Thursday, February 08, 2007


An email just received from a reader on a farm in Victoria. The Bracks Labor government is literally robbing farmers -- with behaviour that would be declared illegal by any consumer protection watchdog:

"A story from Victoria which is causing outrage amongst the farming community in this area: The Shepparton area has a state government water authority which allocates water for irrigation. It supplies water for diary farms and fruit orchards.

The water is quite expensive and many farmers go into big debt to purchase the water rights. This year, very early into the irrigation season, the authority informed the farmers, after they had paid for their water, that there would be no more water of their allocation supplied. When the farmers asked for reimbursement for the unused water portion, they were told that they would not be receiving any reimbursement.

As a result the suicide rate amongst men in this region has greatly increased. One farmer took his milking cows to market, and was offered a pittance, so he refused the sale, brought all his cows home, shot the cattle, and then himself.

The Victorian Government representative said that the money is being used to maintain the infrastructure of the irrigation system. Is this legal? To me it seems immoral that a one can pay for something and then not have the commodity delivered, nor get a refund, and for a government body to do this!"

There is very little mention of this story in the media or on the net but the following is some background from last October. The problem has obviously got a lot worse since that time:

The Nationals candidate for Rodney, Paul Weller, has commended the region's farming and business community for presenting a strong and united front at today's Northern Victorian Irrigators rally in Shepparton. Mr Weller was one of thousands of farmers to attend rally which he said sent a powerful message to the State Government that irrigators should not have to pay for water they did not receive.

"The Nationals went to the last election with a policy for state government to compensate water authorities for lost revenue," he said. "If this had been implemented, farmers would not have been forced to leave their businesses to attend today's rally." Mr Weller said during the past four years The Nationals had repeatedly called on the Government to compensate rural water authorities for water not allocated. He criticised the government for failing to heed those calls. "Hopefully through today's strong show of support they will start listening and respond. "The government has a huge Budget surplus and if they invested part of that surplus in rural and regional Victoria it would provide simple and effective drought support."

Mr Weller said one of the ongoing complaints raised again at the rally was the issue of water being traded out of the Goulburn Murray region, eroding the region's assets. "The Nationals have been calling for a moratorium on water trading from the region until a social and environmental impact study has been completed," he said. "This will enable the full understanding of the impacts of any water movement." "I look forward to a positive response from the State Government. With the first water payment just made and another one looming, a decision on relieving irrigators from paying for water they don't receive needs to be made immediately."


Yet another defence equipment failure

How thankful we can be that the government is not in charge of ALL our purchasing decisions. From the F111s of the 60s onwards, every single defence equipment purchase the Australian government makes seems to end up with major and often intractable failures and inadequacies -- in addition to the purchase always costing way more than was originally specified. A third-rate military power like Australia should be buying "off the shelf" -- not specifying new and untried weapons systems -- some of which NEVER work, even after years of effort

A recurring fuel contamination fault in the navy's $550million fleet of new Armidale-class patrol boats is no closer to being fixed and has now embroiled three government defence agencies, plus the navy and two civilian contractors. The same fault caused the navy to recall its Armidale fleet late last year due to safety concerns.

However, modifications to the fuel delivery system have apparently failed and the fleet is back in port, forcing the navy to deploy a "scratch flotilla" to secure the vast northern fishery zone.

Prime responsibility to repair the fault lies with the government-backed Defence Maritime Services, which has a 15-year contract to maintain the Armidale patrol boats. About a fortnight ago, water contamination caused the fuel pump on HMAS Armidale to crack during a patrol off Broome, spewing an explosive mix of diesel fuel through the ship's engine room. Fearing a repeat of the tragedy that killed four sailors when a leaking fuel line ignited in the engine room of HMAS Westralia in 1998, the navy recalled the entire Armidale fleet last week.

Maritime operations commander Rear-Admiral Davyd Thomas slapped a ban on patrols involving the Armidale class -- the Government's frontline weapon against illegal fishing -- until the defect is fixed. With no solution in sight, the drama has engulfed navy engineering specialists, DMS, the Defence Materiel Organisation, the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, West Australian ship builder Austal, and engine supplier MTU-Detroit Diesel. "Replacement (fuel) pumps are being obtained to minimise the impacts of these defects," a defence official said yesterday. "These measures have been implemented to assure the safety of navy personnel."

The navy has deployed ageing [and mostly useless] Fremantle-class patrol boats due for decommissioning to help guard Australia's strategic northern approaches. "The ADF has assigned an additional Fremantle-class patrol boat, HMAS Gladstone, to Operation Resolute (northern border protection). HMAS Gladstone will join two other FCPBs currently assigned to the operation," the official said.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has not commented on the latest patrol boat problem, but Opposition spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said defence procurement was in crisis. "When you add to the mix problems with the navy's Seasprite helicopters, its new patrol boats, questions about the sustainability of defence spending, and a skills shortage within defence, something approaching a crisis begins to take shape," Mr Fitzgibbon said


Rising nationalism is a natural response

There is a fine balance to promoting tolerance

Unfashionable as it may seem, the Cronulla riots provide a useful reminder of the inherent risks of civil decline when the political class strays too far from grass-roots expectations on a nation's sense of self. The issue is not confined to Australia and is felt more in Europe than the US, where nationhood is more aggressively founded on a binding loyalty to a defined set of core values. Elsewhere in the West, a renewed clamour for national identity is a predictable and overdue response to the permissive extremes of the decades-long embrace of no-rules multiculturalism. The trend has been provoked by the rise of militant Islam, with its own competitive identity that transcends national borders. The reaction can be measured by a resurgence of pride in the Australian flag among young people and near universal support for the Government to impose a tougher citizenship test for migrants. It is reflected in the Government's decision to swap multiculturalism for citizenship in the title of the Immigration Department.

The new reality sits uncomfortably with the so-called progressive view that favours unbridled tolerance for the minority and a loathing for the dominant culture or conventional view. These themes are explored by Francis Fukuyama, professor of international political economy at Johns Hopkins School of International Studies, who says that if existing citizens do not sufficiently value their national citizenship, they can scarcely expect newcomers to value it. The potential cost of inaction is evident in comments by Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes in The Australian today that opinion surveys in Britain consistently show 50 per cent of British Muslims would like to see the introduction of sharia Islamic law. This is akin to exchanging the constitution for the Koran.

This new reality is prompting a reappraisal from all quarters. Writing in British newspaper The Guardian, Nick Cohen repudiates his left-wing heritage and outlines how the postmodern thought has bred the conditions for greater intolerance, such as that in Cronulla. It was the Left's capacity to support Saddam Hussein against coalition intervention that prompted Cohen's reappraisal, which has only been reinforced as his former comrades have also refused to speak out against the sectarian violence that has now laid siege to Baghdad, lest criticism be construed as support for the US. He argues that the death of socialism - disgraced by the communists' atrocities and floored by the success of market-based economies - has brought a dark liberation to people who consider themselves to be on the liberal Left. It has freed them to go along with any movement, however far to the Right it may be, as long as it is against the status quo in general and the US in particular.

Unfortunately for the West, the liberal tolerance shown by the Left to minority groups has not always come with reciprocal obligations. Professor Fukuyama argues that Europe's failure to better integrate its Muslim population is a ticking time bomb that has already contributed to terrorism. It is bound to provoke a sharper backlash from populist groups, and may even threaten European democracy itself.

Writing in the Journal of Democracy, republished in The Weekend Australian, Professor Fukuyama advocates a two-pronged approach involving changes in behaviour by immigrant minorities and their descendants as well as by members of the dominant national communities. First, it is necessary to recognise that the old multicultural model has not been a success and has led to demands for group rights that cannot be squared with liberal principles of individual equality. Second, national identity must be clearly defined and expressed. Both things are evident in Australia, with the reappraisal of multiculturalism as an open-cheque policy and the introduction of more stringent citizenship requirements. For Professor Fukuyama, a failure to be clear on national identity leaves a society vulnerable to being overwhelmed by those with a much better defined sense of community identity. Professor Fukuyama's view that jihadism is aided by the quest for identity spawned by migration to non-Muslim countries is particularly so if host countries fail to offer meaningful economic and cultural integration.

While Australia does not share the extent of problems faced by Britain and some European countries, such as The Netherlands, there are many lessons to be heeded. Just as Professor Fukuyama notes that disaffiliation within the Muslim community can provoke terrorism, so too were the Cronulla riots a predictable response to a growing sense that the dominant Aussie-Anglo culture was being undermined. Left unchecked, this can result in ugly consequences, but banning displays of the national flag at events such as the Big Day Out is no cure. The rational response to globalisation is to reaffirm one's affiliations, and the most sensible way to do that is through a sensible nationalism, where we all stand for something.


Leftists love to find "Victims" -- even if it is all in their own minds

Where some Australian Leftists see pornography, other people just see a child wearing nice clothes

A girl is standing alone on the beach. Her hips are thrust forward, her legs slightly parted. Her lips are wet with gloss. Some of her clothes are slightly askew. You can see her bra, white and tiny, through her singlet. She is not yet 12 years old, and she is selling the clothes she is wearing. Is the image vaguely pornographic? Does it sexualise the child?

Emma Rush, a feminist academic from the left-leaning think tank, the Australia Institute, believes it does. Last October, she put her thoughts down in an academic paper, provocatively titled Corporate Paedophilia. An electronic attachment to the report contained images of children taken from a David Jones catalogue (and also from Myer, Fred Bare, Frangipani Rose, Barbie magazine, among others). Some showed girls alone on the beach or in bush settings. Rush said they were "sexually vulnerable". In others, the child models wore make-up.

Rush flayed the advertisers, saying: "Pictures of sexy children send messages to pedophiles that children are sexually available and interested in sex. That is very irresponsible on behalf of the advertisers and marketers." She objected also to some of the products being marketed to children, such as the "bralette", a bandeau-style bra for girls aged four to eight, with removable straps. One version is made by Bonds. It is available from most department stores. "I just think, you know, what does a three to four-year-old child need to be wearing a bra for?" Rush said.

All the advertisers named in Rush's report were appalled to be accused of something as heinous as the exploitation of children. David Jones, which cultivates a reputation for high-quality apparel and corporate decency, was outraged. Chief executive Mark McInnes immediately telephoned Australia Institute director Clive Hamilton. In a heated exchange, McInnes demanded that any references to his company be removed from Rush's report. When Hamilton refused, David Jones called in the lawyers to defend its brand. Under changes to defamation laws that came into effect in January 2006, it is almost impossible for a big corporation to sue. But David Jones was determined to make its point and yesterday launched a creative legal course, claiming a breach of section 52 of the Trade Practices Act.

Legal analysts say the action is not certain to succeed, but there is quiet admiration for David Jones. The children in its catalogue were not scantily clad; they were dressed as children often are these days, in smart, designer clothes. Duncan Fine, a father of two boys and author of Why TV is Good for Kids, says: "Good on David Jones for standing up for themselves. I looked at the pictures and I thought, if you were to look at that and see something even vaguely pornographic, there's got to be something wrong with you. "It's the same with kids in bikinis. If you think a seven-year-old running across Bronte Beach is a sexual image, well, you have a major problem."

Fine says it is "irresponsible, just ludicrous" to use the term pedophilia in the report. "Pedophilia is a crime so awful, we shouldn't make light of it. It was clearly designed to get attention. And the idea that kids these days are somehow being harmed by advertising, well, there is just no evidence for that." Indeed, on almost every measure, today's children are doing all right. They are better educated than their parents, more likely to finish Year 12 and get a job afterwards, less likely to use drugs and get pregnant as teens. "If anything, we are in the age of the uber-parent," says Fine. "Parents are doting on their kids. Children are saturated with love and affection and care."

The term corporate pedophilia was coined not by the Australia Institute in 2006 but by commentator Phillip Adams, who first used it in a column in 1995 to describe the phenomenon "where childhood is truncated and abbreviated by the march of marketing, so children can be turned into little adults, and marched through the malls". Speaking to The Australian, Adams says he is concerned less with the sexualisation of children than by the truncation of childhood. "The age of consent for commerce has certainly been lowered. You still cannot physically seduce a child under the age of 16, but retailers and advertisers can seduce them any other way. "It's a fact that mighty corporations hire all the smart-arses to find ways to turn kids into purchasers of crap, basically. It's that seduction of the innocent that is objectionable." Adams remembers no marketing to children when he was himself a child, except perhaps in Batman comics. "There was a long period of pre-pubescence," he says. "Children were not sexualised. We lived in a world of sexual mystery. We knew bugger all. These days, it's anal sex, blow jobs: they know everything."

It's certainly true that children are exposed to sex and pornography earlier, and more often, than in previous generations. "You don't need to go to the internet for it. It's in the mainstream media," Adams says. Last year, one of the best-selling CDs for girls aged between eight and 14 was the Kids Pop Party Mix. It comes in a pretty pink CD case, with a purple karaoke microphone on the front. Most girls buy it to get just one song, the smash hit Don't Cha by the Pussycat Dolls: "Don't cha wish your girl friend was hot like me?/ Don't cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?/ Don't cha wish your girlfriend was raw like me?"

The Pussycat Dolls started as a burlesque act, stripping to their lacy underwear for money. But the Kids Pop Party Mix is produced by an offshoot of good old Aunty. It's on the ABC Kids label, sold through ABC stores. The promoters market the CD by saying: "Finding the right music for that in-between age group - the eight to 14-year-olds - can be difficult, particularly in these days of soft-core pop videos. Parents want to ensure their children are listening to music that's appropriate to their age group. ABC Kids has come to the rescue with the bumper Kids Pop Party Mix." [the ABC referred to is Australia's mega-correct public broadcaster] ....

Adams says some parents appear to have abandoned "even the most classic parental responsibilities. God knows, I can't begin to imagine what is going on in the minds of parents."

But according to Fine, "Parents frankly don't believe their children are being manipulated. Where some people see pornography or exploitation, others just see a kid in a catalogue wearing nice clothes." This is the view of Louise Greig, a Sydney mother and entrepreneur, whose fashion label Frangipani Rose was among those targeted by Rush in the Corporate Paedophilia report last year.

Rush says the child in the Frangipani Rose ads had been styled provocatively, which horrified Greig, since the child was her own daughter, nine-year-old Georgina. "The idea that you can look at a photograph that I've taken of my own daughter and think, that's pornography - what goes through that woman's mind? What kind of planet does she live on, that she would think such sick thoughts?" Greig responded to the report.

More here

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