Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A corrupt corruption watchdog: Former Logan City councillor demands apology over dropped fraud charges that 'destroyed lives'

A former Logan councillor has described how fraud charges laid in the wake of an investigation by Queensland's corruption watchdog destroyed her life and led to a barrage of public abuse.

Trevina Schwarz was one of eight former Logan City councillors who in 2019 were charged with fraud and sacked following a Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) investigation.

The charges were dropped last year due to insufficient evidence.

Ms Schwarz said the ordeal took a major toll on her family, saying it copped relentless abuse from the public.

"My son was abused in Bunnings and asked to come outside so the fellow could fight him. It really was awful," Ms Schwarz told ABC Radio Brisbane.

"You'd walk in a home where you'd lived for 30 years and people would look at you and point as you were walking down the street.

"You couldn't escape from it. It was on the news, it was on the radio, it was in the papers.

"It absolutely destroyed my life. And the toll that it also takes on your family is huge."

Her comments came after leading Queensland corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald yesterday handed down a report into how corruption is investigated in the state.

It included a string of recommendations. Among them was the need for the CCC to consult with the state's Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) before laying charges to avoid "unwarranted impact" and to rebuild public confidence.

The report also found the Logan City Council probe damaged the public's perceptions of the CCC.

When Ms Schwarz received a call from the CCC notifying her that the charges had been dropped, she initially "thought it was a hoax".

She said the CCC had failed to comply with its own rules during its investigation of the Logan City Council.

"Although there should be great and high protection for whistleblowers, first and foremost, you need to ensure that those complaints are factually correct and not malicious."

While she is pleased with the recommendations in Mr Fitzgerald's report, Ms Schwarz is hoping for an apology from the state government after cabinet meets on Monday.

"Wrongfully charging us has destroyed our lives, our careers and the reputational harm is irreparable," she said. "We're all disappointed that we have not received an apology, a meaningful apology. That should be forthcoming," Ms Schwarz said.

Former councillors considering legal action

Ms Schwarz also told ABC Radio Brisbane the eight sacked Logan City councillors were considering pursuing compensation from the state government.

"We've all been looking at it with the legal team but we're just not too sure how that's going to go at the moment," she said.

Ms Schwarz said she had been unable to find work since being sacked from the council, despite the charges against her being discontinued.

"You've got all of this this baggage that's sitting on you, that you've been charged with fraud. They're not going to employ you," she said. "The reputational harm is irreparable and the stigma is going to stay."

Ms Schwarz said she would never consider running for council again after the ordeal.

The inquiry's report said it would not revisit or re-litigate the investigation of the Logan council.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk did not comment on whether the former councillors would be issued an apology. "No-one would like to see what happened to those particular councillors happen again," Ms Palaszczuk said. "That report is very clear about a path forward … so we would probably not see the likes of that happening again. That would be my expectation."

When asked about the Logan councillors, Queensland Agricultural and Rural Communities Minister Mark Furner said the cabinet ministers would need to review the report before decisions were made.

"It is important that I, myself, and every other cabinet minister has an appraisal of what the report means and will make a decision based around those outcomes," he said.

"I think there is an opportunity now, where the report will identify significant changes to the way the CCC operates. "We need to work through those changes, what it needs.

"But what we do need is stable leadership in terms of the way the CCC operates into the future with the chair."


The authentic Church is not Woke

Matthew Littlefield (Reverend Matthew Littlefield is the pastor of New Beith Baptist Church. He is an ordained Minister in the Baptist Union of Queensland.)

Woke: A collectivist mindset that requires absolute, unquestioning obedience to the current thing, to display that you are a good person.

The Australian Church is having a massive identity crisis.

How should it identify? Should it be a wing of the Greens and put all its resources behind the environmentalist movement? Should it be a wing of the medical industry and act as a wholesaler regurgitator of medical advice? Should it be a wing of the Back Lives Matter movement and lecture its followers and others about a whole host of sins that are imagined by this radical identity group? Should it be the religious and political arm of Critical Race Theory and evaluate itself according to an increasingly depressing checklist of made-up misdemeanours, like some twisted quest to unravel the hidden sins that David might have been referring to (Psalm 19:12)? What should it be?

Much of the modern Church has gotten itself caught between the rambling and shifting priorities of the various causes of the modern progressive movement and in the process, it has forgotten what it was always meant to be: different to the world.

Some fellow pastors and I found ourselves caught in the middle of just this sort of issue last year when we penned an open letter to the Prime Minister called the Ezekiel Declaration.

The intention of this Declaration was to ask the Prime Minister to do more to publicly protect the Church and society from vaccine passports. At the time it was written, they had not yet been enacted in Australia. They had been discussed, the infrastructure was in place to manage them (QR codes), and they had already been put into use in other countries. The writing was on the wall. However, some of our fellow churchmen, from various denominations, took issue with our letter. Their main concerns were that we were criticising a policy that did not yet exist (it came into place about two weeks later), our tone was too aggressive, which is laughable, and thirdly we did not do enough to encourage people to follow the dominant advice at the time and go and get vaccinated.

Many of the leaders or men who criticised us would not have viewed themselves as Woke. However, let’s review what Woke means: It is ‘a collectivist mindset that requires absolute, unquestioning obedience to the current thing, to display that you are a good person’. In other words it is a mindset prone to virtue signalling.

When you take this definition into account, then I think you could say that what they did was Woke. Because those of us who wrote the Declaration did not show absolute, unquestioning obedience to the current thing, we were therefore not good people, or at the very least, we were troublesome people. Therefore, we needed to be rebuked and people needed to be warned not to associate with us. Those churchmen who criticised our efforts made sure that they did signal their virtue on the current thing, which at the time was getting the vaccine and telling everyone to do the same thing. This is, by the above definition, a very clear example of Woke. Even if some of those who participated in that public rebuke were not aware of that.

Those of us who wrote the Declaration and all who signed it (over 26,000 people) took a different approach. We simply wanted to advocate for liberty of conscience. For people to be free to choose, and by free we meant free from all coercion and pressure.

Liberty of conscience is a vital Christian ideal and has had an incredible impact on Western society. From very early on in the Church strong believers have advocated for the right for people to be free to make up their mind on disputable issues. As one church leader said, ‘Conscience is therefore the shield of the human person, the root of all civil liberties, the source of a nation’s happiness.’ Another Christian leader, Vishal Mangalwadi, put it more bluntly, ‘A man without a conscience is a beast.’ To force a person to override their conscience is to break that man in immeasurable ways.

Over the last year or more this kind of coercion, this spirit-breaking coercion, has been reigning supreme in our society and forcing people to choose between sovereignty over their body and their incomes. It has been restricting their ability to move around or leave the country, even going so far as to determine whether they had control over their own health. This was all foreseeable and hence myself, Tim Grant, and Warren McKenzie published an open letter beseeching the Prime Minister to make sure people were not put in this position by government policy.

Of course, for whatever reason, many leaders in the Church felt the need to criticise our approach and to publicly make sure Christians were encouraged to signal their support on the ‘current thing’. They may have seen what they did differently. But what we saw is a Church that had forgotten the vital importance of liberty of conscience. A Church that had forgotten that its role in the world is sometimes to call out tyrants for going too far in what they decree for people. ‘Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow (Isaiah 1:17).’

Many of the responses we got from ordinary people and average Christians told us they saw things as we did. They were just amazed someone was saying it is okay not to get behind the current thing.

This is not just an internal Christian dispute either. The concept of liberty, or freedom, of conscience flowered in the Church and spread to the whole of society and gave birth to many of the grand liberties that we enjoy in the world today.

The freedoms that you and I enjoy are not accidents, they did not appear in a vacuum. Many of them came from the heart of the gospel itself, which says for example: your body was bought for a price, the price Jesus paid, therefore, God is Lord of the body, not the government, not the state. What a liberating idea! This idea changed our culture from one where slave owners could do whatever they wanted with the bodies of their slaves, into a culture where slavery itself is now anathema. You all, believers or not, have benefited from this Christian principle.

Tim and I were so shocked at the Church’s lack of advocacy on this issue that we decided to write an entire book about it, titled: DEFENDING CONSCIENCE: How Baptists Reminded the World to Defy Tyranny. As Baptist ministers we are well aware of how this concept of freedom of conscience became a part of the Western legal system. Namely, because it originally came out of the Baptist emphasis on how the Church should relate to both the government and to their fellow churchmen and women.

In our view, so much of the Church has gotten caught up in modern agendas and causes, that it has forgotten its wonderful legacy of bringing positive change into society. Maybe some of our critics might see what they did differently. They are welcome to expand on why they did what they did. But in our view, the most important thing in the last couple of years has not been signalling agreement with the current thing. It has been to make sure we did not forget who we are supposed to be just because we are in a time of crisis.

This is a common problem today, and there are many ways in which the culture would like to dictate to Christians about how we should apply our principles. This pressure comes from inside and outside the church, because there is a general, and in some cases wilful, ignorance of what Christians believe and why. (I discussed this on a panel with Bernie Finn, Alexandra Marshall, and Dave Pellowe on this week’s episode of Pellowe Talk, which you can view here).

Principles are not just meant for the easy times, but for the times when they are hard to apply, because it is costly. We believed last year that our society forgot itself in a time of great anxiety, and maybe some elements of the Church did too. You might see it differently. But if you want to hear our detailed view you can pick up a copy of Defending Conscience. It has been published by Locke Press and is available now.

Many people today have a distaste for the modern church because it feels like just another wing of the progressive party. The Good News is not very much at all of the larger Church is focused on signalling their virtue on the current thing. Many of us are pushing back, some of us even loudly.

The authentic Church is not woke.


Tata Steel warns of no choice but to turn to Russian coking coal if Australian supply dwindles

One of the world’s biggest steelmakers will tell the Queensland government a failure to develop new coking coal supplies will inevitably lead Indian producers to buy cheaper supplies from Russia despite sanctions on Moscow.

Tata Steel, which has vowed to stop trading with Russia, will use a meeting with the Palaszczuk government to say the state could double its coking coal exports to India over the next decade to meet surging demand for steel.

However, a failure to bring on new volumes of coal will inevitably result in other Indian steelmakers opting to buy cheaper Russian volumes, meaning Australia misses out on an extra $4bn in annual export revenues from one of its largest trading partners.

“The alternative to Australian coal is Russian coal. I know currently Russia is geopolitically not the best place to buy coal from, but going forward that is an option that Indian companies have,” Tata Steel chief executive TV Narendran told The Australian.

“Tomorrow I have meetings with the Queensland government to look at what we can do together with the mining industry in Australia and the steel industry in India to build a deeper relationship and to increase trade. It‘s about how does the government and industry work together to expand,” said Mr Narendran.

“Metallurgical coal is going to be operating for quite some time to come, particularly in India. I think … the conversation with the government is more about how can we plan better for growth.”

The meeting comes at a sensitive time for the Queensland government, after being slammed by producers for introducing a major windfall royalty tax, prompting warnings that investment in the coal sector could be slashed.

Approvals for new coal mines have also emerged as test for both state and federal governments as pressure grows to limit fossil fuel expansions in Australia.

India has controversially maintained economic relations with Russia despite its invasion of Ukraine in February and increased its imports of coal from Russia in July due to the cut-price supplies on offer during the war.

Tata Steel relied on Queensland for 60 per cent of its coking coal needs, representing a $4.3bn trade between the two countries, and said there was a huge opportunity for the state’s miners if they were able to boost supplies.

“Indian steel consumption or production is going to double in the next 10 years, which means there’s an opportunity for Australia to double its exports of coking coal shipments to India over the next 10 years,” Mr Narendran told The Australian.

“So there‘s a great opportunity for the metallurgical coal industry in Australia to invest and grow in free markets like India.”

The Tata boss, visiting Brisbane for the first time since before the Covid-19 pandemic, said India’s trade with Russia initially started after wild weather in 2019 cut Australia’s exports of the steelmaking material.

“Last time, it was more about how can we have more reliability in terms of supply and what can we tap into to help that context because at that specific point we have variables – that if the supplier is not reliable and India is so dependent on Australian coal – that India will be forced to look at alternate options,” he said.

“Honestly at that time, there was an active movement in India both from the government and industry to look at Russian coal. And in fact that‘s how the Russian coal trade started three of four years back, because supplies from Australia were a bit erratic. And the Russians are offering good quality PCI coal from Vladivostok in the eastern side of Russia. It was easier to get coals from them. So that was the genesis of the Russia idea.”

Russia produces about 75 million tonnes of metallurgical coal a year, according to recent Macquarie figures, and about 360 million tonnes of thermal coal. About 40 per cent of its coking coal is sent into export markets, along with just under half of its thermal coal production.

Its decision to invade Ukraine has again redrawn trade routes and further boosted soaring prices and competition for supplies, including among some of Australia’s oldest customers in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan


The Greens are the biggest threat to reconciliation

What do senators Pauline Hanson and Lidia Thorpe have in common? Not a lot it would seem although both routinely engage in haughty displays, dog-and-pony shows in the Senate chamber. But there is one issue that unites them. They are both opposed to the constitutional recognition of First Australians.

In May 2017, 250 delegates from the 100-plus indigenous nations gathered at Uluru for the National Constitution Convention. It was the largest assembly of First Nations leaders in recorded Australian history and at the end of it came the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Uluru Statement is a 440-word invitation from First Australians for us all to join them on a journey of reconciliation. It was presented to the then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and then Opposition leader, Bill Shorten in traditional artistic form.

The statement, in part, reads:

We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.

Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.

We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

The Makarrata Commission is sometimes loosely associated with a treaty, but it is more than that. Makarrata is a word from the Yolngu language in northeast Arnhem Land that has many layered meanings, but in the context of the Uluru Statement, it is a meeting or meetings where a negotiated settlement is reached through truth telling.

Voice. Treaty. Truth.

As the delegates met at Uluru to prepare a united message, seven of them walked out in a huff. They appeared before the media later that day. They were all from New South Wales and Victoria. One of them, Lidia Thorpe, then a Greens candidate for the Victorian Legislative Assembly in the seat of Northcote said, “We as sovereign First Nations people reject constitutional recognition. We do not recognise occupying power or their sovereignty, because it serves to disempower, and takes away our voice.

“We need to protect and preserve our sovereignty. “We demand a sovereign treaty with an independent sovereign treaty commission, and appropriate funds allocated.”

The Referendum Council in Uluru acknowledged the process was a difficult one but continued on. Anangu delegate and Uluru resident, Alison Hunt reminded the assembly that the conference was being held on sacred land, “where you are talking and standing on, and visitors need to understand that.

“We have to be united,” she said.

The Australian Greens were the first political party to endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart. But in 2020 when Lidia Thorpe filled the casual vacancy left by former party leader, Richard di Natale, that changed.

In election mode at the National Press Club in April, Greens leader Adam Bandt, a white Australian lawyer turned politician, determined the sequence must be altered. Not voice, treaty and truth but truth, treaty and voice.

“If we really want success to happen,” Bandt said at the NPC. “It’s a mistake to do it in any other order. We need to do it in that order where we tell the truth, then strike a treaty, and that will put us in the best position for reforms like the Voice to succeed.”

That remark is the very definition of paternalism, up-ending an agreement made by the overwhelming majority of Australia’s indigenous leaders, seeking to impose the narrow view of an absolute minority.

With Thorpe as the deputy leader of the party in the Senate, there has been another element to the party’s factional colour chart of red greens and blue greens. Now there is the group led by Thorpe known colloquially as “Blak Greens.”

The Greens’ shift came amid allegations of bullying and harassment of a number of its indigenous members who wanted to stay true to the Uluru Statement. In an op-ed for Nine Media published in the wake of Bandt’s NPC address, James Blackwell, a Wiradjuri man and researcher at Australian National University, wrote that followers of the Uluru Statement were no longer welcome in the Greens.

Blackwell claimed he had suffered bullying and harassment from senior party members including preselected federal candidates and this led him to resign his membership of the party.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Jill Gallagher, AO, a Gunditjmara woman also resigned from the party believing, “the Greens had no right to reorder the sequence of the Uluru Statement.”

As Indigenous Minister Linda Burney has said repeatedly, a great deal of community consultation is required before a referendum question goes before the parliament but the greatest threat to a successful referendum leading to an Indigenous voice comes from the Left.

The question is, when the parliament considers and votes on the wording of the referendum question, will Lidia Thorpe and Pauline Hanson be voting as one in an attempt to reject it in the Senate? Adam Bandt has said he won’t block the legislation but the party’s position on the Uluru Statement has swung wildly in the space of five years.


Grievance politics will never reconcile

It serves a useful purpose for the aggrieved

Andrew L. Urban

Recognition, reconciliation, closing the gap, a Voice … all bundled into a grievance package squeezing the guilt out of contemporary Australia.

That’s how it looks to a migrant of 56 years, some of whose journalism took him to the red centre of Australia for face-to-face interviews with Aboriginal artists. Later, face-to-face interviews with Aboriginals in film and theatre. More recently, face-to-face interviews with reformed and reforming Aboriginals in the cities for the virtual mentoring project What Makes A Man A Man.

These experiences are not unique. Most Australians interact with Aboriginals almost every day, some in professional settings, some in the trades, and some in the community. One of my most recent articles was about the Aboriginal man languishing in a South Australian prison for almost 40 years for a murder conviction that has the characteristics of a miscarriage of justice. (No shortage of white Australians in this category, either.)

To this migrant, Aboriginal Australians have always seemed recognised, and fully integrated. Australian society has evolved and matured; the past was another country, as it were. This new country provides vast resources for health care to everyone, black or white, saving babies from early death, curing sickness, filling teeth, and mending broken bones for all.

As well, I have seen this new country offer abject apologies (plural) for the wrongs of the colonial past. None of those apologies have been accepted, as I noted in my Spectator Australia September 2017 cover story Apology Unaccepted.

After all the apologies and ‘sorry’ days, I asked, ‘Where was the day that marked that vital, redemptive response to “sorry”, the sign that the “sorry” was heard and accepted, that those wrongs, while never forgotten, would now be laid to rest and “forgiven”?’

That’s what reconciliation looks like. That’s how it could be achieved. Overnight. Would the Voice voice that acceptance?

Relatively few in the Indigenous community count garish angry activists, such as Senator Lidia Thorpe, among their number. It seems to me these are often the same people who demand reconciliation while simultaneously refusing to reconcile. They do so while exaggerating or misplacing the disadvantage they claim all Aboriginals suffer. How often do the loudest city-based activists visit a remote community and listen to the women there? How do they propose to help stop the daily domestic violence, child sexual abuse, alcoholism, and the failure of remote education?

The acclaimed Hannah Arendt wrote about this subject, and more recently Douglas Murray quoted her in his book The Madness of Crowds, in the chapter titled Forgiveness:

‘In the case of the worst historical wrongs the victims and perpetrators die out – the one who gave offence and the person to whom offence was done. Some descendants may remember for a time. But as the insult and grievance fade from generation to generation those who hold on to this grievance are often regarded as displaying not sensitivity or honour but belligerence.’

Exhibit A: Lidia Thorpe.

The well-meaning nature of Australians has been milked dry over the years, of goodwill, vast and benign resources, and the actual, ‘living the reconciliation’ experience with Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.

Outsiders (eg migrants) often see a situation or social construct more clearly than those who are born into it. So excuse me, but that is my observation




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