happen again?


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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